Walkabout Down Memory Lane

I may have mentioned I started walking to work this spring…


Ok…so I’m kinda obsessed, and ya’ll get to share.

This morning, I was passed by a commuter on roller skates.  She was a middle-aged lady, wore a fairly standard backpack, and sported a bright pink helmet with matching knee and elbow pads.  The wheels on her skates may have matched the bright pink of the rest of her ensemble, but had been darkened slightly from use.

She was also on the street – which is a hell of a lot smoother than the sidewalk I was currently pounding.

I had to giggle just a bit – but not loud enough to put her off her stride.  I’d hate to cause an accident with my rather hard-to-explain mirth.

See – I did the roller skate thing a long time ago.

Remember wavy

Look out!!!! It’s the ‘memory shimmer!’

I officially became a teenager in the tender year of 1980.

but I’m still 29 thanks to ‘female’ maths

In this year of big, permed hair, screen-printed satin jackets, and eye-blistering neon-colors – one of the biggest social gathering places for those newly minted teens was the skating rink.  There, you could blithely roll your heart out on a stretch of perfectly level, perfectly straight, and perfectly clean poured concrete, while the punk music blasted out of the speakers and stage lights flared, spun and flickered across the painted expanse.

All your classmates were there, too…doing what teens do worst – attempting to flirt with the opposite sex.

Well, except for me.  I was more interested in actually skating.

At this age, I didn’t yet understand the biological Human directive to form pair bonds…

I had a pair of rink skates.  Not the little metal numbers you had to screw onto your shoes (although I owned a pair or two of those, too…) – but a real pair of above-the-ankle leather boots with the wheel assembly permanently bolted onto the hard sole.  I dressed ’em up with hot pink wheels, neon-purple, sparkly laces, and pink/purple puffballs strapped to the toes.  I even had a bright blue satin jacket with the rink’s name screen-printed across the back.

The rink was within walking distance of home, and I went there every chance I could.  Not that there were a lot of chances in 1980.  The parent’s divorce was final, and Mom had moved back to the ‘ancestral’ part of Wisconsin with my and my little brother in tow to work a 2nd shift job in a nursing home.  Guess who got the responsibility of making sure I and my little 10 year old brother had food at night?

I can still wield a can opener with the best Olympiads!

So 1980 was memorable, if only for the year I got my first ‘real’ skates, learned how to heat up cans of food, and realized I had little awareness of or interest in the whole boy/girl attraction thing.

I loved my skates though…they represented freedom & frivolity!

Now…I’m just gonna fast-forward through the remains of the 80’s.  The fashion trends are starting to make a comeback, anyway, so why remember when I can just look out a window and see the same stuff on the street?

Yea!!!  I’m 20.  Out on my own for the first time eveah!  Just me and my wits against the rest of society!

Damn…this sucks.  

A broken-down car, some mother-fu*k3#! stealing my bicycle, less than $50 in the bank, a tiny efficiency apartment with a lecherous landlord, a job waiting tables in an extremely depressed segment of the US…

Yea…I had to walk to work.  But, unlike now…back then I resented having to do it.  I’d rather have had wheels.

Can you see where I’m going with this?  I HAD wheels – my old trusty freedom-loving skates.  And, unlike the bicycle that went off on its own, the skates I could bring inside the restaurant for protection against the tender mercies of the more ‘unsavory’ elements in town.

So I skated to work once…





It didn’t go so well.  First…I was out of practice.  Second, the sidewalks had cracks and pits and ankle-breaking perils (sticks, small stones, various debris) randomly scattered about.  Third – curbs.  Do you know how difficult it is to step off a curb with wheels strapped to your feet???

Lastly – there was traffic.  Both other pedestrians and actual cars.

There were no cars in the Skate-Rink…and everyone rolled the same direction.

Welcome to real life!


I did survive that trip in to work…sweaty and shaking but intact and unbroken.  At the end of that shift serving grouchy people burgers & fries…mopping up various spills and cleaning tables that the public left incredibly messy – I didn’t even bother lacing the skates back on.  I just looped ’em over my shoulders and walked back to my little shelter.

I don’t think I ever wore my skates again.



This Old Tiny House…Mobile Edition

I’ve been watching the Tiny Homes Movement with more than just a little envy.  There’s a part of me which adores the idea of minimalist living.  Dumping all the dreck and flotsam collected during the average life, learning to live with just enough, thumbing the nose at our mass-consumption culture which demands we by more, More, MORE, MOAR!!!! on a daily basis.

It’s also tied heavily into the survivalist mentality – those who eschew living on the grid and are determined to comfortably survive -on their own terms- in the event of a zombie apocalypse or dictatorial regime.

A series of pictures from the tiny home category, coupled with the recent US Holiday celebrating our treason against the crown of Mother England,  have me wandering down the fuzzy memory pathways.

That’s so 70’s.  To me, anyway.

Here comes the fuzzy memory bit…

Back in my formative growing up years, my family was 6+ – 2 parents, 4 kids & a full-grown Samoyed dog.  Each summer, we had camping obligations, starting with a week long outing over Memorial Day, anther week long thing over the 4th, an extended weekend for the yearly family reunion, random, stealth-outs through the rest of summer, usually culminating in a final, extra-long weekend for Labor day.

Each obligation entailed packing the entire family up, relocating to a distant point on the compass in the middle of nowhere, and huddling around a burning fire while trying to keep the bugs from consuming ourselves in entirety.

And fishing…there was always a lake nearby.  I still hate seafood.

With 4 kids, 2 adults, and a big dog…that’s a lot of stuff to pack.  Fun stuff, food stuff, clothing stuff, fishing stuff, bug stuff, shelter stuff, hygiene stuff, emergency medical stuff…

Carlin…Stuff…nostalgia moment…

Now, I’m just assuming here, but back in the 70’s – you didn’t buy a full-blown mobile home on a cop’s salary, especially if said cop had to also pay for a house, 4 kids, wife & dog.  And though we did have an old VW Van for shorter hops involving the entire family, all those bodies didn’t leave a whole lotta room in the van for all the aforementioned stuff.

So enter…the old school bus.

Not sure how my Dad managed to procure an old school bus…but with a little planning, the right tools, and a LOT of sweat-equity, he managed to turn that old bus into a veritable palace that not only slept the 6 of us and the dog, but had enough cubbies and cubicles for all our stuff AND a reasonable facsimile of the perfectly good house we’d just abandoned.

An almost-full service kitchen (‘fridge, stove, oven, limited countertops, space for dishes & cooking stuff, and a sink), a table which sat the six of us, a radio, and a TOILET.

Granted, you had to ‘flush’ it with a ladle of water…but it was still a little room you went to and did…business.

Us kids slept in the way back of the bus on bunk beds.  The parents converted the dining table into their bed at night.  We even had a small closet to store any clothing that required hanging up to remain presentable.

I only wish I had pictures.


His Name started with K


Tumble down the memory hole…

Funny thing, how memory works.  One minute, I’m reading a blog post about a Dad ruminating over his daughter’s first crush, and the next minute I’m back in my own youth – when everything was sharp and important and fresh and new and – well, you get the drift.  We tend to run on higher emotions when we’re younger.  Things impact deeper, are felt more keenly, and are much more dramatic when the hormones of a rapidly-growing body and psyche are raging through your system.

I’m finding that age brings about a certain mellowing of mood.  Yes, I still get emotional punches to the gut – but somehow, they don’t hurt quite as long…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe particular, memorable male from my younger days who recently danced about my memories was gangly – all arms and legs and elbows.  Come to think of it – the avocado plant in my room kind of reminds me him…tall, thin, angular – a shock of hair on top – a lot of promise in that stretched-out form.  He was still growing up, and hadn’t gotten around to the filling out part yet.

He was all brown – brown hair, brown eyes, brown frames to his glasses, and an overabundance of brown clothing – including an old brown fedora he wore once or twice when we were playing cards.  He did have a beautiful smile, but it was difficult to coax one out of him.  Once we got really comfortable with each other – I liked to think that smile was all for me.

And speaking of me:  as a teen I was short (OK…so that never changed), way too curvy (neither did this), hiding behind a pair of thick glasses and a thicker curtain of black hair (HA!  Didn’t!  Grey?  dammit…)  – far more interested in the book pressed firmly against my nose (I AM a product of my upbringing…) than the rest of the population inhabiting the school.

We met through a mutual friend D – who REALLY deserves her own post, now that I come to think of it…

We started to hang out, as kids do, downtown at the park after school, on Sundays when we were all on the same bowling team, in the school halls after class let out, waiting for a parental ride home.  At sporting events and other school-sponsored after-class activities.

Just hanging out, like kids do.  Our trio gradually scaled back to a pair, as D’s passions focused more on competing with the popular kids and all the frustrations that come with dating, while K and I really didn’t have much interest in either of these lofty ideals.

We just wanted to talk, which was an oddity in the complex dynamics of hormonally-charged teenagers.  Boys and girls didn’t just hang out – treating each other like fellow human beings.  Somewhere, somehow, in some shadowy corner or some poorly-lit parking lot, opportunities existed for the removal of some pants.  SOMEone protect the chieeeldren!

Oh, wait – that’s today’s mantra of thinking about teens….

The two of us, K and I, were perfectly happy to just hang out – exploring, and learning from, each others imperfectly-forged viewpoints of parents, dreams, education, music, the popular kids – you know…life stuff.

wind farm countryWe had a lot in common – both of us lived isolated in the country, with miles of cornfields between us and anything even attempting to masquerade as a cultural center.  Both of us had a parent in the household we despised (although I have since grown up, and now love my step-mother dearly!) and both of us had no interest in all the ‘trendy’-stuff (ya know – all the ‘dick measuring’ things the popular kids were convinced were ‘life & death’).

Both of us had bigger things to deal with than who was wearing THAT??? and dating whom and driving what this week.

But the subject of us actually getting into the romantic side of hanging out never really came up.

RocksThis beautiful friendship came to a sudden end in the spring of my Junior year.  He vanished from school, from our bowling team, and from my entire life.  Abruptly.  Here one minute, and gone the next with no warnings or cryptic messages alluding to the coming failed attempt to end it all rather than continue to exist under the abrasive thumb of his father.  His parents promptly shipped him off to a psychiatric hospital in Minnesota after he failed to end his life.

There are few times I can remember crying so hard, so long, and having this huge pit of blackness threatening to swallow me whole.  Out of the length and breadth of our endless conversations – suicide was something that simply never came up.

I never got to say good-bye, as my parents and I moved back to Wisconsin at the end of the school year.

I never got to ask him why he felt he couldn’t confide in me on this – when we’d shared everything else.

I never got the chance to tell him what an irreplaceable gift he had given me in his quiet, steadfast companionship.

I did get the address to the hospital they’d sent him to, and I started writing about a hundred letters, but I could never finish them – never dredge up the right combination of letters, words, and sentences that could accurately convey the depths of my feelings, and the devastation I felt at his absence.  You never miss something quite as painfully as you do after its gone…but it was probably best this way, as I’d have spread a fresh layer of guilt on top of what he was already going through.

I still think of K when a particular song plays on my iPod, when I quip that my poetry skills come to the fore whenever I’m feeling depressed or overwhelmed by life – or when I see a particularly desolate shot to take.  The one poem I still remember crafting is one I wrote for K – called (was there any doubt?) suicide.