Part of Your World

As a kid, I did musicals. My first taste was a scene in a showcase at theatre summer camp. I had a brief solo and after that, I was sure I had What It Takes. I saw the community theatre in town was casting for the musical “Heidi” and I wanted in. For hours, I nervously practised the only song I knew I could sing for the audition, “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid.

See, the problem was I could sing but I couldn’t read music. I wasn’t a musician. I picked up on things as I listened to them, which is a neat skill to have but it makes it hard to, you know, learn new songs without hearing them. I listened to that part of The Little Mermaid VHS tape over and over until I knew every word and note.

I remember calling the theatre, anxious because I didn’t have the required sheet music for my musical audition. “What are you singing?” “…Part of Your World. From The Little Mermaid?” The manager chuckled and I was assured it would be fine, just as long as I let the pianist know. Maybe he was a big Disney fan?

The audition was packed. A lot of girls had come. 60, probably. Some vied for the lead role, but I was just content to show up and hope for the best. I sat and watched as they called each girl up one by one. They stood under a spotlight, announced who they were and what song they were singing, and then they sang part of the tune.

One girl, fairly early into the process, got up and announced who she was and her song, but I didn’t clue in until she started singing some familiar words.

“Look at this stuff? Isn’t it neat?”

No.

“Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?”

No no no!

I reeled. She was singing my song! It was the version of wearing the same outfit as someone else and I was doing it at My Big Audition! When the girl finished, I hurried up to an adult in the wings.

“That’s my song like the same song I picked the same song oh no I don’t have another song and that’s my song and-”

I was told it was okay. This happened sometimes. Not to worry, I just needed to sit down, things were fine. They shooed me away.

I sat. But a few girls later… the song started again. “You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty.”

Girl after girl proceeded to sing that goddamn song. Enough that I lost track.

My name was called. I begrudgingly sauntered to the stage. Head down, already defeated. I stood in the hot light, raised up my head, and said, “Hello, my name is Lauren and I am singing… Part of Your World.” You could sense a collective groan.

I rushed the lyrics as I sang. Part of being nervous, I guess. Once I got to the “I want moooooore” lyric, the piano cut off. “Thank you!” the director shouted and it was on to the next girl.

I bawled in the car, convinced being cut off was a sign I’d screwed it up and I wouldn’t end up with a part.

After a few days of moping, I got a call from the director offering me a spot in the chorus. I was shocked and elated.

Since then, I’ve heard lots of stories of first auditions being a Disney song. I’ve heard “Part of Your World” a few times, too. What a relief. It wasn’t a faux pas, it was a right of passage! You start in theatre, you tread the boards, you sing some Disney songs. It’s just what you do.

And it’s kind of the perfect song, too, right? You want to be where the people are. You want to see them, see them dancing. You so desperately want to be apart of that world.

LOAD “*”,8,1

I saw this gorgeous scarf at an event last weekend.

The pashmina is silk screened with some coding from a Commodore 64 computer programming guide that taught the user some Basic, a programming language. The code is the start of a song.

I never did any Basic coding on the C64 when I was a kid. All we ever needed was this line: LOAD “*”,8,1

I had no idea what it meant. I didn’t need to. That line unlocked the blocky games loaded in delicate floppy disks. The scarf brought me right back there. That chunky text, the waiting forever for things to load…

I kind of miss those days. Nothing was instant. There was a built-in break. Patience was needed. I know it drove me crazy when I was a kid, but I kind of long for that now. But to get that sort of respite in these times, you need to escape technology. You need to hide in the woods or on the road, away from technology or cell reception.

Maybe I need to dig up an old C64. For nostalgia’s sake.

Cannonball Run

Splashdown was the “big” “fancy” water park when I was growing up. Right off the side of the freeway, you could see the four bright, white slides nestled into the slope of the hill that ran along the south side of town. They called to us from the car.

Come. Cool off. Hang out. Splash down.

Once my brother and I scammed our way into a class trip there. We weren’t even in the class, so I’m not entirely sure why we were allowed to go, but it was glorious. The slides were thrilling. The kid area even had a splash park with a big wide slide and umbrellas with waterfalls coming out of them. There was candy. Junk food. The lines weren’t too bad. It was Kid Heaven.

After we had a taste, we wanted more. In the summers, we would plead with our parents. “Pleeeease can we go to Splashdown? Pleeeease.” The answer was always no.

One hot day, my dad proposed we go for a little adventure. My dad usually didn’t take us on adventures but I think there may have been some parental one-upmanship happening if I recall correctly. We were instructed to get our bathing suits.

The bathing suits weren’t a guarantee that we were going to our holy waterpark, but to go to Splashdown, you had to drive past it, then exit the freeway and double back a bit. So when the slides came into view, my brother and I were sure. We celebrated loudly.

The driveway into the waterpark is a long, straight road. As we drove down it, we passed a municipal pool. A typical rectangular pool, with diving board and lots of people.

And what poor, sad people they were! They were just two short minutes away from SPLASHDOWN. Did they not know that? Did they just see a pool and go, “Oh, this is it!” Did they settle?! Did they say, “Oh no, this is fine, I don’t need waterslides or JOY.” I pondered this out loud. My father said he couldn’t imagine. Well. Moments later we could.

At the front gate, my father checked his wallet. If this was an old-timey cartoon, I’m sure a fly would have flown out of it. He hadn’t taken into account the cost of the waterpark for the three of us. We trudged back to the car.

Driving back down that long road, we eyeballed the pool. It was considerably cheaper. Though we had originally turned up our noses at its 90-degree angles and lack of fun, twisty shapes… it was water. And we didn’t want to go home empty handed. We turned into the parking lot.

The pool was packed. My brother and I hustled into the water and immediately jumped in. Toot toot from the lifeguard’s whistle. They yelled at us to get out of the pool. Our dad gathered us up and explained it was Adult Swim.

WHAT. “No kids right now.” UGH, WHY DID WE EVEN DO THIS. We expressed our displeasure with our dad. We were a bit bratty, complaining about his lack of planning to have the money to go to Splashdown and now here we were, standing next to a pool we couldn’t even GO IN.

Hours passed. Years. I aged a hundred years. My feet melted off on the sidewalk. I had a full beard. Everything was terrible and I was a skeleton ghost and Adult Swim would never end. Until it did a few minutes later.

We got back in the pool. It was nice and refreshing, though we did our best to still be disappointed because it wasn’t SPLASHDOWN, DAD. He would check in. “You guys doing alright?” “Yeah, dad, but it’s no SPLASHDOWN.” “Do you kids want to play Marco Polo?” “No, I want SLIDES, DAD.” Like I said, a bit bratty.

My dad eyeballed the diving board. “Splashdown doesn’t have a diving board.” This was a moot point to us. It’s not like we were going to use it. I mean, no one was using it. Everyone was IN the pool. Besides, the diving board was approximately A MILLION FEET in the air. It was a death wish.

My dad explained to us he was on the swim team as a kid. None of our schools had a swim team so the concept was foreign to us. A POOL AT SCHOOL? SHUT UP. He was pretty good too. But he hadn’t used a diving board in years.

He climbed out of the pool.

“GOODBYE, DAD. NICE KNOWING YOU.” We called to his back. He climbed up the ladder.

At the top, he looked like an impossibly small speck. We gazed up and soon the others in the pool noticed. There’s a man on the diving board. He’s going to jump. He’s going to do it. “That’s my dad,” we beamed.

He took a run at the end of the diving board. Jumped. Sprung off the end. His arms tucked in around his knees. In perfect form, my dad did a textbook cannonball.

The splash was huge. Half the pool splashed out. Everyone was hit by the spray. My father surfaced and everyone clapped and cheered.

My dad smiled and we congratulated him. He had forgotten how much fun it was. He jumped out. He was going again.

The excitement of the cannonball encouraged others. A small line formed. Other kids and adults took turns taking the long climb up and diving off the ledge. But no one was doing a cannonball like my dad.

My dad went up a half dozen times that day. People were happy and I remember him having the biggest smile on his face. We stayed until the sun was setting.

The next day, once the smiles had faded, my father’s lack of planning reared it’s ugly head once more. You see, he had completely forgotten to bring any sunscreen with him. We were all beet red and I was laid out on the bathroom floor with the worst sunstroke I’ve ever had. My dad couldn’t even help us. One thing he’d neglected to take into account was how six cannonballs could take a toll on his bad back. He laid in the bed, sunburned and unable to move.

I can remember laying on the ground of that bathroom. I can see the ceiling in my head. Feel the burning heat trapped in my skin. Aloe couldn’t touch it. I just needed to be still.

“Worth it.” I can remember telling my mother. “It was worth it.”

Wild, Wild Horses

It’s my birthday this weekend so you guys get a sad birthday story from my youth. HERE WE GO. YEAH!

 

“We’re going horseback riding for your birthday, ” my mother announced, out of nowhere.

“What?”

“Horseback riding! Won’t that be fun! You need to invite some friends.”

I didn’t know what to make of it. I was solidly in my pre-teen years at this point and I’d never been into horses. I never lived out the cliche of “I want a pony for my birthday” or anything like that. I’d never even seen a horse in person. (In horse-son?)  It’s not that I was anti-horse… I guess I was horse neutral?

This proposed birthday activity was out of left field and I had no idea why it had been decided upon for said activity.

“Mom, I have no friends to invite. Plus we’re going to be outside, it’s hot, and won’t it be expensive?”

“We’ll figure it out.”

I remember thinking we didn’t have to do this. I tried to get her to reconsider my birthday plans. But it was decided. The horses were booked and after a fight with my mother about her non-refundable deposit, we were on our way!

We drove out of town to a remote, pine tree covered setting. I was meeting up with seven of my closest gal pals!!! …actually, it was one or two girls I was on okay terms with. The rest were girls I invited as a means to try to score social points with them. This was happening, so why not. Maybe I’d get a friend out of this! It’s an opportunity! Be cool, Lauren. Stay positive!

The ride instructor gathered us all around and asked who the birthday girl was. I sheepishly raised my hand and there followed one of the most half-hearted renditions of “Happy Birthday To You” on record. But I ate it up. It was nice to be celebrated. It was My Day.

We mounted our horses, which was no small feat for a short lady such as myself. My horse was white with a dirty white and grey mane. She had grey spots here and there. I can’t recall the horse’s name, so I’ll give you a smattering to pick from. Just choose your favorite! There’s LUCKY, CLOVER, PICNIC, RICKI LAKE, PENCIL LEAD, and HORSE.

Got one? Awesome.

Our ride instructor informed us that we were heading out on a mostly straight trail. A half hour down and a half hour back. No need to really worry about getting the horses to speed up or using the reins. The instructor would lead us out, everyone would fall in line, and we’d be good. If anything, we could click our tongue and give the horse a bit of a nudge in the side with our heels. But they were trained and this would be an easy ride.

“Have fun!”my mother called.

“You’re not coming?”

“Oh, I don’t want to ride a horse.”

Off we went down the dusty trail. The popular girls paired off ahead and behind me, so I was left mid-pack. They chatted and laughed as we set out.

HORSE decided he was on a slow saunter. I mean, I’m sure horses aren’t meant to blaze these trails… but surely a solid mosey would do. Maybe a trot? Maybe? HORSE’s lag quickly became an issue.

“Can’t you hurry up? God, this is going to take forever.”

“Sorry, he’s kind of doing his thing.”

Some of the girls passed me. I panicked and called to the instructor.

“My horse doesn’t seem to want to go.”

“Oh, HORSE is just fine. Just give him a little nudge!”

I squeezed the beast and clicked my tongue, making a sort of clip-clop noise.

Nothing.

“Come on, dude.” I tried again. Nothing.

On the third attempt, HORSE overreacted a bit. With a loud exhale, he picked up and accelerated much, much faster than I expected. I shrieked and hung on to the nub on the front of the saddle for dear life. The instructor at this point had already moved on ahead and was wholly unaware that this gigantic animal had decided to teach me a lesson.

My freak out seemed to do the trick. He slowed down. I was on the verge of tears, but at least we were back to a slow saunter. Whatever you say, boss.

At the halfway point, the instructor held up the group to get us all back together again. I was ready for this trip to be over, so when they asked if we wanted to stop for a minute, I insisted we press on.

We started out again. This time around, though, HORSE’s speed would not be the issue.

“POOP. Lauren’s horse is POOPING.”

It was true. Now, if you’ve ever been around horses, you’ll know that this just sort of happens sometimes. Horses walk around and just go to the bathroom as they stand there. They’re an animal. It’s just something the body does. It would have been fine if it was a one-time thing. But it kept going.

Cries from the girls as we pressed on, laughing about my horse’s gastrointestinal state, complaining about riding behind me. Soon, I was passed by everyone in the party. Just me and my gassy horse, bringing up the rear.

We trudged back to camp. I arrived nearly 20 minutes later.

“What happened, Lauren?” my mom asked.  I burst into tears. Luckily the other girls had left, so I could have my emotional collapse without further damaging my reputation.

The adventure ended with my mother fighting with the owner who wanted to charge us for the extra time spent riding. Once my mom explained that the horse wouldn’t stop pooping, they dropped it. He was probably slow because he didn’t feel well.

They offered for us to come back another day and ride for free, but I elected to skip it. I didn’t want anything to do with horses ever again.

Lauren the Math Ruiner

In 5th grade I was chosen to be on a math competition team for my elementary school. As a kid I was in many split grade classes, meaning I would do the classwork of the next highest grade but I never actually skipped grades. This meant I was doing 6th grade math and doing it pretty well, so I made the team. The competition was held at a local high school, which had different timed sessions in different classrooms. I felt like one of the big kids having to keep a schedule and move from class to class at a high school. This brief encounter with a more structured educational environment, along with the free cookies provided at snack break, would become the highlight of my experience.

Now, I was pretty good at math when I was younger. But my anxiety would always get the best of me and I’d sort of… forget everything I knew. This would prove especially disappointing to everyone else on the math team, because the school scores were cumulative. Did I mention the math team was made up of all the really cool 6th graders? And some kids that actually skipped 5th grade? I was sorely outclassed in every way. My math performance was a disaster and I was blamed for the lackluster performance of my elementary school in the district standings.

There was an award ceremony at the end of the competition and I’d considered just calling my parents, going home, and bawling my little eyes out. But our assigned faculty member asked a favor of me. Some kids had won awards for their specific performance overall. Jamie, easily the most popular girl in school, had to leave early. If her name was called, could I walk up and accept it on her behalf? I gladly accepted the responsibility. Surely there was no way I could screw this up! I could help in my own little way! YES! REDEMPTION!

At first all the kids that didn’t win personal performance awards were called up one by one to receive a participation award. Later in my adolescence I would despise these awards for the dry fart they are, but little 10 year old Lauren was very starved for positive interactions. I tightly clutched the printed certificate in my hands and waited.

It was on to the individual performance awards. When Jamie’s name was called out as the winner for something like “Best Score”, I gasped loudly. She had won! How exciting! I ran to the stage as the auditorium clapped. I leaned into the woman handing out the awards, “I’m not Jamie, that’s why I came up earlier when you said Lauren. But I’m accepting this on her behalf because she left early.” Pretty sure the lady just stammered out ‘uh okay’ or something equally brief and dismissive.

BUT YOU SEE, in my excitement I had missed the cries of “no, wait, Lauren, no” from my classmates. During the beginning of the awards, Jamie had run to her parents who were waiting outside, told them they were wrapping up, and come back inside. She was completely available. But she had no idea I was her stand in. I had no idea she’d come in the back. So when Jamie started to walk to the stage, THERE WAS THE SCHOOL MATH RUINER rushing the stage to accept her award. Jamie was upset with me. The kids all hated me. For months afterwords I was picked on, but honestly probably not anymore than I would have been anyway.

For some reason the next year, when I was invited to a science team day, I still accepted. How did that go? As well as you could expect.

The Bus Hustle

The year was 1994. I was in third grade.

I had just started going to a new school. New neighborhood. New life! I had a chance to start over and boy, I was going to seize that chance in my tiny little sticky fists, because GOOD GOD I needed it.

You see, I was never a popular kid. In my previous school, social advancement opportunities were sparse. I was never invited for team sports. Birthday invitations were non-existent. I lived a block away from the school so there wasn’t even the chance of sitting down and making a new friend on the school bus. I was doomed to stagnate. My personal brand of “quirky but a bit of a crybaby” wasn’t a winner.

But all this was going to change.

My new school was further away from home and thus required a school bus ride. 15 minutes. 15 minutes to roll out PHASE ONE: HEARTS AND MINDS.

I tried desperately to make new friends by sitting in any ol’ seat. But I quickly learned that the bus had a specific social dynamic.

The front of the bus: goody-two-shoe types, so eager to arrive at school with their smiling faces and pigtails. This often is where the pretty, popular girls sat, clinging to their seatmate to ensure no new and totally harmless stranger in town could score a seat.

Back of the bus: Generally where the boys sat, all rough and tumble, with their spitting and their yelling of the word “PENIS” loudly because it is not a swear, but generally pretty inappropriate to throw around in public.

This left mid-bus. The misfit and drifter kids sat here. I usually ended up in the emergency exit row, since the driver knew I was too timid to ever mess with the door or any of its latches. Phase one had failed.

My solitude in the exit seat gave me time to reflect and plan PHASE TWO: LEVERAGE AND INCENTIVISE.

What do kids like? Candy. What do I know best? Candy.

In the 90s, fruity, waxy taffy Airheads were where it was at. Caramel Apple Pops probably resulted in a great many dental visits, but we still braved it for the deliciousness of that lollipop. There were tiny juice cartons filled with fruity bubble gum that would lose its flavor in five minutes, but you’d shotgun that whole thing anyway. Warheads were so sour you thought your tongue would never recover. So many wonderful candies, usually available at Albertson’s for about 10 cents.

My plan was simple. I might have been young, but I knew that supply and demand was a capitalism… thing. And while a school bus wasn’t a candy store… it could be.

I went to Albertsons and stocked up on all my 10 cent favorites. I would take advantage of the whole “trapped on a bus” situation and sell my candy for 25 cents. Brilliant. The kids would love me and I’d make a profit. Just brilliant. PHASE TWO was looking great.

That first day I opened up shop I sauntered right to the back of the bus. I knew my demographic. The boys were sure to have cash, as they’d never had a “stupid sack lunch”. And boys loved candy.

“What are you doing back here?”

“I’d like to sell you some candy.”

Eyed with suspicion, the boys looked at my wares before offering up quarters and dollars left and right. PHASE TWO was working! We laughed, I made money! Everything was coming up Lauren! I had a good thing going. The next few days marched on like a montage from a tinier, dorkier version of Wall Street, with all of my cash and prizes going into a coveted Hello Kitty drawstring bag.

Monday, the next week, the tides changed. I boarded the school bus with my candies, ready to make some sales and maybe cement these budding friendships when – shock – I failed to remember the other constant in capitalism: competition.

My brother, specifically.

“Hey man, this is my turf.”

“But we don’t want your candy.”

“What – why?”

“He’s selling it for a dime.”

HURK. Undercut. By my own brother.

And almost as soon as it had begun, PHASE TWO quickly dissolved into PHASE THREE: SADLY EAT CANDY ALONE AT RECESS.

I later asked my brother why he did it. Why sell the candy at cost to run me out of the bus candy business?

His reply? “Just to mess with you. I wanted to stop you.”

 

Ah. Well. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Star Wars: The Fandom Menace

r2d2and1

This is the time I met R2D2. I was dressed as Princess Leia.

I’m excited for Star Wars.

Star Wars was always a big part of my geekdom. My brother and I had been watching Ghostbusters 1 and 2 in a never ending loop until the trilogy entered our lives. Then everything changed. The VHS tapes ran non-stop during my pre-teen years. We read the books and played the games. We pretended to be stormtroopers and rebels fighting each other. Star Wars was our thing.

When my husband and I first started dating, I said “I love you” first. He would respond with, “I know.” This is, of course, a quote between Leia and Han before he’s frozen in carbonite. For some months this exchange would happen between us until he finally said, “I love you too.” (Sucker. Hee hee.) We would eventually play a piece of music from Episode 4 at our wedding. (TO BE FAIR you can’t really tell it’s from Star Wars. At least the part we chose. The video starts there.)

 

Oh yeah, and I met the author that killed off Chewbacca in the books. (Now noncanonical.) Crushed him with a moon. He was delighted to sign this custom image I created commemorating the event:

Squish the hairball.

I’m trying to say that this series has meant a lot to me. But I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan.

I can’t rattle off trivia and lines. I don’t know specs of imaginary ships and weapons off the top of my head. I don’t enjoy the prequels but I won’t get in a fist fight about them. I care – but not that much. Sometimes people have a huge problem with that. Unless you’re a diehard biggest and baddest fan in the galaxy, you’re nothing. A poser. A loser. In the current political climate, you’d think we’d have more divisive issues. But right now it’s all about Star Wars and how serious of a fan you are.

And since when did NERDS of all people turn on ourselves this way? Calm down everyone. Sheesh. Anyway.

I just would like to remind everyone that there is a group that hovers above the casual fan but below the super hardcore people. We like this universe and we’re excited to see what happens next. We’re just a little more mellow than you polycarbonate clad scruffy nerf herders. Maybe you feel like this makes you better than us. And really, that’s okay. You can go all out. You do you! The thing is we’re all fans. There’s no reason to be That Guy.

Unless you like Episode One. Then you’re just on the wrong side of history.