Posts Tagged ‘October’

The comma argument

October 13, 2013

My family spent my mother’s birthday dinner in a heated argument about a comma.

I’m aghast that anyone would take a stand against me on this issue.

I am a linguist and an editor.

I may be so confused by science I believe there are little people inside my TV box, but it would be impossible to know more about punctuation than I.

The mark in question is the one often erroneously placed before the conjuction in a simple list: He picked his guitar, friends, and nose.

Today after school one of our closest family friends was attacked by my children. “What’s your opinion on the comma?”

“I don’t care.” Poor kid. He was wondering why he is our friend.

“You must.” I don’t know why they valued his support so strongly. This is a child who pronounces the ‘L’ in ‘talk.’

My daughter, by the way, is for the comma, as is my mother. My son and I are on the side of reason.

The children began to present their positions — simultaneously. My son called me in to define the rule. I used my voice of authority.

“You put a comma before the conjunction in a list only if the last item has a conjunction in it: Myles listens to Hannah Montana, The Jonas Brothers, and Donny and Marie. This rule is for clarity. It’s a favor to the reader.”

Myles gave me an ugly look.

My daughter insisted, contrarywise, that it’s using the comma indiscriminately that adds clarity. She began to expound, “If I ate macaroni and cheese first, then potatoes,” (big pause) “and steak….”

“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. “No vegetables? You won’t have to worry about commas. You’ll end up with a semi-colon.”

The children sent me back out of the room.


Even in pain, I’m a smartass

September 24, 2013

I once broke my wrist.

I had been put under the day before, to have a cyst taken off my uterus. I was supposed to be spending the day in bed, but an old acquaintance from Boulder was in California for the week and insisted on visiting that day.

I was pissy. I had wanted to visit on Tuesday, but they decided to do Sea World Tuesday. I felt like these people were forcing themselves on me on Friday. It was Friday the 13th, even.

My husband had taken the day off to pamper me. Instead of ringing a bell for some peeled fruit, I was trying to keep two toddlers I’d never met from being bored.

I walked the children and their mother to the neighborhood park, smiling and struggling to keep up my end of the conversation. We had the dogs, which is always good for avoiding quiet moments.

When we got to the playground, the older girl, who was maybe 4, wanted to take my bigger dog’s leash. This is an Akita-husky mix. He’s smart and gentle, but large and strong. He’s used to children.

I told her that if she became uneasy at any point to just let the leash go.

She took this to mean, ‘Walk him all the way over to the lawn past the bridge and let the leash go.’


I usually leave both dogs off leash anyway. They’re trained and good.

Then I espied a dog on a leash yonder where my dog was free. I understand enough about dog politics. This was not fair.

I kept my eye on Lamont (yes, we named him after Big Dummy) while I walked in his direction.

As I passed close by the water fountain I tripped on the concrete step at its base.

Instantly I was on my back with a bloody knee. One glance at my wrist was my last. I almost threw up from the sight. There was no alignment. If it weren’t encased in skin, my hand would have come clean off.

I calmly asked Katherine to call 911. Unfortunately , she fancied herself a medic of sorts, having 20 years ago had some minor job in an ambulance, and instead sent an onlooker to a nearby house for a towel and ice.

Oh, that would not do. I wanted a man in a uniform with a syringe full of morphine, please.

Meanwhile the boys track team from the high school showed up. I was immobile on my back, afraid to move and jostle my wrist, so they had to bend over me to show me their faces.

You know from my previous posts what a small town I live in. I knew all of these children. Several were graduates of my journalism program, two were brothers of my kids’ friends, and one was the son of my Jazzercise instructor.

The Jazzer-son was working toward Eagle Scoutdom. He took charge by asking me questions.

“Are you in pain?”

“Yes, but it’s not as bad as your mama’s morning class.”

“Are you beginning to feel chills?”

“Yes, they’re multiplying. And I’m losing control.” He didn’t get it.

At this point, I was unbearably cold. My body began an involuntary trembling, and I was desperately trying to keep my arm still. I was going into shock for sure.

The Boy Scout was getting nervous. “Are you shocking?!”

“Well, I was pregnant when I got married,” I said through my teeth, which at that point were violently chattering.

My husband showed up then, and called me an ambulance.

I don’t know who was more relieved to see him, me or the poor boy I wasn’t cooperating with.

click here for photo

The end-of-a-crush story

April 27, 2013

Today I returned to that Spanish class at my old high school. After I picked up the key to the room, I stood where the line forms for the snack window and remembered something that happened on that site.

This is a story I’ve told many times, as an example of how quickly affection can end.

There was a boy at school I had a crush on. By sophomore year I had had it bad for about three years. He didn’t know.

By some happening, my best friend’s parents became friends with his parents, and they invited the family over for dinner and visiting. I practically lived at their house, so this had my best girlfriend and me trying every outfit in both our closets to find the perfect thing for me to wear.

Things were going great. The teens were sent outside to eat by the pool. It was my crush, my junior high best friend, both their brothers and me. There was laughter and not a little flirting.

After we ate we went swimming, and when it was dark out we got in the hot tub. I was making a fool of myself with the eyelash batting and shoulder tucking, until I saw my soon-to-be-ex-crush had a huge, slimy, green booger half out of a nostril.

I moved to nudge my girlfriend, and when I looked back, it wasn’t there. I could not get out of that water fast enough.

The next day I was in the snack line, because I needed an ice cream bar for English class. The ex-crush found me there. He invited me to the Homecoming dance.

I made an excuse and declined.

I wasn’t able to come up with something sensitive and convincing, though, because I was focused on how excited I would have been if he had asked yesterday.

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.’


‘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.

The piano in a paper bag story

December 2, 2012

When I visited my biological father in San Francisco, he was just moving into an outrageous penthouse home above Ghirardelli Square.

The building was old — in a good way. It was grand. It took my breath away.

From the penthouse terrace we could see the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts, and Alcatraz.

This whole building was vacant. My father had been hired to design and oversee a parking structure under it. The digs were provided at no charge.

On this day I arrived he had to go do a thing.

My job was to meet the piano delivery guys. Their job was to get the shiny full-grand piano up to the top floor.

They came in scratching their heads, sans instrument.

“We’re gonna have to bring it up the stairs.” Duh. Were they expecting a larger elevator?

I stared at them, waiting for the point. The staircase was plenty wide.

“We need more guys.” Ah.

“I’m sorry. I’m visiting. I don’t have any guys.”

They laughed at me. I guess they weren’t asking for guys. They said they’d come back tomorrow.

When my father came back he looked around and made a little between-the-brows squeeze.

I remembered my mom said that when they lived in that fourth-floor walkup at Harvard, he carried a piano up in pieces, using paper bags.

So I said to him, “They’re coming back tomorrow. They wanted to buy some paper bags to bring it up in.”

“Hey I did that once!” This is my favorite part of this story. He thought that comment was a coincidence.

His bride made a between-the-brow squeeze. Oh goody! I was going to hear the story first-hand. I’ve known this story about 15 years longer than I’ve known him.

We settled in around the table and heard it told.

My father had visited a shop around the corner from his Irving Street apartment, and gave the owner some amount for an old piano.

He had neither vehicle, nor dolly, nor money for a mover, but he had a screwdriver and a lunch bag.

He dissassembled the whole thing and walked back and forth to the fourth-floor walkup, first with the bag full of keys, then hammers, then strings. He carried the frame in parts too.

My mom opened the door to find pieces strewn all over the floor, and her husband standing over them with a squeeze between his brow, trying to figure out how to put it all together.

He did, replacing ripped pads and chipped pieces in the bargain.

He moved that whole piano all by himself, but the professionals? They needed more guys.

The Halloween party

October 31, 2012

When I was a little girl, we were invited to my mom’s coworker’s Halloween party. I got a witch’s hat to wear.

In the late afternoon, Mom got a call. The woman’s little son had stopped breathing and turned blue. I had never heard of this before. It sounded cool.

They were at the hospital. The party was off.

Sometime shortly after we were invited for the rescheduled event. We left the witch’s hats at home. I remember I wore a pretty white blouse under a red jumper.

We were the first ones there. The place was decorated elaborately, and there was a long table covered in food.

I had never been the first ones there before. I didn’t like it. We sat on the couch — 8-year-old me and four grownups — and tried to keep a conversation going.

The hostess complimented my ensemble. I said, “You know I’d never thought of putting these together before.” The grownups laughed, and I didn’t know why that was funny.

Like an hour later, we realized noone else was coming. I was just a little girl but I understood the pressure of that. We weren’t having a good time, but we couldn’t slip out.

It was a long, painful evening for me, blanketed in the disappointment that I didn’t get to see a blue kid.

These parents have balls

October 14, 2012

I’m spending a lot of time commuting in my new job.

In fact, I’ve spent so many hours in my car, I’m tired of every song in the world.

I have also had enough of news radio.

So I piled up all the gift certificates I got for my birthday and bought ’70s TV series on DVD. Now the hours fly by as I listen to episodes of Taxi, The Muppet Show and Mary Tyler Moore.

Today I was stopped in traffic for more than an hour. I reclined my seat and watched two offerings of The Bob Newhart Show.

As it turns out, I was missing the funniest part. During the end credits, they show the cast members with their names across the screen.

The orthodonist, Jerry Robinson, is played by Peter Bonerz.

I’m loving that some lady was pregnant, and said, “What do you think, honey? What first name goes nicely with Bonerz?”

Hmmm. What would be the perfect thing to call their family’s newest member?

June Lockhart

October 12, 2012

Today is my mama’s birthday. One year for her birthday we went to Los Angeles to see the Phantom of the Opera.

I had made my daughter a fancy ball dress of  ivory taffeta and lace.

We got to the theater a little bit early, and had to wait in a line for admittance to the lobby.

I had to pee.

We were toward the front of the line, but a classy-looking lady walked right up to the front of the line, bold as brass, and got let in. She turned to my grama as she ducked in the door and explained, “I have to pee.”

I was aghast. “Who does she think she is?”

June Lockhart,” my dad said. I made a face of not understanding. “Lassie‘s mom.”

Ah, she was on TV in black and white.

I was thinking of all the things I had done in my life more honorable than acting on a sitcom, but there I stood needing to pee.

Finally we were heading into the ladies’ room. Queen Lockhart was coming out, and she spotted my daughter. I made a face of not liking.

“Wow!” she froze. She knelt down to my little girl’s level. “That’s a beautiful dress.”

OK. I forgive her.

Breast cancer

October 10, 2012

At a poker tournament tonight, one of my friends gave me a magnet for my car. It has a pink ribbon on it, and says, “Feel your boobies.”

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Years ago I did a three-day, 60-mile walk to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. I walked from Santa Barbara to Malibu, and slept in a tent on the way.

I did it in my Auntie Elsie’s memory, but really it was because I knew a third of the money went toward research, and I want to see this thing cured. I really did it for my daughter.

The walk was at the end of October. I started training in March. I had a schedule, and stuck to it. I was up on Saturdays at 5 in the morning, packing PB&Js, Gatorade and a clip-on tape player into my pockets before stepping out into the nighttime darkness.

I peed in every bush in town.

When I got to the event, I was physically ready.

I was not emotionally ready.

The line of walkers went farther ahead up the road than I could see, and farther behind, too. It was like a moving monument.

Along the curbs of the whole route was a stationery monument. People stood clapping.

It was pouring rain, but they stood for hours. I could see their hands were red and raw, their eyes were puffy and wet. They shouted at us, “Thank you.”

Some shouted, “I’m in chemo. You’re doing this for me.” Some, “You’re doing this for my daughter.” “You’re doing this for my sister.”

Always, “Thank you.”

At the end of the first night I listened to my tentmate cry until I fell asleep. I woke at 3 a.m. when she started talking on her cell phone. She was calling for a ride home. She couldn’t take it.

I had trained with her. I knew she could walk it.

She was a breast cancer survivor.

The second day, I did several interviews. I was writing a first-person account for the paper.

This was a mistake.

By then people had changed out of their 3-Day T-shirts and put on shirts they had had made for the event. There were faces and names on the backs. I wore one myself.

I was already weepy, from the clapping thankers and the sea of shirt faces, and there I was asking people to tell me their stories.

There was variety, but most had the same theme — loss.

This is the one that made me hand in my media badge.

A woman ahead of me had a  portrait of a 20-something mother holding a little boy.

She told me her daughter died shortly after the photo was taken. The lady took in her grandson, who had a terrible time getting through the loss of his mommy.

“Then,” she said…. Silence.

Finally, “Then he got breast cancer and died when he was 13.”

I never submitted anything to my paper. This is the most I’ve ever written about it.

An impulse toward kindness

September 22, 2012

In October of 2000 I walked from Santa Barbara to Malibu, raising more than $2,000 in my Auntie Elsie’s memory for breast cancer education, research and treatment.

The event organizer was I’mpossible. On Day Zero all of the walkers had to watch the I’mpossible training video. This struck me as stupid. I had been training since April. Who shows up to trek 60 miles through pouring rain untrained?

It turned out to have nothing to do with walking. It was about attitude.

The rule for the next three days was this: You know that impulse toward kindness that you talk yourself out of? Don’t talk yourself out of it.

The video accused us of having the idea of buying a meal for the homeless guy in the park, or stopping for the car on the side of the freeway to lend a hand. It accused us of waiting one second too long to act, and thinking better of it.

I’m guilty of this.

Just last week I was in the grocery store with a heaping cartful, and the lady in front of me told the cashier it was her 80th birthday.

I immediately was inclined to tell the cashier to put her groceries on my tab. Instead, I kept my head down, made no indication that I had heard, and unloaded pasta, eggs, peanut butter.

My mind was all over this woman’s day. She was alone at the grocery store. She was shopping for ingredients on a day she shouldn’t be worrying about cooking.

I unloaded garlic, yogurt, parmesan and remembered Nana‘s 80th a few years ago. Family flew in. We wrote her a song, which all of her children and grandchildren joined in performing. Friends came. My mom presented her with a scrapbook.

There was a karaoke jockey and a feast. At no point did the day accommodate a lonely trip to Albertsons.

I unloaded cat food and chicken breasts and told myself I would only embarrass her.

Then it was too late. I didn’t even say happy birthday.

That’s why I didn’t deserve yesterday. The karma god is all mixed up.

Yesterday I had to go to a seminar in Claremont after an interview in my office. I made the 45-minute drive on fumes, but noted the gas station between the event and the freeway. I could fill up before I went back.

I parked and reached for my purse. Nothing. I had left it at the office.

At least I had my cell phone. The cartoon battery was flashing red, but I only needed one call.

At a break in the event, I went in front of the building and called Mom.

You may remember she was sick yesterday from the stress of speaking in public. She was in no state to drive an hour each way to give me money. On top of that, she was busy with things, like taking Nana to her Scrabble club.

While she was telling me to call Dad, a woman who had been digging in her car walked over to me and pressed $10 in my hand.

I so didn’t deserve that.


The wildfire story

September 1, 2012

From my house, I can see the flames in Oak Glen.

The fire started Sunday.

My husband called me from out. “I see smoke bad. It might be Forest Falls.”

I went out and looked toward the mountains. It was a familiar sight, a beautiful sky with a big brown plume of seemingly still, billowy smoke pushing up from one spot.

Yesterday when I drove the kids to school the smell was strong. It was sickening. There’s a smothering feeling to heavy fire air. It makes me a little panicky. It makes my son nauseated.

In the evening my husband and I drove home separately on the freeway. We spoke in unison as we got out of the cars in the drive: Did you freak out when you turned the corner toward town?

The orange was striking. It made me gasp.

This seems to happen every fall, but the first time was the worst: The Old Fire. On my way to work from the elementary school’s Fall Festival, there were flames on both sides of the freeway, almost the whole way. Two fires on my right were beginning to merge.

The newsroom TV was tuned to live coverage of people being evacuated, homes being destroyed. The numbers of people and homes rolled higher while we watched.

My friends and colleagues were outfitted in yellow suits and sent into harm’s way, taking the places of those coming back with full notebooks. They smelled so strong they had to go onto the roof to change out of their gear.

Then I got a terrible call. My Uncle Sonny’s house was gone. Not his neighbors’, just his. The fire followed an odd and narrow path that led to his back porch.

Oh man, he doesn’t even live in the mountains.

He was on his computer when he looked back and saw his awning was aflame. He grabbed his paper files and ran out.

He said there was a somber parade of people with armfuls of belongings walking down the street. Ultimately the fire hopscotched around the neighborhood, leaving piles of ash between unharmed houses, as it did with Sonny’s.

He lost the mementos of his life as a father — the art projects his three girls had made, photos, letters, abandoned instruments, his daughters’ ballet costumes.

My kids were 8 and 10.

After work we all drove over to Auntie Martha’s to give him a ‘there there’ and a ‘that sucks.’ 

En route home from Martha’s we could see the fire working its way over the mountains of Highland. It was coming down fast, and in the dark of night we could see the path growing longer, toward us.

My children were frightened. I drove them to the wash, a rocky swath of riverbed between us and Old, to reassure them.

You would have thought it was the 4th of July. Cars were parked all along the edge, and people had set up lawn chairs and brought sodas.

We looked down our nose at this, but went home and set up lawn chairs in the picture window on our second-floor landing. We had a great view.

Even as I explained to the children how safe we were, I put my wedding album, my  home videos and Grampa’s paintings in the back of the van.

My husband shook his head with an I’m-not-saying-anything look, but the evacuation line edged closer to town by the hour.

I made a videotape of each room, cabinets open, in case I had to list our possessions to an insurance company.

On the third day, it was like dusk all day long. The schools were closed, and it was difficult to breathe outdoors.

When I went to my car to go to work, I stood for a moment and thought it was snowing. Ashes were falling in graceful flakes, laying an even coat on my arms and hair.

Now it seems like we go through this every fall — the smell, the orange glow, the what-to-grab-first list — but I’m still shocked at first sight, whiff and breath.

The Candy Lady

July 7, 2012

The school year started today for the area’s year-round schools. This means I could be called in to sub again.

Somehow my stories have given Uncle Mike the impression that I like subbing. I’d like to take this opportunity to disabuse my reading audience of that ridiculous notion.

There’s irony in this story, so I’m starting with a seemingly unrelated scandal.

One of my girlfriends was the PTA president for my daughter’s middle school. We were sitting around at the school one afternoon when I mentioned I didn’t participate in the membership drive because of the reward.

Kids who sold memberships were given candy by the PTA.

By coincidence, the day after my grousing, I got an e-mail from one of the teachers, who also happens to be an old friend.

She reported that somebody called the principal to complain about teachers’ giving candy.

I wasn’t he, but I agreed with the complainer. When I tried to take my son off food coloring, I painstakingly read labels at the store, only to have him come home with pockets full of Jolly Ranchers. Teachers doled them out for correct answers.

The principal told the caller she wasn’t about deprive her teachers of this effective incentive. The parent cited the education code violation and threatened action.

The principal was forced to issue the moratorium, and was bound by policy to protect the caller’s identity. This was bad news for me.

According to my friend’s e-mail, the faculty believed I was the offender. She said she didn’t believe it.

If this is confusing, I’ll clarify some distinctions: The PTA and the school are separate entities. A complaint about the school was a can of worms I did not want to open. What I made was an unofficial mom-to-mom comment about what the PTA was doing, by way of explanation as to why such an involved parent did not buy a PTA membership. Sadly, this was in front of a witness.

I was trapped. The person who knew I was not the guilty party was mum. The person who suspected I was the culprit was telling everybody. The teachers hated me. I was The Anti-Candy Lady.

At the same time, this was going on:

I worked my second day as a substitute teacher — which, please remember, I hate.

The teacher left instructions. ‘There is candy in my desk. Give it to the kids who are helpful.’ I kept this to myself, meaning not to do it.

These second-graders were perfect. They were helpful, sweet, enthusiastic and full of personality, the lot of them. At the end of the day they asked where was their candy.

I was running the reading table, and the autistic boy’s aide got the little candy bars out for the class.

A week later I was on that campus again to drop something at the office. It was recess time.

Children came running to throw their arms around my knees and proclaim their love. They had a sub that day. They told me they begged their teacher to request me instead.

Their teacher told them I would never sub at that school again, because I gave them candy. She labeled me “The Candy Lady.”

At least I’m balanced.

I hit a parked car

May 2, 2012

This morning on my radio show they did a round robin to see if people ‘fessed up when they hit something in the absence of witnesses. I did.

I had been at my friend Scotchie’s apartment playing poker with other friends from work. It was the best night of poker I’ve ever had, and I don’t remember if I won.

Rodney Dangerfield had died that day, and one of our photographers was doing impressions. He had memorized all Dangerfield’s best jokes. It was tons of fun.

At 6 a.m. we wrapped things up, and I gave one of the reporters a ride home.

He lived on the narrowest street I’ve ever seen. It was so narrow, as I came out the driveway I backed into a car parked across the street.

That car had about 20 political bumper stickers on it.

I left a note that said, ‘I backed into your car. Here’s my cell number.’

That morning I had a funeral to go to. A copy editor, a young one, had died of stomach cancer.

From the reporter’s house it was half an hour home. I primped and drove 45 minutes to the funeral.

By the time I was ready to head home I was a hollow shell of a woman. I was emotional from the service, I hadn’t slept, and I had hit a car. That’s when the guy called me.

‘I can’t believe you left a note,’ he said.

‘I liked your bumper stickers. We must stick together.’

‘In that case, don’t worry about it. I’m throwing your number away,’ he said.

I was terribly relieved. This meant I wouldn’t have to tell my husband.

I said to the guy, in my best Dangerfield voice, “Last night my wife met me at the front door.  She was wearing a sexy negligee.  The only trouble was, she was coming home.”

He hung up on me.

My history teacher

April 9, 2012

I just got back from taking my grama to the doctor’s office. While we were in the waiting room, I noticed my eighth-grade history teacher signing in.

He looks the same: tan, fit, hunchy right shoulder, cotton-white handlebar moustache, bangs brushed neatly to the side.

He’s a visual character. I went as him for Halloween the year I was his student.

I sprayed my hair white and stretched cotton over my upper lip, fashioning curls at the ends. I wore a plaid dress shirt. I even mimicked his walk and his constant ‘Hmph.’

I was spot-on.

I had so captured his likeness that when I trick-or-treated, my 24-year-old cousin opened the door and said, “Hey! You’re Mr. Arnett.”

Mr. Arnett didn’t take it as a compliment. The next thing I knew I was transfered to Mr. Joyce’s history class.