Friday, September 21, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Second Anniversary

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Second Anniversary: Two years ago today, three subhuman Homo sapiens attacked me in a school restroom. They injured me, but the male among them was unable to ca...

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Second Anniversary

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Second Anniversary: Two years ago today, three subhuman Homo sapiens attacked me in a school restroom. They injured me, but the male among them was unable to ca...

Second Anniversary

Two years ago today, three subhuman Homo sapiens attacked me in a school restroom. They injured me, but the male among them was unable to carry out a sexual attack because of a particular physical challenge. He kicked me and injured me, as did each of the two participating females, but I was not raped. This isn't a day I celebrate, but since it occurred to me that it was an anniversary of the non-event, I decided to bring it up.

Two years later, I have, including AP units, 108 quarter credits. A very reliable source has told me that among my three attackers, none has held a job for more than four consecutive weeks, and they have accumulated, between the three of them, forty-one units, quarter or semester.

Good sometimes triumphs over evil.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Kevin Bacon, David Koresh, and My First Male Teach...

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Kevin Bacon, David Koresh, and My First Male Teach...: When I was in third grade, I started out the year with a male teacher. He was my only male teacher until sixth grade, and he did very little...

Kevin Bacon, David Koresh, and My First Male Teacher

When I was in third grade, I started out the year with a male teacher. He was my only male teacher until sixth grade, and he did very little to replace my notion that only ladies should teach young children. I've since learned that there are many exceptional male teachers in elementary schools, and my sixth grade teacher was definitely one of them. My initial third grade teacher, however, was exceptional only in the sense that he was exceptionally unqualified to teach anything smarter than a chicken. In the event that your experience with chickens is limited, I can share with you that birds in general are lacking in cognitive ability [hence the term bird brain] and that chickens are notable even among birds for their ineducability and overall stupidity. My first third grade teacher was known for similar qualities.

This teacher had a most amusing surname, to children, anyway,  which I cannot mention here for obvious reasons. Instead, I'll call him by another name: Mr. Oldbottom*. The fictitious name I've given him is a makeshift compound word.  The first root of the compound word  I've created is an opposite of the first syllable of my former teacher's actual surname. (Note: old has more than one opposite, and  the opposite to which I'm referring is not young.) The second root of the compound can be a four-letter synonym of the second syllable of my former teacher's name, referring particularly to the "body part" definition of bottom.

So the man was saddled with a somewhat unfortunate last name, which isn't necessarily a good thing for a teacher. A teacher with a surname likely to be the subject of ridicule among students has two viable courses of action. The first is to develop a thick skin, to laugh along with the students, and to tell them you've already heard every joke that could ever be made about your name, and so students may as well not even waste their time trying to make jokes about it. If the first option isn't practical for whatever reason, a teacher with an odd and ridicule-prone name should perhaps change it to something with which he can live more easily. Doing so legally would  probably be a bit of both a hassle and an expense, but if one's family name is sufficiently loathsome, it might in the long run be time and money well spent.

Mr. Oldbottom* exercised neither of my disclosed options. Instead, he warned all students on the very first day of school that any lampooning of his name whatsoever would result in swift and severe consequences both to the person lampooning and to any poor soul so lacking in self-control as to laugh at any joke made of Mr. Oldbottom's*  name.  Mr. Oldbottom* could have done very little more to issue an open invitation to students to poke fun at his name than what he did. I wish I could share all the  plays on words that my classmates and I  devised, but I cannot without more fully exposing myself to litigation than I already have.

Mr. Oldbottom* was the most humorless creature with whom I've ever come into contact. This is a considerable distinction, as I"m related to many people on my father's side who cannot understand even  most knock-knock jokes or Helen Keller jokes without clarification. .Mr. Oldbottom* was humorless both in the sense that he lacked the ability to comprehend most forms of humor and in the sense that he had absolutely no sense of self-deprecation.  Add to the mix that he was flatulent by nature, and that most of his episodes of gas-passing were audible. He once sent an entire reading group to the office because they couldn't (or wouldn't) stop laughing after he let loose with a  roughly seven-syllable rip that was probably heard in the next zip code.

For the most part, I should have been the very least of Mr. Oldbottom's* troubles, as I had the misfortune of having been born to parents who expected me to stay out of trouble at all costs when at school.  My mother and father tolerated a reasonable degree of  nuisance from both my brother and me at home, but at school we were expected to fly under teachers' and administrators' radar.  This was easier for my brother than for me, as I've been a magnet for controversy since I was an infant, but I still managed, for the most part, to avoid school discipline with very few exceptions.  My behavior did  in fact escape Mr. Oldbottom's* awareness.  Mr. Oldbottom's* disapproval of me concerned my writings.

The root of most of Mr. Oldbottom's* complaints about my writings pertained, for the most part, to my honesty or bluntness to the point of rudeness. He frequently asked his students to write essays detailing what we would change about his class if we could. (Why ask the question if one doesn't wish to hear or read the answer?)  I could have,  as did other students, criticized the teacher's fashion sense (he did laundry once every two weeks, which meant that by the end of the cycle, shirts and pants didn't necessarily match), taken issue with his musical incompatibility with my own ( Christian rock music was played as background musics almost nonstop), or critiqued his  rigidity  in terms of our physical education program (our class played tether ball for P. E. every day that the weather permitted us to go out). Instead, I pointed out misspellings and misuses of the English language that appeared on the classroom whiteboards at whatever time a given essay was written. This did not endear me to Mr. Oldbottom.*

In October of that year, Mr. Oldbottom* asked us to research and write a report on  the topic of "An Influential American."  We began the project on a Monday. We were to work on it each day of that week. Completed reports were due on Friday of that week. Had Mr. Oldbottom* asked us instead to research and write about any topic of interest to us, I probably would have chosen Siamese twins, or, more politically correctly, conjoined twins, as that was my major obsession of that particular period of my life. My first choice of an influential American about whom to write had been Kevin Bacon.  One of my cousins had attended Albright College in Pennsylvania, where three students developed a sort of party game centering around Kevin Bacon. The premise of the game, probably known now to most people, is that Kevin Bacon has worked with so many other actors and actresses that he can be connected to virtually any English-speaking actor of the modern era (mid-twentieth century to the present) by a very finite number of degrees. My cousin who attended Albright College was not one of the inventors of the Kevin Bacon game, but she was closely acquainted with all three of the actual creators.

On Thursday when he picked us up after school, my dad asked my brother and me what we had done at school that day. My answer was that I had worked on my "Influential American" report. He asked what influential American about whom I was writing. When I told him it was Kevin Bacon, my dad laughed  and asked if I had cleared the topic with my teacher. As far as I knew, none of us had cleared anything with, or even had been asked about our subjects by Mr. Oldbottom*.  We worked on our reports each day in the computer pod between our classroom and two others. As we did our own research and writing, Mr. Oldbottom* did something else on his own laptop. I never once saw him even checking what a student was doing on a computer during this time. We could all have been having a third-grade version of cyber-sex for all he could have known.   The idea of asking Mr.Oldbottom* about Kevin Bacon's classification as an influential American had never occurred to me.   I went out of my way not to talk to Mr. Oldbottom* about that or anything else.

My father told me he was reasonably certain that what Mr. Oldbottom* had in mind was a person involved in government, or possibly a person prominent in a major exploration or historical movement, or maybe even someone important in the religious world, but definitely not an entertainment figure -- even one as prominent as Kevin Bacon. I thanked my dad for his advice,  considering it just that -- advice --  but thought I'd go ahead and write the report  on my original choice of subjects.  My dad,  reading  my vocal tone accurately, restated his "advice" into the form of a directive.  "Alexis, " he said firmly, "Change your topic. And I'll want to see the finished product."  Arguing would have been pointless. . All my Kevin Bacon research had been for naught.

After the entire incident came to light, my dad told me, "If you ever have to write another "Great American" report, Alexis, just do Ben Franklin. Forget about your current obsession, whatever it happens to be. Don't worry about your report being unique or compelling. Just stick with  Ben Franklin. Got it?  You won't go wrong with Ben Franklin . . . as long as you stay away from anything about his illegitimate son."

During our computer period the next day -- the final day of the project -- I turned my attention to another obsession.  My dad had mentioned a significant religious figure as being an appropriate subject for my research and report. David Koresh and the entire Branch Davidian movement, which ended rather explosively in Waco, Texas,  had long held my fascination.  Typing at as furious a pace as my little seven-year-old fingers would go in effort to make up for time lost on Kevin Bacon, I completed  my report with just minutes to spare.

Mr. Oldbottom* found my report,  and my un-age-appropriate interest in David Koresh and his religious group, to be perplexing.  He showed it to the school psychologist, who found my choice of subject  unusual, but not overly disconcerting, as I didn't seem to focus unduly upon  the especially violent, graphic, or sexual aspects of the whole Waco event.   He did tell  Mr. Oldbottom*  that he could talk to my parents if something in the story was especially  bothersome to him. The psychologist insisted to my mother after the fact that what he actually said was that Mr. Oldbottom* could broach the subject at the parent/teacher conferences that were to be held in less than two weeks.

Mr. Oldbottom*  did call my parents.  Despite work and cell numbers listed in my contact information that would have enabled him to speak live with either parent, he instead called the  home phone and left a rambling message that used up all the space on the answering machine (and caused my Bluebird adviser not to be able to leave a message to inform my parents that the week's Bluebird meeting had to be cancelled, so I went to the community center for the Bluebird meeting to find the place locked and deserted, but that's neither here nor there). In his lengthy diatribe,  Mr. Oldbottom* demanded that both my parents appear in his classroom the following day after school.

This may seem sexist, and it probably is, but my parents have always had a division of labor in parenting, and school was always my mother's responsibility. If at all possible, my dad attended the twice-a-year parent/teacher conferences, and on the rare occasion that a school couldn't reach my mother in an emergency, they called my father's cell phone next. About one-third of the time, however, my father's work took him hundreds of miles from our home. (It's not beyond possibility that my father is a polygamist and uses his weird works schedule as an excuse to travel and meet up with his other wives and families, but I digress.) At that particular moment in time, my father was in San Diego, while we were living in Contra Costa County, in a small town in a relatively remote part of the San Francisco Bay area.  Dad wasn't scheduled to return for another two days. Even had my father been in town at the time, odds are that he wouldn't have gone with my mom to meet with my teacher, as he didn't consider school to be his job.

So my mom left early  from her work as a Director of Psychological and Special Services at another school district in a neighboring city to meet with Mr. Oldbottom* after school the next day. Mr. Oldbottom* was so incensed that to see only my mother and not both parents that he refused to disclose his concerns to my mother. He demanded that my father make himself present at the school immediately. My mother told him it was not possible. Mr. Oldbottom* walked out, leaving my mother alone in the classroom. She waited momentarily for him to reappear. When he hadn't reappeared after a few mimutes, she left.

The next day, I showed up for school as usual. Mr. Oldbottom* sent me to the office and told me I was suspended from his class until both my parents showed up to meet with him. I had no clue at this point as to what was his concern. I hadn't heard his answering machine message and didn't even know that my mother had been to my school the previous day.

I went to the office as directed.  When I got there, all available personnel were dealing with  a problem concerning a bogus memo to parents from the school cafeteria  that had been circulated the previous day. Parents were calling almost nonstop  to complain about the mystery meat sold to the district's food services department by a local funeral home (for a price too good to refuse)  that was reportedly to be used in the day's tacos. The office staff, in addition to answering calls from irate parents, was trying to determine the culprit of the school menu prank. (It was not I, if  you were wondering.)  With all the commotion, it was nearly 11:00 a.m. before anyone noticed the undersized third grader sitting among sixth graders awaiting interrogation.

When asked, I relayed to the secretary the reason my teacher had given me for my presence in the office. She asked for my name, which I told her.  She thumbed through and located an index card with my information from a container holding alphabetized cards supplying contact information for all students in the school.  Scanning my card, she whistled softly.  She picked up her phone and called someone who was presumably the principal. "I don't know how it happened, either," I heard her say into the phone.

Years after the fact, my assumption is that children whose parents were in any way influential were simply  not placed in Mr. Oldbottom's* class. My brother and I were new to the district that year, having moved in July from the San Joaquin Valley.  When my mother registered us as soon as the school office opened for business in early August, someone had failed to notice that in the Occupations spaces for my parents, "school administrator" was written in the mother blank, and "research physician" appeared in the father blank. Is it right that children of wealthy, educated, or prominent parents are routinely exempted from the system's poorest teachers? Of course it is not right.  Is it a reality? Absolutely.

Someone sent the speech therapist into my classroom to watch the class while the principal spoke with Mr. Oldbottom* in the inner office. I remember hearing snippets of raised voices -- of what must have been the principal's voice saying "You just can't do that, Neil" and Mr. Oldbottom's* whiny, denasal  "I know my rights as a teacher"  in response.

In the end, my mother was contacted at work by telephone and informed that a clerical error had placed me in the wrong class. I would be transferred to Mrs. Hazelwood's class. Someone brought my backpack and lunch to the office from Room 32, and the principal walked me the short distance to room 29, where I would spend the rest of the year,  The principal and Mrs. Hazelwood held a brief and hushed conversation, after which I was seated at Mrs. Hazelwood's reading table until an additional desk was brought into the classroom.

The remainder of the school year progressed without incident. Every so often I would encounter  Mr. Oldbottom* in a corridor or somewhere on campus. He always gave me an "if looks could kill, your corpse would already have been half-consumed by worms" sort of glare. I didn't know exactly what was the problem. I was just relieved to be rid of the man.


*not his real name









Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Half a Degree to the Left of Normal

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Half a Degree to the Left of Normal: My family has a slightly odd tradition. Once every summer, usually just before school resumes, we watch Ferris Bueller's D ay Off together. ...

Half a Degree to the Left of Normal

My family has a slightly odd tradition. Once every summer, usually just before school resumes, we watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off together. We've been doing this  since the summer before I started kindergarten at the very latest, which means  the tradition is at least fourteen years old. This begs the question of what exactly in hell my parents were thinking in showing a PG-13 movie to a couple of preschoolers, but such would be a very minor example of the questionable judgment my parents have exhibited on a regular basis since I was born. My brother's school year has already begun, but he has no classes tomorrow and was home tonight, so once again we watched the iconic eighties masterpiece.

One of the most peculiar things that happens when my family watches Ferris Bueller's Day Off  is that my father feels the inexplicable need to cheer on Mr. Rooney. My mother was a freaking high school administrator, and even she thinks the Rooney character in the movie  is beyond creepy. Furthermore, the actor who portrayed Rooney ran afoul of the law a few years back. One might think that alone, if nothing else, would deter my father's enthusiasm for the shuddersome dean of students, but my dad wouldn't let a little thing like an actor taking  nude pictures of a fourteen-year-old interfere with his bizarre pseudo-innate sense of right and wrong.  Beyond that, we've certainly watched the movie enough times to know that he will not come out ahead in the end. Thus, rooting for Rooney is a lost cause .  .  . for anyone except my dad, that is.

Besides, it's not exactly as though my father has always been Mr.Prim and Proper Supporter of the Establishment. He was a touring rock guitarist in the eighties, for one thing, and we all know what sorts of things touring rock guitarists did back then to amuse themselves. I don't give him a great deal of grief about his past, but I do know he has one.

In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.*


* This has nothing to do with anything else I've written. It happens to be my favorite proverb, so I decided to share it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Last Week of Vacation

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Last Week of Vacation: Just as the bruise on my shin  [incurred when my geriatric grandfather kicked me in a senility-induced rage] is fading, so are the final str...

Last Week of Vacation

Just as the bruise on my shin  [incurred when my geriatric grandfather kicked me in a senility-induced rage] is fading, so are the final strains of my freedom. Before anyone interrupts with, "What are you complaining about? Everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere has been back in school for weeks!," please take the time to consider that my university was in session until fairly late in June. Then I had injuries from a lovely auto accident AND a case of croup interfering with my frivolity.

This week I plan to sleep late, then to go to the beach every day.  I'll watch IQ-diminishing television programming, and I'll eat ice cream for breakfast. If that isn't decadent enough, I'll eat frozen waffles (heated in the toaster; they come frozen, but I don't eat them that way) with butter AND syrup for lunch. I'm not ordinarily so gluttonous in terms of what I eat, but I have an appointment with my pediatric endocrinologist, and my dad has offered me a hundred dollars if I can get my weight back up to at least eighty-eight.

Peace be with you, and with your little dog, too.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Say "Oh, My Gawd" to the Dress

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Say "Oh, My Gawd" to the Dress: I watched my very first episode of  "Say Yes to the Dress" tonight. I'm in a hotel in Utah County while my parents are socializing with frie...

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Say "Oh, My Gawd" to the Dress

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Say "Oh, My Gawd" to the Dress: I watched my very first episode of  "Say Yes to the Dress" tonight. I'm in a hotel in Utah County while my parents are socializing with frie...

Say "Oh, My Gawd" to the Dress

I watched my very first episode of  "Say Yes to the Dress" tonight. I'm in a hotel in Utah County while my parents are socializing with friends.  My brother is palling around with friends of his own here in Utah. I had the option of hanging out with relatives of my pseudorelatives, but I instead opted for some alone time. Had I known just how misleading was the word "expanded" in the hotel brochure's description of the TV offerings of "expanded cable,"  I would have considered spending the evening with the  locally legendary polygamist/kidnapper/Third Nephite or whoever he is, Daniel Kretchmer, but it's too late to arrange a date with the mythical creature, anyway, and besides, I think he only comes down from the hills on Valentine's Day. So here I am watching the very worst in reality television, excluding possibly anything with the Kardashians.

This episode featured a mother of the bride who must have been incredibly wealthy. If the source of her wealth was ever mentioned , I missed it, but she must either have had mob connections or possibly was  on the successful end of a palimony suit against someone in Aristotle Onassis's financial league. Near the end of the episode, the bride said that she had no idea how much the wedding cost and didn't even want to know. The wedding dress itself supposedly cost  $34,000. I could be very wrong about this (though I'd bet everything I own that I'm correct) but I'm fairly certain that when or if I get married,  the entire wedding, including my dress, the bridesmaids' dresses, the tux rentals, the cake, the food, the flowers, the fee for the organist and for the priest, the little almonds that break people's teeth all tied up in that tacky netting,  plus all the booze my dad has to consume to get himself through the event,and whatever else is included, will not even come close to the cost of that bride's dress alone. Then, to put the icing on the cake (they fought over the cake, too, by the way) the $34,000 dress was butt-ugly. It was a weird silvery color, was long in the back with a train and bustle, but was above the bride's knees in the front. It looked like something from a costume trunk that was dragged out and used in a community theatre play about a hillbilly shotgun wedding. (Actually, what it reminded me of  even more was the scene in the original Parent Trap movie where, at the camp dance, the friends of one of the Hayley Mills characters [I can never remember which was Sharon and which was Susan] cut an arch-shape out of the back of the other Hayley Mills character's dress, except the arch-shaped cutout was in the front instead of the back of the wedding dress.)  I'm pretty sure I could have found something that would have looked better on the bride at Forever 21, and they don't even sell wedding dresses there as far as I know.

Likewise, I found it ironic that the  bride, whom I would have ranked as strictly average in appearance at best,  placed such a high premium on physical beauty. If I were in her league, appearance-wise, [and, realistically speaking, I probably am, though there's still time for a miracle in my case], I would place at least some of my stock in the education and personality departments rather than relying solely upon my stunning [in my own mind only] appearance.

The mother of the bride was . . . how shall I say this delicately . . . shrewish.  It was as though she was marrying her own daughter in terms of whom had any sway as to how things ultimately went, and any opinion expressed by the groom-to-be was promptly dismissed. The bridal couple went to Italy for the sole purpose of  designing and/or choosing champagne flutes for the wedding reception toast. When the  glassware arrived, the mother of the bride immediately took one look at the elegant stemware and announced that It Simply Would Not Suffice. I don't remember what was actually used in place of the glassware chosen by the bride and groom. Chances are that the guests wouldn't have remembered if the stemware originally chosen by the bride and groom had been used, either, tacky though it may have seemed to The Mother Of The Bride. Why could not the groom have his own way, or at least half his way [the selection of the stemware was acollaborative effort by the bride and groom] on even the most minute detail? The groom should have taken this as an omen or of foreshadowing as to the way everything will be for him in the future. His life is no longer his own, or even his wife's. He's basically getting a blonder, plumper, less famous, and less attractive version of Kris Jenner as a mother-in-law, and he can't even enjoy the occasional perk of taking his friends over to the in-laws' home on rare occasions to ogle the Olympic gold decathlon medal.

The chosen venue was somewhere in the Los Angeles area.  Once inside the place, the mother of the bride immediately began demanding major changes - re-carpeting, re-plastering and painting the walls, changing furniture and deep-sixing what were presumably meant to be permanent fixtures, etc. I suspect that the employees appearing in the footage shown to viewers were not authorized to act in such ways that would render as null and void a contract that may have been in excess of six figures, but had I been one of those employees, it would have been well worth it to me to risk losing my job just to have the sheer pleasure of telling the mother of the bride that if she didn't like the venue the way it was, perhaps another locale would be more to her liking. I might have suggested Hell as an alternative wedding venue.

The chubby mother of the bride very hypocritically told her daughter that she absolutely could not have any out-of-shape bridesmaids in her wedding. This is the point at which my oppositional tendencies would have begun to manifest themselves. I would have suddenly become BFF with Honey Boo Boo Child's mother, June, and would have insisted on having the entire Honey Boo Boo clan  feature prominently in every aspect of  my wedding ceremony.

My parents have returned from their night on the town (in Provo, Utah, no less, where you can your hands on  3.2 beer if you know the right people). My mom  says tonight's blog has been relatively cogent up to this point, but I'm starting to lose focus. For once, I'll listen to her and stop, but not before adding two final words of wisdom. (This is not one of them, by the way, but speaking of  "The Word of Wisdom," did you hear or read that, however many centuries later, the LDS church has clarified its stance on caffeinated soft drinks and hot chocolate, which are NOT forbidden? So drink yourself straight into a major case of Type 2 diabetes. Thomas S. Monson did and continues to do so. Do that, just as long as you don't drink that glass of red wine that might actually have positive health benefits if consumed a few times a week.)

Anyway, back to my final words of wisdom:

Word of Wisdom Numero Uno:  I think it would be interesting to revisit each of the couples featured in these ostentatious "who can spend the most money the least intelligently"  weddings five years later. My prediction is that the rate of intact marriages  of these couples after even five years would be below twenty  per cent. Maybe I'm wrong, but regardless, it would add an element on relevance to the show.

Word of Wisdom Numero Dos:  Danny Kretcher, I'm sorry we failed once again to meet up. I'll try to make my next visit here happen closer to February 14.

Now, to end this missive in classic and apropos Utah fashion:

In the name of cheese and rice, amen

Pay Lay Ale

Health in your marrow and navel in your bones [I know I said it backwards, but I like it better that way.]

I bear you my testimony that I know these things are true

Alexis

P.S. Thanks to my parents for granting me slightly more latitude in the form of First Amendment provision than is customary.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Sam...

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Sam...: My family  spent last night at a hotel. We had brunch brought in to my grandmother's apartment. in early afternoon we  performed my grandmot...

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Sam...

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Sam...: My family  spent last night at a hotel. We had brunch brought in to my grandmother's apartment. in early afternoon we  performed my grandmot...

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

My family  spent last night at a hotel. We had brunch brought in to my grandmother's apartment. in early afternoon we  performed my grandmother's favorite musical selections. A chef came in to prepare dinner, which went without event.

My grandfather had been in church meetings all day. The plan was for him to be driven to a home he and my grandmother maintain in Utah County and to stay the night there, but he apparently suffered a bad case of indigestion and instead asked to be taken back to the Salt Lake City apartment, where my family still was.

Dinner had been cleared away, and my grandfather was poking around in the refrigerator for a snack allegedly for his chihuahua, as I'm not sure why he'd want to eat anything if he had indigestion. Not knowing he was in the kitchen, I walked in to get a glass of water for myself.  The chihuahua growled at me. She seems to growl at everyone except my grandparents.  My grandfather, apparently believing that I had done something to provoke the chihuahua, took a few steps toward me and kicked me hard in the left shin.

My father was walking into the kitchen at that point and witnessed the entire incident, including my non-provocation of the dog. I was at that point on the floor, holding my left shin, but I wasn't actually injured. Sometimes something hurts a lot right when it happens, but no actual injury occurs other than a bruise and maybe a little swelling. My dad picked me up and carried me to the living room. He put me on the living room couch. He told my mom and my brother that we were leaving and that everyone needed to say goodbye to grandma. We all kissed grandma goodbye. My mother had a puzzled expression on her face but asked no questions. My grandma did ask why we were leaving so abruptly. My dad told her than grandpa had kicked me and that he [my dad] couldn't have his children in a house with a person who would hurt them. My grandmother tried to talk him into staying, but he told her they would talk again soon, but that we had to go. He also told her she as welcome to visit us at our home at any time.

As we got into our rental car and drove to the hotel, my dad explained to my mom what had happened . The two of them debated whether they were mandated reporters of child abuse in regard to this particular incident. Their conclusion was that it was not a clear-cut situation. Their course of action was to take me to an urgent care clinic and to be straightforward about what happened, so that if any reporting to a child welfare agency needed to be done, the burden would fall upon the health care providers. As my dad did not examine my leg, but someone else did, he was not a healthcare provider in this situation. There also could have been legal ramifications for my dad had no one examined my leg, but he covered that base by taking me to the clinic. I really didn't need medical care, but it was the best way out of a sticky situation.  The doctor didn't even X-ray my leg. He gave me an ice pack and told my parents to give me Ibuprofen if my leg continued to hurt.

Had he kicked my right leg, which was previously broken and then re-injured, he could have caused problems, but my "mild contusion," as noted on the clinic's bill, will mend itself  in a relatively short period of time.

Does anyone other than I wonder if my grandather is sufficiently sound-of-mind to be helping to manage the operations of a world-wide church?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The State of the Desolate

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The State of the Desolate: Mormons call Utah  "The State of the Deseret," but "desolate" seems a more fitting description. I've lived in hot places before, so it's not...

The State of the Desolate

Mormons call Utah  "The State of the Deseret," but "desolate" seems a more fitting description. I've lived in hot places before, so it's not jut the heat, although there is heat with which to contend. I can't even say that the place as a whole is ugly, with the Wasatch Range of the Rockies, and the colorful rock formations in the southernmost points of the state.  Still, there are parts of Utah, namely the parts of south-central portion, especially Sevier and Sanpete counties, that give hellish communities such as Trona, California, Rigby, Idaho,  and Friona, Texas, a run for their money in terms of sheer ugliness.

I'm in Salt lake City right now, which is neither the ugliest nor the most beautiful location in the state.  It's a much more cosmopolitan city than it is supposed to be by many. True, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints maintains its headquarters there, and certainly influences the architecture and the physical character of the city. On the other hand, . Salt Lake City proper is only about forty-five per cent Mormon.  (The immediately surrounding suburbs in Salt Lake County are much more highly concentrated in Mormons.)
Salt Lake City is home to the University of Utah, which is LDS-sponsored BYU's chief rival in athletics and in all other matters.  Despite the LDS church's history  in developing the city, Salt lake City is by far the most diverse large city in Utah.

The partof the city where I am at the moment is right in the heart of Mormondom. I'mat the moment  in a church-owned apartment where my grandparents sometimes live. They also maintain a home in Utah County, as well  as one in Florida, but right now my grandmother needs to be in Salt Lake City because that's where her doctors practice. My grandmother has been battling a particularly stubborn lung infection. She's receiving excellent care and is holding her own, but has been battling this thing for months and progress has been slow.
We're visiting because my grandmother is sick, but also because she is my dad's mom, and visiting her from time to time is the right thing to do.

This may sound cold and unfeeling, but were the situation shifted so that it was my dad's father battling a serious illness, I  would not visit unless forced to do so. My grandfather has held an open dislike for me since I was two years old. He blames me for situations that even my parents, who are likewise quick to blame me for just about anything under the sun, insist cannot possibly be my fault.  I don't waste energy hating my grandfather. I just don't give him a lot of thought, period.  It's hard to avoid thinking of him right now, though, because he is sitting in his recliner, directly across the living  room from me, glaring at me as I type.  Only God knows precisely what I may have done to offend him on this particular occasion.

We came here for a catered dinner with my grandparents. We're spending the night in a hotel not far from here. We'll be back tomorrow, although my grandfather will be too busy with church business to spend time with us.   We brought our portable musical instruments (the grand pianos stayed home; my grandmother has a very nice grand piano of her own that we can use) along with us. My grandmother's genealogical line was presumably that which contributed most dominantly to the genetic aspect of my father's musical ability  although practice, too, contributed to his success in that area. What my grandmother wants most from my family is for us to make music for her. Tomorrow we will spend a large part of the day playing and singing for her. She may have invite a small group of friends in to hear us as well.

Though my grandfather finds it difficult even to be in the same room with me, my grandmother has nothing in particular against me, so I'm happy to endure being in this armpit of a state in order to make these days of illness for her a little brighter. Someday, in my old age, perhaps my younger family member will do something similar for me. Then again, my grandchildren may turn out to be tone-deaf.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The Final Stretch of Vacation

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The Final Stretch of Vacation: My first class,if my recollection is correct, will be on September 27. that gives me about sixteen days left to have a little fun. My vacati...

The Final Stretch of Vacation

My first class,if my recollection is correct, will be on September 27. that gives me about sixteen days left to have a little fun. My vacation was cut short by an auto accident an a case of croup, but those are finally behind me. My parents have replace the car that was totaled in my auto mishap  (NOT MY FAULT!!!) They replaced it with a new car, which means I'm not driving it. I'm driving what my mother was formerly driving, which is an old-lady car. It is at least reliable, so I cannot complain. It's just irritating because I possess the funds to purchase a car of my own, but my parents still control my funds, so they won't let me spend the money to buy a new car.

Emancipation looms in the distance - December 2, to be exact -- at which point many of such decisions will be made by me and me alone. I'll continue to listen to what my parents have to say, but in the end I'll do what I want. If I end up broke at the end, I'll be in no worse a place than is the average person my age, and it's all money I earned.

Tomorrow I'm going to Venice Beach. It's always funny to watch the world's most eccentric people on their home turf.

Tuesday I'm visiting relatives a couple of hundred miles away. On Wednesday I'm wearing a middle school baton twirler  uniform and marching in a parade, masquerading as a middle school twirler. I don't actually know how to twirl a baton, but neither does the girl I'm replacing apparently. My main qualification for replacing this girl is that the uniform should fit. The band in question has to have someone wearing the uniform and filling in the slot or they're not eligible for something or other. I don't really know or care. It just sounded like a good laugh. I'll try not to get their band and/or auxiliary units disqualified. I can't really discuss compensation here, but suffice it to say that I would not make  total fool of myself in public without  just compensation.

Hasta la vista!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cat Trouble

My Uncle Jerry's formerly eighteen-pound cat has reduced himself to fourteen pounds. He's been rather lethargic as well. Uncle Jerry made an appointment for the cat to see his vet. The Uncle Jerry's four-year-old granddaughter developed an intestinal blockage and required emergency surgery. Uncle jerry was unavailable to take the cat for his appointment, so he hired me to transport the big cat to and from the vet's office.

Some tasks are not as simple as they sound. Uncle Jerry's cat, the Pompetus of Love (or however you spell it) did not wish to get inside the carrier even when I opened a can on salmon and set it at the back of the cage. Next, I picked up the Pompetus of Love and tried to put him in the cage. this proved to be a most unwise move. That big sucker turnd on me. Not only did he scratch, claw, and bite me when I was trying to get him inside his cage: even when I dropped him, he continued to attack me.

When Uncle Jerry's daughter-in-law came to the house briefly, I was trapped in the bathroom without even a cellphone to call for help. She was in a rush, but she put the Pompetus of Love in th laundry room. She tried to get me to come to the hospital with her so my Uncle Jerry or some other doctor  check out and treat my wounds, but I did not wish to be seen in pubic looking the way I looked, so I refused to go.

Nicole set hr husband, Gerard, who is an MD, to check my wounds. He said they weren't all that serious he but he put antiseptic on all of them, bandaged one of them, and carefully checked one near my eye. He gave me a tetanus shot and a shot of antibiotics. He brought the Pompetus of Love out of the laundry room and held him while I petted him so I could see it wasn't personal. He put Pompetus in his cage, and went with me to the veterinarian's office. Then he called his dad, my Uncle Jerry, and renegotiated my fee for taking Pompetus to the vet because he thought I deserved more pay in light of my war wounds.

My parents are out of town for the next two nights. I was supposed to spend the night at jared's family's house, but I didn't wish to be seen all scratched up. Gerard arranged for a family friend who is in the area because of little Leah, Uncle Jerry's ailing granddaughter, to stay at  my house for the next two nights. I can't stay with Scott and Jillian because I had croup recently and may still be shedding germs that would be harmful to Jillian. Timmy can't stay with me because he broke his leg and just got out of the hospital today. The family friend, who is Jillian's cousin Peter, is nice and fun and is an MD, which would only matter in the event that any of my wounds starts to look infected.

The Pompetus of Love isn't ordinarily a vicious animal. He just didn't want to get into the carrier because he knew he would end up at his doctor's office if he got in, and he was presumably smart enough to know that he had a decent chance of fighting me off if he was willing to go for the jugular. I don't hold it against him, but I'll never try to put him in his carrying case again no matter how much money I stand to gain for doing it.

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Cat Trouble

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: Cat Trouble: My Uncle Jerry's formerly eighteen-pound cat has reduced himself to fourteen pounds. He's been rather lethargic as well. Uncle Jerry made an...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The Pop-Up Piano: An Unintentional Christmas Story...

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The Pop-Up Piano: An Unintentional Christmas Story...: My parents have as friends two couples who were mutual friends. These two couples had children of the same approximate ages, and their chi...

The Pop-Up Piano: An Unintentional Christmas Story



My parents have as friends two couples who were mutual friends. These two couples had children of the same approximate ages, and their children began to exchange Christmas and birthday gifts.
Through a presumably innocent and unintentional yet misunderstood act of gift-giving from one family or the other, the gift exchange evolved into a contest as to which parents could find the most outrageously obnoxious  gifts to give to each others' children. The children were not in any way slighted by this initially-good-natured-but-eventually-malevolent competition. On the contrary, the slime throwers, the loud drum sets and amplification systems, the high tech Whoopie Cushions, the remote control fart machines with olfactory effects, and the "homework helper packets," stuffed with answer sheets to all the recipient's school district curriculum's  pre-printed practice exercises, quizzes, and tests,  were often the highlight of the gift-receiving portion of their holidays.  The parents, however, seethed for months as they plotted ways to exact revenge. My parents, much to their relief, were never included in this vindictive ritual. Just once, however, we ended up with a gift that was on par, if unintentionally so,  with many of the gifts of the more malicious variety.

When Matthew, my twin brother, and I were babies, we received as a gift a seemingly diabolical toy with the innocuous name of  "Pop-Up Piano."  It was made by Fisher-Price. Suffice it to say that the device had a battery that was powered from some unearthly source, be it good or evil, and that the toy itself held other seemingly sinister properties. The Pop-Up Piano had just three keys -- as imaginative and original fashion would have them, in  red, yellow, and blue. Each key was about one-and-a-half inches wide. When  a key was pressed, the "music" commenced. Regardless of which key was pressed, the thing played a rotation of melodies always in the same order, of "Frere Jacques," "London Bridge," and "Old McDonald."   It played the songs in order, continuously. One thing and only one thing -- not a tornado, not a nuclear holocaust, and not a simultaneous edict from the POTUS, the Pope, and the Prophet and President of the Mormon Church -- would stop it. The one and only action that would halt that  repetitive "music" was  to press another key on the Pop-Up Piano, which would, in effect, cancel out the pressing of the original key.

Matthew, by the age of eighteen months or so, had developed an unpleasant habit of pressing one of the keys to activate the Pop-Up Piano, then just walking away, leaving it to drone on, much to the chagrin of everyone else in the house, who at that time included my parents and me. One of us would have to find the thing, which Matthew had usually hidden to the best of his ability (to the best of his ability meant in plain sight) but still  it involved interrupting what one was doing to go to where the toy was placed and to press down another key in order to deactivate the rotation of songs. My dad read his medical journals from a recliner in the family room, and he did any paperwork that he brought home at the dining room table so he would not isolate himself from us in the rare times he was at home. He made it a point to keep at least three throw pillows with him at all times when he was reading or working, and became quite the expert at using his armor of throw pillows to hit and silence the Pop-Up Piano anywhere within the living room to family room range from his vantage points at the table and in the recliner.

If my dad was not home, my mom and I pretty much had to physically go to the  Pop-Up Piano and push one of its keys to end what we had come to consider the musical/auditory version of Chinese water torture. My mom's pushes to the Pop-Up Piano gradually grew more aggressive, eventually becoming punches, and before long evolving to kicks. (I remember her saying to me as she kicked the Pop-Up Piano, "This is not a real piano, Alexis. We never kick real pianos." Then she'd give the Pop-Up Piano one more kick just for good measure.

One might have thought Matthew was rather clever to devise a way to vex so many members of his family with so little effort on his part. One might have thought incorrectly. The truth was that Matthew actually liked the music of the Pop-Up Piano. Despite being the spawn of a Ph. D. in piano / vocal performance and a  rock guitarist  (He's not just some garage band wannabe, either;  for all my disparaging comments  in his direction, my father worked his way through medical school touring as a lead guitarist in the summers for an artist I'm not allowed to disclose; he completed dual undergraduate majors, including music and one a more typical pre-medical curriculum of chemistry; he's a legitimate musician in every sense.) Matthew had the musical taste of a typical and not terribly musically gifted pre-two-year-old.  What was cacophony to the rest of us was music to his ears. Despite Matthew's deep and abiding love of the toy, however, it had to go.

My dad's  initial solution, which had been simply to ditch the so-called incubus, was rejected by my mom because the Pop-Up Piano  itself had been a gift from Great-Aunt Eileen, who rarely if ever gave gifts.  If she ever happened to show up on our doorstep, she would expect to see the toy in use. Eventually, that sentiment gave way to the more prevalent, "Great Aunt Eileen did this to us on purpose because she obviously never liked us in the first place, and she's NEVER coming to visit us. SCREW THE  TOY!"  I distinctly recall "screw the toy" as being part of the conversation. In my still very literal mind I held an image of my father taking out a screwdriver and somehow using it to twist screws into the Pop-Up Piano. How this could possibly alleviate the misery exuded by the Pop-Up Piano remained a mystery, but my father said it, and I assumed he meant it.

Then  it became clear that  my parents had every intention of exorcising our family of the Pop-Up  Piano and its demons within.  The methods of disposal were debated, though not within earshot of Matthew, who still held a peculiar affinity for the accursed toy. My mother wanted to donate it to the poor.  My father convinced her that it would be even more cruel to inflict such a device on a child whose parents could not afford to replace it with something more appealing than it would be to give it back to Matthew, only to snatch it away again. Left to its own devices, both my parents were convinced, the toy would almost certainly lead to child abuse or worse.

Late one Wednesday night, long after Matthew had succumbed to the charms of the Sand Man or the Sleep Fairy or whatever ridiculous form of mythology my parents foisted upon his clay-like lump of a brain, I, already manifesting symptoms of insomnia, heard my parents plotting the demise of the Pop-Up Piano. My father held it in his hands, having taken it from the floor beneath Matthew's bed, from where it had serenaded Matthew to sleep. (I personally would have preferred the sound of fingernails screeching on a  chalkboard as a bedtime serenade over the endless sounds of the Pop-Up Piano, but that is a subject for another day's blog.) The plan, as I heard my parents detailing it, was for my father to slip the Pop-Up Piano into the trash that night so that it would be carted away with Thursday morning's trash at the break of the very next day.

It was a good plan, and it might have succeeded had trash pickup not been delayed by several hours that day. Mechanical failure was the official reason for the delay. My parents and I knew otherwise. It was the simple act of fate rearing its ugly head.

Early Thursday morning, Matthew walked down the driveway with our father, as he often did, in his pajamas and slippers, to bring the empty trash receptacle back inside our gate. The five-foot high trash receptacle, however, was not empty. The first sign of its un-emptyness was the sound of electronic music, of the repetition of "Frere Jacques," "London Bridge," and "Old McDonald" in succession. Before my father could blink, Matthew, every bit as gifted physically as he was un-gifted cognitively and common-sensibly, had scaled the side of the five-foot trash receptacle. He wormed his way under the lid, dove into the bowels of the filth of civilization, and emerged with a filthy grin on his face, and with his left hand tightly clutching the dreaded Pop-Up Piano.


"I finded it, Daddy! I finded it!" Matthew exclaimed. "Pop-Up Piano got in the trath [not-yet-two-year-old Matthew's articulation as well as his English usage still left a bit to be desired at that point] but I finded it!"

"You certainly did, son," my dad responded in his best mock-cheerful voice, holding onto the shoulder of Matthew's pajamas with the very tips of his fingers. Matthew would be stripped down in the backyard and hosed thoroughly before he would be allowed even into the outside pool shower. This wasn't as harsh as it might have sounded, as the hose was hooked up to the water source for the hot tub, which put the water from the hose at a very comfortable temperature. Still, the kid was scrubbed thoroughly, and his toothbrush was thrown directly into the rubbish after that use, as were his little pajamas.

That Christmas, my parents bribed the organizers of the Living Nativity Scene, which was set up annually outside our parish, to take the Pop-Up Piano off their hands. My parents read The Littlest Angel; they talked about how the Littlest Angel had his box that he gave the Baby Jesus, and how much more Jesus might like a wonderful toy that plays music continually.  They sang "The Little Drummer Boy" to us, and talked about how much the Baby Jesus loved the Little Drummer Boy's drumming, and how much he'd probably like the music of the Pop-Up Piano.  They sang "In the Bleak Midwinter," with its "What can I give him?" verse. They talked about how yes, we should give Baby Jesus our hearts, but we could also give him our Pop-up Piano. I was 100% on board with this. Matthew took a little more convincing, but eventually he came around.

So then came Christmas Eve. We went to the Children's Mass, as, at  barely two years of age, we weren't quite old enough to stay awake for Midnight Mass. Following the children's mass, which ended at about 6:00 p.m., we went one last time to visit the Living Nativity Scene. We petted the animals, oohed, aahed, and knelt before  the Baby Jesus, and presented our pre-arranged gift, for which my dad had given the event organizers one hundred bucks to keep. Matthew, of course, couldn't merely hand the gift over to Mary or Joseph. He had to thrust it into the sleeping newborn's face, pressing a key, which started the whole "Frere Jacques" sequence. Baby Jesus, quite predictably, gave a piercing shriek at being so rudely awakened by the harsh electronic tones of the gift with which he was practically hit in the face.

"Jethuth doethn't like my prethent,"  Matthew wailed.

"He just has to grow into it,"  my dad tried to reassure him as he hurried us away.

Soon enough  our minds were on to  the other traditions of Christmas. We had stockings to hang, cookies and milk to put out for Santa and carrots for his reindeer, presents to deliver to a less fortunate family just in case Santa didn't have time to make it there himself, the Christmas Story as told by St. Luke to hear, as well as Clement Clark Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas, which I could recite along with my dad as he showed Matthew the pictures. Relatives came. Songs were sung. One present was to be opened by each of us on Christmas Eve, which miraculously turned out to be  .  .  . pajamas. Every year thereafter, we knew what to expect, but that year, we totally fell for the ruse. It didn't matter anyway, because they were fun pajamas, and just opening packages is exciting for two-year-olds.

Four days later, it was Sunday, and time for mass  again. We attended mass in our parish before heading off to the airport to board a plane bound for Utah to visit our relatives there. As we walked from the parking lot to the church doors, Matthew ventured off the sidewalk a just a bit to the area where the Living Nativity Scene had been just a few days earlier. Traces of straw were still on the ground.  Also on the ground was something small, white, and plastic,with rectangular keys of red,blue, and yellow. Matthew picked up the small plastic toy. "Jethuth didn't want my prethent!" he cried as tears from his eyes rolled down his cheeks.

Our mother thought  fast.  She pulled from her purse a Christmas card on which had been written a message for one of the Utah relatives. Showing it to Matthew, she read "it" aloud to him:

 "Dear Matthew, Thank you so much for the very special toy you gave to me. It scared me at first, but once I learned how to use it, I loved it. My mommy played it for me when she was too tired to sing for me anymore. She had a long ride across the wilderness on a donkey, and she is still very tired.

"I am going back  to heaven now. I won't need the Pop-up Piano anymore because there is music everywhere in heaven. Will you take the Pop-Up Piano back now, and use it, and maybe sometimes think of me when you use it?

"Love,
Baby Jesus"

"P.S. Don't play it in church because there's lots of music in there, too."

Matthew carried the Pop-Up Piano into church, and he clutched it tightly all the way through mass.

After church, Dad said, "I suppose we're stuck with it for good now,"  but he didn't sound so bothered by the idea as he had sounded before.

Matthew's big  and almost grown now. He no longer plays with little white plastic toys that repeat three songs over and over until everyone around him has been driven crazy. Instead, he drives people crazy by playing  the same songs over and over on his guitar or on his Ipod.  He also plays more than our parents would like with a black plastic box called an X-Box that's hooked up to the television. He plays baseball,too.

Every December, when it's time to get ready for Christmas, our mother takes  boxes of decorations down from the attic. Matthew and I and our Mom and Dad use the ornaments to make the house look pretty and festive. One decoration stands out because it isn't quite s beautiful on the surface as the rest of the ornaments. It isn't shiny and is not all that colorful and doesn't really look like a Christmas ornament. It's white, with three keys-- in yellow, blue, and red, and it still plays three songs over and over. To Fisher-Price,  it's just a toy. To Matthew and me, even though we're old enough now to know that it didn't happen exactly the way we thought at the time that it did, it stands as a gift that Matthew gave to Jesus, and that Jesus gave back to him in return.







Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The Dreaded Croup Reprise

The Many Banes of My Existence by Alexis: The Dreaded Croup Reprise: Becca had surgery yesterday. later today, When someone gives my phone to me, I will call her stepfather to see how things are going. I hav...

The Dreaded Croup Reprise

Becca had surgery yesterday. later today, When someone gives my phone to me, I will call her stepfather to see how things are going.

I have another case of the dreaded croup. When I'm not barking like a seal, I'm asleep. Nothing worth watching is on TV. I've had a little but not much company. Later today my brother is going to record my cough so I can preserve the lovely sound for posterity. iIt seriously is an impressive sound. My uncle described it as sounding as though it comes from a three-hundred-forty-pound defensive lineman.

I don't know for sure whether it's worse to be sick when school is happening, otr to be sick during vacation.
at least during vacation I don't have to worry that I'm falling behind or missing out on some important concept that i being introduced. On the other hand, when I'm sick during vacation, I can't comfort myself with the thought that I'm missing school. C'est la vie.