Thursday, January 19, 2006

Losing Buckaroo Banzai

My mom just called me with the news. I should have known something bad was on its way, since she was the bearer. FOr some reason, my mom has this uncanny knack of retaining the saddest, most ragic stories of the world and community events. Tales of bright futures cut short, horrific child abuse, and heartbreaking animal neglect are the ones she chooses to share with me. Why does she do this? To remind me of my mortality? To unburden herself by sharing her knowledge of such terrible things? Everybody knows misery loves company. It's not like she takes pleasure in telling me these things, in seeing me saddened by her words... she just does. So when she called me today with that catch in her voice, I should have known that what she was about to tell me was not going to be good.

"Aric just called me and told me Walter Ludlow was killed this morning. I think it was some kind of car wreck." Instantly my mind flashes back to this morning's traffic report.

"A sigalert is in affect on the 52 in Santee. Officers are at the scene of a fatality crash between a motorcycle and a semi." Even then, before I knew who was involved, I winced. The motorcycle guy never had a chance.

But that motorcycle guy isn't some random person in a faceless sea of the San Diego County population. He was my friend. As my mom keeps talking, I log onto the Union Trib website, still having a hard time believing that what she says is true. She must have made a mistake. People Iknow aren't the ones who are killed in traffic accidents.

The article isn't hard to find.

"A 26-year old El Cajon man dies today... Walter Scott Ludlow fell off his motorcycle and was struck... Officials don't know what caused the bike to crash..." There it is in black and white. It's so jarring to see his name next to the word death... like someone spelling your name wrong. You see it and you know it isn't right. But here it is. It can't be avoided or denied.

I get off the phone with my mom who reminds me to drive safe and that she loves me. "I love you too, Mom."

There are so many thoughts swirling around in my brain right now - it's hard to grasp even one. So many memories... so many times our paths crossed, each one making an indelible impression.

Buck was the kind of person everyone said was unique... and probably the one person of whom it was actually true. His real name was Walter, but he started going by Buck sometime in jr. high or high school to distinguish himself from his father, also a Walter. He was 1 of 5 close-knit siblings, all of them freckle-faced and impish, nearly carbon copies of each other in physical description. In his teenaged years, his divorced mother married a man who had 5 children of his own. I started referring to them as the Brady Bunch. After a period of adjustment, they referred to their combined Ludlow/Woodward family as "The Woodlows."

I was friends with Buck's older sister (by 1 year) first. She was my age and we were in the same grade at school. I met her at a summer camp hosted by our church and we became fast friends. I started hanging out at her house, during the summers and after school. You couldn't help but like Buck, right from the get-go. He was wholesome (being a Mormon kid) but was warm and friendly and funny and could always make you laugh. When swingdancing was big, he was one of the guys who would twirl me around the dance floor. He grew his curly orange hair out into a giant, Ronald McDonald-esque 'fro and then used clippers to style himself a new 'do every week, starting at the mohawk and finishing with a buzzcut. He was an artist - one of the best cartoonists I knew. His birthday was the same exact day as mine - just one year after. We used to joke that it was our destiny to get married, just so our families would be related. At one point, I started hanging out with Buck and his friends when Sharlyn wasn't around. We would pile into his Geo Metro at 3:00am and tear around our local 24-hr Wal-Mart before heading over to Dunkin' Donuts for a sugar boost. We shopped in thrift stores, trying to find the most outlandish things to wear. One of Buck's favorite outfits was a grew sweater vest and red bowtie. Another was a pair of slacks, button-up shirts and yellow power ranger suspenders. They were way too small, but that didn't matter - they were too cool to pass up. He liked to wear his get-ups to church and shock all the conservatives. He had this crazy laugh that would send everyone into giggles when they heard his "hoo-hoo-hoo-haaaaa" except for his teachers who would turn around and glare at him. This only made us laugh more. He became good friends with my brothers and the group of us would go to dances together or play capture the flag in the local park at midnight.

When he was older, he served his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Australia, learning a new language in the process. This gave him the distinction of being of one the few pale, freckle-faced carrot-top fluent Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world, I think. When he came home, he created a life for himeself, getting a job, a car. Living near his family. Getting married and have one and then two children. One looks just like him. Today, the oldest is not quite 3 years old.

The last time I saw Buck was right after Thanksgiving at my niece's 2nd birthday party. He was there with his kids and wife. I hugged him and introduced him to Mike. I enjoyed the party, relishing the friends and family were who there, still friends after so many years. Sharlyn and I used to talk about our "rocking chair" futures... that years and years out of high school, we would be able to sit on our front porches and reminisce. It seemed like we were on our way there.

Mortality and time are funny things. I can go home and open up my yearbook and read his crazy entry, all crooked lines and funny doodles surrounding the text - his tribute to that previous high school year. But in reading, the little voice in the back of my mind will be reminding me that this person is no longer here. It's hard to picture this vibrant and colorful person without the life in him, like someone turned off this lightbulb inside of him and now all is dark and cold and... dead. What of his friends and family? His brothers and sisters and wife and children? How does Rachel tell her son that Daddy's not coming home? And how does she handle a crisis like this? One minute her husband is home getting ready for work, kissing her goodbye before he goes out the door... and the next she gets the news that she will never see him again.

How do you handle tragedy when it hits this close to home?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hotstickysweet Summertime

I love the fall season. I love the colors. I love soft, cozy sweaters. I love rain and the weather that consists of something other than harsh, glaring sunshine. I love the coffee and steaming mugs of apple cider. I love the smell and the cooler temperatures. I love that the holidays are just around the corner and family and days off from work will soon be plentiful. I love the lights and the general feeling of goodwill (as long as you are away from the mall) that the season generates. I really do love the fall.

But then the late winter months roll through and man-oh-man, am I ready for summer. Seems like other people are too. Thom's blog today talked about his plans and aspirations for the upcoming summer months. At lunch today, I was dreaming out loud, explaining to Mike what it was about summer that I was craving so much...

Beach days, where you wake up in the morning, throw on your swimsuit and shorts and have no other plans than to pack a picnic lunch and drive to the beach. Sunglasses, check. sunscreen, check. Towel, journal, reading material, pen, music, checkcheckcheckcheckcheck. The sky is a glorious, clear blue and even in La Jolla it is warm and perfect. Summer is the time of year where everyone gets as naked as possible without getting arrested. Flimsy sundresses, flip flops, short shorts and micro tank tops all reveal bare, tanned or freckled skin basking in the warm caresses of sunshine on shoulders and backs of necks. Hair is pulled up in messy knots, sea breezes help escaping tendrils fall into our faces. Laying out on the beach, baking in the summer heat, relieved only by rushing into the cool Pacific Ocean water for revival. And summer is a perfect time for lovers, flirtations, romance. Who can resist a soft kiss on the shoulder? The neck? Hotstickysweatysweet... At the end of the day, home is waiting. The coolness of the indoors and a refreshing shower help relax the tired, aching, happy muscles and rinse sea salt and sand from the body and hair. Then the after-beach margaritas and the gathering with friends for stories of the perfect wave, the perfect girl, the perfect day.

Sometimes it just doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Living Amongst the Dead or NYC Post Number 1

I don't know why I haven't talked about my New York trip until now. It's not like it hasn't affected me... I've wanted to go to the Big Apple for as long as I've been interested in the arts. I tend to associate it with the hub of American Society and Culture - there is so much diversity in the way of fashion, media, music, ethnicity and the like. I was always a little afraid of a place embodied on so many of the crime and punishment style tv shows, but I was drawn to both the light and the dark that the city represented to me.

I think my hesitance to talk about it all stems from the fact that it's ALL I talked about for awhile. After I got home, I spent 2 weeks going over and editing photos... I was kind of mentally exhausted and overwhelmed by all the New York-iness. Once I put the pictures up on-line, I put it to bed for awhile so I could actually dream/live/breathe something local for a bit.

For the first several days of the trip, I was in what New Yorkers refer to as the Southern Tier. How do I know this? Because every time I said Western or Northern New York, I was mocked and corrected with lightning speed. The Southern Tier includes Buffalo, Rochester, Batavia and Niagara Falls - all of which I either spent time in or drove through.

One of my favorite parts of these first few days was the Mount Hope cemetary in downtown Rochester. Mike's dad (after learning he had terminal cancer) requested to be buried in the old part of the cemetary. Old, like "olde." There were gravestones there dating back to the 1600 & 1700's. Frederick Douglass was buried there. I thought it was beautiful. In the new part of the cemetary, while still neat to see, things were more organized and planned. Headstones were in neat rows and in a fairly good state of repair. It was respectful and solemn and everything a good cemetary should be. The "olde" part of the cemetary was all shades of Poe and Rice and Hester Prynne. The crosses were old and ornate. Some of the engraved dates on the headstones had eroded away. There were large angels, seemingly menacing or peaceful depending on the way the light played over their carved faces. There were olde churches and icy crypts. It was one part macabre, one part poetry and all very... peaceful. Which was surprising to me given my view of the supernatural. Which is that I believe in it.

I was the kid who watched a couple of scary movies and could never shake the images of gore and violence from my brain. I didn't like Scream or any of the popular thriller-type movies because I don't like to feel like I'm going to be grabbed or stalked by every shadow. I'm the one with the over-active imagination, the one who can't keep hollywood special effects in perspective. I'm the one who slept with a nightlight until I was 12 and practically pole vaulted into my bed every night because I was sure something was going to grab my ankle. I'm the one who got kicked out of our neighborhood halloween house as a kid because I turned around and whacked the hell out of some vampire character with my pillowcase chock full of sweetarts.

I believe in all that stuff - the made-up stuff that makes you scream and the Marston House kind of creepy phenomena that can't be explained away. We are not alone.

In light of all this, I was convinced at the end of my trip to the cemetary that I could live there. I would be a groundskeeper. I would take long, solitary walks at night. I would commune with whatever wandering spirit wanted to while the time away under a full moon.

It was just that cool.

Slowly turning my brain to mush

We watched last night’s Golden Globes with the kids… I don’t know why we sat in front of the idiot box all night. Marisa had it on when we got home and we just kind of got sucked into it, I guess. (I have a nasty habit of doing that. If it’s off, I’m more than happy. But I’m like a moth to a bug-zapper… I can’t help but be drawn in by the flashy lights.) As each award was presented, I would expound on all the things I knew about the presenters or award recipients from the drawer in my brain labeled,” Mindless Tabloid Gossip About Famous People.”

“She’s been married to that guy for 4 years and they have 2 kids even though they still look like teenagers themselves.”
“He cheated on her with that other actress and left her when she was 7 months pregnant with his child.”
“His previous wife died and he married her and now she’s raising his kids.”
“She just got sued by her former manager for reneging on a film about tater tots.”

Okay, so I made the last one up. But looking back on last night, I swear I could have been Steven Cocojaru giving the red carpet rundown on all the stars… except without the kidney problems and bad hair and twice the cattiness.*

Some of the awards I thought were well deserved. One of those went to Felicity Huffman for her portrayal of a transgendered person in TransAmerica. In her acceptance speech, she “salute[d] the men and women who brave ostracism and life on the margins to become who they are.” At this, Mike nudged me.

“That’s kind of how I see you.”

What? I think the comparison is a little exaggerated, being that I know nothing about the “ostracism and life on the margins” that a transgendered person goes through, but I thought about why he seems to have this opinion of me. Many times, he has told me he admires the way I live my life. He likes the fact that I don’t try and live by other people’s standards. He likes how I treat people and how they seem to gravitate toward me because I make them feel good. As I struggle through working full-time at a job I find mind-numbing, going back to school to pursue my dream career, clawing my way out of financial distress and dealing with people who try to label and categorize me, he is proud of who I am and how I deal with things. And I like who I am. I like that I’m an independent person. I like that I am at a stage in my life where I know who I am and I like myself and that assuredness makes me confident and unafraid of what life may through my way. I don’t know about braving exile and loneliness, but I guess we all face our own personal firing squads to become the person we can look at in the mirror and be satisfied with – damn what everyone else thinks.

Although hearing Mike say he’s proud of me did give me warm fuzzies.

*I swear I have a lot more important info rattling around in this head o’mine. The red-carpet half truths are a result of having unlimited internet access for 8 hours a day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Peachy Keen

When I was in second grade, my school held an elocution contest. I think my K-6 grade school made a school assignment out of it for each class, requiring every student to memorize and recite a poem, verse, monologue or whatever. I remember one of my second grade buddies recited a Shel Silverstein poem about being eaten by a boa constrictor. Her mom, ever the crafty homemaker, designed a brown sheath that my friend kept pulling up over her legs, abdomen, and finally head as she moved on to what the snake was eating next. What an over-achiever.

Once all the students had performed their piece for their classmates, the teachers picked some of the better ones (Snake-girl and I both made the cut) and a big school production was made out of it. We elocuted our little hearts out on the stage in front of parents, siblings, peers and various school administrators. What else is there to do in the winter of Alaska??

I have no idea where I got my poem, I think one of my teachers found it for me, but I always had fond memories of it. I think I was so enamored of it, maybe it triggered my life-long fascination with words. I lost the written text soon after the contest (where I received second place for the second grade) but I remembered bits and pieces of it for a long time. In one of my random internet searches the other day, I came across this site for poems about poems. And there it was:

How to Eat a Poem -

by Eve Merriam

    Don't be polite.
    Bite in.
    Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that

    may run down your chin.
    It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

    You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
    or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

    For there is no core
    or stem
    or rind
    or pit
    or seed
    or skin
    to throw away.

*Peach picture and more by deb.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lost in a sea of leotards and butt-floss

As part of my new year's resolution, I joined a gym.  Now, there are a couple things you need to know about me (if you don't already).  One, I pretty much have the same new year's rezzy's every year, one of them involving fitness and health in some way or another.  It just seems that if I re-state it in different words, maybe one of these years, it will actually stick.  Also, I've wanted to join a gym since last, oh, April or so.  Why did I not become a card-carrying aerobics nut until now?  I kept being put off by the price tag, mostly.  I researched all kinds of gyms - small, large, independent, trendy, coed, women-only... pretty much, I kept coming back to 24 hour fitness.  They had most of everything I wanted - location being a biggie.  But also, most of my friends are members of this gym and if I ever need a kick in the pants to stay motivated, I already have a built-in buddy system.  See?  I am already planning out my strategies on how to sabotage my inner saboteur. 

Onwards and upwards.... I went to the gym for the first time last night.  I've been to gyms before.  I've worked out on a semi-regular basis.  I was an athlete in high school and pretty much know my way around these places and what to do to fit in and get the job done.  But last night, instead of staying in my "safe place," I decided to conquer one of my fears head on.  I decided to go to a "class." 

The class I chose was Turbo Kickboxing.  I've always wanted to take a kickboxing class, jabbing and round-housing my way to a tight butt and killer abs.  However, I did not think about the fact that there may be a beginner's class I could take to ease me into this kind of thing.  Having never taken any kind of aerobic's class before, I had no idea what to even expect.  I just went and did and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately, the "best" was pretty much everyone's worst nightmare.  The only way to make it worse would be if I had shown up naked.  In the future, if anyone wants some tips before taking a class like this, here is some advice:

1. Have a very sure knowledge of your left and right.  When the instructor says to touch your right knee to your nose and jab with your left hand, there is no time to make the "L" signs to figure out which is which.

2. Be able to speak French or some other foreign language.  I have no idea what the instructor was saying half the time, but I'm sure it was a mixture of English, French and something she just made up.

3. If you are not impossibly thin and have a perfect body, don't hang out in the front row.  (Luckily, I already knew this one.)

4. If possible, do not stand in front of the glass windows that show the class off to the rest of the gym.  At best, you will be branded for life as the girl with no rhythm; worst, the girl who cannot tell her left from her right.

5. And finally, if taking any kind of kickboxing class, make sure you have enough room around you so as not to kick your neighbor in the chest.

I think tonight I'll just stick to the free weights. (Especially after reading up on this site.*)


* I think I got this link from you, Nina.  Thanks!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A New Approach

I was reading this website the other day of this girl who is so nice and talented and sweet and pretty, you almost want to hate her, but you really just can't. And she was talking about how, in previous years, her attempts at new year resolutions failed because all of her goals involved giving something up. "I'm going to stop over-spending, stop eating fattening desserts, give up some of my free time to go to the gym, etc..." How can one really succeed at something when, from the get-go, it is viewed as punishment and sacrifice? Once the momentary motivation wears off, what is there to keep you going? It's not fun anymore.. and then you regress back to those old ways.

This all rang so true for me. It seems I can only "stay on the wagon" for a short time before I am falling off at every bump and pothole and eventually left behind for good. Maybe I am subconsciously setting myself up for failure because deprivation is never a very attractive option to me.

So in light of this, I made a few lists. Lists that made me reflect on my past year and lists that make me want to run into this new year with open arms and dive right in.

10 Things I Learned in 2005:
1. That Mike loves me.
2. How to manually take pictures on a fully-automated digital camera.
3. That New York City is not the scary place TV makes it out to be.
4. That although I miss the city like crazy, I can survive suburban life in T-mec and still be happy.
5. That art also makes me happy.
6. That professionally, graphic design is the path I want to take. For once in my life, I feel sure about "what I want to do when I grow up."
7. Although I used to think Portland or Seattle was my dream city, I could see myself as an East Coast girl someday.
8. That as much I love being back in school and feeling like I am no longer spinning my wheels, some days, ditching class is the only answer.
9. That conceptual art is tough for me, but the finished product is worth it.
10. That I no longer feel like I am searching for someone or that something is missing in my relationship. The peace I find in Mike is a new feeling for me... and I think I like it.

10 Things I am Grateful for:
1. The seemingly endless supply of encouragement, love and support I get from my partner.
2. My camera
3. A computer with the software I need to be able to work at home.
4. My nieces and nephew
5. My tenacity
6. My creativity
7. My family and the knowledge that they will always be there
8. My independence
9. My memories
10. My openness and acceptance that allows me to experience new people and things and not be closed-minded

10 Things I Intend to Create in my Life in 2006:
1. A stronger sense of financial responsibility and independence
2. Self-promotion of my design abilities
3. To take more pictures of people and apply my photographic knowledge to formal portraiture
4. To learn how to cook simple, healthful meals from scratch (and expand our current nightly menu of frozen dinners)
5. To become more of a morning person
6. To set aside time for friends, with and without Mike.
7. To complete a 5K or the Muddy Buddy Run.
8. To stretch myself conceptually in my art work
9. To assert my tastes and make my current residence more of my home.
10. To keep the sense of peace I feel in my relationship and to put the past in the past - and keep it there.

I know this has been somewhat long-winded, but it's been a long year that we've just ended and another long year is ahead of us. I feel like I've learned a lot and I've grown a lot and I'm looking forward to the experiences that will affect me this year.

Happy New Year to each of you!