Monday, August 27, 2012

Wake (Part III)

I'm Awake Now

Chuck strolled down the sun-drenched sidewalk during the bright August late afternoon. His mind was replaying his day. He felt pretty good. He had to fast all day prior to having his blood drawn for some tests his doctor had ordered, but it never crossed his mind. Not having a lunch break at work kept him focused. He had worked with a greater purpose than usual and was efficient beyond what he had ever deemed necessary. He was inspired by the idea of leaving work a little early and getting over to northwest to wander around and enjoy the neighborhood. It had been a quiet and determined Friday that would hopefully end with some fun.

That night Team Torgo was set to congregate at the Gypsy for drinks and to plan about how to go about finding a sub for The Orange for the state wide tournament in September. He would not be available. The dream was to have Gordy join us, but the prevailing leader in the clubhouse seemed to be the borrowing of the overly intense and often angry Robo Bowler, but who would be the one to approach him?

Chuck massaged the bandage wrapped too tightly around his right arm and turned into Escape from New York Pizza. A slice of pizza would be a perfect springboard into the evening. He could head over to Music Millennium and check on the latest releases before getting down to the Gypsy and grabbing a drink or two ahead of everyone else’s post work arrival.

The brightness of the sun had him blinded for a moment as he walked into the pizza place. Once he gathered his senses, he looked to the counter to his left and scanned the options for slices. He always looked at each option carefully despite always ordering either a slice of cheese or a slice of pepperoni.

“May I help you?” a voice asked him as he focused on the different flavors of pizza in front of him.

“Um, yeah,” he hesitated, and looked around and noticed that he was the only customer; “I think I’ll go big and get a slice of the pepperoni and a medium soda.”

“Chuck? Hey, it’s been forever!”

“Sandy!” he realized too slowly.

“Oh, I forgot that you said that you’d call me by that name,” she said, as she rolled her eyes. “Did you donate blood today?” she asked, indicating the bandage on his arm.

“Sort of,” Chuck looked at his arm as he responded. He noticed that the hair on his arm was standing up. “It has been a long time. “I haven’t seen or heard of you all summer. What’s been going on?” Chuck couldn’t help but notice that Sandray looked better than he’d remembered.

“It’s been a rough summer, to be honest. Jason and I broke up just as I lost my receptionist job,” she told him over her shoulder as she placed a slice of pepperoni pizza into the oven. “I’ve had to find a new apartment and I didn’t have any income,” she added and slammed the oven door with a crash.

“Oh, no!”

“Yeah, no fun, but you don’t need to hear about it,” she smiled and blew her dangling dark brown bangs up with a quick blow from her lips. She walked around the counter and faced Chuck who was bouncing an empty plastic red cup against the palm of his hand. “What have you been up to?”

“Bowling and working, mainly,” he mumbled, realizing that there’s no way he can explain that for him he has had an adventurous and crazy summer, because it was full of moments that are more about running inside jokes that are not based in actual concrete events. His social life would be completely empty if he didn’t have his close friends who were willing to hang out with him. This suddenly depressed him. He couldn’t shake the realization that he was lonely and seeing the happily married, but still flirty Melissa at bowling every Sunday evening exacerbated his feelings of always being the third or fifth or seventh wheel when he was out and about trying to be a normal social person.

“What’s wrong? Bowling sounds fun. Are you in a league?” she encouraged.

“Yes, we just finished it in first place and now we’re going to move on for a state tournament,” he tried to sound enthusiastic, but felt like he was bragging about something that meant so little to him. The bowling was about being wacky and hanging out. He and the guys didn’t particularly care about the tournament. In fact, they were all dreading it, because the excitement of the league had run its course by the end of July.

“Your pizza!” shouted Sandray as she lightly touched his arm and the spun around back toward the pizza oven. She expertly used the paddle to toss his slice onto a whicker basket with a white piece of wax paper sitting on it.

Chuck wandered back to a table not far from the counter and she brought the slice out and set it down and joined him at the table. He couldn’t believe how much he had missed her smile. He could feel his heart racing and remembered that he had always tried to find a way to be alone with her, but it had only happened for a few minutes once before. This is what he had wanted to happen for the last year and he wasn’t sure what to do. He looked down at the pizza, but didn’t want to eat it. He didn’t want to make his inevitable mess in front of her. Instead he fiddled with his cup of orange soda and twirled it around nervously.

“How are Gary and Amanda doing? I’ve been meaning to stop by and visit,” she broke the awkward silence.

“Well, they aren’t doing well. Amanda has moved out. It’s been pretty rough.” Chuck explained and then added, “but you know how that goes,” realizing that she too had been through a recent break up. He didn’t know what to do with this information. He was personally glad to know that Jason was out of her life, but he didn’t know what she saw in him either. She seemed happier and looked brighter than he had seen her when she was with Jason.

“Hi, I was hoping to order some pizza,” a guy interrupted from behind Sandray. She quickly stood up and slid back behind the counter while rubbing her hands together anxiously into her apron. Chuck hadn’t noticed that anyone had come in. He took a couple of quick bites from his pizza and slurped down a drink of fizzy orange soda. He over poured and some of the sticky beverage slipped around the cup and his mouth and down the sides of his cheeks. He sheepishly grabbed a couple of napkins and wiped his face as quickly as possible, hoping that Sandray hadn’t seen him. He was breathing too fast and a surge of energy ran through him, causing him to vibrate. He couldn’t think of what to do. With his old social circle breaking apart and collapsing, he realized that this could be the last time he would ever see Sandray again.

A line began to form at the counter and another employee appeared from the back to help Sandy out. The sounds that had seemed absent before had all returned. The chatter of conversation and clanking plates and pans and the oven door opening and closing, along with the faint sound of Sonic Youth’s “Tunic” buzzing from a couple of speakers above. Chuck half-heartedly took a couple of more bites from his pizza and fiddled with the latest culture weekly, staring at the upcoming shows, but not really reading them. He was killing time, trying to find a moment when he could try to talk with her, but was losing patience. He could always come back in a week or so and try again. Maybe then he could have a plan and could ask her out.

With that he grabbed his stuff and tossed his napkin pile and half-eaten slice and tossed them into the trash, while placing the ice filled cup and basket into the brown bus tub. He slowly walked over to the few people still lingering around the counter and waved to catch Sandray’s attention.

“It was good to see you Chuck,” she smiled and nodded, before turning her attention back to the woman who was asking about ordering for her son’s baseball team’s pizza party.

Chuck waved in return and tried to force a smile through his clenched jaw. She did not see it. He lowered his head and stepped out onto the busy sidewalk. He dodged a couple of fast walking people and spun around and stopped on the far side of the walkway directly outside the pizza place. He knew this was a mistake. He needed to say more. He needed to at least try. With his luck, he would never see her again and would spend every Friday for the rest of his life hoping that Sandray would finally be back behind that counter to take his order. He walked back inside. Sandy and her co-worker both had their backs to the counter making a couple of fresh pizzas and one man was waiting to place an order.

“I’ll be right with you sir,” she said without looking up. She turned and faced the man waiting, but was looking at Chuck with her mouth open and her eyes looking curious. It felt to Chuck that this man’s order took forever as he stared at Sandy intently trying to be as patient as possible for the transaction to end. Finally, the man stepped aside and reached for his beverage cup, and Chuck jumped in front of Sandy.

“What brings you back?”

“Um, I wanted to ask you something,” his resolve immediately began to crumble as all of his hopes with her were now going to be decided one way or another. He went silent. The smile and look of expectation on her face melted him. She was amazing. She had been struggling and she still managed to make him feel good every time he was in the same room as her. Her presence had always lingered with him. He always felt boosted with an added enthusiasm for several days after simply seeing her in passing. “I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime. If you like to grab some coffee and catch up.”

Chuck saw a flush of red immediately fill Sandray’s cheeks. He had embarrassed her in front of an unsuspecting public. He was convinced that she would say no. That she would be nice about it, but would now have to let him off easy. He knew how little of a prize he was.

“I’d love to Chuck! There’s nothing else I’d rather do!” she smiled brightly and began writing onto an order pad. “Here’s my number. Call me any time!” she added with excited enthusiasm. A guy that had come in behind this scene patted Chuck on the shoulder and said “Nice work, brother,” as Chuck reached for the sheet of paper.

“I’ll call you this weekend!” he shouted a lot louder than he had planned and stepped back out into the sunshine. He took a long slow deep breath in and exhaled for nearly an entire minute. Her electricity was inside of him. He walked deliberately and as calmly as he could across the street on his way to the record store. He couldn’t wait to join his friends.

Find Part I here
Find Part II here

Wake (Part II)

Deep Black

Chuck and the Orange sat down on the curved bench changing their shoes. They had both just turned 23 and decided to gather a few of their friends and join a summer bowling league. This was week one. If this May was a sign, then this summer might be a hot one. Chuck and Ryan, or as he had become known that week: the Orange, had grown up doing junior leagues as kids and thought it might be fun to do a short twelve week league for some fun. It was good for Chuck to get away from the increasingly suffocating scene of his normal routine, which often included Sandray and Jason on the periphery of his social life. It was too much for him to take. He needed to escape, in order to find a way to have fun and maybe meet new people. He had always loved bowling and with Harrison, D and Chris on the team, it looked to be a promising idea.

The league was mostly made up of older people, which surprised everyone at first. Gordy, a tall fat old man with huge bags under his eyes and a giant cigar dangling from his lips pounded by this rookie team and grumbled incoherently to himself as he carried two black bowling balls upright by the finger holes to his team’s appointed lane. Harrison overheard him grumble something again and then begin to wheeze violently, which caught the attention of everyone else. No one was sure if they needed to run over and prepare to enact CPR, or if things would settle down. It turned out that he was laughing and all was okay.

Everyone else having tightened their bowling shoes with the 1980s Velcro straps wandered off to buy several pitchers of beer for the first game, leaving Chuck to try and figure out how to enter in each player’s names onto the electronic scorekeeping system. The last time he had bowled in the small town he grew up in, scorekeeping was still done by hand. He was not sure what to make of this. Little by little the names went in. They had already decided on the team name and the order they would bowl in. He typed in TORGO for the team name. Torgo is the stumbling bumbling bellhop from the terrible MST 3K movie “Manos: the Hands of Fate.” Torgo looked like he had pillows shoved down his pants and stuttered odd things about “the master” as he bounded slowly through life. The Orange would be the lead off man, he requested to be Chin Ho or Wo Fat from Hawaii Five-O, but The Orange is the name he got for wearing an orange shirt one day – the same day we saw a man standing in a decommissioned telephone booth off of 39th Avenue with an orange crate placed over his head. D was an easy type in for the second slot. Harrison was often known as the Iron Fist dating back to a threat he made against Ox who had made him miss his chance to talk with the ravishing Julie Woo earlier that year so Chuck typed “The Fist.” He looked around and saw that Chris had come back from the bar or bathroom or somewhere and was commenting about the intense smell of Pine Sol that was making his eyes water.

“What do you want to be tonight?” Chuck asked Chris. He had only recently met him, as he was a friend of the Orange’s from college.

“How about ‘Doug E. Fresh?” responded Chris, as everyone else filtered in around the scorer’s desk.

“Perfect.” Chuck replied, as he typed in “Dougie.”

Chuck was set to be the anchor and he hadn’t thought of a name for himself. He looked over at Gordy in the adjacent lane, who was once again wheezing loudly. The alley had opened up the lanes for practice bowling and one of Gordy’s teammates had just missed a spare shot. Gordy shouted out “I’ll give you a T for Trying” and launched into another extended death defying throat clearing gasp for life. Chuck typed in “Gordo.” He glanced up at the screen above the lanes. Team Torgo was set to bowl against Steve, Mandy, Bill, Wendy and Tom from the Mike’s Café team.

Chuck stood up and took in the surroundings and felt strangely energized by the horrifically loud crashing of pins coming from all sides. It’s no wonder everyone that works at bowling alleys wear hearing aids. He glanced back at his new hero Gordy and started contemplating the idea of taking up cigar smoking. His teammates were all similar to him, but not as gregarious, or huge or loud. They looked to be bowling against a Filipino family going off as Team El Tigre. It would’ve taken at least three of their teammates to measure up to the sheer girth that was Gordy’s mid section. In the other adjacent lanes to their right, Chuck watched as a couple walked up to the lanes. They looked to be a married couple maybe in their early 30s, both of them clad in blue jeans and matching T-shirts. They were introduced to their much older teammates and began to get themselves ready. Chuck watched as someone typed Melissa up on the screen. He didn’t pay any attention to her husband’s name. He stood there with his mouth open and all the silly chatter and odd running commentaries from his teammates faded away. Melissa had shapes that Chuck had never seen in person before. It seemed as if all of her assets were always on the verge of bursting free and he silently rooted for them to do so. Her jeans were skin tight and starting to split just underneath her shapely backside. Her white T-shirt hugged her waist and was stretched beyond its means around her chest.

Chuck never did bowl a practice ball, as he watched Melissa without ever averting his gaze. He watched her roll her ball and it made him nervous and self conscious.

“There’s a hunger inside you!” Harrison screamed, as he slapped Chuck hard across the back. “Are you fired up? I’m fired up!” He shouted and they began a hand bleeding series of hand slaps over and over as the Fist repeated his fired up mantra.

Everything became a blur for Chuck and he began to sweat and become nauseous. He frantically rolled his first ball and scored a messy strike. He looked back over at Melissa who was leaning over and talking to her husband who was sitting on the bench framing their two lanes. Chuck felt like he was sweating pure testosterone, as he was struck with pure lust.

Another crashing strike flashed before Chuck’s eyes, as he heard a loud turkey call gobble from behind, along with shouts of “Annie Oakley” and “Blood in the water” all from his teammates. Chuck had opened with five straight strikes and all the shouting was gaining the attention of the other teams. Chuck turned around, essentially oblivious of what was happening. He saw that Melissa was smiling at him and he lost himself into a daydream of her running over to him and smothering him with kisses. He could feel saliva pooling up inside his mouth as he walked toward the back of the lanes high-fiving people all along the way including an intricate specialized celebratory greeting with D. He had lost the ability to swallow.

In the sixth frame, the rest of the team was riding the momentum. All four of them had rolled powerful strikes and it was up to Chuck to score a perfect star frame for the team and a sixth straight to start the league. He had never bowled six straight strikes before. He still had not. This time, he left the five & eight pins in the middle and quickly rolled a simple spare. As he walked off the lane, Melissa applauded his start and high fived him as he went by. Her husband was in the back buying some beer. Chuck stomped by his teammates and shrugged off their comments about dropping the mashed potatoes and slipping on spilled gravy and how there had been too much butter on the biscuits. He threw his shoes off and went outside into the warm dry air after a hot day. The evening had started to cool the edge off a touch, but it was still just as warm outside as it was inside the stuffy old bowling alley. He sat down against the side of the building, beneath the tiled figures of people-like shapes purportedly heading toward the entrance into the alley. He took a few deep breaths watched the traffic streak by and felt himself calming down a bit – at least enough to regain some composure.

After returning to the fray, Chuck managed to finish the two and a half remaining games without having to leave again, but was still driven to distraction by the presence of Melissa nearby. Team Torgo was on fire and Chuck led the way with all three games coming in above 200, easily the best bowling of his life. The real Gordy even wheezed his approval for the new Gordo.

Chuck felt his senses returning to him after he had watched Melissa walk out the door with her husband and with his friend’s and teammates all wandering around trying to decide what to do next. They had all piled uncomfortably into Chuck’s car, so they all had to agree about what to do. They’d all decided to grab a bite to eat at Sir Loin’s off of Sandy Boulevard, but there would have to be stops at bank machines and convenience stores for smokes and such.

Chuck turned the ignition and “Deep Black” by the Smithereens was still playing from the ride over.

“Deep black jealousy

Every time you look at me”

These were the first words they all heard and Chuck turned the volume way down.

By the time they reached their third brand of bank, it was Chuck’s turn to grab some cash. He stepped out and wandered up toward the ATM with his head down. He knew someone was getting cash ahead of him, so he wanted to look and act as harmless and possible. What he was soon to realize is that this person was Melissa from bowling. She smiled when she recognized him as well.

“Hey, fancy meeting you here!” she smiled. “Great bowling tonight!” She glanced over his shoulder and could see his teammates all standing around outside his ’83 Ford Ltd. Smoking cigarettes and attempting to figure out if Sir Loin would be open and if so, what exactly what we would find inside. She waved to them.

“Thanks, it was quite a surprise,” he replied, embarrassed.

She touched his forearm as she said that she looked forward to seeing him next week and trotted off to her car. Chuck watched her bounce all the way there in the dim twilight. She waved again as she sped off out of the bank’s parking lot. His teammates all watching her leave as well.

Chuck turned to the ATM and stuck his bank card inside the slot. It asked for his pin number and despite having had the exact same account since his mom had helped him sign up for a checking account when he was in the 8th grade, he could not think of what it was. He typed in the first thing he thought of. He tried another when that failed. He began to sweat again and attempted another set of numbers with futility after the machine had spit his card back out. This time it did not return his card. His three strikes were used up. He was now on record as a man trying to steal from his own account.

Melissa had wiped his mind clean.

Part I can be read here
Part III can be read here

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wake (Part I)

You Were Always More Than A Trick To Me, Ray

“I’ll walk you home!” he blurted with too much enthusiasm.
“Oh, okay, that would be great,” Sandray responded with a small smile.

Gary patted him on the back and gave him a creepy squeeze on the shoulder. He knew that this was Chuck’s big moment. Chuck had a serious thing for Sandray, but she was still with Jason - the dreaded Jason. No one could understand why she was with him. He was annoyingly self righteous and always a downer.

“Be safe out there,” Amanda added as she stepped out of the room. She was done, like that, for the night.

All of the goodbyes had been said and he was now alone with her for the first time. He could feel himself tense up, not just from oncoming nerves, but from the cold wind that blew in through the lobby from outside.

The night had gone better than he could’ve ever imagined. Not only did Sandray show up, but Jason had bailed early. Oh, he was a prize. He showed up after everyone had built up into a festive mood. Christmas lights hung from the frame of the window and around the tiny little tree standing near the front door. Candles, otherwise, lit the room. Gary’s sister had brought along loads of spirits with her and some of Gary and Chuck’s workmates had dropped by for the party. All Jason could muster upon his arrival was putting his skateboard in everyone’s way and going on a diatribe against those who drink alcohol and the hypocrisy of the Christmas holiday season. He ranted and raved about how there had been a low turnout at the rally he had attended that night, before he finally left early because he didn’t want to expose himself anymore to our party. Sandray made a small appeal to him to stay and they disappeared in the hallway for a few minutes, but she eventually returned without him. We were all glad to see him go. Jason had strong beliefs, which was fine with all of us, but it was more the way he went about sharing them that always managed to clear rooms.

“Tell me about your name,” Chuck urged.

“Sandray?” Oh, it’s an Americanized Gaelic name, or so I’m told. I never liked it. I don’t know what it means, if anything and I was always called a ‘Sand Ray’ in school growing up,” she laughed nervously, as the wind chill dropped from a sudden gust. “You know, like a Manta Ray? That’s why I go by ‘Ray’ – which is also what everyone called me growing up. It sucks, because it’s a man’s name, but I just gave up. I don’t know what my parents were thinking. My sister’s name is Carrie. I could never win.”

“I like it,” he found himself responding with tears lining his eyes. It must’ve been because of the wind. “How about I call you ‘Sandy’?”

“Thanks, that’s very nice, but that version has never stuck,” she allowed, before they fell into silence again on the empty downtown streets at 3 or so in the morning.

Though he hadn’t known what the night would entail on his way over, he could sense that Gary and Amanda had been building him up for ‘Ray.’ They knew how much he liked her, but he had given up on her the moment he found out that she was with Jason. Not only were they dating, but they were living together. Yet, there he had been, sitting on the floor cross-legged by the Christmas tree distracted between the work conversation of Rick, Gary and Chris to his left and the one between Amanda, Cindy and Ray to his right. This both thrilled him and made him extremely paranoid. He was doing his best to slack it off and be his general silly self-deprecating self and relaxed and to pretend that he was involved with the crazy work story nonsense going on, but Ray kept looking at him every time his name was mentioned in a story from the women to his right.

“How long have you known Gary?” she asked him with her shoulders hiked up and her hands buried deep in her coat pockets.

“Oh, forever. Since grade school,” Chuck shrugged with a roll of the eyes. He caught her for a moment out of the corner of his eye and marveled at how pretty she looked all bundled up in her dark navy blue coat and the big yarn hat pulled over her ears with her rosy cheeks peaking out over the matching hand-woven scarf wrapped over the bottom half of her face. It was then that he realized that he felt really comfortable with this girl. This was a rarity indeed, but there was something about her that put him at ease. He actually felt a rare twinge of confidence.

“That’s really cool,” she acknowledged and took a deep breath as she shivered from another breeze. “I’ve never been friends with anyone for that long. Amanda was telling me how loyal you are. I admire that.”

Amanda had too. In a strange moment, Chuck had heard her telling Ray about him and his loyalty and how genuine and nice he was, before leaning in from across the floor and patting a kiss on his unsuspecting lips. This caught him off guard and drew him reluctantly into the ladies’ conversation, though the work stories had suddenly taken on a renewed interest for him.

“Guess I’m like a dog,” he responded sheepishly. He wanted to tell her how he had been feeling about her over the last couple of months, since first meeting her. How does one encourage someone to dump their significant other?

They reached the outside entrance to her building a few blocks from where they had started their journey and he froze up, not sure what to do or say in this situation. This was the first time he had been alone with her and all he could manage was small talk. He had a dislike of small talk.

“Do you mind coming in with me? This place scares me,” she asked. She was right to be scared. He had never stepped foot into that building because it was so sketchy. He had known someone who also lived there and they would always meet up someplace neutral in order to avoid being inside that place.

She led the way as they walked swiftly through the dingy hallway, up a few stairs and to her apartment door.

“Well, here you are…” he drifted off, still hating small talk, but extremely guilty of it.

“Yeah, thank you for escorting me.” She smiled to him and then fumbled with a set of keys in her gloved hand.

The doorknob rattled from the other side of her apartment door and opened quickly. It was Jason and his grating voice greeting them before Chuck had had a chance to steel himself against his irritating racket.

“Hey, you’re finally home!” he grinned at her. She stood up on her toes and put her arms around his shoulders and gave Jason a kiss on the cheek. She took her place inside the doorway next to him so that they were both facing Chuck from inside their apartment. Chuck was still standing sideways. Ray was glowing. Her eyes were lit up, which was one of those things that he liked about her so much. She looked electric.

“I’ve always liked you Chuck; thanks for bringing her home safely,” Jason said and reached out to shake his hand like a father talking to his teenage daughter’s latest suitor. Chuck suddenly remembered the remnants of one of Jason’s previous rants about how the tradition of shaking hands is somehow tied with fascism.

“Fantastic!” Chuck mumbled sarcastically, while backing away down the hall and ignoring the outreached hand. He added a “Merry Christmas” for Jason’s benefit. He noticed Sandy mouth a Christmas greeting silently in return as the door closed.

Chuck turned and braced himself for the long walk to his car, hoping that it would still be where he’d parked it early that evening. The lingering vision of Sandy’s smile stuck in his mind. He wished he could see it more often and directed his way, but what was the point? He had been down this road before. It was time to try to forget.

This is the first of three parts. Stay tuned for the continuing adventures.... 

Part II can be read here
Part III can be read here

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


This year’s LPGA Safeway Classic event has already come and gone. I feel like I’m leaving a summer camp crush, filled with heartbreak, knowing full well that I will never see them again. Of course, I don’t know that feeling, because I never went to summer camp until a boy’s basketball camp during high school and that was about as bad as it sounds and smelled worse. Also, I should be able to see the LPGA come through town again next year, so scratch all of that. Maybe my problem right now is that I don’t know what to feel. The previous two visits have left me foaming at the mouth excited and re-energized despite my manic need to be out on the course watching every moment I can take in for 10 to 12 hours each day that they’re here. That excitement was there this year, though hampered some by a lack of energy which I have blamed on my health. My doctor has not found a physical cause for my fatigue and lack of energy after numerous tests (back story can be found here) and now I’m starting to wonder if her initial thought of depression might actually be the problem. The only thing is that when she asked me that question on a sunny Thursday morning over a month ago now, I didn’t sense the least bit of unhappiness coarsing through me. As this mysterious setback has progressed, my resolve has continued to weaken and some serious sadness has taken a hold of me. But I digress. This year’s LPGA event had an added element, when they asked me to write a fan diary of each day’s events. This was an amazing honor that didn’t seem possible until this past weekend when it all actually happened! I wrote frantically every night after hours and hours of roasting in the sun all day to get the story sent in and sometime the next morning, amazingly the story and pictures I sent in were up there (and can be read here). It was additionally surreal to see the picture I took of “Snacks” (fellow caddy during the Pro-Am last Thursday) and South Korean LPGA player Jee Young Lee standing in front of the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile next to the first tee box at Pumpkin Ridge’s Ghost Creek golf course flash across the top of the LPGA homepage as a featured story. It was hard – much harder than I thought it would be. When I so enthusiastically agreed to write for this event, I thought it would be easy. How many times have I talked people’s ear off about the previous experiences? This was not the case. My crazy stories of experiences are mostly made up of inside jokes mixed with a mild psychosis that doesn’t translate well to anything, but especially a real website where some people actually go for information. So, I found myself reporting. I have often found sports reporters to be a hateful bunch. Who wouldn’t be when charged with writing about the same thing over and over each day? It never felt right, when I hit send each evening. I find that there are no words that I can conjure up that actually represent what I go through out there.

This year’s journey has me questioning what it is that draws me to the event with such drive. I think it’s because I feel like I belong there. I have always had a passion for golf, if not the game. I remember as a little kid, before I had any inclination of golf, being overly curious about golf courses that would pass by the car window as we drove wherever we were going. There have been two times during my adult life where I’ve entered an arena where I felt completely at home: walking into a real professional recording studio and every time I’ve walked onto the golf course to watch the LPGA. These are two places where I feel I truly belong. It makes me wonder about how my decisions have led me astray from these things. How do I consistently find myself doing things that I don’t really want to do all day every day. This is not unique, I know – this is something most of us go through – but at this time it is all so fresh and I am not quite ready to do what we all always find a way to do, and swallow it down and push on through the daily grind until the disappointment fades away. I still don’t know exactly what it is that makes me so crazy. I have mentioned before how welcoming this tournament is. It’s remarkable to me to enter the course and immediately be surrounded by the players that I see on TV most weeks – walking to and fro. They all are always willing to stop and say hello to anyone that approaches, and they always seem genuinely glad to do so – almost as if they are surprised! Much of what I have written about previously has been my efforts to cheer on specific golfers as I trail them over entire rounds of 18 holes. I like to completely immerse myself into what they’re doing. They are not necessarily in the hunt for the tournament and sometimes may be really struggling, but the effort and the emotion that I see and feel sucks me in and I truly do live and die inside with each and every shot. This last Saturday, I followed my new girl Jee Young Lee from the Pro-AM, who I was honored to see play up close, a tour rookie, who I had not previously heard of, Dori Carter and a fading LPGA star Jennifer Rosales. Besides the father of Jee Young and the mom and dad of Dori’s, I was the only one watching these three players in the gallery. As we came down the final fairway of the day, I introduced myself and let them know that I was writing the fan diary for the LPGA website. I asked them if I could take some pictures. When their kids – these young women - had finished and signed their scorecards with the officials, they signed a few autographs and then went to their parents. It was there that they thanked me for following and for the support. They thanked me! It amazed me. Dori and Jee Young both seemed surprised and happy that I had been there, and despite struggling through a really difficult day of golf for both of them and trying to earn a living, they were smiling and obliging as I had them pose for my silly pictures. Unfortunately, I was not able to track down Jennifer Rosales during all the commotion, which is too bad, because I remember rooting her on to a couple of victories several years ago, while watching the LPGA tape delayed on ESPN. At any rate, the parents asked me to email them the pictures I took so they could share them with their family. They were all so warm and kind that I felt like I was at a family summer barbeque.

The final round on Sunday is always difficult for me. It is the last day and I go in knowing that I don’t want it to end. I do not want to say goodbye, but I do want to reach a conclusion. It is the nature of competition. There’s not a lot of satisfaction without an ending, though golf is different. The real competition in golf is between the player and the course, or really the player and themselves. Sometimes just making the cut and actually earning a few thousand dollars in the case of an LPGA tournament is a victory. While sometimes getting that first top 20 or top 10 is a huge victory. The storylines are varied and deep and never simple. Once again, I followed around my new favorite Korean Jee Young Lee on Sunday, along with the ravishing and model tall German Sandra Gal. Jee Young had vaulted herself into contention during the first round with an impressive 5 under round, but played one over par the second day, so she needed to make a big move to be able to earn a victory (she started the day 7 strokes behind the leader). I wanted to will her to that victory. I know it doesn’t work, but I was going to try and root her cool flat orange golf ball into the hole with every possible shot. Overall, she played pretty damn good, but ended the tournament where she was after the first day at five under par, which was good enough for a tie for twelfth place. When she finished, my companion Christine followed me around behind the grandstands, where I shook hands and offered continued support to Jee Young’s father, where he thanked me profusely again for my support. What I really wanted was a chance to get a picture of me with her after the round, since I had taken so many of her with other people. But as we circled around where the players exit the big stage of the 18th hole and where there are generally autograph seekers and such, I saw Jee Young and her caddy alone with their heads down walking directly to the driving range to practice – with her father trotting over the join them. It was that moment where I kind of lost it. I think I confused Christine as I kept walking back and forth and leading us nowhere with lots of golfers and action still to be witnessed. But it was that moment when I knew that this was it. The tournament and the writing gig that I had been building up with anticipation for nearly an entire year was ending and I didn’t want it to. This place is where I belonged! In that moment, I didn’t want to go back to my stressful job. I didn’t want to go see all of my doctors anymore. I didn’t want to go back to my apartment and be alone. I wanted to race down the hill and embrace Jee Young and console her and hopefully console myself in the process.  Being at that tournament and around those players lifted me to another plane where my illnesses and limitations no longer were a part of my life. My constant daily headaches were barely noticeable, my energy level maintained enough to get me around those damn hills each and every day without fail, and I was filled with feeling and passion and confidence that often drift away from me during regular days.

I realize that this sadness will fade away over time, at least until next August, like apparently those old childhood summer camp crushes do, and I will re-immerse myself into the real world. Though, if the LPGA decides that they need someone to fill the position “Ambassador of Awesomeness,” I would definitely like to offer my services.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Clown

As stated in my previous entry, I have been given the chance to write the fan diary for this week's LPGA tournament in the Portland area for the LPGA website.

The Clown was there and so was I.

A link to the story can be found here.

More to come...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fear of the Weather

It was late last August that I wrote a piece detailing my summer vacation, which can be read here. This was a vacation that included my new tradition of attending the LPGA’s annual visit to Portland (or North Plains – which is not very close to Portland, really) for the Safeway Classic. This event has inspired and excited me to no end since my first experience in 2010 and I wanted to share in some small way my enthusiasm and try and spread the word about these amazing golfers. Somehow this eventually turned into an invite from the LPGA itself encouraging me to write about the 2012 edition for their website’s “fan diary” section. When I first read that suggestion via email early in the morning so many months ago, I could be seen skipping through the streets like a cartoon Easter Bunny. “Why, of course, I’d love to write about the tournament,” I calmly stated back through email after waiting a few days as to not seem too freaky and come across as a sane individual (I believe I have presented a differing view if someone actually reads ‘Summerside’). Once the actual mania started to fade, two alternating beliefs have been most prevalent in my mind. The first being that I do not actually believe that this will happen, and secondly, if it were to happen – me being responsible for writing a daily log of the tournament from my perspective on a real website - that I will be completely blocked and only be able to write, at best, the most inane boring factoids about the event. Though the tournament officially kicks off this Friday (August 17th), there are already activities, practice rounds and Pro-Am’s happening out there, I am still lost between both of these worlds. For the last couple of months, my ability and ambition to write has been at a frustratingly low level, as evidenced by the old/recycled writing I’ve posted on this site during that time. And as I type these words right now, I’m not sure I actually believe that when I email whatever junk I conjure up in a few days that I will then see the material appear at Despite receiving full week tournament passes for the event in an envelope marked with the LPGA logo, none of this feels possible or real.

If one were to actually read the piece I presented on August 23, 2011, they would find that I was pretty excited. I left out little fan-boy squealing details about how the pretty golfing star Paula Creamer lightly touched my shoulder as she approached a slightly wayward drive through the large gallery following her round on the 17th hole at Pumpkin Ridge’s Ghost Creek course. Life was good. I was lucky enough to fly off to Boise the prior weekend for an amazing birthday celebration for Ann and to visit with old friends, I was able to take time off from work, and I was doing what I wanted to do. In fact, the high from that weekend was contagious. I managed to carry it well into the first half of this year. It was that week where I semi-consciously decided that I had to start saying “yes” to life again. It sounds easy, but I had lost sight of that ability and had found myself floundering and living a life that mostly involved only going to work, catching up with too many television shows and rarely venturing anywhere outside of my work space and my meager apartment. I even started (semi) joking with my friends about my desire to become a shut-in. Regaining a desire to engage again filled me with energy. I found myself reconnecting with old friends and family, going out and experiencing things again, re-engaging with my passion for live music (I have seen more live music in 2012 then probably the prior three years combined!) and going to see anyone I want to despite having to work the next morning at 5 am. I have traveled more during this last year, started a regular exercise routine that had me in the best physical condition I’ve been in since the horrific run of surgeries began in 2000, and this summer I even joined a bowling league. Oh, and how can I forget the ongoing love affair with the Portland Timbers in my 11th year as a season ticket holder?  It has been a mini revival for me - an awakening from a slumber of complacency that crept in after the high of receiving a kidney transplant started to wear off a couple of years after the occurrence (and after, maybe not so coincidentally, my steroid regimen had been tapered down to a minimum). Leading up to my planned vacation for this summer, serendipitously other great activities started to line-up like last year. Two weeks ago, the Dum Dum Girls played a one off fundraiser show in Seattle and the weekend leading into my time off from work found another Seattle show featuring two great northwest bands (the Purrs, and Black Nite Crash) and especially, the Nebraska duo Drakes Hotel. These trips would offer me the chance to visit my old friend Wil and his family, and my niece and nephew. This was the type of adventure I was looking forward to.

Unfortunately, shortly after a great run of shows that ended with an amazing Dum Dum Girls set during Memorial Day weekend (story can be found here), I started to notice exhaustion setting in. At first I thought, maybe I was pushing myself too far. This was likely, so I allowed myself to slow down for a few weeks. Besides, there was a break in great shows for a month, so I wouldn’t be able to chide myself for not sticking with my big plans. It was around the 4th of July holiday, when a big gathering of great childhood friends were all to gather down at our old coastal stomping grounds to golf and shoot the shit that I realized that something else was going on. I was still feeling exhausted and fatigued. My limbs felt heavy and my body sore, as if I had recently been in a vicious car wreck. I was finding every day to day simple activity difficult and instead of getting better with extra rest, the symptoms were getting worse. It was time for my regular check-up with my excellent nephrologist, so I brought up my developing condition. She took this very seriously and immediately began running a series of labs and tests that have lasted for several weeks. This scenario has led to an irritating cycle of calling my doctor’s office for her to call me with test results (and the side effect of me developing a massive crush on her new receptionist), which have so far resulted in no diagnosis and no explanation for my decreasing energy level and increased fatigue and frustration.

photo by William Campbell

This is where I stand (or sit uncomfortably) now. Last weekend, my trip to Seattle started off promising, but due to my condition, uneventful. Wil, Carrie, the kids and I lounged around and chatted and had some laughs. Then Wil and I exited for the big show with the three bands. Upon arrival and small surge of genuine energy began to work its way through me. The anticipation for inspiring music and a new venue was growing. I was also hoping that my brother’s kids would show up. Low and behold, Chris Y from Drakes Hotel spotted us outside and came to say ‘hello’ and let us know that we were on the guest list (we met a few times when they were based in Portland a few years ago)! This was quite a surprise and an honor! The Drakes are a husband and wife duo who modestly makes amazing music. I’ve always thought that if I was a musician (and I am most definitely not), I would likely be found in a similarly small home recorded style set up. I appreciate what they’re trying to do and they do it very well. Their three albums dating back to 2007’s Tell Me Everything (there is a long lost older debut that is a greatly kept secret that I am not privy to other than via innuendo) are solid efforts that have routinely landed in my annual top albums list. Their newest offering, Logic Adopts Senses, will most likely fit this bill by year’s end. Their straightforward programmed beats and low end has always been a back drop to tasteful layers of tuneful guitar lines and Amy Drakes’ otherworldly and mysterious vocals. Normally, I would suggest that their style as two-piece would not translate well in a live setting, but they manage to exceed those expectations. As each song began a few more people approached the stage to take in the unique spectacle. Their quiet intensity grew with each song and Amy dazzled as she bounced down to her knees and back up lost in the moment and taking the few of us there with them. It’s a shame that they, as an opener only had the time to play such a short set. There were so many songs that I wanted to hear, especially after the rousing rendition of Tell Me Everything’s tension building “Wreck,” whose chorus offers a release that is oh so satisfying, and the rousing “Kids R Chrome,” which was not an early favorite when listening to the new album. It sure is now. Wow! This is where my dwindling energy took over. I had to stay in the back for most of Black Nite Crash’s set. I had to sit down. They sounded great, especially on their earliest material, but I’m not so sold on the newer material which I’m not familiar with (too derivative of the Doors for my taste). But disconcertingly, I could not hold out for the Purrs and we had to make an early exit.

Now, I am about to face the reality of going into the big golf event – the deal I’ve been building up in my head for a year – knowing that I may not be able to get through it. The week has not started out precipitously either. When I returned home from Seattle on Sunday, I found out that my work place would be extremely short-handed, so I agreed to work during my vacation Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then, we find out that Portland is about to enter a real 100 degree style heat wave during the tournament. All I can envision is heat stroke and an ambulance ride from the ninth hole to a hospital 20 miles away in Portland, after trying to caddy for one of the golfers during this Thursday’s Pro-Am (yes, I volunteered to caddy!!). What do I do? Do I admit defeat, as my resolve has taken a massive hit, as my fatigue has grown, or do I try my best and hope to get through the adventure? As Thursday nears, and now that I have secured a pair of my official caddy khaki shorts, I am realizing that my growing despondence over my health situation cannot and will not keep me from doing what I want to do. If I do pass out from exhaustion and heat stroke this Thursday on a fairway trailing behind someone like Morgan Pressel, then I would rather pass out there than at home alone in front of the TV watching golf. If I take a tumble off a side slope while following around Leta Lindley’s final round as a professional in Portland and make an embarrassing scene like my huge thudding crash land at bowling league on Monday night, then I will be crash landing doing what I want to do.

One more day of work and then it all begins….

Keep an eye out here for links to the fan diary that I may or may not be writing from the emergency room, which may or may not be posted at

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Just Wait

Here is a piece I wrote years ago in about a 20 minute stretch while away at college. It was a spurred on by a combination of not being able to access an empty washing machine in the dorm's laundry room and from wrestling with an assigned paper about the dangers of dehumanization for a Holocaust course.  It was later published by a website named Unlikely Stories (

I have always hated muggy days. The kind of day where the humidity enhances the already hot air and creates an incessant and irritating film of sweat that clings to one's body even during complete inactivity. Today is one of those days.

I wandered around campus trying to find something to do besides schoolwork. This term I managed to schedule all of my classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so I could have four days a week without lecture and boredom. Enjoying the bustling energy of students coming and going and rushing around, I feel relieved not to be in any hurry to get anything done. I should get some homework done, but with this humidity and stuffiness there is no way I can possibly get anything done. Maybe my dorm-mate, Jeff and I, can head downtown this afternoon and check out some record shops, and grab some food other than the greasy grilled cheese that we’ll inevitably order at the cafeteria. He’ll still be in class for another couple of hours however. I should get something done. There is always laundry to do. I haven’t done a load of laundry since getting back to school and I think people may be noticing. Fuck it. I’ll take care of it. I truly need to get something halfway productive done today. I can’t let this stifling heat shut me down completely.

No elevator. Every time I walk up these flights of stairs to my room, I think about the thousands and thousands of dollars my parents and I are paying for this school. And here I am climbing stairs. Sometimes the building reminds me of summer camp. It’s like they don’t want us to have any modern luxuries. There are no screens on our windows and Jeff and I are attacked nightly by giant mosquitoes thirsty for blood, yet we keep the windows open, because without a fan or air conditioning the room gets so unbearably hot that a little bloodletting seems worth it for a smidgen of fresh air. It’s somewhat surprising that we have running water in the bathrooms, or bathrooms at all. This must be a life lesson they’re trying to teach us - a survival technique. By the time I reach the room, I am covered with a clammy sweat created by the dense air permeating the inside of the mildew-ridden walls of the ancient dormitory. Soon the weather will be changing, but for now the autumn is bringing heat that rivals summer. I cannot wait 'til winter.

Underwear, socks, jeans, and concert t-shirts make up my daily uniform and they are all well worn. I stuff a huge pile of them into my brand new laundry basket, along with a box of unopened laundry detergent. I manage to dig out some quarters from various corners of the room and head back downstairs for the laundry room in the basement of the building. Considering that most people will be in class at the moment, this should be an opportune time to do the wash. I should have my pick of the machines down there.

I hit the laundry room door with a thud from the momentum of running down the stairs. The lightweight door slams into the wall and stops dead against it. The pungent odor of the laundry room strikes me. A smell that can only be described as “classic basement.” A smell comprised of dirt and hot, wet air. I can feel my face cringe. Not being one who likes to make a scene, I do not expect anyone to be in the room. Unfortunately, I am wrong. A giant woman stands looking at my dramatic entry from the center row of washing machines. I have never seen her before. She has dirty hair dangling loosely about her misshapen head. While keeping my cringing expression, I focus in on the woman’s large bumpy nose and what looks like missing teeth. She reminds me of a giant witch, save for the hideous flower print dress dangling over her hulking form. A form which closely resembles the purple mass that is the curious shake sucking oddity of McDonalds’ Grimace. I believe that she has a wad of chewing tobacco stuffed into her cheek as well. The unbearably loud roar of the washing machines puts me in a momentary trance as I stare at this intruder.

The creature shouts at me over the din as I begin my trek around the room looking for an empty washer amongst the lint balls wafting above the cracked charcoal cement floor. The booming, yet hoarse voice pierces my head, making my ears buzz from the concussion.


I pretend that I didn’t hear anything and rush for the only empty washer placed, unfortunately, next to this monster. I sit the basket down on the front edge of the empty machine, balancing it with my hip. The gargantuan size of this woman makes the maneuver of getting my stuff loaded difficult. Her huge sandbag breasts are sitting atop a shelf-like stomach that seems to be at my eye level and is partially blocking the empty washer. I reach for a handful of my clothes to begin loading the machine.

WAIT BOY! THAT’S MA MACHINE! I THINK THIS ‘UN IS DONE THO, she blurts and spits as she lifts the lid to a machine on her opposite side, only to reveal brown water swishing around. NOPE! I GUESS NOT!

What is going on? This woman doesn’t belong here. She doesn’t live in this dormitory. Why is she doing laundry here? Somehow her sheer size and volume shut me down. I back away slowly with my basket shielding me. She has taken the last available washer from me and I am at a loss about what to do. I retreat confused, sweaty and shaken from what is happening. I pound my feet up the stairs again and head back to my room on the top floor, unwashed laundry in tow.

In the room, I throw on some music and try to reassess the situation. I can head over to a neighboring dorm and throw in my load. It’s too hot out for that long trip. Besides, I have access to a laundry room in my own building. That monstrosity does not belong down there using those machines! All I need is one fucking washer! I shouldn’t have to wait for clean clothes because of this intruder!

With a renewed courage, I storm back down to the boiling laundry room. I kick open the loosely hinged door with even more force than earlier. I shout out to the woman, again looking over at me from the smash of the door against the wall. She stands hunched over a helpless machine, reminding me of that fucked up Muppet thing that used to hang out with Big Bird on Sesame Street.

“I want to wash my clothes now,” I sternly state from the doorway.

I DON’ KNOW WHAT’S STOPPIN’ YA BOY! THEYS ‘UN RIGHT HERE! She roars back with a sinister grin splayed across her patchy toothless face.

Undaunted, I move over to the now vacant machine, whose white surface is dusted with a brown film. I quickly throw all of the clothes packed in my basket into the washer, along with a cup of detergent. I shove a couple of quarters into the slot and feel fortunate that the machine starts to hum and shake and fill with water. Success.


I stare at the source of this question blankly.

“Cleet,” I reply flatly, with no intention of her getting to know anything about me. I turn to leave, having accomplished part one of my goal. In my periphery, I see her hawk up some gunk and spit it out onto the unsuspecting floor. A string of goo remains on her chin for a moment before swinging itself into the oblivion of her flowery massive front side. I wince and begin heading towards the dangling door of this rotten basement.

CLEET, EH? MA BRUTHA IS NAMED CLEET! ME-N-CLEET HAD SOME LAUGHS! She shouts. Her head leans back as if she can see those laughs on the dry-rotted ceiling above amongst the cobwebs.

I begin to cough and choke loudly to interrupt the eminent story about incest and “coon huntin’” that I can sense coming my way.


I make no reply and bolt out the door and run up the several flights of stairs to the safety of my room.

I had to forget that horrible woman downstairs. The vision of her is imprinted in my mind’s eye, despite doing all I could to avert my eyes when I was down there. What the hell was she doing there?

At least the clothes were being cleaned.

I lay down on my bed, suddenly feeling overcome by the heavy air and the disorienting activities from the basement. I shut my eyes hoping for sleep. I actively slow down my breathing. I begin to feel almost claustrophobic. My skin starts to itch. Relax. Breathing as deeply as possible, I begin choking on what seems to be dry dirt. The dirt has me surrounded completely. Frantically, I begin to turn and toss and spin digging through loose impediments of gravel and earth, never-ending. It fills my eyes and mouth, suffocating me. Panic sets in.

I jump up off of my bed, shaken by the horror of being buried alive. My eyes now open, trying to regain a sense of my surroundings. What just happened? I set my gaze at the clock. Its familiar red digits tell me that nearly an hour has passed since I had returned to my room. My eyelids feel heavy and my face numb as I pace the small room. All I need to do is head back downstairs, transfer the clothes to a dryer and hope that the crazy woman is gone. An evening trip into town later would be a welcome event after encountering the monster in the basement. I’ve got to relax.

I feel calm as I make my way down the stairs to the laundry room. I carefully open the door and poke my head into the room before fully entering.


She’s still here. Great. Ignoring her foul inquiry, I stay silent as I peruse the room for an empty dryer. Every dryer is full, as I suspected.

“Are there any open dryers,” I ask as politely as possible, hoping for some sort of cooperation.

NO WAY BOY! THEYS ALL FULL! HA! HA! She screams as she slaps some wet things into a dryer.

Was I the only one having to deal with this shit? She has every dryer in use and I have but one load to dry. She is no student. I am not asking for much: just one dryer.


I begin to shut her out as best I can. I focus on the dryer that she is currently loading. It isn’t being used yet. My body moves towards that dryer. The woman is leaning down to the dryer door putting in another fistful of the eternally filthy garments, continuing to babble. The girth of her backside blocks my intent focus on the precious machine.

I now stand directly behind her. She leans in further. Her head now just about level with the top of the dryer. My hand grabs at a greasy wad of her stringy mane and slams her head into the metal box. Her head cracks and bounces back into my grip. With a stronger hold, I pound her forehead repeatedly into the machine. Each blow feels firmer than the last. Blood appears on the white box. I can hear some shrieking, but it seems somehow muted. The huge body attached to the head in my hand slumps over pulling my arm with it. I put my knee down to the ground next to the body, my fist still entangled in the strings. The foul body lay in a heap against the cool floor. I can still hear noise. I pound more, this time against the cement surface of the ground. The head turns soft in my hand. Blood rushes toward the drain in the floor nearby. I am now pretty sure that the shrieking has stopped. My hand slips free after a while - pieces of its head still stuck inside my fist. I toss the strings away from me and reach over the carcass to throw the shit in the dryer onto the floor.

I walk to the washer that has my clothes. Quietly and efficiently, I transfer the load into the now free dryer, and stick my last two quarters inside and press the start button.

The room seems very calm now. All sound is now gone, save for the quiet hum of one single dryer. I can feel its warmth on my leg. It’s really hot today, so damn uncomfortable.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why Why Why

A warm day sometime in 1990

I ran down the patchy grass slope toward the downstairs MPR entrance to the Commons. I started to dance around by swinging my arms around with my elbows held upright in an imaginary slam pit circle. I kicked my knees high in the air and circled back towards the basement double doors. Various misquoted lyrics from the Dead Kennedys “I Kill Children” flew from my mouth as Ian (inexplicably pronounced as ION) charged and tackled me. Julie was standing off to the side with her arms folded across her chest watching the display.

Owen stepped out from the doorway and shouted for us to all gather inside. Owen was the boss for one of my work study jobs. One was as a “manager” of the campus radio station and one was being part of the set-up crew. The set-up crew consisted of me, Brian, Ian and Owen. We were charged with transporting and setting up equipment for events all over campus. If there was to be a speech given by the University President in Marsh Hall, then we’d wheel the special fancy presidential podium over there along with the sound equipment. Whoever was the one actually wheeling the podium around would have no choice but to give an impromptu mobile lecture to all the unwilling audience members who were passing by. Since there was rarely any kind of actual event happening on campus, we spent most of our work time screwing screws into broken chairs that littered the MPR storage closet or checking on the raw meat sacrifice laid out on the floor of the boiler room for the giant beast that allegedly lived there and not in my mind. This day, however, was a different story. The Dharma Bums, a Portland band that was getting some national underground notice, were performing in the Commons on a Friday night and we had to set up staging and move all of the tables and chairs out of the cafeteria. This was a big score for this little college out in the middle of nowhere. This also meant that Owen was all business. He had asked us to recruit as many people as possible to help us out with this major project. We were only able to gather a few. Julie, who I had recently been spending time with, agreed to help out. As did “Dula” Dave, the dreadlocked mellow man I had befriended the prior year through the radio station. Unfortunately, he had already disappeared (we had also coined him “Dead Air” Dave because of his penchant for leaving during the middle of his radio show). Brian had recruited the mostly deaf Dungeons and Dragons playing Nate, and Ian had brought along Cynthia, who was a freshman who I always assumed Ian was seeing, but was never sure, and who always reminded me of The Pixies’ Kim Deal. Instead she was a fan of Paula Abdul and her plastic sounds.

As we all noisily gathered in the MPR scattered around Owen, who was inside waiting for us, I spotted the piano in the corner and raced toward it. Immediately, I began pounding the keys with authority and allowing the ringing discordance to linger in the low-ceilinged, wide open, sterile basement room. Ian followed me over and we began to bark out the sinister words to Swans’ early stand against fascism “I Crawled.” At that moment, I had a flash of déjà vu, because I had once before hammered out this, one of my greatest hits, on the piano at the church for Baccalaureate a year or so earlier with a different Ian from high school. That time we were shouted at for disrupting the proceedings. This time, Owen simply watched silent until we petered out, gave up our performance, and wandered over to join the rest of the group. This method of dealing with disruption was much more effective. His lack of intervention somehow sucked all the fun out of it.

Owen spoke to us about our game plan for the evening. I thought back to that weird Baccalaureate evening. I remember unwittingly sitting down when we were supposed to stand. I remember Andy, sitting next to me in the pews, dropping his freshly emptied can of Coke onto the floor, interrupting the proceedings and causing everyone to stop what they were doing, and focus their attention in our direction, until the rolling can finally came to rest all the way down near the front. I remembered Watson’s dad’s strange sermon about how we should all be praying for specific things in life. It sounded different than what I’d always heard, but whatever, right? Who needs to make a wish for world peace? If I want more of those short little extra crunchy French Fries in my large sized order, when I make my way through the drive-thru, then I had to go ahead and pray for such a thing. Then I found my thoughts drifting to the Dharma Bums. How many times had we all seen them open for some band at the Pine Street Theater? It had become so ridiculous that when they entered the MPR to meet with all of us in the set-up crew at that moment, they recognized me as the floppy haired guy who always stands stage left at shows. I asked the drummer who they were opening for that night. He did not respond.

Owen had stopped his huge list of instructions and the entire hubbub of meeting the band died down. We had been instructed about what our goals were and how much time we had to complete them in with far too few people, so we were dispersed back outside. I had missed everything having been lost in thought. I grabbed Ian as we headed out and asked him what we were supposed to do. He seemed annoyed. I figured it was because Nate was shouting to Brian something that should only have been shared between them, if at all, but Nate was never very good about keeping his voice down. Julie was standing away from the rest of us, though she was supposedly here with me and was good friends with Cynthia. I kept looking around for her attention and she kept avoiding me.

Earlier that day, I had told her that I loved her. Now, I had to track her down to join in on this group job. She looked at me with sympathy. She continued to watch from a distance and lit a cigarette. This surprised the hell out of me, because I didn’t know she smoked. I approached her and asked her what was wrong. She said that she didn’t want to talk with me. She was only there because she had already agreed to be there and because she needed the money – however minimal. She told me that I would never understand her. She told me that we would never work. She told me that she was sorry for me. She felt bad for me, because of what I had said to her. She said that because of it, she couldn’t believe a word I would ever say.

I was devastated, as she told me all of these things in front of everyone else. She continued on. She said that I did not treat her with respect - instead I was only in love with the idea of her. She pointed out that I rarely spent time with her and that I did not know her. Looking into her eyes, maybe for the first time, I could see the words: “Why did you have to say it” scroll across them over and over like a mantra. She clearly had lost all of that initial attraction and respect for me. She could only manage a mothering look of sympathy, hoping that I would learn from this lesson. I felt like a child in that moment that had just touched the hot burner on the stove despite warnings to not do so. I was that child and I knew she was right.

Story inspired by the 1995 song by Containe