Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tea Cups, Pancakes, & Deadly Weaponry

Photo found here:
The cozy breakfast diner had at least one hungry customer at every table, except for the empty booth in the back corner, which thankfully, is the usual place I look to in hopes I might be sat for quiet solitude and maximum people viewing potential. It was mine.
I had no idea when waking that morning, that while hacking away at my buckwheat pancakes and guzzling down my dangerously caffeinated self-brought English tea, I’d be witness to many people’s personal nightmare.
As my husband sat across from me, relaying behind-the-scenes war stories of working in film and television, I noticed two uniformed police officers enter the dining room and were headed straight to the back of the restaurant. I was no longer listening. They were headed straight for us.
“This is it,” I thought. My time was up—they’d finally found me. I was to be immediately extradited to my far off no-longer-secret originating planet, or they’d been on my trail for years as I continually checked out books from the library on communism, secret societies, and Area 51. Or perhaps they’d been observing my frequent viewings of online documentaries on the effects of LSD, who killed JFK?, and those ultra-fabulous Linda Evangelista make-up tutorials. I knew they’d catch up to me one day—I know too much.
Just short of reaching our table, it was as if the earth simply stopped. The chattering ceased, and only slow motion body movements commenced. A mother grabbed her little girl and held her head in her arms whilst her face exhibited surprise and fear. Heads were turning towards the walls, as if humans in this brief moment were instinctually displaying the calming signals animals give when they fear for their lives.
A matte black pistol appeared and was slowly being raised up above the head of a young man, over the trembling mother and daughter, just behind my husband. The weapon was now in the hands of a police officer. And the room was silent. Time stood still.
Slowly, and quietly, the young previously-armed man left the restaurant with the officers. His friends continued to eat, though they avoided any eye contact with fellow diners. The chatter was resucitated and the feeding frenzy restored. 
Why are they still here? Did that really just happen?
I apologized to my husband for not giving him my full attention, quietly filled him in on what had just occurred just feet away from behind his back, shoved a few too-large chunks of pancakes into my mouth, then in walked the young, previously unarmed man, with his gun in plain sight, tucked into his baggy, sagging pants.
"What happened to the officers?" I thought.
The no-older-than-nineteen now-armed man began to ask others sitting near him, including the woman who feared for her daughter’s life, “Who told on me? Why did you report me? It’s my right! This is for my protection!”
As if they were going to say anything to further anger him.
Great. And I’m now stuck in the back corner. Nowhere to run. 
He returned to his plate and the room settled once again.
Forks irritatingly scraping plates accelerated, and finally, Mr. “Lay off my plate or I’ll shoot” and his small pancake-eating posse left the restaurant.
My husband and I wondered aloud, “Whom was this guy running from? Is this form of ‘protection’ needed when dining in a family restaurant? Is the breakfast burrito that good?”
His right under law or not, my logic stricken brain came to a conclusion: if I didn’t feel safe in a family restaurant and resolved to require a weapon in order to enjoy scrambled eggs out on the town, I'd likely stay home and scramble my own eggs. And if by chance I'd run out of eggs and lost my ability to cook for myself, I'd make use of a holster. And a bad-ass one at that.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Big Wheels Keep On Turnin'

Little brudder and I on our Big Wheels.
Our bums could have been permanently glued to the seats of them . . . how could you know otherwise? We were always in them.
Big Wheels.
Just beyond the back tires were tiny plastic cylindrical pieces that would jet out, creating a ruckus when the wheels would turn. That only lasted about ten minutes. Mum quickly cut them out with a butcher knife. 
I complained of the modification at first (thinking what she was doing was physically hurting my Big Wheel friend), then realized the greatness of my new stealth status. I couldn't realistically tolerate the noise anyhow, and Mr. Big Wheel didn’t seem to mind. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

*A Wrinkle in Time, or Thirty

After struggling with the decision, I find it’s important for me to include this chapter of the story, introducing my mother as an innocent little girl, because until I saw her as one, my heart was often cold toward her and I didn’t quite understand her at all. I always loved her with a hunger and deep aching in my chest and sought after a relationship, a friendship, a comforting mother-daughtership with her until the very end, though I was also a bit guarded and awkward, which always proved to be empty and unfulfilling.

We all begin as pure, irreproachable little children having vast hopes, big dreams, unbridled laughter, and intense inquisitiveness. We go about life and our feelings are hurt, others let us down, we fail, we succeed, we win, we lose, and every last one of those moments, those scars, whether treasure or trash, wind up displayed on our faces as we live and age, like a billboard for all to see, to cherish or to reject.

Expectation and sorrow walk hand-in-hand—you can’t have one without the other. And they shape us into who we become, if we let them.

Excerpt from chapter two | tiny dancer | Everything's Hunky Dory: A Memoir

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Strange Impossibility of Making & Keeping Friends

Today I had a major realization. Though I’m proud of the many difficult and painful obstacles I’ve overcome in my thirty+ years on this earth, there is one particular theme I haven’t quite mastered: making and keeping friends.
I often still feel inside like that little girl, sitting on the bumper of my mum’s Subaru, aware of the neighborhood children playing nearby but avoiding direct eye contact with them, hoping they’d one day, magically, invite me to play along with them.
After all, I had so much to share. Perhaps I’d just read a fascinating portion of the Encyclopedia and was brimming with facts about the magnetic fields of the sun. Wouldn’t they be absolutely captivated? Or what about the newest dog breed additions to the American Kennel Club? Surely they’d be intrigued.
Or not.
“Hey you! Do you want to play with us?” I’d imagine them saying—a fantasy image reflective of an old Disney film or possibly a television commercial for a horrid sugary fruit juice substitute. I believed if I imagined this benevolent invitation enough in my mind, it would eventually occur.
It didn’t.  
Yet I knew then I was never interested in kickball or flag football or tag of any sort. I had no interest in being loud and obnoxious or causing trouble. But I knew I wasn’t particularly pleased with sitting alone all the time.  
Today, I’m much the same. I have no interest in drinking, partying, or being surrounded by large gatherings of people. Smaller gatherings around a theme such as dinner, board games, or charity work are fun. I’d rather drink tea, read books, listen to the ocean, walk in nature, travel, play with my dogs, or enjoy quality, one-on-one time with the few I am lucky enough to be close with.
For those of us who fall on the introspective side of things, chit-chat is not an option. It is a bloody waste of time, it’s senseless, and creates a challenging obstacle course when making a daring attempt to get to know another being. Yes, I know . . . it’s been abnormally hot out lately and there are guys making a hell of a lot of money running back and forth on wooden floors throwing round objects into netted hoops. What does that have to do with you and me and where we fit into this world? How will we know if we are worth each other’s time when we spend the first fifteen minutes of meeting discussing mindless, heartless, gutless non-topics? And oftentimes that brief fifteen-minute encounter is a solitary one, so I‘d just assume get down to business straight away and forego all the nonsense.
Who are you?
And I’ve tried. I really have. When I’ve attempted to try on for size this chit-chat business, I end up with a mouthful of blah and have no idea how to counteract the near nuclear disaster of what may have slipped out. For instance, today I was volunteering at my local Humane Society. Another volunteer had announced she’d be adopting one of the long-term residents of the shelter that day and after the rest of us celebrated this exciting news with yays and smiles, I decided to attempt to start a conversation with the woman. Though I wanted to ask what breed the dog was, the dog’s age, and inquire about its background and temperament, I assumed that enthusiastic line of questioning might not be appropriate after only knowing the woman for all of two minutes (I wouldn’t fancy being perceived a know-it-all). I thought I’d try chit-chat. The jumbled words that escaped my mouth made me want to sink into a hole in the ground and hide until everyone went home and I could return to my car unharmed.
And then she avoided me the rest of the afternoon.
I couldn’t cease silently repeating what I had uttered, and silently attempting better options in my mind of what I could have said.
There are many potential friends I’ve met through my husband, or through work, or via the long-term friend I’ve managed to keep since childhood. I maybe found these people interesting or incredibly kind or possibly even somewhat like-minded and added them as ‘friends’ on a social networking site in an attempt to keep in touch and maybe foster a real friendship, an attempt at broadening the circle and having fulfilling conversations. Nine times out of ten my attempts to reach out or check in have gone unanswered.
Maybe they are all excessively busy people. Intelligent people typically are.
Or . . .
Am I overzealous? Am I overwhelming? Am I simply too much for people? Do the women find me odd or un-relatable? Do the men find me inappropriate or think I’m flirting? Surely I mustn’t be completely repulsive. My personal line of self-questioning has greatly matured from ‘Am I too ugly?’ but I had to admit to myself today that it is still present. And I want to not care. And I want to not be bothered. And sometimes I’m not, really. And I wonder how many others are out there feeling like the little girl sitting on the Subaru station wagon bumper without the slightest clue as to how to make a valuable, permanent, thriving connection, even at thirty-eight. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Throwback Thursday | Sesame Street Pinball Number 4

We, the kids of the ‘70s, were super funky cool. Sesame Street was droppin’ beats and possibly a bit of something else as well . . . but we didn’t complain.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

*Healthy As An Ailing Horse

Just weeks before our big wedding day, Mother’s Day 2011 to be exact, Shyam and I took Mum to our favorite little Ojai diner, Bonnie Lu’s, for breakfast.
“I just can’t eat any more. It’s so good, but I’m stuffed,” Mum said, her face a bit pained.
“You’ve only taken a few bites. Do you have a stomach ache?”
“It’s more like acid reflux, I think. It burns, kind of like heartburn, but I also feel really full after only a few bites. It’s been like this for a while but the doctor said I’m healthy as a horse! I usually have antacids with me but I ran out yesterday.”
 I found the horsey doctor report hard to believe because Mum had clearly never taken good care of her body, to put it lightly. But who was I to question? I also couldn’t imagine a doctor using the phrase “healthy as a horse” for any patient, even if he was referring to Mr. Jack LaLanne himself. It sounded more like a Nana phrase than anything else and in the back of my mind I wondered if she was making that bit up because she didn’t want to worry us with a negative health report and she surely didn’t want us meddling with her seven plus beer per night habit. I knew after years of her heavy drinking, her liver could in no way be picture perfect and I worried it would one day fail her. I didn’t see how a damaged liver would cause her to feel full after eating three bites of scrambled eggs.
After breakfast, Mum and I headed to our local health food store and I purchased digestive enzymes and chewable probiotics for her, since they’ve been working wonders for me after my doctor prescribed them for my own digestion issues. Surely this would, if anything, briefly relieve her of some pain and discomfort.
If she’d only stop drinking, I thought.

A week later I called her to follow up.
“I’m still not able to take more than three or so bites.”
“Well, have you gone back to the doctor? Something is definitely wrong.”
“She said I’m healthy as a horse.”
There’s that phrase again.

Excerpt from chapter twenty-nine | feelin’ alright | Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Jealousy & Aircraft Carriers Don't Mix

While cleaning out Mum’s garage after she passed, I came across an old, black vinyl bank envelope, First American Title Company gold emblem on the front, zipper open, overflowing with papers, books, and seemingly hundreds of random clippings of Three Dog Night concert publicity ads. A manila envelope stood out from the rest with my name written across the top. “Goldmine,” I thought. I quickly placed what appeared to be a priceless treasure trove into my Prius for a later investigation.
A few months later, when I finally felt emotionally equipped to inspect such past paraphernalia, I pulled the mysterious envelope out. My name was on it, after all. No need to feel as if I'm committing espionage now, though I often feel as such when examining Mum's things. 
Mixed in with clipped coupons for items such as No nonsense pantyhose (expiration date 09/30/83), Purina 100 cat food (expiration date 11/30/83), and Cocoa Puffs breakfast crack (NO EXPIRATION DATE!), was an invitation from my second grade teacher, Miss Scott, to join my classmates on a summer field trip to quietly, and in single file line, invade the USS Kitty Hawk Naval aircraft carrier. 
After curiously pondering the fact that I'd never known Mum to use a coupon, not to mention what they were doing in a manila envelope with my name on it, a wave of resentment suddenly and surprisingly hit me as I was reminded the reasons given as to why I was not allowed to join the mob on that highly anticipated incursion.
 The engine room beckoned my inner-most seven-year-old curiosity contraption. I wanted to witness first-hand those waterproof doorways Miss Scott so eloquently described. What did twenty stories above water look like, exactly? At what length would the flight deck have to be in order to launch a supersonic F-14 Tomcat from it without it landing on the ocean floor?
Though a decidedly peculiar topic of study in the second grade, I'd become obsessed. The carrier's identifying number, 63, became etched in my mind and I still refer to it as lucky and use it for pass codes and such.
My lack of freedom to pursue this intriguing special interest came in the form of a completely foreign concept and belief system. Mum and Nana whole-heartedly believed Miss Scott, with her tight-to-scalp red curly locks, elongated face, large teeth, and mint-green polyester garb that went swish-swish-swash when she walked, had 'a thing' for Papa. I seem to recall her asking him once to don his uniform in class for show and tell; he was a Navy man after all. So Mum and Nana didn't fancy Miss Scott in the least bit, and were quite insistent on keeping me from attending the military ship overtake extravaganza.
I cried. A lot. 

Cocoa Puffs. Hmm. This could be fun.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

*Self-Taught Reading & Seemingly AWOL Fathers (an autodidact is born)

Ever the precocious child, having begun speaking months before the developmental standard, I taught myself to read when I was three. I used words such as “fascinating” and “interesting concept,” having no idea at the time these words in particular would later brand me the dreaded “different,” preparing early for bullying. I chose a glossy, ceramic plaque, covered in pastel zoo animals as my first teacher. The animals appeared to be holding up a scroll, which was representative of my birth certificate, or really more of a birth announcement. Welcome home, little girl, and cheers to your new life, per various random, smiling animals hanging on a pastel plaque, forever.

Prior to my special birth plaque being fired, Mum had written my birth details on the ceramic scroll in red pencil. After asking her once what it said and receiving a barely pacifying answer my prematurely logic-obsessed brain wasn’t satisfied with, I began conjuring up ways which I could find out, once and for all, the burning question plaguing me. The ever repeated “Don’t ask me again” taught me if I were ever to be curious, to keep my mouth shut and figure it out on my own—a lesson I’d love to say I’d unlearned today, but can’t honestly.
She wrote the details in cursive writing, which posed as quite the challenge for a three-year-old, but I was confident I’d decode it soon, Sherlock Holmes’ style.
With a crayon and piece of paper, I’d draw the letter I had in mind and ask,
“Mama, what is this letto?”
“That’s a C.”
“What does C sound like?”
“It sounds like kuh. Like cat.”

Next day:

“Mama, what’s this letto?”
“That’s an H, like hu, for house.”
I painstakingly went through every legible letter attempting to sound out each one, putting them together like a puzzle. My first major challenge was sounding out the C and H together as they just didn’t seem to mesh. I’d add the other letters, which thankfully seemed appropriate. “Cuharlees” was the sound of the name I proclaimed to be my biological father’s.

Excerpt from chapter three | look at me | Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir

Thursday, May 2, 2013

*On Death & Disneyland

[Photo credit: Donn Shy (Mum) | Melancholic visit to Disneyland with 
one rebellious little sister and one brilliantly cooperative brother.]
[The night we said our final goodbyes] We looped her favorite home video she had proudly composed and edited which consisted of photographs and video footage from Mother’s Day 2007 when I had taken her, my brother Tony, and sister Kelli to Disneyland. The DVD was a humorous contradiction, as on that day I somehow had the off-kilter, yet self-proclaimed brilliant idea for the entire group to only take melancholically posed photos, only in front of the rides that were closed for refurbishment, or in front of the “Cast Members Only” signs. Basically anything we had no access to, anything that had the potential to create a tinge of disappointment, we would use as a backdrop for Mum’s professional photographic lens.
Sullen, dejected, sad, fixating on the uninspired tiny pebbles on the ground, and sometimes seemingly screaming in anguish, the result was an incredibly humorous video/slide-show with a cheery theme song. This memory became a great one Mum would cherish so much, she’d later confess to popping it into her DVD player and watching it any time she felt down, which sadly happened to be more often than not.

Excerpt from chapter one | wild horses | Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir

Even in the Quietest Moments . . .

There are many nights, like tonight, where I cannot get to bed. It’s as if I choose to be selfish and hoard the quiet. Roaring vehicles aren’t driving past; UPS has come and gone; the feathered creatures are resting their instruments. No surprises. The only thing registering in my brain is the light, familiar, soothing tip-taps of the keys on my MacBook. So comforting, like a soft down comforter on a cold night or an icy glass of sweet tea in the summer's scorching heat. I have control. I can edit, delete, copy and paste. I can think before I speak by typing, re-reading, re-reading again, then post (less chances of offending or hurting or over-sharing). I can delay, I can speed things up. I can imagine and tell the truth. And because I don’t feel particularly successful today, I don’t want the day to end—because there’s still a chance. Yes. Still there is a chance to share my heart, send that email, find that job, create a new world, begin my future.
But in this very moment, I suddenly realize what I really need is to be in the moment, with the quiet, take that breath, and the success is there. The challenge and the gift is this present moment. It's all I've got. 
And I can finally enjoy the quiet. True quiet. For once.