Posts Tagged ‘September’

The carpet tack story

August 26, 2013

I’m terrified of carpet tack, which I once lost a fight with, and which is now exposed around the perimeter of my living room.

Our new house, which we’ve lived in a little more than a year, is tacky and gross. The elderly women who sold it to us probably considered it chic, but its day has passed.

The window dressings and wallpaper make the biggest early-’60s statement, but the carpet may be the oldest thing in the house.

For the first month we lived here my son said, “It smells like old people.”

Like teenage boys smell good.

In fall I brought a kitten home from the grocery store for my son. It peed in the living room. Fine, cut that corner of the carpet out.

In June my daughter chose a kitten from the pound for her birthday. By the beginning of August our living room carpet was half missing. Not half all together, mind — half cumulatively.

Before my birthday party I made the kids pull it up from the whole room. There’s a nice wood floor under there. And tack strip.

Here’s why I’m terrified of it.

I was running late for work at the ’50s restaurant shortly after I had flooded my parents’ house. Tack strip lined the threshold between the living room and the enclosed porch I had stashed my uniform in.

As I ran by, I sliced open the bottom of my right foot, long and clean.

My grandmother took me to the emergency room. There was a lot of waiting. We played Scrabble together, but then I was alone with my thoughts after they led me into the exam room.

This is when I began to consider what would happen when I finally saw a doctor. He was going to want to stitch me with a needle.

Oh nuh-uh.

I tried to leave.

First my grama, then the doctor caught me before I made it past the desk.

I argued. “I changed my mind. I’m fine. It’s so silly. I don’t know why I came. I’m sure I overreacted.”

They probably thought I was in shock. “As long as you’re here, let’s have a look.”

More arguing. I lost that fight too.

“I need to stitch this.” Knew it.

“No, thank you.”

“No, really. You’ve sliced it clean open. Everytime you step, even if you tiptoe, you’ll re-open it as it tries to heal.”

“That’s OK.” I grabbed my purse. “I have to go to work now. I won’t step on it.”

“What do you do?” I was a hula-hooping dancing waitress. I had to wear saddle shoes. He didn’t think much of my good sense.

In the end, I was 19, and he could not make me get stitches. I stayed off my foot as much as possible, and it healed fine and quickly.

It didn’t even scar me, unless you count my fear of tack strip.


The standing on my desk story

March 5, 2013

During the year I subbed, or as I refer to it, Hell, it was on this date I finally got a job for my daughter’s class.

My daughter wasn’t there.

She was with her teacher at the school’s talent show.

At the end of the day, her friends said, “Your mom told us a story about standing on her desk.” She told me she heard this 30 times. 

As many times she said, “Yeah, I know that story.”

My daughter doesn’t think I’m as entertaining as I do.

I had to tell it after I introduced myself, because one of the children said, “Instead of calling you by name, can we just stand on our desks to get your attention?”

Middle school kids think they’re entertaining.

The first week of high school my geometry teacher was beginning a lecture on finding the measurement of an angle when I butted in, “Can’t we just subtract the other two angle measurements from 180?”

In hindsight I get that his point that day was to show us a different way to get the answer. His response to me was “I never said the angles equal 180.”

Yeah, but don’t they?

“Show me where it says that.” Silly me, I thought he really wanted me to.

He went back to his lecture.

I found it in the book and raised my hand.

He went on with his lecture.

Undaunted, I stood on my chair.

At this point it was a showdown. I sat toward the front. He couldn’t pretend not to notice me.

He pretended not to notice me.

I stood on my desk.

He no longer had the class’ attention. He dropped his chalk hand to his side and shrugged as if to say Uncle.

“Yes Miss C?”

“Page 94!” I was proud.

He didn’t seem proud of me. He went on with his lecture.

I never did learn the other way to find the measurement of an angle.

My memory

February 21, 2013

My grama used to ask me, “Did you see Oprah yesterday?”

I told her I didn’t watch that show, but she always asked, so I started recording it.

The first episode I watched shocked me.

There was a woman who could tell you how she celebrated every birthday, what she wore every Halloween and who all of her teachers were in school. Can’t everybody do that? I can totally do that.

They threw dates of major headlines at her. My daughter walked into the kitchen to find me sitting on a stool, yelling at the TV. “Lennon was shot. The space shuttle exploded. Baby Jessica fell in a well.” I could play this all day. I was having a blast.

Then this woman started to speaking to me. She said she was lonely. No one else shared her memories.

She said she wanted to forget. Me too. I take baths instead of showers so I can prop up a book, because if I shower I will stand there remembering. I will remember every disappointment, insult and fearful moment of my life.

This is also why I don’t go running.

Ok, that’s not why I don’t go running. But it would be if running were easy.

This Oprah guest who talked about feeling alone made me feel less alone — but more like a freak. I had no idea I was a freak. It’s a good thing I watched.

The next day I was eager to discuss it. I picked up Nana from her Scrabble club. “Did you see Oprah yesterday?”

“No,” she said.

Another PTA, another ousting

January 6, 2013

When my children were in elementary school, I ran an after-school journalism program there, and taught kids how to make their own newspaper.

Based on this, the PTA made me the publicity chair. This would prove to be a mistake.

One of the first events of the year was a fund-raising effort wherein every child was told to sell lots of wrapping paper. I’m against this. It happened every year.

Children who got at least 10 orders were treated to a pizza party with a magician.

At the PTA meeting the year before, the principal — about whom I have nothing nice to say — mentioned that the party was going on in the cafeteria when she took the regular lunch kids through, and she pointed out to them that if they had sold their share, they would have been enjoying pizza and disappearing quarters.

I found her strutting distasteful. I hadn’t let my kids sell anything that year, because it embarrasses me to put friends and neighbors on the spot. That stuff is expensive. I went home from the meeting and asked my son if the principal had done and said that.

“Yeah.” He didn’t care. I make good lunches. I always put a comic strip in there.

Back to the following year, when I had a position on the board. I let my kids participate in the thing because they wanted to earn the little portable TV they could get if they got 100 orders. They were going to pool their sheets and split the prize.

My friend from work ordered some peanut brittle, and I said jokingly that his order would save them from being paraded through the party, being the 10th.

I forget my collegues have the power of the press. This particular friend was no longer at my paper. He was now a section editor at the rival one.

He wrote a section-front editorial on the shameful goings on at my children’s school.

Well, I was in charge of getting the place publicity….

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.

I am an imp

September 28, 2012

At my house, country music is not considered cool.

I don’t even know if I hate it. I just know there’s a stigma. If it comes on, we rush to push a new station.

One night my husband and I were shuffling cars around in the driveway. I was in his new car. It has a touch screen.

There are three FM screens, with six preset buttons each. He didn’t know how to manipulate them, but I did.

While I was moving his car, I set all his presets to KFROG.

The next morning just after he left for work, the phone rang.

I knew it would. 

All I heard was “AAAAAAAHHHHHHH.”

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.


An anniversary

September 20, 2012

Today is my parents’ anniversary. They married in a private ceremony in the living room of our new home just after I turned 6.

I was in Boulder on this date 14 years ago. My son was 2 and my daughter was 9 months old.

As I did every few days, I called to visit with Nana. My grampa said she couldn’t come to the phone. She was sick.

From 1,000 miles away, I worried all the time. Too sick to talk on the phone was awfully sick.

I had to drag it out of him, but I learned that she had thrown up black and bloody stuff, and then collapsed.

My call interrupted his trying to scrub the stain out of the white bathroom carpet. It never did come out. I will withhold my comments about having a white bathroom carpet in the first place.

I hung up and called mom at work. She left immediately.

Auntie Martha, whom Mom had called, had gotten to my grandparents’ house in five minutes and called an ambulance.

I grabbed the kids and got on the next flight to California. I was there by 5 p.m.

My poor parents spent their 20th anniversary with me and babies all over their house.

Nana was OK. She had taken an aspirin and made a hole in her stomach.

Happy anniversary Mom and Dad.

I panicked

September 11, 2012

Just as I said about being in a big earthquake, everybody’s got a Sept. 11 experience to share. Mine is embarrassing.

I woke up that morning when my husband came in the bedroom and turned the news on.

He said, “This is it. This is war. The shit’s hitting the fan.”

But I heard, “This is the day we’re going to have that nuclear war you’ve worried about your whole life.”

This is a terrible way to wake up.

I looked at the screen and started firing questions. The second plane had just hit the second tower. My Adrenalin was rushing, and I couldn’t process the information.

I climbed out of bed to see the TV better, and Jim Miklashevski said with a tremble, “I don’t want to alarm anyone, but we just felt and heard what seemed like an explosion at the Pentagon.”

That was the turning point for me. I thought bombs were dropping, leadership would be wiped out, and we’d be living the end verse of Nena’s 99 Luftballons.

I had two lucid thoughts: I regretted having children, and my bowels were turning to water.

I started to beg my husband to stay home. He raised his eyebrows and told me no as he knotted his necktie.

It was the second day of school. My kids were in first and third grade. My husband’s students were freshmen.

He put a cassette in the VCR, hit record and left. The children were just getting up.

This was bad. I was panicking, no one was helping me and I was in charge of people.

Let me back up a day, to explain my son’s state of mind.

On the playground after school he scaled the top of the new tube slide. The new principal, who was scary and mean, scolded him. He scowled and defended himself.

I told him that we were going to school early the next morning so he could go in her office and apologize for being disrespectful. He was so nervous about this his stomach was sick.

My daughter, as always, was just chill.

I took them to school and called in at work. They were not pleased. I worked in a newsroom, after all.

I went to Mama’s house. Nana showed up too. After about an hour I couldn’t stand it; I pulled my children out of school. I figured if it was our last day alive, we were going to spend it together, laughing. We got ice cream and rented Back to the Future.

I was so stressed out, I was wishing I had what I used to consider real trouble — money, kids, conflicting obligations. I told my mom, “I would give anything to have my old problems back.”

It took me months to come down from the panic. I was at the top of the short list for counseling at work.

I learned about nukes and international relations and terrorism. I learned how ignorant I was. Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s fright.

I let my son wait a week before apologizing to his principal, who was a bitch about it.

It was a horrible time all around.


September 10, 2012

Years ago my Unca Rob started a football pool. He invited Uncle Chauncey, Mike, my husband, my biological father, my sister’s husband, more of my uncles and a couple of other people.

My husband hadn’t watched football since I’d known him, and he doesn’t like betting on stuff, but I’m game for anything, so I asked Unca Rob if I could join in his stead.

Unca Rob never tells me no.

In the beginning he had set up a non-existent player named ‘Dumbass.’ Dumbass was going to generate random picks. It was an experiment to see if studying statistics did any good.

I pointed out that I had never seen football, and would be voting for teams based on colors, mascots and whether I had good memories in the towns they played for.

My husband told me with exasperation that I was not influencing the game, and to please stop calling it voting. 

It was unanimously decided that I would suffice as the team’s Dumbass.

I did very well that year. Apparently nobody else was as savvy as I  about dolphins’ being cuter than rams, or pirates’ being more fun at a party than saints.

But the best part was the banter.

It was smart, razzy and hilarious. I saved every posting.

One of my cousins was quiet — and got hounded for it — before he quit the pool at the end of the season with the comment that he didn’t know there was a minimum SAT score required for participation.

My husband said, “I can see how being in a chat with you, Rob, Chauncey and Jan would be intimitating.”

He was clever to include me in that list, even though we both know I’m not in that league.

No one considered putting Mike on that list.

Mike is our whipping boy. (Watch the comments for Mike’s two cents. He will point out that he wins the pool every year. As if that matters.)

The next year Rob kicked everyone out who wasn’t chatty — even his son, whose sole posting, after a round of ‘What the hell is a seahawk, anyway?’, was “You people are clogging up my inbox. P.S., a seahawk is a breed of osprey.”

Last year my birthday goal was to start watching the games.

Now I’m addicted.

Though we had a teaser game on Thursday, tomorrow is the meaty beginning of the 2011 season. I’ve waited 9 months. It was agony.

Don’t call the house. I’ll be wearing my Chargers jersey and cheering my dumbass head off.

A riddle

September 6, 2012

Today my son found a kids’ riddle book in the glove compartment. I don’t know where it came from.

He read us the riddles, and some of them were funny, but many were groaners.

My daughter and I took it as a challenge to come up with better punch lines than the book offered.

Then we abandoned the book and the three of us  invented our own.

Here’s our favorite, made from scratch, for your entertainment:

What is the  favorite sandwich of common people?

A Plebian J.

Another copy editor miss that wasn’t my fault

September 2, 2012

When we put a newspaper page together, we rarely have all the pieces. Photos, headlines, captions and even stories can still be in the production process while the page is built.

Page designers fill these spots with place holders. For photos this is easy. You need to know only whether you’ll be using a vertical or a horizontal photo.

Under there you write something like “Caption goes here. Caption goes here. Caption goes here and blah blah for three lines.”

I gave you this journalism lesson to explain why when I started working at the Daily Camera, I found the following clipping taped to my desk, left by my predecessor:

“Correction: The headline ‘Abby needs head’ was erroneous….”

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.

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.