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December 13, 2004

Comments

daniel olivas

when i was 16, i went on my first date with a girl named patty (also 16). it was glorious summertime, los angeles, 1975, and i took her to see a matinee in westwood. but first, we had a bite at orange julius. there we sat across from each other, both of us with hotdogs and a large orange julius (for those of you not familiar with the drink, it is some kind of whipped orange drink mixed with a secret ingedient). we're chatting, laughing, having a nice time. i reach over to touch her hand and in very slow motion, i knock over her almost-full orange julius onto her lap. she is, of course, wearing white pants.

as i said, i was 16. we date for about 9 months after that. she was a good sport.

Tod Goldberg

You only learn once what not to say to women.

In 1988, my 17th year on this planet, I attended a small awards ceremony for some school related activity (I've blacked it out) that included members of the community. At the time, alcohol awareness was a big deal at my school due to a rash of drunk driving accidents and the like, and I, ever vigilant, and usually ever drunk on Natural Lite, wanted to make a good impression at this event, lest it go down on my permanent record, so I was on my best behavior. As the afternoon drew on and the wine started to flow, the adults in attendance began chatting and sipping. It was then that I took special notice of a pregnant woman sitting at my table -- she was young, maybe 30, and pretty in the way the wives of PE teachers are pretty, which is to say earthy -- and actually seemed quite nice, since she made it a point to talk with me throughout lunch. But her drinking was bothering me. Hadn't she heard? Didn't she know? Drinking and pregnancy do not mix!
"Excuse me," I said to the woman when a lull in the table conversation hit, "but should you be drinking wine when you're pregnant?"
A unique silence washed over the table and it occured to me that the woman in question was now quite red in the face...
"I'm not pregnant," she said, her jaw clenched.
"Oh," I said.

And that was the last time I said that particular sentence to anybody.

TEV

Jenny, it was just an Opel. Not even worth worrying about.

Figured I might as well embarrass myself on my hometurf - when I went to school there was this typical NYC coffee shop we hung out in, at 2nd Avenue and 33rd Street. I'd seen this guy in a wheelchair there many times before, sitting by the door, a cup in hand asking for change, but I'd never had any to spare (poor student and all).

Finally, the triumphant night occurred - loose change in hand after the purchase of a pack of Dunhills. Chatting with friends and walking through the door, I dumped my change into his extended coffee cup --

-- and saw splashes of coffee leap out of the cup.

Jessica

I left home early and hid for the years between escape and emancipation in a series of underground scenes. That means most of my adolescent tales involve art crimes, or overdosing flatmates, and lots of unsavory makes-you stronger type encounters all mitigated by the grace of kindly nightclub managers. Which sounds so glamourous in retrospect. Like all adolescents I thought I knew it all, had been through most of it, and had intellect and agility enough for whatever I would next be pretending to have conquered twice already. But I was still a kid.
One night, after a morning shift at the soup kitchen and an afternoon scouting abandoned buildings for running water, I met my bestest friend for a show at the Mabuhay Gardens. We stopped on the way at a porno theater where the clerk almost always let me use the bathroom to wash and primp. That was a pretty big favor, what with all the hair dye and cheap liquid eye liner, and I could never quite figure out why he was so kind. He seemed to get a kick out of it, and we felt pretty bad-assed just waltzing in there. And even better about the shower room with the full length mirrors. The only thing was you had to climb up onto and then cross the "main stage" to get to those particular facilities.
It smelled weird, that theater.
The crowd noise was pretty strange, too.
So there we are at the Mab, blah blah 21+ club blah guestlist blah drinktickets blah: if you needed a jaded gothic-anarcho-kitten to warm a barstool, I was your go-to girl. Fear was playing this particular night, and the place was extra crowded with local luminaries, and it was a long struggle through the smoky, sweat-drenched entry hall before we finally reached the bar.
"Damn, this floor is almost as sticky as the one back at (the theater)," my friend said.
"Yeah,” I said, “but at least there aren’t any puddles."
One of the guys we were pressed up against half-flinched, and the others laughed heartily.
"You guys walk the floor over there?" one of them said.
"There's a shortcut through the stage," I said, to an assortment of quizzical grins, "but you have to walk the main aisle to get there."
My friend held her hands in front of her, palms out, and nodded.
"Well, I hope you didn't get any on you," the first guy said, and my friend mimed wiping something off of her chest. And they laughed again, harder. And then looked to me for my punchline. And I launched into an analysis of the syrup-to-soda-water ratios of various local establishments, and how they'd make more money on a much more digestible product besides having a much easier time cleaning up after spills if they'd just change the mix by maybe 10-15%. Like that theater! I mean! Were they serving pure fructose to those guys? Heh. Maybe that's why it was always so weird in there.

Later in the evening one of our new gentlemen friends explained my error. I'm not sure which disturbed me more – the newfound knowledge of just what it was that coated the soles of my combat boots, or the idea that those guys had been laughing not with me but at me.
It was weeks before I fully regained my angsty composure.

Angela

When I was in high school my senior year, a group of my best friends and I took off for our "senior ditch day" which by definition is kind of ridiculous as most seniors, or at least the ones I spent all of my time with ditched class(es) just about everyday. (i think we attended only Drama and English courses). That said, we were driving my best friend Kelly's Volvo (aka the vulva) to Pismo Beach and on our way home we got pulled over for speeding, not to mention taking out a car in the Safeway parking lot in a town about 45 minutes away from home. We kept driving and about 5-10 minutes up the road we got stopped. When we did, my friend began getting very nervous. The officer asked her for her license and ID, etc. After staring at it for 20 seconds, he gave it back to her and shined his MAG light in her face. "You been drinking ma'am?" he said. I blurted out, "Officer, she's MORMON!" and with that he walked back to his car and wrote us a ticket. Suffice to say, I kept my mouth shut the rest of the ride home.

Jim Ruland

On a high school field trip to the zoo, I spent the afternoon walking around with a girl I was totally in lust with but didn’t know how to approach. Realizing that I was running out of time, I finally put the moves on her--in the dark enclosure of the bat house. She let out a bloodcurdling scream that scared the bejeesus out of everyone within a two-mile radius (myself included). Moral of the story: If you can help it, avoid wooing women in the presence of fanged rodents, unless, of course, you happen to be one.

John Shannon

I was 17, out on one of my first dates, and nervous. Oh, yes, indeed. As I took her home I parked one house upstream of her parents' and tried out a clumsy kiss which, miraculously, she reciprocated for quite a long time. Unfortunately I was driving a Dauphine with Ferlac--if anyone remembers that peculiar French invention--a kind of limited-slip clutch. I was jolted out of the long smooch by the motion of the car and crammed on the brake in panic to find we had drifted immediately in front of the very house. And sure enough, the entire family was by now standing in the bright picture window staring at us. (I know, I know, but it's not apocryphal. So help me, Renault.)

Judy

This is Jenny's Mom, and I have an embarrassing teen-age moment to pass along. You have to remember that this happened 150 years or so ago when I was a teen-ager. My best friend and I were trying to pass for cool in high school. As part of this pretense, we were ignoring the obvious which was that we were borderline geeks, and we had just accepted dates from the two geekiest guys in school. We had high hopes that first of all, no one would see us with these geeks, and if they did, they wouldn't know that they were geeks. And then our dates showed up. Omigod, is that RED suede shoes they are both wearing???? Tell me that is not what I'm seeing. You have to remember that this was 1958, and both Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins were singing loudly and constantly about "BLUE Suede Shoes", .... not RED SUEDE SHOES, you dumbasses! My friend and I thought we were going to die of embarrassment. Our faces were easily the color of those bright RED SUEDE SHOES! I can still remember that night very clearly and that was over 45 years ago.

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TEV DEFINED


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."

SECOND LOOK

  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Bs

    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe

    Rider_4

    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."