Friday, March 08, 2019

Pretzel Bites: What to Read on International Women’s Day 2019, Part 2

*Please note: I cropped down the cover for “Fire Road: A Memoir of Hope,” as I was pretty sure Facebook would take it down. It is about the life of the woman known for the famous photograph known as “Napalm Girl.” 

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Pretzel Bites: What to Read on International Women’s Day 2019 Part 1

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Saturday, March 02, 2019

Pretzel Bites: The Myth of the Inverted Cross as Satanic Symbolism

*I had an epiphany recently: I spend far more time commenting than I do blogging...and then feel guilty about it. Then it came to me: why not combine the two? Maybe elaborate or add photos and so on? So, here’s the first Pretzel Bite. Enjoy! 

SUBJECT: Entitled Parents become angry when they think a teen’s surgical scars are inverted crosses.

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Sunday, May 06, 2018

Just Sayin’

Happy Birthday. I hope it was a good one.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

TimeHop Tales: Wolfgang and I

One of my favorite daily-use apps is TimeHop. This app shows you what you posted on various types of social media sites on this date in history. I love it for a number of reasons, but today’s TimeHop Tales addresses the reason it exists: to walk you down Memory Lane. As I get older and the MonSter continues to wreak havok upon me like I talked smack about its mama, I am more and more appreciative for this app’s ability to jog my memories.
One of the features I enjoy in this app is called “Retro Video,” and it is a short video by YouTube’s Watch Mojo featuring notable pop culture events taking place on that day in history. I particularly like the part where they show a clip of the #1 song of that day.

Today’s Retro Video #1 video did a great job of exercising the ol’ noodle:

That is Falco’s iconic “Rock Me Amadeus,” the #1 song on this day in 1986. I remember it well: I won the vinyl single of it!

I was in the sixth grade at Moraine Meadows Elementary School at the time, which was sadly closed in 2010, much to the dismay and ire of all of those (present company included) who loved our little school. But that is a topic for another day...

My teacher was Mrs. Henshaw: the very first person who encouraged me to write. In fact, the first two people to ever recognize any sort of talent in me whatsoever was from that wonderful school (the other being Mrs. Oldham, my orchestra teacher). The fact that I am working on various creative writing projects (including this blog) is the direct result of the confidence and support I received from Mrs. Henshaw, my mother, and my grandmother. Once again, a topic for another day...

During that sixth grade year in 1986, Mrs. Henshaw held a contest: for every non-assigned book you completed, you got points per page. At the end of the year, those points could be used in an auction for a number of various items which could only have come out of her own pockets (something I didn’t appreciate or understand at the time). The biggest prize was a Sony Walkman...and as both a voracious reader and a music-obsessed preteen who could not afford to buy a Walkman of my own, I was bound and determined to win that prize. And win it, I did. It became a cherished posession of mine for years. That’s no exaggeration; I vividly remember going on a camping trip in Tennessee with my family and using the headphones (and R.E.M.’s tragically underrated and difficult to find first EP, “Chronic Town”) in a desperate and ultimately fruitless attempt to drown out my dad’s infamously loud snoring whilst in high school, more than five years after first winning it in the Reading Auction.

But the Walkman wasn’t the only item I won that day. I got some neon-colored paper clips (that I used to make earrings with), a book of “Encyclopedia Brown” trivia, and a vinyl 45 single of (you guessed it) Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” (I’d tried winning the single for Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” but was outbidded, as I was saving points for the Walkman). 

For those of you unfamiliar with this song: it is a very 80’s New Wave tune about the life of genius composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Like another 80’s classic, Nena’s “99 Luftballoons,” it was sung mostly in German.

I must have played that record a thousand times. The B-side was the same song, but with a long, spoken intro (in English) that wasn’t included in the music video and was rarely played on the radio, as it lengthened the song considerably. It quickly became my favorite version:

I don’t speak German, so I was mostly in the dark about what exactly Falco was singing (ah, those pre-Google days when we were left wallowing in ignorance about foreign pop songs with no inferior English versions available...looking at you, Nena). That changed when my brother, who was stationed in Germany when he was in the Army, came home a few years later. Imagine my joy to find out that Falco named Mozart the first punk rocker ever!

Many years later, my online support group expanded a list called “You Know You’re an 80’s Kid When...” My contribution: “You know you’re an 80’s kid when you took German just so you could sing along with ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ and ‘99 Luftballoons’!”

This is a song near and dear to my heart, thanks to all of the good memories associated with it (although in all honesty, I like “Vienna Calling” better). So thank you, TimeHop, for letting the late, great Falco rock me once again.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

MS Awareness Month: Did I Have Pediatric MS?

It’s #MSAwarenessMonth once again. So for the next few days, I will share some info on MS and my journey with it. I’ve officially had MS now for about 23 years, and MS-related trigeminal neuralgia for around 20. However, my doctors think there’s a good chance that I actually had a pediatric case. It couldn’t be diagnosed, as next to no one believed you could have it that young back then. Two incidents make me think they might be right. 

The first happened in 1990, when I was 15, during a time when the summer heat was unreal (MS is heat-reactive). I found myself unable to stay awake, especially during the afternoons, and I started to get frequent, unexplained bouts of pleurisy, amongst other weird symptoms. Then all the weirdness stopped just as abruptly as it had began. 

The second time was at Miamisburg High School. I did some work on programs for a public access channel, and on this occasion, I was operating a boom mic during an interview. As before, it was during a heat wave. Before I knew it, I passed out. Just fainted, right then and there...a mortifying experience when you’re 17! For a few weeks after, I was utterly exhausted, plagued with ear infections, nausea and vertigo, and completely incapable of coping with the heat. As I did during the first bout, I slept during the afternoons, whether I wanted to or not. But once again, it went away as quickly and mysteriously as before.

Fast forward to 1995. I took a hot shower, walked towards my bedroom, and BAM! I fell. I could not stand up or even move: my legs felt like they suddenly turned into Jello. For 20 of the longest minutes of my life, I sat on the floor, with no feeling whatsoever in my legs. It was terrifying. After that, a veritable cascade of symptoms started to appear. The MonSter was unleashed. And this time, there would be no years of remission afterwards.

On my next post, I will talk about how I got diagnosed, and how very hard it is for most people (including yours truly) to get that diagnosis...which included doctors insisting I had postpartum depression, and a doctor laughing at me when I told him I was concerned I might have MS! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Remembering Sonya: The Origin Story of a Beautiful Friendship

A year ago today, I lost the best friend I have ever had, Sonya Bastian, after a long fight with lung cancer. She was just weeks away from her 42nd birthday.

I remember quite vividly the first time I met Sonya. It was the summer of 1990. I was with some friends, shopping in the Oregon District, when I spotted my old friend Jasmine sitting on a little grassy hill near the overpass. I had known Jasmine since second grade; we’d been neighbors and best friends back then, but drifted apart when my parents moved. By sheer coincidence, we both ended up in what was called “the Dayton punk scene” and re-connected. By then, we’d each had new best friends, as kids will do. I’d heard a lot about her bosom buddy, enough so that when I saw her that day, I immediately thought: That must be her. Sonya Bastian.

She was wearing a long, black dress and gorgeous boots with fishnet stockings. Her hair was jet black and cut in a bob, her face adorned with perfect Goth makeup, her long, black nails holding a clove cigarette. She looked beautiful, very much like Siouxsie Sioux, whom I adored. She was talking with Jasmine, and suddenly put a hand on her midsection and threw her head forward in what I would later think of as her signature laugh.

I hated her almost instantly.

It was the kind of hate that’s practically a major food group in young teen girls: pure, unadulterated, drama-fueled envy. Given the circumstances, it was just inevitable. She was the best friend of the girl who had once been my best friend. She had once dated the guy I was then dating, and he always spoke of her as if she were what we’d now call a perfect Manic Pixie Dream Girl. His father even talked of her as if he wished she was still dating his son. Another guy I had once had one of those quintessential unrequited high school crushes on never noticed it because he had his own unrequited crush on her. So I was already pretty biased against even the idea of Sonya Bastian long before ever laying eyes on her.

And when I did finally lay eyes on the famous Sonya Bastian, I went from minor bias to full-blown jealousy in record speed. She seemed to be everything I wished I could be. I had always been a tomboy, and rather unremarkably plain. My older brother once accused me of having embraced the punk look because it was the only way I could get any attention on my appearance, and there’s probably some truth to that. Deep down inside, though, I wanted to be goth...but I simply couldn’t pull it off. I didn’t have the talent necessary to do the makeup properly, nor did the look suit me at all. On the rare occassions when I tried to dress in the goth fashions I loved, it looked like a very poor attempt at a cheap Halloween costume. I was, to my occassional disappointment, the kind of girl who was best suited to a punk rather than a goth aesthetic: more Joan Jett than Morticia Addams.

But Sonya could not only pull that desirable goth look off, she did so perfectly, managing to make it look both glamorous and effortless in the process. I remember looking her, and then at myself, in my tattered cut-off jean shorts, torn black tights, a “Die Die My Darling” Misfits t-shirt ironically borrowed from a mutual friend, and my older brother’s old Army combat boots. Next to Sonya, I felt scruffy, boring, invisible.

There’s an old movie from 1980 that HBO would play on Saturday afternoons called “Midnight Madness,” and it was a favorite in my family. In it is a scene in which the antagonist, Harold, asks his father to stop comparing him to the film’s hero, Adam. He begs his father to just “see me as I really am.” The dad then looks at Harold from toes to top and says, “Blech.” That’s how I felt as I compared myself to Sonya the day we met: she was Adam, and I was Harold.

Our relationship did not improve after this, due to an incident engineered by my ex/former abuser/stalker, and compounded when I tried to help a mutual friend get back into a relationship which unbeknownst to me had been toxic. The latter occurance led to the first phone call we ever had, and boy did she let me have it! It was the first time I got to see how fiercly loyal and protective she was, when it came to the people she loved. It wouldn’t be the last.

The last time I saw Sonya before moving to Oregon was much like the first: jealousy-inducing. It was at a nightclub called The Palace. She was dancing, looking gorgeously goth. She was the mother of two children at that point, and yet looked as fierce as ever. I can still see her dancing, in my mind’s eye. The song was New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” I still think of her every time I hear it.

A few years later, I joined a group on MySpace for punk parents. In that group, there was a mother identified as Sonya from Dayton. I quickly realized she was the very same Sonya I had a not-so-great past with. As I became more and more involved in the group, I began to feel increasingly in the wrong: I was anonymous to her, but she was not anonymous to me. It was time to come clean. So I sent her a message, telling her who I was and offering to leave the group if my presence there made her uncomfortable. After all, she had belonged to the group first. It seemed only fair.

Her response: “I don’t have time for high school drama. We were kids: I was a little shit, you were a little shit. How have you been?”

We began regularly messaging each other on MySpace, then chatted via AIM, and finally exchanged phone numbers. The very first time we talked on the phone in ages, she apologized to me for the incident with the ex. As it turns out, she soon realized he was manipulating her, and the guilt had eaten away at her for years. He had played on her extraordinary sense of loyalty and protectiveness, then betrayed her (AKA his regular MO).

My response: “He was a master con artist, and you are far from the only person who’s apologized to me over the years for believing in him. I don’t hold it against anyone. Besides, we were kids: I was a little shit, you were a little shit.”

She laughed. I laughed. And thus began the greatest friendship of my life: by two women agreeing they were little shits as teens!

We also soon learned that we were eerily alike far beyond shitty adolescence. “We’re basically the same person,” she would say. It was likely the reason we didn’t get along when we were kids: we were just too much alike. That was anathema to two teenagers in the punk scene...just admitting to ourselves that we were so much alike would have been utterly unthinkable. Ah, the fragile ego of youth!

But as adults, it no longer felt like felt like kismet instead.

She was surprised when I told her how jealous I had been of her, because when we’d first met in the Oregon District that day, she had been jealous of me! After all, I’d been the first best friend of her best friend, I was dating the guy she still inexplicably had some feelings for, and while I was envious of her dancing, she was envious of my singing.

This lead to an epic conversation I recorded in my journal later that same day:

Me: YOU were jealous of ME?!? Why?
Sonya: All I ever heard was, “Have you heard Angel sing?” Ugh, it was too much!
Me: know my last name is Singer now, don’t you?
—long pause—
Sonya: That. Is. Fucking. HILARIOUS!

We laughed so hard, we nearly choked.

There were ways, of course, in which we were not alike, but that never seemed to matter. Issues that would have torn other relationships to shreds was never an obstacle for us, for reasons I could never hope to adequately explain. We were polar opposites when it came to politics and religion, for example. Yet it never mattered. We were still “basically the same person.”

As the years went on, that incredibly unlikely friendship grew stronger and stronger. The closest equal in pop culture can be found in the show “Boston Legal”: She was Denny Crane, and I was Alan Shore. The Female Flamingos. Different, but somehow the same. And just as fiercly devoted and loving. I never lacked a companion, a confidante, or a defender, with Sonya by my side.

The woman whose beauty I was so jealous of came to call me “Pretty Lady.” Every conversation we had, every voice mail she left, always started with, “Hey, Pretty Lady! It’s me again.”

I called her “Dear Heart.” I ended every email and message and email with, “I miss you, Dear Heart.”

And so I can think of no better way to end this post than to say:

I miss you, Dear Heart.