Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Welcome to my Weblog

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 11:26 pm

I am a secretary at an electrical engineering firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on April 12, 1969, which means that I’m an Aries, but if you cared about those things, you would already know that. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Westminster College, with a double major in Mathematics and Education, neither of which have helped me write this weblog in the least.

My Motivational Quotes of the Day page is maintained by my husband, Michael Moncur. My first attempt at a weblog was the Quotes of the Week Page back in 1998, but I soon wearied of trying to write solely about quotations. This site gives me the freedom to talk about whatever I fancy.


The Demon of Perfection

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 11:07 am

I have wanted to do this for a long time. Its first incarnation was The Quotes of the Week page for the website that we have run since 1994. I wrote a weekly installment that included links and quotes and a column from me. I thought it would be so easy to write one column a week. I found out, very quickly, that it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I would sit for hours just thinking about what I could write that had some connection with quotations. Sometimes I would procrastinate and then hurriedly finish a piece. “It’s not very good, but I only had an hour to do it.” I would tell myself.

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything. Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863)

I was too blind to recognize The Demon of Perfection looming in the back of my mind. It has been five years since I wrote my last Quotes of the Week page. Because I never allowed myself to have an “off” week, I became so frustrated with the project that I stopped writing completely. Ok, that’s a lie. I don’t think that I have ever stopped writing completely. I’m always working on something literary, even if it’s just my personal journal. A true writer never stops writing, even if she’s just formulating stories in her head.

But that wasn’t enough for me. Writing stories and hiding them in the drawer feels wrong every time I do it. In fact, writing fiction feels wrong. Something about me wants to write the truth. Deep inside, I feel like I need to concentrate on non-fiction. Whether that means telling the story of my life or giving you a lecture on perfection is not the issue. The issue is that I need to tell the truth.

Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can’t accept your imperfections, that’s their fault. Dr. David M. Burns

So here I am. Some entries will be imperfect. Some entries will have no quotations. Some entries might be all picture and color and very little description. Some entries may be brilliant and touch you. I have no idea which are which and it doesn’t really matter because I’m here for me. I need to write. I need to write every day to be a healthy person. I need to tell you the truth as I see it. I can no longer write my own personal truths and hide them in a file on my computer. I need to know that others can see this, even if they don’t like it. Even if my entries are flawed, they need to be seen.

I don’t confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is?the higher achievement. Lois McMaster Bujold, “Mirror Dance”, 1994



Filed under: Books & Short Stories,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 8:15 am

There are some artists that I wish I could resurrect just so I could smack the hell out of them. I would give Andy Warhol a good thrashing for ruining the concept of art. I would give Frank Sinatra a sock in the jaw for not recording more songs in his later years. Most importantly, I would beat the tar out of Somerset Maugham for being so right and so wrong.

Life isn’t long enough for love and art. W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence

I can’t believe that an artist must suffer. I want to believe that love is the best and most true inspiration for art. I want to live in a world where artists are the people who have the most loving lives. I want artists to be the self-actualized people. They have shelter, food, and acceptance, and only then can great art spring forth from their bodies. I want to have the hope that now that I have love in my life, I will still be an artist.

Then again, I know that he is right. How may stories of suffering artists do I need to read before I believe him? What about those artists that didn’t suffer? I don’t believe it. We just didn’t know about their suffering. The biographers were negligent and didn’t find it. Maybe the artist suffered so much in youth that there was enough art to last during the luxurious and indolent years.

Even darker, I know that everyone suffers. No one escapes this world unscathed. Give me an hour stuck in an elevator alone with anyone on this planet, and I will hear about their pain. Give me five minutes in a checkout line with most people, and I will learn their pain. Worst of all, if we were able to exchange our pain for anyone’s we would chose our own. No matter how blessed the life of that adversary may seem, that person is suffering and if I only knew, I wouldn’t even think of trading places.

There’s always one who loves and one who lets himself be loved. W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

I can’t believe in a world where all the relationships are like that. I have to believe there is that magic that happens when both people are equally in love with each other. I have to believe that there is a chance for me to be madly in love and be madly loved at the same time. I can’t bear to live in Somerset Maugham’s world.

Yet, the dark corners of my heart know he was right. Sure, he was a bitter old man, but he also lived longer than I have and lived more than I probably will live. He must be right because he’s a published author. I’m the one who is idealistic. Everyone should just settle. I should just be safe in the knowledge that when I’m madly in love, he is just allowing me to adore him and eventually I will lose him to the object of his adoration. I should just refuse to allow Charles Strickland in the house and let him die like the dog that he is. The only other route is the acid tonic before sleep and the four days of agony. Four days isn’t that long. God, I wish that I had never read his works.

It’s asking a great deal that things should appeal to your reason as well as your sense of the aesthetic. W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965), Of Human Bondage

I find myself poised at the beginning of another book by Somerset Maugham. It is called “The Summing Up” and I find myself paralyzed with fear. I have learned so much good from this author, but at the same time, I have learned to hate him and am filled with the desire to box him about the ears. Should I read it and risk more pain? Should I read it and learn more from this man?



Filed under: Books & Short Stories,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 11:47 am

I forgot to tell you why I love him. I forgot to tell you why I’m tempted to read that book I found at the failing used bookstore in Sugarhouse. I forgot to tell you why I handed the tired and grieving owner my last three dollars. I love Somerset Maugham because he taught me how to love Impressionist art.

Art is merely the refuge which the ingenious have invented, when they were supplied with food and women, to escape the tediousness of life. W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965), Of Human Bondage, 1915

Before I read Of Human Bondage, I couldn’t make sense of it. Impressionist art seemed like the sort of thing that artists without talent resorted to. I’m not talking about Abstract art, with its Jackson Pollack squiggles of paint. I’m not talking about Surrealist art, with its Salvador Dali melting watches. I’m not even talking about Cubism art, with its Pablo Picasso double noses. These are also art movements that I had relegated to the home of incompetence, some of which I have learned to love and others I have just learned to tolerate. I’m talking about Impressionist art, where the picture is told in globs of paint on huge canvases. It’s like looking at the world without my glasses. Why would anyone paint that?

Of Human Bondage follows Philip, a failed artist turned medical student, on the journey of his early life. It is Philip’s sojourn in Paris and his burning desire to be an artist that helped me appreciate the artwork of the Impressionists. On my last visit to San Francisco a few years ago, I visited the museums and was lucky enough to see a Monet. I remembered Philip’s pride at showing the artwork of Paris to his friend, Hayward. I imagined him at my side, telling me why this painting is brilliant and why everything else in the museum isn’t worth seeing. The painting became dear to me because of a well-written story.

The important thing was to feel in terms of paint. W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965), Of Human Bondage, 1915

Now there is a whole classification of art that I can enjoy that I couldn’t enjoy before. Because the artists were referred to so often in that damned and haunting story, their paintings are dear to me. I still can’t appreciate them for the artistic ability. It may be that he is right and only a painter can judge a painting.

[T]he painter’s arrogant claim to be the sole possible judge of painting has anything but its impertinence to recommend it. W. Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965), Of Human Bondage, 1915



Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 10:43 am

There was a swarm of dragonflies in front of my house the other night when I came home from work. They stayed on the east side of the house and were there for at least an hour. I couldn’t tell if they had found a different swarm of tasty bugs to eat or if they were attracted to my house for other reasons. Maybe it was an omen.

If you dream that a dragonfly lands on your body then you will have excellent news from someone far away from home. If you see a dead dragonfly, then the news will be bad. A dragonfly perched gracefully on some other object shows that you will soon be having guests that may be hard to get rid of. The Dream Dictionary

The problem is that it wasn’t a dream. The dragonflies were real and staying in my front yard. They didn’t land on my body. They didn’t die. They didn’t even perch on anything. They flew wildly and actively. There were no birds feeding on them. I couldn’t even tell if they were feeding on anything.

Dragonflies symbolize illusion, dreams, change, enlightenment, irresponsibility, unreliability, weakness, instability, swiftness, dreams and seeing the truth. They are messengers of the elemental world and the god/esses. They are connected to Summer. Wyldkat’s Pagan Place

So dragonflies can symbolize just about anything according to the Pagan world. It could be that the gods had a message for me and I missed out. It could be that the dragonflies were there to herald the end of the blistering summer that we suffered from all season. It could be that they were scolding me because of my irresponsible, unreliable, weak and unstable ways. Or they could be trying to tell me to keep dreaming, to be enlightened, to seek the truth and embrace change. With such a variety of meanings attributed to such a lively and active insect, I’m bound to find meaning there somewhere.

Dragonfly is the essence of the winds of change, the messages of wisdom and enlightenment, and the communications from the elemental world?Dragonfly medicine always beckons you to seek out the parts of your habits which you need to change. Native American Animal Omens

According to Native American mythology, the dragonfly beckons me to seek out the parts of my habits that I need to change. With that many dragonflies in one small area, I must need changing badly. How would they know? Sure, they’re helpful insects that eat the pests like mosquitoes and their evil West Nile Virus. That doesn’t give them the knowledge to discern which of my habits are helpful and which are damaging. Those damn dragonflies, how dare they judge my lifestyle?!

I trust that everything happens for a reason, even when we’re not wise enough to see it. Oprah Winfrey (1954 – ), O Magazine

So what does it mean? A strange and large swarm of dragonflies came to visit my home. I ran into the house and called my husband to see them. Neither one of us had seen that many dragonflies in one spot that didn’t include a body of water. The neighbors went about their business and were completely oblivious to our visitors. We watched their seemingly erratic movement for about a half hour before we had to leave for an appointment. We didn’t see them arrive and we didn’t see them leave, but we enjoyed them for that brief moment while they were there.

Maybe that’s what it means. Stop. Look. Bring your loved ones. Enjoy us while we’re here because we won’t be here forever. Take the time to watch us. Pay no attention to the people who are too blind to see us. Don’t worry about where we came from or where we will go. Just drink us in while the summer evening is still warm. Soon it will be cold and we will all die, so look at us now.



Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 12:06 pm

Strangers talk to me. The beautiful and the scarred; the healthy and the damaged; the brilliant and the addle-brained; the shy and the outgoing: it doesn’t matter who they are, strangers talk to me. Standing in the grocery store, waiting for a bathroom stall, in an elevator, in a restaurant: it doesn’t matter where I am, strangers talk to me. Embarrassing, droll, touching, lecturing, exciting, furtive: it doesn’t matter what they talk about, strangers talk to me. Yet, every conversation is as different as the person.

Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), Essays, First Series: Prudence, 1841

Since I am the common denominator, most people think it’s my fault. They tell me that people talk to me because I’m compassionate, but I don’t really care about them. Other people tell me that it’s because I ask too many questions, but many times I never get a chance to ask any questions. I’ve been told that it’s because I am the type of girl who looks you straight in the eye in a world of people who tend to look at their feet in public. The truth of the matter is that I like to hear stories. I think people can instinctively recognize a willing audience. Part girlfriend, part priest, I can turn any place into a confessional.

Confession of a Sister

We were at the now defunct Utah Fun Dome. When I was a kid, it was called The 49th Street Galleria, and it was home to the local arcade, indoor miniature golf, roller skating and bowling. She sat next to me on the bench outside the bathrooms. As we waited for our family members to come out, I observed the declining condition of my beloved childhood playground. The ventilation cover above our heads had dust and grime clinging to it like algae on the side of a dirty aquarium. A rogue balloon flopped helplessly against it. This time, it was my fault. I started the conversation. “Walt Disney would have had a fit if he owned this place.” She followed my line of sight and shook her head.

“My sister worked at Disneyland. She said they were the best years of her life. They wouldn’t let something get out of hand like that. Everything is clean. She had to move back here.” I nodded and she continued. “Now she stays at home with her kids. She said Disneyland was the best place to work.” My husband came out of the bathroom and I stood up and said goodbye.

She left me with the vision of a beloved sister. The heroine sister: the kind that gets a great job at Disneyland. The prodigal sister: the kind that returns reluctantly to the fatherland. She ended up raising children in the homeland and considers working at Disneyland better. This sister, who has offspring and the luxury to stay at home to make sure they get the best of care, would rather be cleaning vomit off a Doombuggy. I want to talk to that sister. I want to wake her up.

Instead, I politely say goodbye to the sister that always stayed home. The dependable sister: the kind that stayed here to quietly raise her own children. The loyal sister: the kind that cherished her homeland more than adventure. This sister, who took her children to the dying and decaying Utah Fun Dome and happily rested while they noisily went to the bathroom, told me a sad and disturbing story in just a few sentences. I didn’t need to talk to this sister. She was already awake.

Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live. Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850)


Confessions of a Reader

Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 6:57 am

People who don’t know me want to talk to me. I was sitting alone in a fast food restaurant and I could see him out of the corner of my eye. He was waiting in line to order his healthy sandwich with less than six grams of fat. He wasn’t staring at the menu. He wasn’t staring at the rack of potato crisps and fat-filled snacks. He wasn’t staring at the dim-witted lady behind the counter who made my sandwich so efficiently that I was grateful for those rare people like her. He was staring at me.

If an idiot were to tell you the same story every day for a year, you would end by believing it. Horace Mann (1796 – 1859)

I have been spending my lunch hours reading “The Summing Up” by Somerset Maugham. I had already enjoyed my Seafood and Crab sandwich (not under six grams of fat, mind you) and was having trouble reading because the guy in line was staring at me. I casually took a sip from my straw and looked him straight in the eyes. I was trying to tell him, “Leave me alone. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t really care what you have to tell me.” That’s not how I usually handle things, but I was an unescorted and married female. I’m not supposed to talk to strangers. My glare didn’t matter, though, because it didn’t work. He was so excited to talk to me.

“Have you read ?The Razor’s Edge’?” I shook my head and replied, “No. I think ‘Of Human Bondage’ is his best. ‘The Moon and Sixpence’ is good too, but it’s heartbreaking.” I’ll give him an essay question answer. That should make him leave me alone. No such luck. “Yeah, but that’s the best kind of story to read when you want to cry.” Wow, this guy wants to talk. “Well, I run a quotations website, so I’m reading for quotations. It’s a different kind of reading. This guy is great for quotations.” The dim-witted counter lady finally got his attention and he reluctantly turned around and ordered his sandwich after mumbling something positive. I sighed with relief.

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people. Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)

After he left, I congratulated myself for turning on the school-marm attitude and scaring him off. After writing this, however, I regret it. I asked for advice. I wrote my weblog and asked the universe if I should dare to read another book. When the potential for an answer came, I scared it away. I should have said, “No, what is it about?” Instead of fearing him because he was a man and probably a pervert, I should have asked him my question, “I find his work disturbing. Should I dare read another book? Is it worth it?” Now, I’ll never know. He was so aching to talk about that book to someone that he was willing to talk to a stranger. I guess now I have to read it. I owe it to the stranger because I judged him unfairly.



Filed under: The Confessional — Laura Moncur @ 9:15 am

There are a slim number of people who don’t talk to me. They seem to be immune to my superpower. When a ride of more than five floors on an elevator is enough to hear the life story of a normal mortal, these people seem superhuman to me. I can know them for only a minute in the checkout line and recognize their immunity. What is worse is when I know them for years and they are still closed to me. Worse still, I have no stories about them.

Silence propagates itself, and the longer talk has been suspended, the more difficult it is to find anything to say. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

A typical story sounds like this: There was a woman that I worked with for three years at UBTL. She worked in the Histology department. They even put me in Histology temporarily when another girl went on vacation and I never got to know this woman. We played tennis together once and I learned no more than the fact that she had an antique typewriter stored in her closet and was wondering if she should sell it or give it away. It took me three years to learn that she had a typewriter in her closet that she never used and was unsure of how to dispose of it in an honorable manner. Three years?

There was a guy who worked in the sporting goods department at K-Mart when I worked there as a teen. He was a year younger than I was and he went to a different high school than I did. Even though he lived nearby (within skateboarding distance of my house), he went to Granger while I went to Kearns High. That’s all I can tell you about him. We had hours of lunches and breaks together in the few years that the two of us worked at that store, yet I couldn’t tell you one thing about him. He was must have been smart because he went from porter to the sporting goods department in a manner of a couple of months. That I learned just from observation. Anything else about his private life was a mystery to me. Years together and I learned nothing about him, when five minutes is usually enough to learn an entire life from a normal human.

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence. Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

Don’t tell me that these people are shy. The shy flock to me. I know shy. I married shy. I am friends with the shy and the outgoing alike. Shy people love to tell me their stories while their family members look on in amazement. Shy people confess things to me that their clergy would be surprised to hear. These people are not shy. Well, that’s a lie. These people are shy, but that isn’t their power of immunity. These people are so guarded that not even I can learn about them. That isn’t shy. That isn’t even uber-shy. That is another animal altogether.

I don’t believe these people fear me. It’s not like they are wary of the information that they will give me because I will hurt them with it. It’s not like they don’t trust me. It’s almost like they have no need to share. It is so rare when another human being is willing to listen to us that when most people find me, they want to talk until they are empty. It is only time constraints that stop them: the elevator opens, the lady behind the counter asks them to pay or their turn for a bathroom stall arrives. No, these people who don’t talk to me don’t fear me. They just don’t need to tell me their stories.

And what a shame that is because I would like to know their stories. Where are you, Sporting Goods Guy? Did you follow the typical path of a Utah Mormon boy? College, Mission, Marriage, More College, Job, Family, Bishopric? Maybe you were too smart and your dark night of the soul got the best of you. Maybe your path was College, Mission, More College, Loss of Faith, Grief and Separation from The Church? Are you grieving your life? Are you celebrating it? Where are you?

And what about you, Histology Nun? Were you ever married? If you were, what happened? If you weren’t, what about the one that got away? You worked at a dying biomedical testing laboratory. When they went under, where did you go? What is your story now? Did you go to a hospital? Did you go to the University of Utah? Did BYU hire you? Where are you and what is your life looking like now?

Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time. Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881)

These people are like the dragonflies to me. I don’t know where they came from and I don’t know where they went. They were in my life for a brief moment and they didn’t deliver the message from the gods that they were supposed to give me. They didn’t tell me which of my habits were healthy and which were damaging. They flew and danced so quickly that I could barely see them when they were here. They remained silent when the world was screaming its stories to me.



Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 12:51 pm

Last Saturday, I went to a meditation group. A beloved friend of mine is starting this group and she wanted people there that knew her and could give her some moral support. I was happy to attend just to help her, but I wasn’t really feeling like a meditation class would help me at all.

All my experiences with meditation fall into two categories. Sometimes I spend the entire time saying, “Stop thinking about things! Concentrate on your breath. In – Out – In I wonder what I should have for dinner. Stop thinking about things!” to myself. The other times, I fall asleep. Reaching that bliss of observing without judgment and concentrating on my body has been elusive. I usually find the most peace when I’m writing my journal or singing healing songs to myself. But I was there to be moral support for her. It didn’t matter whether I was successful at meditation or not. I was just there to help her out.

Not merely an absence of noise, Real Silence begins when a reasonable being withdraws from the noise in order to find peace and order in his inner sanctuary. Peter Minard

She opened the class, we introduced ourselves and she gave us some basic instruction. She told us that we would meditate for fifteen minutes, discuss our observations, meditate for fifteen more minutes and close the class. While we were meditating, we were supposed to be thinking of the word, Maitri, which is a Pali word for loving-kindness. If we get distracted by sounds, feelings from our bodies, or thoughts we are supposed to notice them and send them a bit of loving-kindness while we go back to concentrating on breathing out.

During the first fifteen minutes, my thoughts kept returning to the fact that we are going to have to discuss our observations. My mind kept preparing opening words for the upcoming speech. But, hey, I’m just here for moral support. It doesn’t matter if my speech is good. Just forget it. Loving-kindness and back to my breathing. I found myself thinking about the food I had eaten just before the class: smokehouse almonds and an apple, yum! But hey, I’m just here for moral support. I don’t need to think about breakfast. Loving-kindness and breathe out. I had a glimpse of a vision of a sci-fi scenario in which rooms of people are meditating together to stave off the invasion of the baddies. Loving-kindness and breathe out. When is the gong going to strike? Has it been fifteen minutes. This feels just like when I had to stay still during prayer at church when I was a kid. That was hard. Loving-kindness and breath some more. Gong.

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

It felt like a long time, that first fifteen minutes, but not once did I scold myself for not meditating correctly. I didn’t swear. I didn’t curse. I was only there to be a support for my friend, so it didn’t matter if I meditated correctly. I was only there to help her, so I just needed to be quiet and calm for fifteen minutes.

Almost everyone spoke of their observances while meditating. I found that even among the experienced, their thoughts would wander. For some, it was a new experience to be in a group and they felt a special energy that was lacking when they meditated alone. That went right past me. If there was special energy in the room, it eluded me. Others were struggling with their thoughts as much as I did. We started the second fifteen minutes.

This time, I was able to go several seconds of just noticing my breath before my mind rushed in. It was so much easier. I had that dizzy feeling that comes to me when our Reverend is truly inspiring. It wasn’t there the whole time, but I had a glimpse of peace, which is more than I’ve ever experienced while meditating. Once again, it didn’t matter if I did it right because I was just there for moral support, and paradoxically, it helped me meditate better than I ever had before.

There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

When searching for peace, I still think that the best method for me is to go to the keyboard and write a few pages of my random and disturbing thoughts. No matter how disturbing they may be, they seem less so when they are on the computer screen, flickering ethereally. There are times, however, when journal writing isn’t enough. There are even times when not even singing healing songs is enough. When that’s the case, now I can fall back on a weekly meditation group. Of course, I’ll attend every week for moral support, so it won’t matter if I do it wrong.


Road Trip to Vegas

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 1:06 pm

We are planning a trip to Las Vegas and I’m giddy with joy. Living in Salt Lake has the happy advantage of only being a day’s drive from Sin City, so we have been there many times. Looking at myself from the outside, I wonder why I’m still excited to go there. I have been there so often that I know the geography almost as well as Salt Lake. I have been to all the hotels on the Strip and I can tell you the coolest things to do for almost no money.

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything. Charles Kuralt

On the drive down, we always stop in Filmore. It’s a tiny town whose slogan reads: You Have a Friend in Filmore. I always wonder who it is that’s my friend there because the clerks at the gas station aren’t all that friendly. I keep hoping that I’ll eventually find that friend in Filmore, so we stop whether we need gas or not.

We also stop in St. George. You have to drive along Bluff street and pay homage to the Friendship Inn Sands motel, which pretty much looks the same now as it did in the sixties. We get gas here because if you wait until Mesquite, you’ll pay about twenty cents a gallon extra. Rumor has it that there is a muffler man in St. George, but I’ve never seen him.

This time, we are planning on staying in a hotel in Jean, Nevada, which is about twenty minutes south of Las Vegas. The hotels are clean and cheap. For only twenty bucks a night, we will get a clean room and access to the hotel pool, so I’m stoked. So what if I have to drive a little to get into town. It’s about the same as what I commute every day to work, so I’m not complaining.

Before he sets out, the traveler must possess fixed interests and facilities to be served by travel. George Santayana (1863 – 1952)

First on my list of activities this time is Paul Van Dyk at Ra. The Luxor Hotel is the one that looks like a huge pyramid. Totally cool in and of itself, but add to that a nightclub that stays open until dawn and Paul Van Dyk at the turntables and I’m in heaven. This is the reason we are going down to Vegas, so he is first on our list of activities.

We are also going to see Simon and Garfunkel in concert. The tickets are horrendously expensive, but this might be the last time we are able to see them in concert together. I just wish that I could go back in time and see perform in the sixties. This is the next best thing since time marches on.

Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me. Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

My most fixed interest is relaxation. Sure I have plans and items on a to-do list that need checking, but the most important thing to me is to get relaxed and ready to face the next year. In the past, I have kept a traveling journal, but I have never done that in Las Vegas. I have written in my regular journal, but a traveling journal is different. I usually draw pictures and write about the new experiences in the new locale, but Las Vegas is like a second home to me, so I’ve never bothered recording my thoughts about this city. That sounds like the most relaxing thing I could do on this trip. Keep a traveling journal for Las Vegas. Goody, I get to buy a new journal! Maybe I’ll be the first poet to go to Vegas.


A Best Friend

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 10:30 am

I have been thinking a lot about friendship the last couple of days. The memory of an old friend long gone reminded me to think of my friends. When I was a child, I always had a “best” friend. Choosing a favorite friend seems so strange to me now because I compartmentalize my friends now. I have friends to talk about life with, different friends to get drunk with, different friends to spend lunch at work with and even different friends to remember and miss. Just like my peas and potatoes, I don’t mix my drinking friends with my lunch friends

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. Albert Camus (1913 – 1960) (attributed)

Back when I was a kid, though, it was a different story. The most important person in my life was my best friend. I didn’t want her to like anyone but me. It was a jealous love with no room for lunch friends. My best friend roller skated with me, ate lunch with me, talked about life with me and partied with me. There was no room for any others in my life. And if she found room for others, I became insane with jealousy. My best friend changed names many times over my youthful years, sometimes in spite and sometimes because friends just change with age

Later, there became a distinction between girl friends and boy friends. Once I started having boyfriends, I found that I had to make a mental distinction between my best friend that’s a girl and my boyfriend, who obviously would be my best friend that’s a boy. I believed that my boyfriend had to be my best friend, but I still wasn’t willing to give up my “best” friend, whomever she may be this month.

The friend that I’m mourning, however, was neither a best friend nor a boy friend. His name was Calvin Hardcastle. He was tall and thin with dark hair and eyes. I didn’t find him particularly attractive and I doubt he noticed me. During high school, I partied with the jocks and the cheerleaders. The same people who were reluctant to talk to me in the high school halls were perfectly willing to let me see them at their drunken worst. I was a cheerleader’s nerdy friend and Calvin was a football player’s skateboarding friend. We were both outcasts in a sense. We were both on the outskirts of popularity.

After one horrific party, I vowed never to drink at these damn parties again. This group of rowdy football players would have nothing to do with my sudden sobriety. The first party after the “incident,” I found my Diet Coke spiked with alcohol several times. Protest on my part only brought my situation to their attention. Later in the evening, Calvin pulled me aside. “If you don’t want to drink, it’s way easy. All you do is carry around a beer,” he put a red and white Budweiser can in my hand, “and when they’re not looking, you dump a little bit out. That’s what I do. I’d way rather get high than get drunk, but they get all bugged if everyone isn’t drinking. Just pretend to drink.” My eyes grew to the size of platters, “You’re a f**king genius!” I whispered. Why hadn’t I thought of it myself? I’m supposed to be the nerd-girl. I’m supposed to be the one with sense. Instead, I had to get instruction from the stoner skate-punk. That is my first memory of Calvin Hardcastle protecting me.

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. Sidney J. Harris

Over the next couple of days, I want to tell you more about Calvin. What a strange friend. I don’t have a picture of him, yet I can remember his appearance vividly. I have no recordings of his voice, yet I can hear him clearly, “I’d way rather get high than get drunk.” I never touched him, but I can almost feel that beer can in my hand. What a strange thing memory is



Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 6:37 am

We were drunk. I know I had made a vow of sobriety, but this was a quiet party. This was a small party. Only friends and people I trusted were with me, Calvin being one of them. Ok, I lied. All of us weren’t drunk. Calvin was high. How about this? We were impaired. Somehow that doesn’t sound as good as, “We were drunk.”

One reason I don’t drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time. Nancy Astor (1879 – 1964)

We were impaired and waiting. I have no recollection of what we were waiting for, but we were waiting on my best friend’s front porch. In our neighborhood, the front porch of our houses consisted of a slab of concrete. I’m not talking about one of those old-time porches that are covered and roomy. It was dark and we were sitting on a cold concrete step. Ok, I lied. All of us weren’t sitting. Calvin was skating.

Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with, that it’s compounding a felony. Robert Benchley (1889 – 1945)

Over and over, he jumped his board from the first step to the second. He was high, mind you, and he was skating perfectly. His soliloquy, however, wasn’t as perfect, “It’s my destinate to skate!” Just in case we girls didn’t understand him, he clarified, “You see it’s my destiny to skate, so it’s my destinate to skate, so I destinate!” He kept repeating that phrase over and over. I guessed that getting high must be very different from getting drunk. To him, he was saying something incredibly clever and important. To us, he was just skating very well and speaking poorly. Yet we were entertained and what we were waiting for became nothing in my memory while his mumblings are dear to me.


Scone Dog

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 7:11 am

SconecutterIn the eighties, the suburbs of Salt Lake City didn’t have much of a culinary selection after midnight. If you didn’t want to sit in a greasy spoon, you were relegated to Sconecutter. My, this story needs a lot of explaining. Scones in Utah are nothing like scones in Great Britain. In fact, I think a place like Sconecutter would do well anywhere if the rest of the world would just redefine the word scone. In Utah, a scone is fried bread. Think of it as a hush puppy without the cornmeal.

Sconecutter serves savory and sweet scones. The scone itself is a rectangle approximately four inches by six inches by two inches, cut in half lengthwise (thus the name, Sconecutter). They will make them into sandwiches for you or slather them with honey butter. As if the scones weren’t abominations themselves, they also serve Scone Burgers, which are pretty self-explanatory, and Sconuts, which are scones that are frosted like donuts. Most abhorrent of all their greasy creations is the Scone Dog. I’ve never eaten, ordered or even seen a Scone Dog, but I suspect they are scones with hot dogs as the meat. So much for explanation.

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900 – 1944), “The Little Prince”, 1943

So, it’s 1987 and I’m with the core group of partiers: Calvin, my cheerleader friend, her drill team friend, her football player boyfriend and me, nerd-girl. They’re drunk. Calvin’s high and I’m driving. It’s about 11:30 pm and we are at Sconecutter. Most importantly, they are all underage and if the guy behind the counter realizes they’re drunk, we’re all busted. The important thing is to be cool. “Be cool,” the football player tells me. Even though he’s drunk, you can’t tell because he is always cool.

I order and pay for myself. Little Miss Drill Team orders, Football Player orders and my friend orders and pays for all of them. It’s Calvin’s turn to order, “Scone Dog!” He pronounces it slowly and incredulously. He sounds like Sean Penn from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Worse still, he keeps saying it. “Scone Dog!” Now, he’s pointing at the menu at the item, “Look, Dude, Scone Dog! I want a Scone Dog!” Football Player lowers Calvin’s pointing hand and takes him by the shoulder, whispering, “Cool it. Dude, you don’t want a Scone Dog. Man, just order whatever you want, but C-O-O-L I-T.” He draws out the last two words in a ferocious whisper.

Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances. Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)

The girls are worthless and they are laughing each time Calvin says the word again. I step up to the counter, “My friend doesn’t want a Scone Dog.” The guy at the counter is instantly on my side, “No, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.” I flirt just enough to get the attention away from Calvin and Football Player arguing about whether a Scone Dog is palatable or not. “So, what do you think he should order?” The two of us can still hear Calvin in the background repeating the words “Scone Dog” over and over. The guy at the counter appropriates Calvin’s voice and accent, and saying, “How about a Sconenut?” He drew out the word “Sconenut” in the same way Calvin kept repeating “Scone Dog.” I laughed and nodded. “Maple or chocolate?” I order both.

Let’s Go Get SconedThis story was told many times by Miss Drill Team and my friend. Whenever we remember Calvin together, the Scone Dog story is brought up. I never heard Calvin say that he wanted to get high after that. He just wanted to get a “Scone Dog. “

Not long after that, Sconecutter started an advertising campaign with the tag line: Let’s Go Get Sconed! I don’t think that Calvin initiated that, but it was brilliant and they still use that slogan today. Additionally, I noticed that Scone Dog is no longer on their menu. What a shame. Now I’ll never know.


The Long Talk (Part 1 of 2)

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 6:15 am

It was the tail end of another huge, drunken party. The couples had paired off in rooms. The singles had gone home. They either were driven home by me or they had snuck their keys and drove themselves home. Frankly, I was seventeen and I had lost track. I was sleeping over at my friend’s house and I looked at the kitchen table, not wanting to clean up. I didn’t make the mess, why should I clean it? I sat down between the kitchen table and the wall and just observed.

Calvin stumbled up the stairs. One of the singles, it was time for him to go home, but Football Player was his ride and he was blissfully coupled in one of the bedrooms. My skate-punk friend plopped down in a chair opposite me. He awkwardly leaned on the high chair, and I realized that he was drunk. This was a rarity for Calvin. Drunk, not high. I actually had never seen it before and I handed him half of a warm beer. He winked at me, “Just pretending to drink.” “Bullsh*t,” I thought to myself.

I envy people who drink. At least they have something to blame everything on. Oscar Levant (1906 – 1972)

I don’t know what had spawned this drinking. Maybe he had been “just pretending to drink” and ended up drinking a little too much for his weight. He was painfully thin. I’m sure that his sister fed him enough, but he was so tall. It’s just hard to eat enough to bulk up a boy who is that tall, especially when he skateboards so much. Maybe it had all gotten to him. Everyone was coupled up except him. He was left with Nerd-Girl, cleaning up the cluttered kitchen. Maybe he was stone cold sober. I had never seen him sober, so his personality change could have been his actual personality. I’m just guessing fifteen years later what could have been the reason for his drinking, but I guess that doesn’t matter now.

Over the next three hours, Calvin talked like I had never heard him talk before. When he was high, Calvin would talk a lot, but say very little. He would repeat words and phrases, which gave us the impression that he was talking, but he really told us nothing. “Destinate to skate” and “Scone Dog” aren’t really personally revealing. They’re just funny phrases that didn’t tell us much. But then again, people talk to me. Sooner or later, when people need to talk, they come to me. The kitchen became a confessional and I became the female eunuch.

It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution. Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

As I sit here at the keyboard, I’m reluctant to put down what I remember from the conversation. Confessions of this sort seem privileged to me despite the fact that I’m not a member of the clergy, a doctor or a lawyer. I don’t know what causes these desperate and personal admissions, but I enjoy them when they happen to me because for that one brief moment, I bond with a stranger. What if I jinx it and the confessions cease just because I voice them?

I said that I was going to tell you about Calvin, and here I am at the most revealing moment I ever had with him and I am reluctant to share. I sit here thinking about his beloved sister, who took him in when he had no place to go. Would she want to hear this story? Would she be upset if the whole world knew it? What about Calvin? What would he think if I told the world his confession after all that has happened? I need to think about this overnight before I continue?


The Long Talk (Part 2 of 2)

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 6:37 am

I can never predict when it’s going to happen. I never know when a normal conversation is going to turn into a confessional. Had I known everything, I would have recorded this long talk on a tape recorder. In Nixon’s office, I would have pressed the button with my foot and his words would have been documented. Maybe if they had been recorded, I would have realized that they weren’t that special. Maybe after fifteen years of thinking about that conversation, his confession has grown in significance than it actually was. All I remember are a few sentences from those three hours, but they seem so important to me.

Calvin looked around the cluttered kitchen. He had just sat down, was leaning awkwardly on the high chair and slurred, “Dude, why do you come to these parties?” I remember feeling like an outsider. Calvin, an outsider himself, was questioning my right to be there, so I defended myself, “She’s my friend. I have just as much right to be here as you do.” He shook his head and laughed to himself, “No. I mean why are wasting your time with these guys? You should be?” He lifted his hand arbitrarily and waved it around. It was the same hand that had the half-empty warm beer. He took a swig and I prayed that I hadn’t handed him someone’s chew spit. My friend had many brothers, all of whom chewed tobacco and spit into whatever was handy. I hadn’t even thought to check it when I handed it to him. He grimaced at the taste, put it down and got a cold one out of the fridge. Her fridge had a seemingly never-ending supply of beer.

He popped open the fresh beer and looked at me for an answer to his question. I responded, “Where should I be? Studying like a good girl. I do enough of that.” Instead of saying that I wasn’t good enough to be there, I was somehow too good to be there, which was just as insulting. It was as if he thought that smart people didn’t need to have fun. It was somehow beneath me. “Man, if I was you, I would study all the time. I would get straight A’s?”

Then it came, like a rusted pipe, gurgling and splashing brown and mucky liquid all over me. He told me everything. It was convoluted and messy, but he told me what he wanted. He wanted more than anything to be me. He didn’t want to change places with Football Player, who was poking a cheerleader as we spoke. He didn’t want to change places with the skater that we knew that went professional and was getting paid to play. He wanted to change places with me because I had a chance and he didn’t.

He had seen a lawyer on television. I don’t think it was an actor playing a lawyer, I think it was a real lawyer who was defending someone here in Salt Lake City. Calvin had been inspired by this man. This lawyer, who was probably some publicity-hound ambulance chaser, represented the epitome of success to Calvin. “If I could be a lawyer, I could do some good. I could talk to anyone and just talk so perfect that no one could argue with me. See, if I was you, I would go to college and get to be a lawyer. Nothing could stop me then?” He trailed off. He had been talking for a long time about the lawyer, about how much he wanted to be like him and about how I could be a lawyer, if I just studied harder. He was just staring at the clutter on the kitchen table.

“Calvin, you could be a lawyer.” The minute I said it, I knew I was lying. I had been thinking of the slimy lawyers on the back of the phone book, but even they had to pass the bar exam. I looked at Calvin and for the first time, I saw him the way teachers saw him. I saw him the way the world would look at him. The teachers saw Calvin, the Super Senior, who was taking four years to graduate instead of three. The teachers saw Calvin, the stoner, who got “sconed” every day and was rarely seen straight. The teachers saw Calvin, the abandoned, who lived with his sister because there was nowhere else to go. The teachers saw Calvin, the skater, who didn’t study because it was his “destinate.”

“No, but you could be a lawyer.” He had been pushing this idea during his confession, but I wasn’t having any of it. “I don’t want to be some slimy lawyer. That’s your dream. You could do it. I don’t know how you would do it, but you probably need to stop smoking pot first.” He shook his head. “I can’t. It’s too late for me.” I silently and guiltily agreed with him.

Calvin, if you are angry with me for revealing your deepest thoughts to the world, come haunt me, you skinny bastard. I haven’t seen your face in so long that I am eager for the meeting, even if you are angry with me.

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