1980's, preteen angst, reno

White Lines, The Second Line

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The first time I went over to Debbie’s house, it was obvious why she ate. Her mom and dad were both really big and her house was really small. It was rented, not owned, and on a street that was one lane away from having “interstate” in front of it. The sound of cars whizzing by at German engineering speeds competed with the deafening cry of airplanes landing and taking off at the airport that was mere blocks away.

She wasn’t even zoned for Agnes Risley, but her parents let her switch because she was having huge problems with the bullies in the school for which she was originally zoned. I changed my mind about her parents right away. They cared about Debbie; they were just so poor that they had to move wherever job opportunities presented themselves.

Her dad was a janitor at the school she left. I guess the only thing worse than being a mid-school-year transplant and six-feet-tall was having your dad be the custodian. My empathy grew for Debbie almost as quickly as my pant sizes were about to.

Her parents made me dinner every time I came over. I had liver and onions for the first time there. I actually didn’t know it was liver because I always thought it would be all jello-y wiggly like in the store. I didn’t realize that when it’s cooked it, well, cooks. It was alright, just not good enough to freak out over so much that I’d go so far as do something dramatic like actually eat it again. And I had a layer of grease stuck on the roof of my mouth for about a week.

My first sleep over was on a Friday night that, luckily for me, was allowance night for Debbie. Her dad handed her a crisp five-dollar bill and we were off and running.

“I’m going to show you what I do on Friday night,” Debbie said, mischief beaming out of her dark brown eyes.

I followed her out the front door and onto the practically-a-freeway street. My belly welled up with butterflies. Where was this strange Michegonian taking me? Would guns be involved? Should I have worn two pairs of underwear?

“Where are we goooooooooooiiiiiing?” was muffled by the cars whizzing by coupled with the foot-shorter-I-was-than Debbie. Instead of grabbing a bullhorn and attempting a repeat performance, I hurried my little legs up because that girl hoofed it good. Especially when she was on a mission.

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The alarming chirp-chirp accompanied by the heavy glass doors heaving open, Debbie introduced me to my soon-to-be-favorite-place in the world, the Sev. At least that’s what we tweens-trying-way-too-hard-to-be-cool called it long before the word tween was even a glimmer in the American vernacular’s eye.

 

My love of the Sev was so serious that every single dream I had for an entire year featured a 7-11. Besides simply being a sweet-ass convenience store, the Sev contained a world of consumeristic possibilities from cigarettes to tampons to No-Doz to Slurpees.

She sprinted to the candy aisle and practically lay down on the shiny fluorescent-lit floor.

“Pick out five dollars worth of anything on this bottom shelf. I like everything so I’ll let you pick.”

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Everything I learned in math class came into play. On the bottom shelf were all of the penny candies, which really cost anywhere from a nickel to a dime, but nickel candy sounds about as lame as a dime bag, and are all about as extinct as beepers. Jolly Ranchers were three for five cents. Tootsie Rolls were five cents apiece. Ring pops, Laffy Taffy, Sweet Tarts, Jawbreakers, and these weird skeleton candies in an actual little coffin were all a dime apiece. Anything with banana was out because I hated banana-flavored things. Banana is about as subtle as rape. It takes over any other fantastic taste with its “hi-I’m-banana-I-suck-because-I-taste-like-ass” taste.

Little beads of sweat formed on my brow. I could tell this could be a pivotal moment in our friendship and I didn’t want to lose a friend. I did the math and tossed candies onto Debbie’s stretched out sweatshirt which she, once full, folded in half to transform into a remarkably crafty go-go-gadget candy pouch. When finished, she strongly resembled a crack kangaroo. She hopped up to the counter and dumped our booty out. We waited in frothing anticipation for the clerk to count out every-single-candy that, of course, equaled exactly five dollars. Yay, awesome math student extraordinaire!

This was the Friday night ritual:

  1. Race back home, giddy with anticipation. No candy eaten in transit, even though we both really wanted to.
  2. Arrive and dump out all the candy onto coffee table.
  3. Put ultra gory horror movie in VCR (yup, they too had a VCR – how was it that only my poor friends had VCR’s?)
  4. Devour all the candy during the movie. One at a time.
  5. Go into full sugar coma.
  6. Rinse. Repeat.

The next morning ill from a gnarly sugar hangover, I devised a way to double our sugar intake for next week. Mom picked me up that afternoon.

“Mom, Debbie gets an allowance of five dollars a week,” I said, batting my eyelashes.

And with that, we doubled our prize money.

The next Friday double sugar coma was so intense I was unsure we would ever recover. Our stomach’s ached. Our head’s ached. We felt death approaching.

We couldn’t wait until next Friday so we could do it again.

Not for a moment did either of us ever consider doing anything different with our 10 dollars. We could’ve gone to the movies, which I’d only been to about two at this time. We could’ve gone to Park Lane Mall and bought fifty pairs of earrings at Claire’s. Each. Or we could’ve bought twenty-five pairs and gone to Sparro for pizza and Cokes.

But no, we were addicts. We saw only candy.

 

 

1980's, preteen angst, reno

White Lines – The First Line

The Slippery Slope Theory postulates that an unassuming action or event inevitably leads to a chain of related events culminating into some significant impact, particularly one of the shitty kind. It’s a lot like this Laurel & Hardy movie I saw where this little pebble got loose at the top of a mountain and turned into a monster rock avalanche almost destroying everything in its path on its way to the bottom.

This is the story of how I tripped and fell right into a huge pile of white powder.

“Debbie is… big,” Mom replied after I enthusiastically asked her what she thought of my new friend.

That’s not exactly what I meant by thought when I asked. I was hoping for “smart,” or “sweet,” or perhaps “nifty,” but most definitely not “big.” “Big” is how one describes a sofa or perhaps a T-Rex, but not a human. At least, that is, if you’re me.

I liked Debbie. We met in Mr. Loman’s sixth grade class. She had pimples and boobs and was approximately six-feet-tall. Yes, she probably could’ve been a linebacker, but I saw in her less football player and more puppy who hadn’t grown into her feet yet. She was like a Chihuahua trapped in a St. Bernard’s body. Puberty was not kind to poor Debbie.

So, of course, I liked her immediately.

I added her to my awkward friend collection the second her huge frame appeared in the sixth grade doorframe, shadowing most of the classroom like Godzilla. Mr. Loman lifted the needle off the class record player, (which is how we hit pause in the 80’s), as we’d been listening to his favorite Beatles song, “Revolution 9.”

“This must be Debbie, our new student who just moved here from Michigan. The painted turtle is Michigan’s state reptile,” and with that, he went right back into “Revolution 9,” as he believed it to have all of the answers to all of the questions of all of the worlds. Every time the number nine came up in conversation, he would repeat, “number nine, number nine, number nine,” about 25 times. Some would consider this annoying; I, on the other hand, believed him to be possibly the coolest human ever. Let’s just say I had an affinity for eclectic types.

Mr. Loman also wouldn’t put up with bullying the classroom so even though most of my bullies were in class with me this year, I was safe during classroom hours. It was actually hilarious to see Tammy get so busted bullying me that she never even looked at me during class for the rest of the year.

Debbie arranged herself into the empty desk kitty-corner from me. She unpacked the contents of her tattered gray backpack into her new desk. She seemed nervous. It was right in the middle of the school year, so I assumed her parents were probably given the same parenting handbook mine were. I think these handbooks were most likely given out wherever alcoholic beverages were being served.

Marie and I shared a secret eyeball moment to confirm Debbie’s acceptance for membership to our underground network of transplants. Our underground was so underground that we didn’t even know we had an underground.

Here’s the new kid chronology since the fourth grade:

  1. Marie = new kid. Weirdo. All alone. Boo.
  2. Marie + Courtney = two. Better. Two is better than one.
  3. Courtney + Marie + Debbie = three. The triumvirate of cool, so cool there must be laser beams and stuff.

It was entirely apropos that The Beatles were playing as she entered, because this, my friends, was destiny.

Note: There was no hierarchy in our movement. Actually, the new kid was the most important because the new kid brought power. Power in numbers. The more of us, the less we’d get bullied. At least in theory. I would later name this the “Bullshit Theory” or “Courtney’s a Delusional Freak Theory,” although the latter is much more fact than theory, but please don’t pull me aside and tell me so because I will vehemently oppose said fact as merely speculation and words may be exchanged. Consider yourself warned.

Nothing spells awkward more than getting stuck in a group of humans who’ve shared history that was B.C. (before Courtney). How many times can one retort, “oh yeah, I’m sure that was really funny, especially if I was actually there?” This later led to my obsession with never missing any event ever, lest something totally awesome happened that I missed that would be recalled at a later time.

My fellow members of the network had also experienced the Waldo-Von-Duchenheimer feeling of getting stuck in a circle jerk of kids sharing memories from when Billy farted in first grade or the memorable second grade field trip to the planetarium. We knew what it was to be uprooted. To have no history. To these kids, we were nothing more than evaporated vapor from Billy’s long lost fart before we appeared on their rearview.

We all ran to something to quell the pain of being outcasts. We sought solace together masked as “hanging out.” Marie and I had Duran Duran. Eve and I had porn and Kools.

And Debbie and I had sugar.

1980's, preteen angst, reno

Schoolhouse Porn! Vlog

I was so inspired by Channel 3 and my memories of MTV in the early-80’s, that I made a mix tape. You should follow it and listen to it while rereading all parts of Schoolhouse Porn! But who am I to tell you what to do? I’m from Reno.

I listened to the mix tape 398 times, but it wasn’t enough. So I spent $4.99 on the iMovie app, put on a ton of make-up and made a music video all on my iPhone. Voila!

PS. I’m really sorry about the singing part…

preteen angst, reno

Schoolhouse Porn! Channel 1.

Moving to Sparks + no friends = TV.

TV + making friends in Sparks = porn.

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My afterschool television addiction began in a Sonoma, California duplex with Super Grover and Mr. Rogers. I mentally escaped to my life on Sesame Street and in Mr. Rogers’s rad house every day after school. I defended Mr. Rogers when Mom and Bio Dad teased me that he was a pedophile because I believed in him. Unconditional love was emitted through a little box in the living room when Mr. Rogers talked just to me and no one else. It was like we were all alone in his awesome house just doing cool shit, such cool shit that it required both a shoe and sweater change to do.

I wasn’t into cartoons as much, but would watch them on Saturday mornings with the same intention I watch the Super Bowl game, for the commercials. Only these weren’t exactly commercials, they were Schoolhouse Rock! educational music-video-way-before-MTV cartoons. And I loved them. They taught me everything from the function of a conjunction to the process of a bill becoming a law, interspersed with groovy characters like Interplanet Janet singing to bass-heavy seventies tunes.

Lastly, my favorite and most anticipated show to mainline was The Muppet Show. It was only on once a week and every second from the critic’s initial insults to Zoot’s final saxophone toot was watched in silence and awe. I actually still love this show so much that I have to stop writing about it lest I totally freak the fuck out and lock myself in the house snorting VHS tapes for five days until the cops have to break the door down to pry me away from those damn furry Muppets. That, my friends, is true addiction.

Our next stints living in sleazy motels from Tucson to El Paso and other nefarious places in between brought on a craving for more mature content. Suddenly, I was interested in boys, or should I say, men. I became obsessed with The Love Boat, and my favorite parts were the kissing parts. I loved the way they made out by sucking on each other’s top and bottom lips, respectively. How I longed to have my lip sucked on the Lido Deck by some has-been actor hoping for a comeback. The other show that made me tingle was Three’s Company. And I never had common crushes. I didn’t fantasize about Jack Tripper or even Larry Dallas; no, my crush was on Mr. Furley. Yes, Don Knotts – all 93 pounds of him. I fantasized about that wrinkly old dude hitting on me at The Regal Beagle in a patchwork leisure suit.

My fake love affairs were abruptly and tragically ended when my parents moved us to the middle of Mexico. The nearest town was a tiny fishing village with cobblestone streets. Needless to say, TV was not an option. I quit cold turkey. That is, until we moved to Sparks.

Sparks was the place I relapsed on television.

Now I raced home not only from bullies, but to turn on, tune in and drop out. That’s what Mr. Leary meant, wasn’t it? TV was an obvious escape from the brutality and confusion of my life. Now I saw the world through the eyes of Ricky Schroeder, Benson, Alex P. Keaton, and a talking car named KITT. I even relapsed on cartoons. I’d be frequently caught yelling “I have the power!” along with He-Man and I literally asked my mom to “smurf” me the butter one night at dinner.

My aim was to clock about five hours on school nights. That meant running home the second the school bell rang via my super awesome shortcut which required a lot of trespassing, probably my first illegal activity. The illicit route included an empty field behind a spooky stone house that some weird politician lived in, about four backyards (one of them had sheep), and hopping several fences. If I avoided all distraction (i.e. stopping to pet said sheep) I could plant myself in front of the TV, remote in hand, by three-twenty. Bedtime was at nine, snacks, refills and homework were handled during commercial breaks, and dinner took up no more than thirty minutes and usually fell at seven-thirty, which was totally cool because the only thing on was Jeopardy which was boooooooring.

That was my life. That is, until Marie and I became friends.

Stay tuned for Channel 2, out next Monday!

preteen angst, reno, smoking

Seeing Sparks, Part Deux

One month later, we moved to Sparks. The subtitle of this blog should be “Sparks Is a Gateway Drug” but no one would even know what the fuck Sparks was so it wouldn’t be funny. Sparks sucks so much that it would fuck up my entire blog subtitle. Yeah, that’s how much Sparks sucks.

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I really needed a cigarette.

The only thing that didn’t totally suck was the house. I actually liked it. New Dad ripped out the Astroturf immediately and built us a beautiful wooden deck. It felt like a rich person’s house to me because it was so big. I’d only lived in rentals and motels my whole life, so a house was kind of a foreign concept. And Mom had her own studio for her artwork so there were no longer paint cans on the dining room table. Now that I lived in a real house that we owned, I thought I was rich.

The true suckiness began when I was tossed into Agnes Risley right in the middle of the school year. Oh, and I was now the rich kid after I’d always been the poor kid. Talk about confusing. Ends up that hill we lived on was the only middle class area for which the Risley Bears were zoned and the poor asshole kids were none too pleased with the few kids who lived on the hill. Especially new kids who lived on that hill.

No sooner than Mrs. Barnes introduced me to the class did I have the pleasure of meeting three of my future bullies. Tammy was an ugly fat red head with a skin problem. The skin on her nose would slough off in chunks. Probably didn’t help that in between bullying me and babysitting her Ritalin infused younger brother, she obsessively picked at her ugly fat face.

Lisa and Gina were the same age as me, but somehow managed to develop full-on boobs and had BOTH started their periods already. Oh, and they wore make-up. I was still playing with Smurfs and collecting animal figurines. Boobs, periods, and make-up were only things I’d seen on TV.

It’s shocking that I even managed to make two friends. Marie was an equally awkward girl who shared with me her passion for Duran Duran and TV, and Eve was a girl who lived in the Section 8 apartments across the street from the school who had a strong aversion to bathing.

Most days were hell. Due to the overall lack of appropriate supervision, recesses were spent dodging Tammy, Lisa, and Gina. It was exhausting. I still have a negative Pavlovian reaction to recess bells. But this is when I noticed THEM. At the furthest most point from the elementary and middle schools were two sun cracked tennis courts with a large graffiti-covered back wall. This is where the smokers hung out.

They wore denim jackets with Iron Maiden or Pantera album covers painted on the back. They sported mullets back when they were cool. Some of them had dyed hair or tails. For those of you sad enough not to be alive during the 1980’s, a tail was one thin piece of hair that was much longer than the rest of your hair that was frequently braided or dyed.

One plus one was start smoking NOW. I envisioned Tammy approaching me from behind. I would turn around, in slow motion of course, cigarette blazing between my awesome lips.

“Oh hey Courtney,” she’d say as she picked at her ugly face.

“Hey,” I’d say, all gruff and rad.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” she’d say, kind of cowering.

“Been smokin’ my whole life,” I’d say, like Johnny Cash, only cooler.

“Can I try one?” she’d beg.

“Nah. You don’t want to start this nasty habit. It’ll kill you.”

She’d walk away, totally in awe of my coolness. Then, she’d warn Lisa and Gina never to mess with me again lest I go crazy on them with my sheer unpredictable badassedness.

The only thing left to do was actually figure out how to smoke and then be seen doing it. That, and remember my dialogue.