lost time incident 01
The problem with autobiography, for me, is that I’ve never practiced it enough to know how much background material you need to appreciate a given story. Some people are natural raconteurs. They have a mental binder full of interesting things that have happened to them and can bring those stories to bear whenever called upon, knowing where to start the story and where to end it.
I have one story. It’s a pretty good one.
But I’m terrible at telling it.
I think what I’m going to do is over-tell it, with too many details and derails, then work with some of the folks I know with keen editorial instincts to help beat it into shape with metaphoric banded staves.
anecdote part 1
So what do you need to know, what do you need to know… Let’s see. It was the early 90s and Extreme was teaching the world about how it took more than words to show someone how much you feel. I was 15 years old and had been picked out from the crowd by a girl one year old than me to be her boyfriend for reasons that, to this day, are not apparent. Her name was Chris and she was not, uh, conventionally attractive. Her eyes were weak, as was her chin. She ran track and had odd taste in younger men. Near-sighted and soft, seemed to be her preference.
I was a chubby kid with a paper route who spent most of his free time reading (as the internet had not yet appeared on the scene). I took part in school plays, usually in background roles, save for my highest profile role as a drinker and drug addict named Bob in a morality play to keep kids on the straight and narrow. The English teacher who cast the role took one look at me and said: “Yes. Anyone looking at him will know not to emulate his lifestyle.”
In my favor, I was book smart. I took part in student government. I was funny, though most of that funny was the bitter sarcasm that many teenagers affect as a defense against seeming to care about things, or to keep their peers from realizing how vulnerable they are (as they’re all years away from realizing that every other teenager is feeling equally vulnerable).
The story I want to tell you is fueled by sex. Chris had already been sexually active with a previous boyfriend and as such provided a steady pressure on me to “put out.” Progress on this path was slowed on my part by the leftover resistance of my lapsed Christian upbringing. I may no longer have been going to church, but the encoding gets deep if you start young.
My first kiss was with Chris, actually. It took place on a park’s playground that we were loitering in. We were there with two friends, another couple, who were already making out, hidden inside the safe confines of a plastic slide. Chris seemed to take this as a cue that we should be keeping up with them, and so plunged toward me and stuck her tongue in my mouth. My first kiss and it felt like an act of self-defense, trying to wrestle with and determine the intentions of this suddenly-arrived tongue.
As weeks and months passed, my own raging hormones assisted Chris’s efforts, chipping away at long-held but unexamined beliefs such as “I should wait until marriage for sex. ” There was no good rejoinder to the “Yeah, but why?” counter-argument that originated from below my belt line.
The result of this debate was months where Chris and I explored the limits of what could be done with mouths and fingers, not yet crossing the threshold to anything where pregnancy might be a risk. Naturally, as teenagers, opportunities to engage in this behavior could be hard to come by. In addition, a certain tenor of urgency had arisen in our relationship, as Chris’s parents had announced that they would soon be moving to another town during the summer this story takes place in.
One weekend, Chris let me know that her parents were scoping out their new apartment and were actually going to be away for an entire weekend, leaving her at home alone. If I were interested, she said, I could visit her that Saturday night and we’d have the place to ourselves. We mulled the possibilities while we munched away at a 1-lb back of M&Ms that she had brought along.
I didn’t think I could get away from my parents for an unannounced overnight excursion, but I pointed out that I got up at 5 a.m. on Sundays for my paper route. Instead of being a good employee and setting to my work as per usual, I could instead get up an hour earlier and bike over to her place to spend some quality time before returning home for my route.
This seemed sensible to us and so we went on to eat more M&Ms and debate which of the brothers in the band Nelson could be described as “the smart one” versus “the cute one.” It was a question that helped define the decade. Not a lot of people remember that.
[to be continued, obviously]
words words words
I read a number of things, but don’t think you’d be interested in most of them. Here are a few possible exceptions.
Thuglit – This is actually a periodical I’ve been fond of reading, as it’s a great place to read short crime fiction. Not mysteries, mind you… In a mystery, you follow someone allied with the law who’s solving a puzzle. In crime fiction, you follow the quote-unquote bad guys… some of them truly bad, but many of them just dumb, or weak, or in a bad spot. The most recent issue (#21) includes a fun story with a high concept that shouldn’t have worked: a nice guy comes to himself in the middle of a dangerous situation and over the course of the story, you find that this “nice guy” is one of two personalities this guy has. The other is a dangerous Russian killer with Mob connections. The nice guy personality comes out as a defense mechanism against the terrible things the guy does for a living. Unfortunately, he doesn’t share his other personality’s skills or memories. This proves a fair obstacle to cleaning up his other personality’s messes, especially when at gunpoint.
The Accidental Terrorist – William Shunn – Great autobiography from a former Mormon, describing what it was like to go on a proselytizing mission for his church in not-terribly-glamorous Canada (when some of his peers are off to places like Brazil), struggling with his faith, and with the narrative intercut with history about the Mormon church that Shunn read up on as part of his eventual parting with the church. If you have any curiousity about the American-born religion that put up a Presidential candidate in our lifetime, this is an easy way to pick up some history while sugar-coated with the narrative of a lonely teen who wishes he wasn’t knocking on doors and bothering people.
Sextrap Dungeon: Clock Tease – Kurt Knox – All of the installments of the Sextrap Dungeon series of choose-your-own-path adventures have been fun, but in this third installment, our narrator-on-the-make is female, making for a break with the established Ed-Hardy-and-Ax-drenched previous installments. You can journey through time in an attempt to get “dicked up and down by the very best history has to offer” in this amusing puzzle of a book. Can you make it all the way to the end of the book without dying? Probably. You probably can.
a series of riddles I invented on the spot with no good ideas for their solutions
How is a walrus like a flock of chickens?
When… crossing the road… nobody asks about their motivation?
What do you get when you cross a damp wash cloth with the Queen of England?
A cleaner Queen of England
Why did the ant say to the Minister of Education that it had no need for its diploma?
Because the Minister of Education is obviously a graduate, so asking to see her diploma would be redundant, if the ant were serious about checking the Minister’s credentials. [This is one of those classic joke twists where on first reading, you thought the diploma in question was the ant’s, but nope. It’s the Minister’s.]
A riddle format…
A riddle format who?
A riddle format has nothing in common with a knock knock joke, which is usually pun-based.
How did the cow?
What? How did the cow do what? Was that it? [looks around] Is there anyone else here who knows anything about riddles?
Why did the court jester collect eggs in his hat?
Because, considering his low economic status, having a specific basket just for egg storage would be eggs-travagant.
Why is anything anything?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I wish I had some wisdom for you, but just a little while ago, I was pretending ants can talk. They use pheromones. They talk via coded stinks. Every ant is living in a Smell-o-Vision world. What a nightmare. Poor ants.
true childhood confession corner
When I was a kid, I asked for a ventriloquist dummy for Christmas one year. I don’t know where I got the idea from, but I remember having the thought that there would be lots of laughs chatting with my new dummy friend.
The dummy I got was a classic Charlie McCarthy-type. His dress shirt was open in the back, so that’s where my hand would slip in to squeeze the interior trigger, flapping his plastic jaw.
It didn’t take very long to realize I had miscalculated. A dummy is not a new friend. It has nothing to say. I would have to be talking to myself. No…. no thank you. Not interested.
The only worse present I ever asked my parents for would have to be a rock tumbler. No matter how much you think shiny rocks are great, the tedium of a plastic drum whirring away in your father’s garage for hours on end will smooth that interest right off of you ’til you’re a smooth sphere of indifference towards geology.
ending theme song
Well, that’s it for now. If you like what you read, you’re in luck. There will be more.
And if you know anyone else whose inbox is a garbage-strewn shopping mall promenade full of political groups asking for money, industry-specific article digests, LinkedIn requests and other such nonsense, then send ’em on over to sign up for this mailing list. Then you’ll have something to talk about!
Until next time,
Michael Van Vleet