Papa. Part three. On what would have been his 74th birthday.

When Jaime and I were little our parents dragged us to Hawaii on what was a bad enough trip that I hope to never return there. But there were two things I remember fondly. I remember being in a traditional jewelry store and I that we actually got pooka shell necklaces. We NEVER got gifts unless it was a birthday or Christmas. So this was huge. I think there was something to do with leaves dipped in gold, too, but that’s murky. But the best part was when dad rented a catamaran and took us girls out alone. We got going so fast and I remember having my feet overboard and dragging through the water as we sped through it. That was actually fun. And I hate water.

When we got back I got him a window sticker of a sailing ship that he put on the sliding glass door of his bedroom. The song ‘Sailing’ by Christopher Cross was popular and he loved that song. And for me it took me back to the catamaran. After we lost dad, Jaime and I got part of that song tattooed on us in his favorite color. “Just a dream and the wind to carry me, and soon I will be free…” I just asked Alexa to play it for me so I can hear it as I write this. It makes me smile. It was the perfect choice to represent the best parts of our dad. At times he was truly amazing. What a great sense of humor he used to have. Irreverent and quick and sarcastic. And sometimes so very bad that all you could do was groan. He did an excellent imitation of Inspector Clouseau- the Peter Sellers one. God he loved those movies. I more enjoyed him enjoying them. I could never really get there myself. But we all liked Steve Martin’s reboot which was a great thing. When answering machines were a thing he could do a great Clouseau outgoing message. It’s weird to think that’s all gone now. From answering machines to Alexa. Wow.

Dad loved camping and outdoor hikes. And because he knew so much about plants and rocks he was always teaching us about them. I’ll be damned if I remember any of it. But I love that he taught us anyway. He was so passionate about those things. It was just great to listen to him talk even if you knew you’d never remember any of it. I spent a great trip alone with him at the North end of the Grand Canyon. We went there because no one else did. He didn’t like people. He even had me hide behind some trees once on a hike so we wouldn’t have to make small talk with passersby. There was a great moon on that trip and I have pictures somewhere. I suppose I’ll have to look for those too.

Skipping over a lot of bad, there was the time he took us hiking through his creek not long after he had major heart surgery. And he was always taking us shooting- he thought it important that we knew how to handle firearms. And he’d drive his mule (a golf-cart-like thing) at reckless speeds though his actual driving had turned tortoise slow. Gone were the days when we sped along listening to Enya and he made up English words for her Gaelic songs. “Hard soup bones, hurt feetsies” was my favorite. But I swear I have no idea how he never dumped me out of that mule or turned the whole damn thing on it’s side. And then he’d skid to a stop to make sure he didn’t hit the snake sunning itself. That was the dad I choose to remember. The on that learned FaceTime so he could see his daughters. The one who admitted he wasn’t always good at things but he still tried.  The one that made sure to always tell us he loved us just in case. The one that made an effort to be better than his mother. The one that could barely move from his hospital bed but kept raising his arms to try to hug us even though he couldn’t. The one hat nodded furiously that he loved us because he couldn’t talk with the tube in his throat. 

I wish I could have shown him the beauty of Ireland and Scotland. I wish so many things. But right now, most of all, I wish I could wish him Happy Birthday and look forward to the next one. I wish I could be making plans to see him. I wish I could tell him about my new job he wouldn’t understand. So Happy Birthday, Papa. I miss you every day. But especially today. I love you.

Papa. Part two. On what would have been his 74th birthday.

My mom and dad in the 60sAfter my parents split up, they both turned weird. I blame a lot of this on he fact that it was the 80s. A decade that encouraged adults to be incredibly selfish. Who knows if they would have even split up if the times were different? But they weren’t. So they did. 

My dad particularly turned into an asshat. He got himself some young girlfriend only 10 yrs older than me and actually brought her to our house. I was so disgusted. I still remember the pink spaghetti-strap tank top she was wearing with no bra. I was in a long blue shirt reminiscent of the 20s with matching long tied pearls. They were in the garage. I left.  

His behavior was unchecked without my mother around and he began letting his anger run free. He yelled at people out of the car window. I told him I didn’t want to be around him anymore until he behaved like an adult. He tried to blame my mother, but I told him she had nothing to do with it- that it was his own behavior I found unacceptable. He seemed to take me seriously and settled down for a bit and I started visiting him again, though not very often.

But a very positive thing from this time was that he learned to make stained glass. And he was excellent at it. 

He made many beautiful pieces, but I only have a couple of them. He made me pink roses because he knew I loved them. And he made me Hedwig because we both loved Harry Potter. Though he was cheap and would always wait for the paperbacks to come out which drove me crazy as I always consumed the hardbacks within 48 hours of release and then couldn’t say anything. But I digress. 

He made my sister many more pieces, but that was because he also made me small wooden replicas of vehicles from the old west because as a young adult I spent 11 years doing a Nevada history show that took place in the old west. 

We also spent a lot of quality time in Virginia City. It’s a wonderful ghost town. It’s almost like walking straight into the past. The old west is still very alive there. We took pictures and toured and walked and took the train and drank at The Bucket of Blood Saloon. We had a great trip to one of the old cemeteries looking at the old markers. We found a lizard that he played with for a while. I think I filmed it and have it in a box somewhere. I’m sure I’ll look for it someday. Everyone interested in history should go to Virginia City.

My dad was a soil scientist and spent a lot of time digging in the desert and writing reports. But he hated that job so quit and drifted around through meaningless jobs for years. He used to bring back treasures from the desert. At one time he found a cache of discarded hotel trash that included monogrammed silverware from hotels that no longer existed. He flattened the silverware and attached the pieces to driftwood and made my sister and me wind chimes. They’re beautiful. Like everything he made.

Papa made a lot of bad choices in his life. But that can be said of most of us. I could focus on that, or I can remember what he got right. I choose that one.

Papa. Part one. On what would have been his 74th birthday.

When I was a little girl of six, we moved into a bigger house in a newer neighborhood. In the backyard was this beautiful Weeping Willow. I’d never seen one before and I found it’s natural ability to be a secret hiding place irresistible. But my parents wanted a pool so they pulled out my tree. It wasn’t all bad. My sister and I got an awful lot of use out of that pool over the years. My dad built a slide for the pool out of lava rock and poured cement. Not quite sure why it didn’t occur to him that those weren’t necessarily slippery, and therefore slide-worthy, but he went ahead with his plan. When it didn’t work, I remember him placing plastic over the cement slide so that it would be slippery, and I think he had a hose feeding water down it. But there was no sliding on that thing. The lava mountain he had built interspersed with plants was pretty enough, and the poured concrete steps up to the slide were great, but there was no salvaging that mess of a slide. So he buckled and bought a real one. One of those blue fiberglass numbers with its own running water to aid in sliding. We used the heck out of that thing too. It was Las Vegas in the late 70s and early 80s and it was HOT. So from the first of May until September we were out there pretty much daily. Sometimes dad would play with us and let us jump off his shoulders or chase us pretending to be a shark and we had to go to the oven if we were caught. (Which was the loveseat.) For some reason my dad also decided to cover the ground with some weird flowering ground cover instead of grass, which just brought wasps that would sting your feet, although once I even got stung between my fingers. But as a little kid you don’t mind that stuff so much. Jaime, my sister-younger by three years-and I had impressive tan lines every year and baked ourselves into very brown little children. Jaime was blond and blue-eyed, but still soaked up the rays. And I had long dark hair with eyes just as dark. My tanning added an ethnicity to my look that was completely undeserved, but there it was. 

Dad was great with his hands despite the previously mentioned escapade.  He was always making something. And at our previous house he built a tall, beautiful wooden fence that still stands elegantly today despite the house falling to shit due to lazy owners. He loved to build radio controlled airplanes and radio controlled cars. The planes he just flew around the neighborhood, but he actually raced the cars. I would act as his pit crew and run out into the course and flip the car back right side up, quickly running back again not to disturb the ongoing race. I loved that. 

Sometimes he took us to real racetracks where it was thunderously loud and the smell of gasoline and oil was overpowering. But somehow he made it feel special that we got to be there. I don’t really remember much else about the experience besides the noise, smell, and feeling special. Yet I grew up to like British TopGear, hate American Top Gear, and have no love for NASCAR. Blech. 

We also spent a lot of time with my dad’s brother and his family a lot when my sister and I were little. They lived hours away in the mountains of Southern California but we went most weekends. My mom and my aunt would play cribbage and drink wine. My dad and uncle would play pasture golf and drink beer. Pasture golf was made up by my uncle. There were holes in the ground filled with coffee cans with long pvc pipes poking out to mark them. The balls were tennis balls and mainly you had to avoid the poison oak and the lake. I have no idea if anyone ever won. 

But by the time I was twelve, everything changed. 

My name’s blurry face and I care what you think….

Yeah so it’s a weird line from a song, but it fits this story. 

Yesterday, the rain was supposed to stop in the 1 o’clock hour. I checked before I went to work. So it was going to be wet when I went in, but be dry by lunch. I didn’t even bring my umbrella in from the car. 

Lunch was great. Mom brought me baked potatoes from home with garlic bread and I got a tea from Coffee Bean and we sat outside. It was a lovely day. When it started to sprinkle we didn’t worry because we were under an umbrella. The clouds turned black and lightning and thunder started, but this was Las Vegas. So no worries. Just a great show. There were kids in the park taking prom pictures across the street from where we sat. They giggled and took refuge under the pagoda. 

It was time to go back from lunch, so mom and I headed back to the store. Suddenly the rain really started coming down. It was bad, but not too bad. But then suddenly it was and we were running. And there was nowhere left to take refuge- we just had to run. And then it took on true storm status and came at us sideways in sheets. The store seemed impossibly far away, but we finally got there and I wrenched open the door and we ran inside. 

And the whole place stopped and turned and stared. 

It was like walking into a hostile saloon.

We were soaked and dripping all over the floor and people just stared. I was over that real quick and brought my mom to the back where the paper towels were so we could attempt repairs. But once I really saw the damage I realized that was impossible. I was soaked through, only having worn light protection. My hair was wet as if I had showered. I’ve never been that wet and not been in a pool. I got a new dry shirt to wear over my other wet clothes, but had to fend for myself otherwise. I tried to wipe the raccoon eyes away, but there was not much I could do. My pants were soaked. My socks and shoes were soaked. My hair was still dripping. My bra was soggy. 

I was cold and miserable, but I carried on. I mean, it was funny. Sort of.

Mom got to go home and dry off but I still had half a shift. I heard lots of “I wouldn’t have stayed” from my co-workers, but I felt I had to. 

But it sure would have been nice to hear from any manager a ‘thank you’ for staying. Not one of them said anything. I suppose I shouldn’t expect any human response from them. That makes me sad. 

So I had an adventure and it wasn’t all bad and was kinda funny.

But I was happy today was sunny and I limited my adventure to coffee instead of tea. 

**POSTSCRIPT** I talked to one of the managers and plan on talking to the others that were there. The one I talked to was very sorry the opportunity was missed- so all good. One more manager that meant to say but forgot! My faith is renewed. 😀

Quiet

I used to talk too much when I was little. Got in trouble for it all the time. Teachers had to practically bribe me to be quiet.  Isn’t it funny how it all changes? In college, teachers have to pull … Continue reading

Some Foul Play

You know, you probably aren’t supposed to learn things from a film starring Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, Burgess Meredith, Billy Barty and Dudley Moore.

But I grew up on a little movie called ‘Foul Play’ that we watched constantly when I was a fairly small child, and thereafter as well. Yes, I was too young for some of it at the time, but those bits honestly went straight over my head and never caused me to grow up too fast or anything silly like that. 

The following is a list of a few things that did stay with me, however, as I am reminded while I watch on this New Year’s Day -almost 40 years after it was made. 

1. The Mikado is very short for an Opera, and has a rather memorable beginning.

2. The basic swear words will take you everywhere you need to go linguistically. “Shit” and “Goddammit” cover most things, while in a really bad jam, all you need is, “Far Out”.

3. Bridesmaid dresses should be great for weddings, a night out on the town, and kidnapping scenarios where running is involved.

4. Snakes should never smoke cigarettes, but are occasionally allowed cookies.

5. Dirty Scrabble is a damn sight harder than it looks. Far Out.

6. Good cops only live on houseboats. 

7. Leaving up old flying scenery is helpful for keeping dead bodies off the stage during a performance.

8. Never take a first date to a retrospective film and expect him to buy the popcorn.

9. Beware of the dwarf. Especially if he’s selling fancy bibles.

10. Always take chances again.

11. Never leave home without your umbrella. 

  

An Open Letter to a-ha: An Impassioned Plea

To Paul (Pål), Magne, and Morten,

I’m an American and have been an a-ha fan, to put it mildly, for the whole thirty years now. I am not alone. I am positive there are many, many Americans with stories just like mine. We were teased in high school for being loyal fans to a band, that as far as they were concerned, wasn’t putting out any music and just had that one song. Jealousies from people around us that couldn’t understand why we spent so much time at the magazine rack pouring through for any blip of what was going on in the world of a-ha. We sifted through the ALL the bins in record stores hoping for specialties or missed items. The hours spent in front of MTV waiting for any new release or any interview and frantically taping them on our brand new VCR machines. We stuck Norwegian word stickers on objects around the house (much to the disdain of our parents) so that we could be just that little bit closer. Making scrapbooks out of our discovered treasures of anything we could find on any of you. Pouring over those scrapbooks for any new information or just for the joy of knowing something about the best musicians we had ever heard. Some of us even wished to be popular musicians just for the chance to meet you all. Or all the years wishing we lived somewhere where you never went away.

We followed into the new era of CDs and bought them even though we already had the records, cassette tapes, singles, Maxi-singles, and special editions. We didn’t mind. We were honored to help sales in any way we could. Pictures and framed posters adorned our walls when everyone else was putting up those New Wave prints. We went to the opening day of ‘The Living Daylights’, not only to hear the new song, but also to see a-ha in print on the big screen. We were, and are, so very proud!

It became harder and harder to follow what was going on as you disappeared from American screens, but we held on, and were rewarded with hearing ‘Dark is the Night for All’ on the radio. Ah, what a joy that was. I’ll never forget it.

And then came this mysterious internet. My first search was a-ha as I’m sure was the case with the rest of the American fans. We found you! Others were keeping the vigil alive! What a thrill that was! Finally updates after so many years of silence! Hard to find the words to describe how wondrous that felt to be reunited in a sense. Needless to say, we never let go.

And then the magical day came when you came back to the U.S. in 2005 and expected little response and were yet overwhelmed by us all clamoring for tickets to the small space Paul thought would be perfect. Those of us that had not been fortunate enough to see you in 1986 FINALLY got our chance. And we weren’t let down. You were just as wonderful, and funny, and talented as we always knew you were. It was almost a sense of justification. And it was beautiful.

We got to start all over again, just on a new medium with the internet. We got to follow all of your side projects and support those as well. We made dolls when Mags asked, and excitedly spoke with Lauren on MySpace. You were closer than ever. We bought new albums as they came out again, and jumped forgot when they played ‘I Wish I Cared’ at the end of a ‘Smallville’ episode and they actually advertised the album at the end of the show!

By this time, many had been, and still were, flying to other countries to see you, as before the New York show, we never expected you back. And in New York, Mags promised you would be back, and you honored that promise in 2010 with the Farewell Tour. Some of us flew all over the states again, but some of us just picked one city. I got to meet more fans as I had in 2005, and what kind people! Just giving and helpful and truly generous of spirit. That says a lot about the three of you that these are the kinds of fans you are bringing together. It’s such a lovely community of people. We have kept in touch on Facebook and have shared our thoughts, our goings on, our artwork and even our tattoos!

And then the incredible happened! A new album and a new tour! and we ate up the album as we had all the others and awaited the happy announcement of North America dates for the tour. But just recently, the last days were announced for the ‘Cast In Steel’ tour, and no North American dates are included. I thought I must have missed something and checked the website again. But no, there were no dates for us. It broke my heart as I’m sure it did others. We want the chance to say goodbye. To hear the new songs live. To finally get a signature and a chance to thank you in person for making a part of our lives so very special. To let you know what you mean to us. To hear our favorites one last time.

So I am here to plead with you on behalf of the group of American people that have never lost faith and have poured out so much love- please, please come back to the United States. Please do us this one last favor- this one last honor. We want the chance to share with you.

Most Sincerely and with only Love and Admiration in my Heart,

Tara Speck

Las Vegas, NV

U.S.

(Incidentally one of the Entertainment Capitals of the World, and one you have not visited as a group….)

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From 1988-89