Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur

9/26/2003

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

9/27/2003

Destinate

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.

9/28/2003

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.

9/29/2003

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?

9/30/2003

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.

10/1/2003

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.

10/2/2003

Picture

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.

10/3/2003

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.

10/17/2003

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…

10/22/2003

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.

11/3/2003

Memories of Las Vegas

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

I’m leaving for Las Vegas tomorrow. I feel sad for Hugh Elliott. He has never been to Vegas. He has never seen the glamour and he has never stretched his neck in awe to the sheer gaudiness of it all. Yes, even you, Hugh, would have to stretch your neck at it. It’s that big and that gaudy.

Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas … with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether.

Hunter S. Thompson (1939 – ), “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”
  I remember the first time I saw Las Vegas. I was ten and my mom woke me up. “We’re getting into Vegas, honey. Wake up and see it.” I couldn’t find my glasses in the motor home, so it was a blurry flurry of light. We stayed at the Circus Circus RV Park overnight. After taking us kids to the circus games, Mom, Carol and the rest of the adults went to the casino and stayed out late. I remember waking up Pat because I had botched up changing the baby’s diaper. She was suffering with a hangover, but her skilled hands wiped him up neatly. I learned that you had to lift them by the legs to wipe them up properly. Late that afternoon, we headed to California and Mickey Mouse.

Judged by the dollars spent, gambling is now more popular in America than baseball, the movies, and Disneyland combined.

Timothy L. O’Brien, Bad Bet (1998)

My next memory of Las Vegas was a tired splash of color on the way to Long Beach. We should have stopped there to sleep in the Legoland Castle that was the newly built Excalibur. I nearly fell asleep driving after the California border. We slept in Baker for a few hours before finishing the trip. Vegas could have become just a blur on the way to California in my memory, but fate intervened.

Noting his mother’s visit to Las Vegas the weekend before she died. “She got to go to heaven four days early.”

President Bill Clinton

Then there was Comdex 1993. The Internet was still spelled with a lowercase “i” back then. I was intent on getting some of that Virtual Reality stuff (thanks, Sun Microsystems). We stayed in Jean, Nevada because we couldn’t afford the sky rocketed hotel rooms in Vegas. We met our friends there and they showed us the coolest booths at the convention. All of us envisioned a world of computers and none of us could have predicted Dot Com, much less Dot Bomb.

Many Comdexes and InterOps later, we are now going to Las Vegas for fun, not work. There is no computer show excuse to write off this trip. We will get a donut in the Legoland Castle. We will meet friends and dance the night away in the Glass Pyramid. We will get a cannoli at the Statue of Liberty and eat some stinky cheese underneath the Eiffel Tower.

Casinos and prostitutes have the same thing in common; they are both trying to screw you out of your money and send you home with a smile on you face.

VP Pappy

Michael rues the day when he gets old. He is worried that when he recalls his Vegas trips to unsuspecting strangers that they will think he is senile. “On the first day, we went to Egypt and Medieval Europe. On the second day, we went to Paris and Venice. Watch our for the Pirates, they’re right across the street from Venice. The next day, we saw Simon and Garfunkel at the Green Lion.” Even knowing the true itinerary doesn’t make it sound more sane. Where else in the world can you see all that? It’s still a blurry flurry of light, but if you blink, you’ll miss it. No excuse, Hugh! Get your ass to Vegas!

11/8/2003

Total Lunar Eclipse

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 4:15 am

Tonight we will experience a total lunar eclipse. Check out the Clark Planetarium’s website for the technical data and times. It’s a total lunar eclipse, even if our mountains might hide the moon for part of the time, it’s guaranteed to be spectacular. Of course, this is Utah. Our sky could be completely encrusted with clouds and the Star Party planned at the Planetarium with be a big disappointment to the Astronomy nerds.

Why dost thou gaze upon the sky?
O that I were yon spangled sphere!
Then every star should be an eye,
To wander o’er thy beauties here. Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535)

A couple of years ago, we had meteor showers in our sky. It was winter and the showers were only at their best at two in the morning. Mike and I bundled up and drank hot chocolate and kept our eyes peeled for about an hour looking for shooting stars. We saw about two or three of them, but after an hour, I was so cold that I just wanted to go back in. It didn’t matter to me that I had only seen a couple of meteors. I was cold and tired and I wanted to go back to bed.

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape… Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

The first time I saw a lunar eclipse, we lived at Barrington Park Condominiums. I was excited to see an entire eclipse and had planned for it. The window in my bedroom was the best way to view it. I set myself up on my bed and I sat and I watched. I saw a tiny shadow on the edge of the full moon. I eagerly sat and watched for about an hour, but I must admit that after that, I just wanted to go to sleep. I didn’t care whether I got to see the whole thing or not.

We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. Anton Chekhov (1860 – 1904), 1897

I didn’t realize how long an eclipse takes. Maybe astronomical pursuits are out of my range of ability. They are sequestered to the evening hours. Maybe Astronomy is for the intellectual who is kept awake by her insights rather than lulled to sleep. I can excel at many things, but staying awake is not one of them. If my eyes automatically open at six in the morning, that means they also automatically close at 10 in the evening. I will leave Astronomy to others and be content to watch stop motion photography.

11/17/2003

We Girls Can Do Anything

Filed under: Barbies and other favorite toys,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 2:52 pm

People get their underwear in a bunch sometimes, don’t they? Remember the Barbie that talked and said things like “Math is hard?” People got really riled up with that one. I was an adult at the time and I remember being very angry that the Mattel Corporation would treat our young women with such disrespect. Even to this day, I make fun of the Mattel Corporation by saying the words, “Math is hard” with a bubble-headed girl’s voice.

Guess what? I was wrong. It’s hard to admit it, but I can do it when I need to. I just realized today after reading Hugh Elliot’s weblog entry that I was so wrong. I feel like I need to make a formal apology to Mattel, but there really isn’t a form on their website for that.

A decade after Hugh put his G.I. Joes in the storage box, I was still playing with my Barbies. Back in the seventies, Barbie didn’t work. Barbie was a teen fashion model. She had a boyfriend, Ken and a little sister, Skipper. Kelly hadn’t been born yet and her mom is still M.I.A. (yet still able to give birth to a new baby sister, figure that one out). Barbie was a Super Star and a beach bunny. Malibu Barbie was totally cool because she had a tan lines underneath her bathing suit. They were painted on, and if you took her out swimming too often, they would chip right off. I swear, what kinds of kids test these toys? Malibu Barbie HAS to go swimming!

Anyway, we were talking about why I was wrong. Mattel told me back in 1977 that my only goal as a woman should be to wear pretty clothes, walk gracefully and get a tan. As a child, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what Mattel told me. Barbie wasn’t a teen fashion model. Barbie was a mom. Barbie was a career woman. Barbie worked in insurance just like my mom did and she made a ton of money. Enough to drive a purple Corvette (I saved all my chore money for weeks just to buy it. It cost eight dollars back then, but that’s another story). Barbie could do anything and she didn’t need Ken to do it either. Ken was great fun to have around, but if he skipped town (or got a bad haircut, damn you, Stacey) he was out of there. No matter what propaganda Mattel fed me, Barbie did exactly what I wanted her to do.

When my sister Stacey was in her Barbie phase, Mattel had finally gotten the picture. Her commercials sang, “We girls can do anything!” I loved that slogan. It meant exactly what “playing with Barbies” was for me. They went from teen fashion model, to “We girls can do anything” to teeter at “Math is hard.” And guess what? All of that didn’t matter because Barbie does what I want her to do, not what the commercials tell me. Apparently, it was the same for Hugh.

11/19/2003

The One Time Calvin Failed Me (Part 1 of 3)

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:08 am

I forgot to tell you one more story about Calvin. I know I spent more than a week talking about him, but I realized a few weeks ago that I had one more memory that I hadn’t placed in writing. It was the one time that Calvin failed me, although I didn’t recognize it for what it was when it happened. More importantly, it was filed in my head in a different folder. I had placed it in the Sexuality folder instead of the Calvin folder and I really think it was filed correctly, so I’m not planning on changing everything now. I just need to add a photocopy to the Calvin folder. (How I wish my memory really worked like that.)

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It was one of those parties. Calvin and I were the only sober ones there and things had gotten a little out of control. I think it started when my friend announced that she had porn. She always had access to porn. Once again, she was the youngest sister with five older brothers. There wasn’t a time that I can remember when we didn’t have access to porn. Our first exposure to it had been in fifth grade when we sneaked into her oldest brother’s room and found the magazines. I don’t know why she decided to unveil it at that time. I don’t know what was different about this party, but it was quite different because she told everyone that we had access to porn.

 

I’m not talking magazines. I’m not talking full frontal nudity. I’m not even talking about soft core. I’m talking hard core hetero-porn videos with everything you could possibly think of and maybe some things that you couldn’t (I wish I could throw out the electric toothbrush scene in that folder and wipe my mind clean). That evening, the videos were played, rewound and replayed constantly all night.

 

My wits weren’t about me. I hadn’t been drinking, but it was three in the morning and I was getting tired. By that time, all the couples were coupling. The only people left were Calvin, Jerry and me. The videos were still running. Calvin and I were sober, but Jerry was drunk and still drinking. Calvin entertained us by making fun of the porn. There were a lot of things on the screen to make fun of and we laughed together.

 

It had been a normal party for me. No guys had hit on me. I had tried to create some order from the chaos, making sure my friend’s house didn’t get trashed. I had worried all night that we would be busted because the guys had stolen the beer that everyone was drinking from a local convenience store. There had been a lot of drama between the couples and I was feeling a little jealous that I was alone.

 

I was just about to drift off to sleep, safe in the knowledge that nothing bad could happen to me with Calvin there. That’s when it happened. Calvin stood up and said he was going to sleep. Fine by me, I thought, but he walked into one of the empty rooms and shut the door on Jerry and me. I was suddenly wide awake and alone with some big football player that I had never met before the party.

11/20/2003

The One Time Calvin Failed Me (Part 2 of 3)

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:23 am

It wasn’t like Jerry was a stranger. He had been to many of the parties. I had classified him as pretty but a little dumb. It wasn’t a fair classification. He had just been put into the football player mold. That was all that I knew about him. He was a football player, just like the one that took advantage of the other cheerleader I knew. He was a football player, just like the one that dated my friend. He was a football player, just like all the rest of the perverted football players out there.

Calvin had walked out of the room. I was in shock and wanting to bring him back to us. I could just walk over there and open the door. Jerry was saying something, “When Calvin was here, that was really funny, but now it just seems creepy.” He stood up and turned off the porn. I hadn’t even noticed that it was still playing on the television. I felt unsafe. Jerry and I had been sitting on the loveseat that was right across from the TV while Calvin had been sitting right in front of us on the floor. Calvin had been sitting right there. If he came back, I might be safe.

I stood up and knocked on the door, but Calvin didn’t answer. If only he had left the door open, then I would be safer. I turned around. Jerry was back on the loveseat. I felt trapped. I couldn’t go home. It was three in the morning and my mom would have a fit if I showed up there when I was supposedly just at a sleepover at my friend’s house. There would be many questions from my mom if I just showed up at home at that time. No, the only way out of this was through. I could see that it was going to be a long night.

I sat down on the large couch to the left of Jerry’s loveseat. I hadn’t received enough confessions to recognize it for what it was, but Jerry confessed it all to me. I am not clergy and I could tell you all of the problems that troubled his eighteen-year-old mind, but I won’t. He had had a girlfriend in the past. He had made mistakes. He was thinking about his future. He was scared of screwing it up. He was alone. They are all universal and the details weren’t logged into my journal, so I can’t even remember all of what was confessed to me.

After the confession, I was scared. Some of the things he told me surprised me. I had classified him as a dumb jock, but he had broken that image. I had classified him as an unfeeling pervert, but he was in pain over this girlfriend. Over the course of the confession, he had moved from the loveseat to my couch. By the end of the conversation, he asked me if I wanted to sleep with him. I had been jealous of my friend and all of the other cheerleaders because they were sequestered in rooms with guys, but this wasn’t right. No matter how beautiful he was, I knew it would be wrong. I instinctively knew that it was improper to even touch him after a confession like that.

I told him no and he apologized for asking. He moved away from me to the other side of the large couch. I told him that he didn’t need to apologize, but he shook his head and pointed at me, “I’ve got you all cowering away from me.” I became aware of my body. He was right. I was curled into an upright fetal position at the very edge of the huge couch.

11/21/2003

The One Time Calvin Failed Me (Part 3 of 3)

Filed under: Calvin Hardcastle,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:36 am

My whole life I thought I knew why the guys never hit on me. I had blamed my appearance for the lack of boyfriends. I had convinced myself that I was fat and that was the reason that the guys didn’t want me. At that point, cowering in the corner of the couch, I knew I was wrong. Wrong with a capital “W.”

I had a good looking football player telling me his life story and hoping to get lucky with me, right there on the couch next to me. He was perfectly willing to do whatever I wanted. If he thought I was fat, it wasn’t getting in the way that night. It was that night that I realized that men love women. They love us whether we are fat, thin, ugly or shockingly beautiful. They love us whether we are shy, outgoing, prim or shockingly vulgar. They love us merely because we are women.

Even more importantly, I said no. It wasn’t even a question in my mind. I said no with my body and my words so loudly that he didn’t ask me again. I had convinced myself that if I was thin, I would automatically be a slut. If I were thin, the guys would want to have sex with me, and I wouldn’t be able to say no. I would want to sleep with any guy that was willing to come to my bed. Again, I knew that I was wrong. I had been lying to myself. Here I was in a very private situation with a very eligible football player, and I said no. Not just no, Hell No.

I realized that the guys didn’t hit on me because I didn’t want them to. Just like when I was cowering at the edge of the couch, I told all the guys at the parties that I didn’t want them to even touch me with my actions and maybe even my words. I never got drunk at those parties, which is a huge flashing sign that says, “I’m not going to lose control.” I made it perfectly clear that I didn’t want to be alone with any particular guy by staying in the public areas and never “crashing” in a room all by myself. I had even found a protector that didn’t want me for himself: Calvin.

Speaking of Calvin, I wonder if he truly failed me. Looking back, maybe he thought that he was helping me out. Jerry and I had been laughing at and talking about the porn for at least an hour and maybe he felt like a third wheel.  Maybe he thought that I wanted him to leave so I could finally be alone with Jerry. I don’t know and I never asked him about it. In fact, I could never look Jerry in the eye after that night. It was as if I had seen beneath his skin and found all the tender and painful spots. I was still new to receiving confessions and didn’t know how to continue a friendship after one so vivid and painful. It was something that would take me a long time to learn.

1/7/2004

Dreams

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:50 am

There is a point when I am waking up in the middle of a dream in which I don’t know what is the dream and what is my imagination. My eyes are still closed and suddenly, I can control the events within my dream. I must be awake and imagining a finale to the dream so that I’m not left feeling like I left the movie theater before the climax.

They say dreams are the windows of the soul–take a peek and you can see the inner workings, the nuts and bolts.  - Henry Bromel, Northern Exposure, The Big Kiss, 1991

Last weekend, I had a dream about a teacher and some students in detention. I have no idea where the dream ends and my imagination begins. I guess it doesn’t matter. The memory from both were both wholly created within my mind. For some reason, I feel like I’m not responsible or even own my dreams, whereas my imagination is my own. It is a source of pride and shame, whereas my dreams are merely interesting fodder for talk

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.  - George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)

When I was a teenager, we shared the bathroom. My mom, Stacey and I would all be together in the bathroom getting ready. The schedule for the showers went as follows: Me, Mom, Stacey. I would shower first, then move on to the makeup vanity. Mom would shower next and by the time she was done, it was time for me to do my hair while she put on her makeup. Stacey would stagger out of our bedroom right before Mom’s shower, but she needed food before she could be civil, so she ate breakfast before finally coming back upstairs to shower while I did my hair and Mom put on her makeup.

A schedule defends from chaos and whim.  - Annie Dillard

We were three women in a bathroom every school morning. Every morning we talked about our dreams. If we didn’t remember our dreams, we wouldn’t talk about them, of course, but almost every day one of the three of us remembered a dream. Stacey’s dreams were long rambling and incredibly detailed. I remember once she started telling her dream, I stepped downstairs for just a minute that turned into thirty minutes and when I came back, she was still talking about the same damn dream. We didn’t get to analyze her dreams. There wasn’t time. We just listened.

Dreams are postcards from our subconscious, inner self to outer self, right brain trying to cross that moat to the left. Too often they come back unread: “return to sender, addressee unknown.” That’s a shame because it’s a whole other world out there–or in here depending on your point of view.  - Dennis Koenig and Jordan Budde, Northern Exposure, Roots, 1991

Most of the time, we were able to analyze. It was like a game to play every morning. “What do you think this dream means?” We didn’t base important life decisions on the analysis. It was all for fun. It was like a parlor game for the bathroom and we played it every morning. With three active minds, there was always a dream to play with.

Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.  - John Updike (1932 – )

I miss that game. Mike can’t play it. Sometimes he tries to play it with me, but he doesn’t have ten years practice like I do. He takes the analysis too seriously. It’s like he’s worried that I’ll make a life changing decision based on the random firing of neurons. I don’t even know how to teach him to play the game correctly. After thirteen years of marriage, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Maybe I should just call my sister every morning so we can go through our dreams together. Of course then, the phone call would be two hours every time she wants to tell me one of her dreams?

1/9/2004

Dehumidifier

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:50 am

The first time I ever saw a dehumidifier, we were in North Dakota. Bobka, my great-grandmother, used to live in her own house in Pembina, North Dakota. It was right at the Canadian border. It was also the first time that I ever saw The Flintstones in French. I wasn’t bothered that Fred was speaking French so much that it was a different voice coming out of his mouth.

Anyway, there was a strange machine in her basement. Maybe it was an air filter. Maybe it was a furnace or something. I didn’t know what it was, but Bobka emptied a bucket of water out of it twice a day. Twice a day, this machine made water. Cool?

The more I thought about the machine the more confused I got. If Bobka wanted a machine that would make water, why would she just dump it down the drain twice a day. Why didn’t she drink it? Why didn’t she use it to water her lawn? Why did she just dump it out? I finally asked my grandma what the strange machine did and she laughed at me. I was an item of amusement to her with my weird little thoughts. It was a dehumidifier. It didn’t make water, it took water out of the air so it would be less humid in the house.

My desert eyes were amazed. There are machines that can take water out of the air? This could solve everything. I had just come to North Dakota from one of the worst droughts in Utah’s history. Why didn’t we have one of these machines in Utah? We could take the water out of the air and use it to water our dying grass. I had just lived through a summer in which I was not allowed to run through the sprinklers because of the drought. Our grass had turned dry and brittle. This machine could fix everything.

After I got back to Salt Lake, once again I became the subject of amusement. I told my mom about the magic machine that Bobka had that could take water out of the air. We should get one for the grass. My mother was a native of Millwaukee. She knew the machine of which I spoke. It wouldn’t work in Utah. There’s no water in the air to remove. That’s why we’re a desert. That’s why our grass is dying.

Last week, Mike and I bought a humidifier for our house. With the humidity at 19%, all of our plants were dying and the static electricity was threatening to mess up our electronics. After an hour of operation, the humidity was up to desert levels (25%). I wonder what a child from North Dakota would think about my magic machine that actually puts water into the air. Probably just be bugged because Fred Flintstone speaks in English with a different voice.

1/16/2004

Sun Drive

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

As drove home from work on Wednesday, the fog was so thick that I could look directly at the sun: no sunglasses needed. The massive red disk was just starting to dip into the mountains. If I had left for work five minutes later, I would have missed it. It looked spectacularly huge when it slipped right behind the Chevron refinery. It became part of the refinery and snapped out of the distance into the foreground. The sun looked like it was part of the refinery process, like some huge, red carefully controlled burn.

A child could have drawn this sun. It was perfectly round. There were none of those pesky sun beams flying off it, blinding me. It was just a huge crimson circle in the sky. I half expected to see a smiley face to appear on it.  I have been complaining about this fog, but I had forgotten how beautiful it can be. I had forgotten how it can obscure the sun enough to give me the opportunity to look straight at it.

The first time I remember being able to look straight at the sun, I must have been about six years old. It was after I went to first grade, but it was before my grandma moved to Billings. I was out in the backyard of her home on Windsor Street. Attached to her back porch was a trellis and there were large and orange honeysuckle blooms clinging to it. It was a hot evening and I was surprised that I could actually hear the wings of the hummingbirds, feeding on the honeysuckle.

I was just sitting in the backyard listening to the insect noises of the hummingbirds, when I noticed the sun. There were clouds obscuring it on the horizon, so I could look straight at the sun. I remembered a biblical story in which someone was blinded by the sun. I had accepted that story literally, not realizing that the sun can “get in your eyes.” I stared at the sun, trying to see if it would make me blind. It made a round burn mark that floated in my line of sight. I didn’t really consider that blindness. I stared at the sun until it went behind the Oquirrh mountains.

After it was gone, I ran inside to tell my mom and grandma what had happened. “I stared right at the sun and it didn’t blind me.” My mom dismissed what I said, “You couldn’t have stared directly at the sun. It would blind you.” I argued with her for about five minutes and I regretted that I hadn’t brought her outside to see the sun sink. She probably doesn’t remember that day.

Many times I have seen the sun look like this. It’s usually on a foggy day like Wednesday, but I have looked directly at that yellow disk through thin clouds. Sunsets, sunrises and daytime I have observed this phenomenon. It’s like I feel like I need to keep looking to prove to myself that it really happened because someone didn’t believe me once.

1/17/2004

Eskimo Words for Snow

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:38 am

They say the Eskimos have a large number of words for snow. I think that’s baloney. Two, maybe three, words tops is all I’m willing to believe from them. It’s not that I think that Eskimos don’t have the creativity to name all the different types of snow, it just that every thing that I have ever been told about another culture has been a lie. I’m reluctant to take this one at face value.

According to The AFU and Urban Legends Archive, it’s all bogus, so I guess my instincts were right. Well, if Eskimos don’t have a million words for snow, we Utahans should make some up. When I started writing, we had that tiny and  fine snow that reminds me of dandruff. It’s just enough to muck up your windshield, but not enough to clean the dirt from the street. Sometimes it just fools you and you think that the fog is really thick, but when you look closely, it’s snow.

When I was researching the Intuit words for snow, the flakes got bigger. They were only about half the size of Christmas Snow. It was the size and quantity of snow that sent my mom into a terror-induced trance one evening. It wasn’t the year of the horrible snow. It was before that and it was before the divorce, so I was younger than eleven years.

We had gone to Valley Fair Mall. You know how things are at the mall. They are warm. You take off your coat and carry it around with you, wishing you had just left it in the car. Eventually, you forget about the outside world and get lost in your errands. That’s what happened to us that night. It was a wonderful evening with my mom and Stacey when we stepped outside. She froze. The most vivid part of this memory is watching my mom just look straight up at the sky at those snow flakes.

Whenever I tell this story, careful listeners always interrupt me. “Isn’t your mom from Wisconsin?” I can see their minds click. It’s like a little cartoon balloon is above their heads. “Wisconsin gets major snow. Why would she be scared of snow?” I remember the day when I asked her those exact questions. “I grew up in Wisconsin, but I learned to drive in Virginia.”

Ah, yes. Virginia. My father was stationed in Portsmouth, Virginia during part of the Vietnam War. I was born in Virginia. I always imagine my young mother on the bus when she realizes that she could just learn how to drive my dad’s car. I can see her on a  bus in 1969 with a baby, trying to bring home groceries. It was so much easier to shop for groceries before the baby came. Here she was suffering, when she could just learn how to drive that car that just sits dormant while he’s away at sea. Easy decision. It’s a time of revolution. Women can drive cars now.

Ah, yes. Virginia. There are bugs the size of rodents and rodents the size of small dogs in Virginia. The reason the bugs can get to the size of rodents in Virginia is because it never gets cold enough to kill them. It doesn’t snow there. I had a friend who went to school in Virginia and she said that the one time it snowed while she was there, the entire city shut down. She said that there wasn’t even an inch on the ground.

Plus, there was that horrible frozen 7th East incident. When my mom first moved to Salt Lake City, she got a job at Grand Central on 7th East and 21st South. Ironically, I live within walking distance of the store in question, except it’s a Circuit City now. After closing, one snowy evening, my mom spent hours trying to get to my grandmother’s house on 17th South and Windsor Street: a three mile drive, tops. She spent several hours trying to drive a couple of miles back home on a “sheet of ice.” Every time she would use the gas, the car would slide. Don’t get her started on this story. The length of time it took her to get home gets longer every time she tells it.

So, my mom was scared of snow. She was scared of the ice. She was scared of getting stuck. She was scared of getting the girls home safely. She was frozen in a trance, looking at the snowflakes coming down from the sky. All of that fear faced her at that moment. I remember suggesting that we just call Dad and have him pick us up, but I saw something change in her for a moment. It’s a time of revolution. Women can drive cars now. She got into the car and drove us home that night.

They say that there can be no courage without fear. Unlike most things that “they” say, I know that this one is true because I saw the courage fill my mother’s body that evening. If I were given the chance to name the kind of snow that’s about half the size of Christmas Snow and falls quickly, covering the ground thickly within a few hours, I would call it Mother’s Snow. Eskimos might not have a million words for snow, but I do.

1/22/2004

How Quickly It All Changes?

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:20 am

Hugh Elliot is back and Standing Room Only has reminded me that I lived at a very momentous time in our history: that dawning of the computer age. I saw so many things come and go during this time.

It was eighth grade and I was saving my program on a tape recorder with an Atari 800. I thought that I had forgotten that joy. If you listened to your program on a normal tape recorder, it sounded like beeps and screeches. The tape machine could play music, though. I’ll never forget the sound of Weird Al Yankovic blaring while we programmed in Basic. Back then, the programs were fun. They were games. We made the screen change colors. We made it say the phrase, “Ataris are cool” over and over until it filled the screen.

Back then, I never thought about programming something useful. I didn’t have a computer at home and I was only allowed a couple of hours after school once a week. What good would a useful program do me? Sure, I could program the computer to tell me what day Easter would be on each year, but why would that help me?

When we were first married there was a window of time when it was more practical to program it ourselves than to wait for an application to take care of the problem. By then, I had relegated the programming to Mike. He had written the BBS from scratch. Mike, could you program the BBS to have another room just for me? Sure, but right now I’m programming it to give a different quote every time you press return without typing something?

And that was it. That was the mythical gleam in Mike’s eye. It was an Easter Egg in his BBS program. Now, the idea of a bulletin board system is just as archaic as saving one’s program written in Basic on magnetic tape. The BBS has been replaced by chat rooms and text messaging on cell phones. No more calling the BBS in the middle of the night, only to get a busy signal. We can all be on it at once.

What are you doing? Have you slept at all? No, I’ve been typing in quotations for the BBS. That was the first wave of the collection. Mike’s sarcastic collection of quotations was growing. All I could see was that he had to go to work on no sleep. My vision was a little myopic. I didn’t know about the Internet and back then it was still lurking quietly at the universities and government institutions. It was waiting.

It was waiting for Mike’s quotations. It was waiting for Hugh Elliot’s thoughts and ideas. It was waiting for Real Live Preacher‘s inspiration. It was waiting for me. I have seen so many changes in the computer industry pass over the years. Things changed so often and so quickly that I thought it would always be like that. Over the last four years, the industry has stabilized. The changes are slower. Sure, the processor speeds are doubling every year, but the computers are so fast now that it’s hard to notice. From the ground, the speed of light and the speed of sound look the same.

They call the old times the “Good Old Days.” I don’t subscribe to that. I would call those times good, but by no means were they better than right now. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to programming on an Atari 800. My telephone has more processor power than that old monster (we still have it, sitting in the basement alongside the Atari 2600). I lived at a momentous time in history. I am grateful to have experienced those times, but there is no place I’d rather be than right here right now.

1/27/2004

KCGL

Filed under: Personal History,Puttin' On The Ritz — Laura Moncur @ 5:50 am

KCGL PosterWhen KCGL went out of business, all of us punk kids cried. We had been informed that they were changing their format to Christian Rock. We protested. We went to the radio station, begging them to reconsider. I don’t remember calling any of the advertisers, which would have been the smartest thing to do. When you’re seventeen, the financial side of radio is the last thing on your mind.

Nothing that we could do could stop KCGL from changing their format. It wouldn’t have been that big of a difference except that there were no other alternative or new wave stations on the radio at that time. Suddenly, we went from 24 hours a day down to one or two hours a week on public radio. After a couple of months, I was desperate for new music. MTV was good, but it wasn’t the same as the radio.

I remember haunting KCGL. I kept listening in the vain hope that they would change their minds. Maybe if they didn’t make any money with this Christian Rock stuff, they would eat crow. Once I heard them play U2. I thought that they were changing back and immediately called them. No, U2 is considered Christian, apparently.

I knew things were really bad when I saw the movie Pretty In Pink. I heard new Smiths, New Order and Nik Kershaw. It was a whole soundtrack of new music that I hadn’t heard before, except for the title track. After that, I started asking all my friends, “Have you heard anything good lately? What do you recommend?”

I bought more albums during that time than I had the previous year. I was still making the same amount of money at K-Mart, but I was spending more of it on music because the radio was gone. All I had were audio cassettes to rely on after KCGL died. I would buy albums just because one person said that they thought it was good. I didn’t weigh my options anymore. I just bought it all because I was so hungry. 

Then it happened. “Have you heard anything good lately? What do you recommend?” I was asking Pinkston. Unstable Mike Pinkston. Beautiful Mike Pinkston. He had just returned from picking pineapples in Hawaii and his forearms were bronze and bulky. I had been crushing on him since sixth grade. I’m sure he knew it, but he didn’t want me. Just like every other crush I had encountered up to that point. “Here, try this. You’ll probably hate it.” He handed me Japanese Whispers by The Cure.


Update 10-01-11: If you’re missing KCGL, you can relive the best of it on KCQN Utah, brought to you by Chet Tapp and Mister West!

1/28/2004

The Cure

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:25 am

I returned Japanese Whispers the next day. I had listened to it twice. Once while I copied it onto a cassette tape and again on the copy to make sure I did it correctly.

Whadja think?

I loved it. It made me happy.

It would.

What do you mean?

You’re just the kind of person that would get happy listening to The Cure.

What does that mean?

You’re just so f**king happy all the time. Not even The Cure can bring you down.

Yes, I fooled Mike Pinkston. The mask was so complete that he couldn’t see beneath it.  I was a normal teenager. I had as much angst as the next teen, but I hid it very well. I put on a Pollyanna attitude, thinking that I should fake it until I could believe it.

The truth of it all was, I wasn’t lying to him. I really liked that album. It really did make me happy. Listening to Robert Smith cry out made me know that I wasn’t alone. It helped me to see that my angst wasn’t nearly as bad as it could be. I wasn’t suffering alone and I wasn’t suffering nearly as much as I could. Yes, The Cure made me happy.

Japanese Whispers was the first of a music starved binge. I went to every music store in town looking for albums by The Cure. I bought them all. I’ll never forget my birthday that year when Dylan bought me a very rare live album. It’s sitting in my basement now. I believe I listened to it once so I could tape it onto cassette. Very rare Cure record, only played once. I should try to sell it on EBay.

That is how The Cure came to represent the Eighties for me. I rarely danced to them, but dancing was my whole life back then. If people who knew me would have described me, they wouldn’t have even thought to put me in the depressed Goth category, mainly because we only had two Goths when I went to high school. NecroNerds were really after my time. Most people put me with the Jocks and Cheerleaders in retrospect, but I really was a Punk Rock Girl.

Now, I look at my prissy Selma Blair in Legally Blonde hair. I look at my secretary costume and I feel like I’m behind another mask. I’m not pretending to be happy to mask teen angst. I’m pretending to be traditional to mask my punkdom. I look like a soccer mom, but I’m not a mom. Worse still, I’m always just “this close” to kicking someone in the balls. I never do because that might bust my mask, but still, that violence is right there, hiding beneath it all. So, tell me. Have you heard anything good lately? What do you recommend?

1/29/2004

Fun with Dick and Jane

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:13 am

I’m too young to know about Dick and Jane. I was born in 1969 and I should have learned to read using all those hippie/disco books that they gave us in school. I didn’t learn to read in school, though. I learned to read at home. I learned to read at my grandmother’s home. I learned to read with Dick and Jane.

One of the books was at my home. I think it used to be my mom’s and after looking around on the internet, I’m shocked to realize that the small book that I learned to read with is worth hundreds of dollars. I could have given it away to the DI if I didn’t love it so much. I don’t know if I have the book or if Stacey got it. It doesn’t matter. I can buy a reprint for about eight bucks. The memories are in the pictures and the words, not in the actual book itself.

I remember the first time I got all the way through that book. I had been reading for days and the stories toward the back were much harder to read than the stories in the front had been. I felt such a feeling of accomplishment when I got to the end of that book. I felt like a grownup.

Months later, I picked up the book again. I remembered feeling so good when I finished that book and thought that I should read it again. I picked it up and read it all the way through in one sitting. Instead of days of reading the words, it took only hours. I was strangely disappointed. Instead of the arduous task that I thought it would be, it was an afternoon of reading on the heater vent. But, I did read it all in one day. That must be a book for babies.

I don’t know why, but my book followed around Sally a lot more than Dick and Jane. I don’t know if it was a book for younger children or if I just got a different one in the series. I really don’t know too much about Dick and Jane except that they think that everything Sally does is really silly.

Mike swears I was born in 1948. There are so many things that I find fun to reminisce about that are just not age appropriate. I remember watching my dad test television tubes at Grand Central to see what needed fixing. I remember how it feels to have a strong sense of patriotism and I know how to hang, fold and salute a flag. I remember Dick and Jane. I know I’m too young to know all these things. Knowing them doesn’t make me feel older, just isolated from my generation. It’s all good. So what if my homies are a generation older than I am. I can also tell you who Britney Spears married in Vegas and the name of Big Bird’s dog. Maybe the problem is that I just can’t forget inconsequential things.

2/12/2004

My Worst Valentine Memory (Part 1 of 3)

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:44 am

When I was four, my dad told me that he was going to take me to school. I was so excited. Stacey hadn’t been born yet, so I was a lonely child left at Grandma’s house every day. I wanted to go to school so badly. I wanted to play with other children. At the time, my best friend was Miss Julie on Romper Room.

He tricked me. He took me to church. He took me to a “school where you learn about God.” That would have been fine if he had taken me to a church that had special classes for children while the adults had their own, but he had decided that we were going to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead of playing with children my age, I had to sit quietly while the adults discussed the philosophical ramifications of refusing blood donations. I remember thinking, “When are they going to stop praying to God?”

Becoming Jehovah Witnesses required a lot of changes in our lives. Mom stopped smoking. I personally think that she did it because she was pregnant with Stacey, but Dad saw it as a sign of her newfound faith. We had to go to church three times a week. We had to go “out in service,” which meant that we knocked on doors and talked to strangers about “the Truth.” Most importantly, it meant that I would never live my ultimate fantasy, which was to appear on Romper Room and actually meet Miss Julie in person. You see, on Romper Room, they all pledged allegiance to the flag and little girls who are Jehovah Witnesses aren’t allowed to do that. My heart was broken.

By the time I was in fourth grade, I knew the routine. Every day when the pledge was said, I stood respectfully with my hands at my side. Every time there was a major holiday celebrated at the school, my dad kept me home. Art projects were pretty much off limits to me: handprint turkeys, Santa, cheesecloth ghosts, and those frilly paper hearts were forbidden. I was used to it by fourth grade. After four years, it had become routine.

The Demon of Perfection haunted me even then. Academy Park Elementary School had these little certificates that they gave to students who did well. There were High Achievement certificates for children who had good grades and there were 100% Attendance certificates for children who had good attendance. By fourth grade, I noticed that I had never received a 100% Attendance. It became vitally important for me to get a 100% Attendance certificate. I knew what I needed to do: I needed to go to school every day, even when they were celebrating holidays.

Of course, my dad was just fine with this. If I said that I wanted to go to school, even on Halloween and Christmas, then he wouldn’t have to find a sitter. It was easier for him and he got to believe that his daughter was strong enough in her faith in the Truth that she could withstand even the sirens of the holidays on her own. I embarked on the second term, determined to win the 100% Attendance award.

2/13/2004

My Worst Valentines Memory (Part 2 of 3)

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:44 am

Cognitively, fourth grade is THE year for Halloween. All fourth graders want to be firemen, ballerinas and pirates. It is the year for dress up. That year, I didn’t dress up. I had never dressed up, but it was particularly hard to go to school on Halloween. Fourth grade didn’t qualify as the worst Halloween memory ever, but it was close. I remember Dylan came as a Vampire/Devil. He thought it was so cool to mix those two icons into one Halloween costume. I came as nothing and sat in envy at my desk reading the biography of Davy Crockett while everyone else toured the school for the Halloween parade.

I must have attended the Christmas party. I have no recollection of it, so it must not have been that cool. I suspect that my teacher gave us cupcakes or something. I’m sure I ate the cupcake, trying to evade my guilt in favor of my sweet tooth. Maybe I took the Santa head off the cupcake so that I could pretend it was just a normal cupcake. I don’t remember.

It was Valentines Day that I wasn’t expecting. It happened right at the end of the second term. I had busted my butt, coming to school while sick and through those horrible holidays. Valentine’s Day didn’t even phase me. It hadn’t even been a blip on my radar. It was going to be just one of those silly holidays like Columbus Day. I would have to sit quietly while the other students made frilly hearts. Maybe I would bring the biography of Benjamin Franklin to read to keep myself busy. Then it was smooth sailing to the end of the term and that shiny certificate.

The vision of that shiny certificate became pale and indistinct on Valentine’s Day. I sat at my desk during the exchanging of the Valentines. I was quiet and near tears. Everyone was receiving Valentines from their friends saying, “Bee my Valentine” with a picture of a bee. Or maybe they said, “If you carrot all, you’d be my Valentine” with a picture of a smiling carrot. There was candy in some of the Valentines. Some of the parents brought cupcakes with candy hearts on the top saying, “Be Mine.”

I had to reject all the Valentines. I had to tell my peers why I didn’t have a box. I even said no to the cupcake from the mother who sometimes attended our class and helped the slow readers. I was a good Jehovah Witness girl because I had seen pictures of Armageddon and I didn’t want to die in a flurry of fiery rain just because I couldn’t say no to a cupcake.

I was just trying to hold on. If I could just hold on until I got home, I would be fine. I was walking home with my friend, Trudy Rushton. She was the good Mormon girl on Royal Anne Drive and my mom liked me to be friends with her. Right as we got to her house, she stopped and faced me, “I know you’re not supposed to get these, but I couldn’t let Valentine’s go by without giving you a Valentine’s Day card.” She handed me a tiny Valentine in a white envelope. I took it, choked out a thank you and ran the rest of the way home, leaving her at her house.

I can’t remember what the Valentine said, but she had written on the back, “You’re my best friend.” I cherished it, even though it might mean my demise in Armageddon. I showed it to my mom and asked her if I could keep it. She said I could, but I could never let my dad see it. I knew what that meant. If he found out that I had brought a Valentine into the house, he would think that it was “demonized” and destroy it. My beautiful little Valentine would be destroyed before my eyes if Dad found it. So I hid it.

2/14/2004

My Worst Valentines Memory (Part 3 of 3)

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:44 am

It wasn’t long after that when the term ended. I got my report card, so I knew that I would get a High Achievement certificate and my coveted 100% Attendance certificate. When Miss Ellis read my name I was so happy. I walked up to receive my attendance award. I was so proud of all that I had done. I had suffered through Halloween and even the surprise horror of Valentine’s Day. I was so happy when I stood in front of the class that I kissed my 100% Attendance certificate. I even held it up for everyone else to see.

I don’t remember the name of the boy who said it. It cut me so deeply that you would think that I would remember his name forever, but he is faceless and nameless in my memory. Maybe the grief and anger blinded me. He said, “Geez, it’s just a 100% Attendance Award.” I tried to say to him that it was hard for me to get that award, but the vision of sitting in the room while all the kids were walking in the Halloween parade struck me on the side of the head. The vision of coming to class when I was sick and miserable struck me on the other side of the head. The vision of all the kids exchanging Valentines while I sat, loveless in my desk socked me right in the nose.

After that, the tears just flowed. I remember Miss Ellis trying to explain to the boy that some awards are harder for some people to get. It didn’t help. It just highlighted the fact that I was different. Getting 100% Attendance next term would be just as much of a struggle. It would be a struggle my whole life. I just let the tears burst out of me while I rushed back to my desk. I hid my certificate so that no one could see it.

I was never able to explain to that kid why my award was so important to me. I’m sure that it was just something that he got every term with no hassle or problems. Maybe he was one of those children who was blessed with eternal health, strong teeth and the socially accepted religion in Utah. He had no concept of how hard it was for me to sit in that room while everyone else was part of the party. No amount of tear-soaked words could have explained that feeling of being left out.

I think I was fifteen years old. Dad had left our lives. When my parents divorced, the divorce decree stated that at age twelve, Stacey and I could choose whatever religion we wanted. I had dumped the Jehovah Witnesses on my twelfth birthday. It hadn’t been a question in my mind. I was cleaning out the bottom cupboard in the kitchen when I found it: Trudy Rushton’s Valentine from fourth grade. It had been six years and the ache was still fresh. I think I’m still angry at my dad for making me hide the only Valentine I ever got for fear that it would be burned. I’m even angry at my mom for not protecting me from his psychosis. That’s why I hate Valentine’s Day.

2/18/2004

The Homeless Guy on 1-80 (Part 1 of 2)

Filed under: Kathleen Bennett,Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Cory and Kathleen moved to San Francisco so long ago that I couldn’t tell you when it was. Let’s see if I can pin it down. They moved after the release of the Bare Naked Ladies first album because I remember sitting in their basement apartment in West Valley singing, “If I had a million dollars?” They moved before the release of Mike’s first book because I remember bringing a copy of his book all the way to San Francisco for them. So, sometime between July 28, 1992 and November 1995. That’s the best estimate that I can give you.

I remember the first time Mike and I visited them in their San Francisco apartment. They lived on Shrader Street, which was just two blocks from the Golden Gate Park and four blocks away from the corner of Haight and Ashbury. My parents weren’t hippies. They were very square, but even my mom believes that everyone should make a pilgrimage to the corner of Haight and Ashbury. I have actually gotten a parking place there. I would have taken a picture, but it was a rental car.

After only a few months living there, they had sold their VW bus. It was too hard to find a parking place and the public transportation was amazing. For the truly awkward treks, they bought a motorcycle, but mostly, they walked everywhere. While we were there, they expected us to walk everywhere, too. I was appalled.

It wasn’t the physical activity that appalled me. Even though I was severely obese at the time, I wasn’t going to let my fat get in the way. I was appalled at the homeless and pierced youth on the streets asking me for money. I was scared that they would attack me. I was pissed that they spent at least twenty dollars apiece for each of their multiple piercings. Why would they ask me for money if they had enough for a pierced tongue, two eyebrow piercings and that stupid thing right above their chin?

Kathleen and Cory couldn’t see them anymore. By then, she was stone thin, training for a bike race that spanned from San Francisco to Los Angeles. She hadn’t shaved her head yet, but Cory had. “It helps if you look like you belong here. You guys look like tourists.” I nodded my head. Damn straight. I AM a tourist. When do I get to see that wharf thing that everyone thinks is so great? I didn’t say it out loud, but I’m sure that my face told them exactly what I was thinking. I’m just that kind of person.

I remember Kathleen trying to comfort me. “I don’t give them any money. I used to when I first moved here, but they just remembered me and bugged me every day. Now, they’re just part of the city? you know?I see them every day so I’m used to them.” What she was trying to explain to me was so complex that I couldn’t have possibly understood it at the time, even if she had been able to find the right words. “I’m used to them” is about the closest she came to this feeling.

2/19/2004

The Homeless Guy on 1-80 (Part 2 of 2)

Filed under: Kathleen Bennett,Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Mike and I moved to Sugarhouse last July. Sugarhouse isn’t as urban as the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, but it’s very similar. It’s the closest thing that Salt Lake City has to The Haight. We live within walking distance of over fifteen restaurants and as many stores. When the weather isn’t below fifty or above one hundred degrees outside, Mike and I walk everywhere.

The homeless have been kicked out of the metropolitan areas of Salt Lake. It happened a few years before the Olympics, but just because they can’t sleep in Pioneer Park anymore doesn’t mean that they left our town. No, they moved to Sugarhouse. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the homeless from the hippies. Point of reference: the homeless usually hold up a cardboard sign and the hippies are usually carrying a paper bag from Wild Oats. Don’t give hippies money. They just get pissed.

Life is different now that I walk everywhere. I see things that I would have never seen if I had been driving. I find things on the ground. I dodge dirty snow and dog shit. I look the homeless and the hippies in the face instead of zipping past them. I see all of this on a regular basis.

There’s a homeless guy on the corner of 7th East and I-80. I see him every day. He’s tall and thin. He wears a crocheted blue cap. He didn’t used to wear the cap. It was bright blue the first day I saw him wearing it. Since then, it has grayed in color. I suspect that it  eventually will be the same gray that everything that survives a Utah winter becomes. The other day, I gave him money. I don’t know why.

I was in my car and he was crossing the street. I’m usually on the right lane, waiting for the light and he is usually on the left side of the street. This time, he was crossing, so I beeped my horn. He thought that I was beeping for him to get out of the way, so he jumped. It was only after I was able to get the window down that he realized that I was trying to give him money. “God Bless.” I didn’t bother to tell him I was an atheist. I just took the blessing and left when the light turned green.

Now comes the awkward explanation. Now I try to put into words what Kathleen was unable to describe to me so long ago. That clumsy grappling for words to describe what it feels like to live in Sugarhouse. What it feels like to see that blue crocheted cap every day. What it feels like to walk on 21st South past the other homeless. What it feels like to mingle among the hippies and the yuppies and even the puppies. Dogs and humans and dirty snow the color of coal. All of it is mine. The dirt, the sky, the homeless, the home bound, the stores, the parks, the vacant lots, the vacant real estate, the vacant stares: all of it is mine.

I am filled by it all and all of it surrounds me. My day isn’t the same if the guy in the blue cap isn’t there. My day isn’t the same if my walk is missing the slight tremor of fear when I walk past the tattoo parlor. “I’m used to them” isn’t enough. They are part of me and I am part of them. Even if I never speak. Even if I never pass a dime. Even if I walk quickly with a light step. They are mine and I am theirs and we belong to this land.

3/6/2004

Gifted and Talented (Part 1)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I’ve wanted to write about his for a long time. I’ve tried to write about it in book form several times, but each attempt has been abandoned. I realized that the reason I’ve had trouble telling this story in the past is because it is a story that needs time. It was a year of my life and what happened there can’t be retold in a book. I’ve come to the conclusion that the serial format of a weblog is the perfect method for telling this story. This is a rather long story, so I’ll be taking some time to tell you it.

Gifted and Talented is the name of the school program for the smart kids. I had been in Gifted and Talented programs in Junior High, so when I was “invited” into the GT program at Kearns High, I was happy.  My best friend, Suzanne Clark, wouldn’t sign up with me. She hadn’t been invited, but we could work around that. She had other plans, though. “That’s the only period that French 5-6 is taught.” It was so easy for her to make the cut. French is more important than advanced learning.

My schedule said that the teacher was Mr. Johnson. I imagined an amalgam of all my Gifted and Talented teachers. I imagined Mr. Godfrey’s enthusiasm and lack of regard for authority. I imagined Mr. Bradley’s mathematical genius and interesting methods for remembering formulas and concepts. I imagined that Mr. Johnson would be an exciting and rambunctious combination of all my GT teachers.

I didn’t know who had signed up for the class. None of the people that I was super friends with was signing up, so for all I knew, it would all be kids from Kearns Junior High and I would be the only one from Kennedy Junior High. I truly didn’t know what to expect when I found Mr. Johnson’s classroom.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I hoped for something completely unattainable. There was a television show called The Head of the Class. The students were little geniuses and the teacher was totally cool, just like Mr. Godfrey without the curly red hair. This wasn’t the first time that television lied to me. Not only was GT not like The Head of the Class, it could have turned into the polar opposite.

I walked into class that first day and I found old faces and two new faces:

Steve Bryson: the long-haired blonde rocker with dark brown eyebrows who drove a beat up gold bronze Porsche (yeah, a Porsche at Kearns High!). He was from Kearns Kennedy Junior High: New face to me, though.

Tiffany Horsely: the tall, brown-haired rocker chick. I knew her from Kennedy Junior High and she had been dating Matt Mondragon since seventh grade.

Matt Strebe: the tall geek. I knew his face from Kennedy Junior High, but I didn’t really know anything about him.

Dylan: my old friend from Academy Park. By then I had so many stories to tell you about Dylan that it would take several blog entries to catch you up. Let’s just say he was a brother in arms.

Penny Egbert: the tall, blonde bombshell from Kennedy. Her Levi 501 jeans were painted on. She was an expert swimmer, ran for office every year and was so smart. Beautiful, fit and brainy, she was everything I wanted to be.

Mike Moncur: the curly haired geek. I had gone to Academy Park with him, too, but I didn’t have as many stories about him. I remember him being shy and smart, that’s it.

Dawni Angel Burton: She was a new face. Her hair was cut in “steps” and was both blonde and auburn (shocking!). She was obviously a “Waver.” We had one Waver at Kennedy Junior High, but she ended up going to Cyprus High School instead of Kearns.

The year was 1984. New Wave was young in Utah. George Orwell was supremely wrong, but hey, there’s still time. None of that was in my mind. All I could look at were her shoes. It was bugging me. That new girl, Dawni, didn’t have any shoelaces in her tennis shoes. I discretely tried to tell her that the “No Shoelaces” trend was long gone and she said, “I wore my tennis shoes without shoelaces before it was popular, I can wear them after it’s not.”


Update 01-23-07: Steve Bryson just dropped me a line and corrected some of my memories! God, it’s good to hear from an old friend!

3/7/2004

Gifted and Talented (Part 2)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1 is here.

The lineup changed pretty quickly. We lost Tiffany Horsely, Steve Bryson and Penny Egbert before the first term ended. To this day, I am friends with Penny. I have never asked her if she regretted leaving GT. I have always assumed that she never regrets anything she ever does, but that could be wrong. Sometime, I should ask her.

Before losing Tiffany, Steve and Penny, Chuck Perkins joined the class. Matt Strebe was adamant about getting him to GT with us. It was like he knew that we weren’t complete until Chuck joined us. Chuck had attended Kennedy Junior High, but he moved to Idaho. He came back to West Valley for sophomore year at Kearns High and just in time to sign up for our class. Chuck was the kind of guy who never answered the phone. If you called his house, one of his younger siblings would answer the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is Chuck there?”

“Ummm?”

“Is Chuck there?”

“Yes.” Dead silence for twenty seconds.

“Could you go get him for me?”

“Ummm? yeah?”

The child wasn’t trying to be funny, he was only three years old and barely understood English. This is the reason children should not be allowed to answer the telephone. It’s not cute, it’s frustrating for the people on the other line. More importantly, it gives you a picture of what life was like at the Perkins Home: too many unsupervised children.

After all the shuffling and class changing, our core group included Matt, Chuck, Dylan, Mike, Dawni and me. I knew the guys from grade school or junior high and this new girl seemed ok with me. She knew what she liked and she was the type of girl to define her own sense of cool. Me, I got my cool straight out of the pages of Seventeen magazine, never straying from its edicts.

3/8/2004

Gifted and Talented (Part 3)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1Part 2

Mr. Johnson was nothing like Mr. Bradley, my GT and Algebra teacher at Kennedy Junior High. We loved Mr. Bradley. He was in charge of the computer lab. He taught GT Math, which turned out to be computer programming. He was also the advisor for the Computer Club, which met on Wednesday after school each week.

On Atari 400 and 800 computers, Mr. Bradley taught us BASIC programming. We made the computers compute the date of Easter when given a year. We made the computers flash colors on the screen. We made the computers say the phrase, “Hello World!” over and over, filling the screen.

Mr. Bradley helped us remember the rules of Algebra with mispronunciations of phrases. “Plusk or Minusk” is the only phrase of his that I still remember, but there were many little phrases to help us remember the rules of Algebra. He was creative and entertaining in what could be considered an incredibly boring class.

Mr. Johnson was nothing like Mr. Bradley.

Mr. Johnson was nothing like Mr. Godfrey, my beloved English GT teacher at Kennedy Junior High. We loved Mr. Godfrey. He was the trickster and the sage. He was Pan and Zeus. He was The Green Man and The Shaman. The image of his curly red hair and signature cane are burned into my memory with the fires of love and respect.

I’ve told you about Mr. Godfrey before, but I’ve yet to tell my favorite Mr. Godfrey story. In conservative Utah, any teacher who even suggests that there might not be a God is considered a radical. Looking at his actions now, Mr. Godfrey wasn’t all that radical, but to us, he was the epitome of thumbing one’s nose at authority. I had lost religion in seventh grade, so by the time I was in Godfrey’s class, I was eager to hear what this guy had to say. The rumors had been so great.

Matt Strebe, the tall geek, had an Evil Stepfather named Bud. Despite his Evil status, Bud considered himself a religious man. When he heard what Mr. Godfrey had been teaching to his stepson, Bud decided to come in and give Mr. Godfrey a piece of his mind. Instead of calmly talking to the teacher during Parent-Teacher Conferences, Bud had a much more Evil plot in mind. Much to Matt’s embarrassment, Bud came barging into Mr. Godfrey’s classroom during Matt’s class.

“I have a bone to pick with you!” Bud bellowed out to Mr. Godfrey. At that moment, the cover for the fluorescent lighting above Bud’s head fell from the ceiling. It crashed right in front of Bud, shattering into a million pieces. For the first time in Matt’s life, Bud was silenced. Mr. Godfrey calmly looked up from his book and said, “Let that be a lesson to you.” Bud left without picking any bones.

Mr. Johnson was nothing like Mr. Godfrey.

Part 4

3/9/2004

Gifted and Talented (Part 4)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1 ? Part 2 ? Part 3

If Mr. Johnson was nothing like any GT teacher we had had in the past, that didn’t mean he was incompetent. He was just immensely different. Instead of energetic and dynamic, he was calm and patient. Instead of rejecting the local religious atmosphere, he just kept quiet about it. So quiet that none of us knew what beliefs he had, if any. His effeminate nature sent rumors flying about his sexuality, but I couldn’t tell you with certainty which way he swung. Quiet, calm and patient.

Behind his back, the students called him Tommy Teacher. His first name was Lauren, so I have no idea where the origin of this nickname came from. There was a rumor that Mr. Johnson failed a student for calling him Tommy to his face. I don’t think that was true. The student was probably failing in the first place. Not believing the rumor didn’t stop me from calling him Tommy behind his back, though.

The shock of Mr. Johnson’s quiet and patient manner after having such dynamic teachers in the past made me come to the conclusion that he was bored. We had been told that Mr. Johnson gave up his preparation period to teach our class and that he had been teaching GT forever.

Maybe he was tired. I remember being told that teachers were so underpaid that they needed to work several jobs just to make ends meet. Maybe Mr. Johnson had a night job. I remember a rumor of a restaurant that was owned by his “roommate,” but I never put my trust in rumors. I didn’t believe that he was up all night cooking for his boyfriend, but, in retrospect, I’m perfectly willing to believe that he might have been tired.

We were left unsupervised many times, but there was always a teacher’s assistant in the room. The TA for our class had taken GT when he was a sophomore.  Now, he was a senior, taking Honor’s English from Mr. Johnson and preparing for the AP Test. Not even that guy called him Tommy to his face.

3/10/2004

Gifted and Talented (Part 5)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1 ? Part 2 ? Part 3 ? Part 4

I think I can safely blame the loss of Tiffany, Steve and Penny on The Blue Books. They were wire bound workbooks that felt as old as the school. I feel unable to write. I have such loathing for these books that I am blind and mute. I feel helpless to describe them properly.

The reason that they are hard for me to describe is because their description is irrelevant. It wasn’t their color or cheap binding that made them despicable to me. It was the insult. The assumption that we needed the Blue Books was a blow to my intellect. Inside the blue cover and held together by the wire binding was a manual. The lessons taught note-taking techniques, studying techniques and other valuable methods for becoming an ideal student. These lessons weren’t taught on a college level, they were taught on a junior high level. The Blue Books had been written for remedial high school students.

Instead of being The Head of the Class, we were being treated like the back of class. Instead of being the cream of the crop, we were being treated like the dregs of the barrel. It has been almost twenty years and I’m still angry about this. I’m having trouble describing the incredible blow to my self image that the Blue Books made.

My paranoia jumped in immediately. It all made sense to me after the Blue Books. Here was a group of kids who performed extraordinarily well on the SATs, yet their grades were lagging. Sure, they were getting pretty good grades, but they weren’t getting straight A’s, like their tests show that they were capable of. I suddenly knew why Suzanne Clark hadn’t been invited. Her grades were immaculate. There was no reason for her in that class. I can just see the men making the decisions asking themselves, “What do we do with them?” Instead of assuming that we were doing poorly because we were bored, they decided that we must be doing poorly because we didn’t have good study skills.

We hated those Blue Books. We fantasized about burning them. I worried that I would have to pay to replace them, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming of them going up in flames. Every time Mr. Johnson’s patient and calm voice would tell us to turn to the Blue Books, we would groan.

Quite frankly, they weren’t very good. For example, one of the note taking techniques involved folding a letter size piece of paper into four. Each of the four blocks would represent a concept and every time the teacher said anything about any of the concepts, we were supposed to write the item in its appropriate box. This note taking technique requires that the teacher tell the students ahead of time the various concepts that will be covered during the lecture. In all of high school and college, I’ve never met a teacher who lectured in this manner.

To this day, I hate those Blue Books. They represent every time any person underestimated me. They make me feel violent. If I could kick the people who decided on this curriculum in the balls, I would. How dare you think that I don’t have the skills when you morons have been boring me for years?!

03/13/04 Part 6

3/13/2004

Gifted and Talented (Part 6)

Filed under: Gifted and Talented,Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part 1 ? Part 2 ? Part 3 ? Part 4 ? Part 5

I sometimes wonder why my mom didn’t take me out of that class. I remember telling her about the Blue Books. I told her that they were for remedial high school kids and she told me that maybe I needed to learn some study skills to get my grades a little higher. I had a 3.75 GPA, but I don’t know if she even would have been happy with a 4.0 GPA. It was ok for other kids to slide by with a 3.75, but I tested so well that I should be getting a 4.0. The implication was clear: maybe you need it.

So I suffered through the Blue Books. I remember the day that Mr. Johnson acquiesced and told us that we wouldn’t have to work with them any more. We all cheered. He had told us that we were going to work with them until we got to a specific chapter and we were still two chapters short of that arbitrary line. Class got a lot more interesting and fun after he abandoned those damn Blue Books.

I remember once he brought in a recruiter from ITT technical college. I immediately discounted anything the guy said. He was from a technical college, not a real college. Technical colleges are for guys who want to fix cars or solder chips into boards. Technical colleges weren’t for me and they certainly weren’t for Gifted and Talented students, no matter what Mr. Johnson thought about us. He might have thought that our brightest future was graduating from ITT, but I knew he was wrong. He was just boring me again and I read a book instead of listening to the salesman.

If I had been listening, I would have heard the guys yanking the recruiter’s chain. Matt, Mike, Chuck and Dylan were talking intently to him about the classes offered. They spent a lot of time rambling about drafting and electrical training. They asked him informed questions about the transferability of the credits. I think I started listening when the tone of voice of the recruiter changed. I don’t remember the words that he said, but I could tell that he was panicked and lying.

By the time the recruiter left, the boys had gotten him to admit that the credits rarely, if ever, transferred to “real” colleges. He also admitted that the hiring rates weren’t tracked by an independent company. The hiring rates were counted even when people found their own jobs. The hiring rates were counted even when people found jobs that had nothing to do with what they studied. The hiring rates were counted even when people found a job a year after “graduation.” The recruiter left in a nervous and jumbled huff a half hour before he was supposed to. Mr. Johnson had left us unattended, so we were left alone with the TA. “What should we do?” we asked him. “Whatever you want, I guess.” That was fine with us.  Dylan (Part 1)

3/15/2004

The First Inkling of Spring

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 11:20 am

The sky is a lovely light blue that tells me that Spring is coming. It has been warm, but there are still piles of snow in the shady spots that haven’t melted. They are dark and gray with dirt. They seem to tell me that I shouldn’t get used to this lovely weather. The snow can come back, so watch out.

If there comes a little thaw, Still the air is chill and raw, Here and there a patch of snow, Dirtier than the ground below, Dribbles down a marshy flood; Ankle-deep you stick in mud In the meadows while you sing, “This is Spring.”  - Christopher Pearce Cranch, A Spring Growl

I worked at K-Mart for seven years during high school and college. Every year at this time, there is the Spring activity. The Garden Center, which had been used for storage of Christmas trees or surplus toilet paper over the winter, needs to be cleaned out and prepared for the season. The “Now Hiring” sign wouldn’t go up, but they would be looking. Every once and a while a go-getter kid from the nearby high school would ask for an application anyway and he’d get the job that wasn’t advertised: Garden Center Employee.

A little Madness in the Spring Is wholesome even for the King.  - Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886), No. 1333

If we have two more weeks of this weather, there will be a Garden Center rush. Then K-Mart will pull the employees from the checkouts to work the Garden Center. People will come out of the store with huge carts full of peat moss, bark and flats of flowers. When I worked there, we would warn them, “Don’t plant these flowers until after Memorial Day. We could still have a cold snap.” People were so excited about Spring that the warning went unheeded. They couldn’t wait to get their hands in the dirt.

Weird, isn’t it? Somehow in the dead of winter when its 40 below, so cold your words just freeze in the air, you think you’ll never hear a robin’s song again or see a blossom on a cherry tree, when one day you wake up and bingo, light coming through the mini blinds is softened with a tick of rose and the cold morning air has lost its bite. It’s spring once again, the streets are paved with mud and the hills are alive with the sound of mosquitos.  - Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Mud and Blood, 1993

Maybe it’s because our winters are so long and cold. We get so much snow and the little vegetation that we have looks so dead and miserable that people are dying to see green. All they want is to have that lovely color and growth around them, even if they know that the eminent final snow of the season will kill the delicate flowers.

We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.  - Anton Chekhov (1860 – 1904), 1897

Remembering the years at K-Mart in the Garden Center makes me realize that part of the excitement of Spring is the hope that I will be able to work outside. Even though I work at an engineering firm now, I still have that vague hope. Maybe they will be short on surveyors and they’ll send me out to hold the reflector. Maybe they will send me on an errand to a client to deliver plans. Maybe they will just send me home because it’s so slow. That hope still springs alive in me, even though I know that I’ll be typing their letters and specifications. At least I’m near a window and can enjoy the blue skies.

3/26/2004

I Want To Go Home

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

During my fourth grade year, my grandma and grandpa moved to Billings, Montana. I used to sleep over at her house quite often when they lived in Salt Lake, so my grandma would let me pick out a nightgown to wear out of her drawer. My favorite was a purple nightgown with hand embroidery on neckline. She gave it to me before she moved. I tried to give it back to her, saying that I would need it when I slept over at her house in Montana, but she said if I came to visit her, I would bring a lot of toys and clothes because I would be staying for a long time.

She was right. Stacey and I were sent up to her house in Billings for the entire summer every summer until we were old enough to get jobs. Grandma kept us busy with swimming, tennis, dance, tumbling and baton classes. One year, we took piano lessons too. Summer was filled with activity. I don’t know any other person who was allowed to go swimming almost every day. We were very lucky.

It was scary to leave my parents all summer. I used to be homesick. There would always be a period of adjustment when I accidentally would call for my grandma by saying, “Mom.” There was always a period of adjustment when I came home to Salt Lake, too. I wonder if it ever hurt my mom’s feelings when I would accidentally call her grandma.

When I was trapped in Montana on those long summers, the one pervasive thought in my mind was, “I want to go home.” It was worst during the teen years when I wanted to be out with my friends or meeting boys. Instead, I was still taking baton and tennis lessons just like I had done my whole childhood. Didn’t they know that I was a teenager? I needed something different.

Lately, I find my inner voice saying the phrase, “I want to go home.” I can track the feelings. I’m not happy here. If I just went somewhere else, I would be happy. I know the logic is flawed, but that doesn’t stop the voice inside me from saying that phrase when I’m feeling particularly down. If only I knew where home was, I could run away to it.

4/8/2004

Slam Dancing

Filed under: Personal History,Puttin' On The Ritz — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The guy at the table behind Mike had a musical ring on his cell phone. We were enjoying our spicy Thai food at Me Kong Cafe in West Jordan and Mike started dancing in his seat to the tune. It was only the notes, but I felt like I could hear the words.

When I’m a-walkin’ I strut my stuff and I’m so strung out. I’m high as a kite. I just might stop to check you out.  - The Violent Femmes, Blister In the Sun, 1983

While the guy answered his phone, Mike whispered the first four words of the next line, “Let me go out…” We laughed together and I remembered my dancing years at The Ritz. Those few notes made me want to Slam Dance in the middle area of the dance floor with all the guys.

Wild flower, I love you every hour
Wild flower, I love you every hour
 - The Cult, Wild Flower, 1987

There was a brief time when Slam Dancing was allowed at The Ritz in the elevated dance floor in the middle of the club. Every time I went out there to Slam Dance with the big punk rock boys, I got hurt. I never blamed the management. It was my own damn fault for knowingly going in that part of the dance floor. It didn’t take long before the sign at the front of the club had an addition: “No Slam Dancing.” The management hired bulky guys with walkie talkies to enforce the new rule for the first few months.

Let’s have a party there’s a full moon in the sky
It’s the hour of the wolf and I don’t want to die
 - Oingo Boingo, No One Lives Forever, 1985

“Blister In The Sun” by The Violent Femmes, “Wild Flower” by The Cult and “No One Lives Forever” by Oingo Boingo are the three songs I remember being “Slam Dance” songs at The Ritz. Of course, as I said, it was only a small window in which Slam Dancing was allowed. If you weren’t there those few months, you wouldn’t have ever seen it.

In fact, Slam Dancing was only around for a slim window before it was renamed “Moshing” and people avoided “The Mosh Pit” instead of “those crazy guys on the middle dance floor.” If you weren’t there for those few years, you wouldn’t have ever seen it. Slam Dancing and Moshing looked exactly the same, by the way. I guess Slam Dancing wasn’t Grunge enough for those Seattle Boys. The bastards had to rename it Moshing. Yeah, that’ll make it cooler.

So okay, I don’t want to be a traitor to my generation and all but I don’t get how guys dress today. I mean, come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair – ew – and cover it up with a backwards cap and we’re supposed to swoon? I don’t think so!  - Amy Heckerling, Clueless, 1995

So within a few years, out went the safety pins and in came the flannel. Out went the mohawks and in came the greasy snarled mess. When Cher spouted her traitorous remarks, I agreed fully. I missed those smooth and suave Wavers. Even the Punkers put more effort into their appearance than those Grunge Boys. It was an honor to be slammed up against them instead of a biological hazard.

(Lying my way from you)
No no turning back now
(I wanna be pushed aside so let me go)
No no turning back now
(Let me take back my life. I’d rather be all alone)
No turning back now
(Anywhere on my own cuz I can see)
No no turning back now
(The very worst part of you is me)
 - Lying From You, Linkin Park, 2003

God, I miss Slam Dancing. Where can I go to get that same adrenaline rush? That violent impulse inside of me is still lurking and it cries out for release. Exercise helps some, but miles of endless running just tire it out instead of releasing it. Maybe I need to take one of those kick boxing classes at the gym. The only problem is that you’re just kicking air, not people or things. Nothing broken. Nothing torn. No danger. Maybe I need to take some Karate classes. At least in that class you touch another human being. Maybe I just need to go to a Linkin Park concert. Do you think they’d let me in the Mosh Pit?

4/11/2004

My Birthday (Part 1 of 2)

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Tomorrow is my birthday. I was born April 12, 1969, so I will be 35 years old tomorrow. I am writing this entry on Friday, April 9th, so I have no idea whether it’s a happy birthday to me or not. My family birthday parties are over the weekend, so I don’t know how any of them are going to turn out. No, that’s not the correct grammar. Will haven being turned out? I can’t remember my grammar for time travelers. I need to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy again. Maybe I’ll understand it this time.

Growing up Jehovah Witness really fucks up how you view your birthday as an adult. My last birthday before we became Jehovah Witness was held in secret at my grandma’s house. My grandma, grandpa and mom had the birthday for me and I got a strange game with lots of little people as the playing pieces. If I saw it today, unscathed, I probably wouldn’t be able to recognize it. I didn’t play with it in its intended fashion. I just played with the little people like they were Barbies. Who says you have to follow the rules with your toys? Not me.

I remember being told not to tell my dad that we had a birthday party because he would be angry with us. I would not have another birthday party until sixth grade, but I didn’t know that when I was four years old. All I knew was that I had a cool game with all of these little people. I controlled their lives.

It wasn’t until I got into school that birthdays became a painful subject. I don’t know how the schools treat birthdays in other areas, but at Academy Park Elementary, birthdays were a little twisted. On your birthday, you brought treats for everyone in your class. Instead of receiving treats and presents, you brought them for everyone else. I remember my classmates walking up and down the aisles of the classroom, handing out hand made cupcakes or brownies or tiny bags of candies. I remember knowing that I would never be allowed to be in their place. I would never be that special girl, walking up and down the rows, handing out special treats that my mom made for my friends.

Most of the time, it was really easy to turn down the treat. The threat of Armageddon was far more important than a tasty treat in the afternoon. No thank you, cupcake. No thank you, brownie. I’ve got a Final Battle to survive. Every once and awhile there would be an amazing treat that I couldn’t say no to and I would wallow in the guilt of sin. I remember once while licking the incredibly thick frosting off the top of a truly scrumptious cupcake, one of the supremely evil children asked why I never bring treats. I told them that I couldn’t celebrate my birthday because it was against my religion. He was kind enough to point out my hypocrisy. I think that’s why I hate hypocrites to this day: I know how shitty it feels to live there.

Like bookends, my eleventh birthday was also held in secret. When my parents got divorced, the divorce decree stated that we could choose which religion we wanted to follow on our twelfth birthday. They were divorced between fifth and sixth grade, so I had one birthday in secret. Mom and Carol had a nice little party for me. It was a quiet, family affair and I lived in fear that Stacey would tell my dad. I shouldn’t have worried. She had learned to keep secrets by then. It was essential when you lived under my dad’s reign.

On my twelfth birthday, I told my dad that I didn’t want to be Jehovah Witness anymore. I didn’t want to go to meeting and I didn’t want to go to assemblies and I was going to celebrate holidays. He tried the Armageddon thing to guilt me into acquiescence. The end of the world still seemed very real to me, but I had learned long ago that I was just going to die with the sinners. I couldn’t say no to a cupcake back in third grade. How was I going to spend an entire lifetime missing out on the fun? No way, I told myself. I was going to run for eighth grade vice president.

It wasn’t until ninth grade that I had a real birthday party. My mom let me invite several girlfriends over for a slumber party. We had hogi sandwiches and we watched The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the video machine that my mom rented for us. I got some smelly pencils from one of my girlfriends and Trudy Rushton woke up in the middle of the night. She had a nightmare about Michael Jackson or maybe it was the zombies that were chasing him. I don’t know.

I always felt like I was missing out on the fun. I wasn’t allowed to go to other children’s birthday parties. I wasn’t allowed to partake of the treats that came at least once a month. I wasn’t allowed to celebrate my own birthday. Screaming young girls in party hats shaped like dunce caps. Lack-Of-Sleep slumber parties. Huge birthday cakes devoted entirely to me. All of this was out of my reach. I felt like I had missed out on all the good that life had to give.

4/12/2004

My Birthday (Part 2 of 2)

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Part One

Today is my birthday. I wrote this entry last Friday because I actually want to take a rest from writing on my birthday. Let’s hope I had a nice weekend with my family and that I’ll have a nice day today with Mike.

On April 2nd this year, my mom called me, “What are we doing for your birthday?” I sighed and realized that it was already April, “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it at all.” She was surprised, “You haven’t? Why aren’t you obsessing over your birthday?” I just laughed and told her that it was because it wasn’t Halloween. We don’t get to dress up for my birthday.

It took Mike a couple of years to realize that my birthday is a big deal. I don’t want a huge party. I don’t want a bunch of strangers in a restaurant singing a kitschy song at me with my free dessert and a sparkler. I want a quiet party with my family and I want everyone to care about me the most.

My mom didn’t even realize how important my birthday was until the horrible year that she sold the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />West Valley house. It was my birthday and I was supposed to go to lunch with them, but mom, Carol and Stacey put it off. They were busy cleaning out the house. They told me to come a couple hours later after they were through getting the house ready for the realtors and then we would do my birthday afterward. Mike and Carol hid in the basement while the fight raged upstairs. When Mike finally ventured upstairs, he was able to explain to my mom how important my birthday is. I never want to be put off for a couple of hours. It’s my special day, respect it, dammit.

This year I do feel much more casual about it, though. It’s almost like I realize that I’m not missing out on anything. I’ve experienced all that birthdays have to give me. I’ve eaten enough frosting coated cupcakes to make up for the ones that I missed in grade school. I’ve had the slumber party, even though it was several years late and the late night antics entailed calming Trudy Rushton down from her Thriller Nightmare. I’ve had the drunken parties with friends at the clubs. I’ve had the quiet parties with family. I’ve had the birthdays when family fawned over and adored me. I’ve had the birthdays when we fought and screamed and cried. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything anymore. I’ve made up for all of those Jehovah Witness years somehow.

It’s not like I dread getting older. I have enjoyed every age that I’ve encountered so far and if my mom is any indication of how I’ll age in the future, I’m happy to go there. Plus, the only other option is death. I’m happy for my birthday. I’m happy to be 35 years old. I’m just not obsessing over my birthday, trying to make the one perfect day to make up for all those years when I didn’t have birthdays. Maybe it’s the fact that I have had more Non-Jehovah Witness Birthdays than Jehovah Witness Birthdays now. I really only missed out on six birthdays, it’s just that they were those six birthdays when birthdays actually meant something. It took me a long time to grieve those six small years, but I think I’m finally over it now. For the life of me, I don’t know how I did it, but I finally feel like I’ve had all the fun that birthdays have to offer. Lucky Me!

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