Tag Archives: memoir

Put a Little Take’ in the Yoshi.

When Dave and Eric decided to move on, I was left alone to find a roommate. A roommate? But I had been so used to living with all of my men. How was I ever going to find a person to move into the Dave/Eric spot and fill my live-in BFF void? Looking back, them moving out was more than just a move-out. It was a slashing of the umbilical cord. They were my only tie home to Massachusetts. Without them, I was alone on the other side of the US. I’m not sure it hit me like that back then but, as I type these words, the symbolism is evident.

The San Diego Reader was the local who’s doing what/what’s the haps/what bands are playing/classified ads type newspaper. It was a biblical experience to grab it every week and to check my favorite venues out. Who’s playing where and when so that I could plan accordingly. Becky was my go-to person for seeing bands. We liked mostly all of the same music and we sort of discovered the San Diego music scene together. I remember the casual exterior we masked ourselves in when we first went to The Casbah. But man, we were both so insecure on the inside. Did we fit into this world? Were we dressed cool enough? Did we look the part? At some point, we came into ourselves and we stopped caring. We would sit on the stoop outside the venue and make fun of people together. We debated which guys were do-able and which guys were hideous. We debated which girls looked cute and which girls needed a re-do. We were mean. But hey, no one ever heard us. We were just us being us, two friends at a gig.

Our favorite band to see was The Dragons, fronted by one Mr. Mario Escovedo of the musically gifted Escovedo family. They were a hard rock punk band with a wall of guitar sound and they were good. Picture the Sex Pistols mixed with The Rolling Stones and that was The Dragons…with a Mexican singer. Becky had a huge crush on Ken, the guitar player. He was half Japanese and half white. The kemosabe kid. I always thought that he had a Sid Vicious look to him. And the way he would play guitar…he always had his mouth open and his body would be convulsing with the rhythm. It was hot. So yeah, as a friend, I approved of her crush.

It was through The Reader that I placed an ad for a roommate in the classifieds. The first person to call was a man who spoke with an Asian accent. He was interested in coming to check it out which I was totally cool with. Why not? An ethnic experience if you will. I thought that it was funny that he specifically said to me, “I’m Japanese.” I didn’t care that he was Japanese. Hey, cool, right? But, since I could tell that he was Asian by his accent, the fact that he felt the need to provide that info to me made me chuckle. Immediately I called Becky to tell her about the Japanese guy coming to check out my place. Her first words: “Maybe he knows Ken from The Dragons.” Mind you, she was just being silly. She wasn’t really making the assumption that they would simply know each other just because of their Japanese-ness.

When he came to check out the place, he brought a friend along. His name was Take’, short for Takeyoshi and his friend’s name was Kimi. They were absolutely adorable. They both had a hip, Tokyo street style and they both seemed really artsy. After asking them some questions, I began to tell them about me: “I’m a student at SDSU, I work at an elementary school and I love to go see bands. I’m always at The Casbah.”

As soon as Kimi heard me say Casbah, she exclaimed, – and I’m going to attempt the Japanese accent here – “Ohhh, Cashah! Maybe you know my boyfriend. He play guitar for band Dragons!”

Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? Her boyfriend was none other that the kemosabe kid himself, Ken from The Dragons? Considering Becky’s preposterous claim that maybe Take’ and Ken would know each other, I was floored. Of course, I had to hold that in but what a coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidences. I did then but not now. Now I’m aware enough to know that Take’ moving in was meant to be.

On the day that he was supposed to move in, I was prepared to be at the apartment and to keep out of his way. What I wasn’t prepared for was him calling. “Hi Ellen. This is Take’. I need help to move in.” Being the type of person I am, I headed out to help my new roommate move in. What else was I supposed to do?

Take’ didn’t have a car so he would hop along with me when it was time to go to the market and he loved to cook. When he cooked, he always made enough for me. He made some odd Japanesey-esque dishes. He made this soup…it was like a soy sauce broth with a giant scoop of mashed potatoes in the middle and it was deee-licious! The kid had skills. He made me want to be a better cook so I made myself better and I eventually started to cook for him as often as he cooked for me. We had a good thing going on.

He was on a student visa and he was majoring in Art so he always had cool art projects that he was working on. His bedroom walls were decorated in jeans. Yes, jeans were hung in geometric patterns on his walls. Weird as it was, it was quintessentially Take’! He hoarded movies and he watched them with the subtitles to better his English learning experience. I felt like we lived at Blockbuster. There were seriously that many movies.

Kimi and Ken came around pretty often and, though I was always the forth non-Japanese speaking wheel, I was always included in everything that they did. We would make dinners together, watch movies together and go see bands together. Kimi will forever be remembered as the one female who straight up asked me, “Oh, they so big. Can I touch them?” Though shocked, I said yes. No one had ever just asked to touch my boobs like that. She poked at them for a minute and then said, “They so squishy.” You’ve got to love an adorable Japanese girl with no social skills.

Poor Take’ put up with quite a few of my pranks. I would leave him random 1-800 phone numbers to call back with messages that the INS had called looking for him. I also once convinced him that I had signed him up to be on one of those ‘eat bugs’ type of game shows. I got him a lot but eventually he just assumed that I was always joking. It’s not easy living with a prankster like me but it is fun. Or at least I think it is. Times with him weren’t always rosy. We got on each other’s nerves every so often and I once had to put a ban on speaking Japanese in the living room but when it came down to it we became close friends. Take’ was with me the morning of 9/11. I ran into his bedroom and woke him up and we both watched the television transfixed by what we were seeing. Something like that bonds you.

When it was time for him to go back to Japan to visit his family, Kimi and Ken picked him up early and brought him to LAX. At some point that morning, I received a phone call. He never got out of the habit of telling me that it was him: “Hello, Ellen. This is Take’.” I guess he never realized that the accent gave him away when he uttered his first syllable. He then said, “They won’t let me go to Japan.”

“What do you mean they won’t let you go to Japan,” I asked.

“My passport is expired.”

I could hear how scared he was and I knew at that moment that I was probably going to be driving the 2.5 hours to LA to get him but I held out some hope. He was in LA after all. There had to be a way to expedite renewing his passport so I told him to go find out answers, to ask for help and not to call back for at least a half hour. Exactly a half hour later the phone rang and – yup – you guessed it. He still couldn’t go to Japan. So, up to LA I drove and picked him up. He was sitting on his suitcase all hunched over and depressed looking. It was like a movie scene when the guy tries to get to the airport in time to catch the girl he loves but misses her. That’s exactly how he looked.

I don’t know how many people find roommates as willing to do some of the things I did for him. I was good to that kid, took care of him. Someone had to. Who knows. Maybe he thought that he was taking care of me. He’s living in Portland now and he has a girlie to kick it with. We still keep in touch. I’m glad for that. He is, after all, my Japanesey BFF. He told me that Kimi moved back to Japan and got married. Ken is playing guitar for a popular band called The Bronx now. Though we’ve all moved on, I can still hear them speaking Japanese and I can still taste that mashed potato soup. Good memories never fade.

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The Proposal: An Ellen Tale

It had to be around 2001ish. I had broken up with the man who I moved to California with, the man who I had spent about six years of my life with. We had de-evolved into a strange incestuous-type mode…the type of relationship that’s more about existing together instead of feeding each other’s fire. And if there’s one thing in this world that I refuse to do, it’s stay in a relationship that’s void of fire.

The strange thing about me and Dave was that we were best of friends. I mean, we did move across the country together. His brother lived with us and, at a few points, some of his college friends lived with us as well. I got used to being the queen bee of the hive and I liked it that way. They were my men. By my men, I mean they were my besties who I looked after. All men need a little looking after. Some more than others. But yeah, I played the wing man, I cooked meals, I even partook in strange shenanigans like swallowing spaghetti and then pulling it back up just to see if I could. You do things like that when you live with all guys.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget our break-up. We – by we I mean him, his brother and me – were at a Vietnamese restaurant. It was our first time there and we were noobs when it came to Vietnamese cuisine. To be honest, as shameful as it sounds, I didn’t even know what pho was back then. For shame, right? Dave and his brother Eric were great conversationalists. They were educated and they were thinkers. There was always some sort of topic that we would debate for hours…something like who are the true affluent people of the world: the ultra wealthy banking types or aboriginals living in the jungle. As a thinker myself, my brain was fed constantly by our chats. So, as we sat engrossed in a conversation about some new scientific discovery, I blurted out to even my own surprise, “So do you want to see other people?” Just like that. The conversation halted for a moment as we all breathed in the shock and then Dave simply said, “Yeah, that’s cool.” And that was that. We continued chatting, laughing and enjoying our virgin Vietnamese experience.

We all lived together for the next year. I moved into Eric’s bedroom and he moved onto the couch. To us, it seemed normal. To others, not so much. I wasn’t really interested in dating. To be truthful, I was much more interested in going out to see bands with friends. To me, there was nothing better than going to The Casbah to see a local punk rock band play. Seriously, nothing better. Sometimes though, late at night, I would get bored. So bored as a matter-of-fact that I would visit chat rooms. Now, take into consideration that this was way before Facebook. Way before Myspace even. So, when I say chat board, I’m talking old school. There was no real connectedness. You didn’t know anyone as there was no page for pics and bios. Now you can come to your own conclusions as to what I was doing on there. Let’s be real though, shall we. People have needs. Anyways, I met someone from San Francisco. He was pretty cool. We liked a lot of the same bands and he had that whole rockabilly thing going on that I was really into at the time. Don’t judge me. But yes it’s true. At one point in my life, I did think the pompadour was sexy.

Chatting turned into phone conversations pretty quick. Now, mind you, I was going along with the whole thing not really knowing what exactly I was getting caught up into. He, on the other hand, had apparently fallen under the thrall of the dark princess. Not my fault. The time soon came that he wanted to meet me in person. Sure. Why not? What could possibly go wrong with meeting a complete stranger who your gut is telling you to not meet because you feel like he might be a little in love? But, if you know me, you know that making good choices isn’t something I’m good at. On the contrary, I’m terrible at them. So, sure. Come on down to San Diego. It will be fun.

I walked into the San Diego airport to meet him at the gate. Remember when you could do that…pre-9/11 airport conduct to meet your party at the gate? Gone are those days. He got off the plane and I immediately felt the awkwardness between us. There was no chemistry. None. Not one atom, neutron, proton. Nothing firing! And so I was stuck to entertain a man who I knew only from a chat room and from the phone. Good going, Ellen. Way to drive yourself right into awkward town. Luckily it was only one weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

We did the San Diego experience. I took him to Balboa Park, to my favorite Indian restaurant and to get tattoos. He wanted matching tattoos. I’m not even kidding. He did. We sat at Avalon 2 and he tried to convince me that having matching tattoos would commemorate our time together. I was throwing up in my brain. Seriously? Matching tattoos? Ummm, yeah, I don’t do that. I don’t remember what he got. I got a Chinese character symbolizing ‘to seek.’ Yeah, that’s me alright. Always seeking.

I’m not too sure at what point the ring got pulled from his pocket. It was a silver ring with a punk rock look and a yellow stone. He got down on his knee so that his pompadour was at belly-button height and he asked me to marry him. Wow. Ya know, I get myself into some doozies but that might have been the dooziest of all the doozies. I literally had no idea what to say. What do you say to that? I mean, I barely knew him and all I knew after meeting him was that I couldn’t wait for him to get on the plane and to go back to San Francisco. Holy Batman! So I did what any level-headed person would do…I said yes. I can almost hear you all judging me now as you’re reading this. Go ahead. I’m judging myself as well. I didn’t know what to do. Really, I didn’t! So, as my “fiance” got on the plane to go home, I was mentally preparing to tell him that we weren’t going to be getting married. Poor guy. He had no idea what was about to hit him.

I knew I had to do it quick. I couldn’t carry on like that. It was wrong. I knew it and I knew what a douche bag I was being by allowing him to think that I was going to be his bride. I made the call that week and broke the news that I didn’t want to get married. He took it as you can imagine. He called and wrote e-mails incessantly. I never responded. I simply disappeared from his life. I think we can all agree on my level of ass holery at this point. But, come on, a marriage proposal was a tad reeee-dick, don’t you think?

Sometimes, when I add up all of my misfortunes – and there’s been many – I wonder if I’m being cosmically punished for hurting that man. When I feel myself slipping into beating heart mode, I hold back because I know that soon enough the cosmic butt hurt will be dealt to me. Though love has reared it’s head in my life, even going so far as to save my life, I am absent of love. It seems as though I’m easy to love and even easier to walk away from. But hey, that’s what I get for being a douche, right? And so, John, if you happen to stumble upon this, I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that.

A Random Chapter in the Book of Ellen

Julie is my best friend in Atlanta. And thank god I met her! I moved to Atlanta to escape the confines of central Florida and I came with high hopes. After all, Atlanta reminds me of a merging of Boston and San Diego. I had driven up to interview with the one school that called me and I got the job right away. I was going to leave alternative education and make the come back to the public schools. High school public education at that! It was time after all and I was excited for the new experience. I was ready for the move to more of a city-like environment. And, even though I don’t live right in the city, I’m close enough. Being from central Mass, it took twenty to forty-five minutes to navigate back roads to get to a friend’s house. And considering how spread out San Diego is, being in your car for a while became a habit. No big deal to be on the outskirts of Atlanta. At least I’m close. It was through a friend, Jessie from Florida, that I met Julie and we’ve been friends since my arrival. In our daily phone chats, we discuss everything from our escapades to politics to music venues that we’ll, as moms, somehow try to get to. It’s rough being an indie music fan when you have kids to account for.

I’m lucky in that my daughter goes with her dad every other weekend and that I get a much-needed break. Let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy task to negotiate dates and schedules with her dad when we first split but, as life often does, it worked itself out and relations with him got easier. Now we can coexist at school functions and help each other out when something with family or with a function comes up.

Now, being that I’m a geek. Yeah, I’ll say it and I’ll say it loud and with pride. I! Am! A geek! I wear my geekness with honor. And, being as geek chic as I am, I attend Dragon Con in Atlanta every year. It’s sort of my Christmas. It’s not like the San Diego Comic Con. It’s smaller but it does seem to get bigger each year. I follow the Joss Whedon track and attend all of the Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Avengers panels and I meet all sorts of interesting folks dressed as their favorite comic book or SciFi characters. Some even cross mediums like the man dressed as Spiderman dressed as slave Leia from Return of the Jedi. People get pretty awesomely creative at the con. And that’s what makes the con the place to be!

The first con I attended was in 2009. I waited in line for two hours to attend the Buffy panel. It was a big deal for a Buffy fanatic like me. Afterwards, I met some new friends who I shared laughs and beers with for hours. We had so much fun watching the parade of costumed people traipsing through the hotel. At one point, I cheers-ed a Klingon. Seriously, people. Life just doesn’t get better than that. Soon though, a text from Julie came through to meet her and some other friends in Little Five Points, a trendy-ish area of Atlanta. So off I went, buzzed and ready for more fun.

We met up at The Porter, known for a twenty-five page craft beer menu. Julie and I love that place as both of us are craft beer enthusiasts. And to hear Julie describe beers she likes is quite comical. She describes Hitichino Ale as tasting like rose petals. Rose petals? Yep, that’s Julie!

So, as the story is re-told to me, I decide to leave the bar. I’m drunk. Julie tries to take my keys but she’s not slick enough for my evasive drunk-ninja moves. Off I go to home. Except for that I didn’t go home. I went to a red light and fell asleep. Two scantily clad women got me and my car to a gas station and called the police. Yeah, I’m not kidding. That happened. The friggin’ police. At this point, I’ve sobered up and have realized that I could potentially get arrested for a DUI. However, I’m smart…like wicked smaaahht as we say in Massachusetts. I know that they can’t get me if I’m not in the vehicle and if the keys aren’t in the ignition so I’ve got this figured out. Or at least I thought that I had it figured out. The lady officer arrives and proceeds to ask a million questions as police tend to do. Meanwhile, my two scantily clad friendly lady-friends are still there. I tell the lady officer that I’m not trying to go home but I would be happy to go to a hotel. Luckily, one of the women knew how to drive a stick shift and so they offered to take me to a hotel. Cool, right? Sure. Ummm, yeah.

She smoked a black and tan on the way to the hotel. For some reason, it didn’t seem like we were in the car for long. We went to a few places as I remember but they were all booked up. Our last hope was a hotel at the end of the road. There was no vacancy. Craptastic! Well, as it turns out, my two new BFF’s were actually hookers and they negotiated with a gentleman who had just – eh hmmm – finished his business and I was then escorted into the “gently used” room by my friendly neighborhood hookers. They were actually really sweet. They lectured me to not open the door for anyone and to retrieve my car keys at the front desk in the morning. There were two beds in the room. There’s a 50/50 chance I slept in the bed that had been used. I’ll never know. And it’s probably better that way.

In the morning, I walked downstairs to the front desk. Big shocker. My keys were not there. The good news though…my car was. Not really knowing what to do, I called Julie. As it turns out, Julie had been on the phone with one of my lady-friends and had her number. During the police inquisition, one of the hookers was calling people in my phone contacts to come and get me. Thank goodness! My lady-friend lectured Julie about taking care of friends and blah, blah, blah and then agreed to meet her to give her my car keys. Meanwhile, I find out that I’m nowhere near Atlanta. I’m in a town called Lithonia which is pretty friggin’ far away from the city.

I gathered my things and sat outside in the hot Lithonia sun and waited for Julie. I was sitting on a white plastic chair. When Julie arrived, she looked at me as though I was a sixteen year old kid who got caught sneaking back into the house after a night of debauchery. I wasn’t too sure she was ever going to forgive me for that one. Ha! Years later, we tell that tale and laugh together. And, it was due to her encouragement that I decided to write about it tonight. So thanks, Julie. Thanks for picking me up that morning and thanks for being my personal motivator.