Life & Times > Friends (14)
My 16th birthday in 1989 fell smack in the middle of an intense period of church life that no doubt helped me through times that can be rough for kids that age. It was also a time when Shelby Duncan (obscured on the right) was my completely vexing romantic interest, and the person who went on to be quite a character in my life for years until all my hopes and schemes fell absolutely flat on their face in December 2000. More durable a relationship was with my pastor Jerry Lawritson (rightmost in the frame), who was a great influence in those years, and even years later as a returning adult with new questions for life after family crisis, 9/11, and other woes. Also in the picture is Jerry's wife Deborah, and her son Matt.
I discovered the San Diego Reader in the spring of 1990, and the evidence is that I used it to post two types of ads: ads for bands and musicians I'd never work anything out with, and ads to Shelby Duncan, who never wanted my advances anyway. The Reader offered 25 word free ads. In the age before Twitter, this was quite an exercise in brevity, particularly since they had to be typed on a 3x5 card. The big scandal in these ads is the use of the "L" word. That was an epic step to take with her. I don't know how many of these I may have posted, but I do know that one in May or June of that year was a crash-and-burn affair.
I don't know if this was actually a final one or not. I might guess not. If I took the time to actually put a fuggin' 3x5 card in the typewriter in the hopes to get Shelby to look at me a bit differently, I probably sent it off when I got it right. (I seem to remember having a cut out of one of the actual ads. Can't find it though.) Again, the big scandal was wedging the "L" word in here. It was over a year before I actually said it to her on the phone, under my breath, in a moment of great excitement just before we both set off on our Eurasian trips in 1991 (she to Russia, me to Switzerland and Germany).
When I say that I knew all I needed to know about the patterns of our relationship by the time I graduated, I was pretty much spot on. (I'd revise that to about nine months later in early 1992.) But this little Reader ad stunt was one of the things that really should have been a cue to peel away from her more gracefully. Instead, even ten years later, I was still making gestures that were about as timid and just as certain to bomb. Live and learn. Slowly, in my case!
I met Kelli most consciously in the summer of 1990, and this picture is from a year or two later.
Kelli and Daniel and I were all part of a pack at our church. Daniel was murdered in 2001, and that was one of the things that led Kelli and me to process in the time shortly before our relationship took the romantic turn it did in 2002. I had also been having yet another rocky spell with family relations that year. The other thing was 9/11, which, combined with the senseless loss of a friend from the old days and my newly shattered family relations, sent us into a place where we had to grapple for answers—together.
Daniel and Kelli go back farther than I did, and he was her prom date at her prom.
It was nearly always my experience that whipping out a camera while in close proximity to Shelby resulted in some kind of blurred picture as she whipped her head around to avoid the shot. But at other times she was game for things. Maybe it helps if your name isn't Ed Lucas. This pic is taken by an unknown friend of hers and was part of a mailing with others. When she let herself go with it, she's a rather nice one to look at. This is among the better shots I have of her from all twelve years I knew her. But it isn't even my own shot.
I noticed during her college days she skipped the totally outlandish costumes and hair colors and settled into something more familiar looking and suitable for life in Alaska among people who probably don't give a shit about such things. While there I was told she skipped the vegetarian diet she clung to for years and had developed a liking for moose or elk or whatever jerky was readily available. In some ways I wish I got to know this version of her a bit better. But she was always off to some new land during the time I knew her—Alaska for undergrad, Louisiana for graduate work, Russia and Greece for enjoyment, Tanzania for Peace Corps, residences in San Diego and Hayward, and Seattle area. Family in Texas... the list goes on. And that's the stuff I know about. My world in San Diego was comparatively parochial. I can't help but think that led to a lot of mismatch in understanding. In a philosophical sense, we mused that she was Space and I was Time, indicating our ways of living in the world.
While we met in a totally local setting and lived not very far from each other (about five miles), even while in town we rarely saw each other. Her schooling took her out of the area and I always had a great longing for her during those periods. To put an end to a long period during 1994-94, I flew up to see her. First it was a couple days at the end of December in Seattle where her mom lived, and then on separate flights up to Fairbanks, we spent a week at her place. The travel arrangements put me in that city first. She prepared detailed notes for how I could get to the house in the dead of winter, where to find the key, and so on. I slept in her bed. It was an odd thing to do so, because of course I had longed to do such a thing...but with her, you see! Instead, she came charging in at about 10 am, shouting "WAKE UP!!! RISE AND SHINE!!!" and other jarring things. So much for a dream come partially true!
The rest of the time there was under a big cloud, which will be covered...
Going to see Shelby was a totally haunted thing that I almost wished never happened.
Just before Robin and I headed off to spend Christmas together with an out of town friend of hers, my old man announced that he wanted to clear the house out by the new year so that he could rent our house. I'd have to find a place to go. This gave me a huge jolt! He knew I was leaving in a few days, on the 27th (till 1/4/95), and would be gone for Christmas day. What the fuck was I going to do in one day on the 26th? As it turned out, it was more of a scare tactic than reality, but I know he had some woman come by as a potential renter, so he was entertaining something. This was just one more of his antics as a landlord that has soured me.
I had not seen Shelby since early 1993, which was quite a long spell in our six years of knowing each other. While we were never more than platonic friends, I of course had a lot of amorous energy for her over the years. I also developed a crazy case of nerves just as I landed in Seattle, and it plagued me the entire time I was on the trip. The nerves were the same as the night that I stepped out of the 8th grade spelling bee. It gave me the feeling that I had to take a piss at almost all times, and worse, it took a lot of physical squirming to even try to get comfortable—for NINE DAYS. Embarrassing as hell, it was. This is not what I planned this trip to be.
It was bleepin' cold like I had never encountered before, despite a "warm spell" of about 5 degrees above zero during the day. The days were lit by a few hours' sunlight that never rose much higher than I'd expect at 7 am or so. It was pretty dark, and beside that, I was on a late schedule, waking up at noon or later. It was a great time to get seasonal affective disorder. Going out drinking was about all there was to do but for watching movies and talking shit. That was not really my thing, and it was a new thing to be able to drink at 21, particularly with Shelby. All new territory here. I was quite uncomfortable around every part of it.
And then there was Robin at home...
This card was written for the holiday season in 1995 but it most pointedly addresses the trip from the year before.
Energy for Shelby had to be put on ice when the more realistic and physically present relationship with Robin began just a few months before I departed. Robin and I were just past four months into our relationship, but I had already bought my ticket and plans were made to do this trip prior to even meeting her. While it was unfounded, it wasn't unmentioned that I was off to a faraway place to see a girl for whom I had a longing heart. In fact, as if the last minute notice at the house wasn't enough, the week before I left, Robin and my friend Matt were at least pushing my buttons with some mock threats of getting together. She was worried about me getting drunk with a girl I never was "with" but I had more reason to wonder what was going on back home with she and Matt because I had some idea of both their inclinations. I don't know for sure when she was aware of it, but Robin was pregnant and was expecting her period during my trip. By the end, it had not started, and nerves upon nerves, she passed it off as a minor thing during calls home. I pressed her to go get a test once I came back on the 4th of January. The next day we did just that. And it was a shock, maybe more for her than me. I always felt she was a little too daring. I think part of her dread was that her roulette game finally came to an end.
We acted fast on an abortion procedure at five weeks—just one week after my return. It did cause Robin some panic and exisitential angst, and maybe it was the wrong thing, but at the time it was a shared decision (that predated our sexual activity) and deed and we felt like there would be no support for keeping any child, seeing how neither of us had happy homes and no incomes, and really, no direction in life but a vague will to explore youth and for me, music. In the years since, Robin has had three kids. I am glad to have none. I can't really deny this whole chapter has soured me on parenthood.
Writing to Shelby apparently set her off when I told her of it in my usual measured language in a letter—she cites me in the card: "the problem is solved." I knew upon leaving that she was already irritated at me for being distant and nervous, but the abortion story set her off that much more. I did not hear from her all year, until this card. And then as far as I know, it wasn't until August 1997 when we met by chance back down here at my Pizza Hut location in La Mesa, once her mom moved back to town.
In December 2000, after a couple more years of her and the old patterns playing out right up till a breaking point, I wrote this letter to her and was done with it for the most part. I could breathe again.
Sarah happened onto the scene for me in another pivotal time in 1998. At the time she was the sunshine after the dark night in the wake of the first dismal move from my house of 23 years, and the breakup of a relationship that entailed a failed engagement and a terminated pregnancy and other growing pains that were way too deep for a guy like me who had not dated but one other girl before that.
Enter Sarah, who ignited a creative streak in me just as I was ready to act on it. She was a parallel figure to the start of Hog Heaven Studio, and she caused a giddy creative streak in the early days there. We never dated per se, but we always had a closeness that was complicated by the fact she was dating someone else. We had really on periods and really off periods, but not in a hostile way. It was more my ability to process that such a beautiful creature could not be possessed in the way I would have if given the chance. So from the outside she operated, always eliciting a feeling of aliveness. We fell out of contact just before she got married, and only when I found her online in 2007 did we start up again, only to fall out again for a few years until 2010.
Complicated as it is, I more often than not find it invigorating to write to her, share deeply personal family type stories or the lighthearted wordplay stuff. Despite the heaviness of life, I think we make each other have fun in the face of it.
Lee Van Ham of Jubilee Economics Ministries appeared on my scene in 2005, literally a week or two before I got my eviction notice. It is easy to see how Lee was put into this picture of mine so that I'd have a new father figure who would author my progress past where the original one left off. It is so hard to resist that this was an intervening hand of God!
Lee first made the Bible an attractive thing to open up and see anew, primarily by seeing how the economic themes are ongoing concerns in our time. And I of course realized how the eviction situation was a kind of economic exchange that was not without precedent in the tales of old. At the same time, this biblical frame of reference was able to contain and add meaning to my struggles to understand peak oil and what must happen in order to meet that challenge.
Now I am the web guy for JEM, and I work with Lee extensively to help record the podcast and do the web site and I even get to write for the JEM site and tell some of the story so others might get to know how this perspective he teaches is able to contain and contextualize the big questions of economic relationships.
Caleb is one of the saints. A great soul during the 95 years he walked the earth. He was a true initiated man, able to give life abundantly to all he met. He was a friend of our church and right till the end he was passionate about Christ and any form of spiritual wisdom that led people to know their innate beloved childhood of God. Wonderful man, he. His grandson John got him a powerful web presence for a few years before he died, and his work now extends that still. Grandpacaleb.com
Kelli did a school year internship at the church I later made my congregation, Mission Hills UCC. She was well loved there as pastoral intern. This is from the final day of her internship when she was given a stole embroidered with the UCC's 50th anniversary imagery from that year of 2007. I didn't participate in much while she was at MHUCC, prefering to stay at our home church and let her do her work without interference. But after she was gone from MHUCC in the summer of 2007, the timing was such that I began to poke in and see about it, and then after a lot of discerning, I joined in 2009. Kelli still is a member at our original church, but takes part in things at MHUCC too.
Scott Landis, pastor at MHUCC, was Kelli's mentor for her internship.
Mission Hills UCC started a Souper Bowl fundraising event where there is a sampling of soups from various of the groups at the church, and the winner gets the most donations to the charity in the form of a stuffed money basket. We got the silver spoon award with a potato/leek/spinach recipe that I offered.