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Has your life ever changed forever in just one moment? Mine did, the moment I first glanced at (my future wife) Tracy.
It was one night in April of 1990. I'd been off my mission for a few months and had found precisely zero girls I was interested in at Utah State. There was a bit of a cultural divide, I suppose - prior to visiting God's favourite state, I'd never seen girls with "the Wasatch Claw" hair-do (made possible I presumed by some kind of industrial-strength aerosolized lacquer they sold at Utah hardware stores). I was amazed at the open-mouthed gusto with which the local girls chomped on bubble gum, with how over-browned so many were from the tanning salons...I'd returned from Argentina to Utah (rather than returning to my dad's place in B.C.) because Utah was "Zion", and I wanted to be the very best Mormon possible. But the truth is (sorry to all the Utahans out there), Utah struck me then as a parochial, almost backwards in some ways, place, and (to tell the truth), very culturally barren. I fought to keep myself from thinking such things, though. I "knew" it had to be just about the best place on earth, since there were more members of the only true religion in the world there, than anywhere else in the world.
(Do you know that at one point [right after going to Utah before my mission)] I *literally* concluded that it could only be the devil who was influencing me to find Utah so uncongenial, and as a result I asked my Uncle Bob [now Logan SP] to give me a blessing to help fortify me spiritually against Satan's attempt to get to me? After all, I thought, once you started criticizing Utah...it was only a matter of time before you started criticizing the church. I thought I'd gotten over that while on my mission, but upon returning home I began to feel the same kind of dislike of the place, so I tried hard to control such thoughts. "No no no - Utah is Zion, and if I don't like it, there is something rather wrong with me...". That's how stupid I was, kids).
Another thing that, in spite of my best thought-control efforts, bugged me, and I know I'll sound like a flake saying this, but...many of the girls I met at USU seemed unable to speak English. I kept chatting with girls in my student ward, and without exaggeration, it would be like this:
"Oh maw hick, I'd might coulda wint but they was all late HAW HAW HAW (chomp chomp chomp). Then Lisa said they'd got beat real bad at the game and they's all tired so they gone to JB's 'n after that to the born dance (chomp chomp SLURP chomp)".
And after a few more minutes of chatting I'd say, "So, are you going to school?". And if you can believe it, a sizable percentage of these girls, who I couldn't even imagine could write a single paragraph in their own native tongue, would say, "Yah (chomp chomp), I'm doin' elementary ed. I'm sit to graduate spring"! I still to this day shudder at the thought that one of these girls might just have been hired to teach somewhere. Most of them didn't seem to know anything: no books, no music, no cool movies, no ability that I could tell to have a deep conversation about anything - not even "the gospel"...They couldn't even seem to speak English! And worse, it was like they had *no soul*. They seemed a millimeter deep. Underneath the lacquer, lip gloss, and fake tan, what was there? It almost seemed like...nothing (not saying I'm right, but that's how it seemed to me at the time). And while most of them were very nice, most of them seemed just plain dumb.
Keep in mind that I was 21 at that time, and certainly felt as though I were just BARELY keeping a lid on a very non-Packerian, rumbling, one-helluva-gigantic-about-to-explode-HIROSHIMA-like ATOMIC BOMB "factory" in my magical underpants; in retrospect, given that, I think I should have been as indiscriminate as a starving man in a desert would be about food. And yet, despite all that, I just couldn't imagine even kissing one of these girls, let alone...spending my life with one. The prospect of "celestial marriage" to one seemed a lot more like an eternity-long banishment to outer darkness wearing a hair shirt and a puncture belt; and I guess if there's one little thing I can take some solace from, amongst the long list of my regrettable attempts to subsume myself entirely into Mormonism, it is that I could never manage to adopt the weird, Moonie-like detachment from the concept of "the individual" that was implicit in all the "get married, young men!" talks from Mormon General Authorities and lesser leaders.
Those kinds of comments made it seem like, for them, all females were pretty much interchangeable; as though they were still operating under the stupid assumption of Spencer Kimball, who believed that any man and any woman could have a happy marriage as long as they were both faithful Mormons.
Sure, I thought, a lot of these weird hick girls seem pretty interchangeable, and I do see certain generally-held traits unique to each sex...but that was a lot different than saying every girl everywhere was interchangeable. Stake or regional leaders would get up and say things like, "You returned missionaries, choose a beautiful, choice daughter of Heavenly Father, and take her to the temple". Uh, is that it? What about "one you're in love with"? What about "one you're compatible with"? What about "one who sees the world as you do"? Love, courtship, marriage, was supposed to be joyful, and yet, while I know all those church leaders would say they believed that, at the same time their words seemed to infuse what I intuited could or should be a profoundly beautiful pageant, with a sense of sterile perfunctoriness, a task to be performed in the end, or if needs be, with as much dutiful punctiliousness as cleaing the chapel during an Elder's Quorum service project.
For some reason I can't explain, I felt like I knew my own experience would be something special. Somewhere out there, I felt sure, was someone who was "the one", and she would be "interchangeable" with *no one*.
But where was she? The Lord needed me married to her, PRONTO. I'd already been home from my mission for three months, and STILL NO FIANCE. "Oh my heck" - what to do?
The answer was obvious: enroll at BYU. The odds of Miss Right being there were far greater than those of her being at Utah State. And so, by March of 1990, I'd already surmised "the one" wasn't at USU, and decided to apply to study at "The Lord's University". I felt good that I'd be doing what the Lord wanted me to do. I was thrilled when, some months later, I opened up the envelope from the BYU admissions office, and found out that I'd been accepted for spring semester of 1991. I was one step closer to "the one, true girl" I was supposed to marry.
Not that I hadn't been really trying to find Miss Right at USU. I had. I'd tried to "get into" the whole student ward dating thing...
Like, for example, one night not long after I returned from Argentina, the doorbell rang at my mum's house where I was living. When I opened the door, no one was there. As I was closing it, I noticed a glass jar on the welcome mat. I picked it up. It was full of Hershey's Kisses. "Weird", I thought.
I brought the jar into the kitchen. "Cool!", said my little sister Emilie (who grew up in Logan with my mum after the divorce). "Who do you think it was from?".
I said, "How should I know?"
She said, "Well, you should have an idea".
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's obviously an invitation".
I was like, "HUH?"
Emilie said there would be some sort of trick to the thing, some hidden invitation somewhere. That seemed nuts to me. We spent the next ten or fifteen minutes opening all the Hershey's Kisses, and finally found one that had a slip of paper inside the foil, with an invitation from a girl in the student ward named "Crystal", to me, to go to the Sadie Hawkins Dance with her.
"A dance? There's no way".
"'No way'? You HAVE to go", said Emilie. By then my mum had come in. She said, "Yes, you have to go".
I said, "Why do I have to go?"
"Oh", said Emilie. "You have to. If you don't, it will totally humiliate her. You can't say no to this, believe me".
I said, "There is NO way I can go to a dance. I'm very clear on the rules here. I'm male, I'm caucasian - and that means 'no attempts at freeform dancing, ever'".
They both said, "What are you talking about?"
"It's the law. You probably don't know about it", I said, nonchalantly shoving an entire donut into my mouth (actually, I don't remember eating a donut, but I thought it was kind of a funny image), "because no guy's ever lived in this house with you. Bottom line is, if you're white and male, you should *never* attempt dancing unless you're doing an actual choreographed thing, like ballroom or line dancing, that you've been trained to do. Otherwise, you're an idiot. And this thing is like freeform. See? It's impossible".
If you can believe it (:P), they both claimed to not know what I was talking about; and I am embarrassed to admit that after all sorts of pleading and warnings about how much I would crush this girl's feelings, who I didn't know at all, I ended up letting myself get talked into going to the USU Sadie Hawkins Dance with Crystal.
It was a total disaster - one long, torturous Andy Kaufman skit, so awkward that not even the resigned chuckling humans usually do to alleviate embarrassment seemed possible. No - it was one of those few 100% awkward experiences, every single moment of it. Amazing. I hadn't even batted an eyelash when the sister missionaries came round on me once taking a leak behind a house in Argentina - out of a sense of perverse humour, it was all I could do to not smile and wave at them then. But this - this was different. This was a depth of awkwardness I'd never experienced before. And it went on...and on...and on.
She'd planned out the whole evening with two of her girlfriends, who had also invited guys to come with us. I'd asked her what I should wear, and she'd said, "you know, whatever you want". I didn't have a lot of clothes, just having gotten back from Argentina, so I threw on (perhaps unconsciously highlighting my stultifying caucasian-ness) a beige pullover sweater, with beige pants. I looked a lot like a 6 foot tall, vertical 2 by 6 plank.
When I opened the door that night after the bell rang, I was surprised to find Crystal wearing a very nice pink dress, obviously far more formal than what I had on. I saw a look of surprised disappointment cross her face as she gazed on the human plank before her. "Why didn't she tell me it was more formal, if it was? I've never been to one of these things before", I thought. (Cough - this is before I became "Dr. Love", and learned how to decipher girl-language with as much ease as that with which Joseph deciphered the hieratic on the Breathing Permit of Hor).
When I got into the car, the other guys were wearing dark suits. Otherwise, they seemed close to as clueless as I was. Crystal brought us all to the bank where her dad worked. It had closed some hours earlier, but her dad was letting her use it for the "activity" part of the evening. Inside, the girls invited us to go on a treasure hunt (I feel like the tone of my writing here is totally detached, as though the event was so traumatic that I emotionally shut down, and am now describing it like it happened to someone else :P ). We were supposed to figure out the riddles on each clue, and then find the next clue, and so on. A few times I said to the other guys (I don't remember where they were from), "So...what are we actually doing here?" Both of the other guys were like, "I dunno. I've never seen anything like this. Seems kinda...immature". "Yeah".
We finally wound up at the USU Sadie Hawkins Dance and approached the dance floor. I said, "By the way - I'm really not a dancer". Crystal didn't believe me until she saw the human plank standing motionless before her. I just couldn't do it. What was I supposed to do? I didn't belong there. I thought I would give the whole thing a try, but I didn't really know what was going on. I'd just gotten back from a mission which was rather like the religious equivalent of a tour of duty in Vietnam. I'd seen people die, seen kids with distended stomachs, dodged venomous snakes, braved death threats, baptized hundreds, lived in the most remote parts of the Formosan desert sleeping in trees at night, opened up brand new areas in the jungle, bumped into Nazi hunters and gypsies and witch doctors, and I was still even accidentally lapsing into Spanish without realizing it. I hadn't even wanted to come home. I was one of the few missionaries I'd known who experienced no culture shock upon arrival. The shock was when I came back. I'd never been homesick or anything. I'd even asked Elder Groberg personally if I could stay another year. The most I could get was another month. I didn't even want to be in North America, let alone wandering around in a darkened bank trying to find an "Oh Henry" bar with a candle jammed in it, or standing there on a university campus dancefloor surrounded by streamers and helium-filled balloons in front of a very nice girl, who nevertheless - to me in that state of reverse culture shock - seemed, in a way, utterly unfathomable.
After a few awkward minutes, Crystal said, "So, that's cool you're taking political science. What do you want to do with it?". I said, "Well actually, I WANTED to become the president of the United States, but I was born in Canada, so that's out". Crystal seemed to think this was a very weird thing to say. I guess she hadn't met anyone else who thought it would be great to be the (sigh) very first LDS president of the United States, and help save the Constitution, which was after all "hanging by a thread". No...this answer seemed to do it for her, deflate her entirely. And that was kind of the end of the evening.
A month later I found myself sitting next to the two other guys who'd been on the big group date with me during Elder's Quorum. "So...was something supposed to happen after that?", I asked. "I dunno", they said. "Were we supposed to ask them out again, as a kind of 'thank you' or something?". "Dunno - I didn't ask mine out". The other one said he hadn't either. I hadn't either. We just shrugged and forgot about it.
A few months later, the spring semester ended (after some bizarro student ward Hawaiian luau night activity that everyone was supposed to attend in full costume, but which I skipped for the purpose of staying home by myself to watch a very, very important episode of "Cops" or something), and we all attended the final student ward sacrament meeting before summer break. It was a testimony meeting. Crystal stood up to bear hers, and in the course of it, she started to talk about some of the things she'd learned that year.
"...And one other thing I learned", she said, "was that some guys in this ward are just...like...*clueless!*...". There were chuckles in the audience. "I mean...just totally...completely....you can't believe how...CLUELESS! Like, NO CLUE IN THE WORLD!". Everyone laughed.
And she was right. I had no clue what I was doing there, or what to say to girls like her....just like I'd had no clue what I was doing on the other disastrous "dates" I'd been on. Like, the one with the real...live...Lamanite.
Of course, not all my "dates" were as unsuccessful as my date with Crystal. Once I was invited out to another "girl's choice" thing by a girl I home taught named Renae, a convert from Vermont. She was pretty in a classic sort of way, and nothing like many of the other girls in the ward. She was fun but not goofy, smart but not nerdy, secure but not arrogant, and all in all, really great. As it happened, she also wanted to go to a USU dance. And as it also happened, proximity to a dance floor once again turned me into a human plank. Renae, however, was very understanding (I'm describing this as though she were taking a retarded child out on a field trip, which is probably what it was like for her). Once she witnessed my instant plankification, she delicately suggested we simply sit down and chat. That was very sweet, and I always remember with fondness her easy grace throughout that whole evening.
It's funny - as I'm typing this, I keep marveling at how I kept trying to do something I felt so uncomfortable doing, without ever thinking, "hey, this kind of thing just isn't for me". I "knew" God wanted me married, and...I thought, this is what you have to do to get married. You go to these dance things, and then go to JB's (restaurant), meet her roommates.... If you don't like this procedure, there's something wrong with you.
Encouraged by the fact I had actually spent time with a girl without finishing the evening plotting to re-apply for another two year mission under an alias, I asked Renae out. I think that was the first time I'd ever asked a girl out, ever. I saw in the school paper that the ballet company was putting on something, so we went.
Fifteen minutes into the thing, I was feeling confused and uncomfortable (pretty much my standard state on these excursions). None of the dancers had sung any songs yet, or spoken any lines of dialogue. Somehow I had arrived at the age of 21, growing up in an intensely musical family, without any idea that ballet was just...all dancing (guess I don't have much right to describe Utah as culturally backwards). Truth is, I'd always thought ballet was kind of like a Broadway play, like "Fiddler" or something, except with everyone wearing tights.
"Do you know when they sing or get to the story?" I whispered to Renae.
"Hm...I think that they just dance. I think what they're doing IS the story", she said.
I looked again at the figures, shocked. They were twirling and jumping and posing...I couldn't make out any story at all.
"Well, what's the story?", I said.
"Hmm...I don't know", she said.
After what seemed like forever, they had halftime or whatever they call it in ballet. I immediately started apologizing. I now see this as lame, but that's what I did. Fortunately, patient Renae was her gracious self and just laughed it off. I finally said, "What do you think about....*going to JB's*?". So, we left at intermission and went for a bite.
That night, lying in bed, I wondered when things would click for me. "When do I get to be, like, a hero or something? I can't get myself together...I don't know what I'm doing...I want to go back to Argentina - playing guitar and baptizing people is all I know how to do...I have no life skills...they all said I'd return home from my mission a real gentleman, but instead I couldn't help but end up going all 'Dances With Wolves'...Wonder if I could get back..." (I was out in the boonies working with "the Lamanites" for most of my mission, far from any big city). "...I finally meet a girl who's pretty cool, and I still go all 'plank'...".
As much as I respected and appreciated Renae, the truth was, I knew she wasn't the one for me, and this was all about finding Miss Right for me (it's too bad my focus was so narrow - we probably could have had a lot of fun together even if we weren't "husband and wife" material).
I just remembered, I was supposed to describe my date with a real, live Lamanite in this episode. I'll have to do that in episode four.
To be continued.
They flash through my mind now, embarrassing scenes from all my attempts to "get with the program" and find a "choice daughter of Zion"...
The night I accidentally humiliated Virginia Osmond, Donnie's niece...the night a mission comp and I double-dated with two latina girls, who both turned out to be nuts...the Venezuelan girl I hung out with a few times, who also turned out to be nuts...me wandering around in the Logan Spanish-speaking ward, like some lost puppy trying to somehow vicariously get back to Argentina, searching for some special Mexi-angel...the returned missionary girl in my Spanish class who invited me over to "listen to some South American music", but who then appeared in a mini-skirt, garments off, asking her roommates to leave, very sexually aggressive, me clutching my backpack in total fear of giving way to temptation and losing "my eternal reward" (don't worry, I split)...
But the nadir (hi again tol) of all my disappointing attempts was one that I thought actually had quite a bit of promise, for one particular reason.
You see...the truth is that the girls in my student ward were pretty aggressive. Like, they almost seemed desperately so sometimes. Not that I blame them - Mormonism had created a situation in which that was all but inevitable. But exacerbating this was the fact that the university had shifted around the designations of some of the ward dormitories some months earlier, making what had been all-male dorms, now all-female dorms, but church leaders hadn't yet adjusted ward boundaries to accomodate that shift. As a result, when I was there, my student ward was probably 70% to 75% female. And when you figure in that only about half the guys there were returned missionaries, and therefore, immediate potential husband material, you can imagine how intense things would become.
Can you imagine - girls, only 22, nearly panicking because they weren't engaged or married yet? It seems like absolute madness now; yet in that world within a world, that was how it was. What, they couldn't help but worry, would they do if they got to 23, or 24, or God forbid, 25, without finding a man? Perhaps their prospects for love, marriage, and family, would consign them to perpetual Sheri Dew-ness. And no one - not even Sheri Dew herself - wants that.
What I'm trying to say is that most of my "dates" up until then, (such as they were), were initiated by the girls (except my reciprocal invitation to Renae). Maybe, I one day thought, my chances for a successful outing would increase if I started taking more initiative myself. Maybe it would affect my psychological state or something. Maybe that would make me (magically) more "with it"...Of course, I had an excuse for not having taken more initiative: I didn't really feel attracted to hardly any of the girls I saw. But, I thought, that didn't matter. I needed to get rolling. The Lord helps them who help themselves and all that.
And that was how it came to pass, that one day at the Bridgerland Vocational College in Logan, I spotted the cute "Lamanite" girl I'd seen a couple of times, and decided to chat her up and ask her out. I think that was the first time I'd ever started cold.
She was leaning against the wall in the hallway, looking over a collection of papers.
"Hi", I said.
"Hi", she said.
I smiled. She smiled. (So far, so good - two seconds down, who knows how long to go?).
"I've seen you around...I'm Talmage".
"I'm Sarah", she said.
Split second panic - I didn't know what to say next. So I just went in for the kill.
"I was wondering...how'd you like to go out Friday night?"
"Sure", she said. "That would be fun".
WOW, I instantly thought. AMAZING. That's all it took? HA HA HA. INCREDIBLE. Maybe I have some incredible super power mojo going on! All I had to do was ASK! This is going to be great!
"Give me your number and I'll call, and we'll set it up".
She gave me her number, smiled, and we said goodbye.
Well, I had a difficult time walking to my car that afternoon, because, for the first time in weeks, my broncos, and Buffalo Bob who rode above them, had instantly, explosively begun to increase in size and potency. Gone would be the days of plummeting T levels and accompanying testicular shrinkage. I was on my way, baby. I had myself a date with a HOT LAMANITE PRINCESS.
Seed of Lehi...right on. Like my mission. By the time I'd left Argentina, I didn't even want to hang around with white people anymore. But a lot of the latina girls I'd met since coming back...well, I don't know how to put this...sexy, but...let's say, unpredictable. We'll call it bad luck. Sarah seemed kind of like the best of both worlds.
Nothing would be left to chance. I went home and checked the Logan Herald-Journal movie listings. There was a good date movie playing Friday at 7 (can't remember what it was now). We'd go there, and then we'd...uh...we'd go over to JB's (okay, not that original, but it was something), and then just play the rest by ear.
"By ear"....I should explain that a bit.
I was parched. I mean, parched. I needed to touch, hug, embrace, kiss, something. I felt like Vesuvius was about to explode inside me...I kept fighting off really crazy thoughts, some of which almost scared me in their intensity...Every cell in my body seemed to be screaming for some kind of romantic, sexual encounter, some contact, yet "my spirit" said, "NO ABSOLUTELY NOT". I yearned to spend time alone with a beautiful woman as much as I feared it - I felt I wouldn't be able to control myself, and yet I still wanted to...and all the while of course, no selfy touchy. I felt half-mad in a way. How did those Catholic priests do it? Oh yeah - they all went nuts, too.
But I had the gift of the Holy Ghost, and still I was half-mad, at once feeling a sense of irresistible attraction to Venus (idealized woman), and at once feeling an overwhelming sense of FEAR of her, like I needed to RUN AWAY.
What did all this mean about me? It meant I was really struggling with evil. If I were righteous, I wouldn't feel the things I did. I had to maintain. I didn't want to end up like my friend Pete, who'd just gotten back from Ireland, and who'd ended up "breaking the law of chastity" with a girl he knew...That Sarah was pretty, and she seemed really cool. I could imagine the backseat with her...mmmm, please, I wanna rock n' roll...I'm like a man dying of hunger...must engage with mothership, must engage with mothership. Maybe after JB's, things would "evolve"...
And this is the state of mind I was in, as I prepared to drive up to the little farming town of Richmond, north of Logan, to pick Sarah up for the big date. Silly me - I had no anticipation of what was about to happen...
To be continued.
It's funny - just as I was about to walk out the door to go pick up Sarah, something told me to doublecheck on the movie I'd planned on taking her to. I grabbed the Friday Herald-Journal and flipped to the movie page.
GAH!!! NO!!! The movie I'd picked wasn't playing anymore. It looked they had changed it that day. I scanned every movie theatre in town. Nothing jumped out as a "date movie". Crap. I went over everything again. The best option was, I thought, still a pretty lousy option: "Hunt for Red October" was playing at 7:30. I'd seen it already but Sarah didn't need to know that...another thing was, it definitely did not seem like the kind of movie an 18 year old girl would be that interested in. But I didn't know what else to do. I jumped in the car and began speeding up to Richmond to pick up Sarah.
Twenty minutes later, I knocked on the door of a farm house. A white lady answered it. She introduced herself as Sarah's foster mom. Sarah walked up as her foster mother told me that I should have Sarah home by eleven. I said, "Sure, no problem".
As soon as we got in the car, Sarah said, "Don't pay attention to what she says. I stay out as late as I want". I said, "Well, I wouldn't want to contradict your foster mom". She laughed a bit and said, "Really, it doesn't matter".
So, we started to drive back to Logan. Within sixty seconds I'd made my first misstep. Sarah happened to mention that she'd won the local dairy princess contest, and would represent Richmond in the upcoming county-wide contest. "So...you're the Dairy Queen, huh?", I said.
Sarah looked agitated. Apparently she thought I was making fun of her through allusion to the fast food joint. "No, it's not 'the Dairy Queen'. It's nothing to do with Dairy Queen. I'm the 'dairy princess'". A strange silence fell over the car. I said, "Yes, the dairy princess. I just thought they would call the winner 'the dairy queen'".
My explanation only seemed to further agitate her. "No - that's the restaurant. This is completely different". Odd how sensitive she seems about this, I thought. Well, whatever. I decided to leave that alone and try to change the subject.
I found out that Sarah was indeed a "Lamanite", a Navajo from Arizona who was in the church's "Indian Placement Program". She said her foster mom was pretty cool, but too strict.
Well, we showed up at the cinema and got in line for "Hunt for Red October". The line was quite long and wasn't moving very quickly. I tried to keep the conversation moving, but Sarah was rather taciturn and this made for some awkward silences over the ten minutes we waited.
I finally got up to the counter (this is the cinema at the Cache Valley Mall), accompanied by my hot Lamanite dairy princess date.
"Two for 'Hunt for Red October'".
"That'll be fourteen dollars", said the clerk.
"So, who do I make it out to?" I said, grabbing my check book out of my pocket.
"We don't take checks", said the clerk. This brought me up short.
"What? What do you mean?"
"We don't take checks".
Sarah was standing right there. I felt my face start to flush and...my broncos start to shrink.
"Everyone takes checks", I said.
"Not us. Cash or credit, that's it".
NO...(I had no credit cards yet).
I began frantically searching my pockets for cash...but I had no cash. After half a minute of frantic searching while Sarah, and people behind us, and the clerk, waited, I accepted the terrible reality that I had no cash, in any of my pockets. I didn't need to keep searching the same pockets I'd already searched - there was none there.
I was stuck. I didn't know what else to do, so I looked at Sarah, with the people around us observing and hearing everything, and said rather feebly:
"Do you, uh, by any chance have any money?".
Sarah had a look on her face that said, "this is lame, and you're embarrassing me". People in our line, and the one just next to us, were staring at us. She said, "no, I don't have any money".
Now what? Think fast, think fast...everyone watching...face flushing...Sarah starting to get kind of weird...not another disaster, please God...
"Okay...I know: I just live up the road, and we still have some time before the movie starts, so we can just run up to my place and I'll borrow some money off my mom". Sarah looked even more embarrassed than she had a few seconds earlier...but I didn't know what else to do.
So we walked back to the car, and I drove east up fourteenth north to my mom's place. She'd been there when I left the house earlier...yet in the back of my mind, I worried that she might not be there. Something about the cruel luck of all my forays into the world of dating...No, that's impossible, I thought. She's always there this time of the evening.
My heart sank as we pulled up, and I noticed her car was gone. It had been there when I left. Now it was gone.
"No...", I thought. Maybe...maybe someone, like a neighbour who needed to go to emergency but their car suddenly broke, borrowed her car, and she was still inside. Maybe she'd leant it to local teenagers looking for a quick joyride. My mind began conjuring up the most absurd possibilities so as to keep me from having to conclude the near-certain (just like you find at FARMS "strategizing" meetings)...
Well, I parked and said, "Wanna come in?". Sarah got out and came in with me through the garage and through the door, which opened directly into a little TV room. We walked in and immediately saw my little brother Brigham sitting on the couch wearing nothing but his underpants. Sarah gasped and covered her eyes. Now this seems like no big deal - a thirteen year old in his shorts. At the time, it seemed very awkward. Sarah seemed embarrassed - again. Brigham scrambled and grabbed a nearby folded up blanket.
"It's okay now", I said. "Sorry", said Brigham. Sarah opened her eyes. "This is my brother Brigham", I said. "Yeah", said Sarah.
"Hi", said Brigham, from beneath a blanket.
"Hi", said Sarah.
Well, I called out for my Mom. No answer. "She's gone, brudder", said Brigham. NO...
I invited Sarah to sit down in a chair in the TV room and told her I would be back in a sec with some money. She sat there next to Brigham in awkward silence as I ran upstairs. Mom's purse - nowhere. I felt frantic, desperate. Buffalo Bob and his pair of broncos were now in full-tilt miniaturization mode...I felt like Bednar right after he's gotten out of the pool...
I ran up to my mother's bedroom. I ripped open the bedside tables, the dresser drawers, the bureau drawers, the cupboards...earrings, necklaces, rings, garments, bras...but no money. "Where's the money?!", I thought. "This is nuts. I just need twenty bucks". I ripped open every last drawer in her bedroom looking for any cash. I couldn't stand another humiliation. But...there was no money. I was stuck. How embarrassing...meanwhile, Sarah was still downstairs sitting in awkward silence next to my brother.
"Well", I thought, as I ran back down. "I just had no idea the theater didn't take checks...I guess these things happen. We can't go to a movie". But fortunately (or so I thought), I had another idea.
I got back to the TV room and said, "Well, I can't find any cash up there, so I think a movie's out for tonight." Still reading Sarah's body language/facial expression. And...not good. "BUT, I do have an idea: We can go to the university and shoot some pool!". I held my breath in that instant...Praise Allah she seemed to think that might be fun.
"Yeah, we could do that...let's go", she said.
At last, I thought, this date's on some kind of track. We would go to the university, play some pool, have a bite, and then....mmmmmmm....didn't know. It was a mystery. Cool. Looks like maybe I can salvage this thing after all, I thought. Mr. Mojo's comin' a-LIVE. I've been down to the USU game room loads of times...what could possibly go wrong there?
I was about to find out.
To be continued.
Sarah and I pulled into a parking lot next to the USU student center. "Now we're getting somewhere", I thought.
As we walked toward the door, I felt increasingly confident. I opened the door for Sarah and we walked in, down the steps, down the hall, and then...we turned into the student recreation room - and to my shock, it was completely packed. I'd never seen it so full.
I approached the counter. My first question: "Do you guys take checks?".
"Yeah", said the guy.
"Okay awesome", I said, relieved. "One pool table, please". Time to get this party started.
"Oooh...just missed our last pool table by a minute".
No....not again, I thought. NOOO...Please God, I need a miracle...
"But I'll tell you what - I'll put you down and you'll get the very next one that comes up. It should only be a couple of minutes".
WO. I'd needed a miracle - looks liked I'd just gotten one. The church is really true! The split-second near-date-death experience I'd just had, plus the past awkward disasters of not only that evening, but of all my other date attempts, flashed through my mind, and I felt a pathetic surge of gratitude (the kind only a beaten dog can feel when someone passes by without kicking it) for my brand new "best friend in the world", the pool hall clerk, who was *so nice*, that he was actually going to *help me* - he was going to put my name down and let me know just as soon as the next one came up. Thank you Jesus, someone's finally helping me avoid more humiliation. Someone, somewhere, in this cold, bizarre, unpredictable world o' boy/girl stuff, is looking out for me. For a split second I felt like tearing up and saying, "Really?...You'd *really* do that for me?...Thanks, man (sniff)...LUV YOU MAN".
Well, I wrote out my check, gave the guy my name then walked the few steps back to Sarah, smiling as if I had everything under control. "Okay, we're all set. All the tables are full, but the guy says one should be free in just a minute or two. We can just wait here". For a split second I thought that the "this is lame" look flashed across Sarah's face, but just as quickly, she said, "okay". Probably just my imagination, I thought.
We sat down on a bench. Groups of students roamed all around us, laughing, joking, talking, playing video games, visiting the different pool tables. It sure seemed like having friends could be fun. Maybe one day, I thought, I will have some real friends. Cool!
The jukebox was blaring Guns 'N Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine". I looked at Sarah. She was sort of semi-turned away from me, not saying anything. Gotta reel this fish back in somehow...
"Lotta people here tonight", I said.
"Yeah", she said.
Hm, now what?
"Ever come here before?"
These one word answers were killing me. Now what?
"You ever play pool before?"
Mmmmm...I need to ask more open-ended questions...
"So...Richmond must be a nice place to live".
Boy...this is awkward, I thought. And so far, only about thirty five seconds have elapsed. Thankfully we're getting a table in seconds...
"I like your shoes".
Two minutes dragged on...they seemed like a long, long time. My conversation attempts were no more successful. And then...nothing happened. And another awkward minute went by. Then another awkward minute went by, me trying to drum up some sort of conversation, but it never really going anywhere.
Meanwhile, "Sweet Child O' Mine" was playing again. This was the third time in a row it had been on. I guess someone really liked that song. Little did I know...
Finally, we hit the five minute mark. It started to seem like the rec room was some kind of vortex, where time slowed way, way down...I remembered something about one day on Kolob equalling a thousand years of earth time...
Then another excruciating minute...then another...then another...
And finally, the longest ten minutes of all time passed - with us sitting on the same bench, the same awkward silences, the same futile attempts by me at trying to connect, the same background of everyone else having a blast, laughing, flirting, hugging, playing, and the same goddamn song blasting on the jukebox. Everytime the final notes of the thing would die, I'd think, "Please...let this be the last time...". And then, nine or ten seconds later - just long enough for me to be fooled into thinking that we might get a reprieve - that guitar intro would start again: "Doo Dee Dood-nn DEE n DOO n Doo Dee Dood-nn DEE n DOO...", and then that "She's got a SMILE that it seems to me reminds me of childhood mem-o-ries, where everythang was as fresh as the bright blue sky - y-y - y-y...Now and then when I see her face, she...".
"I'm going to find out what's going on", I said, standing up. Mr. Can-Do to the rescue.
"Sorry - nothing we can do", said my former best friend. "No one's left any tables yet".
I looked over to where they all were - sure enough, they were all occupied. And no one was giving off the "we're about to leave" vibes. Instead, everyone seemed to be having a perfect blast. Glancing back at my listless Lamanite princess, who I was still vainly holding out a desperate (FARMS-like) hope of showing a good time, I considered for a fleeting second a bribe attempt: "Hey...how much do you guys want to vacate this table? And if so....*who would I make the check out to*?".
Thinking a bribe attempt might turn out to be even more of a humiliating experience than the one I was already enduring, I realized there was nothing I could do but leave (certain 100% shame), or go back to the bench and wait (certain shame as well, but with some hope of mitigation, which would lessen my net amount of shame).
"How much longer, realistically, do you think it will be?", I said.
"Honestly, I think any minute here, bro. These guys have been here for a long time".
So, perhaps foolishly, I decided to keep waiting and hoping. But as each minute passed, so my reluctance to leave increased, just like the more money one has put into a bad investment, the harder it is to cut your losses and get out. And so it was, that FORTY-FIVE NON-KOLOBIAN AWKWARD MINUTES later, we were still sitting on the bench, still making very awkward small talk, still listening to a shrieking Axl Rose - who by then I had come to hate with a nearly inhuman intensity - yapping and howling like an orangutan undergoing electroshock therapy, over and over ("OH -- OH - OH - OOH SWEET CHILD O' MINE! WOOO-ooWO-OH-SWEET CHILD O' MINE! DOO DEE DOODNN DEED N DOO N DOO DEE DOODNN DEED N DOO..."). What kind of madman would put "Sweet Child O' Mine" on repeat TWENTY TIMES IN A ROW?! I didn't even know you could program a jukebox to play a song twenty times in a row. Where was "China Grove"? Where was "You're The One That I Want"? Where were all the other jukebox songs you always heard in these places?
FINALLY, thank you Jesus thank you Jesus thank you Jesus, my new-best-friend-again clerk called my name out, and we got our pool table. Sarah broke. She sunk a stripe. Then she sunk another one. Then she sunk another one. Then she sunk another one. Then she sunk another one. Then she missed. Ah...finally. I chalked up, then missed a five inch shot. Then she sunk another one. Then she sunk another one. Then...she sunk another one. Finally she sunk the eight ball, and the game was over.
"Wow", I said. "You're....you're really good".
"Yeah", she said.
I had to chuckle...but now it was time for Game Two. Fun's fun, I thought, but now it's time to kick a little ass.
I broke. A stripe went in. I took a shot, then missed. Sarah then proceeded to sink four balls in a row. I then missed again. She sunk the rest, then the eight ball. Game Two was over. I'd only just broken three or four minutes earlier. And...this time it was a bit harder to chuckle.
"Where'd you, uh, learn how to play?"
"Reservation", she said.
Suddenly all was clear. I was a dead man.
Game Three - lost in under three minutes. "Now I'm really going for it". Game Four - blown out of the water again. Game Five - (George Bush, Sr., imitation: "This will not stand") BOOM - destroyed again. It wasn't even any fun for her after a short while. I wasn't even really a pool player. I'd only taken her there because the stupid movie theatre didn't take checks, and pool was the only thing I could think of. And what was worse, was not only had I demonstrated nothing but ineptitude to this girl all night, but now, people all around us began watching Sarah bank shots, lean backwards for the behind-the-back shots, sink two at once, everyone oohing and aahing...and then watching me miss the easiest shots imaginable. My humiliation had now become a source of public entertainment, as a growing crowd gathered to cheer on the Navajo reincarnation of Minnesota Fats, and titter at her totally hapless plank of a date. And while Sarah wasn't rubbing it in, with each easy victory she seemed to feel a little more disdain for Mr. Useless than before. Not good.
Once again, what had started out with such promise - a fun little trip to the student rec room - had turned into another embarrassing, surreal slide toward disaster, made all the worse by the still shrieking voice of Axl ("AH NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA..."), who I would have strangled with my bare hands if he'd walked in at that moment ...how could I stop it?
Had an idea. Game ended.
"Wow, you're awesome, Sarah. I'm glad we finally got a table, this was fun. Listen...what do you say we go get something to eat at JB's?".
"Sure", she said, putting her pool cue back as total strangers high-fived her and congratulated her.
Finally, at long last, I thought, a 100% disaster-proof idea...I couldn't manage a conversation, I couldn't manage getting us into a movie theatre, I couldn't manage getting us a pool table, I couldn't manage sinking any balls...but I knew I could manage a nice little meal at JB's.
Kind of like I "knew" the church was true...
After all that awkwardness and embarrassment, just walking out of the pool hall was a thrilling experience. We walked back up the stairs and out the door. It had started to drizzle, so we kind of jogged to the car. A few minutes later we pulled into the JB's parking lot. The only parking spot was on the edge of the lot, kind of far from the front door. Well, it was only a drizzle. No worries.
This is no lie: as if on cue, as soon as we'd gotten out of the car, locked it up, and began our brisk walk, lightning flashed, and I heard a roar of thunder as if the unholy hounds of hell had just been unleashed, and then SHEETS of cold rain began crashing down, a literal deluge. I don't know why I didn't think to jump back in the car – it was only three steps away while JB's was on the other side of the parking lot – but it just didn't occur to me, and I said, “Let's run!”. We began running across the parking lot, just like Paul H. Dunn running across that battlefield in the story he made up where his boot heel gets shot off, getting absolutely soaked with cold rain. We finally neared JB's, and I thought, “At least it will be warm and cozy inside, and maybe we can have a chuckle about the rain”. So we ran up to the door, I threw it open – and without exaggeration, there must have been at least 25 people sitting or standing around in the “wait here to be seated” area.
Freezing and soaking, I squidged my way to the front counter and said, “How long is the wait?”. The girl said, “Mmm, probably about forty five minutes”.
It was an icicle through my gut. No - we couldn't wait. Especially not after the 45 minute wait at the pool hall. I came back to Sarah, very nearly totally defeated, and said, “Sorry Sarah – it's a really long wait. Let's just drive through somewhere”.
We ran back to the car again (it also didn't occur to me for some reason to go get the car, and then drive back and pick her up at the door so she didn't get even more soaked). We piled in. Sarah immediately flipped down the mirror. “My hair's ruined!”, she said. It had had a bit of boof to it earlier. Now it was wet and compressed.
“Looks okay to me”, I said.
“No, it's totally ruined”.
“Don't worry about it, it's fine”.
She kept fussing with it in the mirror, sighing and fussing, so I kept trying to tell her it was fine.
“I don't think so....uck, it's all flat. It looks gross”.
Then I thought of something brilliant to say, which I was positive would make Sarah feel better:
“Don't worry about it, Sarah - it looks fine. You know what? In a way, it looks even better than it did before!”
Imagine my surprise when my brilliant comment didn't have the effect I thought it would. There was an icy three second silence – and then Sarah's facial expression changed from a resigned “this is lame” to a very determined “I want to go home right now”. I guess I should have known better than to get inbetween a Cache Valley girl and her hair.
Well, McDonald's was just a block away, so I pulled up to the drive-thru window. I asked Sarah what she wanted. She said, “uh, whatever”.
I didn't know exactly what that meant, so when the drive-thru guy asked me what I wanted, I just said, “two ice cream cones, please”.
There was a promotion on at the time, and ice cream cones were 35 cents each. So, I pulled up to the window – and wrote out a check to McDonald's for 70 cents. This act seemed to produce even more disdain in Sarah. Kind of seemed like everything I did had the same effect – including my next act, which was to hand her the ice cream cone. It's funny – it wasn't until she took it, that I realized how dumb it was to order an ice cream cone for a girl who was soaked with cold water, her mascara running down her cheeks, shivering...In my head, it was like the old “Chris Farley Show” schtick on Saturday Night Live: “GAH! WHY DID I DO THAT? I'M SO STOOPID!” Except now it was “The Talmage Bachman Show”.
“I can't eat this - I'm freezing”, Sarah said, with a shiver now enhancing the constant disdain in her voice. She handed it back to me.
“Yeah, come to think of it...” - I glanced at my cold, white-and-bluish hands in the drive-thru lights as I took the cone from her - “I'm kind of cold myself”. But another weird thing is that I'd seen so much hunger and deprivation in Argentina, and been so hungry so often myself there (once I'd even begged a waiter at an outdoor parrillada [bbq joint] to let me eat the leftovers off the plates he was cleaning, which he did after telling me I might get AIDS, which at that moment I could not have cared less about), that for months and months – actually, years – I couldn't bear to see any food go to waste. Even now it bothers me. So at that moment, I just couldn't make myself throw the cones away...so I just started eating them both myself. This too seemed to strike Sarah as, shall we say, unimpressive.
I pulled out of the drive thru steering with my knee and the side of my hand, pulled over, put one cone back into the tray, kept the other in my hand, and noticing that it was only ten (an hour before her foster mother had said she had to be home), said, “Well....now what do you wanna do?” (Beyond lame, I know).
Sarah immediately said, “I have to be home before eleven”. Obviously, that was a lot different than what Sarah had said at the beginning of the evening – but then, that was before she'd stood in line for the movies for ten minutes before being embarrassed in front of everyone there by me not having any cash, or felt the extra embarrassment of getting hit up for cash in front of everyone by a desperate me, never getting to see any movie, which was the whole point of the date, walking in on my brother in his underpants, waiting downstairs next to him while I ripped my mother's bedroom apart like mob thugs looking for a hidden diamond, waiting for 45 minutes at the pool hall, not only not getting any food at JB's, but getting soaked with cold rain running to the front door, and then getting even more soaked and freezing running back to the car, then – as the car still struggled to start turning out heat - being offered a freezing cold ice cream cone, all the while being (however accidentally) insulted and upset by my comments about her hair, and the Dairy Queen contest, and a dozen others I didn't even bother to mention. I guess there wasn't going to be any goodnight kiss tonight.
That night, driving home from Richmond alone, I tried to stay philosophical (so I wouldn't deliberately drive into an oncoming semi-trailer). I wondered if there were any positive “lessons” I could take from the evening. “Don't take Indians to shoot pool” was one that sprang immediately to mind. Another was “movie theatres don't accept checks"...what else...?
My mind began to drift back to Argentina...I knew what I was doing there...Geez, I was like a dynamo...Maybe my exploits there would even be legendary, I thought...Baptizing entire villages and congregations, just like my mission hero Wilford Woodruff...baptizing in swamps, sleeping in trees, hitching rides with gypsies, learning enough Toba Indian language to (as I later found out) merit some Paul Bunyan-esque tales told about me later...with the tacit permission of my mission president, I'd essentially re-written the church rulebook (The White Bible), and as a result, I'd dunked hundreds and hundreds...
But here, I'm a total loser. A – TOTAL – loser. I can't get anything right. I don't fit in. My dates always end in disaster. I don't even seem to have much in common with the other RM's I meet...I don't belong here. I want to go back to Argentina. Why won't the church let me go back? I'm one of the most prolific dunkers they've ever had there. I'd go back for another two years tomorrow.
But I couldn't go back. Problem was, I couldn't go forward either. When does it all click for me? When do I hit a groove and things just kind of work, and it's all the way it's supposed to be? Maybe the problem was USU...yeah, that must be it. It's a Gentile university. I'd even heard that damn Democrat “fake Mormon” Stanford Cazier (USU president) dissing my latest hero, Ezra Taft Benson, once in the hallway. Of course – what kind of Mormons would go to a Gentile university if they could possibly go to BYU? (I conveniently forgot at that moment that Pres. Benson had gone there himself). Yeah – no spirit here at USU. That was it. That damn Kent Robson (prominent philosophy prof) was another “fake Mormon” I couldn't stand. His special guest institute talk was the worst thing I'd ever heard – a solid hour of self-important bloviating on the fall of communism, but with not one mention of the Holy Ghost's role in the whole thing. Treason! And F. Ross Peterson (ultra-liberal Mormon administrator) – unbelievable. Why hadn't they kicked that bastard out yet? And Richard Sherlock (Mormon philosophy prof)....I loved the guy, but he SMOKED. (Funnily enough, he recently wrote an article for FARMS even though I bet he's still a smoker). No...the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that USU was a write-off - Verdict: NOT RIGHTEOUS ENOUGH.
And that is how I wound up, in early April, sending in an application to “the Lord's University”. There were tons of girls there. Miss Right...I bet that's where she is. Yeah...Provo. I even had mission buddies there. Maybe if I moved there, my old mission buddies and I could be, like, real-life friends – real-life friends like the people I saw in the pool hall that night. And the more I thought about it, the more I seemed to “feel the spirit” telling me that BYU was just the place for me, and was the best place to start searching for my celestial soulmate.
I never imagined that within days of me sending off my application package, I would actually find Miss Right, not in Provo, but in Logan – and not only in Logan, but sitting in a chair.....in my very own living room. How she got there is a story in itself.
(I was supposed to explain in this episode how Miss Right wound up sitting in my mother's living room, but I have to postpone that explanation for just a bit).
Okay - remember I mentioned in Episode One that my student ward had quite a high percentage of girls, and that they were pretty aggressive?
Here's what happened on the day my life changed forever.
It was Sunday, April 8, 1990. I went to my student ward just like any other Sunday (I had a calling there, and also in my "home ward" of Logan 28th, and neither bishop would release me - so if you can believe it, I attended two three hour blocks every Sunday. I "knew" it was wrong to refuse a calling, and I also "knew" they were extended by pure revelation...so if the Lord really needed me for six hours every Sunday, who was I to deny him? I was almost flattered [talk about a sucker]).
So anyway, I go to my student ward in the morning. While there, I teach my class. Later that afternoon, around 4:30 or 5:00, I'm at home, and the doorbell rings. I open it, and standing there are two girls who were in the class I'd taught that day.
"Hi", I said.
"Hi", they said.
I assumed they'd come over to deliver a circular or something...but they didn't say anything. They just stood there. Weird. I just stood there, too. Human plank.
"Um - are you...delivering something, or...?".
"No, just thought we'd stop by to say hi", said K. K was actually a good-looking brunette from Cedar City who was in a couple of my university classes. We'd briefly said hi a couple of times at church, but really I barely knew her. We'd never had an actual conversation. I never imagined she would ever show up at my house. And I had no idea who her blonde friend was. To this day I don't.
"Oh - hi", I said.
They didn't move, so I said, "Well, uh.....did you want to come in...or....?". I didn't know what they were doing. It also seemed like they didn't know, either.
"Sure", they said. They both came in.
I had no idea what to say or do. As a rule I didn't watch “secular” TV on Sundays, but I doubted they would want to spend the afternoon sitting in the living room watching me finish up the (stupid) Bob Millett book I was reading at the time, which by the way I thought then was just fantastic (I loved how he slammed the “anti-Mormons” for leaving just so they could commit sin! HA HA HA “This Millett guy really nails it on the head!”, I thought. Now I read it, and it's like the most ignorant cult insanity). Anyway, I said, "Uhhhh...do you want to watch TV?".
"Sure", said K. So we went downstairs to the TV room and watched TV. A while later it had gotten dark. And then, the doorbell rang again.
The next thing was I heard my excitable mother's high-pitched voice: "Oh! Oh! Come on, kids! So good to meet you! Come on, kids! Oh!". Stuff like this happened all the time at my mom's house. Some UNICEF kid or magazine subscription salesman would drop by, someone there was no reason to ever drop what you were doing to go meet, and my mom would start yipping for everyone (my two sisters, little brother and me) to come...and so, honestly, I very - very - nearly did not go upstairs to see who it was this time. (Plus, I had "guests"). And if I hadn't gone up, the whole course of my life would have been different.
But after continuing to watch TV for a few more minutes, I finally decided I would go up to see what all the fuss was about this time. I must have made quite a sight - I walked into the living room with a good-looking brunette on my right, and a good-looking blonde on my left, both of whom acted as though they were "with me". The truth was, I still had no idea who the blonde was, they and I had hardly spoken the whole time they were there, and I couldn't wait for them to leave. But our guests didn't know that, and it wasn't until later I realized how strange it must have looked for me to waltz in flanked by girls.
Anyway....the guests. My mom and brother Brigham were in chairs immediately to my right as I walked in. Sitting on the piano bench to my left was a burly young guy, 24 or 25, who my mom introduced as "Kurt Parker". Deeper into the room, over on the right, in a chair, was a lady in her late forties named "Geraldine". And sitting in a chair more or less in front of me, but deeper into the room next to the sofa, was a certain something...I mean....a certain someone...that no words could ever describe. And from that moment until this, in which I'm typing these words, that certain someone has occupied my thoughts almost without interruption.
Her name was Tracy...
And she was Miss Right.
(Another attempt at a cliffhanger ending): And as if finding Miss Right in my own living room wasn't surprising enough, what happened in the very next split-second was perhaps even more shocking still....
(To be continued asap...).
What happened in that next split-second was this:
Somehow - mystifyingly and miraculously - the Human Plank vanished. I felt calm and composed and even confident. I didn't even think, "how odd". I didn't even think. It was just gone, no longer a part of me. It sounds fanciful, but literally in that moment, I felt perfectly at peace, and for the first time in front of a girl, just...me.
I walked in, said hi and shook hands with everyone. Before I could sit down next to Miss Right, however, my blonde and brunette escorts sat down closest to Tracy on the couch. That left me on the far edge, next to Geraldine, who was sitting in a chair.
Who were these people, and how had they come to arrive in my living room? Well, it was like this....(screen gets all blurry...).
Back in the 1980's, the church had a program whereby Mormon families could contribute to missionary work by purchasing Books of Mormon, which would then be used for missionary distribution. The donating families would write up a short little testimony or message to the recipient of the book, and then paste in a family photo along with their address. We used to get a lot of these in Argentina on my mission, and I must say, seeing those photos and reading those heartfelt little messages really seemed to mean something to investigator families.
Well, I believe it was in 1986 that my mother purchased a bunch of BOMs as a program participant, pasting her photo, testimony, and address inside each one. Her BOMs left Salt Lake City, and in my imagination, began a long and circuitous journey, resting in depots and then being sent out somewhere else....until they finally did wind up in London, from which point they were shipped north. And so it was, that one day, the box of my mother's Books of Mormon arrived at the apartment of a missionary from Texas named Kurt Parker, who was serving in a town in northern England.
Oddly, Elder Parker wrote a note back to my mother thanking for her for the donations. I never knew any missionary in Argentina to do this, so upon finding this out, I naturally believed Elder Parker to have been inspired. My mother got Elder Parker's note and wrote back to him. He then wrote back to her. After a couple of notes, that was the end of the correspondence.
Fast forward four years, to April of 1990. Elder Parker is at BYU, and feeling nostalgic for England. On a whim (or by inspiration), he calls up some of the folks he used to know on his mission. During conversation, someone tells him that people he used to know, from Blackburn, Lancashire, were at that very moment in Utah on vacation: Geraldine, a girl named Jane, and Tracy Hartley. He gets the number where they're staying (at a member's house in Murray) and calls up. He then finds out that Geraldine's son is studying at Rick's, and that she, Jane, and Tracy, are all hoping to get up to Rexburg to visit him. He volunteers to drive them up (Jane later decides to stay behind, so only Geraldine and Tracy go).
And so this Elder Parker drives Tracy, then 18, and Geraldine up to Rick's...and then, on the way back down to Murray, Elder Parker remembers something...
He remembers that there was a lady in Logan who'd sent him Books of Mormon, and who he'd corresponded with. And he decides that since he's there, he wants to meet her. As it happens, he has her address in his address book, which he has with him; and so he announces to his two already tired passengers that he wants to stop and find this lady that wrote to him.
He drives to the address, but my mother isn't there. She'd moved, and the current occupants have no idea where she might have gone to. But Elder Parker is a brash fellow; he badgers them until they start to call around to people who might know.
After twenty minutes of calling, the current house occupants give Elder Parker the address of the house my mother had moved to. He manages to find it, but when he knocks on that door, my mother isn't there either. She'd already moved from that house, too. He then badgers those occupants to find out where Lorayne Stevenson had moved to. After another flurry of phone calls, those folks manage to find someone who knows where she's moved to, and give Parker the address. And that is how it happened that he showed up, entirely unannounced after no contact for at least four years, at my mother's house that evening, with Geraldine (an imperious and cranky woman), and Miss Right (who, by the way, was so tired that she almost didn't come into the house that night, just like I almost didn't come up from the TV room).
Now if you ask me, that whole story so far entails a pretty remarkable series of coincidences or lucky accidents, which at that time anyway I would naturally never have viewed as "coincidences" or "accidents" at all, but rather, manifestations of the spirit at work, bringing a Mormon boy and girl together, who very much seemed as though they would never have really matched with any other person they would ever meet. God, it was easy to believe, intervened to allow us soulmates to meet (and even now I like to believe that there was some sort of providence at work).
But there was even more to the story...Tracy, only 18 at the time, had grown up in a family with little money. She would never have dreamed of being able to come to America...it was in fact one of her church friends who had purchased the ticket to come to America on this little vacation, but who at the last moment couldn't go. This friend had asked Tracy if she would like to pay her for the ticket and go in her stead, but of course, Tracy didn't have anywhere near the money, which was about 1000 pounds.
However, Tracy's big brother David had, a year earlier, gotten a job, and had saved around a thousand pounds from his job. When he found out that his little sister had an opportunity to visit the U.S, he gave her all his savings so she could go. Very generous.
And so it was that, quite unexpectedly, Tracy - I think the most sincere and devout Mormon girl I'd ever met - was able to come to America, after which she and her friends met up with Elder Parker, traveled up to Rexburg, and then, after Parker's annoying attempts to track down his old pen pal, my mother, had landed smack dab in the very seat in which I'd spent the early part of that afternoon reading that stupid Bob Millett book.
And now, I was only a few feet from her...and I was for the first time ever, devoid of all plankitude...and the only thing in between her and me were the two girls who'd invited themselves over...and I figured, it would only be a matter of time before I figured out how to get myself next to her without causing an embarrassing scene (like telling the two girls to beat it)...
Imagine how I felt, then, when just a few minutes later, my two escorts suddenly stood up and announced it was about time for them to go, leaving now nothing between Miss Right and me, but a few feet of sofa...
Which I instantly slipped across, coming close for the first time to the mysterious and beautiful girl I'd been waiting to get near for the previous fifteen minutes...
And that moment, when I first slid over to that side of the couch, close to her chair - in that moment right after I'd slid, but before I'd ventured to say anything - remains in my mind as one of the most exhilirating moments of my life, like that split second when you've juuussst gotten to the top of the first big steep hill on a rollercoaster, and you've stopped moving up, but you haven't started to move down yet, and for that one delicious second, you are frozen, feeling a thousand butterflies right in the pit of your stomach...that, but times 1000. I can still feel it now as I did at that moment, like..."what - in the world - is about to happen RIGHT NOW?!"
(In our last episode, I'd just scooted over close to Tracy, and was about to speak).
It's strange – there was no aforethought, no strategizing, no nerves...it was just “go”, and all seemed perfectly natural.
“Hi”, I said. I felt entirely at ease, even a bit cheery.
“Hello”, she said.
She had on a loose-fitting, pumpkin-coloured shirt with the word “pinstripe” embroidered across the front in gold and violet letters. It was very flattering. She had on what looked like casual black tights. Her wavy blonde hair was loosely pulled back and clipped, before spreading down the rest of her back....and unlike the student ward girls, she didn't have base plastered all over her face, or weird blue junk all over her eyes, or neon lip gloss, or an overdone fake tan. In fact, she had very little make-up on: just some eyeliner and a bit of “dusty rose” shade lipstick. And yet, she was far more beautiful than any girl I had ever seen.
“You're from Blackburn?”
“How long have you been over?”
"Over a week. We just went up (ohp) t'Idaho, it's been nice".
Our very first chat was on its way...
In those supercharged moments, when all of one's attention is hyper-focused on the object of romantic interest, there is nothing so subtle about them it isn't noticed. Nothing else exists in the world except that other person, and you drink in absolutely everything about them: their body language, their facial expressions, their tone of voice...
Ah, her voice. I had never heard anything like it. I certainly had never heard Lancashire dialect before (Tracy would later shift to standard English out of necessity, but that's another story). It is unlike anything most North Americans have ever heard. There were hardly any dipthongs in pronunciation, for example. (A dipthong is the quick mutation of a vowel sound, which we all make without realizing it. Like if we slowed down a recording of an English speaker saying the word “home”, we would actually hear something like “ho-OH-um”. But this girl didn't say, “ho-OH-uh-m”. She said “h-oh-m”. There was no dipthong at all, just a pure “o”, like the “o” in the Spanish “hola”). I know it sounds superficial, and it will sound funny to the Brits reading this who won't hear Lancashire dialect in the same way as I did then, but the truth is that I found her speech intensely alluring...my unfamiliarity with it made it sound mysterious and almost exotic (at least as exotic as anything Anglo can seem to another Anglo). And what's more, is that those uninflected vowels and those rarely heard words sounded *ancient* to me, as though the girl before me could have been a character in Chaucer who'd just come to life. (I later discovered that much of Lancashire dialect actually is quite ancient, having remained relatively unchanged for many centuries. It is even still fairly common to hear “thee” and “thou” used there).
“I've never heard a Blackburn accent before...”
“Well, mine is nought like some (pronounced: "mahn-eez nowt lahk zohm"), not 'z broad 'zme brothers' (broo-thez)”.
Far out, I thought. This is like Old English or something...
And then we continued on....I mentioned the reference to Blackburn (“two thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”) in the Beatles song “A Day in the Life”. She smiled and said, “Aye, that's funny (foo-neh). It's about th' roads, they're full (fool) of holes”.
“Oh - potholes...that's what that's about. I didn't even realize...”.
We talked about what she was taking in college, and how she was liking her trip, how she and Kurt Parker and Geraldine all knew each other. As we chatted, I noticed how soft her skin looked, how blue her eyes looked (that is, when I could get a glimpse of them), how cute her lips looked...
But do you know that for the entire time we chatted, I could detect not the slightest bit of interest – I mean, boy/girl type interest – in anything she said or did toward me? I looked for ANY of the standard girl signs: the eye contact, the tendency to self-deprecate, the laughing at the guy's jokes – nothing. She even seemed throughout the entire conversation to always slightly avert her gaze, so I couldn't even get that two or three second eye contact thing going. In fact, I couldn't even get one *millisecond* of eye contact going. She was perfectly polite, but...no indicator of interest. (Why that was is coming up in a future episode).
This was a big change from what I'd been used to. I (and all the other guys at the student ward) seemed (to put it hyperbolically) to get pounced upon every Sunday by an estrus-fired horde of jockeying, neon-sign-flashing, Wasatch-claw gum-chompers, each trying to get one of us to come to whatever the next student ward activity was (“You comin' to 'Bobbing for Apples Night”? It's gonna be [chomp chomp] way cool!”), to go to some dance, to come over to the apartment to watch videos...even that afternoon I'd had a girl that I barely knew drop in with a friend...now I was sitting in front of a breathtakingly beautiful, entrancing girl, around whom I felt for the first time perfectly at ease...but I could get nothing. I mean, nothing.
Given my history around girls, one would think her neutrality would have triggered a relapse into plankitudinous unease, but it didn't. It just made me more intrigued. She wasn't like the rest, or really, like any girl I'd ever met. She was modest, but more than that – that natural modesty gave her in turn a natural, entirely unaffected coyness....I don't know how to describe it, but she just seemed to radiate every trait I valued most: total goodness and purity and innocence, genuineness and integrity, and a kind of sober wisdom underneath her genial exterior. I'd never been around anyone as alluring. No – she was not only the most beautiful girl I had ever seen – she actually seemed like the best. And from what I could tell, she certainly was the most devout Mormon girl I'd ever met.
After a few more minutes, Elder Parker said they'd probably ought to get going. It was getting late and there was still a couple of hours of driving to do. I had gone the entire ten or fifteen minutes we'd been chatting with my radar sensitivity levels jacked up to the hilt, (vainly) scanning every single aspect of the vision of loveliness before me for any indication of interest. And as I said, there had been none. But now, in just a few seconds, we would stand...and we would shake hands, and say our final goodbyes...and I thought, surely, in that moment, if there is ANY interest AT ALL, I will get the “eyeflash” - I will get something. Not even the coyest of girls could entirely hide interest, if there were any...
We started to stand. (In that split second, by the way, I remember distinctly I had my first moment of carnality – her voluptuous figure caught my eye for the first time. If you can believe it, I'd been so intrigued with, and impressed by, everything else about her, that it hadn't even crossed my mind to do the once-over).
I said, “Well it was great meeting you...”. Nothing.
“Aye, it were very nice, thank you”. Nothing.
We shook hands. There was no “lingering hand”. There was no eye contact. There was...absolutely nothing.
We walked Geraldine, Elder Parker, and Tracy to the door, all saying goodbye. They walked out, and we shut the door. My little brother Brigham, thirteen at the time, was standing right next to me. It was the first time since I'd walked in the room and seen Tracy that I'd even noticed him. We both stood there staring at the closed door for four or five seconds. I looked at him. He looked like he was in shock. He looked at me. I must have looked as in shock as he did.
He looked at me. “BAH-RUDDER!.......”, he gasped, eyes wide.
Silence...Neither of us knew what to say. We stood in the little front hallway, in front of the closed door, not moving (I swear to God this is without any exaggeration).
A second later, he finally blurted again: “BRUDDER - - - - did you SEE that girl?!”
“BRUDDER...........THAT IS...........that's like................Bah-RUDDER.........!”
It was only after they left that the shock really hit me. The truth is that when I first walked in and saw Tracy, I didn't consciously think, “I want to marry her”. I wasn't that conscious. I actually felt, in the split second I saw her, as though I was suddenly plunged into some trance-like state, where everything else blurred away, and I felt irresistibly attracted to her, unable to stay away from her, unable to feel nervous or awkward around her, unable to think of anything else other than going to her and engaging with her. That was all. I felt more in control of myself than ever, yet at the same time as though I were on some sort of auto-pilot program, focused entirely on her, right then. I had no thought of past or future, only of her in the exact present, throughout the whole sequence. It seemed at once the most real thing ever, but also the most surreal, as though I'd stepped out of normal reality for fifteen minutes, and now I was re-entering it. That extreme narrowing of consciousness was being undone as I, so to speak, came to.
So as I stood there in shock next to Brigham in front of the door, I still wasn't thinking: “I will marry her”. I was just regaining full awareness...and I remember feeling shocked because I had (earlier) come sorrowfully to assume, prior to the visit, that girls such as the one I'd just met, didn't exist anymore (I assumed they once had). So I began thinking, standing there, “I can't believe girls like that actually exist”. I thought it over and over. “I can't believe it...they actually exist”. After a few minutes, as I more and more regained my awareness, that thought gave way to this: “...I have to find a girl just like her...that's what I want, one exactly like her....”. And I am embarrassed to say, since it makes me seem slow-witted, that it took several minutes for that thought to give way to the next thought, which was the most momentous, and in a way, crazy, of all:
“What am I thinking?..........Why not *her*?...........Wait – not 'why not her?'......I should pursue *her*. Yeah – her! Of course – I must pursue *her*!”.
It was Sunday. Dream Girl and her friends were returning to England the following Thursday morning. I must make contact with her before she leaves, I thought. Kurt Parker had left his phone number with my mother. I got it off her and dialed the number. One of his roommates in Provo picked up.
“Kurt was just up here at my house in Logan”, I said. “I just met him. Will you do me a favour and leave him a note where he can't miss it, to call Tal – 'T-A-L' - the moment he walks in?”. I gave him my number.
“Sure”, said the roommate.
“And write on the note that it doesn't matter how late he gets in. It could be three in the morning. I need to talk to him. It's urgent”.
“Yeah, I'll do it right now, no problem”.
“Thanks, I appreciate it”.
I hung up.
This was it. I felt different, no lie. I felt primally focused like never before (Cue Duran Duran: "I'm on the hunt, I'm after you...I'm hungry like the wooolf") (now try to get that song out of your head for the next hour). And I knew I wouldn't blow it. It had all clicked, and I knew it would continue to click. I didn't feel one shred of hesitation or nervousness. Plank was definitely out. It seems I'd experienced an influx of serene mojo as overwhelming as that blast of testosterone at eight weeks while I was in mommy's womb, that originally turned me into a boy (see http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Books/story?id=2274147&page=1&GMA=true for a great little article on this).
I laid back, rolling over everything in my mind. The plan was simple. Parker would call around two or three that morning, I'd get Dream Girl's number, call her first thing in the morning, and set something up - maybe for that very night (Monday) - I'd drive down there, and we would hang before she left. And when we did hang, it would go great, just like tonight had, but this time I'd "crack" her - I'd somehow get to her, get her to open up to me, get her to smile or something - and once that happened, there'd be nothing but horizon in front of us...
I drifted off to sleep content, rolling it all over in my mind...just a few hours later, I was awake, and had begun to realize that this would be a lot harder than I thought. And the reason why had a name:
(To be continued asap...gimme a hit if you read this).
I woke up. It was morning (Monday, April 9, 1990). Did I sleep through Parker's call?
"Did anyone hear the phone ring last night?", I said at breakfast. No one had. Weird - that roommate I talked to sounded really together...but maybe Parker didn't see the note...
I dialed Parker's number. Answering machine. I left a message for Parker, telling him to call me as soon as possible. I then left for classes. I tried to pay attention to the lectures, but I was a man obsessed - I couldn't think of anything else but Dream Girl. As soon as I could, I got back home.
"Did Elder Parker call?", I said to my mom. No, was the answer. I called again, got the answering machine again, and left a message again. Guess he's been out all day in classes, I thought. That night after dinner I called again, and again I got the answering machine. I tried just before bed that night. Again, the machine. Crap - that was one day gone.
The next morning I left another message. That afternoon I called again, listening with increasing frustration as it rang. Just as I was about to hang up, someone picked up the phone. Unfortunately, it was another roommate, who said Kurt was "out". He said he'd tell Kurt to call me as soon as possible. But by that evening, no call had come. I left another message.
I hadn't detected any vibes between Dream Girl and Parker when they were over; and I was pretty sure that if there had been any, my pumping lupine, LeBonian instincts would have picked them up immediately. So, I couldn't quite figure out what was going out. I knew that Parker had to know I was calling, and yet...there was no call back. I would have driven down there to track him down, but I had no idea where he was. I couldn't get an address from directory just from the number, nor was the last roommate I talked to very forthcoming...I didn't know what else to do but keep calling.
Wednesday night - which I knew was Dream Girl's last night there - came and went, still with no call back. WHAT'S GOING ON? It was all I could think about.
Thursday morning, as I ate breakfast, the phone rang. It was Parker.
"Hey, sorry man, I just been runnin' around and jus' got a chance to call ya", he said in his Texas drawl.
"Yeah, I've been calling you since Sunday night".
"Yeah, sorry man, just been runnin' around".
(WTH? Anyway, I thought, least I can do now is get her contact info. Maybe they're even still at the house where they were staying...).
"The reason I was calling you is, I want to get the number where Geraldine and Tracy are staying".
This is no lie. The guy says, "Well I don't have the number where they're staying". This brought me up short.
"You don't have the number?"
"Didn't you have to call over there to make arrangements to pick them up to take them to Rexburg?"
"Yeah...but I lost the number".
Okay, I thought. Remain calm.
"Okay, what's the name of the family they're staying with?"
"I don't know what their name is".
Either this guy was abnormally unsociable, or stonewalling me.
"Okay, well...would you just tell me the address of where they were staying? I'd love to say bye to them".
"I don't know the address", said Parker.
I laughed incredulously. "Dude - you picked them up, and then dropped them off at this place in Murray", I said. "You *have* to have the address".
"It was dark". (Yes, he actually said this).
"It was 'DARK'? Dark doesn't have anything to do with this. You have to have their address written down somewhere..."
"Sorry man, I don't know where it is".
Is this guy a total moron, or what?, I thought. Can he really not know any of this stuff? I didn't know.
I might have gotten testy, except that this guy was my ONLY link to the girl I'd met. Somehow or other, I had to get some information out of the guy. I took a deep breath.
"Okay, listen...could you just give me their contact info for England? What's her number?"
"She doesn't have a number", he said. I did remember Tracy saying something about her parents recently having split up, and her moving somewhere new...maybe she didn't have one.
"Okay Kurt...what about her address?"
If you can believe it, he said, "I didn't get any addresses".
I said, "So you don't have ONE phone number, or ONE address, for either this Jane girl (who I'd only heard about), or Geraldine, or Tracy? You don't have ANYTHING?"
"What about the numbers of the people in England you originally called a couple of weeks ago, who were the ones who told you these guys were over visiting?"
"Their numbers have changed and I don't have the new ones", he said.
"So", I snorted, "you don't have one single bit of contact info for anyone, anywhere, that could help me get in touch with that Tracy girl?".
"No, sorry man". I was being stonewalled, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was going to have to do this - somehow - without Parker. I hung up.
Obviously, this is pre-internet. A google search wasn't an option. But neither was failure (cue "Mission Impossible" theme...).
I tracked down the number for telephone directory in Blackburn, Lancashire. There was no listing for "Tracy Hartley" there or "in surrounding areas". Now that I thought of it, I wasn't even sure she lived in Blackburn proper...she very well might even live in some town ten or twenty or thirty miles from Blackburn, making locating her seem even more hopeless...And remembering the mentions of her recently moving, I realized I wasn't even sure she was still in that area at all. And, I didn't know Geraldine's last name, either. Dream Girl had completely vanished.
I spent the day at USU in a state of shock. The girl of my dreams had been IN my living room...I'd actually talked to her, met her, SHAKEN HER HAND...now she was gone - like, vanished, without a trace - and I didn't have the slightest idea of how to find her. I had no money, or I might have tried flying to Blackburn, and I knew neither my mom or dad would hand over a couple of thousand bucks for me to fly to a city of 100,000, to try to find some girl I'd talked to for fifteen minutes, who I wasn't even sure still lived in the city anyway.
I spent all day Thursday walking around on campus, trying to figure out what to do. Nothing came. Then I spent all day Friday trying to figure out what to do. Nothing came. Saturday was the same. The whole time I kept re-living every moment of our encounter, remembering her face, her goodness, her cute accent...and I was stumped. In the most distant regions of my mind, a horrific thought had just barely presented itself: **what if I could never find her again?** It was her, she was the one - I'd spend the rest of my life pining and wondering if I couldn't find her...it would be a nightmare.
How could I find her?
That Sunday, a week to the day from meeting Dream Girl, I sat in a pew in the Logan 28th ward as deacons passed the sacrament, my elbows propped on my knees, my hands propped against my cheekbones, staring at the floor, depressed, stumped, obsessed, exasperated. Some "Mission Impossible" this was turning out to be...seemed like it really WAS impossible...
And suddenly, in a flash - I was certain it was the spirit - I had it. Sure, it was still very low odds, but at least it was something. And it seemed so obvious, I didn't know why I hadn't thought of it before.
That afternoon, I wrote a very platonic letter to Dream Girl, asking such scintillating questions as, "Did your friends like the U.S.?" (had to keep it light at first, I thought. Didn't want to scare my prey...).
First thing the next morning I called church headquarters in Salt Lake City, and asked for someone in the missionary department. They put me through.
"What mission is Blackburn, Lancashire, England in?"
"Manchester, England", the guy said. I asked him for the address of the mission home, which he gave me.
I then put my letter into an envelope, addressing it to the Manchester, England mission (Stockport Road, Timperley), but writing on the top, "Please forward to the elders at Blackburn, Lancashire - *see back of envelope". On the back, in big capital letters, I wrote: "PLEASE GIVE THIS LETTER TO TRACY HARTLEY. I BELIEVE SHE'S IN THE BLACKBURN WARD. THANK YOU VERY MUCH".
But of all the things that could have gone wrong - envelope being filed incorrectly at mission headquarters, lazy mission home missionaries not passing it on, Blackburn elders not knowing a Tracy Hartley, Tracy having moved, the elders losing the letter amid piles of laundry and paper airplanes, or a hundred other things - do you know that *not one of them did*? Only FOUR days (this seemed like a miracle in itself) after it arrived and was processed in Salt Lake City on Monday, the fifteenth of April, 1990, it had not only made it across the Atlantic, been sorted in London, sorted in Manchester, been carried to the mission home, and then forwarded to Blackburn - it had actually been (by that Friday, the 20th) hand-delivered by elders to Tracy at a Blackburn branch social!
Tracy told me later that in the moment the elders handed her the envelope, she felt a "flush of emotion", saying she knew instantly (she presumed by the spirit), it was from me. Full of anticipation, she carefully opened up the envelope, pulled out the letter, and unfolded it - and began to read:
(Tune in to Episode XII to find out what the letter said [I have it right here]. Also, not looking for compliments, but as always, gimme a quick hit if you read this just to let me know people are still following along).
Here is some of what Tracy read when she opened my letter:
April 15, 1990
In case you looked at the back of the envelope and wondered who was sending this letter, I'll tell you. Remember in Logan, when you searched and searched for the house of the sister who'd sent Books of Mormon to Elder (Parker) during his mission? And then finally you found it - Sis. Stevenson's house? Well, I'm the guy who you spoke with there - her son. Our surnames are different because she uses her maiden name, and I of course carry my father's, which is Bachman. Anyways, it's Easter Sunday evening, and I was sitting here wondering how the rest of the trip had gone for you, and how the flight back had gone, and I decided to drop you a note.
Did your friends like the U.S.? Did you all miss England?...I'd love to go to the U.K...
..It was great to meet you all.
Not knowing how quickly she'd received my note, I was shocked when two weeks later (April 30), I got a letter back from Tracy. This is part of it:
It was a nice surprise to receive your letter. It was quite unexpected!
It was so nice to meet you and your family. While we were over there, we met so many lovely, friendly people, and so many Latter-day Saints - it was great! I would have liked to have brought my friends up to meet you all, but we had so much to do in such a little time. It went so fast!
Your letter reached me Friday, 2oth April. I was at a branch social and it was handed to me...
It is difficult being an LDS over here; people seem to think that you are strange for going to church, never mind truly believing in a religion; I'm the only member at my college. Everyone who knows me, knows I'm LDS, and they know I'm different, (but) I love being 'different'...The adversary is strong here, but you have to ignore it and keep going!
It was great to meet you, too.
God bless and take care,
I wrote a pretty long letter back. Here's an excerpt:
May 1, 1990
Last night when I came home from my grandmother's house (who also lives here in Logan), the family told me that a letter had arrived from England. I might've been just as surprised to receive your letter as you were to get mine! I wasn't sure when I sent it that it would ever get to you, but I'm glad it did...
Did I tell you I was in a student ward? You know, all students except for the bishop and his counselors. It's alright. One thing they have is this sort of massive match-making thrust...which I don't personally care for that much."
Tracy wrote back:
May 14th, '90
It was really good to receive your letter. I love receiving letters, especially long ones! (RFM regulars insert joke at my expense here)
It is interesting to hear that you lived in Canada. I would like to see Canada myself. Why did you move to Utah?
I don't remember if you told me or not, but how long have you been back off your mission? Did it feel strange to come back to everything? You'll have to watch out, I'm full of questions today, I'm in that kind of mood!
If you wanted to come over to the U.K., my mum said that you stay at our house, and you are welcome at any time. That would cut a lot of money down for accomodation, also we could show you all the best places!
What are you going to study? What do you want to do? I'm so confused about my career at the moment...I love drawing, especially horses. I want to own my own horse one day - I haven't even had the chance to ride yet. It is too expensive. Is it expensive there? Do you ever go horse riding? What do you like to do?...
Bye for now and take care,
OH YEAH, I thought. YEAH. Thank you Big Man Upstairs, she's cracked. Green light, full steam ahead. She even bit on the "I'd love to visit the U.K" comment. Parker could go screw himself. I was rolling!
The next "mission impossible" was how to actually get over there. Now that I've traveled and have a bit of money, it seems like no big deal to hop on a flight to anywhere. But at the time, virtually broke, only just having gotten a job (census worker), the amount of money needed for a ticket seemed daunting...the U.K. seemed like a million miles away.
One funny thing, though, was...that there WAS a way I could get over there. I had just repeatedly declined to take advantage of it on moral grounds. I was concerned that doing so would be a violation of the hardcore Bensonian Mormon principles I'd adopted and adhered to since the moment I had my big spiritual experience prior to my mission. On the other hand, if I said "yes", I would be flown to Britain to work for a month, and then given two thousand pounds. But...the nature of the work...was it not intrinsically evil? And if not intrinsically evil, wouldn't it still corrupt me? I couldn't risk that - no way. I'd be doing something I'd done a lot of prior to my mission, but which since serving I'd decided was "inimical to the spirit", and so didn't want to do anymore. I'd declined repeated offers...
But now this had all come up...and I started thinking, maybe it's not as evil as I'd thought...maybe I could hold firm to the Bensonian rod while still... murdering people for the IRA? No...
Smuggling drugs? No...
Running a roulette table? No...
None of these, my friends...but in a way, what I'd be doing struck me as just about as perilous spiritually:
playing guitar on my (non-Mormon) friends' album, which they were recording for Geffen Records at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales. SCARY!
They were non-members. They DRANK BEER. How could I play on their songs, without being overcome by the sinister spirit of Satan which haunted everything rock n' roll? This was a very serious concern...as a representative of Jesus Christ and his one true religion, I had to avoid even the appearance of evil...
I knew Chris, the band's guitar player, would be calling again in a few days to beg me once again to come over.
So that night, I knelt down, and asked Heavenly Father for guidance as I tried to make the most righteous decisions I could. A few days later, I had my answer.
(To be continued...hit me if you read this).
People might think I am exaggerating my post-mission rockophobia. I'm not - my biggest fear at that time of my life was to turn out like my dad, or at least, how I thought my dad was. (Mom had made sure we all grew up believing that Dad didn't cut the gospel mustard). I came home off my mission like the Mormon Timothy McVeigh or something, I was so into "the gospel". I wanted to be like Ezra Taft Benson. Mormonism was the one true way, and I wanted to embody it one hundred percent.
And so it was with genuine concern that I knelt and prayed that night, asking Heavenly Father whether I was right to decline my old Vancouver buddies' offer to come and play on their record in Wales (who it must be said, in fairness to myself, gave more cause for concern than just beer-drinking, as you'll see below)...but the more I prayed, the more I thought of Tracy...and the more I could see myself visiting her...and the more I became convinced that I was strong enough to resist the potentially smothering spirit of the adversary...hmmm...yes...it did seem to make sense now, the whole thing...and my mind drifted back to how I had even ever gotten this unique invitation in the first place...and once I remembered the remarkable story of how I'd even met these friends, I became even more convinced that this whole Tracy thing had been put in motion by none other than GOD HIMSELF, starting in late December of 1986...
(Screen goes blurry again...and yes, this has something to do with the point of the whole story)
"Jingle Bell Rock, 1986" - Vancouver's annual Christmas charity concert at the Commodore Ballroom (one of the best rock venues in NA). My dad and stepmother played a few numbers and had me up on drums to accompany them. After we were done, I was lingering off to the side of the stage...when I recognized a local celebrity I'd only ever seen in photos. He was tall and skinny, with dyed white hair which was short and spiked. I approached.
"Hi - Are you Ziggy?", I said.
"I'm Tal - I just played". He nodded.
Ziggy had been one of two guitarists in Western Canada's biggest, baddest, most infamous, lewd, comical, ruckus-raising indie rock bands, a band called "Slow". For the previous two years, I, like thousands of other teenagers around Greater Vancouver, had heard the most unbelievable stories of this band and their concerts: Tom, the singer, tip-toeing across bar counters while singing, then accidentally slipping and crashing into the cabinet, Tom being hauled offstage by bouncers during the shows, screaming obscenities, their covers of old Nazareth, Lou Reed, Motorhead, Bowie, Sex Pistols songs...They had the same kind of effect on the imaginations of hip Vancouver teens of the mid-80's, as did Led Zeppelin did on the minds of '70's teens - you never knew how true the stories were, but they were larger than life, cooler than life - BETTER than life, almost more like a walking performance art troupe than a rock band. And the problem was, we were all too young to get into the clubs to see them!
Of course, I had finally been able to see them once, at Vancouver's Expo '86. I took my girlfriend Heidi (the same girl I mentioned in the story posted a couple of months ago, about me missing the opportunity to jam with bluesmaster Albert Collins), and we sat down in the Xerox Amphitheatre on a warm summer afternoon, excited. Local bands had been invited to perform at Expo, but since the fair had been sponsored by "right wing capitalists", most had declined. Slow, however, much to everyone's surprise, had accepted (I would soon find out why), along with mostly far lesser known bands. Slow's show, in other words, would kick off a week of concerts by local talent.
Long story short is, the band ran out on stage, with Tom, the singer, grabbing the microphone and screaming something like, "This show is dedicated to our fascist leader Bill Bennett. Sieg heil!" (Bennett was then the right-wing premier of BC). They then rolled into their set, shortly after destroying large, upright rectangles made with 2X4 beams which were propped on to the stage, throwing the beams into an audience of shocked observers from all over the world. In between profanity-laced, anti-government monologues, the band played their (I must say, clever and catchy) songs, while Tom, bit by bit, disrobed. Their intent, in other words, was to ruin the entire week in the name of...well, something or other. It's often hard to say *what * musicians are actually protesting, and even they often seem very sketchy on the details.
Anyway, after a few songs, Tom was down to his boxer shorts, and had decided to climb up one of the narrow speaker stacks during one of the songs. He seemed rather like that Chris Kattan "monkey boy" character off of Saturday Night Live – scrawny, hyper, primal, utterly insane. The audience held their breath as the speaker stack swayed as Monkey Boy climbed - if the stack went down and the speakers all toppled, Tom would no doubt be crushed. And it was swaying...Fortunately, he made it up and down without it falling and killing him.
After repeatedly warning the band to knock it off, the promoters pulled the power. This enraged the band even further, prompting their obese bass player Hamm to drop his pants in protest. The band, noticing that security had begun filing in to apprehend them, suddenly ran off stage, then (as I later learned) jumped into a van and sped off the Expo grounds. I also found out later that rather than cash, they had asked for payment in beer, and had consumed it all before the show.
Now here I was backstage with Ziggy, one of the guitar players, of this band, which had recently broken up. (For a brief write up on this band, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_(band)
"I heard you guys broke up", I said
"Yeah. Tom and Chris (Slow's main creative forces) are starting a new band now."
"Yeah. They practice in a warehouse at Yukon and Sixth every night. You should go down and check them out."
The very next night, I drove from White Rock (the suburb where I lived, on the other side of the border from Blaine, Washington), into Vancouver. I found Yukon and Sixth (then in an industrial area), parked, grabbed my guitar, and began to walk around. It was dark, and there was no one around. There were no signs or lights, only locked buildings. I finally found an open door in one of the buildings, which opened on to a staircase, which I walked up, not knowing what I'd find.
When I got to the top, I found another door (this is like a Lewis Carroll opium hallucination or something). A few butterlflies flew round in my stomach, as always happened on these adventures. I opened the door on to a big room, converted into something like a giant loft apartment, dimly lit...I could make out an old couch, amps, guitars, a drumkit...and a small, scrawny dark-haired guy sitting cross-legged on the floor. A thin trail of smoke rose from the mysterious cigarette he held in his hand.
"Who are you?" he said.
"I'm Tal...do Chris and Tom play here? Ziggy told me to come".
The small guy stood and walked toward me. "They're not here right now".
“Who are you?”, I said.
“I'm Lev. I'm their friend”. (Lev was named after Leon Trotsky, but that's another story). I went in and chatted with Lev, who I found out was a drummer. He was very friendly. He told me to come back the next night, and that Tom and Chris would be there.
By the end of the week, I was a regular at the loft. I'd go in every night to Vancouver to jam with Tom, Chris, Lev, and another guy named Eric on bass. And listening to their songs, which I thought were far better than their old Slow songs, I thought, "I might be nuts, but...I think this could be the biggest band in the entire world. These songs are AMAZING". And they were - the best way I can describe them is that they were exactly like, or perhaps even better than, if you can believe it, Nirvana songs - except that Nirvana didn't exist yet (at least that we knew of). This was late 1986-early 1987. But all the same elements were there – raucous, snappy, post-punk alt rock, oozing cool and “cred”, but infused with fiendishly clever lyrics and a wicked (very Cobainian) melodic sense. The music world was still dominated by glammed-out metal bands like Poison and Warrant...but how long would it last?, I thought. The stuff I was hearing was so *real* sounding compared to that stuff, so *to the point*, I could see it bursting the whole bubble.
After a couple of months of jamming with them, Tom and Chris asked me to join the new band they wanted to put together (this is pre-mission remember, before I got all Bensonian. And no, I never drank or smoked or anything). They next convinced a guy named Pete to play drums for us, and we then began practicing and writing in earnest, at the same warehouse loft. The songs came tumbling out. The whole band gelled. I felt it in my gut – we could be huge.
But by July of 1987, after a lot of thought, I'd made a decision – God was more important than rock 'n roll. I'd been feeling unfulfilled, adrift in a way...and I had begun to re-read the scriptures...and like so many other young people who start pondering why they exist, I began to feel the lure of purpose, identity, meaning, community, higher cause, that religion, and in my case, the religion of my birth, Mormonism, offered...and those Mormon siren songs began to entrance me...and I felt that stirring inside me saying “this is truth, this is truth, this is for you”...and so I met with Tom and Chris one day and said, “I'm going on a mission for my church”. What could they do, but accept it?
(In one sad little episode, though, about a week later, Chris, who I was closest to, gathered up his courage and asked if we could talk for a minute. Evidently he had by then done a wee bit of research into the freakish fraud I was about to go risk my life for...And he gently produced a present for me. It was a book, and it was called “The Power of Myth”, by Joseph Campbell. He managed to get across, despite the guy-language self-interruptions and mumbling, that he hoped I'd look through it before I left. And I'm embarrassed to say that I did look through it, but for the life of me, couldn't understand what relevance Haida life-and-death myths had for me, who already “knew beyond a shadow of a doubt” that everything taught in Joseph Smith's King Follett discourse was true [apparently, that was more than Hinckley knew, as I would find out ten years later in Time magazine]).
And so, I quit the band that I thought could become the greatest band on earth, and left for Utah in the summer of 1987, to live at my mom's and prepare myself to fly a plane into a building I mean “go where the Lord wanted me to go”. The road I had been traveling boasted a very good chance of fame, glory, wealth, power, ego strokes...but it seemed totally selfish. The road I now walked, I believed, was the one God himself, who I now knew to be a devout member of the Mormon church just like I was (boy was I stupid), wanted me to walk down. There my efforts and exploits would be writ large in The Book of Life...my true father, the most powerful man in the universe, would smile on me, acknowledge my sacrifice and devotion...I would lay up treasures to myself in heaven, not on earth, where rust and moths could corrupt them. So I submitted my papers, and was called to the Argentina Rosario mission, where I would spend the next two years trying to mimic the bold missionary exploits of one of my heroes, Wilford Woodruff. At the end of it, I'd baptized hundreds. I'd discovered entire clans of “Lamanites” in the deserts of Formosa and Chaco, never before proselyted, and helped “restore them to the House of Israel” by baptizing them, preached to entire evangelical Christian congregations and in some cases helping convert them all at once, and then transforming with my comps the entire congregations into Mormon branches in one day, and in short, done pretty much doing the sorts of things my man Wilford did in England on his mission (my grandpa used to send me cassettes of him reading from Preston Nibley's “Missionary Experiences”, which really fired me up. WAY better than Tony Robbins! I also found Alvin Dyer's book “The Challenge”, and got really pumped up by that...).
My friends back in Vancouver, meanwhile, were having an adventure of their own. And I wonder now how different my own life would have been, and theirs - and not-so-far-fetchedly, the course of rock music history - if I hadn't been a member of a cult and serving a mission for it, and had stayed in the band, the day that an obsessive, slightly-deranged (in the best way) talent scout working for Geffen Records named “Angela Stadler” came across, by accident (or as I thought, divine providence), a record by Tom and Chris's first (now defunct) band Slow. And if you can believe it, my friends, one listen of the Slow record was all it took to convince Angela that she had just - struck - GOLD: these guys, or whatever their new band was, she decided, had what it took to completely change the face of rock music, and become the biggest band in the world. And with the power of the Geffen machine...it was a very real possibility. Angela played the record for her boss...and her boss agreed with her. And then he played it for his boss, and his boss agreed with him. And finally, they all played it for David Geffen himself (about whom more later)...and David Geffen himself agreed with them. And so, the obsessed, driven Angela began calling people in Vancouver from her office in Los Angeles, trying to track down the guys who were putting together what would become the biggest band in the world...the band I had just quit to go serve my mission.
Finally, one day, she found them. A few weeks later, my old band had been signed to Geffen Records; a few months after that, Geffen and the band had decided they should record with producer John Porter (of Smith's fame) at the legendary Rockfield Studies in Wales (where "Bohemian Rhapsody" had been recorded and many other classics), and now, the band, and Angela, and their manager, all wanted a reluctant Mormon boy, now disdainful and rather frightened of the potentially corrupting nature of rock n' roll music, to re-join the band, or failing that, at least fly to Wales to play on the record.
But as I prayed, the more obvious it became...after all, Mormon prophets had made it clear that modern inventions came about to facilitate the spread of "the gospel"...God had obviously inspired Marconi and Bell and Farnsworth and whoever invented the satellite, for the cause of Mormonism...why then would he not intervene to help out individual Mormons?...Was it really a coincidence that Angela had found that Slow record in some back bin of a dusty old shop in Los Angeles? What were the odds of that? What were the odds of my buds recording in Wales of all places, just a few hours train ride from Tracy's house? What were the odds of them recording at that very moment, when I most wanted to go over to meet Dream Girl? What were the odds of me even bumping into Ziggy in the first place?
What were the odds of my Mom's BOM getting into the hands of Elder Parker? What were the odds of him calling England, hooking up with Tracy and her friends, him stopping at my mom's house? What were the odds of my letter reaching her?...I added it all up - it was fate, destiny. Why did I need to keep praying? Obviously, God had caused my friends to get a record deal so I could have a way to get over to meet my celestial soul mate. YES. For me to refuse my friends' offer (it suddenly seemed clear to me), would actually be a REJECTION of all the work that God had OBVIOUSLY put in on my behalf. And who was I to do that?
Sure enough, Chris called again a few days later from Wales to beg me to come. Imagine his shock when I said, "Chris - I'll come. Bring me over as soon as you can".
The only questions now were whether Tracy was as interested in me, as I was in her; or even if she had been, if she still was; or whether if she was, if she still would be by the time I got over there.
I was soon to find out.
(To be continued asap...).
A long flight and a drive through the rolling Welsh countryside to the historic town of Monmouth (birthplace of Henry V), and I was at the legendary Rockfield Studios http://www.rockfieldstudios.rockfieldmusicgroup.com/ (this is May of 1990). It was nice to catch up with the guys in the band. I hadn't seen them for nearly three years. In chatting with them, and meeting their producer, John Porter, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Porter_%28musician%29, I did sense a bit of tension, though. When I listened to what they'd recorded already, I found out why.
On the demo cassette they'd originally sent me, when I was in Utah, there was a fantastically catchy, cool song, an obvious lead-off single, called (if I remember right) “A Matter of Fact”. It had all the elements that made the band great: raw guitar riffs, sneering, comical lyrics (“she thought I seemed a little squirrely....she liked my hair a little curly...”), a rip-roaring chorus...it was like The Strokes meets Mick Taylor-era Stones, with some Iggy Pop cheek. The song was brilliant, I thought - an instant, timeless classic. Apparently, everyone at Geffen thought so, too...no wonder the band had been signed, I thought. I couldn't wait to hear the “Matter of Fact” bed tracks (bed tracks are just the completed drum, bass, and maybe rhythm guitar tracks).
We all sat in the control room listening to the beds. After forty odd minutes, the last notes of a song died out. Here comes “the one”, I thought. Instead, there was silence.
“Whaddya think?”, asked Tom. He peered through gaps in his long brown scraggly hair, sheepdog-style.
“Well, the drums sound great...”.
“Yeah – we set them up in the loading bay”, said Chris.
“So........where's 'A Matter of Fact'?”, I said.
“We're not doing that one”, said Tom.
“WHAT?”, I said.
“It didn't fit”, said Chris, taking a drag from one of his hand-rolled cigarettes, his eyes narrowing. They seemed as defensive as they did decided.
“What do you mean 'it didn't fit'? Sure it fits. Besides, it's a total smash.” Shocked, I glanced at John Porter, the producer. The look on his face said it all.
“We've had a bit of a row about it:”, sighed John. “It was Angela's favourite song, and mine - everyone at the company thinks it's a smash...but they keep saying it doesn't fit”.
“It *doesn't*”, said Tom, glowering. Tom, like so many other talented, creative folks, was a volatile, impetuous brat prone to spasms of self-destruction and seemingly irrational stubbornness. The conversation, I knew, was all but over. I decided to approach Tom and Chris quietly later on, individually, to see if I could persuade them to change their minds.
Of course, that would still leave the matter of the other songs...they were all new. At least, I thought they were all new (the bed tracks didn't have proper vocals on yet), until Chris told me that a number of the songs were those we'd played before I left for Argentina. We listened back, with him pointing out which songs the present versions were mutations of. They had all been slowed down quite a bit; and what scratch vocals there were didn't include the catchy chorus melodies in place when I'd quit the band. No – the songs had changed. Actually, in my opinion, they had worsened, and Tom and Chris either didn't think so, or didn't care.
In any case, the most important thing was the missing hit, so that night I made an attempt at convincing them to just try recording it. I came in and sat down on the sofa opposite Tom and Chris in the fireplace/living room of the residential area.
“So Porter seems like a cool enough guy...”, I began.
“Yeah, he's alright”, said Tom.
“Who else did you consider as a producer?”
“Well, we had a meeting with John Paul Jones”, said Chris.
“From Led Zeppelin?!”. Wow, I thought.
“Yeah”, said Tom. "He really wanted to produce us".
“Guy's a nerd”.
“Whaddya mean?”, I said.
Tom looked very serious. “He had red teeth – you know, from drinking red wine”. (I swear I am not making this up - that's exactly what he said).
I didn't really understand why that would matter, especially since Tom and Chris drank like fish. “Uh.....so?”
“'So'? Don't you get it? The guy's a nerd, okay? He lives in a castle and drinks red wine all the time. He's one of these guys who went to music college. He's a muso, a dweeb. I just said, 'no way'”. (“Muso” is musician slang for an uncool guy who focuses too much on technique to the exclusion of feel and hipness, etc.).
“Well, what about Zeppelin?”, I said.
“'Zeppelin'?!”, snorted Tom. (Tom had more of an underground set of influences). “What about them? I don't want anyone associated with Robert Plant shrieking 'BABY BABY BABY' over and over again for twelve years, producing our album. Besides”, he continued, “I know a girl who was propositioned by Robert Plant. She worked in a restaurant in England, and right after Robert Plant broke his leg in that accident, he had a cane, and she said he came up to her and put the cane right between her legs and said something, like, really awful. I'm serious, the guy's a pig”. Ah yes...Tom always had hated Robert Plant...
I was about to ask what Robert Plant's cane had to do with John Paul Jones as a producer, but decided to try to steer the conversation toward the missing hit song.
“So.....I know you've already done beds, but I just wanted to put out there that I think 'A Matter of Fact' is a totally cool song. I think it would really do a lot for the record, and we could still do it. I-”.
“It doesn't fit”, interrupted Tom.
"I don't get it...Why do you think it doesn't fit?”, I asked.
“Because it doesn't”, said Tom.
“Doesn't fit”, added Chris.
I looked at them both. Angela Stadler loved them..."Al Rosenburg", her boss, loved them...the whole A&R staff loved them...and what had spearheaded the whole love fest was that one special track. It didn't make sense. Maybe that was why they never would record it. Maybe they were nuts...and maybe if I'd stayed in the band, I could have kept the hooks in (“hook” is slang for the catchy parts of a song), and even the big hit song, but my comments now were too little, too late. I'd quit before they got their deal...I'd declined over and over to come over earlier...and now, yeah, it was too late.
Ah well, I thought as I slipped into bed that night. It was their record, their career. I would never be in the band again anyway, no matter how big they got. I was going to continue on in my quest to become a true gospel hero. And this Tracy girl...well. She was in for a surprise. I deliberately hadn't written to her after I talked to Chris (probably a month earlier), so she had no idea I was even on British soil. I wanted to surprise her...tomorrow I'd send my letter letting her know I was just a few hours by train south of her. I wondered what she'd say in reply...
But the next morning when I got up, something made me put off writing and sending Tracy a letter. I don't know what it was. Perhaps in some way I thought waiting a little longer might heighten the mystery or tension or something, but I ended up waiting around a week.
In the meantime, I got to work laying down guitar (and banjo and charango [an Andean instrument I'd picked up in Argentina] and whatever else they wanted) parts on the songs. Chris, the band's guitar player, was a creative guy, but he was a lefty who'd grown up playing righty, and who consequently wasn't dextrous enough to play more difficult parts. So sometimes I'd simply play parts he'd already thought of, but which he couldn't execute properly. Other times I'd come up with whole guitar arrangements, but most of the time we just collaborated.
You'll note that I didn't mention John Porter, the supposed producer, at all in that last paragraph. That is because Tom and Chris, as I found out very quickly, entirely ignored him. It appeared to be a matter of principle with them, that they should reject every single creative suggestion he ever made. This was unfortunate, since John had a good ear (he produced The Smiths' “How Soon Is Now” for heaven's sake, as well as almost all their classic stuff). But...again, I thought, it was their record. I did suggest to them a couple of times that they hear him out, but they'd have none of it.
Meanwhile, as I found out later, Tracy was wondering why I hadn't responded to her last letter, sent to Utah weeks earlier. She'd begun to think I'd never write again. She was very surprised when she finally received my letter from Rockfield telling her I was just a few hours south, and that I would be done recording in about a month. She wrote back inviting me to come up to stay at her mother's house (where she was living) when I was done. Next thing was, we started talking on the phone...and yes, it was all very platonic, though we did tend to ask a lot of questions about each other's “life goals” and “feelings about the gospel” and things. One particular question I asked in one of these conversations, which I've never quite been able to live down, was how, when she had children, she was planning on feeding them as infants (yeah, I wanted a girl who was okay with breastfeeding). After a second of surprised silence, Tracy just said, “naturally”. I thought that was pretty cute – straightforward and modest at the same time.
Weeks passed. Our phone conversations grew more intense, though never became overtly romantic. In spare time, the guys and I would pop into the town of Monmouth (http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/southeast/sites/monmouth/). I was really impressed with the pubs. I'd been in bars in North America before, mostly when I was roadie-ing for my Uncle Tim, but most of them had been dark, dank dives. These pubs were clean, and had entire families (sometimes accompanied by their pet dogs) there, eating, drinking, laughing, playing darts. I think visiting the Monmouth pubs was the first time I'd ever contemplated the act of imbibing alcohol, without immediately in my mind associating that act with sleaze.
Speaking of pubs...one night, we crossed over into the Gloucestershire countryside to visit a pub which had been functioning for around five hundred years. They had run electric wiring into the tiny, freestanding building, but otherwise, from what I was told, nothing had been changed: the beams, the plaster, the actual wooden bar, the oak floors – it was all original. As if to complete the picture, in one corner there were two guys, one playing a mandolin, the other playing a flute, taking turns singing...And it felt like I'd been transported back in time. It was also cool because everyone there (most seemed to be friends) seemed to be having the grandest time imaginable. This was another time when the automatic connection between alcoholic beverages and sleaze I'd always made in my head just broke down...
The feeling of time travel grew after we got our drinks (I got my usual black currant/soda drink) and stepped out into the warm evening, just after sunset, and sat down at the giant outdoor stone tables. I could see a lot of stars, but there was still a red glow over to the west, which I could see through a single row of tall trees along a ridge, just beyond a big grassy meadow, and the smell of grass and leaves and flowers and night air, and the night-time chirping, and sitting at a giant stone table where, for all I knew, Henry the Fifth himself had sat, and how many other thousands over the past half millenium, filled me with feelings I've never really been able to describe...Does anyone know what I mean?
Just one other memory of rural Wales before I return to the story: After some weeks at Rockfield, our scheduled time expired and we re-located to another Welsh studio called Loco, near Llanhennock (the great, now defunct band The Pogues took our places at Rockfield). A black dog kept appearing on the studio grounds, and finally one day, a big bear of a man, wearing thick black boots and a coarse wool sweater, with wavy grey hair and big sideburns, appeared, asking in a heavy Welsh accent if anyone had seen the dog. It turned out he had a big sheep farm just up the road. Someone had given him the dog as a young pup, and told him it was a proper border collie. He took it to add to his squadron; but as he told us in between cursing out the dumb dog he'd just grabbed (which looked like a lab/setter cross), the dog turned out not to be a collie at all, and was completely uninterested in (and incapable of) herding sheep with his collies - only now he couldn't get rid of it, because his wife had grown attached to it.
I asked him about his other dogs. He responded with some pride that they were such fine herders, that BBC Wales had done not one, but two shows on them. In chatting, he also mentioned that his own house was, like the pub we'd been to, around five hundred years old. Well, the talk about a squadron of the finest herders in Wales and a five hundred year old house was too much for me, and I asked him if we could come over and see his operation (I know this will sound lame to the Brits reading this, but on our own continent it is rare to see a building over a century old).
He finally agreed to bring us over. His house was big, and made mostly of giant stone slabs; and what was coolest, was that in every room, there was a giant fireplace. Outside, chickens and collies and children ran around, and I thought, "yeah...this must kind of be what it would have been like in 1510". The guy told me that he had a girl collie who was the captain of the whole team. He said she could run a team of twenty collies and herd hundreds and hundreds of sheep. After taking the man's cues about what he wanted done, she would bark out commands to all the other dogs, who would all work together. He said that she could actually send dogs out a certain distance, tell them to sit and wait, run round, everything - and he didn't even exactly know how they understood her. I don't know about anyone else, but I think that is totally cool and amazing! (I always regretted not being able to see his dogs in action, and as I type this, I feel like flying to Wales to try to find the guy again).
About a week and a half before I was finished recording, I cracked. I wrote a letter to Tracy, and told her that I really liked her...that I thought there was something really special about her, etc. She wrote back saying similar things, and saying that she'd really felt something amazing when we'd first met. It was really going to be something going up there to visit her.
Recording grew tense in the final days - Tom had consistently refused to sing his lead vocals, claiming - literally - that his lyrics would not be finished until the very last day of recording, on which day he would record all of the master vocals. Needless to say, Tom ran very quickly out of time on the last day of recording, and plans were made to continue recording in Los Angeles. But I wouldn't be coming along - my agreed-upon-term was done, I'd already played all my parts, and I wanted to track down this girl...
My last day at Loco Studios came (July 2 ), and I hopped on a train and headed to Blackburn, Lancashire, Tracy's address in hand. One thing: it had been cloudy and rainy almost without any break the ENTIRE time I'd been there (June of 1990). The night we went to the old pub was one of only two times I'd seen the sun. But the day I left for Tracy's house, the sun came out...and I have to say, it really added to "the Spirit" I was feeling.
Anyway, I jumped in a cab once I arrived in Blackburn, and got to her house just as she was leaving for Young Women's. What a strange, exhilirating moment that was! We'd talked for hours and hours and hours on the phone, written a bunch of letters, but hadn't actually seen each other, even in photos, since the night we'd first met at my mum's house in Logan. Her eyes seemed so BLUE...! We said hi and I brought my stuff in, and she left for church. It's funny now - it never even occurred to me that maybe she could have skipped YW that night; and apparently, it never occurred to her, either.
As a result, I spent the evening with Tracy's mother, who spoke to me at length about Cliff Richard, her musical idol for the previous three decades. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliff_Richard She also told me about Jack, her ex, and their divorce, and all the trauma they'd all been through...
A few hours later, Tracy came home, but it was late, and we decided that we ought to just hit they hay, and spend the next day walking around Blackburn.
Now...I might as well give everyone a heads up, that NOTHING in the next episode will make any sense to ANYONE who wasn't a devout Mormon. That next day was the wildest of my entire life. But here I am, getting ahead of myself.
The next morning we got up, got ready, and sat down at the table in the little kitchen to eat breakfast. It was a sunny morning. Tracy and I looked at each other and smiled, without trying to smile too much. Her mother brought us each a bowl of Rice Krispies...
...And just like the night we'd met, everything seemed to be saturated with surreality. Just the fact I was sitting there in her house, after she'd vanished and I almost hadn't found her again, seemed like a miracle. I was actually sitting across from her! Wild. Maybe the most surreal thing of all was that not only had I not been seized by a case of “humanplankitis”, but the possibility it might return hadn't even occurred to me. I just felt perfectly at ease, just like I had the first night we met. I was just me, and she was just her.
We decided we'd spend the day walking around downtown Blackburn. It would actually be the first time we'd ever spent time together. The quick meeting at my mum's three months earlier, and the "hi" and "goodnight" from the night before, had been it.
I asked Tracy if we needed to call a cab. She said no, it was close, and we could walk. Okay, cool.
An hour later, we were still walking, up long, gradual hills, then down again, and though I'm embarrassed to admit it, I was starting to feel kind of sore. I glanced at Tracy a few times, but she didn't seem to think anything was unusual. I don't know what the Brits reading this are like, or if they're into giant power walks, but - even though I was enjoying her company - a solid hour of walking seemed kind of...like....long. Unless you're in the Olympics, where walking could get get you a medal, why not just drive? That's WHY Leonardo Da Vinci or John Lennon or whoever it was invented “the car” in the first place (sorry, I've gotten all confused by these Apple “Think Different” famous people ads...). Anyway, I was kind of surprised by the zest with which Tracy plowed up and down the hills, but I figured there was maybe some cultural thing to this whole incessant walking thing, so I thought I'd just keep quiet. After all, we *were* getting a chance to chat, and that was nice.
I was also really hungry, even though we'd only finished breakfast an hour earlier. The bowl of Rice Krispies was nice, but they're like 95% air, you know? I'm six feet tall, but my “breakfast” had been four ounces of milk and about as much actual “rice” as you could fit into the eraser cavity of a pencil. So I kept trying to politely say, “So....is there a restaurant around here?”. Tracy told me later she thought it was really weird how much food I ate (I guess I was used to the big North American breakfasts).
Finally we found a corner shop. They didn't serve prepared food, but I was so hungry by then, that I just bought an entire block of "Lancashire Red" cheese and a box of crackers, and spent the rest of the walk eating them. Normally I might have been embarrassed, but like I said, I couldn't for the life of me be anything other than myself. I was hungry, so I ate.
We finally got to downtown Blackburn. There was a big cathedral. That was pretty cool. We walked in and out of shops, just chatting and browsing. We checked out the mall, the music shop...I didn't want to hold her hand or anything, thinking that I didn't want to pressure her. I just thought we'd hang out, keep it friendly and relaxed, just enjoy each other's company for the day. (For a couple of photos of Blackburn, see http://www.yax72.dial.pipex.com/images/blackburn.jpg and http://www.pub-explorer.com/lancs/photos/fjnicholsblackburn.jpg
There was one point in the day, though, when it took all I had not to zoom in. In the afternoon we found a park, began to walk around, and sat down right next to each other on a nice grassy hill near some trees. It was sunny and warm, really a beautiful day, and as we'd been walking a lot, Tracy just kind of laid down and closed her eyes. I was propped up on one elbow right next to her, basically touching her...and in that moment, I glanced at her...and something about how physically close we were, and the way she was laying, and – to quote Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys - “the way the sunlight played upon her hair”, and the subtle sweet scent of her, the hair and skin, everything, all combined in that instant, and it was like K-PLOWWWWWW!!!! - a stick of dynamite exploded inside me and sent a testosterone-endorphin-adrenaline-nitroglycerin cocktail blasting through my veins, and it was all I could do not to jump on top of her right then and there and start making out with her, caressing her, taking her...
STOP THE EVIL. NO EVIL. NO. NO. NO. I WILL KEEP MY EMOTIONS IN CHECK. I HAVE THE PRIESTHOOD. NO MOUNTING.
I took a deep breath, then another, then another, and steadied myself, steady...steady....it was like RM Lamaze or something...hee hee hoo...wo...gah....hmmmm....oooh, she is....mmmm.....steady...don't pressure her....relax...breathe in...and....out...
And I relaxed, and nothing happened – no kiss, no caress, no romantic word. Just keeping it really light, really platonic. Whew. My garments had protected me from spiritual danger! YES! The church really was true!
And my friends, that might have been the most exciting event of the day, had it not been for the aliens which began controlling me from outer space just as we were about to head for home. It was like this.
We'd spent the whole day together, with me not putting any moves whatsoever on Tracy – not because of plankitudinousness, but as I said, because I was worried about pressuring her. Well, it began to get dark, and we both said we ought to get going home. And that is when it happened...the Holy Ghost, or the aliens, or my subconscious, or something, took control of me; and despite rather wanting to get back, I found myself saying, “Why don't we keep walking for a little while?”. And Tracy said, “Sure, if you want". I asked her if there was anywhere nice to go. She said there were canals nearby.
“Let's go”, I said.
And so we walked out of the downtown area to the outskirts, as it got darker and darker. And finally, I found myself walking next to that beautiful, sweet girl, down a little path, an old stone fence on our left (and beyond it, nothing but meadow), and to our right, a canal reflecting back the starlight and moonlight, like something out of a Wordsworth poem, and above, a big black sky full of stars, and warm out to boot. And it was heaven....
And then, whoever was controlling me at that moment (I believed then it was the Holy Ghost, and now I have no idea) said “stop”. And so I stopped, and I said, “let's stop here for a minute”. And Tracy leaned up against the the old stone wall...and I could see her face in the moonlight, and the dim amber glow of a lamp on the other side of the canal. And I looked at her, and then that Something zinged me right in the gut, and told me to come up to her, and I did...
And it was the first time all day – the first time ever – I suddenly took her hands in mine, and looked into her eyes, and the Something said to me, “tell her why you wrote to her”, and I felt just as though I was on autopilot.
So I said quietly, “Do you know why I wrote to you?”, and she said, “no”.
And I found myself saying, “it was because.....I wanted to marry you”.
There was a pause, and then she said, “You 'did', or you do?”
And I said, “I do.............Will you? Will you marry me?”
And she said, “yes”.
And the Something told me to kiss her right then, and so I leaned forward, still holding her hands, feeling like I actually was dreaming, and kissed Tracy for the first time, softly, and then paused, and then kissed her again...and I lost track of time, so I don't know how long we were there against the stone wall by the canal...but I know that when I'd woken up that morning, I'd had absolutely no intention of doing anything like what I had just done – but by the time we started to walk home that night, Tracy and I were engaged to be married. I would say it happened on our first date, but it hadn't even really been a proper "date" at all...
We didn't talk much on the walk home that night. It felt like we were both in some euphoric trance...
That night, I slipped into bed, still on a high. Man, this was the adventure of a lifetime, I thought. It seemed unbelievable and inevitable at the same time - I was actually engaged - and to HER. I'd tracked her down, made it to England, gotten to her place...It was like total magic or something, like destiny, like every star had combined to bring us together, and some Something somewhere had just totally told me what to say and do, and I did it, and it had all been perfect...
And with those thoughts running through my mind, I drifted off to sleep.
I found out later, though, that Tracy, at the same time, was lying in her bed, thinking far different thoughts.
Something had begun to worry her...
I haven't finished up the next episode in this saga yet, so since a bunch of people have asked to hear from Tracy about this, but she isn't so keen on typing up a big thing herself, I've gotten her to consent to being interviewed.
Tal: I've never interviewed you before, have I?
Tracy: Yes - before we got married.
Tal: Yeah, that's right - and you interviewed me, didn't you?
Tracy: Yeah. I guess I had to find out if you were worthy enough (laughs).
Tal: You've been reading this little series I'm doing...How different, if at all, are your recollections of these things?
Tracy: I think that you remember it very well; I might have explained it a little differently. I think I would have mentioned other things.
Tal: Like what?
Tracy: Like, I would have explained why I didn't make eye contact with you, why I didn't engage, why I wasn't more forthcoming about how I felt inside on the night we met. That's just one example.
Tal: Hmm. I was going to come back to that - there are a few loose ends I've left dangling. Builds the suspense...like the Elder Parker thing.
Tracy: Yes, I understand that. I love the suspense myself!
Tal: It seems pretty wild, especially now, that you agreed to marry me on our first date. How do you feel about having done that now?
Tracy: Well, I'm really glad you brought this up actually. I noticed a couple of replies to one of the episodes referring to that moment when you proposed to me, and they seemed to find that repugnant. Well, let me tell you that I have never felt regretful about that night, or how it happened, in fact quite the opposite. I'm reminded every day of what a great choice I made.
Yes, we were young, but I was very determined to get out of the ignorant squalor I was living in, and be with a man of value, courage, and honour -
Tal: - Uh, people are going to think I wrote this -
Tracy: (Laughs) - and the many letters we wrote, and the many phone conversations we'd had, confirmed that I was making a good choice. It wasn't that we hadn't really gotten to know each other; we really had. We just hadn't physically been together. I knew you would be a great father and a man with guts. That's what I wanted.
Tal: I guess "thanks" is kind of inadequate after that...but thanks.
What did you really think when I asked you how you were going to feed your babies?
Tracy: I thought it showed a very thoughtful and caring attitude towards children.
Tracy: What was funny, though, is that I remember not even wanting to use the word "breastfeeding" because it had the word "breast" in it!
Tal: Did you think that would kind of be a violation of the Law of Chastity, using it while talking to me?
Tracy: (Laughing) I suppose I just found it embarrassing. Things have changed a lot after breastfeeding our eight children!
Tal: Did you find it embarrassing because you thought maybe I hadn't noticed you had breasts yet, and you didn't want to poison my child-like mind?
Tracy: No, I thought your mind probably wasn't "child-like"...I didn't really think about you noticing my breasts, to be honest.
Tal: Okay, let's get off this topic. Did you ever "strategize" at all during the whole letter-writing thing, the whole month in England thing? Did you think, "I should be like *this* around this guy I fancy?"
Tracy: No, I can't say I ever did. I never even thought "I will just be me". You made me feel so good after I read your letters, and after we talked on the phone, that it never really occurred to me to be anything other than just responsive to my own feelings.
Tal: Gee, cool. I'd like to take credit for that, but I think it was probably luck or accident given all the disasters I'd caused earlier...
What did you think of Elder Parker?
Tracy: Elder Parker was arrogant - in love with himself - and completely humourless. Not my type.
Tal: I haven't gotten to this part yet, and may never since it might be more information than anyone wants, but...I guess I'm just wondering about your general thoughts after our wedding night.
Tracy: Are you serious? That's so personal! I really wouldn't want to make all those fans of yours jealous...
Tal: Ha ha, very funny.
Tracy: You were very sweet...
Tal: "Sweet"? Oh man, that's the worst thing you could say...I was completely wigged out, nervous. I don't know what happened to me. I was like Apeman over in England, I couldn't even control myself, and then...I don't know. I guess it was the gravity of the situation or something. Maybe what it was, was that kind of perfunctoriness that so often seems to attend Mormon things. It's like (robotic voice): now - you - have - completed - the - wedding - ceremony. Now - you - may - proceed - to - make - love. Keep - in - mind - the - severe - tones - of - Elder - Packer - saying - "keep" - "it" - "natural" - "keep" - "it" - "natural" - whatever - natural - means - remember -this - lovemaking - session - is - between - you - and - your - wife ---- and also - Jesus - and Elder Packer - and - all - the - other - General - Authorities - God - is watching - you".
I think I would have rocked your world if we'd just "gone with it" some night when things, you know, were, you know, like, you know. But as it was...I suppose the pressure of "performance" or whatever...I don't know.
Tracy: How could you have felt "pressure of performance" with a virgin? (laughs)
Tal: Look, I didn't know what I was doing, okay? The only "guide" we had was Jess Christensen (the stake president) telling me in our interview to "take lubricant with you tonight"...
Tracy: This seems like it was kind of a traumatic experience for you. Maybe you could use some therapy.
Tal: I don't want this to turn into an interview about me so maybe I should just shut up about this, but I guess in a way, I want that night back. I want it back. It was MINE, it could have been like my first basketball shot ever being a swish from center court; and instead, it was like I went up for a lay-up and wound up with an airball...
Tracy: Stop fretting, you've really made up for it...
Tal: Dammit, I better have. Anyway, let's get back to you.
How would you describe your feelings on the night we met?
Tracy: I felt my heart leap...I felt excitement when you walked into the room. I knew there was something different about you. I felt like an angel had walked into my life. You looked so pure and innocent, yet intriguing.
Tal: Thanks...but do you mind if I change that last part to "dark and mysterious and dangerous"?
Tracy: (Laughing) Well, you certainly turned into "dark and mysterious and dangerous".
Tracy: No. Well...when we found out the church was a fraud, I became afraid of what you might become. After all, the non-Mormon men I grew up around certainly were dark and dangerous.
Tal: What did you think might happen?
Tracy: I thought maybe you'd become a drinker, an abuser, maybe unfaithful, I don't know...I guess at that time of leaving, you think about all the things we'd been warned about while we were members of the church.
Tal: Are you still afraid?
Tracy: Sometimes. You can never really be sure what the future holds.
Tal: I don't want you to be afraid.
Tracy: I feel like my fears are being replaced everyday with courage; but it's hard to get over the fear-conditioning that we've experienced in church.
Tal: I understand that.
Anything else you want to add about this, or the series? v Tracy: I'm glad you're writing them. They've made me think about all those wonderful times we had, helped me reminisce about some of the most beautiful times of my life. I think I really needed this.
Tal: The series?
Tracy: Yes...it's been three years of agony recovering from a cult, and it reminds me of what's really important: our personal, intimate relationships - not a religion.
I noticed it when we first saw each other the next morning at breakfast - there was some element of tentativeness or concern on Tracy's part. When we had a moment alone afterwards, I asked her how she was doing.
She paused, then said, "How are *you* doing?"
I said, "I'm feeling good. How are you?"
She seemed relieved, and said shyly, "I thought you might have changed your mind overnight..."
I was surprised. "No...Why would I have changed my mind?".
"I don't know...I just thought you might have".
The good news is, I ended up figuring out the reason why she thought I might have. The bad news was the reason itself: as far as my beautiful and innocent fiance had ever been able to discern, that was just the way the world was: something good happening meant that something terrible, something heartbreaking, something cruel, was about to follow. The definition of hope was: the prelude to despair. Happiness was just the set-up for sorrow. That was just the way the world was in a home with a violent, alcoholic father. Where does this cycle begin...?
What is known for sure is that Tracy's paternal granddad had gone as a soldier to war against the Nazis, serving around the Mediterranean. And after those years of killing, Soldier Hartley came home from war more vicious, more besotted by drink, than he had left, and sired a little boy named Jack, with the wife he regularly beat. The photos of Jack (Tracy's father) as a boy show him to be one of the cutest children you could ever imagine.
Around the time Jack turned four (1949), ex-soldier Hartley began to take his toddler son to the front door in the mornings, and tell him not to come back home before dark, "or else". And if what Jack said later was true, he would be pushed out with whatever clothes he had on at the moment regardless of the weather, with nothing to eat or drink. But being outside was at least some respite from the beatings he received at home for the most trifling errors.
And so cute young Jack grew hard - how could he have survived otherwise? - and by the time he was a teen, he was in a gang, and had become a prolific drinker, smoker, delinquent, abuser, and fighter himself. To make a long story short, this was the troubled young man who became Tracy’s father in 1971.
In a very rare moment of voluntary vulnerability, Jack told Tracy many years later, after the divorce, that he had "really loved your mother". But throughout their marriage, the demonstration of that love was, as I understand it from Tracy, quite rare. Jack was a tortured and violent man, a man at war with himself, a man who hated the alcohol that controlled him more than words could ever describe, and yet loved it more than life itself, loved it in the pathetic way that only an abject slave can love his ruthless master.
The morning after a particularly violent night, he would promise Tracy’s mother he wouldn’t touch alcohol again. A glimmer of hope would run through the family - but within a few days, the teetotaling would end again. And once that happened, the violence, cursing, smashing, crying, and at times, even jail time, would return. I am abbreviating here for the sake of decorum, but I find most of the stories about Tracy’s childhood absolutely heartrending and infuriating, and I wish I could go back in time to stop some of these things...In any case, I can say that Tracy grew up in a home in which the only predictable thing was that her heart would always be broken.
And then came the church (the missionaries arrived when Tracy was 14). Well, my former-Mormon friends, the church was a giant step up for my future wife. The thing is, Tracy actually grew up in neighbourhoods where squalor, alcoholism, drugs, gangs, rampant promiscuity, unwanted pregnancies, every kind of abuse and social pathology, were common...So “the church” was safety, identity, predictability, direction, friendship, surrogate family, hope, light, and truth. The songs we might find insipid (“I Walk By Faith”, etc.) were profoundly meaningful to her. The lessons we all found mind-crushingly boring as kids, imbued her with faith in herself, and respect for herself. Mormonism was salvation.
And this is why, if I can digress for one moment, I have never said, in anything I've ever written about the church, that “everyone should stay away from the Mormon church”. My concern is more that people have easy access to all the information they deserve about whether to become, or remain, members (i.e., I think the church should stop lying about its past). Maybe this sounds contradictory, but I guess I feel that even though Mormonism really is salvation for some people, just like evangelical Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism is for others, that that still doesn’t warrant all the ongoing lying...
Anyway, by the time I met her, all of Tracy’s experiences had led her to a place where Joseph Smith's invented religion had become completely synonymous with life, safety, stability, love, joy, truth, reality, self, emotion, marriage, children, thought, existence, everything (and this is why, many years later when she discovered that the *whole thing had been a fraud*, it was the worst moment of her life, literally disorienting, triggering something like a full-scale psychic and emotional breakdown. But here I am getting ahead of myself...).
In any case, I managed to reassure her that I still felt great about everything; and we spent that day as newly engaged boy and girl. And there began the most incredible month that either of us had ever had.
Well, where was I....? At the end of our first day together, I proposed marriage, she accepted, Tracy thought the next morning I'd changed my mind, and was steeling herself for disappointment, but I was totally on with the whole thing. We did decide to keep our engagement secret for a few days, though.
That second day, a member of the Blackburn branch named Mike came round to see how Tracy and her guest (me) were doing. Mike was 30, a very devout member, married, with I think two little kids at the time, and as a jack-of-all-callings (including seminary teacher), he had taken it upon himself to try to help out the youth where he could. He was a really good guy - I never sensed any prurient motives or anything in his concern for Tracy.
So anyway, Mike made a very generous offer: if we wanted, he would take Tracy and me around on day trips with his car (I didn't have enough money to rent a car, and we had no other way to travel other than bus or train), so we could visit all the local cool stuff. That sounded great, and so we began doing just that. So one day, we visited the Bronte house in the Yorkshire village of Haworth http://www.haworth.yorks.com/ ; another day, we visited Edward I's Caernarvon Castle http://www.castlewales.com/caernarf.html , and so on for Harlech Castle http://www.castlewales.com/harlech.html , John Of Gaunt's Lancaster Castle http://www.lancastercastle.com/home.php , the seaside resort town of Blackpool http://www.blackpool.com/ , Clitheroe Castle http://www.ribblevalley.gov.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?categoryID=3444&documentID=523 , the amazingly pristine village of Ribchester (the row houses of which are still in use four hundred years after they were built [the front doors are incredibly tiny]) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribchester , Wordsworth's Lake District http://www.lmpics.com/Landscapes/LakeDistrict/Windermere.jpg , and a dozen other places.
It had been rainy and cloudy almost the entire time I had been in Wales (for the previous month plus). But, no lie, the very day that I showed up in Blackburn, every last cloud vanished, and it became beautiful and warm (around 80 degrees) and sunny - and it stayed that way every day of the entire month I was there. Everywhere we went, flowers were blooming and birds were chirping and sunbeams were streaming, and I was there with a *princess*; and touring all those historic places together, and even just walking round the little villages or through the forests, it seemed like I had just been dropped right into heaven.
After our first few trips, everything seemed perfect and we had both gotten very used to the idea that we were engaged, so I decided to call and tell my family members what was going on. My sister, who'd been going out with a guy for months and months, seemed upset. She immediately blurted, "I can't believe you got engaged before me!". My dad's first comment was, "You mean, to the girl in Blackburn, Lancashire?! Just like the song - totally cool!" (a reference to "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles - my dad kind of has a one-track rock 'n roll mind). After his excitement wore off a bit about that, he did say, "Don't you think it's pretty fast?". I just said, "Well, you know, when it happens, it happens". (Obviously, *living together* or something wasn't even contemplatible). My dad just said, "yeah".
My step-mother (a convert who had concluded the church was a fraud and left eight months earlier) said, "I really think you need to give some consideration to whether you're sexually compatible", then added pointedly, "if you know what I mean". For some reason, my step-mother was always talking about "sexual compatibility", even during her time as a member...I never really knew what she was talking about. I couldn't even imagine how "sexual incompatibility" was even possible between two healthy human beings, in love with each other, and able to communicate...(?). In any case, finding out whether we were "sexually compatible" (whatever that meant) prior to marriage obviously was not an option; nor could I manage to summon even the slightest worry about it. And as for my mother's reaction - for some reason, I can't remember a single thing about it. I can't even remember talking to her about our engagement.
Tracy's mother, for her part, seemed entirely unfazed by the fact we'd gotten engaged. In her opinion, it was "meant to be", and that was that (I did go to meet her dad during that trip, but he didn't seem, shall we say, in the mood for a chat).
Anyway, Tracy and I continued on, each day some new adventure together, and had I think the best time any two newly engaged kids could have. We talked and laughed, and I have all sorts of memories...wading around in the little stream outside of Ribchester, picnicking on a bluff next to Lake Windermere, getting covered in grease at one of the "chippies" (fish and chip chops) outside one of the castles, goofing around in the dungeon in Lancaster Castle, buying T-shirts and stickers at the gift shop outside Caernarvon Castle, walking through the woods outside one of the castles and feeling almost like they were *haunted* with a kind of "ancientness", as though all the people who had ever walked through them had left some kind of spiritual *imprint* of themselves there, that you could still feel...
One memory in particular remains vivid. One warm evening as the sun was setting, after we'd gotten back from an excursion, we went for a walk near the Blackburn city limits, and soon enough found ourselves on a wooded trail which led out to where the farm pastures began. Seeing a stile in one of the pasture fences, we walked through it and into a lush meadow. There was a big, beautiful postcard-like valley beneath us, green and gold pastures laid out like giant bed sheets, sheep, farmhouses, and that wonderful stillness and silence...and I don't know if it was clover or just the evening dew on the grass or what, but I remember that everything smelled very *sweet*. We sat down and chatted, and laughed, and chatted some more...and then we laid down, gazing up...and as the sky turned from a lazy, red-streaked azure to a star-dotted infinity of dark, so the content of our conversation also seemed to deepen, and deepen, and deepen...and we talked more and more about our past, and our future, and everything that was happening, our hopes and ideas...and we told each other things we'd never told anyone else about, ever...
And as the hours passed, and we talked about those and a hundred other secret things, it felt as though every other defense or inhibition that usually got in the way of communication began to dissolve away, until it felt like the purest, most effortless communion between us, as though we really did have souls, and those souls had finally become fully engaged...And I kissed her, stroked her hair...
And it is right there that my memory divides, my friends. One memory is of what actually happened that night - we laid there under the night sky for the longest time, feeling a kind of *ecstatic calm*, feeling closer and closer to each other until it was like we were *one entity*, as more and more stars appeared, until there were more than I'd ever remembered seeing on any other night, and then, finally, we walked home, hand in hand, said goodnight, and went to bed.
The other memory is of what would have happened - maybe, what *should* have happened...it is the memory of "what happened", maybe, in a *parallel universe*, where Tracy was Tracy and I was me, but where that night belonged only to us as a young man and young woman in love, a universe where we were free to speak and feel and love without fear, without having to deaden a part of ourselves in service to some dogma invented by men with no greater access to cosmic right than anyone else...and *that* memory goes like this:
I lay looking at the stars, next to her, hearing her voice speak in that intoxicating accent, I chatting back...and overcome with pleasure, I finally prop myself up on one elbow and look at her, the moon's reflected light illuminating her, and she stops talking and looks back at me...and the silence says more than anything we could ever say to each other. And finally I say, "Tracy...I will never forget this moment", and I lean down, and kiss her, and then pull away...and then kiss her again...and I kiss her, in my imagination, *like no man has ever kissed a woman*...and in that moment, I have no other thought but of us, right then and there...there is no past or future in that moment, but only her...yet in an indescribable way, in that moment, she *becomes my past and future*, because it is as though every moment of my past was only a prelude to an inevitable moment, the very moment I am in then - she, I now see, *always was in every moment of my life*; I just didn't know it yet...and I also know, in that moment, that I will never know another moment of existence again in which she is not...
And in that moment, there is no "convention", there is no concern for what I am *supposed* to say, or do, or feel...there is no "1990" - in that moment, it is 100 AD, it is 2000 BC - it is 20,000 BC - there is no time or custom or context other than *her*...and I have no concern, no hesitation, no doubt...and I slip my hand under her head, kissing her again, on the lips, and lightly on the neck, and I reach over and take her hand in mine, and kiss it, kiss her fingertips, and I speak to her...I say things...I even say things that no man is supposed to say anymore to a woman, and yet I say them anyway, *because I must*...
Tracy...I will love you forever
I will take care of you, forever......*forever*...
I will *protect* you...
I want to explore you, know everything about you, understand you, feel what you feel, *possess* you...
I want you to feel joy...to be all that you are, all that you want to be...
I want to be your friend, your lover, your confidante, your soulmate, your servant, your master...
I will keep you safe *forever*...do you understand me, Tracy? Look in my eyes, and you will see it is true - I will keep you safe forever.....*forever*....do you know that? Listen to me: I will keep you safe *forever*...
And in that moment, I kiss her again...I caress her arm...her shoulder...her breasts...her face...I sense her body relax...I know that she believes me, and I love her for it...and I kiss her neck again, and move on top of her...and I kiss her, lower and lower down the neck...and her body starts to move at the same time I feel her start to give way...and I begin to unbutton her blouse...I begin to take her as she more and more gives way, and she gives way because something inside of her tells her she *must*, that every moment of her life, too, was but a prelude to this moment, a moment where every single element that is *her* - every joy, every sorrow, every hope and desire and impulse and thought and memory, everything - all combine together, like a thousand different instruments all joining, for the first time ever, to play the very same piece of music, the most ferociously beautiful music she's ever heard, inside of her...and that music which she herself *discovers* within her, overpowers her, entrances her, overcomes her, *as I overcome her*, as I take her...
And she begins to feel emotions she has never felt before, emotions she had no idea she could even feel...and they course through her, she feels them welling up deep in her gut, spreading through her whole body, consuming her, as I begin to consume her...and I do begin to consume her...I love her...she is mine now, she belongs to me, I make love to her, I hold her in my arms...
And as I become one with her, first slowly, and then with more and more intensity, something inside of her says, "This is Life...this is The Divine I yearn for...the Divine was within me, it was in me all along..."...and in that moment, she worships, just as I worship, each other but even more: all that is good and true and miraculous in life, all that is light, all that is virtue, all that is love and honour and joy...and inside of her, the ecstacy heightens, and heightens, and heightens, until she can no longer reason or remember - she can only *feel* what she will never, ever be able to describe...and the more she gives way, the more boldly I kiss her, hold her, caress her, devour and ravish and possess her, and then the more she gives way, and then the more intensely I respond again, and on it goes...
Until finally, in the moment of climax, she explodes into an infinity of pieces...in that moment, she ceases to exist, yet at the same time, *she exists more completely than she ever has*...in that moment, she is everywhere and nowhere, in every part of the universe all at once, and yet in none at all...at once, mistress and servant, at once the most exquisite chaos and perfect embodiment of peace, at once, *goddess* and *slave*...and I serve her, just as I am *lord* over her...and in that moment, there is no thought for what some pope, or priest, or prophet, or professor, has announced human beings are *supposed* to feel...in that moment, we just *are*...we are one, we are us ourselves, more than ever before, we are everything God, or Nature, or Whatever or Whoever it was, made us...we are just us, as mortal as we can ever be, as divine as we can ever be, together...and the word "love" seems so paltry and inadequate to describe what we have experienced, that it seems profane to even speak it...and the truth is, that there are no words to describe it all...none...but it doesn't matter to us, because she and I experienced it together, just us, alone in a Lancashire meadow, underneath the stars, laying among the tall grass, one spellbinding, perfect night, in July of 1990.
Except, that we didn't experience it. There was the little matter of a fake "divine requirement" announced by Mormon leaders that our love not be consummated (on penalty of excommunication = consignment to an eternity of hell barring re-baptism after three years of abject prostration) until the proper piece of paper was stamped and signed by a government clerk at a Civil Registry, and that piece of paper hadn't been stamped or signed yet. That night in the meadow was our night - it was as if all the heavens, and every moment of our lives up to that point, had decreed it so - and yet, we declined it. We didn't want to go to hell.
I wish I could say that I was able to summon forth the magic again that night six months later, when Tracy and I as husband and wife, for the first time slipped into bed together after a long day of perfunctory ceremony (excepting the ten-second "eternal mirror" segment, which was very nice), and the traditional Mormon beyond-lame wedding reception, but I can't. But I should stop now - the actual wedding is a story for another day...
It was on one of our first excursions that I mentioned to Tracy that she didn't even make eye contact with me during our first visit at my Mum's house in Logan.
“I didn't realize that”, she said, giggling. “I felt like I looked at you as much as I could”.
“No way”, I said. “I searched for ANY indicator of interest – anything – and I couldn't detect anything. Literally, you wouldn't even make eye contact with me”.
“Well, I was on guard because of Geraldine”, she said. (Geraldine was the cranky older lady who'd been traveling with them). It turned out that during their visit to Rexburg (which they were returning from when they popped in to visit), Geraldine's son William had asked Tracy to be his steady (William and Tracy knew each other well because they were from the same stake back in England).
“How could you be a guy's steady if he's going to college in Idaho and you're still in England?”, I said.
“He was going to be coming back soon for break, and he seemed like a nice enough guy”, she said. “I was caught because when you and I met, I felt overwhelmed, but I'd just said yes to William two days before, and his mother was sitting right there in front of us, watching!”
Apparently, Geraldine had been watching us far more attentively than we had noticed, because once they got back into the car after our visit, Geraldine began:
“What did you think of that guy?” (Tracy said, non-committally, “he was nice...”)
(Disdainfully) “How'd you like to have *her * for a mother-in-law?” (Withering reference to my mother). “Can you believe the way these people decorate their houses? Ridiculous”.
“She actually said that stuff?”, I asked.
“Yeah...she seemed to pick up that there was something there.” She also said that because of the William thing, she never would have responded to my first letter if it had been anything other than totally platonic. (“Bullseye”, I thought).
I told her about Elder Parker stonewalling me. All she knew about that was that during their trip, he talked a lot about how he couldn't find a woman good enough for him, that “girls these days aren't righteous enough”, etc., that he'd made Tracy feel uncomfortable because he kept asking her all kinds of weird questions (I guess weirder than mine); and one day, after I returned to Utah, he called up and chatted with my mom, and told her that he'd had his own designs on Tracy – which of course is why he'd stonewalled me. Before he'd made up his mind to make his move, I'd already contacted Tracy and we were rolling by mail (gloating laugh).
William came home and Tracy soon found him to be a dud, breaking it off with him right around the time my second letter reached her (much to Geraldine's indignation).
Anyway, within a few days of our engagement, we'd picked a wedding date. The truth is that I wanted to get married as soon as possible – like, the following week or something. The London Temple was closed for renovations at the time, and I kept saying, “Let's just go to Frankfurt, who cares? Why are we waiting?”. Obviously, there was a sort of primal element to that – it had become increasingly difficult to control myself around her. Initially we decided on a “no kissing” rule, so that there was no chance things would get out of hand. Mere days later, every cell in my body was shrieking for me to grab her, rip her clothes off, devour her...her eyes, her scent, her skin, they drove me nearly insane with desire. I couldn't control myself, I felt like Odysseus strapped on to the mast of his boat sailing past The Sirens, I'd never wanted anything more in my entire life than to consume her, possess her, overcome her. Totally disconcerted by my (non-spirit-motivated) feelings despite all the fasting, praying, and scripture reading I regularly did (which I must say was excessive), I finally called up Blythe Ahlstrom, my student ward bishop back in Logan.
“I am out of control – I don't know what's happening to me”, I remember saying. “The only reason I haven't totally ravished her is because she won't let me; I'm totally embarrassed of myself. I'm out of control. And she's starting to lose her resolve, too”.
Bishop Ahlstrom said, “Frankly, the only thing you can do is get away from her. If you stay, something's going to happen”.
I think that was the truth; in a way, Tracy and I both knew it, though it amounted to a confession of moral defectiveness. But Vesuvius had begun to explode...What precipitated my call was that one day, sitting on the carpet in her room, I'd even grabbed her and began kissing her big-time, laid her down, rolling my hand up over her shirt...and I knew in that moment, her own powers of resistance had melted away....and she belonged to me...and I was like one neuronal synapse away from ripping her shirt and brasiere open and, well, you know...and somehow – it took every minute particle of willpower I had – I stopped myself before I did. But it scared the hell out of me. I was a returned missionary, a priesthood holder, an Elder in Israel, I had to be strong. So I called Bishop; and Tracy and I decided that it was best that I return back to Utah and prepare things for the wedding, which we had scheduled for December 1 (Tracy wanted to stay in England for her sister's upcoming wedding). Nothing could be more important than remaining faithful to the gospel, and having a temple marriage. Nothing.
And so at the end of the most blissful month either of us had ever had, I got on a plane and flew back to Utah. I wouldn't see Tracy again until she came back months later, in November, just a week or so before the wedding - and that also meant, a week before.......The Big Night.
Well, let me just cut to the chase: The Big Night was a bust. All those times I'd stopped myself from chatting with some unbelievable hottie in Argentina...all those times I'd stopped myself from checking out a Playboy or watching an erotic movie...all those times I'd found my mind wandering and then reproached myself, started singing hymns to myself...and all those times I'd stopped myself with Tracy, both in England and after she arrived a week before the wedding...
In a way, I wonder if through sheer willpower I beat the hell out of some part of my brain, disabled it or something - because I went through the wedding ceremony at the Logan Temple (about as nice as a cult marriage can be), the reception, and we got to the Bed and Breakfast, and...I just...I couldn't mentally switch it all off. I don't know if it's true, but I felt like I had forced some kind of new routing to form in my head through the most intense mental effort over the past however many years, and then, when it came time to go back to my default settings, they wouldn't quite go. I spent nearly an hour in the shower wondering what the hell was about to happen, trying to feel fully okay about it, trying to disengage all the conditioned resistance instincts...
"Okay...gotta pace things...gotta warm her up....yeah...then I'll do *this*, then maybe *that*...actually, I wonder if that's okay to do...shoot...uh, okay....we'll kiss...okay, start over...I come out of the shower, and...and then what? Do I just say, 'let's get started?'. I mean, would it be okay to say that? Is that crude?...And when Packer says, 'keep it natural', what does he actually mean? What if I do something I don't know I'm not supposed to do?...uh...mmmm...."
Long story short is, I just couldn't seem to fully disengage every aversion response I'd conditioned myself to have, all the “you will feel guilt! GO BACK, GO BACK” triggers, and I couldn't just seem to relax and enjoy the experience of being alone with the beautiful girl I'd just married...
So, rather than The Big Man who effortlessly sweeps his new bride off her feet and physically communicates his love for her without fear, without hesitation, without doubt, but with passion and strength and certainty, I was...well, I was not that guy. I know there is something sweet about one's first time being with someone you love and will stay with forever, but I guess I would have liked to feel that fearless, intense, supercharged magic – that one-sliver-away-from-abandon – that confidence, that certainty, that I'd felt in times past before (metaphorically) slamming the door on my sceptre of righteousness (ouch); but I couldn't. I'd been thinking about this, and re-thinking, and re-re-thinking, and overthinking it, along the way steeling myself against illicit erotic thoughts, and when the The Big Night finally came, I just couldn't immediately disengage. I was wigged out; and the whole thing ended up being over nearly before it began, with poor Tracy left puzzling over why so much fuss should be made about what she now "knew" was basically a non-experience. (Fortunately, I got some mojo going within a day or two, and we had a wonderful honeymoon in Victoria, BC [where we now live]).
I had been accepted to BYU for January of 1991 (remember, I'd applied before meeting Tracy so as to find a “choice daughter of Zion”), and so we returned to Utah after spending December in British Columbia (in Victoria and then at my dad's house in White Rock, BC). But actually, there is a bit of a story regarding actually getting back into the United States from B.C.
Tracy had come into the United States on a Visitor's Visa. She had been late for the plane at Heathrow, and she said that the immigration person, in the rush, never asked her anything about how long she planned to stay (or she would have told her "forever"). So, she got married in the U.S. while there on a Visitor's Visa. We then left the country unaware of any potential problem.
Somehow or other, I found out while we were staying at my dad's house that there might be a problem getting Tracy back into the U.S. Turns out, she wasn't supposed to have left the country. She was supposed to have applied for permanent residence while inside. As a consequence, she wouldn't be allowed back in! She'd have to apply for permanent residence from outside the country (I think from her home country), a process which could take many, many months. This obviously would have been a huge blow: I already had an apartment ready to go, everything was ready and planned...and who knew how many hundreds of dollars (that I didn't have) it would take to comply with whatever requirements there were?
Crap. Serious problem. But I did feel like I had a few possible cards up my sleeve. I'd spent my whole life on the US/Canada border, living on both sides, and so had a good feel for the reality that a lot could be done, which was not typically done, as long as one found the “right” border guy; and, I also knew a few “right” border guys – all of whom, not so coincidentally, were fellow Mormons. So, I called one – a man we'll call “Chester Madsen”. His daughter had been my (and my siblings') babysitter when we lived in Lynden, Washington, and Brother Madsen was a US immigration official based at the Blaine, Washington border crossing.
I tracked down the Madsens' number and called up. Fortunately, Bro. Madsen, to my surprise, seemed to remember me well. After some chit chat, I told him I'd just gotten married *in the temple* to a great girl from England...and that I now had a little problem, and asked him if by any chance he could help me. I explained what had happened. His response wasn't very encouraging.
“Hmmmmmm....yes, that is a problem”.
I waited. He continued.
“She can't really come back down........Hm.”.
“I didn't know”, I said.
“Wellllll....”, he drawled. “Phew. Yup, that's a problem”.
Finally, he said, “Well...there is something we could try. When did you want to come down?”
“End of this week”.
Brother Madsen said, “Come on Friday to Blaine with all your stuff loaded. I'm there between noon and eight. Come in and ask for me.”
That Friday afternoon, with all our stuff loaded in the Escort, we pulled up to the Blaine border crossing, parked, and then went in and asked for “Mr. Madsen”. Brother Madsen came out from an office in the back and brought us over to one of the mini-cubicles they have inside, away from everyone else. Looking at Tracy, he said, “So this is your bride, huh? I've known this fella since he was yay high”, etc. He went on to say, “I am going to 'defer your inspection'”. He stamped a piece of paper and said, “After you get down to Utah, go down to the Immigration office and show them this sheet. They might tell you you have to leave the country, but I doubt it. You'll probably be fine. That's the best I can do. Good luck”.
I thanked him, and we were on our way.
About a week later, after we'd gotten settled in Utah, Tracy and I went down to the Immigration Office in Salt Lake City. We were the only white people there; everyone else was Mexican. They all looked like very humble migrant workers. We took a number and sat down to wait in the crowded room, but not before I was filled with a sense of dread: the lady in charge, behind the counter, was an Hispanic lady named Rosa (I've never forgotten her name), and she was totally, completely obnoxious, snide, sarcastic, angry...I could not believe what I was hearing from her. Fortunately Tracy couldn't understand Spanish or she probably would have been so upset she would have wanted to run out. Rosa would call out numbers, and one by one migrant workers would come to the front, only to be berated and humiliated by her, loudly enough for everyone to hear. I felt awful for the guys trying to deal with her; she was an absolute terror, a total bitch, and literally, really cruel.
Finally, she called our number. We approached and showed her the sheet Brother Madsen had given us. She looked over it. Still staring at it, she said, “This is very strange. This is not regular”. She had a slight Spanish accent. It was only then that it dawned on me that Brother Madsen might have really – I mean, * really* - gone out on a limb for us. “Who gave you this?”, she suddenly demanded.
“The man at the border crossing”, I said.
“He gave you this?”, she said.
I nodded. “Yeah”.
She looked over the paper again. “This does not make sense. I have never seen this before. Why would he 'defer inspection' when there is no reason for him to do this?”
“Why is a border guard letting you into the country and telling you to come to this office for inspection? This is wrong.”
Before I could hazard a reply, she snapped, “What is this man's name?”
Well...I am embarrassed to admit it, but now sensing that Bro. Madsen might actually get into serious trouble over this, I mumbled, “I – I....I'm not sure”. I quickly rationalized to myself that technically this was true, since – I reminded myself - I didn't actually know Bro. Madsen's middle name (I could have apprenticed at FARMS, I know). I'm pretty sure his agent number was on the form he'd given me, but I thought maybe I could help protect him a bit...
Rosa then said, “I cannot deal with this right now. You must talk with her”, pointing to a large gringa in a uniform.
Well, as luck would have it, this lady – who interviewed Tracy for the next ten minutes privately – was very nice, and decided for some reason to let Tracy stay, even though Tracy told her every single thing about her trip over, including that she had come over on her Visitor's Visa fully intending to get married. Perhaps that immigration official was a Mormon, too.
About a year later, I was back in BC at dad's house and decided to pop down to the border crossing (only a few minutes away) to say hi to Bro. Madsen, and thank him for his help. I parked and went inside, and asked an officer if “Mr. Madsen” was around. Instantly, the man's demeanour changed and he said curtly, eyeing me over, “Why? Who wants to know?”.
“Oh - I'm just an old friend. I just wanted to say hi”.
“Hm. Well.”, he said, adding with an air of seriousness, “Mr. Madsen doesn't work here anymore”.
I sure hope Bro. Madsen had simply retired.
Well anyway, we got all settled into our basement apartment in Orem, and school at the Lord's University began. Finally, I thought, I won't have to deal with the nutcase leftists swarming around Utah State (boy, could I have used a clue...). Things will be done right, by the book, everything in order, just the way it should be. Yeah - “the Lord's way”.
This impression lasted all of ten minutes on my first day of classes, when I came face to face with Satan's Army camped out in the Wilkinson Center. But that is a story for another day.
I'd had the interview with the bishop, was happy to agree to comply with on-campus grooming and dress standards, paid my application fees, and was rip-roaring ready to go first day of BYU classes, January of 1991. I couldn't wait. Finally – education the way the Lord himself wanted it!
Or was it Satan? I walked into the Wilkinson Center, and *what to my wondering eyes did appear*, but a whole crew of motley, angry students, camped out around tables, protesting against the Persian Gulf War! Posters, pamphlets, flags, flagrant violations of the dress code, of the speech code, of the Twelfth Article of Faith. Torn sweaters, ripped jeans, outrageous piercings, facial hair (OMG!), the works. And there was a lot of shouting.
I went closer. One of the female protesters was in the middle of a heated debate with a clean cut, RM looking guy. The argument didn't seem to be going the protester's way - and that's when she started cursing, big-time. So, I'm standing in the middle of the main building at "the Lord's university", and all of a sudden I'm hearing things like, "Well that's a bunch of f**king bullsh*t! You're an *sshole!", etc., from Ms. Wingnut. I couldn't believe it.
Another student was standing there observing it all. I said, "I thought everyone had to abide by the code here", I said. "So did I", said the student. "So why don't they shut this down?". He shrugged. We looked on for a few more seconds, in disbelief.
"That girl's pretty nuts", I said, nodding toward the curser.
"Yeah. That's Kristin Rushforth. She's always got something to scream about".
I'll be honest - I don't like this sort of thing. I don't mean *protesting*: I mean, a party or institution laying down the law, announcing it will be enforced consistently, and then *not enforcing it consistently*, or in this case, not enforcing it *at all*. WTH? It's like if we all paid taxes, and then the neighbours decide not to pay - but then nothing happens to them. It's not fair. I hate that kind of thing. I always have. So...
...After watching the spectacle for a few more minutes, I walked up the stairs, looking for the office in charge of student code enforcement. I went into one office, which I can't remember the name of now, supposedly in charge of such things, and asked to talk to the person in charge. Long story short, I was told "there's nothing we can do about this right now". This ticked me off even more. How in the world could this university, which in its literature portrayed itself as an uncompromising upholder of everything "lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report", and supremely, quietly confident of its authority, not demonstrate even the most meager spine in backing up its rhetoric? "This is really lame", I thought. At one stroke (like the government which doesn't enforce its laws), the university made being a *good faith complier* synonomous with being a *sucker*. Lame.
In retrospect, I see the university's behaviour - big show, then cowering - as similar to that displayed by certain prominent church apologists these days: they seem rather like caged gorillas, stomping around menacingly as though to scare outside spectators, beating their chests, bearing their teeth, howling and growling, snarling and charging, all of which makes a big impression on their pack subservients; but as soon as someone takes up the challenge and walks into the cage, Big Fierce Gorilla panics like a baby, hightailing it over to the farthest corner or hiding in the back, thumb in mouth, seemingly petrified of any real engagement. (Or...the Cowardly Lion, who after a similarly fake show of bravado, gets a little slap from Dorothy and then starts whining and crying, "BA-HA-HAA...What'd'ya have to go and do that for? BA-HA-Haaa...". It really isn't laughable in the end - just beneath pathetic.)
My RFM friends will probably have guessed by now that I have a hard time leaving certain things alone...so my next stop was the president's office.
I walked in and said to the secretary, "I'd like to talk to Pres. Lee". (Rex Lee).
"May I ask what it's regarding?", she said.
"Sure - it's about the lunatics in the step-down lounge".
The secretary then explained that Pres. Lee would be unavailable to meet with me about that issue, but that I was welcome to write a letter to the Board of Trustees. (I did write one, only to get a completely pathetic brush-off [interestingly, the guy who wrote back on behalf of the board said they had received numerous complaints about Ms. Rushforth]).
(By the way, my quick Google search reveals that after being released from her job as a Delta Airlines Flight Attendant [I can only imagine: "Could I get more peanuts?" "F*CK YOU, CAN'T YOU SEE I'M BUSY, *SSHOLE?!"], in 2002, Ms. Rushforth became an advisor at the University of Utah's LGBT Unit, a move which appears to have coincided with her coming out as "queer" (her word). Her dad, Sam Rushforth, who I am pretty sure was at BYU at the time, is now at UVCC. See: http://media.www.dailyutahchronicle.com/media/storage/paper244/news/2002/04/11/Opinion/Lgbt-Opening.Is.Opportunity.To.Celebrate-234414.shtml).
It may be of interest to some, that one day during this time, the Man, the Myth, the Legend, Hugh Nibley, gave a speech, to which all students were invited. The auditorium was completely packed for Nibley's lecture when I showed up, so I lingered in the doorway for a while, listening. The point of his talk was that The Persian Gulf War did not meet the criteria set forth in Mormon scriptures for a just war (no doubt Mitt Romney would be far more attentive to Mormon scriptures before taking any executive action).
It is a funny thing about us humans - there is often something more alluring about riddles and mysteries and puzzles, even (or perhaps, *especially*) those which are designed to never admit of answer, than about clear advances in understanding. I've often kind of thought that this was one of the attractions of Hugh Nibley. It's kind of the same attraction (albeit in Nibley's case, in miniature and relative insignificance), as that possessed by other fake "geniuses" like Heidegger and Hegel (and even in some ways, Plato) - they are more *hypnotists*, mini-cult leaders, than they are actual Enlighteners (Heidegger was reputedly a spell-binding speaker). Their language, delivery, prose, aura, charisma, their strategic mixture of enigma and bombast, certitude and wonder, etc., leave thousands thinking they now understand something very profound, something hitherto mysterious, when in fact, they don't understand anything new at all - and the evidence for this is that no acolyte is really able ever to give any coherent explanation of what it is exactly they have learned (no wonder the acolytes later spend so much time arguing over what "the master" really meant). Worst of all, no one is ever able to give any concrete reasons for believing that anything The Mystic Master said is even really true.
Anyway, that is kind of how I see Nibley. My recollection that his speech, like his books, was liberally peppered with arcane references seemingly employed more to wow his potential disciples - or lull them into a state of deference or acquiescent stupour - than to truly enlighten them. I thought his lecture seemed like a whole lot of nothing and wandered away after a little while. But in fairness to Hugh, I should say that most of the people there ate it up. Maybe I didn't get something.
Well...I suppose all this so far will make me sound pretty petty, or cranky, or as someone who had unduly high expectations. I can't really defend myself, except against the adjective "unduly". I'm not sure my expectations were "undue" at all, given BYU's own claims for itself.
That first day, I also attended my first political science class at BYU (political science was my major). It was taught by a man who, at that time, I had never heard of: Ray Hillam. I sat down in the big lecture hall, eager to begin learning everything I could about the inspired Constitution from, thank heavens, an actual elder in Israel, someone even with the gift of the Holy Ghost - not like that New York liberal Galderisi, or the flaked-out libertine Mike Lyons, up at Utah State. No - here I would learn about the science of government from men and women who understood the role of divinity in the affairs of men.
Well...I guess I can say that I was surprised by Hillam's class. He spoke like a bitter and jaded man. His lecture that first day appeared to have as its goal, to convince as many students as possible to drop his class. Without cracking a smile, he spoke at length about how difficult his class would be, how many grinding assignments we would be getting, all the reading we would have to do, and then listed book title after book title after book title, saying we would have to read them all, etc., etc.. He ended by saying, "And one last thing - you should all read 'Hondo', by Louis Lamour".
This struck me as fairly unusual for a political science class...but then, after a few seconds of silence, he muttered, "On second thought, it doesn't matter which Louis Lamour book you read...just pick up any one of them and read it. They're all the same, they're all just about teams...it's all just 'good guys and bad guys'. That's all politics is in the end: demonizing opponents, doing whatever it takes to win...it's all just 'good guys and bad guys'". It rather seemed to me that he was saying, "in the real world of politics, facts don't matter, truth doesn't matter, right doesn't matter...*only your team winning*".
Well, the bitter Professor Hillam may have been correct about this, but it struck me, at that time, as very different in spirit from what the men I revered as apostles and prophets said about politics. I'd been reading J. Reuben Clark talks, Ezra Taft Benson talks, David O. McKay talks...in them, there was a palpable sense of love of country, faith that there was something unique and grand about America, that it had a glorious destiny, that its Constitution was precious, functional, inspired - they lauded political service. In short, there was a strong strain of idealism in the talks of the prophets and apostles, which I of course entirely bought into (they *were* prophets, after all) - and so, I didn't really know what to make of a professor at the Lord's university who sounded so cynical, disenchanted. Even the gentile profs at USU seemed more excited about their subject matter than this guy does, I thought. Weird. Anyway, Prof. Hillam had at least one student comply with his apparent wish - I dropped his class after that first lecture.
I also had "Physical Science", a 100 level required GE course. Early on, the teacher mentioned evolution. He then said, with a Hillam-esque air of weariness, "And we might as well get this out of the way right now - I have a different view of how life on earth began than some of the guys over on the other side of campus" (referring to the religion professors over in the religion building). This provoked a chorus of "ooooooh"s in the lecture hall. There are probably devout member lurkers reading this who, I wager, have so bashed around their brains, that they are no longer able to recognize even the most blatant church-sponsored incongruities, so let me try to explain why things like this caused me to feel confused:
You sit in one class at the Lord's university, and your devout Mormon professor tells you, quoting many perfectly clear verses of holy scripture and First Presidency statements in support, that *the truth* is that:
A.) Missourians Adam and Eve were the first human beings on earth;
B.) There was no death of any kind – animal or vegetable - prior to The Fall, around 4000 BC;
C.) The Flood “absolutely” happened, with just the destructive effects described in the scriptures;
You then go over to *another* class at the Lord's university, and your devout Mormon professor there tells you that *the truth* is that:
A1.) Missourians Adam and Eve were NOT the first human beings on earth;
B1.) There WAS death – both animal and vegetable – prior to the Fall (whatever that could now even mean if there was already death) in 4000 BC, and that the fossil record of plants and animals (including humans) is actually *hundreds of thousands of years old, and indisputable (which of course means that the story on which the entire Plan of Salvation hinges, and explains why a Saviour was necessary – that is, that the foundation of your entire life – is some very important respects at least, *false *);
C1.) The Flood “absolutely” did NOT happen, and that life has been constant on this planet for many thousands of years;
Etc., ad nearly infinitum.
It kind of seems that for some folks, who perhaps dispositionally were never really inclined to take Mormonism all that seriously as *the one true way*, but who rather had just grown up with "the church" as a social or cultural presence, this isn't that big a deal. But for others who had no doubt the church was all it claimed, like me, it was irritating and disconcerting.
For some of us, in other words, encountering warring departments at "the Lord's university", each claiming church authority and truth, but fundamentally contradicting each other, each vying for our allegiance, each claiming possession of the "true answer", is disconcerting and confusing. How really can that be, some of us wondered, when BYU claims to be "the Lord's university", under the direction of real live prophets and apostles, all claiming access to SEER STONES? (hence their sustaining as "seers". See Mosiah 8: 13-17). I thought Paul said that God was not "the author of confusion"? Yet, this place so far seemed to be a total bastion of confusion...(?).
It turned out to be okay - even required - for a BYU science teacher to tell his students that the foundational tenets of the Plan of Salvation are nonsense; but when a BYU English teacher mentions to her students that she enjoys praying to her Heavenly Mother, she is fired (which is what happened to Gail Turley Houston). How can internal contradictions, rule by caprice (rather than, in the case of the protesters, by the university's own rules, and even in defiance of their own rules), university authority claims belied by unwillingness to act on those authority claims, be reconciled with a religion claiming to be "true"? "The church is true, but the people aren't?". Is that kind of like, "communism has failed in every country in which it's been tried, but that doesn't mean that *communism per se* is flawed, because they never really practiced 'true communism'"? YES, IT IS. It is exactly the same, and as a slogan, is exactly as stupid, if not more so.
Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is, there was a lot about BYU I didn't get, and that I found off-putting...
But here I've rambled on, and forgotten to mention about what newlywed life was like, and how Tracy was adjusting to life in Orem after a lifetime in faraway Blackburn, Lancashire.
My mother used her maiden name AFTER she and my dad divorced.
And about the evil of rock n' roll - my mom made sure all the kids knew that rock n' roll had corrupted my dad, which is why (she said) she had had to divorce him. I bought this prior to my mission - after playing hours and hours every day all through my teens, I didn't take a guitar on my mission, didn't tell anyone there I played, and planned on never getting involved with pop/rock professionally. I did think my dad was pretty spiritually inferior - all us kids did. It took a while to clarify things.
My dad never violated the Word of Wisdom, served in callings, gave firesides, never fooled around with women, was proud to identify himself as a Mormon and try to convert people, but as my mother grew more devout (not to say fanatical), she viewed him as less and less up to snuff, and seemed to make it one of her missions to transmit that disdain on to her kids - which I'm sorry to say, we all pretty much bought into for some time.
It's like, once a man starts to REALLY fall for a woman, something about the influx of hormones or whatever can make you believe ANYTHING you need to, to be able to chase her. Anything. Like, even that Mormonism is entirely true. My dad, a non-Mormon, fell for my mother. Once she said she wouldn't marry anyone who wasn't a Mormon, guess who experienced a *sincere* conversion? Yeah, my dad. And I don't think for a moment for him it was anything other than a sincere conversion.
I talked to Tracy about posting along with me. One problem is she doesn't like dictating things and wants to type stuff out herself, but isn't that fast a typist yet. Maybe she'll post something soon.
I had the most magnificent horse until we moved here. He was a Tennessee Walker, all black, naturally glossy, 16 h, 9 yrs. old, with a finer head than most of the Walkers, and a real bud. He'd do ANYTHING I asked him to do - run up steep hills, run down them, crash through my arbutus grove, anything. He was a big, strong, sleek, confident boy...we seemed to have an instant, almost magical connection. Literally, the moment I saw him - like, the instant - I looked in his eyes, I knew it, and I instantly said, "how much?". The guy said, "Don't you want to ride him first?". I already knew he was the one, and he was. I wrote a check out to the guy on the spot.
This will sound crazy, but an old cowboy told me that he sometimes felt like he'd established a kind of ESP with his horses. So I'd ridden Apollo over to my dad's place once, and I remembered what this old guy had said, and I decided to try it. I know I probably shifted unconsciously, but I tried not to transmit any signal by shifting my weight or anything, and then I thought really hard, "turn left!" - and do you know, HE INSTANTLY TURNED LEFT! I was like, "Holy Cow! It worked!". Then I thought, "Turn RIGHT" - and he turned right! I kept thinking I was unconsciously shifting and tried to keep still, but for real, it kept working. Have you ever tried that?
I rode him all the time. That really helped me feel better after all the trauma of the church. I sure miss him.
Some of you may have heard that Joseph Smith had himself anointed "king over all the earth" by the twelve...
Well, let's just say that seemed like a pretty easy way to become the king of the earth, so I just finished having a few of my friends anoint me; and I am happy to announce, in an RFM exclusive, that the anointing was successful, and I now have as much authority as my predecessor did, to dictate to everyone on the planet exactly how they should live their lives.
But since I have a special fondness for RFM posters, I've decided (in my graciousness) to allow everyone here to have first crack at asking me for directions.
(Kind of doubting anyone's going to play along with this...).
I take questions on family, relationships, careers, religion, pets, politics (keep it light on here), history, music, sex, sports, travel, literature, fashion, cooking, science, pretty much anything and everything. After all, the priesthood I just gave myself (as Brigham Young pointed out so delicately) gives me the right to dictate about anything, dammit.
So feel free to fire away, my subjects - you can consider this your RFM advice column, courtesy of a real live priesthood monarch.
H.R.H. Talmage, Rex
Some folks may have seen my post the other day, in which I announced I'd just had a few friends anoint me king over the entire earth a la Joseph "Jesus Christ" Smith. Naively, I presumed this announcement would inspire millions to rise up against their fake, illegitimate leaders (democracy: NOT the Lord's real program) and flock to my internet kingdom of Bachmania, begging me to "dictate in all affairs spiritual or temporal", just like the Saints did with Brother Brigham.
Instead, NO ONE'S petitioned their royal highness here for DIDDLEY SQUAT, except for a few RFMers who seemed to think this was (voice dripping with disdain) just a big joke. Hey listen, you ingrates - we of the Blood Royale don't just joke around about these things, okay? Jesus Christ himself came down and told me I was his literal descendant and should control everyone and everything forever - and frankly, I think that should settle the matter for everyone, even the stiffnecked Muslims and Jews and Buddhists and all these other weird people. And if you haven't felt the spirit witness to you that I speak the truth yet, you really just need to keep on praying and fasting until you GET IT. It even says this in a book of scripture I'm writing, so you can be extra confident there's no funny business here.
Anyway, as a result of this ingratitude, I have now decided to PUNISH all of my six billion ungrateful subjects by ABDICATING (I'm taking my sceptre and going home), so everyone can keep on with all their weird pathetic little "democracies" and "constitutions" and "human rights" and "elections" and what-not, and miss out on the joy of having me control their entire lives. Verily, the world lieth in iniquity, and will reap what it hath sown.
I am at peace (high road).
(Formerly) HRH Talmage, Rex
I'm happy to see that someone with a talent for writing has endeavored to embrace it and explore with it. Disregard unkind words and judgement (as I suspect you have) and please keep true to your honest and intuitive nature. Thank you for allowing me and others to read your expressions of life; I appreciate the colorful differences of perspective. While I won't delve into religion, I will say that no matter what differences we all have in beliefs, I'm intrigued by the common thread of good human behavior. If I believe anything, intrinsically, good human behavior is at its core; I generally view the world from that perspective. I've already said more than I intended but thanks for your words. - 12/15/2013 - anon
Since no one has posted here for a while, I kinda doubt you're looking at it, but still -- here goes:
You made a few references in the passage above to things akin to synchronicity, kismet, call it what you will. My day's been kinda like that. I woke this morning to the alarm radio going off. My wife smashed the thing silent almost immediately, but not before one word of the song playing registered in my brain:
--I think you can see where this is going.
My subconscious brain remembered the tune, though not the words, and I was humming it all day. Around lunch I told my wife what had happened, and she pulled out her phone and looked it up, based on hints I gave her about what I thought some other lyrics were.
Well, that was about 12 hours ago, and here are the little bits of weirdness that have had me chuckling all day:
1. We're about the same age.
2. Have lived within a 100 or so miles of one another at different times in our lives.
3. Hold a special place in our hearts for the music of BTO (though likely for different reasons)
4. Are from similar Anglo-Saxon roots, blond-haired, blue-eyed, etc.
5. And both play/have played Rugby -- though you're likely better at it than I am, as I came to it from American football and kinda played it with similar technique (which is never wise...Oh yes -- no helmet on...hmmm...Teeth? Who needs bloody TEETH?!)
Anyway, after listening (and re-listening) to your tune(s) for most of the day, poking around the web, etc I found this site. Enjoyed it immensely, and wish you all the best. Thank you for sharing all that you have (artistically and intellectually) and hope that these many years later, you're doing well. - 10/13/2013 - Robert
Well done! Read it in one sitting. I knew your mother and aunt in highschool in what was then Thunder Bay Ontario. Best wishes. - 03/10/2013 - Vern
Talmage, very refreshing and a very unique gift of writing. I was your wedding photographer and know all your family well.
You and I must be cut from the same cloth and share similar feelings, thoughts and beliefs. I had to escape Logan, shed my Utah wife before I found myself living the life of a recovering Mormon. That freedom can hardly be expressed in words!
Contact me sometime, it would be nice to compare stories and catch up. - 09/22/2010 - Bryan Felt
Tal - thankyou for your story.
I was introduced to literature regarding the falseness of the LDS faith (Mormons) when I was 32. However - after several years I returned to the church. It was a horrible time though. I thought life was over - I planned a suicide when I felt all that I believed in - the core of my soul was a lie. I even doubted as time drove forward that there was any God at all.
In the end - it was one thing only that brought me back. Nothing anyone said or told me made any difference. I felt like other Christian faiths were so weak and incomplete it came across as pitiful and there was no spirit in these men. Keep in mind that I was a returned missionary and had worked very hard on my mission and had watched the conversion of many. As dark as my soul became I kept feeling an internal prompting as I searched if there was a God at all in the universe. No longer was I doing anything the church had taught. I continued at some of those darkest times to search for help. I felt a sense of help from time to time - a deep internal welling up of love and a prompting to read the scriptures. I kept ignoring that second impression for several years.
Eventually though - I began reading again. I read the Bible first because I was angry with the LDS church and felt they had lied to me. I found the New Testament to be the most healing and I began to obey Christian principles again. I felt better - much better about myself like when the "Apostle Paul" spoke about a small mustard seed growing from within. I continued to feel a prompting to read more scriptures but most specifically the Book of Mormon.
When I began reading it - it filled me with a sensation I had not felt in years. I was peaceful inside and clear as to it's truthfulness. It was truly in many parts of it as though speaking with God directly as the words penetrated my doubts and I felt answers coming into my mind to answer the questions I considered - it was for the first time in my life a conversation with thoughts that were not my own. I don't know of any other way to express this but it was most certainly not me but someone else speaking to me and it was something that I had to just relax and let it communicate while I was required to have an open mind and to ask with sincerity and humility.
I struggle with many things even now - especially Joseph Smith and many of the things he did. Emma clearly bore the brunt of all his decisions as well as directions from God - or any that he might've created on his own. However - I believe nothing worth having is meant to feel perfect. Past prophets in history were reviled, hated, accused, slain, scoffed, rediculed. Noah - perhaps one of my favorites is one of those - he was thought to be a fool yet for me he must have been so lonely without friends except for his family - I can only imagine his loneliness and his knowledge and dispair of the fate of all living on earth before the flood came upon them. Even after the flood - it must've been horribly lonely. All humanity was against him - all of them certain he was wrong and all convinced of so much so they made excursions to his ark to laugh at him. None of them reasoned well enough to discover their mistake until it was too late.
My relationships with those I love is comparable as the relationships may be difficult but beautiful and rewarding as I'm unselfish with those I love. I'm blessed for all that I have. I feel you have been the recipient of many gifts. I read on another site that you prayed for "Dog" when he was imprisoned - who I also enjoyed watching. Our prayers are heard regardless of beliefs. He really did have a good heart and tried to help others and deal with his own problems as well. For me - I will not give up my faith after what I've gone through in fact I felt more convinced than ever of it's truthfulness and the mortal weaknesses of Joseph are part of that conviction. No one need apoligize for him - he is a great and remarkable man who accomplished more than most any men have ever dreamed. He was not Jesus Christ - he was not required to die for all the earth yet I believe he will be standing alongside men like Noah when we all come together again.
Mohammad certainly wasn't perfect either - but he was no prophet of God - he committed great attrocities beyond imagination and his followers are taught from the Koran that if infidels can't accept his teachings, their lives are forfeit. His wife fabricated lies after his death which to this day cause endless sorrow in Jerusalem regarding the Dome of the Rock which had absolutely nothing to do with this evil man who has derailed millions.
Nothing in the LDS church teachings are against the teachings of the scriptures or the basic rights of men and according to what God wants for all his children and is certainly the most Christian of all Christian faiths because it's author is Jesus Christ - not Joseph Smith. For instance you expressed frustration that a BYU Women's Team forfeited a game on the Sabbath and therefore lost a national championship and that the leaders of the church are hypocrits. I'm the uncle of one of those girls. She is grateful for what we believe in and she doesn't regret this. Moses revealed God's Ten Commandments - not Joseph Smith. But you seem to be angry that they didn't play. She is happy and moving forward with her life and I admire her. She has become more of a champion in life through her choice than had she played on the Sabbath. She is without regret and free of the vices that come with regret! I believe "Chariots of Fire" was a good expression of this type of choice.
You must also be aware that there were men in the "Book of Mormon" who were not the type of men they should've been. Even one who slept with a prostitute who did much damage to the church in his duties. It didn't make him less in the eyes of God - and he was encouraged to repent and during that instruction from his father it was related that Alma himself had been guilty of much sin but he repented after going into the deepest depths of despair. Joseph Smith spent much of his life repenting of his weaknesses and faults. He was not a fraud - but he was a man and a prophet and when he did wrong things the power of God was withdrawn from him. Even Abraham hesitated to kill his child on the alter. Fortunately my testimony is not based on Joseph however much I'm grateful to him and all the servants of God who have provided us with His teachings - and of course no expression I can offer for what Jesus Christ has given to us. The Book of Mormon is true and it's warnings that we could've lost it are accurate and can still be so. It would be the ruin of many generations should it happen. This is in 3rd Nephi 16:10. Even in the D&C the warning is repeated that should Joseph fail - the message would be withdrawn and revealed at some future day after another length of darkness from living prophets among men.
I believe you are right about many things. The LDS church is prideful. Some of it's highest leaders I suspect are false in nature. It doesn't make them altogether wrong. There are men among them that are also appointed who I feel balance the faults. I'll do what I can to support them but I'll also follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost as they speak to me so that I may know if they are correct or not and I will speak up if they are being false should the church be commanded to not follow God. A gift you also have. I wish I'd have known you when you were in Utah. I would've been grateful for your friendship. There are many of us who survived what you have passed through both with the alternate result - now active in the church or in many cases somewhat inactive but believers who simply keep their mouths shut and are needed among us.
- 04/26/2010 - Steve Jensen
Very cool story. You write very well. - 03/28/2010 - Bonnie
Man, I can't believe how brainwashed Mormons are. I grew up on your dad's music and somehow, I still can't reconcile how such great music can be created within an ethos bent on stifling creativity with its blind adherance to authority. I'm so sorry you had to grow up with that, and as a result, judge the rest of humanity on that basis.
Oh well, each to their own. - 03/17/2010 - trublwithnormal
Loved the love story. - 01/08/2010 - Meriaten
I was looking up something and happened across your story. It was so compeling that I have spent my whole evening reading it. Regardless of what you think about a particular religion, it seems to me that God helped you find Tracy! Thanks for writing your story, it was fun! - 09/09/2009 - John
have u broken up with your wife? what about your 18 children? good thing fmep makes you only pay up to 6. that's alot of baggage for your next honey. i guess you threw the baby out with the bath water. too bad. seems like the church may have had some value ...... if it wasn't for the church it sounds from your story you would not have met her. - 12/19/2008 - wondering
I played little league football and was really good. In high school I was big enough and fast enough to get a scholarship to college. Then I didn't stand out, in fact I sat out. I decided football wasn't true. My high school couch was a genius and my college couch was an idiot. Everyone has a point of weakness and none of us want to take responsibility or admit that weakness.
I was a missionary in Winnipeg in 1970. I met your parents and was invited to your home on several occasions. They were both awesome people.
Your ramblings sound like you're lost and are trying to decide how you got to this point. Kind of like a child explaining to a policeman how he got lost. So much for the "high road". I'm sorry for you! - 12/14/2008 - MCL
Hello, Your story has fascinated me. I'm not sure how but I found it a few days ago while I was looking up some information about your dad. Just had to come back to find out more. With love in your life and work you enjoy, be well, be happy, be free. Peace. - 07/09/2008 - cee em jay
dude why do you think we care about your life enough to read all of this? maybe this writing is more for you than us. I think so. as far as your church experience goes...yeah that is life...being raise into a particular existence and discovering for yourself what you like/dislike about it...and make your choices from there. We all go through it...and yes it is very personal...it is called your life that is why it is so personal. As far as the truth or not truth of a church...you are really waisting your time there. It is just history and someones opinion. The only history and opinion that matters is ones own. So to find truth to talk about someone else point of view is worthless. I'm on a road similar to yours...we all are to discover truth for ourselves even if it takes us down paths that are not so likely. but to save you some time focus on your own life and not some church...you'll find truth that way a lot faster. - 03/03/2008 - gsm
Hard to follow and lacked direction. I would recommend the book *Elements of Style*
You seem to be struggling with something and are using Mormonism as a focal point.
I hope you get it figured out - 02/01/2008 - mdd
Dear Mr Bachman,
I have loved your Dad's music since I was a teen, in the 1970's. I am now 46 years old and just remembering that music makes me smile.
I sincerely enjoyed your story and that of your wife, Tracy's too. You are an exceptional man, and I am sure a fantastic lover. I am enlightened and greatful to kow that there are still valiant and worthwile people in this world who genuinely care for those with whom they come in contact. I am a formeer Mormon myself, and I must say that although I miss many things about the church, I have to live and be myself.
I am a happily married gay man with 4 adult childred (blended family) and 2 wonderful grandchildren. I truly believe this is my plan from God, as finally my life is filled with peace and happiness, for which i strove so hard for in my meager years of life.
I sincerely, wish you and your wife and family all the best in the world and again thank you for the privilege of sharing your story. I am not alone.
Sincerely, Russell B - 10/13/2007
a good if somewhat rambling narrative. The whole point is, what brought you to leave the church? Get on with it, already. That is the meat anyone reading should get. - 09/22/2007 - astropithecus
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Talmage "Tal" Bachman (born August 13, 1968 in Winnipeg, Manitoba) is a Canadian one-hit wonder from Vancouver, British Columbia, currently living in Victoria, BC. He is best known for his late 1999 hit, "She's So High," from his self-titled 1999 album."
Any more on the way? - 09/07/2007 - Wikipedia
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I found it very touching especially the part about your dad. I have been in the process of leaving for awhile, Taught Gospel Doctrine and left out references to "authority", and taught Relief Society and left out mention of D and C and related. I used only New Testament references. No one noticed. If I have to hear one more mention of "follow the brethren" I will throw up.
I transferred from USU to BYU in 1971 to help my testimony and have stayed active but a "closet rebel" all this time. Finally just stopped going last September. My big concern is my daughter who after 2 years of school here in Alaska is going to USU this fall. - 06/22/2007 - Joy Blumell
Please continue, I need more,these are better than the nightly soaps. - 04/02/2007 - anon
great biography -- when will you post the next section? - 12/19/2006 - anon
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