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Saturday
Aug112012

I Wasn't Supposed to be at Work That Day +15

Put this under "it was a great thing at the time, but..."

Fifteen years ago today there was a damned interesting coincidence that for a few years to follow was something that perhaps stepped up my trust in the universe, God, or whathaveyou. It did defy logic, that's for sure and I held on to it like Gollum and his "my Precious." These days it's far less a thing, but I don't think I've ever told the tale. If you need to see it in context, you'd have to insert this tale into its rightful place, about five years before this TAPKAE blog really got started.

You people now have the benefit of reading a massive spoiler post I wrote a couple years ago about how the entire Shelby Duncan era came crashing to an end in one day. That letter was a hard one to write, and in some ways I wish I'd written it years before. There were plenty of times when a saner person than I could have seen the writing on the walls and just washed his hands of it. Where were those saner persons when I needed to be one of them?

But the stuff of the heart is messy business. The mind wants to map what the heart feels. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is a miserable failure. With Shelby, for about 12 years, there was plenty of this going on. We were never an item, and of course, that persistent frustration, and the repeated attempts to change that, were the drama. There is no real kiss to tell about. Not even really a feel up. There is this imagination that things could be this way or that, but all that was elusive and as I've said before, all that was known well enough by 1991, just a couple years after we met.

A picture Shelby sent from Alaska in 1994. Before Skype, such an image sustained me, perhaps senselessly, until the next I'd see her. Unfortunately, the next I saw her crashed and burned for too many reasons.

1994: the Setup

But being the pup on a pantleg like I am, I was wayyyy too into trying to analyze things. But the time that seemed most final between us was during 1995 in the wake of a nine day trip up to Seattle, WA and then to Fairbanks, AK. It was something that put an end to a very long period of having not seen her in San Diego. Even with her being "just" a friend, it was a long time to go without in-person contact. I recall it being a year and a half prior to my trip. I booked the trip during a period of 1994 when I was just given an advance on my inheritance from my grandfather. I bought the ticket in September for about $900 and winced a bit at that but was glad to get on with the adventure of seeing her in two distant states, and for a week and a quarter. Such time was unheard of. The year 1994 was a good year. This seemed like a good thing. I was riding high.

But on August 13 of that year, things went changing. That's the day I met Robin at a Slaves by Trade band party and of course, the fact she lived in town and was "available" meant that we dove headlong into the stuff of relationship in a way that could never be accomplished with Shelby. But you see... after months of anticipatory talk, the plane ticket to see Shelby was bought in the first several weeks of this new relationship when we weren't yet bonded to the point where it seemed a conflict. So after those few weeks, the reality was that while I had my feet on the ground with one girl, I was heading off to see another for a week and more, and more so, it was to be in the weeks after Christmas and over New Year's. Yep. Alaska in the dead of winter! Robin might have ribbed me some about seeing another girl for that time and under such conditions as those (where who in their right mind would leave the house anyway?) It wasn't a big conflict or anything; I think I knew it was literally better to have the um, bird in the hand, rather than the two in the bush.

The thing is, I'm rather convinced Robin willingly played unprotected roulette with our intimacy. Chalk it up to all sorts of potential psychological reasons about unfulfilled this or that, but that is how it seems. I gather it was some need to escape a family situation, but just three months and five days after we met (November 18th), she asked me to marry her and for a few days, I was in that mood of going with it, but I cooled my heels and realized that at 21 and with her as my first sexual partner, I was not ready to even pretend. So five days later (November 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving), after a lot of that agonizing soul searching that goes on at times like that, I bowed out but said I'd still be interested in things as they had been for those first three months, but no marriage plans, or even an engagement. That was just too much.

The vitriolic letter my mom wrote to put me in my place in 1995, referencing the Thanksgiving snafu. Thanks for the compassion, mom.The vitriolic letter my mom wrote to put me in my place in 1995, referencing the Thanksgiving snafu. Thanks for the compassion, mom.

(It seems that was one of the more troublemaking decisions I ever made. On the heels of that declaration, I had to notify my mom that we were not coming to the first Thanksgiving dinner that we would have had in all the years since 1986. And since I had taken ill and was really in a mess, neither would I. Unfortunately, that firm decision was made on Thanksgiving morning, after she already started in on making a feast for the day. For four people. And two of us pulled out. She could still make a vitriolic statement about that even today if you were to ask her. She later decided to deduct $50 of payment from a $300 "loan" I made her in August of that year during one of the best periods I ever had in her company, just around the time I met Robin. But she decided to make that point months and months later in 1995, well after she had stated she'd pay me back. I've since come to find that my mom does that with other family members and with larger numbers. I digress.)

A couple weeks after that troubled Thanksgiving week, Robin and I engaged in one of those regrettable unprotected encounters that goes on to write a whole new history for people. Another roulette time that sometimes I've wondered about. Was it an intentional thing to be so risky just weeks after that big rejection of the proposal? Was it a trap? It's speculation, but plausible stuff. People do that. I'm as guilty as her, but at the age of 20, while young ladies can override knowledge of facts and figures and consequences with foolishness, ultimately, it was a decision of hers to participate (unprotected) in the whole thing.

If all that weren't enough, the presence of my odd friend Matt Zuniga was an odd thing to estimate once I got a girlfriend. The way he talks is suitable for the locker room or to accompany our midnight drum jams in industrial parks, but he was always inclined to be a tad more raunchy than I would like, particularly around Robin. Sometimes she played back with some equally suggestive talk. There were some times in the week before I left for my trip when I swear our relationship was on the rocks because of this. Since Robin didn't drive at that time, Matt drove me to the airport and Robin was along to see me off. After the weeks of them doing all sorts of flirtatious talk that I ordinarily don't engage in, my trip to the airport was littered with more such talk, and in light of all the innuendo, who knew what was really meant about Matt offering to "take Robin home." I flew out of town wondering how those two would conduct themselves while I was gone. There were later times when I was present in the room and when I got some idea of how things could have gone. But this is a family show...

Letter to my old man, chewing him out for charging me rent because I put a lock on my door to keep him from snooping.Letter to my old man, chewing him out for charging me rent because I put a lock on my door to keep him from snooping.

In addition, only two days before I left I was told by my old man that I might need to move my stuff out of the house so he could rent the place in January. Excuse me? He told me that just before Christmas. I left on December 26th and would be gone through the 4th of the new year. He offered to move my stuff for me. That was grossly offensive considering that much of that year was troubled by his intrusions upon my room, causing me to make the decision to put a lock on the door. That subsequently became his permission to start charging me $100 rent: all because he could not leave my stuff alone.

Shelby in Alaska in the dead of winter, holding her catA rare picture of Shelby, taken while I was at her place in Fairbanks, AK

The Alaska Ice at New Years

I'll have to cut this part shorter than it deserves because this post is really about Shelby and the August 11, 1997 event, but suffice to say, the trip was a troubled one though not for the reasons I suspected. Because it was bound to be awkward under the conditions of just seeing Shelby, or seeing her after a long time, I was there with a case of nerves that was just dismal. Being in strange new places (in the winter, there is just a few hours of daylight that looks about as bright as at 8 am here) was even more to dislocate me. And then the fear that Robin was late during the time I was gone added more anxiety. Calls back to her got me a "don't worry, it's fine" message that I distrusted as the time passed. I was really a troubled dude that week and a half and didn't make a good impression.

1995-1996: the Blackout

Coming home, the first order of business was to get Robin to Planned Parenthood on January 5th to see what fate awaited us. I think she was plenty surprised herself that she was pregnant and at five weeks already. Five weeks, eh? I know what night that was. Just days after that nullified engagement. Hmmm. She scheduled an appointment for a termination to be done the following week on January 12th. I paid my half of the $260 and took her there and did all the stuff that seemed right at the time. After that experience she was on the pill and at least there was a safety net that wasn't there before. People have already chewed me out for this whole episode, so refrain, okay?

Meanwhile, it took a few weeks before I wrote to Shelby to tell her how life was upon my return. First off, everything going on with Robin demanded attention, and really, I knew that the trip had not gone well and I was not sure discussing it would have helped much. But I got a letter off to her anyway. I suppose that at the age of 21 I did not have the tact she would have prefered me to have. Apparently I came off as crass to her (which was not hard to do; she was a harsh judge of things) when I wrote to tell her "the problem was solved." Fair enough. I didn't hear from Shelby until December, just before Christmas! And when I did, she chewed me out for being so crass and that while I was in Alaska I was "a pill" and condescending to her friends. Probably, given the weight of circumstances then. She apparently just forgot about writing to me for the better part of a year. But then something about Christmas (not even her holiday, as she professed to be agnostic) warmed her enough to send that lashing letter. She didn't even mind that there was an abortion involved. I hoped not. She was a flaming liberal pro-choice person according to her other rants. But she insisted I was too devoid of emotion or compassion to put it the way I did. And then nearly a year went by. I got that card just in time to "enjoy" my holidays. 

That was the end, for all I knew. I don't even recall if I wrote back. But I did not hear from her again. Now I can tell you the story I set out to tell.

My business card with full address to my apartment with my gear and all. That was dumb.My business card from 1997-1998.

Pizza and Beer... for Dolphins

Robin and I spent about two-thirds of 1996 in a slow breakup mode. Somewhere in the midst of that, on August 25th I got the pressure to leave my home of nearly 23 years (I moved nearly all I owned in two car/vanloads, done in a smash and grab motion that lasted about two hours on the following day) and after a few days or so at my grandmother's house, I took up residence in Robin's comparable childhood home in La Mesa. I was a two month guest more than anything and since that fall season of 1996 was filled with a bunch of stress and strife and life readjustment, that finally put the fire under me to seek out the kind of income that would actually let me get free of such drama. Feeling empowered by the newness of my truck, purchased on September 17th, I got a job at Pizza Hut in La Mesa, not even a mile from Robin's place. It was just about the beginning of October and by the end of the month, was moving into an apartment in Clairemont, now 12 miles away. The driving didn't hurt because with the tip money from being a pizza delivery guy, there was always cash in my pocket, and back then gas was about $1.25 a gallon anyway. But the time on the road might be a liability getting there at the wrong time of day when a lot of traffic out the eastbound 8 freeway would bunch up and make that a tedious drive.

Keneally's 1099 statement for me after the tour.Mike Keneally's 1099 statement for the tour

No worry though. Aside from Pizza Hut there was not much else to report to in life. I gave up working for Rockola once it was clear that Pizza Hut could more than pay for the $270 room I lived in and the few expenses I had. I had bought my truck outright in September so I never had a payment after the first two payments I made. The solitary room was indeed a new experience for me. Robin visited a couple times in November when it was a new thing, but for the most part, we were done. And then the big break happened. Mike Keneally called me to go on a tour as drum and bass assistant for his band Beer For Dolphins for five weeks, starting on November 18th, not quite three weeks after I got settled into the apartment and starting in just five days! Read bass player Bryan Beller's accounts in his blog from the period [Google listings show more of that.] In that period, I barely gave it a second thought. I told Pizza Hut I had to take several weeks off and if they could reserve my job, great, and if not, maybe I could work something out at the local Clairemont store. Essentially, I quit that lucrative position and went to work my dream gig for my favorite musician. It was a great injection of purpose and meaning for me after all the drama that the year had brought. Mike paid me out of his own pocket about $37 a day for 35 days—a flat $1325 when all was said and done. (The thing is, I had agreed to do the tour for even less than that but the situation on the ground was that I was co-opted by the Steve Vai crew to help out loading the truck upon which the BFD gear was riding piggyback, and Mike took that into consideration and paid a bit more than we agreed to initially.) That was no significant loss compared to what I was making, and being out of my usual, troubled space at home would do me good. It also helped put the distance between me and Robin that was necessary to envision a life not in that relationship. As it happened, we lasted about one week after I returned, then I broke up with her. I don't recall talking to her on the phone while I was gone, but maybe a couple times. I was glad to get free.

When I returned, I took about two weeks to regroup, did some local gigs including the incredibly arduous New Year's gig for Dr. Feelgood, where I had to break into my grandmother's house. (We had agreed I could store things, and over night if needed, so I could get some work from local musicians who had me move their gear and keep it at times.) In early January I was able to get a job at the Clairemont Pizza Hut and worked their until just after Super Bowl weekend in early February. Then I transferred back over to La Mesa because I found it more profitable.

So that sets the stage for the rest of this story. Now you know the oddness that is Shelby and the oddness that is her coming and going in my life. You've seen how I was involved with Robin and how that influenced Shelby to be even harder a person to deal with, cutting out of the scene for over two years. You see how I had this yo-yo relationship with La Mesa for a while thanks to Robin and Pizza Hut. So get this...

I Wasn't Supposed to be at Work That Day

My bedroom studio, a modest few tape decks, mixer, effects module, and some guitar around. I barely ever used the drums during the time I was at that apartment, except off site.My bedroom studio in mid 1997, shortly before I bought the VS-880, coincident with running into Shelby at the parking lot a couple days before.

Pizza Hut in La Mesa turned out to be a pretty lucrative job for me that year. I was newly free of my childhood home, newly free of a troubled relationship, and newly inspired by the Keneally tour (getting to watch Toss Panos play drums every night was just amazing, even when he was piss-assed drunk and angry). I spent my time working on my recordings in my little bedroom (they turned into Hog Heaven), and when I wasn't doing that, I went to work at Pizza Hut. I usually worked at Pizza Hut in the evenings and did about 30-35 hours there most weeks and probably brought in $1300, mostly in cash. I was living like a king, it seemed. I worked different days but probably had a few main days I could rely upon. I didn't do gigs unless they fit around Pizza Hut. For a while in the summer my roommate's friend and drummer in their band, let me record my drums at his house not far away. It was all very fluid.

So one Monday in August when I was not scheduled to work, I got a call asking me to come in to help relieve some shortage. I was asked to come in whenever I could. I cautioned that I lived 12 miles out and the rush hour would be slowing me down but I'd get in to help. That was good enough for them. They were desperate. I don't recall the specifics of whether I burned a path out there or whether I dilly-dallied or stopped to gas up but sometime in the five o'clock hour I arrived in the parking lot at 8000 La Mesa Boulevard where the Pizza Hut was. Maybe or maybe not did I stop to finish hearing what was on the radio. I wasn't being timed so I didn't hurry. Maybe or maybe not did I pay great attention to the many pedestrians moving in and out of the Vons store that my Pizza Hut was anchored to. Carefree. Today was bonus money, and just for a few hours. My calendar shows that it was 6-9:30 and that there were $29 in tips. Nice.

As I walked up to the store from about halfway down the parking lot, I heard my name called just about as I was to pass two women going by. Well holy hell! It was none other than Shelby! That warranted a double take. She was walking along with her mom. I don't recall if I knew that he mom lived there then or if that was news to me, but indeed she did live nearby on Mt. Helix, and Shelby was visiting from out of town. Only this time it was not from Alaska but a clear opposite part of the world—Louisiana. She was a student at LSU doing her Masters work, just about to start her last year there. We said a few small words and probably refreshed each other on phone numbers and gave a hug. She seemed happy to see me. And of course, having come to expect I might never talk to or see her again, I was excited to see her too.

She was visiting for one week. I just happened to be there on my day off. I was asked to come in whenever I could. I was in rush hour traffic for too long. I could have let one more traffic light or pedestrian slow me down. Or I could have been there one minute earlier or parked over one more stall. Immediately I set about the thoughts of what a remarkable meeting this was. You could imagine I could barely keep myself from bouncing off the walls. Yes, I remembered the troubled history. Yes I remembered the emotionally frustrating metaphorically slammed doors. I never lost that. But a day like this, after a year that was filled with its painful lows and empty accomplishments (working just for money never means anything to me, and aside from my recording, life was damned boring), it felt like I got part of myself back. It was a day to rejoice in, unambiguously. It was a gift from I don't know where. And it would be over three years before the tension mounted and broke again, in the form of that letter that I linked to above. For now, the order of the day was to be happy to have reconnected.

We talked on the phone that night. I don't know for how long or about what, but in those two years and nearly eight months since our last time being in the same place, it was probably quite a story. Three days later, on the 14th, we met at the La Mesa Barnes and Noble and got some lunch at Schlotzky's next door. It was a grand old time. I was over three years from spending a comparable day in La Mesa in late 2000, and one that instead of signalling the start of a great new period, signalled the end of the entire thing after 12 years. But that day at Barnes and Noble, it was electrifying again. It felt right. Some people do that to a person.

I've risked many detours to get to that story, a story that perhaps was far more magical when it happened than after I have parted ways with her, and after having told the Shelby story in many other ways here at this site. But let me just detour again to bracket this time in another way.

Hog Heaven Holiday Theme Music cover, a giant hog with some reindeer antlers upon its head, towing a sleighThe last "complete" feeling project that came out of Hog Heaven, December 2000. But HHS went on until mid 2005, usually with far less passion and conviction as during the three years when Shelby and the VS-880 were in some mysterious conspiracy.

Hog Heaven Halcyon Days, Shelby-powered

A parallel interest in the summer of 1997 was to upgrade my recording gear. I selected the Roland VS-880. I saved my cash during that summer and on August 13th, was prepared to buy the 880. Among the things that Shelby and I talked about was that new purchase. We were sitting there in La Mesa and that recorder was at that point just a new toy I had barely unpacked. Of course, that machine was the single best tool that helped me unlock a creativity that spanned for about three years and some change. It was the heart of Hog Heaven Studio, starting in mid 1998. I used it for everything there. The last project I did there (excluding smaller things that never really reached completion) was the Hog Heaven Holiday Theme Music disk I recorded in December 2000 in the two weeks or so prior to Christmas. It was the last explosive period of recording creativity that happened there before so many changes. It also happened to conclude within a day or two of the last day I saw Shelby, and the day that I finally put my long-bottled up thoughts onto paper and delivered them to her mom's house in La Mesa. You might say that the VS-880 era was Shelby-powered. When she was gone, that whole enterprise deflated in a huge way. Sure, there were other experiences and people involved, but that whole period was definitely fed by her as my muse. Especially the last year or so of it when Receiving was done.

It's pretty clear I overestimated what could be done within that relationship. After it crashed and burned she lambasted me for misrepresenting myself and the terms of our relationship. Yeah, maybe. I was scared to speak up until I was about to explode. And when I did, yes, it all did crash big. All these years later since early 2001, I've never once heard from her. She's a fickle person. And maybe that's not what I need in life. Other people of course have diverted my attention from the kinds of wishful thinking that I once indulged in. Kelli certainly is as present as Shelby was absent, and we live a life of availability to one another.

But something still amazes me. Over the years, I have Googled nearly everyone of interest in my life and Shelby is one who has such an amazingly low profile online. I did write to her a couple times, either to old addresses or once on Facebook, ten years after our blowout. Nearly all the other people I've contacted this way have responded to my thoughtful attempts at reconciliation and reconnection. Shelby is dogged in her avoidance of that. It's one of those things that, as it always has, will let my mind fill in the blanks. Be all that as it may, it doesn't change the story of times like the day when I wasn't supposed to be at work, came in "whenever," was stuck in rush hour traffic, waited for pedestrians, and then walked at whatever pace through the parking lot, and was nearly miraculously rewarded with a chance to rekindle a friendship that had brought me to both extremes of joy and pain prior to that as she often had some harsh criticism of the way I lived my life or how I naively expressed myself in situations that were like being under water, but that for a while—a day, a month, three years, kept feeding me somehow with the stuff of vitality and purpose in life. Even the rather disastrous collapse of all that can't take those experiences away.

Friday
Jul132012

Auf Wiedersehn, Deutschland +21

Since about 2009, I've written a lot about what happened "twenty years ago‚" maybe to preserve memory or to finally take advantage of the richness of expression that the web allows. Today I'd like to push past that some. I'd like to tell about an experience 21 years ago. I sort of dropped the ball last summer by not reporting on my first trip to Europe. I was busy and of course, a trip of that sort is too tall a tale to tell in one post, or even a few.

I can't think of a time when a male friend ever evoked this feeling in me upon parting ways. Had I ever cried at such a time? Oh, I recall the summer of 1985 when my 5th-6th grade school pal Michael Lane moved to Porterville, CA (a place I first drove to only last year on Thanksgiving Day) after we got free of Longfellow Elementary. I missed the toilet jokes and playing with Transformers and whatever else, even a fondness for Garfield the cat. I do remember moping around when Michael was gone. I was about to enter 7th grade, with the sense of unfamiliarity that that could bring, even as I anticipated many of my peers there would be people I already knew from my time at Hawthorne elementary from K-4.

The lineup shot of four of us goofing off the day before graduationThe day before graduation: Trudi (exchange student from Germany, my prom date and Shelby's friend at school); Shelby; Steve; and me.

1991 Personal Zeitgeist

Years later—this time in 1991 after the next six year block of institutional brainwashing—I stood at a train station in Munich, Germany and had several months' experience come to a rather emotional close. This time, just weeks after graduating from high school, the future did indeed seem wide open again, and maybe too wide. What would fill the gap? Who was I in this new context? Was this the end of things? I didn't have any idea about a life after high school. I was only focused enough to anticipate the summer ahead with an incredibly twitterpated crush on my non-girlfriend girl-friend Shelby Duncan. She was due to return from her trip to Russia one week after this day that I am about to recall for you. And my heart was about to explode out of my chest all that time she was gone. But all that, as all you TAPKAE.com readers no doubt already know, was a rather futile form of masochism that I subjected myself to for some years.

Steve at the last dinner before graduation and his departure from San Diego

As the saying goes, it's better to have a bird in hand than two in the bush. On this day 21 years ago, that was really the case, though agonizingly so. The Shelby thing was already in decline by the end of high school. Most of the script was written by about a year or so before when it was made "clear" to me that she'd never really be interested in me, at least that way. Things had evolved somewhat, but never enough to really turn things around. But that didn't stop me from going to Europe and etching the various bits of lovestruck grafitti into park benches, trees, and even Alpine snow banks. I didn't let that history dissuade me from my imagination-run-amok. With Shelby, I had two birds in the bush.

With my German friend Stephan (Steve) Rau, I sort of had my bird in hand. Only it wasn't a literal "in hand" because we were just good pals in that second semester of my senior year. We had met in the first days of that special year, placed as we were in the Government/Economics class taught by Harry Steinmetz, the man who I still hold up as the model teacher in a school setting. (His father, Harry Steinmetz, Sr., is in the history books and was clearly an influence on the man I studied under on three occasions in high school and years later at Mesa College.) In that class Steve and I were in contact and had gotten to find some common interests and could enjoy having some lunch together in the courtyard with some others. But it wasn't until January when we finally spent any time outside of school. There was something to that. He did live about six miles away, which, when you consider the geography of San Diego from my house to his host family's place, was a bit of a challenge on a bike. Eventually, the spirit of carpe diem seized me and we went out to see one of the laser light shows at the Fleet IMAX theater in Balboa Park. It's amazing how fast a semester goes, and there it was, gone. I started to feel a bit like I could be a better host to show him a bit of my town.

Like Father, Like Son. Sort of.

In another universe, and for many years prior to senior year, my old man had regaled me with tales of his first trip to Europe—when he was 17 and fresh out of high school in 1963. Back in my own life, I had taken two years of German language classes in 10th and 11th grade. A lot of my interest in language was sparked that summer of 1988 just before entering 10th grade. I excelled at German in the controlled conditions of the classroom, and knowing something of German (the mother tongue from which English arose) helped my English understanding. For those couple years, I read up or otherwise was intrigued by German culture and history. Because those years were still in the Cold War era, there was still an East and West Germany. The old man, reading properly that I was interested in this of my own accord, fed my enthusiasm with trips to one or two of the German theme villages in Southern California. And then it started... he started suggesting that I could go to Europe after I graduated high school. After all, I had the money now. And then when he realized Steve and I were getting to be buddies, he stepped it up. I wasn't that interested in going to Europe. I mean, that money was for something else. A car maybe? More cowbells to complete my drum kit?

I rejected it at first. Not because I didn't think it neat to have a new buddy. Not long after the laser show, we found ourselves doing some weekend trips to local sights (including one day trip including Shelby that lived on for years later), but one day in February I stayed over at his host family's place, watching Monty Python movies (Life of Bryan, Meaning of Life) and probably listening to a lot of music, and most importantly, having a talk that really set the tone for a quality of relationship that I think we both were stunned by. Some conversations just put new marker pins on the map of life. This was one of those. But it still didn't really make me wish to go to Europe that summer.

My bank book with the deposit record of checks from my mom up until the trip in 1991.My bank book with the record of deposits leading up to the trip.

By April, the flow of events had brought Steve and I into more regular time spent together and getting to know each other, and the nudging persisted until finally I bought the plane ticket and started to anticipate the trip. Back then it was a simple thing to anticipate, and of course as things developed with my new friendship, the emotional investment in it developed too. Oddly, it was not a "gift" from him to me. At least not out of his pocket. You see, this is where the family stuff has to sour the story. Long story short, that $3700 in the bank was "mine" in an account bearing my name but that was not able to be drawn from until my 18th birthday in October 1991. What didn't really become clear until many years later was exactly how crookedly how that money came to have my name on it.

The Trip

Finally, graduation time came and the glory days of senior year were turning into history. The time we had together in San Diego was winding down and then finally ran out. Steve's father Gerhard flew in to watch the graduation in person and to have dinner with us the night before. Shortly afterward they took off to do a couple weeks of touring in the Southwestern areas. My travel plans were to leave on June 27 and to return on July 13th. But the trip would be essentially two experiences: the tour with the old man and at the end of it all, the four days at Steve's place in Garching an der Alz, a town in the southeast of what was then West Germany. It is about 60 miles from Munich.

The trip with the old man was primarily a tour of parts of Switzerland, including a couple days in Geneva (my first jet lag), a couple in Zermatt at the base of the Matterhorn, and a few other places that echoed his 1963 trip. The tour took us through miniscule corners of Italy, France (in the shadow of Mont Blanc), and a short half day pass through Innsbruck, Austria. By those little detours can I say that I've been to those countries, but I can't really say I've seen France or Italy or even much of Austria. By far, the feature attraction for me was getting to Garching and seeing what Steve's world was like. Of course, my four days there would pale in comparison to his school year in San Diego. We'd do what we could. The old man, my driver and tour manager to that point, stayed one night in Garching (where he regaled everyone with his tales from his 1963 trip and another to Berlin in 1989-90 just as the Berlin Wall was coming down) then went out and amused himself for a few days and left me and Steve to our youthful pursuits. We'd rendezvous in Munich on the 12th and fly home early on the 13th.

Since Steve had not been seen there in about ten months, there was plenty of social life for him to get back into. Family to reconnect with and games to play. Friends to see, places to go. Errands to run in towns like Muhldorf, Altoetting, Neuotting, and Burghausen. It gave an easy opportunity to bring me along to some of it. I had my first 35mm camera with me but knew nothing about it. I wish I had because then I wouldn't have unintentionally rewound the film after every shot. I went to one photo developer in Garching and found to my horror that most of my pictures while there were wasted! In some cases, Steve and I drove back to locations and shot some more, and others were just lost. The journal I kept each day told something of the story but doesn't age well, being filled with so many of the little in jokes and comic references that were the currency of the banter between Steve and I at the time, but has since lost its charm for me, and is therefore hard to read without cringing.

Drinking age there is 16 so for this 17 year old, I wasn't out of the loop when it came time to hang out and shoot pool, or to go to dinner with Steve and his father and brother Christoph. Christoph himself was preparing to go to the US for an exchange year in Utah, so he was inquisitive about the USA. We all liked music and were talking about it and even took an hour or two and jammed some—Steve on piano, Christoph on sax, and me on whatever I could find. I think my drumset was a music stand and coffee can or something. (When in town, we hit music stores as often as possible. I was in search of Jethro Tull bootlegs.) Their place was a generously sized house on a lot that seemed chateau like, and that extended some way back into the woods and that had a river (the Alz) just down an embankment. There was farmland everwhere, broken up by the forests that had not yet been cleared. It was a bit tedious a landscape but beautiful nonetheless because it was still respected and towns were not the anchors of sprawl that we expect here.

It was hot, hot, hot, and on top of that, it was humid. Being so far inland was a new thing for me, and I guess I never expected Europe to be so hot. My journal reflects that we were just trying to stay cool and relaxed unless there was somewhere to go. We biked down to the river and hung out in the water, but it would be a year before I would enter that river in shorts. Nope, my years-long exclusive pants-wearing personal habit would not be broken at home. I had to go to Germany in 1992 to find the heat so miserable that I donned shorts for the first time in seven years, and was subjected to ridicule for it! Those hot times made for a nice outdoor grilling experience. The food was always good, and I was able perhaps for the first time to eat a diet of "real" food. You know, full power butter and cream; fresh fruit and old world cheeses, meats, breads, and other delicacies. And Nutella! I ate and ate and ate like there was no tomorrow because it was like it was the first time I was really eating. The beers and brats of course were delightful on those hot days. I'd barely had any beer before getting to Germany so I had little reference, but there I learned to enjoy a good Pilsner as part of a meal.

Trains

Four days isn't long to take in and try to wrap up a friendship that developed over nearly a year. The time in Germany was spent doing a lot of things that were new and exciting and didn't really leave us the chance to talk at length like we had in the states. Maybe we didn't need to. Or maybe it was too hard to face the facts. Who knew when or if we'd see each other again? Finally the day came when Steve and I were off to Munich on the train. It would be the last half day to spend together. He had to get back and I had to fly home the next morning. The powerful emotions of the day were hard to push away, and it was clear that July 12th was a day when we both fought back the salties. A day of quiet as the morning breakfast goes about in near silence except for the goodbyes and deep thanks I had to say to Gerhard and the brothers' grandfather Heinrich, a 90 year old gentleman who spoke little and with whom I could barely communicate except through gestures and smiles. Christoph must have been in school still or had other business so Steve and I had to brave it alone and make the most of a day that made us both sore. Maybe this was the end of this trip, but I was starting to feel drawn to the idea of coming over again next year.

The train ride was mostly silent and awkward. I think I dozed off and was found with a bit of that loose jaw drool starting when I jumped to and caught Steve snickering some. We got to Munich, a mighty city of stone and people, of art and commerce, of ideas and history. And of music stores. We hit one giant store in the Viktualienmarkt where I hunted for some more Tull and Fairport Convention. We had to rendezvous with the old man on arrival so I could offload my travel bags at his hotel room, but I seem to remember being alone with Steve after that, getting lunch, sitting at a cafe, and sort of trying not to lock eyes because, well, that would make us all sappy.

nasty letter from the old man in the early days of my 3rd period with mom. he likes to try to remind me of the good old days and things he did for me, including the first europe trip that she paid for only by his manipulations of the law.Enlarge to read the manipulative language my old man uses to justify some nasty behavior. He loves to cite this train station experience as his handiwork and successful parenting.

The big moment eventually came about mid afternoon. We three were at the train station, and for probably half an hour before the train left, there was hardly a word passing between Steve and me. Getting out onto the waiting area near the train stop pushed all the salt water in me to just behind my eyelids. The old man, no doubt beaming in pride at the results of this rather carefully orchestrated idea that spanned many years of planning and arm-twisting, waited at a bit of a distance. He saw it all. Steve and I finally had to do that last handshake, that last hug and a muttered message of my intent to try to come back the next year, and his final exit onto the train. That's when the flood of emotion washed over me. This clearly was no Michael Lane moving to Porterville. Porterville, even at 300 miles from home, felt close, as if a day trip would suffice to see a distant friend. Even without knowing the kinds of dirty tricks that resulted in the money for this trip, it seemed a huge task to raise new money for a second trip and to plan the trip for next year. I had no idea how that would go. With no job and only about half as much money, it was a dream.

The face of a friend in the window of a train car moving the other direction is indeed rather like the movies make it out to be. I was dazed. It was small comfort to be milling around in Munich with my old man for the rest of the day. I might as well jump on a plane and go home to my imaginary girlfriend Shelby and pretend this never happened. But that flight would come soon enough even though it would be an agonizing week of suspense and heart acrobatics for me while waiting for Shelby to come home to San Diego after her sojourn in Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sure, I had a little something to look forward to: I'd have school to go to in the fall, starting classes at Mesa College, but my heart was with Shelby and Steve. And, as said above, I realized Shelby was a long shot and that things could very well not work out no matter how far my heart would leap out of my chest. So that left me with that feeling surrounding the knowledge that really Steve was the biggest loss since he'd been the biggest gain up till now. I was anticipating the long distance phone bill and the awkwardly scheduled talks we'd have, spanning eight time zones. I was also anticipating passing music back and forth with (get this...) cassette tapes. Before leaving Munich, I'd bought a couple packages of tapes at what was then a very satisfactory exchange rate of 1.78DM : 1USD.

Afterward: Yeah, Whatever

It was hot that day. Humid, and the clouds were building for a storm. Me and the old man did some walking around town and took in some lunch and a tasty Lowenbrau on the Hofgarten, the giant area where the Oktoberfests are held in the Bavarian capitol. Eventually we had to settle in for the night. The day ahead was one of travel from early in the German morning into late in the San Diego evening. Because I was not part of the original reservation at his hotel, and because he's a wily fellow, the hotel staff did not recognize me yet seemed quite interested in my status there. Steve and I had gone in earlier to drop my bags and were looked past as "assistants." I got in at night okay.

Sometime in the middle of the night I was woken by the most insane thunderstorm I'd ever experienced. Outrageously loud and bright. It seemed like it was directly overhead. The dense layout of the old city, and the stone construction of the buildings all led to it being explosive sounding. It was nearly scary. It kept the trip from ending on anything like a normal note, if that was possible. I probably lost some sleep. The next morning, we had to escape the hotel. I grabbed my things and did a dash past the woman at the counter who shouted out at me, trying to get me to come back, or at least to find out what my room number was. We just raced past her and out to the train station, bound for the airport.

To be continued in 1992...

Friday
Jun292012

So Ed, Didja Pork Her? +20

The Mysterious Matthew

...So said Matt Zuniga on the day when I admitted to having gone out with a girl. It was the first such instance in the seven months or so that we had been hanging out as co-workers and frustrated, exiled drummer wannabes. But really, it was more the first time in my nearly 19 years that I had gone out with a girl, with any hope of it turning into anything of a relationship.

Matt had a very unfiltered manner of speech. By the time I met him, he was already 20 and I was a newly minted 18 year old. He came on like a total character. Since I never saw him as a younger fellow who might have been tempered by the presence of his folks, he came out of nowhere and blindsided me with some of his outrageous comments and behavior. I think I've told some of those stories on this journal, and you might do a search for Matt Zuniga if your curiosity is so perverse.

Slippery Shelby

Being a pretty uptight kid myself, and being hopelessly optimistic about my um, prospects with Shelby Duncan starting on December 18th, 1988, I didn't really look long at other girls. She too exploded on the scene for me that evening and by the time of this date in 1992, the essential parts of our 12-year drama were written, rehearsed, and nearly mastered. We were never an item; rather she kept me at some distance and we never did so much as a kiss. That is, outside of my imagination. But make no mistake, I was as committed to her as anything, particularly during the period shortly after our graduation from high school in 1991. (She was at Mission Bay and I was at Madison. We were also peers separated by just nine days in October—me on the 12th and her on the inverse of those numbers, the 21st, so that lent some poetic air of closeness too, possibly in lieu of the real important stuff.)

Melissa, the Patient One

In the background, there was Melissa. She's the daughter of Mark, a younger friend of my old man's from the days before either Melissa or I were born. Mark and my old man worked in the same factory at Solar Turbines and the social times carried on for some years. They used to live in Clairemont and I do recall faintly some times when we were at their house. They moved to the suburban tract of Mira Mesa in 1984. At the time that was on the fringe of civilization, or so it seemed. Melissa, about two and a half years my junior, was a play pal on some occasions when our dads got together to kill time, nothing more. Because Mira Mesa, just nine miles away, but about a world away to those of us growing up in our little suburban zones, was so far out, I basically forgot about Melissa for years.

Then sometime in early 1991 she called me at home, apparently having raided her folks' address book (that piece of technology preceded such items as we now take for granted, like smart phones and iPads. It was made of paper.) I guess that as a 14 year old, she was just curious and excited when she recalled I was a sometimes playmate. At the time, I was about to play a talent show at school and I might have mentioned it. She might have come down. At any rate, she did manage to notify me of a time when her grandmother, a singer in the Sweet Adelines (a barbershop style singing group for women) was to be singing at some flag waving rah-rah fest at the school football field not long after the first Gulf War came to a close. It was one of those times when she wanted to sneak around the back side of the bungalow where no one was looking. I don't know if she really had an agenda. She was way too young and even a year or two later did not seem ready to act on that kind of impulse. But it was clear she wanted to get closer somehow. And that kind of weirded me out.

First off, there really wasn't anyone but Shelby on my mind at that time, and nothing was going to pry me away. Shelby was a contemporary of mine and a far deeper personality that even I was intimidated by. She was also impossible to get close to, even at half the distance of Melissa's place in Mira Mesa. I can't say I ran from this attention but I brushed it off as a little misguided. I guess she dropped it. I don't recall hearing from her for over a year.

The Dream

And then, one Sunday morning at the end of June 1992, I awoke to a thunderous earthquake timed in such a way as to interact with a rather stirring dream of Melissa beckoning me to join her. It was one of those odd dreams when external stimuli (the earthquake) gets integrated into the dream. I shot up bolt upright. It was something of a revelation. At the age of 18, not having closed any deals with the opposite sex—and really, not even dating, it must have been rumbling in the subconscious that something had to change. Was this some kind of advertisement for Melissa being easy? Or was it some message that I need to stop with the Shelby illusion, er, delusion? That day I had to think on what it meant. I guess there was just one thing to do since the message did not seem to leave me to my own devices. I called Melissa. I offered to pick her up and go to the University Town Center mall, a place about equidistant from both our places. I'd pick her up around 11 the next day. I gather she did some kind of happy dance finally.

Was I just acting because this was all available to me? Was I really interested in her? Was I just curious? Yeah, probably all that. Melissa was a slightly rounded girl-next-door type who was into all the girly stuff. She was into fantasy fluff. Endless Disney movies. Radio dedications on the soft rock station. Who knows. Aside from being B students with dads who worked in the same company, I don't feel there was all that much glue between us. Sometimes you have to just leap into the river and see where it takes you.

I had to ride my bike to my grandparents' place about three miles in the other direction so that I could borrow my grandfather's Ford Escort. Their cars were somewhat available, but because I had a car accident at the close of the first month after I got my license, they were a bit shy of letting me drive too much. Well, that was nearly two years before and the caution had faded. Good luck for me because I had a date with destiny. 

That week I had some interesting gastronomic issues. My journal is put away nice and good at the moment but it caused me some distress. Eating was not all that rewarding. So I went up to Melissa's place to pick her up, feeling queasy. Or was it just the anticipation for the experience about to unfold? We drove to UTC, about halfway back to my house, and I suppose we strolled the place, ducking in and out of shops like people are programmed to do. I do recall we got to Sears (the one errand I had to make so I could get some new ribbons for my word processing typewriter that was recently worked hard with the production of my first fanzine, the Rhythmic Catharsette.) We were looking about and in some rather unfortunate coincidence, she twirled around with her purse just as some kid went whizzing by. Her arm and purse put a pretty quick halt to his running around. She was profusely embarrassed and apologetic, no doubt because she was putting on her best face for the day, no doubt a long time in the making.

At some point we got to the food court and set about having lunch. Was it a gyro sandwich? A hot dog on a stick? A slice of pizza? Taco Hell? Probably a gyro since that was where I first learned to enjoy the spiced meat and fluffy pita and veggies and creamy tzatziki sauce. We were sitting across the table from one another, chatting the small talk. It was never very deep with Melissa. I mean, she was 16 at that time and still very much under the sway of her father, a rather stern guy who could be loving, but always in control. I suppose he let her go out with me because of our history and he felt he could keep me accountable somehow. But then in a moment, somewhere as we're finding our eyes locking up more, I reached out and grabbed her hands and spent a good while holding them. It was electric. I don't know that it was because I was enthralled with this one girl. It was just one of those threshold moments that would have to happen sooner or later. But it was happening now. It was happening at last. Of course, she was receptive to it all, and I guess the world did get all soft and blurry and slow motion around us. The moment did seem to distort time for a while.

Boys Might Be Boys

I never really obsessed about being in any competition with guy friends about who'd get with a girl first. I never really was part of a crew where that was talked about much. Not until I met Matt, and even then it was more of a one sided thing where he regaled me with his tall tales. I was too uptight to engage in that, even as a matter of fiction. Still am, I guess. But after high school sent me on my way, and after one year taking my community college courses, and having spent time at Subway for about eight months, the sense that time was forgetting that I might need some companionship was upon me. I mean, here I was, nearly 19 and nothing but a few casual times out with a girl or two during high school (that led no where else) was all I had to show for anything of a love life. I was quite aware of it all. That year after high school was one of great alienation. A loss of the barely existent social life I had in school was acute; the distance between me and Shelby (who was by then in Northern California attending school, hosted by her step dad) and Steve Rau (back at home in Germany, where I was set to visit in just about two weeks from this first day with Melissa) was all too much at times. Having Matt around was small comfort. We had no history. He was not even nice to me sometimes. He was so contrary to my sensibilities that I was sort of embarrassed to be seen with him but glad that we spent any time together, else it would be a pretty desolate existence. 

One thing that would have been on my mind that season was the insane anticipation leading up to my trip toe Europe on July 14th. It was to be my second trip, and this time around, it was the trip that was by far my own initiative. It drove me to slave away at Subway, and to put up with Matt. In fact, it was one of those things that could well have been the end of all history. I had no plans of what to do upon my return except the vague knowledge that I'd start another school semester, look for work, and go out and play drums with Matt. My trip to Germany was so big a deal that I could have died after that. (I'll have to tell that story in another entry soon.)

Maybe my gray void following the trip was something recognized by the universal powers that be and maybe I was rewarded with Melissa's arrival on the scene. Telling her about plans to fly on the 14th elicited a plea to not go. Ah... the drama mounts. My heart began to know conflicting desires. But really it was a no brainer. I had already paid for my trip. I had spent a year in agonizing anticipation, hurting at all the experiences on the path to Germany. Sorry, but no girl was going to talk me out of it. The ball was already in play. Melissa's arrival on my scene did of course create a cause to become homesick where for that dark year, all I wanted was to escape San Diego and to get on my big adventure, my first solo trip—to Germany! Of course, it was more important to connect with Steve Rau, who had become perhaps my best friend to that date, doubly notable because he was male. The six weeks that we could spend together on untold adventures had all the gravitational pull of Jupiter.

Eventually our little moment at the food court returned us to real time with crisp colors. But walking out of there, hand in hand, and with a heart racing, was surreal. Driving back in the Ford Escort, it was a good thing I did not have to drive stick, or else the hand holding would have to come to an end. I don't recall if the first day at the mall ended in what became one of our signature half hour goodbyes out by the car in front of her house, but that was soon enough to come. After I left, I went home, no doubt buzzing with adrenaline and hormones. I had a date with Matt and Shelby that evening.

Dangerous Mixing of the Elements

The day before, I took a small drumset out to a commercial area in town called Kearny Mesa. Light industry, warehouses, offices, and all that. I was making early explorations into finding a place to play drums. This building, the Volt building, was the first that held promise and set the standard for places we'd use for a couple years to come. Slightly hidden area to play; AC power outlets for plugging in music to play to; hidden from weather, and unoccupied at nights and weekends. Having found it to my liking on Sunday, I told Matt we should go there together and do some Rhythmic Catharsis jamming on Monday the 29th. I may have only mentioned to him—sheepishly so—that I was about to go out with Melissa.

It was the news of the day when Matt and Shelby and I convened on this Volt building, and before or during some break, in the long daylight of the post-solstice summer days, we were eating some of Shelby's weird vegetarian concoctions and I was expected to give a debrief on the day's events. Matt, ever Matt, decided that my coy answers were not cutting it. How could I kiss and tell anything when we'd not even kissed?  So Matt just barged in with the question, "So Ed, didja PORK her?"

Uhhh...

That might have been a bold enough question in the company of each other at work or playing drums together, but man...that was a loaded question for me, especially in front of Shelby. I mean, Melissa was just a diversion from my longing for Shelby. And I had not even had my desired experiences with Shelby yet. (Nor was I ever to have them.) Part of me wanted to run from the question. Part of me wanted to smack Matt pretty good. So I gave the only answer I could give: an embarrassed and squeamish "NOOOO." I guess now was not the time to bring up that I was saving myself for Shelby. Meanwhile, Shelby, who never wanted anything of the sort with me, probably saw this as the golden opportunity to offload me onto someone else. I'm pretty sure she encouraged me that way, asking the kinds of questions that would cause me to hear my own voice speaking words of praise and fondness for Melissa, even protecting her dignity in my response to Matt's stunning question. It was almost a trap.

Shelby stayed a while, pretending some interest in what Matt and I played on drums and screamed at the tops of our lungs. Then she left. At least it was guy time again. Time to smack the drums with a newfound energy and passion. Aside from the obvious drama of the day, it was also one of the last times I was to play drums before leaving on my trip and I was channeling that energy. But the thought started to dawn on me that day: there might be a life after Germany after all.

There will be more tales from that summer. Melissa certainly held down the fort in terms of correspondence. I don't know if it's of any value to me anymore but I still have a box of letters she sent me, and a journal she wrote during my trip. I guess I can't complain about having an utterly unambiguous awareness that someone was thinking of me, wanted me, and couldn't sleep at night while I was gone. Coming out of the depressing and alienating year preceding our new time together, that was like fresh air and sunshine in my dark cave. These days I can barely stand to look at the words within (out of some kind of embarrassment that someone's looking over my shoulder, even Matt), or even how they're presented to me in the pen of a 16 year old girl, but there's something so remarkably pure and innocent and renewing in the message. I suppose I could do as I have done with a number of other documents and artifacts of my life, that is to burn it all. The day might come. But maybe in the overall record that has many troubled parts to it, I deserve to maintain some counterbalancing evidence that I was worthy of someone's devotion, particularly at that age, and even if I didn't pork her.

You gotta start somewhere.

Saturday
Dec032011

Jesus the Shape Shifter +20

This year of 2011 is drawing to a close and with it the +20 (years) aspect of it leading me to weigh what was going on twenty years ago. There are a few reasons 1991 is worthy of a look now twenty years on; it was the year of my high school graduation and then starting school at Mesa College after that; working at Subway where I met Matt Zuniga and where our status as exiled suburban drummers led me toward recording and all that; and a year where I traveled to Europe for the first time; and in some ways, some early brushes with a deeper level of life outside my comfort zone.

It was in the middle of the year of 1991 when I pretty much began my personal journal that now has gone on for two decades. The kinds of long form, introverted, and exploratory posts now on this site are not all so different than what I wrote in the early years (though they are far more legible and generally better composed). My friend Shelby, still causing me to spill pixels for as I process some of these earlier instances with a bit more perspective, was a huge figure that year, though never for the reasons I had hoped for. A completely mixed mind is sprawled out over various loose page journals from the second half of the year, and of course, she continued to shape things for years to come, until the crash.

One of the foundational experiences occurred on August 2nd. It was just a week or so after she got back from a trip to Russia that lasted a month. Her trip was quite a boldly timed thing, given the fact that the Soviet Union was only then in the process of becoming a historical nation. When we had this conversation on August 2, Gorbachev was weeks from losing his place as leader. When she was there, she saw the collapse as a citizen of the republic would have—empty store shelves, long lines for what could be had, and all that. For a 17 year old only nine days my junior, that was world wisdom that even this old man did not have. And, in America in the early 1990's, living as a suburbanite, even as a son of a working man, I only knew a baseline of what constituted comfort by the standard of about 98% of the world's population. But I didn't really know that. I didn't grasp it at any existential level. So Shelby was my rude awakening. She saw to it.

For the two weeks smack in the middle of her trip to Russia, I was in Europe. She saw the bread lines and empty shelves. I landed in Geneva and was met with absurdly common instances of Swiss watch shops, chocolatiers, charcutiers, and everything else that constitutes the enviable European good life in one of the most well-off nations on earth. About as much friction as I perceived there was some graffiti on the outside wall of one such shop. It read, "Yankee Go Home!" and was a kind reminder to my nation to not let let the fall of the Soviet Union become a power-trip, a stimulant. We had just "won" the war against Saddam Hussein in February after the six week campaign. I was in Geneva in June. If not for that bit of vandalism—totally out of place in Geneva, which has to be the cleanest and nicest urban space I've ever been in—then my trip would have been just a little bigger a deal than a trip to Disneyland. The places my old man/tour guide selected were pretty controlled sights to see—largely places that cater to tourism. For my time there, I spent all my time, heart aflutter for Shelby, thinking I'd be in a new golden era with Shelby once we came back. I got her a Swiss watch—rather dainty, comparatively speaking. She got me a Soviet one. It was big and manly with Cyrillic marks in red and black. Of course, not too long after, it broke and never worked again! 

But while our reunion in the late-middle part of July was met with my heart thumping out of my chest after not seeing or hearing from her for a month (and the hype associated with entering that period is a whole other story), she had just come home marked for life by her experience of seeing the dark side of the empire, getting to know real people. Maybe she's a bleeding heart liberal in a way that I can't relate to. Sometimes her rants did sour me, mainly because I was raised in a quite Republican/conservative setting and really had little idea what she was talking about. It was one of those rants that reshaped our history for years to come.

So on August 2, 1991, we went to breakfast. We scheduled it several days before. I was thinking we'd go to Denny's or something. That was breakfast at a restaurant, right? And maybe we'd go out at 10 am or something? Nah. She wanted to go out at 7 am! This was a jarring thing since I was getting to be later and later during that summer. But since I was so nuts for her, I was ready to do just about anything to get near her. She came over and picked me up. We had no idea where to go, but she said she'd like to go to Old Town. WTF? That's kind of far away, isn't it? There's nothing in Old Town but Mexican restaurants that cater to tourists. There's a Denny's just a few miles over in the other direction... Furthermore, she accosted my sensibilities by wanting to go to a Mexican restaurant for breakfast. Mega-WTF? Breakfast is eggs, bacon, pancakes! (The thing is, I was hyper sensitive to breakfast foods then. I tolerated cereal. Too many instances with "institutional" eggs that made me grimace. Cereal was breakfast for me.) I talked her out of that, so we went to downtown, some miles more. Didn't find anything appealing and agreeable. Her patience was thin and I was aware of that in a totally guilt-ridden, I ain't making no headway here kind of way.

We turned back to Old Town and the same Mexican restaurant we had just left. I felt like I was doomed in every way. I ordered something I thought would work out—a total gringo copout in the form of pancakes—and tried to eat some. All the pent up anticipation of seeing her again (I'd seen her a time or two since our return) and a wild case of nerves conspired to ruin this day, starting with the wrecking ball to my appetite! I took about three bites of these pancakes and pushed the plate aside. Then the browbeating came. I felt sicker than ever. 

Watching the news and seeing the state of the USSR at that time was one thing. It was safely at a distance. But sitting there with a friend who had actually seen past the Iron Curtain and was a new convert to what reality was, even in the lives our our arch-enemies, all that was mercilessly demolishing my ignorance. I don't know if she was rehearsing such a rant as I got that morning over pancakes, but she delivered it with passion, and I pretty much melted into my seat. I knew she was right. "Americans take everything for granted. I'm never again going to take anything for granted." I could tell I pissed her off. I made some vague offer to do something responsible if it made her think any better of me. I don't know if that was to take the food and donate it or to pay double or what, but it was what came to mind. 

I was well clammed up about this and a lot of other things in that great summer of transition. The thing is, a moment like this was golden, even as it was painful. But I'd have to wait nearly a decade before I actually got out what I had to say all those years before. It had nothing to do with Russia or food. I just wanted to be with her. She lit up my life. I could tell even the hard times were ones to learn from. But she never wanted the same and I never had the fortitude to get that message across without equivocation. When I did, it collapsed like a house of cards. But that is well discussed in the link above.

Skip ahead a couple months to the end of the year. I started working at Subway a few weeks later and by this time in December was about three months in and had progressed (by attrition) to be a "senior" employee, if not by age (18), then by the fact that I had outlasted the others and was now essentially the longest tenured closer, training other characters like Matt and Sarah. (You can read about my early Subway experiences here.) By the start of December, I was weary. I had already given Subway my nights and weekends. I noticed that working so late on Saturday was making it hard to be in church on Sunday, so I stopped going. In a time of transition out of high school and into my little experience with community college, I was rather foolish to isolate even more by dropping out of church. My social life, such as it was then, was largely shaped by returning to Subway on my days off so I could get dinner (which at that time was total culinary liberation compared to the garbage available at home). Or maybe I went in half an hour early and made my sandwich. By the time this journal of December 11/12 was written, I was newly faced with the reality of having turned my drums over to Matt just two weeks before. I was depressed. I think I got the flu. I was feeling pretty low.

Then I guess Jesus was out there to greet me on the way to work that day. He came in the form of a 40- or 50-something woman standing out near my Subway shop, but closer to the McDonald's driveway. As I biked in, I saw a sign that in 2011 would not shock me so much: "Homeless, Please Help, God Bless You" or something like that. I biked past her originally but as I was parking inside the Subway, I realized with a few minutes I had before shift-start, I could go out to offer help. I felt like maybe my own employee sandwich for the night would be the most reasonable thing to offer. So I walked back out and made an offer if she needed some food or to get out of the cold for a while. She did come in. I did get some food and drink for her. She said she was sleeping in a canyon with her husband. I don't know exactly what canyon, but that message was clear enough. Even in San Diego, a December night spent outside is no one's first choice.

My journal from that day recognized that this experience was the fruit of the seed planted by Shelby a few months before at that terribly uncomfortable breakfast. Okay, but I know that celebrating this is rather self serving. And I've perhaps done more in the time since, and without the kind of Shelby-is-watching self consciousness that accompanied this deed. But what surprised me about the original journal entry was what followed.

August 2 wasn't the day but December 11 was. [...] Christmas has come to mean less and less to me, especially after last year [a family Christmas blowout concerning a power struggle about which store to buy from, signalling decay in Lucas Land], as I usually can't stand the commercial shit out there, and there is little family unity. Sometimes, I feel better if I'm doing something for someone. But it's usually because I'm told to do something, not spontaneously, like today. Doing something like that seemed to be the only right thing to do that would make me feel a little better about this season that so often gets me down. I saw this opportunity and took it. Hell, my Christmas is made. I've got my CD player [a big thing that year that I know was bought a few days before], but not everyone is so lucky. Some people need to rely on donations such as the one I made today. Not because I was told to, but because I do feel a bit guilty about getting so much handed to me "on a silver platter," as it were. 1991: Ed's material year: bike; trip to Europe; CD player [CDs were a form of music playback device in the 1990s, LOL]; a job; way too much spending money; new cymbal [interestingly bought just an hour or so after the notorious August breakfast with Shelby]. And what did I pay for? Only a $100 cymbal! Everything else was given to me! It's about time I give back, or give away.

[Snip some musings on how I'd model my ideal self on some key people I respected then...]

I think the whole key to being such a person that I'd like to become is to take a walk in the other person's shoes, to live by the golden rule, and to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me. I was happy with myself.

A mixed bag of degrees of consciousness. I originally titled this entry "Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons" but I was thinking of how Jesus appears to people at various stages in the evolution of our consciousness. Some people respond better to the coercive Jesus who is the law man, the enforcer, the one who shames you into right action, and maybe it takes hold. Others respond to invitation. Jesus enters the room and at some level, one can only respond in the best possible way with one's being and presence. In this story of mine, I was a bit more responsive to the latter, the woman with her sign was more motivating than being browbeaten with Shelby's guilt, even as right as she was.

I'm still a bit embarrassed to post this bit of naive and rather condescending self-reflection. Such is a mind in transition. But I was really surprised to be reminded of the fact that even in 1991, I was already moving along one side of the fork in the road with regard to holidays and commercialism. I can still sense the revulsion and disgust at watching how my family was grappling with missing Eda (for several years by then), aging (both grandparents less and less able to host much for the holidays), and the strife surrounding which bargain department store should be used to buy stuff for me (my old man, a staunch K-Mart man, bitterly opposed my grandmother's more lenient purchase of a gift certificate from Mervyn's. He knew that could only mean I'd go buy Levi 501s which he seemed to have made a personal crusade against for a few years prior). Christmas 1990 was a new low point where I was beginning to see behind the veil of false joy that the holidays typically wear in this culture. Even doing the bit that I did for the woman at Subway was an early way to grapple with finding some alternative, even if it was a mechanical and self conscious act for me. As my father Richard Rohr says, we have to act ourselves into new ways of thinking, not think ourselves into new ways of acting. Baby steps.

In those days though, my world was rather small, and I had not really left the figurative apron strings, expecting the care to flow toward me rather than the other way around, or ideally, in a circular fashion. That was rather distant still. One thing that Shelby's method did not really account for was that I was not ready to come out of a shell that I was raised within. Granted, she delivered a few critical blows to it. She had her iconoclastic tendencies and got to make some real black and white statements, even in those earlier years. I guess she did provide me with the "nag" in a nagging conscience about my place in this Earth-scheme. She did that in the same way as my step mom Eda gave me a steady dose of God-talk that I was not ready for, and then when I was, I still had to adapt her language and vision to suit my vision of the world. (Interestingly, the reopening of my in-person contact with Eda was just around the corner from this date in 1991. Only a month later I was I saw Eda on the down-low for the first time in years. That's next year's drama, folks!) 

A lot is made about Christmas being a time of giving. If you read your biblical stories without a contemporary American/consumerist mind, you don't really see it that way. (You could read Lee Van Ham's perspectives.) Christmas is a time for hope in the darkness, and the symbol of hope, the symbol that God really gives a shit about humanity is that a helpless baby bore the divine image. The baby Jesus is, as Richard Rohr says, a divine lure to a deeper humanity for all of us. The incarnational aspect of divinity merging with the stuff of the human being—the dust, as it were—is the miraculous message of Christmas. The scandal of the birth of Jesus was that God hid among us, among the most helpless and simplest of our kind, so that our hearts could be softened and our minds transformed. I'm probably not alone in being rather slow to get it. My journal reminded me that there were some awkward and clumsy steps along the way. Giving is important but it is not the real nature of Christmas. Giving flows from the transformation of one's mind and the softening of one's heart, and that doesn't happen with lightning bolt clarity at all times, if my slow progression is any indicator. But using the model of a divine lure, that isn't the point. The point is to keep moving in the right direction, as Christmas draws us toward Easter: the lure of divinity draws us to the cross of pain and heartache and the death of self and ego, but that paves the way for the next wave of life, and ultimately that patter is one of repetition.

Who knew how the cosmic tide was rising for me twenty years ago? I barely knew I'd get theological as this when I started this very entry! Shelby, the sometimes cantankerous bleeding heart liberal who usually identified as an athiest-agnostic (and who ironically I met in a church as she explored religion as an anthropologist or student of comparative religions would), and the poor woman begging on the corner at Subway both figured into effecting transformation in me. Seeing it now, both had the shape of Jesus, with different levels of my self being able to interpret it as such. All the years later when I was delivering veggies in the commercial food industry, the seeds that these two women planted in me all those years ago were grown up. Working in the food industry, I did see a huge amount of waste at the very same time I saw growing numbers of homeless people almost literally outside my warehouse doors. This time around, for the three years at that company, I was far better prepared to act. I suppose I was making good with Shelby after pushing my pancakes away.

This time around, having more organically absorbed a sense of the pathos of the world at international and domestic levels, but also the pathos within me, it was easier to respond not because of Shelby's looming presence over my shoulder, but because it was inside me. I don't know how much food I tried to divert from waste heaps by literally grabbing and going on my own parallel mission to serve. I only know there was more to grab and more people to serve and that I could never do it all. Some food (veggies, milk, bread) went to the couple social agencies I was connected to; some went from me to homeless at the street corner. What I could not give away that specifically, I literally just dropped anonymously in known hotspots where it would all take care of itself. With it came this surge of the divine spirit that comes with doing some of these counter-cultural things like doing both my boss' work and God's work on the very same trips. I don't know if the company ever knew of that, or if that was exactly what led to my dismissal, but for much of the time there, I was regarded by facts and figures alone to be one of the best drivers there in terms of actual "productivity." I just don't know if my little charitable operation was known of! Maybe it was. I did things of this sort even as I was training new hires, in part to shape their own consciousness of how our industry was so wasteful, and to set their minds thinking of how to do something useful however they could.

During that period, 2008-2010, I have to say that there were so many of these opportunities that I began to feel the presence of Jesus at each of these corners. Each became a sheep-and-goats moment for me, as my pastor preached on a couple weeks ago, instead of it being a matter of judgment, the sheep and goats story is one of a reality check we could always have in our mind. Are we attentive? Do we pay attention to the world around us? Do we know who is in need? The America I am in right now is a different place than I think it was in 1991. But I recognize the signs. It was almost that that woman at Subway was brought forward in time by a couple decades, a vision of 2011, a vision of what America's own collapse will be like. No wonder people turn away. I didn't want to see it. After that instance, I went back to sleep for I don't know how long. I hit snooze. Being reminded of this first instance though, it brings to mind a few other moments where I acted just as awkwardly in years to come. Jesus kept appearing and it took a good long time before I recognized him and was prepared to act. 

Sunday
Jun122011

Life At The Top + 20

scan of the original manuscript of Life at the Top.The original draft of Life At The TopIn a gesture perhaps only of significance to me, I have now posted to this site my original journal entry that set the pace for about ten years of handwritten entries, and now about ten years of electronic entries. The documentation is elsewhere on the site, and also on this post which features the entire text of the thing with just enough fixes for clarity. It also features several pictures and documents to help spice it up so you can see some of the characters involved. It is a long, 6,000 word entry that takes on a range of experiences during my high school time, with a particular emphasis on my senior year, which was perhaps as good as it got for me in my academic career.

At the time of its original writing, I was barely aware of my future. I had only a big plan to go to Europe a few weeks later with my old man. I was planning to go to Mesa College in the fall, which doesn't exactly show a total plan for a glorious future! It was sort of standard issue stuff. I never applied to any colleges as a senior. I had no big ambitions. I wanted to play my drums, listen to my music (it was on that same day after graduation when I bought my first Yes cassette, 90125). I was head over heels for Shelby, who is well discussed in the entry. (Told from the perspective my naive, wishful point of view that interestingly was already tempered with the kind of insight I needed to know all about how things would play out, and did!) I had no more than a few weeks' future, really.

On reading the giant entry now, several times over in the course of transcribing and editing, what strikes me is how many of my present concerns are somehow present in this document from 1991 that narrates experiences and impressions and hopes from the years leading up to it. As I seek the clues that lead me to understand really what my life's purpose is, evidence like this is revealing and compelling. Either it is stated that I am interested in X, Y, or Z, or sometimes the negative is true: the signs are that all along, I should not be engaged in X, Y, or Z.

One thing that stands out is how in the few months I worked at my first job, I worked on Sundays for a while. People don't think a lot about that anymore but at the time, I was cautioned from my conservative family folk that I shouldn't work on Sunday. You might say teenage rebellion would drive me to reject that. But what happened was that the hobby store (that I used to hang out at endlessly the year before) called me and asked me to work for a bit. They knew I loved the place (true a year before before I abandoned the hobby and got into drums) and would do it. Almost immediately I began to feel at a distance from my church community where I had been a part for nearly a solid year before. I had established the community relationships there, and traded it in for a minimum wage job that I worked at for just a few months, not even always on Sundays. Life At The Top, the journal, tells about that season of mid-1990 being one of depression, alienation, even suicidal ideation. After that, I had a hard time reestablishing a connection to the church, and began a long history of searching for ways to fill a void using work, consumption, and other means. Only later on in 2005 when I met Lee Van Ham did I start to understand the Sabbath idea of rest and renewal in a community setting. I've now been willing to stand up for keeping Sundays for that purpose, even at the cost of losing my jobs. I am not certain, but I think that was a contributing factor in losing my last job. I know such boundaries were clear causes for another dismissal.

Reading Life At The Top now just makes me want to cuddle my 17-year old self, and soothingly say, "forget Shelby." It is true. I knew the patterns by the time I graduated. She never wanted to be with me. But such was the power of desire. I basically went blind for another ten years, even as I knew what I needed to know by two and a half years into it all. But the initial revelation of the power of having a friend was real. I did feel heard. I did feel like someone cared enough. That is the legacy of Shelby, to help make the world safe enough to recognize that those things could happen in my life. But as I tried to hold that flame too close, I got burned, and kept trying over the years, till finally I was willing to grab it for all it was worth, get baptized by the fire, and released into a new form, no longer slave to the delusion that stayed with me for exactly twelve years and a week. But in 1991, I was building up in a huge way to win her over with ...something? There were enough optimism-producing moments to keep me strung along, but that was me interpreting things, not what she was sending.

In all fairness to her, I should point out that she was an early voice for the more liberal strands of thought I have aligned myself with. Politically, socially, environmentally, she was planting seeds of consciousness in my mind well before I knew what it meant. I sort of wish I had a chance to thank her for that, even as it was just distracting talk that always seemed to criticize my lifestyle (of blindness) back when it was happening. Her international and interstate travels and studies always made her interesting. I never felt interesting, I guess. She had conviction that I could not fathom. She also had an athiestic streak that always made me confused, especially in how we met at a church! But I guess that was just another way to learn things as an anthropologist would, hanging out with the savages, as it were. I do know she was always too much for me. I don't have a problem imagining how a girl of her intellect and enthusiasm for life would not be interested in an uptight guy like me who was only then starting to encounter a world outside of a conservative family life shaped by the military and Norman Rockwell. I only wish I had been able to not delude myself so much, and perhaps to let it go and find other girls to date who were emotionally available.

Speaking of that, I noticed there is no mention of Kelli in Life At The Top. None in particular, but when I am talking about youth group, Adventure Class, Shalom Group, and some other church references happening after mid 1990, I am speaking too of my future bride. One great divine joke on me was that I tolerated the Shelby indignities for so long, feeling that a long history of friendship would pave the way for more. What I did not see coming up in the rear view mirror was that exactly that was happening with Kelli over a decade and more before we started "dating" in 2001-2! In fact, that is where the decade + of history went to add up to something, not with Shelby! She and I had a slow building relationship that involved our intimate moments along the way, that so far has turned into the much wanted, much needed relationship of stability that I had been pining for. I just didn't see it that way. It was a matter of not trying so desperately to manage the thing; Kelli and I were pretty casual friends but we shared deeply when we did meet up. Funny too that she was of a liberal mind, well experienced in life, and had a deep social, environmental, and political consciousness too. (Clearly she is not living as an athiest either.) But in 1991, who knew where the 14-year old Kelli and I were going?

Stephan and I are in occasional contact. Over the years, we have been in touch by letters or by phone, but I rather like the Skype option. He's in Germany mainly, working for a major tire company. After getting a degree in engineering and working for a manufacturer of convertible car tops, he now works as a traveling rep on an international scale, primarily in the Eurozone. It has been 19 years since I saw him on my second trip to Europe in 1992. I still feel there is a quality of friendship with him that is hard to attain with my stateside connections. In 1991, he was the first male with whom I had the kind of exchange that put Shelby on the map. But of course, since amorous love doesn't play a clouding role, we've had that kind of depth in conversation often enough, and while living for a lot of years thinking he had a better life than me (on account of being a university graduate with a "good job"), our more recent communications have leveled us back to two men who have had girl problems, job issues, regrets, and the like—bringing us full circle back to the original spark that brought us together as close friends in early 1991.

(My new look at Life At The Top revealed I downplayed Steve while masking some of the statements about Shelby that reflected my mixed mind about her. This year's transcription tried to reconcile that and other similar issues of self-censorship, aiming to recapture the spirit of the manuscript with a few fixes for clarity and style. But the heart is back!)

Jerry Lawritson, my pastor in LATT, is no longer my pastor. But I still regard him highly as a teacher, and perhaps the best one of them all, given the nature of his message and the period of time he has been around to offer it. In fact, for my Young Adults event last night, I was willing to go to bat for the Book of Revelation based on the materials he has provided over the years, but was nice enough to share with me this month, even four years after I left his church, and joined another. At least prior to that departure in 2007, he continued to be quite an advocate for me in my deepest life struggles. He was who I called when I knew it was madness to have a bottle of sleeping pills lined up like chorus girls on my desk. He helped make possible two years of therapy (don't tell anyone) following that. But for reasons not known to me, the setting of that church was not the right place for me to grow up and put to use the lessons I learned from him. The type of family situations I was in up to about 2007 was something that I knew he was unable to fully address. Eventually I felt that I had to move on. For a lot of years, he was father to me when it came to teaching lessons of wisdom and for hanging on to life. So it was heartbreaking when I had to admit that that era was over in 2007, a little shy of 20 years since that first epic conversation at the beach picnic in LATT. With one exception in 2008, we have not talked about things at that level since I left. And that one time in 2008 was an epic occassion that was unlike any other I've had with him. I sort of feel there was more authenticity in that exchange between two men who had to part ways than in the years of our pastor/young congregant relationship.

Judy Slaughter was in town for a couple years after LATT was written, but for some years was 30 miles away in Escondido as senior pastor of another church. That period was during my decade-long spell of not attending church, so I lost touch for a while. She's in Hawaii now. Was pastor there at a couple churches, but is now quite troubled by health issues and most of the time, I talk to her husband Jay, who speaks on her behalf. The times I've talked to her, or emailed her, have been nice in how she is always validating to me. She and Jerry were huge figures in keeping me on track during high school. The Shalom community, a side group of youth in the church around the early 90s, was a place where Kelli and I got to know each other, and it was all Jerry and Judy's initiative, with them taking me out to lunch sometimes to get my input on what might be needed in such a group.

Harry Steinmetz was big in 12th grade but also on a couple other occassions: I had a public speaking class with him in 9th grade, and again, years later at Mesa College in 2003, I took another public speaking class with him at Mesa College just as I was in my suicidal crisis and subsequent return to life. Some of the things I spoke of in class were linked to that experience, and the experience of being reborn during that same semester. He egged me on, knowing that I wasn't just uttering the words off the page. A later experience, during 2005, I was flyering the school for my Peak Oil forum, and I came by his classroom, not even as a student. He called me up to the front to do an improptu speech and Q&A on peak oil and to make my pitch for coming to the event! He has always been a learned man who love to teach, and to help animate people with a spirit and vitality for their work. It isn't enough just to learn the topics. I occasionally run into in town and give him the latest news. He also is responsible for my preference for public radio listening. No one but him.

My step mom Eda is still around though we are in a period of estrangement. She just turned 89 last month. I feel mixed about keeping silent with her, but for a year or so in 2008, but I have been put off by her increasing intolerance and condescension about being married to a liberal woman who doesn't just stay home and serve me, or (and this is probably the kicker) that Kelli was on the path to be ordained as a full-fledged minister. Every meeting is likely to touch on some aspect of those related topics. For a woman who talks as much God as she does, you'd think that she'd see that God can call anyone to ministry. Or that the duties of married and work life can be balanced out so both parties are reasonably content. I know there is a paradigm gap between us; clearly she is of another age. But she is quite sharp of mind. She still is "there." Still, I do tend to identify her more strongly as my mom than I do with my own mother. There is both quantitative and qualitative support for this. In fact, in my senior yearbook memories (a block of text where we could put anything, often looking like txtmsgspeek) I did proclaim that "EDAISMYMUM."

Looking now at LATT, I was struck by my struggle to simultaneously branch out and sink roots. I did feel that I was coming to life and that must be what trees do: bigger top branches require deeper and wider roots. I was never on the cutting edge of anything, nor even a few steps back. Things like opening my mouth to risk an answer in class, or wearing one pink shirt, or playing drums in public for the first time were huge to me. I was grappling with being simultaneously drawn in by and repulsed by institutions. I wasn't a rebel or slacker at school, but I was also inclined to do "just well enough." I was immersed in my church because of the community there, then I got a job and all that inverted itself and I was later writing how I couldn't stand my experiences at church. My journalism class progress report essentially shows ambivalence about the kinds of authoritative bodies I was surrounded by. I was grappling with being taken into a system. Not so very different than what I grapple with now.

I detect a bit of a wannabe/patronizing tone in my narrative about tutoring math to three people who really were classmates of mine, not particularly friends of any deep nature. Tina Moraga did in fact go way back to the early days of elementary school, but I think by the time LATT was written, I had just gotten to know her a bit more. I don't recall knowing her well prior to that. So the tone was a bit inauthentic to my senses now. Interestingly, in 2003-05, I was delivering to an older man who lived across the street from her grandmother's and I got some occasional updates about Tina. I do recall having a talk with her a year or so after high school and she did tell me about some screwed up and manipulative marriage that was doomed. It did hurt to hear about all that. But I think the tone in LATT is a bit too eager to help. Too much inspirational speaker about it. But whatever works. We graduated. With the exception of occasions like a reunion next month, there is pretty much nothing of contact between me and my classmates.

Interesting that my senior year interests included being a teacher/mentor, and that I mentioned that history was important. The matter of interpersonal relations runs through the entire LATT journal too. And the fact that I was on the school paper, making my initial attempts at journalism was a kicker too. Isn't all that the basis for what I am doing now? It kind of warms my heart that somehow, I am still doing what I wanted. In fact, yesterday's Young Adults event was something that tied all that together in some way. I am older than most of the group so there is always a bit of a mentor/mentee kind of relationship hovering but not clearly defined; the matter of presenting the Book of Revelation as a document requiring historical understanding, and then following it with a movie (What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire) that is basically a 10,000 year history lesson of human endeavors sort of shows that history figures into my concerns now; the discussion turned to how people act in society, for good or for ill, true to themselves or not (and even facilitating the discussion to that point is an act of mentoring); and then of course, the kinds of material I write and present at my "classes" do have a teacher's or a journalist's heart about them. And to tie it all together, there is a Christian-rooted message behind it. I suppose by this analysis you could say that I either haven't developed, or I am doing what I have always thought I should be doing!

The question does arise. Why does any of this matter? It's the past! It is, and it is not. Even the original entry admits that looking at things like this is my way. As you'll see on TAPKAE.com since about 2009, there are a sprinking of posts that are of a "+20" nature. It is like Socrates said, "the unexamined life is not worth living." All I really have is my life and experiences and they are as important to me as anyone elses who has scaled the ladder of power, or who has a doctorate or who has won the olympics. And, in a way that is perhaps more recognizeably true in the twenty years since, it is a scattered bunch of things if I were to list them on paper. My resume reminds me of this, but what holds it together? It seems that no one but me puts in the time to figure out what the longer threads are and where they lead. I do get clues from people on the outside of my mind; people do recognize things, but it is not their job. The 17 year old me who wrote LATT was discovering how scattered pieces were, and looking for a pattern, maybe or maybe not knowing where to go (I think not so, at least consciously). Now, at 37, with 20 years fewer to live my life, the clues are rather interesting to trace. I did myself some good service by charting all that I have over twenty years. I still wish for more depth. Not always was I able to go past reciting the events and their times and places. But who was I inside? Learning anything about emotional vocabulary came much later. Spiritual vocabulary later still.

Leaving these kinds of journalistic breadcrumbs help me find my way home to who I am. I feel like I'd be lost without them.

Wednesday
May112011

Prom Night + 20

Twenty years ago tonight I stooped to the level of the common denominator in high school and attended my senior prom. I never understood the charm of it all. I wasn't all too particularly interested in going. I feared and indeed got rejection before acceptance. In the end it turned out well enough for what it was, but it was far from a dream night, blah blah blah.

I have been scanning some images in the recent past, anticipating telling the story of this and other events that were big to me then. Some people too needed to be illustrated. Here are some of the pix that I want to call attention to for this post, but their captions are like blog entries unto themselves, so go see the Skool Daze gallery and scroll down to the prom entries.

me standing at the open door of the camaro on prom day, all suited up in the tux and with my dorky glasses. ick.The Camaro

at trudi's place in pacific beach. host family was a navy family living in navy housing. trudi in a black dress that showed off her pleasantly rounded form nicely :-) I'm giving her the corsage of a couple red roses. Picking up Trudi Lepique

just a cute picture of me with a great grin on my face. cuter because I didn't have the ugly glasses on.I was cute then toome and trudi in a semi-posed shot at shelby's. one of the less self-conscious ones.Just forget the glasses, okay?

Saturday
Dec232000

The Big Letter to Shelby—Time and Space, Unraveled

With the writing of this letter, I basically brought a dozen years of emotional enthusiasm to a standstill. What started in 1988 as a massively hope-filled encounter with her at a church Christmas play and after party crashed and burned exactly 12 years and five days later after a few hours' reconnection the day after she returned from a nearly 2.5 year stint in Tanzania for the Peace Corps. We sometimes called ourselves "space" and "time" because she was the traveling one and I was the one who tended to have a memory of things and was always seeking meaning in events. She was well traveled and I was quite rooted in San Diego. I wrote long letters, but ones that were far more restrained and measured than this one which just dives in and says everything that had been stacking up for all the years of our relationship, but particularly in the Peace Corps time. I knew I was losing my ability to keep on with my fanciful notions of our friendship ever turning into something "real," i.e., overtly amorous. Until I found this, I forgot that I had basically written a similar blowout letter to her at the end of August four months before. That it did not arrive in her hands was cause for a lot of consternation for me. I really wanted to not see her face to face without this message having been conveyed. So the day after she returned, I went to her mom's house and she showed off all sorts of items from Africa. We went to lunch and had an awkward experience that nearly perfectly mirrored one from 1991. We went to Costco and got her amazing volume of photos done in one hour. While there, I made a gesture of sitting next to her and she sprung up like she sat on a tack. On the way out, I told her I had been in touch with Robin during 2000, in an effort to start mending my life. Shelby told me Robin was "a rock in [my] garden." It was a tense experience that day that brought up all the wrong stuff and finally I broke. I came home and wrote this letter, and just as soon as I ran it through a copy machine, I drove it straight out to her mom's house and stuck it in the mailbox, not wanting to mail it on account of it being a Saturday night during the few days before Christmas. This had to happen NOW. I don't remember if there were any calls, but the months following had a few sharp tongued emails that were just as bad as I could have imagined, Shelby tearing into me for "falsifying the pretenses of our relationship and demeaning it in the way that [I] did." I took the opportunity to finally say more that isn't quite so pining as this. Crash and burn. It was a period that lasted as long as my schooling. Hopefully I learned a few lessons along the way. It was sometimes an arduous thing to put myself through. 

Images and more commentary appear in the Friends and Skool Daze galleries.

Shelby—

I can't fucking believe I need to write this letter again. Damn postal service! But I can't just let it slide past 1/3/2k1 [Shelby's short stay in San Diego was ending less than two weeks after she got back from Tanzania two days before this letter was originally written]. 

I don't know how to start. Twelve years of starry optimism may just be on its way out. I've enlisted the help of a few friends: Kevin Gilbert, Jeff Buckley, Nik Kershaw, Karl Strauss, and Radiohead. All the ideas here were generated while sober but the balls to put it on paper is Karl Strauss' fault.

To be blunt, I can't help but wonder where the trajectories of our respective sides of our relationship cross. And I'm only all abuzz right now because another year of confusion is simply intolerable. I should have done this in '98, but clammed. That's all I ever do around you (particularly so in person, like in '95). Our relationship is, except for a few days or weeks every few years, intangible. It's abstract. Imaginary. It only exists on paper, in space, in my heart—and I'll dare say, in yours too, though the huge question mark is to what degree it exists in your heart. Presently, and um, in the future

At the heart of this letter is my assertion that you're a very interesting, exceptional person. I've never changed my tune since we met 12 years ago. It's something I thought then and still believe it today. But to be frank, I want to move closer to your flame. It's something I've seen from afar for a long time. I know you turned this sort of thing down in the past. It's something at the front of my mind every time I think I've got the balls to speak up, but clam up instead because of the feeling that timing wasn't right. Well, fuck timing. I've stirred in this for so long now I've had ridiculous delusions. I'd not be one bit surprised to hear you say the same ting as you did when I propositioned you in high school [images of the naive personal ads are in the Friends gallery] and right afterwards. But for me to not try anyway is stupid. We're maybe almost ten years older than then. We aren't the same people. Things have changed for us both. It's not beyond the realm of reason to bring up currently relevant issues and give it another shot. I don't know what went into your declining my advances then, but I can understand. But now that the stakes are higher and we have a lot more history to support such discussion, I simply can't settle for imaginary relationships.

In one way I see our relationship deepening, but falsely so. I'm perfectly content to say nice things about you and my compliments are genuine, both between us directly and in my comments about you to other people. Any of my letters that "dug in" to personal dymanics and relationship talk were meant to hook you some. Why kid around? I think you're a great person and would like to escalate our involvement, despite such distance we are used to. I'm not even in a hurry—not in a hurry for that, especially after the whirlwind that was the Robin period. I saw that quick [plunge into a relationship] didn't suit me. So what's left? I'd not yet had a relationship that few over time into one that could support such levels of commitment.

The fact is, you're a person I could, in a strange way, envision that scenario working out. I respect you. I know you're a very "together" person on your own. I never had a chance to develop that perspective in advance of a relationship before—before heavy drama played itself out without the infrastructure to support it. It was the story of a castle built on sand. Look at how much baggage I carried after that episode. I'm scared of meeting people for that reason alone—girls, obviously, because they could crash like they did with Robin and I'd have shown no progress or growth even after years since breaking up with Robin. I've since mellowed in my assessment of Robin, but the relationship still has things to teach me. Sure, I've tried to let it go, but I wanted to raise the bar and try not to be caught like that again. As a result, I haven't yet met anyone that suits my current picture of what a relationship should be. Sarah came as close to that as I think I'll get, but she wouldn't go for it. She let me in on some things well after the fact—things I've taken to heart and tried to fix.

Sarah was to me a microcomic version of you, scaled to about one sixth of our experience. What saddened me is that it didn't pan out. It's useful lifespan was about a year. I got a lot of brushoffs from her; discreet ones. I'm not telling you this because I think you're a last resort. Contrary! You've always been the north star for me. I have no shame in saying that. Everyone else I've seen has been measured against some picture I had in my head about something that might exist between you and I. 

I'm not dense. I can read your letters and see things that tell me "no." I guess I just have a vision. I've had it for a dozen years. I don't know how I could top anything I've said to you already. I've laid it on thick for years. And you're not going for it. I'm not surprised as much as I'm baffled. Baffled at such gestures as avoiding any physicality except a hug or a knee slap or whatever. I still don't know what makes you tick. Maybe that's the hook for me. I may never actually figure you out, but the sport of trying is interesting. I guess I don't know what makes you jump up to avoid my sitting next to you, like at Costco today. The standoffish bit is funny sometimes but as regularly as it happens worries me. Do you just not like people at close range? Has anything I've said or written done anything to bridge the gap, even after 12 years? Does it offend you to be close to someone who is seeking your trust and compassion? Would another 73 years help? Does a head on your shoulder scare you? Do you need to put your head on anyone's shoulder? Forgive me but sometimes your independence bothers me if only because it distances me (at least) from having anything more than a spoken relationship and entry/exit hugs. I just marvel at the absence of such simple contact. It made sense in school, but after ten year of growth and change, love and loss, it seems that a 12 year old friendship could support some random contact. I feel so awkward needing to analyze it all this way. I wish I could just put my head on your shoulder, or vice-versa, and have the message come across from that gesture alone.

Maybe you do that on purpose. I dunno. There's so much speculation, empty spaces and gaps to fill in on my own, things I don't know about you. I also feel the pinch when I need to police my every word and action sent your way. Even before my early '95 Robin/abortion letter [Shelby's delayed holiday card response] I had to bite my tongue or hold back, lest you disappear for a while. I guess that day at the church with Judy was the model for how easily you're set off. For all I've told you, there's a lot that got put away because in self-censorship I decided not to risk it. Distance is already great enough between us and silence is no icing on that cake. I have a bunch of letters just filed away, some barely started, some almost finished, some in envelopes and so on. I didn't think it would be right to send them. They date back to 1994. Yet, a lot of them are good.

As I said, regardless of what your response is to this chatter, I can't let the next year slip by with this issue not being addressed. In fact, I need to wash my hands of it. I have far too many other relationships to work on now with my mom and family back in the fold. Key relationships, all. My dad and I just might as well have erased four years of progress in one day. I have to see that set straight, or at least my end of the bargain. I still consider you a key relationship but in the realization you may never look my way I just need clarity. Sure, I almost expect a ready "no" unless there's some wild card up your sleeve, but my sad realization is that since our relationship exists on papers and in my head, I don't know what there is beyond that. Our in-person visits are few and far between; strained at times and amazing at others. If I were to withdraw love interest from my end of the relationship I'm not sure what would remain because it's been my main focus for three years now, and one that obviously goes back to 1988. I'm scared that could be the case. You have been a real charge for me at times, a genuine friend that keeps it all going, and part of my interest in you is that we've had some elasticity over the years. That makes me believe in it. I think you're a beautiful person inside and out, and to be honest, I can't think of someone I'd rather have a chance with—someone I respect, someone interesting in tangible and intangible ways; someone who dared to be kind to me and others; someone unique. Those are some top-of-the-list things for me. I haven't met anyone ('cept Sarah, maybe) who lined up points like those. I'm willing to understand your wanderlust because it's one of the things that makes you someone I dig. I can't guarantee it, but you ma not meet someone who has the perspective of time to get to know this about you. You may meet people more impressive than I, whatever definition you give that, but I stake my claim. I saw that in you first!

[Here's where it gets interesting, particularly with the characters involved!]

At this point, I'm going to throw all caution to the wind. My friend Kelli and I had a few beers over a game of pool in March '98. I told her all about our little parking lot meeting [8/10/97] and told her how abuzz I was that you'd be back in San Diego after some five years and more. She responded with this line after I spewed forth a bunch of pro-Shelby talk:

"Why don't you just ask her to marry you?"

Yeah. Why the fuck not?

"Shelby, will you marry me?"

THERE! I said it! Something! Anything!

Amen.

If I never hear from you again, I'll understand. But I hope I do. Sorry for the mixed tone of this letter. Twelve years is a long time to be latent. I love you.

ed

Wednesday
Jun121991

Life At The Top

The following is where my introspective journal writing career started. I am posting this exactly 20 years to the day after I first wrote it on a small pad of paper on the day following my graduation from high school. I had been so surprised at the stream-of-consciousness recollection of thoughts and feelings and memories that within the next week and a half, I typed it on my word processing typewriter. (It had about two lines of text viewable before committing to ink, and a bad set of punctuation keys that didn't actually register the mark properly so periods and other marks I had to put in by hand.) I gave that typed copy to a few people mentioned in the journal. What I didn't realize when I did this new transcription of this entry was that the manuscript and the typed version were rather different. I was working from the typed one and only found after all but a page or two that I really should have used the original! I immediately set about reviewing and fixing things so they more closely resemble the manuscript. However, since it was pretty sloppy and written so fast, there are a range of small fixes I decided to implement, but the spirit of the original was reinstated, even as it is sometimes rather unflattering. I was surprised at how much the typed version deviated from the manuscript: cleaner and better structured at times, but there were some notably distorted parts that I wanted to bring back. Interesting to see how much of my present concerns or insights were in place at this early date. There are a few [bracketed editorial marks] to fill in some of the incomplete references, but pretty much this is what I wrote that day. Pictures that appear here might be found in the Skool Daze gallery, with even more notes. Thumbnails here will pop up upon clicking.

scan of the original manuscript of my first epic journal entryLife at the Top original manuscript

June 12, 1991

("The Day After the End of My Life")

Dear Reader,

I've given it much thought, what it is I've felt so good about in the past few months that should so compel me to want to pass it on. I am a very reflective person, some would say, who is living in the past. But with a past such as mine, who can't help but appreciate the present and look forward to the future?

I've never experienced a turnaround quite like that of my transition into high school, and later, my senior year at Madison. I've had so many people tell me what a change they have seen in me. (99% is for the better.) I usually think a great deal. I began thinking some two years ago about an event that happened some four years ago, about a month before I began high school. I had been a less-than-desirable person to know until that point. Looking back, I can see in 20/20 that what went on one August day on the grass at a church picnic was nothing short of incredible. And who knows? Maybe an act of God? Let me tell you about it. Inevitably it will be very detailed and nebulous as I try to make a connection of two in this, my little record of my thoughts.

I was never too well liked by many people. I was the type who could draw dissent. I was the opposite of charismatic, whatever that might be. I was making wrong turns at every corner. I imagine it was a leftover from elementary school experiences. I just did many things that made me disliked. Comments, actions, and so on. That day in '87 at Crown Point, I had been up to my usual mischief, being myself. I was being reckless on my bike around people, perhaps even endangering them. At the same time I had to choose between having "headgear" or having teeth pulled as part of orthodontic work. (As it was, I opted originally for pulling teeth.) I didn't want to wear headgear for the simple reason of the looks of it (certainly not at high school!) and for all the embarrassment that was sure to follow. Anyhow, everyone suggested to go the headgear route and take a little embarrassment. So I decided to take it up with Jerry in a talk. Well, to make a long story longer, I'll say that the problem with my attitude and my orthodontic decision came together that day.

scan of my report cards from 8th grade to 9th, with a wild upward shift evidentMy grades from 8th grade to 9th grade... notice the radical changeJerry took me aside to talk to me about my concerns over the headgear, as well as to tell me that he'd gotten a few complaints and/or suggestions about what directions my attitude about things was going. Needless to say, much got said that day. I can't remember what we talked about, but when we were done it was clear that something in me had changed.

Upon entering ninth grade, I had noticed a change. I had my braces, my headgear and a refreshed attitude toward some people. The thing that comes mind was a personality change that had come over me. Granted, there was some old me lingering, but I had a new chance to do things. The most noticeable change was my grades, which had been in places I had never seen. And the grades continued on the way up. I got some respect from people. I'll be back to this…

Quickly skimming through school...

shelby duncan in one of her goofy i-can't believe-i-am-with-ed-in-this-pic posesAll I needed to know about Shelby, I knew by my graduationOne of the other important people in my life is Shelby Duncan. Shelby is one of the most important people in my life, and one who I love very much. She was a major trauma [sic—people have asked me about this word but I knew what I was talking about] in my life. Life hasn't been the same since the night that I met her. December 18, 1988 was a turning point. If 8/5/87 was my entry into learning to be better liked, 12/18/88 was the night that taught me how to love. Arguably so, but I think June '89 wouldn't have happened if I didn't meet Shelby.

Shelby is the one girl that is my age that I loved the day I met her and continue to love. My love for her isn't for the way she looks. There are other places I could go to find better looking girls. Shelby is…Shelby, and I love her for it. She is a good person. I will always remember when we met, and under what circumstances. I'll remember what we did and talked about; how I felt; how inspired I was in a sea of insecurity. I could see that what went on that night was the start of a new chapter for me. The strangest thing is that she seemed to take an interest in me, which is what we all need. We talked about much. I told her things about myself that next to no one could have known. It was an amazing, free feeling. Something I had never been able to manage was actually communicating (a basic human necessity) with people my own age. Now there was not a problem with it. I miss those older days when we first met. There were some disappointments and more than a year went by before we actually talked like that, person-to-person, via AT&T. In February of '90 I expressed my concern for our friendship. We began to be able to talk seriously once again and in doing so, cleared some air.

Shelby (God, I love that name!) returns love in strange a strange manner. Shelby, to me, is one of those people whose love doesn't come back in what might be thought of as a usual way. Shelby is one of those people who makes you feel good about yourself—gives you confidence just by knowing her. It's all weird. Hard to explain. Sometimes it seems as if it's one-sided but now and then we in some way reaffirm our friendship for each other.

I know that in tenth grade, another change over me. I'm not sure if I should attribute it all to Shelby. Maybe, but we'll let historians figure it out. (Me, in five years!) [That's actually part of the original entry!] I'll return to Shelby for the section on 12th grade.

ed at drums, 1989My first drumset, dug out of the corner where it sat for five years

Eleventh grade was an improvement on tenth, but still had more shocks in store. I went into 11th grade with two significant things having taken place: I went in 100% dependent on church and its activities (church junkie). I also made the transition away from building plastic models to enjoying music and playing it (mind, I wasn't very good). I had been pounding around on the drums and got hooked on the stuff. People gave me more respect.

I took morality seriously. I also gained insight into peoples' actions because I was involved with people. I had personal problems that surfaced. I became much more human than before. I got acquainted with emotions. It was a growth-ful time. The summer of '90 was stressful, to say the least. I had been depressed since May that year. Problems with work, boredom at church and church activities, other people's bad news at Shalom group, routine… it was all getting me down and I didn't have an outlet for it. The car accident on August 1st and the resulting tension in the family wasn't helpful. Everything ganged up on me at once, including problems with my dad. It all got me down. I wondered about suicide. I wondered if I could keep all this stuff with me. I talked it over with Jerry and I came out ahead once again. I guess I felt detached from my church, see how much time I'd lost by being at work. Looking back, if I had seriously considered the other side, I'd have missed so much and I can't bring myself to consider what would not have happened if I did kill myself. All I can say is that summer '90 sucked and I came out a wiser person. business card to the command post store where I workedThe Command Post where I worked my first jobYes, I lost my job, but it really wasn't for me any longer. I never thought I'd say this, but I didn't appreciate life until I got back into school. Let me tell about 12th grade.

TWELFTH GRADE!!! I can't believe it. All of it was incredible. I wasn't a dynamic year [with the heaves and sighs of the prior year], but it showed off for the first time what I could do and be. It wasn't dynamic; it was awesome. Twelfth grade started for me when I got the senior pictures taken. It was then that I realized what I could do as a senior. It foreshadowed what '90-'91 would become for me. After canceling the session twice earlier in the summer, I finally went in late August. And I'm happy I did. The experience itself was one to make me happy. I walked out of the studio with a smile (a leftover from the session). I finally felt the urge to do the things my dad told me to do…that is, to get involved. I never denied how much better things would be if I was active in school. a respectable pic from my senior poses. sorry for the glasses. the drum was nice and new thoughOne of the posed shots that came out pretty alrightI just made excuses. In my senior year, I decided there would be no more of that. I walked into a world of things and feelings that had been unseen, and unexperienced by my senses. Let me try to describe 12th grade.

I started it with an enthusiasm that I imagine all seniors have. It was the "last year" attitude. The Senior Ego, if you will. Whatever it is, I caught draft of it. In class, I became more assertive and too more risks than before. Big risks—like talking to people and being myself. The best part of it was that I didn't feel insecure about doing it. I became much more outgoing for the better. I met new people and older acquaintances became closer. I lost a great deal of my fear of people. school newspaper with article on the new exchange studentsTALON article on the incoming exchange studentsOn the first week or so, I met Stephan Rau. He is (was) a German exchange student. I didn't get to know him well until February. In the mean time, we talked and got to know something of each other. I didn't give it much thought that he'd become one of my closest friends, and I his. I'll return to Stephan in more detail. How couldn't I?

Back in class, I became more assertive and took more risks than usual. They were risks such as talking to people, answering questions, being myself and being proud of it. Basically I became much more outgoing. I met new people and became closer to older acquaintances. I lost fear of people. a progress report from journalism class with a rather undignified C- grade and a needs improvement mark for citizenship. also mentions making some trouble in the editing roomI wasn't always the objective journalist you see before you...Accidentally I became a member of the school paper, the TALON. Also accidentally I ended up on the drum line, until the season was canceled. I joined the Future Educators of America group out of an interest in becoming a teacher, partially inspired by my third grade teacher, Mrs. Charlotte Eastland.

I remember one night in the first week of the senior year (September 2, 1990), when I laid awake thinking until 2 am. I must have thought about a million things. I know I had history and its importance on my mind, inspired by government teacher, Mr. Steinmetz. I thought about love: who I love; who loves me; how it can touch you. I thought about how insincere relationships are. I thought of so many things I wanted to say. I also thought of my past, of Eda, whom I love very much and how I've been touched by her love. [We were in clandestine, secret correspondence around this time, and reunited openly early in 1992.]

Once I got up the next day, I made it a point to confront Mrs. Eastland with the idea of passing my thoughts onto her kids. She and I talked for a few hours one day after school. She and I talked about things for hours that day. Eastland has made a bigger mark on me in a few days than the year that I was in her class! It was another one of those talks—one that gives you the strength to do anything, and anything less is criminal. It was so inspiring that I'd feel bad if I didn't do my damnedest to live up to their hopes. I had felt so good that others had sincere confidence in me. The talk never happened in the classroom but I dropped in on my days off to help out in class. I enjoyed working with the fourth graders. I've always been a person who looked up to role models and I fully understand how important it is to kids to have one. I wanted to much to become one, and to pass along what's been given to me.

In the real world, I was enjoying sharing my Rush or Jethro Tull. I was somewhat proud of seeing my work in the TALON. Drums Across California (DAC) taught me a little about drumming before the instructor dropped it on account of people goofing off. All my other classes were okay. Computer class sucked but I became a minor cult figure in there, as in others. Teacher Mary Wavrik was a bitch, but hey! She's entitled to be. Math I had to work on, with a lot of Phil Calabrese's help. Government class was a great experience. I was about #3 in the class and many looked up to me, which is a great feeling for those who don't get that kind of treatment often. Mr. Steinmetz is a care-full teacher who has a great deal of love for his students and wants to see them succeed. He is well liked and I'd rank him one of the top three teachers I've had, if not #1. If I ever become a teacher, I'd like to be like him. This is the class in which I met Stephan. We both think Steinmetz is the best teacher.

steve rau at dinner the night before graduation. handsome fellow, he.Steve RauRight now I am finding it hard to go not telling what a great year I had without mentioning and indeed telling about Stephan Rau. So much happened after I became acquainted with him that it is not easy to not say anything about him.

In a sea of superficiality, there lie islands of sincerity that lie uncharted. A friend. None of us can do without one. This what I discovered, and wondered how I ever got along without one. I found out what it is to have and to be a friend.

Stephan helped bring out the best in me. He is like Shelbdweeb (sic) in that I could be completely at east and be much more relaxed. I felt good by just knowing he was there. Happily we became good friends…well, in one night. For most of the first semester, having him over at lunch and stuff like that. I told him about my experience taking German class and all that stuff. I told him that I'd be sure to go see a movie or laser show with him, etc. Except I had no transportation [he lived about seven miles away in Tierrasanta] so nothing got done. Sadly we lost some valuable time. (My name, Edward "procrastination" Loring Lucas.") That seems to be my life story but as is my senior year, I made the best of what I had. Fortunately, not too late. Finally I decided that time was being wasted and I would not let that happen. His American stay was nearly half over and all I did was make lame excuses. Over the five or six months that we really became better friends, we've do so many things it's unbelievable. We've seen movies, laser shows, races, car shows, Balboa Park, Seaport Village, Julian. Pacific Beach… so much it's hard to believe. And that's only scratching the surface. That's only the things we've done. Talking with him is as easy as talking to Shelby, if not easier.

Thinking back to one Sunday in February—the 17th—I can remember when I realized Stephan would become one of my closest friends. It was completely amazing. I am rarely at ease quite like I was that day. We talked about everything under the sun. We spoke of religion (which I rarely talk about), friendship, love, God, spontaneity, education, intimidation, music, not having a mother, family, careers, life, philosophy (our own), and the list goes on and on. As you can infer, anytime you can talk like that to someone about all that, you're bound to become close. We talked about things we've never mentioned to others before. Of course, we were stuck for something to say the next day, but there was a bond very well established.

One of the most noticeable qualities about our friendship has been that when I am with him, I can do anything. I'm not scared. We functioned like a team. Sidekicks. I was confident. We became like brothers and began to think alike. He was something of a brother to me. But more than a brother. Knowing him freed me from a binding shell that kept me to myself. I'm not sure whether I would have been able to free myself. It was something I'm not sure if I could have broken out of. But now I am much more sure of myself. I felt so much better about myself and others, and I'm sure it rubbed off on him. He was here at a crucial time in my life. Many elements in my life came together.

February 10th was one of my favorite memories from 12th grade. It was the first time I'd seen Shelby in eight months. She had been going to night classes near my house so I got a chance to see her twice a week for a precious few minutes. But from the end of her classes about this time last year until February, all I communicated with her was over the phone. So as you might imagine, February 10th was a very happy day for me, being able to have two of my closest friends together. I also met Trudi Lepique, another exchange student from Germany who later became my prom date. Shelby is always pretty to my mind but that day was even better. It was classic. We went to Balboa Park and enjoyed a few hours together. The four of us… we were only four one other time, but for me it was absolutely lovely. It was an inspiring day. Stephan and I continued to do stuff on the weekends.

the two performance wonder band subliminal gestures, formed just for the talent show and named well after the fact.Subliminal GesturesSometime in February I was asked to play in the talent show at school. Once again, I took up the invitation. Carpe Diem, as I learned from watching Dead Poets Society with my youth group just a couple years before.

TS '91 marked what I'd say was my highest point in high school, socially speaking. It was a #1 desire to get up and play live in front of an audience at school. I had the strongest desire to do it for nearly a year. I'll tell you now, it was simply a dream come true. The show kicked minor ass and boosted me to a small time celebrity status which was nice. A new thing to me was people I didn't know telling me what they thought [specifically a girl I'd never met complimenting the show later that same weekend at a carnival event held on campus but otherwise not a school function]. I didn't hear any negative comments. I wanted it so badly but it [forming a band around Tull and Rush influences] kept eluding me. Finally, when it did happen, it happened. We did it royally. But alas it was over.

the infamous have you seen me poster with giant print and one picture of katrina foster the australianKatrina Foster, aka WombatOut of the TS '91 came the infamous HAVE YOU SEEN ME? poster. That was great. I won't go into it except to say that if a little stung for April Fool's day did something like lose me some "friends," well, I'd like to offer my thoughts on how superficial friendships are here. It was fun, and I don't really care if I don't know Kate and Wombat (Katrina) because it was a joke and meant to be taken as such.

A prom. You are supposed to go to yours in 12th grade or be a loser ("Huh!" [an in-joke saying with Ross Shekleton from the Command Post, "Huh! Loser!"]). I had been warned by my dad to make all efforts to go. I didn't have a clue who to ask. I asked Shelby but got the response that I expected. However she thought it would be cute for me to ask Trudi while she was interested in Stephan. Well, that's not what I had in mind. After asking about five girls, I eventually got Trudi [thanks to Shelby setting us up]. I have no gripes about that. putting on trudi's corsage at her house. she looks pretty angelic with her pulled back hair and black dress and red corsage.Trudi LepiqueI had a fine time and think it was more special for the two of us. Over in Germany, they don't have such things. I mean, an American can go to as many proms as s/he wants but it wouldn't be the same. I got my answer a short week before prom. Time enough to get dressed up nicely and get fixed up with a cool car and dinner at Tom Ham's Lighthouse. No, I didn't get laid, but hey, that's okay. I'll live. (Well… she would not get any complaints from me.) Actually Trudi was very beautiful. Shelby was good to me and fixed me up with three rolls of pictures. It was enjoyable. I had warned Trudi in advance that I couldn't dance, and I guess I proved it! Oh well. Big deal.

Getting back to serious stuff. I'd like to talk about the last few weeks of school. Particularly Tech Math class.

a progress report for algebra class: F in academics, Excellent in citizenship.Here is why I needed the tech math (geometry) class: I can't hack algebra!I took tech math in order to pass high school, and it seems the whole class did too. Much of the time I got the highest grade in class for the semester I had the class. That took some getting used to. As you may know, I am no math genius. Usually I never get the highest grade in math! The high grades put me in demand in that class for the cheaters. The teacher, Fred Hueneberg, is not known to be anyone's favorite teacher. Generally, far from it. The whole class took the course in hopes (assumption?) that it would be incredibly easy. For me it was almost that, but most people there didn't get it and blamed the teacher for their crappy grades. It they want to screw around, fine. Most of them did, but only a few actually made an effort to pass, although it was pretty late to do any good. I was volunteered to tutor Tina Murphy and Tina Moraga when they decided that the time had come to get out. I agreed because I had known Tina Moraga since first or second grade and I felt for her. I didn't want to fail, nor did I not want to not help her. I seriously thought she couldn't she could get by, but I was in for a surprise.

The week before school got out I tutored those two Tinas in geometry. It was pretty basic stuff but they didn't have a handle on it and I did. The test that we took the next day was nothing short of shocking when we got it back. One got the same grade as me—an A—and the other got one point less, still an A-. I used all the positive encouragement that I could, for at times it got a bit hairy. Tina Moraga lacks a lot of basic understanding for math and admits defeat early and gets emotional. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased with the chapter test results, and was willing to do more. All we had to worry about was a little final. We met three more times and crammed. In the end of the math episode, I don't think either of them passed (certainly not well), but math is not what I wanted to teach them.

Ed (not Ed) Guerra joined us and we enjoyed some math. The tutoring was therapeutic for me. I got a chance to learn about my students. Tina Moraga is a fragile person. She doesn't have self confidence. She doesn't believe in herself and I think no one else but her very closest friends do. Sadly, Tina has been told that she can't do stuff. Even more sad is the fact that she believes the ones who tell her the negative things. She's playing their game. Her boyfriend isn't terribly supportive offer and I've watched how he can (possibly) unintentionally hurt her. To me it is a shame that Tina is being so mistreated. She is a good girl; I love her because I understand what she's going through. I've had people tell me what I can't do. And if that's all you hear, you begin to believe it. Tina isn't all brains but she has a youthful energy that I believe if she puts it in the right direction can take her anywhere. I am her friend and am concerned about her.

Her life has been—pardon my French— shitty. She has had incredibly family problems that obviously left their mark on her. It's just a shame that Tina is so taken advantage of. It now bothers me when I hear someone talk about her negatively. Just yesterday I hear someone call her a bimbo. If it wasn't ten minutes from graduating, I felt like knocking that guy around for offering the unsolicited comment. It's just that I know what she is going through and couldn't stand for it to happen me, and I hate seeing it happen to her.

During the tutoring, I didn't allow negative comments. I told them to think positively and advised them on how to take a test. I offered my complete faith in them. I drew strength from Tina, Tina, and Ed (not Ed). I hope I inspiring for them. While we had those three hour sessions, I gained an understanding of them and myself. I saw myself in many people this year, those three included. I knew what it was like to be where they were and I put myself in their shoes. If I were them, I'd not want to be let down.

The three of them passed school but I don't think they passed the test. I hope I instilled some self confidence in Tina Moraga. I am so happy for them and am glad that I had a chance to be a part of their success. I just want to be a friend. Good luck to Tina (x2) and Ed (not Ed). Thanks! [The Ed (not Ed) think is a slight reference to the band Was (not Was), but without knowing anything about them but their odd name.]

Well, twelfth grade has been a relatively uneventful year. —NOT!!! To the contrary. It combined the finest elements from my life. In it can be found renewed friendships with people from my childhood, academic success, youthfulness, seriousness, and the love that's been given to me all along that only recently I've been able to give back through new outlets.

[Here's where I am profoundly embarrassed to have transcribed this so faithfully in 2011. Just suspend your disbelief! I'll pardon your groaning. I am groaning myself. I told you I came from a conservative family, pretty well shaped by the military.]

me at my drumset with a small flag stuck into the hardware in front of me, and on the wall behind is a pretty big american flag. during the height of the Persian Gulf war.Trust me, I'm groaning too!One thing that often goes through my mind is the way we fought and won a whole war in less time than one school year. How many senior classes can claim that? The war had such a positive impact. It was incredible. The successes created a bonding between people. It was obviously more than a strategic victory; it was also a victory for everyone at every level. It created a good feeling that everyone benefited from. I suppose a little of that feeling was contagious and I guess I caught it. Oh well, if that is sickness, I want to be sick!

[Alright, if you want to go out for a smoke, or to spit, meet back in a minute. I'm gonna go wash myself.]

Another big part of my life is church, although I've been less active lately. Here is a little history of me and CCCPB. As I said in depth in my 1989 memories, I got quite involved in church that year. In January of '90 I was elected as a deacon. I did what I could as a deacon. Looking at it from now, I think I tried too hard to please others and not look out for myself like I should have. That got in the way when I got the job at Command Post and tried to form the band, which became a driving interest. I got terribly confused, which led to my depression. Anyway, I enjoyed trying to be a good deacon. I did what I could with the church sort of set it first. When I became interested in forming a band, I made that a driving interest. In the mean time, I lost some of interest in the repetition of preparing for church every week. I was becoming more selfish, but to the point where I was getting what I needed to keep myself going alive. I mean, take some time to get a rest. I lost the drive to push for others.

the page out of the church newsletter with me and jenny slaughter as the year's graduatesJenny is daughter of youth pastor Judy. Shelby came to our church on Jenny's invitation.I decided I'd surprise everyone and not show up for one week. I must have said that for seven or eight months. I set dates when I'd skip a week (after my birthday, after Christmas…) I never did skip… until February. I became increasingly dissatisfied with church. Shalom group was boring. No fun activities. Adventure class was a drain of my energy to get up and go to. One person even started probing me when I skipped class and didn't give an answer. It sort of bothered me having to support my case every way I turned. All I wanted was to see Shelby. [She lived five blocks away from the church so I went to pay her a visit but apparently she wasn't home. So we went to Balboa Park the next week—the first I saw of her after eight months.]

me and steve at the senior breakfast at humphrey's by the baySteve RauI turned some heads when I finally skipped a week in early February. I wanted to find out what it was like to exercise my freedom. I got a couple calls from some in the church, but I was unimpressed. They offered some of the support that I thought had fallen off since the zenith of activity the year before. I showed up the next week for convenience and decided to keep away for a time. Sure enough, no one missed me the next time. I was enjoying Stephan's company. I was eager to make friends with him. And a good thing it did work out. The people at church said they wanted me to rejoin them. So I tried it out and gave it another chance and got another negative response, so I decided to stay away for even longer and did so until I came to a few Shalom group meetings in May. Now I am on better terms now that Stephan is gone and I have no excuse (other reason) for skipping so much. I may not be in church on sunday but I'll try to get into other stuff.

I suppose I'm nearing the end of my paper. Conclusion time. I don't know how I'll be able to try and sum up the time I've had at high school and certainly in 12th grade. The last few years have been pretty remarkable. It is tough trying to sort out things that "aren't important" because all of it is. It's just that some of things will get lost. I learned quite a bit about others, God, friends, parents, and above all, about myself. "Those who say the sky's the limit are limiting themselves." Who said that? Someone in the class of '89. What can you say when so man open up so much? Thanks? That hardly seems appropriate. What do you say to people like Stephan and Shelby or Jerry or Judy who have somehow brought out the best in you…The stuff you didn't even know you're made of. How does one express the love for everyone who has somehow touched my life? "Uh, I love you"? So naive, but effective. Do I say it or show it? I think the best way to show your love for someone is to be yourself. Make them proud of their contribution to you. I can't say thanks enough to those who played a part in my life. I can't say, "you know who you are" because they probably don't. I've had a revolving cast of characters, with many starring roles—many are people I just look up to, silently.

trudi, shelby, steve, and me in a goofy lineup at shelby's house a couple days before graduationTrudi, Shelby, Steve, MeLeaving the Madhouse [Madision High] and high school in general won't be easy even if it is necessary. I'll be missing a few of my dearest peer-friends. Stephan and Shelby at the top of the list. Trudi to a lesser extent, but all having their part in my mind. And heart… As a group, or individually these are the people who left a mark on me. Thank you so much, people!

There is so much that I've failed to include in this little work. (Little?) Some of it will be forgotten, or other parts will remain vivid as if it happened to me yesterday. All of it is me. I've tried to make all of this so sincere as possible. It's race that I am so liberal with my thoughts. But, it's a good thing. I hope this has offered a taste of what life was like at the top with me, '87-'91. May there be many more.

steinmetz our government teacher, steve's dad, me, and steve immediately graduationHarry Steinmetz, Gerhard Rau, me, and SteveI'm glad it's over. Sigh of relief. Actor exits stage left… [Yes, a Rush reference.] but it will be a bittersweet ending (ending?). Thanks reader, for wading through this shit.

That's all, folks!

Edward Lucas
June '91

Ich liebe dich, Shelby. 1988-?