Gold Wallpaper

I have spent the last week teaching myself to type, sans pinky.  So, here we go.

The other day, I was talking to my cousin and she said that they were learning the short story The Yellow Wallpaper in AP English.  I commented that I loved that story; it was my favorite.  I recall sitting on the couch outside my school library, reading it one sunny and quiet afternoon.  I thought it a little peculiar that I recalled reading this in 11th or 12th grade, while she was reading it in AP.  But then, my school was different than others; tougher.  My C’s would have been B’s at the public school, at least.  When I got to college, I was downright BORED.  It’s not why I left, but it’s one of many reasons.

Anyway, I asked Sahar when she read it.  She’s was an English major, so y’know…she had to have read it.  Except she did not know what I was talking about.  Ok…well, I’ll ask some friends from high school.  Two, from my English level, recall no such thing.  One from the Honors level, again, did not read it.  Now, I alone of my friends took Creative Writing in high school, so it must’ve been that class, right?

At this point it’s been over two days that I have been thinking about this story that I THOUGHT was required reading for everybody.  I figured I would go to the source.  I messaged my high school English teacher, Ms. Maloney.

Everybody has those teachers that make an impact on you in one way or another, and Ms. Maloney is one of those.  She took a chance on me.  See, my grades when I was a Junior suffered terribly because I came down with a whopping case of diabetes.  So, when it came time to chose Senior electives, I didn’t really qualify for the class she taught that I wanted to be in.  Fortunately, that year I had somehow, amidst the chaos, also written and directed a one-act play, and I used this “extracurricular” in hopes she would see that Creative Writing and Drama (the electives I was after) were important to me.  Anyway, at the end of the day, she gave me a shot.  My grades never fully recovered, but I learned so much in that class and got to pursue my two passions, and I am forever grateful.  So surely, I must’ve read it in her class.

NOPE.

She told me there was a teacher that taught it, but wasn’t sure which.  By now it is day three and I am consumed.  Did I check it out of the library?  Did I read ahead in a textbook?  Did I borrow from a friend?  All likely, I suppose. 

I suppose this mystery will never be solved.

So now, I sit in my office and stare at my wallpaper.  It has always reminded me of this story, with all its golden twists and turns and blooms.  I have no idea when I read this story.  Just an image in my head of myself, sitting on a sofa in a long hallway with a stained-glass window at the end, wearing a white blouse and a gray skirt, and reading a story that captivated me.  I don’t know who told me to read it.  I’m certainly glad that they did,

I did it!  I wrote a blog with nine fingers!!  ::runs off to ice hand::

The People in my Neighborhood

This morning as I was getting coffee with mom, I told her about how much I enjoyed my childhood in Riverside, a northwestern neighborhood in Buffalo.  Now, time has changed this place that I once called home and if I’m perfectly honest with you, you couldn’t get me to move back there with a free house and a new car.  However, when I was a child it was a wonderland. 

My favorite TV show was Sesame Street.  I watched it every day while I ate my lunch, and somehow, I had it in my head that my street, Tonawanda St., was my own personal Sesame Street.  There weren’t any kids on the street until I was about six, so I turned all the shopkeepers into my friends.

At the corner of my block was a restaurant called Nuchereno’s.  Now, the Nucherno family owned a lot of stuff in Riverside, and probably still do-I know they at least still have the auto shop.  But the restaurant was the piece de resistance.  I would only eat the spaghetti and meatballs there but it was the best spaghetti and meatballs, ever.  And in my little mind, this moderately priced restaurant was the epitome of fine dining.  We always went there when family and friends were in town, or even just to Sunday dinner with Ka and Grammy. 

A little closer to the house you had Tony’s barber shop, where my dad would go to get his hair cut.  I only went in once and remember being very aware that this was not a place for little girls.  I do recall asking Tony if he kept his combs in blue Kool-Aid, not knowing it was sanitizer.

Next to the barber was Nuchereno Liquors.  I LOVED the liquor store.  First of all, there was a beagle named Sam that hung out there and the owner Mike was always nice to me and let me play with her.  I knew it was a place for grownups, but he never told me to get away from the store front and he always let me in-I recall believing that it was a safe place for me, despite catering to the local drunks.  I loved the smell of it too, and the pretty bottles on the shelves…I even practiced my reading on some of them.

Past our house and a little further down there was the salon where my mom got her hair done, The Hair Oasis.  I recall wanting to go there when I got older, and got my wish for my Junior prom when my mother took me there for an updo.  It had a real old school salon vibe, and there were always neighborhood ladies getting their hair and nails done and chit-chatting.  A little further down was the Shaggy Dog hot dog stand, which I loved to go for dinner at.  They had big vats of honey that they kept to keep the bees busy and away from your food, and I loved watching them, even though mom warned me not to get too close.

Then came the bakery whose name escapes me, but it is long gone.  Here’s what I recall of that:  a huge wedding cake in the window, that had a fountain of punch built into it.  I remember mom or someone saying it was tacky, but I loved it and swore I would have the same at my wedding (of course, I didn’t.  It was totally tacky.)  They also had these smiley face cookies I really liked, and sometimes the baker would give me 2 for 1. 

The florist was after that, and they, too, had a dog, a big golden retriever that laid around the shop all day.  Even if we weren’t buying anything, the owner let me come in to visit.  Really, all the shop keeps were like that-they all knew my name and greeted me when they saw me coming down the street.  Reid’s Delicatessen was after that, and I remember one day I went in with a red balloon and accidentally let it go, and it flew into the ceiling fan and popped.  The owner gave me a free lollipop for my trouble.

There was the library, which I have already written about, and then finally the hardware store, True Value.  Another shop I loved the smell of.  I also loved all the little bins full of “treasures:” nuts and bolts and nails and such.  Across from the hardware store was Marine Midland bank, where Grammy did her banking, and the B-Quik, for your quick shopping needs.  I vaguely recall these places, but they were, in my mind, “at the end of the street.”  (The street, mind you, definitely goes on for at least another mile after that.)

Anyway, you take all these little places, and then add in the huge park/playground/pool situation across the street from our house, and in retrospect it was the perfect place to spend the first few years of my life.  Obviously times have changed…for instance, after we moved to Kenmore, a suburb of Buffalo that was MUCH safer, my mother still didn’t let my sister ride her bike around the block until she was nearly ten.  I was riding my tricycle around the block in Riverside at four.  Times change…and so did that little neighborhood.

Once about fifteen years ago I was at the park with mom and Sharon, my backup-mother.  We spoke to the people that owned the old house, and they were kind enough to give us a tour.  They changed a lot, like the bathroom was completely redone, but it still had the same old bones and was nice to see inside.  I could write epics about that house, I loved it so much, but this is about the neighborhood that surrounded it.  I could tell you about the people too:  the kids that finally came and befriended me, and how I was so sad to say goodbye to them when we moved.  But again, this is about other people: adults.  Adults who barely knew me from a hole in the wall but made me feel safe and protected in a place that was losing its safety. 

I don’t know what happened to any of those people.  All those businesses are closed now, I believe…except maybe the liquor store.  I went there once about ten years ago to pick up a bottle of wine.  Mike is gone, I think he passed, and Sam certainly did, but there was another dog roaming the aisles and that made me smile.

I have wonderful memories of my childhood in Riverside, and while the neighborhood has changed, I will never forget growing up there.  It may have been flawed to some, but it was absolutely perfect to me.

The Music of Our Youth

I suppose I can credit my love of music to my parents.  My mom played guitar and sang to me every night.  My father always had music playing from his extensive record collection.  My mom was in glee club in high school, and my dad worked at a radio station in college.  If reading was the number one thing they taught me, music was the second.

Unfortunately, I have no musical talent whatsoever.  I can play a little piano, but that’s it.  Can’t even sing, really, thought I do at nearly any given opportunity.  I was in chorus in grade school but couldn’t hack it when I got to high school.  I once tried to teach myself harmonica…another failure.  I just haven’t got it.

However, I have excellent rhythm.  I can notice the smallest changes in a beat.  So, when Kevin became interested in making music when we were teenagers, I became his second set of ears.  It was as close to the making of the music as I would ever get.

Anyway…

I saw this thing on the socials about albums that have affected you. I found this to be cool for two reasons.  First of all, I am always on the lookout for new tunes.  Also, I love hearing what songs and artists really mean something special to people.  Then I saw a comment on one of these threads from my aunt, about how she didn’t even take into account the records from her youth.  I did not, either, as I sat there thinking about what albums have influenced me.  So yesterday while I was cleaning, I stumbled upon my CD collection, and gave it a once-over.  It brought back some fine memories, and a list of songs I now need to add to my Spotify playlist.

Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrissette was the first CD I ever owned, given to me by my Aunt Moe on my 12th birthday.  I recall her being concerned about the language and my mother not actually caring, which was a surprising turn of events.  I listened to it so much that it stopped playing after a while, and that’s around the time I picked some copies of No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and Harvey Danger’s Where Have all the Merrymakers Gone? at a recently opened used record shop in neighborhood.  I had heard one song from each album on the radio and had ten bucks burning a hole in my pocket. The No Doubt album got a lot of play, but the Harvey Danger one goes on my all-time top five list, easy.  There is not a song on that record that I don’t still know the words too, and I have most of it saved on a Spotify playlist that I listen to regularly.  

Somewhere along the way I stumbled onto The Wallflowers and Bringing Down the Horse.  I was amazed years later when I discovered that the lead singer was Bob Dylan’s son (who is my number one lyricist of all time.) I played that one until I accidentally left it on the deck during a rainstorm and it got destroyed.

The last records I recall making an impact on my youth were So Much for the Afterglow by Everclear and Dizzy Up the Girl by the Goo Goo Dolls.  I discovered the former as I also discovered my depression, and it spoke to that in a way I could not yet find the words for.  Then came our hometown boys, whose songs on the radio I had liked.  I got that record for Christmas when I was seventeen, I think.  That year was a turning point for me, and is pretty much the age I consider my childhood to have ended, and Dizzy helped me deal with that.

I have another Spotify playlist called Twentysomethings, which has a lot of music I listened to in my 20s, and I think I will have to give that a browse next.  I enjoy listening to songs I used to love because they remind me of people and things I used to love.  Circumstances weren’t always great but music was always on my side, and I am glad I had that friend in those lonely times. 

You know what would be great?  If you, dear reader, left a comment with some tunes from your youth that you loved.  I think that if I got enough, I could make a pretty killer playlist.

Evaporating Words

My blog is obviously the place for me to write about writing, and the inevitable stressors that come with that.  Currently I am working on a short story that is going quite well, except that I want to incorporate a real life event into it.  Thing is, my memory is kind of crappy now. There was a time when I remembered everything about my life with eerie clarity, but I learned that this was just a symptom of my obsessive-compulsive disorder, and my work on controlling this behavior has left some memories cloudy.   As far as therapy goes, this is a good thing, meaning that I have worked through difficult aspects of my life. Which is great for my psyche but not so much my writing. So, I remembered that yes, I have been blogging for 17 years. So I must have written what I’m looking for in one of my blogs.  

I roll over to Livejournal, where lies my longest experiment in writing, which I also tediously organized one evening many years ago, so that certain topics were easy to locate.  I found an entry with some information on what I was looking for, but I had the feeling I had written out this story before. I assumed it would be in the LJ; I was wrong. So I went to Blogger.  

Blogger was an experiment that forced me to write daily.  I updated it for 166 days before giving up. It’s terrible writing and was certainly not the best 166 days of my life, so perusing it was a little traumatic.  It also yielded no results, which was disappointing. So I went over to Blurty.

I had two intricately organized blogs on Blurty, as well as a poetry journal.  I knew going in that they were also not good periods of life, but I was prepared.  What I was not prepared for was to discover that Blurty shut down in 2017 and took all of my words with it.  What’s worse, is that I am positive the blog entry I was hunting for was hosted by Blurty.

This caused a panic.  I went over to Livejournal and after much searching found their archiving program.  Of course, it was last updated in like 2004, so it doesn’t work unless you have an advanced degree in computers.  So now, I am copying and pasting each individual entry into a word document, which will take me roughly a month given the fact I kept the blog for thirteen flippin’ years.  

So my disappointments are many.  One, I never found the entry I was looking for, and now have to work entirely from memory, which is probably an okay thing since my story is a work of fiction, but is depressing nonetheless.  Two, apparently when a blog hosting site shuts down they have no problem not notifying you about it and stealing away everything you’ve written (what are your future plans, WordPress?) Three, I’m all melancholy about the past now, and that is detrimental to my progress as a human being.  In summary, I am blogging about blogging because if I don’t write something every day I will disappoint myself, and I am stuck on my story.

You know what? If anyone is reading this and wants to help…did you ever lose a friend as a child?  What emotions did you feel? How did you process it? Thanks.

a4fd59186f325ac5e7b56c90323ee2f1

Little Connections

A couple years ago, I found this gem on Facebook:

12592206_773952686092896_7804875164385022097_n

I liked it then and I like it now, because I often wonder this.  I think it’s because I myself have a nostalgic streak, as evidenced by the shelves of photo albums and scrapbooks I acquired before learning to keep my thousands of memories in a computer file.  I have a 12 gallon tub that I call my “memory box,” full of birthday cards and ticket stubs and play programs.  I’ve always held onto little mementos from the past, but mostly they come from people, or remind me of people.   I have been fortunate enough to know some truly amazing people in my life, and each has left their own imprint on my heart.  I think all people are impacted in this way, where small exchanges between other members of the human race leads to greater understanding of ourselves.  What’s even more interesting is the impact we have on each other without even knowing.

Here are some examples:  There are two writers I know, one whom I primarily follow on Twitter, one whom I primarily follow on Facebook.  I have met both of them personally, but would classify them as “friends of friends.”  What neither knows, is that I am silently supporting their every written word, because I am reading their thoughts and feelings and being driven to better express my own.  These people have no idea that they exist in my life.  It makes you wonder whose life you exist in.

A friend of mine from grade school commented on the picture I posted 2 years ago, saying that she thought of me every time she saw cows, as I am a fan of our bovine friends.  I think of her whenever I see a black forest cake in the bakery section of the supermarket.  We haven’t seen each other in over a decade, but we still exist in those small details.

I have an actress I remember whenever I look at the spider plant in my living room.  She has no idea that little plant she gave me 7 years ago had 20 babies who now belong to all members of my family.

A teacher I think of every time I look at my dogeared well-read copy of Jane Eyre, who dosen’t realize that I was down on myself about writing until I took her class.

A family member whom I miss every time Big is on TV, because we watched it as kids, and wished Zoltar really did make dreams come true.

A childhood crush who pops in my head whenever I see pink carnations, which are decidedly my least favorite flower, but still I smile at them because of him.

An old friend I remember in certain fine snowfalls, when the snow looks like crystals and the sky is purple and orange.

A kid I sat for whose sweet face appears when I hear Cleopatra by The Lumineers on the radio, because I used to sing it to him to put him to sleep.

A best friend I text every time “Rocket Man” comes on the radio.  Because that’s our personal inside joke jam.

These tiny memories connect us.  I  don’t know what small details people remember about me, but I can tell you that if I’ve met you, I remember you, and your impact may be greater than you think.  With the advent of social media, we have become more available to each other.  It has become easier to find these little connections, and yet we still find ourselves hiding behind keyboards half the time.  I’m going to make a conscience effort to make more memories like this, as I feel that the past few years have been a bit of a void.  This is of course off topic and a much deeper post, but depression makes you pull away from life, and I absolutely did.  If I’m honest though, it’s these little thoughts that got me though tough times.  It make you believe that there’s always someone out there thinking of you.  Our connection to each other is what keeps us growing, and should be remembered and cherished, even if its a song on the radio or the smell of rain.