Archive for the ‘eerie coincidence’ Category

The sign from God story

June 11, 2013

For many years I was on the board of a local art show.

At one meeting we were trying to figure out what to do about a troublesome artist. Our ombudsman was getting complaints from other artists that she was harrassing them. They said her gossip was unwelcome, and that she wouldn’t stop calling them to organize a mob of discontent.

As we discussed this artist, it came up that she was imposingly religious.

It’s touchy talking about someone who’s always making with the ‘Praise the Lord’ and ‘God’s blessings on you.’ We were trying to show respect for one another’s varying piety. We each gave a disclaimer before commenting on her ways.

We were beginning to conclude we would have to kick her out of the art festival, which we had no precedent for. We were all founding members, and hadn’t foreseen the need to oust an artist when we wrote the bylaws.

We wanted to protect her dignity and the complainers’ privacy. It was a delicate and uncomfortable night as we tried to sort it all out in our treasurer’s living room. The whole matter was just a mess.

Finally Terrie, who had disclaimed earlier that she’s not religious but has no problem with people who are, shook her hands heavenward and said, “God, help us. What do we do?”

We started to chuckle at her joke, but the lights immediately began to dim. In about four seconds they were off. Two seconds later they snapped back on, at full brightness.

Five of us grabbed our purses as someone called, “Meeting adjourned.” We abandoned our treasurer without looking back.

Our treasurer discovered it was some wiring misfire. Nonetheless, we never discussed religion at a meeting again.

The haunted apartment

May 28, 2013

As long as I’m poaching Unca Rob’s blog posts, I might as well go all the way. I’m taking the big one.

This is my family’s classic ghost story.

You can read the account straight from the guy who saw the ghost, so really, you don’t need me. My version will be more condensed, and from my mom’s perspective. She remembers some of the details differently.

My mom had a boyfriend with an apartment in a nearby town. His room was on the second floor.

One night he told her he was awakened by the front door’s opening and closing. He thought it was his roommate.

He said he heard the usual vibration of the iron stair railing as someone ascended, but didn’t get an answer when he called his roommate’s name.

Then he saw a figure walk into his room, stand over the bed a moment, then disappear into the closet. Scared the heck out of him.

About a week afterward, my mom was in Auntie Martha’s living room with her brother (Unca Rob), her cousin (Uncle Chauncey), and Chauncey’s wife, Dena.

They were telling ghost stories, but nobody believed any of them.

Then Mom told what was happening in her boyfriend’s apartment.

Mom says Chauncey’s eyes got real wide. He asked for the address.

He said he lived in that building two years ago.

Uh huh. This is the same guy who told mom and Rob Frankenstein lived behind the university.

He described thinking his roommate had come in. He heard the iron railing vibrate. A figure came in the room. It disappeared into the closet.

Dena was nodding. She remembered it all. My mother wasn’t liking this.

Chauncey said, “It was Apartment 45, wasn’t it?”

According to Mom, “Everyone was freaked out.” A legend was born.

The James Bond theme

May 19, 2013

My son and husband just rented Quantum of Solace. They’re doing their guy thing in the living room, while my daughter and I make baby clothes for my brand new niece.

We have Grey’s Anatomy on. It’s making us cry. We are not doing the guy thing.

I have never seen a James Bond movie. It’s my son’s first.

One Christmas I got the game Cranium. My son and I were a team, and I drew a name-that-tune card. It was the James Bond theme.

Shoot, I didn’t know the James Bond theme.

So I hummed the Mission Impossible theme.

My son yelled, “The James Bond theme!” and we won the game.

Yeah, we’re that good.

The pregnant teen-ager story

March 10, 2013

On my way to work at the paper I always listened to a morning radio show. One morning, in order to win tickets to a concert, a 14-year-old girl pulled a prank on her mom. She called her at work, live on the radio, and told her she was pregnant.

I got to work trying to compose myself, and inter-office messaged my girlfriend across the newsroom to meet me for coffee after my first batch of stories was edited.

I cried anew telling her about the mom’s response. She was calm. Her first words were, “It’s going to be OK, sweetie. I’m here for you. We’ll get through this together. No matter what we decide to do, it’s going to be OK.”

The child was trying to get a more dramatic reaction, and she upped the hysteria, “I wanted to go to college, and now this ruins everything. I’m so scared. I’m so sorry.”

She was quite an actress. The mother was all calmness, support and love. I was all quivering lower lip on the freeway.

About five years later my girlfriend interoffice messaged me to meet her for coffee. Her 14-year-old daughter had just discovered she was pregnant.

She told me she doesn’t know how she would have made it through that moment if I hadn’t fed her the words. Like a robot she recited: It’s going to be OK. I’m here for you. We’ll get through this together.

She held me and cried. She thanked me, as if I had done something other than cry on her shoulder in the cafeteria.

It’s five years later and my daughter is 14. If she gets pregnant I’ll kill her.

The ghost story

March 7, 2013

I grew up in a haunted house.

It was a hundred-year-old craftsman that had for some time served as a convelescent home. We assume our ghosts were old people.

I’ve got 15 years’ worth of hauntings to talk about, but this is my favorite.

One afternoon, when I was in high school, my friends and I went to my house for lunch.

When it was time to return to class, I followed everyone through the hardwood entryway and was the last out the door.

The door had a wood frame, but was primarily glass panes. There was a sheer white curtain on the inside of it that didn’t do much to obscure the view.

On each side of the door were vertical panes of windows. Indoors there were thick glass shelves clamped in under each pane. My mother had little blown-glass vases on them that she bought at art shows.

It was my job to clean the glass in the entryway. I hated wrestling those shelves out of those metal clamps.

I was turning the key in the lock when I realized I had forgotten my purse. I changed the rotation of the key and stepped back inside the house.

I was barefoot. I was always barefoot. Fun fact: I fed the school some story about my American Indian heritage. I don’t know if they bought it, but they said if I carried my shoes around with me they would let it slide.

When I stepped back into the house I felt cold under my feet. I was standing on a 100-year-old glass shelf. I made a noise.

My friend had turned around yelled something like ‘no way.’

Ten little glass shelves were lined up like stepping stones from the door to the living room. The clamps were empty. The vases were gone.

Most people say, ‘They were probably like that when you walked out, and you just didn’t notice.’

This is impossible. Even if we hadn’t seen the path or the absence of vases, the shelves were thick. Four teen-agers had just tromped through there. One of us would have kicked them, and I would have felt the cold under my feet.

No one had had time to move them, and they sure didn’t fall.

Over the next four years my parents and I found those vases one at a time: one morning we spotted one behind the leg of a desk; another time one turned up in the refigerator.

My friends, meanwhile, didn’t go to my house for lunch anymore.

The Devil?

February 25, 2013

We’re a Texas-Hold-‘Em family. I’ve been playing with a group from my newsroom for years, and my children each started playing with us at about age 10.

When my daughter was 11 she and I participated in a charity tournament at my mom’s church.

There were 41 players, who were allowed to purchase more chips when they got knocked out.

Everytime she sat at a table she took all the chips there. She cleared out three tables before my league’s leader, Scotchie, labeled her The Devil.

By the time she was at the final table it was her official nickname.

She took first place. Scotchie took second. Another from our league, who had just played in the World Series of Poker, came in third.

Almost a year later Scotchie organized a heads-up tournament for our league. This means instead of sitting at a table of players, all games are one on one until only one is left standing.

I outlasted about half of the players before my daughter eliminated me. From there she sat down against Scotchie’s brother.

Scotchie came up behind her and teased, “Look out for this one, she’s The Devil.”

“I’m not afraid of her,” Scotchie’s brother was all smiles. These boys taught her everything she knows.

She rolled her eyes and dealt out three cards face up — 6, 6 and 6.

Scotchie’s brother’s smile dropped. “Maybe I’m a little afraid.”

He folded.

I’m not over it

February 15, 2013

This morning, by way of dangerous driving on my part and lots of luck from the cosmos, my son was on time for school. He had been out late at a badminton game and overslept some.

I’m no stranger to this. I treated my high school tardy office like homeroom.

But one semester I took an introduction-to-law class I was motivated by. I was motivated to attend, study, do homework and be punctual.

The cosmos did not support me.

During this particular semester, the city underwent construction, which hopscotched its projects in synchronicity with my desperate and changing route to school. The street I took to avoid the road closures was inevitably unfortunate. I was running into class seconds after the bell everyday.

Here’s the thing: I was running in prepared. For the most part, I had thrown the honors classes in the wind in favor of shooting pool at the local bowling alley, but this class had me home at night reading the text, and up in the morning primping for high school. This was the one that was getting me back on campus.

And I was trying to get there on time, which was new for me.

On the day of our first big test I slipped into my seat in the back corner, right inside the door. I was out of breath, but the bell was still sounding. The teacher counted out the exams and handed them to the first person in each row for passing back.

My row was short one.

I raised my hand. I was all smiles. I was ready for this test.

Mr. Wheelock asked me to step outside the room with him. I was to go back in for my backpack, leave and never come back.

Dude.

I own a lot of irresponsibility. My mistakes were my fault, and I passed up plenty of offerings from the cosmos. This event, though, I’m bitter about.

I’ve chewed on it for 20 years, and can’t figure out what I could have done differently. I was leaving early, changing my route, planning ahead. I couldn’t get there.

Added to the loss of the class was the humiliation of walking back in that silent room for my things.

The cosmos has a sense of humor. Mr. Wheelock appears to be the only teacher I had who is still at the high school, where I’m now subbing as a Spanish teacher. We have the same planning period, and cross paths in the hall outside the bathroom every day.

I don’t say hi.

The Twilight Zone

January 27, 2013

Today my daughter and I stayed home sick. We bundled under Granny Jane’s afghan with tea and watched a Twilight Zone marathon.

When this show is on, one of us has to say, “Remember that time…?”

Here’s what happened that time.

We were on a road trip to see everybody and everything worth seeing in the USA via minivan. We had six VHS tapes packed with Twilight Zone episodes and a portable TV/VCR in the back.

We weren’t watching it, because I was reading Tom Sawyer out loud, and whenever I tried to stop, everybody hollered for more. But on a stretch between Boulder and Mount Rushmore we decided to pop in an episode so I could eat a PB&J. It was July 21.

The first episode on the tape was “One for the Angels,” in which Ed Wynn is visited by a man — death — come to take him to the other side.

Wynn argues with him, but death insists, showing him his appointment book, “Look here, it says I am to pick up Lew Bookman, that’s you, at 1:36 p.m. on July 21, that’s now.”

Dad called from the driver’s seat, “What’s today’s date?”

Whoa!

We all looked up at the clock. It was 1:36 p.m.

Whoa! We had been changing time zones everyday, and we watched only one episode out of 70.

So we did what all red-blooded Americans do when faced with eerie coincidence. We sang the Twilight Zone theme.

JonBenet

January 22, 2013

CNN.com is reporting a new district attorney in Boulder is looking into the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

That murder is the reason we left Boulder.

When I was a single college student, I lived with a girlfriend in the front half of an unimposing duplex near the university. It was a flat box of a house with no personality. After I moved in, I walked over to the most impressive house on the block, took a picture, and mailed it home to California with a note saying, ‘Here’s my new place.’ It was the Ramsey house.

As a newlywed a year later, I bought my first house across the street from the Ramsey’s block. In the five years I lived in the neighborhood, I never met the Ramseys.

By 1996 I was working in the newsroom at the local paper. My parents and grandparents had come visiting for the holidays. Even on Christmas night I had to work, but I got to clock in later than usual — 9 p.m. instead of 7.

I invited my family to drive me to work, using the opportunity to drive around looking at Christmas lights. The last house I took them to see before they dropped me at work was the Ramsey home.

‘Recognize this one?’ I teased. It was about 8:58 p.m.

The murder was a big story in Boulder. It was hard to work, because every night someone was in my way — Geraldo Rivera, ABC Atlanta, Dateline, they were all in the newsroom at some point. One night I came in and Katie Couric was being filmed sitting on my desk.

There was chaos. Officers were alluding to knowledge. One reporter hung up and rolled her eyes next to me, “He said ‘I don’t want to say we have a suspect, but there were no footprints in the snow.’ ”

The paper ran with it, only to run a clarification that there was no snow on the whole south yard, which is where the broken window to the basement was.

Meanwhile, there was “a killer on the loose.” We saw it on TV. Patty said it in her first interview on CNN. “If I were a resident of Boulder, I would tell my friends to keep your babies close to you, there’s someone out there.”

Wait a minute. I was a Boulder resident. I had babies.

I was up checking on them throughout the night. The last time JonBenet was seen alive was an hour after we went by, when her mother tucked her in bed. On the nights I was home to do that, I couldn’t put that thought aside. I fought that, because I could see I was missing the tucking with all the imagining.

I couldn’t escape it. The paper more than covered this story. We smothered ourselves with it.

I had to get away. My last day at work in Boulder was eight months after the murder. Dateline NBC cameramen were in the newsroom.

Enough.

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

Naming babies is dangerous

December 29, 2012

As you may remember, I was born with a terrible name that inspired comments from adults and teasing from the mean little people at my elementary school before I changed it.

No, I will not tell you what it was. It’s too heinous.

After yesterday’s post, I replied to Fred‘s comment asking what name he had planned if he had had a girl: Alice St. Eve. Beautiful.

And happily, it reminded me of a story.

One of my many aunts was set to deliver long enough into my childhood to be wary of names that fueled mean little elementary-school people. (Likely my troubles weren’t on her mind at all, but this is my blog and I can’t pass up the opportunity to make everything about me.)

She was having a girl. On arrival, my aunt announced she had found a name that was lovely and tease-free: Summer Eve.

Guess what product was introduced on store shelves a week later.

Boyfriends in bands

December 26, 2012

I already told you an ex-boyfriend of mine was a part of Green Day. This post is about a different boyfriend and a different band.

The first love of my life was a blond dreamboat named David Lowy. Everybody mispronounced his last name as Lowery.

He was working in the student store the summer I took biology, and I don’t remember a thing about that class except watching the clock, waiting for my flirt break.

The eye batting worked, and before you could say ‘osmosis’ I had my very first boyfriend. I caught him right before my 16th birthday, and would have kept him forever, I think, if he hadn’t been my first.

A couple months into my junior year I got greedy. I was wanting to sample more of the selections at the buffet. In fact, I thought if I didn’t kiss the boy who sat behind me in history class I would just burst.

Almost 10 years later I was living in Boulder watching Letterman, and he introduced a band from my hometown — where everybody knows everybody. I squinted at the set, which we had salvaged from an alley where someone was throwing it out.

The front man looked like David! I didn’t know he was a singer. Then again, he used to croon Sinatra with my mother in the kitchen while she was cooking.

When they finished, Letterman introduced the members, starting with the front man — David Lowy. Bonus bragging rights for me. I ran out and bought the Cracker cassette, Kerosene Hat.

Another 10 years went by and I was back in my hometown. Scotchie, who I just really want to be as cool as, was telling me one of his favorite bands is Cracker.

Rockin’ good. I did some name dropping and got major cool points with Scotchie. I e-mailed him a picture of David me in 1985. I asked him if he wanted my autograph.

About two years ago I got a birthday e-mail from David, who had found me on Classmates.com.

Know what? The Cracker guy is David Lowery.

The rugby reunion story

December 17, 2012

Today we got a Christmas card from the Rooney family. I must tell you what happened during our stay at their home.

When we made our Road Trip USA (one month, one mini-van, the whole country), we planned our route to include not only every major landmark in the country but every significant person in our lives.

Over the years I’ve tried to plan reunions of various kinds: family, high school friends, my bridal party. It never works. People are spread out hither and yon. It was either go to them individually or live on Christmas cards.

We went out a-visiting.

Among the stops were two of my husband’s college rugby foursome. One was in the Colorado mountains, and one — Rooney — was in Long Island, New York. I had never met and couldn’t find the third.

We drove to Long Island from my in-laws’ house in upstate New York and spent the night at the Rooneys’. It was great. Our children played together. We had barbecue and beer on the deck. In the morning we would linger over goodbyes and head for Uncle Jer’s in New Jersey.

The doorbell rang as we were getting coffee. It was the Sanchez family, just in from Colorado. Grampa had died, and they came for the funeral, figured to swing by and catch a visit with the Rooneys.

We pulled out two more coffee mugs and the doorbell rang again. It was the mysterious fourth family, down from Connecticut for a sister’s wedding, swinging by for a catch-up with the Rooneys.

All four of those rowdy boys were together by happenstance, eating bagels in the kitchen — seven children in the yard, four wives in the living room talking about births and hairstyles.

It had been 15 years since they’d all been together, and may be 15 over again. It may be never.

We’re back to living on Christmas cards, but now I believe in magic.

Never do this

December 8, 2012

When I was editing obituaries, I used to have to sit with the original form submitted by the family, and make sure everything in the story matched what was written in pen by the bereaved.

It was an extra big deal to make sure obituaries were accurate. To this end, I had to call survivors, even on anything the family itself may have written wrong.

One night I was doing the math to make sure the birth and death dates made the lady 90, when I realized both dates were the same, but with different years. If she was 90, it was only for a few hours.

It would be an easy mistake for a grieving son to write the death date on both lines absent-mindedly.

The family said, “Yep. It was her 90th birthday.”

Oh no. “Were you with her?” It was OK for me to be nosy. At least, I always told myself that.

“Yes, she died at her birthday party.”

I scanned the form. She died of a heart attack.

Good Lord, they couldn’t be that stupid.

I had to ask. “Was it a surprise party?”

I’m of a firm mind it’s wrong to startle the tar out of old people.

He hung up on me, which was fortunate, because I was crass enough to fall into a fit of laughter.

Idiots.

My grandparents’ song

December 5, 2012

On the morning of my grama’s first anniversary after my grampa died, she walked into the kitchen and turned on the radio.

She was stunned to hear “If I Loved You” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. It was their song.

Who’s ever heard this song on the radio?

The last time she had heard it, Grampa was singing it to her on their 50th anniversary, seven years before to the day.

Today would have been their 69th.

The die story

November 26, 2012

A few Thanksgivings ago my baby cousin Sterling and his girlfriend came down from Washington. At dinner, they announced their engagement.

Wee hooo! I love a big announcement on a holiday.

After dinner, we pulled out the party games. We were going to play one of my favorites, Scattergories. Sterling’s affianced had never played before.

For this game, you have 12 categories, and a letter. You have to think of something in each category that starts with that letter.

Fun stuff. I always win.

I started passing out pencils and category lists, and we realized the die wasn’t in the box. I had left it in my bag of tricks for the Journalism Club I ran at the elementary school.

Alison said, “No worries. I have a die in my purse.”

We tried to stop her. “It’s not a regular die. It’s a many-sided die covered in letters.”

She kept walking toward her purse. Sterling’s fiancee doesn’t listen, I thought.

She came in rummaging through her little purse. Me, I carry a backpack. Between my canister of Wet Ones and my novel, I have no use for Louis Vitton.

“Here’s a die!” she said. I shook my head at her.

She pulled out a hand-carved wooden 26-sided die with letters on it.

My son yelled, “Welcome to the family! You pass.”

click for photo

A celebrity sighting

November 5, 2012

One afternoon a co-worker friend and I went to Los Angeles for thermal imaging.

My friend had had a mass show up on a mammogram, and I’m just plain freaked out about breast cancer, so we were going to have infrared photos taken of our chests.

This is an exciting technology, I think. Cancerous tumors give off heat, and heat photos don’t expose a patient to radiation, like mammograms do, adding to the breast cancer risk.

Also, we didn’t have to wait for results. We got our photos right then.

There were also downsides. Each of us during our individual appointments had to strip from the waist up and sit with our arms above our heads. This was to cool the body heat in the armpit area, which would show up red on the photo and hide a tumor.

It was also embarrassing. The guy, who may have been a doctor, I don’t remember, made conversation with me as if we were at the corner coffee house, only with my breasts a-dangle.

The worst factor was the doctor guy’s eyes were whack. They didn’t point in the same direction. He was very like Cookie Monster.

This would have made me uncomfortable under normal circumstances, but sitting there topless with my arms over my head wondering if one of his eyes was looking at my nipples was more than unsettling.

After we had each had our turn, Shannon, who had lived in Santa Monica before she started working at The Press, took me to her favorite restaurant. It was a take-it-home-and-bake-it pizza bistro that sold by the slice to walk-in eaters. It shared a wall with Blockbuster.

We sat on high stools, appreciating having covered breasts, and talked about all the celebrities she used to see when she lived in the neighborhood.

She used to see Meg Ryan running in the morning, for instance. Mel Gibson was more than once in line with her at the grocery store.

She listed so many I can’t remember them all. By the time we were tossing our plates and napkins into the trash, I was dying to see a famous guy.

Shannon poked her head out the door, “Well, Sting is about to go into the Blockbuster next door.”

Now, Shannon is funny. She’s always funny, and I would have expected her to say that.

But he really was.

I didn’t want to be that idiot that calls out, but I would have loved it if he had noticed me. Suddenly I didn’t appreciate having my breasts concealed anymore.

The Harvard home

October 30, 2012

A couple of summers ago the kids and I went to Cambridge, because my son had decided he wanted to go to Harvard.

My biological father went there. He, my mom and I road tripped to Massachusetts in someone’s Mustang when I was 3 weeks old, and moved into what my mom calls a four-story walkup in the school’s married-student housing. A little more than a year later, my mom packed me up and flew back to California. The marriage was done.

Via the Internet, I made reservations at a bed and breakfast walking distance from the campus. It was called Irving House.

We took the train east and settled into our top-floor room.

The place was heaven. It was a huge old house. The owner bought used books at yard sales to fill the rooms’ bookshelves. Guests were welcome to take a book home, and asked to leave a book if they finished one while there. I spent a whole afternoon scoping the bookshelves of every vacant room (and one I was in only because housekeeping was cleaning the bathroom, and I’m stealth) for books on my wish list.

In early evening our first night I called my mom. It occurred to me that somewhere around the Square was the only place the three of us had ever lived as a family.

She gave me the address. It was on Irving Street! Hey, I was on Irving Street.

The road was named for author Washington Irving, of Sleepy Hollow fame. I figured we were staying in his house. Turns out, no.

The kids were busy with something, so I went alone on up the few short blocks of Irving. I walked the length of it twice. The numbers didn’t go as high as the address Mom gave me. I gave up.

The next day I found it. Because it’s technically part of the campus, it has its own, nonsequential address. It was next door.

I went running over and found the entry in the garden courtyard with the right number on it. The door was old, and mostly glass.

A guy was coming out and I slipped in. I stood at the bottom of the stairway, and stories came rushing back to my memory I’d forgotten my mom had told.

I remembered that she had had to carry the pram up to the apartment, a baby under her arm, and sometimes tottering groceries or laundry. She told me my dad had bought a grand piano and disassembled it to take it up piece by piece in paper bags.

I walked over and put my hand on the rail. It made me cry. This ancient iron stair rail is the one my parents used almost 40 years ago. They gripped it with infant me in the other arm.

I went up the stairs and found the right door.

Now what?

There was music or TV on behind it. Young people were there. I didn’t want anything to do with any young people. I went back to my room.

That night I was looking out the window, and I realized our entire view was the very apartment I had gone looking for — four stories in the air, but straight across.

On the last day of our stay I went over there with my camera. I had fixed my mind to knock on the young people’s door.

Wouldn’t you know? There was no guy leaving the building, and I couldn’t get in.

All I got was a sorry photo through the glass of the bottom of the stair.

click for photos

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.”

Cherri’s motorcyclist story

September 26, 2012

Today my husband and I went out to our favorite breakfast cafe for a morning date. Sometimes we wake up thinking about Carolyn’s coffee cake, and we’ve just gotta go.

My husband got off the freeway at an unexpected place. When he stopped he said, “That was a strange feeling. I suddenly wanted to be off the freeway.”

He unwittingly avoided the half-mile stretch involved in a story my girlfriend Cherri tells.

She had just passed the offramp we took, considering the suffocating list of responsibilities she had with her home and kids and job, when a young man zoomed past on a motorcycle.

She was jealous of him. “He looked so free. His hair was blowing behind him.”

She looked at his hand. He opened it in a stretch and re-gripped the handlebar before he was out of her sight.

“I thought about how good it must feel to be him.”

Before the next offramp traffic stopped. As she sat trapped in her hot minivan, she says she imagined the motorcycle guy zipping off ahead with the wind on his fingers, undeterred by the freeway congestion.

Finally she inched past the reason for the jam. The motorcyclist had been struck. The bike lay acrumple near his body, which someone had sloppily covered.

His hand was poking out, exposed — the one Cherri had focused on.

Cherri said she must have seen him seconds before he died.

This morning his ghost chased my husband off the freeway.

Another ghost story

August 30, 2012

Yesterday I went to my cousin’s wedding reception, (my goddaughter’s wedding was yesterday, too, and I had to choose.)

There was lots of family there I rarely see. I sat next to Uncle Monty and we started telling family stories — my favorite.

I told him I’d blogged The Refrigerator Story. I could tell by his face he knew which story I meant. He had been there.

He said the fridge still worked after, so “Mom” kept using it, but the handle wasn’t quite right. You had pull on it really hard. In the ’60s he noticed it in Unca Rob’s apartment.

Then he told me things I’d never heard. He told me about Mom’s second husband. The cousin/friend who stepped in after “Papa’s” murder.

Everybody called him “Daddy.” He died of a stomach ulcer.

“I saw him the weekend before he died, leaning against the house, holding his side.” Monty said he ran in the house to tell his grandmother, and she made I-don’t-care lips and waved him away. “They hated each other.”

I didn’t know.

After he died, Auntie Elsie and her husband Bill came to visit.

They stayed in Daddy’s room. During the night Elsie woke to see her husband standing in the window, arms spread, holding the curtains open.

In the morning she said to her man, “Hey what were doing in the window, and how come you tied the curtains back?”

Bill said, “I wasn’t and I didn’t.”

“But the curtains are still tied back.”

Everyone went to see. Not a lot going on that day, I guess.

My mom was among them, and can attest to the amazingness of this next part.

The curtains were indeed swagged back, but nothing was holding them that way. Elsie touched one, and they fell straight.

It was the Daddy ghost.

I guess he was trying to tell them he was dead — you know, that it was curtains for him.

A miracle?

August 21, 2012

One summer we packed the kids plus Uncle Jer and Katherine in cars and drove to Southern California for a vacation.

At the end of the visit my mom dropped a bomb. The doctor had found a tumor on her cervix. It appeared to be growing rapidly.

In a week she would have surgery.

I put my suitcase back down and waved everyone but the babies back to Boulder. I would stay until 10 days after the surgery, to offer emotional support, tend to her post-op care and do the cooking and cleaning.

She had been through breast cancer in ’90, so we took this seriously.

On the day of the operation, the waiting room was packed with family. My grampa stayed home with my kids.

About an hour and a half into it, the surgeon came in looking sorrowful. “We opened her up and found tumors all over the place. There’s a big one we hadn’t even known about, because it’s hiding behind the intestine.” Or some such.

“We can get some of them out, but some are inoperable, so there isn’t a lot of point. We’re aborting the mission and closing her up.”

He shook his head, making another go at his sorrowful face, and walked out.

It was quiet in the waiting room. Then my grama stood up. She was calm and dignified. She strode out of the room.

I peeked out the door’s window and saw her in the hall with her back to the wall. I thought about my own daughter and left her to her privacy.

After a long time, I went to check on her. She was gone.

 Then she came back in and sat next to me. She leaned in conspiratorially, topped it off with a knee pat and said, “Everything is going to be fine.”

Was she losing it? Nothing was fine.

She smiled and began talking with Uncle Monty about the price of housing in Whittier.

I said, “Nana, are you OK?”

She said, “I visualized the doctor walking in and saying, ‘Everything’s OK. There’s no cancer.’ Then I went to the chapel and prayed for it to be me instead.”

This seemed to be final. She made that nod you make when you just replaced the batteries in your flashlight and you’re ready to get on with using it.

Then the doctor flung the door open. He had put on his congratulatory face and was smiling at us each in turn. “Everything’s OK! There’s no cancer.”

Holy crap.

“We did a freeze section on one of the tumors. It was fibroid tissue.”

Um. Wasn’t that ruled out early?

“We can’t figure it. She hasn’t had a uterus or a period in 13 years. Fibroid tumors are an impossibility. But that’s what they are.”

Shortly after, Nana began chemotherapy for macroglobulanemia, which is a cancer in the blood and bones.

I believe this was a coincidence. Nevertheless, if anyone sees me go into surgery, please show my Nana where the hallway is.

Two weddings saved

August 14, 2012

Today is Tessa’s birthday. I saved this story for today, which was hard, because it’s an incredible coincidence story, and I love those.

When Tessa got married, she knew a guy who knew a guy who had a printing service out of his garage in Orange County. She hired him to print the wedding invitations.

One day soon after, he called her. He was packaging up some invitations he had already printed, and he noticed that they were for the same time, at the same church as hers.

She called the church. Sure enough, they double booked. Whoops.

Tessa found another place to get married.

If the two brides hadn’t both had their invitations printed in the same guy’s garage an hour and half west of home, and if he hadn’t actually read them, which I heard he usually didn’t, it would have been a disaster.

The bigger the possible disaster, the better the disaster-averted story, I say.

Happy birthday, Tess.

Scandals

August 10, 2012

I was on the phone with Boom Boom Saturday. I missed her daughter’s bridal shower last week because of a migraine.

She said, “You’ll never believe this.”

Let me give you some background first.

You may remember I worked at a ’50s dinner theater after high school, where I was the hula-hooping stunt singer, Chantilly Lace. I immediately became best friends and apartment mates with Boom Boom, and we hung out off-hours with Jughead, who was gay.

Moondoggie and Hot Lips were a couple, and Boom Boom was in love with Vinnie-Vinnie.

Hot Lips went to I-don’t-remember-where for like a month, and during that time Moondoggie and I became close.

We had to act regular when Hot Lips came back to town.

One night most of the cast was at Kitten’s apartment playing “I Never,” and I put my bottle to my lips at an imprudent time. The question had something to do with being with co-workers, and it was a small leap of logic for everyone to figure out I had intruded on Hot Lips’s territory.

She was a sweet girl and I should have been more ashamed at the time.

She dumped Moondoggie forthwith, and he and I were a couple publicly for a few months after that.

Meanwhile Boom Boom got pregnant with my goddaughter and Vinnie made scarce.

Saturday Boom Boom tells me her daughter tracked Vinnie down, and his ex-wife showed up to the bridal shower with her lesbian partner.

“We knew her once,” Boom Boom said. “Do you remember Hot Lips?

“Cuz she remembers you.”

She’ll be at the wedding. Nature is giving me an opportunity to apologize. I’m taking it.

My great-grandfather’s murder

July 18, 2012

My children asked me the other night about all my grama’s siblings. They were trying to name all nine kids in order by age.

I was surprised that they were surprised when, after six of them, I said, “Those were all from the first dad; then you have the last three from after the murder.”

They did a cartoon-style double take.

How could they not know the murder story? This is a big family tale, not because of the murder, so much as because of the supernatural lore that comes with it.

I will tell it from the beginning.

My great-grandmother was orphaned in Mexico at age 5, and came to live with an aunt in the Southern Californian town I live in now.

When she was a teen her aunt arranged a marriage with a Korean boy. They mistakenly thought his family owned a laundromat, and that he was consequently rich.

Neither of them spoke English, or each other’s language.

“Mom,” as everyone refers to her, told her children later this arrangement broke her heart, because she was desperately in love with someone else.

“Papa” and his best friend (or cousin, depending on whose version you get) had come to the States during the Japanese occupation of Korea. 

At some point in the marriage, he began to work covertly for the Korean Underground — a secret war against the Japanese. He told his wife he had to keep his activities secret from her, for her own safety.

All she knew was that he was giving speeches, and inciting politcal unrest.

When my grama, the sixth child, was six months old, he told Mom that if anything happened to him, he wanted her to marry his friend from Korea. He gave her his watch and told her to keep it safe.

The next day my grama’s two oldest sisters were walking home from school. Mom was on the porch with a neighbor and my infant grama when the girls approached the house.

From another direction they saw Papa riding his bicycle — his only form of transportation. They all saw a car come from out of nowhere and run him down. It appeared deliberate.

Marguerite and MaryAnn, 12 and 10, dropped their books and ran to him. Mom handed the baby over to the neighbor and joined the rush.

When they got to him, everything vanished. The car, the bike and the body dissipated like an apparition, right there on the edge of the orange grove.

That night Papa didn’t come home from work. The police came.

They found his body in the grove. He had been beaten to death with brass knuckles.

The family line is that MaryAnn is psychic, and everyone was riding her psychic energy as she picked up on his death. She had the time right, but not the method.

Mom did as she was told. She married the friend/cousin and saw to the watch. One of my uncles has the watch now. I’d love to take it apart, and see if there’s something hidden it.

Eighty-five years later, MaryAnn still talks to Papa all the time.

A smaller earthquake story

June 22, 2012

My mother asked at our Fathers Day dinner tonight, “Did you feel the earthquake this morning?”

I came home and looked it up. It was a 3.3 at 7:30. Is she sleeping on a seismograph? I don’t think I would have felt that if I was expecting it.

I’m glad she brought it up, because it gives me the opportunity to tell you another earthquake story.

Last summer I was sitting in the breakfast nook, which has a flimsy-feeling floor, when my husband stood behind me dancing or some such.

I felt a jiggle.

I made my this-might-be-the-beginning-of-The-Big-One face, half standing with my palms flat on the table, and said, “Did you feel a little earthquake?”

My husband shook his head like I’m an idiot. “I did that. Here, I’ll do it again.”

He bent his knees and bounced. As he did this, I felt the floor roll and shake under me.

“Stop it!” I yelled, because for a minute I believed he was shaking the breakfast room.

No. He just happened to do that as a 5.5 earthquake struck.

The angel story

May 11, 2012

This morning I was reading a book we bought at the Winchester Mystery House. It’s California ghost stories.

I was reading one to my daughter while she skimmed the pool, and she said to me, “What if you were those people? Would you move?”

This made me laugh. “I didn’t.”

Tonight we were at my mom’s for Mothers Day dinner, and I told her what my daughter had asked. She laughed and said, “We didn’t.”

As you know, we lived in a haunted house until I was 18. Just like in the story I read my daughter, we heard voices and footsteps. The appliances turned on. We got the whole show.

Before we moved in, it was vacant and the toilets flushed. We were standing right there.

Anyway we got to talking about spirits contacting the living, and I remembered when I wondered if my grampa had reached out from beyond.

He had been a watercolor artist before he died. Everytime we see a sunset I announce he painted it for me.

I don’t believe it. I just say it.

When he died the mortuary gave us a selection of sappy poems for the program. I rejected those and wrote my own sappy poem. I ended it with a take on something I stole from the movie ‘Fried Green Tomatoes.’ A character said some angels walk around this earth disguised as humans.

Three years after Grampa’s death, we took a road trip in his van around the whole USA. At sunset on the last evening of this month-long adventure, we drove straight into a beautiful sky of purple and yellow. I said, “Look at the sunset Grampa made us!”

And everybody yelled, “Whoa! Look at the cloud! It’s an angel!”

It was clearly a full-body profile of an angel crouching and blowing something off the palm of her hand.

I didn’t think it was a supernatural occurance. At first.

But then Aerosmith’s ‘Angel’ came on the radio.

The song story

May 6, 2012

I was driving home one morning from dropping kids at schools, and I heard a snippet of ‘I Wanna Kiss You All Over’ by Exile.

When I first met my husband, this song ran through my head every time he held my hand. After I flew home, I recorded it on a cassette and mailed it to him. I couldn’t help it.

He thinks it’s a dorky song.

He told me he had a Peter Gabriel song he was going to reply with, but he had to get his record player needle fixed first. I have no idea what song it was going to be.

So 17 years later this snippet reminds me that he has never sent me a song.

I was all kinds of mad walking into the house.

I recognized I was unreasonable, but I was mad, and that was that. It was one of those times I felt sorry for anyone married to me.

I headed for Internet poker, my drug of choice for an unbalanced chi.

When I turned on the monitor, I got the e-mail ding.

My husband had sent me a short note, “Let’s see if this works.”

There was an attachment. It was this song.

I cried all over myself.

It was way better than my dorky song.

I was touched and amazed. How many days are there in 17 years? Those are some long odds. Maybe we have one of those psychic connections I’ve heard tell about.

It was one of those times I felt anyone married to my husband was very lucky.

The eulogy story

April 23, 2012

Today would have been my Auntie Martha’s birthday. She was one of my grama’s many sisters.

When I was little she took care of me after school. She and her husband had raised five children and were the heart of the home for their grand- and great-grandchildren too.

When Martha was at the end, everyone went to the hospital. I was wearing mules — a hybrid between those things the dutch wear and boots. My daughter calls them ‘shoots.’ There is no back strap over the heel. As I stepped onto a grassy island in the parking lot, my heel came off the shoot sideways. Down I went, and I couldn’t get up.

My whole family was a few yards away, and all of them with their phones off — hospital rules. I sat there for 45 minutes. I was afraid I would miss my chance to say goodbye.

As it turns out, I had three more days.

Even though she died in her 90s, her babies and their babies were devastated by it. Consequently, her daughter asked me to write a speech for the service.

I had a lot to write, about the nurturing I felt in that home. Among the things they taught me was how to play poker. We gathered around the kitchen table one night with plastic chips after dinner when I was 12 and I got hooked.

On the day of the service I limped to the altar of the church.

In the middle of my eulogy I mentioned the poker and had to lower my eyes a moment. The podium was empty, I noticed, but for four plastic poker chips tucked under the shelf.

Auntie Martha calls.

I’m with the band

April 16, 2012

I have an aunt and uncle who lived and raised three boys in Modesto. The youngest boy and some friends formed a band in my aunt’s garage.

The next thing we know we’re getting reports they’re touring, making albums, showing videos on MTV. David Bowie named them as his favorite artists. We heard them on the “I am Sam” soundtrack. Two of their songs were in car commercials.

I was a proud cousin. I got a button made that says, “I’m with the band.”

One year they played at the Troubador in Los Angeles right before Thanksgiving. Later that week my aunt and uncle, my parents, the band and their spouses joined us at my house for dinner.

My Oldest Friend and her husband were in town from the coast, having Thanksgiving with her parents. They were supposed to stop by to see us.

After dinner she called to apologize for running late, “My husband has just discovered this band called Grandaddy, and he’s downloading all their CDs off Napster. He’s almost done, and we’ll be over then.”

“Grandaddy’s here,” I said.

For the first and last time in our lives, I got to be the cool one.