Voice of the people

When I was maybe 9 or 10 (in the mid-90s) I discovered Let It Out, which at the time was buried in the Sunday Lifestyle section of the Indianapolis Star. I thought I’d stumbled across something revolutionary. “I get to read what REAL LOCAL PEOPLE think? About whatever’s on their minds?!”

The city’s voices, lifted up for all to hear! And in the newsprint-smudged pages of a serious newspaper, no less.

Letters to the Editor were serious. Let It Out was voyeuristic. I grabbed the newspaper from the mailbox every Saturday night to see what the talk of the town was. A mysterious local billboard campaign? Reggie Miller? President Clinton? Strange personal confessions? Each comment could be from ANYBODY. Well, anybody who, like me, had found this secret everyman’s platform.

Eager to be part of the conversation, I submitted my own thoughts from time to time. I’d call into the newspaper’s phone tree, where typing in a code meant listening to a movie review or clip of an album reviewed in the paper, or checking the weather, or browsing personal ads, or – if you were me – connecting to the most important answering machine in Indianapolis.

My heart always pounded when I left a message. I was free to say absolutely anything. Parents or teachers or classmates might see my submission, but they’d never know it came from me. Maybe I’d even get a reply to my comment! Even if someone disagreed with my thoughts, I wouldn’t get in trouble or disappoint someone. Anonymous candor had always appealed to me. I grew up United Methodist but, thanks to authors like Judy Blume, I was dying to go to Catholic confession.

And yes, several of my remarks were printed over the years, and I did get a few replies.

Within a few years, Let It Out was expanded to several times a week. What a coup! I was delighted that its popularity was growing. It wasn’t long before it became a daily feature, the one I checked first every morning. Even as I got older and everyday life exposed me to more and more new perspectives, I still found Let It Out a fascinating peek into others’ minds.

And now it’s 2018. Since the turn of the millennium I’ve been active on AIM, LiveJournal, Xanga, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Blogspot, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Yelp, WordPress (hi!), Nextdoor, Instagram, and Snapchat.

…I can’t believe I ever wanted to know what the average person was thinking.

In My Life: “Everlong”, “No Diggity”, “Shining Star”, “Hypnotize”

More of the Time Capsule playlist sub-series.

“Everlong” – Foo Fighters
Super poignant song with barely any specific memories attached. But it reminds me of my sister, who listened to the Foo Fighters when we were growing up, and the surprisingly tearjerking Late Night with David Letterman finale. Dammit, Dave Letterman, I’m glad you got to retire but I miss you. And dammit, Dave Grohl, thanks for sticking around with us all these years.

Fun fact: I work in the building where Letterman got his broadcasting start.

“No Diggity” – Blackstreet

The throwback hip-hop radio stations must play this at least 10 times a day. And each time I hear “Yeah, you know what? I like the playettes. No diggity, no doubt…” it throws me back to two distinct eras.

The first is shadowy memories of Melody Skateland, a west side institution during both my childhood and my mom’s, 30 years prior.  Between the two westside roller meccas, Melody (on W. Washington St.) and United Skates of America (off 38th St.), I spent many an afternoon or evening on the rink. In the middle of those years, Rollerblades became cooler than regular roller skates, and after a while I forgot how to use the regular ones. “No Diggity” always seemed to be on, along with “Pony”, “This Is How We Do It”, “I Believe I Can Fly” (couples’ skate! AKA time for me to hit up the refreshment stand), and “C’mon ‘N Ride It.”

In early 2001, the rink was destroyed by fire after sitting closed for a few months. Everyone figured it was an insurance scam, but I don’t believe that was ever established in court. My mom drove us over to the scene the next day. It was snowy and getting dark. A crowd had gathered. High school boys pulled charred roller skates and trophies from the rubble. After solemnly surveying the rink’s remains for an appropriate length of time, we got back in the car and headed off for dinner.

Seven and a half years later I was a college grad working for the Obama campaign in Denver. There’s a lot of tales I could tell, people I could introduce, but I figure I’ll get around to all that at some point here. In the meantime, this little memory:

My closest friends were Courtenay, a hilarious free spirit who stayed at the same supporter housing I did (making us two peas in a pod, rarely seen without the other) and Dylan, a dry-witted college student with more poise, ability, and confidence than most people twice his age. (I’ve previously mentioned Courtenay in We Made It and Dylan in #senditformurph.) One of my strongest bonds with Courtenay was over music. We turned on music at work whenever we could and added our own touches to anything that came through my car radio. Most memorably, we added gospel riffs and interpretive dance to “Have a Little Faith in Me.”

At work one day, Courtenay and I began singing “No Diggity” – and were met with a confused look from Dylan. “You know, NO DIGGITY! C’mon, you know that song!” we said defensively. Turns out he did not know it. Cue utter shock from us. I struggled to understand how he’d missed this childhood classic. “Wait, what year were you born?” I asked.

When he told us 1989, we didn’t accept that as a plausible explanation. We were ’85 and ’86 babies, but my sister born in ’88 definitely knew it. To make sure this wasn’t the defining difference between the mid-80s and late-80s cohorts, we asked around the office. Everyone else his age knew it. He’d grown up right there in Colorado, not Turkmenistan or whatever sad country might not be familiar with “No Diggity.”

In any case, we played it for him, and he still shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe I’ve heard it before? I don’t think so. Doesn’t ring any bells.” Still in awe, we consoled ourselves that at least NOW he knew it. We played or sang it frequently around him after that. Many years later, he told me he still thinks of Courtenay and me when he hears it. Which is all I really ever wanted in life, for someone to hear “No Diggity” and be reminded of me.

“Shining Star” – Backstreet Boys
At the point this came out, I was growing out of boy bands, but I do remember running out of my own CDs and borrowing this album from my sister during long family drives. We never had good Discmans. Not even okay ones. They were all terrible quality and broke quickly.

“Hypnotize” – Notorious B.I.G.
Epic video for an epic song. No particular memories other than a friend introducing me to the badass Herb Alpert song it samples, but if I was a baseball player, this would be my walkout song. Biggie’s death (also mentioned in my previous post We made it) was reported to me breathlessly by my loyal 5th grade rival, Brandon, with whom I had a 3-year-long battle of the wits. A cloud hung over our elementary school for the rest of the day, one seen only by those who understood the magnitude of the loss. Did I know many Notorious BIG songs? Not at the time. Did I watch his music videos then? No, we didn’t have MTV. Did I understand he was a HUGE deal, a member of Puff Daddy’s Family and the epitome of cool? Absolutely.

In My Life: “Buddy Holly”

More of the Time Capsule playlist sub-series.

“Buddy Holly” – Weezer
Reminds me of a few things, but the most vivid was in September 2010 in Memphis. I taught English in Ecuador for most of the year, and while I was gone, my mom discovered some long-lost relatives in Texas. My flight home had a layover in Houston, so we decided to just meet up there and take a road trip for a week or two before returning to Indiana.

The trip was a delight and the reverse culture shock was fascinating. Huge parking lots, businesses set far back from the road, no concrete walls around homes. Water fountains I could actually drink from, air conditioning, an actual need for air conditioning. (Despite being on the equator, Quito sits at 9,350 feet above sea level and therefore has a mild climate similar to San Diego’s.) Feeling an impulse to still say “gracias.” Clean sidewalks, not constantly watching my back, not (usually) preparing Spanish dialogue in my head before approaching a cashier. Walking in public with no heads turning to the pale gringa with red hair. The relief yet disappointment of appearing normal once again. My mom paying for nearly everything, rather than me tracking every cent and forgoing most little luxuries on my small teacher’s salary. The constant political news cycle I’d tuned out while away. The things I was relieved to see, the things that now stood out. The unexpected things I missed from South America, like bakeries, tiny apples, and walking everywhere. The strangeness of not being able to quickly text my friends there. I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with my nationality, and time abroad put that into sharp relief. Deep admiration and pride still ran concurrent with shame and disgust, but new experiences brought more nuance.

While approaching Memphis on the way home, I remembered my friend Fei-fei had enjoyed a vegetarian BBQ restaurant there. I called her, and super organized as she is, she immediately gave me the name, address, and directions. RP Tracks was near a college campus and was indeed delicious. Its wooden booths carved with names reminded me of so many college-town restaurants across the country. Outside the restroom were dozens of candid photos from the 90s, overexposed shots capturing moments of laughter and friendship. This was before 90s nostalgia had come into vogue, but enough time had passed that the pictures triggered a wistfulness. They looked surprisingly old, yet immediately familiar. The bathroom stalls were filled with old graffiti, so I added a Funkadelic lyric, my classic graffiti line when nothing else comes to mind: “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”

I put “Buddy Holly” on the jukebox. As soon as it began, a sense of home settled over me. This was the good America. Weezer’s Blue Album blasting on the jukebox. Old photos posted without need for context. Calling old friends without paying a fortune or going to a janky internet cafe. Obama in the White House. Old restaurants in funky college neighborhoods, tofu BBQ, Dr Pepper,  and an unhurried meal spent laughing with my mom.

In My Life: “Bleed American”, “Growing Pains”, “Ghetto Cowboy”

One of my favorite things about Spotify: It creates personalized playlists for you, based around various themes or just for general music discovery. I’ve discovered tons of good music from “Discover Weekly” alone.

A few weeks ago, users received “Your Time Capsule”, created through a formula that appears to favor your own favorite songs from years past (most of mine were the ’90s; not sure if a younger or older person would get music from their childhood years, if that’s what they listen to, or if the whole concept favored the ’90s) and iconic songs from the same era. Mine was pretty on-target, with just a few that didn’t fit.

I have a sheet of paper I’ve written all over, using up all white space, with song titles I might add to my series. Some of them were on my playlist. Over a few entries, I’ll address each song briefly, since most do have particular memories associated with them.

“Bleed American” – Jimmy Eat World
In summer of 2002, my sister joined the high school cross-country team as a freshman. The team needed a freshman coach and my mom stepped up. I’d retired from running after 8th grade track season, but since XC kept half my family busy every afternoon, and I was friends with several runners, I wound up as the team’s manager. It was a rollercoaster of a season that included

  • girls throwing up mid-meet and sobbing in my arms because they couldn’t finish the race,
  • the coaches blaming my sister’s uncharacteristically slow time at one meet on her French braids,
  • singing rap songs during practice, especially “Still Fly,”
  • my 16th birthday,
  • hearing the coaches pressure injured girls to “hurry up with getting better” so they could run again,
  • watching half the boys’ team sneak off to the woods to get high,
  • bowing to peer pressure and running a “fun race” at a meet, then throwing up in front of the whole team,
  • smelling the football team’s discarded uniforms every evening,
  • always saying the word “crotch” to my friend Amber who thought it was a gross word (but told us all about her bathroom habits…?),
  • laughing my ass off with my friend Tejal over an unintentionally-absurd lawyer ad on the back of a Mishawaka phone book in a hotel room,
  • being left out of the yearbook photo,
  • quite a few shin splints,
  • a couple of eating disorders,
  • a bunch of spaghetti dinners,
  • calculating the team’s statistics,
  • my mom coming to detest the other coaches,
  • running becoming a grim burden to several girls who once enjoyed it,
  • intuiting that my real job was to lighten the mood and make the girls feel accepted no matter their race times, because things were starting to feel really dark,
  • hearing my friend’s conservative mom talk enthusiastically about attending parties with male strippers,
  • listening to the coaches endlessly reference a girl named Marsha who set records and won state for our school in 1982, and
  • the meanest coach, a real micro-manager, telling me to never write lap times in pen, even though I never made a mistake and kept Wite-Out in my backpack.

It was a weird time, and none of my family went back for a second season. 15 years later, I can still remember how everything team-related felt, smelled, tasted, or looked. How over the season, it became darker earlier, until the season’s end when we left practice after dark each day. How the new athletic building smelled and sounded. It was during this time that my sister bought the Jimmy Eat World album. It felt earnest, honest, emotional, and desperately yearning, which also describes anyone’s teen years. Especially when you’re literally running around surrounded by pressure, fear and tension. Or, like me, when you’re helplessly watching your sister and friends do so, aware of the potential consequences. Because my sister was one of those with an eating disorder. And it didn’t go away at the end of the season.

“Ghetto Cowboy” – Mo Thugs
Unremarkable but clear memory of swimming in the indoor pool at Krannert, an Indy Parks facility, around 6th grade. This song was on the boom box and I was excited, because I’d heard it a few times but (correctly) assumed the album would have too much cursing for me to buy. These were still the days of taping songs off the radio, after all. I was probably there with my Girl Scout troop, it was probably a Friday night, and I was probably preoccupied thinking about a sudden crush I’d developed on a classmate. I’m not even embarrassed to say I still listen to this song.

“Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” – Minus the Bear
I didn’t know this song until it appeared in this playlist.

“Growing Pains” – Ludacris
A runner for the boys’ team who DIDN’T smoke weed in the woods was my classmate Ryan. We’d known each other since 6th grade but didn’t start being friends until 10th grade. He sat behind me in pre-calc; a guy named Brian sat in front of me. Brian had a mindless habit of twirling a pen around – usually by throwing it in the air just a bit, letting it spin, catching it, and repeating. To make the people behind me laugh, I started imitating him. Joke was on me, though, because it then became a habit for me too.

So if Ryan and I started enjoying each other’s company in 10th grade, our friendship was solidified in 11th during the cross country season. Not only did the teams spend a lot of time together, but he was also good friends with my friend Tejal (mentioned above as the girl I laughed with for about 10 minutes straight over a phone book ad.) And he wished they were more than friends. Tejal didn’t (or at least wouldn’t admit it), so she probably lured me into joining their conversations more often than she would have otherwise. Although really, the three of us had a blast together anyway. Our mix of deadpan, silly, and sarcastic humor combined created a trifecta of non-stop laughter.

Ryan took running seriously; he’s now a coach. During the off-season, he organized practices in nearby parks. My sister Kelly often joined him, and if I was at home when he picked her up, I’d go along for the ride. I’d read a book or do homework while everyone else was running, and in winter, I’d keep Ryan’s car turned on for the heat. And keep the music going.

Around then, I also started attending youth group at a Free Methodist church. I was a member of a United Methodist congregation but didn’t enjoy its youth social scene. (This was a long-standing problem that never really got resolved, exemplified perfectly in a moment from 8th grade: some asshole from my school called me a bitch in front of everyone at Sunday School. In recent years I’ve come across evidence that he cheats on his wife. Color me shocked.) I took religion seriously at that age, though, so I tried out any friends’ youth group that didn’t seem forbiddingly weird. Ryan’s church didn’t have a youth group, so eventually we both settled in with the Free Methodist group that several friends attended. My sister began participating too.

At some point in all this, Kelly noticed a tissue box decorated with teddy bears. In a high school guy’s car. She added tattoos, booze, and cigarettes to the bears. “Whoever did that is a real sick puppy,” his dad remarked. The box remained there for years.

Ryan kept Ludacris’s “Chicken-n-Beer” and “Word of Mouf” albums in heavy rotation, and I was surprised to hear “Growing Pains”, a wistful, soulful track between the delightfully vulgar skits and bombastic singles. I played it often, as it was perfectly suited for that stage of life, when kids start feeling nostalgic and realize their teen years will be over soon.

We also played Xzibit’s “Choke Me, Spank Me” and Nelly’s “Pimp Juice” and “Air Force Ones” all. the. damn. time. To this day Tejal and I occasionally ask each other, “Kyjuan, where you getting them colors, are you dyeing them?”

In My Life: “Drop It Like It’s Hot”

I still can’t hear the beginning of “Drop It Like It’s Hot” without feeling like I’m dancing in a dark, humid frat basement, the smell of beer and cigarettes permeating the whole house. There’s a 98% chance it was on the party playlist the night Kenny G saved my life.

Let’s take it back to August 2004. I’d just moved into Hogate Hall at DePauw University, a accordion-shaped maze of a residence hall built in the late 1960s, supposedly with the purpose of deterring riots. I was meeting so many people that I couldn’t remember most of them, even though I’d always been good at that. DePauw was actually smaller than my high school (where graduation classes often surpassed 1000 and mine was considered small with ~720 getting diplomas). However, I’d gone to the same school system since I was 5, so I’d known some of my classmates since kindergarten or earlier. This was a brand-new crowd of ~2300 students, around 600 fellow freshmen. Oh wait, “first-years.” We weren’t “freshmen,” because that reminded people of hazing. The university called us first-years.

Anyway, freshman year began with a weekend of typical activities – workshops, team-building games, earnest conversations about binge-drinking, etc. I loved being around so many new people. I only knew a handful before moving in. Three guys from my high school graduating class, including a dude I couldn’t stand and my very-recent ex. A few people I’d met at prospective-student events – girls named Emily, Erin, and Erica who’d all gone to slightly nicer high schools in the Indy area. The students who’d hosted me when I stayed for a weekend in March. A really nerdy guy my ex had met at some admissions event. Some faces I recognized from high school choir competitions and speech tournaments. A girl who’d gone to my church camp years before. Some people I’d interacted with on LiveJournal.

It was clear, though, that our social groups had not yet sorted themselves out. That while I wanted to make friends right now, no one really knew exactly what their crowd would look like and how they might evolve. My first evening there, my new suitemates and I walked over to a luau on another dorm’s porch. I talked to dozens of people whose names I knew I’d forget. There was one, in fact, who I did forget about for several months.

Upon our reintroduction months later, I vaguely remembered that he told me he was from Hawaii and dropped all sorts of tidbits designed to communicate that his father was wealthy. I think he was also the guy who shared his goal of owning sweatshops in Southeast Asia and waved off my concerns about exploitation. We were reintroduced by my friend Kendal, a bushy-haired, stone-washed-jeans-wearing beanpole of a Wisconsin boy who lived one floor below me. (This was before stone-washed jeans came back in style.) Kendal (or Kenny G, as he was often called) ran cross-country and was the only person in our now-solid friend group even younger than me. I turned 18 two weeks before the 2004 election; poor Kendal’s birthday was a week too late. (We’d both skipped 3rd grade.) He was from a tiny town in northern Wisconsin, and about once a week, he received his hometown newspaper in the mail. I found it so hilariously quaint that it became our tradition to read it together, or for him to give it to me after he finished it. The only story I can still remember was about a “troubling wave of gang activity” – a park shelter lightly vandalized by spray paint, clearly by bored teenagers.

In addition to our dorm friend group that had formed, Kendal also hung out with the runners, and the guy from Hawaii was a runner. In fact, everyone called him “Hawaii.” (Real name: Brent.) Sometimes my group went out with the runners. So it was the night of the Phi Delt foam party.

I’ve found that people are either intimately familiar with foam parties or they’ve never heard of them. This should illustrate the concept. Soap bubbles are sprayed out of a machine, filling up a room crowded with revelers. The air gets incredibly humid – even beyond the normal sweaty-frat-basement level –  and the foam can get quite high. This is a good time to mention I’m 5’2″ with shoes on.

At some point early on, Kendal introduced me to Hawaii, but it was brief. I didn’t remember him from the luau yet. Our large group held court by the speakers and foam machine. Then Hawaii asked me to dance.

(In retrospect, he probably didn’t ask. Generally a guy just came up behind you and started grinding. Usually he was a total stranger. I cannot believe I ever thought this was normal and fairly acceptable.)

While we danced, he started whispering in my ear. From what I could hear, he was talking about his rich dad again, and how he now wanted to be a doctor, but “just for the money.”

As I barely pretended to care, I thought, “Mom said that if you marry a man for his money, it will be the hardest job you ever hold. Now I see what she meant. You’d be marrying someone like this d-bag.” I was over it already, but Hawaii thought we were just getting started. He pulled me over to the wall perhaps 10 feet away and pushed me up against it, his arms on both sides, his smug grin inches away from my face. And then – before I knew it – he had taken a few steps back and begun what I can only describe as a failed Chippendales audition from the 70s. He leaned back, shook his hips and shoulders, and began unbuttoning his shirt ever so slowly. It was a reasonable imitation of the strip teases he’d probably only seen in movies. It was also, perhaps, the cheesiest thing I had ever seen. So ridiculous, in fact, that I just laughed and didn’t walk away immediately. That was a mistake.

Around this time, someone cranked up the foam machine. What had been at my shoulders was rising fast. By the time I noticed, I was up to my neck; the foam is usually tallest along the wall. Hawaii’s shirt was off and he was even closer to me, doing that polishing-my-back-shoulders shimmy move with it, where the shirt becomes sort of a rope or towel. He was so impressed with himself that he didn’t notice me disappearing. Nor would I have expected him to. He hadn’t even noticed I was laughing about the striptease. The foam was pretty high on him too  – he wasn’t much taller than me – but it was building much higher against the wall. I was surrounded by taller people and couldn’t see a clear path out. In fact, the crowd was tightening around me. Music pounded. The damp, smoky air slipped away. The foam rose over my eyes and I held my hands on my face, just trying to breathe. It was at that exact moment I felt someone lifting and pulling me out. It felt practically religious.

Kendal, knowing Hawaii, had been keeping an eye on me. “All of a sudden you disappeared,” he said, “so I bolted over here. I could only see the top of your head when I found you.” I caught my breath with my friends and, before the chilly walk home in our soaked clothes, I decided I’d never dance with Hawaii again. And at some point during all this, I can be certain that “SNOOOOOOOOOOP” blared out of the speakers over a low, thumping drum, followed by that tongue-clicking noise. Thanks for the soundtrack, Mr. D-O double G. And for the rescue, Kenny G.

In My Life: “Bad Boys”

My early childhood was rather sheltered, and I was under the impression that my parents didn’t want me listening to most of the popular music of the day. I don’t remember them saying so, necessarily, but something must have given me that idea. Or maybe it was just the vibe I got. We only listened to oldies in the car (which I enjoyed.) I never even considered listening to New Kids on the Block, even though some of my kindergarten classmates were fans, and I only knew Weird Al and Billy Ray Cyrus songs because our teacher played them for us. If I remember right, a boy in my class often wore a Guns n Roses shirt with a skull design, which seemed really hardcore to me. I mean, a SKULL?! A band with the word “guns” in the name?! What next, a motorcycle?

I was easily scandalized at that age, but not offended.  These things didn’t make me want to stay away. I did worry that my friends would all end up in a gang by 3rd grade, loitering on a corner in leather jackets, smoking cigarettes and taking pills, but any 6 year old who took McGruff the Crime Dog seriously was worried about that. Blame Nancy Reagan, I guess. However, most things that were forbidden or shocked me also INTRIGUED me. I wanted to learn all the cuss words, know rap songs, and have street cred. I wanted my classmates’ parents to invite me for playdates so I could see the “sleazy” side of life.

I wasn’t judgmental; I genuinely enjoyed seeing how other families operated and how other kids lived. Even in preschool, I wanted to make friends with the “different” kids. I took new students under my wing and tried to make my non-English-speaking classmates feel included. If they were happy, it was fun to be around them. If they weren’t, maybe I could help them feel better. I knew not to make other kids feel bad over things they couldn’t help, like wearing raggedy clothes or smelling like cigarettes. Sure, I believed in tolerance and inclusion because they were good values and because I had empathy, but also – different people were just INTERESTING to me. It seemed terribly dull to only know people just like you.

My parents were also open-minded – when it came to people outside of our family. My mom had grown up a few miles away, on the wrong side of the tracks; my dad’s childhood was in Brooklyn. They told us how bad racism was and not to judge books by their covers. My mom was sure to point out sexist advertising and media. But our household was often strict in those days. We went to Sunday school and worship service every week at the United Methodist church nearby, always wearing dresses. We weren’t allowed to say “oh my god” or “butt.” Toilet humor wasn’t welcome. Our bedrooms were expected to be neat (I usually failed at that) and we helped with most of the household chores from an early age. My mom didn’t want me wearing jeans with holes in the knees, my dad didn’t want our hats on backwards, and I remember feeling nervous that my mom wouldn’t let me leave the house wearing only one strap of my backpack, like the older kids on the bus did. (She did let me.) For some reason, we didn’t have a microwave until 2000. (Well, I suppose the reason was that my parents were very frugal.) They never drank or smoke, and they looked down upon such substances. (For good reason, it turns out – 3 of my 4 grandparents were alcoholics, and my mom lost her own mother to lung cancer in 3rd grade.) We rarely even had sugary cereals, although they were pretty generous with candy bars and Kool-Aid.

But it wasn’t an unhappy household; we laughed all the time, my parents took us on adventures, there were endless books to read, we did lots of crafts, and my sister and I ran around the yard for hours. Our nightly homemade family dinners usually involved joking around and interesting conversation. We knew we were sheltered, and were curious about the rest of the world, but we had fun and loved our family.

My dad worked at a local TV station, but our household did not have cable TV. In fact, for years my mom limited us to one hour of PBS a day – my sister and I both got to choose one 30-minute show and watch them together. We could also watch the news and Jeopardy! alongside my mom, so I was always aware of current events. It was important to keep up with the news at our house; my mother had been a TV reporter after college, and my dad had worked in journalism since he was a teenager. My grandad in New York wrote for an industry publication and had formerly written for top newspapers and worked on NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report. Right after I turned 3, the Berlin Wall came down. My mom sat me in front of the TV and told me to remember it, and explained it to me in age-appropriate terms. I can still recall watching it and understanding that this was an important, emotional moment.

In my preschool years, I enjoyed Disney afternoon cartoons, “Rescue 911,” “Family Matters,”The Cosby Show,” and the show I called “Michelle” that was actually titled “Full House.” However, at some point in preschool or early grade school, my mom decided my sister and I played less creatively after watching TV, and that Michelle Tanner was too sassy, so she cut us off for years. She was probably wise to do so, even though we complained at the time. Plus, “Ghostwriter” on PBS was totally rad.

My best friend from kindergarten through 2nd grade was Ashley R., a girl who lived a few streets over with her famous dog. Alvin was an Australian terrier who would howl along whenever he heard “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Happy Birthday.” This made him popular at show-and-tell, and he was even on the local morning TV program. Ashley R.’s house was always impressively messy, and she had two much-older siblings. Her brother was already out of the house by the time Ashley R. began kindergarten, and her sister was in junior high. Meanwhile, as the older child in my family, I had very few links to what was “cool.”

For some reason, I thought Ashley R. was a bit wild. Looking back, she was one of the least wild kids I knew; even in kindergarten I was pretty sure I knew who would end up being a teen mom or dropping out, and I was generally right. I was aware that a lot of my classmates came from rough neighborhoods and bad family situations, whereas Ashley R. and I lived in the nicest subdivision that our school drew from – a quiet, middle-class development built in the early 1960s, featuring lots of ranch houses and brick exteriors. Even in our neighborhood, we were among the “good kids” – our friend Ashley G. scandalized me by saying in a bored, valley-girl tone. “You’re as pale as a ghost, Kati! Don’t you tan? I tan all the time. I wear my bikini and lay outside.” Add in that her parents looked like Hells Angels and her dad carried a gun at all times, and Ashley G. was definitely edgy in my mind. And bound to get skin cancer by age 10.

Then there were my classmates like Kaylee, whose deteriorating apartment community included a giant retention pond. My mom always warned us not to go near retention ponds, and here was this complex with one front-and-center – with a brazen fountain in the middle! At Kaylee’s house for her 6th birthday, a girl my age told me about trying beer. That HER DAD GAVE HER. I was scandalized, picturing a father convincing his daughter to slam back cans of Budweiser (instead of the more likely scenario of the dad letting her have one sip so she’d stop asking what it tasted like.) The girl also had a broken arm, so I worried about her home life. (I paid close attention during lessons about stranger danger and child abuse.) Later, I was talking with Kaylee’s mom and grandmother when I asked her mom, “How old are you?”

“I’m 23,” she said.

I was an advanced mathematician for kindergarten. “So… you had Kaylee when you were 17?!” She nodded.

“But that’s too young to have a baby!” Her grandmother cracked up. I wasn’t sure if I should have said that; I wasn’t trying to make her mom feel bad, but maybe it did. I was merely amazed by the idea of a teenager having a baby. I knew my parents were 30 when I was born, and had been married for 6 years before that. When my mom came to pick me up, the grandmother gleefully told her what I’d said. My mom’s face went red.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry!” The grandmother replied that she shouldn’t be sorry, because I was right.

All of this to say, I actually WAS around some “wild” families, what with the tanning and guns and teen pregnancy, but just about anything seemed wild at that point. Ashley R. had her own phone in her room. Wild! Her dad drank beer. Wow! Her mom might have occasionally taken the Lord’s name in vain. How exhilarating! When I came over, we often watched “Saved by the Bell,” “COPS,” or -oooh- cable TV. AND – Ashley R. knew all the latest songs. At some point during kindergarten or 1st grade, probably in 1993, she offered to make me a mix tape and I readily accepted.

After dinner, my little sister and I went into my room and put on the cassette. We were so excited. We instinctively knew we should listen secretly first, to decide if we could play it around our parents.

Oh man! The very first song was “Bad Boys,” the song from COPS! I loved that song! It sounded so dangerous and cool! And it was on a show about CRIMINALS! We both knew we’d entered a new phase of life, one where we were cool, because we owned a tape with “Bad Boys” on it. What next?! Leather jackets?!

But before the song could end, my dad opened the door. “Girls! Are you listening to rap music?!” The prototypical early-90s suburban parent’s nightmare – his innocent children being corrupted by that hardcore gangsta rap music. Before I could answer, he had crossed the room, snatched the tape out of the machine, and walked back out. We never saw the tape again.

I STILL like the song to this day. I also like rap, but obviously this is pure reggae. Next time I see my dad, I might just blast it. He doesn’t remember this incident, naturally. My mom has said that’s how his parents were, swooping in without asking questions or considering the kid’s feelings, so it was a mere reflex on his part. But for us, “Bad Boys” was our passport to being cool and edgy, and it was revoked almost as soon as it was issued.

In My Life: introducing a series of aural associations

Alas, I haven’t written much lately. However, I’ve been employed now for 9 months, which keeps me busier than last summer. I like the job, too, which always helps. And I’ve been hibernating lately – staying home, “doing” less, saying no, giving myself room to think and do as I please, honoring my sensitivities, learning new ways to do things, and deconstructing things that hold me back from where, or how, I want to be. Heavy stuff, right? But good stuff.

There’s a lot of ink in my blood so I’m honoring that now. Lately I’ve been thinking of a series where I write about what a song reminds me of – mostly personal stories I connect with it, rather than lyrical interpretation. We’re fortunate in this day and age to have a vast, accessible soundtrack accompanying our lives. Along with scent, music is one of the most powerful sparks for vividly recalling a feeling, a time, a person, a specific moment. Everyone has some song that always makes them think of something in particular. I have many.

Some of this series will be only tangentially related to the song’s content. Also, the content won’t necessarily be part of my cocoon work, at least beyond me honoring my desire to write more. BUT MAYBE SOME OF IT WILL! The series may go on indefinitely; I just filled a whole 8.5″ x 11″ page, 3 columns, of songs to include, and could’ve kept going for a long time. My sister and I collaborate on a Spotify playlist of songs that we enjoyed together at some point; we’re about to hit 300. I’m calling the series “In My Life”, and if you’ve ever heard that Beatles song (and who hasn’t?) I don’t need to explain further. The first verse is particularly relevant.

A radio-DJ friend of mine did a blog series called “45 for 45” where he wrote about 45 songs from 45s when he was 45. He suggested I do “33 for 33” because he hadn’t. However, that’s 3 years from now (okay, 2 years and some change) and although I appreciate vinyl, the format doesn’t hold particular significance for me. I grew up on cassette tapes, compact discs, and radio. I listened to my parents’ records but didn’t own any of my own. The whole concept of “singles” and “B-sides” was fading fast during my childhood and teen years. Those years spread out across two millenniums; by the time I finished high school in 2004, downloading mp3s (legally or otherwise) had become commonplace, and cassettes were nowhere to be seen. Every teenager’s car and bedroom were still strewn with tons of CDs – mostly store-bought, but increasingly, burned albums and mixes too. iPods were cutting-edge.

In college, I bought some songs on iTunes, but mostly collected files from everyone in the dorm via a shady little program called MyTunes that let you see and download music files from everyone using your ethernet or wi-fi network. It opened up endless doors of musical discovery for me, right at the age when it’s so important. My long-haired, deadly-serious-about-music, Pitchfork-reading philosophy-major boyfriend highly disapproved. At our first-anniversary dinner, I mentioned a particular song in passing. After a while, I noticed he’d become sullen. I asked why. “Because when you mentioned that song, I thought, ‘I bet she stole it online.'” He scowled the rest of the evening; I was incredulous.

Absurdity aside, he had a point. I’d never think of shoplifting a physical item. But I was too attached to the thousands of songs I could listen to anytime I wanted. Plus, I paid money to see a lot of artists live, and the music industry sent out all sorts of contradictory messages about whether it was right, wrong, or amoral.

I haven’t done it in years – although one could probably credit music-streaming programs rather than ethical convictions. That and the computer viruses that inevitably sneaked in with the songs. These days, I listen to most of my music on Spotify or the trusty old radio, although I always have a few CDs in my car for long drives. (Recent ones include childhood’s Jagged Little Pill and Tragic Kingdom; college’s You Could Have It So Much Better, Night Ripper, and Songs About Jane; and “my entire life”‘s Prince’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1.)

But liking a song isn’t reason enough to include it in this series. I DO like most of them – in fact, some are all-time favorites – while others annoy me or mean nothing to me if stripped of context. Many of my favorite lyrics, songs, and artists will not be included here. Perhaps, as Chris Cornell sang, much of my favorite music is my favorite precisely because “it doesn’t remind me of anything.” Memories, both good and bad, have always felt weighty to me. Some of these will be unhappy stories. I don’t know how deep I want to delve on here. I know I’ll keep some R-rated stories to myself for now (although most are hilarious), and I’ll only decide upon certain painful memories when I can draft something and ponder it individually.

One of my main conflicts when writing about myself is balancing exactly how much to share. This is particularly relevant when the internet gets involved (and it usually does.) I admire memoirists who lay it all out for the world. I don’t think I could, at least not at this stage in my life. I don’t know if or how that impacts the stories I do tell, except to say I strive to be as honest with my words as I can be. Not necessarily “honest” meaning “spilling every secret and leaving nothing private”, but “honest” as in, “each word is carefully weighed to see if it reflects reality (as best I can see it), and if it doesn’t, it should be clear it’s an exaggeration for comedic effect.”

That said, I expect most of these recollections to be light-hearted and/or amusing, perhaps with a poignant edge. That seems to be my main voice, and I like it. Oh yeah, and full of digression. It’s in keeping with a comment made by my 8th grade math teacher, albeit in a different context. After showing my class how I solved an algebra problem, which apparently involved more steps than necessary, she shook her head and said, “Kati, I bet you’ll be popular with the boys, because you always take the long way home.”

Can’t say she was wrong about that either, but, well, I digress…

Helping the family of a cancer patient

On a comment thread I participated in recently, a woman asked how she could support her good friend who has cancer. Here’s my slightly-edited reply with more of my personal experiences added:

Long comment ahead. Perhaps a bit rambling, but I hope it helps. I was 11 and my sister 9 when our mother was diagnosed with brain cancer at 42. It was a very dark period of my life, although thankfully, she came through it (not unscathed, but in relatively good shape) and is still here kicking ass at age 61. I hate thinking too much about 1998, but I know one of the “gifts” I got from it is a much deeper understanding of what people feel and need, and how I can provide.

So… because of my experience, I immediately thought of your friend’s children. No matter how old they are, they need help – even if they’re old enough to drive, they could use someone taking them out for dinner (for a change of pace) or getting them school supplies or gas money (they’re probably scared to spend much money on themselves.) But younger kids REALLY need it. The little ones could use babysitting or just a “visit” with you. Take them out to ice cream or to the zoo. People did that for us and it was very appreciated. We were old enough that we didn’t need constant supervision, but with my mom in the hospital for months and my dad working full-time, family friends who lived down the street from the elementary school had us come over every day after school. We did homework, ate dinner, and hung out there until our dad picked us up after work, usually between 7:30 and 9 pm. Sometimes the teenagers in the family would bring us to their marching band or color guard practice, which we thought was cool. I still consider them a second family. My friend’s mom picked my sister and I up for school every morning so our routine went more smoothly. That summer, a few parents rotated picking us up for 4-H drama practice.

I was a 6th grader and a pre-teen at the time, just starting puberty. That MIGHT be the worst time of all for this sort of thing to happen. (Can’t compare it, since I didn’t experience it again until she had a relapse when I was in college.) I didn’t wear a bra yet and was scared that if I didn’t get one before my mom’s big surgery (after which she had to recover for months and re-learn how to do almost everything), I’d become the laughingstock of the school. I was too nervous and shy to ask my mom, but thankfully she anticipated all this and took me to buy some a few days before her surgery. She had already told me what to expect with periods, and I knew where her pads were. (I didn’t get it for another year, as it turned out.) But some girls might not have that preparation and it might get lost in the commotion, so if it’s appropriate and done sensitively, it might be good to pass along age-appropriate supplies and information.

In college, I babysat for a blended family – the woman who hired me took care of her nieces along with her own daughter, since the nieces’ mother (her sister) had just died of cancer. The oldest one was 13, so I gave her more freedom than the younger ones. I came into her room one day and she was crying because she had painful cramps and couldn’t find her pads and, well, she was 13 and had lost her mother. She was embarrassed, so I handled it gently without any stigma. I told the younger girls we were going over to my parents’ home so I could get some stuff I’d forgotten, and I had them play outside with the dogs while I gave the older girl some medicine (approved by her aunt) and some of my own supplies and told her a few ways to reduce cramp pain. I also encouraged them to be expressive and to interact with art (paintings, movies, music) and nature, which I believe helped them quite a bit over the time I knew them. (I lost touch with the family later, but I recently reconnected with them, and the kids are all bad-asses. The older girl now has green hair and works at a cozy coffeehouse in my neighborhood and is involved with art and radical politics. I’m so proud of her!)

Back to my own experience, one thing I did NOT get was trips to the library or to go shopping. Those places were just a little too far away, and across busy roads, for my parents to allow me to walk to alone. This was before the internet was much of a thing – we didn’t have it at home, so my main source of information was the library. I’d been a book addict since birth. It was seriously upsetting that my mom couldn’t take me to the library and my dad either couldn’t or just wouldn’t (a bit of both.) I cried about it many times. By that last semester at the elementary school, I’d read practically every book in the school library. One problem was that even if I could check out books, my dad said we might not be able to return them on time. (I think around that time, I learned about the renewal hotline, but for some reason that was deemed “not enough” either.) My mom received some books as presents from friends, and I read them voraciously. My father freaked out about money (more than necessary – he was already a very anxious person and often tried to solve problems by attacking something unrelated) and cut our already-small allowances. We kept on growing, but he said we were being frivolous and selfish when we asked to go shopping. My classmates laughed at me for wearing flood pants. My sister and I are now both slightly addicted to shopping, and we both own enough clothes for probably 5 women each, and we both trace a large part of that to our dad shaming us for wanting/needing to go shopping. So if I’m ever in a position to do so, I will take kids in similar situations out to buy clothes.

I can’t speak for all kids, but I was happiest when my mother’s situation was acknowledged and wasn’t draped in dramatic, tragic tones, but was approached in a more matter-of-fact way, while still being gentle and caring. And also when people (kids and adults) just let me be a kid and talk about my own life (school, friends, Girl Scouts, hobbies, pets) and didn’t push me to talk about anything in particular. I’ll never forget laughing on the playground during recess, then my so-called friend M. scolding me. “Why are you laughing, Kati? Your mom has cancer! She could die!” Mercifully, few other people imposed their ideas on how I should act. Then there was the day my sister and her best friend came up to me before lunch. They were upset because a boy in their class had said, “At least my mom’s not pregnant [the other girl’s mom was]… or BALD!”

I told them I’d take care of it. After lunch, I found that guy playing soccer with most of our class. I walked into the middle of the game, said sarcastically, “Hey Mark, I heard you were talking about my mom,” and punched him in the stomach. He doubled over, maybe even fell. I walked away calmly, head held high, and rejoined my friends at the swings. If my teachers saw, they never said a thing. In fact, no one ever spoke a word about it to me, even though a large chunk of the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades witnessed it.

I got very good at keeping things close at that age, because everywhere I went, some adult was asking me in dire tones how my mom was doing. I wanted to hide every Sunday at church, even though there were so many people there who truly helped us. (Giving us meals, cleaning our house, driving my mom around, talking to my dad, etc.) We were under an intense microscope. My sister and I missed school one day to wait on news about our mom’s surgery, and our whole gifted and talented cohort (~80 kids spread out over 3 grades) made us cards that our classmate neighbor dropped off after school. It was genuinely touching. Most were very sweet, and the best were the funny ones (intentionally or otherwise), like my friend who wrote down all of the day’s hot gossip along with her sarcastic takes on all of it. I still have those cards. And my mom had a friend who had moved to a small town an hour away, but she mailed my mom a card EVERY DAY for months. They were often the highlight of the day, because she had a great sense of humor. My mom kept all of those as well. I doubt there was a day without cards in the mail from January to July that year, and it was really appreciated.

A few other random things: Schwann’s meal trucks came in handy for us. Now there are so many convenient ways to get food to people, so keep those in mind. Making sure the pets are getting their vet appointments in and getting walked, if needed. Seeing if the yard, car, or house needs any work. Being a warm, reliable, helpful presence the family can rely on. Anticipating needs and not just waiting to be asked (although also, not being pushy or doing the exact thing someone else did – if everyone brings over meals, the freezer gets full.) If appropriate, handling some of the care of the sick person; although I was happy to help my mom and learned a lot about my capacity to give… the less caretaking the kids have to do, the better for the family dynamics. Maybe even being the person who posts updates on a site like Caring Bridge or Facebook so the family doesn’t always have to be the ones communicating with and reassuring others. Our teachers and our friends’ parents arranged rides for us so we didn’t miss back-to-school meetings or other evening events. My sister’s teacher had us spend the night at her house. Her daughter was our age and they had a reallllly nice house (her husband had a high-paying job), so we had a blast. Also, my sister and I have always been very close, so we supported each other quite a bit. Hopefully there’s some of that in the family.

I’m sure there are a lot of resources out there, and so many people who want to help. With some organization and focus, you will help your friend and her family so much.

Be a sister to every Girl Scout

(Last fall, the Girl Scouts here opened a new headquarters building inside the bounds of Camp Dellwood. I spent many summer weeks there. It’s a fairly large plot of land off Girls School Road near 21st St., and until recently, there was little outside to indicate it was a camp. That’s a quiet area, but close to all sorts of busy spots (Speedway, Chapel Hill) and long-ago-developed neighborhoods. When the camp was established some 90 years ago, though, it was quite rural. The council sent out an email asking for memories of Dellwood, and here is what I submitted. I had this as a draft on here, but forgot to post it until now.)

I have so many memories of being a summer camper, attending troop sleepovers and trainings, and serving as a mini-aide for several summers as a young teenager. My strongest memories from my mini-aide days include the Thursday night ritual of TP-ing the field near the swimming pool, convincing frightened girls that the dark wasn’t that scary (it’s just the absence of light – everything that was there in the day is still there), and encountering a girl my age who was almost definitely an escapee from the Girls’ School but was trying to pass herself off as a fellow mini-aide. I also recall how us mini-aides always wanted to listen to other mini-aides’ CDs, like N’Sync, the Offspring, and blink-182. To this day, I occasionally run into a girl I took care of or worked with at camp. I also got stuck in a port-a-potty right before a flag ceremony, and had to yell and bang on the door so someone could rescue me. This happened right as everyone was quieting down for the ceremony, so when I was freed, everyone was watching, and burst into applause.

When my troop went there, we sometimes stayed in a building and sometimes stayed in the tents, but we always had fun. One year it was the dump-cake that just belonged in the dump. Another year, my mom remembers staying up all night – originally to keep an eye on us Brownies, but then to get deep into conversation with her new co-leader. They became good friends that night and lead my sister’s and my troop together until every last girl graduated from high school (and many of us earned their Gold Awards.)

As far as being a young summer camper, I remember how cool the mini-aides seemed, doing awesome crafts and learning funny songs, daddy-long-legs, playing with a giant beach ball with a globe printed on it, and always asking when we would finally go to the pool. My mom was a leader at another campsite, but I would proudly point her out to the girls in my unit. I did the same when I saw my younger sister. I also have this fond memory…

I wrote this a few years ago for my blog: http://whatkatididthere.tumblr.com/post/47482360125/thelittleprincess

In the spring of 1993, I bridged from Daisy Girl Scouts to Brownies. My mom, the troop leader, found a little bridge to put in the center of the stage (actually just the front of a church sanctuary), and we held up daisy flowers we’d made. I read the Brownie story (“Twist me, turn me, show me the elf. I looked in the water, and I saw…”) out loud for everyone, then we took turns crossing over the bridge to become Brownie Girl Scouts. Very exciting stuff.

My mom and I were getting really into Girl Scouts, which wasn’t something we would have predicted a year before. A few weeks into kindergarten, my teacher passed out a letter to show our parents, mentioning that Scout troops were forming in the area. It sounded cool, but I don’t remember thinking much of it until I handed it to my mom and we discussed it. She’d never been a Scout, but my dad had earned Eagle status, and we’d all enjoyed the cookies the big girls sold at church. My mom called the number on the flyer and learned that leaders were needed, so suddenly Troop 404 formed. About eight of us joined – a few from my school, a few from surrounding schools without troops. An elegant woman named Celeste, my friend Jasmine’s mom, was the co-leader, and other parents volunteered their time to make our Daisy year a great one. We celebrated the Chinese New Year (“Ni hao! Gong hay fat choi!”) and toured a Hardee’s restaurant (the automatic drink machine was everyone’s favorite.)

So when summer came along, we decided to spend a week doing day camp at Camp Dellwood. The camp served all of central Indiana and just so happened to be two miles up the road from my house, hidden in thick trees between softball fields and subdivisions encroaching on cornfields. My mom would be a leader for a unit of older girls, while I would be with a group of first graders and my sister would spend her days with the “Tags”, the preschool – or male – children whose parents worked at the camp.

My memories of the Rotherwood unit are generally hazy. I remember eating a sandwich from a Tupperware container, then accidentally throw away the container. I remember ponchos and canteen sets and canvas tents and the thrill of the swimming pool. But most of all, I remember Allison.

Allison was a perfect child. Curly blonde hair. Sweet to everyone, it seemed. Adults doted on her. I was impressed by her, I wanted to be her, I was jealous of her, and I suspected she wasn’t as perfect as everyone thought. Tensions boiled over one afternoon in a meadow, when one of us (her?) pushed the other (me? That’s how I remember it.)

Time moves differently when you’re six, as nearly everyone has noticed. Day camp was only about the length of a school day and lasted Monday-Friday. Thursday night everyone slept at the camp (except the sissies whose parents picked them up.) So while my time with Allison had quite an arc to it, it happened over the course of just a few days.

On Thursday evenings every camper gathered at the amphitheater to sing songs. Each unit presented a skit, and our unit was to act out the tale of Snow White. Every first grader wanted to be Snow White, of course. I was no exception. I had a real flair for the dramatic, and I longed to be one of those dreamy Disney princesses. Ariel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. (Belle was my favorite, but I placed her in a different category, perhaps unconsciously noting her self-determination and autonomy.) Flowing hair, poofy gowns, admired by all, sweet and pure and kind.

Of course, Allison got the part.

And me? My theatrics had not gone unnoticed by the unit leaders. I was cast as the other female lead… the wicked witch. Hmm. Well, at least I’d get to act in front of everyone. But Allison was going to be the star. I could never win.

The thing was, I wasn’t normally too competitive with other girls. Boys, yes. I wanted them to realize that girls could be just as good as them or better. Girls, I mostly wanted to befriend and encourage. The patriarchy was going to stop in my generation!

But Allison represented something I didn’t think I could be or achieve. She reminded me of a story my mom told about a perfect little girl named Connie in her preschool class. Connie was just like Allison, and one day, when no one was looking, my mom pinched her. I understood perfectly.

So when the play started, I was ready to be that wicked witch. No, I wouldn’t pinch her. But I would let her know how I felt.

When my scene began, I walked towards Allison just as I pictured it in the movie. I hunched over and leaned in when I got to her, pausing for dramatic effect. Her blue eyes suddenly looked timid in my presence. I thrust the apple towards her. “Bite it,” I snarled. And to my surprise, people laughed and clapped. Allison took the apple, bit it, and fell over dramatically. It was quite satisfying to see. She was very cute and played her part well. I’m sure she got lots of congratulations and attention afterwards.

But it no longer mattered to me. I was the star of the show, as far as I could tell. People came up to me immediately, asking me to say “Bite it” again and again. I hadn’t realized my performance had been funny or well-executed until then. I hadn’t even realized that the witch could be a star, or that anyone would enjoy her performance. Up until then, most people in my world had only had time for princesses.

Suddenly it was clear that the villains and vamps were far more fun to play. The world was full of princesses and damsels in distress, and sure, it was fun to pretend to be them. But it was far, far more satisfying to make people laugh or to be evil or saucy. There were many roles a girl could play. (I’m pretty sure Girl Scouts was founded, in large part, to teach us that lesson.)

And with my new-found confidence, it was easy to smile and wave goodbye to Allison on Friday afternoon. She’d was no longer a threat; she’d helped illuminate something very important. And I’d convinced her to bite it.