Forever Young; Remembering My Uncle

When I close my eyes and conjure up my childhood, what I see is straight out of a 1980s movie. The soundtrack is synthesizers and British accents of the Pet Shop Boys.  What I smell is gasoline burning as a boat engine roars inside a garage. Tools clinking metal hitting metal.  I see neon Oakley’s glaring as the sun hits them. A bright smile appears as the camera pans across a suburban driveway and I hear “my girls!,” shouted with a laugh. I feel joy and I feel excited because walking up the driveway I see my Uncle. He’s the cool guy in this movie of my memory.  When he appears, you can’t ignore him, and you know an adventure awaits.

At 11 years old he taught me to drive. Up unto that point I had only ever sat behind the steering wheel of my dad’s boat as it sat the trailer and my dad drove it around the block. Always closing my eyes letting the wind catch in my hair I imagined how it would feel to really be the one driving. The first person to have a 1980’s moped in our neighborhood, and most likely in all of Buena Park, was Uncle Mark. The day he rode it up the driveway, no helmet, that bright smile plastered across his face and said, “take it around the block Anne-Marie,” I froze with fear. “Um, I don’t know how to drive,” I stuttered. Laughing Uncle Mark gave me a quick lesson stood back and offered me the seat. “Take her out,” he encouraged. I was always the cautious one, between my sister and I. But, something in that moment made me push the fear down and go for it. White knuckle gripping I took off. I didn’t breathe for the first minute. My 60lbs of body weight hardly could stabilize the moped, but by the time I rounded the last corner of the block I was full throttling that thing, eyes watering from the wind and heart racing, I felt like well, a bad ass. That was the thing about Uncle Mark, he always made you feel special.

Every birthday he loaded us in whatever Miami Vice cool car he had at the time…his van, the el Camino, my dad’s Cutlass…and took us to May Company at the Buena Park mall. “buy whatever you girls want,” he’d exclaim. And we would!

Around 13, I remember watching MTV on the couch with my sister. Uncle Mark came in and started dancing. He grabbed my hands and tried to get me to dance too. I refused, teenage angst seeping from my pores.  I mean, for real, me and dancing did not get along at the time. He kept trying though. “Girls, just like this.” And he contort his body into some kind of rigid spastic convulsive 80’s move. Laughing we finally followed along. And, that was how I learned to dance, laughing and jumping along to MTV videos with my Uncle and Sister in the living room.

As life went on and got busy, things for Uncle Mark got more complicated. But, he was still always there in some way. Calling on holidays, checking-in on my kids, or reminiscing about every old story he could remember whenever I saw him. Everyone at my office knows Uncle Mark, not because they met him, but because he often called me mid-day just to tell me how beautiful it was up in Big Bear. He was impossible to ignore, even over the phone.

His light burned bright, and sadly I don’t think he ever fully recognized that about himself. He generously gave of his spirit without even knowing the joy his enthusiasm brought to each of us.  We lost Uncle Mark in tragedy and way too young. His life was not an easy one, and yet in his way he was constantly daring us all to live how he lived — Unabashedly Full and loud and–just like the song says, “Forever Young.”

As for me, I will keep his spirit alive by pushing past my fear and full throttling, white knuckling my way through this complicated life. Goodbye Uncle Mark I always miss you.

 

 

Annie’s Indies: St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Like all of us I have found music to be a huge comfort and release in my life. Often I find it is able to express the things I cannot. Recently I started guest blogging on my good friend’s music blog, Why it Matters. Mostly I will be photographing and reviewing live shows in and around the Los Angeles area. If you’re interested in adding new music to your own life playlist come check it out.

James Stafford of Why it Matters also has an array of music related stories from bad album covers, playlists, and his own creative non-fiction stories of how music has influenced his life, so when you visit click around.

Why It Matters

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I never thought I could fall head over heels in love with a band from a 6 second video, but then my tastemaker friend Daniel Jackson (@ListenYoungMan) posted this on Vine. The clip shows a young Dana Carvey looking Southern guy dressed in a suit, kneeling down on stage and wailing out a soul wrenching song that gave me chills. From that that first moment I saw St. Paul and the Broken Bones I scoured the internet looking for anything I could find about them.

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Boys and their Toys

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It’s a rare moment that I am alone with my 8-year-old son. We are sitting in a long line of cars in the Starbucks drive-thru, having a lovely Sunday morning chat, when he says, “Sometimes in the shower my penis gets really big…and…um…hard.” Ok, my escape plan is to ditch the car and run until I can’t run anymore and then hide for the next 15 years or so. Continue reading

9 to 5

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Slicked hair gleamed under the dim elevator lights and the soft smell of bar soap filled the air like a fog. Too many shiny black shoes, black slacks, belts, shoulder-widening jackets, and crisp blue shirts with ties to count. The heavy doors shut and the buttons, like a tree of lights, lit up as floors were selected. Ours was 22. I looked down again at my skirt, flattening it with my clammy palms. I checked my shoes for dust, quietly clicking the patented leather toes when I saw none. At our floor, the elevator rang and we exited to smiles and winks. Continue reading

Chicken Dinner

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I sat daydreaming again about my escape to far off places beyond the “walls” of my life. I knew one day I would get away and find a quieter life in a city. It didn’t make any sense because I already lived a quiet life on a country road in a town of 12,000. But at home things were anything but quiet. Continue reading

They Were Gods

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The car leaned hard left around the turn and shook me in my seat as we hit a pothole. We were speeding down Dog Bar Road, a twisty jumble of chip and seal that was more pot hole obstacle course than road. He sat up front in the modified 4-Runner that had the entire roof cut off and a roll bar installed for 4×4-ing, which is in essence what driving on roads in our town equated to. The hoodie and jacket he wore couldn’t hide the ripped arms and shoulders that lay beneath. Continue reading

Utility Tool for the Woman

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Sixth grade is when my school district deemed it was time for us kids to start dressing down for PE. On that first day, our gym teacher Mrs. Iesha (looking exactly like a gym teacher) walked all of us girls into the compact room to the left of the gym. Continue reading