Category Archives: College memories

Forked!

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1967–Off  on the SS Ryndam on a four month around-the-world study adventure. Ga Ga Dowd was the oldest student aboard. She seemed ancient, but was actually one year older than I am now.  The other two girls, whom I had just met, were to be my best friends on the journey.  They are Susan (in polka dots), who was also a U. of Wyoming student whom I had never met before and Pamn, from Berkeley. I don’t know why the wind chose to blow only my hair.  Perhaps I had invested in less hairspray?

“The Zoad In The Road”
                                                          by Dr. Seuss 

Did I ever tell you about the young Zoad?
Who came to a sign at the fork of the road?
He looked one way and the other way too –
the Zoad had to make up his mind what to do.
Well, the Zoad scratched his head, and his chin, and his pants.
And he said to himself, “I’ll be taking a chance.
If I go to Place One, that place may be hot
So how will I know if I like it or not.
On the other hand, though, I’ll feel such a fool
If I go to Place Two and find it’s too cool
In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue.
So Place One may be best and not Place Two.
Play safe,” cried the Zoad, “I’ll play safe, I’m no dunce.
I’ll simply start off to both places at once.”
And that’s how the Zoad who would not take a chance
Went no place at all with a split in his pants.

Born in a time before television and the internet and even private telephone lines, (we shared ours with two other households), periodicals took on a special importance. We subscribed to three newspapers: The Murdo Coyote (my hometown rag), The Mitchell Daily Republic  and Grit–a newsy national weekly newspaper. My dad subscribed to Saga, Real West, True West, Argosy and probably a few others; and my Mom got Saturday Evening Post, Journal, McCall’s and Redbook.

One special feature of Redbook  over the years I was growing up was that they published the poetry of Dr.Seuss. I don’t know if the poem above was ever published anywhere else, but it was one of my family’s favorites, and I think I still have it out in a plastic storage case with other old letters and paper memorabilia. It is well-worn and wrinkled and yellowed, glued to a piece of cardboard to aid in its preservation.  I think I had used it as one of the poems I chose to memorize (along with “Out to Old Aunt  Mary’s,” ” The Wreck of the Hesperus” and “The Children’s Hour”) when I was in grade school.

I don’t know how much I actually listened to the messages of poems back then, but I do know that something prompted me not to just dream of those forks in the road but to make a decision and to take a chance.  Perhaps it was this poem.  Perhaps it was the fact that my parents rarely held me back when I had a chance to travel or experience something different.  Well, no, they didn’t let me take the Seventeen trip to Europe when I was eleven, but short of that, they encouraged me to reach out and experience life away from the town of 700 where I lived.

When I was a teenager, I traveled all over the state for district meetings for my MYF.  I attended church camps in the Black Hills and Lake Poinsett and traveled by bus to a U.N. Seminar when I was a junior in high school.

When it came time to go to college, I was quick to choose an out-of-state college and in my junior year again chose to travel–this time around the world on the U.S.S. Ryndaam as a student on World Camput Afloat––a university extension of Chapman College in Orange, CA.  We traveled for four months, stopping in countries around the world, studying their cultures, taking practicum side trips and in some cases taking off on our own.  The first country I did this in was in Kenya, where my newly met friend Pamn and I rented a little Fiat and took off on our own to have a few adventures.

My sister told me afterwards that she had been the one to encourage my folks to let me go, telling them it would get the travel bug out of my system, but if you’ve been following my blog for long, you know that just didn’t happen.  Immediatley after college, I emigrated to Australia and after a few years there, I traveled overland as much as possible to Africa, where I stayed for two years. After that travel was a summer and vacation experience until I moved to California thirty-five years ago and then Mexico fifteen years ago.  At each of these junctures, there was a fork in the road of my ife and each time, I made the decision and took it. Nine times, by my own counting, and in that time, although I’ve split a few pants seams, it was more due to local cuisine than to indecision.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fork/

girls on wall
My sisters Betty, Patti and me, back in my pre-crush years. I remember being very proud that my legs had finally grown long enough to cross! Not too successfully, by the look of me.

Crushed!

When I was very small, I was notorious for hating boys.  My eleven-years-older sister once came into the living room and I was running around and around a big chair.  “What are you doing?” she asked. “Chasing boys!” was my answer. My sister was at an age when “chasing boys” meant something else entirely, but she got my drift.

When I was six, a lovely southern lady moved to town who enlivened the entire town.  She taught ballet and acrobatics to the girls and square dancing to everyone age 6 to 76.  This only lasted for a year or two, but twice a month most of the town would gather in the fairgrounds meeting room to do-se-do and alamand left.  I was usually paired with a little boy who was in my first grade class.  One night, after an especially invigorating “trade your partner,” when I was once again hand-in-hand with him, he gave me a big kiss.

I can’t remember my reaction, but I certainly remember his mother’s.  Abandoning her “trade your partner,” she came flying across the dance floor to shake her finger in his face.  “Shame on you, Brian!” she said, “Shame on you!”  (Not his real name.)  She then grabbed him by the upper arm and jerked him off the dance floor to go sit in a chair by the wall.  I was left without a partner and so had to dance with Will Prater, a grown man who was jerky and severe in his movements and who nearly dislocated my shoulder every time he swung me around.

Brian’s mother’s fervor in upbraiding him worked.  He never dated a girl, let alone kissed one, for his entire grade school and high school life.  He did ask me to the prom my sophomore year, but unfortunately I had accepted a date with another boy the night before.  By then I had a pretty big crush on him, fueled by his third grade tauntings of ‘Mayor’s daughter, mayor’s daughter,” when my dad was, indeed, mayor of the town, as well as a lifetime of torments in study hall, where he would break my pencils or pass me notes upbraiding me for scoring higher than he did on chemistry tests .  In my town, teasing was foreplay, but unfortunately in this case, the foreplay led to nothing, since he never repeated his offer of a date, in spite of his dad’s best efforts.

By my junior year, I was dating a boy from out of town.  “What are you doing dating that White River boy?” chided Brian’s dad every time I ran into him on the street or in our little town’s one  general store where I had gone to run an errand for my mom or to buy penny candy or a bag of Russian peanuts (our name for sunflower seeds.) “There are plenty of good boys right here in your own town!”

I knew he meant his own son, and had I not been in the throes of first lust with that “White River boy,” that would have been fine with me, as my longtime crush had continued.  But, alas, Brian never heeded his dad’s hints, either, until my sophomore year in college when, both home for the summer from college in different states, he finally asked me out. There is no crush like the one where contact is long delayed. I remember one very hot and heavy kissing session before we both went back to our separate lives.

We both married older people with children.  Both became swamped in our own lives.  I see him now and then at school reunions and of course crushes rarely survive a combination of reality and the passage of years.  But everyone needs a first crush, and perhaps he doesn’t remember that I might have been his, but he has the distinction of being mine.  I wonder if he would be surprised.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “First Crush.” Who was your first childhood crush? What would you say to that person if you saw him/her again?<

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Relax, it’s only henna! I get a Mayan tattoo on my lower leg every time I go to the beach. It fulfills all my contradictory impulses.

Change of Mind

Tattooed pierced and branded, or to be marked for life
with patterns carved into the skin with a sterile knife?
I cannot help but tell you that I find it very strange–
this trend to decorate ourselves by means that we can’t change.

When I was in my twenties, I bought a gorgeous hat
of pink and blue with colored plumes that swayed this way and that.
But what if I had had it sewn forever to my head,
so when I desired a wedding veil, I had feathers instead?

What if those chandelier earrings I found so cool in my teens
were implanted so I couldn’t take them off by any means?
So when I trekked across the jungles, weaving through the trees,
those earrings caught upon the vines and brought me to my knees?

My hair would be a helmet, and my eyes would look so queer
if worn like I did at twenty with eyeliner ear to ear.
So I cannot help but think this child with corks stretching her lobes
might regret them in her forties as she dons her judge’s robes.

Or the youngsters with the tongue studs, one day when they are men
might regret it as the shots they drink leak out onto their chin.
I’m so glad those mini skirts I wore—a poor choice even then––
are not still sewn upon my hips now that I am more Zen.

Thank God those darker outlined colors that made our lips less thin
and those psychedelic tie-dyes are not printed in our skin.
For although our taste was laughable, at least we can repent–
for the choices that we made in youth were not permanent.

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And, that hat mentioned in the poem? It really existed and still does, although no, I have not worn it in over 40 years. Here it is, a side view!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Tattoo….You?.” Do you have a tattoo? If so, what’s the story behind your ink? If you don’t have a tattoo, what might you consider getting emblazoned on you skin?

Java 101

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Java 101

It was 1965, my freshman year at the University of Wyoming, and once again I was venturing out into the world by going home for the first time with a college friend. On our first night in her hometown, we dressed up and drove to the “Halfway House,” halfway between Worland and Thermopolis, for three inch steaks and, even though we were all just 18, because her parents had called ahead with permission, for one Sloe Gin Fizz or Tom Collins each.

The next morning, we awoke with aching heads and fuzzy tongues to the smell of coffee–Pat’s mother at the kitchen table pouring a cup for each of us, refilling her own mug, refilling the pot with water and more coffee and setting it back on the burner to perk.

For the four days we were there, the pot was never turned off between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and it was never empty except for the minute between pouring the last cup and filling it up to perk a new one.

We were a caffeine society predating the caffeine craze of the 90’s. The later craze coincided, not coincidentally, with the formation of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and stricter drunk driving laws; but in the 60’s and 70’s, we drank coffee as an antidote to hangovers, not as a replacement!

It was a shared vice for which we could imagine no drawbacks. No calories. No fat. Pretty cheap. Unlike the cigarettes we all lit up to accompany our coffee drinking and talks around the table, there was not the least whisper of any negative effects of coffee. It kept us awake during studying for finals and during long nighttime drives between towns in Dakota and Wyoming and helped us wash down our NoDoz. (more caffeine!)

It would be thirty-five years in our future before we turned from those endless cups of hot java sipped from between swirling curtains of cigarette smoke. Driven by morning coughs, short breath and nagging doctors and kids, we would give up first the cigarettes, then, encouraged by aching joints, insomnia or too many trips to the bathroom, we would give up the coffee.

But still, the biting smell of coffee brewing in a pot or urn conjures up memories of Mack’s cafe, where endless chipped white mugs of coffee marked our maturity from preteens to adults. Those first 100 cups choked down while holding our breaths had inured us–initiated us–led to our addiction to and lust for caffeine–until we loved the acrid taste. Black. No sugar. Aspartame was just a future gleam in some chemist’s eye and no one had heard of latte, mocha, jamocha or espresso. No one had ever heard the word cappuccino except in an occasional spelling bee where it was misspelled along with the rest of the obscure words. Although everyone drank coffee, no one had yet iced it, foamed it or whip creamed it. No one had thought to float chocolate curls or cinnamon in it. We just drank it, like truckers, black–from the ever-plenteous pot.

It is almost 10 a.m. and In the absence of a Daily Prompt, I am declaring my own prompt and inviting anyone who reads this to follow along and post on yesterday’s prompt page, as I am.  The subject is Coffee!!  Make of it what you will.  And please link to this page as well. https://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/07/14/java-101/

Ah, finally, at noon.  Here came the prompt, which is to write about something I did that I’d advise no one else to do.  Well, first of all I’m posting the link to this post and then I’ll see about writing a new one. So instead of not doing as I did, please do do as I did and write an additional prompt today about Coffee and send a link to my blog through comments!

                                                   Revisioning a Life

I don’t know if it helps much to revision the past.  I think we make decisions according to our background and our chemical makeup and genes and “knowing” that different choices might have contributed to your life turning out differently doesn’t necessarily mean that you would make different decisions even if you knew how they would play out.

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be around people.  I think this was primarily because I didn’t have a clear enough idea about what to do when I was alone.  If I’d had art classes or someone who encouraged me to write stories when I was small, I might have developed a need for lots of time alone earlier.  As it was, I started reading to fill out my days and nights, but even then, I probably would have traded in those books for more activity.

By the time I got to college, I was accustomed to “wasting” large amounts of time by doing nothing or by playing games, watching TV and listening to music.  I had never been anyplace where there had been clubs and activities to join other than the band, choir and MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) of my junior high and high school years.  I don’t know if it was lack of confidence or lack of interest that kept me from joining activities in college where I would have met more people, but I am quite sure that I had a small town inferiority complex that made me think people would probably not want to meet me.

Although in the dorm and around female friends I was outgoing and a leader of sorts, at mixers with fraternities, I was shy and held back.  I didn’t go to the student union much–preferring the smoking room at our sorority house, playing bridge with the hashers and watching soap operas with the Lenzi twins–my partners in prevarication.  Somehow I fell back on the lazy habits of my youth, even though I was now in an environment that provided more stimulating possibilities.

I see this tendency spreading like a stain throughout my life.  Yes, I traveled all over the world, but once there, in an exotic or  unfamiliar place, I didn’t necessarily make use of all the possibilities for socialization or discovery.  Once again I fell back on nights spent alone, reading or puttering around the house.  It wasn’t that I didn’t meet people and make friends.  I gave dinner parties and big parties and went to the houses of friends.  It was just that I also held back.  Pulled out by friends, I would go, but if I had to make the decision myself, I would stay home.

Now that I am in my retirement years, I still feel this pull and push of life.  If someone asks me to do anything, I do it.  I have had a few big parties but in recent years I prefer dinner with one to four friends.  The vast majority of my time, however, is spent alone, even though I know I could be busy every minute of the day with one or another social activity.  I fill out my days with writing or, in month or two-month spurts, working in my art studio.  I belong to three writing groups, two of which I go to regularly.  The reading series I coordinated, I let die a natural death when the coffee house where we met closed.  Others have urged me to resuscitate it, but i haven’t.

The reason I know I would probably not change my college habits even though I now know I should have been more active is because now that I am in possession of this knowledge, I still choose not to change.  I am a social person who has an even bigger need for privacy and alone time, but now it is because I have two worthwhile activities with which to fill that alone time. Whether there is much value in what I produce is a moot point.  I think we create in order to recreate our selves, in a way.  It is a place where we have a power we grant to ourselves and perhaps in a way this is a success which, although unheralded by the world, creates a smaller world of our own where we can become whatever we want to be.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Revisionist History. Go back in time to an event you think could have played out differently for you. Let alternate history have its moment: tell us what could, would or should have happened?

IMHO

 The Prompt: IMHO–Link to an item in the news you’ve been thinking about lately, and write the op-ed you’d like to see published on the topic.

IMHO

I gave up reading the news years ago. I just got too depressed when I did so. Certainly, stories filter through and then I hear the pertinent details or look them up online, but gone for me are days spent listening to and watching repetition after repetition of the same facts, many later found to be untrue or exaggerated.

So, this prompt is one that sent me out into the news Internet, looking for a story. The first one that came up was of the French pilot who it seems deliberately sent his plane careening into the Alps, killing everyone on board. Then I found a story about Korean twins, separated at birth, who never even knew of each other’s existence but who found each other over Facebook. Then a story about a woman who transforms abandoned Bratz dolls that look like hookers back into dolls that look like little girls.

Then back to President Obama’s Iran negotiations, a small girl born with two heads, The Voice finals in Australia, a letter of thanks gone viral, written by the mother of an autistic child to a businessman who had put away his papers and played with his seatmate for the 2 ½ hour flight. I flipped through dozens of other stories on the way: about the royal family, dogs, cats, a cow furnished with prosthetic legs and saved from slaughter. This hodgepodge was heartwarming, heartshattering, overwhelming, and two hours later, I had still not chosen a news report to write an op ed piece on.

I guess, instead, I will write it on how the internet seems to be substituting for our lives. This flood of information furnishes the vicarious existence once limited to The Soaps: The Edge of Night, Another World, General Hospital. I still remember the day Joan Lenzi came running into our room in college, tears streaming, shouting “Laura died, Laura died!” My heart flipped over in dread as my mind searched madly for a mutual friend named Laura, only to discover, once Joan had collected herself a bit, that a character on our favorite Soap had just departed our after-lunch afternoon.

No more skipping Astronomy to experience the next vicarious thrill. Without Laura, who was Luke? With no further excuses to skip, I dropped Astronomy, insuring the necessity to attend summer school to catch up.

Now it is harder to avoid excuses. When one internet heroine or villain passes from sight, there are ten thousand others to take their place. Facebook, YouTube, WordPress, OkCupid, Match.Com, Christian Singles, Pinterest, Blogster—ad infinitum. There is so much to fill our lives and furnish excuses for what we don’t want to do that it is no longer really necessary for us to assemble a life around ourselves at all. So long as we can somehow manage to feed, clothe and house ourselves, the rest is available online.

When I suffered a debilitating migraine lately, the first to know it were internet friends. My Skype near-romance phoned my oldest friend, now rarely communicated to other than through Skype or online Scrabble games. She talked me down from a near-panic attack and I eventually fell asleep. The next morning I wrote about it (Here) and had a flood of sympathetic comments from blogging friends. Another friend who lives in the town where I live Facebooked me the name of a medication that might forestall future headaches. No neighbor arrived on my doorstep with chicken soup or offered to feed the dogs, but cyber friends gathered round, giving me that warm feeling formerly reserved for a down comforter.

I had to look up IMHO before I wrote my response to this prompt. It’s a term often used in the past by my Skype near-romance. But every time, I forget this initial-speak. It’s as though life has been shortened enough. Emails have become Tweets and emoticons have replaced phrases of opinion, affection, disgust or frustration. Hyperlinks replace restatements and hashtags replace the social organizations where we used to gather for coffee or a coke and a good old-fashioned in-person gab session.

In my humble opinion, everything is finally short enough. If we become any smaller, we are going to implode. Computers now fit in the palm of one’s hand and I’ve heard of technology where one day they will be implanted into our eyeballs and transmitted to our brains. At that point, what do we become other than human robots? Perhaps it is all a plot by the machines of the world to be the next step of our evolution. Perhaps what the most far-out science fiction writer once imagined has become our world. In my humble opinion, we have gone far enough. We are able to know too much by doing too little. Experience too much by doing nothing at all. The time has come where observing life is more interesting than making it happen. Time to stop!!! But that is just “my humble opinion,” expressed as a full statement—railing out against this too-short world.

Note: Once more, my NaPoWriMo and Daily Prompt subjects seems to have intersected, so to read my other short post today, go HERE.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/imho/

NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 1: At 67–I Guess that It’s Too Late for Me to Live A Life Of Sin.

In case you are wondering why I have two posts, they actually gave us an earlybird prompt on March 31, so we had two prompts for April 1.  No fooling!  Here’s the first one I wrote:

At 67

I guess that it’s too late for me to live a life of sin.
I’m simply going to have to make do with the life I’m in.
Although life’s dance has furnished me with many a wild whirl,
my past is littered with false starts at being a bad girl.

It seems that dirty dancing doesn’t fit my constitution,
for somehow I just seemed to fail the sexual revolution.
Strange sexual positions never seemed to please.
They only did my back in and ruined both my knees.

It’s much too late to try to build a palate for champagne,
for experience has taught me that it’s safer to abstain.
The guilt I felt for shoplifting had just one resolution.
I felt the only answer lay in complete restitution.

Cocaine made my nose drip and pot just made me fat.
And that’s how I got into the position where I’m at.
Too chubby now for hot pants and too frigid for them, too,
I’ve found that there is only one more thing for me to do.

Rather than complete the acts that formerly I would,
it’s easier to only do the tame things that I should.
So though I must confess my bad girl days are at a halt,
I’ll admit I am a paragon merely by default!

Today’s Prompt: Lamentation for the other lives we could have led is something we probably have all felt. Today, why not try writing your own poem that begins “I guess it’s too late to live . . . .

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/fool-me-once/