Stuck in the '70s

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween (what's wrong with kids today)?




Well, Happy Halloween! My favorite holiday of all holidays! It's 5:40 p.m., and nary a single trick or treater has come to the house. My 12-year-old is out hitting the neighborhood in the rain on his last time 'round. What's wrong with these kids now adays? Are they letting a little rain stop them? Or is there some kind of parental interference? We live in the Bible belt, and there's a church on every corner here. Heck, there's as many churches on the corners here as there were taverns on the corners in Peoria where I grew up. No one in my family ever went to taverns; but no one was forced to go to church and miss trick or treating either. I guess all the kids in this small town are discouraged by the rain (wimps) or they have been dragged off by their overzealous parents to church gatherings. We need to teach them what kind of hell they will face if they go out on Halloween night begging for candy. I hate that this tradition is dying out and dying out fast! People of my generation UNITE!!!!! If you haven't done something about it this year, then pledge to do something next year before it's too late!!! What's the world coming to when you can't set the kids free to go door to door to get candy? I went out today on my day off (waited till then so we wouldn't eat all the candy beforehand) and bought 5 bags of candy. I'm so frustrated. My best memories of growing up in the Wonder Years neighborhood of Brookview were Hallloween, and I refuse to let it die! I've lectured the boys tonight on having their kids trick or treat, and their grandkids, even when I'm gone. Even if it's no longer a holiday, boys, please let it go on!

OK. Off that soap box. I had today off and made one of those Newport runs. On the way home, I made notes on an envelope to myself so I'd remember what it was I wanted to write about in my blog. Of course, I abreviated in my notes, seeing as how I was driving at least 55 mph while I was writing them. I see as I look at the envelope upon which I took notes that the first one says "Tom." Hmmmm .... I have no idea what that was. I hope I'll remember it tomorrow.

The next one says "Mom." Of course, I know what that one is about. Mom. It's coming up on two years since Mom died. I was going to say "since I lost my Mom." But I didn't lose my mom. I know where her shell is. It's in a graveyard here in town. She's not lost. She died. I learned working in journalism for 20 years that people who die are not lost. They do not "leave this earth to be with their Father. " OK. This has nothing to do with my religious beliefs. It has to do with the Associated Press and AP style. I was in charge of page 5 at the local newspaper for quite some time, and that included the obits. The editor always said when someone was reluctant to write an obit to remember the first three letters of funeral were F-U-N. So, have fun with it. But, Aunt Bertha doesn't leave this existence to be with her maker in the AP style obits, she dies. At any rate, I know that my mom is now enjoying the company of her sister, my Aunt Dorothy, and her parents, my Grandma and Grandpa B. But, in AP style, she died. That is EXTREMELY hard for me to grasp, even almost two years later. How could that possibly happen? In my religious beliefs, I know that she is there, doing OK; heck -- she's shopping at the Mall of Heaven with Aunt Dot and having a big ol' time. But, I know in my heart that she's missing me too. I'd love to take in that Mall of Heaven with her. We were such tremendous shopping buddies that I hate to go shopping now (and rarely do) without her. She and Aunt Dot are shopping there with "no interest" and wishing I was there to throw things in the basket.

I had several other things written on my notes to put in this blog tonight. I understand what they were, and they can wait. I'll write again soon. Meanwhile, the rain is still coming down on this Halloween night. Nicholas made his first round and is now out on his second. He's convinced his way-too-old brother and the neighbor friend to go on the second round. A couple of trick-or-treaters have indeed fearlessly come to the door in the pouring rain. They're probably too big to be trick or treating, like my boys, and some of them aren't even wearing costumes. But, they're carrying on the tradition, and they received two handsfull apiece of the good expensive candy from me.

Below, submitted for your approval (or your amusement or your reading pleasure or whatever you choose) I'm copying and pasting something from my oldest son, who will be 17 in March. He reminds me of myself in so many ways; and he is turning out just as I had hoped. He cares WAY too much about the people in his life, and he is very observant of their plight. He is torn on what he wants to be when he "grows up." He has been playing Nintendo since before he was born. He's best at the video games. It's an extension of his body, like the umbilical cord. Thank God he doesn't go and hang out with the "bad types." He is so much like me in high school, (he's a junior) that he has picked "uncool" friends and is into drama and art. No, he's not gay. He definitely digs the chicks, but I won't get into that here. He's going to be a great catch for someone some day -- I hope not TOO soon. He's tuned into all the life that goes on around him while being too book smart to catch some things. In his English class this week, he was supposed to write an essay about a "folk tale," -- something that is true that he can account for firsthand that he experienced. I knew nothing of this assignment until he asked me my permission to write what you see below. I didn't realize my disastrous existence stuck in his psyche so much, but I should know better. I told him when he wrote it that I didn't want him to name any names, but it became apparent that he couldn't do that with this. So, I said, "OK," and I'm hoping child services won't come take the boys away. Ha, ha, -- half-heartedly. These guys are what matters to me most, and nothing else shall come before them. Vincent has always known that, and he has always been grown up enough to deal with what comes his way. So, I will leave you with his essay for English (reprinted here with his permission), but I will *** out the name of the loser he has written about. His essay was not my choice, not my idea and yada yada. Just interesting to see how a son saw it through his eyes. Here goes ...

“A Stupid Thing to Say” by Vincent

My ex-stepfather, from here on out to be known by the name of ***, was an idiot. A sweet, witty idiot at times, but still an idiot. He was also a mean drunk. He never physically abused any of the family or anything, but he was always talking about wanting to get into a fight. One night, while I was eating dinner with him and Mom, we were at the Duck blind and he and my mom were having a few drinks. My mom is definitely not a heavy drinker and any occasions having to do with a few too many drinks merely resulted in a late night up listening to lots of 70’s music.
***, having just recently entered our family, was trying to get used to some of the weird things we do. Like when you go over to a friend’s house and spend two or three days. Around the same time that we got ***, we lost my grandmother. My mom and grandma were very close and it was a heavy blow on her. That night at the duck blind was probably around 2 months later.
Somehow, whenever *** and my mother were drinking, *** got onto the subject of my grandma’s death and then my little brother. Everywhere Mom turned there was something to remind her of grandma so that she spent a lot of her time, those two or three month or more, close to an emotional breakdown. ***’s view was this. “It’s over now. Stop crying about it.” That really is, just about what he said. The rough summary of it, anyway.
After some more pointless chat about Mom “overdoing it” with the crying and the memories and such, he got on the topic of my little brother. Now, I can’t say that I didn’t agree with him about some of the things he said, such as, “He’s spoiled.” Or “He has hardly been disciplined.” Because he is spoiled. I do all the chores and cleaning, because, if he isn’t asked, he doesn’t do a thing. But this is beside the point. The point is that *** was going about saying all this the wrong way. For example, he used a few choice words, that I might not say around small children or angry mothers, to describe my younger brother.
This is the point that leads to ***’s ever ominous downfall and exclusion from our family. At this point, Mom stands up crying, having already tried to talk to *** about Nick, and leaves the Duck Blind. Also, she leaves her eldest son, moi, with the drunken guy. But, if I were in her position, I probably would have done the same thing. She has a high respect for my intelligence, which I have always appreciated, so she called her friend and had Michelle come and pick her up.
After about 10 minutes I realize, knowing my mother, that she wasn’t coming back. I ran this past ***, but he says, “No, no. She’s just in the bathroom. She’ll come back.” Twenty minutes later, we exit the Blind Duck and she’s nowhere to be seen. Of course, we start getting worried because we figure she must have walked somewhere. So we drive home, looking for her on the way, and call her cell phone when we get home.
In the end, we found her at Michelle’s, and *** and Mom resolved their differences for the moment. There was a well-built façade of happiness for another 6 or 7 months, and then *** signed his own divorce papers and went back to the insane woman that he was trying to get away from when he married my Mother.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Watching Orlando, Enjoying Days Off


Wow. To have a day off. This has been great. One of the very few things that rocks about these weird hours working at the nation's second largest retailer is having some days off during the week when the boys are away at school, and I can get some housework done, work on the Web site or slip into the '70s without interuption. Again, last night, and every day at work, I run into someone who says, "Aren't you a writer?", "You're an excellent writer. Why don't you write any more?", "I miss your columns in the local newspaper", "Why are you working here?" Thanks for depressing me, folks. Nah ... I know they don't mean to. They are complimenting me for what I like to do best, and now, because I'd just as soon not move away and pursue what I like best in a bigger, meaner town, I'm working at a retail store. Yada, yada, yada ... you've heard it before. But ... the best things about being where I am now are the people (I have some great co-workers who are a hoot to be around) and the fact that I've stayed in the same town I love and not uprooted the boys. At any rate (I say that a lot, don't I?) I do appreciate these days during the week I have off (even though I work almost every weekend) so that I can do some stuff I enjoy while the boys are away at school.

Today I was able to hit the store and get some replacement bulbs for my collection of lava lamps. Then, I made a Newport run (which, in this case, means I went to the nearest wet county and bought some Old Milwaukee and Captain Morgan spiced rum). Then, I returned to the house to scan in some more of my favorite old magazines and put them on my Web site and Ebay for sale. I won't let any of them escape this house before I've scanned them and kept them for posterity in my computer and on CD.

I had a really weird dream last night that women my age will appreciate. I won't go into great detail here. But I will say that Johnny Depp (also born in '63) was my new boyfriend in the dream. It involved me bringing him to a family reunion. He changed outfits every "scene", and my dad told him how "Pirates of the Carribean" was the last movie my mother saw, and she thought he was extremely gay. My brother, Mike, was also not impressed with him in this dream and told Johnny to his face that he had not heard of any of the movies in which Johnny had starred. Johnny, however, jumped through hoops for me and even dressed up like Michael Jackson for a family reunion talent show, complete with a chimp puppet.

I got a rejection letter from the job for which I had applied. That sucked out loud. Those people must be ignorant. I figure they had someone else in mind and were just required to advertise the position. The form letter that I received said something about them continuing to look for someone who meets their needs so I would no longer be considered. Losers! I outlined how I met every single need they advertised and also happened to have at least 20 years of experience in every single one of those "needs." Who knows? All I know is I can say that the college I attended and graduated from 20 years ago is not what it used to be and they are apparently sucking up to "the man" now and don't want someone who is devoted to the old ways who can vouch for what a good college it USED to be!

This afternoon, after I returned from the Newport run, I decided to watch some more of the Tony Orlando DVDs while I put some magazines up on Ebay. Oh my goodness! This is like soft-core porn to me. What an embarrassing thing. All of the old feelings flood back in. I don't know just how much I wrote about Tony in my diaries, but I know I (as the daughter of an excellent artist -- my mom) drew sketches of him all the time and listened to all of his albums over and over. I never missed an airing of his variety show and dreamed constantly about growing up and running away with him. There's something about those dark, mysterious Latino-type guys. I always went for the ones with black or dark brown hair and brown eyes, and they were always from some place far away from Central Illinois. Freddie Prinze, Tony Orlando, Tony DeFranco, Rene Simard. They didn't grow them like that in the cornfields of Mossville, Illinois. Watching Tony Orlando now and knowing that he is so close (just a few hours away, living near Branson, Mo., makes me crazy!). I went up there on several occasions, hoping to meet him. I've met a bunch of my other '70s faves there. Branson is a mecca for '70s stars that Julie likes (read -- folks from the '70s who are NOT cool). But the one time I thought I'd connect with Mr. Orlando, it fell through. That's probably good; because I'd hark back to the long, flowing beautiful black feathered hair and the tight bell bottoms, and I'd probably sweep him off and stuff him in the Mom-mobile minivan. (sigh)

You know I love the weather gadgets. My dad had gotten one that has a remote sensor that you put outside so you can tell the temp outside and the one inside, and it also has an atomic clock (ooh -- ooh -- ooh). I had to have it, so I bought it today. Look out for weather reports from northcentral Arkansas. Dad is 76 years old and constantly grows with the Internet and gadgets. As a design engineer for Cat tractor co., he has always loved gadgets. He's been into computers since at least 1982 and can't seem to stop himself from getting on the 'net and ordering the latest gadget.

The "Ghost Hunters" on Sci -Fi wrapped up their season last night with a show filmed right here in Arkansas. I told you about Mike and me going there to the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs back in August. It was an awesome trip, and I right away told the leader that we wanted to spend the night in the morgue. We sat down by the autopsy table all night, video taping and trying to capture EMFs and EVPs. I still haven't had the chance to look at all my evidence. The Ghost Hunters team, TAPS, caught their most convincing evidence ever there in the same room where Mike and I hung out. Be sure to catch the rerun if you didn't see it the first time.

Well, I'd better check on those pumpkin pies. The boys will be home soon, and I'll need to make sure homework is getting done and that no one escapes their grounding. Thanks for all the correspondence and reassurance that you are like me and vice versa!

Jules

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Rainbows, Campers & Chance Encounters




Well, it's been awhile since I've written in this "online diary." I've had a lot of comments about my old diaries from the '70s as well as site visitors asking if I had found my1980-81 diaries to add to the site to complete my high school years. No, I haven't found those diaries, but the truth is, I haven't had the time to look! The hours are still sucking. When I work the "early" shift, I'm off in time to get supper and help with homework. When I work the late shift, it's almost my fuddy duddy bedtime when I get home, and homework goes undone, and notes come home from the junior high and high school. Apparently, someone needs to hold a kids' hand around here to make sure homework gets done and turned in.

I've thrown in (above) a couple pix I took recently. One is, obviously, a rainbow. I took this pic from my front yard. It hadn't even rained that day; and I couldn't get the entire rainbow in the picture. But, nevertheless, it was beautiful, so I snapped the pic. The other is from a few weeks back when I actually had a weekend off from my job at the country's second-largest retailer. It's of my brother, Mike's, 1978 Dodge camper van, parked at the Silver Dollar City campground, The Wilderness, in Branson, Mo. We had a ball. Of course, the trip fell on my one weekend off and the weekend that the boys, incidentally, were to spend the weekend with their dad. So, it was for the best they weren't with us because it was only a test run of the disco camper. If we'd have broken down on the test run, we would've sent the most spry along the Ozark Mountain roads for help. (Go for it Nick.) All went well. I don't know what kinda gas mileage that thing makes, but Mike paid for the whole trip, so that was groovy. We had color TV, in fact we had CABLE satellite TV; we had the gas cook stove, we had the refrigerator, we had a shower and working toilet, we had wireless internet on my laptop, we had no tent to pitch, and by the power of God, we had no rain -- a true Fidler miracle!!!! We had fun. This weekend, another well-deserved weekend is coming. One boy is going with us -- the other is going on a Boy Scout camporee (sewing patches on his uniform shirt as I type), and fun will be had by all. Gone are the days of roughing it in the tent with a little propane heater to keep us warm on those late October nights -- although it made for family togetherness one ex-husband surely couldn't understand or appreciate. That's some serious together quality time. That's an experience to write home about. That's time spent together that has been wasted previously working to put food on the table. Anyway ... off the soapbox.

Speaking of working and such, I've been doing just that however I can since I quit the last job and the job before that and the job before that. People in town come into the store and see me there and wonder what the hell I'm doing there. Well, the answer is -- I've worked at every damn media outlet in town and do NOT want to uproot my family and move elsewhere. So, a woman's gotta have a job to support her family. Therefore, I report to work daily in the retail field in which I've had no experience except for the 2 months I worked at Kmart when I was 15 in 1978. I'm constantly asked what someone, with so much experience in the field of journalism and a college degree from a respected institution, is doing there, hoisting appliances onto people's trucks and having sand kicked into my face when some customer thinks I'm unworthy or I don't know how to answer their questions. I'm there because I need a job. Period. I recently learned of another job in town, right up my alley, in my chosen career field and training, for which I more than abundantly qualify. I submitted my resume a few weeks ago, have contacted the boss in charge of hiring there and haven't heard a word back. Again, God works in mysterious ways. Why would the Big Guy want me hocking dishwashers rather than writing feature stories to promote a college I attended and love? Who knows? All is not said and done where that is concerned though, and I still have my fingers crossed things might develop.

As an appliance "specialist," I was finally scheduled this week to take the "Selling Appliances" course at another store in our fine state after having sold appliances for the past 4 months without the class. Ain't nothin' special about me asking people if they want to buy a refrigerator. Ain't nothin' I ever cared to learn about Express Freeze. But, today, I found myself getting up at 4:30 a.m. to go to this other store in a town 2 1/2 hours away to take this required class. Called the boys umpteem times on the drive to make sure they were up and at 'em and not going to miss the bus. My co-worker and cohort, who has been in hardware since the store opened in mid-July, has been moved to appliances and given the new title of "appliance specialist." So, she and I headed down there to this other store at 5 a.m. She is the same age as me, and I truly enjoy being around her. However, she had an issue arise with her young son overnight and spent the night in the emergency room. She called me early this morning to let me know she'd had no sleep and wasn't sure about going on the trip. She ended up going, and I picked her up on the way. A real trooper. It was supposed to be a 2-day class, and we were encouraged by a manager to get a motel room to stay in this other town overnight so we'd be there for the second day. Neither one of us could do that and leave our children at home to fend for themselves. We planned to drive back home tonight and return tomorrow. So, we got lost and missed the exit and went a few miles past the store, but found our way to the class about 10 minutes after it started. The teacher, who works at that store, was kind enough to wait on us.

About an hour into the class, I was contently listening to the teacher when the door in the back of the training room opened, someone came in, and the teacher said, "You're wearing glasses. I didn't know you wear glasses." I, naturally, looked behind us to see who the teacher was talking to. I felt the sudden urge to vomit. Not because this employee was hideous or anything, but because it was my second husband. I had not spoken with him since Dec. 7, '04 on the phone and hadn't seen his face since Dec. 4, the night before I asked him and his leech-like buddy to get their stuff and get the hell out of my house. The only contact since then had been a couple of very ugly e-mails from him. He couldn't be found for the divorce filing, and I went on with it and got the divorce without him being present or signing anything. Last I knew, he was living in such and such town, tight with the psycho woman he was trying to get away from when he and I got together and deejaying at a local radio station. And, one of the ugly e-mails had encouraged me to remove quite a bit from this blog (which I did).

Our eyes met, and I knew he clearly saw me in the classroom. He said, in his big radio voice, "Yeah, just tryin' to keep a low profile." When this teacher was in my town to teach a training class before our store opened, I had to miss a half day of it to go to divorce court to get rid of this parasite. I had told the teacher, when I showed up late and he asked what my deal was, what my deal was. When break time came today, I said, "Remember the divorce I was going through when you were teaching the 'Selling Kitchens' class in *****ville? Well, the guy with the glasses is him." Apparently, he finally decided to get off his ass & get a real job (despite having to pay child support) and could afford to get the contact lenses I wouldn't pay for. Shame he can't pay me back for all the things outlined in the divorce agreement. At any rate, I ran into him face to face again a couple of times at the store while my friend and I were there. We exchanged a "Hey," and that was it. There were so many things I wanted to and should've said. But, that's over, and I've done a real good job of getting back to normal around here. It was just one of those Fred Sanford "It's the big one Elizabeth" moments. I hope I never have to be reminded of that stupid 18-month mistake in my life ever again.

On a lighter note, I received a review copy of the DVD box set of the Tony Orlando & Dawn shows as well as CDs of all of their albums. I already owned all of their albums, but was very excited to get them on CD for my re-listening pleasure. Now, the DVDs were a real trip. A real trip in a time machine. My youngest son takes all of these trips willingly with me. We watched all of the shows. Lots of guest stars and silliness. I especially like the parts at the end of each show where Tony & Dawn come out and interact with the audience. There was no lip synching on this show. They were really singing and had an orchestra. Tony was really wearing those tight pants and platform shoes. It was exactly as I had remembered it, and I fell in love again! You can see from my old diaries I was truly in love with Tony Orlando. Freddie Prinze makes several appearances on the show, and the DVDs include Freddie's guest-hosting experience on the "Tonight Show" with Tony shortly before he committed suicide. I know Tony & Freddie were very close friends, and Freddie's death was devastating to Tony. At the time, I didn't understand the whole thing. I held animosity toward Freddie for doing such a thing (and still can't understand it). But, now, after losing my own mother (and best friend) I can truly understand the devastation and depression Tony went through.

Don't know if I told you about getting reaquainted with an old friend or not. She was an instructor when I was going to college and not that much older than me. We became very tight, but she moved off after a divorce and followed her career path. Earlier this year, she moved back to this area and got back in touch. I'm so glad. We've been able to hang out a bit over the summer and still. She had been living in Hot Springs for several years most recently, so she and I were able to go for a fun and devil-may-care weekend there together. Now, she is seeing a former boyfriend from that area and has mentioned a friend of his who I "must meet." Cool. I'm game, and I'm available.

Well, I'd better sign off here. I'll try to keep you up to date more often (I always say that). But, I will. Until then, as Red Skelton would've said, "Good night, and God bless."

Julie