Aw Bruce, what did you do?

(Warning, contains really, really foul language. If you don’t like foul language, don’t read this!)

When my son was little, he was a quiet, introspective kid who spent a lot of time watching the same handful of videos over and over again in his room. (I think it was like Ninja Turtles, Rambo and Diehard.) Because he wasn’t in any way prone to doing anything wrong, I was shocked one day when his nursery school teacher calls me, upset and concerned, that my four-year old has been cursing up a storm on the playground.

“It’s impossible,” I insist. “No one in this house curses. There’s no way.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman tell me, “but he is. He’s been saying the MF word.”

I gasp in complete dismay. “Where would he even hear that from? It must be one of the other children on the playground teaching him bad words!”

“No,” the woman say sternly. “It’s only your son. He’s keeps yelling the same thing every day. “Yippie Ki-Ya, Motherfucker.”

At this point, I doubled over with laughter, suddenly understanding how and why my son was saying those words. It was Bruce Willis’ line from ‘Diehard,’ one of the movies my son knew by heart.

Problem solved with the ‘there are words you shouldn’t repeat in public’ speech, but it’s my absolute favorite story from his childhood. I still think it’s adorable. 🙂

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Phantom of the Sysopera

My first computer was an ultra-modern, super fast 486 made by a friend of a friend. As a writer and editor; word processing, printing, copying and faxing were a godsend to me, and Paint was a neat side treat. The internet didn’t exist yet, at least not in its current incantation, but there was a growing web of Bulletin Board Systems where one could participate on forums, post pictures and play games. A co-worker came to my home one day and instructed me on the modem and how to use BBS’s…and I quickly because one of the world’s first internet addicts. (and probably one of the first online gaming addicts, since my world completely revolved around VGA Planets for a year.)

At that point, I was a very young woman in an alien world, bravely exploring the landscape and learning its tricks and boundaries, alternately fascinated and frustrated by a ‘not so friendly’ dos environment and a host of game and picture files that were more than happy to give you a virus if you downloaded them. Within the span of a month it became clear to me that I needed computer nerd friends who could fix the multiple disasters that beset my computer via my hands. Fortunately, in a universe dominated almost exclusively by men, they weren’t hard to find.

One of those men was a mysterious entity named “The Phantom,” who started typing on my screen while I was on a bulletin board system, back when I had no clue what BBSs actually were. To the best of my understanding, Sysops were shadowy people in dark rooms who wielded god like powers, so when this person started instructing me on the further usages of software and dos, it was very much like being spoken to by a burning bush. I became pseudo obsessed with this person. Hell, I was enamored by him. Who was he? Where was he? What did he look like? Why was he talking to ME?

In school girl fashion, I decided he must be a tall, dark handsome stranger, and my mind took it from there. I started crushing on this guy big time. Not surprisingly, he both noticed and nurtured my attraction, seeking me out the second I would log on, chatting with me for hours on end well into the night, teaching me wonderfully devious things like how to program and hack. I was in love. I was sure of it. Then he mentioned he was playing guitar at some club and I secretly went there to see him.

And this is where my first lesson in internet came in.

I was horrified to discover my tall, dark handsome stranger was a pasty, skinny nerdy guy with a pimpled face, bad teeth, big glasses and greasy hair. Now I’m not one to judge people on looks, but let’s just say when you’re expecting James Bond, Mclovin is a bit of a shock. That whole stereotypical image of early computer nerds actually came from this guy. I slunk back out the door and drove home, feeling highly confused. Why had I built this whole romantic image of this person and put them on such a high pedestal? I was embarrassed as hell to say the least.

So, from the poor Phantom’s point of view, I disappeared from the computer completely. And from that point on, every unknown person I came in contact with over the net had his face attached to their avatars, and I spent a lot of time relating this warning to other female users I saw becoming attached to strangers. As the internet evolved, so did its users, branching out from guy in the basement to average everyday folk, and eventually I let go of my Phantom visions and stopped assuming the worst. But look at today’s internet and its big full color pictures of our smiling faces and appreciate how far we’ve come. :p

Did you ever attach an image to a mysterious person and then discover you were way off course?

Give me your hand if you want to live…

When I was five, on days when it rained, sometimes my mother would pick me up after school. It wasn’t a guarantee since she was a school teacher herself, so seeing her parked across the street from the school was always very exciting. The very first time this event occurred, I ran towards her, oblivious to the world around me. In the span of a few seconds I darted out into the street and a car that was coming screamed to a halt as I tripped and fell right in front of it. Their front tire stopped against my nose, and to this day, I still remember the combined smell of wet pavement and burned rubber.

That evening, after my mother related this happening to my dad, he said to me, “Now you’re living on borrowed time. That means you were meant to do something special.”

At age five, those words didn’t mean much, but I never forgot them. Later in life, whenever I was in a stage of adolescent depression, they haunted my soul. I was supposed to do something special, but I hadn’t done anything at all.

Throughout my life, there are numerous times when I have cheated death. Just missed accidents and near collisions, skidding down an icy hill right into highway traffic, a giant chunk of metal hitting my windshield at 60mph, heart defects, two rounds with cancer, and an attempt on my life by a real fricking serial killer. And in San Diego, there was a shoot out between some thugs and police right in front of my car! (which is some seriously surreal scary shit, by the way.)

And after every one of those, my father’s voice comes to me. You’re living on borrowed time. You were meant to do something special. But I still haven’t done anything yet. I’ve lived an average, unimportant life, devoid of this amazing accomplishment. I have affected the world around me in precisely zero ways. A few years back, that started to bother me. I think I even got angry about it. Because it’s a hell of a weight to put on someone’s shoulders. Then, one day I got the Terminator notion that maybe it wasn’t me who does this special thing. Maybe it’s one of my kids who has to stop Skynet in the future. So I laid this wonderful burden on my son and dusted my hands of the whole affair.

Truth is, I may never know why I was given extra time, but I’ve been thankful for every day of it. I have had adventure and fortune and crazy experiences few people get to speak of. I own my home and have no debt and work at doing what I love. I live in a country that is basically free and I’ve never known the horror of war. So if the special thing was to appreciate life and have a fruitful existence, I can say I did that. And I continue to do it. And who knows…maybe someday, by utter and complete accident, I will still have some effect on the world.

My son begrudgingly accepted the torch I passed on to him, alternately embracing and denying its possibility the same way I did in my day. On one hand, it’s nice to think your life might have some great significance, and on the other, it’s a really weird feeling when time continues passing and you’ve yet to do a damn thing. Probably sometime in the next twenty years he’ll do like me and shove it off on his own kid, ensuring our weird dynasty of not doing something special can carry on through the ages.

Digital Digs

I came across a forum I used to participate on over a decade ago. Not really remembering all that much about it, I did a search on my old user name and started reading through a history book of thoughts and comments long forgotten. There were complaints about my old job, discussions on politics and current events, joys and frustrations with my school aged children and concerns for my future and theirs. It was a fascinating snapshot of my everyday life…twelve years ago. This started me wondering just how far into the future those old posts will remain, sitting silently in some dark, dusty corner of the net, waiting to be rediscovered by a curious descendant. Digital archaeology will be able to tell future dwellers on earth a great deal about who we were and what we thought. More so than any other generation on earth.