For Frank

Sometimes people ask why I write. They point out, “You don’t get paid for it.”

I get that. I understand how it’s possible to forget what’s important.

Every billboard, every TV ad, every everything is selling something incredible for us to drag around for the rest of our lives (or at least until the next version comes out in six months). You’re a failure at my age if your home hasn’t been demolished by an IKEA warhead. It’s growing harder and harder to keep up, too. Even in a tough economy, diamonds are getting bigger, cell phones are becoming more expensive, and manufactured beauty is referred to as “maintenance.” We’re taught to risk logic and forsake our budgets in order to consume happiness.

That’s crazytown, and I’m glad I’ve lived to care otherwise.

Once upon forever ago’s yonder morn, NPR broadcasted a segment of StoryCorps that drove a nail through my hardened, commercialized shell. It was a simple dialogue between Frankie DeVito and his mom, Diana, as they supported one another in sharing their loss of Bill Steckman, Frankie’s grandfather, who died during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center towers. It wasn’t the only time I’d felt strongly about what happened that day, but hearing the unique combination of strength and devastation in ten-year-old Frankie’s voice was the first time I was truly overcome. Certainly, as often happens with great accounts of triumph and tragedy, this story lent itself to me at a time I most needed to hear it. Thus, I committed to change: What was once so tangible and important officially didn’t matter anymore. I wanted to value life like Frankie did and I didn’t want to wait around until I had to learn that lesson through extreme grief.

So I recounted it all here as well as in a couple of other places. And I wrote his mom through StoryCorps. I never thought I’d hear back.

Last night, years later, Frank, now older and minus the “-ie,” found my commentary. My heart stopped when I saw his name in my inbox because I think about this kid’s story all the time. He appreciates the things everybody has said about his grandfather, “…who I still miss so dearly in my heart,” Frank wrote.

Listen up. This is why I write, and there is no greater payment. Storytelling vs. Bank Telling? No contest. You can’t buy this.

When we die, like it or not, we leave the footprint of what we’ve accomplished. Having waded through nine bazillion funerals as a preacher’s kid, I can promise nobody ever eulogized: “He had the most expensive car. He bought his wife the biggest boobs. His children wore the most expensive shoes. What a great guy.” Things can be cool, but there is no greater legacy than being sincerely loved, being missed “so dearly in my heart.”

Frank, keep these priorities with you for all of your days, and your grandfather’s legacy will survive within the hearts of all who were transformed by your story, kid. I encourage everybody to spend a minute and a half listening to young Frank here, as he was brave enough to share his painful memories with StoryCorps. It is the least you can do to honor his efforts and the life of Bill Steckman, his grandpa.

Naysayers? Payment received in full…circle.

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Open Letter to the Children of Westboro Baptist Church

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Dear Westboro Kids,

First of all, I’d like to thank you for coming to our city. Because of your visit, which our community turned into a fundraiser, we were able to generate almost three times the amount needed in order to assist the Resource Center Dallas. Plus, the Holocaust Museum enjoyed a record breaking day.

I know we can’t really be friends since you’re sold on the notion I might be headed for Hell. You made that clear this weekend when I watched your organization protest several locations. As your parents and church family paraded you from the vans to the sidewalk while holding signs printed with hate-filled slogans, I felt overwhelming sadness for you. I must admit, I was unable to comprehend your confusing messages, but read your shame and humiliation with a degree of certainty as the crowd yelled its disgust toward your parents.

It doesn’t feel good, does it? No, and I am deeply sorry. I understand in that regard because it hurts me to hear people scream mean things about my father. He’s gay. He’s not some kind of deviant mutant of his own free will or someone who has chosen a ridiculously inconvenient life. Dad is human – full of sin and flaw – just like you.

Aside from being totally gay, my sixty-seven year-old father is also a retired minister who now devotes his time to the church as its organist. I’d love for your Pastor Phelps to meet him because Dad actually holds a doctorate in theology, which is an advanced degree your church’s leader has yet to earn. Coupled with his many years of professional experience, my “fag” dad’s extensive religious qualifications could be beneficial in helping your Pastor Phelps correct his biblical misgivings, which have caused your lives to be unnecessarily restrictive. Your grandpa and my father could also discuss the reality of helping God’s sick and dying within our community based upon his personal experience chartering one of north Texas’s early AIDS support groups in the mid-eighties. My parent went as far as to care for AIDS patients in his own home and then even bury one in our plot when families like yours turned their cold hearts away. (R.I.P., Bruce. Here’s a ‘penny’ for you, friend.) Ugh, those “fag beasts” are so revolting with their good deeds, right? Kids, come on.

Then again, maybe folks like your dad and my dad have pushed you to the point where you’re completely turned off to the whole religious concept, and that’s okay. You are free to have faith in your own beliefs. Look to Lauren. Look to Nate. If you’re uncomfortable remembering the examples provided by those who have left your family after questioning its hypocrisies, then look to me. I don’t subscribe to my father’s faith, yet he and his former congregations embrace who I am with the same love and kindness. Just understand, there will always be unwanted politics behind every pulpit, but hate is something that should never be tolerated.

Another thing that should never be tolerated is child abuse. The US Department of Health and Human Services defines abuse and neglect within the state of Kansas to include:

  • The infliction of physical, mental, or emotional harm, or the causing of a deterioration of a child, and may include, but shall not be limited to, maltreatment or exploiting a child to the extent that the child’s health or emotional well-being is endangered [Ann. Stat. § 38-2202];
  • Acts or omissions by a parent, guardian, or person responsible for the care of a child that results in harm to a child or presents a likelihood of harm [Ann. Stat. § 38-2202];
  • Failure to [. . .] remove a child from a situation that requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or a likelihood of harm to the child [Ann. Stat. § 38-2202].

Furthermore, nowhere within the department publication does it allow for religious exclusions to the above definitions, except in the case of medical treatment.

Is CPS investigating your case? You and your brothers and sisters are made to regularly carry incendiary signage and endure harsh weather conditions for extended periods in front of angry onlookers. You’ve been told this is the work of the Lord, when it’s more like child labor for the Phelps’ cause. Routinely, you are subjected to unpredictable violence, threats, verbal demeaning assaults from counter-protestors, and must have police protection, which has been responsible for helping you escape the dangerous rush of enraged mobs. On top of that, your parents allow their daughters to wiggle and writhe around like the Fly Girls in tight-fitting and shortly hemmed clothing and then broadcast that on the internet for the entire world to view in the name of religious parody. If you’re truly doing right by God, why has he failed to send a well-equipped army of followers to assist you in delivering his message (or at the very least sent someone with less outdated video editing expertise who could make the organization appear less like a cult from an eighties sitcom and more like a credible, religious organization)? Is your life truly relegated to pacing sidewalks around the nation, developing hand cramps from holding multiple signs of precautionary hate and skewed snippets from the Bible? No, it doesn’t have to be. If you need help and your parents refuse to honor your request for assistance, please call 911 and let the authorities know how you feel.

Now, look, I know you’ve been taught to hate gays based on so-called biblical references, but have you truly read the Bible regarding that topic? Of course, you haven’t. You’re children. Jesus says nothing about homosexuality anywhere in the entire book, and, remember, he alone was the chosen one — the son of God. Many people choose to reference the writings of Apostle Paul — a man who, like Jerry Falwell, believed he was chosen to deliver prophecy — in Romans 1 when he discusses the wickedness he’s witnessed amongst Jews and Gentiles who have worshipped men as gods, serving the creature rather than the creator. Yet, many fail to read the full passage into the eighth verse of the second chapter, which makes it clear that Paul, who is also considered a possible homosexual by a variety of theological scholars, has consulted with, of all people, King Soloman, who infamously had many wives and his own questionable sexual behaviors. Paul goes on to address hypocrites, such as your family full of sinners, and preaches that we are all capable of being freed from the bondage of our wrongdoings. This, he echoed from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. In effect, God doesn’t hate fags.

Moving right along to other fun spots in the Bible. Leviticus…oh, brother. If all you’ve learned from Leviticus is that men shouldn’t do the same things with men that they would do out of love with women, I worry for your Christian soul. There’s a world of forewarning you’ve missed in the exciting readings of Leviticus. Also, when I saw your references to Sodom this weekend, I was confused. Sodom didn’t fall because of rampant gays flaming around the city in fits of lust. The sins of Sodom mentioned by Jesus and the five prophets who discussed the ruination thereof within the Old Testament revealed nothing about homosexuality. The city was prideful, arrogant, unwilling to care for its poor and hungry according to the teachings of Ezekiel. Are the Westboro Baptist Church members Sodomites according to the Bible’s definition? Perhaps. Whatever the case, one point holds true: the Bible is rendered useless when prophets treat the work of man on behalf of God as a Cliff Note’s masterpiece.

By the way, have you gotten to the ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll’ part of the Bible yet? It’s not particularly children’s reading. I’d give it an NC-17 rating in a heartbeat. Good stuff.

You don’t have to agree with me, of course. I’ll still like you if that matters. Hey, my mother is probably reading this and about to pass out from irritation over my possible blasphemy. What if we’re all wrong? I support and respect the rights of all, whether we’re on the same page of religious doctrine or not. My beliefs might bother them, and their beliefs might seem strange to me, but love conquers all who are willing. It’s no one’s place to judge.

This girl was a jewel.

That said, I love you all, even those with hearts full of hatred. When you grow up, I hope you will not look back at what your parents have made you do to Jews, gays, your fellow Baptist churches, Catholic churches, fallen servicemen and women’s families during military funerals, etc., and swell with guilt. The pain inflicted on mankind by your family and church is not your fault. You are granted opportunities in life to make a new path if and when you’re ready, but you must choose this yourself.

“Hate costs plenty. Love would have been free.”

With hope,

Kristan

No, I didn’t want free checking with my metal, thank you.

“When your Uncle John and I were small children, Mother used to give us each a quarter to ride the bus into town to see a double feature at the Ridglea Theater. One day, John and I decided to just stay on the bus to see where we’d end up. The driver eventually intervened, and we got home safely, but we didn’t make it to the movies that day. Times have changed, haven’t they?”

Indeed, Mom’s right. Life isn’t what it was in the early 1950’s, but one thing is the same: Ridglea Theater is still a great place to see a show, even several generations later.

That is, at least for now.

The Little Bell and Wesley (and Dio, duh)

Yesterday I received a disturbing email from my husband, Russell (who’s done so many shows for Fastlane Concerts at Ridglea that the theater jokingly put a sign on one of its doors which reads: “Russell’s Room”). After scoping his included link to Kevin Buchanan’s article, I flipped out. Apparently, Bank of America is considering purchasing the historic Fort Worth building and transforming it into a financial institution sans music and community fellowship and my dear old mother’s childhood memories. What an enormous slap to the face of North Texas.

For the last twelve years, Wesley Hathaway and Richard Van Zandt have leased the beautiful, old theater on Camp Bowie. The couple, who met in college and have been together for the past thirty-two years, utilized the Ridglea’s architecture and distinct artwork as a backdrop to showcase local, national, and international musical acts for the Fort Worth area. Aside from providing a unique venue for crowds of one thousand plus, Wesley and Richard’s theater is also responsible for a lot of customer traffic at surrounding restaurants, gas stations, and small businesses within the immediate block. Wesley, formerly the Assistant Science Curator to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, says she only learned day before yesterday of Bank of America’s intentions. “I didn’t know until a reporter from the [Fort Worth] Star Telegram called and asked me what I thought about it. That’s how I found out! We still have almost a year left on our lease, so we don’t know what’s going to happen.” She and Richard, who also previously worked in the same prestigious, north Texan museum as the Omni Theater Director, confirmed they are booked with lots of upcoming shows and have heard nothing from Bank of America at this time that would suggest cancellations of any kind. In fact, they haven’t heard from BOA about anything, and that’s unsettling for not only Wesley and Richard, but also for an estimated thirty employees who stand to lose work after the demolition.

“I understand the owners [of the building] need to make money. It’s a business,” Hathaway stated, “However, this is the last beautiful, grand building of this type in our area. You lose part of your heritage every time you tear down something historical like this. I see it happening all over the country. People are just not cherishing heritage, and it is a tragedy for the community when things like this are allowed to happen.” Van Zandt added, “Do something with the building instead of demolishing it, you know. The west side of Fort Worth really needs a Community Arts Center. The city could host all kinds of classes and events here, things that would benefit people while preserving the structure.” Richard also pointed out the Ridglea Theater was eligible to have been noted officially as an historic landmark, but the last owner failed to designate it as such.

Richard Van Zandt, photo by permission of RVZ

“Of course, we’d be sad if we couldn’t continue to do these shows,” Wesley admitted. This all comes at a time when the theater is up, yet again, for “Best Venue” in the Fort Worth Weekly. Having previously won the same award for at least eight years, Wesley and Richard have been proud local music fans have selected their venue for similar accolades throughout the years in the Dallas Observer as well as on AOL and in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. She says the two of them will miss the musicians and fans she’s come to love — the very people from all over the world whom I know herald her as the pink-haired First Lady of Texas Metal. “This building — the beautiful mosaic floors and old paintings — it feels like home to the people who come here. The bank isn’t going to care about that.” Wesley fears if BOA is allowed to take over the building, the Ridglea’s historic art and music history will be lost forever.

Beyond the music and the magnificent mosaic flooring, losing the Ridglea Theater to something so sterile and impersonal as a bank would be, perhaps, the hardest blow of all. The Ridglea is the chassis for a slew of extremely personal memories for so many of us — not just Mom. Matt Arnold, my co-worker, was bummed to hear the news, “Are you serious? You know, I saw my first show in there.” He wouldn’t be the only one to claim that honor, of course. I’m sure all the kids who have attended Rock Camp USA during the summers at Ridglea thought it was pretty cool to say that was where they played their first show. I’ve seen a handful of couples become engaged there; Wesley says elderly people have approached her and relayed stories of when they decided to get married while at the Ridglea many years ago. When I asked which was her favorite memory of the theater so far, she paused and said, “I don’t know, Kristan. There have been weddings and so many wonderful events and music over the years. The place has a lot of history for so many people from all walks of life. I mean, it’s where Richard and I took our kids to see the very first Star Wars when it came out. I just don’t want us all to lose it.” I get that. None of us wants to walk into a bank and reminisce about . . . anything. We want to be able to stand in the entrance of the theater and relish it for what it really is: a multi-generational tribute to north Texans and the strong-willed, surviving champion of Fort Worth culture.

When my daughter graduated elementary school, Wesley and Richard gave her a beautiful piece of art, which read:

‘What do I get for this,’ I said, and the angel gave me a catalog filled with toasters and clock radios and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan, and I said, ‘But this is just stuff,’ and the angel smiled and swallowed me in her arms. ‘I’m so glad you said that,’ she whispered to me, ‘I knew you still had a chance.’

After I got off the phone with Wesley last night, I sat in Bella’s room and stared at the words in the painting. I thought about how appropriate they were now, how Wesley and Richard do what they love. Next to the graduation art, my Bella keeps a rubber band ball Wesley gave her years ago when they first met. The extra “Russell’s Room” sign is above the piano in our back room. These kind reminders amplify my sadness because they prove the Ridglea Theater isn’t just a place in Fort Worth that Bank of America wants to tear down. It’s a place in my home and in my heart, a place where my entire family has grown in both the very distant past as well as in the last few years. There is no price you can attach to a structure that serves as such a chapel of memories. The idea of passing by Where It Used To Be makes my stomach turn.

This isn’t set in stone, and there’s an opportunity to save the venue and building from the fate of Bank of America. Wesley has posted an official statement on the Ridglea’s website with information regarding where to write, etc.

City Councilman W.B. Zimmerman
, District 3 Office
, 1000 Throckmorton St., 
Fort Worth, Texas, 76102

Telephone: 817-392-8803 
Fax: 817-392-6187

E-mail:District3@fortworthgov.org

Also, there’s a hefty discussion on the “Save the Ridglea” Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=103599513025822

Cherish heritage, one and all. Save this Ridglea Theater, Home Sweet Home.

Over/Out.

Thirty-six

Last night my mother celebrated the eve of my thirty-sixth birthday by attaching a Britney Spears cake-greeting to my wall on Facebook. [Processing. Processing. Processing.] Okay: My mother, Cake Maven and Master of All Things White Soul Food, sent an electronic cake. Seems like a defining moment of something. Of the culmination of my past thirty-six years, maybe? This is where we’re at: Facebook cakes. I like it. Where were these cakes when I was on a diet of nothing but neurotic rollerblading and unsweetened, fat-free, plant food?

36: Twice the legal age;  twice as old as my youngest co-workers; able to recall vivid memories from the Land Before Microwaves, Cable TV, and The Internet; old enough to know what real happiness looks like along with real sorrow, terrible mistakes, and the like. I understand what “starting over” means, but I’ve been around long enough to know I’ve escaped unscathed from anything resembling Total Loss.

With Bella in junior high and begging for more independence, my own identity is kinda peeking around the corner going, “Psst. Over here. Remember me from before that whole Mom thing? Is it cool if I come back out now?” It’s uncomfortable defying unwarranted guilt over initiating the process of reclaiming my life as mine, but only out of necessity for Bella’s need to become her own person. (If that sounds confusing, then we’re on the same page.) At any rate, I’ve had to do a lot of thinking about what’s important to me now and if I’m interested in pursuing any of my old, pre-mom goals.

In thirty-six words and proper nouns, I’ll sum up all this ‘thinking’ I’ve been doing.

  • 1973: Acquisition
  • 1974: Pride
  • 1975: Joy
  • 1976: Confusion
  • 1977: Princess Leia
  • 1978: Stepdaughter
  • 1979: Ballet
  • 1980: Sister
  • 1981: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • 1982: Henrietta
  • 1983: Anxiety
  • 1984: Music
  • 1985: Fear
  • 1986: Negligence
  • 1987: Anger
  • 1988: Journal
  • 1989: Isolation
  • 1990: United Nations
  • 1991: Underdog
  • 1992: Stagnant
  • 1993: Lost
  • 1994: Married
  • 1995: California!
  • 1996: USMC
  • 1997: Motherhood
  • 1998: Poverty
  • 1999: Discovery
  • 2000: Reinvention
  • 2001: Frustration
  • 2002: Hospital
  • 2003: Passion
  • 2004: Focus
  • 2005: Reality
  • 2006: Independence
  • 2007: Bliss
  • 2008: Development
  • 2009: Introspection

There are some words I wish were on this list — around fifty of them to be exact. Of course, now I realize as I enter this new phase of my adulthood that results don’t have to occur haphazardly, and we can choose our paths ahead of time. Barring ease, everything you truly want is yours, but you must ask yourself for it first. And that is an impossible task until you know what it is you really desire.

That said, in the year 2059, I want to celebrate the addition of those yet-to-come fifty words — most of which I plan on choosing and some of which I hope will be pleasant in their future unveilings.

The first thirty-six, done. Thank you and good night.

Child Support for Dummies

The other day I overheard a conversation in which a man was complaining about having to pay child support. He told his friend, “…and every time I see my ex, she’s wearing new shoes. Can you believe that?”

No! How dare that woman purchase new shoes! Everybody knows your former, evil seductress — the one who’s now single-handedly rearing your contribution to the Great DNA Swim — should be forced to walk on tacks and broken glass before she’s permitted multiple footwear options. For crying in a bucket, what a wench!

Look, Moron, one of the popular, oft-intrinsic benefits of being born with a uterus is the ability to hone in on hella-reduced shoes. For what you spent on lunch that day, bitching and moaning about the financial woe of being a weekend parent, I could have purchased two pairs of shoes, maybe three — and in less time than what it took you to order, eat, and calculate a ten percent tip for your “busy waitress chick with the saggy tits.” (At least you’re across-the-board in your effort to be crowned Mr. Silas Marner 2008.)

Yet, you’re not really complaining about the cost of footwear, though, right? Nah, you’re mad because she’s taking your kid-money and doesn’t appear to be suffering. In fact, she’s going about business as usual. I would have enjoyed eavesdropping your honest sentiments, which might have been more along the lines of: “And every time I see my ex, I’m freakin’ irritated she’s not begging on the corner of Market and Stemmons.” Or how about: “And every time I see my ex, I still notice every detail,” because, let’s face it, you’re still wrapped up in the drama of your split. It’s not about your child, and that pisses me off. Why? Because it takes a village to compensate for the mistakes of its idiots. I don’t enjoy picking up your slack — emotionally OR monetarily.

Allow me to clear things up somewhat. Custodial parents do not “qualify” for child support from non-custodial parents; they’re entitled to it. This is not about charity, and you aren’t some kind of hero if you submit regular payments to your baby mama/daddy. In fact, bragging about that sort of thing is about as silly as telling people how rad you are for stopping at red lights. Furthermore, the money is about your kiddo’s welfare. If new shoes are something Baby Mama needs to wear in order to bring home her share of the bacon for Little Precious, so be it. It’s not like she’s laying around eating bon-bons in those shoes you bought her. If so, you should have fought for full custody (and been more selective with whom you impregnated). Deal with it or shut up, Silas.

Things I do with my shoes (that your ex might also do): Clean Little Precious’ room, take Little Precious to school, slay scary bugs for Little Precious, prepare Little Precious’ meals, purchase Little Precious’ groceries, take LP to the movies and the library and the pool and Six Flags and and AND…well, hopefully, you get the idea. Man, it would suck to do all of that barefooted or with only one pair. I’d hate to wear my work boots to the public pool. Likewise, I shiver to think of how hideously imbalanced your child might be if his/her mother is expected to live like some kind of little matchbox girl in order to save for that Lamborghini Gallardo you probably think she should purchase for his sixteenth birthday gift (after ALL those years of receiving your child support).

Chirrens ain’t cheap or easy. If you think a few hundred bucks here and there will float the boat, you should be sterilized right this second. Seriously, you really should — because your semen shouldn’t be allowed to contaminate the gene pool any further. You should WANT to make sure your child has everything he/she needs to avoid making your mistakes, to be successful in her endeavors, yeah? Well, sometimes that isn’t free. Sometimes it takes a lot of friggin’ “shoes” to make that happen. There’s a difference between being a good, attentive parent and just being an ATM. You often have to be both AND in a way that’s also good for your own well-being. Otherwise, you create a spoiled brat who’s been allowed to suck your lifeblood dry. Your baby mama does you no justice if she deprives herself. Therefore, when you see her sporting those new shoes, know she deserves them; after all, she’s wearing them when she’s singing Hannah Montana with your kid.

As for me, I can’t complain. My ex knows cool kicks are a small price to pay for the woman who loves his child as much as he does.

My Foiled Escape from Latin

Your past will haunt you, they say.

Telling my mother that her sole reason for existence was to “foster my development into greatness” was obviously a swollen, teenage miscalculation. I see this now as I begrudgingly prepare for my own daughter’s emotionally overcharged pubescence. Recently, my mother announced, as my tween tyrant skirted off down the hall after being scolded for giving me one of her famous triple eye rolls, “I just wanted to live long enough to see this day.” Well, goody goody.

Of course, I didn’t reserve my Nero-esque moments during those years for Mom alone. There was the dress code nazi at my high school, too. (How dare she send me home for wearing a corset over my t-shirt! Sheesh.) And then there was that gym teacher who made us practice an aerobics routine to the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump” all semester. When she called Mom crying about how I staged a sit-down strike, my sinister, sixteen year-old soul smiled a great grin of vengeance. I was well on my way to becoming a more vegetarian version of Hannibal Lecter.

The worst example, however, was the way in which I treated poor Ms. Wyatt.

She was my Latin teacher — for nearly four years of my life. Whatever stereotype you may have about quirky Latin instructors is probably valid in Wyatt’s case, so I won’t waste much time describing what she was like. I will say this: We loved and hated each other. I could not wait to get to her class so she’d send me to the principal’s office. Daily.

Ms. Wyatt was misunderstood. I think I knew that back then, which is most likely what drew me to her and also why I was willing to go to such extreme measures to get her attention. For example, I remember taking a black marker to her podium at one point and very carefully writing “RAVISHING” divided into syllables down the front. It was as close as I could have come to writing “Fuck you, and I like you” without actually saying so. I believe the only reason she didn’t kill me was because I was useful and dependable when she needed a Dramatic Interpretation competitor for Latin competitions. This was the only event which doesn’t require the competing nerd to actually know anything about the subject. I can attest to this because after having taken all those years of Latin, I don’t remember much — largely attributed to the fact I spent most of my time in the principal’s office. However, I always took home a ribbon for the team. And for Ms. Wyatt.

And then I miraculously graduated, finding myself sans her craziness and her Latin and our love/hate.

A couple of weeks ago Isy<3 leaned over her bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese at Chili’s and revealed behind her one Ms. Wyatt, sitting alone two booths away. I immediately gathered a pen and ripped a sheet of paper from the Joe Ledbetter journal Russell gave me to carry around in my purse.

 

Latin Gangstas

Latin Gangstas

 

“Mrs. Wyatt?”

“Yes, yes.”

“It’s me…Kristan Busby? I was in your –”

“I know exactly who you are.”

Weird thing, this life, and I wanted to cry for some reason right there.

I sat down in the booth with her, leaving Russell and Isy<3 to fend for themselves. Ms. Wyatt continued, “I was thinking about you a while back. My boyfriend [her boyfriend? What? Teachers can’t…] went into the attic and found a box labeled ‘Latin’ and wanted to know what I wanted to do with it. Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but inside the box there was all of this fabric, all of these ribbons — a whole box of them — that we’d won all those years.”

“Really?”

“Yes, and I found yours.”

That’s when the waiter stopped by. Obviously familiar with the Chili’s staff, she bragged, “This is one of my old Latin students. She won the state competition in Dramatic Interp.”

She did remember.

“Oh, wow. What year was that?”

I wasn’t sure, but Ms. Wyatt answered for me, “Ooooh, I’d have to say 1989, something like that, don’t you think?”

Crap, I remembered practically none of this, but she was recalling details from two decades past with frightening clarity for someone her age. She went on, “I know you didn’t learn any of the speech you had to memorize until we got on that bus to go to State.”

“You’re right. I didn’t know a word.”

Looking back at the waiter, she added, “And she won. One of my best students.”

My whole life, I have desperately tried to prove my mother’s success in “fostering my development into greatness.” As I sat before Ms. Wyatt, I realized something which hadn’t occurred to me before: I have been great. Perhaps, my greatness hasn’t involved world domination or a Nobel Peace Prize, but I do have a ribbon with my name on it in a box Ms. Wyatt’s boyfriend pulled from her attic. It’s something.

I hugged her again before we left, and Russell took a few pictures of us with my camera. I told Ms. Wyatt she was my favorite teacher. Then, like so many years ago, I went my own way. This time, leaving her alone in the booth to enjoy her glass of white wine and the consolation of knowing I hadn’t turned out to be Hannibal Lecter after all.

Ms. Wyatt, if you find me here, for what it’s worth: We might be slightly off-kilter — you and I, but you’re still RAVISHING. Love, K

“Yeah, I AM the motorcycle guy from the a-ha video.”

 

Morten Harket, Norway's Hoff Apparent

Morten Harket, Norway's Hoff

 

As Russell and I navigated Disturbathon last Saturday, we ran into a friend of his whose almost-Halloween apparel seemed vaguely familiar, yet just beyond my grasp of recognition.

Russell realized it first: “Are you supposed to be dressed up like the guy from the a-ha video?”

“Yeah, I’m the motorcyclist who chases the singer around with a wrench!”

(Marker 2:15)

I wasn’t sure which was worse — that my boyfriend recognized this or that his friend engineered the ensemble (or that I loved it). I tried to dig up some images for comparison throughout this week, but couldn’t find much of anything featuring a-ha’s moto-guy by himself. What I did manage to dredge up monopolized seven hours of my life that’ll never be recovered. It also drove me bats and left me with a rotten headache.

Wikipedia, aka MySpace for (Dis)Information, seemed like the right place to start searching for a link to a cheesy website, most likely hosted by some guy in the Netherlands who not only owned the original cels for the “Take on Me” video, but also had them autographed by the band and actors. That’s what I was hoping for at least after wading through a thick Google search full of schtuff about the American Heart Association. No dice on the rabid fan pics, BUT I did learn a-ha chose its original recording studio because it had its own Space Invaders. A few sites later, I discovered  Morten Harket, lead singer, is David Hasselhoff’s Scandinavian doppelganger. You know you’re destined for successful longevity amongst internet nerds and screaming girls alike when you mix that Space Invaders/Hasselhoff cocktail.

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