Thirty-One (31 of 31)

So, here we are at the end of it all. Four years ago, I set out to write an entry a day for an entire year. It was a mission that I continued, perhaps against my better judgement, over the ensuing three years and now, with decidedly mixed emotions, it is a mission that I have chosen to call “complete”, whatever that may mean. I’ve proven to myself that I can write every day and that, occasionally, something other than verbal diarrhea will spill out of me. It’s been a great run and I come out of this with a tremendous sense of accomplishment, but all good things, as they say, must come to an end.

I have a novel to finish, a baby on the way, and a sense that I could do more with this space if I simply allowed myself the flexibility to write only when I truly had something to say. So, that’s what I’ll do. The page will continue. It will soldier on as it has, in one form or another, for nearly a decade. And it will be better; I’m almost certain of it.

Without further ado then, here is the thirty-first of the thirty-one throwback entries we’ve spent a month exploring. I thought it appropriate to end this series by throwing it back to the very beginning, the entry I wrote for January 1, 2002, the entry that started this whole thing.

Happy New Year to all of you, my dear readers. I’ll see you on the flipside.

Ambition

Well, here begins what I would identify as the most ambitious writing project I’ve ever taken up. And how strange that is, given that the project is so simple. All I have to do is write once a day for three hundred and sixty five days. Can I do it? I guess we’ll see.

Statistics would say no. If you were to look over the archives you would notice that this isn’t the first time I’ve tried this sort of stunt. It’s a common theme of mine to beat myself up for not writing every day and then resolve to change that habit and then somehow disregard that resolution.

I could have done a lot of writing today, could have written this entry a lot earlier and not cut it so close, but instead I spent my day recovering from a nasty headache that set in yesterday pre-party, and playing The Sims. I actually didn’t play The Sims all that much. Since it’s such an end-user expandable game I spent a great deal of time today messing with the various ways you can customize the game. The actual time I spent manipulating my little simulated people was quite short, but well worth it, nevertheless.

The real trick today is, I don’t feel bad about it. Usually, if I waste my day away playing video games I chastise myself for being so careless with my time. Today I don’t feel that way. It is okay to relax and that’s just what I did.

Week 30 - Christmas and New Year’s

Dear Kaylee,

The rumors that there would be plenty of presents under the tree for you proved to be 100% true on Christmas morning and I think I can honestly say that I was more excited to see what people had bought you than I was to unwrap my own presents. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my gifts, because I did. But I think it’s just a simple fact of life that when you have a kid of your own, even if she is still in utero, the whole experience of Christmas shifts in subtle yet exceedingly poignant ways. I’m sure that someday, when you’re old enough to make me something and put it under the tree, I’ll look forward to opening that gift as much as I looked forward to opening each of your gifts this time around. But for now, and for years to come, I will remain quite content to live the wonder of Christmas morning vicariously through you.

American Baby’s website tells me that, “By this week, your baby’s senses are developed to the point where she can taste, touch, see, and hear what’s going on around her.” So, it’s possible that you experienced a little bit of Christmas morning yourself. You might also have had the chance to experience bowling for the first time, as your mother and I played a few strings of duckpin bowling with your Grandpa and your Uncle John a little bit later in the week. What’s bowling like when you’re in utero? Well, I wish you were going to be able to remember it, kiddo, because that would make for a really good story.

Perhaps it feels a wee bit like bowling drunk, but I guess we’ll never know.

The week ended on New Year’s Eve, the last day of the year in which we finally fulfilled our dream of conceiving you. Our plan had been to spend the evening with your grandparents down in Chelmsford, but Old Man Winter was uncooperative. The roads were treacherous, the traffic slow-moving, and we were therefore forced to make the difficult decision to head back home only five or ten minutes into the trip. As much as we wanted to be with family, I didn’t want to put you or your mother in any unnecessary danger. So, we spent the evening at home, watching Star Wars films and struggling to stay awake. And that was that.

This was the week that the first true inklings of a parental instinct reared their heads. I knew that it would still be at least two and a half months, and perhaps even longer than that, before we truly understood what it was like to be parents, but this week really felt like the beginning of something.

Love, Dad

Thirty-One (30 of 31)

JonMartin and I went to see King Kong at the Showcase Cinemas in Lowell on Friday night and it had to be the most frustrating moviegoing experience I’ve ever had. It was a mark of the film’s quality that, despite the people talking on their cellphones, the gang members laughing at inappropriate moments, and the Ritalin-abusing child sitting next to us who asked, when Kong slipped from the top of the Empire State Building, quite dead, ‘Why’d he do that?’ — well, it was a mark of the film’s quality that, despite all that, I still really enjoyed it. I’d gone in wondering how exactly Peter Jackson could make a three-hour movie about a giant monkey, but he truly did answer the call.

To steal and paraphrase a line from the film, it was beautiful.

Also, stuff blew up, Kong fought dinosaurs, and disgusting worm-like creatures swallowed Andy Serkis’s head. Oh, and Kong threw one biplane into another. Really, it was the sort of film that little boys dream of making, the kind of story you tell to yourself when your playing with your action figures all by yourself on your lonely front lawn. Except that it had heart, too.

With moviegoing on the brain, I present to you the penultimate throwback entry in the Thirty-One series, a memory of another evening Jon and I spent at the movies, one on which we bumped into someone we hadn’t seen in ages.

A Visit With Andy

When JonMartin and I were headed to Lowell to see Terminator 3 he made a prediction that, since he had been back in the country for over a week, it was about time for him to bump into Mr. Andy Hicks — our former guitar player and present radio god at WBCN in Boston. As we were departing the movie, which was quite okay, Jon’s prediction came shockingly true. There, standing across the way with a couple of friends, was the one and only Andy.

The ensuing hanging-out that took place has nearly wiped all of my memory of the film we saw away. I realized later that it had been nearly five years since I last saw Andy. Though I was initially nervous that maybe he had been reading this page not taking kindly to it or something, I was eventually set at ease by the coolness of the cat I’d come to know as my friend in years gone by.

We talked for a very long while in that hallway in between the theater we had come from, which was showing T3, and the theater they had come from, which was showing LXG. Before I go further I should note that “they,” in this case, refers to Andy himself, two female friends, and the slightly wiser and older authority figures for one of the girls — or at the very least they were the people she’d arrived with. I don’t recall their names. Even if I did, I wouldn’t be sure of them because I’m bad with names the first time I meet people.

I think the ushers were looking at us funny as Andy and I discussed music and theater and JonMartin discussed Middle English with the wiser older female authority figure who had a very unique name which I cannot remember. I should also probably stop using the term authority figure, because in spirit she and her male counterpart seemed to be more like older versions of ourselves than servants of “The Man” sent to keep us down.

So, I was saying that the ushers were looking at us funny and they were and eventually we moved on to the 99 Restaurant just down the street from the theater. There we had much more interesting and jovial conversation. At some point they were talking about the Bush administration and how the press was handling the whole “intelligence” thing in terms of the CIA and stuff and evidence of weapons and ‘Did we know this?’ or ‘Did we know that?’ and all that nonsense. Someone said something to the effect of, “They have all this intelligence coming in,” and I, seeing as I had been mostly quiet and felt the need to finally interject, said in response, “Yeah, they have all that intelligence coming into the White House and no intelligence coming out of it.”

Needless to say, everyone roared. They thought I was pretty cool since when I did talk I said funny things.

There was more talking half in and half out of the rain outside the restaurant after that and then we all said our goodbyes. Jon and I did some driving around the old haunts and then we hit the one sour note of the night — his car started being funny. Hopefully it will be okay and hopefully it will now dampen his spirits too much, for just before the car’s mishap he had confided in me how much he needed a night out amongst interesting and lovely people.

I had needed it too. I, certainly, had needed it too.

Thirty-One (29 of 31)

So, here I am, on the final Thursday of the month, ready to present to you the fifth of the five über entries to be presented as part of this month’s Thirty-One series. We began, as you may recall, with an entry on Girls, Musicals, Proms, and Graduation. That fine exhibition of writing prowess was followed up by Soma: Behind the Music, Looking for Love in All The Wrong Places, and A Lick and a Promise - The E! True Hollywood Story. And now, here we are, ready to finish up and move on.

With these über entries, my goal had been to shed light on one of the most turbulent and exciting periods of my life, the years stretching from 1995-1998. And it is only fitting that I end this series within a series with a retelling of the most significant moment in my life up to that point. It is only fitting that I end this series of entries on the stormy social seas I weathered as a young man by describing to you how I finally came to the opposite shore, and how I became a better person for it.

Stephanie and I spent most of the day on Thursday working closely together in our house, cleaning and making room for baby, so it’s also fitting that this last of the Thursday über entries is about her. And now, without further ado:

Another Secret Admirer - Stephanie & Me

It all began, I think it is safe to say, during a New Year’s Eve spent in New York; at the very least, that’s when the wheels were set in motion. While we shivered amidst the crowds in Times Square, vagrants pissing on our shoes, strange men eyeing the girls behinds, my best friend began, in her brain, to imagine a romantic scenario involving the reconcilliation of two former lovers — if lovers is even the right word for two people who had never slept together and who had barely seen each other in their final months “together” — one of those lovers happening to be me.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, as most of the suggestions seemed to be happening behind the scenes but, in any event, nothing came of them during our time in New York, nor did anything come of them on the ride home, where I and the other party, an ex-girlfriend of mine, where in the car together for hours on end, nor did anything come of them in the month and a half that followed. It wasn’t until we neared Valentine’s Day that any significant, noticeable action was taken at all.

It was on the Thursday before Valentine’s day when a most unusual and anonymous declaration of interest was made. Whilst transporting programs for the upcoming premiere of the Student Theatre Festival, which was to feature my play, A Lick and a Promise, I was accosted by a member of the senior class, one of several who had been selling different color roses outside of the dining hall in the preceding week. A pink rose had been purchased for me, as it turned out, and it was his task to deliver it. Busy as I was, I accepted the token, tossed it into my box of programs, and continued on my way.

I didn’t think much about it until I came home after DaPonte’s staged reading of Oleanna that evening. When I came home I went straight into Stacey and Angela’s room, where it seemed most of the house was gathered, listening to Stephanie rant about how she was going to become a lesbian because of her frustration with men.

I sat down and showed them my pink rose. Jimmy made a big deal about how this meant I had a secret admirer, that pink roses were designated for just such a thing. The girls listened in and probably laughed as I flushed and wondered aloud who it could be.

One of them, though I wouldn’t know it until days later, was thinking to herself, “Oh no. Someone’s going to get to him before I’ve had my chance.”

[Excerpted from A Secret Admirer]

The rest of the evening came and went. I’m not sure if Jimmy knew who it was all along or only found out later on, but I spent at least part of my time over the next twenty-four hours trying to make a guess.

Just before dinner on that Friday evening, Friday the thirteenth, I drove down the street from the college to pick up Rachael, who was coming into town from Pennsylvania for the weekend, both to see my show and just to hang out. I got her up to speed in the car before we sat down to eat, and before I had to be over in the theater to start the show.

We went to dinner and a heap of friends greeted us, all of them supremely excited to see Rachael. The person I suspected was there, as was the person it actually was. I think some of my housemates might have been there as well. I don’t remember much about it though, except for a heap of conversation and laughter and then my abrupt departure to get ready for the show. I’m pretty sure Rachael came with me and just hung out while Evil Deb and I prepared the theater for the first night of the annual Student Theater Festival…

...Back at the Cluster House after the show, Rachael confessed she’d discovered who the Secret Admirer was. We sat in the dining room and I guessed name after name until I got it right, neither one of us knowing that there was a pair of ears pressed to a door one level up, trying to hear what we were saying. I don’t know if that pair of ears could hear how disappointed I was with discovering the identity of my admirer (It was someone I was happy being just friend with, and nothing more), but that pair of ears decided the next day to do something about their own hidden feelings.

[Excerpted from A Lick and a Promise]

I spent the next day with Rachael. Here’s how it went down.

I spent Valentine’s Day 1998 with my dear friend Rachael. We drove into Boston, hung out, and did some shopping. At the end of the day, before it was time for me to head over to the theater to prep for the second night of A Lick And A Promise, Rachael and I ate at Papa Gino’s in Plaistow, NH. We had just enough time to stop by the Cluster House quickly before the show and so we did. It was then that the true craziness began.

When Rachael and I returned to the Cluster, I was hoping to get in and out fast and then get over to the show. I didn’t have much time. Stacey, however, didn’t know this, and made a point of stopping me in the hallway as I was rushing around with my head cut off. She handed me an envelope that had been left for me. I probably mentioned something about not having time to open it, but she implored me to do so, and so I did.

Inside the envelope was a card with cute Kim Anderson photograph on the front, one of a little girl with a flower, and inside the card was written, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I wanted you to know that I’ve been watching you - Another Secret Admirer.”

I was positively irate.

This had to be some sort of joke. I hadn’t told that many people about the first secret admirer. Who among them could possibly be serious about being another secret admirer? No one! I was pissed off, and so I left for my show, not knowing what the fuck was going on.

[Excerpted from Another Secret Admirer]

Luckily, the jockeying for positioning in my romantic life that was going on behind the scenes didn’t mar my enjoyment of the second night of my play. The evening of the show came and went and then Jimmy and I headed over to Academy Hall for the cast party, where everyone but me was falling over drunk, many of them spilling things on me and suspecting that the evening’s events would someday make it into some future play. Always beward the quiet one, especially when you spill Goldschlager on them.

Anyway, the next day would be maddening, a sort of aftermath to everything else that had gone on that weekend, and I’m pretty happy with how the original entry came out, so I’ll just let it speak for itself.

Rachael and I woke up early on Sunday morning so I could drive her to South Station in Boston for the train ride home. I can’t remember if she slept in my bed or Russel’s (nothing like that happened regardless of which side it was) but I do recall that from the moment we got up to the moment we finally pulled out of the parking lot, things were so tense and so awful that I still feel uncomfortable thinking about it today.

Russel was pissed at Rachael for spending the majority of her weekend at Bradford hanging out with me. Yes, they’d been broken up for almost a year at this point, but that didn’t matter. He’d expected her to hang with him that weekend. She’d spent so much time with me and with other friends on previous visits that I can understand why. I can’t understand, however, why he reacted the way he did.

There was yelling and screaming that woke up the entire house. Rachael and I walked out to the car and then he was calling to her from the window of the Cluster House. I think she went back inside for a second and they argued some more. She came back out and we were about to leave when he came outside and they talked some more in the parking lot. He gave her the world’s largest guilt trip by the looks of it and after a little more yelling, she got in the car and we drove.

She cried a little and couldn’t understand why he was treating her that way, but by the time we’d made it a few miles down the highway things were better. We had a good conversation and I hugged her goodbye at the train station. She wished me luck with my quest to discover what was going on with these multiple secret admirers and then we went our separate ways.

When I got back to campus I did go back into the Cluster House, but I avoided my room like the plague. I wanted nothing to do with my roommate. He’d pissed me off with the way he treated Rachael one too many times. It was in that moment that Russel and I could no longer be friends in the way that we were. I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.

Upstairs in Jimmy’s room, Stacey, Stephanie, and Jimmy were sitting on Jimmy’s bed. I spoke with them about the Rachael and Russel situation and then a little about the secret admirer thing.

Jimmy said something about how frustrated he was that he was single. I told him he could have one of my secret admirers because I had one to spare. On this comment, Stacey flushed and leaned against Jimmy’s shoulder. All of a sudden Stephanie disappeared from view behind the two of them. Something struck me about that moment. Something had just happened, but I wasn’t sure what.

I took my leave from the house for the rest of the day, not wanting to run into Russel at all. I think I spent some time at the library. Eventually, as night descended, I made my way to one of the Tupelos (four-story dorms that sat in between Tupelo Pond and the Cluster Houses) to visit Nikki and Heather T.. A drunken evening ensued. I didn’t drink, but I did watch Nikki and her boyfriend Brad and Helen and a couple of others get drunk and watch a very creepy version of Sweeney Todd. Heather didn’t drink much either. She spent most of her time out in the hallway on the phone with her boyfriend Barry.

When it was suitably late and I was sure I wouldn’t run into anyone, I went back to my Cluster and went to sleep.

[From Aftermath]

It was a Monday, the sixteenth of February, 1998, that the resolution to that weekend’s drama finally played itself out. Again, I’ll let the entry speak for itself.

I don’t remember why I spent all of Monday February 16, 1998 away from the Cluster House. Nobody else who was around then does either. There was still a lingering anger towards my roommate, but it was a day off from classes and I certainly had to work to find enough things to keep me away from the house all day. Nobody can remember why I spent the whole day away from the house, but everyone can remember where they were when I came home, when life as I knew it was forever altered by an admirer who finally saw fit to reveal herself.

The house was strangely quiet when I came home that evening. I came in the front door, turned left and trekked down the hallway into my room, content to spend the evening doing homework. I’d finally decided I was through being pissed off at Russel for his argument with Rachael on Sunday morning. It was going to be a normal evening home and then off to bed.

A commotion started out in the hallway a few minutes later and I went out to investigate. Stephanie, my housemate from upstairs, who’d just been through the ordeal of getting rid of her shitty roommate, was standing out in the hallway with her hair in two braids. She looked cute and younger than her 21 years. She held in her hand a small white envelope. When I looked closely, I saw that my name was on it.

She handed me the note. “This is for you,” she said, and then she boosted herself up to sit on the bannister while I sat down on the steps leading up to the middle level of the Cluster to read it.

The first line brought two days of wondering to a close. Very simply, very clearly, it spelled out, “I am the other secret admirer.” Before I read any further, I looked up at her and my heart began to pound. It wasn’t a joke after all.

I read on and she talked about how impressed she’d been with the way I handled the whole Housemate Controversy, how I’d listened to both sides and been very mature about it. She said that was the icing on the cake. She’d been noticing me for a while, wanting to get to know me better. And when the other note came she realized she had to do something fast, or else risk losing her chance altogether.

When I was done there were smiles and a hug and even though neither one of us really asked each other out, there was the understanding that our “getting to know each other better” consituted the start of a relationship. Slowly, housemates who had been in the know began to come out of the woodwork. Donna and Stacey suggested that we take a drive, that the new boyfriend and girlfriend should have some time to hang out together before bed.

I went back into my room to grab my coat. Russel was reading but he could tell when I came in that something had happened. Even though there was still a trace of anger within me towards him, I confided in him the story, because who else could I tell? Quickly, he congratulated me and I ran out to catch up with the others.

Donna drove the four of us up to Wentworth By The Sea, an abandoned hotel up on the Atlantic coast in New Hampshire, with Stef and I in the back seat not knowing how to act in this awkward, forced situation. The place kinda spooked everyone out. I’m not sure why they took us there, but Stef wasn’t a big fan of the place and even though I’d never seen it, I’m sure there were other places that would have been better suited for two shell-shocked people to spend their first moments as a couple.

We came home and I went off to bed, knowing it was the beginning of a long, strange trip, and that this one would be unlike anything else I’d ever experienced.

[From Our First Moment]

Still rather ill-equipped in matters of the heart, I found myself both excited and terrified. This seemed, from the start, like it could be the beginning of a completely different sort of thing than I’d ever experienced before, a mostly wonderful thing, and I didn’t want to mess it up right there at the start. So, in typical ChrisClark fashion, I avoided the girl who had just professed her feelings for me like she was the plague.

...I was avoiding Stephanie because I didn’t know what to say. The rest of the afternoon went by and it began to rain outside. When I finally had to come back to the Cluster House later that night, I took the long way around the back of the Clusters because I wanted to avoid seeing Stef, who was studying in one of the rooms on the lower level.

[Excerpted from [From Our First Kiss]

And that was that — we’ve been together ever since. I could go over more of the story but, really, this entire website is about Stephanie and me. Even before she was wrote out that card, the things I was doing and the paths I was choosing were all leading to her, were all preparing me for this most strange and complicated and miraculous chapter of my life.

Thirty-One (28 of 31)

Stef and I drove down to Chelmsford on Wednesday and met up with Dad and John for an afternoon of duckpin bowling. We had a great time, the four of us. I don’t think I’d ever done duckpin bowling before, and the place we went, in Vinyl Square, was in the basement of a building I’ve driven by many, many times without ever really realizing there was a bowling alley there. That leant to this feeling that we had discovered something truly special and our own. Sure, there were other folks there, but it felt like we were all part of some exclusive club; we were in the know, as it were, and it was really something.

Dad and John did better than Stef and I, but that was okay. There was very little competing against each other. It was more about seeing if we could do better than ourselves, frame after frame. Anyway, as I said, it was a good time, and I don’t really feel equipped to describe it in any greater detail.

So, with bowling on the brain, let’s dig into Wednesday’s throwback of the day. Exactly three years ago, to the day, Stephanie and I were to be found bowling with a few friends of ours. Strange, these little coincidences…

Bowling & Billy Joel

We were supposed to go see Stef’s Dad today but things didn’t pan out because of the flu. Instead, Stef spent most of the day cleaning, (with a little help from me,) and I spent most of the day working on the new version of the Bastad. When all that was said and done we took some time out this evening to hang out with Stacey, Monica, and “Bob”. It was a fun evening, but like all evenings spent in smoky bars it has left Stef and I with awful sore throats and wretched smelling clothes.

We started off eating at Pizza Hut, which wasn’t all that bad except for my eating way too much damn pizza. Stef and I had eaten pizza just last night, so I don’t know why I woofed it down so fast, but I just did. I was regretting it before I’d even finished chewing the last bit of the last slice.

After dinner we went to a candlepin bowling alley in Nashua and played two strings in between two separate gaggles of high-schoolers, which was quite fun in and of itself. I love being around younger people. It reminds me of my misspent youth. I spent a good deal studying the group sitting to the right of us, potentially for inclusion in an upcoming story. One girl, a cute and intelligent looking brunette named Emma, particularly enthralled me. She and her three girlfriends were out with this one guy and I spent a great amount of time in between my turns imagining what their group dynamic was.

After bowling we went next door to a Chinese food place to sing karaoke. Stacey sang “Blue,” which was very appropriate and carried a slightly more melancholy tune there her previous renditions, thanks in part to her recent breakup. A few songs later, I got up and sang “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel, and the crowd was really into it. Karaoke, it turns out, is the closest I can get to having a band again.

And now I’m home and it’s past midnight so I’ll have to futz with the date to get this to appear right. Thank God I won’t have to deal with the same problem once I switch over to the new system.