🎵 Super Rad 🎵


It was the turn of the century – Y2K and all that jazz.  Kendall threw a “Pop Party.” This so-called pop party had only one price for admission – bring pop-something.  Popcorn. Popsicles. Pop Rocks. You name it.

We quite literally partied like it was 1999 – for only a few more, short minutes.  Everybody who is anybody was going to be there and my best friend had explained to me this kissing tradition I had never heard of before.  

I was about to turn 16 years old, which meant by law (almost literally around here) I was going to be allowed to date.  The idea of finding that somebody I would spend the rest of my life with during a New Year’s kiss? Best. Idea. Ever. #SoSixteen

My best friend, M— was already dating Kendall, and he was the keyboard player in what was without a doubt THE most popular local ska band at the time (and quite possibly ever since).  

M— was the type of girl that was confident and compelling.  Without warning, she flung open the front door and entered mid-dance.  She turned to grab my hand, pulling me into unplanned shenanigans. I forced past my corner-dwelling personality and skanked through the door, just behind her to the familiar tune of near-local favdom, The Aquabats.

🎵 We’re on our way, here we go, we’re going to take over! Set it off one last time, here we come again! 🎵

We caught everyone’s attention as we entered and it seemed almost every person in attendance came to say hi to M in particular.  That’s where that corner-dwelling part of me kicks in again and I squeeze through the ensuing circle in search of a patch of unshared air.  

I wandered aimlessly through a large, multi-level house that seemed to live and breathe as if it were still the 80’s – dark, shag carpet and frilly, wooden cabinets in a kitchen that still had harvest gold appliances.  

My plan was to mindlessly eat pop-themed foods until Mthought to introduce me to her other friends.  This was before I realized I was that friend that existed only to make her look that much more lively and compelling, not the friend you want to show off to all of your friends.  I hadn’t exactly come into my own.  It took me a while to realize this because I wasn’t exactly the fat friend either.  I was just thick boned, right? All I knew was I could share clothes with the best of them, but nobody exactly wanted to borrow clothes from me.  In so many words, I was that girl.

“I don’t know, it’s just being really slow,” the kid next to me tapped away on an ancient, IBM labeled laptop while I stood gargling down a third pack of strawberry flavored Pop Rocks like it was the best dinner I had ever had.

I peered at him from the corner of my eye.  Blue Dickies jacket. Blue Dickies pants. Lagwagon Tshirt.  Spiked hair. Yes, please.

“Umm,” I said, causing him to turn around at the exact moment that a final popping Pop Rock flew from my mouth.  I threw my hand over my mouth and rapidly talked myself out of embarrassment. Go with it. Go with it. Go with it.  “Haaaaaaa.” I let out an almost forced laugh.

🎵 And if we die before the battles through, Tell your mom, tell your dad we were Super Rad…🎵

Quick!  He was turning away to talk to this red headed chick sitting on a stool next to him at the kitchen counter.  Who the heck was she and where’d she come from?

“I can fix that for you!” I insisted.

“Really?”  He smiled and I fell in love.  

He had a face that was perfectly framed by side burns that said he had to be older than any of these other kids but not old enough to be a creeper among friends.  But that smile. Holy cow, that smile!

I must’ve stared blankly at his perfect, white teeth for a solid minute before stopping myself from taking in another mindless scoop of Pop Rocks and instead, reaching out to shove him off the frilly, wooden kitchen stool and sitting down at the harvest gold countertop to set his computer up to defrag.

I was a bit of a computer geek – priding myself in having made it to AP Computer Science as early as 10th grade, which was precisely the grade I was in now.

The crazy-pixie Punky Brewster looking redhead continued chatting him up, stealing his attention away from my attempt to prove I was the smartest, most interesting person there that night.  But I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say or any way of interjecting into their almost practiced conversation. This was big kid stuff, I’ll just stick to my silly little defrag and continue to eat Pop Rocks for the rest of my sad, sorry life.

Then I heard him start to talk about his band, and before he could get another word out to little miss red thang, I swirled around on the freshly polished stool and asked, “What do you play?”

I was in!

“Drums,” he said.  

Crap! I knew nothing about drums.  If there was any one instrument made to exist in spite of any natural musical ability I was born with, it was the drums.

“Oh…” I paused.  “That’s cool.”

“You know what they say about drummers…” this girl started to say.  Aimee was her name. I had gathered that much. I was head deep in an eye roll when she finished her sentence, “… they’re good at multi-tasking.”  I swear at that moment she winked and popped her bubble gum. I honestly didn’t see the appeal.

Still, I couldn’t leave the conversation at this.  I had successfully turned it away from anything this other girl might have to say for no other reason than she already knew the answers to these questions.  “So uhh, when’s your next show?” I asked, pretending to be deep into a computer process that required absolutely no monitoring at all.

“I’m not sure.  I’m working on getting that booked right now actually.”

“I’ll do it!”  I quite literally raised my hand as if I were an excited teachers pet volunteering to feed the class hamster or something.  I blamed the Pop Rock overdose.

“You’ll book the show?”

“Ya.”

Heh. Ok. Where?”

As I thought about it, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing.  I had never booked my own show before. I didn’t even know what options I had, if any, for where the show could be booked.  “Ve…” I started to say at the same time he projected, “Vet’s Hall?!?”

“Yea!!  There…” I was out of things to say and hoping he wouldn’t ask me for any details.

“Great!” There was that smile again.  He seemed excited. “Are we playing with anyone or do you still need to book the other bands?”

Oh crap!  I hadn’t thought about that.  Other bands. In fact, I would need to find at least 3 other bands.  I barely even knew 3 other bands!

“Uhhh. Yea.  I haven’t booked anyone else yet.  I still need to do that.”

“Cool!  I can help you with that.”

Yessss!  I was in.  I was in. He was going to help me book his show. We would have to work together and talk and stuff.  And that means we’re going to be together forever and he’s probably going to kiss me at midnight and stuff!  I was elated. #SoSixteen

“I can make flyers too.”  He took out a small piece of paper from the left pocket of his Dickies and took a pen from the kitchen counter, placing it in his left hand.  I love left-handed people. I wish I was left-handed. “Vet’s Hall…” he said out loud as he scribbled it across the top of the page. “Ok. When?”

Right!  When? “Probably for my birthday.”

“Probably?”

“I mean actually!  Actually, it’s for my birthday which is on the 13th.”

“Well, that’s a Thursday.”

“It is…” I fumbled. “That’s why the show is on Friday!”  Why did everything I say come out like I was Tour-Guide Barbie?  Ugh. If he just didn’t ask me how old I was going to be, we might actually make it out of this alive!

At 11:51pm, the front door burst open with an unfamiliar, “Let’s get this party started!” announced from a big guy sporting camo shorts and an oversized, black hoodie despite it being the middle of winter.  “K— ya bastard, where are you?” he said as my computer challenged soon-to-be boyfriend turned, throwing both his hands in the air for a double high five as he walked up the short set of stairs there by the kitchen.

At almost the exact moment their hands clasped together for a true bro-moment, a small, long-haired kid fell through the still partially open front door, stumbling over himself in what might have been my first ever witnessed drunken stooper.  He yelled, “Move! Move! Move!” and shoved past people, down the stairs, down another set of stairs, and out what I can only assume was the garage door.

K— followed after him, yelling an innocent, “What the heck man?”

I must’ve had a confused look on my face when K— returned to see how his very long and boring computer defrag was going.

“Who was that?”

“That?!?” He pointed over his shoulder toward a trail of destruction.  “That! Is Bert McCracken.”

The name meant nothing to me at the time.  In fact, it meant nothing to most people in 1999.  Bert had yet to even become local famous let alone charged with the start of a worldwide screamo pandemic.

“He used to be in our band.  And that,” he pointed back up the stairs to the guy in camo shorts, “that’s Scotty X.  He is one of the guitarists in my band, and he is also in another band with Bert called Cobra Kai.  But you’ll probably also know Bert from a band called Strange Itch.”

It was an introduction to what would be a pivotal moment, marking the rest of my life as dedicated to this powerful, centered life of music.

I was saved.

🎵 She’s Famous Now 🎵

🎵 I’m singing too high tonight, I’m gonna lose my voice / I heard her on the radio, don’t want to sing along, but I’ve got no choice! 🎵

At first I was annoyed, “Mom!” I groaned. “Stooooop!” Typical teenager.

Her entire face lit up when she laughed, turning from pink to red with a glow that seemed to prove she was somehow magical – like Mrs. Santa Claus – unable to hide the twinkle in her eye when she was truly happy. She was just a bit mad herself, so it was impossible to stay mad at her as she started to swerve the car back and forth to the beat.

We were listening to a mixtape made by I don’t know who. The creator doesn’t matter as much as this single moment held in time.

Flipping through my homework, writing my name in the top corner of every paper with a final zig zag of the Z, my pencil drew a random line off the corner of the paper. She had zagged when I had zigged. I looked up and glared at her as best I could. I pushed out my lips and squinted my eyes, trying desperately to keep up my tragic teenage stereotype. Instead, a smile spread infectiously across my face as I shoved the papers in my bag, giving up on any sense of procrastinated organization to sing out loud with her.

I reminded her all the time, “Some kids would be embarrassed by a Mom like you ya know…” and this morning was no different as I rolled down the window to her seafoam green Ford Contour and yelled the lyrics out the window,

🎵 She used to be my girl but now she’s famous!
She used to be my girl but now she’s famous! 🎵

Pulling my head back into the car, I could hear her laughter above the scratch of the cassette tape in the car stereo. We must’ve replayed this song a thousand times this week alone.

🎵 No one will ever touch the way that I feel
Just for the record, she got the deal
I don’t want to hear it! 🎵

We lived alone. Just the two of us. On a cross country jaunt with his aging father, my dad received a phone call for a job offer. Two job offers in fact. It was one of those answers to desperate prayers as he had been out of work for nearly two years. That’s what brought us here, to a basement apartment 2/3 of the country away from where we had been living the last eight years. We were here to be close to his parents in a place we thought we might end up if all worked out. But prayers never work that way. Instead, he took a hard right and moved to Texas and we were to follow. The thing is, no one. had told me…yet.

I was the youngest of four children and it was safe to say that my dad and I had spent at least the last handful of years at odds. Extreme odds. You might even say we hated each other, but I don’t think either of us cared enough to put that kind of energy into it.

In those few, short years, life changed. My siblings all graduated, went to school, married, and moved out before I could even say that I survived the 7th grade. At that point, we stopped sitting down together for dinner. It was easy to assume that the obligation was no longer there when we were only half of a family, but it was more than that. My mom never argued. She never bickered about spending more time together. Instead, she prepared dinner in phases – allowing me to scrounge down enough food to fuel a professional athlete before my dad even sat down to the table. We were separated. It was easier that way.

So, it won’t take any great effort or imagination to know that moving to a small, dark apartment in a sorry excuse for a mountain town was hard on the both of us. There were a lot of slamming doors and insisted alone time. Once he was gone, he was happy. He had a job now. He could refuel that sense of being a caretaker, or whatever. Meanwhile, my mom and I were mucking it up to overplayed tracks on ska mixtapes.

With one-foot propping open the car door, I gathered my things before heading in for another day of school. And just before getting out of the car, we leaned in together, belting out some of the final lyrics,

🎵Well she’s like me, just not as ugly🎵

I’ll never forget the nights we’d chose to warm up frozen pizzas for dinner rather than cook anything remotely healthy, and during the five short minutes it took to crackle the crust, we’d dance circles around each other to the sounds of trumpeting punk rockers.

My mom cracked me up. I felt lucky. The woman I had grown up with and most of my life, knew nothing about. Now we had all the time in the world to spend together and she was as silly as ever. I felt like she was all mine. I knew her in a way that no one else knew her. I knew her in a way my dad had never known her.

Credits

Header image of Reel Big Fish live by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chadcooperphotos

♫If you believed what you felt you would be in love…♫

My memory is a blur of one concert after another. Were you ever really there?

Over the course of two years I must’ve interviewed Chiodos over half a dozen times.  Definitely over half a dozen times. They seemed to be the never-ending assignment and always about you.

Were you there with me that time?

I can’t remember if you were ever there and yet I know you would have had to have been.  You would have had to be there in the beginning, at least. You were the reason I was obsessed; the reason why every one of their songs reminded me a time I was dying to get back to.

Don’t let this die, we may never fall in love again
It’s hard but worth the wait when it’s over…



Like so many words I’ve heard before, these particular lyrics came like a knife of forgotten memories.  All, but one.

I should have never moved in with her or had anything to do with her and her family.  It’s not as though I had a choice – living from couch to couch and out of my car at a different a house every week.  So much of my life wasn’t good back then, but you were. You helped get me back on my feet – moving me from N–‘s house to J–‘s house and from J–‘s house to S–‘s house.

It was the best situation I had been in for a long time, but I hated going home to S–‘s house after your parents sat you down, insisting that I was spending the night too often.  Mostly, I hated being away from you from one night to the next.

We were so completely in love – a typical summer romance, but better.  It was Fall. It was my favorite time of year. There was no better time to start a romance, wrapped in each other’s arms to keep warm through the nights.

I let go of my previous life, putting the likes of Happy Valley permanently behind me.  I traded it in for a temporary desk job in South Salt Lake and sacrificed sleepless nights on a broken couch in the dark basement of an unfamiliar family just to be close to you.  And you know what? It worked. I wouldn’t have asked for more or thought that I could do better.

I took on some extra odd jobs for nights you weren’t around, going line-by-line over hand-written receipts for her parents car sales business.  Most of the hours were lonely attempts to organize someone else’s mess, but I enjoyed the work. Every hour, every penny in my mind went towards a life we could spend together.  I had no doubt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.

I think that’s how it came up.  I think that’s where she managed to pry, asking question after question with that fake, high-pitched baby voice spewing out sounds rather than words as if “Bleh!” were a viable expression.

“Weren’t you almost married before?” she asked.

“Sort of,” I said, typing in more numbers into the computer.

“And wasn’t that like,” she said like all the time, “like, only a few months ago.”

“Sort of.” I wasn’t doing anything to provoke the conversation further.  I was just minding my own business, working on things that I thought were dependable sources of income.  That would just be one of the things I was wrong about when it came to S– and her family.

“Well, then how do you know?  Why don’t you still just marry that other guy?”

“Because I don’t love him I guess.”

“But you did.”

It was more of a blunt statement than any kind of question, and it was enough to make me stop what I was doing and see what it was she really was getting at.

“Ya, I did.  He was an important part of my life and I really didn’t treat him well.  I loved him. I still love him, it just isn’t the same ya know?”

“How can you still love him and love D–?”

“I don’t.  I mean. I do.  But…” Now she had me thinking.  “B– was one of the best things that happened to me.  I met him at a time he didn’t think I would really be open to going out with a guy like him, but he made me laugh.  I loved his energy and his willingness to get out there and try. But bad things happened. Really bad things happened.  And ya know what? Months later when I showed up on his doorstep, he was there for me. It was technically only our second date and by the third date, on Christmas Day, we moved in together.”

“Lauuul my gosh!” It was another one of her sounds – like an over annunciated hipster pronounced lol, only before hipsters started pronouncing text-speak like it was an actual, real thing.

“He used to write me these cards, like these little love letters telling me how much he loved me and we had this thing where, I dunno, I can’t really describe it, but they were cutsie things based on mannerisms that we really only had with each other.  I miss that. I miss him.”

“Why don’t you talk to him?”

“We didn’t part ways very well.  I really hurt him. I don’t know what I was doing.  I freaked out I guess. My therapist says I have a real problem letting people love me so that’s probably it.  My therapist didn’t like Brandon very much anyway. But ya, I miss him. I miss the way it used to be. It was easy living together and doing everything for each other.”

She was quiet for a moment only because she was answering text messages on her phone.  I took the opportunity to think about what it was I was saying. I really was going to marry this guy.  Why didn’t I? Why did I have to go and fuck things up?

Fear set in.  That kind of backwards, double-jeopardy fear like you’ve out done yourself this time and really fucked things up for no other reason than second guessing your second guesses.  It is confusing, but that’s because it really doesn’t make sense. What if I had duped myself and purposefully destroyed everything in one, over-dramatic swoop because I was incapable of receiving love?

By the time she looked up, I’m sure I had one of those ohmyGodwhathaveIdone looks on my face.

“You should talk to him,” she said.  “At least tell him that you still love him.”

I knew it was a bad idea, but she had a point.  I needed to know why I had just said those things.  Sure I loved him, but did I still love him like that?

I felt the sudden and familiar pit in my stomach as nausea overwhelmed me.  Oh God! I had been here before. This is exactly how our relationship ended.  I loved him and still I believed I loved someone else. I left because someone else was there, giving me the attention that I insisted I was no longer getting from what had been the longest relationship that had survived me so far in life – 8 months.

What if I was doing the same thing with D–?  What if I just thought I was in love with him and he was just this fling that was ultimately going to drive me into complete disinterest because he would flip flop between being overly attached and completely distant like P– had just done to me?

I thought about what she had said for days.  Three days to be exact. Then she found me again, buried in work at her dad’s desk in the basement office.  She asked me how I was doing and all I could say was, “Horrible.”

She had unlocked an insanity – a complete insecurity in me over my ability to make any real decisions for myself.  I was, after all, constantly against myself. Just the fact that I was practically incapable of allowing love into my life was evidence enough that I didn’t really know what love was at all.  So maybe I wasn’t in love with D– at all. Maybe I was just playing out the same old scenarios from every relationship before now – being asked by his parents to no longer share rooms like M–‘s parents had done so long ago.  After all, I thought I might be in love with one of his friends at the time that I met him and switched gears. That certainly wasn’t a new story!

“I’m going to do it,” I told S–.  “I’m going to tell B– I still love him and see if he’ll still marry me.”

The idea of it was nerve-racking.  I had to pick an outfit. I had to change my hair.  I had to do everything to look my best for no other reason than I so desperately wanted to hear that he still loved me and all could be forgiven.

Insecurity filled the gap between this decisive moment and the last time I had seen D–.  It had been days. In the depths of my mind, desperate for security I somehow believed that this time apart meant we could never make it work.  It was too much. It was too hard! He had to work and was going to school. I had to work and couldn’t stay enrolled in classes to save my life!  My life was going nowhere and somehow this was all his fault.

Without warning, I stopped calling him.  I stopped sending out texts insisting how I couldn’t wait to see him next.  I didn’t bring him lunch at work. I didn’t wait at his house in the evening until he came home from a long day just so I could lay in his lap while he meticulously drew mathematical lines on blank pages that would somehow, someday turn him into an architect.

When I did see him, everything about him annoyed me.  I had no patience with him. The way he laughed; the way he sounded like a complete idiot all of a sudden, despite knowing he was one of the smartest people I knew.  It seemed as though I had discovered his complete disregard for the obvious, and with that, I could no longer even look him in the eye without feeling some sort of regret for having fallen for a joke.

When I first moved to be close to him, he used to tuck me in at night and sit at my bedside until I fell asleep – spending every moment we could together before the adults in our life weighed in on their, “What will people think?” opinions of our young love.  Now, I just lay in bed at night, watching television reruns of shows B– and I used to watch each night together, calculating the complexity of my heart and which side of this black hole was the actual truth of how I felt and where I belonged.

I knew that at times I couldn’t even stand him.  He seemed gullible and overly amused by everything.  I felt that. My annoyance was very real to me, but I didn’t understand it.  Why? At the same time, I loved him more than anything or anyone, yet somehow believed the real love of my life was someone I had so easily left behind.

♫If you believed what you felt you would be in love…♫



I’ll drown in my consideration… Baby, this won’t get any easier…♫