A young girl’s first angry letter

This is my college graduation program.  Why would I want to throw this away?  Read on, if you don’t mind being incensed on behalf of a 22-year-old me!

I’m taking you back to a much simpler time.  It’s the 90’s.  I am still loving Def Leppard and Patrick Swayze even though most people have moved on.  I am a senior nearing graduation.  I decide to do my final 3 credits as an internship the summer after my fourth academic year and graduate with those people.  Sure, I could have taken more than 12 credits per semester (plus 6 each summer) and graduated earlier, but then I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the outstanding grades I had there near the end.

Okay, so I’m graduating, and I decide I’ll go ahead and walk mainly because my mother would be in attendance and my cousin Doug was graduating at the very same time.  Now, I was in Orlando schlepping sandbags for Universal Studios all summer… not as drop-dead Hollywood glam as I thought a movie studio in Orlando Florida would be.  But I did get to do crowd control for the John Stamos Beach Boys and, separately, escort Cathy Moriarty to the bathroom.

I mention my terribly glamorous Orlando summer, as I had to apply for selection to the “Outstanding Graduating Senior Leader” from my remote, fabulous location.  I thought I was fairly worthy of consideration: I not only had a high honors-level GPA I somehow managed to pull out of the toilet, but I was also an officer in my sorority, the Creative Director for our big homecoming show, a student tour guide on campus, and a member of the prestigious Florida Blue Key leadership honorary.  Also, I once took an underprivileged kid to a basketball game and paid for his snacks.

I knew I wouldn’t be the one top girl selected — I am ambitious but always a realist.  I had a feeling I might be one of the extra few that got “Honorable Mention” — and I was!  Despite the rarity of such occurrences, I truly love being awarded for things and this was no exception.

So on graduation day in Gainesville, with my mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins in the stands somewhere, I opened my booklet and skipped right to the Honorable Mention page.

Say what now?

I couldn’t believe I was left off the program!  How could they do this to me?!  I had given this school my most!  I had lobbied the Dean of the journalism school to change the AM radio station to this thing called ‘alternative’; I had only cheated on two tests, and just slightly; and, like I said, I bought that poor kid popcorn.  What the hell?

After placing more than one fact-finding phone call, I was sent a form letter saying a few people were left off the Honorable Mention list in the graduation program, and sorry.  Oh, but, this!  Would!  Not! Stand!

I fired off a letter — you heard me — to the Dean of Student Services.

It’s truly cringe-worthy stuff.  Especially the line “Needless to say, the magnitude of my embarrassment, anger, and frustration was without precedent.”  This so isn’t true — I had some jerk guy make me feel this way just weeks before!  “I can hardly believe a gross error such as this could be possible.”  Take that, dumbasses!  I hope some fat cat program typesetter gets fired!

The one line I still stand by: “As students, we would surely be judged more harshly if we forgot a brief list of names.”  There’s me.  There I am!

So, keeping this program (plus insert) keeps this upsetting memory and its ridiculous aftermath alive. But I do like that I didn’t take it lying down, which I hate to admit I do now mostly.

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Professional organizer to the rescue, Part 2

Part 2 of my cleaning odyssey.  Hey, I spelled that word right on my first try!


Toiletries humor

What you are looking at is our drawer full of hotel-procured toiletries: shampoos, bath salts, soaps, sewing kits.  When we have overnight guests, I’ll go to this drawer and pick out a few items and set them in the guest bath, like a hotel does.  Because we’re nice!

My husband is partially-to-mostly to blame on this one.  Hubs is a pro at maximizing the volume of these things we take home with us, because he has a system: when we leave the hotel room in the morning for breakfast or whatever, he’ll hide the soap we just used in his suitcase wrapped in a washcloth.  Then when the cleaning staff pops by, they replace all the soaps,etc. and the washcloth.  Upon our return, he switches out the new and used soaps.  Simple, yet elegant.

Reminds me of this one time.  We frequent this one hotel, let’s just call it the Scooby Doo hotel. Well, one time the toilet in our room was acting weak — meaning you had to flush a couple of times to get a even a square of TP down it.  Well… how can I say this delicately… I had the fast poops right before we were set to check out.  I had a feeling to toilet couldn’t handle it, and indeed it did not.

We had to get back home to our baby, so, yes, I left a bowl full of diarrhea in the posh hotel that knows us by name.  Does the Scooby Doo have loose-lipped housekeepers?  Will this pretty horrible offense be part of our permanent record?  How skinny did I look that day?  All questions I cannot answer, except the last one, pretty skinny.  Hopefully that tip my husband left would have to do– what?  You forgot to tip extra for the poop in the toilet?  I’ll never show my face there again until at least 3 weeks!


Something clipped

This is my drawer full of unused coupons, mostly expired.  I have absolutely zero stories about couponing.


The spirit of ’83

I’m going to be honest with you: no matter what, I am probably going to keep this Esprit Holiday 1983 catalogue.  Purely for sentimental value, since it’s been a few years since any of these clothes were even available.

I remember giving this very catalogue to my stepmother when she asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I had circled numerous items and was like, “fly little bird.”

I wanted this entire outfit on the right:

Notice the four layers: a cardigan over a vest over a sweater over a collared shirt.  Styled with a pair of slouchy men’s pants.  The model looks like a linebacker.  I wanted all of it.  My stepmother did find the cardigan, and I wore that damn thing everywhere.  Weddings, bar mitzvahs.  I’m kidding, there weren’t any Jewish kids in Fort Worth in the early 80’s.

I also liked this ensemble:

… because we all know how flattering pant pleats were.  And shorts that cut you off mid-thigh.  And layers of boxy tops were.  Maybe it was the old-timey toothache bow that put it over the top for me.

These pages are where most of my energy was placed:

I ranked these sassy flats in the event my stepmother found them in multiple hues.  Say she’s at Sanger Harris and she sees they have the lavender and blue pairs — how does she choose?  I took the guesswork out of that because I’m nice.  And for the record, I still want all of these.  Except the grey, yeesh, it’s at the bottom of the list for a reason, am I right?

For fun, and because this is how this blog is set up, go ahead and vote.


Let’s get physical

Here’s what we are dealing with today: a second place ribbon from the Fort Worth Independent School District’s “Fitness Festival.”  What that was was an aerobic dance contest.  My 4th grade class at Tanglewood Elementary had a routine to the Bee Gees “Night Fever,” which was already 3 years old by that time but still going strong, at least to the P.E. teachers at Tanglewood.  I say routine, but it was really just a couple of grapevines, then a couple of kicks and then we did a quarter turn and started the sequence all over again.  We repeated this on all four sides, over and over.  We thought we were hot shit.

The night of the program (I seem to recall we were at the Tarrant County Convention Center or at least somewhere else crazy big), were were nervous but confident.  We were set to “perform” second to last.  All the other schools were not even trying in the choreography department.

It was hard to hear our song at first, the space was so big and the PA was so loud and distorted. But we got it the hell together.  After the song had faded and the last kick and half-assed shuffle was managed, we were happy that all those other schools got served by us.

But then, hold up a min… Eastern Hills Elementary took the floor in full-on costumes.  Leotards, sequins, the whole nine.  They had a full routine choreographed from beginning to end.  Those kids were dancing like they were in a dance class, not an aerobics class for old ladies.  We were all “did we just get served?”  We knew we had.

Epilogue: That following year, I moved out of the Tanglewood area and to — you guessed it — the Eastern Hills area.  There was a whole dance program there at EHE and a big show called the “Dance-a-rama,” performed near the end of the school  year.  I danced the “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Shaft,” and “Disco Mickey Mouse” dances (the last one was a hand-selected group and was the feature dance in the Dance-a-rama, y’all; P.S. it was already 1981 but we were still all about disco).


Quiz me! No, don’t. Yes, do!

This is my only trophy ever, for being a member of the district-winning Whiz Quiz team at Monnig Middle School.  I was an alternate; I played in a total of 2 games and answered a total of zero questions.  I even did that thing where someone buzzed in, and I buzzed in right after them and made a big show pretending I knew the answer but was beaten to it.  It was humiliating not knowing a single answer to anything.  My favorite teacher Miss Janice Dilworth from “spirit leading” was the sponsor and she recruited me because she thought I was smart.  Ha!  I showed her!

So years later, I didn’t know what I was thinking when I signed up to take the test to try to be a contestant on VH1’s “Rock and Roll Jeopardy.”  I mean, I thought I knew a lot about rock, but I had never been called upon to prove it like I always dreamed.

The tryout was at 8 in the morning, which was the crack of dawn for me at the time.  Oh, those days! Anywhuh, we hopefuls sat in the real Jeopardy audience, a seat or so apart, and were handed a questionnaire about our connections to music and our favorites and all that.  Then they gave an oral test, and I missed some easy questions about Michael Jackson and Alabama.  Like I said, it was early, but also… I choked.  I choked!

Then they called out the names of the people who were moving on to the next level of testing.  As more and more names were called, not mine, the hope started draining out of me, as happens in these situations when I’m trying for a spot among a group of people.  I have never in my life been that last name called.  Until that day!

I squeaked by to the mock game portion by the skin of my teeth, obvi.  Because I was the last one on the list, and because of the numbers, I had no one to play against, which was fortunate for me.  It gave me plenty of time to get accustomed to that whole “What is…?” bullshit.  I tried to give them some personality, which may have come off as desperate, but I had to do something make up for my low oral exam numbers.  I went home and then weeks later, I got the message that I was to be a contestant!  Yay, me!

On the day of the show, I located and joined the other contestants right outside the parking structure, there on the Sony lot.  This one gal brought her notes with her and was being really demonstrative about them.  It worked — I was intimidated.  I had nothing and had done nothing to prepare, aside from trying to name artists real fast when they came on the radio.  Radio, oh, those days!

They took us to a green room and looked through our outfits — they had told us to bring 3 options.  They chose my first option — a yellow sweater set from Rampage and a pair of plaid brown pants from Rampage.  Then we were each individually approached and asked questions about what we’d said on our questionnaires.  They asked if it was true that I quit guitar lessons when I became a cheerleader.  I said it was, because it was, I think.  The person then said, “do you remember any of your cheers?”  I said “no,” and the interviewer moved on to the next person.  I thought to myself, what an idiot!  I took improv, I should have known to “yes, and” the question; keep the improv going.  There were a couple of extra contestants there, and I worried my abrupt end to this tete-a-tete would cost me a spot on the show, or at least make these producers I’d never see again not like me.

Then we were all ushered down to the “Jeopardy!” stage, which was re-dressed for the rock version.  We were randomly selected to go and test out the buzzer situation and get used to what the whole deal felt like.  There was this one guy who was super-quick at the buzzer, it was ridiculous.  I was the person who buzzes in furiously but too late.  When the practice was over, we were told they were going to put us in groups of three, and that would be our show groups.  I hoped to not get stuck with either Notes Girl or Buzzer Guy, but I ended up with them both.

Our group ended up being the first out of the gate, so I had no frame of reference as to what types of questions were going to be asked.  I got into position and quickly developed a crush on host Jeff Probst.  I mean, hubba hubba, right?

The first thing we had to do was the most nerve-wracking.  It was where they say “a homemaker from Reading, Pennsylvania” or whatever, and the camera is on you to just be.  I waved at the camera, doing a “what, am I on camera now?” face.  After I did it, I knew it was wrong.  Also, the set was yellow, or some shade of something that I knew was not going to pair nicely with the sweaters.  So already, everything was awesome.

The game started, and let me tell you — those first-round questions were E to the Z.  So much so that we all knew them.  Good news for Quick Draw McGraw, bad news for Betty Slowthumb.  At the end of the first round, I was in last place.

During the break, I did my best to maintain my composure, i.e. not cry.  I was joking with my competitors, trying to laugh away that $5000 like it wouldn’t seriously help my financial situation.  But it wasn’t about the money, as those who know a lot about rock and have always wanted to prove it can attest.

Hot Jeff Probst headed over to me for the interview portion.  Here was my time to dazzle/seduce him.  He asked me if it was true that I quit guitar lessons to become a cheerleader.  I said yes.  He asked if I remembered any of my cheers.  I said yes.

“We’re the best there’s no debate!  Yay, seniors eighty-eight!” I kind-of-yelled, swaying side to side to the beat.  “I can’t believe I remember that!”  I said, which was a bold-face lie.  As Jeffy moved on to the next contestant, it dawned on me that this display of total assiness was going to be broadcast on television.  Plus it was no way for the love of his life to behave.

I couldn’t dwell on my questionable choice, I had a game to finish.  I had not yet burst into tears, so there was still hope for me to pull it together.

I knew there must have been a secret as to how McGraw was buzzing in so early.  Here’s how the game worked: after a question was asked, white Christmas lights that encircled (ensquared?) the board would light up.  You had to wait until you saw the lights come on to buzz in, or you were frozen out for 3 seconds.  I figured out that my competitor was listening for the end of the question as his cue, anticipating the light by a fraction of a second.

At the beginning of round 2, I was armed with this realization.  Oh, and also, I did another queer thing: after I answered a question correctly about Van Halen (in the category of “Devil Music,” I said “What is ‘Running With The Devil’?” — which I was technically wrong on, the answer is “Runnin'”  not “Running”), Jeffy said “They were never better then, huh?” and I was all “Um… no!” or something to that effect.  It was cut out of the broadcast.  I imagine the editors going, “This dork will make America uncomfortable.”

So, like Cliff Clavin on that “Cheers” episode, most of the round 2 categories were in my wheelhouse.  They were like, “Who’s buried in Lubbock, Texas?” and anyone who has been there knows it’s Buddy Holly.  But most people have not been there, see.

The Notes Gal blew it when she got both Daily Doubles and lost.  She had a audio clue for one — they played “How Soon Is Now?”  And she said it was Morrissey, solo.  She did some other stupid things like say it was called the Fillmore West.  Whatever, by the end of the 2nd round, I had enough points to not bet anything in Final Jeopardy.

Now, when you’re about to win $5000, a strange kind of stupidity comes over you.  During the second break, when my competitors didn’t want to pal around anymore, I kept asking the stagehands that were going to and fro if I needed to bet anything, or could I just bet zero.  No one would answer me.  I mean, I had seen the show a zillion times, I knew the rules.  P.S. in this rock version, you just won $5000 (and didn’t get to come back) — you didn’t win your score or whatever.  I bet 10 just to make it fun for me.

The Final Jeopardy category was “Song Inspirations.”  Now, I knew a lot about big famous songs.  I say “knew” because my mind is like a sieve now.  I have actually forgotten all the Rainbow-Sabbath-Dio, etc. lineups that I worked for years to have down.  The question was something like, what Bangles song was inspired by symbols found at a synagogue and at the JFK gravesite?  Even though we had those separators between us, I knew my competitors were both writing “Walk Like An Egyptian,” because I could hear their markers writing a lot.  That’s what I wrote, too, because that was the only Bangles song that came to mind.

It was wrong.  As Jeffy Poop got down to me, asking what I said and how much I bet, kind-of jokingly, he saw that I had the worng answer, but no matter, I had won.

They had warned us about the zoom-in once you were declared the winner.  I knew the camera was on me, but I couldn’t “Yay!” or anything — that would be too “in-your-face!” to those other two.  My win meant that they lost.  So I did a big “Whew!” like I had made it through an ordeal and was just glad to be alive.  My father taught me to be humble, and humble I was.  And good for me.

Okay, so… the trophy.