Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Upside-Down Beetle

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 6:27 am

My beloved car of my high school years was a white Volkswagen Baja Beetle. Mike Pinkston and I had spray painted a yellow smiley face on the roof of the car where rust was trying to grow. For years after I sold it, I would see it every once and a while. It would drive past me and all the memories of my high school days would come rushing back to me.

It had been one of those parties. If I had been drinking, I would have sworn off of it because it was one of those times when I needed to have all of my facilities. I don’t know what started it. Testosterone, yeah I think I’ll blame testosterone. I don’t even know who started it, but Football Player played a large role in the events of that evening.

Oh, treacherous night! thou lendest thy ready veil to every treason, and teeming mischief’s beneath thy shade.
Aaron Hill

By the time I walked out of my friend’s house, the Beetle was on its side. Twelve football players were in the process of trying to get it upside down. Anyone seeing their precious first car being treated so poorly would have screamed, so I had no shame in screaming and trying to get them to stop it. They were well on their way to turning it completely upside down when Calvin walked out.

Calvin, the stoned skater. Calvin, the Super Senior. Calvin, the skinny outsider. “What the hell is going on out here?!” Suddenly, all twelve of the football players put the car down and started explaining. Football Player tried to get Calvin on his side. Cool as ever, he explained how funny it would be to turn my Beetle completely upside down. Calvin would have none of it, “Get the Beetle right side up! Quit being stupid.” He turned around and went back into the house. The remaining eleven football players immediately turned my car right side up and the party broke up. Amazed, all I could do was stand by and watch.

Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends.
Czech Proverb

My image of Calvin was instantly changed. Calvin, the quiet despot. Calvin, the secret ruler. Calvin, the protector. The world was instantly upside down. Instead of weak, Calvin was strong. Instead of addle-brained, Calvin was smart. Instead of an outsider, Calvin was the leader. My car was right side up and so was I. The funny thing was that I didn’t realize that I had been living my life upside down for so long.



Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 7:08 am

It was sitting on the counter at my friend’s house. “What’s this?” She glanced at it and answered, “A picture of Calvin.” I shook my head, “I know, dumbass. What are you doing with it? Why is it here? Where did you get it?’ She shrugged and explained that she was using up the rest of the roll and snapped a picture of Calvin. “Can I have it?” She shrugged and said that it was mine.

If I had a photograph of you or something to remind me. I wouldn’t spend my life just wishing. A Flock of Seagulls, Wishing (I Had a Photograph)

From that point on, my friend assumed that I was in love with Calvin. She asked me many times if I liked him or not and I truthfully told her that I didn’t love him. I couldn’t explain why I wanted the picture, so she just decided that I must be in love with him.

It sat in the back of the Beetle for a long time, reminding her of my supposed love each time she rode with me. Eventually, I put it in the photo album next to the pictures of friends at the prom and school pictures that had been given to me. That photo album is hiding somewhere downstairs in the basement and it might as well be lost to me.

I have a picture pinned to my wall. An image of you and of me and we’re laughing with love at it all. Thompson Twins, Hold Me Now

The truth of the matter is, I DID love Calvin. He felt like the big brother who would always be there to protect me. I didn’t have any brothers, so I had never felt that feeling for a guy before. It was a strong feeling and I was scared of it. I knew that I had no sexual attraction to him, yet I really cared about him. I didn’t know how to describe that sort of love to her. In retrospect, she would have understood perfectly. As I said before, she had many brothers. She was the youngest and the only sister, so I’m sure she would have understood if I only had been able to articulate what I thought.


Green and Purple and Gold

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 10:09 am

“Did you hear?” It was a few years out of high school. I was married. My cheerleader friend was married and had given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She called me, which was rare these days and said the phrase that always prefaces a bad conversation. “Did you hear?”

It’s never good news. It’s either bad gossip or bad news. It’s never greatness that follows the phrase, “Did you hear?” I told her no, wanting the conversation to get over with as soon as possible and hoping that it was just gossip. “Calvin’s dead.”

Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not ready to entertain him is not at home. Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626)

I don’t remember where I was. I don’t know if I was at work or at home. I don’t even remember where I was living at the time. I don’t even think that I said anything after she told me. “You need to go to the funeral,” she told me. “Yeah, sure. Do you want to carpool or meet me there?” “Oh no. I can’t go. I can’t let Football Player see me after having this baby. You know, he’s married now.” “Calvin got married?” “No, Football Player!” She was frustrated with me.

So, I went to Calvin’s funeral alone. Once again, I was the outsider and this time, I didn’t have my friend with me to justify my presence. The funeral was at Goff Mortuary. I have trouble remembering phone numbers, but the name of the mortuary where my friend was eulogized is in my memory forever.

I sat at the back of the room. Football Player and all the rest of the gang were there, decked out in the most horrid colors: yellow, purple and green. They were dressed in the team colors for the Utah Jazz. Of course, all of us are Jazz Fans, but Calvin had his last laugh because all his friends carried his coffin looking like the biggest dorks on the planet.

Always cool, Football Player’s face was stoic and unchanging. I don’t remember what anyone said at the funeral. Calvin’s fiance spoke about him and I tried to reconcile her with the lawyer’s wife that I had imagined for him.

Calvin had died in a car accident. They didn’t say whether it was drug related, alcohol related, sleep deprivation or whether Calvin was even driving or not. I never really found out what killed him beyond a couple of tons of twisted steel. I guess that’s enough.

There was an immeasurable distance between the quick and the dead: they did not seem to belong to the same species; and it was strange to think that but a little while before they had spoken and moved and eaten and laughed. W. Somerset Maugham, ‘Of Human Bondage’, 1915

They buried him at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park. Of the many times I’ve driven past that place, I don’t think there was a time when I didn’t think of Calvin. I haven’t returned to his grave, but the day I stood by it, I remember thinking that this place was too quiet for him.

I wish that I could tell a different story about Calvin. I wanted to tell the story of the man who beat adversity and made it through law school. I wish I could tell you that Calvin is representing drug offenders in the Utah courts. I wish I could tell you about his beautiful wife and his beautiful house. I wish I could tell you how he got there. Instead, he is so much worm food at Wasatch Lawn Mortuary.

Sometimes when I see a thin, curly haired boy skateboarding, I feel that essence of protection that used to surround me when I knew Calvin was at the party. I know that he haunts me to this day and I tell his story in a desperate attempt to exorcise him. If I had my way, I would relocate his grave to the skate park at Taylorsville Park. I think it would be a much better gravesite for him.



Filed under: Blog Stuff — Laura Moncur @ 8:50 pm

I was in Salt Lake’s best used book store, Sam Weller’s, last weekend. They had a whole section of old calendars and date books. I was looking through this section and I was wishing I could find a diary. I wanted to peek into the life of someone. I wanted to take home a handwritten journal that documented the life of a stranger. I wanted to hear their personal thoughts and know their intimate secrets.

At the time, I was clueless. At the time, I was just consumed with finding an interesting document of the thoughts and feelings of an ordinary person. I made absolutely no connection to the weblog phenomena at all. Sifry’s Alerts logged over one million weblogs on September 27th. There are over one million journals, diaries, calendars and date books online right now, with more every day. Over one million people are out there, crying to be heard.

In the future, technology will be so advanced, that people will go home and want to touch a piece of wood. David Bowie (paraphrased)

Something is wrong with this society. I don’t know what it is, but people are LONELY. I’m not talking the normal loneliness that comes at times. I’m talking about a chronic loneliness that eats away at the soul. People are HUNGRY to talk. It only takes a kind word, a polite nod or a look straight in the eye to start the floodgates. I have been blessed with hearing the stories of many strangers and right now there are over one million more that are begging to talk to me.

Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other. Ann Landers (1918 – 2002)

I don’t really blame the television. We turn on our televisions and the voices make us think that someone is in the room with us, but those voices aren’t fulfilling the need. They are one-sided and they can’t hear us when we cry. They don’t even have the decency to stop talking when we weep openly. The fact of the matter, however, is that it is us who choose to turn the television on instead of seeking companionship when we are lonely. Are we so out of step with our emotions that we don’t know when to turn off the TV?

When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers. Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900), An Ideal husband, 1893

What is going on in our society? What is different? Was it always like this? Were humans always so lonely that they clung to the stranger who would hear their words? Is loneliness the definition of humanity or is this a new occurrence? My prayer was answered. I found one million journals to read and they are unfolding to me every day. Be careful what you wish for…


That Special Car

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 6:46 am

My schedule is regular. I work 8 am to 5 pm every Monday through Friday. When we are slow, I get every other Friday off. I drive the same route to work every day. I’ve heard that when I’m feeling like I’m in a rut that I should drive to work via a different route, but I’m loathe to do it. I have found the most efficient route and I am reluctant to vary it, even for variety.

Oregano is the spice of life. Henry J. Tillman

I used to see the car every morning. On the intersection of 1500 South and 500 West in Woods Cross, I wait every morning to turn left. The car would be heading south on 500 West right through the light. It was one of the cars that needed to get out of my way before I could turn, but it was special.

I drive a lime green New Beetle right now, but this car is a different hue of green. This special car is almost a neon green. It is not a color that occurs in nature except in the deepest ocean. The furtive and luminescent fish that don this color hide from us, so we are surprised when we see that color and it doesn’t hide. That car never hid. It brazenly drove right past me every day.

Then something changed. For the last couple of months, I haven’t seen that special car in the morning. I don’t know if I have been coming a millisecond too late or if it has been leaving a millisecond earlier, but I haven’t seen it. My incredible sense of self worth decided that the driver of the car was purposely trying to miss me. Two green cars with hues just different enough to clash. The driver was avoiding me. Paranoia strikes.

Even paranoids have real enemies. Delmore Schwartz

The other day, I left work later than I normally do. It was my turn to be heading south on 500 West and that special car was heading north. Seeing it was like being greeted by an old friend. After months of being missing in action, my buddy had resurfaced. I felt like waving to the stranger behind the wheel.

I left ten minutes later than normal. The difference of ten minutes was the only distinction. How many people do we see every day that we would miss if we arrived to work ten minutes earlier? How many people do we miss seeing because we don’t stay late at work? Whether we notice it or not, we see the same people every day.

Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you? Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892), Leaves of Grass

Even though we don’t speak to them, they are our brothers in arms. They are struggling with the same traffic jams. They are faced with the same snow storms and blinding sunshine. They are groping with the same burdens of life, work and death. It will probably be months before I see that special car again. I’ve never talked to the person behind the wheel, but I still consider him my friend. That’s why I’ll be driving the same route to work tomorrow. Variety be damned.


Discarded (part 1)

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 4:40 am

“He’s famous.” That was my first thought when I saw the discarded photo on the side of the road. I was walking on 700 East and at the freeway underpass, I found it. It is a picture of the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, I think. The Olympic rings are to the right. It looks like he is on a television screen. Honestly, it’s not a very good picture, but after going to the trouble of picking it up, I didn’t feel right just throwing back on the ground. I put it in my bag. I’ve always been one to rescue discarded photos.

For seven years, I worked at K-Mart. I started as a checker and worked almost every department in the store. When I was at the Service Desk, part of my job was to refund merchandise. At that time, K-mart would let you get a refund for whatever pictures you didn’t like, no questions asked. Not very many people would refund their pictures, but a few people took advantage of this program.

A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
Paul Valery (1871 – 1945)

As the recipient of these poor, rejected pictures, I always felt a sadness for them. Since we were instructed to just throw the pictures away, I would take my favorites of the discarded home. When I was looking for my photo of Calvin (still missing, sorry), I found these cast off pictures alongside the precious photos of my high school friends. Even though they didn’t depict anyone that I knew, they were just as precious to me.

I had made up stories about each picture. In one there were two boys glowing at the camera. They are dirty as hell, but they look like they were having the time of their lives. I imagined them at age nineteen, fighting in Vietnam together. I imagined them grizzled, old codgers fighting with each other. They laugh together and remember the good times in the mountains of Utah.

Back in ‘Nam ya wouldn’t have done this to me!
– Imaginary Old Coot

In another, there is a picture of a tree. The photographer had stood at the foot of the tree, turned the camera to the sky and caught it in its full splendor. I was immediately reminded of a song by The Cure called The Forest. I imagined the boy looking for his dream girl, only to find that he is just lost in the forest, all alone.

The girl was never there.
It’s always the same.
I’m running to what’s nothing.
Again and again and again and again and again.
– The Cure, The Forest

Unlike an abandoned pet, these pictures bring me comfort without the obligation. Unlike my own pictures, they bring me good memories without a hint of bad. Unlike so many of the discarded, they bring me hope of rescue. Time to think of a story for my new discarded picture.

Update 01-12-09: You can now see these photos at this entry.


Discarded (part 2)

Filed under: Fiction — Laura Moncur @ 7:32 am

February 22, 2002

He was trying to talk to her again. His speech was awkward and stilted. She could tell that just asking her the question was incredibly difficult for him. “Have you gone down to any of the houses?” She shook her head and responded, “Nope. I haven’t done anything. I really should get down there before everything is gone.” She left it open for him. He could ask her to go downtown with him. Come on, fella, you can do it.

“You should really go down there. The Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” She sighed, disappointed. “I know. I’d really like to share that experience with someone.” He let a few awkward seconds pass before he just turned around and left her cubicle. At this rate, just dating is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him.

Later that evening, she looked around her immaculately clean apartment. She fired up her computer and went online. Every time she downloaded her email, she cursed the day that she put her information on the dating service. She hadn’t received one email from a normal man. Every one of them was either a pervert or a freak. She sifted through her inbox: pervert, spam, perverted spam, freak, freak, perv. When it was clean, she started to surf. His quiet and reserved voice stuttered in her head, “The Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” She logged off.

She felt like a tourist in her own city. All the boring office buildings that sat nestled between the mountains were covered with huge murals of Olympic Events. She couldn’t even drive to where she normally parked when she went downtown because there was an entire section of her city quarantined off. She parked and shuttled to the various houses representing the different teams. Free beer. That was a phrase she had never heard in her beloved city, but she was driving. No beer for her.

She clicked pictures galore. The rings on the mountain, every mural on the buildings, and she even clicked a picture of that famous singer in that band that was performing that night. She didn’t actually see the performance. She just took a picture of one of the many televisions broadcasting all the events. Despite all of the gaiety, she was still alone, and worse, she could feel it. Worse still, not one person around her noticed.

February 22, 2003

“Don’t you wish it was all happening again?” She was very confused. Sometimes he was so nervous around her that he would say weird things. He pointed at the old Olympics poster in an effort to clarify, “Don’t you wish that we could rewind and do the Olympics all over again?” The wave of loneliness washed over again, “God, no! I ended up going downtown alone to see everything. It was horrible.”

He just stood there bobbing his head. She could tell that she had said the wrong thing and he had no premeditated response. She picked up the silence, “It would have been so much better if I had gone down there with someone I knew.” She left it open for him. Come on, fella, you can do it. He fidgeted and touched his face. “Hey, you think you’d like to go to coffee sometime?” She smiled, “Yeah, that would be nice.”



Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 6:47 am

I have one unborn child. She has dark, curly hair. It will grown into an unruly rat’s nest, but right after her teens, she will be reconciled with it. At age three, however, they will be soft, dark curls that will make her look like an angel. Her name is Amanda Joe, but we were going to call her Joe. If she wants the girly name that her dead and unmet grandmother wanted for her, that’s her choice. We would have called her by that grandmother’s middle name instead.

Our children change us whether they live or not. Lois McMaster Bujold, “Barrayar”, 1991

I don’t know if she will ever be given life. She has visited my mother-in-law’s dreams. She haunts my conscious thoughts. Her father would be uncomfortable around her, but she would crawl into his lap and put her little arms around his neck and squeeze the discomfort right out of him. I know she would like him best, but that doesn’t hurt my feelings. Kids can’t help but choosing a favorite.

The unborn haunt us in times of death. She is lurking in my mind, holding Calvin’s hand. She is perpetually three in her unborn state, but I can imagine her at every age. I can see her in junior high school. She is learning algebra and programming computers in Pascal. I can see her in high school. She is more interested in clothing and sex than mathematics and prose. I can see her as an adult. She is contemplating her own unborn children.

Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose with the exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs. P. J. O’Rourke (1947 – )

I am a member of the first generation that actually gets to choose whether or not we have children. I know that my mother’s generation had the choice of the Pill or prophylactics, but the former wasn’t perfected and the later was stigmatized. This is the first time that we can go into a grocery store and choose from twenty different styles of condoms without shame. This is the first time that women like me can be protected from pregnancy for all of their child-bearing years using a variety of methods (pills, patches, IUDs, female condoms, diaphragms, shots, and the list keeps growing). There is no excuse for unwanted children in the United States. If someone says that a child is an accident, they are lying. Just because you didn’t plan it, doesn’t mean that it was an accident.

I am a member of the first generation that will be haunted by unborn children by choice. There are many who have been haunted by unborn children. Some of them are unborn because of physiological circumstances that are beyond their parents’ control. Some of them are unborn because they didn’t get in line quick enough. My situation is different. Joe is unborn because I have chosen to be “responsible.” More and more of these unborn ghosts are unwanted, like the discarded pictures that I have been adopting.

There was something awesome in the thought of the solitary mortal standing by the open window and summoning in from the gloom outside the spirits of the nether world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I have such an entourage of ghosts that follow me that sometimes I feel like a celebrity. I have Calvin as my protector and bodyguard. I have Joe to remind me of work that still needs to be completed. I have my paternal grandmother to keep my nose to the grindstone. There are many others that follow me. So many that it’s a wonder that I ever feel lonely.


Sing in Unison

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 7:22 am

I’ve been singing alone for years. After years of singing under the abuse of a temperamental choir director, I sang alone gladly. No angry reproaches were directed at my self-esteem when I sang the wrong words in the shower. No music stands were lobbed at my head when I sang an incorrect note in my car. I was able to sing alone and I did it very well.

Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up. Pearl Buck (1892 – 1973)

Singing a cappella is scary to some. There is no accompaniment to find your notes. There are no other voices to hold the note if you need to breathe. It’s just you and your voice. Every note must be perfect because that’s all they’re going to hear. Every song must be interesting and compact, because that’s all they’re going to hear.

Singing a cappella holds no fear for me. There is no accompaniment to prove that I’m off key. There are no other voices to sing the correct words and show the world that I sang the wrong ones. Every note is my own. Every song is for me alone, because I’m all they’re going to hear. Most importantly, there were no music stands directed at my head.

I celebrate myself, and sing myself. Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892), Song of Myself, 1855

Still, I was called. I don’t believe in a higher power, but I was asked to sing in the choir by the choir director. I had made a pact with a friend that we would both join when the summer ended. Even though she is in another state now, I still joined. It was partly in memory of her and partly because it had been so long since I had sung with other voices.

I’m not choosing the music, so sometimes I have to work my range to its fullest. I’m not choosing the lyrics, so sometimes I have to sing words that are uncomfortable to me. I’m not choosing the meeting times, so sometimes I’m tired and not eager to sing. All of these are ways for me to grow, where I have stayed stagnant for years. I didn’t even know that I was stagnating before I joined.

Let us go singing as far as we go: the road will be less tedious. Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC), Eclogues

After two months of practices and three performances, I haven’t seen one music stand fly in anger. The choir director is patient and loving. I’ve never worked under a patient leader before. I still worry about perfection, but that is my personal demon that has surfaced in more creative areas than just music. Our next performance is Sunday, October 26th at the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society. Feel free to see how much I’ve grown if you’re in the area.


Story By The Numbers – Introduction

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 10:45 am

Fri 11/08/02 7:35 am

To: Mrs. Apgood, Kennedy Junior High School

My name is Laura Lund Moncur. I was in your eighth grade Honors English class in the 1982-1983 school year. I don’t know if you still do this, but you gave us a creative writing assignment called something like, Story By The Numbers. You made us choose three random scenarios that we had to include in a story. I can only remember two of the three random items I had chosen for my story. My story was supposed to have a mailman as a character and have someone be told that they were going to die. I was at a loss. I tried to write that story, but it was the only assignment that I never turned in during the entire year for your class.

Unlike the many assignments that I blew off during my scholastic career, this one haunts me. I have thought of this assignment many times over the last twenty years (My God, has it been that long!). Twenty years have past and I’m still thinking about my unfinished Story By The Numbers.

There is a cartoon show called Daria which used to play on MTV, but now plays on Noggin. I watched an episode of it last month and Daria’s English teacher, Mr. O’Neill, assigned her a special project where she had to write a story using characters that she knew in real life. She was having trouble, so she went back to him. He told her that sometimes boundaries paradoxically free our minds. The limitation that he put on her story was that there had to be a card game. I immediately flashed back to my unfinished assignment.

In an effort to exorcise the demon of The Story By The Numbers, I finally wrote it. I threw in the card game limitation because I couldn’t remember my third random bit. I’m sure I could have written this and felt relief if I hadn’t turned it in to you, but I thought that you might like to hear from a former student. Ironically, I married Mike Moncur (another one of your students from the same year). We’ve talked about that assignment together several times. He has no demons because he turned his in and promptly forgot it.

I’ve attached my Story By Numbers as a Word document to this email. May you have a wonderful life. Thank you for being in mine. Say hi to Miss Cooper for me.

Laura Lund Moncur

How fun to hear from you!!! I can’t believe it was that long ago that you were here at Kennedy. I remember you so vividly. You were so cute…..and always smiling. I remember Mike, also. He was such a good kid. I hope he still is!!! I think when you have a catchy name like Laura Lund (both names starting with the same letter…..alliteration, remember?!) and Mike Moncur we tend to remember them easier.

Your story is great!!! It is so well written…..story line, sentence structure, punctuation, everything! You grew up good….and smart!! You get an A+ on it!! (Ask Mike if I ever gave him an A+ on an assignment!!!)

Thank you so much for contacting me! It was so fun to hear from you. I will tell Ms. Cooper about you. Good luck with all your endeavors. Tell Mike to behave himself and always mind you!!!

Mrs. Apgood


Story By The Numbers

Filed under: Fiction — Laura Moncur @ 7:50 pm

Doug Lomond sat at the pinochle table. It was the dinner table only a half hour ago, but the dishes were washed and the leftovers were freezing, so now it was the pinochle table. He took out the 48-card deck and started shuffling. His brother, Daniel, took the pad and pencil and meticulously wrote the words “We,” “They,” “Bid,” and “Deal” on it. Doug and his brother had played pinochle since they were children. When they married, they taught their wives the game and the weekly ritual had continued into the next generation. Doug’s wife, Emily, was talking with Daniel’s wife, Sharon. They hadn’t noticed that the men were starting the game.

Doug shuffled the cards loudly. After years of practice, he could modulate the sound of shuffling as he pleased. He needed to tell them his news. As his hands repeated the motion, he realized that he had been waiting for an appropriate segue. His eyes blinked rapidly as he came to know that he would never find the right opening. He would never find the perfect time to tell them, “I’m dying.” His wife and sister-in-law sat at the table and Doug carefully placed the deck of cards to Daniel at his right. Daniel cut the cards and Doug began to deal them, three at a time.

“Prepare to die! Danny and I found a pinochle strategy book in the used book store and we are going to kick your butts!” Sharon was picking up her cards and arranging them by suit. The words had taken the air from Doug’s lungs; his lungs that should be pink and healthy based on his regular exercise and healthy lifestyle, his lungs that never had to deal with bad habits like smoking or coal mines, his lungs that had betrayed him and turned black with cancer. He tried to calm his breathing, a technique he had nearly mastered until things got to the point that he knew that he needed to see a doctor. He quietly finished dealing and arranging his own cards while the conversation raged around him.

“A used book store, huh? I never thought of looking there. I don’t think people play pinochle anymore because I can never find anything about it in the games section at Barnes and Noble,” Emily had carefully placed her cards in her hands and was waiting for Doug. Sharon responded, “I was surprised when I saw it. You should have seen me. I grabbed the book and held it tight like someone was going to try to get it away from me. The store was empty but I was looking around like I had to protect it.” Daniel looked at Doug and Emily and chimed, “Now, prepare to defend yourself.” Emily laughed and responded, “What did this book have in it?! Cheating techniques?” The three jovial players laughed and made funny symbols with their hands that stood for hearts, diamonds, spades or clubs. Doug blinked away his tears and stayed quiet about his news.

“The bid’s to you, Sharon,” Daniel urged. Sharon pondered her cards and spoke with authority, “I’ll open.” Emily immediately replied, “Twenty-six.” Daniel looked at his cards, obviously torn, “I’ll say twenty-seven, once.” Doug didn’t want to fight his partner on the bidding, “Pass.” While the bidding continued between Emily and Sharon, Doug’s mind wandered. He could almost see the doctor’s face in his mind’s eye. He couldn’t remember her hair color, but her expressive eyes had told him the news before her lips, “It’s cancer, Mr. Lomond. It has advanced to the point that we can do hardly anything about it. You really should tell your wife and family about this. Do you need me to meet with them?” Doug had just sat there, blinking at her. It took him a full minute to respond, “No. I’ll tell them myself.” He just sat there while the doctor told him about the procedures she could try. He agreed to meet with her again tomorrow to start with her recommendations, but tonight he needed to tell them.

Emily took the bid and called the trump, “Spades. Fat lot your book did for you. If you can’t take the bid you can’t win, you know.” Sharon rolled her eyes and placed cards face down on the table. Doug took an Ace and the three spade cards that he had been dealt and passed them to Emily, who cursed under her breath while she laid down her meld, “Damn, I had three legs and I was hoping you could fill me in.” Doug looked at his hand and realized that he hadn’t passed the Jack of Diamonds to her. He could have passed that instead of the Ace. “Damn,” Doug showed his Jack of Diamonds to the table and they all groaned. Daniel spoke first, “Man, you ALWAYS send over the Jack of Diamonds, even if you have to hold some trump. Grandpa would have kicked your butt! What’s the matter? Your head still at the post office?” Doug just shook his head and looked at Emily, “Sorry, babe. I’ll pay better attention next time.” She shrugged while handing back her discard, “It’s ok. I have my family. The double pinochle would have just been icing on the cake.” Daniel wrote down the meld for both teams, they all picked up their cards.

Emily led the first card for the first trick with the Ace of Spades. Daniel slapped down the other Ace of Spades, “Dammit! Just enjoy it now because that’s your last trick.” The three players laughed at Daniel’s posturing while Doug played a Nine of Hearts. Sharon played the Nine of Spades and Emily took the trick. She always gathered her tricks. This time she looked at them lovingly, “My, isn’t that pretty?” She held them up for all to see, “Look, I pulled the other Ace on the first trick.” She was smiling and Sharon responded, “It just means that all the trump is in one hand. It’s going to be like pulling teeth to get it all out.” The three of them laughed again while Emily led the Ten of Spades. Daniel and Doug sloughed low cards in Clubs and Hearts respectively and Sharon played her other Nine of Spades.

Doug thought about how nice the evening was. The three of them were happy and joking with each other. If he told them, the night would be ruined. They wouldn’t want to play anymore. They would want to talk about it. They would want to analyze it. All of this wonderful evening would be gone. He heard the children from both families playing video games in the living room and imagined their scared faces eavesdropping when the tone of the adults changed. Three tricks went by with little notice from him.

Emily had pulled all the trump without losing control and he barely gave it a second thought. She led an Ace of Diamonds and he sloughed the other Ace of Diamonds while thinking of who would take over his route at the Post Office. The second he put his card down, the rest of the table shrieked. Daniel picked it up and handed it back to him, “You don’t want to play that!” At the same time, Sharon jokingly chided him, “No, no! He played the card! They have to go with it!” Emily wasn’t the last to speak, but her tirade lasted the longest, “We all know you have a Jack to play on this trick! You KNOW I have a loser in my hand! You should have played the Jack instead. What were you thinking?” The table quieted and he looked at the three most important adults in his life, “I’m dying.” They all shook their heads still laughing, and Daniel was the first to speak, “I’d say! That’s the second screw-up tonight! At this rate, we don’t need any fancy pinochle techniques.” Doug interrupted him, “No, really. I’m dying. I saw a pulmonary specialist today about those breathing problems I’ve been having and I have cancer.” The table fell silent and the evening was ruined, just like he feared.



Filed under: Blog Stuff — Laura Moncur @ 9:10 am

I made the mistake of typing in some of the searches that brought readers to me. Someone looking for the phrase “drunk parties” ended up finding me, along with a million and one porn sites. I wasn’t even on the first twenty pages for that search. Someone looking for the phrase “skater punk boy pictures” found me on page eight of the Google search. Not even Avril Lavigne made the top five on that search. Porn, porn, porn.

We had parties that Nero would have been ashamed to attend. Ronnie Hawkins

The irony of all of this is now I’ll score even higher on things that I probably shouldn’t have a score for at all. I’ve said the words that brought the searches in addition to the word “porn” repeated several times. Do I need to guard my words so closely? If the words “drunk parties” brings up over twenty pages of porn, what would the words “poking a cheerleader” bring? I used those words last week. Oh, let me check. Only four pages of porn before I showed up.

How can I guard my words so that I won’t show up on anyone’s porn search? Is that possible? Maybe I’m just the kind of blunt woman whose words will be grouped with the unsavory and vulgar. What I need to say would only become more convoluted if I tried to guard each word. For all I know, the phrase “swarm of dragonflies” pulled up a bunch of porn too. No, I will say what I think in the way that it most naturally comes out of my fingers onto the keyboard.

Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards. Lois McMaster Bujold, “A Civil Campaign”, 1999

Most importantly, it’s obvious these people weren’t looking for porn. They had pages of choices before my site to fulfill their fantasies. No, if they were looking for porn, the boring blurb underneath the name of my weblog wouldn’t have been enough to warrant a click. What were they looking for? Did they find it here? Should it even matter to me if they didn’t?

This is something I never had to deal with when I was putting my journal in a drawer. No one read it. No one found it while looking for erotica. No one found it at all. I can’t hide in the drawer anymore. If you were looking for hot lovin’ here, you’ll have to keep searching.


Iris – Goddess of Energy

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 8:04 am


Miles Vorkosigan

Filed under: Books & Short Stories,Reviews — Laura Moncur @ 11:40 am

He’s short. I’m not talking normal short, this guy is midget short. I’m talking dwarf short. Not only that, he’s sickly. His mother was poisoned when she was pregnant with him, so all of his bones are brittle. Even my excitable nature could accidentally break his arms. He’s smart as hell, though. If you are in trouble, the sight of him should fill you with hope. It’s just that he’s so damn short

If power was an illusion, wasn’t weakness necessarily one also? Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campain, 1999

He’s loyal, too. If he made an oath to protect you, you would be protected for the rest of your life. If you made an oath to follow him, he would expect it. With great loyalty, comes devotion. He demands it by his actions, not by his words. If you know him, you don’t see the man who is under four feet tall, you see a true hero.

The problem is that I’ve never seen him. He lives in the imaginary world of Lois McMaster Bujold. I have been reading her books for a couple of years now and I find that she has completely ruined me for almost all other science fiction. Her books are so well written that I have a hard time reading lesser authors. Plus, I love Miles so much

[Y]ou have to be careful who you let define your good. Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campain, 1999

Miles Vorkosigan comes from a planet called Barrayar, where mutants and cripples are exposed at birth, or at least were just a couple of generations ago. He is the son of the second most powerful man on Barrayar and most believe that his advance in the military was based on nepotism rather than merit. He spends his young adult life proving that he is worthy of accolades and his adult life has been spent foiling various attempts to overthrow his cousin, the Emperor of Barrayar.

If all of this sounds complicated, it is. Added to all this intrigue is the fact that his mother is an off-worlder, he has an alternate identity with a mercenary group, he has a clone traipsing around the galaxy causing trouble for him and those damn Cetagandans are always trying to muck things up. Every novel she has written has enough going on to keep the most active mind on its toes and the characters still have enough presence of mind to tell me important things about my own life.

Read Mountains of Mourning online for free. It isn’t the first book in the series, but it is a good example of the compact beauty of her writing.


No. 2 Pencil

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 10:06 am

(transcribed from handwritten document)

I had forgotten how good it feels. The moment I put the pencil in the sharpener I could feel the excitement. This was no ordinary pencil. This pencil is shiny and prismatic. This pencil has my name printed on the side. This pencil is special. I turn it in the sharpener, watching the shine and prism slowly peel away, exposing the dark lead.

All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things. Bobby Knight (1940 – )

I had forgotten the smell. As a child, I imagined that the scent of freshly cut wood would be like the smell of a recently sharpened pencil. I was so disappointed by the actual smell of freshly cut wood. It smelled like greenery and Christmas. Nothing like a freshly sharpened pencil. If you were to ask me to describe the scent of thinking, I would tell you to sharpen a pencil and hold the tip to your nose.

I had forgotten the sound. I remember listening to thirty pencils all writing on single pieces of paper. It was most noticeable during a test. If you were to ask me to describe the sound of thinking, I would describe the tones of thirty pencils writing feverishly.

Even more intimate, I had forgotten the sound of one lone pencil, my own. Knowing that I am alone working. It is a comforting squeak and click. The dots on the “i”s, the crosses on the “t”s and the final periods all click with reassurance. The squeaks of the “s”s and the connected letters of script remain constant and hopeful. I am working. Even if I write and hide the paper in a drawer, I am working.

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Cyril Connolly (1903 – 1974)

I had forgotten the feel of the pencil in my hand. The wood is rough on my middle finger. The large and calloused lump on it has evaporated after years of clicking keyboards. I find that my hands have betrayed me. They are no longer strong and fit for writing dark lead-bound letters on paper. They have developed muscles for typing and are weak when it comes time for no batteries required.

Even more intimate, I had forgotten the feel of a pencil in my hand. The pen writes immaculately every time. You never need to turn it ever so slightly to get a better point. With a pencil, there is that microsecond of a delay. Just enough time to think of the best word and phrasing. It slows me down just enough to write my best, despite the power of the eraser. If I had to say what thinking feels like, I would tell you to turn your pencil to get a better point.

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Joan Didion (1934 – )

I had forgotten the sight. My letters. My design. My darkness. My spacing. No matter how many hand written fonts I encounter, I will never find one that is exactly like mine. Yes, that’s the question mark of my design. Yes, my “a”s have an umbrella. I decided between fifth and sixth grade that my “a”s would have umbrellas and my “t”s would have tails. It wasn’t until junior high that my “y”s, “j”s and “g”s would have extra flourishes. It only comes alive again with a pencil in my hand.

I just realized that I had even forgotten the taste. It tastes like that bite into the wood in times of thought. I can’t bear to bite this shiny pencil so lovingly embedded with my name. Yes, thinking tastes like paint and wood bitten firmly. I am so tempted. It has been so long since I’ve tasted the wood in thought. Maybe just one bite…


Learning to Bark

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 7:06 pm

Feline: that’s always how they describe females. I don’t know if it’s because the words feline and female are so similar, but it is prevalent in our language. When she gossips, she is catty. When we fight, it’s a cat fight. I don’t think it’s because of Batman and Catwoman. I think it preceded that. I can’t prove it, but I think we were considered feline in nature far before Robin ever explored the Batcave.

I’ve never understood women. I know men always talk about how they never understand women. Is it blasphemy to be a woman and say the same thing? In my world, when there is a disagreement, the first person to strike started the fight. If you start a fight, you damn well better be able to finish it. Whoever is still standing after the dust clears wins. Simple.

I’ve always followed my father’s advice: he told me, first to always keep my word and, second, to never insult anybody unintentionally. If I insult you, you can be goddamn sure I intend to. And, third, he told me not to go around looking for trouble. John Wayne (1907 – 1979)

In the female world, that sort of mentality doesn’t work. There is no physical fighting as far as I can tell. Maybe they’re all scared that the men would come running to watch the cat fight. Instead of deciding by feats of strength, there is a strange sort of speech that happens. “Why would you wear those pants?” In the correct voice, that phrase scares me a lot more than a fist aimed at my face. It took me an awful long time to learn how to say, “Because I like them,” in the correct tone of voice that says, “Do you want to make something out of it?!”

Just today, I realized that women aren’t feline in nature. They are pack animals. They are canine. All of us associate men with pack animals, but it has taken me all this time to realize that women are too. It makes sense. We are the same species, after all.

Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman. Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850), Woman in the Nineteenth Century, 1845

There is always an Alpha Female. She’s not always the prettiest or the smartest. She’s the bitchiest. I finally learned that if I just let her be the Alpha Female, life is so much easier. I have no trouble with idiot girls being the Alpha Female. I never wanted to compete for the males. All the idiot girls can have all the males, for all I care. It doesn’t matter to me.

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 – 1969), speech to the Republican National Committee, January 31, 1958

If I wanted to compete, though. What would I do? Learning how to say, “Because I like them,” was a start. Now I just need to learn how to bark the loudest in female-speak.


After School Now

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:53 am

I am childless. I’m not barren. I’m not selfish. I’m not happy about it. I’m responsible. I don’t believe that a child should be brought into the world if her father doesn’t want her. I love my husband and I am willing to wait for him. Additionally, I have a teaching degree. In short, I’m the perfect person to volunteer for something like Big Brothers Big Sisters or maybe an after school program.

I was at the mall last weekend and was bombarded with chastisement. The Ad Council in conjunction with After School Now had placed a number of incredibly offensive public service announcements on the mall kiosks. At first I thought they were a joke. They said things like:

How much do I think about helping kids?” with a picture of a woman holding her fingers very close together and smiling happily about it.

Need volunteers to shrug off the needs of children? Count us in!” with a picture of two strong and healthy men, canoeing.

In our busy lives, we still make time to not help kids.” with a picture of a happy young couple in-line skating.

We’re turning our backs on kids, and loving every minute of it!” with a picture of a happy couple tandem biking.

There’s nothing more refreshing than neglecting our nation’s youth.” with a picture of a healthy middle-aged man, swimming.

They all seem to be chiding me for not taking care of other people’s children. They are reproaching me, the perfect candidate to volunteer for an after school program. Before I saw these ads, I didn’t even know that after school programs needed help. This is how they ask for it? This is the response that their advertisements elicited from me: “Tell them to take care of their own children, you ungrateful beggars!”

All of the advertisements seem to tell me that I am selfish because I don’t volunteer to help other people’s children. The irony is that if they had asked me nicely, I probably would have jumped at the chance. It could be that Joe has been born to another family and she needs me to help her. There is a hope for me to find her like others have found their unborn children. If she is part of an after school program, however, she is lost to me forever.

The entire advertising campaign makes me militantly against all child-based charitable organizations. I am responsible. I didn’t bring an unwanted child into this world. Other people haven’t been responsible. That’s not my problem. What gave these people the right to assume that it’s my responsibility to shoulder the needs of unwanted children? How dare they insinuate that I’m selfish because I haven’t brought children in the world before both my partner and I am ready for them? How dare they chastise the adults who have already successfully raised their children for not volunteering to raise a stranger’s also? I’m not like the lady holding her fingers very close together; I’m giving a one-fingered salute to them.



Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 4:56 am

Sometimes I get tired. I’m not talking “sleep all day” tired. I’m not talking “admitted to the hospital for exhaustion” tired. I’m talking “disappeared for two weeks without a word” tired. Sometimes I want to leave. Sometimes I want to disappear.

When my friend gets tired, she fantasizes about having to go to the hospital. When she had her children, she had to stay in the hospital, which was the best experience for her. There were people there to make sure she was comfortable and healthy. The only thing that was expected of her was sleep, rest and relaxation. After living the life of a single mother of three, I can understand why she would fantasize about that.

We feel free when we escape — even if it be but from the frying pan to the fire. Eric Hoffer (1902 – 1983)

Me, I used to fantasize about going to prison. I imagined it was a quiet place where I could write a book. If it was good enough for Dostoevsky, then it should be good enough for me. I would be able to write as much as I wanted without thinking about work or home or family. I could just be alone and write. Even Oscar Wilde was able to write his work, De Profundis, while he was in prison. They would only allow him one piece of paper at a time and only allow him to write for a small amount of time each day. Even if they did that to me, I could still contemplate during the other hours of the day. Sure, I had heard the rumors about prison, but that was just for men, right?

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Bible, John 8:32

Then I learned the truth. “Oh it’s horrible! There is never a moment of quiet. It’s noisy all the time. You can’t even sleep.” That phrase alone was enough to cease my fantasies about prison. Four sentences from a friend of a convicted felon was enough to clear that idea from my imagination. Constant noise: isn’t that one of the definitions of hell? Then I find that for women it’s just as bad as it is for men. There are threats of beatings and rape all the time. There is no escape from the fellow prisoners or the guards. There is no safety. Instead of the quiet respite with time to write, it is a never-ending struggle to stay alive and untainted.

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. William James (1842 – 1910)

Fantasizing about being admitted to the hospital or being sent to prison is unhealthy. The mind will bring about whatever you focus on. If we had continued on our paths, she would have been terminally ill and I would have been unjustly imprisoned (I would never knowingly commit a crime). Instead of focusing on prison, I started focusing on what I wanted to do in prison, which was to write every day. After a few years of actually doing that and hiding my work in a drawer, here I am. Writing every day and sharing it with the world.

I must admit that I still fantasize about disappearing when I’m tired, though. Now I imagine myself in a posh hotel in New Orleans. That’s much better than prison, don’t you think?


The Black Beetle

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 12:48 pm

The other day when I was meditating, the vision of a large, black beetle in my right hand came to me. I had accidentally squished in between my fingers and palm and I felt immensely sad about it. I don’t know if I had been saving the bug for something or if I wanted to show it to someone. I have no idea where it came from or what I wanted to do with it. Whatever it was, I was very disappointed and sad about crushing the bug in my hand. It wasn’t a disgusting thing. I wasn’t sickened by flattened insect in my hand. I was sad that it was dead with no concern for the mess. It was a huge disappointment to me.

Some days you’re a bug, some days you’re a windshield. Price Cobb

As soon as I realized that my mind was wandering, I went right back to concentrating on my breath. The vision was so disturbing that I forgot to send it a little loving kindness before I cleared it from my mind. As I talk about it right now, I am still very sad and disappointed. It’s like that feeling when you finally get that ice cream cone that you really wanted, but when you lick the lumpy ball of sweetness, it falls off the cone and into the gravel at your feet. All you are left with was the sugar cone, empty and lifeless. That’s how it felt and I’m still feeling it right now.

If you step on a beetle, It will rain. If you pick it up and bury it, The sun will shine again. Omens

What did it mean? Was I nearing that point in meditation where I was about to fall asleep? Was that the precursor to a dream that meant nothing more than my mind was trying to process the day’s activities? If that were the case, where did that overwhelming sense of loss and disappointment come from? It was a loss of my own doing, but it was a senseless and accidental loss.

The loss which is unknown is no loss at all. Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

I believe our minds are stronger than we know. I believe that our senses are taking in so much information that we would go mad if we couldn’t filter it somehow. That filter, however, can block important information sometimes. That’s where our dreams come in. They help to remind us of everything that we saw and experienced lately. Some of it is important, but most of it is irrelevant. This sense of accidental loss that overcame me is one of the important things. I just need to think about it some more.


The Heater Vent

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 9:01 am

When I was a teenager, I wrote in my journal every morning. I woke up at 5 am, turned the heat up and sat on the floor by the heater vent. The warm air would fill the blanket that I had brought from upstairs. Every morning I took a warm air bath and it was delicious. This heater vent was positioned in such a manner that I could lean my back on the kitchen bar. I was comfortable and warm. It was the perfect environment to write out my teen angst every morning.

Don’t let yourself forget what it’s like to be sixteen. Anonymous

I still keep my journal every day. I type one full page of Arial 10 point text with half inch margins on all sides. I type until I fill the page, even if I feel empty. When I feel like I have nothing to say, I type the words, “I have nothing to say. I feel empty.” It usually only takes me a couple of iterations of those phrases until I realize that I’m not empty and that I DO have something to say. Typing on the computer is vastly different from the morning routine of my teen years.

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards. Robert Heinlein (1907 – 1988)

This weblog owes its existence to that morning page. I would post those words, but when I read them they tend to be full of the mundane and irrelevant. I find that the words that end up in my journal are useless. I think of my journal writing as a mind dump. I get rid of all the silly things that are floating in my head so that I can actually write something coherent and interesting.

Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. Christina Baldwin

In July, we moved to a new home closer to town. It’s smaller and much older, but we are really lucky. It has a forced-air gas furnace that works like a dream. The other morning, the heat came on and I couldn’t stop myself. I sat down on the hard wood floor right by the heater vent. The air filled my nightgown and the memory of all those teenaged mornings came to me. The joy of it was too good to stand up and get started with my day. There was only one thing that concerned me: how can I sit on the floor and write my morning page at the same time? Maybe it’s time I went back to paper and pencil.



Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 3:35 pm

Part of the agony of throwing a huge party is hearing the excuses of those who don’t want to attend. Rather than saying, “That just doesn’t sound like something I would like to attend,” they rack their brains to think of an acceptable excuse. I guess they are worried about hurting my feelings. Not accepting my invitation never hurts my feelings. All of this year’s excuses were perfectly valid excuses that I had no argument with. Instead, I was perfectly happy to support them.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make a good excuse. Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (1973) “Social Relations”

“Ramadan starts the next day.” I said, “I noticed that I had planned it on that day. I thought you might have a conflict this year,” but I wanted to say, “I’m glad that you are observing Ramadan this year. Since you’ve started practicing your religion faithfully, you seem much happier.”

“I’m deathly allergic to cats.” I told her, “I knew that you wouldn’t be able to come because of the cats, but I didn’t want you to feel left out.”

“I’m exhausted so I’ll be in St. George.” I said, “Good for you. I hope you can rest there,” but I stopped myself from replying, “It’s about time that you took a break. I’ve been worried about you.”

Saying you’ll come and flaking on me kills me, though. If you can’t be truthful with me, then I’d much rather hear the excuse before the party than afterward. The excuses that come after the party, break my heart. I usually respond politely, but I always have that inner cynic that wants the truth from you. Last year I heard many outrageous and sad excuses.

It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. George Washington (1732 – 1799), letter to his niece Harriet Washington, October 30, 1791

“I would have liked to come, but I had a family emergency that night.” Inside, I truly worried about your family emergency. I wanted to say, “What sort of horrible things are you experiencing in your life right now that would stop you from coming to a party that you really wanted to go to? Why haven’t you asked for my help?”

“I thought the party was on Halloween.” I kept quiet, but I felt like saying, “Halloween was on Wednesday, bozo. Do you actually believe that I would throw a huge party on a Wednesday? If you really wanted to go, you would have read the invitation.”

“I couldn’t find a sitter.” I said, “I understand how difficult it can be to get a sitter,” but I wanted to say, “I gave out my invitations three weeks before the party. You weren’t able to find a sitter after three weeks of searching?” If that were really true, then my heart breaks for you.

Why is it so hard for us to be truthful? It’s hard for me to say what I’m really thinking when people give me perfectly valid excuses. It’s hard for me to say what I’m really thinking when people give me totally lame excuses. I know you’re lying. You know I’m holding back. We both think the worst and our friendship suffers because of it.

The only man who is really free is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse. Jules Renard (1864 – 1910)

Everyone repeat after me. The polite way to turn down an invitation truthfully, “That really doesn’t sound like something I would like to do.” Come on, I didn’t hear all of you repeating. Let’s try again. Repeat after me, “That really doesn’t sound like something I would like to do.” The impolite but funny way to turn things down, “No, I won’t be coming. That sounds like sheer hell to me.” Even that is more polite than a lame excuse for not attending.


Chaos Theory

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 12:45 pm

Today is my Halloween party. I only throw one party a year and I plan for it all year long. The costume, the mix CDs, the movies in the background, and the slide show are all mulled over and thought about starting in February. This year, I’m going as “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun.” It took a long time for my costume to evolve into what it is, but now I’m decided. It’s too late to change it anyhow.

Partying is such sweet sorrow. Robert Byrne

The people I know fuss about the party more than I do. “Who’s coming to your party?” She has given her excuse for not coming but she’s still interested. I’ve told her twice, “I don’t really know. I pretty much only get negative RSVPs. It’s always a little random.” That answer isn’t good enough for her. If it were, she wouldn’t have asked me twice.

“Have you planned the food?” She knows it’s pot luck, but she still asks, “Well, I just thought that you would assign things to people who couldn’t decide.” I just shrug at her and say, “No, it always seems to work out.” I can feel it, she’s worried that everyone will bring the same thing, “Just think about it, if everyone brings Oreos, it will be the funny party where all we had to eat was Oreos.” We make some jokes about what to do with extra Oreos and she calms down.

Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control. Denis Diderot (1713 – 1784), Supplement to Bougainville’s ‘Voyage,’ 1796

The strange thing is that I love this party. I have it within my power to plan every facet of it. I could only invite those who I KNOW will show up. I could plan all the food and beverages. I could even pinpoint the time during the party in which they would eat. I could plan and control every thing. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Not even close.

There are some things that I want to control. If there is good music, people have something to talk about, thus the mix CDs. If there is something for them to watch on TV, they can escape people and just be alone with the television if the socializing gets too much for them, thus the scary movies. If you show them that you care, they will automatically enjoy it more, thus the slide show of Halloweens past. Those are the things that I can control.

I’ve found that the parties that are the most fun have some element of chaos to them. I don’t want to control who attends my party. I would much rather invite everyone and let the Gods of Chaos work it out. Dealing with the food is stressful. I would much rather let Chaos Theory take care of it. The one party where everyone brought chicken was still a good party. We had chicken curry, Kentucky Fried Chicken, chicken wings, some great chicken thing that Don brought and I don’t even remember the rest. Neither does anyone else. We just remember the funny party where everyone brought chicken.

That which is static and repetitive is boring. That which is dynamic and random is confusing. In between lies art. John A. Locke

That’s what a party is about: talking, fun, not getting overloaded, caring and funny memories. I won’t report about how it turned out. I can tell you right now. It was great fun and a little random.


Pack Up Your Sorrows

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 3:27 pm

If you’ve been paying attention, you would know that my choir is performing today. Even though I had a huge Halloween party the night before, I’m “Up and At ‘Em” today to sing. The song we are performing is “No Man Is An Island” and I’ve had the hardest time with it. It’s not the vocal range. The first soprano part is very high and I have to stretch to make one note and hold it, but that’s only one note of many.

Q: Why are Unitarians such bad hymn singers? A: We’re too busy reading a line or two ahead to see if we agree with it. UUC Home Page, Unitarian Humor, May 1998

True to form, the part of the song that I’m having trouble with is one line from the song, “Each man’s grief is my own.” I don’t experience this with people other than my closest of friends and family. I have plenty of empathy for the good things, but for the bad things, I separate myself from the pain. I don’t really feel that connected to humanity.

I am a rock. I am an island. And the rock feels no pain And an island never cries. Simon & Garfunkel, I Am A Rock, 1966

Sometimes I would rather live in the “I Am An Island” world instead of the “No Man Is An Island” world. Simon and Garfunkel had it right. “Each man’s grief is my own,” just doesn’t ring true for me. People try to spread their grief on me all the time. They tell me their sad stories in an effort to relieve some of their pain and I’m sure it works for them to some extent, but their stories rarely grieve me. I usually just listen with anticipation, hoping I can cull them for something interesting to think about and move on. Their grief isn’t my own, it’s my fodder.

If somehow you could pack up your sorrows And give them all to me. You would lose them, I know how to use them. Give them all to me. Tom Paxton, Pack Up Your Sorrows, 1966

I’m more like the song that Peter, Paul and Mary recorded called Pack Up Your Sorrows. “You would lose them, I know how to use them.” That’s more like me, a peppy little ditty about taking the grief of others and transforming it into energy. I prefer that song. Why aren’t we singing that in choir? I’m not in charge, that’s why. Singing in a choir isn’t about being the one in charge. Ironically, when you’re in charge of the choir, you don’t get to sing.

Think of me today. I will hit that note and hold it. I know this because I’ve practiced alone all week. Singing in the choir isn’t about singing alone. It’s about singing together. Just know, however, that while I’m singing “No Man Is An Island” I will be thinking about Peter Paul and Mary.


My Friend I Can Call Up

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 6:17 am

“My friend called me at 3:30 this morning because she couldn’t sleep. I met her at the gym.” When I heard her say that, my first instinct was, “That inconsiderate bitch.” I imagined receiving that call, groggy and panicked, to find out that my friend was just calling to tell me she was awake. That vision was immediately replaced with the more common experience of being awake in the middle of the night. If I wake up at 3:30 a.m., I’m up for the day. Nothing I can do will get me back to sleep. Many nights, I have lain in bed, with no one to talk to and no hope of sleep. I never even considered calling a friend. I don’t even have a friend I would feel comfortable calling at 3:30 a.m., not even my beloved sister. A wave of jealousy swept over me. I don’t have a friend I can call at 3:30 a.m. Then the quote came to me.

It’s the friends you can call up at four a.m. that matter. Marlene Dietrich (1901 – 1992)

I remembered typing it in. Even though it was a reliable source, I wondered if the quote was real. She was an old-time movie star. The studio could have released some cool quote for her to promote her popularity. They did it for Samuel Goldwyn. Half the things he said he didn’t say. Maybe the quote was from a movie and she was the character. That would be a misquote and it should go to the screenwriter. With all the worry about the attribute, I had forgotten about the quote.

I guess that’s a lie. I forgot about the quote until it sped at me like a bullet. She has a friend who she can call at four a.m. and I don’t. I felt the wound as vividly as if the quote had been a real bullet instead of a simile. I am still feeling the blood rushing from my head to the site of injury. I don’t have a friend I can call at four a.m.

It’s not something I want from everyone. If it’s reciprocal, my friend will sometimes call me at four a.m., which is damn hard to deal with. If someone wakes me up at that time of the night, there is no going back to sleep. There is no sleeping pill that will help me sleep and allow me to wake up perky and happy a mere two hours after taking it. It’s too early to feel rested and too late to go back to sleep.

No, I want only one or maybe two people who might wake me up in the middle of the night. This person must be chosen carefully. She is special. That’s why she’s the one that matters. Maybe I’ll call my sister today and see if she wants to be my friend I can call at four a.m.



Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 8:20 am

We sent her to San Diego with a quiet party and loving hugs. We were so proud because she’s going to graduate school. She was accepted. She found a great place to live. She is going to be happy there. We got a couple of emails from her and we learned about the zoo and what school was like for her. She was sharing the flat with a tank full of fish.

Well, there’s a hot wind blowing tonight in the east, And I heard that the park is filled tonight with police. Information Society, Fire Tonight, 1990

Friday, I got an email in which the most crucial thing going on was a sick starfish. But yesterday, I got the email saying that she is packing up just in case she needs to evacuate. Since I have gone on my news fast, this is how I hear about the events that shape our lives, from friends. Her city is on fire. Six hundred houses have burned already. She is packing up her beautiful flat.

On the TV hear they’re telling me the roads now are all closed down. Information Society, Fire Tonight, 1990

What about graduate school? The school has been cancelled because all the roads to it are blocked off. She is at home, paying vigil to the television set. The fires are to the east, south and north of her. The only way to go is west. No, April. Go east. Come home to us.

You said that if you couldn’t take the car you’d walk instead. It was the last thing you said before the line went dead. And now I’m waiting by the window holding all the things of yours I’ve found. Information Society, Fire Tonight, 1990

Yes, if April could come home, things would go back to normal. Maybe the whole West Coast will end in conflagration. Then she could come back home to us. She was supposed to be in the choir with me and we could have sung “No Man Is an Island” together. We could go dancing at Banana Joe’s again and maybe this time she wouldn’t cut her foot on a beer bottle. I could have a girlfriend to talk to again.

But there’s fire tonight on your side of town, Orange light in the sky without a sound. Fire tonight on your side of town. I watch and wait for you to come around. Information Society, Fire Tonight, 1990

No, that’s greedy. I only want her to come to Utah because I miss her. This is part of moving to a new city. A new home town will suffer its turmoil and for her to become a native, she must suffer through it too. No matter how much I would like to protect her and her city. She must stay. She must pack her belongings and she must save her starfish.


Communal Exercise

Filed under: Health and Fitness — Laura Moncur @ 8:20 am

Communal exercising is something that I haven’t ever really enjoyed. When I was a teenager, I spent some of my hard earned money on a membership to the now defunct Spa Fitness Center. I remember liking the gym. My cheerleader friend and I went there regularly and that was fun, but it was more about being there and being seen by the cool people at school. I remember the time we saw Joella Hall there. She wasn’t even wearing any makeup and she was in an old t-shirt and shorts. I remember being appalled that she would even show her face at the gym looking like that.

Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 AD – 180 AD), Meditations

Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve pretty much only wanted to exercise alone. It’s about exercise for me, not about looking at people. I don’t have any cute little exercise outfits to show off my assets. I pretty much wear an old t-shirt and shorts. In the summer, I mix it up a little and wear a tank top instead. I never wear makeup. I hate the gym. I don’t want people to look at me and I don’t want to look at them. Leave me alone so I can get done and out of there.

Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumbbells? To dig a vineyard is worthier exercise for men. Marcus Valerius Martialis (40 AD – 103 AD)

There must be something to communal exercise, though, because of all the classes that they have. People will sit in groups and ride exercise bikes together in a class. It’s nothing that you couldn’t do alone. People will do aerobics in a class together. You could do that at home for free just by watching ESPN or Lifetime at the right time. There must be something that I’m missing by not exercising in a group.

Maybe it’s like meditating in a group. Maybe there is a special energy there that connects people when they are in the moment. When you are really exercising, you are really in the moment. There’s really no other place you can be. I remember watching a movie from the sixties about a hippie that got drafted into the military. He didn’t want to go, but he didn’t want to go to jail either. He would get through basic training by putting his mind on pleasant memories with his hippie chick. All the other army guys wanted to know why he was able to stay so calm and happy during the long and grueling hikes, so he told them. All the draftees were imagining their happy place by the end of the movie. The drill sergeant would have nothing to do with that and he ended up kicking the hippie out of the army.

Exercise alone provides psychological and physical benefits. However, if you also adopt a strategy that engages your mind while you exercise, you can get a whole host of psychological benefits fairly quickly. James Rippe, M.D.

That movie was total crap. When you are working that hard, you can’t focus on anything but your feet and moving them one more step and then another step. When your body is being worked that hard, you can only be right there, with your body. All thoughts of the flowing yellow hair of hippie chicks are expelled by your body calling for attention. Maybe that’s why I want to be alone. I want to concentrate on my body and finish up. Any distractions make it worse for me. Maybe that’s why they want to exercise in a group. Any distractions make it better for them. I don’t know, but the image of that hippie chick is doing nothing for me.



Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:25 am

I had a really strange dream before I woke up the other morning. I worked at a law firm instead of an electrical engineering firm. We were trying to negotiate a dispute with another law firm. The opposing counsel was at our office building and they were causing a bunch of trouble. No matter which lawyer our company sent in, they were delaying and refusing to negotiate. They had sent in a lot of the lawyers and our people were sick of it. The opposing counsel had seven lawyers there, working on the lawsuit.

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.             Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001), “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

Things were going poorly, so they sent me in to procrastinate while they regrouped. I was a secretary there just like I’m a secretary in real life, but the opposing counsel didn’t know this. When I walked in, I took the notes from all the of our lawyers. While I was doing this, I noticed that the opposing lawyers weren’t even working on the paperwork for the deal that we were negotiating. They were working for another client instead of even trying to negotiate this deal. For some reason, they were stalling. I read them the riot act. I asked them if it was an ethics violation to double bill. I took away their folders and piled them on a different table. Once I got our notes collected, our lawyers dismissed and their other work piled on the table, I thought that we could talk about the issue at hand. Instead, the leader of the opposing counsel started interviewing me like I was a potential employee.   Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.             Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849), “Eleonora”

At that moment, I realized that they were just stalling so they could recruit from our office. They were trying to hire away our best lawyers. She interviewed me, asked who my immediate supervisor was and who worked for him. While I had been gathering the notes from our team, I noticed that one of our lawyers was looking for a job elsewhere, so I told the opposing partner that I worked with her. When she offered me a job, I told her that I had made a personal commitment to myself to stay at this law firm for two years and that there was no way that I would go against a commitment like that. She seemed to like me even more at that point and was wanting to interview more of our lawyers.

Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.             William Dement

Then I took control. I told them that no one was going to leave this room until we came to a decision on this issue. There would be no more interviewing to recruit our lawyers. No one would be allowed to take any calls. No one would even be allowed to go to the bathroom, including me. There was a plant in the conference room that they could pee in and if this goes too long, even I would use it and let the smell convince them to get to an agreement. At that point, my immediate supervisor, the lawyer for whom I worked, knocked on the door. I told him that no one was allowed to leave this room once they came in, so if he needed to use the restroom, he better do it now. I guarded the door and confiscated a cell phone before I woke up.

Dreams that do come true can be as unsettling as those that don’t.             Brett Butler, ‘Knee Deep in Paradise’

While I was getting tough with the opposing counsel, I realized how much I missed being able to be a complete and utter bitch when I was a real estate agent. I really used that job to get out a lot of aggression. Now that I work at a nice and civilized engineering firm, I have no use for those tough girl talents. I know that Dilbert’s engineering firm has Alice, who can swear like a carpenter, but we don’t have that here and we really don’t need it. Instead, I spend weeks and even months without having to turn into the vocal equivalent of Xena. I haven’t been in a position in which I had to beat anyone into submission with my words for so long and I didn’t even realize that I missed it.

Idle hands are the devil’s tools.             English Idiom, GoEnglish.com   Just thinking about it right now, I really miss it. I feel a real desire to get “medieval  on your ass.” I don’t have a nemesis and there is no one in my life anymore that has caused me harm. I tell you, this is how evil begins. Imagine this villain at her lovely engineering firm. She used to be in an environment where she had to fight to survive, and now she is living a life of ease and grace. After so many years of hardship and struggle, this life seems foreign and boring. She had worked so hard to achieve this life, but she found it a tad unfulfilling.  Then there is the fateful meeting with the nemesis. Something clicks on that day and she devotes her life to evil.

Everybody needs a nemesis. Sherlock Homes had his Dr. Moriarty, Mountain Dew has its Mello Yellow, even Maggie has that baby with the one eyebrow.             Lisa Simpson, Springfield Weekly

I can only hope that I never meet my nemesis. Things are so nice and calm where I work that I could be drawn to pure evil right now. I guess that’s why I’m keeping busy with the weblog and the quotations site. I want to prevent my hands becoming tools for evil. If I keep busy of my own accord, then I will never have to let the tough girl free and unleash her power on my nemesis.



Filed under: Halloween — Laura Moncur @ 5:51 am

Today is Halloween. I must admit I don’t care anymore. My huge Halloween party was almost a week ago. Even though it went perfectly, I have to tell you that I’m ready for the holiday to pass. I think I spent too much time thinking about the party this year instead of reason for the holiday.

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping? Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, 1845

There is a large flock of crows at the park nearby my work. I am on my lunch hour, sitting in my car at the park and writing an early Halloween entry with a shiny and bitten No. 2 pencil. I am watching the black birds search the grass for food and listening to their calls. They remind me of a different black bird.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore; Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, 1845

I’ve never seen a raven. I may have seen one on television or at an aviary, but I have never seen a raven in the wild. And like most of us, I’ve never had a raven come into my home and say, “Nevermore.” Every time I read that poem, I visualize a crow.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Western girl. I may have been born on the East Coast, but my body belongs to the mountains and the salty water of Utah. Something has agitated the flock of crows and they are all speaking at once. They almost sound like ducks when they argue. Maybe my teenaged mind couldn’t fathom a bird that didn’t frequent the valley of Salt Lake and replaced the raven with a crow. The call of one bird was exchanged with the call of another, neither one sounding like the word, “Nevermore.”

Quoth the raven “Nevermore.” Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, 1845

Those words can hold so much regret. Never more will I see her smiling face. Never more will I hear his tender voice. Never more will I laugh with them. To hell with regret. Winter is coming. If I brood with regret, I may never see spring.

From now on, those words will mean “Enough! Basta!” Just like the mob boss who stopped the killing, I will say the same to all that is evil in my life. Never more will I allow someone to be mean to me without comment. Never more will I stay quiet while another is unjustly maligned. Never more will I allow my wit or malice to cut another. “Nevermore”

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting? Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, 1845

The flock of crows have quieted and all I can hear is the call of one bird in the playground. One by one, I’ve watched the individuals of the group leave and fly off. They stopped by my park to remind me of why Halloween is scary. We can honor the dead with a “Nevermore” of determination or a “Nevermore” of regret. The choice is ours and I needed a reminder of which one would work for me.

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