Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I remember being mooned for the first time...
Sheri, my best college friend, and I hopped in her car and headed south of the border to Seattle to go see Steve Taylor in concert. We were very excited to see him, he was so New Wave and crazy! The show was great, even though there was nowhere to dance...what is it with concert halls that don't allow people to actually enjoy the music?
Anyway, after the show, we were full of pent-up energy. There were blocks and blocks to walk in late-night Seattle, but both of us were bouncing along as we headed towards the car. There wasn't much traffic, so we noticed when a car drove slowly by. It took a moment to register what exactly I was looking at. The passenger in the back seat had his pants down and his butt squished against the window, mooning us. I had never even heard of such a thing before! I felt insulted, like somebody had just called me a rude name. Why would he do that to us? What had we ever done to him? Did we look funny or something? I thought it was disgusting, and Sheri and I shook our heads as we finished the walk to the car.
I have discovered in the years since that mooning isn't such a big deal to many people. My husband has, on occasion, mooned his own mother! Bart Simpson has mooned just about everybody! But when I was 18, all I knew was that some hairy teenager with pimples had pulled his pants down and I felt insulted. My upbringing had not prepared me for public displays of butt.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I remember practicing the piano....
Mom expected us all to take piano lessons. We weren't asked if we wanted to, we just had to. I hated practicing, especially my scales and triads and arpeggios. I knew they would help me play songs better, but they were so boring.
I can clearly remember one practice session. I was having trouble with my arpeggios, they just weren't coming out right. I was making the same mistake over and over again, and I was beginning to get very frustrated. I tried slowing it down to a crawl, but my fingers were still fumbling over the one area. I tried speeding it up to see if I could fly by the trouble spot...
By the 100th time of playing it wrong, I was in tears. I was angry! I was depressed!! I placed my fingers on the keys, took a deep breath, and tried again. WRONG! I slapped myself on the face, hard. "Stupid!!" I cursed myself. I tried again. WRONG!! I slapped myself again, harder. "Idiot!!" I even banged my head on the keys at one point, like a real-life version of Don Music from Sesame Street.
As you can guess, this attempt at humiliating my fingers into submission got me nowhere.
Every Saturday morning we would clean the house from top to bottom. Mom, being a pastor's wife, never knew if there would be company the next day so the house had to be spotless. My job was cleaning the bathroom, Pam's job was dusting. We both preferred our jobs and would rather fight than switch. I would use Comet cleanser and a rag and clean the bathtub, the toilet, and the sink to a polished shine. I would put fresh towels and fold them perfectly. I took special care to shine up the metal on the faucet.
I did this every Saturday for years. You think I'd be better at cleaning my own bathroom now, but I'm not. Maybe if my sister still lived with me...
Monday, December 04, 2006
When my shift was done at the souvenir kiosk outside the gates of Expo 86, I would walk downtown and hop on the newly completed Skytrain for my ride home. Tonight was a late one, and as I walked down the stairs to the station beneath Granville Street, a young man kept calling out to me. Easily ignorable, I tuned him out, bought my ticket, and descended even farther beneath the earth to the platform. He rode the escalator behind me, making rude comments, asking me if I wanted a date, a boyfriend...that sort of thing.
Unrelated side note: Anyone else see the irony of going down into the depths of the earth to catch the "Sky"train? LOL!! The train only went underground for two stations...but this always made me laugh. Anyway, back to our story...
I strode with purpose towards the group of people waiting for the train heading East. The young man stood off to one side, continuing with his tirade of what he was prepared to do for me. Everyone on the platform was wondering what I'd do. When the train slid into the station, he followed me into the car and sat down behind me. I'm no dummy. Just before the door slid shut, I jumped up, ran out of the car and scooted into the next one. He tried to follow, but the doors shut and the train accelerated out of the station, leaving him standing alone on the platform. Hah!!
I was feeling very clever! Then I looked around to see who was in the car I had just dashed into. The only empty seat was in the midst of a group of incredibly handsome men, all dressed in expensive clothing that fit them perfectly. They clapped for me and my clever evasion, indicating that I was welcome to sit with them. I took a little bow, and joined their party. As I began a conversation, I quickly realized that these men were Italian and could speak almost no English. The only Italian words I knew were the musical terms I'd learned from 10 years of piano lessons. I spouted off a few to their great merriment. "Allegro! Pianissimo! Dolce!" Much laughter, white teeth. "Expo 86?" I asked, figuring them to be tourists.
"Si! Si!!" They nodded happily. "La Scala!"
"Are you here to see La Scala perform?" I knew the famed opera company was going to be performing for Expo 86, and assumed any Italian worth his salt would be lining up to buy tickets. "You watch La Scala?"
"No!" insisted the gentleman with the perfect white teeth and immaculately groomed graying hair. "No watch. La Scala!!" He reached for his wallet and handed me a business card. I don't read Italian, but I realized that I was sitting with members from the company! They were with La Scala! "You come see?"
I pulled out my pockets, pantomiming my poverty. "I can't afford the opera!"
"No!" Darn that language barrier!!! "You come see! You come! We show!" How did he get his teeth so white? What? Was he inviting me to come as his guest? For free??? We eventually figured it out, after much hand gesturing, that I was invited to the final dress rehearsal, and that one of my new friends would meet me at the door to make sure I got in. We waved good-byes and ciaos as they got off at their stop.
I showed up at the Pacific Coliseum at the proper time on the proper day, August 23, 1986. Nobody was waiting for me at the gate, but I convinced the person at the door that I belonged there by showing him the Italian business card I had been given. I walked in, totally excited. I had never been to the opera before! I wasn't sure where I would be allowed to sit, so I was wandering down the aisles looking for an empty spot when I heard a welcoming cry. "Hallo!!!" It was one of my friends! He rushed up to me, grabbed me around the shoulder and steered me straight toward the backstage. Backstage! He introduced me to someone who could translate for us, and then I was given a whirlwind tour of the whole backstage area. I saw the costume room, the singers putting on their makeup, the props and backdrops...I felt like I was walking in a dream.
I was led to my seat, right near the front, and watched Verdi's "I Lombardi". Is it any wonder that I felt like my life was charmed? Why would something so magical and fantastic happen to me, merely because I was smart enough to dodge a dummy on the Skytrain? I didn't know why, and I didn't care. If heaven wanted to drop gifts in my lap, I certainly wasn't going to refuse!
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
There is no such motel. But we stayed there all the same!
Our friends, the Kinsey's, had invited us over for dinner and games on New Year's Eve. They lived even farther out from town than we did, and it was snowing hard, so we bundled up very warm for the drive over. We had lots of fun, playing board games and eating and laughing. Us kids were completely wrapped up in playing, oblivious to the changing weather outside.
The grown-ups were looking out the window. "It's really blowing out there. We'd better head for home right away," said Dad as he headed outside to start the car so it could warm up.
We didn't want to leave! It was New Year's Eve, we were going to stay late and have fun, weren't we? But in Alberta, the weather dictates many things, and even us kids realized we had to go as we heard the wind picking up speed. We got into our many layers of winter wear. As we headed out the door, I remember Mrs. Kinsey having trouble pulling it shut behind us in the howling blizzard. We could barely see the car!
Dad seemed completely fearless as we inched the car onto the gravel road. We could see nothing in front of us, absolutely nothing but a whirling wall of white. Mom's lips pressed tightly together. "Abe, how can we drive in this? You can't even see the edge of the road!"
"Look up. This is a ground blizzard, there's no new snow falling." He was right. The wind was whipping around the snow that had fallen earlier that evening, but the sky above was clear. We could see the very tops of the telephone poles, eerie and strange in the night glow of the blizzard. "I should be able to navigate by keeping in between the poles."
"But what if there's another car?" asked Mom, quite worried.
"In this weather? Who'd be out driving in this?"
For 15 minutes Dad tried to keep it between the poles, driving no faster than a slow roll. It was no good. We had reached the intersection near their house, less than a quarter of a mile away, and there were no more telephone poles. Now what? Dad put on his toque. "I'll walk in front of the car, and you follow me. We are turning around and going back, and I don't want to go in the ditch as we try and change directions." Mom scooted over, Dad disappeared in front of the car. All we could see was his black and white toque flickering in and out of view. Mom managed to get the car turned around by following Dad in this way, then scooted over to let him back in.
My little sister and I weren't dumb. We knew to keep quiet during this tense operation, but I tell you, what an adventure! We kept looking at each other and squeezing our mittens together to keep from giggling and hooting. We were going back to the party!!
When we pulled in, the Kinsey's weren't surprised. Mrs. Kinsey, as she bustled around getting out foamies and sleeping bags and blankets, kept joking about how the motel was open for business and no complaining about the rooms. Dad sat on the chair in the kitchen warming up and telling the story of how bad it was out there, when there came a knock on the door. It was the neighbors from 3/4 of a mile down the road! They had even better stories to tell about not knowing what to do, and should we keep driving or do we try to turn back, and keeping it between the poles until we hit the Kinsey's.
Nobody was going anywhere in that weather. This was turning into a real party! My sister and my friend and I had never had a better New Year's Eve, sleeping on the living room all together as the grown-ups kept talking in the kitchen about what a storm.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
This fellow had asked me out on a date. He was an acquaintance of mine, not somebody I had my eye on, but there was no real reason to say no. He seemed nice enough, a bit of an artist type.
I don't remember what we did. Dinner? I think that was it. We were walking around after we ate, and he suggested we head back to his apartment for some ice cream. This request seemed completely innocent to me, and I love ice cream, so I agreed. He had a little squalid apartment; old fridge, hot plate, tipsy table and chair in the kitchen, and in the other room, a messy bed, a thread-bare easy chair and a dresser. I noticed a fascinating little purple box on top of the dresser, so pretty and out of place amongst the clutter. I couldn't take my eyes off it.
We were having pleasant enough conversation. We ate ice cream, sitting in the other room while we waited for the tea to boil. At this point, he made a move to embrace me. Embrace is a nice word, I don't think it works. He tried to grab me. I moved away quickly, and told him to cool it. He informed me that he bought me dinner, he fed me ice cream, and now it was time for me to "put out". He used those very words.
I jumped off the easy chair, grabbed the pretty little plastic box from on top of the dresser, and ran out of the apartment without a backward glance. I know for a fact that if I had stayed, I wouldn't have had an option about putting out or not. I couldn't believe it, that I had been so naive and that he was such a boor. I didn't think people like him actually existed except in novels and movies.
I still have the little black box with the trippy purple lid. The purple lid is holographic, and it looks like you can see deep inside the pattern...but the box itself is only about 1/2 an inch deep. I keep my guitar picks inside. Every time I look at the box and gaze into the misleading lid, I remember that shallow people can appear to be very deep, and that I am easily fooled by pretty wrapping.
Note: I have edited this piece after reading everyone's comments. It should be a bit clearer now why I took the box.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
My boyfriend, Earl, lived in a house with a lot of roommates. I loved hanging out there, it was almost always fun. One roomie, named B., had a little pet marijuana plant growing in his room. It wasn't very healthy, but he lovingly tended it and cared for it anyway.
One November evening, the Christmas spirit hit early. We were all well into the rum and egg-nog, we were singing Christmas carols to anyone who would answer the phone...when we realized we had no tree! Bruce ran to his room and brought out his scrawny plant, put it on top of the TV, and we made some paper decorations for it. (These people knew how to have fun, I mean it.) It looked like Charlie Brown's pathetic tree, if Charlie had grown up to be a stoner.
Our impromptu Christmas party was rolling along beautifully. We had dug out some Christmas records and were singing along merrily, when there came a knock at the door. A peak through the window, and we all groaned. The hermit-tenant who lived downstairs had called the cops on us again! If we did anything more than hiccup, he would call the police, and they would come and roll their eyes and tell us to be quiet, knowing full well that we were being mostly good. We were used to this drill, but we had never had a marijuana plant decorated with paper chains and stars sitting on the TV before.
"Hello, officer, what seems to be the problem?"
"We've had another noise complaint, sorry about this."
"We were just singing Christmas carols. We'll try and keep it down, sir."
"OK. None of you are driving anywhere, are you?"
"No sir. All eight of us are staying right here."
"All right then. Merry...Christmas" he said with a little grin, and that was it. He left! He had been standing about two feet from a perfect reason to ruin our day, and either didn't see it, or decided not to notice it out of regard for the season.
I'm sure it was only the first week of November. Cheers, Earl and B. and M. and J. and P., wherever you are!
Monday, November 13, 2006
I had been to see Alice Donut play at the Town Pump in Vancouver (June, 1989). I was enjoying hanging out with the guys in the band, and asked them if they wanted to come to my place and watch Batman reruns and smoke dope. What band would refuse that offer? A local friend offered to bring a crate of home brewed beer, so he got to come to the party, too. We all arrived at my place and had a quiet evening.
Rock and roll isn't all wild parties, you know. Sometimes it's flaking out on the couch and having friendly arguments about who made the better Catwoman, Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt. We drank all the beer and watched Batman until we all fell asleep, curled up like kittens on the big couch.
Monday, November 06, 2006
My friend, Raychelle, from church was heading into Lethbridge with her mom for a shopping day, and they invited me to join them! How exciting!! Raychelle was one of my more thrilling friends, full of paradoxes. She was very popular at school, yet she was a faithful church attender. She was nice to me, yet she was one of the beautiful people. It didn't add up! Blond feathered hair and sunny smile, she was an angel to me of kindness. I got permission from my mom, and off we went for the day.
We went into all kinds of great shops, trying on all the trendy clothing. I could almost imagine I was one of the beautiful people, hanging out with Raychelle in the mall. Her mom looked at her watch. "Girls, it's time to head to the hair salon. Raychelle's appointment is in a few minutes."
Raychelle was whisked off by the beautician. As I sat in the salon with Mrs. West (names changed just to be safe), we began pouring through the hair-do magazines. "Look at this cute cut, Paula. I bet it would look adorable on you!" It was short, spiky on the top, with little long wisps of hair at the back. So new-wave! I agreed, yes, it would look good on me, in some other lifetime. "Paula, if you get this hair cut, I'll pay for it. You need a new look." Mrs. West said with finality.
Huh? What? My hair was just past my shoulders, long and thick and with no style at all. I usually just ignored it. A radical short funky hair cut was mine for the taking? I felt like I was on a game show. "Monty, I'll take door number 2" "Congratulations, young lady, you've won your first stylish hair cut!"
Soon it was my turn in the chair. I was trembling with excitement as the chunks of hair fell to the floor. I was being transformed! I was one of the beautiful people, but even better because my haircut was daring and unusual!! When the beautician was done, I looked at myself in the mirror and couldn't believe it. I looked like someone from Friday Night Videos. I looked like I lived in a city. Wow!
When I got back from the drive, after thanking Raychelle and Mrs. West profusely, I bounced into the house, thrilled to show my family my new do. My mom took one look at me and started crying. "What have you done?"
"Mrs. West payed for it, Mom. I didn't pay for it." Why was she upset? I spent no money!
"But Carol's wedding is coming up in the summer and you girls were all going to have long hair!" More tears. This was the first I'd heard of the long hair plan. I slunk to my room and sat on my bed, angry and sad and deflated.
Carol, my sister, came into my room and sat beside me. "I love your new haircut. I think it makes your eyes pop out. You look beautiful." We hugged. I did not understand my mother at all.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I often scored free tickets at the college radio station where I had a show. Usually these tickets were for shows I was excited about, but I ended up with two free tickets to see George Jones, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Twitty--a show I was most definitely NOT planning on seeing. My boyfriend, Earl, and I decided it would be worth going, if only for the aspect of cultural adventure.
We dressed up as if we were going to the best punk gig ever. Earl leaned over to me as we took our seats and whispered, "It looks like everyone here shops from the Sears catalogue!" I giggled. It was true! Brown dress slacks, plaid short-sleeved shirts, polyester everywhere! Earl and I were out of our element, sticking out like a black-leather thumb. We were also about ten years younger than everyone else.
George Jones was up first. I had never heard of him before, but he was a good enough showman. We weren't overly impressed, but he didn't suck, either.
Then Loretta Lynn hit the stage. Earl and I were both dumbfounded. She was incredible!! We figured she would know her way around a stage, having been in show business for so long, but we didn't expect her to be so incredibly fabulous! After one song we became loyal subjects of the Queen of Country, Loretta Lynn, and she held us captive until her very last song.
Thankfully Conway Twitty was last. He was horrible, talking to the women in the front row like a dirty old man, putting out his hand for them to kiss, which they did. It was embarrassing. Before his second song was over, we fled.
We both liked Loretta Lynn so much that we were unashamed to tell all our country-music-hating friends how awesome she was.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I have gone to the very back reaches of my archives and labelled everything. I wasn't very organized, and I may redo it again sometime with more generic labels....but, it would be a good time for anyone who wanted to click on the little labels and see where they lead you.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The lockers at our school came in two rows, and the locker for my junior high years was in the bottom row. One day I was crouching down to get the books for my next class in the near empty hallway. Two boys from my class came running by, and one of them swung his Adidas gym bag, full of gear, into the back of my head as they passed. I was pushed by the force of the blow right into my locker.
If this was a scene on a TV show, there would be a laugh-track. I'm sure it looked kind of funny. I did not laugh, but pushed myself out of my locker and sighed. Another meaningless violence against me. I grabbed my books and continued on to class. I think I was lectured for arriving late.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Junior High. An awkward age for many, but especially awkward for me, as I was one year younger than everyone in my class. I thought it was very cruel for puberty to leave me alone for so long; while all the girls in my class were developing breasts, I was still a little girl.
I would get off the bus, go to my locker and put my coat in, grab my books, then walk to the door of my classroom and hesitate. I'd steel myself, then walk in. Every day my classmate, Terry, would sneer at me from under his long bangs and say loudly, "Jesus F***in' Christ, Rempel, are you ever ugly."
There is no response to this. You can't argue it, you can't agree, you can't ignore it. It's a losing situation no matter how you look at it. Somehow his statement always made everyone else laugh. You'd think they would have got tired of the same announcement day after day.
I was 11. I thought I was ugly.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Before you start clucking your tongue, this was something I was allowed to do. I wasn't a little kid, for goodness' sake. I was 11 or 12!
It was a sunny day and I was playing by myself. I was sitting in the driver's seat of the '68 Comet, pretending to be a grown-up, all cool and suave. I rested my right wrist on the steering wheel lazily, then rolled down the window and nodded nonchalantly at the people I was pretending to drive by. Oh, they were impressed with my driving skills! I glanced at the radio and pushed a few buttons, looking for imaginary rock and roll music.
At this point, I remember my eye landing on the cigarette lighter. All of a sudden I could look at nothing else. There it sat, woefully unused except for the few times Dad had showed me how it would pop out when it was hot. I found myself wondering how it worked. I pushed it in. I waited. It popped, and I pulled it out and looked at the glowing red circles. How could this light a cigarette? There wasn't even any flame. I did the next thing that popped into my mind. I touched it.
Wow! I burned myself a new set of fingerprints, and fast! First I dropped the lighter. Then I looked around quickly to see if anyone had noticed my stupidity. Nope, still alone. Then I stuck the lighter back in its place and sucked my finger.
This is how I have learned many of the important lessons in my life. There seems to be an inability to accept anybody else's word for anything. It means I have hurt myself many times, burned myself many new sets of fingerprints...but I know what I know, and nobody can tell me any different.
Friday, October 06, 2006
I was 16, and I loved rollerskating, and I loved rollerskating with Carolyn. She would laugh at all my jokes, and hers were even funnier than mine! Once a week all summer long, an outfit rolled into town and turned the unused hockey arena into a roller-skating rink, complete with music and skate rentals. We were there every week without fail.
The last week of skating approached. School had already started, and the next week they would begin turning the cement floor into ice again for the hockey season. I called Carolyn and asked if she was coming. "My parents aren't home and I'm babysitting my little brother and sister. I can't come."
"But, Carolyn! It's the last skate of the year!! You HAVE to come! Couldn't you drive in and bring your sister and brother?" I whined. This was a terrible thing for me to ask her to do. Her parents were very strict, and I was sure they hadn't given her any kind of permission to do something so brash...but I really wanted to enjoy the last evening of skating with her.
"I'll see what I can do."
That is the last time I ever spoke to her. I arrived at the skate, laced up, and began racing around the arena, keeping one eye on the entrance, but she never showed up. I figured common sense must have prevailed, but I was disappointed she hadn't found a way to come. I skated alone until the very last note of the very last song.
Later that night, I got a phone call. Carolyn had been driving into town for roller skating with her little brother and sister in the back seat. She lost control going around a gravel corner and crashed the car, killing herself and her sister and severely injuring her little brother.
You can see that I felt responsible for this. How could I not? I begged her to come, I put the idea of driving into her mind, I urged her to sneak out of the house while her parents were away with her siblings...
There was a huge memorial at school. I was asked to give a short talk of my memories of her. I visited her parents. They were Japanese, and I saw for the first time a shrine to the dead, pictures of Carolyn and her sister on a table with beads and little items of hers and symbols in red and gold that I was unfamiliar with. There was a candle burning, I think. It seemed very sad and beautiful. I attended her funeral in a big temple, with robed priests banging gongs as we sat silently.
I walked alone through this whole time as one walks through a dark fog. I told no one of how I had cajoled her that evening.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
This morning at 3:30 AM, my dad breathed his last. My mom was holding his hand. I haven't cried since. I feel relieved that his struggle is over. I know I will start crying in the days to come, and I certainly cried many tears in the days leading up to this moment...but for now, I am at complete peace.
I will miss you, Dad.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Here I sit, listening to the rain pour down. My father is in hospital in town here, in the last difficult stages of pulmonary fibrosis. He was diagnosed four years ago, and has been in a slow decline ever since; but just as the summer weather ended and autumn weather hit us, he began dying in earnest. My sisters are arriving from their various parts of the continent, and we sit by his side, trying to help ease his discomfort in his last days.
He is at peace with dying. Mom is settled in a comfortable, easily manageable apartment, all his daughters are happily married and walking in relationship with God...so he is at peace. All his loose ends are tied up. He knows he is going to Heaven. But death is still something to be fought against, even when you aren't afraid of it. The body can't seem to help but fight it.
These aren't easy times, but I am glad I am here through this process anyway. The thing that kept hitting me yesterday was the reality of this. It doesn't get any more real than this. It felt TOO real, and I spent quite a bit of time crying.
Won't be long now.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I remember chasing dust devils.....
When I was a kid we lived six miles out of a small town in Alberta, smack in the middle of the prairie. There was dust everywhere. You could only get to our home by gravel road, and any time a vehicle thundered past, clouds of dust would rise and be carried by the movement of the air. The farmer's field to the west of us was often standing in summerfallow, blowing top soil in our direction whenever the wind was right. In the summer we would blow our noses before bed and the snot would be black with dust. This was normal. We thought nothing of it.
Occasionally as we would be playing out in the warm summer afternoons, we would see an undulating column of dust moving towards us from down the gravel road. In my imagination, this small updraft of wind was actually a giant tornado, whirling out of control towards us, smashing everything in its path. Naturally I wanted to stand in the middle of it, proving once again my childish invincibility! My sister and I would run towards the tiny whirlwind and try to predict where it would travel, then stand in its path so it would swirl around us. If we guessed right, the wind would whip around, lifting skirts and hair and shoelaces, and we would shriek with delight. If it was very hot, we could chase the wind all afternoon.
The grit in the eyes, the dust stuck in the mucus membranes....these were small prices to pay for dancing with a devil.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Dad would turn on the television for Hockey Night in Canada. He'd stretch out on the floor on his stomach, his chin on his arms, to watch the game. My sister and I would run for the curlers, a glass of water, and a comb. Whichever girl got there first got to sit on Dad's massive back. As long as we weren't too noisy, we could sit there and put curlers in his hair for the whole game!
Dip the comb in the water. Comb up a piece of hair. Put the curler at the tip and roll down to the root. Insert bobby pin. Enjoy the smell of Brylcreem wafting up from Dad's hair. Repeat.
My dad's hair wasn't long, but it was very thick, and we could use dozens of curlers before we had to take them out and start again. I saw nothing strange in this activity. I thought all girls put curlers in their fathers' hair while they watched hockey. I realize now that this wasn't so, and my respect for my father is immense.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
I remember discovering a phrase that had been coined about me....
Place: Friends' apartment near Denman Street, Vancouver
A whole gang of us had been out dancing and drinking and having fun. It was late in the evening, and we, one big leather-clad, spiky-haired, metal-studded monster, stumbled back to Adam and Geoff's apartment. One of the girls, maybe Nancy, headed into the bathroom to puke. When she came out, she flopped straight onto the couch and passed out like a dead thing. Somebody laughs. "Hey, she pulled a Paula!"
Ummm...I'm sitting right over here. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"Oh, man...you used to do this every f***in' night! We always had to drag you home from somewhere."
"Oh, yeah. That." I pretend to laugh because everybody is looking, but that really bothered me. Who were these people that I trusted so much, so much so that I was willing to walk around unconscious and let them guide me? I didn't really know any of them at all. I knew their names, but I knew nothing about their hearts.
I secretly vowed to become better at holding my liquor.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
I remember winning a little drag race....
It was summer down in Southern Alberta, and it was hot. HOT. HOT!!! Our family was driving to Lake Newell near Brooks to spend a day at the lake. My little sister and I were sitting in the back seat of Dad's 1974 Mercury Montcalm, legs sticking to the vinyl from the heat.
As we pulled up to a stop light in Brooks, a very shiny red fancy car pulled up beside us. I don't know what kind of car it was, I was only a kid. Dad, with a twinkle in his eye, looked through Mom's open window to the young driver and revved the engine. The guy looked back at Dad, saw the family sitting in the giant boat of a car, and laughed. Dad revved the engine again.
The light turned green. The young guy put the pedal to the floor and pulled away, but Dad only let him get up to the front bumper, and then Dad hit it. We soared past that sports car and left him in the dust!! My little sister and I were bouncing up and down in the back seat from excitement! Wahoo!! The family beat the young hot shot! We looked back at him through the rear windshield and laughed and hooted.
At the next red light, the sports car pulled up beside us. "What do you have under the hood of that thing?" he asked my Dad. Dad told him some big number, 235 or 438 or something (I was just a kid, I don't remember!). The young man looked very impressed. He learned not to judge a car by its cover that day.
Too bad they weren't racing for pink slips!
Friday, August 11, 2006
I remember getting my first tattoo...
I was dating young Adam. He had a home-made tattoo gun, real punk rock: the motor was taken from a ghetto blaster, the needles were enclosed in a Bic pen casing and duct tape, and when he needed ink, he just went down to Office Depot and bought some. He was doing tattoos on anyone who would let him, and it was only a matter of time before he asked me if I wanted one. I certainly did! It was time to do something permanent in my very unstable life; plus, I could picture me as a grandmother one day, calling over the grandkids and saying, "Looky here at Granny's tattoo!"
I thought about it, and decided I wanted a Chinese-type dragon. Adam said he could do that. I decided that if I was getting a tattoo, I wanted to be straight--nothing to numb the pain (no alcohol, no drugs), and nothing to blame my choices on. Adam said that was really cool, and suggested listening to loud punk rock music to distract me some.
A home-made tattoo gun works very slowly. Adam worked on my right shoulder blade for four long hours the first day. "That's all I can do, my hand is cramping. We'll have to finish the colour work tomorrow." I came back to his little apartment the next day and he worked for four more hours on the already red and raw dragon. That may have been the longest four hours of my life! I don't care how loud you turn up the Black Flag or Subhumans...a slow tattoo still hurts.
Yup, that's me in the photo, a few weeks after the job was done. About a year later, Adam added scales to the body, but he had a real gun by that time, and it only took about an hour. When I went for my most recent tat, I told the artist about Adam's home-made gun, and I could see his level of respect for me rise about 98%. He had never seen a tattoo made with a gun like that, though he had heard about such guns.
I still can't wait to show my tattoos to my grandkids one day, IF I ever have any. I doubt they'll be as impressed as that last tattoo artist, but it'll still make my day.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I remember the first time I tried acid...
I worked with a skinny little fellow, lets call him Simon. He managed a little downtown bar off of Denman Street in Vancouver, and I was bartending there part-time. Picture a shorter, skinnier version of Tiny Tim, and you are picturing Simon.
One day at work, he asked me if I'd ever done LSD. I hadn't. He asked me if I wanted to. I thought about it, and I did want to try it. He said we'd need a whole day and a safe place where we wouldn't be disturbed. I had no roommates, so my apartment was to be the place. It seemed to take a lot of planning; marijuana took no forethought at all, other than the need for a match. I wondered how hippies had managed to take LSD so successfully if it took so much organization.
Simon buzzed my apartment on the decided morning. I was quite excited. I had read about hallucinations, and I was hoping I wouldn't be disappointed. I wanted to see things that weren't there! Simon entered the apartment and handed me a little square of paper. "What's this?"
"That's the acid. You put it on your tongue."
"I'm supposed to eat paper?"
He popped his little square onto his tongue, showboating his experience compared to my naivete. "Just let it get soggy, then swallow it. Then we wait."
"We have to wait?" Again with the planning. With weed, you smoked it, you got high, just about that quickly. I was going to have to wait? "How long do we have to wait?"
"It takes awhile. Just relax. Remember, if you start freaking out, I'm here to guide you through your trip." Simon was being very superior, I thought, but I was glad there was someone there with experience.
We sat in my apartment talking for awhile. I looked at my hand and noticed that it seemed to be breathing on its own, which I thought was really cool. I asked Simon if perhaps the acid was starting to kick in. He said that it was, and not to be scared. I wasn't scared at all! I looked around the apartment, and I could see the walls breathing, too! It made me laugh out loud. I knew it was just induced by the drug, so I didn't see what there was to be afraid of. I began exploring my apartment, enjoying all the silly and bizarre things it seemed to be doing.
I have no idea how long I was distracted by the walls and the carpet fiber, but when I looked back at Simon, he was laying flat on the floor with his eyes closed and his body rigid. "Simon?" He didn't respond to me at all. He just kept moaning about horrible things, calling out to Satan to leave his mother alone, that sort of thing. Yecch. I didn't know what to do for him. If his eyes did open, he'd look at me and start talking to me as if I was his mommy. Blech!!! He didn't appear to be in any physical danger, so I decided the best thing to do would be to leave him to his private nightmares and go sit on the deck.
The sky was beautiful. The light rays bouncing from high-rise to high-rise were electric. If Simon the Experienced was having a bad trip, I was having a good one. I just sat on the deck for hours, watching the sun move across the sky, watching a spider build a web, watching feathers form on the back of my hand...that sort of thing.
When Simon finally regained lucidity, he joined me on the deck. I tried to tell him how he was all freaked out, but he seemed to think nothing had happened, no time had passed. I let it go. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. We went for a walk when we started to come down. That was about it.
I wish my first trip had been a bad one, actually. The experience had been so magical for me, I made LSD my drug of choice for almost a year after that, dropping acid on average twice a week. I didn't have any bad trips until the last two. The second last one was scary, and I decided that if that ever happened again, I'd quit. The next time I took acid, the last time, I was so nearly permanently disturbed that I knew the ride was over. I wonder how many memories I traded for those little pieces of paper? The whole reason I started this blog are because of the giant holes in my mental history, and I am convinced that the huge amount of LSD I took are what put them there.
Break on through, indeed...
Friday, August 04, 2006
I remember getting bit by a dog...
It was the summer of 1985, somewhere in eastern Nebraska. I was selling books with the Southwestern Book Company, based in Nashville, Tennessee. I won't even get into the psychological brainwashing you have to allow in order to be successful at door-to-door sales. I just want to tell this one story.
It was my day to ride with our sales manager, to follow her around and see how it's done. She had a car, so she was selling out in the country, driving to farmhouses to show them books. Linda was so good at the job, she sold books at almost every house we stopped at. I was in awe. We pulled into another farm house, and as I got out of the car a big farm dog loped towards me. He looked friendly compared to some we'd seen, so I was able to push away my normal fear of strange dogs (I had been terrorized by a neighbor's dog when I was a child, and I had a healthy respect for dogs I'd never met). I reached out to pet him, and he bit my wrist, quite hard. I turned away from him slightly, and as he released his grip on my wrist, his teeth snagged my back pocket, ripping through my pants and cutting my skin a bit.
My reaction was swift and immediate. "BAD DOG!! Go lie down!!!" He hunkered down in shame and ran over to the corner of the house and curled up. I couldn't believe it. If I had tried to run, that dog would have been all over me, but somewhere in my bookseller-brainwashed-I-can-solve-every-problem brain, I found the right thing to do.
It turns out nobody was home at that farm, so we put a couple of band-aids on my wrist and headed to the next one. You don't stop selling books for a little thing like a dog bite.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
I had traveled alone on a Greyhound bus down to San Francisco for a vacation back in 1989. My friend was working there, and she hooked me up with all the great parties. I have a few memories from this trip, they'll probably work into other blog entries....but for now, I'm thinking about the ride back.
My friend, D., happened to be in Frisco doing some band business (she was a promoter for alternative and punk bands). It made way more sense for me to travel back with her in her van than to buy another Greyhound ticket! D. planned to drive back all in one shot, using speed to help her stay alert on the road. My job as navigator was to mix the speed into our drinks and keep an eye out for the cops (I had to stay awake, too, to help D. stay awake!!). We drove too fast, listened to loud punk rock music, we waved at cute boys in other cars...it was quite a trip.
We pulled up near the border in the very middle of the darkness of the night. The speed was all gone, no problem there...but there was a bit of marijuana that we planned on smoking once we got home so we could fall asleep. What to do? Obviously, I wasn't thinking that clearly anymore, and I suggested that we hide it. I took D.'s little garbage can by the driver's seat, dumped it on the ground, then took a nondescript dark plastic container out from the midst of the refuse. I stashed the weed in the container, dumped all the garbage back into the can and put it back by the seat. "There! He'll never see it." We felt very clever.
When we got to the border, the guard took one look at us, all tattooed and wild-eyed, and told us to pull over. I can tell you honestly that I wasn't nervous at all. We sat side by side on a little bench while he proceeded to go through every box and bag and suitcase in the van. As he came across all the band merchandise that D. had, he was very suspicious--the one band, Lard, had given D. baggies of actual lard to use as band promotional material. We could see the guard hold up the baggie full of a white square like he'd hit the jackpot....we saw him open the baggy, stick his finger into the lard, then taste it to see what drug it was....it was all we could do to keep from screaming with laughter!
After about half an hour of fruitless searching, he let us go. I promptly rolled a big joint as soon as we were on the Canadian highway, and we toasted each other's good fortune.
This story. I don't know how to tell it. I look at it now, and I am amazed that we didn't end up with a huge fine or a criminal record. I feel like I should turn it into a morality tale of how bad drugs are....but I just can't. Don't get me wrong...I think drugs stole the best part of my brain, and I have no desire to do them again--yes, kids, they are bad. But this story! We got away with it! We stuck it to the man!! No other experience I've had can match the glowing feeling of invincibility we had as we smoked that weed on the last leg of the journey home.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Grade 8 in small-town Alberta, sitting in class listening to the teacher. She asks me to read aloud from the text. I stand and read, clearly and with good diction. I feel somewhat proud of my reading ability. She asks the person behind me to read, and they do so, and so on down the row. She gets to Peter, the last in the row. He stands to read, and he can barely get the words out. He is sounding out simple words, words like "actual" and "promise". I become very embarrassed for him. Some kids are giggling, but I can't join in. I wonder how he can have got to Grade 8 without being able to read. I want to stand up and read for him. I want to tell the teacher to quit asking him to read, she knows he can barely do it. I do none of these things. I feel bad.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I was hanging out in my bedroom way back in, oh...1977 or '78. My oldest sister, Carol, who was home for a visit, waltzed into my bedroom and flopped onto my bed.
"Love is grand!"
I had no idea what she was talking about.
"Look at the hat he bought me at the Calgary Stampede! It was really expensive!!" He had bought her a cowboy hat. I tried it on, but at the age of 11 or 12, my head was already much bigger than Carol's, and it perched on top of my hair like a novelty hat. We laughed.
"He makes me feel so wonderful! I just want to spend all of my time with him! One day you will fall in love, too, Paula, and you will see what I am talking about." She sighed happily, then floated out of the room.
I sat down on my bed, wondering if there was someone out there who would buy me a cowboy hat one day, and would that actually make me float like Carol.
I hoped so.
Friday, July 14, 2006
I remember my first black eye...
It did not happen in my childhood. I had scrapes and bruises like most kids, but no black eye, no broken bones. It did not happen in my teenage years. I wasn't really a brawler.
It happened at a Red Hot Chili Peppers' concert. I was in my early twenties, probably 1989. The Peppers were playing at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, the place with the springy dance floor. I was very excited, everybody I knew was excited...the Peppers were touring the "Mother's Milk" album and it was going to be an explosive show.
The dance floor was packed. The term "mosh pit" hadn't really come into vogue yet, but picture a mosh pit with about 800 people, all just going bananas! (There were no spectators, if you know what I mean.) I was right in the middle of the floor, dancing like a maniac. At one point I vaguely remember making contact with some sweaty hunk's elbow...we grinned at each other and kept on dancing. I didn't think anything of it--I was making contact with everyone around me!
At the end of the night when I went to the ladies room to freshen up, I saw I had a huge shiner! My left eye was turning that beautiful purple-black colour. It must have been the elbow from the cute hunk...
This black eye became a badge of honor for the time it took to heal. "Where'd you get the black eye, Paula?"
"Oh, I was slamming seriously hard at the Chili Pepper's show..."
Inevitably..."Coooooooooool!" with a tone of hushed reverence and awe.
Yup, I milked that black eye for all it could give me. Looks like I still am!
Monday, July 10, 2006
I'm not sure how old I was in this memory, but I remember it very clearly. I was probably 9 or 10, when we still lived out on the prairie. Our family was invited over to another's family's home for supper, and I was excited because these people actually had kids I liked near my own age. As a pastor's family, we were often invited over to the homes of people with no children at all, and we'd have to be good, and it was SO BORING!!!
But these people had Janelle, and she and I got along great. After supper, she and I were playing in her room...we were playing with Barbies, which usually went against my grain, but I let it slide in order to be friendly. All of a sudden, all the lights went out, pitch darkness--no big deal, just a power outage. If you live on the farm or in the country, the power could go out during any little wind storm, and we were all used to it. Janelle's mom came bustling with a candle for us into the room where we were playing...she set it on the dresser. Then she bustled out to take candles all over the rest of the house.
As soon as she was gone, we realized that the small light of one lone candle didn't reach down to where we were playing. We moved the candle down to the floor beside Barbie's Dream House and continued to play, doing our best to be careful and not knock the candle over. All of a sudden, we both stopped. Eeeew! What was that awful smell? I was turning my head to see what was so stinky all of a sudden, when Janelle noticed that my long hair was decidedly shorter in one area. We took the candle into the bathroom so we could inspect my hair with the help of a mirror...it was all frizzly on the ends. I must have moved my hair through the candle flame when I was reaching for Ken or something!! I could have lit my head on fire!!
For some reason we felt incredibly guilty, and had an overwhelming urge NOT to tell our mothers what had just happened. Surely trying to light your own head on fire was a punishable offence! We used fingernail scissors to trim off the frizzly burnt parts, but how to hide the smell? We scrambled through the bathroom looking for something, anything...hairspray! That stinks pretty good! Janelle and I sprayed first my head, then her entire room with hairspray.
No, we did not set the house on fire. Somehow in our ignorance of the flammability of aerosol propellants, we managed not to spray near one of the open flames. To this day, the smell of burning hair gives me the delicious sneaky feeling of getting away with something. Unless my mom starts reading this blog, which is unlikely, she will never know I burnt my hair that evening! Ha ha ha!!!
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I remember listening to rock and roll with my cousin...
We moved to my uncle's farm when I was 14 years old and lived there for two years. This time shines in the history of my teenage years like a polished diamond. Previous to moving to Vauxhall, I experienced three years of living hell during junior high in Three Hills, and my last year of high school in Coronation was OK, but mostly lonely. It was in Vauxhall that I truly enjoyed being a teenager, and that is largely due to the influence of my cousin, Tim.
Tim was one year younger than me, and the only child remaining in my uncle's home. He and I were inseparable. We'd discuss all manner of things, from whether the people in the new school would think I was good looking (Tim assured me they would), to whether a vanilla milkshake made with a whole bottle of vanilla would make you drunk or not (Tim assured me that it would).
Tim knew so much more about music than I did. He had records--rock and roll records!! When our parents weren't home, we'd sit in Tim's living room and he'd put on Styx or Rush or Meatloaf at ear-splitting levels and we would pour over the lyric sheets or dance around the house. My little sister would be at home in our trailer, and she assured us that the windows were shaking even over there!! Wow!!! What power...
I remember reading the lyrics for songs like "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" or "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" and realizing that I knew nothing at all about sex. Tim and I would discuss this unknown part of life, wondering what it would be like, wondering why God had to make things so difficult for teenagers. I value those discussions, I hold them like precious stones. It was perhaps the first time that I was able to be completely open and honest with someone, to ask any question I was thinking of without fear of judgment or embarrassment.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
...you know the kind I mean, the kind with--*drum roll*--alcohol? As a teenager, I was fairly clean-cut. I did what my Mom and Dad said, for the most part. Once when I was 14 I had a few drinks from a friend's beer bottle at a school dance, but other than that....clean.
In Grade 12, we moved to a new town even smaller than the one we had been living in for two years. The kids at the school were nice enough, but they had known each other since Grade 1, and I was definitely the outsider. One day, Shirley asked me if I wanted to come to her place for a party Friday night, beer and barbecue. I couldn't believe she had even asked me...she knew I was the preacher's daughter! I lamely said I'd ask my mom, never expecting her to say yes.
I asked my mom straight out, with no pleading or "I'll be good!" She looked at me and smiled and said, "Go ahead, honey. Sounds like fun." Was this trust? Yes, it most definitely was! There was no lecture, no warnings about the evils of alcohol...just trust.
So I went to the party. There were only 33 kids in my class, including me, so almost everyone was there. Most of them were drinking beer. I remember one of the guys standing at the barbecue pouring beer over his steak, something I had never seen done before. Someone asked me if I wanted a beer. I said no thanks, but is there any soda pop? Sure, in the fridge, help yourself. I think I had half-expected to be mocked and ridiculed for turning down the beer, but nobody even noticed.
I remember "White Wedding" howling through the speakers and all of us singing along with Billy Idol.
I didn't stay really late, but I had fun. I felt like a bridge had been crossed, like I had hung out on alien turf and been accepted as I was. Perhaps it didn't dawn on me then, but I had also accepted these other kids as they were, without expecting them to clean up and come to church or youth group or Bible study. It sure made a difference in how I was treated at school...not quite as much of an outsider, a little bit more like someone who belonged.
I hope I remember to trust my daughter when she wants to walk on alien turf. It's a good place to learn about people, a good place to learn about yourself, hanging out with the "aliens". You realize there really isn't any difference at all, to speak of.
Monday, June 19, 2006
A bit of background. I grew up in a home with plenty of music, but almost no rock and roll. We sang choruses and hymns, Dad would listen to Jim Reeves or Tennessee Ernie Ford on the record player...but we were NOT allowed to listen to rock and roll radio. When I went to college and started volunteering at a college radio station in 1985, my mind was blown wide open by all the music in the record library. One day I'd be excited about the Violent Femmes, the next day it was Janis Joplin or the Doors....it was ALL new to me. My favorite, though, was Jimi Hendrix. I played him every week on my show, mixing him in amongst the Ramones, the Talking Heads, and Einsturzende Neubauten. It made perfect sense to me, and I often talked on air about how I thought Jimi was--if not ACTUALLY, then practically--God. Anyone who listened to my radio show in Vancouver knew how I felt about Jimi.
An acquaintance of mine, David (names have been changed to protect the guilty), asked me on a date. He was a quiet sort with a brooding intensity, and I knew him well enough from my social life, so I said sure. I think we went for a walk along the seawall, and then went back to his place so he could cook me dinner. As we were sitting at the table after the delicious meal, David started talking about Jimi Hendrix. He loved Jimi, too! This was starting to look like a promising date! He pulled out all the Jimi albums he had, which was more than I had ever seen before, and put one on. He sat at the table and closed his eyes as the music started. I, being me, pushed my chair away from the table and started dancing around the room like a hippy, blissed out as I let the guitar notes tell me what to do next.
David spoke up: "What are you doing?"
"I'm dancing! I just have to move when I listen to Jimi!"
"You can't listen properly if you are dancing. You have to sit and listen without distraction!"
I realized at that moment that all the promise of the first half of the date was at this moment being destroyed by David's obsession with Jimi. I had been told all my growing up years that dancing was wrong and I should stop, and here was this long hair telling me to stop, too. "Uh...I listen best when I move!"
"No. Nobody can properly absorb what Jimi was trying to communicate if they are not paying full attention. Sit down."
Rather than make a scene, I sat and listened to Jimi with David for about another hour. It was very boring. Apparently if you want to really "get" what Jimi is communicating, you can't dance, talk, or do anything but sit there with your eyes closed! I can picture us in that apartment sitting at the table in the candlelight, David's eyes closed, mine sort of closed but actually peeking at David just to make sure he wasn't kidding or pulling my leg or something. It was quite humorous, but I couldn't wait to leave.
I was fully prepared to turn David down the next time he asked me out, but he never asked me out again. I must have failed his test as completely as he failed mine.
Friday, June 09, 2006
As the family of the pastor, we often had guests over at our house for dinner. This was something I usually looked forward to. I enjoyed entertaining people, and new guests were a new audience who hadn't seen all my old material!
One afternoon there was a few people over, grown-ups without any children. I was cavorting around the kitchen listening to their conversation, when one of the men looked at me and laughed. He made some comment, I don't remember exactly what, about the enormous size of my tongue, and then proceeded to stick his tongue out like someone with Down's syndrome and roll his eyes at me. Everybody laughed. Except me. It so happens that I do have a very long tongue, and as a child when I was concentrating on something, it would sometimes rest on my lower lip with my mouth partly open. This was an unconcious act that I didn't realize I was doing...until this man pointed it out. I was humiliated. I discovered what it meant to be self-conscious.
I spent the next few minutes alone in front of a mirror, purposefully trying to recreate my usually absent-minded tongue placement. Even I had to admit, it looked ridiculous. It made me look dumb.
Friends, thinking of this memory still fills me with hot shame and anger. I want to find this man, who's name I thankfully don't know, and kick him in the shins, just like an 8 year old would. I can't believe I am still holding onto the hatred I felt for him. I guess it's time for me to let it go, to realize that a man who would mock a child and laugh at her like that must be a small man indeed, with a small opinion of himself, and probably needs my forgiveness more than I need his respect. So, little man, wherever you are...I forgive you for laughing at me.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
I think I am 6 or 7. There is company over at our house, and we are all in the kitchen around the table, chairs pushed back for leg room. My little sister runs into the room and climbs on my mother's lap, pushing herself in for a serious snuggle.
Mom says proudly, "This is my cuddly girl!"
I'm sitting at the table watching this. I think to myself, "I like cuddles. I'm a cuddly girl. What about me?" I think that my little sister is obnoxious, stealing cuddles before they are offered. I would never do that. It seems rude to me. I think hugs and snuggles should be a gift given to me, not a right demanded by me. I try and remember the last time I ever jumped into Mom's lap like that....I can't think of one instance.
The company all respond with loving comments about how sweet she is. I sit and watch, an outsider, a middle child.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I was 18, it was 1984, and I was working in Banff all summer as a chambermaid and evening desk clerk. One morning as we were getting ready for work (all us chambermaids lived in the same house), my boss, Ralph, came to the door. This was highly unusual; he NEVER came over to the house, especially not in the morning. One of my roommates came and said, "Ralph wants to talk to you, Paula". I think we all thought that I was going to get fired, though I couldn't for the life of me think of what I had done to deserve being fired.
Ralph looked so uncomfortable, I knew something terrible had happened. "Paula, your father called the hotel this morning. Your sister and her husband were killed in a car accident." He chose his words so carefully...
I started crying immediately, uncontrollably. "Which sister?"
Ralph looked like he was going to be sick. "I'm sorry, I don't know. Your father is coming to pick you up so you can be with your family. Your job is safe here, don't worry about us at all."
I stumbled to my room and grabbed my photo album and began looking at the pictures of my older sisters. Kathy and Jim or Carol and Bill? Kathy or Carol? Which sister was dead? I sat there crying for hours. It takes a long time to drive from Vauxhall to Banff, it takes hours and hours. As my dad drove to get me, I sat there crying over my photo album, not daring to pick which sister I'd rather live without. I had never felt so alone in all my life.
When Dad arrived, he smothered me in a tearful hug before I could say anything. I pulled away. "Dad, Ralph didn't know...which sister of mine is dead?"
"It was Carol. Carol and Bill."
It felt a little better to know who I was grieving for. Those three or four hours where I knew I had experienced a loss but didn't know who was gone were very strange. Very strange. I wouldn't wish that on anybody.
If anyone chooses to comment, you don't have to tell me how sorry you are or anything. Carol was 28 when she died...she would have been 50 on May 20th. I miss her still, but life goes on, doesn't it? I passed the 28 year mark, and I almost felt guilty for outliving Carol. It felt like uncharted territory, being older than my oldest sister. I realize that these are illogical thing to feel, but when emotions are involved, logic often takes a coffee break. Grieving is a strange, strange cloak, and once you've been given it to wear, it is always a part of your wardrobe, and on some days, you take it out and try it on just to see if it still fits...it usually does. It's the one piece of clothing I don't think you ever outgrow.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
We lived in the country beside the little church my Dad pastored. One of Abe's most passionate hobbies was golfing, and one spring Dad turned our huge backyard into a pitch and putt golf course. He filled gopher holes along the fairways, dug nine holes and put a tin can in each one to catch the golf balls. He mowed the grass nice and close along the greens, and made a flag we could move from hole to hole so we could see where to aim. It was awesome!! My sister and I each had our own putter and a driver, and we'd golf all afternoon on a Saturday. I even got a hole-in-one on the longest hole one day! This was no easy feat...I'm not talking Miniature Golf here, but a true Par 3 Pitch 'n Putt. Like I said, it was a huge back yard.
One day, I was at the back of the yard, lining up for a good long shot towards the hole nearest the church. I hollered "Fore!!!" and gave the ball a mighty whack...just as a woman walked out of the side door of the church. My ball headed straight for her, hitting her in the temple; she crumpled like a limp towel to the ground. It happened so fast, there was nothing I could have done. I felt so guilty!! Apparently it took her a long time to recover from that injury. My line drive caused her head-aches for years afterwards. Oops.
Now that I think of it, I haven't golfed much since.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
When I was in grade school, once in awhile my dad would come into town, pick me up from school and take me to the Three Hills Inn Restaurant for lunch. I would always order a grilled cheese sandwich, and he would always order an open denver sandwich. We would eat our sandwiches and joke about things and drink our respective drinks, coffee for him and root beer for me. He always had me back to school in time for my next class.
These little meals together were casual, rare enough to be a treat, yet often enough to produce a feeling of "special" in my little girl heart. You see, I did not know if Dad did this with my other sisters. He never told me. As far as I knew, I was Dad's favorite daughter, the only one important enough to merit a lunch-time treat.
Years later I was talking with my mother, and I mentioned how special those dinners made me feel. Mom laughed. "I had to tell him to take you girls out now and then, he never would have thought of it. But he was always good to do it once I told him to."
The dinners weren't his idea? He took my other sisters, too? I had to change the subject, for I found that even though I was a grown-up, all of a sudden I felt like crying like a little girl.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
We had come into Vancouver from Langley to see Grapes of Wrath play at the Luv Affair. It was 1985 or so, and the Grapes were "the next big thing". Jon was old friends with the Hooper brothers from the Kelowna days, and I was excited to see them play. We parked about a block away from the space, and I was hopping to get in there. Jon pulled out a bottle of some sort of liquor, I don't remember what...."Want some?"
Oh, brother, what a nuisance. We were going to miss the band! I took a small swig, then passed it back. "Come on, Jon, lets GO! They will start any minute!"
"You go ahead. I want to drink for free out here instead of paying what they charge for drinks in there. I'll be there in a minute."
I left him at the car and ran into the club. The Grapes put on a good show, played all my favorite songs...but where was Jon? They were finishing the show and I realized that Jon was still nowhere to be seen! As they ripped into their encore (a hilarious version of "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat), Jon came stumbling in. He was tanked!! Gassed! He could hardly walk!! Even more incomprehensible to me, he had missed the entire show! I helped him up to the stage so he could say hi to his friends. Tom just started laughing at him, slapped him on the face, hard...and Jon just wobbled and smiled. "Thish is my frien', Tom." Tom thought it was the funniest thing, slapped him a couple of times just because Jon wasn't stopping him. Nice guy.
It was then that my dilemma hit me. Jon drove us there from Langley. We both had an 8 AM class next morning. Jon was too drunk to walk, let alone drive. I did not have my driver's license. I didn't know anyone in Vancouver. I began explaining all of this to Jon as we made our way to his car. I had to explain it a few times before he got it. I was NOT going to drive to Langley at 2:30 AM, an almost hour's drive on a big highway.
"Jon, do you have a friend near here? Can you direct me to a friend's house?" Once he understood that he had to navigate, I started up the car and began driving. Yikes! I kept playing over and over in my mind what I would say to the policeman who would probably pull me over, how I had to drive so Jon wouldn't kill us both. The trip took awhile because at every corner I had to ask Jon if this was where we turned, and then he'd have to think about it...so I would slow down. I was quite freaked out!
We made it to Jon's friend's house, probably 3 AM. I had to knock on the door of a stranger in the middle of the night, hoping it was the right house, hoping he actually liked Jon enough to let him in and not just slap him and laugh at him like his friend, Tom, at the show. Thankfully the guy was still up. I explained the predicament to him, and he agreed to let Jon sleep if off for a few hours. As soon as Jon hit the couch, he passed out.
Now what? Here I am with a complete stranger, watching our mutual friend sleep. It was awkward. I don't remember his name, but he made coffee and we sat up talking the whole night. I wish I could remember what we talked about. I'm sure at least part of the conversation revolved around the folly of drunkenness!
I shook Jon awake at 6:45 AM and made him drink a bunch of coffee. He drove us wearily back to Langley and we both made our 8 o'clock class. This would have been a great lesson for me, as I couldn't believe Jon had missed something so great as a concert for something as lame as alcohol...it would have been a great lesson if I had learned it. If you search through the archives of this blog, you will find many examples of me doing pretty much exactly the same thing. I guess instead of a lesson, it was foreshadowing....and I should have considered myself warned.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
I remember wishing I had a car...
It was probably 1984, and I was still an earnest young student at Trinity Western University. I helped put out the school newspaper, and was given the lucky task of interviewing Larry Norman at his upcoming show. Yippee!! I loved his music, and I couldn't wait to grill him with earnest young questions.
I caught a ride into Vancouver, almost an hour away, with my friend, Walter. The show was fabulous. Larry was touring with his younger brother, Charles. (He looked EXACTLY like he did in this picture, which was the only one I could find on the internet of him in those days. Did he hide them all? I don't know why he would, he looked hot, or at least I thought so.) Anyway...after the show I got to go backstage and interview Larry. I found I didn't really have to ask any questions. He just talked and talked and talked, roving from one subject to another, all of it good. He wandered off to talk to someone else, and I got talking with Charles. By now it was late, 1 or 2 in the morning maybe, and I could see Walter looking at his watch and glaring at me.
I remember the next few moments very clearly. Charles, who was quite shy, looked up from beneath his glorious nest of hair and asked, "Umm...do you want to go to McDonald's or something and get something to eat with me?"
Yes! Yes, I did!!! I was 18 years old, and all of a sudden I wanted to go to McDonald's very, very much. "Uh...I have no ride back to school. Ummm...just a sec!" I ran and pleaded with Walter to come along, but he would not. Walter is a very stubborn person. He wanted to go back to Langley at that very moment. I did not know what to do. I couldn't remember ever feeling more frustrated at not being able to drive. I gave Charles my regrets, and Walter dragged me out of there before we could say anything else about it.
In hindsight, I think I should have gone with Charles and risk being stranded. What a wimp, to not take a chance, to not grab the adventure before me, simply because I did not have a ride home. I am pleased to tell you that six years later, when another stranger chased me down and asked me to go for coffee, I didn't worry about the consequences or schedules, but instead said yes. Then I married him, and fifteen and a half years later, I'm still not sorry I did it! Perhaps I learned something from Charles after all...
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Back in 1981, I was still not allowed to go to movie theatres, so when a movie was shown on television, it was a really big deal for me. They had been showing ads for "The Exorcist" for weeks. Mom kept clucking her tongue. I expressed no interest in watching the movie, though I secretly wanted to. It didn't look possible to watch it anyway, as I was going to be helping a friend babysit that night.
Mom drove into Raychelle's driveway. "Don't watch that horrible movie."
"OK, Mom, no problem."
She drove off and I ran into the house. Raychelle met me at the door. "Hurry!! I put the kids to bed already, and 'The Exorcist' is just about to start! Come on!!"
This is where I had a decision to make. This is the moment where I had to choose whether to obey my mother or to disobey her. I didn't even think twice. "Awesome! Is there popcorn?"
We sat in that farmhouse, side by side on the couch, and watched that movie in the deep shadows of the living room. I was terrified as the story unfolded. We shared a blanket, both becoming seriously freaked out. We had never seen anything like it, and we were all alone in a creaky old farmhouse in the dark. My mother's advice suddenly seemed like good advice, and I wished I had taken it, but it was too late.
As soon as the movie was over, Raychelle and I turned on every light in the house and sat in the kitchen waiting for her family to come home. We sat there for hours.
Monday, April 17, 2006
I remember starting to smoke...
I had tried a puff or two of other people's cigarette's when I was in High School, but I had never bought my own pack. To me, the level of your addiction was always related to whether you paid for the goods or not. I was only smoking vicariously through other people's habits...
...until I got back from that drama tour I wrote about in the previous entry. I had a summer job lined up, selling T-shirts outside of Expo 86 in Vancouver. I had a roommate and we had a place to live, a little travel trailer in the backyard of a Salvation Army preacher. And I no longer had any reason not to smoke, since I no longer counted as valid anything I'd been taught about behavior and morality.
The first pack of cigarettes I bought myself was More Menthol's. I figured they'd look good with my red fingernail polish. (It is all about looking good, isn't it?) I LOVED how they looked. I'd smoke while I walked to work, admiring myself in shop windows as I passed by. I'd smoke while I drank cups of coffee, learning to blow smoke rings and French inhale. I would smoke at the Luv Affair while I danced. I smoked as I waited for the bus. I loved smoking!
It didn't take long to become addicted all on my own, without any of my friends to blame it on or bum smokes from. Of course, back in 1986, you could buy a pack of smokes for $1.50 at the cheap smoke shop. I soon switched from More's to Peter Stuyvesant's, a Dutch cigarette, when I could find them...and if I couldn't find them, Player's would do in a pinch. I pretty much smoked non-stop for at least four years after that.
Monday, April 10, 2006
I was a second-year college student at the Christian school, Trinity Western University. My major was Fine Arts, concentrating on Drama, minoring in English. I had joined the little drama troupe, Spectra, a five-person team that performed sketches and little plays. This was a great thing for me, really challenging but not beyond my abilities. I enjoyed being a part of it. To be honest, I had quite a crush on Dirk (yes, that was his name), but he never returned my affections. Oh well.
Anyway, at the end of the school year, we had a three-week tour booked all down the West Coast to California and back again, playing at churches to represent the school. The evening would consist of about half an hour of sketches, then one of us would give our testimony (for the unchurched among my readers, this means my little story of what God had done for me lately), and then the school staff member would give a plug for the school. We each took turns giving our testimony, one per night.
I'm not sure where on the journey this exactly happened. I was sitting in the back seat of the van beside Dirk, watching the highway roll by. The staff member called back from the front of the van, "Paula, it's your turn to give your testimony tonight." I was quiet for awhile as I thought about this. What had God done for me lately? What had He impressed on my heart? What difference was He making in my life? I couldn't think of a single thing. I watched Dirk watching the road roll by. He was so beautiful, so unattainable.
"Celestina?" I called up to her, "I can't give my testimony tonight. God hasn't done a bloody thing for me, and I don't want to lie to anybody."
It was very quiet in the van after that. Everybody used most of their energy to not look at me. I could feel them not looking at me. Dirk quietly asked if I was OK, and I said "yes". Inside, though, it felt like I had just jumped off of a very high bridge. I was realizing that the whole foundation on which my young life had been built thus far was, at worst, meaningless to me, or at best, unfathomable. All of a sudden my future was completely blank, wide open...empty.
Everyone kept me at arm's length for the rest of the trip. I performed my bits in the sketches, but I wasn't asked again to give my testimony.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The year, 1972 or -73. My two older sisters would once in a rare while be allowed to spend their money on records IF it wasn't rock and roll music. Simon and Garfunkel were allowed, but just barely.
I'm not sure where my mother or other sisters were during this memory. Perhaps they were out in the garden or cooking in the kitchen....but I remember having the living room all to my eight-year-old self. I remember the scratchy brown chesterfield and the knubbly green carpet. I remember taking Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits out of it's white paper and carefully placing it on the record player, then moving the heavy arm over and gently placing it on the black vinyl.
My favorite side was Side 1. They mentioned Jesus in "Mrs. Robinson" for starters, they felt groovy...they sang about silence having a sound. But the song that really got me was "I am a Rock". I would sit there, cross-legged on the floor with the record jacket on my lap, and sing that song with all my childish heart. When the song was over, I'd lift the needle arm and put it back at the beginning of the track and listen to it again, and again, and again...
I was a year younger than everyone else in my class at school, and I didn't fit in there very well. This song made me feel strong inside, I think. I read the lyrics now and they almost make me laugh. They read like bad junior high poetry! But I'm glad that song was there for me when I was a lonely little girl.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
I remember skipping school in Grade 11...
As far as I can remember, this is the only year in school that I skipped classes, 1981/82. I blame it on our Math teacher...he was horrible. Still, kids, don't skip school!
(There, I got the required Public Service Announcement out of the way)
My friends and I would go down to Ming's, the local Chinese restaurant. If one of us had enough money, we'd order a big, fat egg roll and drench it in plum sauce. Otherwise we'd just hang out in the pinball room. My favorite game was Gorgar. If you started racking up a high score, the big red demon would speak to you!! "Gorgar getting angry!" and if you were playing really well, you heard "Gorgar hate you!!" When the ball inevitably went down for the last time, it was "Gorgar beat you!". Awesome...
I would occasionally save a quarter for the jukebox. I think most of the music was Led Zeppelin or April Wine, but my favorite song to play was "Rock Lobster" by the B-52's. You have to understand that due to my sequestered upbringing, I had no knowledge of bands, none. All I knew was, that song made everybody else in the place angry, and it made me want to dance. That's all I knew. I played it whenever I could.
Do you think as much as I enjoyed making Gorgar curse me, I also enjoyed making my friends curse me? "Who put on this crappy song?", or "I hate this, it isn't even MUSIC!" they'd yell. Is that why I liked it? Have I allowed other people's opinions to shape me in some reverse way? That's almost a disturbing thought--me, who has practically based my identity on not caring what people think about me, doing exactly the opposite of the status quo. If I truly didn't care what people thought about me, I wouldn't care if what I did impressed them OR bothered them. I'd be indifferent, unaware...neutral.
I think I'm more indifferent now than I used to be. But I'm only human...
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
It was a little coffee shop just off the main drag on Robson Street in Vancouver. The year, somewhere around 1986 or 87. (My memory is VERY unreliable from this time!) All I know is, I'd stay out dancing and partying til late, late, late. The 12 noon blast from the BC Hydro building would wake me up. I'd make myself presentable, and head straight for the Zen to meet the tribe. We'd sit there drinking coffee for hours, creating all sorts of rituals around the drinking of the cup.
I'd pour in two creamers and NEVER use a spoon. We all decided that it was much prettier to watch the cream mingle with the coffee naturally, without help of stirring. If you really ponder the swirling cream, you can't help but start thinking of the universe and it's constant turning...I'd almost get dizzy at the thought of it.
We'd have contests to see who could flip an un-opened creamer the most times without making a mistake. If you flipped it with just the right amount of force, it would make a complete rotation and land upright, ready to be flipped again. My personal record was in the high fifties, this after hours of practice.
There we'd sit, tattooed, dread-locked, leather-clad youngsters--pondering our cream swirling in our coffee. We'd discuss the art work on the walls, we'd make plans for outings, we'd debate the meaning of life...all very bohemian, really. The owner of the cafe never seemed to mind us sitting there, spending only a dollar or two, taking up five or six tables. He must not have been very busy. I don't recall ever thanking him for that. We were all so self-absorbed, it probably never entered our minds.
To this day, I refuse to use a spoon to stir my coffee.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The band, D.O.A., was shooting a music video at the Town Pump, and the call had gone out to their friends and associates to come be the crowd for the shoot that day. My friends and I got all punked out, too fun a chance to miss!
The cameras were all set up, and we were told how it was going to go: the band would pretend to play on stage, we'd jump around like maniacs, Gene Kiniski would run in with a briefcase (he was representing the corporate pigs, I guess!) and start causing mayhem, and then Joey would jump off stage and kick the crap out of Gene. Sounds great!
The cameras began rolling and we began jumping around to the music. Gene ran in, and I was in shock. I'd heard of the wrestling legend before, of course, but he was so BIG! He saw my dumbfounded look and headed straight for me, wrapped his big mitts around my neck, and then proceeded to choke me, cartoon-style. The director made him choke me a couple of times so they could get a good shot of it. Gene was awesome! As soon as the cameras would take a break, he'd laugh and say "You look like you are havin' fun!", but as soon as the director would yell "Action", he'd turn into this wild-eyed madman and go straight for my throat!
I've watched the video a few times, and I don't think that shot made it. Too bad. I'd like to watch my head shaking back and forth as Mr. Gene Kiniski throttles me. I think it would be good for those days when I'm getting too high an opinion of myself...might take me down a peg or two to see what a wimp I really am!
Monday, March 13, 2006
I remember sleeping over at my Grandma's house...
Whenever we would make the trip to Calgary, we would sleep over at my Grandma B.'s house. She had a colour TV! She had a remote control! She had cable! We were in television-watching heaven. Whenever we wanted, we could go downstairs to her freezer and get a fudgecicle...she was always stocked up, and never said "No".
This memory centers around where I slept, though, in the basement. She would make up a bed on the couch down there, with the blankets like a hot dog bun, and me the hot dog. I'd pull the blankets over me and stare at the wallpaper. It was covered with cowboy scenes, western stuff...there were teepees, Indians, horses, lassoes. Where does one get this wallpaper? I'd love some wallpaper like that now! Sleeping down there, I often had dreams of gun-fights and sunsets...and I was always the hero, saving someone, usually my little sister, from the dastardly black-hatted cowboy. Yessir, I'd sure like some of that magic wallpaper in my house now.
Monday, March 06, 2006
It was a sunny Vancouver day, and there was an outdoor music festival at Stanley Park. I arrived and saw a couple I'd met a few days earlier on a blanket in a good spot, and they called me over. They had been there for awhile already, and were quite drunk. They offered me the vodka bottle, very generous of them, I thought! We were being loud and belligerent, but so was everybody. It didn't seem like we were sticking out too much. At one point, the guy picked up an empty jar and threw up into it...I was struck by how casually he did this. Then I was struck by how clear the liquid was. And then he shrugged and said, "No point in wasting good booze!" and proceeded to drink...well...you know. The stuff in the jar. I had never seen anything so punk rock in my whole life!
His girlfriend just hit him, then grabbed my hand. "Come on, I gotta go to the bathroom." We stumbled our way through the crowds towards the Women's Washroom. There was a huge line snaking out of the door and around the corner. "Forget this, let's use the Guy's can," she said as she pulled me along. We burst through the door, and I remember all the surprised faces of the men at their business. "Don't mind us! There's a line-up a mile long over at the girl's can..." She was so confident!! Holy cow! I pretended to swagger along with her, but I was actually embarrassed.
There have been times in my life where I have experienced that strange feeling of attraction and repulsion mixing like oil and vinegar, like a lava lamp. This was one of those times. The whole memory is so surreal, like a scene out of "Sid and Nancy"... I didn't see that couple much after that. They kind of faded out of my realm of reality, but they reign in my mind as the punk rock King and Queen. I never quite managed to attain that level of separation from my morals, no matter how hard I tried.
Monday, February 27, 2006
At the time, I lived in an apartment building right in the downtown core of Vancouver. It must have been 10:30 or 11 at night, when I was walking home from a friend's place, dressed in ugly grey sweatpants and a t-shirt, real casual. I was tired and a bit cranky, don't remember why.
As I stood on the corner waiting for the light to change so I could cross the street and go home, a car drove by sloooowwwwlllly. The window lowered, and the man inside called out. "How much?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing! I get that a woman standing by herself at dark in the downtown core is probably "working", but in the area I was in, the girls dressed UP, wore furs, expensive boots, mile-thick make-up. I was in sweatpants and sneakers, for goodness sake! My hair was unkempt, I had no make-up on, and I was CRANKY!!!
"Buddy, you have GOT to be kidding. If I was actually working this street, which I'm not, you would not be able to afford me."
The window rolled back up and the car drove off as the light changed. I shook my head and crossed the street. I mean, I was in sweatpants! Sheesh.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
I was probably 11 or 12, and our family was visiting the Red Deer Exhibition. There were fairway rides, carnival games, a little rodeo, and a show in the evening. It was quite an outing for us, and my little sister and I were very excited!
I remember sitting on the grass in the sunshine eating the lunch that Mom packed so we wouldn't have to buy food. I remember scouring the area with my sister to get pop cans and beer cans so we could get the money later. I remember running into Tommy Hunter on the midway and asking for his autograph, secretly shocked because he was drinking a beer! (Hadn't I seen him singing hymns on his TV show? How could he sing gospel and drink beer? I was confused.)
I also remember not having any money to go on the rides. Mom gave us permission to go look at the midway, but no money for ride tickets...our family just couldn't afford it. I don't think us kids felt too resentful, but we couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed. At least we were allowed to roam--we were thankful for that.
As we strolled along, a carnie called out to us. "Hey, girls, come ride the Tilt-a-Whirl!"
I felt like such a hick. "We don't have any money."
He paused a second, then hollered out to us, "Aw, come on, anyway...I can't run the ride unless I have two more people."
Sis and I looked at each other. Did he mean for free, or were we going to have to pay? I felt very uncertain. "Come ON!!" he hollered. So we jumped on the ride, hoping we wouldn't have to bring our parents over later to pay for our foolishness. The ride was exciting, we screamed our heads off, and then it was over. He waved to us as we left...and that was it! He hadn't asked for tickets! It really was free!
I still wondered about the incident, so when we went running back to Mom to tell her all about it, I asked her if it was right to take the free ride. I'll never forget her answer. "Honey, if someone gives you a gift, you don't make them feel bad for giving it. You smile and take it, and say thank you very much." Spoken like a true pastor's wife!
I would be reading a book, and some character in the book would say "We don't accept charity!" and I just wouldn't understand how they could be so cruel and proud and thoughtless. It never seemed like a positive quality to me after that lesson from Mom.