Archive for the ‘college years’ Category

The paging story

September 23, 2013

This is a story I could not tell you in person, because the memory of it sends me into fits of laughter. I’m sure it will not come across as as funny as it was to me at the time, so I’ve put off including it.

It’s time.

One night my husband had gone to the supermarket for something or other. We mostly didn’t shop at the supermarket. We went to the groovy bulk organic hippie store on the corner. But now and then we needed something like Tylenol or Oreos, and it was off to King Soopers.

So my husband was gone to get a thing and Jer and I were at home talking about how it’s been 20 years since we had Tang.

Suddenly we had to have some Tang.

This was before cell phones, and we were thinking it was tragic we didn’t have this thought 10 minutes earlier.

Then we thought, hey, they have phones at King Soopers. Let’s call him there. They can page him.

This struck us as both brilliant and hilarious. We imagined his face when we told him we paged him because we wanted Tang.

While we waited for him to respond to the page, it occurred to us that it would be even funnier if we said we just called to say hi.

So we scrapped the Tang request and went with our new plan.

He didn’t even laugh a little.

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The bikini story

July 22, 2013

According to my friend’s car, it was 111 degrees here at 6 p.m. We’re having a hot spell.

Early today I took my to-do list out and crossed off everything I couldn’t carry out to the pool to accomplish.

Wearing clothing was asking too much. In fact, I’ve been in nothing but my bikini for three days.

Luckily, I have not needed to go to the post office.

I went into public in my bikini once 17 years ago. It did not go well.

When we lived in Boulder I cross-country skied almost every day. I would schedule my fall and spring classes with a gap between, so I could scoot up to Eldora between courses and run a couple of trails. I was totally isolated up there. It was glorious.

By March the trails were sunny. Even in winter I was warm when I skied, because I was working my arms and legs so much. With actual warmth, I was roasting.

One afternoon all my girlfriends were going to the park to study and tan. I hate to be out-tanned, but couldn’t not ski.

I had a great idea. I would ski in my bathing suit and get a pretty bronze tan on the mountain.

I was shy getting out of my car and trudging out to the track, shouldering my skis in nothing but a bikini and Nordic boots, but as always, there wasn’t another person anywhere.

After a short trek into the trees I forgot about being self conscious and enjoyed the cool on my skin. I was usually all sweaty.

Then things got ugly.

I was halfway down an expert slope — Gandy Dancer, I’ll never forget — and I fell. Skiing on snow in a bikini is a totally different thing from sitting on the snow in a bikini.

I couldn’t get up.

Everytime I tried to stand, my skis slid out from under me. Four times I ended up all the way on the side of the trail, and had to scoot backward into the middle to try again.

Wait. I left something out. As soon as I fell, lots of people started going by.

I have no idea where they came from. It was an endless stream of skiers, gliding down Gandy Dancer about five at a time. This throng of witnesses comprised people of all ages. That was the worst part, hearing children ask Daddy why that woman was sitting mid-hill in a bikini.

I got looks that said, ‘Well you’re bizarre.’

After a humiliating several minutes of failure, my butt was suffering. I tried to balance my cheeks on the skis because the snow was beginning to sting. I gave up, pressed my feet as close together as possible, sat on my heels and paddled myself right through two upright families to the foot of the slope.

Guess who was there, and on the rest of the trail. Nobody.

The three-little-words story

July 11, 2013

A month after I met my husband I flew out to spend Easter weekend with him in Colorado. I ended up calling my professors and declaring illness. I stayed a week, adding a day at a time.

The only one who seemed to care was a photographer assigned to an untimely story I hadn’t written yet.

Late one night we had put on Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, opened a bottle of wine and were slow dancing by candlelight. My boyfriend said something that I was 80 percent certain was “I’m in love with you.”

It was muffled by my hair.

Though we had said things like, “You’re the one;” “I’m done looking;” and “I’ve never felt like this before,” the word “love” was as yet unuttered.

I was in a fix. What if he had said something else, like, “I’ve an oven flue,” and I said, “I love you, too”?

I would sound dumb.

I didn’t want to sound dumb, so I said, “Huh?”

“I wanna live with you,” he repeated.

Ah! Good thing I asked.

“Yeah, no.”

Things need to be said in the right order.

(For anybody getting ready to disapprove, we did not live together before we were married in 1992.

. . . When I discovered I was pregnant.)

How I ended up in journalism

June 14, 2013

I promised to tell you about how I threw over The Hot Guy for The Smart Guy. I have to get to it, because on July 26 I have a story about us, and you should have been introduced to him by then.

Let’s recap what we have so far of my post-high school adventures: I worked as a hula-hooping singer at a ’50s place until a former customer saw me in public and offered me a job at a college where a Hot Guy came in asking for paperwork for a semester in Mexico, which I had never heard of but said I was doing, too.

So there I was, living in Mexico based on the lie that I could speak Spanish. I lived with a family there. I was a student at the Universidad de Guanajuato.

Every morning we rode an open-air bus over the cobbled streets to the university. All of us Californians got picked up along the same route.

There was a panaderia next to the school, where several of us would buy bolillos fresh out of the oven. I remember standing in that bakery in the overcast of the mornings, breaking my bolillo in half so I could shove my face into the steam and aroma.

In Mexico, papaya juice is their orange juice. They use what’s labeled here as sweet butter — there’s no salt in it. And when you order cheese on something, you get a white, crumbly goat cheese. I didn’t like any of these things, but I liked bolillos.

From the panaderia we tackled the stairs to our classrooms. I counted them once, and wish I had written down the number. There were more than 100. First there were the wide steps to get into the building, which you can see a picture of in Photos O’ Mine. Then there was a series of short switchback stairs we took to the top tower, about six stories up.

It was on those switchbacks I lost my heart.

There was a guy with unruly hair and tragically matched clothing who went up ahead of me. I always made sure I was behind him, so I could smell his cologne. I go weak in the knees for Polo. The Hot Guy smelled like cigarettes.

By the time we were loaded on a bus for a weekend in Guadalajara, I had completely lost interest in The Hot Guy. I made a point of sitting by the guy from the stairs for the six-hour ride.

He was wearing green denim pants and a turquoise sweater vest.

He had a gentle voice and kind manners. He told me interesting things and laughed at my stories. When we ran out of conversation I read aloud to him from my Katherine Stone novel. We got so engrossed in the story, that when all the kids went out dancing that night, we stayed back to finish the book.

This smart guy had become much hotter than The Hot Guy.

I loved being around him. By the time we were back in Guanajuato we were together all the time. We knew each other’s favorite things.

He had been a writer for his school’s newspaper. “Me too!” I said, which was true insofar as two of my St. Patrick’s Day entries won the limerick contest and were published.

As the summer grew short, I got worried. He had been accepted to Stanford, and would be moving there from Laguna Niguel a month after we returned. That was far from me. I began to send him telepathic messages to ask me to go with him. Ultimately he learned my hope when we wrote entries in each other’s diaries. He asked.

Back in the States he showed me the newspapers he had been a part of. I was inspired. When I enrolled for the fall semester, I joined the staff.

This story picks back up with The Earthquake story. After that quake, The Smart Guy, along with many others, suffered from depression. He cut me loose out of guilt for bringing me down, which broke my heart.

Then in spring I was sent to Hawaii….

The Smart Guy is now running Yahoo!

Click here for photo

The Star Trek story

June 4, 2013

I just ran into a friend at the ice cream parlor. We got to talking about Star Trek, which my family just dragged me to. Loved it.

Him too. He said he asked the dude in the ticket kiosk if he spoke Vulcan. I imagine they get a lot of that.

Let me tell you how I am three degrees from the languages of Star Trek.

My Linguistics 101 professor and his roommate were both working on their doctorates in the subject in the ’80s.

One night Dr. Rood was supposed to go on a blind date, but didn’t want to. He sent the roommate in his stead.

The date didn’t show, so the guy sat at the bar all night chatting with some nerd on the next stool.

The nerd was interested in the linguist. He asked if it would be possible to compose a real language from scratch.

Are you kidding? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back? Inventing languages is what linguists do when they’re bored.

That night, Gene Roddenberry asked my professor’s roommate to create Klingon.

My professor was totally QeH.

How I met my husband, continued

March 23, 2013

This is the 21st anniversary of my becoming my husband’s girl.

The story I told before happened on March 22. Here’s what happened the next day.

From the airport in Hilo we were taken to the Big Island Rainforest Action Group headquarters, a building/campsite area in the forest. Many people had tents, but I had never camped before, so I slept on the floor of the main room indoors.

The Aries with the blue eyes slept in his friend Matt‘s tent.

In the morning someone with a car announced he was taking all of these hippies to the beach. I put on my neon one-piece and away we went.

We piled out on the side of a road. The driver pointed to steps and drove off.

I froze at the top of the steps. Everybody down there was naked. Hippies were running down the wooden steps whooping and peeling off their tie-dyes.

The beach was gorgeous. All the sand was black, because it was from the volcano. The ocean was clear aquamarine in front of us. We had palms and papayas behind.

I spread out my towel and lay there in my suddenly louder-than-neon one piece, watching naked hippies play Frisbee.

The Aries and Matt came to sit with me. We ate papayas and watched dolphins frolick close to shore. Later a humpback whale swam over and waved its fluke at us.

Back at the campsite all of those protesters had sunburned privates.

I had gotten to know the Aries pretty well by now. So well that Matt suddenly wanted to sleep outside, which left a vacancy in the tent if I wanted it. He said this in front of a nasty guy who had offered me tent space earlier, so I had to turn him down to protect feelings.

The Aeries asked if I would rub lotion on his burned back. He suggested I bring my baby oil over and give him a lube job.

I said, ‘I know your type, lube ’em and leave ’em.’

I think he hasn’t left me yet just to prove me wrong.

Sonnets

March 4, 2013

Two years ago on this date I taught eighth-graders how to write sonnets, and I told the children what I know best about sonnets: They have 14 lines.

Here’s why I will never forget that.

A month after the magical week of meeting my husband in Hawaii he flew to my family reunion to declare his intentions to my clan.

My grama was one of nine children, none of whom had died at that point. They were all there. Piling on all of their offspring made a big gathering.

My boyfriend and I had jumped in on a Trivial Pursuit game with two of my cousins and my mom. I was trying to look smart.

He read from a card, “How many lines are in a sonnet?”

I answered “five” and grabbed for the die. I was feigning confidence.

“Wait,” he seemed reluctant to tell me I was wrong. “A sonnet has…”

“Oh a sonnet,” I interrupted. “Seven.”

I made for the die again.

“Fourteen.”

“Oh a whole sonnet.”

That afternoon of fun was a pack of trying-to-catch-a-mate lying.

I was pretending to be a knower of things, and he was pretending to be a liker of games.

Our pants were aflame.

My mom cracks me up

February 17, 2013

One afternoon my mom and I were shopping at a big mall out of town. I was doing the pee pee dance.
“I gotta pee in the worst way,” I said.
“Hanging upside down?”
Yeah, that’s what I needed — laughter.

The lasagne story

February 14, 2013

Tonight in honor of Valentine’s Day I am making tomato soup with parmesan cream. It’s a beautiful red soup, in which you put a circle of cream dollops. Drag a knife through them and you have a ring of white hearts in your bowl.

No matter what I make, it won’t be as memorable as my first Valentine’s dinner with my husband. This dinner has become family legend.

I was a college student, and I didn’t have much experience cooking.

My mama, however, is a miracle in the kitchen, so by phone she led me through making a lasagne. She gave me her secret recipe.

My boyfriend and I had been together for almost 11 months.

When he got to my apartment he was met with candlelight and the smell of toasting garlic bread. Vivaldi was in the cassette player. My legs were shaved.

That lasagne was the best tasting meal in the history of good-tasting meals. My day of toil was pulsing with reward. I was both sexy and domestic. We were in love.

I was imagining how we would clink our glasses and slow dance. I was totally high on the romance of it all.

Then my boyfriend went to the oven to get another piece of lasagne. The pan was hot. He dropped it on the floor. Food was everywhere.

There went the rewards of my toil. My date was angry.

We pull this story out periodically, because my husband forgives us our mistakes, but when he makes one, we duck and cover.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned to put the food on the dinner table.

How I came to learn Spanish

February 9, 2013

I once was a long-term substitute in a Spanish class. I can speak the language pretty well, but most of the words surprise me by sight. I often say, “Is that what that word looks like? I would have spelled it completely differently.”

This is because I have never studied the language.

When I was 19 I worked in the office of a college. How I came to work in that office is a whole story in itself. I will tell it soon.

One afternoon the Hot Guy I had been trying to figure out how to meet walked in to ask for an application packet for a semester in Mexico.

“I’m going on that,” I said. I had never heard of this program.

I went to my mom and gave her one of the packets to sign. She didn’t even lift a brow, which makes me wonder how she stood me.

She said, “It says you have to be able to speak Spanish. You checked ‘Yes.’ ”

“I’ll figure it out by June. I took French in junior high.”

She signed the form and wrote a check. It was mid-March.

How cool is this? I called my grama to tell her about my upcoming trip, and by bedtime my grandparents, two of their friends and I had plane tickets for spring break in Mexico — a 10-day crash course on location.

My grandparents both spoke Spanish fluently. This is how they communicated when they didn’t want their kids to know what they were saying.

We went to Mexico City, San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque.

We saw ancient pyramids recently discovered underneath forests, with hidden sarcophagi. We hitched a ride to a village on a sideless VW bus, and when we got there we met a woman making tortillas on the ground and children who had never seen sunglasses. At night we ate fresh blueberry pancakes from a vendor with a griddle on wheels outside a cathedral.

I learned Spanish by hanging out with children trying to sell me little things they made. I taught them some songs, and they taught some to me.

Before I left, I gave a little girl my sunglasses.

By June I spoke broken Spanish, but I could make myself understood. I was able to survive living with a family and attending the university there.

I dumped the Hot Guy after a week for the Smart Guy. That’s another story too.

link to photos

The habanero story

February 4, 2013

Tonight’s story is my husband’s choice.

When we lived in Boulder, there was a gaggle of college boys  — who were old enough to be called men but not mature enough — who were our friends. They all lived in our house on and off, and were like uncles to our babies.

One afternoon we were having a barbecue and Matt brought out a bag of habanero peppers. These are the hottest peppers in the world.

These stupid boys ate those peppers.

Once one of them ate one, they each in turn tried to look more macho.

The barbecue ended fairly early, and it was an ugly night for most.

Our buddy Tug had had his preschool-age son that weekend. The morning after, he was delivering the boy to his mother when the boy was trying to form the story in his mind to report back home.

“Dad, what were those things you were eating last night?”

“Not now, honey.”

Repeat as necessary.

Finally Tug tried to answer. He got “Haba-” out before he puked on the steering wheel.

Tug was the most macho.

The homeless guy story

January 21, 2013

Starbucks is running a new campaign, inspired by President Obama’s call for service. If you pledge five hours of community service of any kind, you get a free coffee.

Here’s my first experience with community service. It was unplanned.

When I lived in the Bay Area, I drove into San Francisco to meet a friend after work. My friend worked in a fancy hotel. Though I lived a few minutes from The City, I avoided it because of the homeless. It tormented me. I couldn’t sleep at night when it was cold for thinking of them.

So I grimaced when my friend said he wasn’t off yet. There was a man with a guitar and a turned-up hat sitting on the sidewalk by the hotel entrance, where I was to wait.

He sounded pretty good.

I stood there a minute trying not to be noticed, but he shouted at me. He wanted to know my name.

He wrote an impromptu song about my beauty. This was his shtick, but it wasn’t very effective, based on the coins in his hat.

I didn’t have any money to give him. So on top of the pity, I had guilt.

Out of panic, I asked if he knew ‘Proud Mary.’ I thought I was brilliant. I was distracting him from noticing I wasn’t giving him money.

“Do you?” he asked. Shoot. Don’t insult me. “Sing with me,” he said.

So I sat on the ground next to him, backs against the wall, and said, “Left a good job in the city….”

We made more than a hundred bucks.

How we met

January 19, 2013

I just drove my husband to the airport. The first time I laid eyes on him was in an airport.

Several Rainforest Action Groups from around the country were going to Hawaii for a protest. I was going as a newspaper reporter.

It was morning, almost 22 years ago, when I lay over a waiting chair at SFO listening to a bunch a hippies panic that their friend — the responsible one — wasn’t anywhere to be found.

I hoped he wouldn’t show, because we were on the same flight and I had a friend with a standby ticket.

At the last minute, a boy in a dress shirt and slacks with great need of a haircut came running into the gate, rugby duffel bag flying from his shoulder. His eyes were almost turquoise. I licked my lips. Then I got on the plane and slept for six hours.

In Honolulu we had to change planes before proceeding to the Big Island. To do this, we rode a tram across the airport. I hung back and watched the late but responsible friend interact with the hippies. He was attentive to everyone. He smiled when he talked. He seemed to be their leader.

I was thinking, he fits the description an interviewee gave me when I did a story on astrology a week ago. If there’s anything to it, he’s an Aries. I didn’t think there was anything to it, but I walked across the tram to where he was standing, (he had given a lady his seat,) and asked him if he was.

He was.

Then I took a shot at dumb luck. I put on my confident face and announced his birthday. Who knew my luck was so dumb? I hit it dead on.

Because I hoped he would follow me, I refused to tell him how I knew. I just walked away.

It worked.

link to photos

Drinking

January 12, 2013

I romanticize the idea of having a drink.

When I picture myself at a to-do in a cocktail dress with my heels going click click and my lips all slimy with dark lipstick, I’m slinky with a glass of red wine in my hand.

I see myself having macho fun at a poker table gripping a beer bottle by the neck.

And when i imagine a cold night by the fire, it’s complete with a hot buttered rum.

But I’m a lousy drinker. More than two and I’m sleepy, dizzy and starting a headache. And if I’m having two, I’d better have water in between.

I used to work at an iconic restaurant and bar across from the university in Boulder called The Sink. Fun fact: Robert Redford was once a janitor there.

At this bar there are murals and sayings on the wall, and the bartender supplies markers for customers to add graffiti of their own.

Someone once left a gem that struck a chord with me:

One to be social

Two for the toast

Three and I’m under the table

Four and I’m under the host.

The earthquake

January 9, 2013

I live in Southern California. Last night we had a lengthy earthquake, and both of my children were somewhere else. It was a small quake — initially reported as a 5, then downgraded to  4.5 — but still the phone lines were clogged for a few minutes. Because of this realization, I was more afraid after the quake than during.

Naturally, I have an earthquake story.

It was October 17, 1989, and I had just been named the news editor of my college newspaper in Los Altos Hills, which is just south of San Francisco.

I was in a happy bubble as I drove home through the old-fashioned downtown at 5 o’clock. There were mom-and-pop shops with picture windows on both sides of the little streets. Knick knacks, ice cream, records — Los Altos is great for shopping.

Stop signs keep the cars moving slowly through the area, but the tailgating guy behind me was impatient. He would move to the side, as if to see if he could go around me. I remember I thought, ‘I’m a real journalist now. You can’t spoil my mood.’ But I knew he was angry.

At the third stop sign, I felt the car start to idle hard. This wasn’t unusual. Then it bucked a little, and I thought, ‘That guy got out of his car and started jumping on my bumper!’

As I turned around to scowl at him, I heard, ‘Get away from the windows!’ A woman ran out of a store into the street and stopped in front of me, holding her pre-teen daughter protectively under hunched shoulders. That’s the image I hold the strongest. That woman trying to shelter her daughter in panic.

I panicked too, trying to think if I had ever heard something like, turn off the engine or your car will explode; or roll down the windows or they’ll shatter. I thought it was The Big One I’d been advised to handle my whole life, and I couldn’t remember any of the advice. I shut off the engine and rolled down the windows.

I was one block from the intersection at the expressway, and I saw the asphalt there roll like an ocean wave, toppling the red-light signal as it changed to green and flickered out.

I had to drive around the downed signal to head into the mountains going home. That made me cry, but I didn’t understand why. I cried all the way home.

When I got there, I went directly to my phone — stepping over a bookcase, tapes, my little face-down TV — and called my parents. I was surprsied to get an open line. I kept my message brief because I knew the line would clog: I’m OK; I’ll call you tomorrow.

Then I called my paper’s managing editor. I was a journalist after all. ‘Mike, you’ll never guess what happened to me on the way home from your house! I’m heading to the campus.’

Mike argued with me, but I was a real journalist.

Finally he said, ‘Hey.’

‘What?’

‘Take your camera.’

It was a darn good thing he said that.

I interviewed and photographed students sitting on knolls, riding out the aftershocks removed from the danger of buildings. I captured the aisles of the library, piled feet high with books. I got some rubble that had been a chimney.

And then the sun went down.

I had never been in darkness so total. If I hadn’t had that camera, I don’t know how I would have found my car. I made the flash go off and took a step. I went flash-step all the way to my car. I must have been the last one on campus.

As I had expected, the phone was out by the time I got home. The couple whose basement I lived in lent me a lantern. They had a transister radio going upstairs, where they listened in silence as they swept up the remains of all their colored-sand art jars.

We learned it was a 7.1.

School resumed a few days later when the power came back, but on Oct. 18 the dedicated staff met unsummoned in the newsroom. We pulled out manual typewriters to put together a special edition.

Everybody wanted to tell his earthquake story. They probably still do. Me too, apparently.

A return favor

November 22, 2012

We just drove home from Bakersfield. On the way through the Tejon Pass, there was a woman pressing three small children against her legs in the wind, standing in the dirt on the side of the road. The hood of her car was up.

My husband and I agreed we should stop, so he pulled off at the next exit. It was a rest stop with no onramp the other direction.

As long as we were there, my husband went pee.

We went to the next offramp, got off and headed back the other direction, but missed our offramp.

By the time we got back to the damsel in distress, a tow truck was there.

That reminded me of a story, which Mike will be pleased I told, since I hung him out to dry with The Favor post.

One Thanksgiving my college roommate and I decided to show up in Southern California for Thanksgiving and surprise our families. We took my car from Boulder and dropped her first in San Clemente. It was Wednesday.

Never drive on Southern California freeways on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I could have walked faster.

Round about Yorba Linda my car began to smoke. Here’s my engine savvy. I pulled to the median and distanced myself from it in case it was set to explode.

A car pulled up next to me, a sedan, with about nine people in it. They bade me dive in across the six laps in the back seat, scooted me across the five lanes and dropped me at the call box.

The call box phone didn’t work.

From there a nice lady drove me down the offramp. She told me she had never picked up a hitchhiker in her life, but that I cut the most unthreatening figure she’d ever seen.

She left me at the Carl’s Jr., where I borrowed their phone and called Mike.

Michael jumped in his Sprint, with the ‘Don’t laugh, mister. You’re daughter might be in here.’ bumper sticker, and sat in the holiday traffic for hours to get me.

During the years I was logging frequent passenger miles in that car, my father never commented on that bumper sticker.

Mike put water in my overheated radiator and handed me the keys to the Sprint. I followed him at a creep to my parents’ house, where they were cozily watching a movie with a fire going.

 I had to walk in and say, “Surprise! Dad, can you fix my car?”

He had grace not to say, “You’re home. What a treat,” as he pushed himself off the couch.

I hope I’ve redeemed Michael’s reputation. The truth is, if he called me at 2 a.m. again, I’d go.

English is a bitch

November 10, 2012

I had a semantics professor in college who had immigrated from Yugoslavia.

He told a sad story about getting in trouble with his own teacher when he was a college student. He was still learning English at the time.

The professor said some confusing things, and my prof-to-be raised his hand. “I understand.”

“Good.” He went on.

My prof raised his hand again. “I understand.”

“Sir, it is not appropriate for you to take class time after every point to tell me you understand. Many people understand. Keep it to yourself.”

My teacher failed the class.

He later learned that the prefix “un-” did not always negate the root. What he thought he had been saying was “I don’t understand.”

If he had only once told his professor he derstood, there may have been a revelation.

I punched a guy

October 24, 2012

When my grandparents took me to Mexico, I got groped a couple times.

I learned something about myself. I’m slightly violent.

The first time, the guy brushed my chi chis too close and too long to be an accident.

Without thinking first I slapped his face, con fuerza.

He just kept smiling.

Two days later we were boarding a crowded bus for an open air art market. A Donny Osmond-looking passenger motioned me go first and said, “Pasa-le.”

I gave him a nod-smile with a ‘gracias’ and squeezed by. My eyes were ahead, but I felt a grope, in front, down low.

In a split second I had Donny sucking wind from my fist in his gut.

I saw my grandparents go through three rapid reactions — surprised, concerned, amused.

It wasn’t until we were at the market that we could recap. They shook their heads at me.

“Why did you punch that guy?”

“He touched me.”

“I don’t think so.”

They said he was sincerely shocked, confused even.

Down went the Welcome-to-Mexico sign.

I punched the wrong guy.

The disc jockey in the sky

October 16, 2012

This morning I was listening to my iPod, which I have named iCaramba, and singing along with Question by The Moody Blues.

Parts of this song go right under my crusty exterior and force tears. I can’t prevent it.

On the plane ride home from Hawaii, ending the week of getting to know the love of my life, I plugged my rubber headphones into the armrest to discover an in-flight Moody Blues marathon.

I am the biggest Moody Blues fan you ever heard of. This was clearly some kind of supernatural message.

I closed my eyes, smiled and listened. When the chorus came —

I’m looking for someone to change my life.
I’m looking for a miracle in my life.
And if you could see what it’s done to me
To lose the the love I knew
Could safely lead me to
The land that I once knew.
To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our souls.

 

— I was a goner. To this day, I’m a goner.

But that’s not the story I’m here to tell. That’s just what brought it to mind.

There was a copy editor at The Press who had been there 50 years. She took her job seriously, and, like me, was proud of what we did. She was in her 70s.

We were close.

One summer day there was a posting for employees. Helen’s daughter died unexpectedly while on vacation in Hawaii. She was 50.

Lots of us went to the funeral.

Helen’s surviving daughter gave the eulogy. She had received a postcard from Hawaii the morning of the service. It said, “It’s so beautiful. I never want to leave.”

She said when they were little girls they would sing “Sisters,” the Rosemary ClooneyVera Ellen duet from the movie “White Christmas.” That was their song.

They were close.

She broke down as she described flying to Hawaii to collect the body.

And putting the armrest headphones in her ear.

And hearing “Sisters.”

Another phrase of our own

October 1, 2012

There was a moment, a comment and a laugh once at work. It’s still here.

I was waitressing at Bennigan’s in Boulder, and had gone into the kitchen. I needed a small dish of shredded cheese. Probably someone had ordered it for his ultimate baked potato soup.

I hollered to the guys behind the grill — there were two — “I need a side of cheese.”

The one on the right said, “Don’t fall for it! It’s just a trick to get some cheese.”

Later that night I told My Boyfriend about it. We had a great laugh.

We were at the beginning of that stage where something isn’t a happy memory until you share it together. I reckon we’re in the middle of that stage now.

I don’t remember the grill cook’s name.

But almost 20 years later, when we accuse each other of having an agenda, we ask if it’s a trick to get some cheese.

How I met Jer

September 30, 2012

My husband’s dinner news last night was that They Might Be Giants has made a science teaching DVD. Just now he put it in my hand.

I have a connection to this band. They’re how I met one of the best friends of my life so far, Jer.

Immediately after I moved to Boulder My Boyfriend and I were getting hippie groceries at the hippie grocery store, and a hippie friend of My Boyfriend was out front wanting a ride. He had two non-hippie friends with him.

In the back seat, the blond friend picked up my collection of cassettes. “Hey! They Might Be Giants! I met them today.”

Jer is a cyclist. At the time, he worked at The Spoke, repairing and selling bicycles.

He was in Boulder Central Park doing a thing to his bike, when the band went by on rented cycles. The members were in town for a concert at The Boulder Theater.

Right in front of Jer, the frontman’s chain fell off. That’s serendipity if I ever knew of it. My advice to anyone in general: if you’re gonna drop a bike chain, do it in front of Jer.

He rescued them and was given two free tickets to that night’s show.

That’s even serendipitouser. Readers, if you’re ever going to pick up a stranger at a hippie grocery, pick up someone who just got two free tickets to a They Might Be Giants concert.

My Boyfriend sent me off with his blessing. He sent Jer off warning him not to touch my butt.

I put on a tie-dye sundress and lace-up-to-the-knee boots, and Jer picked me up at 7 p.m.

I was suspicious early on that the band was lip syncing. Toward the end of the concert they gave up the ruse and stopped strumming for a moment. The music went uninterrupted. Who could complain? My tickets were free and I had met a lifelong friend.

To this day he has never touched my butt.

Pets are nasty

September 13, 2012

My dogs got skunked this morning.

This is a boon for my cat Newsie, who for the first time is not the stinkiest animal in the house.

My son’s friend said her teacher’s dog got skunked and then climbed into the bed.

That reminds me of a story.

Before we were married, my husband and I shared a dog, Ozone.

My then boyfriend woke up one morning feeling something wet in the bed. He scooted from it at first, but later woke enough to realize it was probably bad.

It was. It was a gift from Ozone.

It was half a opossum.

My dad cracks me up

September 12, 2012

Today is my dad’s birthday, so I’ll share my favorite example of his sass.

Whenever I drove home from Boulder for a visit, my dad would sprinkle kitty litter in the driveway and give my car an oil change.

I went out to keep him company one of these times. He had just finished my car, and was doing Mom’s.

I tilted my head at the gooey clay litter remnants whose wetness prevented them from coming up in the first go-over with the broom.

“This litter spot is shaped like Africa,” I said.

My dad froze.

He stared at me agape.

“What?” I sounded so Valley Girl.

“You’ve been looking at maps!”

I am so sure.

I tried to get married in Mexico

July 26, 2012

Twenty years ago today The Smart Guy and I celebrated his 20th birthday by getting a little nutty.

We were living in Guanajuato, doing a semester at the university there, and getting excited about finding each other.

As we did every night, we hung out at a bar called ¿Donde?, drinking some things I can’t remember the name of. There was an upside-down shot glass full of tequila submerged in a rocks glass of beer. When the shot glass is lifted, the drinks blend and you drink it really fast. These were awful. I had lots.

The Smart Guy and I went wandering — read ‘staggering’ — among the old buildings and found ourselves in an ancient basilica.

“Let’s do it,” we said — read ‘slurred.’

There was a priest in there. At least, there was a man in there we assumed to be a priest. We asked him to marry us.

He refused on two grounds: We weren’t Catholic, and we didn’t have a marriage certificate. Our state of lucidity apparently had no bearing.

We were in love, though, we said. We tried to bribe him. We were a classy, pair, The Smart Guy and I.

The Father seemed to gather we weren’t going to leave, so he said some words in Latin and waved his arms ceremoniously to pacify us. He was translating an Eagles song for all we knew, but we were pleased and the Father was rid of us.

The next day we went out with all our exchange-student friends and fed each other cake.

At the time, none of this struck me as nutty. I’m glad for that.

Redwood Summer

July 16, 2012

A human-rights activist has been kidnapped and killed.

This brings back a terrible memory.

Two weeks after I moved to Boulder to live near my boyfriend, a group from the University of Colorado Environmental Center rented a bus and went to California to be a part of Redwood Summer.

This was a gathering, primarily of college students, in Northern California. The kids were staging protests against the logging industry.

It was a peaceful effort. Ben & Jerry would be there, and the ice cream would be free. I grabbed two cameras and my reporter’s notebook and jumped aboard.

On the way out our busful engaged in nonviolence training.

When we arrived in Humbolt County, we were met with the somber news that the events’ organizers, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, had been hospitalized. A bomb exploded under Bari when she sat in the driver’s seat of her car. Her pelvis was blown apart, among other things.

This was the first indication that I was in harm’s way.

We sat cross-legged in a ring on the floor while our leader guy did an emotion check. I was freaking out. I am not brave.

This news had the protesters angry and ready to charge. Our exercise that afternoon was role playing, to prepare ourselves for confrontations with loggers.

First I played a protester. My ersatz logger was shoving me and yelling obsenities. I practiced not fighting back.

Then it was my turn to be the logger. Perhaps it was because of my journalism training, or because I was not a protester, but I was surpised by the myopia these kids had.

My logger response in this game was “I hear you, but I have a family that depends on me. I don’t cut and haul what I’m told; I don’t get paid.”

My drill partner said, “I never thought of that.” Those zealous college kids were putting themselves in danger without even considering the other side. I agreed with them, mind, but thought they couldn’t have a good strategy without they saw the forest through the trees.

The plan for the next day was something called ‘Cat and Mouse.’ This was not a drill. Half of the protesters sneaked into the forest at 4 a.m. to hide, the second half at 6. The idea was that the loggers couldn’t fell trees knowing there was a bunch of people in there.

I was with a group in a gully as dawn broke. I can’t describe how frightened I was. Mingled with the sounds of the forest was the voice in my head, replaying ‘This is a bad idea.’ I couldn’t make it stop.

A large, strong man appeared at some point on higher ground. He had seen my group, and was heaving softball-size boulders at us. If one had made contact with someone’s head it could have been fatal. People started running, but I’m slow and got separated. I called for my boyfriend, and forgot to use the code name he was assigned. I didn’t know what to do. I struggled up the side of the gully, but there was no trail, and it was steep. It was also dark, and I was afraid. This was out of the cover of the trees, but I just wanted to get out of there.

I couldn’t hear the quiet anymore, just screaming from the protesters, yelling from the loggers, and thuds from the rocks they threw. That’s what my husband says he remembers the most — the thuds.

As I crested the forest I saw a sherrif’s car. I ran to it and embraced the officer. Shortly after, my boyfriend found me. We were done with this craziness.

The officer gave my boyfriend and me a ride to our camp. I used that time to get his perspective for my story, but he also asked us a lot of questions. By the end of the ride, I had a great article, and the officer had decided he agreed with the environmentalists’ cause.

By nightfall one of our number hadn’t returned. We learned he had been caught by a group of loggers and beaten with an axe handle and abandoned.

That was the end of the action for the Coloradans. We got our free ice cream and headed back.

I grabbed a stack of local newspapers before we hit the road. Someone had done a story on my boyfriend, me and our officer friend, who was a Mendocino County sheriff sergeant. He had credited us by name with educating him on the issue and inspiring him to work toward protecting old-growth forests.

Shoot, if I’d known I would make my biggest impact sitting in a car, I never would have gone into that forest.

And to top it off, someone else had written my story.

My husband talked in his sleep

July 14, 2012

The smallest bit of light or noise torments my husband when he’s sleeping. If I put my book light on, he puts a pillow over his face, then crosses his arms over it to press it into his eyes.

When we were dating, I once stood outside his house in the middle of the night and whispered his name. He answered in a full, clear voice, “What?”

He woke up like a snap. The man is cursed.

This is the time period my story takes place in. Sometimes he would ask me to come stay with him, even if I worked late or had a report to write. There were no locks on his doors, so I would creep into his dark, quiet house and climb in bed. He would wake up, drape his arm over me and be asleep again within a second.

One night I curled into him, and he said in a strong voice, “Ah! You must be the maker of the contacts.”

“What?”

“Huh?” He was asleep.

Apparently, he either dreams of being a secret agent, or an optomotrist.

The Woodstock story

June 27, 2012

When I met my husband, (see parts I, II and III,) I knew he was the one. I sensed I had to be real with him — expose my flawed underbelly and let him reject or accept me.

I also knew I had to catch him before I could clean and scale him.

So I put out some hippie bait: “I was born during Woodstock.”

This is true. Woodstock was a three-day musical happening beginning Aug. 15 and ending Aug. 17, 1969. I born on Aug. 16, 1969 — 3,000 miles away. But during.

Two months later when I had the man securely on the hook, he flew out to the Bay Area to take me to my family reunion. This is when  I introduced him to my parents.

He broke the ice by addressing my mother, “I heard you were at Woodstock.”

Oh, how I hate to start a sentence with ‘technically.’

I’ve since established credibility with 20 years of honesty, but, just like in a story My Oldest Friend’s husband tells, he has never let me live this down.

The leg waxing

May 12, 2012

Many of the guys in Boulder were cyclists, including my close friend Jer.

They had to keep their legs free of hair or it would get caught in the gears. I have this wrong. Please see the comments for a correction.

My roommate was from San Clemente, and we used to joke that the only way to tell the guys from the chicks in that hippie town was that the guys shaved their legs.

One year a girlfriend of mine got her esthetician’s license and was preparing to hang her shingle in a spa. She invited Jer and me to get a free facial or something so she could practice.

I’m not the facial type, and neither was Jer, so we asked to get our legs waxed instead.

I should have taken the facial.

Even after Jer hollered like a little girl, she told me I was the biggest baby she ever heard.

I worked in a bar

April 24, 2012

I was recently found online by Kevin, one of my greatest friends from Boulder.

He was a stay-up-all-night-working-a-crossword kind of friend. We went out for ice cream and to the movies. His computer was cooler than mine, so I did all my essays at his house.

I could tell a million stories of his being there when I needed him.

In college I worked at The Sink, a low-ceilinged, windowless, university hangout that was mainly a bar. Either Kevin worked as a bouncer there, or he was so close with all the employees that he was just always there, and always large and useful.

On weekend nights and whenever the Buffs trounced the Sooners, everyone who could fit in that building squeezed in, fire safety be damned.

One Friday on cheap-pitcher night, a fraternity kid was getting creepy with me.

These nights were difficult for us waitresses. We had to press through the crowd all the way from against the bar to wherever the orderer was standing. I did this with a small round tray on one flattened palm, balanced with my other hand, both arms high above my head.

Each tray held a full pitcher and empty pint glasses.

On this Friday night, as I went through the gaping jamb separating the bar area from the one of the squat rooms, the creepy customer put his hands under my armpits, lifted me against the soda station and put his mouth on mine.

Kevin heard the crash of my cargo and got there quickly, I can’t imagine how.

It all happened very fast. In the end, Brother Creepy had a broken nose. He was taken by ambulance, but I don’t think he needed to be.

Kevin let me lean on him, sticky and dripping with beer.

I don’t know who threw the punch. I hope it was me.

My most embarrassing moment

April 22, 2012

Today I was asking my students my questions, and one of them got, ‘What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?’

He was rock climbing and his pants came down.

This reminded me of something that happened in college. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this story before.

Throughout my phonetics course I was working on a research project. We each had a date at the end of the semester for a presentation.

I had a rough go of it from start to finish, but finally finished.

The morning my presentation was scheduled, it snowed heavily. My bike ride to school was only about three long blocks downhill and across campus, but snow meant I had to leave early.

I put on a button-down sundress with a wool sweater, knit tights and UGG boots. Boulder has a different standard of style and formality.

When it was time to go, my 5-month-old son was still nursing. He was on the cusp of sleep and still gulping milk.

I waited as long as I could, but finally had to pluck him off, hand him wailing to the babysitter, tug down my sweater and go.

I pedaled hard and arrived in a sweat — half from the workout and half from nerves.

I ran in a little bit late. I assumed my name had been called, because people were looking around the auditorium in question.

Once I got to the front, I took a deep breath and peeled off my sweater. My dress was still unbuttoned and my nursing bra flap was hanging open.

I looked down at my exposed breast to see a swell of milk drip to my shoe.

My professor, a sweet little woman with graying curls, quickly stepped in front of me. With her back to the crowd she smiled and tried to offer comfort. She said, ‘It’s OK, we’ve all been there.’

That being the case, I guess this wasn’t a very interesting story.