Tag Archives: nostalgia

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 29

29. The night of your 21st birthday (if not yet 21, the last birthday you had)

I don’t remember what I did for my 21st birthday. Probably studied for finals. I would have been a junior at UT Austin, and my birthday always fell during finals, right before the holiday break. It’s equally possible my friends and I all went out somewhere . . . Maybe that was the year we went to the restaurant with the girl on the swing [Old San Francisco Steakhouse]? I honestly can’t remember. Twenty-one wasn’t a big deal for me. I’m not a big drinker or partier, so suddenly being able to drink legally held no particular excitement. Also, two of my friends were still too young to drink, so . . . ::shrug::

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 4

4. Ten interesting facts about yourself

I don’t know if they’re “interesting” or not—that’s sort of subjective—but here are ten facts about me:

  1. I won’t eat meat off a bone. That’s something that runs in my family, actually.
  2. I won’t eat poultry unless it’s so covered in something else (sauce, seasoning) I can’t actually taste the meat. That also runs in my family.
  3. I’m allergic to berries and oranges.
  4. Maybe a non-food item? Um . . . I grew up speaking both French Creole and English.
  5. My favorite movie ever is Young Sherlock Holmes, which I used to watch every day (not even exaggerating) after school while doing my homework. Marcus in Changers is modeled a bit after Nicholas Rowe from that movie.
  6. I’ve both performed and taught Shakespeare, and an essay I wrote on Hamlet exempted me from any required English courses as an undergrad. (But I took a bunch of English Lit anyway because I like it.)
  7. The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller started loosely as an idea for a Sherlock Holmes story but ended up going in a very different direction. As made obvious by the final product.
  8. My “M” necklace from Style Newport shows up in The K-Pro (except Andra wears a “C” for “Cassandra”).
  9. I love to dress up. Either in costumes or in fancy clothes.
  10. I chose the University of Texas at Austin because I’d visited the campus when I was eight years old and fell in love with the Harry Ransom Center. In particular, I loved that they had a plaster cast of the Nike of Samothrace, which is my favorite of the Ancient Greek sculptures. When I visited the Louvre, I didn’t give a fig about Mona Lisa, I just had to see Nike.

I don’t know if #7 actually counts as being “about me” but I figure it is by proxy since it’s about my book, my idea.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 3

3. Your first love and first kiss; if separate, discuss both

Ah, God, really?

I feel as if this is actually less cut-and-dry as it seems. My “first love” in what respect? Because there are a lot of different kinds of love.

There was the usual school teasing, my friends demanding I name someone I “liked.” I chose reasonably nice-looking candidates. But I didn’t honestly have any particular feelings for any of these boys. So I can’t really count any of them as “first loves.”

And if we’re talking about someone I loved but it was unreciprocated, well, there are a lot of those. But maybe that would be more like “first crush”? Still, there are some people that I loved that I’m still friends with even though the love part never came out of the bud stage. Do they count? Where do people who loved me and I sort of tolerated stand on the spectrum?

Okay. Let’s just go with my first official boyfriend. His name was Charles. The end.

First kiss? Probably Chad Minton when we were, like, five years old. He gave me chicken pox at the same time. That says it all.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 2

2. Your earliest memory

Not including past-life memories? Because I do have a few of those, the earliest of which would be Ancient Greece, I think.

But if we’re talking current lifetime, I mostly remember grass. Under my bare feet. I never liked to wear shoes. I still don’t like to wear shoes if I can avoid it, unless my toe polish is messed up, in which case I try to keep my toes covered.

Truly, my memories are a bit of a jumble. I catch glimpses of things now and then and wonder where they came from. They are usually sudden and of something very specific. A swing set in a strange yard, for instance—I remember sitting on one of the benches in the swing, the kind where two benches face each other . . . Kids I didn’t know very well were around . . . But that’s all I can distinctly recall. And a little table with two chairs in someone’s yard/garden. This was in Louisiana, I’m almost certain, was the house of friends of my parents, but again, that’s all I remember: sitting at the table under a tree with many plants around. I don’t know how old I was in either memory. I’m pretty sure these are places I only visited once.

Still, I count grass as my earliest and most pervasive memory. Because it was so frequent, I suppose. I was always running around outside and barefoot. The smell, too, of early morning grass, fresh-mown grass, grass in the evening as the earth cooled. Rolling in it, sitting on it, ripping it out and throwing it through the wire to the chickens. It’s less a single memory than a remembered sensory experience, but it’s the best I have.


Sometimes it happens that your perception of a person changes based on a spontaneous moment.

While in grad school, I was an intern at Houghton Mifflin. After I graduated, the internship turned into a job. I worked in textbook production, scheduling rounds of proofs and attending design meetings. (In fact, I worked on the California Reading and California Math books that my kids now use at school!)

Anyway, I worked with a designer named Fred. (I also worked with a designer named Bert, short for Albert. Designer names. Huh.) I liked Fred, though he had a bit of a reputation as being difficult. But he was really good at his job, and I honestly think he maybe was bi-polar too.

In any case, I don’t think Fred had any feelings about me one way or another. There’s a chance he didn’t even know who I was. But one day as I was bringing something somewhere (which was a large part of my job, that and boxing things up to mail), Fred walked over to where I was and he was singing. It was “I Like Life” from Scrooge, which is a movie I grew up watching every Christmas. So Fred came over to where I was standing—it seems I was near the mailboxes—and he was singing, “I like life, life likes me . . .” And without even thinking about it, I sang, “Life and I almost always agree.”

Fred looked at me with this big grin on his face. He didn’t say anything, but I think I’d surprised him. And after that, he was always really nice to me. I learned all about his rescued greyhounds and was there for him the day one of them died. A bond had been formed—just a work bond; we didn’t hang out or anything, but still . . . One moment of honest response from me—a response that, had I thought about it before doing it, I’d have been too embarrassed to go through with it (and the lesson there is to be authentic and not think too hard)—had apparently changed Fred’s perception of me. Enough to let me in a little. Though once I left Houghton Mifflin, we lost touch. Some (many) relationships are only passing, only grounded in the common soil of work or school. Once you transplant, or they do, there is nothing left.

I don’t know what made me think of this today. Though I do still think of Fred whenever I watch Scrooge now!

Anyway, good walk this morning with cooler temps:

1. “Angry” by Matchbox Twenty
2. “Daylight” by Maroon 5
3. “Things You Said” by Rob Thomas
4. “You Won’t Feel a Thing” by The Script
5. “Your Wildest Dreams” by Moody Blues
6. “Please Don’t Ask Me” by Gin Blossoms
7. “Don’t Cross the River” by America

A History of Rob Thomas Concerts

I’m trying to remember all the times I’ve seen RT (with or without Matchbox Twenty) play. I know the first time was in 2000 out at Amherst College. It was in a gymnasium, SRO, but we were able to get pretty close to the stage. Matchbox Twenty was touring for Mad Season at the time, and they were my favorite band—I’d never felt as strongly about a band as I did for them at the time—so (embarrassing as it is), I stood there with tears running down my face, I was so happy to see them. Later I was moved enough to post on a message board (my name was “yukitouya” at the time because I was into animé) that it was for me what seeing The Beatles was like for my mother.

Well, live a little longer and you get a different perspective on life, but I still do love Rob and the boys. In 2003 I would see them again for the More Than You Think You Are tour. That time they were at the Fleet Center (now TD Garden). Sugar Ray opened, IIRC, and it was clear the band had more of a budget as there was more flash and bang in the show. But weirdly, I find that doesn’t suit them as much.

In 2004 I started a blog called “Letters to Rob” in which, over the course of a year, I wrote open letters to Rob and his bandmates. (Though the site is no more, a PDF version is under my Bibliography under Books.) It got picked up by the Atlantic message boards and stands as my little slice of fangirldom. Rob would come out with Something To Be, and I would end up seeing him both at the Avalon on Lansdowne Street (now gone) and at a charity show at the China Club in NYC.

I think, after that, the next time I saw Matchbox Twenty was at a Mix Fest or something of that sort. This would have been when the Exile on Mainstream EP was released.

Then Rob again, solo, in 2009 in Boston for the Cradlesong show. I ended up sitting next to his son and his son’s friend. And we saw him play at Mohegan Sun towards the end of 2011. And a couple years ago I took my own son to see Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox Twenty at the Concord, CA show.

Finally, last night we saw Rob on his Great Unknown tour at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. Another great show.

So what does that come to? Nine total? I’ve seen Rob more than any other artist. Even if I count the solo shows (5), or the Matchbox Twenty shows (4) separately, it comes to more than any other. Well, I think the MB20 shows tie Train, which I’ve also seen 4 times now.

I’m not sure why I’m posting this retrospective except maybe as a means to ground myself. I was wondering the other day about the trajectory of fandom and at what point (if ever) people “grow out of” or at least begin to mature . . . Which isn’t to say they don’t still like things, but they have more perspective, maybe, or are more discerning, or “gush” less . . . What keeps a person coming back versus the point at which they walk away from a band or a TV show . . . I guess it depends on the purpose these things serve in a person’s life. When a show or artist fills a kind of emotional or psychological need in a person, plugs a perceived hole in them, the person may become fanatical. But if (a) the show or artist ceases to plug the hole, or (b) the hole closes or the need is otherwise filled, then the grip loosens.

Or maybe the hole changes shape. I still enjoy Rob and Matchbox Twenty, and their music still speaks to me on some levels, though not the way it did when I was in college. And some of their songs also take me back to other times, bring back memories. That’s another kind of service these things provide: milestones and markers of who we used to be.

I don’t know if I have a point here. It’s more a musing. I studied fan psychology as an undergrad, and so these things continue to interest me. Of course, one isn’t required to have a reason for liking something. And one isn’t required to defend themselves for liking (or not liking). But it is amazing how strongly people feel about these things—what they like and don’t like. There’s no right answer, no one fit for everyone, yet we still love to argue and debate the merits and lack thereof of what we love and hate and why. Internet message boards overflow with just such arguments.

I outgrew The X-Files at some point (though I’ll still check out the reboot), and I don’t enjoy Doctor Who that much any more, but I do still love Rob and Matchbox Twenty. I take a lot of flak for that, but whatever. Sometimes there really is no accounting for what we enjoy. It is what it is.

“When Did You First Know You Were a Woman?”

Cross posted from spooklights.

I’m reading Bossypants by Tina Fey and really missing 30 Rock (though Parks and Recreation is good, too), and this question comes up when she talks about writing Mean Girls. And it seems like a lot of the answers to the question have to do with catcalls and men shouting at women, but I don’t have any vivid memory of that ever happening. Maybe no one has ever catcalled at me? Or, just as likely, I wasn’t paying attention and/or assumed they were shouting at someone else.

So when I thought about this question, I really had to cast my mind back, and the summer of 1989 sprang up almost immediately. I was 13 and in love with Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever and Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence. Seems very apropos in retrospect.

Two years before, we’d moved from Georgetown to Lewisville [Texas]. But two of my best friends were still in Georgetown, and I got permission to spend a month down there—two weeks at Emily’s, two weeks at Tara’s. We went and saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade over and over again, making ourselves sick on hot dogs and Nerds and oversized dill pickles.

Now, Emily is the same age as me, but she was always the more mature one, interested in boys long before I was. But Tara, who is like a sister to me, is four years younger. She and I lived right next door to one another and spent every possible minute together. I was as comfortable in her house as I was my own, and her little brother, when asked who I was, would often answer, “That’s just Mandy. She’s like my other sister.”

This is important because of what happened. I was staying with Tara and her family, and though I was 13 and physically mature, Tara (who was 9) and I were still playing silly kid games. We would play Indiana Jones, and I would be Indy and have to rescue her and so on. We had a game in which the entire goal was to avoid being kissed by the evil Fish Lips. Kid stuff. I was brilliant but a late bloomer in the socio-emotional sense. (Not uncommon for Asperger’s, I believe.)

Tara’s dad had a friend who would come over. His name was Mike. I didn’t think much of it, but after a while I became aware Mike looked at me a lot, in a way that made me uncomfortable, though I wasn’t sure why. Then Mike quit coming to visit. And I found out later Tara’s dad had given him a thrashing because of some things Mike had said about me. Inappropriate things. And Tara’s dad had reacted as any man might if someone had said those things about his daughter. So good for him, and I’m grateful for it.

Not long after, my dad’s friend Jim came to visit us up in Lewisville. I’d known Jim since I was itty bitty and thought nothing of sitting on his lap, same as I always had. But one day my mom took me aside and told me I couldn’t sit on Jim’s lap any more. She didn’t elaborate, and it took some mulling on my part to understand why.

Putting two and two together, I began to realize I had become interesting to men. That the bodily changes I took for granted were drawing attention. And for reasons I’d rather not go into, I thought this was the worst thing in the world.

I attacked the problem in a variety of ways. 1. I started wearing my dad’s t-shirts. They were huge on me and covered everything up. I also started wearing men’s hiking boots for some reason; I’m not sure what that was about. 2. I grew a curtain of hair to hide behind. 3. I quit eating. And no one could tell because I became skilled at pushing things around on my plate to make it look like I had eaten, and I had huge clothes on anyway.

Basically, I was trying to disappear in every way possible.

I didn’t know that at the time, of course, but looking back it’s pretty clear.

So, yeah, that’s when I knew I was a woman. And I fought it for as long as I could. Which is probably why I didn’t date much in high school. (I had two boyfriends, both very safe church boys.) At some point, I gave in. Cute dresses could no longer be foresworn or something.

Oh, but Tina Fey does also mention buying a white denim suit, and it reminded me of something similar in my life. I was at the mall with a couple friends, and I found a white v-neck sweater at . . . I dunno, Lerner New York & Co, I think it was. It was displayed with all these brightly colored turtlenecks, and my friend Christopher said, “Amanda, you have to buy it. That would look great on you.” And flattered that Christopher could be bothered to even think about what might look great on me . . . And also mollified by the fact the sweater was massive and would cover all the things . . . I bought it and a cobalt blue turtle neck. And I wore them as often as Texas weather allowed.

Question of the Day

I’ve mentioned before that I have a 5-year journal that asks one question a day with spaces for five years’ worth of answers. So I can see how my answers change over time, if they change. Today’s question is:

What do you wish you could forget?

A: My junior year of high school.

That answer hasn’t changed. Of all things, that is what I would most like to forget. It was a very difficult time (September 1992–May 1993). In fact, as a budding astrologer, I became curious to look at my chart for that period in my life. Now, I can’t realistically look at every single day. So I chose my solar return for 1992, which would have set the tone for a lot of what was going on that year.

Right away I saw a potential problem: my SR Sun was in a tight (less than 1 degree) square with my SR Moon. Yikes. No wonder my emotions were all over the place! That + being a teenager = whoa. Also, my natal Venus was squaring my SR Venus and my SR Pluto was tightly squaring my SR Chiron. Heartache was the theme of that year, and these aspects highlight that.

The other chart I opted to look at was the birthday of the person causing me such grief, which was in April 1993 and at the height of my pain. Transiting Chiron was square my natal Venus. Chiron is a planet of wounds and healing, meaning old wounds open so they can heal properly if they haven’t before (or yet). And we all know Venus is the planet of love. Also, my natal Venus was in a tight square with my progressed Moon, upping the emotions and making them raw. My transiting Venus was square my natal Mercury, which hobbled my ability to express myself, in particular all those deep, churning feelings. Sigh.

There are a lot of other aspects in these charts, of course, and not all of them are bad; I was only hunting for clues as to what influenced my difficult situation. Besides the bad love thing, it was a year in which I had a very hard time with a particular teacher, something that had never happened to me before. But looking at these charts, I see my Saturn (natal, progressed, and transiting) is square and opposing all the things. Saturn is the disciplinarian; he rules work and efforts of that kind. Clearly I was meeting a lot of obstacles along those lines.

But enough about me. What about you? What would you like to forget?

Magnolia, You Sweet Thing

It’s a line from a song by Poco.

You see, my parents almost named me Magnolia. (If I’d have been a boy, I would have been named Martin Peter. “M” was destined in any case.) Then my parents argued. My mother said they’d name me Magnolia and call me Maggie for short. My dad said if they named me Magnolia, they would call me Magnolia. That’s the whole point of a name, etc. My dad always has been a very logical sort.

Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and try to imagine I’m a Magnolia. I could maybe believe a Maggie, but . . . Though I’m a Southern girl, for sure, I’m maybe not quite sweet enough to pull off such a name.

And then I wonder why they couldn’t have just called me Martine. I like that name. I feel like I could be a Martine. But not a Martina. Isn’t that interesting, how that tiny difference feels huge? Certainly there’s a cultural difference. I come from a French background, so of course Martine feels more natural to me, more in keeping with my identity.

It feels like I’d have been a very different person if I’d been named Magnolia. Do names have that kind of influence? I think so, just a bit. Studies have shown how people respond differently to various names. The ancients believed names carried power, and I think they do, even if it’s just the power of suggestion.

“A rose by any other name . . .” Yeah, it would smell the same, yet people would still treat it differently if it were called hackweed or something. But then, one doesn’t discover something as lovely as a rose and call it “hackweed” either. Yet we name babies well before we come to know them. Hmm. It’s a kind of burden we place on them, a mantel they are expected to wear and carry all their days. Something to either live up to or live down. Something they’re expected to reflect rather than giving them a name that reflects them. (Well, unless they change their names.)

I do love magnolias, though. But . . . Do I love them for themselves, or because I almost shared their name?

All Saints

Thanks to everyone who made my Hallowe’en extra special by Blitzing me yesterday! What a great feeling!

I didn’t do my usual walk yesterday because I spent the day dressed at Loki from Thor: The Dark World. It was fun, but the costume was four layers and way too hot for a daily walk (never minding whatever weird looks I would have received, though that’s never really deterred me before). The boots, too, would not have been the right thing for walking the trails and hills near my house.


My kids were dressed as various Avengers and really wanted me to be Loki so they could “capture” me. I received lots of compliments while out and about, and when we were done with the trick-or-treating, I stayed in costume to answer the door and give out candy. To their credit, most kids were a bit leery of taking candy from a villain.

At one point while I was out with my oldest son, who’d made his own Thor costume, I heard someone nearby say, “I’m a time machine.” It was said in that particular voice that means, “I’ve tried explaining and no one gets it, so I’ve become resigned to this.” So I turned around and looked and said, “Not just any time machine. You’re a TARDIS!”

“Are you Loki?!”

I pointed to my son. “Yup. He’s Thor and I’m Loki.”

“That’s some good parenting!” she said.

There’s a house a couple streets away that puts on a huge Hallowe’en display. A couple years ago it was a pirate ship, then last year it was a crashed UFO, and this year it was the pirates again but done a bit differently. Plus, this year the neighbor got in on the act. There’s always a line to go through the exhibit and get candy (it’s almost like Disneyland), but it moves quick, and it’s so cool to live in a place that does this kind of thing. Growing up, Hallowe’en was frowned upon by my mother, so I’m making up for it now.

Thing is, I love to dress up. So I look for reasons to do it. Hallowe’en. Treading the boards. It’s so incredibly fun to put on and take off personalities. To reach in and feel things you don’t normally feel, things you probably wouldn’t want to feel on a regular basis.

I like dressing up in the formal sense, too. Going out to nice dinners and parties and things. Getting cleaned up and looking good is always an ego boost. And then there’s that relief that comes with getting home and taking it all off again.

But the title of this post is “All Saints.” Because if I were back home now, we’d be in the cemeteries lighting candles and having picnics. In the days leading up, we would have gone and repainted and repaired any tombs that needed it. It’s a weird world, existing so close to one’s dead. I once told my son that when my grandfather died we sat up with the corpse and had to kiss it at the funeral. I don’t know if they still do that, though. I think maybe they’ve since decided there are hygiene issues.

Today my heart is light. Though we’re losing sunlight and the world is cooling (at least in this hemisphere), something in me feels lifted. Maybe my ancestors, my angels really are with me.

Or maybe after wearing that costume all day yesterday, I was bound to feel lighter today. Hrm.