One of the worst things to happen to me as a teenager was the two weeks of the swim unit in gym class. That statement makes me sound like a huge baby, like I didn’t have any “real problems” as a teen, which isn’t true. But read on, and you’ll gain a better understanding of my plight.

As a youth, I was athletic. I wasn’t a star athlete in any sport, but I was capable at pretty much every sport I tried. Not only that, but I was extremely competitive and was coach-able. I could easily run a mile in less than eight minutes. Bouncing a tennis ball on a racket 200 times in a row was a cinch. My dad taught me well how to throw a softball and I did NOT “throw like a girl.” When I was in middle school, nearly everyone played basketball in the gym during lunch hour. Shooting three-pointers was my favorite thing in the world, and I was better at it than almost anyone. During my sophomore year, I trained and traveled to play games with a Junior Olympic volleyball team. Nearly every sport felt natural to me. However; when it came to swimming, not only was I terrible at it, but I also had a fear of deep water.

Gym class was in the mornings, so you had to schlep from the main building over to the pool with your swim gear in tow, plus everything required to get ready for the day. Fortunately for me, I was not the type of girl who wore a lot of makeup or had to blow my hair dry. I’m pretty sure the girls who did were late to their next class every day that we had swimming. I grew up in a conservative environment. Even people of the same gender didn’t whip off their clothes in front of each other in the locker rooms. “We’re all girls here, so it doesn’t matter,” was not an oft uttered phrase. This made stripping naked and putting on a swim suit an especially tricky task. You either had to try and hold up a towel for a make-shift dressing room (awkward) while you changed or you had to wait for one of the four bathroom stalls to become available so you could change in private. Is there anything worse than the wet, hair strewn floors of a swimming pool locker room? Not much comes to mind. At this pool, the women’s locker room was at the front of the building and the men’s locker room was at the back opposite corner. Every day, no matter how quickly we tried to change, the boys would already be waiting in the pool as we left the locker room. I remember the creepy silence of teenage boys ogling us as we made our way to the practice pool. Some of them could have used tissues to wipe the drool from their mouths. It was like they had never seen 15-year-old girls in swimsuits in their short lives. I do not get embarrassed easily, but this may have been a time when I felt my cheeks turn red as those boys’ eyes bored holes into us.

Our gym teacher was a football coach first and foremost. Teaching wasn’t particularly his forte. He was more machine than man. If I would have known back then what ‘roid rage was, I would have used it to describe him. You never knew what was going to set him off. He had a curly, short mullet and whenever we were in the weight room and he would get upset, you’d see a purple vein in his forehead pulsate as if it were trying to break free from under the skin. There were several times when people witnessed him hurling chairs (ala Bobby Knight). Once in class when a kid wasn’t paying attention to the instruction being given, the coach hurled a basketball at his head — going the speed of approximately 90 miles-per-hour. That kid shut up quickly and probably still has brain damage to this day.

During our swim weeks, I’m fairly certain the coach’s intent was to see one of us drown. He never got in the pool with us, and instead attempted to teach us how to do the strokes from his perch above near the bleachers. I still remember him standing there looking like a flamingo as he attempted to extol upon us the proper way to scissor kick. After we’d semi-learned the strokes, we then had to swim some laps. None of us had goggles or swim caps, so my long hair was always plastered across my eyes and getting into my mouth and making me gag. I can’t remember which day of the week it was, because it all blurs together, but the coach gathered everyone in the four-foot deep section of the pool. This was to be our lesson in water safety, undertows and what-have-you. Total, there were probably 75 of us and he made us jog in a circle. He did this in order to simulate a whirlpool. If you were about to be sucked into the vortex and attempted to grab the wall on the side, he would smack your hand away with a pole. Had I known what was to come later, I would have prayed to have died in our simulated undertow that day. For the next section of the course was diving.

I’d never been taught proper diving technique. I wasn’t a swimmer after all, so where on earth would I have learned how to dive? Swimming pools in the area of town where I lived were few and far between. I’d taken swim lessons, but not since I was about 11. We were expected to individually perform a dive and the coach then gave us a grade. He’d made it perfectly clear that you needed to have proper form. If you went to the edge of the diving board and did a cannonball or just jumped in, you’d get an “F”. The thought of getting an “F” terrified me even more than the thought of performing a dive. Everyone in the class sat and watched as each person made their way to the end of the diving board and performed their fete. If I ever end up in Hell, that’s what it will feel like. It will feel like this particular day in gym class when I was a nervous 15-year-old girl in a swimsuit, being forced to dive with 75 pairs of eyes watching me, including perverted teenage boys. As I made my way to the edge of the board, I recall taking a deep breath in and forming a triangle over my head with my hands. I tried to jump, get my toes to point up over my head, but all I managed to do was a huge belly flop. As I surfaced, I heard the collective snickers of classmates. The coach’s face looked like he was smelling something terrible as he wrote my grade down on his clipboard.

At the end of this punishing two weeks, we had to tread water for 30 minutes. I’ve never been more nervous in my life than I was that day. Somehow though, it ended up being the best part of the entire class. I kept my head up for the first five minutes or so and chatted with my friends. After that, I tipped my head back and imagined a pillow, while my arms and legs continued their circular motions. It was quiet under the water. Peaceful even. When I surfaced again, the 30 minutes was over, and it was time to dry off and head to my next class, and I lived to tell the tale.


Social media is the bane of my existence these days. Along with two other high school class officers, I’m in the process of planning my 20-year reunion. Back in 2005 when we planned our 10-year reunion, social media wasn’t really on the scene yet. We had a couple conference calls with the three of us, decided on a venue, hired an on-site catering company and put together some name badges. A few people used PayPal to purchase their tickets, but most people sent checks (remember those?) via snail mail. We called a lot of last known phone numbers and emailed even more last known email addresses. We tried our best to use the classmates.com website to track people down. We didn’t do too many surveys or ask for too many opinions. We didn’t have much of a forum for such things. We were in charge. We planned the event. Mainly word of mouth gave people knowledge of it. We held the reunion. People seemed happy with it. They moved on with their lives.

For having grown up in a red state, in a predominantly Mormon environment, I think of myself as a pretty open-minded, liberal person. I support gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose. But having to hear the opinions and (often) verbal diarrhea on Facebook of so many former classmates about each and every minute detail of what we have planned for this reunion has been exhausting. I sometimes want to ask people’s opinions, but then I want them to shut up rather spewing them at me or at the very least, give useful input rather than stating the obvious. I realize this is probably too much to ask. We’ve had some comments such as: “I wasn’t planning on coming to the reunion anyway, but here are all the negative things I’m going to tell you about what I don’t like about what you have planned….” You know what? Put a cork in it. Part of the issue may be that I don’t care a lot about what other people think, and some of these people I don’t know very well (and don’t want to) so I find it even more difficult to put their opinions into perspective, and to have a like-mindedness about their commentary. The other thing I wonder is why people care so much. I want to scream, “There are starving children in Africa (AND AMERICA) why do you care so much about whether or not your spouse is invited to the evening event?” People need to learn to focus their energies on things that actually have bearing. When we ask for helpful assistance such as photos for the slideshow, we have three people, out of our 270 classmates, respond. When we don’t ask for opinions or guidance, we get frequently negative, unsolicited spewings by the dozen.

That said, it’s a good thing I’m the only person on the planning committee who gets fired up about anything. I’m not offended by people’s words, disrespect, or ignorance of the planning process; it teeters far more toward…annoyance. I’m always trying to understand why people think the way they do and why so many people fail to be logical. I haven’t learned yet that I should give up, because it’s something I will never “get”. When my daughter is in school and has her various afterschool activities, I have time to watch a stupid TV show in the afternoon. My stupid TV show of choice is “Dr. Phil”. (Try not to judge.) I watch the show with the primary purpose of trying to figure out these people who come on as guests with their wide arrays of issues. (Side note: How does anyone fall for “catfish” scams? It’s unbelievable!) Most people would say they watch those types of programs to feel better about their non-screwed-up lives. That is not why I watch. I watch because I genuinely want to understand people’s behavior. I’ve known my ex-husband for nearly 20 years, and I’m still baffled by nearly everything he says, does, doesn’t do and says he’s going to do. I keep saying I’m going to stop trying to understand, but I don’t think that’s a quest that will ever cease.

The other two class officers involved in our planning talk me off a ledge at least once a week. I’ve threatened several times to fly or drive up to Utah and throat punch some individuals. It’s an action I still may follow through on. I’ve already established that I don’t plan to plan the next reunion. By then, I’ll be almost 50 years old. If I’m unable to tolerate the annoyance of Facebook and I don’t have patience presently for random opinions/rantings, imagine how much of a curmudgeon I’ll be in ten more years. Ultimately, I suppose I’m still trying to figure myself out too. Why did I put myself through this process? There are some people I’m interested in catching up with, but a great majority of people I wouldn’t give two shits if I never saw them again. Perhaps morbid curiosity about how people “turned out” has something to do with it. There are a couple of things I’ve learned: 1. I’ll be quite glad when it’s over. 2. I’m taking an extended hiatus from social media when it is.


As a child, I was jealous of kids who were left-handed. They seemed like such an anomaly. They had special scissors to use in the classroom and exceptions were often made for their seating arrangements. I had a couple teachers who talked about how the left-handed kids were more creative, more inclined to be good at the arts, because they used the right side of their brains when performing so many daily tasks.

I never wanted attention called to myself when I was younger; especially negative attention, but I did want to be an artist. I felt that if I were left-handed, I would have a greater chance.

Around the same time, my Granny, with whom I spent quite a large amount of time, broke a bone in her right arm. She ended up having to sign checks and write appointments on her calendar with her left hand for the next several weeks. By the time she was able to use her right hand again, she was already quite adept at using her left hand. I’m not going to say I wished for a broken wrist, but I won’t say I didn’t.

During high school, one of our art teacher’s favorite assignments was to announce that during this class period, we should hold the pencil or charcoal in our non-dominant hand in order to craft a drawing. My pieces always ended up looking like something a four-year-old had hastily sketched.

Despite my current rather portly build, I was lean and muscular for the first 18 years of my life. I loved to play tennis, basketball, volleyball, and softball. One day while I was watching a baseball game with my dad, he mentioned that many famous pitchers were left-handed, and that several prominent baseball players could switch hit, meaning they could bat equally well from the right side or left side of the plate. My envy for those born as southpaws continued to grow when my dad and I were watching a PGA tournament. One of my dad’s only hobbies at the time was golfing. I’m quite certain that had we been in a better financial position during that era, he probably would have been a member of a club where he could golf daily. I noticed that an unusually high number of professional golfers were also left handed, and my heart sank, as I realized that I would probably never be amazing at my dad’s favorite sport.

In the last decade, I’ve met several right-handed people who are excellent artists, and I’ve watched many right-handed golfers win the PGA tournament. My husband recently purchased a set of golf clubs for me. We will see how I fair, given my right-handed proclivity (handicap). Perhaps I can turn southpaw dreams into right-handed reality.


My dad does not tolerate any bullshit. You are not allowed to have a “woe is me” attitude about anything around him. Given all that he’s been through, my dad is one of the strongest people I know. He has quirks and hefty opinions that I may not always agree with, and he watches Fox News (which I definitely don’t agree with); but given his upbringing and the deep-seeded sadness of his youth, he’s someone I admire for becoming upstanding through his pain. One thing that angers my father is when people blame their crappy childhood for their current circumstances. Saying you were raised in such-and-such an environment and that’s why you were driven to drink, do drugs, commit a crime, have a teen pregnancy, etc. doesn’t fly with my dad. His entire life is a testament to rising above difficult circumstances. He married my mom in the 70s, successfully completed his bachelor’s degree in the 80s, found a career in the mortgage loan business, raised three daughters, and is nearing retirement.

I spent the first nine years of my life in a trailer park in Orem, Utah. These were lean years for my family; but as a child, I never knew that. I give huge credit to my parents for being poor, but not letting my sisters and I know we were of little means. My dad was the one who got us ready for school in the mornings, because my mom was working full-time while my dad was going to school. He must have been completely exhausted as he crafted ponytails and made sure we had signed permission slips, before he left for his classes. He was busy earning his bachelor’s degree, and in the years prior to going back to school, he spent late nights at the Geneva Steel plant. The job required him to wear thick gloves and clothing so he wouldn’t be burned. When he returned home and showered, he would continue to sweat profusely through the night because of the heat trapped in his body from the work he was doing. I never heard him complain.

In the center of the trailer park, there was an indoor swimming pool, rows of mailboxes, and a playground. If you think this was a resort-like atmosphere, you would be incorrect. The first curse words I learned were written on the wooden clubhouse at the top of the slide. During the summers, we would sometimes spend a Saturday at the pool. When I was about four years old, I had two great fears: dented vehicles/flat tires (I know, weird) and the deep end of the pool. During one of our pool trips, my dad kept telling me over and over again, “If you jump off the diving board, I will catch you.” I was terrified, but with this generous coaxing, I ended up on the edge of the diving board. “Jump! I’ll catch you,” my dad’s voice echoed off the pool walls. The water was shimmering that day, reflecting off the sundrenched glass of the facility walls. With wobbly knees and all eyes on me, I stood perched at the end of the diving board with tears trailing down my cheeks. I was terrified. My dad was unphased and continued to beckon me, “Jump!” through gritted teeth. I probably stood on the diving board for ten minutes before I finally dared jump into my dad’s waiting arms. He was never a fan of displays of weakness. He would have waited all afternoon for me to jump.

I received my first bike as a present for my sixth birthday. It was a red and white Huffy which I loved more than any gift I’d ever received. We were not allowed to have training wheels on our bikes. My dad would trail me holding the seat for half a block, and then he would let go once balance had been achieved. I learned to ride quickly, because skinned knees and elbows on asphalt are not something you want to repeat. When I was nine years old and wanted to upgrade to a larger bike, I was required to save half the money for the purchase myself.

One of my favorite places to observe my dad in my teenage years and early 20s was at church. Mormon church meetings last three hours. You spend the first hour with the entire congregation in what is called sacrament meeting. A lot of talking happens during this meeting, and the cushions on the pews provides little relief for worn-out rear ends. The second hour, children go to their own meetings, while anyone over the age of 18 goes to a scripture-study-like class. The third hour, you break off even further with men going to their own private meeting, while women go to theirs. If someone was at the pulpit in any of the aforementioned meetings droning on and on, dad would put his head in his hands, his face would be flushed with annoyance, as he would not so gently pull at his hair. My dad has always had thick, blonde hair. It’s going white now, but he still has plenty of it to grasp when he becomes frustrated with any given situation. I’m like him in this way. If someone isn’t making a point, I find my jaw tensing and the need to tear my hair out. When my sisters and I were younger, my mom would never let us play beauty parlor with her hair, but my dad was always a willing participant. He would sit on the floor with the TV tuned to a tennis match or basketball game and let us brush it, put barrettes in, and try and try to get it to part anywhere other than on the right. (It never would.)

One of the reasons I was such a diligent student was I did not want a talking-to from my dad about grades. Thankfully, the only subject I ever needed help with was math. My dad could figure out virtually any math problem, and would sometimes spend two hours a night with me, pouring over work from Algebra and Geometry. He would lean forward in the chair, poised over the equation with deep-seeded creases in his forehead as he explained it, and the lines would grow even deeper if I didn’t understand the problem as explained to me. I would not have as much discipline as I do without my dad. My work ethic is second-to-none, because tardiness and sloppiness were not tolerated in our house. I’ve never known my dad to be late or unprepared for anything.

One thing I’ve also never known my dad to do is speak ill of other people or engage in any gossip. When I was going through my divorce in 2000, I moved to Nevada to live with my parents. I hadn’t lived at home for five years, so it was a major transition for everyone. I was extremely bitter about a lot of things in my life. My mom and I would often rant over my ex-husband’s behavior or something my ex-mother-in-law had done or said. My dad would not have it. He wanted us to put everything aside, rise above the issue, and move on with our lives.

The best way to be close to my dad is through a knowledge of sports. At a young age, my dad taught me how to score a tennis match, how to throw a softball, and who the best players were in the NBA. I distinctly recall lying on my stomach in the living room watching tennis matches between Andre Agassi and Michael Chang. I was also riveted to the TV during Michael Jordan’s best years — cheering for the Utah Jazz alongside my dad — but always knowing the Bulls would pull off another championship. When my parents first got married, my mom was in bed one night, and woke up to what she thought was my dad having a heated conversation with someone else. She eased her way to the living room, wondering who my dad could be arguing with so late at night, to find that he was debating with the TV over a referee’s call during a game. As a result of my athleticism, my sports knowledge, and my style of dress in elementary school, I was rather a tom-boy. A few weeks into my 5th grade year, I went to school wearing navy blue Converse low-top sneakers. The kid sitting behind me in class, whom I already despised leaned forward and whispered tersely, “Why are you wearing BOYS shoes?” First off, these shoes were completely unisex and could have been for girls or boys. Secondly, my dad had picked them out, so I didn’t need validation from anyone else in regard to whether or not I liked them.

My dad has softened a bit over the years. He doesn’t get riled nearly as easily. He thinks the NBA is now comprised of overpaid narcissists; so he doesn’t watch the games as frequently. His frame is extremely slender, and I worry about whether or not he’s eating enough, and if he’s going to the doctor for annual physicals. Every now and again, we hear him muttering about something he’s displeased with under his breath, and it reminds me of the times during my childhood. He and my mom have an empty nest, and the highlight of their week is dinner together on Saturday night, followed by the weekly grocery shopping. People who don’t know my dad well, but have heard him speak or make comments will tell me, “Your dad has the best sense of humor.” That is definitely true, but if you ever complain around him or try and pull the self-pity card, he still doesn’t tolerate any bullshit.

Dad at my sister's wedding a decade ago
Dad at my sister’s wedding a decade ago


As you’ve previously read, I attended my first concert at the age of 13. I was privileged to see the five boys from Beantown: New Kids on the Block, at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. There has never been a more wholesome concert or venue. The next several years of my life were dry of concert-going, but the summer I turned 17, I gifted tickets to my boyfriend for a festival called Livestock, which was held each year in Salt Lake City. That summer was one of the more difficult times in my teenage life. The aforementioned boyfriend, who was a couple years older than me, was going away to college. In my formative years, I was extremely co-dependent. That transitional July, I barely knew what I liked anymore (vegetarian pizza? RUSH? backyard hammocks?); because we dated throughout my junior year of high school and spent every waking moment together. He hadn’t formally broken-up with me yet, but the demise of the relationship was eminent. He decided he didn’t want to attend the festival, so after a failed attempt to sell the tickets, I took a friend instead. I was completely unprepared for the experience. Coolers were not allowed. I didn’t bring any water, or a method to shade myself. I didn’t bring any extra money, and even if I had, it wouldn’t have been enough. Water and food were airport-expensive. My friend ended up purchasing a frozen lemonade for me so that I wouldn’t pass out. (Thanks, Liza!) The bands who played were classic-rock types like Bachman Turner Overdrive and Foreigner. Mind you, this was the 1990s, not the 1970s, so these bands were washed up by the time I heard them sing about “takin’ care of business” and how their ladies were “cold as ice”. This was my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend’s music, not mine. At this miserable affair underneath an unforgiving sun, we sat on what used to be grass — but after years of foot traffic, was now dusty, air-sucking powder. I watched a child of approximately 10 years of age roll his own joint just a blanket away from us, and saw half-naked people coming away from the front of the stage battered and drenched in stank. Between the broken heart, the dehydration, and the gross music; this experience almost ruined my concert-going desires.

However, during my senior year in high school, I loved many bands too much to turn my back on live performances. In the mid-90s, you often had to cut school to obtain a wrist band at Smith’s Grocery Store. The lower the number on the wrist band, the greater your likelihood of receiving the best tickets for the show. I gave several freshmen rides to the grocery store during those school days so we could get our wristbands. Smith’s distributed their golden tickets through an outlet called Smith TIX. On the morning the tickets actually went on sale, you went back to the store to stand in a numerically ordered line, with the coveted number one wrist-band wearer gloating at the front.

During 1995-1996, I went to at least one concert every couple months. I sang along with Michael Stipe’s gravelly voice while he was losing his religion and telling us about the end of the world as we know it (he felt fine about it). I was never a Dead Head or even a huge fan of their music, but in the spring of 1995, I had the opportunity to see the Grateful Dead play at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. The hippie/commune vibe before the concert was like nothing I’d ever experienced, and completely unlike all things Utah. There was a bearded man handing out pamphlets, and wearing a “Behind the Zion Curtain” t-shirt with a picture of the Angel Moroni (Moroni is an ancient Mormon prophet) emblazoned across the front, which was quite revolutionary to my Mormon-raised, 17-year-old mind. There were decorated vans and buses, and out of the backs of these vehicles, people sold grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade jewelry, t-shirts, and brownies. (I didn’t buy any baked goods, because I’m a germaphobe. I never for one moment thought, “Those definitely have pot in them.”) Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia were stage left and stage right. Listening to the Grateful Dead play was akin to attending the world’s largest jam session. Their music was mellow and unfettered. A few months later, Jerry Garcia died, which cemented in my mind that rock stars are more fallible than any of us.

My college years brought a whole slew of new music experiences. I received my four-year education at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. We often drove to Salt Lake for entertainment, and the first show I attended with my friends and roommates together was Oingo Boingo’s last tour. Danny Elfman’s voice is one of the most distinct sounds, the song writing is genius, and the horn arrangements aren’t annoying (as they are in Chicago’s arrangements), rather they carry a song. Boingo played for more than three hours, and did a couple encores, ending with “Goodbye, Goodbye”.

I first saw a 311 concert at the magnificent Saltair in the fall of 1995. Saltair is about a 20-minute drive west of Salt Lake City. It backs onto the shores of the lake itself in Magna, Utah. There is nothing within miles of the venue, just sea-like scent, the marina, and the pits at Kennecott. The building’s exterior looks like a Russian palace and the interior is open to a grand staircase with ratty carpet. All the shows were general admission, so if you liked looking down at the band from the balcony, you wanted to get there early to secure that space. I preferred to nestle in the back of the room, on the outskirts. During this era, 311 was touring to support their third record label studio album, which fans know as the blue album. Today, they have 13 studio albums, many which have gone gold or platinum. The enthusiasm was undeniable as my friends Rebecca, Aethea and I made our way to the venue, parked a mile away, and then bounced along as the beginning chords of “Welcome” hit our ears. My best friend Aethea is about five-foot six-inches tall, and if she had just eaten a meal, she weighed all of 110 pounds. Regardless of her stature, you could not dissuade her from the mosh pit. The mosh pit is where the straight-edgers went to prove they were tougher than the jocks. Most people in the mosh pit were males. They shoved, stomped and threw elbows; and some were three times Aethea’s size.

At this same venue, we saw a Primus concert. Aethea went into the pit at the beginning of the show, and I didn’t see her until the show ended. Her hair looked like she’d stuck her finger in a light socket, she was missing one Converse shoe and despite her twisted ankle, she had more energy than a child on Christmas morning. She was never deterred. She was the whirling dervish of the pit.

Trips to Salt Lake City were incomplete without a trip to The Pie Pizzeria. If you didn’t know where The Pie was, you wouldn’t be able to find it. (This was pre-GPS and everyone owning a smart phone.) Once you arrived at the back parking lot, you took a staircase down to the red-haze. There weren’t many tables and the walls were covered with writings of previous patrons: J+H / Rock On! / Jenny 867-5309eeeen. Truly a hole-in-the-wall establishment, or in this case, a hole in the ground. We usually ate before the concert, resulting in the entire car smelling like leftover garlicky Pull-A-Parts on the ride back to Ogden. Pull-A-Parts are the best, smelliest breadstick-like creations known to humankind. My dad cursed if I left them in the fridge at home, because the aroma took over the entire kitchen.

I could write for days about this topic: About seeing Jamie Cullum at the House of Blues, Jack Johnson at Usana Amphitheater, and Death Cab for Cutie at the Pool at The Cosmopolitan. But no experience is clearer or more significant to me than the Beastie Boys concert at The Joint at Hard Rock Las Vegas in 2006. I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, and my closest friends and concert companions lived out of state. I was the single mother of a first grader about to enter my third decade of life, but when the email hit my inbox from their fan club about a show taking place at The Joint in less than a week, I knew I had to go, even if I went alone — which is what I ended up doing. My favorite spot to stand at the old Joint venue was against the railing just a couple steps up from the main floor. At the time, The Joint felt quite intimate. There were three staggered levels. As you entered, the bar sat to your left at the back of the venue, and then opened to standing room beneath a low ceiling, two steps down, more standing room, two steps down, and the floor extends up to the stage. (They expanded and renovated several years ago, so it’s much larger today.) The instant the three guys from New York took the stage, their energy was infectious. They spit rhymes, wore their signature jumpsuits, and donned and removed sunglasses. When “Egg Man” was being delivered, a woman standing on the floor below me who was out-of-her-mind high or drunk was trying to “sing” along and was completely unable. Her gnarled face and dizzied expression reflected that not only did she not realize where she was, but she had probably never heard of the Beastie Boys. That’s something I still think about. To me, it was akin to being in the presence of greatness, experiencing something so magnificent, and having no clue. As the show was about to close, guitars were brought out for Ad-Rock and MCA, and Mike D took his place behind the drum kit. I was almost in tears. As they strummed “Gratitude” and I belted it out with them, life was perfect. Just a few years later, Adam Yauch (MCA) was diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland. After recording a couple additional albums with the Beastie Boys, he passed away at the age of 47. An acute loss to music, and something I felt personally.

Concerts have always been about a deep connection between the artists, the music, and the listener. When I’m hearing live music, and taking in the positivity delivered by the artist, memories overwhelm me of times I heard the song previously: Driving to the high school, cruising the back roads of Ogden with my best friends, making our annual summer pilgrimage to Bear Lake, or crowding in my bedroom at my apartment. The lyrics of my three favorite MCs sum this up: “What’s gonna set you free? Look inside and you’ll see/When you’ve got so much to say/it’s called gratitude, and that’s right.”
Beastie Boys Ticket


My Granny was friends with everyone she ever met. Before I was even school age, we frequented the local shopping mall. She called this “bummin’”, meaning to wander and window shop. I have never heard that phrase used in that way by anyone outside our family. At the mall, she talked to the clerk at the perfume counter. While waiting for the elevator, she would chat up the young mom with a child-filled stroller. If you asked her, “Who was that, Granny?” She would say, “Oh, I don’t know.” She just liked to talk and be friendly. The highlight of each shopping trip for me was stopping at the center candy kiosk and watching the taffy pull machine. It would spin, stretch and rotate the slick sweetness into a glossy marvel. It was reliable and continuous. Another favorite spot was the ZCMI department store where Granny would smile at the woman behind the counter and ask for a quarter-pound of circus animal cookies. I would watch anxiously as the metal scoop dipped into the sprinkle-covered pink and white treats, which were then shuffled onto the scale, and finally ladled into a small white bag for me to take home.

Granny looked after me nearly every day while my mom worked and my dad finished getting his degree. Most days, she would pick me up at the Challenger School around the block from her house, and we would walk together pointing out favorite trees or barking dogs.

She was the master of games. I learned to play hide-and-seek at her house, avoiding the basement cellar as a hiding place because my Uncle Jay told us that’s where the giant lived. The best place to hide was her coat closet. The coats and sweaters smelled like her embrace and the Wrigley’s gum she always kept in her purse. She taught me how to play checkers and she used sound effects like, “whooop” and “wooooo” as the pieces jumped one another and made their way to the final row to be kinged. One of her favorite games was a memory game called Hüsker Dü?. The board is a large square, and flat blue game pieces cover circular dots which are home to various pictures: pine trees, snowflakes, cars, bells. Once all the pictures are covered, an underlying wheel is rotated to shuffle the pictures, and whoever uncovers the greatest number of matches wins. She was a patient teacher and probably let me win more than was healthy for my competitive nature.

Some of the first nursery rhymes I learned were spoken by my Granny. She would read the cover, “Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes” and then turn the pages to “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” or “Hey, Diddle Diddle”. She had the best inflection and would do voices for each character. My sister Melissa and I often talk in voice-over type voices, even today, and it can surely be traced back to sitting in the yellow recliner at Granny’s house and listening to her read to us.

I always wanted my Granny to draw pictures for me. She would sketch little girls with curly hair and tight-lipped smiles, which greatly resembled her own. From a young age, I always wanted to be an artist, so when Granny was in her 70s and took a canvas painting class at a local center, I was deeply impressed when she brought home oil paintings of barns, pink-blossomed trees, and fields of green grass. I would run my fingers over the dried paint to feel the texture.

There was no one who was a better baker than my Granny. She may have used recipes, but I don’t recall ever seeing one in front of her. For family events, which were frequent in our large, extended family, there was always a Texas Sheet Cake with glistening chocolate frosting topped with walnuts. At Christmastime, she would keep soft, iced, homemade gingerbread men in a wax paper-lined, gold Tupperware container. It was always tucked away on the bottom shelf, but sniffing it out was my expertise.

Sleepovers at her house were a coveted event. I loved taking baths in her tub, because she had a large scrub brush that could reach the lowest part of my back and the fizzy salts smelled like flowers. She would often let me sleep in her bed on her silk pillowcases. She made waffles in the mornings, and would let me eat them with Karo Syrup (straight corn syrup). Her freezer always contained Jell-O Pudding Pops and the fridge housed a quart of crangrape juice. If we were drinking orange juice; she would defrost the concentrate, mix it up with a wooden spoon, and then let me use a mini-strainer to filter out the pulp. My parents would never have possessed the patience to let me make my own pulp-free orange juice, so this was a luxury.

One of Granny’s frequent sayings was, “I love doing dishes.” This is apparently not a genetic quality that I inherited, as I view dishes as an endless pain. Granny didn’t have an automatic dishwasher, so she would fill the sink with scalding water, and would scrub the dishes while I rinsed them. She never pre-rinsed any plates or bowls, so dish-doing was akin to fishing in a basin of leftovers. She was unphased by both the floaters and the 120-degree water.

The backyard and surrounding garden was one of Granny’s favorite places. She liked the feel of her hands in the soil, and she would take her orange kneeling pad out to the edge of the grass and trowel in the soil, pulling weeds and planting little flowers. On the west side of the yard, a gigantic lilac bush gave off a fragrance that filled the air each spring. When she would dig up an earthworm or potato bug, she would let out a little giggle when my younger sister Melissa cupped her hands to hold them, something I never dared do.

You learned early in life to never say you were bored at Granny’s house. When that utterance was made, she immediately put you to work. “I’ll give you a quarter to clean out my cupboards. You’re just the right size to get back in there,” she would say. She’d have you clear everything out of her cupboards, hand you a damp, warm rag and you’d have to shimmy to the back corners of the cupboard to wipe it clean. Then a dry cloth was used to wipe some more. Finally, everything was put back into the cupboards. She must have had the cleanest cupboards in all of Utah County. Granny’s vacuum was a wonder to me. It wasn’t an upright vacuum like you’d typically see today. It was a canister vacuum, with the hose and the handle that was pushed to clean the floor coming out of the canister like an elephant’s trunk. I still love vacuuming to this day, and I think it can all be traced back to the days I spent operating this unique-looking contraption at my Granny’s house.

In her bedroom on her ancient-looking dresser, was my Granny’s jewelry cabinet. She must have been extremely trusting, because she would often let my sisters and me go into her bedroom alone and spend time with her jewelry. The little doors to the cabinet would unlatch and little drawers pulled open to reveal the rings and earrings inside. We would try them on, sort them, and pick out our favorites.

In the guest bedroom, there were trophies and books on the shelves. My grandfather passed away about a decade before I was born. He raced boats and flew airplanes. Several of his boat racing trophies were on the shelves, along with a couple bowling trophies from Granny’s triumphs at the lanes. There was an unauthorized Elvis autobiography which I found fascinating and liked to leaf through. My Granny’s sister, my Great Aunt Armanell, had once gone to the Bahamas and brought back seashells. The largest one sat on a shelf among the trophies. I used to prop it to my ear to hear the sea.

I have no recollection of ever seeing Granny angry or upset, but she came from an era where repression of feelings was widely practiced. She lived to be 98 years old. I think about all the changes that happened between her birth in 1913 and her death in 2011. She saw the end of the horse and buggy and the beginning of the automobile. She began life without television and ended it with a TV angled just so in her bedroom. She lived through two World Wars, The Great Depression, the outrageous defiance of the 1960s, and the financial crisis of 2008. She gave birth to eight children, and had hundreds of great grandchildren (and even some great great grandchildren) by the time she passed away. I always visited her whenever I traveled back to Utah. On one of my visits during her later years, she spent a couple hours showing me a collection of old photos. There was a large photo of about 50 people, including her and my grandpa. She told me, “You see all those people in that photo? I’m the only one who is still alive. I’m the last of the Mohicans.” She was also known to say, “I checked the obituaries today, and I’m not in them.”

One of the only times I remember being frustrated at her house, was when the neighborhood kids would call her “Grandma”, because she wasn’t their Grandma. She was mine. But in retrospect, I can see how she was their Grandma too. After all, she was friends with everyone she ever met.


From a young age, I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t realize when I was a six year old that being an artist was a difficult, rarely lucrative, profession. I only knew that I loved drawing. What first grader wonders how they’re going to pay the gas and electric bills once it comes time? Some of my clearest memories of early childhood are the hours I spent organizing my crayons by color into slots and rows in the yellow plastic holder. Despite my innocence on the financial milieu, for career day in Mrs. Knowles’ fourth grade class, I dressed up as an artist. A worn apron of my mother’s held paint brushes and pencils that clanked together as I walked the path to the elementary school. I arrived in Ogden in the middle of the school year. I’d spent the first half of the school year in Orem, Utah; which was even more homogeneous than Ogden. Ogden felt like a big deal to me, but I was at a definite disadvantage when it came to being included in the delineations that can be found in each elementary school classroom.

Each kid in a class can tell you who falls into which classifications: the troublemaker, the class clown, the teacher’s pet, the kid who is good at art. In our class, the designated “person good at art” when I arrived, was Synthia. If memory serves, she even wore a smock and a beret to career day. I’d never even heard of a beret. She was French, complete with a lilting accent. Thoughts of France call to mind things like crepes, croissants and The Lurve. How her family ended up in Ogden, Utah from France is a mystery to me. I can only imagine the culture shock of that transition. At the time, Ogden was the third largest city in Utah — a combination of industrial and suburban. In 1986, it was probably best known for having the worst smelling dog food plant that has ever existed and train tracks that no longer carried anything but cargo.

I never saw or heard anything about Synthia after fourth grade, but I didn’t let her amazingness at art kill my dream of becoming an artist. When Picasso was painting, I wonder if he ever thought for one moment that anyone in the world was better than he. Imagine if Picasso had said, “It looks like ol’ Matisse has created some damn good paintings. I suppose I’ll put the brushes away now and be a street sweeper.” Having seen Synthia’s work pushed me to be better.

In the 80s and 90s, the Ogden City School District had a program called E.Q.U.I.P. It was a gifted and talented program, and required good grades, high test scores, and sometimes a separate assessment. The school district often sought out kids to be in the program, because it took place in the inner-city schools. Today, it would be looked at as a reverse zone variance. In fifth grade, I moved to a different school to attend the E.Q.U.I.P. program. This was when I hit my artistic peak. I had a great group of friends, I loved my teacher, and I was given a set of oil pastels for Christmas. They smelled like a cross between Play-Doh and gasoline. They were my prized possession. I spent hours sprawled on my grandmother’s living room floor, sketching my first piece which was a wishing well along a grass-lined, cobblestone path. I took a class during school hours that was specifically geared towards students interested in art. That was where I learned the proper way to draw portraits and how the face is broken into quadrants, such that the eyes are typically a third eye apart from one another, the corners of the mouth typically align with the pupils of the eye. I struggled with drawing ears properly and shading noses so that it didn’t appear the person’s face was covered in dirt, but by the end of that class, I could draw a decent profile. That year, I submitted a piece for the district’s “Reflections Contest”. The theme was “Wonders of the World”, and I received an honorable mention for my oil pastel drawing of the Pyramids at Giza. That summer, my mom sent me to an art camp where I learned that salt could be used to add textures to paint and that there was more to art than just drawing something recognizable.

All I wanted to do was draw, sketch and make creative lettering. Classes like Algebra were just requirements, and I couldn’t see when I would ever use them. (To my daughter: If you’re reading this, pretend like you never read that.)

Art class in middle school was comprised of an interesting array of humans. There were those who took the class to actually produce something and those who were there because it was a laid back and you could get away with doing virtually nothing. We learned calligraphy, how to create 3D artwork and at one point, we made jewelry (which would eventually turn your fingers green). My two close friends, Nancy and Liz, were in the eighth grade art class with me. Some of the jewelry was made with a burning wax and little drills. For reasons unknown, we liked to carefully drip the blue wax onto our fingernails and create patterns with the dots. The heat penetrated our fingernails and made its way to the actual skin underneath. We would gasp and Lamaze breathe as quietly as possible while it dried. At one point, when we were making our fingernail creations — which we were very much not supposed to be doing — the art teacher walked by and asked what was going on. We sneakily hid our hands under the table to scrape off the wax quickly, so as not to be discovered. Once he was gone, the fun continued. The art room at the middle school was huge. There was a regular, well-lit classroom setup with desks and the largest desk at the front was the teacher’s. A gigantic, dimly lit, exterior room lined with cabinets, various supplies, and long tables was where we spent most of our time. When the students were out in the tabled-area, the teacher was most frequently at his desk in the other room or nowhere to be found. I’m guessing he was probably nipping from a flask, because the thought of teaching any middle school class makes me want to have a drink myself. The class was fairly unsupervised, and therefore, one of my favorite times of day.

The summer before I started high school, I went to Washington, D.C. I was able to visit the art museum at the Smithsonian. Even at age 13, I could have stayed there for hours. I drank in the art and wondered what the artists were thinking when they created this painting or that sculpture. I purchased an interesting packet of postcards in which all of the art was abstract; a series of lines, colors and geometric shapes. It was like nothing my 13-year-old, Utah-self had ever seen.

When I started high school, I continued to take art classes; but by the time I was a sophomore, I found my calling in the creative writing department. Artistic drawing and painting, and the thoughts of being an artist in my professional life, fell behind me. On my living room wall, I have two framed pieces I created in high school. They remind me of the gentler days when I didn’t realize what being an adult actually meant, and I recall that first set of oil pastels and the grass-lined path I created.


If my middle school classmates ever think of me, I’m sure the additional people they think of are: Joe, Donnie, Danny, Jordan and Jon — the New Kids on the Block. My obsession may have started when my close friend Cherilyn received a New Kids’ poster. In my life, I take an all-or-nothing approach to everything, and this methodology included boy bands. I couldn’t settle for a single poster. I collected every issue of Teen Beat, Tiger Beat and POP; and in the glossy pages of those magazines were the fold out posters of my lovely heartthrobs. Some of the pictures were of them in tuxedos. Some were of them in torn jeans on a street corner. The theory behind the varied scenes and outfits felt like a “something for everyone” approach. I wore out cassette tapes, and would continuously rewind and listen again and again to the songs in which Joe McIntyre sang lead. The Christmas song tape was a favorite, because in certain songs, each boys sang a separate solo part, and you could listen for that distinct voice that was singing just for you. I stayed up swooning when they were on the American Music Awards. I habitually watched their MTV videos my friend down the street had recorded on VHS. I spent every cent of babysitting money I earned buying neon-tinged pillow cases, pins and t-shirts at Spencer’s gifts. My walls were papered with their faces. Since the grape pellet candy Jolly Joe’s contained the name of my favorite New Kid, I consumed the candy by the gross (even though it wasn’t good) just so I could have the box and cut out his name — over and over and over again.

I dreamed of him as my first kiss, and that was likely part of the problem. Most of the girls my age were going steady with tangible boys at Central Middle School. Cherilyn was with Kip. Shawnee was with Mike. I was pining after a boy five years older than me who was living an entirely different life in an entirely different world. A world so elevated I could only fantasize what talking to him face-to-face would be like. I would fend off throngs of frantic girls, and he would be impressed with the maturity I possessed and want to have a one-on-one conversation.

I wrote letters nearly every day to their fan club. I wish I had copies of those letters now, because I can only imagine the sap dripping from the pages. They were certainly laughable, filled with the mourning and elation of my tween self.

My friend Melanie, who lived down the street and to the left of me, had a huge crush on Jonathan. She also had her own room, something I wouldn’t have until a couple years later. This provided the best and ultimate space for us to listen to music, swoon and discuss what our lives would be like when she was married to Jonathan* and I was married to Joe. I never associated being a super star’s wife with wealth, and fame, and the hatred of every other girl on the planet. I just thought of it as my rightful place in the universe. (*Note: Jonathan came out as gay a few years ago. Melanie never married him.)

It was a well-known fact to New Kids’ fans that Joe’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve. It was also a well-known fact that many of the items received via their fan club were sent to poor kids or given away to charity. As Joe’s birthday approached, I struggled with what I could give him that would be the perfect present. He must have everything. I don’t know if he was truly a golfer or not, but in one of the teen magazines, there was a shot of him putting. His cool blue eyes concentrated as his fingers gripped the club. At the time, I didn’t understand what a publicity shoot was, and how frequently magazines ran those images. My only thought was that Joe must love to golf. My dad happened to be an avid golfer, so I went out to the garage and scrounged up as many golf balls as I could and put them in a small brown box. In the box, I included a letter. The letter admonished the reader that the golf balls should not be given to a charitable cause, but should only be delivered to Joe directly. They were for him. His thoughtful birthday gift of old golf balls from an adoring fan. If they were not going to be gifted to him, this fan would prefer that they were tossed in the trash instead. I didn’t ask for a ride to the post office to mail the box. I knew my parents wouldn’t approve, so I collected as many stamps as I could find and plastered the small brown package with the postage, addressed the box to the fan club, care of: Joseph Mulrey McIntyre, and lifted the red flag to signal for the mailman.

When I talk about this incident now and my persistence with mailing letters and gifts to their fan club, people always ask me if I ever heard back from anyone. I never did, but there was always the hope that one of their mom’s or the president of the fan club would read my letters and think, “These letters contains the most thoughtful, inspiring words I’ve ever read. We must get this bundle to Joe immediately so he can meet this girl! She’s the one for him!”

Sometime in eighth grade, I got the best phone call of my life up to that point. It was an employee from “Teen Beat” calling to tell me that my letter to the editor had been accepted for publication in their magazine. I waited and waited for the issue to come out, and when it finally did, I knew that my fame as a super-fan would be cemented. The New Kids would want to meet me now. After all, my words were well-laid out and heartfelt. I was certain they spent hours reading teen magazines. In my letter, I explained that we could collect all the New Kids memorabilia we desired, but we all needed to face it, Joe and the four others were too far away for any of us to reach. If you carefully read in between the lines of this letter to the editor, you will see the obvious, “Screw all you bitches! I’m Joe’s number one fan and my words prove how smart I am.” One of the only people at my middle school who was impressed with my magazine appearance was a quiet Asian girl named Sirisom. She was also a huge fan, but less boisterous about it. We would often spend time comparing our pins and bracelets, discussing which items we would buy next. We would talk about how our lives would be transformed when we met the guys in person. There was also an unspoken competition. We tried to outdo each other when it came to fan knowledge. This was before the days of the Internet and Wikipedia, so the information we knew about the boys was from interviews, on TV and in print. I knew all of Joey’s eight siblings names and ages. I knew his parents birth dates. Where he’d grown up. What his favorite color, TV show and foods were. I could tell by the look on Sirisom’s face, that my appearance in a teen magazine put me in the lead when it came to my love for this band.

The culmination of my love happened the summer before eighth grade when we found out the New Kids were making our dreams come true by playing a concert at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. My mom was kind enough to arrange for tickets through her childhood friend who worked at the ticket office, and was also kind enough to fork over $25 for my ticket, which was a substantial amount of money for my family at the time. My friend Jackie was able to come to the concert with me, and we still had family in Utah County, so we were able to spend the night at my grandma’s house after the concert. On the 75-minute drive to Provo, we sang along to New Kids’ songs, ate Skittles and felt butterflies in our stomachs. I’d never been more nervous in my life up to that point. In a few short hours I would be in the same room with Joe and company. I would be breathing his air and watching his curly hair bounce as he sang to me about how I had the right stuff. Shortly after the concert began, I was throwing up Skittles into a cup, but like a true fan, I stuck it out. I felt faint. I cried. I wished I’d made a gigantic poster proclaiming my adoration. I yelled, “I love you JOE!” at the top of my lungs. We didn’t have floor seats, but we were about ten rows up from the stage on the east side. As far as I was concerned, anywhere in that stadium was the perfect seat. It’s a relief I didn’t have backstage passes or any encounters with the boys in person, I surely would have died. They could have played six encores and it wouldn’t have been enough.

I had been a tomboy my entire life, but for some reason during eighth grade, I decided to take a dance class. The woman teaching the class lived just a few streets over from us and taught dance in her basement. A couple friends were taking the class with me, and all three of us were extremely fond of NKOTB. Our lovely teacher, Denise, choreographed dances for our recital to New Kids’ songs. We even wore our neon tinged shirts and hats emblazoned with their faces and signatures. I do have pictures from this era. My parents liked to take pictures of me during this phase in hopes that one day I would see how foolish I looked. These pictures are hilarious to me now, and provide nothing but the sweet memories of youth.

The summer before I started high school, we moved from the house we’d been renting for the last five years into a house my parents had purchased. It was the first time in my life I had my own room. During that summer, I also discovered bands like R.E.M. and Depeche Mode. I replaced my New Kids’ hat with a Georgetown University hat I’d purchased on a trip to Washington, D.C. I started shopping for t-shirts at Banana Republic. After the move, I’d placed a solitary poster of Joe in my room at the head of my bed. When an older friend who was already in high school came over to see our new place, she informed me that only the desperate girls in high school liked New Kids on the Block. Before I went back to school, I took the poster down and put it in the crate with all my other New Kids memorabilia, which was put into storage (and is still there today). It was the end of an era, but not a period in my life I ever forgot.

Over the years, I followed Joe and Jordan’s solo careers. I watched “Say What Karaoke”, hosted by Joe (who had since decided to go by Joey Mac) to catch a glimpse of those blue eyes I’d stared at endlessly during my adolescence.

In 2008, when the New Kids on the Block announced they were recording a new album and launching a reunion tour, my mom once again offered to purchase us tickets, using her American Express Rewards Points. The ride had come full circle. As my sisters, my best friend and I shuffled into the venue anticipating the performance, I had the same feeling I had when I was 13. These were my boys, who had grown into men. At 31, I felt the same affection for them as I had nearly 20 years earlier. This time, I didn’t eat Skittles before the concert.

New Kids No. 1 Fan NKOTB Reunion Concert