THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY OWN LIFE

I’ve talked about this before, but Abbi introduced me to a punk rock band, Kill the Complex, in the fall of 2006, and I am their oldest groupie.  Their lyricist, Dann, captured my heart when he wrote SOUNDTRACK. It haunts me. It fills my heart. It resonates in my soul.  For so many reasons.   Check out their website — order their CD’s — but look for their old Butane CD. If it’s not still available, e-mail them and ask where you can get it. I have the whole thing memorized and sing their songs at the most inappropriate times.

Today we’re going to talk about a different type of soundtrack — the soundtracks that I’ve lived in for the last 6 years.

College campuses are a different phenomenon. The sounds of frat parties, ambulances and police cars, every possible form of music, giggling, and travelling parties fill the air. And I’ve learned the only time I can sleep through the night — even every now and then — is when I’m surrounded by a cacophony.

My newest digs are in Fullerton, Calif. It’s a totally different type of campus. The houses are small — they hold 15 – 20 girls; usually the officers. And the houses aren’t close to each other. They’re flung all around the university in no rational pattern, and all in residential neighborhoods. I understand that the frats have a “row,” but it’s nothing like The Row at USC. Nothing compares to The Row at USC. Every sorority and fraternity on campus is on 28th Street. Enough said.

As a matter of fact, my current house is so far from campus that they have to drive to classes. Nothing is in walking distance, which is also different. Usually, there’s a coffee shop or something — but I have to scope out some other areas in hopes of finding a fast food restaurant or a 7-11 within walking distance so I can get my morning Coke. You know how important that is to me. Without a good, strong fountain Coke in the morning, my evil twin could come out. But don’t worry. My Coke and Butterfinger diet is not making a comeback.

The funny thing for me is the variety of noises that are new in my life, and where they come from — or the mystery of where they originate.

We’re in a residential neighborhood, and within a couple of houses behind us someone has a dog that is either barking really loud, whining, or crying. I want to find the house and slap the owners. It reminds me of Hawaii where people bought dogs just to bark. They’d chain them to a tree or post with just enough leeway to reach the front and back doors. One day a dog showed up at our gate. Tail wagging, tongue lapping, so excited he was about to pee. One ear up; one ear down — looked like an Aussie hat.

He’d literally broken a very large chain-link metal “leash” around his neck to escape. We took him in and named him Israel, because he was delivered out of bondage. Of course, he had to have a less serious name, too. It was “Hairy Puppins.”

He was so protective of Abbi — Guarded her baby crib and would only let Bill or me get near her. He also kept burglars companies while they stole all my jewelry and our money. Heck. He was probably licking their hands. Being a barking-back-yard-alarm-system guard dog was not his calling.

We had to leave him when we rotated out of Hawaii because we were going to be on the road for two months. But we found him a good home where he’ll never have a metal collar again.

This behind-my-house dog is sad. That makes me irate. His whining and crying make it difficult for me to sleep. Or be awake. You know me. Eventually a phone call or visit is imminent. I don’t put up with people abusing children or animals.

And of course, my house is haunted. Her name is Amy. She hangs out in the girl’s kitchen. Every now and then, I hear noises coming from that area when no one is around. Though she hasn’t introduced herself yet, I have high hopes. I still miss Katie Horn and wish she’s leave the AChiO house in San Diego and come live with me. She was the best ghost ever.

Every now and then, a buzzer-like sound comes out of God knows where. Sometimes it’s in multiples and others, it’s just once. I’ve tried tracking it down, but to no avail. It sounds just like the buzzers on TV game shows — eeeeeeee.  eeeeeeeee. (That’s e like in “every,” not a long e.) I’m going to find it. It reminds me of the beeper that used to go off in the hallway at my first house. Dana Samuel was so obsessed with it that she’d sit in the hallway waiting for it to go off. Eventually, I’d sit and join her. It took us a week to find that it was a fire alarm with a dying battery.

But that was a predictable “beep.” Not a non-descript “eeeeeee.” I must find it. I must.  The girls don’t have a clue either — but they say it’s been here for as long as they can remember. Heck, maybe it’s Amy. Just can’t figure out what she’s trying to say with it.

And there’s the washing machine. Every time someone is doing laundry, I hear and feel the vibration. This would make sense, except the washer and dryer are down the hall, past two bathrooms, a two-girl room and the president’s suite — then, past a fire door and out in the garage. No earthly reason why I should feel and hear it running.

Or the garage door opening and closing, which are even farther away. But I always know when someone is coming or going.

The one that spooks me is a door that slams in the middle of the night. It freaks me out, because none of the doors make this sound when they’re opened and closed during the day. This one wakes me up. It’s ominous. Not just a little scary, but thriller-horror-novel-turned-movie spooky. I expect someone to be standing in the doorway to my bedroom with a knife over his head. Yup, it wakes me up. Every time.

And there’s the sound I pray will be have wherever I live. The one that takes me back to my grandparents’ house in Tioga, West Virginia. The mournful sigh or wail, depending on the source, of a train whistle. I close my eyes and find myself in the front bedroom of the Fidler manse hearing the train as it carried lumber and coal from Tioga to the rest of the world. Or in the main cabin of the B & O train as Uncle Jim and Uncle Mutt (Ok, laugh. I also had an Aunt Leo, Aunt Pink, and Uncle Buck. It was rural West Virginia. At least I didn’t have a Bubba. Or a Billy Joe Bob Jack.) engineered the train and let me ride along. I’d be covered in coal dust when we returned, and it just didn’t matter. Sometimes, they’d even let me shovel the coal into the furnace. It made me feel like the most important kid on earth. At that moment, in Tioga, WV, I was. I was a Fidler, and only Fidler kids were allowed in the engine of the train.

Listening to that train whistle, I’d wondered what it would be like to be the big fish in a tiny pond instead of a miniscule fish in the overwhelming city of Charleston. After dad died, I’d wonder what it would be like to live with my grandparents or my Uncle Frank, Aunt Leo, and cousin Hank instead of my mother…….

And from heaven only knows where, there’s a megaphoned voice that chirps about 4 times a day — like the ones at the metro stations, only there’s no metro station. I’m assuming it comes from one of the schools that surround my neighborhood, but who knows. It may be coming from the shadows of my mind.

There are the normal sorority house sounds I love. The late-night-early-morning congregation around the dining room table right outside my apartment. Chipotle, conversations, and laughter. I love walking past a room where there is no light under the door but there’s one of those middle-of-the-night-pillow-talks they’ll never forget. Girls who might never have met if they hadn’t signed bid cards for the same sorority, who become best friends sharing secrets, dreams, and angst in the dark.

The frat boys still try to “get over” and charm me in hopes that it will garner special treatment in time. They don’t know I’ve heard it all before. They also don’t know that there isn’t anything new in the fraternity/sorority world. Guys still steal composites. Houses still pull pranks on each other. And frat boys still try to charm house moms. In the immortal words an experienced house director friend of mine, “I’ve trained enough twenty-year olds in my day.” Nothing new under the sun.

There’s the clamor of girls rehearsing dances for Greek Week or some other competition. All night. Or practicing rush songs and dances well into the night. I do love rush. God help me.

There are sounds from other houses that I miss.  I miss the Sigma Nu’s at USC lulling me to sleep at night with their parties. They never let me down, and I loved them for it. Even when their snakes got loose on the lawns and we had to help them find huge boa constrictors sunning themselves.

The one I miss the most is Natasha Cuk playing classical music in the middle of the night when the stress of finals got her to the point that she needed the release. I’d lie in bed, close my eyes, and take it in. Inhale it. Revel in it. Hope she’d play forever. Though there was no way she had time to take classes, her talents could have put her on any concert stage. She’s model gorgeous. And one of the sweetest girls I ever had the privilege of sharing a roof with. I’d give anything to hear her play again…..but she’s in med school at UCLA now, and almost a doctor. My girls grow up so fast.

My life doesn’t operate well to quiet. Oh, it’s nice for a minute — like the first night I stayed at Laurel’s in Las Vegas and discovered both total dark and total silence. But it’s pretty obvious something that quiet and dark will never be a part of the Soundtrack of My Own Life. Dann’s song applies much more aptly than Simon & Garfunkle’s, “The Sound of Silence.” And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not embracing retirement like many of my friends. Living with college girls is way more fun and interesting, and every day brings a new laugh and new adventure.

As you probably know, I’ve been emotionally bankrupt for quite some time now due to that damned law suit that won’t go away. To bring you up to date, all the data is in and we’ve filed our demand.  We’re waiting for a response from their counsel. It is in everyone’s best interest to end this thing and write my check before the end of the year. They haven’t been user-friendly with my case to date, but keep a good thought. There are mysteries that need to emerge from the recesses of my mind. Red herrings need to slap me in the face. Plots are longing to emerge. Characters are waiting to take on lives of their own. And I can’t wait to sit at a writing desk, computer before me, plants and birds out the window, a good cat fighting for keyboard time, and hours going by without realizing they’ve passed. There are three concepts nagging at me, and I can’t wait to see which one(s) jump off the page.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back soon. And until then, please be safe out there. Like the lovely Natasha and so many others, you’re precious to me. I’m lucky like that.