I grew up as an only child. When I was very young, before starting kindergarten, I spent a great deal of time playing by myself. I was either a natural born introvert or I adapted to that circumstance early on (there weren’t a lot of playmates around) and was perfectly happy amusing myself. Current science on introverts

says it’s probably in our DNA. My mother was a real extrovert, but my dad was a solitary brooder. He could fake extroversion if he had to and I appear to have inherited that ability—but I am unquestionably an introvert. However, I only brood some of the time.

We lived in a strange little house on a vast lot. It consisted of four beach cabins (those turn of the nineteenth century changing/camping cabins that sat on the sand) which had been strung together to make the core of a small house: two bedrooms, one bath. Add-ons on the back gave it a kitchen, a laundry room, and later a den. Because of its origin as beach cabins the front porch sported four front doors which confused the heck out of salespeople and first-time visitors. The backyard was enormous, taken up by a huge vegetable garden on the northwest side and on the southwest side by a tumble-down pair of shacks referred to as “the garage,” though no vehicles ever parked there. Mostly it held my father’s vast collection of tools and whatever odds and ends of junk he decided to hold on to.

On the front of the lot sat a giant California bungalow style house where our landlady lived. Sandwiched between these two houses was a smallish “front yard” which I loved to play in, especially in a tight little corner (maybe ten feet square) on the northeast side where the two houses were closest to each other. This alcove had a fence on the north holding a massive cascade of yellow climbing roses and against the west side a thick growth of calla lilies underneath my bedroom window. My alcove was shaded by the proximity of the two houses and the fence, always cool in the summertime, and protected in winter. The grass seemed softer there, somehow, and hugged by the houses it was a cool, quiet, secluded place for my imagination to run free.

It was during these solitary play dates with myself that I developed a strange “ability.” I was maybe three or four at the time. I came to believe—though what magical thinking led me to this conclusion is lost to time—that if I jumped into the air with a certain attitude, a kind of unqualified belief mindset (though I could hardly have categorized it that way to myself at the time), I could float in the air until I chose to come back to earth. I used to “do” this frequently. I clearly remember this feeling of my feet leaving the ground and me hovering—usually a few feet above the ground—floating but still me, still in my body. But one day I jumped into the air and felt lighter, more insubstantial, and I just kept going up. I remember floating past the roof line, up, up until I was maybe fifteen to twenty feet above it. I looked down on the shingles in shock. Then I looked up. I could see my father in the backyard working in the garden and that made me scared. I dropped back into my body with a thud. It was the only time I’d felt like I’d been out of my body, and I stood in shock for a minute then ran inside the house to hide in my bedroom. I don’t remember doing my floating trick again after that. In fact, I forgot all about it, as young children often do. Years later when I was eight or nine I suddenly remembered that I used to do that trick and tried to recapture the mindset but I never could. I jumped and jumped but inevitably came right back down to earth.

I’ve wondered, looking back as an adult, if during that extraordinary high air float I was actually astral projecting or having an out of body experience (OBE), but who knows?

The only other time I’ve felt something like that was when I was nineteen or twenty. I was going to college during the day and working night shifts (about thirty hours a week) in West LA at an answering service. I usually got off between 9:00 and 10:00 but this night due to a cock up in scheduling I didn’t get off until 11 or 11:30. I was exhausted. While driving home along a very familiar route that I could do in my sleep I guess I literally did it in my sleep. I was stopped at a light and realized my head and shoulders had floated through the roof of my VW Bug and was staring out at the street from a couple of feet above it. When I realized this the shock sent me plummeting back into myself with another thud. I was wide awake and adrenaline fueled after that.

Waking dreams? Astral projection? Overactive imagination? A Mystic mumbo jumbo combo? I can’t say, but those “memories” are so vivid. According to science,

one in ten people experience OBEs in their life. Some people even try to induce these experiences on purpose. But not me. Whatever I experienced was so deeply unsettling I’ve never sought to repeat it.

I’ve started an ambitious and decidedly strange project. I’ve had a lot of weird things happen in my life. Some are really crazy, most more mundane, but a steady accumulation of odd things that sometimes make for interesting stories. And I am, above all, a storyteller. I’m also of an age where if I don’t tell these stories now my personal library will burn down without them ever being shared. So, I’m going to attempt to recount all the weird things that have ever happened to me, told in roughly chronological order—or as close to that as I can remember.

Some of these stories have been told before in other venues, some have not. Some are funny, some are not. We’ll see if they’re as interesting to others as they are to me and my friends. Where possible I’ll relate them to a larger cultural context, using research into psychology, the paranormal, science, history or whatever else seems relevant. That means, thankfully, this will not be exclusively about me—because I am far from endlessly fascinating. I may invite others to tell their own weird stories, either directly or (if they’re too shy) through me. That is, of course, dependent on whether others are as willing as I to make public confessions. I’m relatively sure others have similar stories, many of them much more interesting. If anyone reading this would like to share, please contact me.

Will anyone read this series? I haven’t got a clue. It’s just something I feel the need to do even if I’m speaking in an echo chamber. Because, as I’ve said before, time is not infinite.

So, to begin.

The first odd thing I mean to share is not such a strangeness in and of itself except in context. It’s about my earliest memory and more broadly about what science has to say about memory itself:

I floated on a raft on a scorching hot day. The sun insisted on brightness in a frighteningly enormous sky, and there was not a breath of air, but I was cool near the water. And happy. The water smelled fresh, my wet clothes insulated me from the heat, and I floated at the center of the universe.

The raft bob-bob-bobbed and my father’s elbow rested on its edge near where I lay, everything from his shoulders down hidden by dark water. His voice was gentle as he talked to me, but his words have been swept away by the unrelenting tide of time.

I don’t know where my mother was. She had to have been there, but she doesn’t exist in this memory, one of the few times she didn’t loom like God Herself in the background.

My father plucked me from the raft and held me in the water. It felt right, my natural element, and I loved the wet embrace of the river. I may have purled with laughter. Or that may be something I made up later.

My mother told me I couldn’t remember any of this, not really. She said I wasn’t even one yet because they hadn’t swum at Ballona Creek past that time.

It was Ballona Creek, right?

I believe there is a picture of that raft, that river, my dad in swimming trunks, and my mother and I, but I don’t know where it is. The science of memory

says I may have used that picture to conjure up the whole confabulation of floating because I couldn’t possibly remember anything from such an early age. Certainly, my next earliest memory skips forward a few years in time, but this earliest memory is insistent, and I may have to beg to differ with my mother and the science of memory. And didn’t Jung say part of the psyche exists outside of us? This is a memory of the psyche, a pearl hidden in the tight embrace of my brain. I’m keeping it. Because I found my element that day, the water, and because it’s one of the few uncontaminated memories I have of my father.

Oh hell, that’s not true. I have a lot of good memories of my father. Memory is the trickiest son of a bitch there is and insists on presenting itself as a respectable, churchgoing truthsayer. It’s true, however, that the bad memories of Dad, coming later in the timeline, do somewhat overbalance the good. I have to root out the good memories, pull them from the muck and hose them off to recapture their likeness. But they do exist. Even in abundance.

My mother was the same way about memories. If stupid things like facts contradicted the way she remembered, they had to be wrong, and the memories of others? Not even to be considered. My mother’s version of events was the official story.

And so say all of us.

In discussing this with my friend, L., she relayed her earliest memory:

She was lying in her crib, or maybe her first “big girl” bed, and looking up at the mobile that hung over it. It was a lovely thing, a bunch of Pegasus figures flying round and round in the air currents. Later, when she mentioned this as an adult to her mother, Mom said, “We never had anything like that in your room.”

So who was misremembering?

The default prejudice is that the child must be mistaken. But where did that memory come from? Or did that dancing mobile of Pegasus figures exist—but only L. could see them? Children, they say, are able to see things adults no longer can…

But that gets into a whole other weird territory that is beyond the scope of this entry. Let’s put it down to the gossamer of memory and leave it at that.

Random quote of the day:

“The memories of childhood are like clear candles in an acre of night, illuminating fixed scenes from the surrounding darkness.

—Carson McCullers, “The Orphanage,” Collected Stories of Carson McCullers

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Bert and Ernie, Celine Dion, or the Band of the Coldstream Guards. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I once knew a woman who was an echo chamber. She echoed things she’d heard other people say and pass it off as her own wisdom. I caught her at this several times (although I never confronted her with it). She once even echoed back something I’d said to her without remembering where she’d heard it from. She was also fond of spouting platitudes (another form of echo, really), and I took to calling her Platitude Woman to my friends. But this strategy worked, for the most part. She projected an image of competence and charm, even if it was only skin deep.

There had to be something more to her, I know there was something more to her, but she was so broken, so tragic-playing-at-I’m-fine, so holding herself together with bits of wire and cellophane tape, so wanting to be thought wise and whole and strong and charming that, it seems to me, she only had these echoes to sustain her.

Surely there had to be more.

Surely there were things in that years-long blank in her memory of her childhood that she sometimes talked to me about that made the hollow sound of other people’s thoughts and words preferable to anything genuine from her own psyche. She drove me crazy so much of the time with her terrifying need to talk about I-me-mine, turning every conversation no matter how far afield back to a discussion of herself and her family and the bad old days. She steadfastly refused therapy, saying she was scared of what she might find out.

I used to think it was my duty to listen to every person who needed to talk, to use my empathy in an attempt to rescue and to heal. This woman cured me (mostly) of that. I have, at least, learned that I have limits, that at a certain point I will damage myself if I persist in my savior complex. That, really, it is an insult to the needy person to think that I know best, that I can turn things around for them.

But it’s so easy to slip back into that fantasy of being able to fix people. I regularly wound up in the glide path of needy people who engaged my empathy. I was frequently told I was such a good listener. I suffered from the delusion that I could rescue people, help fix them. But it is a delusion. You can listen, you can help, point them in the direction of people who are trained to actually help, but ultimately people have to find the will to fix themselves. It’s not weakness of character that turns needy people away from that will to change. Some, like my echoing friend, are so broken it doesn’t even seem an option to them. Especially if that brokenness happened in childhood.

The echoing woman drained me dry—physically, emotionally, spiritually. I sat next to her at work every day for years and couldn’t escape those conversations. Some days as soon as my feet hit the door she started talking until finally I’d have to say, “I really need to get some work done” and turn my back on her. But I felt her staring at my back, willing me to turn around, needing me to listen. Some days I had to get up from my desk and take long walks around the building just to keep my sanity.

Then she injured her back, had surgery, followed by heavy duty pain medicines, developed a problem, was carried along at work by those of us who cared for until she was finally urged by management to consider retirement. Her job was an important part of her ego structure and it took a great deal of increasingly strong persuasion to get her to finally agree to it. The urging became another source of her victimization: she was doing a great job, anyone could see that, and the company was picking on her. Those of us who had actually been doing her work, even those of us who did not usually come down on the side of the company vs. the employee, tried to make it as easy as we could without feeding her sense of outraged victimization. It was not easy.

She had nothing left to anchor her at that point. I think, finally, she found relief from the echo chamber of trauma in her mind and soul by numbing them instead of dealing with them. I can’t judge her for that. What I heard of the parts of her childhood and young life that she did remember was pretty bad. Her mother was schizotypal in a time when that diagnosis wasn’t common, and, like my echoing friend, never got treatment. A brother and a sister were diagnosed, years later, and a third brother was frequently homeless and living on the margins. The burden of caring for them often fell on my echoing friend’s shoulders. Her brothers, who she’d fought so hard to take care of and shepherd through a heartless system, died within twenty-four hours of each other. The sister finally reconciled with her estranged son and he took over her care. Then came the drugs, and my echoing friend let go completely. She retreated into dreams, to a place where the harsh sounds were muted, where someone else could take over the burden of being wise and held together with wire and bits of cellophane. Where she could turn her face away from the world and slowly, peacefully slip into death.

Surely, there must have been something more. I still sometimes wish I could have fixed her, though she’s been gone years now. I hope she found healing on the other side of dreams, the other side of sweet oblivion.

But I’ll never know. Or, at least, not until I slip into the other side of my dreams.





Random quote of the day:

“Most of our earliest programming comes from our parents. Whether we like it or realize it, we absorb their habits and beliefs at an age when we are under their control and unable to do much about it. Their concerns and values act on us for the better part of our lives, and unless we redefine ourselves and form our own beliefs, we continue to run our parents’ programs in our thoughts and actions.”

—Famous Amos, Watermelon Magic

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The notion of a ‘happy’—’unhappy’—childhood assumes a perspective much removed from actual daily, hourly life. Artificial polarities.”

—Joyce Carol Oates, Twitterfeed, May 24, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“In almost everyone’s childhood there is some magical spot; some nexus where the everyday world touches another universe.”

—Robert J. Howe, Introduction, Coney Island Wonder Stories

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“You do not chop off a section of your imaginative substance and make a book specifically for children, for—if you are honest—you have no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. It is all endless and all one.”

—P. L. Travers, quoted in Sticks and Stones by Jack Zipes


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.


Random quote of the day:

“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.”

—Edna St. Vincent Millay,
“Childhood Is The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies”

You can read the entire remarkable poem here.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“There are few things, apparently, more helpful to a writer than having once been a weird little kid.

—Katherine Paterson, Gates of Excellence


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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