Kaply Has Left The Building

Those of you that have been reading for a while have heard many tales of my friend Kaply. We first met because of a blogger meet up Dave2 set up. That was probably five or six years ago, not long after I had moved to Seattle. Kaply was one of my first Seattle friends and today she is moving to California.

For those of you who don’t know Kap, she’s the kind of person you want on your side because she will always tell it to you straight, stick up for you, and hide the bodies if needed. Being friends with Kaply has taught me about not caring so much about what everyone’s opinion is of me. She’s taught me to not be so uptight and to try to enjoy the moment RIGHT NOW because you never know how much time you’ve got. She’s taught me about keeping your sense of humor when everything seems hopeless because it’s never hopeless. She told me “feelings aren’t facts” and that mantra has saved me many times.

Kaply and I are very different but we laugh at the differences in that sisterly kind of way. For example, Kaply is always early for things because back when she was just starting recovery in AA she would show up late all the time to everything. I believe it was her sponsor who, after Kap was late again to meet her, gave her the what for about it and shut the door in her face. She claims she’s never been late again. I also do not like being late, so much so that whenever I’d meet Kaply anywhere and she’d already be there I would FEEL like I was late and this would drive me bonkers. One time we were meeting for dinner and I purposely arrived early. I got a table and texted her that I was there. She texted back that she was there too. She was across the restaurant from me laughing at my fuming because once again she’d arrived first. I can still hear her cackling over it.

Yesterday Mr. Darcy and I went over to help her load her truck which she and her aging cat will be driving down to California in. In true Kaply fashion, it was a comedy of errors. Yesterday was Seattle’s Pride Parade and Kaply lives at the epicenter. Add to that fact that 95% of Kaply’s Seattle pals are gay which means they were all busy. The rental truck place was literally located at the end of the parade route which means we drove around for 45 minutes unable to reach it and when Kaply called to ask how to get there given the situation, they told her that they were closing at noon (her pick up time) and that they had no reservation for her. WHAT?! After a couple of hours of many frustrating phone calls, she got a truck for today with a discount for their error. (Budget Truck Rental is on par with Comcast for their shitty customer service.) The truck is located 30 minutes away so a friend of hers is taking her there and other friends have been called into assist with moving boxes and couches and a bed so that she can finally get on the road. She’s promised to text us that she’s “not dead” because we’re all concerned about her survival. The largest vehicle she’s driven in years is a smart car. People on I5, beware of a lady and her cat in a Budget truck!

I love you, Kap, and will miss the hell out of you.

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Flashback Post: The Men I Dated

Four years ago I wrote a post about some of the men I dated. The really awful ones. I discovered this because I was about to write the same post. This is a pitfall of being a long-time blogger: You may have already told that story. Oops.

I’ve decided that since I’ve been blogging forever and have some old posts worthy of seeing the light of day, I’m going to do a series of flashback posts. For those of you who have been along for the ride a long time (thank you!), these might sound familiar but for the rest of you it’s a new story.

A Preface: Back in my dating days, I used to make up nicknames for the guys I  went out with. This was at the request of friends who were like: WE CANNOT KEEP ALL THESE GUYS STRAIGHT! PLEASE CREATE A SYSTEM! So yeah, I had a few periods of what I’ll call Extreme Dating. I went out on a lot of dates- sometimes just once, sometimes a couple times, some would stick for weeks or months. In between a few good guys came along but I would usually screw that up royally because I wasn’t really into liking myself back then and I manifested my low self-esteem with my poor choices in men.

Enjoy!

*******

I’ve taken to re-reading my old journals. All 16 of them.

It’s sort of like watching a horror movie where you are half-covering your eyes and screaming out to the lead actress: DON’T GO IN THERE! THAT’S WHERE THE KILLER IS! But of course, she goes. She always goes.

In my case though I feel like yelling: STEP AWAY FROM THE ASSHOLE! Damn, I really did date some serious wankers. And all the while I took it on as some sort of mission to understand and grow and enrich my life. Blargh. What a load of crap. I sure wasted a lot of time on men who were very bad for me all for the sake of “personal growth.”

The worst part of re-reading these journals is seeing how much energy I poured into relationships that went nowhere. Blind people probably saw they were not going anywhere and yet, I kept at it. I suppose it was not all in vain. I did become wiser (and a little jaded). And I’ve certainly honed my ability to sniff out a jackass. Finally, at almost 36, I can recognize and appreciate a nice guy.

At least I think I can.

If not, let me live the lie for a little while longer.

I thought I’d share some of the wieners winners:

The Guider– Um, this could potentially be too graphic for my blog (Hi! Mom!) but he was the kind of guy who “guided” you to his cock. ALL. THE. TIME. Jesus, enough already. I know where it is and I will visit when I feel like it.

The Krazy Korean– Hi, stalker. He brought me a bunch of “gifts” from 7-11 when he first met me and then within the first 10 minutes said, “I’ve been wanting to do this ever since I met you” and then promptly kissed me. Maybe that could be romantic in certain instances but it had only been TEN MINUTES. He then proceeded to call me at work when I never gave him my work number, show up unannounced repeatedly and tell me I had never dated a real man (until him, of course). Buh Bye.

Sweatpants– No man has ever made a compliment sound like a put down better than him.

Hairy Lizard– Maybe the first sign should have been that he wrote back to me from his on line profile when he was technically dating someone. (Why was it is still active?!) Maybe the second sign should have been that he told his girlfriend he was meeting up with some guy friend instead of me to see a concert in my town and then tried to dance all sexy up on me during the show. (It didn’t work.) Maybe when he was single weeks later and he finally kissed me I should have stopped right there. Because he kissed like a lizard.

Puff Daddy– Picture it: Me in my vintage 1940′s coat all gussied up and him, in an electric blue leather jacket, gold jewelry, gold sunglasses, driving up all smooth in his Cadillac. Within the first fifteen minutes as we rode up an escalator he tried to kiss me. When I pushed him back he said, “What? I’m just trying to get a little of your chapstick.” So I handed him the chapstick from my pocket and smiled. Side note: He ate sushi with a fork.

Self-Help Guru– This guy was a piece of work. He had a show on local access TV telling people how to live their lives fully. Every date was like visiting a life coach. He could do a wicked good Sean Connery impression though. Side note: Don’t simultaneously date guys who have one letter difference in their names because you will inadvertently call one by the other’s name possibly in the heat of a moment. D’oh! The end.

Pencil– The condom broke and after that he disappeared. Turned out he was seeing someone else after dating me for over a year. I had to find out from mutual friends who saw him with her. But with that break up came clarity, a loss of 60lbs and the end of my pot smoking days. Happy ending!

Mr. Grass– After a few weeks together he admitted he was a pot addict so while he was trying to get healthy we tried just being friends. That did not work. I believe at one point I said: How about we can the friends thing and just have sex? Priorities. I know. During the two separate times we “dated” he lived in the woods illegally or in his van. He also is the man who said to me once, “I don’t know what I’d say to someone if they commented on your body shape.” How about you say, “You are a shallow asshole”? Which is basically what I said to him.

King Ick– Do not get me started on this one. Years down the drain and multiple journals full of this King of the Horribles. Let’s just say that no one has ever made me feel more like a piece of shit than him. There is a reason I have referred to him as “the personification of my self-loathing.” Side note: He also lived in his van. Yes, that makes two homeless boyfriends. I AM A WINNER.

Mick– A one night stand that turned into a 6 month relationship. Proof positive I should avoid one night stands at all cost because I clearly do not know how to do them. Also, he was a pothead and hated himself and was probably a sex addict.  He would frequently punch walls, have complete freak outs and say horrible things to me out of his own self-hatred. He even fake cried when I broke up with him. FAKE CRIED.

And this is just a partial list!

Hangs head.

(originally posted as Wise Up on April 1, 2009)

 

Almost 40: A Retrospective

It’s funny to think that as a teenager the thought of turning 40 sounded so old and yet here I am, weeks away from it, and I only feel slightly old. I’m reminded of my age at work sometimes as I eat lunch with friends who are in their 20’s who don’t get my pop culture references and me, theirs. As I hear about their late night adventures or group trips with pals, I nostalgically recall the time in my life when that was my reality. They share their dating stories and I’ll chime in with one of my old tales, “I once went on a date with a guy who unhinged his jaw as we ate sushi.” There’s entertainment in having lived a life. I’ve got the stories to prove it.

I can look in the mirror now and see what time has done to age my face. I can feel the creakiness in my knees and my hips as I take the stairs. After a few cocktails, I wake up with a slight headache and severely dehydrated after a night of fitful sleep. I prefer to go to bed at 10 because I will inevitably wake up before 7am whether I want to or not and I somehow need 8+ hours of sleep now to function. I don’t want to go to a concert if the main act starts at 10pm or if I am forced to stand in a crowded room of drunk people vying for a good position to see the performer. I don’t want to wait an hour for a table at a popular restaurant. I don’t care about having a lot of friends but rather, a small crew of A List friends suits me just fine. I live in suburbia and prefer it. I have a husband, a house, a career, a 403b, and a savings account.  I’m kind of a grown up even though I often feel like it’s still the 90’s and I’m still in my 20’s.

My teens were tumultuous: Alcoholic dad in a dysfunctional home. All girls Catholic high school education. Driving around in cars with friends with nothing to do but hang out, sing along to the radio, and dream. Delaying a four-year college for a two-year to stay closer to home. And then on the cusp of turning 20, my dad passing away.

My 20’s were marked by grief. I was angry and wrote a lot of mediocre poetry. I spent my free time in thrift and record stores, palling around with Jenny Two Times and Tomato and other friends, hanging out around the pool at my mom’s house, drinking wine coolers and sneaking smokes of clove cigarettes. I’d wear thrifted housecoats with Converse or mailman pants with bowling shoes. We were called “alternative” just like the music we listened to.  I lost a bunch of weight and spent a few years that way then gained it all back. I moved to Santa Cruz and eventually graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Women’s Studies & a minor in Literature. I went there with the intention of studying creative writing but the most I’ve ever done with that dream is become a blogger. I dated a series of guys who taught me a lot about love and heartbreak- they are a post or two unto themselves. I made friends and lost friends and smoked a bunch of weed. I became a women’s self-defense instructor which was probably one of the most pivotal experiences in my life. I worked a bunch of jobs: Michael’s Arts & Crafts, a pottery painting place, housing and admissions offices at UCSC, read books aloud for a blind girl, office administrator for a group home, volunteer coordinator for a youth empowerment organization, community educator for a sexual assault/domestic violence non-profit, and a development director for an AIDS organization. I had roommates, good and bad, and for the first time in my life, lived all alone.

In my 30’s I felt dissatisfied. Wasn’t I supposed to know what the fuck I was doing with my life already? I moved to Seattle and in doing so, everything changed. I learned to be an urbanite and a Pacific Northwesterner. I got lost a lot but now I know my way around pretty well. I came here with no job, just enough savings to get me through 5 weeks. I went on many interviews and turned down a bunch of jobs until I was offered the one I still have, almost 7 years later. I dated some guys, some good, some bad, and even had a few boyfriends. I lived in apartment for the first time in my life. I became an apartment manager which taught me a lot and helped me pay off my debt and save money for the first time ever. I met Mr. Darcy and our first seven hour date turned into moving into together, to getting married, to where we are today. I got through cervical cancer. I paid off my student loan debt and my car. I did a lot of grown up things, some of which sucked. My adorable nephew whose impending birth was the impetus for my big move, is going on 7. He likes to play Mario Brothers, and soccer, and have nerf gun fights, and would live on cheese and nut crackers if he could. I am forever indebted to him for being born and giving me the gumption to change my entire life. Seattle has been good to me and my 30’s allowed me to finally settle into myself. It’s where I found home, and love, and ultimately, the life I dreamed of.

What will my 40’s bring? I’m hopeful it will just keep getting better.

Women of Influence: Musicians

Madonna’s Like a Virgin album was one of the first cassettes I had. I remember choreographing and performing countless “shows” with my sister and our friends that we’d then force our parents to watch repeatedly. Madonna was the first female singer I adored closely followed by Cyndi Lauper and Pat Benetar. These women opened up a whole new world to me and made me daydream of being a star. Every kid should have that.

“You must be my Lucky Star, ’cause you shine on me wherever you are, I just think of you and I start to glow, and I need your light, and baby you know”

___________________

My first listen to Joni Mitchell was on vinyl. A beat up LP of Blue that I rescued from the thrift store stacks. I remember how her voice moved through me, how I felt like she was singing truths about my own life even though I was only 19 or 20 and had barely begun to really live. She sang of feelings I held in my heart and dreams I kept close. I’d spend hours lying on my bed replaying her records. You would have thought it was 1972 not 1992.

This song, “A Case of You,” has been covered by many artists but my loyalty will always lie with Joni’s original version.

“Part of you pours out of me in these lines from time to time. . . oh you are in my blood like holy wine, and you taste so bitter but you’re so sweet, oh I could drink a case of you. . . and still be on my feet”

___________________

It was back when MTV actually showed videos and you’d wait for hours for your favorite video to air. It was before the age of the internet, before everything was one Google search away, and I was sitting on the couch waiting to see Tori Amos. I’d never seen or heard anyone like her. She was quirky and raw and I listened to Little Earthquakes on repeat. To this day, some twenty years later, I can still sing the entire album from start to finish. She made sense to me then, as if all the poems and journal entries I’d filled blank books with were not crazy, that I was not crazy for feeling all the feelings and writing about them.

“I got something to say you know but nothing comes, yes I know what you think of me, you never shut up, yeah I can hear that but what if I’m a mermaid in these jeans of his with her name still on it, hey but I don’t care ’cause sometimes, I said sometimes, I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years”

___________________

I was a music junkie in my late teens and early 20’s. Jenny Two Times and I spent hours upon hours at the record store,  driving around Silicon Valley singing at the top of our lungs with not much else to do except work our shifts at Michaels, go to junior college classes, meet up with friends at the coffee shop, and go to concerts.  It was 1993 and I was 20 years old. My father had just died and I was full of confusing and conflicting feelings. And then I found Liz Phair. I’d never heard a woman sing like that- with an imperfect voice, unapologetically bare and sometimes crass. She was edgy and angry and a tough chick. In her music I found an outlet for the anger and grief churning inside me.

“And I want a boyfriend, I want a boyfriend, I want all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas, and I can feel it in my bones, I’m gonna spend another year alone, it’s fuck and run, fuck and run, even when I was seventeen”

___________________

It was my second year at UC Santa Cruz as a Women’s Studies major and I was taking a Women’s Poetry class. In our section (a small group discussion) one of the lone boys in the class pulled out an acoustic guitar and sang “Both Hands” when it was his turn to share a poem that made him love poetry.  And that? Was my first introduction to Ani DiFranco. It was love at first listen. Her songs were rebellious and tough, tender and honest. They gave voice to many of my own thoughts, ones I didn’t think I was powerful enough to share. Listening to her made me feel brave and her music became the soundtrack to my year.

“I am writing graffiti on your body, I am drawing the story of how hard we tried, I am watching your chest rise and fall like the tides of my life, and the rest of it all, and your bones have been my bed frame, and your flesh has been my pillow, I am waiting for sleep to offer up the deep with both hands”

_______________________
I tried to fit in when I first moved to Santa Cruz for college. I wore the Birkenstocks. I didn’t shave for a winter. I smoked weed. But none of those things stuck; I just felt like I was trying on a persona of an earthy girl. But then one rainy winter afternoon as I attempted to study in a coffee shop, I heard Billie Holiday. Her voice broke with emotion as hippies and hapless skaters and fellow students sat around sipping coffee and I was changed. I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra but this was the first I’d heard Billie. Jazz was a staple in all the local cafes and I quickly devoured her music, listening to it on repeat much to the annoyance of my housemate. I discovered Ella Fitzgerald too and together, us three, we sang our hearts out. This was right before the movie Swingers came out when everyone got the Big Band craze. It wasn’t long until I was donning vintage dresses, going to jazz shows, and learning to swing dance.

“Good morning heartache, you old gloomy sight. good morning heartache thought we said goodbye last night, I turned and tossed ’til it seemed you had gone,but here you are with the dawn”

______________________

Who are your musical influences?

Romantic Gestures

This post is inspired by my friend’s blog post about surprise gifts from would-be suitors. Her teenage son received a heart shaped pizza with an invitation that read, “I know this is cheesy but will you go to Sweetheart with me?” I mean COME ON! How adorable is that? Pizza and an invitation to a dance? I sincerely hope he said yes.  She also shares a couple of romantic moments from her past (Please go read the whole post!) and it got me thinking about some from mine.

I was dating The Tomato in high school. There was a TV show we watched called Anything But Love that starred Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis (yes, it was the late 80’s). There was one episode where Richard’s character stands out in the rain to fill up a bottle with rain water. There was some romantic symbolism to this gesture that went along with the plot but I don’t exactly remember it now. What I do recall is that Tomato had collected a small jar of rain water for me soon after that, probably after we had a fight (we argued a lot- two drama queens should not date). Tomato left it for me with a long note and we were back on good terms again.

It was my birthday and James Dean and I were dating. He took me out for a nice dinner and then drove us to the ocean.  He left the headlights on and as a Frank Sinatra song played, he asked me to dance. And we did, caught between the beams from the car and the ocean tide as people walked by.

This is the same guy who would frequently call my answering machine just to leave snippets of songs or would drive over to leave love notes on my car.

In college I had a good friend, Jeremiah, who worked with me at The Wherehouse. We were great pals for a long time until I was suddenly single and he finally asked me out to go see Mighty Aphorodity (he knew I loved Woody Allen films). We started dating and my birthday came along. He called me up to wish me a happy birthday and asked if I’d been outside. I had not so he said, go outside on your porch and then call me back. Okayyyyy. I did and there hanging from our porch awning was a hand made wind chime. He’d twisted fishing line around glass blown marbles that hung down from little puppeteers made out of wire. It was beautiful and thoughtful. Weeks prior I had mentioned in passing how I loved wind chimes.

Once he drew a comic strip depicting himself coming across a French man who asked him to carry out a mysterious plan that required him (Jeremiah) to fly to France on this man’s behalf. At the end of it he asked, “Care to go to France with me tonight?” When he picked me up later that night he walked me down through our neighborhood where he’d hung signs in French that we had to translate with a pocket French to English dictionary. When we got to the spot, he laid out a blanket from his backpack and pulled our French food from a local restaurant plus a disposable camera and a small bottle of wine.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! How is that for overture? He was a sweetie. I hope he is happy wherever he is.

When Dumpling and I were an item he once invited me over to his place. When I showed up, I was greeted by a sign at the front door that told me to come in. There were rose petals strewn along the floor making a path to his room. He had Etta James playing, candles lit, and my favorite movie cued up (When Harry Met Sally for those not paying attention).  Later when we were no longer dating but were friends we had a standing Friday date. We’d usually go grab sushi and watch What Not To Wear with James Dean and Natalie Wood (we were wild, I tell ya!). He’d always bring me flowers “just because”. I’ve never forgotten that kindness.

When Mr. Darcy and I were first dating, I took him to the Central Cinema to see Jaws (his favorite movie). I bought tickets in advance and when I checked in at the counter and said my real name, the guy looked very confused. Apparently he thought I was asking for the movie by MY NAME. I joked, “My life hasn’t been made into a movie yet.” We all had a good laugh about it. A few weeks later it was Valentine’s Day. Mr. Darcy came over bearing this:

My life as a movie poster.

Not the best photo but if you click on it I think you can see that at the bottom it even lists characters. And there you go, now you know my real name.

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share these and see if you had any to share. Let’s inspire each other. Please feel free to share your romantic stories in the comments!

The Hook Brings You Back

I was driving into work yesterday when Blues Traveler came on the radio and I was immediately thrown back about 17 years ago.

That was 1995 for those counting back.

Jenny Two Times and I were in my upstairs bedroom of the condo I was renting with a high school friend of mine during my first year at UC Santa Cruz. It was a massive room with a walk in closet that could have doubled as a small child’s room. I’ve never had a room that ample since. This was the year I wore a lot of overalls and smoked a lot of pot.

Let me remind you: IT WAS THE EARLY 1990’s.

Santa Cruz is about a 30 minute drive over a windy, wooded mountain so my old friends and I were able to still hang out despite the fact that I’d gone off to college. Jenny had come over for one of our marathon hang out sessions. We were listening to music as we did ALL THE TIME when we were that age. We’d lose hours to albums we’d pick up at thrift stores (hello, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, Van Morrison) and cds we’d scoured Tower Records for. We’d drive around with our windows rolled down and the tunes cranked just singing at the top of our lungs. It felt like we had all the time in the world.

This day we were kicking back in my luxurious, spacious room smoking weed and listening to Blues Traveler at high volume. My roommate was out which is why a) the music was loud and b) we were freely enjoying a smoke. My roommate was adamantly against marijuana. I understand- her brother had quite a problem with it and it was a trigger spot for her. I tried to not do it when she was home or to mask it by burning sage.

HA! As if sage covers up pot smoke.

Anyhow we were stoned and singing along to Blues Traveler when Jenny says, “Listen. Do you smell something?” WAIT. WRONG MEMORY. That’s actually from Ghostbusters. My bad. Jenny says, “Listen, did you hear someone knock?” So I turn down the volume on my stereo and we listen as hard as our stoned ears can listen. I don’t hear anything so I turn the tunes back up and we rock out. A few minutes later she says it again, “Did you hear someone knocking?” I went downstairs and checked out the peep-hole and saw no one so I went back upstairs. A couple minutes later she asked again and so I went back downstairs and opened the door this time. No one. Back up to the bedroom and what happens a few minutes later? Jenny thinks she hears a knock again. And again, I go downstairs. And again, no one is there. It became highly amusing to two people who were stoned. And looking back I can’t believe I went down and checked so many times.

By the way: No one was ever there.

Here is where I confess that I am the one who got Jenny Two Times high for the first time. It wasn’t this time with the knocking and the Blues Traveler but it was a few years before that at her junior high school parking lot. Cliche much? Ha. And later we went to our favorite local coffee shop where we spent a million hours hanging out with friends, discussing life, and ogling cute boys. While at the coffee-house a cop came by. There was a curfew instituted in the city of San Jose at that time and kids under 16 had to be home by 11 or something. We were at least 20 so there wasn’t anything to worry about except Jenny was freaking the hell out because she was high and was going to have to interact with a cop. I tried talking her off her pot-induced paranoia ledge by coaxing her to get her license out and how to just hand it to him without looking directly in his eyes. We had to go over it multiple times as he made our way over to us. It was fine- he checked our IDs and moved on- but this story is one Jenny told at my 30th birthday party roast.  I’m pretty sure the re-telling of it at my party lives on in infamy more than the actual origin story.

The roast was my idea- let’s get all my friends together and you can share embarrassing stories about me. Brilliant! Um, what?! It was an awesomely fun party and some very embarrassing tales were told and somewhere I have a vhs tape of it. YES VHS. When Jenny got up to share this story she’d had a few drinks (we all had) and she got kind of stuck on the middle part. Like, she told the part of being at the coffee shop 3 times just like a broken record because she kept forgetting where she was at in the story. I jumped up to help her wrap it up and after Tomato, the emcee, got on the mic and said something like, “From now on all stories must have one beginning, ONE MIDDLE, and one end.”

Why am I sharing these stories from my youth? Because sometimes all it takes is a song and the hook brings you back.

Also, this:

Before the Internet

I’ve been on a tear the past few days, going through old photos and scanning them. If you’re a friend on Facebook than this is old news to you but I thought I’d share a few here with more back story.

Floating with my dad.

I am not sure where we are but it could be Lake Almanor. We used to stay at the PG & E cabins there in the summer and the winter. (My dad worked for that company for over 25 years.)

Mother and daughter sweetness.

That’s me in pig tails and overalls and my mom looking hot in a halter top. Anyone recognize the game we are playing? I don’t.

Beach time!

Growing up, my family spent a lot of time at the beach. There are countless photos of us having picnics or playing in the sand.

My beautiful mother in her 20's & a very young Sizzle.

My sister looks a lot like my mom.

I still make that face (me on the right).

Doke claims I even made that same face this past weekend. Mr. Darcy concurs- I make that face frequently. And that’s little Dokey there who Finn definitely resembles.

Disneyland Trip circa 1980's.

That’s me on the left, a tween (maybe the only time in my life I didn’t have a big rack), my sister who will likely kill me for putting that dorky photo of her up and our dad in his shades that are now back in style. We used to go to Disneyland in the spring for a family trip. I have really good memories of those times.

My college graduation from UCSC with James Dean and Tomato.

Every time I look at this photo, I laugh. James Dean’s pomp is so big! And Tomato is wearing a MOCK TURTLENECK and blazer. And I am so blonde and thin. Ha ha. I can’t remember what year I graduated. I was dating James Dean then so I must have been 23 which would make it 1996.

A couple old friends, my sis in the blue knit hat and me driving my VW Super Beetle.

I loved that car. LOVED. It was metallic burgundy with a white top and interior that would later begin to sag when the top was up so that anyone sitting in the car that was over 5’3″ might have it resting on top of their head. But man, when it was sunny and the top was down, there were good times in that car. I distinctly remember driving over Highway 17, the top down, music blaring, good friends in tow, and the sea salt air hitting me as we hit the crest and headed down into Scotts Valley.

My 23rd birthday was celebrated with my mom, sis, Tomato and James Dean at the Shadowbrook Restaurant (a fancy joint in Capitola, CA). Here are me and my sister, posing.

This was during my “Sharon Stone” phase. And someone commented on Facebook that my sister resembles Ellen Page here. She used to look like the lead singer of Garbage, Shirley Manson, before she was the lead singer of Garbage and was in a band called Angelfish (anyone remember them?). Once we were at an Angelfish concert, right up front near the stage, and Shirley herself did a bit of a double take when she glimpsed my sister.

We had a dress up party for Dokey's 21st birthday. That's my childhood house's backyard where many a party was thrown. Me at 23 and Tomato at 22.

It feels like so many of these snapshots happened mere days ago and yet, here I am, 38 years old.

The Past Meets the Present

Here’s a story.

Back in high school my sister’s first boyfriend was in a band and in that band was a drummer named Phil. For years we’d all pal around, a mish-mashed pack of us, going to parties and coffee shops and seeing music- countless hang out sessions at my childhood home where my Mom kept the fridge stocked and the pool glistened in the backyard. Phil went off to the Air Force and I went off to college but we wrote letters and our friendship deepened. While he was in Monterey at the Defense Language Institute studying Arabic, I was neck-deep in my Women’s Studies/Lit major at UCSC. The distance between Santa Cruz and Monterey as about a 45 minute drive so sometimes we’d be able to find the time to hang out have long conversations about relationships and life and our futures. He was one of my best friends.

We’d always swap music. He’d send me tapes, many of them containing songs he’d written or had played with friends. A couple of them were about me. (Have you ever had someone write a song about you? It’s pretty dreamy. It’s up there with having a poem penned about you and having someone draw you.) The years kept passing and the letters kept traveling between our two distances. I was 25 when I hopped a plane to go visit him in Georgia where he was stationed. And during that week-long stay, we had a bit of a love affair.

It was kind of one of those situations where it existed in this bubble. It wasn’t something we talked about making work long distance. We were just two friends who had loved each other a long time and in that visit, we found a sanctuary in one another. The depth of feeling had a twinge of magic for me and still, years later, think of it and smile. Not in a way of longing, just that it was special and I’m grateful for that experience.

This is us circa 1998 where I did not have a clue how to take a self-portrait as evidenced by this horrible angle. And yet, this is the only photo I can find of the 2 of us together.

Pretty soon after that trip our friendship dissolved. Not out of malice or hurt or lack of feeling but he’d met a girl who didn’t approve of him being friends with me and out of respect for her wishes, he backed off. We do some crazy stuff for love, don’t we? It would be years before we would talk again. He’d get married, have 2 kids, move to Maryland, get divorced and I would date a bunch of guys, find my footing in my career, move to Seattle and meet Mr. Darcy. Thanks to Facebook we reconnected and have been able to catch each other up on our lives. But this weekend he came out to visit two of his best friends that live in Seattle of all places. And after ten years, I got to see him face-to-face and hug the shit out of him.

The Space Needle is growing from my head!

I got to meet two of his oldest friends from the Air Force, the ones he’d make music with and send to me on those mixed tapes. It was wild to meet them after all these years- and that one of them lives blocks from my apartment (small world!). I used to listen to their songs on repeat and I remembered most of the lyrics to a particular favorite, “Hooker With a Heart of Gold”. Friday night at a wine bar where they were playing an open mic they let me sing it with them (albeit, off key). (Click that link if you want to watch a video of said performance.)*

Phil & Talib strumming (I think this was when they were doing a bluegrass version of a Jane's Addiction song)

Doke & Phil, old friends

All this is to say, it was a great weekend full of remembering and nostalgia and catching up.

*Photo credit to my sister, Dokey

There is absolutely nothing that compares to an old friend.

 

*And no, “Hooker With a Heart of Gold” is not one of the songs about me.

Find An Open Hand

When everyone has gone to sleep and you are wide awake
there’s no one left to tell your troubles to.
Just an hour ago, you listened to their voices
lilting like a river over underground
and the light from downstairs came up soft like daybreak
dimly as the heartache of a lonely child.

My father would awake in a lonely chair out in the living room most nights, all of us in our separate rooms having long since turned away from the sight of him slumped and slack-jawed, drunk and vacant. Sometimes I would still be awake when he made his way from the living room to the bedroom. I’d hear the door to the hallway open and he’d stumble along in a vodka-induced haze, still struggling against the dark that he was not yet accustomed to but had to live with daily, even in daylight.

There was a rail that ran along the middle of the wall and he’d slide his hand along it as he made his way. My bedroom was first and I would often lie there listening to him, the hand dragging, dragging, until he’d get to my door. Sometimes he’d pause there, hovering, waiting, and I would hold my breath. And when he’d move on, I’d feel a mix of relief and deep despair.

I missed my dad long before he passed away.

Other times I’d still be up reading in my bed and I, with heart racing, would reach over to shut off the light at the first sound of the door opening. I’d lie there in guilt and darkness and sadness. The weight of it heavier than 1,000 blankets piled upon me.

The times I didn’t turn my light off, he’d catch glimmer of it slicing under the door and would give a gentle knock before cracking the door open. He’d search the room with his one eye with the tunnel of good vision for my shape.

“It’s late, you should go to sleep.”

“I will after I finish this chapter.”

Silence.

“Ok.”

The distance between us felt the expanse of the Grand Canyon in my heart. I don’t know how else to convey the cavernous sorrow of that situation.

If you can’t remember a better time
you can have mine, little one.
In days to come when your heart feels undone
may you always find an open hand
and take comfort wherever you can.

This memory arose from the ashes during a conversation about comfort. I’m not particularly adept at finding comfort in others. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom during all that turmoil listening to music, reading poetry, writing in my journal. That’s why people can now say to me “you’re so good at expressing how you feel in words” – I am in writing thanks to all those years of my journal being my place of refuge.  I may be an extrovert but there are big parts of me that are introverted, that only feel comfortable entirely alone. My tween/teen years weathered more than just the regular hormonal angst. The cycle of alcoholism that whirled our house into its destructive tornado left me at a loss for solid footing.

So cry, why not? we all do
then turn to one you love
and smile a smile that lights up all the room.
Follow your dreams in through every out-door
it seems that’s what we’re here for.

I forget about Father’s Day. I was 18 the last time we would have celebrated it and I can’t recall what, if anything, we did for my dad that day. He wasn’t living with us. I barely talked to him. I feel so sad thinking of all the memories we didn’t get to make because his alcoholism took center stage. I feel so mad that I don’t have a dad, that my dad stopped really being my dad years before he died. The times when I did have him are so distant in my mind, those memories are hard to grasp. I know my dad loved me the best he could. I just can’t stop wishing life had played out differently for him so I could have had more time with him, maybe hugged his frail body again, held his rough, tanned hand, looked into his gray blue eyes and said, “I love you”. And he would have replied, “love ya, too”. I just know it.

***

Lyrics from Deb Talan’s song “Comfort” which was the only thing I wanted to hear after my therapy session last night. Thanks for writing that song, Deb.

Sisters Reunited

My grandma’s sister, my Great Aunt Sissy, passed away last week. She was a lively, statuesque, fun-loving woman with round moon-shaped cheeks and an easy laugh. She and my Gram were the best of friends. I remember that whenever they were together they would laugh and laugh- laughing until they were crying and one was shouting, “I’m going to pee my pants!” And as my Mom likes to say, later in life one of them inevitably did pee their pants. They grew up Chicago in an Irish Catholic clan. Sissy was always called Sissy even though her name is Irene and Gram was called May even though her name was Marion.

I grew up eating what everyone in my family called “Sissy’s Chicken”. It’s basically a chicken casserole made with cream of mushroom soup, cheese, broccoli and bread crumbs. There’s some mayonnaise in there too but what can you expect from an old recipe? It’s served with mashed potatoes (of course, we’re Irish) and biscuits. Last night my family gathered to honor her in our own way since we couldn’t fly back to Chicago for the service. We looked at old photos and dined on Sissy’s Chicken.

It’s been over 10 years  since my Grandma passed and I still miss her. I hope she and Sissy are up in heaven having a vodka tonic and toasting to being together again. Maybe my Dad is there too and they are all laughing til the tears stream down their cheeks.

My Grandma, Marion, on the left and her sister, Irene, who was affectionately known as Sissy.

Hopefully you can’t pee your pants in heaven.