Category: Personal

THE WORDSLINGER’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

Published February 28, 2010

I don’t obsess over my high school days – since it’s been damn near 30 years since I left that part of my life behind, my memories are pretty dim anyway. (For the record, it’s only been 28 years; let’s not count our decades before they are hatched.) As a talented-but-troubled boy, I, like many people during this time, had trouble finding a place where I fit. It wasn’t with the jocks (I was too scrawny), it wasn’t with the freaks (I had yet to discover herbal medicinals), and it wasn’t with the A-listers (too serious and regimented). Since I had a penchant for the arts – drawing, writing, acting, singing – I did eventually gravitate to the drama and music departments of Pomona High School, located in Arvada, Colorado.

And it was here, among other similarly-drawn students, that I finally felt at home. Between 1980 and 1982, I acted in a number of plays (including the musicals South Pacific and The Music Man), sang with the show choirs, and did a few obscure routines in talent shows that killed (… my dramatic reading of Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff went over much bigger than it had any right to). During this time, I also made some great friends. Yet, as a boy with a troubled home life, much of what they knew about me was simply a brilliant disguise. A fact that is probably more common among those in the performing arts than in other places – gotta have that catharsis of dramatic expression, and the salve of thunderous applause.

Although I was a part of the Class of 1983, I took my G.E.D. in late 1982. As a student of above-average intelligence I would ace my tests, but was seemingly allergic to homework. I wanted instead to be writing, or drawing, or painting … go figure.

Jump ahead to the new millennium. In 2009, when Julie Nelson, our lovely and talented pianist for Pomona’s music department, came up with the idea for a smallish, and impromptu, reunion among those Pomona students who lived in the Denver metro area, she advertised the event on FaceBook. 25 people RSVPd – 125 showed up. I did attend this event, held at a local bar, but I only knew 4 people. A few months later, in February 2010, Julie decided to try it again. The event was another smash hit. Although this time, Julie decided to have a smaller reunion the night prior, of just those people who were in music and drama. And it is of this magical night which I want to write … took me long enough to get to the point.
PHS Reunion
There were only about 10 of us that showed up that evening – at a karaoke bar in Westminster – but I was as shocked at what happened that night as of anything I’ve experienced over my 44 years. Three decades is a long time. While I was very excited about this affair in the days leading up to it, come the day of the reunion, I was kind of a neurotic mess. I was a very different person back in 1982 – an insecure boy with a talent for putting on a great show – and I didn’t know how I was going to react to seeing these old schoolmates. Nor how they would react to seeing this new (old) me.

My worries were for naught. Not only was this night the most fun I have had in a verrrrrry long time, I was simply staggered by the show of love and affection that I received from my old friends. People who told me how much I meant to them back in the day, and who remembered fondly things I had done which I had totally forgotten. I had gone in hoping that at least one person would be somewhat glad to see me. I was instead told, with tears, hugs, and smiles, “Andy, you may not realize it, but your thread is woven into all our lives. We wouldn’t be who we are without you. [Among] our favorite memories and people, you are always at the top of the list.” Stunned. Flabbergasted. Choked up. That for the past 28 years, unbeknownst to me, I had people who regarded me so thoughtfully, made me feel like … George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life! They made me feel like “the richest man in town.”

“Should old acquaintance be forgot …” LOL.

ANDREA, STACEY, AND JULIE – YOU ARE AWESOME!
Andrea, Stacey, and Julie
That night was just over a week ago, and it has taken me this long to process what happened. As someone who willfully stepped away from his own family simply because their influence is too damaging, this felt like a family reunion of a different, and possibly even more profound kind. As one of my friends noted about that evening, “the people we spent our formative years with – our high school friends – are more family to us than our families could really ever be. With who else can we completely be ourselves? Who knows us better? Who shares our favorite memories and darkest secrets?”

I must concur. This felt like coming full circle from the boy I was to the man I am. I also must thank Julie (without whom the night would not have been possible – you are the Keeper of the Flame, Jules!), Andrea, Stacey, Phil, Dean, Joanie, and Todd. You guys are awesome! I can’t wait to do it again!

We all did a lot of singing that night. A lot of it was also captured on video. So here, in a completely unnecessary, and possibly narcissistic display, is yours truly hamming it up onstage. Cop a gander if you wish.

Were you there? Do you wish you were? Have a similar story?

Leave a comment below.



THE WORDSLINGER’S AMAZING DAY

Published February 2, 2010

I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t put enough personal posts on TheWordslinger. You’d think I would know better since of all the articles I write on here – be they pop culture related, Churchianity (there will be more, I promise), or what’s going on in my real life – the ones that get the most comments are those last two. And … since I had an AMAZING day yesterday (February 1st, 2010), I was encouraged by a friend to share it on here. I’ve never been much good at journaling – perhaps one page every five years – because basically I save all that stuff as fodder for my fiction. But for shits and giggles, I’m going to try something on here today that I never have. This will be the most personal article I have ever posted TheWordslinger. Here goes …

I have mentioned on here before that, although I have family scattered across the country, I am estranged from damn near all of them. From my mother’s side of the family because of issues pertaining to the aforementioned Churchianity. And from my father’s side of the family due to things the man was doing in my childhood which NO FATHER SHOULD EVER DO much less one who presumes to man a pulpit and lead a congregation. When my sister and I confronted him about these heinous matters a decade ago, he basically cursed us, washed his hands of us, booted us out of the family, and made damn sure that he spread enough false rumors about us to his kin to ensure that anything we might say about him would be completely discredited. To make US look crazy, and himself look like the victimized good guy.

And so, for the past decade, I have basically considered myself an orphan – albeit one with plenty of close blood ties still living. I spent this time in deep reflection, trying to figure out who I was apart from these crazy people. This journey of self-discovery – in which I re-embraced the faith of my youth, while still utterly condemning the Churchianity with which I was poisoned on a daily basis – was extremely painful, but ultimately rewarding. I got one of those rewards just yesterday.

Over the past few months, I have been contacted through my web pages by two people in my father’s family: my half-sister Heidi, and my cousin Lisa. Both were very relieved and surprised to see that I was doing so well … especially since they had both heard differing rumors about my unfortunate demise. My cousin had heard from my father that I had gone mad, and for the past few years was a crazy drug addict who was living on the street. While I assured her that this was never the case, I discovered that different lies about me had been spread to others in the family. Whatever would ensure my complete and utter unreliability in case I ever tried sharing those earlier accusations around.

Sister Heidi and cousin Lisa both listened with patience and compassion to my side of the story, and have had much to think about over the past few months.

I, at the time, had been extremely nervous about associating with ANYONE from my family, simply because I had been away so long, and it had never even crossed my mind to wonder if I would ever be so healthy and secure in my own identity that I could … return safely to that fold.

Thanks to FaceBook, I learned yesterday that Heidi and Lisa were planning to have lunch at a Red Robin in town. They even put down a time and directions. Figuring (hoping) it would be a nice surprise if I showed up unexpectedly and bought lunch for them … I did so. They were indeed thrilled to see me, and we had a wonderful time. Afterward, cousin Lisa and I went to visit her parents, my aunt and uncle, whom I had not seen in 15 years. While I was extremely nervous at first – God only knew what horrible falsehoods they had heard about me –  they could not have made me feel more welcome. As I shared the TRUE story of what I had been up to over the past decade, that I was doing great and about to get my first novel published, I learned that they too had heard of my destruction, insanity, and downfall. They were extremely relieved to learn that this was not the case. Then my uncle added: “Grandma thinks you’re dead.”

My immediate response to that was, “She does? Well, let’s go take care of that right now.”

My grandmother – who I had also not seen since 1995 – lives in a nursing home nearby. Next month she will be 96 years old. For a woman pushing 100, she is remarkably sharp. She zooms around her residence in a little scooter which makes me think of The Little Old Lady From Pasadena: Go Granny, go Granny, go Granny go! Now granted, my father’s family has never been overly emotional or affectionate, so when my cousin Lisa and I went to see my Grandma, and I first knelt down to greet her, her response was shocking to me. I said, “Hi Grandma, it’s Andy.” It took her a moment, but she took my hand and, with tears in her eyes, gasped and replied, “I can’t believe it’s you. Oh, Andy, I am so glad you’re all right. I’m so glad you came to see me.”

We visited for an hour or two, as I filled her in on what I had really been up to over the past 15 years. I also shared a discreet version of why my father and I have not spoken for the last decade. I went about this meeting prayerfully – not wanting to upset her by saying too much, nor confuse her by saying too little – and I could not have asked for a better result. I merely said that my sister and I had made some horrific allegations to him 10 years ago, wherein he disowned us, and set about ensuring that we were not only ousted from the family, but rendered completely unreliable. There are those members of my father’s family who have fully believed whatever gross lies have been told regarding my sister and me, and while it breaks my heart to not be able to talk to them (yes, I am talking about you, Rick – I miss you, brother), I have to believe that the TRUTH will someday come out. Yesterday’s visit with my sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, and grandma may well be the start of it.

When Lisa and I were about to leave, my grandmother took my hand again, thanked me profusely for coming to see her, and said, “The mystery is solved.”

As Lisa and I left, I told her, “When my dad finds out about this visit, he is going to be PISSED! Grandma will probably give him an earful.”

“Thursday,” Lisa said. “He’s coming to see her on Thursday.”

My response to this news? While at one time it may have been a neurotic meltdown, I simply don’t care. I have carried the weight of this man’s sins around for far too long. I do not wish him ill – I have, in fact, forgiven him – but I simply don’t care how he reacts.

While oft times we cannot see changes in ourselves because we are too close to the matter – forest for the trees – in this instance I not only SEE the change in myself, I am somewhat staggered by it. I am no longer defined by my past. I know who I am, where I’ve been, what I’ve gone through, and where I am going … or at least Who I trust to take me there.

And that, for me, is incredible progress.

So, there it is. The story of my amazing day.

Opinions? Thoughts? Can you relate?

Leave a comment below and let me know.

THE WORDSLINGER’S 2ND ANNIVERSARY

Published December 29, 2009

Season’s Greetings, one and all. This is just a brief update to let you know what’s happening. A couple of days ago, this site celebrated its two-year anniversary. Over 100,000 visitors later, TheWordslinger is still going stronger than ever. In year one, there were around 29,000 visits, in year two, around 77,000 — that’s progress.

I am still also writing for Examiner.com, though lately that has taken a bit of a backseat as I finish the final revisions on BROODING. Publication of this, my first novel, is still expected to be by Spring 2010.

To all of you who frequent this site, and to those who are new, my most sincere wishes for a Groovy New Year!

WORDSLINGER UPDATE 11/14/09

Published November 14, 2009

I’ve been quite lax in posting new articles of late — this is just a brief note on the reasons why. I’m in the midst of changing jobs (same boss, new location), moving my residence (same state, new city … gotta love Colorado), and, mainly, getting BROODING ready for publication. I don’t want to spill too many details just yet, but this looooooong-gestating novel will be in print, in stores, and available for online purchase by Spring 2010 — expect a massive marketing push (including book signings at local bookstores) around the same time.

To those new to this site: take a look around, there is plenty to do and see on TheWordslinger.

To those who have been here before: your patience is greatly appreciated.

As always: Don’t take any shit from anybody!

WORDSLINGER UPDATE – 8/27/09

Published August 27, 2009

Hey everybody, here’s another personal aside to let you know what’s happening (not a helluva lot), offer the same old lame excuses as to why I’m not posting on TheWordlsinger as often as I should (still working hard on my Examiner pages, Celebrity Profiles and Pop Culture News), bemoan the fact that while this site gets hundreds of visitors a day, only 1% ever leave a comment (a sad fact bemoaned by all internet writers), bitch about the fact that despite pouring my heart and soul into my novel, despite my promotional efforts, despite having a loverly online review from a professional critic, despite sending out query letter after query letter only to get silence or rejection in return, despite all this, BROODING is still just sitting there like a dumb shit. Have I been discouraged? You have to ask?

So, rather than put up another dung-loaded update telling you all how wonderful things are, I just thought … fuck it! Here’s the bitter truth: I have been extremely discouraged. I’ve been this close to publishing an article called TheWordslinger Finally Snaps, where I just let loose with my frustrations on a number of topics, and let you sort through the spoils. It would probably be a lot more interesting than some of the offal I’ve published lately. (Regarding this: the least little bit of encouragement from someone out there, might just give me the push I need to go all Peter Finch from Network on you and scream “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Meltdowns are always good for ratings.) I could list a number of things here that have blown up in my personal life (like my car), but I do not want to sound like a whiny little bitch. Could I arouse sympathy for my dilemma? Probably — but I’m beyond that. I don’t need sympathy. I need a fucking miracle! Even if that miracle is simply giving me strength enough to keep on plugging away at something that seems like an unwinnable cause. The world says, “Believe in yourself! Go for it! Aim high!” While Christians say, “Let go and let God” … whatever the hell that means. And you all know how I feel about that. If I ever do get around to writing that aforementioned article, the e-publishing version of a nervous breakdown, that topic will be covered heavily.

So … now that I’ve shat on you in this rambling diatribe, have I completely alienated you? Or am I finally on the right track? Should I start writing more personal stuff on here even if it isn’t polished and perfect and pretty? Even if it is laced with a bitterness I can no longer contain?

Perhaps 1% of you will let me know.

WORDSLINGER UPDATE – 3/13/09

Published March 13, 2009

Greetings.

Just another brief update to explain why I haven’t posted much lately here on The Wordslinger. I’ve said this before, but … to the new and the tardy, I now have TWO titles over at Examiner.com. To see the lion’s share of what I’ve been writing, please click on the following links:

POP CULTURE NEWS EXAMINER

CELEBRITY PROFILE EXAMINER

Much of the content (so far) on my Pop Culture News page is reworked material from popular posts on this site. Celebrity Profile is just what it sounds like, biographies, meant to compete with those you find on IMDB or Wikipedia. Need a bio to link to for an article? Request one, and I’ll see what I can do.

I will still keep writing here on this site, but for the time being, I’m trying to make a living at this. If you click the links above and check out my pages, be sure to look (click) around — I get paid every time you do.

Until next time … (say it with me) don’t take any shit from anybody!

WORDSLINGER UPDATE – 2/2/09

Published February 2, 2009

Greetings, all. Just a brief update to let you know what’s happening.

I’ve been a bit lax of late in posting, but only because …

A few weeks ago I was hired by Examiner.com, an online newspaper owned by media mogul Phillip Anshutz, to write for their Arts & Entertainment department. My official title is Celebrity Profile Examiner — I write up celebrity bios exclusively for the site so that the other Examiners can link to me instead of Wikipedia or IMDB. You can view my main page by clicking HERE. Don’t be afraid to look around at my archival biographies — I get paid every time you do!

This should keep me extremely busy, give me (and this humble site) some mass-exposure, and hopefully generate enough income for me to continue doing what I love. I actually hope it will do a heckuva lot more than that, but … just keepin’ it real.

Anyhoo — The Wordslinger celebrated its one year anniversary last month, and we are closing in on 30,000 visitors. Not bad for a new site with no promotion behind it. After a slow holiday season, visits are picking up again, and I expect the live-link to this site from MY BIO on Examiner will do nothing but throw fuel on the fire. The 1000-per-week visitors I have been getting are about to grow exponentially (Examiner gets over a million-per-month).

Those interested in advertising on this site are encouraged to contact me.

As for the novel … well, I’m still praying that it gets into the right pair of hands. Perhaps this new exposure will lead to that very thing. The internet is changing everything — especially in the world of publishing. I don’t know what that means, or where it is going, but my faith tells me to not worry about it and trust that things will work out the way they are supposed to. Be it far from me to spend my time … hmm, what’s the word? Oh, yeah, brooding about it. I am seriously considering just throwing Part 1 of the book into chapter-specific posts on this site and seeing what kind of interest I can stir up. Over 70 of you have voted in the affirmative on the poll to the right of this page. It wouldn’t take much to push me on that decision (hint: leave a comment).

As always, and until next time: Don’t take any shit from anybody!