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On This Day: Your History

Started by claws, November 10, 2022, 07:29:22 AM

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July 19, 1994 I hadn't eaten anything in several days and was a wreck, so even though we'd had a big fight the last time we were together, I called Dana in a panic as soon as I thought she might be awake, about 11:00, and said, "I really need to talk to you, please. Can I come there?"

I freaked my cousin out enough for her to drive an hour from college for me, and immediately I told her I was messing everything up. She went, "Over that guy?" I said no, but she still said, "That makes me want to kick his ass."

I told her I was leaving for Ireland Friday and I asked if she could come with me, and she said she couldn't, but sat in a parking lot rubbing my back while I cried against her getting her shirt all wet, and she asked if I was pregnant, and I laughed and said no, that was impossible short of a Biblical miracle. She said I was in a messed up place but would be OK when I got over there away from everything." 

Then I held nothing back, telling her everything about my life, and she went, "So let me get this right. You've been in love with someone for two years, he has an attractive girlfriend who you have the sucky misfortune of liking because she's nice to you, you have to deal with him being with her right in front of you, and it's a mystery why you're having a little breakdown? You're totally normal."

She said, "El, listen, you've set yourself up for an impossible situation and this is not where you of all people should be. Forget all this and concentrate on school because academically you've got big places to go. There's not going to be a good outcome if you keep this up. You're torturing yourself because you've got this man you are not old enough to openly be with, and I guess he's seriously a good person or something for not taking advantage of you, but you need to be more realistic."

I thought of the one and only time something had happened between us, the summer before, but refused to think of that as him taking advantage of me, and the idea she would only see it that way threatened to make me mad at her all over again, as I'd been the last couple weeks.

After we started driving again, I thought of how since I was about thirteen she'd been telling me she was going to get me stoned someday, so I asked if she wanted to make this the day, but she wrinkled her face up and said, "That is SO not what you need right now."

She took me to the college town where she lived and asked my mom if I could stay a while, and I remember before her friends came over for the evening she sat close to me on her couch and said it was going to be OK, and from her it sounded possible that everything somehow would.

Over the course of the three days I stayed there I got a taste of what college life could be like, and how so many people wanted to be around Dana, who was definitely one of the cool kids on campus, friends coming and going having talks up on her balcony and the flat rooftop, a lot of pot smoked (not by me), and it was all like absolutely nothing I'd ever been part of in my life, a world I, stuck in an academics-heavy Catholic school, didn't even guess existed.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


July 20, 1994 I'd slept on Dana's futon, and some of her friends had slept a few feet from me on her living room floor, not an unusual event, I gathered, like it was for me, and I laid there for about an hour, til 9:15, afraid to move and wake everybody, til I finally stepped over two guys who were boyfriends of each other, and passed another girl on the floor to get out of the room.

That afternoon Dana and two of her friends took me along to Lollapalooza at an outdoor music center down by the river, with its booths and bands and petitions for all kinds of causes, and some gray-bearded hippie in a tie-dye was handing out copies of a handwritten paper which said that week a comet was colliding with Jupiter's red spot, and life in the solar system was doomed. I threw him off with an Oscar Wilde quote, having one for most occasions: "Sir," I said, "'all influence is immoral.'" (Even in my personal version of de profundis, I still had Oscar to fall back on, you see.)

Dana was wearing cream-colored Capri pants, a skimpy halter and no bra, and told me I've been cheated by not retaining water, because it was like a temporary boob job a couple days a month. This being before she actually did get the first of her several boob jobs.

I managed not to get sunburned by slathering on SPF 30, and it's nice in retrospect to say I went to the biggest traveling music fest of the decade, saw The Smashing Pumpkins for the first time in my life, turned down three different offers to sell me acid, but all in all LPLZ was not my thing, and I wasn't sorry when we left late that night, my ears ringing so hard I wondered if I had tinnitus.

It was just not in my DNA to be hip like my cousin.

What does not kill me makes me stranger.


July 21, 1994 Dana slept til noon the day after LPLZ then took me home without saying a lot, leaving me feeling I'd overstayed my welcome, though she invited me back up, so maybe it was all good. I rode back feeling my escape was over and my upsets were unresolved.

When I walked in Mom asked if I wanted some creamed corn she'd fixed, and I said no thank you, then went upstairs and packed for Ireland. Since she'd moved to Dublin I'd be getting my Aunt Sarah's room at my grandparents' house (I used to have to sleep in the same bed with Sarah when I was a kid, she being the one there closest to my age, only three years off), so that would be cool, at least, though mostly I didn't want to go, which was an old pattern: I dreaded leaving but mainly liked it when I got there.

Brian called me, so I reminded him July 21st marked the date of the events in Peter Straub's If You Could See Me Now, a book he recommended I read when I was fourteen. He thought it was cool I remembered the date, so all but one of the years I knew him I mentioned when July 21st came around.

I told him about Lollapolooza, with its piercing tents and fire eaters, the pro-pot petition mafia who wouldn't take no for an answer (in the '90s people didn't emptily b***h on the internet, they confronted issues, see) and the freak show I wasn't old enough to attend, but Dana, who'd gone in, came out talking about watching a man in there lift things with his... (Brian thought it was cute I didn't say the word.)

I told him I heard two guys walking by, one literally about six-foot-six and slightly cross-eyed, talking about how you couldn't throw a rock there without hitting a girl you'd like to have sex with, and he was like, "And I had to work that day!"

He said he hoped I had a good trip overseas and he'd see me soon, which was nice, but then he added, "Oh, yeah, Paige said tell you bye, too, and says she loves you."

His hot girlfriend loved me. Great. Why couldn't I have reason to hate her so I could stop feeling guilty about wishing she'd move to Tasmania?

There was too much stress in life, so for once I was ready for even the non-stop retro-Catholicism that always marked my time in Ireland, because at least going there got me away.

Sort of.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


July 22, 1997 Living in my car wasn't fun. I felt lonely, guilty, and because my calling card was empty, I asked a lady at a church if I could phone my dad from there, and assured her he would accept long distance charges. She said all right, then listened to every word I said to my father, like she thought if she stepped away I would steal the holy water. When I was done she actually asked if I wanted to pull weeds from around the sanctuary walkway and she'd give me five bucks. I said thank you but I had money, which was the truth though I was running low, and I think her attitude changed because she at first thought I was some unfortunate crawling to a church on her knees, but hearing what I was saying she started to see me as some runaway in need of a firm hand, so she said, "Why don't you just straighten up your act and go back home? What are you scared of?"

I thought about telling her my parents were trying to betroth me Belial, so I couldn't, but I wasn't in a position to make waves, so I drove on, not entirely sure where I was going, and though for years to come I'd pass that church many times, I never felt well-disposed toward it because of that woman's comments. I was legally an adult, for God's sake.

That night a cat ate out of my hand and purred and climbed up into the car with me and sat in my lap. It was strange how kind that cat was, like he had empathy. It was my experience that if you tried to pet a cat too long it would bite you, but he let me hold him til it got dark and I set him back outside, and wished him well before I drove on. Had I known then how hard winters up there were on stray animals, I might have tried to take him with me, but I was never able to find him again.

I knew I'd brought my situation on myself, by choice, and I knew I'd been cruel to leave someone who loved me like I did, but it was like some strange inner directive was telling me to continue whatever journey I was on, so I kept going.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


July 23, 2001 As I'd just come back after working overseas, I only had to be on-job a couple days a week doing training that month, so I had a nice break for two weeks, housesitting for my vacationing Aunt Christie in her 19th-century Italianate house, something I had also done for her in 1996.

My first night there my friend Rob came back to town after being at the Woodstock for nerds that was San Diego Comic-Con, and brought over his English bulldog, Punisher. He never got inside Comic-Con but there's a whole sub-culture thing that goes on outside, and he enjoyed himself and brought me back a TARDIS keychain. He also told me he was thinking about moving out there, since he fell hard for a local girl, a photographer who, judging from her work, was deft at her art. One shot showed a paper bag ripping in two, sending a bunch of oranges inside flying in mid-air, but the speed was set to render the oranges frozen while the photographer's friend stood looking startled. (One day I'd pose nude above a mirror on the floor for that girl while she shot reflections leaving out my face, but that's another story.)

While Rob was there I got an email from an Air Force doctor who said my recent mild ulcers were likely caused by "pattern anorexia," a diagnosis I disputed since I weighed 123 pounds, hardly skin and bones, and didn't think I had an eating disorder, though the doctor wouldn't back down and said I was 112 the year before, too thin for five-feet-seven and a half, and clearly showing too few calories for someone active. (I think the ulcers were from stress, and the low weight in 2000 had been because in the rough year grieving I hadn't wanted to eat.)

Kinda annoyed at the doctor, I walked up the street with Rob to let Punisher poop in Jerry Springer's yard, and we got back in time to watch Angel together, and citing post-trip tiredness, he asked if he could sleep in one of the bedrooms upstairs, but I said no, my aunt wouldn't like that, so he griped and left, and ten minutes later I invited my friend Mandy to come sleep over, and said, "Just don't tell Rob, it'll make him feel bad..."

But of course she promptly called him with the news, just to miff him. Playground love, you know.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


23rd July 2022.

I got to use all my fancy D&D terrain finally, running an Elvish monastery under siege by a vast Goblin army. It felt good to get to use it after spending several hundred pounds on the equipment. Everyone present seemed impressed with the terrain too.

23rd July 2019.

Took Pernille and Phillip on a cruise along Loch Ness. It was a fine day with the water smooth and calm. First time I'd ever been on the Loch itself although I'd seen it plenty of times before. We didn't get off at any of the stops.

23rd July 2014.

Kristi seemed to be having some hayfever-type eyes going on. I put a cold compress over her eyes. Unfortunately, because I didn't specifically tell her that she shouldn't walk around the house effectively blindfolded, accidents happened.

23rd July 2012.

Following some mass shooting in the US, I unfriended everyone from the states who in the following hours posted about how great guns are. Over the next few years I'd get apologies from a few of them who had decided to grow up a bit and not be childish about the issue anymore and get sent friend requests. Some I accepted some I just ignored depending on my whim at the time.

23rd July 2011.

I spent a lot of time speaking to my Norwegian friends, making sure they were all ok. We were used to these things happening in the US and France, but Norway was a new target for a gun rampage. I'd be traveling over there in a week or so myself and was amazed at how coolly and calmly the Norwegians handled everything, especially compared to what I'd seen in other countries that had to deal with these things more regularly.

23rd July 2010.

On hearing that the French had made insulting their flag or national anthem a criminal offence, I immediately posted up about how crap they both were. It is no coincidence that the middle of the French flag is white. I wonder if the two sides are made easy to tear off?
I'll show you ruin
I'll show you heartbreak
I'll show you lonely
A sorrow in darkness


July 24, 1999 It was a dreary morning, because my college friends who had come down to visit headed home. I'd be seeing them in a month, but we great times and I wished they'd stayed longer. (Those New Englanders were shocked to find we had gas stations and electric lights in the Midwest, wow!)

To cheer up I went to the movies with my friend Rob, and Gina's seventeen-year-old brother, Mark, who asked if I'd heard what a mess Woodstock '99 was, how it was already being dubbed the week the spirit of the '60s died.

We saw South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, which I thought was by far the worst movie I'd ever seen, and what's worse, I didn't get the double meaning of the title til Mark and Rob gleefully explained it to me doubling over with laughter at my dumbness.

"And what would you two know about being bigger, longer, and uncut?" I demanded.

"How would you know what we are?" Mark threw back.

Well, I would say he had me there, but I actually had caught glimpses in the past, Mark as a result of a swim trunk mishap, and Rob when he and Mandy and I were driving around in the middle of the night in high school, and too much Mountain Dew made him have to timidly stop beside a dark country road, where Mandy scared the hell out of him, leaving him running back toward the car, not yet fully tucked away. (I was laughing too hard to be able to drive, so good thing there really wasn't a knife-wielding hillbilly psycho rushing out of the woods like Mandy had claimed.)

Though I didn't admit it then, I guess it was kind of a funny movie title.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


today( well, yesterday, the 24th) in my history, I BOUGHT A CAR!!!!! :cheers:
don't EVEN...EVER!


July 25, 1999 It was over 100-degrees, no rain for weeks, no shade, a burning, bleached-out cloudless sky above at high noon, and as I was walking a steep hill in the uptown, the tall buildings making a canyon of sheer heat, I suddenly slumped to a sitting pose on the baking sidewalk, my chin striking my chest, my mind swimming in a white daze amid a sound like cicadas in my brain.

The next thing I was aware of I was sitting in a patch of semi-shady grass, wondering who had dragged me there, my vision blurry, my head aching and ears ringing, the backs of my bare legs feeling roasted, while this soft-spoken older black lady in a nurse's uniform dribbled bottled water on my head and asked, "Honey? You with me, honey?"

"I'm not sure," I mumbled, gripped by nausea.

She helped me walk into a restaurant and asked for ice water, and wanted to call me an ambulance but I told her I was OK, I just didn't handle heat well. Turned out she lived nearby and had been on her way to work as a nurse's aide at one of the hospitals on "Pill Hill" when she saw me fall down.

She stayed with me as long as she could before she had to hurry on to work, and though I thanked her many times, I realized in my light-headedness I never asked her name. I went back to the restaurant and asked if I could leave a little handwritten sign in the window thanking her and listing my email, but I never heard anything from her. I was grateful to her for stopping, though, because no one else did, so I hope God was watching and gave her good karma.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


July 26, 1996 When I was young I was more self-centered----and selfish---than I think (and hope) I am now. Having children will help you overcome that, and so will a conscious effort to lessen that fault once you see it in yourself, as I eventually did, but it took a while.

The first time I summer-housesat for Aunt Christie was in between 11th and 12th grades, and I stayed-in alone and read and watched movies, including Driving Miss Daisy, which was on that night. I had never lived alone and it felt like a huge cool thing, no one to tell me what to do, total independence of a sort. I tried to invite Brian over, he'd become friends with my aunt and had been to her house a number of times, but his father was having major medical tests run and just about all Brian was focusing on was his dad's health, which was admirable but also annoying to me. The tests ruled out HIV and most cancers, but would eventually reveal that the way Joe had long lived his life, drugs, sleeping around, drinking way too much yet somehow managing to be a highly successful workaholic who stayed in good shape, had caught up with him at last at forty-two, infecting him with a rare, virulent form of viral infection closely related to hepatitis, and before the end of summer he'd be given less than a year to live.

All that wasn't known yet but it was nervously suspected (his eyes had become a glassy-yellow and he had so little energy this man who'd jogged miles a day would get tired walking out to his car) so I called and wished Joe well and said I hoped he hurried home soon, and he said, "Thank you, Evelyn, that means a lot."

He wanted to talk longer, I could tell under his billion-watt projection of confidence he was afraid, yet I got off the phone with him, because despite my words I was guilty aware I was also irritated to feel like I was being pushed aside because of him, selfish of me, but I did, and would often feel that way in years to come. I also had this involuntary sense of resentment that he was putting a damper on my pleasant stay at my aunt's house.

After I hung up I reflected he was only twenty-some years older than I was, which felt way too young to die, then shrugged the matter off and went out back with my dog, Charlotte Sometimes. When you're young life and death can be like that, distant, abstract, far beyond you, almost ungraspable: someone else's tragedy, not yours.

I also had a way of seeing life as always being about me. Mea maxima culpa.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


27th July 2009.

I got into work to find out a women who I'd been flirting with a bit at work and was working on asking out had been killed. She'd been at the junior ranks summer ball, then went out with some friends. On the way back home, a drunk driver was speeding through the town and just wiped her out. It is believed she died instantly. He died on the way to the hospital.

I hope he suffered a lot before that.

I was called in to see the JEngO along with my Chief. They told me I was being offered my promotion to NCO. They didn't understand why I wasn't over the moon about this. I also felt the promotion was a year overdue. I had to put quite some thought into accepting the job offer or not as I had been offered a high-paying role in civvy street. The promotion was initially a promotion in post which I wasn't overly wanting. I'd been doing that job long enough that I would never learn anything new about the equipment I was working on. Then I was offered a role on a squadron which was even less tempting. Finally, they offered me my dream post which convinced me I should stay in and take the promotion.

If only I'd known then how that would go. It would lead to the unhappiest three years of my life but after that I'd get back on track and end up being happier than I'd been ever before.
I'll show you ruin
I'll show you heartbreak
I'll show you lonely
A sorrow in darkness


July 27, 1991 It was a very good day. My maternal grandfather took me, my fifteen year old Aunt Sarah, and my fourteen-year-old cousin Magda, who'd spent the night and slept on a vintage British army surplus cot, to the Dublin Natural History Museum. We left at 5:20 AM to get there for its ten o' clock opening, and made it from Merrion Street to its doors in a few minutes' walk with time left for me to run up and look inside the nearby National Gallery. The museum was always free, but I put money in the donations box anyway, and had the best time that day in my favorite museum in the world, beautifully old fashioned (it looks a bit like the house from The Aristocats) and filled with timeworn displays, nothing modern or interactive at all, just room after room of cool things, like the mounted bones of an Irish deer, a megafauna that went extinct long ago. Exactly what a museum should be! Grandfather, who though not a rich man was able to lay claim to having read 5,000 books, told us little tidbits of facts about everything, making my cousin Magda roll her eyes behind his back, but I could have listened all day to him orating in his soft, lilting voice. He truly would have made a fine professor had life allowed. We had to leave at four, and though I always figured we'd go back together, all of us, we never did, the trip there was singular, and one of those special joys that make up the treasured memories of a lifetime.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


July 28, 1989 On this day I presented my new best friend Gina with the first lie I'd ever tell her (and there weren't too many that ever followed) when I informed her my dad was away because he had to go to Philadelphia to do consulting work. Gina just said, "Oh," like it was nothing, and we kept going there on her patio with our reading a Jean Plaidy book about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Well, the harsh truth was I had no idea where Dad was, it could have been Philadelphia (now I think it was likely West Germany), but he for sure was not a consultant. Growing up my mom would get on my case if she caught me in any fibs, but she had long conditioned me to accept that in our life we sometimes had to lie about my dad. Why Dad made us lie when he could have just told us a lie in the first place and we'd have thought we were telling the truth, I don't know, but it wasn't like that: we lied where his job was concerned and got used to it. Thus growing up my dad remained "a consultant" to all my friends, even when as a kid I wasn't sure what a consultant was, only felt sure he truly wasn't one.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


July 29, 1994 I've often been writing about Ireland in my recollections lately because past a certain age summer was mostly when I went, and over there it was easier to go to Mass each day with my grandmother than listen to her bully and cajole me about it. That morning in church a little girl got a nosebleed and left crying, so I got up and went after her to see if I could help. Any excuse to get out of there, though I also did want to make sure she was all right, which she was. ("I ulways am gittin' these," she explained in that lifted-last-syllable way people there had of talking.)

That evening I went with my cousin Mags to Salthill and Leisure, a sort of amusement park/seaside resort that was a little like Blackpool or the Jersey Shore, only suckier. She was meeting friends to "walk the prom" as they called it, which basically meant stroll around the bay and see who they ran into and what they could get up to, a bit like going to the mall was to us, though with more anemic-looking gingers around.

Her friends were all couples, Dimmy, Pad, Shailyn, and Taryan, and Mags wanted to find someone for me, but I kept declining her offers. I was madly in love and didn't want anyone else, but she explained away my reticence by telling her friends, "Her first kiss ever was over here when she was thirteen, and it was rape, so she blames all Irish boys."

I thought......what? It was such a weird thing for her to say. Rape? Huh? I mean, OK, yes, when I had been out with Mags once a few years earlier, some yucky boy with greasy hair had abruptly tried to kiss me and did halfway touch me with his lips before I yanked back in disgusted surprise, but that hardly qualified as either the r-word or a first kiss. Still, Shaliyn, who was in Green Peace, looked at me like I was a victim to be pitied, that favored condition of leftists, and offered a smile, and in my mind I pictured pushing Magda off the promenade into the mucky sand of the tidal flat below.

We met up with Mags' boyfriend, Dolan when he got off work, and he had his hair combed straight back and long, like a mullet, and wore a green canvas coat with the collar up, and boots with no laces, and as he smoked he looked at me and said, "American cousin then. That's gassy."  (Which I think meant "cool.") His words came out as: "Uh-mirkin coozin then, thas ghassy." And they thought I had an accent? Sometimes they'd even ask me to repeat myself or say things slower, but even by Connaught standards Dolan sounded like he had a mouthful of something oozy.

He also asked me, "Get craic tonight?" Only he said the word like Americans would the street drug of choice in certain ethnic neighborhoods, always slightly throwing me for a microsecond, even though I knew he was basically asking if I'd been having a good time.

Irish, I'll tell you, they are just not Americans.

The evening capped off when Dolan led us over to harass his oldest brother, Flor, who was out with his wife and their two baby girls, and Mags bragged that Flor had "won sixty betting at the Darby" on a horse called Balancing (if I understood the name right), a filly who beat the colts. My cousin was addiction-prone in some ways, something which would eventually contribute to her death from a heart attack, she smoked, overate and liked to drink, and more or less had always had a gambling problem, being willing to bet on almost anything, so I gathered she held Flor's winning Darby wager as an achievement on par with a racking up a Fields Medal.

She did however keep a promise to our grandmother to get me back before dark, which came late in summer, and then went off to see where her own Friday night would take her: my guess was Dolan's bed.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.


July 30, 2014 Oh, gosh, should I write this here? Eh, why not, I could use a good blush. When my son was little he had this plastic spoon he loved that looked like a duck, and he went through a stage where he wouldn't eat with anything but this spoon. He didn't call it a "spoon" though, the best he could do was to say "poon" which became his all-purpose word for any sort of food. On this day I had him in his high chair and was putting bite-sized food on this plastic plate that suction-cupped to the high chair tray, and my son was hungry and cranky, and he started twisting around in the seat saying, "I want poon! I want poon!" Well, my husband was walking by and poked his head in and said, "What a proud moment, my boy's only three and already knows he wants poon!" I almost fell over.
What does not kill me makes me stranger.