I would have picked 1967, but dang, that is such a cliche. So fill us in on your adventures. Where were you in 1970? What were you doing!
Taking my first ride in jet (via National Airlines) heading to Morehead Ky – by way of Wheeling WV – to start my freshman year at college.
Lined up at right defensive tackle, played center at basketball, and running the 440 in track during my high school freshman career. I wasn’t worth a flip at any of them, but still started because I was a foot taller than the rest of the team. They had caught up by my senior year. When I wasn’t playing sports, I had a unrevealed crush on a dark haired girl named Donita who had the most beautiful eyes, unfortunately she moved away before I worked up the nerve to woo her.
February, 1970, I was the poster Child for World Class Brown-Noser. My high school was preparing for our spring musical, “The Sound of Music” and I was cast as Leisel, the angelic, virginal songstress, who was 16 going on 17. Honestly, it was not much of a stretch for me. I was indeed angelic and virginal….songstress, not so much, but neither was anyone else in the cast.
I was actually in love with my Rolf (Michael) and we looked stunning as we did the Viennese Waltz around the paper mache gazebo on center stage.
Teachers loved me, the cool kids loved me, even the administrative staff loved me. I was a hall monitor, Honor Society member, President of my class and had recently won the Daughters Of The American Revolution Good Citizen award. In short, I was pretty much perfect.
It wasn’t until I graduated in 1971, and started college that it dawned on me that perfection was boring. One magical night, I attended a Frat party and drank my first Budweiser and the wonderful world of misbehaving unrolled before me like a red carpet on Oscar night. I seemed to be gifted at pressing the envelope; I broke curfew (I attended a church school), missed several classes, slept all night on the fire escape outside the most revered building on campus and invited a boy inside our All-Girl Dorm.
I memorized all the lyrics to Don MacClean’s “American Pie”, sang along with Carley on “You’re So Vain” and stomp danced to “Maggie May”. I even skipped mandatory chapel on a Wednesday afternoon. I had most certainly gone over to THE DARK SIDE.
With this background, is it any wonder that I ended up being a Politician, the ideal combination of perfection, deception and deflection.
Love the turning point in your life. Toeing the mark just turned out to be boring! Great history, Peanut.
And where was I in February 2015 ?
It’s official, I am weak, I am a coward, I have no intestinal fortitude…..I SURRENDER ! I truly believed that the Polar Vortex of 2014 had tested my limits to the extreme, and I had survived. Not so much for Vortex Redeux 2015. It might be because I am another year older and my tolerance is lower. Or maybe it is because my beloved pup, Zoey, has been staring at me with her pathetic eyes that scream, “I’m Bored”. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the cosmos has it in for me and wants me to die one cold brain cell at a time. Whatever the reason, Winter Wins, I give up.
We have canceled school and church so often this year that I found myself going to the BMV just to sit in the waiting area and work on my social skills. The tempers of shoppers in Krogers is growing exponentially as the temps outside plummet. It is literally a contact sport in the dairy department when we are under a weather advisory.
In an effort to stimulate my brain and possibly improve my surroundings, I researched Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment. I learned that if you move your furniture around and place a few ornamental dragons holding pearls in the proper alignment, then you can promote positive energy and peaceful feelings to flow freely through your home. One major problem, no available dragons holding pearls and my apartment is much too small to have my furniture arranged any differently. So I took the dead poinsettia from Christmas, hung a dusty origami bird on it’s withered branches and placed it by my front door. The energy in my living room didn’t exactly change for the better, but the bird in the plant does act as an effective weather vane to measure the wind chill coming in under my door. As for this cranky old Methodist and Feng Shui….NO FENG WAY!
Call me when the Dandelions pop up. Where was I in February 2015 ?
I always enjoy how you decide to go your own way. Challenged? Yes, but you always add a twist and a tangent, tangled up in blue. (Sorry, Dylan rip-off.) Ever since I had a few years working in corporate America, I have realized the virtues of talking about the weather. My first lesson was that you can talk about the weather to ANYONE and we can all join in. A more seasoned lesson was that the weather is, surprisingly, cosmic. We’re talking about ineluctable currents up there, that manifest what MUST BE, given conditions. And so clouds form, snow falls, drafts come in under doors. Amid all this celestial turmoil, plants lurk, awaiting subtle signals. Birds venture as far north as food will allow, and then wait for more burgeoning. We humble humans walk around in a be-muffled daze, limited in range from door to car to door and back. We gaze at frosty windows and pout. Whose idea was this!! Does it make us tougher? I’ll leave you to answer that one.
Death, Taxes and Weather….the ties that bind.
I’ll play if I can change the year to 1973.
I can’t wait!
In 1970 I was in a godforsaken corner of Northwestern Illinois, teaching school to avoid the draft, and living in a repurposed gas station that was warmed only by an unreliable coal furnace and by the good friends that surrounded me there. I’ve gone a million miles since then (and now enjoy reliable heat!) but the memory still stays with me….
There are many spots of great interest in northwestern Illinois, although often big trucks rumble along through the night just outside one’s house. I once knew an Italian boy with red hair whose mother came for a visit to his house, and we were invited for supper. She was an amazing cook. She made us eggplant parmesan, and I thought I had just gone to heaven. I remember the very satisfied look on her face as she watched my friends and I who were quite stupified at the quality of her meal. Now that I am somewhat nearer her agem I can just imagine what she thought of us all. We were so young, so untried, so uncertain about where our lives would take us. We thought struggling with a coal furnace and old houses was somehow brave. But this fine Italian mom knew what she could do well, and I often wish I had thanked her more.
I was yet a glimmer in thine parent’s eye. 🙂
I did get a story published on EveryDayFiction.com – and saved 15% or more on my insurance.
Little Old Lady
Congratulations Ward !
Thanks. This was a fun story to write. I originally wrote it for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. This version is a bit different, but still has the same humor.
JULY of 1973
WEDNESDAY, JULY 4
I’m sitting on a dusty boardwalk, leaning against the clapboard siding of a building that’s probably three-quarters of a century old. Above me, on the window of the US Marshal’s office, is a small, hand-printed note that reads, “Open 9 AM, July 5.”
Which is why I’m still here watching what passes for a Fourth of July parade in historic Skagway, Alaska, at the northernmost extent of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Were it any other day, say the third or the fifth, I’d already be hiking with a 40 pound on my back, headed for Canada.
Because it’s the 4th and the Marshal’s office is closed, my friends and I are enjoying small town Skagway. We’ve checked out the historic buildings in town, visited the gravesite of Jefferson Randolph Smith, more commonly known as Soapy Smith, and rued the imminent destruction of Harriet Pullen’s once-graceful but now woebegone boarding house. Inside the Golden Nugget Hotel, an elderly man played a musical saw for us.
Tomorrow at 9 we’ll be here to check in with the Marshal, who serves as Customs Control for hikers heading up the famed Chilkoot Trail, walking in the footsteps of gold-hungry men who flooded this town in 1898, en route to Dawson and the Klondike gold fields.
The parade is pretty funny. Kids on bikes, a couple on horses, vintage autos, and a flatbed truck with the town’s volunteer firemen throwing candy to the “crowd.” A group of young boys throws water balloons back. Things escalate on both sides through squirt guns, hand pumps, and garden hoses until a truce is made when the firemen bring out the fire truck. A truce only because one side disappears down a dirt side road.
(Upwards of 100,000 prospectors passed through Skagway in 1898, heading deep into the Yukon Territory of Canada for the gold fields a few miles outside of Dawson in the Yukon Territory. If they escaped con man Soapy Smith and his large gang of thugs with their finances and supplies intact, they still had a long away to go. Only about a third of them managed to reach Dawson City where they found all the claims already staked.)
(The Watergate scandal is exploding in Washington. Two weeks prior, Associate Director William Mark Felt, Sr., resigned from the FBI. )
SATURDAY, JULY 7
This is one of those gawd-awful glorious days that makes you forget those winter temperatures that freeze your bone marrow, while at the same time helps you remember why you love Alaska. If I were at sea level, 15 miles away in Skagway, I’d have to squint to look at the water in Lynn Canal fjord for fear of blinding myself. Today, up in the mountains, I squint when I look at the hanging glaciers around me.
After hiking and exploring various ruins and artifacts along the trail in heavy rain all day yesterday, we decided to camp at Sheep Creek cabin and dry out. We call a day of rest for the next day because after that we will climb 2500 vertical feet in 3.5 miles to the top of Chilkoot Pass. I take advantage of today’s fine weather and hike half-way up massive boulders that were covered with snow and cut into steps 75 years ago, nicknamed the Golden Steps. A photo of these heavily-laden men climbing the steps in a solid line became the iconic image of the gold rush.
I cannot imagine hauling the ton of supplies, mandated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, that the prospectors needed to enter Canada.
(Right here below the steps, on Palm Sunday, April 3, 1898, a snowstorm was raging in these mountains, obscuring vision and causing many prospectors to linger below the actual Chilkoot Pass, an almost straight-up climb for men with 65-pound packs strapped to their backs. For about 68 of them, this was their final day of struggle. Massive avalanches broke loose and buried the area, the men, and their cached supplies.)
(Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and John Dean are gone from Nixon’s staff, resigned and/or fired and facing prison. The Senate Watergate hearings are in full charge, and a secret source called Deep Throat is curling the toes of readers everywhere through the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.)
SUNDAY, JULY 8
Sure glad I made that partial climb to the pass yesterday, because today it’s socked in with fog, making visibility and footing difficult on these huge boulders. Part way up I see what looks like a collapsed tent partially buried by rock, and my heart leaps into my throat, making breathing difficult. I shout a greeting, but there’s no response. I wait for Kathy, who’s behind me, and we climb closer. Again we shout greetings. Nothing.
And then, a tiny voice says, “Thank God” and a hand pulls back a section of the tent that they had simply draped over themselves and secured with rocks. It’s The Family, as we call them, a Canadian couple hiking the trail with teenaged son and daughter. It’s their first hike ever. Their gear is obsolete, and they are carrying heavy canned goods for food. They are thankful someone else is crazy enough to be out here.
All is okay and we climb upwards. The fog is so dense at the top, we cannot find the trail. Everything is covered with snow, even in July. Eventually we find old tracks in the snow and follow them. Suddenly, we are traversing a steep slope, slamming the sides of our boots into hard, crusted snow to kick out an edge of a foothold. The fog taunts us, briefly opens a slight window below us where we see the deep blue of either ice or water. We can’t tell. It’s a long way down.
Kathy falls. She yells, but no one is close enough to stop her downward slide. “Dig your heels in!” I yell, and she tries but continues her slide into oblivion. “Dig your heels in!” Just before she disappears into the fog, she halts her plummet. It takes several minutes for her to recover and climb back up.
We walk 15 miles through fog and rain, heading slowly downward. Unable to find a decent camping place for the nine of us, we reach the ruins of a settlement at Lake Lindeman, and lay out our pads and sleeping bags in the least-collapsed cabin.
During the night, as we sleep, a rodent bites Kathy on the finger, probably a vole or shrew, but it scurries off before we can see it.
(The border between Alaska and Canada is disputed by those countries. It has been only 30 years since Alaska was purchased from Russia, and much is uncertain. For now, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police mans a make-shift customs station at the top of the Chilkoot Pass, and charges a duty on the
(An estimated 85 per cent of Americans tune in to watch the Senate Watergate hearings.)
FRIDAY, JULY 13
We’re back in Whitehorse, where we began this journey. Our hike out of Lake Lindeman was uneventful and we reached Lake Bennett with plenty of time to explore this beautiful site. Across from the beige station house where women serve beef stew, homemade rolls, and chocolate cake to train passengers, is a distinctive church. Though in disrepair, we had camped in it the night before, pitching our tents to keep them dry for packing in the morning.
The Church and the station house are the only two buildings here.
We ride the narrow-gauge White Pass and Yukon Railroad back to Whitehorse where our vehicles are waiting. Kathy and I will continue down the Alcan Highway through Canada to the states. She will return to California and resume her interrupted career.
As for me, I have pulled the plug on my life once again. “Pulled the plug” as in, “Screw this, I’m outta here.” I have no idea where I’m going, and even less what I’m doing. If I’d known what I was doing, I never would have hitched a military surplus trailer to the fragile bumper of a turquoise 1965 Mustang, loaded five sled dogs into it (my lead dog rode shotgun in the Mustang), and headed out of Alaska. There were adventures ahead, many adventures.
(The prospectors spent time here waiting for the ice to go out on the lake. They used two-man whip saws, guaranteed to make enemies of the best of friends, to cut planks for boats and rafts so they could float their supplies to Dawson on the Yukon River. Using scraps of lumber leftover from building rafts and boats, and sticks of various sizes, a hand-crafted church that will become known as St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is constructed on the shore overlooking Lake Bennett. By the time of its completion in 1901, the town of Bennett is done, now a postscript to the fabulous Klondike gold rush.)
(A White House aide named Alexander Butterfield is interviewed on this day prior to his testimony before the Senate Watergate committee. He reveals the existence of a voice-activated recording system in the Oval Office. Three days later, he speaks about it to the committee. It marks the eventual downfall of Richard Nixon. A year and a month later, he becomes the first man to resign as president of the US.)
Woodward and Berstein won Pulitzer Prizes for The Washington Post for their reporting on the Watergate scandal. They co-wrote “All the President’s Men” in 1974, a best-selling non-fiction book. The movie adaptation, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Richard Nixon, disgraced, retired to California, and the press didn’t have Nixon to kick around anymore. I traveled around the U.S. until I ran out of money, then found several part-time jobs and saved enough to get back to Alaska, where I went on to many more adventures. In 2005, Mark Felt revealed himself to be Deep Throat.
The missing end of the sentence for Saturday, July 8: “…charges a duty on their supplies, much to the displeasure of prospectors struggling through.)”
In 1970 Mom tended bar three days a week at the American Legion in Elmira Heights, New York. On Saturday mornings, before the bar opened up, she did their bookkeeping. She was smart that way. One Saturday morning she asked me to come along. We would have lunch with her friend, Gloria, she said, once she was finished with the books. This seemed like a tremendous waste of a Saturday to me but I went anyway, wearing the same clothes I had on the day before.
Coincidentally, Gloria had a good-looking thirteen-year-old son, the same age as me; Kevin, I think his name was. While Mom and Gloria prepared lunch, Kevin and I listened to his 45s. The Beatles, CCR, The Stones, Van Morrison, Dylan. I don’t remember what we had for lunch, why would I? But I do remember the following Saturday morning when it was time for Mom to do the books again.
I got up two hours early to wash and iron my hair. Yes, iron it, on the ironing board, that’s what we did back then because straight hair was cool. I changed outfits at least five times until I found the perfect pair of bell bottom jeans and a skin-tight purple shirt. I applied make-up; blue eye shadow with tons of mascara and doused myself with Love, Baby Soft perfume. I was ready.
But that Saturday Kevin wasn’t home, he went fishing instead. What a fool. Luckily I found his 45s in his room, I remember them still.
Olivia – I’m catching up on some posts I missed. I often rush to judgment about writing by the riffles it leaves as I process the words. With your writing I find something I can’t identify in the stillness beneath the riffles. Guess it’s just a connection being made. I hope you keep writing. Push the limits too. Jeff
Jeff, thank you. I’m a beginner and sometimes shy away from posting here…you are all so talented. I took Ann’s Beginners’ Writing Class last year and I keep trying to improve. Thank you for the encouragement.
In 1970, I was living in a three story house in Singapore. My friend and I decided to go to a movie that night. Singapore was on curfew, but it was the last night of the movie. Armed jeeps were patrolling the streets. We were two of three people in the movie theatre. Early next morning, a phone from my husband’s company advised me that the American Embassy did not appreciate my breaking curfew. My friend and I were told the reason we were on curfew was because the Malays had run amok. It was just two years from when Singapore became independent from Malaysia. I assume the Malays were still upset about losing Singapore. The American Embassy called both of us to inform us the Malays had gone into a movie theatre and beheaded everyone. Moral of story…Never ever break curfew for a movie. ..
I guess by now you all realise I do not know how to spell phone call.
Yikes! Beheading is a big price to pay for a movie. Glad you were safe!
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle