Friday, November 29, 2013

I Was a Pre-Teenaged Proctologist, or Sort of . . .



When I was twelve years old and in the eighth grade, I played the sousaphone in my middle schoool band. My career as a sousaphone player was short-lived. I could devote an entire blog or two to the unsuitability of my roughly fifty-pound physique to the rigors of toting even the lightest-weight sousaphone available, and may at some other time do just that, but it will have to wait for another day, because today I wish to share how a most prized textbook came into my possession on an October day when I was twelve.

Our band had finished marching the route of a parade in Rocklin, California, which is, if I recall correctly, at the very base of  rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevada range. I don't know what happens now when a horde of middle school children finish their part in a parade and have to wait around for an awards ceremony, as there's a much greater climate of fear where today's children are concerned.  Even though it had already happened (we weren't all that far from either the location from which Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped or from the place she was held captive for the better part of twenty years), it just didn't occur to the parents, teachers, or school administrators that they were endangering us by letting us descend upon a town unsupervised for a few hours. In retrospect, I'm really glad we were neglected in that regard, because some of the best times I had as a kid would never happen to a child growing up in today's U.S.A.

I  was with three two  girls, Meredith, Megan,  and Claire, whom I still count among my closest friends. We had lunch at a Burger King and found our way back to the parade route on what was probably the town's main street.  Nothing we saw in the parade made much of an impression, so we started wandering into and out of some of the quaint shops lining the business district. Meredith bumped into a shelf and nearly leveled a ceramic display, which unsettled her; she didn't want to go into any more boutiques where she might do any damage for which her parents would have to pay. Additionally, we were getting some rather obnoxiously judgmental stares from saleswomen who probably assumed we were there to help ourselves to their merchandise without paying for any of it. Claire spotted the sign of a Goodwill store and suggested that we go in there to kill a bit of time because even if Meredith broke every last item in the store, paying for it wouldn't send her parents into bankruptcy court, and everyone knows that no one shoplifts at the Goodwill store. Even the most undignified among us have levels to which they will not stopp, and shoplifting at the Goodwill store is on one of such levels.

Once inside, Megan and Meredith immediately went to the clothing racks and found all manner of sartorial splendor. I was if anything less enamored of clothing shopping than I am now. Every clothing item presently  in my closet was ordered online or bought for me by someone else.  Even had I possessed an age-appropriate desire to shop, being relegated to  little girls' size eights  would have been enough to dampen my spirits. While our friends checked out vintage disco clothing, Claire and I headed for the book shelves.

I recall finding my black band uniform gloves in one of my pockets and putting them on so that I didn't have to touch the inch-or-so-thick layer of dust coating the book selection. I moved along the shelf, pulling out any title that seemed vaguely interesting, though very few were interesting in the least, until I reached a particular volume, a faded red book cover with black lettering and detailing. I carefully pulled the book from its shelf using only the gloved tips of my fingers, perhaps with the thought that the previous owner might possibly have been using it as a reference while he worked. Yes, I had read correctly. The title of the book really was  Essentials of Proctology, by Harry Bacon and Curtice Rosser.

My first impulse upon coming across the book was to shout across the store to my friends, "Oh my God! You won't believe what I just found!" I did not want, however, to merely look at the book until it was taken away from me by some well-meaning geriatric Goodwill store employee, but to actually buy the book, so I stifled that impluse. I calculated that I had a better shot at getting out of the store with the book if I bought several at a time, so I picked up four others, which were dumped into the first trash receptacle I spotted upon exiting the store. At a cost of fifty cents per book,  my total expenditure for my amazing find was a mere $2.50 plus tax. Megan had spently nearly twice what I spent just for a rather unsightly glittery fuschia vest that only God knows who wore in its past lives.

No one in our middle school band was terribly interested in the results as announced at the awards ceremony. My fellow band members were far more interested in looking over each others' shoulders at the various colorectal diseases and conditions, and the examination precedures for each, as detailed in the illustrations of my new book. One particularly gruesome page featured a nude man attached to a contraption that spread his legs (and other body parts) far apart to expose what appaeared to the untrained eye to be an incredibly fungus-infected posterior region, with the corresponding page featuring men in white coats wearing those doctor head reflector things  while performing whatever procedure it was that proctologists performed on fungus-infected posterior regions in 1943.  I can remember thinking that it  looked very much like some sort of chamber of horrors.

On the bus ride, home, I was able to recoup the cost of the book and more by renting it out for a dollar for each  five minutes of viewing time. If memory serves me correctly, I walked off the bus that day with five crumpled one-dollar bills plus an assortment of nickels, dimes, and quarters to equal an additional two dollars.  In retrospect, the band director, seated at the front of the bus, probably should have been at least mildly curious about what it was that was so engrossing to the children in his care. Perhaps he was mildly curious, but if so, he never acted on his curiosity. My renters read the book in peace, unhampered by any pesky adult intrusions.

I took the book home and put it on my bookshelf between my Bible and the Book of Mormon  that my grandmother had given me. That to me seemed the most unlikely place on my bookshelf for anyone to snoop.  The book came off the shelf a couple of times after the day I bought it because I wanted to reasure myself that it was as disgusting as I had initially thought. It was.

That year my classmates and I had a language arts teacher who did little to inspire confidence in the teaching profession. This teacher's incompetence was probably apparent to administration within a week of the start of the school year, but, as is usually the case in such matters, if the teacher is not caught exposing himself or herself  to , molesting, or poisoning a child, the teacher usually gets to finish the year [with pay] regardless of how utterly lacking his or her job performance may be. Near the end of the year, when the teacher had been told she would not be returning the following year, she gave up any pretense of actually teaching us anything, though she needed to report for work and house us in her clssroom for the required periods of day if she wished to continue drawing her paycheck. So that she wouldn't have thirty-three bodies hovering around some stage of oncoming adolsecence chasing each other around the small classroom, the teacher usually assigned students to various irrelevant oral presentations, which would require absolutely no preparation on her part.

When the non-teacher assigned book reports, I knew, along with any student who had been on the bus with me that day, just what book I would be sharing with my classmates. One boy came to school even though he was throwing up that day just so he wouldn't miss my presentation. On the assigned day, I brought the book to my language arts classroom and proceeded to tell every student there everything they ever wanted to know about proctology and then some, complete with illustrations. I don't think the non-teacher ever looked up from her magazine to see what it was that had the entire class quiet for the first time all year. I got the book home and back into its place on my shelf between the Bible and the Book of Mormon without incident.

After dinner that night, as my brother and I were doing our homework in our rooms, the telephone rang several times. Afterwards, I heard my parents laughing loudly and speaking animatedly. I remember assuming they were watching something really funny on television and resenting that I was slaving away on a history report when others in the house had time for frivolity. Then my dad hollered up the stairs, "Alexis, come down here. And bring your book with you."  I thought about inquiring "What book?" but thought better of it. I took Essentials of Proctology from its appointed place on my shelf and went downstairs.

My dad took the book from me as I reached the bottom of the stairs, and I followed him into the family room. My brother quietly left his room to perch at the top of the stairs and overhear as much as he could.

"Alexis, how many books have you read this year?" my mom asked.

"I don't know," I replied honestly. My brother's and my TV time was restricted to an hour a day on school days and two hours a day on weekends and school holidays, so I had a lot of time to read. I probably went through two to three books a week in an average week.

"Then estimate," my mom ordered.

"Maybe," I mentally calculated, ".  .  . eighty."

"Then why in hell," my dad cut in, "did you choose this book for your book report?"  he demanded, holding up Essentials of Proctology.

"It just seemed interesting," I answered.

The telephone rang, but no one moved to answer it.

"Oh, it was interesting, all right," he exploded. "We've had four different calls from parents of your classmates complaining that you brought pornography to school. That's probably a fifth call right there."

"It's not pornography," I argued.

"No, it isn't," my mom agreed, "but it's not an appropriate book for an eighth grade English report, either."

"My teacher didn't complain," I countered.

"Your teacher wouldn't complain about anything as long as you didn't disturb her reading of Vogue," my mom opined.

"Who complained, anyway?" I asked.

"You don't need to know that, " my dad told me. "Go back to your room and finish your homework. . . And don't pick anymore inappropriate books for oral book reports."

I thought about asking for my book, but thought again and didn't.

The next night my dad handed me ten dollars. "What's this for?" I asked him as my brother whined that he wanted ten dollars, too.

"I sold your book for you," he responded.

"I didn't really want to sell it," I told him.

"Do you want then ten dollars or not?" he asked. "If you want to keep the money, you'd best shut up about the book."

Years later, I learned that my dad had taken the book to work the day following my book report. His colleagues had quite a time looking at the circa 1940 torture chamber pictures, and one of them was more than happy to take it off my dad's hands to put in  his personal library. I've never, before or since, had an investment that yielded a greater than six hundred per cent return. If you're looking for a quick way to double your money or to do even better, I recommend scouring used bookstores for textbooks relating to proctology.









Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Code




To gift the dress or not to gift the dress: that is the question.

When I was going through the process of choosing dresses for my two senior recitals, I ordered several dresses. I have a greater need for black dresses than for dress clothing items of any other color due primarily to the number of  musician gigs I have, but I wasn't sure I wanted black for my recital dresses. I already have substantially more black dress ensembles than I have outfits of any other color. For that reason, I ordered several dresses in various non-black colors. The purple dress pictured here is one of them. I thought it was vaguely cute, though it ended up not being even close to what I wanted in a dress for either recital.

I took my dresses over to my psuedoaunt's house when I was deciding what to  keep, what to return, and what to wear to my recitals. I told pseudoaunt  to try on a few dresses that were a bit big for me. Her husband supplements his income with his photography hobby. He took pictures of both of us in various dresses. Most of the time I never see any of the pictures he takes. He has standing permission to sell any picture of me if he has the opportunity as long as he shares the money with me. I've collected a few hundred bucks from him over the past four years or so.

Anyway, somehow a picture of pseudoaunt in the purple dress ended up on my computer. I  remember a time in the  summer when he hadleft his computer at work and his desktop computer froze up, so he used my laptop to do a few things before he made it back to work to pick up his own laptop. (I really must ask pseudouncle to be mindful of what he puts on my computer. What if he takes pictures of his wife wearing less than what she's wearing in this photo? I'm not saying for an absolute certainty that they have kinky photo sessions or anything like that, but what if they do? I really wouldn't want to come across any peek-a-booboo pictures while I'm trying to mind my own business.)

Anyway, I saw a thumbnail image of a photo I didn't remember taking or uploading, so I clicked on it. the picture is of pseudoaunt wearing the purple dress. I think it looks  nice on her. Then last night when I was searching my closet for my Fresno State sweatshirt, I came across the purple dress. I've already sent back  the others I didn't plan to keep. I don't really feel like boxing the dress and making a trip to the FedEx place. It was paid for on my dad's credit card. Since several dresses were initially charged on his card, then several were returned, and none were tremendously expensive, my dad wouldn't have paid much attention to any of the charges. He'll never notice anything, and for that matter, I can offer to reimburse him for the dress. Money's not  the issue.

I don't usually give women clothing for Christmas. I haven't historically trusted myself to pick out clothing for others except for ties and shirts for my dad, because even I can do a better job than he does of picking out shirts and ties that match. He'd show up for work in a striped shirt with a polka dot tie if left to his on devices. If it's something silly like the cave man and cave woman pjs, which I gave to the pseudos as a joke (although they did wear them Halloween costumes last year) a couple Christmases ago,  I might buy the stuff , but I wouldn't typically purchase a for-real outfit that someone might wear in public.

So what do you think? Does the dress look like something it would be OK for her to wear? The dress is just hanging in my closet with the tags on it, and it's a little too big for me. It doesn't look ridiculous on me, but it fits her better.

Should I, or should I not give it to her for Christmas?

Note:  Pseudoaunt will be to be too busy to look at my blog for at least a week,and I'll probably hide the blog after that. If she does look at my blog before then, perhaps she'll come right out and say whether or not she wants the dress. I wouldn't normally spoil someone's Christmas present, but if she comes across my blog, it wouldn't be 100% my fault. (It would probably be 99% my fault, but not 100%.)

Feel free to weigh in with any input in the comments section.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rooftop Gymnastics

Note: This is an adaptation of a previous post. In  very many ways, I'm  not like columnist John Rosemond and others of his ilk, who try to pass off  previous columns as new work for the purpose of financial gain. How hard is it to come up with a new fake letter from a fake reader  supposedly asking the precise fake question you wanted to answer, anyway? In the event that you could not tell, I am not a fan of John Rosemond.


another fool on a balance beam, although at least it was an actual balance beam she was on




When I was younger, I was
a gymnast. It started as a hobby but became more intense as I progressed. By the time I reached my peak at the age of not quite eleven, I hadn't yet acquired all the skills to reach the Elite level, but wasn't terribly far away. I was spending roughly twenty hours each week at the gym where I trained. Because my parents both worked, they were minimally involved in my life at the gym. During part of my gymnastics training, my mother was dealing with major illnesses, one of which was life-threatening, which resulted in even less involvement on their part. They or another relative usually transported me to and from the gym, and they attended an occasional competition, but mostly they just threw money at the directors of any gymnastics program in which I was a participant (we moved a couple of times during my gymnastics training) and told the people to take me away. I all ended rather abruptly on an autumn afternoon when I was ten.

Because gymnastics is a very expensive sport (my father's reason), or because too much time spent on one activity at a young age isn't necessarily a good thing (my mother's reason), my parents opted to have me participate in very close to the minimal number of competitions required by my gymnastics program driectors. That still left me involved in frequent weekend meets, but it gave me what most gymnasts at my level didn't have, which was an occasional weekend at home.

On one of those weekends, my family was  going about the process of spending our usual quality time together. This would have meant that my father was inside watching football on TV (I think it was a Saturday, so it was presumably college football), my mother was in her room asleep, and my brother and I were outside, contriving  dangerous things we could dare each other to do.

My brother had climbed an evergreen  tree to get onto the roof of our two-story home. He first ventured onto the roof of the garage, then made his way to the lowest part of the house roof, then finally onto the very highest part of the two-story roof. Once there, he observed that the beam running the length of the roof was "about as wide as that thing you do gymnastics tricks on." His statement was reflective of how little attention my family paid to my participation in gymnastics: my very own twin brother didn't even know what a balance beam was called. Matthew then went on to say that a gymnast "who isn't a coward" could probably "do tricks  right here on the roof of our house."

I recognized that he was baiting me, but I couldn't quitebring myself to pass on his challenge. "What'll you give me if I do it?" I asked.

"I'll visit you in the hospital after you fall," or something very similar to that, was his reply.

"I won't do it unless you give something!" I demanded.

"A dollar," he offered.

"Ten, " I countered.

"Five," he shot back.

"Okay, five" I agreed.

I navigated the limbs of the pine tree and made my way up the various levels of the roof until I was with him on the highest part. "What do I need to do?" I asked him.

"Some of those flip things," he replied. (He's a boy. I'm lucky he even was able to articulate the term  those flip things.)

I may have been foolish at that age, and may still be to some degree, but I wasn't bona fide suicidal. "I'm not doing any round-offs or back handsprings up here," I told him, looking down at the ground so far below.

"You can't just stand there. I'm not paying you to do something I can do," he argued.

We finally agreed on a back walkover and a cartwheel. I told him to get out of my way. I walked to the the far  end of the roof, took a deep breath, turned around, and went right into the back walkover followed by a cartwheel. . . and now I'm speaking from my wheelchair into an assistive technology device that will translate my spoken words into print. Not really. I'm joking, although it could have ended up that way. The maneuvers were ones I'd been doing on the beam since my first year out of the "Mommy and Me" gymnastics classes that my brother and I took, and the beam on the roof was nearly identical in width to an actual balance beam, but it also was on the roof of a two-story house. God was apparently protecting fools that day, and I escaped unscathed. . . more or less, anyway.

Just as I was executing the maneuvers, a neighbor across the street walked out his front door. The rest is history, as is my gymnastics career. (My parents had already paid non-refundable fees for the first half of the year, but that wasn't even a consideration to them. Until I enrolled in gymnastics and tumbling courses as an eighteen-year-old, I didn't seen the inside of another gymnastics facility. My dad even took advantage of  his privilege as a physician to have me excused from all gymnastics activity in  middle school and high school physical education courses.)

I won't detail exactly what happened to me that day, as it is embarrassing to admit that my parents were so uncivilized, but I will say that I'm reasonbly certain that my father would have been arrested if we had he been in Sweden. My sole consolation was that my brother's role in the reckless activity was not overlooked, and my father would have been arrested in Sweden for what happened to him as well. Furthermore, my brother and I never renege on bets or dares, so, unbeknownst to my parents, I was five dollars richer when my brother and I were finally paroled from our rooms.


















Saturday, November 23, 2013

Repost and Update of My Treatise on Mormon Mommy Blogs

a fairly typical photograph accompanying a Mormon Mommy blog

Because I have apparent masochistic tendencies, I sometimes click on the "next blog" button on the Blogspot bar. I don't know if the sites to which I am led when I click on the button are truly representative of what's out there in Blogspot's corner of the blogosphere, or if I just happen to get lucky on an extremely regular basis. Whichever it is, at least once out of every four times that I click, I land squarely in the middle of a Mormon Mommy blog.

I have nothing against Mormons. Maybe I do, actually, but I don't hate all of them, especially since I am a half-Mormon, if there really is such a thing. I was blessed in an LDS church and, through a statistical and record-keeping anomaly, was baptized by proxy for numerous dead people in a Mormon temple even though I was never baptized for myself outside of a Mormon temple, which is supposed to happen before a person is allowed to undertake the same ordinance on behalf of others. Along the same line, my brother, who was not baptized LDS, either, holds the Aaronic Priesthood of the LDS church. We Rousseaus seem to be incredibly talented at being Mormons to the extent that we're allowed to skip steps considered essential for others. We pass Go and collect our two hundred dollar stipends without troubling ourselves with Chance, Community Chest, or any pesky luxury taxes. Screw the baby steps. We're damn talented at being Mormons, all right, we Rousseaus are.

Getting back to the subject at hand, while I may take many cheap shots at Mormons and Mormonism, many people whom I love or about whom I care are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Some of them are mothers. Paradoxically, though, they're not Mormon Mommies. Merely being both a Mormon and a mother does not make a person a MormonMommy. Being a Mormon Mommy involves exponentially more than practicing a religion and begetting children. Mormon Mommies are far more special than anything so mundane.

A Mormon Mommy gives her children beautiful names such as Kennedie, Shelayna, Gracie Claire, or Sariah. Sariah is the only woman mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon, in the event anyone is interested, which is, I acknowledge, only the most remote of possibilities. A Mormon Mommy is likewise fond of creative spellings. Anne or Ann is much more beautiful and meaningful if spelled Annne. Similarly, why spell a child's name M-e-l-i-s-s-a when M-a-l-l-y-s-s-a is available? On a related note, a Mormon Mommy is most affronted by the inadvertent misspelling or mispronunciation of her child's name. Furthermore, lest anyone bask in the misconception that creativity in spelling or in the given name itself is an honor bestowed only upon female offspring, conceive again. A review of recent records reveals such gems as Kyson, Bryxler, Tylon, Monson (named for the current LDS prophet, seer, and revelator -- not to be confused with monsoon) and Rainn Beau. One would need to venture deep into the bowels of the most ghetto-ish segment of urban America to find anything approaching the naming system employed by even the most creativity-challenged Mormon Mommy in the pack.

A Mormon Mommy spends most of her waking hours actively engaged with Pinterest: creating projects she learned about on Pinterest, photographing her Pinterestic creations, and publishing her phantasmagoric Pinterest results there and elsewhere. She can and does blog for weeks at a time exclusively about hairstyles she gleaned from Pinterest. Her children's birthday parties (the themes and implementation procedures of which exclusively sprang from Pinterest) are documented with photographic evidence there and elsewhere more exhaustively than was the birth of Jesus.

One may have come to the conclusion that I harbor some sort of ill will toward Pinterest, which could not be further from the case. While I personally possess no inherent desire to create [however classy they may be] Christmas card holders from recycled Tampax boxes, or, for that matter, to create anything through any process that involves the use of a glue gun, I'm relatively open-minded in regard to allowing others that privilege; I just don't want to hear about it. What happens on Pinterest should remain on Pinterest. If I'm sitting on a chair that just so happens to have been slip-covered with individual Starburst wrappers that were melted with a steaming iron onto fabric recycled from discarded hospital gowns or cloth napkins too ratty to remain in use at Olive Garden, please leave me to wallow in my ignorance as to the process utilized in the creation of this one-of-a-kind work of art on which I'm seated. If the chair is too precious for me to sit on, just say so, but don't torture me with cumbersome details about the preciousness of the chair. I don't want to read about it on Blogspot, either. If anyone genuinely desires to know about a Mormon Mommy's unique upholstery technique, or, for that matter, about the bizarre hygiene products that can be created in one's own kitchen using only cornstarch, baking soda, candle wax, and Herbal Essence Shampoo, the person probably knows how to find Pinterest. The rest of the world would appreciate being spared the gory details. Once again, repeat after me: What happens on Pinterest should remain on Pinterest.

Standard written English and a Mormon Mommy are not usually best friends or even casual acquaintances. A Mormon Mommy connects independent clauses with commas.("We are laughing, we are friends.") The distinction between adjectives and adverbs is not a matter to which she gives much [if any] thought. Likewise, if subject/verb agreement happens, fine; if it fails to happen, that, too, is fine. Pronoun/antecedent compatibility? Whoever heard of such a thing? A Mormon Mommy uses apostrophes liberally, though not necessarily in any way of which David Foster Wallace or any other linguist would approve. (The Anderson's  had  BLAST'S at  Alicias' and at Great-Grandmas "60th" birthday bash's.) Blogspot's spelling correction feature keeps a Mormon Mommy's blog from containing even more spelling errors than a person would find in an average posting of this blog (I admit to being a notoriously poor typist who doesn't always take the time that I should to edit), but provides more than enough homophonic (and, for that matter, homo phobic) errors to make up for the lack of outright spelling miscues. ("My grate-grate-grandfather still serves on the steak high counsel and sings base in the choir. He and my grate-grate-grandmother receive sew many complements about they're many descendence whenever there entire family is together, like at my cousins bridle shower.") Exclamation points are a Mormon Mommy's best friend, and she hearts them!!!!! (Please note: a Mormon Mommy does not like, love, esteem, adore, care for, possess fondness for, delight in, lust after, [or anything else so banal] any person, place, thing, or idea. She hearts said person, place, thing, or idea. This is an imperative distinction.)

I most certainly hold no disdain for LDS mothers as a whole. I'm related to a great many of them, some of with whom I'm on speaking terms in a given decade. It is essential for me to clarify that the mere attributes of being affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and having given birth to or raised a child do not automatically bestow upon a person the distinction or appellation of Mormon Mommy. (Please put on your critical thinking hat for just a moment.) Sometimes the sum of two parts is greater than or less than the whole. One plue one can, on rare occasions, equal more than just two. On equally rare occasions, it can equal less than two. Not every LDS woman who claims the title of mother is a Mormon Mommy. It's a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a mystery, all enclosed in a nutshell, and it's absolutely no coincidence that it's a nutshell holding the thing together. (You can take off your critical thinking hat now.)

As unfair as it may seem, not every Mormon mommy is a Mormon Mommy. Religious affiliation and parental status notwithstanding, not just anyone can be a Mormon Mommy. Not everyone can be 5'7" with big boobs, either. Sometimes life is unfair, and those who cannot accept the occasional rotten hand dealt to them have little recourse other than, perhaps, to sue God.

I once shared my feelings concerning Mormon Mommy blogs with my dad, who said, predictably enough to anyone who knows my dad, "If you don't like 'em, don't read 'em." I suppose I could try to follow his advice, but it's not half simple as it would seem to be. Mormon Mommy blogs are the proverbial train wreck from which I cannot turn away. Furthermore, I reserve the [U.S. Counstitution's] first amendment-supported right to criticize what I find worthy of criticism, and if anything is worthy of criticism, it's the average Mormon Mommy blog.

Friday, November 22, 2013

repost of my necro-dunking story


As I mention from time to time, I am a baptized and confirmed Catholic (who thinks for myself and makes my own choices) but because my father's rather large family converted to Mormonism when he was young, anytime I am with that side of the family, I am exposed to elements of religious practice or culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm usually a bystander, but on occasions I've been right in the thick of things. I've already written about the time I was blessed in an LDS church. I will begin an I-don't-know-how-many-chapter series that may or may not be consecutive featuring my other major Mormon experiences. I will begin with something I rarely think about, but has come to the forefront of my mind since I wrote about it very briefly on the RFM bulletin board.

I was baptized for the dead. I know. I haven't even been formally dunked for myself Mormon-style -- the Mormons recognize neither the sprinkling done by the Catholic church nor the priest who sprinkles-- so how could I be baptized on behalf of some dead person? For that matter, why was I even allowed inside a temple? Here's how it all went down.

The summer I was 12,between my eighth- and ninth-grade years of school, I somehow got stuck staying with some of my LDS relatives in Utah for a week or two after my basketball camp (I'll explain about basketball camp another time) ended because my parents' cruise still had to make its way back around Cape Horn and up the Pacific coast. I was spending nights with an aunt whose husband, my uncle by marriage, was a stake president, which is the rough equivalent to a Catholic bishop. The LDS bishop of his ward (the rough equivalent to a Catholic parish priest) was another uncle by marriage. The stake was to have a Youth Temple Day on Friday of the week. All the youth ages 12 to 18 who were worthy of entrance in the temple would travel more than one hundred miles south to be baptized for the dead in a temple an hour or two south of the town in which my aunt and uncle lived because the town was home to an older and more historic temple than the one located a stone's throw away.

I initially mistook this ordinance as "Baptism of the Dead," wherein the Mormon youth would be charged with unloading dead bodies from stretchers, bags, or coffins, and dropping them into the pools of water supported by fake oxen heads that I had seen in pictures. Once again I was ever so glad not to be an official Mormon and not to be worthy to participate in this somewhat gruesome mission. The idea of even looking at a dead body, much less actually touching it and helping to drop it into a vat of water, then towing it out, gave me a severe case of the creepy-crawlies. I wondered if someone attached ropes to the bodies to make it easier to hall them in and out of the giant tubs they referred to as "fonts." I wondered a little about the logistics, but mostly I was just glad to be left out of the whole fiasco. Then I heard I was expected to tag along on this most macabre of field trips. While still less than thrilled to be dragged to Manti for this purpose, I was greatly relieved to learn that the dead were to be baptized by proxy, using our bodies. No actual cadavers wee involved.

The relatives seemed to have forgotten that I was never baptized ("Of course you were baptized! We would never have let you get this old without baptizing you!") As it turns out, all I needed were "interviews" with my bishop and a member of the stake presidency in order to determine my worthiness to enter the House of the Lord. I'm not sure how, when, or why these people suddenly changed their minds concerning my character. On a normal day, any one of my father's siblings or their spouses would have told you that I was a first-degree spawn of Satan, not worthy to color in a coloring book with pictures of LDS temples (because my coloring book renditions of temples always looked liked haunted houses when I colored them) much less to set foot in an actual temple. The truth of the matter is that a whole lot of LDS temples do look like haunted houses or spooky castles in real life to many people. When my family visited Washington, D.C., someone had spray-painted, "Surrender, Dorothy!" on an overpass above the Washington D.C. Beltway right where the Mormon Temple comes into view in obvious reference to that temple's resemblance to the castle in Oz. To borrow a line from Billy Joel, I didn't start the fire. I was hardly the first person to note the resemblance between L.D.S. temples and scary places.

Almost before I knew it, I was in an oversized van with a load of other kids from my age to eighteen, nearly all of them at least twice my size. My aunt had thought to grab a baptismal jumpsuit from the ward baptismal supply in hopes that, since it was made to fit an eight-year-old, it might not swallow me whole. It pretty much did anyway, but I wore a snapping white one-piece shirt, sort of like a Onesie, under it and my aunt stitched up the collar a bit so that I wouldn't slide out of the neck hole every time I was dunked and pulled up again. The baptismal jumpsuits in the temple were made for twelve-year-olds and older, so there's no way one of those would've remained on my meercat-shaped body through multiple trips under and out of  the water.

There was supposed to have been an interview process, but no one asked me a thing, because I certainly wouldn't have told them that the Book of Mormon was true or that Joseph Smith was any sort of a prophet. Someone handed me a form just before we walked into the temple. One uncle had signed, perjuring himself to state that he had interviewed me as bishop, and another had done the same in the Stake Presidency spot. I had in a bag my white Jesus jumpsuit made out of quilted fabric, sort of like an old-fashioned mattress cover, my white Onesie an extra pair of white undies, and my little piece of paper stating I was worthy to enter the House of the Lord. (I still have it, with no expiration date. I suppose could get into one off those temples any time I wanted to, as if I'd ever want to, were it not for the probability that the forms have been changed three or more times since then) I hadn't eaten anything since dinner the night before because fasting was mandated before temple baptisms, at least in that central Utah location..

We entered through the holiest of buildings to a basement -level locker room and put on our funky white mattress-cover jumpsuits, with mine being slightly funkier than average. We wandered into the large basement baptismal room where there was a large font of water held on the backs of fake oxen. Two men, wearing white pants, shirts, and ties, walked across ramps with railings on each side, then down  steps into the font filled with water. I remember hoping the water wasn't too cold The men who entered first would apparently do the dunking. The temple supervisors lined us up, There were two lines - one line of girls and one line of boys. The girls would be baptized by proxy for females who had lived and died on this Earth at some time in the past, while the boys would perform the same function for males.

I quickly found my way back to the girls' line and watched as a man in white garb held his hand up and uttered some prescripted words about baptizing someone in the name of whatever the dead person's name was in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Two men were watching each baptizer and baptizee to ascertain that the person went all the way under the water at the same time. If the person didn't, the procedure had to be repeated, with the name said over and the prayer said again. They were very official in their process. With larger girls or boys, the baptizers seemed to tire after dunking them more than a few times, and baptizers would have to alternate. Additionally, I noticed that the more physically developed girls received fewer dunks. One particularly buxom girl, whose buxomness became more apparent through her increasingly clingy and eventually almost transparent jumpsuit with each dunk, received only about seven dunks. This did not bode well for me. I kept moving to the back of the line, encouraging girls who had already had turns to take additional advantage of this opportunity to serve the Lord.

One older woman eventually noticed me. She thought I was merely reticent, so she took me by the hand and walked me to the head of the line, telling me, "There's nothing to be afraid of, dear." "Here's a new one," she said to the baptizer as I was helped down the steps and into the water.. The man showed me how to put my fingers over my nose. He said the scripted words, dipped me backwards into the water, then lifted me out. Typically the two men in the font alternated, with a man telling each of them a name to recite for his next dunk as the other guy was dunking his proxy. The two men soon figured out that I was such a lightweight that Man A could easily dunk me twice in the amount of time it took for Man B to dunk his boy once. They also probably noticed my absence of physical development, which might have made it awkward for them to continue baptizing anyone else so many times. There was certainly nothing about my physique that would make any man feel awkward to see me in wet clothing.

Boys kept coming and going in the line next to me while I was dunked repeatedly, two dunks for every single dunk of the boy being dunked by the other man. I became seriously afraid that these people were trying to drown me. No wonder my relatives had been so eager to perjure themselves on my temple recommend form. They finally found a way to get rid of the pesky Alexis once and for all, making it look like an accident in the process. I eventually grabbed the guy's arm before he could dunk me again and told him to slow down because I needed to catch my breath. He looked at me apologetically and said,"I'm sorry, honey." He helped me out of the font and I made my way back into the dressing room. Still attempting to catch my breath, I heard one of the men say, "How many times did you baptize that little girl, anyway?"

Another one said, "I'm not sure, but it must have been over a hundred. I bel that's some kind of a local record."

I hurried into dry clothing and on into the cafeteria to grab just a bit of food before making the trek back to my temporary home. My parents returned home from their cruisea few of days later, and I caught a plane from Salt Lake City to California. My dad picked me up at the airport. "What did you do in Utah?" he asked me.

"Do you know what 'Baptism for the Dead' is?" I asked him.

He looked at me for moment, then said, "No way!"

I shook my head yes.

He asked me if they baptized me in a regular church or swimming pool first. I told him no, they hadn't, and explained about the paper with my uncles' signatures, and the Onesie, and the jumpsuit that had to be practically sewn onto my body, and the apparent record number of dunks.

He just sort of looked straight ahead and whistled but didn't say anything else to me. As soon as we got home, he pulled my mother into their library before I even had a chance to greet her. I couldn't hear what was being said, but my dad's voice was getting more and more agitated, while my mother just laughed harder and harder.

Eventually they emerged from their library. My mother hugged me and said, "I hear you were baptized."

"More than a hundred times," I told her.

"Either you must have sinned a whole lot or you must be really in a state of grace now," my mother said.

My dad said he was going to call the temple and tell them that it was a mixup and that I was a non-member, because the baptisms I had done would need to be done over.

My mom asked him then if he really believed it made any difference.

"Not one damn bit," my dad muttered

"Then why don't you just leave well enough alone?" my mom asked him.

"OK," my dad answered, "but I'm also not leaving my kid with any of them again. They could marry her off in one of those damned temples before she's fourteen." {This has been edited to add that, for the record, my dad did leave me with one of them another ime, and  with even more disastrous results, but that story will ait until another day.]

I think my dad was confusing the mainstream LDS temples with those of Warren Jeffs' offshoot branch, but I didn't bother to argue because it wasn't as though I wanted to spend more time in one of either group's temples.























Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Trailer Trash Barbie Repost

My box was Barbie pink and, therefore, more authentic.


When I was five and in first grade, my brother and I spent a few weeks of the fall in Utah. We stayed at my grandparents' home, and my Aunt Cristelle, who was a college freshman, was mostly in charge of taking care of us. My mom had been diagnosed with leukemia, and my father was flying all over the country with her, looking for the best treatment options.

We were in Utah for Halloween. In the area where we stayed, children didn't typically do the traditional trick-or-treat festivities. Instead, members of wards (local LDS congregations) organized "Trunk-or-Treat" outings, where ward members would park their cars in the parking lot of a church building in a somewhat circular fashion, and little kids would travel from one car to the next yelling "Trick-or-Treat!" and collecting loot. (My Aunt Cristelle said that the purpose of Trunk-or-Treat was for the local predominantly Mormon population to avoid giving out any candy to non-Mormon heathen children. There's probably far more truth to her assertion than I realized at the time.) My brother and I were cynical even at the age of five. We knew that what we were doing was not really trick-or-treating, so we pointedly hollered "Trunk-or-Treat!" at each car. Some people thought it was cute, but most found it more than a little obnoxious.

Costumes weren't much of an issue at the Trunk-or-Treat gathering because it was quite dark. I wore another cousin's old Pocahontas costume, but it was three sizes too large, and I spent roughly half of my "Trunk-or Treat" time tripping over the hem. My brother was Darth Vader without a mask, because Mormons frown on masks. The ban on masks has something to do either with Satan or with some mob that chased Joseph Smith out of Missouri in the early years of the church or something of a similar nature (I can't always keep my knowledge of LDS lore straight), and even if it's the most benign mask in creation and one advertises one's identity while wearing the mask, masks are still inherently evil. If you didn't know that, I'll pardon your ignorance, as there are many bits of information to which a person is not privy unless he or she has a very close association with Mormonism.

After the "Trunk-or-Treat" event, neighbors of my grandparents were having a Halloween party for their children and were kind enough to invite my brother and me. My brother remained in his store-bought Darth Vader costume. My Aunt Cristelle wanted something a bit less run-of-the-mill for me. The little girls were asked to dress up as their favorite Barbie dolls. Someone was Ballerina Barbie. There were multiple Cheerleader Barbies and Cinderella Barbies. Someone else was Teacher Barbie. At least three girls came dressed as Mommy Barbie. (This was, after all, in Utah.) There was Gymnast Barbie, Veterinarian Barbie, Race Car Driver Barbie, Babysitter Barbie, and too many more to remember. (There was, unfortunately, no polygamous Barbie. The party happened before Warren Jeffs and his offshoot group hit the news in a major way.) I don't think anyone forgot my Barbie incarnation, though. I was the one and only Trailer Trash Barbie at the party.

Cristelle needed a pair of jeans that she could cut off really short into Daisy Duke-length shorts for me. This wasn't easy, as I was considerably underweight and hadn't quite grown into size 3t clothing. My aunt finally found a pair of size 6-9 month jeans (babies wear diapers under them, so in my undies I was actually able to button them) suitably tight on me to resemble Daisy Duke shorts, and she cut them very short. She took a T-shirt that my 2-year-old cousin had outgrown. She printed across the chest of it with a Magic Marker bold letters, "Don't Stare! Grow some of your own!" Then she put a swim suit top on me and stuffed it liberally with facial tissues before putting the shirt on me. She found a package of candy cigarettes at a novelty store, which she rolled up in the sleeve of my t-shirt. She put one of those flat cylindrical bubble gum containers into the back pocket of my shorts so that it would resemble a chewing tobacco container. She applied several fake tattoos to my arms,legs, shoulders, and bare midriff, all pledging my true love forever to different boys. She did my hair and makeup a la Jonbenet, complete with fake eyelashes, except with a pink tint to my hair. She found some tacky 3-inch gold plastic heels in which I could barely walk. She painted a CD holder box Barbie pink, and lettered "Trailer Trash Barbie" in bold white letters on the pink background just above the cut-out space in which I was prominently displayed. She gave me numerous keys, which she told me to hand out to all the boys at the gathering except for my brother. I had no clue as to why I was handing out keys to little boys, and I didn't understand why the adults at the party looked at me scandalously and spoke to one another in hushed tones as I obediently did as I was told.

Predictably, almost everyone in attendance at the party was horrified. My grandparents had gone out to dinner, so they never even saw me in all my glory. People in the neighborhood and the ward probably murmured about it for weeks (Mormons are big on murmuring), but no one had the nerve to actually mention anything to my grandparents, who were pillars of the church beyond the local level. My Uncle Michael, who lived at home while attending BYU just prior to getting married, snapped a few pictures of me in costume. Then all was forgotten.

A great deal happened in the months immediately following Halloween. My mom got much sicker. I became ill. I was made well enough to donate bone marrow to her, but then got sick again, and I spent many months recovering under the care of my parents' closest friends, who lived in Florida and were an MD and nurse practitioner. Eventually both my mom and I were well again.

Some seven or eight odd years later, when my parents, brother, and I attended a family reunion in Utah with my dad's relatives, someone put a DVD of old photographs into a computer projected onto a wall screen, which the adults were watching. Then out popped the picture of me as Trailer Trash Barbie. My parents at first didn't recognize me until my brother graciously pointed out that I was the little slut [his precise words]. My mom was speechless. My grandparents were practically apopleptic. My dad's face was ashen. Everyone wanted to know the how's, why's, and most importantly, the who's of the situation. As evil as I've always been considered by that half of the family, even they knew I had been incapable at the age of five of pulling off the Trailer Trash Barbie look unassisted. It was easy enough to blame Aunt Cristelle since it really was her doing, and especially since she was over two thousand miles away.

Cristelle and her husband didn't produce any children for the first nine years or so of their marriage, so my dad plotted during that time to take compromising pictures of their cocker spaniel. Then they brought the delightful if misnamed Blitzen Manx into the world. My dad had great plans to take all sorts of perfectly legal but incriminating photos of the kid. My mom, however, opposed the plan on the grounds that Blitzen Manx already had two-and-a-half strikes against him just from having been give such a ridiculous name, and that, furthermore, Cristelle and Mendel are so utterly clueless both as parents and as human beings that they'd probably like the would-be incriminating pictures and either proudly post them on Facebook or use them in their Winter Solstice greeting cards. If the kid turns out normal and someday seeks a conventional job, he deserves not to have any potential boss come across complete and utter digital ignorance when his name is googled. My dad says my mom is a total buzzkill, but he doesn't wish to poison my cousin's future, so he thus far has not yet retaliated.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Winding Down

It takes a unconventional mentality to be in the company of,, much less to be a member of, a low-brass section.

I have to conduct the school's wind ensemble for two selections during a noon concert on Thursday. It's not something that should keep me awake during the hours I should be sleeping between now and then. The professor for my instrumental/choral conducting class knows I can't be the one to personally play all the parts, nor do I even have the power to grade the individuals playing the parts. If a flute player doesn't know a G-flat from an open bottle of Guinness, it's really not my problem. All my professor is really looking for is that I'm thoroughly familiar with the score and that I am clear in my direction of the musicians. That is something I can manage. My mom taught me how to conduct when I was in kindergarten.

I was originally planning on taking a few days off after my senior recital, but the MacNeill trial has concluded, and that was something I was considering watching if it had still been going once my recital was outof the way. There's nothing else compelling enough to keep me away from class.

Today was a Kodiak bear of a day, as, on top of my classes, I had to sit through the entirety of a three-hour wind ensemble rehearsal just so that I would be present to conduct my two pieces when the actual director of the wind ensemble eventually got around to rehearsing them. When the guy finally got to the first of my pieces, he wanted to run through the difficult patches, then run through the whole thing, then run through it again with me conducting it. The first-chair clarinet player told him just to let me conduct it on the first run-through. His words were that I was not "a complete moron like that other jerk student conductor we have" and that the ensemble could follow me. I wouldn't ordinarily consider it a compliment for someone to acknowledge that I'm not a complete moron (I may very well be a partial moron in the guy's opinion) but the director handed the baton to me and gestured to me to take the podium as though I should have been totally flattered by the clarinet player's remark.

Last night's sleep in my dorm was interrupted when a freshman left a toaster strudel or some other glorified form of pop tart (Ugh! I would not eat one of the things unless I was an inch from literal starvation and all the unflavored cardboard in my region had already been eaten) in a toaster too small to pop up and disengage when it normally would. The campus fire squad kept us outside for about half an hour, which initially irritated me, but when we walked back through and I caught a better whiff of the second-floor inferno, I understood why the fire squad was concerned. The stench was worse than the most egregious microwave popcorn disaster I've ever experienced, and I've come into contact with more than a few. Anything that creates such toxic smoke in its torched state cannot possibly be good for a body even when properly heated. My prediction is that those who consume large quantities of such garbage will not require normal embalming procedures upon death, as the people are probably already full of formaldehyde.

My friend Rebecca had surgery today. By the time my day finally wound down , it was too late for an even minimally polite person to call someone's parents who live within the Eastern Standard Time Zone, so I'll have to get a a few inutes early tomorrow morning in order to check on her.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Slipping Into the Zone

If this happened to my hair during my recital, no one told me about it.

In my most recent post, I referenced having slipped into the zone while fulfilling my senior recital. The zone is an elusive and illusive concept that virtually defies description. Nevertheless, I said I would take a stab at describing my experience, and so I shall.

The zone is more correctly a state of mind as opposed to a physical place. Still, real or imaginary, it's where every degree candidate could only be so lucky to find himself or herself during a recital except that it rarely works out that way. A musician practices the works he or she will perform, sometimes for years, yet usually must battle nerves, self-doubt, and many other elements within himself or herself to emerge from the ordeal of a senior recital. Once in a great while all the hard work results in a relatively short state of grace from those elements. It's pure magic; I'm not sure I know how else to describe it.

Being in the zone is not an out-of-body experience or anything so otherworldly as that. It's not quite like being in a trance, though a musician is in his or her own little world in which nothing but the music makes any difference. Everything from that moment on when one arrives in the mystical state is akin to being on autopilot. It doesn't matter where a person is or who else is there. (In my case there were more than six hundred people present.) Wardrobe or the possibility of a malfunction ceases to be a concern. Hair, nails, and makeup don't matter anymore. It's all about the artist and the music, but really just the music; the artist is little more than a conduit through which the music is delivered. I wish I could produce a road map or precise directions for how to find the zone , but in the end, other than through the almost countless hours of practice starting when I was three years old, I have no clue as to how I reached that enigmatic existence. Years of hard work and just a little blind luck led me there on the one night of my life when it actually mattered.

Bach was suppposedly in the zone when he composed The Magnificat. Handel was reportedly in the zone when he composed The Messiah. (It's a funny not-entirely-coincidence that artists most frequently are reported to have been in the zone when composing or performing religious works. I'm inclined to chalk it up to religious fervor combined with the ever-pervasive urban legend mentality.) Mozart may have been in the zone just about anytime he picked up a pen or went near a keyboard. Pianist Vladimer Horowitz was alleged to have been there on a fairly regular basis when he performed. Then again, maybe he just had Asperger's. Performing rock musicians allude to being in the zone fairly routinely, though pharmaceutical facilitation may very well play a role in such cases.

It sounds ludicrously self-aggrandizing for me to compare my experience with those of the artists whose feats I've mentioned, and I'm not suggesting that my very small success in any way compares with anything they or any other of the masters accomplished. I'm merely sharing that I have experienced a situation in which I was able to perform slightly beyond my normal maximum capacity with the greatest of ease, and that beyond what can be explained by the ordinary over-preparation for a major event, I have no great explanation.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

scores haven't posted yet, but . . .

what we were shooting for with my hair, except my hair is a little curlier and Alyssa didn't want to straighten it


I don't think I could have done much better tonight. I opened with a Telemann sonata. I had originally planned a Buxtehude work, but I tossed it in favor of Telemann. I think it was a good move. At this point in the concert I was running on adrenaline but I managed not to rush anything, and I nailed the opening piece.

My next work was Bach Partita #5 in G. Somewhere in the opening notes of movement number one (the Preambule) of the Back work I slipped into the zone. The zoneis something I'd heard about but never before experienced. I'm not even sure I believed it existed. I don't really know how to describe it, though I will make a stab at it in the near future. Suffice it to say that I don't think I could have forced myself to play anything wrong even if I had tried. I sailed through the first half of my program.

My brother brought ten baseball teammates, who sat together in the mid stage-right section along with Jared, Timmy, Gerard, my cousins Josh, Phillip, Michael, Patrick, Andrew, Scott's brother-in-law Joel, and several others. They were apparently whooping it up between selections to the extent that it nearly [but not quite] was inappropriate, but I didn't even notice.

During intermission no one came backstage to where I was except my dad very briefly as he passed through the area after giving a few strings of the piano a qucik retune. I learned afterward that my professor had recognized my level of focus and didn't let anyone through to talk to me during intermission. He announced that intermission would be very short. We were in an auditorium that had ample restroom facilities so it wasn't a matter of waiting around for everyone to use the bathroom who needed to do so. My professor didn't say a word to me during break. My dad didn't say anything.

I opened the second half with Beethoven's Sonata in E-flat, which is every pianist's dream -- a work so lovely that if a person can play it at all the person will sound beautiful while playing it. It's a masterpiece created for sending anyone back into the zone or keeping the person there, and it worked. My professor knew what he was doing when he had me open the second half with it. Then I just had Gershwin Prelude #4, and my killer piece -- the only selection I played out of chronological sequence -- Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu, which is quite possibly the single most perfect work ever composed for solo piano.

At that point I was finished, and I could have stopped everything right there because I was a mere six minutes away from maxing out the time allotted, but I really wanted an encore and didn't sense that the audience was tired. I played a piece from "Fantasies and Delusions," which is Billy Joel's foray into classical music. I would have liked to have played more of Fantasies and Delusions and to have included it into my actual program, but we decided in the end that it was too risky because it might not have been taken seriously by all members of the adjudication panel. Taking a stand is a noble ideal, but in the end, sometimes a person cannot put his or her final grade on the line just to make a statement. Billy Joel is a big boy and doesn't need unimportant me to fight his battles of acceptance into the world of bona fide classical music. I chose instead to use a single selection from Billy Joel's work after the score sheets had been handed to the department secretary in attendance. The panel can add supplemental sheets to raise a person's final score based on the encore, but performance on an encore cannot be used against a degree candidate.

I played "Air," subtitled "Dublinesque," which is a simple but magnificent melody. It was well received, and my professor told me that five of six members of my adjudication panel submitted supplementary sheets which presumably raised my score since the scores couldn't be used to lower it. The lack of response of the sixth panel member told me I had made the right choice in not including the Billy Joel work in my actual program. I would presumably have been penalized because someone on my panel didn't think it was a suitable choice.

It's past the time frame in which my scores should have been posted. My professor tells me that can only be good, because the secretary would have been damned sure to meet the deadline, or would have at least called him to ask for permission to post the scores late, if there had been any issues. I could technically dispute everything because the scores have not been delivered to me, albeit electronically, by the deadline. My professor said the scores are probably uncommonly high to the point that someone else was brought in to recalculate and audit. That's fine. I want to see the real scores when I see them. If someone in the department complains because I was scored too high, I want my scores to stand.

My competitor was there. He shook my hand afterward and told me he's not worthy to clean the mud off my cleats. He was speaking metaphorically. I'm wearing heels tonight, and they have no mud on them. I'm not sure I buy the competitor's words, but I like hearing them just the same. My mom told me I played better than she played at her master's recital. She's always my harshest critic, so I do believe what she said. Dad thought it was terrific, but he always thinks whatever I play is great. PseudoUncle Scott said I totally rocked.

Thanks to everyone for their words of support and kind wishes. I'm typing on someone's Ipad at my reception in a pizza parlor while waiting for my scores, which I hope will appear soon.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Not that I am counting the minutes or anything . . .


My recital is tomorrow evening. It will begin, in fact, in just under twenty-one hours. In twenty-four hours it will be Mission Accomplished. I had my run-through at 5:00 tonight. I quickly played through my pieces except for my encore. I'm still undecided on that one. I'm reserving the right to make up my mind at the last minute. For that matter, I'm reserving the right to change my program at the last minute. I've printed up six separate programs with the six possible sequences of selections. It's mostly only the order that is in doubt, though I do reserve the right to change my modern piece, as I have a couple of other modern selections ready to go. It cost me roughly an extra two-hundred dollars to do that, but I've conserved throughout my entire college experience, so I don't feel guilty in the least about the frivolity of having extra programs printed. For that matter, if I wake up tomorrow morning and want to change things into a seventh sequence, I'll switch the order around on my laptop, add anything that isn't already there, remove anything I don't want, print out another program, and send one of my minions to a print shop no make copies of a seventh edition of my printed program. My professor is stressing out a bit about my indecision, but that is his problem, not mine. There are probably twenty pieces I could substitute in at the last minute that I've known for what seems like forever.

Ma and Pa are at a bed and breakfast up the road an hour or so. They're having some sort of romantic mini-getaway. (I'm aware that it's a mildly nauseating concept. Try not to visualize.)It will have to be a very short escape on their part, as: a, it would be incredibly rude for them not to be in attendance at my recital; and b, they are needed to pay for the food and libations at the post-recital bash. They say they'll be back by shortly past noon, and they're not even ninety minutes away. In a worst-case scenario, they could probably hitchhike home and still make it to the recital on time.

Predictably enough, I came down with a killer headache with no parent close enough to prescribe potent drugs. Were it not for my recital tomorrow, I'd be willing to take my chances with Extra Strength Excedrin, but I can't risk having a gastric upset tomorrow from the effects of aspirin on the lining of my duodenum. I'm at the pseudorelatives' home, which normally would provide a solution to my problem, but pseudouncle is in the midst of a 24-hour shift, so I'd have to go to the hospital if I wanted any help from him. I called in a favor from my shrink instead. Chairman Mao is on his way with the good stuff and should be here any minute.

Tomorrow evening I will wear the black dress that is pictured here. My brother thinks I look like a Goth version of a Von Trapp child in the dress, but I've never before based my wardrobe choices on my brother's opinions, so why should I start now?

My friend Alyssa -- Jared's cousin and psuedouncle's niece -- is spending the night here at the pseudorelatives' home, too. We're babysitting pseudoaunt. Pseudoaunt's brother Timmy will be here really late tonight, as in maybe by 2:00 a.m. at the very earliest. I most likely won't be asleep by then. If I'm tired tomorrow I can either sleep late or nap for more than half the day if I feel the need. Other than making final preparations on the printed program if I decide to do something different than any of the six of the programs already printed, and besides making myself presentable for the recital, I have nothing to do. If I'm unconscious for half the day, it will make the time pass faster.

Alyssa is doing my nails as soon as Chairman Mao has given me the headache medication. Her aunt is a cosmetician or cosmetologist or aesthetician or whatever those people who do hair, nails, makeup, and the rest are presently calling themselves. The aunt has taught Alyssa many of her techniues. If Alyssa had her way, she'd be slapping 3/4-inch fake nails onto my existing fingernails, but I do have to play the piano with them tomorrow. My nails aren't filed to the quick, as some pianists' would be in my situation, because I have slighty odd-shaped fingertips that won't allow nails to be cropped too closely, so I play with more of a flat-fingered technique than do most pianists. I'm unsure as to what I'm going to allow Alyssa to apply to my fingernails. She would love bright red or black, but I'm thinking more along the lines of pink or pearly white. She brought with her an array of polish shades, so I won't lack options. If we can't decide, pseudoaunt will decide for me because I trust her taste and judgment. She's conservative when it comes to nail polish and should know what would be appropriate for the featured artist in a recital.

Chairman Mao is here. Mingtian jian ("see you tomorrow" in English-alphabet Mandarin).

Nancy Graceless


I'll be brief and to the point for once.

Nancy Grace was spewing vitriol as usual when I clicked onto her in my most recent session of insomniac channel surfing. (My senior piano recital is in less than thirty-six hours. For once in my life I have a legitimate reason for anxiety-produced insomnia.) This time. Ms. Grace was venting about a man who presumably killed his wife and children, but won't tell where he stowed the bodies. Ms. Grace does not like the alleged killer, nor, for that matter, do I like him.

Ms. Grace, however, bemoans the fact that the accused killer has retained or has been provided with the services of a defense attorney. Perhaps I missed something, but I read somewhere that Ms. Grace was or is a member of the Georgia State Bar association. Membership in the bar would have necessitated that she study state and federal law. In all of this study, did the idea that an accused person has to either plead guilty or to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury of his or her peers before being sent up the river? Does she understand that, according to the provisions of our constitution, everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a trial? Does she comprehend that every defendant is not only entitled to legal representation, but, according to the law, must have said legal representation in order to ensure the defendant's right to due process?

Is Nancy Grace merely pretending to be stupid, or does she, despite having graduated from law school, not understand the fundamentals of law on which our society is based? I'm not even objecting to Ms. Grace's disregard for the presumption of innocence (Google Richard Ricci from the Elizabeth Smart case for more information) when discussing the cases of the day on her TV program. It's just TV, after all, and not a court of law.

When Ms. Grace so blatantly promotes disregard for the legal rights in court, even of allegedly heinous criminals, is she sincere? Does she honestly feel that we should convert our society into some sort of Christian Taliban totalitarian state in which anyone accused of a crime has no legal recourse or protection whatsoever simply because of the nature of the crime of which he or she is accused, particularly if his or her crime is sufficiently noteworthy to warrant discussion on her program? Or does Ms. Grace know better, and is she merely playing a role that garners all-important TV ratings? Either way, I abhor what she is doing. It speaks abominably for our society that she maintains sufficient ratings to continue to be on the air.

In just a few years, Ms. Grace's twins will be in eighth grade. I hope she helps them with their homework at that time, as she most certainly needs a refresher course in the finer points of the U. S. Constitution. If the persona we see nightly on television is for real, her present working knowledge of the document wouldn't get her out of eighth grade, much less through law school, past a bar exam, and onto our television screens.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Alec Baldwin's Stalker: A Case Study in Unrequited Lust


I've never been totally, crazily, head over heels in love with anyone. At one point I may have thought I was, but I was wrong. For that reason perhaps I am not in a position to cast judgement on Alec Baldwin's stalker. I can't truly identify with her inability to deal with Alec Baldwin's rejection. On the other hand, such has never gotten in my way before, so why should it stop me now?

Alec Baldwin is not someone I strongly admire. He's amusing enough in the Jack Donaghy role on 30 Rock, but it's easy enough for anyone who regularly employs critical thinking skills to enjoy an entertainer's performance without turning the performer into a role model. There's little in Alec Baldwin's repertoire, other than perhaps his bank account, that I would care to emulate.

Despite any disenchantment I may have toward Alec Baldwin, Genevieve Sabourin -- Baldwin's would-be paramour and the woman convicted of stalking him, among other various and sundry offenses -- makes moderately psychotic people look almost normal by comparison. The only defendant in the trials I've followed in recent years whose courtroom demeanor even approched that of Sabourin was Brian David Mitchell, the evil wingnut who was convicted of kidnapping and raping Elizabeth Smart. Mitchell was dragged out of the courtroon on numerous occasios for loudly (and poorly) singing hymns from among the more bizarre selections found in the LDS hymnal. Considering every known aspect of Mitchell's crazed existence, it is fine company into which Ms. Sabourin has wedged herself.

Talking heads persist in debating whether or not Alex Baldwin ever had sexual relations with Ms. Sabourin. I'm not convinced that it mattered in the least except to the extent that the judge (Sabourin waived her right to a jury trial) might have found his testimony sufficiently lacking in credibility to believe anything that he said. Unfortunately for Sabourin, even had Baldwin, as she alleged, really promised her omelettes every morning for the rest of her life, he's allowed to renege on his promise. People change their minds. Post-orgasmic promises aren't necessarily actionable or enforceable in a court of law. He changed his mind, psycho-bitch from hell! Go back to your mercury! Above all else, go back to Canada [after you get out of jail]. We have enough natural-born certifiable wack jobs to fill our asulums. We don't need sanity-challenged imports.

A person has the right to end a relationship, whether the relationship in question is a one-night stand or a marriage of ten years. If it's a marriage of ten years, of course, there may very well be financial ramifications to obtaining one's freedom, and if children are involved, one has some obligation to them as well. In the end, though, one cannot be bound against his or her will to anyone.

Thank God.

Celebrities and civilians to the world of entertainment alike would do well to be cautious in relationships and to know a person passably well before jointly occupying a bed. Certified nut cases, some of whom possess the ability to pass themselves of as ordinary people walking amongst us, proliferate this planet in abundance. Beware.







Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Aunt's Big Fat Wiccan Wedding

This is another Wiccan wedding. Other than the lack of a red robe on the officiant, it looks rather like the one in which I participated.


I don't blog about her much because she's actually one of the more normal members of my dad's family, but I have an aunt who is a Wiccan. What does that say about my dad's side of the family whenone of its more normal members is a practicing Wiccan? Christelle, my father's youngest sister, converted to the practice of Wicca at some point after her first year of college. She didn't want to finish her education at BYU, so she transferred after her freshman year to a university in Massachusetts, where her parents had lived before she was born, but where she had never lived. She lived with an aunt and uncle there to keep costs low, and my parents paid her tuition, books, and other related costs.

During one of her years there, my aunt accidentally wandered into a meeting of the university's Wiccan Society. She liked what she saw, and gradually became increasingly involved. She met and fell in love with a man associated with the university's Wiccan Society. Soon after receiving her bachelor's degree, she married the man in a Wiccan wedding.

Despite having a Wiccan aunt, I'm not neccesarily an expert on all things Wiccan. I do know that it's related to pre-Christian Paganism practiced by Celtic populations, that it focuses heavily on nature, and that it is not associated with Satanism in any way. My parents had in their heads the idea that Wicca was just non-mainstream enough that I might embrace the religion solely for its shock value, so for a long time they didn't expose me much either to my Aunt Christelle or to Wicca. Still, they didn't feel right sending their regrets when we were invited to the wedding of Christelle and her husband-to-be, Mendel. I was even asked to be the flower girl at the wedding.

My dad's and Christelle's parents didn't attend the wedding. (I learned later that my grandmother had wanted to attend but that my grandfather had thrown a bit of a hissy fit, as it wouldn't have been fitting for the wife of a high-ranking official in the LDS church to be in attendance at a Wiccan ceremony of any kind, even if it was the wedding of her youngest daughter.) My dad and my Uncle Michael were the only two of Cristelle's siblings to attend. My Uncle Steve would have attended, but his wife was great with child and actually gave birth on the day of the wedding. My dad videotaped Uncle Steve's best wishes to the couple, which were projected onto a screen for all to see during the wedding. The generator powering it did little to add ambience to the ceremony, but Cristelle and Mendel thought it was important to have Uncle Steve's presence in the wedding any way they could have him there.

The wedding itself took place in a rural wooded setting somewhere in central Massachusetts. I do remember we had a great deal of trouble finding the place and very nearly missed the wedding. While my dad's parents and siblings were noticeably absent, by dad's aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of his family were present in full force. They may have been devoutly practicing Catholics, but they weren't about to miss out on this latest freak show from my grandparents' branch of the family tree. Furthermore, the wedding offered an opportunity for free alcohol, which most of my dad's non-Mormon relations were loathe to decline.

The attire of most of the wedding party was slighly beyond the norm. The bride, groom, and attendants wore white robes that were corded at the waist. The bride wore a wreath of dandelions around her head as well. I thought they looked like my angel costume from the last Christmas pageant I had been in. My dad thought they looked like LDS temple gowns, minus the headgear and fig leaf aprons. The officiant, a friend of the couple's who had obtained his ministerial license online three days before the wedding so that the marriage would be considered legal, wore a red satin robe.

I mentioned earlier that I was the flower girl. Aunt Christelle called my mom to get my measurements, which my mom painstakingly took and emailed to her. My mom asked what I would be wearing. Aunt Christelle told her it was just a typical flower girl ensemble sort of thing. I don't know what weddings Cristelle had attended prior to her own that had colored her perceptions concerning what was typical attire for a flower girl, but when we showed up for the wedding (there was no rehearsal, which would have impeded the spontaneity of the event,) my aunt handed me a very shiny pink leotard, shiny slippers to match, pink fairy wings, and a glittery and hollow battery-operated wand (actually more like a sabre)stuffed with flower petals that would blow out with an air blast whenever I pressed a button. It was the coolest flower girl getup I could ever have imagined. If my parents wouldn't be upset, I'd post a picture of myself in it. I wore the outfit for my next Halloween costume as well.

Future Uncle Mendel told me not to merely walk through the aisle with people seated on either side, but to "float on air," dropping pedals as I floated by. He also told me not just to float down the center aisle, but to float between each horizontal row as well, dropping flower petals on everyone (I mostly power-blasted the petals right into the astonished guests' faces), and taking my sweet time. My dad said I took my sweet time, all right; if I'd taken much longer, he said, he would've had to sneak out behind a tree somewhere and take a leak before the ceremony was over. (Everyone freely imbibed before, during, and after the ceremony.) I remember my mom holding her hand over her face as I did my floating act diredctly in front of her. I don't know if she was hiding her embarrassment or she was merely concerned that I might give her an extra-potent blast with the magic wand and mess up her carefully applied makeup.

For what it's worth, Uncle Mendel said I floated better than any flower girl he'd ever seen before or has ever seen since. It must've been my gymnastics training. Uncle Mendel is, along with Uncle Ralph on my mom's side of the family, one of my two biggest fans. He said of me repeatedly throughout the day of wedding, "I don't know where you found this child, but she's positively delightful." I have other relatives who like and even love me, but I don't believe anyone before or since has ever referred to me as delightful. Relatives and people in general for the most part considered the young Alexis a sort of miniature Ramona Quimby on crack, which makes sense only to anyone who's ever read Beverly Cleary's books.

The officiant faced one direction and spoke about air. Then he turned and spoke about water. Then he turned again and spoke of fire. Then he turned again and spoke of the Earth. Then Aunt Christelle turned all four directions and spoke of all four elements. Then future Uncle Mendel did the same. Then Aunt Christelle told who she was - who she really was. The future Uncle Mendel told who he was -- who he really was. Then someone tied Future Uncle Mendel's right hand to Aunt Christelle's left hand, after which they told who they were -- who they really were -- as a couple. Then, tied together, they turned all four directions and addressed all four elements.

Then came the part my father had dreaded, and the reason he drank so much before the wedding. He stood up as directed, walked to the front of the gathering, faced the audience, and announced in the most deadpan voice imaginable, "The Clan of Rousseau supports this union." His face was approximately equal in redness to the officiant's red satin robe.(You know how some families have secret code words or phrases for use in the event that anyone who doesn't ordinarily pick up their children is asked to do so? Shortly after the wedding, we changed our secret passphrase to "The Clan of Rousseau supports this union" because we knew it was the one sentence none of us would ever forget.)

The marriage was pronounced and obligatory doves were released, followed by the recessional. An oboist played "Flight of the Bumblebee" as the wedding party proceeded down the center aisle, followed by me, leaping down the aisle in a series of jetes and temps levé sauté. Again, thank God for gymnastics training, as the only dance instruction I had ever received was at the gym; I hate to even think of how disappointed Uncle Mendel might have been if I had just stared blankly at him when he told me to perform jetes and temps levé sauté in the recessional. It probably would have ruined the wedding for him.

Not only have I been to a Wiccan wedding; I've been in one. If anyone ever needs advice on how Wiccan weddings are done, just contact me here. I'll be happy to share my expertise.


My leotard was brighter and more sparkly, my wings were more gossamer, and I didn't have a tutu, but you can get the general idea. For the record, I rocked the look far more than this kid did.




Announcing the Birth of Chamomile Aphrodite

Blitzen Manx, who, despite the chaos perennially threatening to surround him, looks at least as average as the most ordinary baby on the planet

Note: This is an old post about my Aunt Cristelle. I will post something more current about her soon, but I'll allow any newer readers to first read previous posts about her so that they might more fully understand the pervasive lack of sanity in my father's family. Note that Cristelle is one of the few siblings of my dad that I actually like. please note also that I take very seriously my role as chronicler of the family's uncensored history. When Blitzen Manx wants to know the true story of his birth, he need look no further than to yours truly.



My Aunt Cristelle and Uncle Mendel are the proud parents of a new eight-pound-three-ounce baby. When they told us that Cristelle hadn't yet been to a doctor, then told us the baby was to be a girl, I don't know why we didn't put two and two together and end up with seventeen as Christelle and Mendel obviously had done. I can't speak for anyone else, but I had assumed they must have visited an ultrasound clinic or something of the sort, but that sort of thing, by their standards, probably would have constituted cheating or, at the very least, a breach of faith. Instead, one of their Wiccan friends had some sort of ceremony wherein she consulted all four winds to determine the sex of the baby to be female; the results of the Wiccan ceremony were supported by Cristelle's and Mendel's strong feelings, which turned out to be as reliable as the results of the Wiccan ceremony. They'd all  had a fifty-fifty shot at predicting correctly. An adorable array of little dresses hanging in the nursery closet eagerly awaited the new baby.

So I now have a new cousin. His name is Blitzen Manx. The Manx part comes from his having been born on the Isle of Man - the tiny island between the two larger islands of Ireland and the isle that is home to England, Scotland, and Wales. The Blitzen part comes from God knows where. Perhaps either Cristelle or Mendel has an affinity for Santa's eighth reindeer. While they don't claim to practice Christianity, maybe the Santa part of Christmas is exempt from their system of non-belief. It would be altogether fitting for such to be the case. My dad says that no matter what is Cristelle's baby's legal name, he shall heretofore address and refer to the child as "Mutt," and, for that matter, that Mutt is a better name than Blitzen Manx, anyway.

Blitzen was born in a hospital, as I think I announced earlier that my dad had persuaded the parents was an absolute necessity. (The entire North American-based contingent of the family had been alarmed to learn that Cristelle planned to give birth in a wooded outdoor area on a bed or roses, until my dad's brother Michael -- the sibling closest in age to Cristelle -- reminded everyone that Cristelle has all the pain tolerance of a hypochondriac three-year-old and would last maybe one-and-one-half contractions before emerging from the woods and storming the nearest E.R. in demand of narcotics and immediate surgical removal of whatever was inhabiting her womb.

Labor proceeded very slowly, as in Christelle thought she was at death's door when only the most sensitive of monitors would have possessed the capacity to detect that a contraction was even taking place. Christelle was two days overdue. Labor was in progress, slow though it might have been. The doctor in charge decided that the baby was clearly on its way and that Christelle wasn't going to be anymore rested for the big event if they let nature crawl along at its own snail's pace, so the doctor broke Christelle's water. At that point, all hell broke loose. My dad and I really should have (and would have if we weren't related to a bunch of total buzz-kill Mormons on that side of the family) created a betting pool related to the number of full-scale contractions Cristelle would tolerate before throwing plans of a natural childbirth to the wind and demanding painkillers, whether they be demerol, stadol, whatever is given in an epidural, or rock cocaine, as well as to the manner of birth. Dad and I would've made a killing. Cristelle was reportedly threatening medical personnel with bodily harm to everyone within earshot if they didn't produce an anaesthesiologist and get that baby out of there immediately. One of the hospital personnel who incurred her wrath and threats was the janitor who had the misfortune of having been called in to mop up the mess after Uncle Mendel tossed his cookies all over the floor following the breaking of the water. (Perhaps it's a Wiccan tradition.) In any event, I have it on good authority that the staff on duty offered to pool their funds and pay Christelle upwards of a thousand Manx pounds to deliver her next baby elsewhere.

The epidural didn't happen quite on demand, but Cristelle's doctor did grant her a therapeutic dosage of demerol through her IV. This caused Christelle to become incredibly loopy. She grabbed at the arms of anyone foolish enough to walk to within her reach during one of her contractions and begged them for more drugs because she sincerely believed herself to be terminal. At the immediate conclusion of each contraction, she would fall into a deep sleep, or at least as deep a sleep as one could feasibly fall into in the three minutes between each set of contractions. After about twelve hours of this repetition, Cristelle was dilated to a whopping four-and-one-half centimeters, which might have been sufficient to allow her to give birth to a gerbil if forceps were used. Pitocin was administered. The only thing the Pitocin accomplished was that Cristelle transitioned from begging for more drugs to shouting out the most graphic  of profanities imaginable. It didn't persuade her uncooperative cervix to dilate any further or faster.

When Pitocin had yielded no measurable results after two hours, the doctor decided that Cristelle's baby simply wasn't coming out in the traditional way. Forty-five minutes later, Blitzen Manx was born via Caesarean section. One aspect of Cristelle's dream childbirth experience was realized. My mother had purchased a sheet that was a rose petal-covered print. She had it hospital-sterilized and sealed, and sent it over to the Isle of Man. It was placed upon the O. R. table before Christelle was lifted on. In a weird sort of way, Christelle was able to give birth on a bed of roses.