Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Bird Club: Chapter One

April would give anything to still think this was the worst day of her life.

“We’re not getting back on that moped until you kiss me,” said Randy, proving that dating was a bunch of crap. April figured it would be, but she had to go out with Randy. He had licked her leg.


She was making waffle cones the last time he asked. When she spilled some batter on her jeans out popped, “OK, lick that off my leg and I’ll go out with you.”

She thought it would be like in junior high when she got rid of a boy by offering to go steady if he brought her a purple pony.  

“A real pony, not a toy,” she said. “And it had to have been born purple. It can’t be dyed.”


But Randy was given a pony he could deliver. In about 10 seconds he had launched himself over the counter, got down on one knee and licked her pant leg. When he grinned up at her, she couldn’t help grinning back.

So she said yes. How bad could it be? He drove a moped, which sounded fun. And since they wouldn’t be in a car, she figured there was no way he could force her to kiss him.


Wrong. Boys want kisses no matter what they drive. So now April was stranded with no way to even make a phone call because she didn’t listen to her grandmother. 

Before when her grandmother said to “always have a dime with you for a phone call,” April would think, “Um, pay phones cost a quarter now.” 

Now she wonders if her grandmother predicted a scene just like this: April sitting on a parking block with a boy and wishing she could disappear. Or better yet, that her breasts would disappear. Because without them, Randy and every other boy would just leave her alone.


April used to like boys much more than girls. Until she became a walking set of boobs.

Boobs she ignored as long as possible, until a girl ran past her on the track with her hands cupped to her chest saying “boing, boing, boing.” Once her friend Amy explained what that meant, April decided to get a bra.

 

But it didn’t really help. She used to love everything they did in P.E., but unless she could figure out how to take off her breasts along with the bra, she was done playing sports.

She also used to love going through her mother’s dresser after school and pulling out her bras, thinking it was funny she could cover her whole face with one of the cups. But it’s not funny now that she knows those cups are her future.

 

A future where she’ll have to stop on long walks to pull the underwire off her ribs so she can catch her breath like her grandmother does. A future where she can’t find a button-down blouse that doesn’t pop open between her breasts like all of her mom’s work shirts.  A future full of boys like Randy, who was still waiting for her to kiss him.


April decides to just get it over with. How bad could it be? It won’t be like the kiss between Pony Boy and Cherry in The Outsiders, the one she pictures when she practices kissing in the mirror, but it would still be kissing, right?  Maybe if she imagines that kiss, it would help.

 

It doesn’t. As soon as their lips touch, April freezes, having no idea what to do next and having none of the feelings she gets from watching that movie kiss.

 “You kiss weird,” Randy says. “It’s like you’ve been practicing on the back of your hand or something.”

 

At first, all April feels is shame and the heat rushing up her chest to her cheeks. How could he tell? She turns her head away and sits as still as possible, hoping to keep the color from reaching her ears.

“I’m just kidding,” Randy says, poking her ribs with his elbow, and suddenly April’s shame turns to anger. First he forces me to kiss him, then he makes fun of how I do it?! I gave up a night with my mother for this?!


Saturday evenings are the only times April can sit in the living room with her mother and relax. Usually when Evelyn sees her on the couch she will say, “If you have time to sit, you have time to dust.” Or, “Is your homework done?”

 

But on Saturdays, April can just lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling while her mother reads at her desk. The only light comes from her small lamp, the only sounds the turning of pages or her spoon clinking on her metal ice cream bowl. Normally, that noise would annoy April, but when the clinking meant she was home with her mother, she liked it.


Thinking of her mother gives April courage, so she stands up and demands that they leave. Randy looks at his watch. “Yeah, OK, we probably should. And I guess I can call that a kiss.”

April wants to kick him in the shin. But she still needs him to drive her home.


Once they’re driving again, she feels better. It did turn out to be fun to ride on the moped, the wind whipping her hair, everything zooming by so much closer than in a car. Fun until they stop at an intersection and he puts his hand on her thigh.

 

Kim had warned April about Randy. Kim also works at the amusement park and is very cool, but doesn’t know April isn’t cool because she goes to a different school. If she didn’t, Kim would ignore April like all the other cool girls do, only talking to her when making fun of her underwear in the locker room.

“Be careful with Randy,” Kim said. “Allison told me he’s got four hands.”

 

April nodded like she knew what that meant, but she didn’t until now, when he seemed to have two hands for driving and still two free for touching her. 

 

So April is glad to get off the moped in the theater’s parking lot, until she remembers that the last person she wants to see her on a date works there. 

It’s a boy named Seth, who sits behind her in Driver’s Ed. And of course he’s in the ticket booth.

 

“Hey, April,” Seth says with a smile, which fades when Randy drapes his arm around her. 

“Two adults, please,” Randy says smugly, grandly pulling out $20 from his wallet. “Don’t think she’ll pass for 12,” he adds with a laugh, giving April’s shoulders a squeeze.

April pulls free and heads inside, not caring that she doesn’t have a ticket yet. 

“See you in class, April,” Seth says behind her.


At their seats April slouches down, pressing her knees high against the seat in front of her, trying to hide her face from the rest of the theater. But that just brings Randy’s eyes to her legs and his hand back to her thigh.

Since they’re not on the moped anymore she could shake off that hand, but she just looks at it, feeling its warmth through her thin pants. She wishes she wore jeans, but is glad she didn’t wear a skirt.

No one in her house wears skirts. Her mother used to, but all April sees her wear now are slacks to work, and jeans or shorts on the weekends. And her sister Hannah — she’s even less of a girl than April.


Hannah has one skirt she wore once, after spending hours of red-faced misery at the mall shopping for her junior high graduation dance. She finally settled on a long-sleeved white blouse and a long cotton skirt. 

When April went with her mother to pick Hannah up, she saw her sister “dancing” in a corner of the gym with another girl, her long hair flipping from side to side as she hopped awkwardly from one foot to the other.

April would later remember that moment as when she knew Hannah would never date a boy. Their mother must have known the same, because April later learned she asked Hannah if she had danced with any boys.

“No,” Hannah said.

“Do you like boys?” Evelyn asked.

“No.”


I don’t like boys, either, April thinks, reminded where she was when Randy’s hand began moving down her thigh.

“Is this OK?” he asks.

She wishes she could say no. She wishes she could pick up his hand and push it away. But she doesn’t, and spends so much time making sure the hand doesn’t reach her underwear that when the lights come back on, she can’t remember a thing about the movie and just wants to get back on the moped and go home. So much so that she has forgotten to care what Randy will think of her house.

At least he will only see it at night, when you can’t really tell how small and old it is, or see the jungle of weeds and blackberry bushes in the front yard.


Randy parks his moped behind her mother’s little Honda station wagon in the carport and April can see inside the kitchen, which has a glass door between two big windows. Her father is sitting on the wine barrel behind one of the windows where his transistor radio gets the best reception. 

“Is that your dad?” Randy asks. 

“Yeah,” April says as her father gets up and moves away from the window. She wishes he’d come outside to get her, but she knows he’s just giving them privacy. 

“Kiss me,” Randy demands. “Bet you won’t kiss me in front of him.”

Randy doesn’t have anything to hold over her anymore, but April decides the quickest way she can go back inside is to kiss him. She leans over to kiss his cheek, but he turns his head.

“No. On the lips.”


April looks at the smirk on his mouth. Nope, never doing that again, she decides, turning and running up the brick path to the kitchen door, calling over her shoulder, “Thanks for the movie.” 

She opens the door and breathes in her kitchen, vowing to never leave her house for a date again. 

“You’re home early,” her father says.

She wants to throw her arms around his stomach and bury her head in his chest, but she just nods and bounds up the stairs to her mother, who is sitting at her desk.

"Good," her mother says with a smile. "You can get up in time for Wilder now."

 

Chapter Two

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A week of Outdoor Education in the redwoods changed me forever. And I couldn't be more grateful.

Nathan DeHart photo
I fell in love with forests in the fifth-grade, the year my elementary school in California offered its students a week of Outdoor Education at a camp in the redwoods.

That was cool.

At first I was terrified to stay at a camp for five days, since that sounded like the worst slumber party ever. Sleepovers were torture for a socially obtuse kid like me who was always saying the wrong thing. But at least I could go home the next morning without showering in front of the girls who made fun of me.

By the first breakfast, though, I knew this camp was actually the best slumber party ever. I still remember smiling at the pitchers of juice on each table in the dining hall, can still smell the plates of sausages and scrambled eggs.

And then we went into the forest.

I remember being shown how to walk as quietly as possibly by stepping on our heels and rolling the rest of our foot down. And learning that the light green lace decorating the tree branches was lichen, or "fungus and bacteria that took a liking to each other."

I especially remember how at peace I felt walking among those trees, both alone and immersed in the best company ever. In the forest, I could step outside my head and walk paths lined with leaves and bark instead of worry and self-consciousness. With my brain focused on every branch, every movement and every sound, I could finally escape the bubble of my thoughts and walk with life.

 

And though the other kids were still there, I was no longer the least cool in the forest. Because trees aren't impressed by make-up and French braids, and they smirk at cute sandals and skirts, not the comfortable shoes and pants I liked to wear.

But the real magic was the night hike: When my cabin was taken into the forest in the darkness, something that again I feared at first. 

I remember standing in the clearing between our cabins and the trees, looking up at the stars and thinking as our guides gave us instructions, "Are these people crazy? How can we possibly hike those trails when we can't see?!"

I was terrified of the dark. I didn't even like to walk the two steps from my bedroom door to the bathroom door in a dark hallway.

Yet here I was in a black forest, taking more and more steps in, not running out. I still remember straining to see the white shoes of the kid ahead of me, straining to hear any crack of a branch as our guides called out warnings about the obstacles ahead. It was even more absorbing than walking the trails during the day. Even more exhilarating.

I remember looking up at the sky again afterward and thinking, "I just walked through a forest in total darkness. No one fell, nothing attacked us, nothing bad happened at all." So much felt possible at that moment that even the stars were within reach.

I've thought about that sky ever since to give me courage.

When I was getting ready to start college in a new city where I would have only my cat to talk with for months. To board a plane to South America where I would live months without even that cat to talk to. To move to Seattle without a job or a plan, and only that same cat to talk to.

I think about those stars, and remember how good it felt to walk through the fear.

 

The photo above was taken by Nathan DeHart.


Friday, September 11, 2020

I thought I had recovered from my mother's crash. Until the planes crashed into the Twin Towers.

I watched the planes fly into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, from my futon in a tiny apartment in Seattle.
Moving there with no job, no friends and no plan had been the bravest thing I ever did. But watching smoke billow out of those buildings and cover the screaming city below with ash sucked all that bravery out and crippled me with fear for more than 10 years.
And it took me almost as long to realize why: That the terror of 9/11 had pushed me back to the day my mother died, snapping the cable on my life and sending me crashing to the floor all over again.
Only this time I fell past the floor into a new horror. Because while my mother's death had dissolved just my family and sense of security forever, the attack on 9/11 did that for the whole country. 
One family could recover from a loss. Cars crashed all the time.
But planes crashing into skyscrapers? How could anyone ever feel safe again?

 
Later I wrote this poem.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

My Grandmother's Journals: September, 1995

My grandmother, left, as a teenager on Balboa Island.*
Every day my grandmother wrote down what time she woke up, where she ate breakfast, what movie she went to see, what mail and phone calls she received, then what she read and watched on TV before going to sleep.

In 1995, she was living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif., but I wouldn't describe her as lonely; she was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet. She was still traveling alone, corresponding with people  she met on those trips, and always keeping up with current events. (I wrote more about her life in an earlier post.)  

Close to her home was the famous surfing spot called Pleasure Point, and she loved walking to the ocean and watching the surfers. When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to those waves with a friend of hers and we each dropped some at the sand. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood.

That was cool. 

In September of 1995 she turned 80 while getting ready for another trip to Europe and watching a lot of sports and a little of the O.J. Simpson trial. Unfortunately, that month she also found one of her elderly neighbors lying on the ground one afternoon after having a stroke.



Friday, Sept. 1, 1995

Up 8. More Cold? Eyes hurt.

Breakfast McDonald’s. Bank, haircut.

Tennis, Chang not doing well. Sampras won.

To cleaners, cost $9.75 to clean apricot dress.

To bank, money for girls. Sent Justine video. 

Eyes hurt.

Dodgers vs. Expos. Watched X-Files, taped Northern Exposure.

Bed early, read.


Saturday, Sept. 2, 1995

Up 7:30. To Longs for cholesterol test after ate McDonald's. 

Better cholesterol, under 200. But high triglycerides because of fruit.

Lunch, library, returned books.

Got ice cream cone!

Mary came by. Women in her house her two aunts.

Tennis, Agassi won. Jensen brothers advanced. 

Justine called from work, she going to Martinez by train.


Sunday, Sept. 3, 1995

Tennis at 9:30. M.J. Fernandez won.

Football, 49ers won over New Orleans, 24-22. Good game.

Slept, hot in here. 

Raiders vs. Chargers. Heard Joe Montana once.

Finished "Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station." Good.

Bed early, started second book.


Monday, Sept. 4, 1995

Awake 7, up 9. Breakfast Carl's Jr. Walked a bit.

Home, called Justine. Left message.

Tennis most of day. Put water on apricot dress, got spot out. [Just saved herself $9.75!]

Worked on taxes, less this year than last. 

Finished "Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle."

Taped "The Jessica Savitch Story." 

Couldn't sleep 'til 3 a.m.

 

Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1995

Two small quakes, East Bay. 

Awake 7:30. Up 9 a.m. Breakfast McDonald's. 

Home, tennis. Sampras won, Courier over Muster (who developed toe problem).

Steffi and Gabriel advanced.

Library, returned two Pollifax, got three others.

Tried new show, "Deadly Games." no go for me.

Watched Frost 10-12, slept well.

Watered, Hot Hot!


Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1995

Up 8. Donut shop.

Justine called, send her pralines for friend. To TJ's, got four.

To show, "Lords of Illusion." Special effects. Cult, "Devil."

Tennis, Agassi vs. Korda. Slow, AA won.

Called Justine, mailed candy. Cost $3.

Ran Alien Autopsy, MindWalk, Mona Lisa.


Thursday, Sept. 7, 1995

Up 7:30. Tennis, doubles. To McDonald's.

Home, still doubles. Washed car, got Mary's papers.

Showered, etc. Foned Discount Air, then Lyon Travel. {She was checking prices for flights to Paris, then taking the Chunnel to London.}

Helped Mary pack car.

Sampras won, Chang vs. Courier. Animosity apparent between Chang and Courier, Chang complained to umpire that Courier took too long. 

Bed early, read.


Friday, Sept. 8, 1995

Read book until 3 a.m. Slept until 8:30.

Tennis, library. Two books out, one returned.

Lucky's, looked at herbs, alfalfa not good!

Justine called, left message on machine. She got chocolate in mail.

Caught up on papers, X-Files. Bed, read Mrs. Pollifax. "Palm."

Slept 1 -8.


Saturday, Sept. 9, 1995

Justine to Martinez. 

Up 8:30, Mid County Sale, bought grape jelly.

Talked to Mary, Sandy. No coffee. Went to Burger King.

Home, tennis most of the day. Courier/Sampras, Agassi/Becker. Becker mad, calls going for Americans!

Watched Richard Crenna, "Internal Affairs." 4 to 8 p.m.

Bed early, finished Palm for Mrs. P.


Sunday, Sept. 10, 1995

Awake 7:30, up 8:15. To Baker's Square for breakfast.

To library, put wrong book in slot.

Tennis: Sampras won over Agassi. Football: 49ers over Atlanta, 41-10, Raiders over Denver.

Sampras received $575,000, AA $287,500.

Read Girl in Cabin B5, that read before.

Watched some of 60 Minutes, Murder while reading. Masterpiece, Spy Sir Anthony Blunt, art expert for Queen. Good.

Bed, read.


Monday, Sept. 11, 1995

Up 8:30 a.m. Longs, pix of M.H. renewal. Mailed IRS and HCD renewal.

Home, message on machine from Secure Horizons.

Wrote Andra, started letter to Stimson.

Erik's (Deli) for soup.

Library, got zipper.

To show, "Unzipped." Liked.

Football, Bears/Packers. Murphy Brown, news. Bed, read.


Tuesday, Sept. 12, 1995 {Her 80th birthday}

Up 8:30 a.m. Breakfast McDonald's.

Longs, got TVGuide. 

To mall, looked for raincoats, none. Got pair of boots from Sears.

Home, lunch. Balanced checkbook.

Finished letter to Stimson, wrote Justine.

Made appointment with doctor, to Post Office to mail letters.

(Box at corner at 3 p.m., Post Office at 5:15.)

To Mary's, got papers, sorted.

Watched movie "In the Name of Love." Not good, slow.

 

Wednesday, Sept. 13, 1995

Slept good! To laundromat, ironed pants.

Baseball, Cubs & Dodgers. Tie 6-6, to 11th inning. 

To Mary, returned plate. 

Went for walk, Penneys parking lot full, had sale on coats. Got short one, $19.99 + tax. Black, hip length.

Home 6 p.m. Geraldo, began How West Was Won.

Read, watched Star Trek, Q in it. 

Bed 11:20, slept pretty good.


Thursday, Sept. 14, 1995

Up 8:45. Breakfast Kmart. 

Home, put cotton sweater out to dry, washed two t-shirts. 

Vacuumed heat outlets for dirt/dust, watched some trial. 

Watered lawn before eating.

Mary C came by, then shower/hair.

To OSH, got replacement outlet for air/heater in bedroom.

To Aptos KFC, got chicken sandwich, strawberry pie.

Watched Charlie Grace with Mark Harmon, news.

Not good sleep.

 

Friday, Sept. 15, 1995

Awake 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., up 9 a.m. Breakfast Burger King.

Walked in parking lot, Gottschalk's, Penneys. 

Home 11:30, tired, rested. Read.

Watched Geraldo, Bio on Hoover, Ancient Mysteries, Law & Order, Picket Fences.

Skipped X-Files. Bed, read five minutes. Slept good from 11 to 7.


Saturday, Sept. 16, 1995

Up 7:30. Breakfast McDonald's. Walked in lot, to bank.

Washed two tops, to donut shop for coffee.

To library, got two books.

To show, "The Usual Suspects." Tense, absorbing.

Read "Uncertain Voyage," finished it.

Some yard work. 

Watched news, bed 11 p.m. Slept good.


Sunday, Sept. 17, 1995

Awake 8, up 8:30. To Scotts Valley, breakfast Golden West.

Saw "Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything." Not good show. No movement, stupid at times.

Home 2 p.m., got second half of 49ers/Patriots. Joe Montana on discussion at halftime.

Chiefs won over Raiders, 23-17. Final of 49ers, 28-3.

Bad sleep night, 1 aspirin. Then 2 at 3 a.m.

Junk left in yard.


Monday, Sept. 18, 1995

Dentist at 11 a.m.

Up 8:30, ate here. Laundromat, washed four winter tops, black pants, pink bathroom carpet.

Dentist Deborah. Good.

To Burger King for lunch, home, mail.

To Shorenstein, talked. Paid $35.

Home, Dolphins vs. Steelers. Marino hurt!


Tuesday, Sept. 19, 1995

Slept good. Awake 7, up 7:30. Breakfast McDonald's.

Longs, walked through yard. Met Lillie, 84, at Lyon's.

Home 9:55 a.m. Cancelled S.C. "No women." Maybe later.

Lunch here, to library. Thought to go to show at Rio, times in paper wrong.

To Live Oak for BP, 140/84. 

Home, to Mary C. She on ground, in gravel. Stroke. 

Called paramedics, me to hospital until 8 p.m. 

88 years old, clots to brain, may happen again.

Dodgers, Giants. Piazza hit on wrist. 


Wednesday, Sept. 20, 1995

Up 9 a.m. Breakfast donut shop.

To hospital, home. Ginger to arrive Thursday (for Mary).

Got gas, to Trader Joe's.

Home 7:45 p.m. Some TV.


Thursday, Sept. 21, 1995

Awake 4 a.m., loud noise. Up 8:45. Breakfast Carl's Jr.

Some housework. Shower, hair dryer kaput.

Checked Longs, Kmart, Beauty Supply, finally got at Longs: Contempo Travel.

Folding horrible, tried to fix Braun, no go.

Called Ginger at Mary's home, gave her purse, clothes. 

Ginger took me to dinner on Wharf.

Some TV, bed, read.


Friday, Sept. 22, 1995

Up 9, breakfast at Lyon's.

Mary moved at 2 p.m., Ginger cleaning the home.

11 a.m., Davis Cup. Sampras won, Agassi won.

Watered lawn, X-files.


Sunday, Sept. 24, 1995

Up 7:40, donut shop/coffee.  

To Drug Emporium, got calcium, light bulbs, no diuretics.

Walked, waves very strong, high tide.

Bears/Rams, 28-34. Rams quarterback Chris Miller injured by hits.

Raiders over Eagles, 48-17.

Washed some clothes, read papers.

Watched S.T. Voyager, 60 Minutes, Cybill. 

Bed 9:30, read a bit.


Monday, Sept. 25, 1995

Awake 7:40, breakfast McDonald's. To Drug Emporium, got light bulbs, two bottles of diuretics, soap.

Walked 1/2 hour. Myra called regarding Mary's glasses.

To mall, paid bills, also got "Blizzard."

Mail, package from Justine. 

To Gottschalk's, got two "Amethyst," XL for me, L for Justine. Sent it with tape of Northern Exposure.

49ers vs. Lions, 27-24. 49ers kicker missed field goals. 

Mary foned here twice for clothes, cards. Sandra to get pants.


Tuesday, Sept. 26, 1995

Up 7:55, breakfast Burger King. 

Got Kay to see Mary, she in wheelchair. 

To post office, library. 

To show, "Babe." Enjoyed; amazing mouth synchronizing.

Ginger got Mary's red robe in closet.

Watched part of Geraldo, Frasier, part of Murder One. Did not watch to end.


Wednesday, Sept. 27, 1995

Up 8:20, cold, put heat on. 

Foned Linda at Lyons travel, checked on Chunnel times, need to call to get reservations.

To Louden for blood pressure, cancelled, her daughter ill.

Back to donut shop, to Dr. Fong, glasses adjusted.

To Trader Joe's, got groceries. 

Ate here, eggs and salad.

Watched some O. J. trial, ironed clothes.

Watched bio of Thomas Jefferson, some Law & Order.

Bed, read some French.


Thursday, Sept. 28, 1995

Awoke 4 a.m., then up 9:30. Showered, etc. Breakfast McDonald's.

Ross, looked at shoes, jackets. One 100% silk from China, $20!

To Penneys, walked a bit, home, read papers.

Mail, bill from Mervyn's. 

Watched some CNN, Geraldo, no baseball.

Read some French. Slept good.


Friday, Sept. 29, 1995

Up 8:45. Breakfast Carl's Jr. 

To library, found Consumer Medical Dictionary, got a Gilman book.

Home 12:30 p.m. Gov. Pete Wilson is pulling out [of presidential race.] 

Wilson's voice cracked; 1 month, 1 day campaign. 

Dinner at Mid-County, back at 5 p.m.

Watched Geraldo, Strange Luck, X-Files.


Saturday, Sept. 30, 1995

Up 8:30, ate peach. To bank, 41st Donut.

Then to San Jose, looked at Emporium, Nordstrom's.

Show, "Devil in a Blue Dress," Denzel Washington, music blues, 1948 era.

Then to The Prophecy. 67.5 miles up, bad.

Home 6:30 p.m., letter from Andra and Lutz.

Some TV, John Larroquette, news.


August entries


 *The photo above shows my grandmother as a teenager in the 1920s with other residents of the Masonic home she was raised in near Los Angeles. The home owned property on Balboa Island they called Camp Tucker, where the kids enjoyed time at the beach.