Monday, October 29, 2012

A Halloween Tradition

by Kim Van Sickler

The Haunted Hayride at Lake Farmpark in Kirtland, Ohio.  To the girls in Troop 71009, it wouldn't be Halloween without it.

For our very first year, we had my (very tall) husband dressed in a wild wig (= very scary), and every time a wagon came around he'd pick up the pumpkin (Brooke) and run with her to this makeshift outhouse where she'd thrash around as if she was trying to escape.

The year we were assigned to the Addams Family site, every time a wagon drove by we'd blare a snippet from MC Hammer's Addams Family movie song and perform a 20-second dance.

The following year we got a tent. After the wagon rides, people stopped by to watch our dancing skeleton show. (We extinguished the lights and the costumes glowed in the dark.) The routine consisted of a bunch of song snippets weaved together, and we learned the simple choreography an hour before the hayrides began. 

We spoofed America's Next Top Model next. Every time one of the wagons passed our station, we played the theme song for America's Next Top Model, and the girls vogued down a catwalk in their "designer" duds.

Our big year!!! 2011. We paired up with some guy friends to choreograph, design our set, create our costumes, and do our make-up for Timewarp 2.0, a nod to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Another tent production. This one was ten minutes long. Unlike other Haunted Hayride years, this station was ours and only ours. We performed our routine every night of the event, about 90 times total, and our girls used all this work to earn their Silver Award, the highest honor a Cadette Girl Scout can earn.

Now we're Senior Girl Scouts (9th grade). This year we showed up one weekend before Hayrides began to, among other things, cut down corn stalks and fashion them into decorations.

At a fundraising event to raise money for the Haunted Hayride, we served refreshments and ran a craft.

Then for our big night on October 27th, the girls staffed a haunted tent that lured in all of the brave souls and actually sent some not-so-brave ones skedaddling. We did our best to startle, frighten, and entertain.

What are some of your favorite Halloween traditions?

Friday, October 26, 2012


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

I think I speak for all the Swaggers who participated in the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge when I say we’ve enjoyed it. It was a great way to keep our creative juices flowing, and it was a kick to see the way the rest of you handled it. Kudos to all of you who don’t have group blogs and kept the posts coming all by yourselves. Thank you, Jane, for getting this ball rolling.

We have completed our 25 posts, but I offer this follow-up post to my October 7th one, in which I talked about our family vacations to visit aunts, uncles, and cousins.

As we became adults, those treasured visits were relegated to memory status, names on Christmas cards, pictures tucked into albums. We saw them occasionally at weddings, mostly at funerals.

Kathy's 90-year-old aunt

But why wait until somebody dies to get together?

That’s the question my cousin Tim and I put to my dad when Tim was in town back in 1983. Dad jumped right on it. And the Cannon Family Reunion was born.

The first was in 1984. We rented a lodge at a local park for a full Saturday, served two meals, and paid for it with donations. Dad figured charging a set fee might deter family members who struggled financially or who had to travel farther. “Donate according to your means,” he said. “If we come up short, we’ll pass the hat at the reunion.” We didn’t have to. We even had a little seed money for the next time.

Dad thought every five years seemed about right. In 1989, we rented a bigger lodge at the same park. We didn’t have to pass the hat, and again there was seed money.

In 1993, we talked about a 1994 reunion. Dad and I discussed what changes to make and which lodge to rent. (They had to be booked a year in advance.) We tossed around possible dates.

Then in May of that year, Dad died. Sudddenly. The turnout at his funeral included those faces from the reunions, and we were grateful he’d seen them all when he was alive.

That July, my sister Reene & I booked a lodge for 1994. We knew Dad would want it to go on.

And go on it has. After the 1999 reunion, we decided not to wait five years. (2004 would see a visit from the 17-year cicadas, and they can be loud and annoying.) We went with 2003, and a new venue closer to Ironton, easier for Dad’s generation to make it to. Several of us made a full weekend of it. Some camped, and we sat around a campfire each evening.

In the month prior to the reunion, we lost two more, Dad’s sister Ruth and her husband. Their kids and grandkids had a difficult time, but a few came to the reunion anyway, because they felt the need to be with family. We embraced them and shared their grief.

Whether it was because we were losing more of them or just because we liked getting together, we decided to hold the reunion every three years. 2006. 2009. And 2012. We still fund it with donations, and have never had to pass the hat.

We’ve added things over the years: color-coded name tags to identify which branch and generation each person belongs to, an “ice-breaker” game to get everyone to mingle, update books to tell what members are doing, drink “coozies” as favors. We take photos of each branch, each generation, and the whole bunch.

Between 2009 and 2012, we lost three more of Dad’s siblings. There is one sister left, and three sisters-in-law. When we assign jobs for the reunion, we put the responsibility for good weather on those who are deceased. And wouldn’t you know it? The miserable heat of 2012 broke for one beautiful weekend in July.

The 2012 reunion hosted 102 family members, from nine states and ranging in age from five weeks to 90 years. More than 60 of them stayed the whole weekend. And there is seed money for 2015.

2012 Cannon Family Reunion

The reunion is a lot of work, but those of us who do the work feel blessed we were born into such a wonderful family. My cousins are closer than ever, and many of the next generation have become good friends. And as I work on each reunion, I feel Dad beside me. And Uncle Bill. And Aunt Rita. And Aunt Ruth. And Uncle Jack…

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What is a picture worth?

Today's post for the October Memoir and Backstory Blogfest Challenge is from Regina Gort.
My first Mother's Day, age 25

This picture was taken on Mother's Day when I was 25. What you can see in this picture is me toting around a little baby, my first child, Gwendolyn at 6 months old. What you can not see is that on my back I am carrying her toaster-sized feeding pump. You can not see the hours spent at the hospital, the devastation I felt when her diagnosis, cerebral palsy, was first spoken. You can not feel my heartbreak after her first surgery and her dire prognosis was discussed. 
What this picture portrays is a young mother bringing her infant into nature. 
And in this moment nothing else matters. 
The hours of therapy, the multiple surgeries, the grief carried and expectations lost are nowhere to be found. 
The purity, the innocence and love are reflected in the stream we are crossing.
And for me, I'd rather have this photograph than the 1000 words.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

“I’m going to Disneyland.”

Today's post for the October Memoir and Backstory Blogfest Challenge is a re-post by Jon Egan. 
He writes about a 24-year-old self.

Does the Superbowl MVP even say that anymore after the game?

I said it twenty-some years ago to my older sister and followed it up with, “Can I take Cain?” my then five- year-old nephew. After a couple of days pondering the question, she said yes, but with multiple conditions.
1. I needed to buy a wrist-chain thingy that had to connect us at all times except whilst we were in our hotel room.
2. I had to promise not to let him go on any of the scary rides.
3. I had to promise not to keep him awake too late.
Well, the list went on, and on, and on, and on. She was pretty much freaked out about the whole thing, but said she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t allow him to go with me.

I was twenty four, had already been married, and was going through a bit of a nasty divorce (it was all her fault, believe me I was such an angel!), so I’d decided to take the trip to just chill out. Bringing my little mate Cain would serve three purposes
1. He’d have a blast.
2. He’d be a great distraction for me.
3. How much trouble can a bloke get into while babysitting a five-year-old for a month in a scary foreign country. (All we knew about America back then was, muggings, murders, and mayhem everywhere --- except Disneyland.) Plus there’d be no way I’d get involved with any members of the fairer sex with a child in tow.

So with all my bases covered, we flew out of Perth on Boxing Day 1989, and my life has never been the same since. I met my wife Patty, who was staying at the Disneyland Hotel for a dental convention. Four days later I asked her to marry me. (Little tip here, cute, adorable, little  five year old Aussie kids, with the cute, adorable, little Aussie accents are far more attractive to the opposite sex than the cutest, adorablest, littlest puppy dogs you’ve ever seen!) Our first date was of course, Disneyland. First meal together was a cheeseburger at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. We didn’t eat a bite and barely got any real conversation in because Cain, you know, the cute, adorable, little five-year-old kept placing napkins on Patty’s head stating that she was going to marry his cute, adorable Uncle Jon. Too bad they didn’t have digital camera’s or iPhones back then. I’d have some pretty cute, adorable pictures to post here.

Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland, site of Jon's first date with wife Patty.

What have I learned since I first went to Disneyland all those years ago?

They have these things called annual passes that get you in the park multiple times for a pretty good deal, instead of paying for thirteen separate entries. (Yep, I did that.) We were out there for a month. Cain got to decide what we’d do for the first two weeks and I got the last two. His choice every morning when we’d wake up and look across the parking lot to Disneyland was, of course, Disneyland. I put my foot down after the first nine days and told him, “No Disneyland today.” So we ended up at Knotts Berry Farm instead.

Another thing would be that (did anyone ever watch “Green Card,” with Gerard Depardieu… the French actor with the big nose!) The INS really does take you into separate rooms and asks questions like, “Which drawer does she keep her underwear in? What side of the bed does she sleep on? What high school did she attend?” so be prepared.

What else have I learned, oh I know, other drivers get kinda mad when you forget that Americans drive on the wrong side of the road.

A little advice based on another thing I learned here, is that, in Australia (should you ever choose to visit), mixing sweet stuff with savory stuff on the same plate, you know, bacon and eggs, with pancakes and syrup,  is almost a capital offence in Oz, and could land you in the pokey.

I’ve learned that being married to the same person for over twenty years is actually not the equivalent of being sentenced to a life term. It’s been an amazing journey so far. It’s been extremely challenging (mostly for Patty…sheesh I’m a handful at times), and extremely fulfilling. It’s been a lot of hard work. She’s nursed me through more surgeries than I really want to recall, and I’ve held her hand and played nursemaid (you should see my nurses costume, oy vey) to her, while we spent seven unsuccessful years in the hands of infertility specialists. There have definitely been times where one or the other of us could have chosen the easy way out and simply walked away from issues, but I’m very proud that we choose every day to remain Mr. and Mrs. Egan.
Mr. and Mrs. Jon Egan
We just had a week back in Florida and spent four days tripping through Disney World, and while it was a lot of fun, I think I prefer Disneyland, for a couple of reasons.
1. It’s closer than Florida.
2. It’s where I met Patty.
3. And it’s definitely where I got to become the happiest man on earth.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sad Songs Say So Much (age Twenty-three)

by Juliet Bond

Recently, I heard about a book called, “This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music.” Because we are on a skintight budget, I hurried over to the local B&N to read it while sneaking
free dollops of half and half into my home brewed jug o’ joe.

I am an admitted sad song junkie.  For years I have been creating annual playlists (once lovingly referred to as mix tapes, then mix CD’s) for my collective of girlfriends in our monthly Dinner Club.  These gorgeous and brilliant dames openly disdain my depressing assortment of suicidal yearnings.  Still, every year I hand out a lovingly fashioned, plastic disc to each something-smells-bad expression on their loyal faces.  (My God, I love my girlfriends!)

Nancy, Shari, Rian and me

Let me explain, sad songs rock.   The right sad song at the perfect time can be the down comforter, broken-in sweatpants, two straight days of movies based on Jane Austin novels, or good ugly cry that you need to get over it, or start to anyway.

At age twenty-three I’d just been through a break up.  The hardest part of that split wasn’t the losing of the guy, who was so wrong for me the actual dating of him was a shock to most of my closest friends.  Let’s just say that he was studying for his PHD in physics while indulging in Dungeons and Dragons-type role-play games on the side.

Perfect for someone, just not me.

We’d gotten engaged and then my subliminal mind kicked into gear, sending me all the way to San Diego for the summer to give myself the space to figure out how ridiculous the whole plan really was.  Thankfully, the guy ended up cheating while I was away and it ended with no grey areas to mull over.

Still, the being cheated on and the calling off of a scheduled wedding were pretty crushing. 

Sad songs were there for consolation.   I blasted Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough,” wallowed in anything Sarah McLachlan and indulged in a little angry Alanis Morissette for good measure. 

Fellow sad-song lover, Jeanne and me at twenty-three

Years later, I heard a podcast on NPR about a woman recently dumped who actually attempted to write her own break up song.  For advice, she called Phil Collins, THE Phil Collins.  Sweet man that he is, he called her back and chatted about how his divorce had inspired some of the most awesome tearjerker hits of the 1980’s. 

Watch, as Phil Collins creates a place of comfort where the bloody remnants of a shattered soul once set up house!

You're totally with me now, right?

And I would remiss if I didn’t mention Adele.  To date, Adele has sold over twenty-two million records, jam-packed with sad songs.   I mean every one of her songs is a lament that reaches into your body, clutches your heart and squeezes just tightly enough to buckle your knees but not actually kill you.  And then, somewhere mid-wail, you start to feel stronger, less alone - like Kiss my backside, broken heart.  I'm movin' on.  

For the most part, I can plot my life, year by year, with the juiciest sad songs I blasted over and over and over again, sopping up my snot and tears with a nearby blanket.

1976 Case of You by Joni Mitchell
1977 Song for Duke by Judy Collins
1979 Big year, lots of silence
1980 Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper
1981 Open Arms by Journey
1982-84 Like, all of middle school = The entire Purple Rain album
1985 I Can't Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon
1986 Live to Tell by Madonna
1987 Queen and the Soldier by Suzanne Vega
1988 Only You by Yaz
1989 Gypsy by Suzanne Vega
1990 Waiting for That Day by George Michael
1991 Closer by Jonathon Richman
1992 How Can I Tell You by Cat Stevens
1993 December (The album) by George Winston
1994 You Learn by Alanis Morisette
1995 Strong Enough by Sheryl Crow
1996 Angel Dream by Tom Petty
1997 Baby Mine sung by Bonnie Raitt
1998 Power of Two by The Indigo Girls
2000 Teddy Bear Named Freddie (Lilly) Bear by Justin Roberts
2003 Useless Desires by Patty Griffin
2004 I Will by the Beatles
2005 For Good from Wicked and Emily by Beth Nielsen Chapman
2006 Mary by Patty Griffin
2007 Songbird sung by Eva Cassidy
2008 The House that Built Me by Miranda Lambert
2009 Superwoman by Alicia Keys
2010 You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples (and the beautiful Nora O’Conner!)
2011 Glitter by Pink
2012 That Wasn't Me by Brandi Carlile

That’s one heavy mix tape/mix CD/playlist.  My girlfriends are going to shove it in their purses and never listen to it.

But it's perfect, for me.

Now, what are the songs on your sad song mix?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Open Letter to All Young Lovers

Today's post for age 22 of the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge comes from Kim Van Sickler

I had every intention of writing a starry-eyed recollection of my wedding, at age 22. However, the sad reality is, I am so disgusted over continuing confrontations with my ex, more than a decade after my divorce, that I'd like to offer something much more meaningful. Please pass it along to all the young lovers in your life.

Open Letter to all Young Lovers

You are in love!  Congratulations! You know it will last forever! I hope you are right. But before you make what everyone hopes is a lifetime commitment, but is sadly that way for only half of us, take a moment to read the meanderings of someone who wished she'd done it all differently.

1. Human brains aren't fully developed until age 25. Since we haven't fully evolved into the person we will become, marrying before this age might mean the person you end up with down the road really is different from the one you fell in love with. And vice versa.

2. Make sure you've lived life before settling down. Take care of yourself for a little while. In this day and age, everyone needs to shake their sillies out (The Wiggles) before making a life-long commitment. What's the rush? Isn't it better to see what's out there first, before making that non-refundable purchase?

3. For those of you moaning, "I can't let him go! He's the love of my life! He might find someone else," I offer to you these sage words of advice from a poster that hung in my bedroom when I was younger, that sadly I did not follow. "If you love something, set it free, if it comes back to you, it's yours, if it doesn't, it never was."

4. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other. (Dalai Lama) Your lives should be full when separate. If one lives to serve the other, that's a business relationship. If one wants the other to give up something meaningful, that's control, not love.

5. Be wary of certain qualities in your mate. If he/she likes to win at all costs, obsesses over past wrongs, and revels in never backing down--RUN AWAY. While this tenaciousness might be an admirable quality in certain business executives, it is not a desirable quality in a mate. If you end up divorcing someone like this, don't expect an easy time of it. If you end up having children with someone like this and divorcing them when the children are still minors, heaven help you.

6. Once you have children, the problems don't go away after the divorce. If your ex wants to play legal games with you, guess what? He/she can! You might get to return to court on a regular basis to argue some more about things like visitation and money. And even when you're not in court, your ex can use the children to mess with you in so many insidious ways. Then there are all of the kids' special events to look forward to. How do you work something like a high school or college graduation when the two of you can't even be in the same room together?

7. If you rush into marriage early, you might miss your true life partner when he/she comes along. If half of all marriages end in divorce, there's another percentage that turn down that road to Misery, Indifference, or Regret. People hanging out in those back alleys are in no position to find true love. They're messed up, damaged goods.

OK. Now I'm going to lighten up a bit. I do believe in true love. I found it the second time around. When you find that person you want to make yours forever, ask yourself two questions.

1. Is he/she a good listener? I mean a really good listener. Do they stop talking long enough to find out how you're doing? Do they unglue their eyes from the TV long enough to ask about your day, and engage in real conversation? And do they do this for you every day? Studies show that listening is the single most important quality a mate can have. Don't select a mate who doesn't listen. It won't last.

2. Does he/she respect you? You. The personality/brain/soul. Not, do you think he/she's sexy. Not, is your mate a good provider. Do you prefer talking to him/her more than just about anybody else? Do you turn to him/her for advice or help in making decisions? Do you care about each other enough to give and take so that the relationship isn't one-sided, but balanced?

If you can shout, "YES!" from the rooftops on these two, then a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS. As long as you are over 25, have played the field a bit, don't cling, don't make demands, and don't marry a Neanderthal, you just might be one of those who make it! I'm rooting for you, because I'm a sucker for a good love story.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


The post for age 21 in the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge is by Jon Egan.

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. 
~ Mark Twain

When this blog challenge started and we were asked to pick ages that we wanted to write about, I chose twenty-one thinking it would be easy. I didn’t give any thought to where in my life I was that year, to what was going on, to what relationship I was in, or to what I was even doing. I just figured it would be a no-brainer.

Twenty-First, normally equaled a big bash, a huge all in, three-day drunk, even though in Australia the legal drinking age was and still is eighteen, there was just something special about turning twenty-one.

I’d been looking forward to my twenty-first for years. I think I was probably seventeen or eighteen when I began imagining the party I was going to have, I had the food picked out; I had the bar set-up formed in my mind; I had the music and D.J. already selected; I knew all the pre-drinking tricks to use so I wouldn’t end up with a legendary hangover; it was destined to be huge, maybe even four days if my mates could hang in there.

Of course there’d be all manner of women, all the sheilas in town, and maybe even from neighboring towns would clamor to be on the invite list, they’d be dropping hints for invites, I’d have notes shoved under my door begging me to add them, they’d walk up to me in the street asking if they were indeed penciled in.

Legendary, that would be the word used to describe my twenty-first, yea legendary!

Aside from the party, there were other fantasies flashing through my mind. My old man, he and I weren’t that close when I was in my teens. Truth be told, we were never close in my younger years. The Coal Man's boy, that’s what he’d call me, sometimes with a grin, but usually not. “No son of mine,” was a constant phrase, uttered under his breath, or spoken with venom, sometimes yelled accompanied with a glare of hatred. But my twenty-first would change all that. He’d probably call me early in the day, wish me a grand birthday, offer me a fecking whiskey, and go on about how proud he was of me and my accomplishments…. He’d speak about how chuffed he was watching me play football, and he’d brag to the blokes at union meetings about my footy prowess. He’d tell me how he really always did love me, and only treated me the way he did so I’d grow up strong and be able to stand up for myself with my fists. “That’s the only reason I smacked you around a bit,” he’d say.

Yea, we’d have a good old chin wag before the party got started, he may even join in. All my mates, for the longest time, thought he was the best old bastard Irish man they’d ever met. They loved when he swung by  and sang a bunch of the old ballads, as he was apt to do when he’d had few. Legendary, yep no other word for it. Legendary.

Mum would for sure drop by too. She’d have the perfect card picked out--no present--I was never that big on presents, but a good card, that was always the best. Nothing like a good soppy card, even if the verse wasn’t hers, the words she added were always heart-warming, sincere, and never failed to bring a tear to my eye.

I kept the big bash alive in my head for so long, the anticipation was almost unbearable, I’d get butterflies when I thought about it. I wondered if my team mates would make me deliver a speech, just because they knew how much I hated public speaking. They’d get a kick out of that. So I practiced in front of my mirror: speaking out loud, laughing at my own jokes, even choreographing the way I moved as I spoke, thinking that not only was my party going to be, ya know, legendary, but my speech would be a highlight for all in attendance.

The year I turned twenty-one, I quit playing football, not by choice, but by injury, I blew my knee out and never recovered. Even if I had been able to play again, I was told by my specialists that my knee would never hold up to the strain, so I quit. I never did play competitive footy again, but it wasn’t so bad. I stopped going to games, hated watching from the sidelines, hated hearing people tell me how unlucky I was buggering up my knee the way I did. Funny but my dad never said any of that.

I was working the mines and driving truck the year I turned twenty-one. I had a room in SMQ, Single Men’s Quarters, C Block, a two-story building with about a hundred twenty 12 x 8 rooms, paper-thin walls, a bed, a desk with table light, and a small hanging area, two shower blocks on each level, tenants organized by the shift you worked, so afternoon-shift workers wouldn’t wake the night-shift blokes, stark white with aluminum foil on the windows, so not only wouldn't the light wake you, but it helped keep the heat down. There were lots of shift parties in the blocks, usually when you finished your 21st shift (3 blocks of days, 3 afternoons, and 3 nights), because we’d get a four-day break before going back on rotation. Those were some crazy, fight-filled events that always, always started out friendly, degraded into fighting, and then swung wildly back to friendly before the obligatory passing out.

My big day arrived. My family: all four siblings, and my mum and dad, lived less than ten minutes away. All of us ended up working in the mine, except my mum. We all worked different shifts, and we never saw as much of each other as you’d think. But this was my twenty-first birthday; they’d all make an appearance. I’d given up on the legendary party months ago, since I was scheduled to work the night shift, but I was still looking forward to seeing everyone. I was still like a kid on Christmas Eve. I felt like I was entering a whole new phase of life, and looking forward to the words of encouragement form my mates and family. I showered mid-morning to avoid the rush, and then I wandered over to the mess hall. It was weird sitting there at my table in a room of 70 tables by myself eating silently, trying to hurry so I could get back to my room before someone came by. The Romanian bloke that bussed tables smiled at me as he picked up my empty plate. I said G’day and he nodded back. I’d never heard him speak, except when he was with other blokes that worked in the mess. He had no clue it was my birthday. I downed the rest of my cuppa tea and hurried back to the block. I passed a few night-shift stragglers that were wandering the halls. We ignored each other.

I let myself into my room, and flipped on the radio. The announcer was spewing out the weather report, then went on to play a record without mentioning a thing about my birthday. I lay on my bed and listened to the music and waited. I waited all morning, and into early afternoon. No one knocked on my door. I got up and went for lunch, turning the sign on my door to “Quiet Please, Night Shift.” The Romanian had finished his shift, and a bloke from Scotland had taken his place. “It’s my twenty-first today,” I blurted out as he picked up my plate. He cocked his head sideways, “You done wi  tha cup, laddie?” He picked it up not waiting for an answer.

I went back to my room, locked the door, and climbed under the covers. I woke when my alarm went off at ten o’clock. Then I dressed in my usual bib-n-brace coveralls, pulled on my safety boots, sat on the edge of my bed and cried, before dragging myself to the bus stop to spend the night driving truck in a dusty, remote, iron ore mine, where no one cared what day it was.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


by Juliet Bond (who was Juliet Bottger at age twenty)

The Canterbury Chemist is dull.
An orange popsicle melts in the snow, very slowly.
I pilfer armfuls of scents, bars of soap, 
and a light green bath gel that smells like avocado.
(Today, a lone bottle of perfume sits on my daughter’s shelf,
with a crust of yellow liquid clinging to the bottom of the etched glass.)
In May, I wait for the spring green to bring my friends back.
We rent a two bedroom apartment, 
throw a futon on the floor, fill the fridge with Tombstone pizzas, 
and tape In the Night Kitchen on the wall.
Below, a baby cries.
Tempers rise through the heat.
I flip the Stratego board and use the last maxi pad.
The leaves explode in rusty lace patterns.
I've stopped singing and summer ends.
My next distant land is a brick building surrounded by cornfields.
A gauzy Indian print throws shades of purple across the bottom bunk.
The room mate assigned to me asks me to lie to her parents if they call,
she will be living with her boyfriend.
Outside my window, groups of girls sing, “Kappa Gamma KKG, Kappa Gamma KKG!”
At Lincoln Hall, I eat my meals alone in the basement cafeteria,
bringing cereal and milk to my tiny refrigerator for company.
A war begins.
By the time the sky weeps snow, I’m in Paris, 
where the morning streets really are cobblestone, 
between buildings with quaint silver balconies. 
At the Palais Garnier, the patrons hop seats to get a better view.
I hike up my black, silk dress and throw a leg over the wooden chairs,
eat crepes and gooey chocolate croissants while standing under a grey sun,
sleep as the Eurail shuttles me to Milan, 
where a boy gasps as I walk past, and the pizza tastes bland. 
Across the street from a Salzburg pastry shop filled with Mozart, 
I visit the cathedral where Maria was married.
Christmas, lights up Vienna. 
Pink milk is sweet in Budapest but the pizza is still bad, 
and I can't read the labels at the pharmacy in Versailles.
When it’s time to go, I curl against my boyfriend’s long and slender body and say goodbye.
I blow away.
Back in the states, I still have no idea who I want to be.

Author in the center


Friday, October 19, 2012


Today's 19 post for the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge is written by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
Was your life at nineteen anything like mine? Were you young and foolish and thought you were grown up enough to make adult decisions?

When I was nineteen, boys my age were drafted into the army. They swore an oath to be willing to give their lives for their country.

We were all adults, right?

Two days after my nineteenth birthday, my boyfriend gave me an engagement ring. My parents were flabbergasted. They begged and pleaded with me to rethink this decision. What about your education? What about a career? (Career? I had a job, and that would get me through until I made it as a writer.) What if, gasp! you get pregnant?

I assured them I would not get pregnant. After all, the experts said diabetics had difficulty getting pregnant. Those experts also said diabetes would shorten my life. I wanted to marry Jim, and if I wasn’t going to have a long life, I was in a hurry to begin my life with him.

Jim and I had known each other since I was 13. We’d been good friends for years before we started dating. I had graduated high school at 17. I was smart. I knew what I wanted.

Two months after he gave me that ring, I became Jim’s wife. He was in the US Navy at the time, so he went back to base a week after our short honeymoon. My life hadn’t changed all that much, except I lived in a cute, little apartment instead of sharing a room with my sister in my parents’ home. I went to work during the day, and school in the evening.
Kathy Cannon becomes a Wiechman

Three weeks later, I flew to Great lakes, IL, for Jim’s graduation from boot camp. We were together the whole weekend, and I missed him terribly when I had to go home.

Unknowingly, I took a little extra something back home with me. I was pregnant. That’s right. Those experts who said it would be difficult weren’t so smart after all. Or was I the one who wasn’t so smart?

Jim and I decided I should quit my job after the semester and move to the Boston area where he was stationed. We lived in government housing, a small apartment where hot running water was fickle. My pre-natal appointments were at Chelsea Naval Hospital, and I was warned that a diabetic pregnancy would not be easy.

They were right. It was tough, but we got through it, and three weeks before my twentieth birthday, I gave birth to our premature first daughter. Today, Kelly is a wife and mother herself, and no, she didn’t get married at 19.
Kathy and Jim's first-born, Kelly.

Looking back at our wedding picture, I realize how very young we were (and Jim looks even younger in the picture than he really was. I swear I didn’t marry a 12-year-old.)

We were in no way ready for marriage and family. But we were both stubborn—and committed. We struggled through some rough times, but we’ve had wonderfully happy times, too. Yes, we’re still together, still friends, and our marriage is stronger than ever. Forgive me if this sounds sappy, but I love him more every day.

I still haven’t “made it” as a writer. Luckily I didn’t have to depend on it for a living. I worked at numerous jobs off and on while our family grew (including teaching, which made my mother happy), and Jim has been a good provider. We both grew up in frugal families, and that lifestyle worked for us, too.

The year I was nineteen was the ultimate life-changer, but I have never regretted being young and foolish.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Becoming a Two-Footer

To illustrate age 18 for the October Memoir and Backstory Blogfest, Kim Van Sickler introduces you to the backstory of her main character's mother, Veronica.
(upper MG or maybe lower YA mermaid tale, Beached.)


Now that the time to leave her underwater kingdom is here, Veristycla wonders if she's making a terrible mistake. Yes, she's dreamt of swimming out of Tasnea, and stepping onto land with her very own pair of legs, ever since she could remember. The queen's whispered stories about two-footers, enhanced by growing up amidst two-footer detritus, and furtive spying missions on the surface, has sparked her love affair for everything Above the Sea.

What could it possibly be like to walk and move about upright? How would it feel to breath through a nose? Wouldn't it be fun to select the clothing to adorn her two-footer body?

Her mother's hand intertwines her own. They have arrived at the garish underwater home/hospital of Dr. Taddethal. The structure, a monument to recycling, is made up of chipped bricks and stones shoved in between sheets of aluminum siding, segments of ceramic tile, and deep-grooved sheet metal. The walls are high enough to house a whale. Comfortably. The entire amalgamation is fuzzy from a coating of seaweed.

The slender doctor has everything waiting for the transformation inside.

A practical jokester, Dr. Taddethal wears an oversized pair of lens-less glasses and a helmet today. His eyes soften when he looks at the princess. "You can still change your mind, you know. Everything we've done so far will unravel with time. But once you arrive on the surface, and apply the poultice to your face, there is no turning back."

Veristycla nods solemnly. "I understand. I'm ready."

But is she? Is it really her overwhelming desire to experience life as a two-footer, or just a convenient escape so she doesn't have to rule Tasnea? She tries to think objectively if she'd still be doing this if merkin law didn't mandate that the oldest child must assume the role of the father. With no way to bow out gracefully of a life of ruling others, she is destined for a life she doesn't want. And with a younger sister eager to assume the throne, leaving does seem to be the simplest solution.

The doctor gives her a final dose of medicine, masked in the seaweed flavor that accompanies most everything eaten in Tasnea. "I'll miss you, Princess." He bows slightly and offers up the satchel containing the poultices she'll need to apply on the surface. He'd offered to do it himself, but the queen wouldn't hear of it. She wants Taddethal to be able to say that he didn't assist in the transformative last step.

The queen and her daughter make their way through the cliff-side tunnel leading out of Tasnea, through the open water, and to the surface. Two palace guards escort them. Their journey is a quiet one. The queen has already spoken her mind, and given her reluctant blessing. Unspoken between them is the king's extreme reaction to his daughter's decision to leave.

"If she abandons her home, she is dead to us. All ties end the moment she reaches land." The king ran one hand through his chest-length beard and pounded his trident against the side of his coral throne with the other.

Father's pronouncement merely turned the reality of what she was doing into law. As a former mermaid, she could not physically travel to her underwater home again.

But she is eighteen pulsars old, and it's time to make her own life. And she knows her life is destined to take place Above the Sea.

The mermaids and their guards break the surface of the ocean to greet a frown of moon and a sky dripping with stars. The queen holds her breath and applies the salve to her daughter's face, to the area where a nose must grow. It's an excruciating process.

After the nose appears and the green goop is washed away, the queen grasps her oldest, her favorite, by the shoulders and looks deeply into her eyes. I will come here looking for you, the queen speaks with her mind. Return here often so I may rest assured that all is well.

Veristycla almost doesn't have the strength to pull away. Although the words had never been spoken between them, the daughter knows her mother wishes she could leave too. And Veristycla knows something else. That she won't venture out to sea to visit her mother. She knows it will be too dangerous. Better to allow memories of her to fade, and for her mother to move on.

The cool night air caresses her face as she swims towards shore. She knows what she must do: apply the poultices and grow legs. From her experience birthing a nose, she knows how painful this will likely be. She wishes her mother was here with her. But she's alone. Alone to forge a new life for herself, doing whatever it is she wants to do.

What have I done?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Today's post for the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge is by Jon Egan

The dingo took my baby, she screamed for all to hear,
The Shuttle launched and landed, despite a nation's fear,
Walesa said, enough's, enough, Solidarity was formed,
John Lennon killed in NYC, the whole world sat and mourned.

Earthquake hits in Italy, near five thousand dead,
"Who shot J.R. Ewing?" is the question in my head,
Colonel Sanders left us, for the fryer in the sky,
Bobby Sands on hunger strike until the day he died,

Reagan wins election, the Hostages are free,
For fifteen hundred bucks, you can have your own PC,
Egypt’s Sadat is shot and killed, Bob Marley’s in the grave,
The CDC announces that five have died from AIDS.

Sandra Day O’Connor, first woman on the Court,
South Africa invades… and another war is fought,
MTV goes to air, and screens the Buggles first,
Pepsi dared to challenge Coke and won the nations thirst.

Video Killed the Radio Star

Lady Di got married to Charles the Prince of Wales,
Janet Cooke from Washington, got busted telling tales,
The Rubik’s cube distracted me, for seven days at least,
Ali said goodbye to being, the Butterfly and Beast.

The Oscar went to Chariots, but Raiders was the best,
Stephen King’s “Cujo,” had me putting down the rest,
Pink Floyd yelled at teachers, and put bricks into the Wall,
AC/DC’s “Back in Black” had Aussies standing tall.

These are just some memories from years and years ago,
Some changed our life immensely and some were just so-so,
I’m sure there’s some that you recall and some I shoulda seen,
But these are ones that meant the most when I was Seventeen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Age 16 for the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge is written by Regina Gort

At Sixteen

I cut off my hair.
Long locks of 
obedience fell to 
the floor without reverence.

Not content to be
my father's daughter
at Bible study,
I went out on the town.

Rebellious he shouted,
certain my future
was damned.

But this, my first stand,
forged me. Samson braced
against crumbling columns,
without regret.

Strong is as strong does.

Defiant could no longer
define me, strength could.

Regina Gort at 16

Monday, October 15, 2012


Age 15 for the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge is written by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

When I think of being fifteen years old, I think of my last year of being truly carefree.

I went to lots of parties, and hosted plenty of them, too. They were informal things, where we ate chips and drank Pepsi, played records (yes, vinyl), and had fun. I dressed up and went to dances, dressed down and went to basketball games, dressed in red and went to Cincinnati Reds games. I hung out with my friends and walked to the local chili parlor, which served the best french fries EVER.

That’s when I was fifteen.

At sixteen, my world changed. I fell asleep in class on a daily basis, and had trouble staying awake to finish my homework. I had an insatiable thirst and was constantly hungry—but I didn’t gain weight.

The doctor’s diagnosis was Juvenile Onset Diabetes (now called Type 1 Diabetes). He said if I didn’t want to die, I would need to take insulin shots every day, closely monitor the exercise I got, and every bite I ate. I’d have to be careful of my eyes, my kidneys, and my feet. I was in the hospital for 12 days and heard horror stories of diabetics who went blind or had their feet and legs amputated.

When I came home, my carefree lifestyle had definitely changed. I always had to be aware of my sugar and insulin levels, take notice of any shaky feeling in my hands that might indicate a hypoglycemic reaction (blood sugar too low). I kept Lifesavers in my purse for emergencies.

Before I went to a dance or walked to meet my friends, I had to figure out how much “sugar” I’d walk/dance off, and if my blood sugar was high enough to handle it. I had to calculate my meals by “exchanges” and stick to what my last shot allowed.

It was tedious at first, but I got used to it. What was tougher was the way people treated me. In the beginning, my friends avoided going to the chili parlor when I was with them. They didn’t want to eat in front of me those things I was no longer allowed to have. In time, I convinced them that I didn’t mind watching them eat, that I just wanted them to treat me like that carefree 15-year-old.

Back in those days, we could buy Diet Pepsi at the grocery, but it wasn’t available at the chili parlor, most restaurants, the amusement park, or the ball park. I had to smuggle it in the same way the church ladies smuggled in their flasks of whiskey. My friends became co-conspirators.

Things had changed at home, too. Dad acted as though I were made of glass, asking me every five minutes if I felt OK. My siblings got blood tests since the role of genetics in diabetes caused concern. They were fine, but they treated me differently. I often ate different meals from what the others did. Mom was wise enough not to change their lives because mine had.

But I saw the way they looked at me, sometimes with pity, sometimes with resentment. I wanted things to be as they’d always been. I missed the teasing, the jabs, the “fights.” I didn’t like feeling different. I was still ME. Couldn’t they see that?

It took time.

Now there was a “Kathy drawer” in the bathroom for my testing supplies, a “Kathy cabinet” in the kitchen for my sugar-free snacks, and a second container of Kool-Aid in the fridge, one sweetened without sugar.

The containers were similar, so Mom warned my sibs to make sure mine stayed on the left, so I wouldn’t get confused and drink all that sugar by mistake. But when nine people reach into the same refrigerator multiple times a day, things get rearranged.

The day came when I didn’t know which was mine, and Mom warned them all again. The next day, a skull and crossbones had been magic-markered on my Tupperware container. It looked like my brother Bob’s work. And for some reason, that was the day I felt like ME again.
Smart-alek Bob's on Kathy's right.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tardun 14: A harvest story

Today's post on age 14 for the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge is by Jon Egan.

Tardun, CBAS, St.Mary's, Christian Brothers, the Big House.... These were some of the other names that the "Tardun, Christian Brothers Agricultural School," was known by, and where I was remanded for three years. Yes I did say "remanded"  because that's truly what it felt like when I first arrived. Even though my parents paid for the privilege of me attending, it was highlighted in more than a few places on the application that this was a working farm school, and the boys would be expected to engage in very physical and demanding work regimes which would build character. (Oh, and please sign this part at the bottom of the sheet where it says that it's acceptable for the Brothers to engage in corporal punishment for the good of the child.)

Upper floor were the Dorms. Building on the right was the Chapel.

To be fair to my parents, they didn't have many choices for secondary education since we lived in the Australian bush and had no day schools nearby. They probably picked the cheapest alternative, and Tardun won.

Nearest town --- Tardun --- Population: 7 --- Distance from school: approx 10 kilometers
Nearest big town --- Mullewa --- Population: 200 --- Distance from school: approx 30 kilometers
Nearest city --- Geraldton --- Population: 20,000 --- Distance from school: approx 120 kilometers
Nearest capital city --- Perth --- Population: about 1 million --- Distance from school: light years...

Average temperature when I arrived in February: about 120 degrees --- Air Conditioning: what's that?
Average rainfall for the year: 2 inches (We were in the middle of the Wheat Belt of Western Australia, attempting to be self-sufficient by growing cereal crops and raising sheep and cattle.)
Student population: 100 boys, grades 8 through 10
Farm size: 70,000 acres
Teachers: 3
Farm bosses: 8
Jailers: 2
Hours per week spent in class:  about 20
Hours per week spent working the farm: about 40, except during plowing, seeding, harvesting, and shearing, then it bumped to about 80.
Fun and exciting life experiences looking back on my time there: priceless.

So, I said I was going to tell you about one particular event in my time there, and while I've been writing this I've changed my mind about a thousand times, but I've settled on this one.

As I mentioned, we were a cereal crop farm. We began harvesting around the beginning of October and went through late December, which was a pretty hot time of year in that part of the bush, pretty consistently over the 110-degree mark.

The system was, around 4 am we'd be awakened by a Brother carefully sneaking through the dormitory picking a few select kids to go out and spend the day working a harvester instead of being in school. You know how exciting that was to a 14-year-old, right? A day out of school AND we got to either drive the big rig collecting wheat from the harvesters or we operated the actual combines. They put a lot of trust in us.

This one particular morning, Brother Morgan, Swifty, (We had nicknames for all the Brothers and this bloke could run like the wind) came to my bunk and shook me awake, which was pretty easy since I was laying in a wad of sweat-soaked sheets, and had spent the night tossing and turning trying to get some shut eye.)

"Wake up Master Egan, we need you on a combine today, breakfast in 5 minutes."

"Yes, Brother."

 Me and about five other kids met down in the kitchen for our burnt toast and rubbery eggs. Seriously, the old cook, Joe, would prepare the fried eggs about an hour before we got there. He'd have them lined up on an aluminum tray, drop them and they'd bounce! After breaky we headed out in the bed of a ute (Aussie for pick up truck) to be dropped off at various machines in the paddocks. We got no choice when it came to what machines we were allocated, everything from vintage John Deere's to a brand new Massey Ferguson, which of course everyone wanted since it had an air-conditioned, air ride cab.

That day I didn't get the flash, shiny red Massey, I got the old piece of faded green John Deere: no air con, no air ride, no enclosed cab. But no worries. I was out of school, had about a 200-acre paddock of wheat to crop, and wouldn't see anyone but the grain truck for about four hours, 'til old Brother Synan (Goggles,) showed up with my frozen cheese and tomato sandwich. Yep, frozen, but it also came with a hot cuppa tea that you could dunk the frozen sarny (sandwich) in to defrost it enough to bite through.

So, I'm dropped off with my big water esky (cooler full of iced water) which I left strategically under the partial shade off an old gum tree and the ute pulled away. I checked that everything on the John Deere was where it was supposed to be, greased a few fittings,  and got to work cropping the paddock. By this time it's about 5:30 am. The sun's rising, the flies were out, and the engine hummed. Life was grand. I was already just two eye holes and a smile after being covered in dust from the ride out  in the back of the ute, and even though the sun just broke the horizon, I was fast becoming a muddy pile of red dirt.

First item of removed clothing: singlet (tank-top). It got laid across the back of what's left of the tractor seat.  I felt a little relief, although by then the open air cab caught and trapped all the heat it could from the engine, and as per usual there was not one wisp of air movement, except the flow of air idling through the cab as I moved at a snails pace. My arms were in constant motion as I lifted and lowered the comb on the front of the combine. Due to the drought conditions, the wheat stalks had barely reached a foot tall, so I had to watch for logs, and bundies (big rocks) that had been missed and disturbed during plowing and seeding season. The Brothers didn't like it when you dinged up the comb. They had no issue showing their displeasure with a swift smack to the jaw.

I'd been working for about an hour or so, and was now down to being shirtless, shortless and bootless. Boots were replaced with typical Aussie safety shoes, otherwise known as thongs, and I would have been barefoot, except the floor of the tractor was too hot for my feet to handle, so other than my undies, I'm pretty much naked. The grain truck had just been by to unload me, so I wouldn't see anyone for at least another hour. This was before the time of cell phones, and we didn't have CB's, so I was most definitely out there alone plodding around the paddock, covering a lap about every 15 minutes. I had to ration my water, so I'd stop and jump out for a drink every other lap, knowing that at lunch time they'd bring me a refill on my esky.

By about 10 am I was getting no relief from the heat even after guzzling down mouthfuls of by now, tepid water. The dust was caked on thicker than my mum's foundation, my eyes were raw from the layers of red dirt that were getting harder to clear with each blink. It was as if I were rubbing them with sandpaper. My once tighty whitey's were now dirt red, and chafing my thighs with every bounce of the piece of crap John Deere. Oh, how I wished I were sitting in the comparative cool of the 90-degree classroom! BUT! an idea sprang to my mind about half way through my next lap...

I eased the rampaging combine to a grinding, dust cloud-inducing, halt in the middle of the paddock, just across the way from my old pathetic non-shade covering ghost gum, and proceeded to trudge through the grain stalks in nothing but my undies and thongs. My legs looked like they got caught in a shrapnel attack, as the stalks ripped into the skin deeper than any of the canings I'd suffered at the hands of the Brothers. (Did I mention they enjoyed corporal punishment at this place?) I made it to the tree and the esky and proceeded to put my plan into action. It went something like this.

1. Remove mud-caked undies
2. Remove mud-caked safety boots, aka thongs
3. Remove 2-cup capacity cup from top of esky
4. Fill said cup with tepid cup from under-performing esky
5. Toss contents of cup high into air
6. Run naked through falling water thereby creating a cooling rain shower
Old esky
 It worked to perfection. Absolute and utter perfection. With the first cupful I was a little timid and didn't fully commit, but then with subsequent cups I became braver, my strength grew, and my abandon became absolute. I was giddy, nae, intoxicated with pleasure at being cool, so much so that I never noticed, honestly, didn't hear, see or in any way whatsoever notice that Brother Kelly (Roo Dog) had driven into my paddock and was watching from a distance of about a hundred yards as this naked, semi-delirious student/ farm hand/ inmate, danced like a banshee. Arms raised, legs pumping, hollering at the sky in a Native American kind of rain dance.

As God is my witness, when he actually pulled up next to me and I realized I was busted for naked rain dancing, I still don't know who was more scared. He looked at me. I looked at him. He nodded toward my undies and thongs. I stared at them. He nodded again. I walked over and sheepishly pulled them on. He nodded at the bed of the ute. I looked at him. He nodded again. I climbed in, burning my ass on the side of the bed in the process.

He drove me back to the school. No stopping at the still idling John Deere to get the rest of my clothes. Straight back to school in the back of the ute, even though there was a perfectly good seat in the front next to him. We pulled up in front of the main building and I didn't move. He still hadn't said a word to me. Then the bell rang for lunch, and out into the yard poured the 90 or so students that weren't working the farm that day. Roo Dog looked at me as he got out of the ute. I looked at him. He nodded toward the dorms. I didn't need another nod. I raced upstairs in my dirty mud-caked undies to the shower block.

Not a word was spoken to me regarding the incident from anyone other than the students, and surprisingly I was not called on for harvesting for the rest of the season. Never got my singlet back, but did get my boots returned to me! One time I was woken early by old Swifty a couple of weeks after that, but it was for bakery duty, not machinery operating, and do I have a great story about baking the weekly bread for the farm. But that's for another time.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We are living sci-fi

OK, this post is a re-run. But it was written about a 13-year-old me, and so in honor of day #13 of the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge, we are running it again.

by Kim Van Sickler

A long-ago memory from 1976. I'm thirteen years old and think I know everything. The nation is celebrating it's bicentennial and Mom infuriates me by referring to my "boyfriend" as "my little friend" as if he's a midget. Despite the teenage angst, I think we've got it pretty good in my upper middle class home in the suburbs.
Kim in 1976 (center)
My parents installed a second phone line for me to use to talk to all of my friends. Too bad it's located in the hallway right outside their bedroom door where my voice (which has always been loud) carries throughout the entire house. For privacy, I stretch the cord and either close myself in my parent's room or my sister's room when they're empty.

Dad built a rec room in the basement where I go to veg and watch TV.  I can choose from NBC, ABC, CBS or the one VHF channel, and tune in Saturday morning for cartoons, after school until about six when all the channels switch to news, and in the evenings until eleven when they switch back to news again.  The best though, is watching Houlihan and Big Chuck host the late Friday night movies that come on after the news. Babysitting is always more fun watching these guys.
Houlihan (left) and Big Chuck host the Cleveland-area Friday night movie.

Dad's bought the entire Encyclopedia Britannica set so when I need to write  a paper for school my reference materials are right there! If I have to go to the library, I know how to use the card catalog to find what I'm looking for. My handwriting is pretty good. Teachers have always bugged my about my death grip on my pens and pencils and my writing comes out loopy and backhanded, but it's legible. Everyone can read it when I write letters, or essays, or turn in my homework.

Doing homework is always easier with tunes. I have lots of record albums I play on my turntable to set the mood I want. I've memorized many of those songs like Aerosmith's "Dream On", Queen's "You're My Best Friend", Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight", and Peter Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Way".

Life can't get any more advanced, can it?

Well, imagine how blown away I was one night at dinner when my dad, an electrical engineer working in the product planning area for General Electric, starts talking about "the future" and how technology will render everything that we hold cutting-edge to be obsolete within our lifetimes. "It's happened to me," Dad tells us. "It'll happen to you too."

No way. I actually argue that of course things had changed for him what with the advent of TV, rock-and-roll music, and the space program, but that we've arrived at full-blown civilization since then. Technology can't get any more advanced than it is in 1976.

Embarrassing how wrong I was.  My thirteen-year-old self could not comprehend computer technology, the Internet, cell phones, two hundred TV channels, CDs, You Tube, rap performed by the likes of Childish Gambino, or video games like Grand Theft Auto.

I've been reading in my Entertainment Weekly magazine about the recent Comic Con Convention in San Diego. That's where all the fantasy TV shows and movies go to plug their offerings and try and generate excitement. If Comic Con existed thirty-six years ago and produced a movie about my life today, I would have marveled at the creativity. I never would have believed such a world would come to pass. I have lived, what to me then would have been considered pure science fiction, and I've still got a long way to go.

Live long and prosper.