September involved a lot of working the Texas 211 disaster hotline after Katrina and Rita, not sleeping, watching Babylon 5, and generally not having enough intellectual energy to even remember where I lived a year ago. So here is a post I would have put up nearer my birthday, without that interference.
Fifteen Years Ago, 1990
By my birthday, I had started my junior year at Cheyenne Mountain high school in Colorado Springs. I don’t have a clue about the actual birthday events, since I’ve never been much of a diarist and I have virtually nothing saved from this time period as far as memorabilia.
There had been a huge fight over the house we moved in to. Unlike when we’d moved from Houston to Denver the year before, this time we were close enough that our parents offered to take us on a house hunting trip to see the candidates they lined up. Naturally, this turned into “You can have all the opinions you want, but your father doesn’t think the house you like looks big enough from the outside to symbolize how materially successful he is.” When we moved into the house in Denver, I was given a choice between white or off-white paint for my new room. This time I said I didn’t care.
The room was kind of cool. I got the good room, since I would only be there for two years. It had a vaulted ceiling and a window seat. I put my Smith-Corona typewriter next to the window seat on a filing cabinet. I was back to writing novels, and I spent a lot of time doing that.
The school is made up of the same assortment as in Littleton: 3 parts annoying rich kids, 1 part poor kids who don’t do well in school. In this school the rich kids whine and get their way if there’s a hockey game the night before an English assignment is due, but I find I just don’t care. My English teacher likes going into detail about the blood and guts we encounter them in works of literature (“OK, this knife would have a groove in the blade, because otherwise it would get stuck in the body…”) He recommends I read Gravity’s Rainbow. Several years later I remember he recommended Thomas Pynchon and buy a copy of Vineland from a garage sale. I love it to pieces. My favorite teachers are for French, because she makes us work at it, and Computers, because the Computer teacher is also the Creative Writing advisor.
I don’t pull any stunts this year that require calling the sheriff. I meet a green-haired girl named Gigi in one of my honors classes, and my dad gives me a speech about how with friends like that, I’ll end up in the gutter. He blames it on the music I listen to. Two years later, at college, I sit bolt upright in bed one morning and shout “Hey, you listen to the same music I do!” And it was true. Heck, I borrowed Motley Crue cassettes from him all the time!
I have a few friends that year, and date a guy who was on the football team if he hadn’t wrecked his knee. Unfortunately for me, he was the football team doofus.
This was probably the year I saw Skid Row with Pantera and Soundgarden. Hated Soundgarden. They sounded like mush. Then I saw them at Lollapalooza the next year and loved them.
Ten Years Ago, 1995
This was the year my mom relaxed, since I was within driving distance of her for the first time in several years. They had a birthday dinner for me at my godmother’s house. I honestly don’t remember that specific event, but I do remember her house. It was exactly the house I would have wanted. Too bad it’s now been purchased and remodeled.
Her house was, of course, in Austin. Mike and I got together in Minnesota and then decided to move to Texas. I don’t remember how that idea got started, since I could have just as easily finished college there and Mike had a reasonably good job at the time, but I think I was just sick of being cold. Plus, my social circle had taken extensive damage through various breakups and fights (many of both initiated by me) and Macalester was remodeling parts of the campus, so I felt unsettled and mad and sad. Running away seemed like the best option.
I had applied to the University of Texas as a transfer, but was rejected because failing an entire semester at Macalester had an effect on my GPA in the downward direction. The only other school in town was St. Edward’s, so I applied there and got it. I had no idea yet of what private college would cost.
We moved down with C. into an apartment just off Riverside, which had seemed like a reasonable idea when we drove down at Spring Break and rented it. Then came problems with the leasing company and realization of just how nasty Riverside was. And the green carpet. I’m not kidding, the carpet was green. Not a forest green. Not aqua. Kind of a blend of the two.
I didn’t have a job or school for the entire first semester, and my parents had cut me off financially when they heard about my crazy relocation plan, so I was pissed off and hurt and had absolutely nothing to distract myself from it. I was no fun.
The bright spot in that period of time was this group of gamer friends that Mike had made online before we ever thought of moving down there. It looks like we all went out to dinner at Magnolia Cafe the day after my birthday, which must have been a great time. These people partied. Not loud and horrible, but loud and fun. They set up a big group dinner for us the night we arrived, they opened up their homes to us when we had a power outage in October and couldn’t sleep with no A/C, and they were some of the sweetest and most generous people I ever met.
Which is why they all played a race of slave-owning warriors bent on universal domination. Ten points for anyone who doesn’t know my ex-husband who guesses correctly.
Five years ago, 2000
Strangely, this is also a year I moved to Austin. I stayed in Austin only long enough to get my B.A. from St Edward’s, at a cost of $23K in debt. Then I moved off to Boston. On July 4, 2000, I came back home. No job, credit cards working their way towards maxed, and it was over 100 degrees every day. Bad time to ride the bus around town for job interviews in nice clothes.
By September, though, I had gotten a job working as an executive assistant at Vignette. The temp agency had spoken of them in hushed tones of reverence, as a company with so much money that they would hire smart people with bachelor’s degrees in any field and let them grow within the company. I told her I was mostly interested in pursuing a helping profession, but that I also enjoyed writing and computers and wouldn’t mind checking it out.
I shared an office with V., who was… a bitch. No other way to say it. On my birthday, a few people called me to wish me a good day. I kept the calls short and spoke quietly. Nevertheless, she admonished me that personal calls were inappropriate in a work setting.
No one really seemed to know what her job was, although she was really devoted to the company.
My roommate at the time was K. K. was one of the friends I’d made at Cheyenne Mountain high school, described above. He was a senior when I was a junior, and he had a car, and we hung out a lot commiserating each other on our romantic failures. He did many heroic things for me, including driving me through Eagle Pass in a blizzard to visit my current boyfriend who was away at college. We each moved cross country from our respective locations (him in Boulder, me in Boston) into a duplex in far South Austin.
That did not work out well.
This year, 2005
C-Man had asked me repeatedly what I wanted to do for my birthday, but I had been scared to choose anything that would require more energy than lying on the couch. So we decided to wait and see how I felt at the end of the day. Luckily, I felt pretty reasonable, so I decided we were going out to dinner. C-Man asked where I would like to eat, and I said Mother’s, which caused great laughter.
The negotiations around our first meeting location were complicated. He suggested Mother’s, I suggested something in the general vicinity of my preferred bus routes without naming them, he figured out which ones they were easily but pointed out that the walk from the #1 or the #3 to Mother’s was actually quite nice and he was willing to meet me at the bus stop and walk with me, and I said this:
“How about I promise that if we hang out more than once, and one of those instances falls in a week when I’m not buried in work, we will implement that plan at least once?”
And then we never went to Mother’s. For 10 months. Even though we’re both vegetarians.
So we fixed that. We ran into my friend K. and her babysitting charge there and had a nice little chat. I had capellini al pesto, courtesy of the West Lynn Cafe specials menu. We went home and watched an episode of Babylon 5 (first season, which we slogged through by sheer force of will), and I went to bed.