[Author’s note: portions of this newsletter were taken from the following letters:
barbar77 and barbar79.]
THE FRUITCAKE NEWSLETTER
vol. 2----issue #7----april 1999
Matthew McQuilkin, the official “ungrateful little brat” . . .
. . . So here we are, in the wake of the record-breaking length of issue #6 of
volume two of the Fruitcake Newsletter, generating some of the most passionate response
seen since my mother nearly disowned me for making crass comments about her
husband. How many people did I offend with my newsletter this month, you ask? Three!
Well, that’s the “official” count, anyway.
First of all, there’s Courtney and Beau, who deserve an apology perhaps more
than anyone else I have ever offended with this newsletter. This is for the simple reason
that I never set out to make them look bad, and I ended up doing so anyway. This was all
the result of complete carelessness on my part.
Some of you may recall a phone call mentioned in the last newsletter, which went
on between Gabe and Beau, while I was gone in California. Just for review, this is what
Gabe and Suzy said happened: Gabe called, and Beau picked up the phone. When asked
if I was home, Gabe heard Beau say, “No, this is his brother.” So Gabe said, “You don’t
sound like his brother . . .”--and then Beau told him he was cat sitting for me. In Gabe’s
mind, it sounded like one rather strange lie then attempted to be covered up by an even
more blatant one. While still under the impression that this is actually what happened, I
included a note with the thank-you gift that I sent Courtney (which she loved, by the
way): “P.S.” I wrote, “Anyone calling for me would know who my brother is.”
However, this is actually what happened: Gabe called, and Beau answered the
phone. Gabe asked for me, and Beau saw that “McQuilkin” was on my caller ID. There is
a very simple reason for this, and something Gabe never would have thought about:
whenever Gabe and Suzy call me, my caller ID says, “McQuilkin, Matthe,” because
when Gabe and Suzy moved out of the old place and into one of their own, they kept the
phone number that I myself called the company to set up--so it was always in my name.
Even though the phone company knows that I no longer live there, they have yet to
change the identifying name when Gabe and Suzy call places (which probably confuses a
lot of people who have caller-IDs when Gabe and Suzy call them). Anyway, Beau must
not have been able to see the ID very well, and evidently all he really noticed was the
name McQuilkin. Thinking it was a family member, he said, “Is this his brother?”
This was what Gabe thought he heard as “This is his brother.”
And that was when Gabe said, “You don’t sound like his brother.”
And, naturally, Beau said, “No, I’m cat sitting for him.” Or something to that
effect, anyway. In any case, it was a total miscommunication (brought on by Gabe’s
apparent deafness--when I told Gabe about it he said something like, “I think this is a
So then I came home, wrote the newsletter, sent it out, and it wasn’t long before I
got an e-mail from Courtney, having no idea what I was talking about: “Beau felt bad
because it made him look like a total ass,” she wrote to me. Well, I feel I should clarify
that Beau never acted like an ass, and I didn’t even think of him that way when I was
believing Gabe’s version of the story. But it was totally understandable that they desired a
clarification of the events in the following issue of the newsletter--so there it is. I
officially and publicly apologize for causing either of them any discomfort whatsoever.
That was never my intention.
Then came the next one: Grandpa McQuilkin. I got a letter from Grandma, who
was not bothered one bit by my March newsletter, and she told me Grandpa felt that I
was “an ungrateful little brat.” It has since been established that this was merely the
result of misinterpretation, since I ultimately made it perfectly clear how much I really
did--and still do--appreciate this thing that Grandma and Grandpa did for me. I have
gotten the feeling, though, that Grandpa has been less than pleased with me overall ever
since. I suppose I can live with that. It’s too bad, though--I have no grudges against him,
and much as he can get to me, I do care about him. I’m just not about to spend much of
my time worrying about this.
If anyone else was particularly offended by my last newsletter, then they did not
let me know. In fact, that issue generated a wide range of reactions, among the most
positive actually being from Aunt Raenae: “I found it to be one of your most exciting and
interesting,” she told me over Easter weekend. Sherri seemed to find it a bit too long;
Grandma actually liked reading what I wrote about the California trip, but found herself
bored at the pages on my weekend with Danielle in Seattle.
But, you know, I can’t please everyone all the time, particularly these people:
ANGEL . . . even when wings grow transparent, they still work . . .
COURTNEY . . . i am guilty . . .
DANIELLE . . . writing regularly, but here we are anyway . . .
DARCY . . . somewhere . . . over the rainbow . . . i’ll see you . . . again . . .
DAWN . . . mourning the absence of mornings . . . i do miss you . . .
GINA . . . looking forward to late may, when it will be that time of the month . . .
DAD AND SHERRI . . . cracker jax parents . . . always yielding bonus points and prizes . . .
PAUL . . . no apologies needed . . . as if you had any real reason . . .
RAENAE AND TONI . . . enjoyed your company amongst the tulips . . . one day twill be in the emerald city . . .
RICK AND TAMMY . . . while i have no clue how your lives are going . . . you’ll always know the details of mine . . .
SHANE . . . suffering from agoraphobia yet . . . ?
. . . And now, as always, I feel the need to mention the wonderful, marvelous,
beautiful fantastic amazing caring loving souls who continue to write to me regularly:
AUNTIE ROSE . . . still writing semi-monthly . . .
BARBARA . . . now writing almost weekly . . .
GRANDMA MCQUILKIN . . . bombarding me with letters . . .
JENNIFER MCQUILKIN . . . still writing monthly at least . . .
JENNIFER MIGA . . . still writing regularly . . .
UNCLE JIM . . . still writing regularly . . .
. . . The fact that so many people (well, these ones, anyway, unlike some other
people I know) are still writing to me so much has proven to me to be the one and only
compelling evidence of the existence of God. So what do I have to say to the rest of you?
I’ll give you three guesses, only the first one counts.
a month in the life of a fruitcake
You walk mincingly.
So . . . about Easter Weekend. My train arrived in Lacey at 11:35, about five
minutes later than schedule. Gina lives practically across the street from the tracks, and
she met me by saying, “What happened?” I had no idea what she was talking about,
particularly when she said I was a half-hour late. It seems the morons at the bus stop said
the train was scheduled to be in at eleven. The train was fun to ride down on, though: a
bi-layered coach, on which I got to sit next to a window on the second level. The scenery
between Tacoma and Olympia really is beautiful. Gina asked me if I liked her hair, and I
couldn’t think of whether I did or not. I think the truth was that I was indifferent to it (it
Gina and I later went to the restaurant for lunch. I found out Dad had actually said
at first that her hair essentially looked like crap, but Gina sure fired back, talking about
how she still has more hair to curl than he does. Then he said, “You have more nose to
blow too but you don’t brag about that.” This is the kind of love that runs rampant in my
Gina and I were going to hang out on Saturday afternoon and cook something out
of her vegetarian cook books for the Easter pot luck. We ended up just visiting, really,
while Gina did her usual vegetable platter. We talked and I drank Dr. Pepper with Korean
writing on the can (has something to do with Gina’s boyfriend Larry’s job). I really
enjoyed visiting with Gina, though.
Gina and Larry went out to dinner later that evening, so she took me to Dad’s
house and let me in with her key (I asked for one of my own for my birthday; let’s hope I
actually get one for once). Grandma had bought tickets to some Easter show in Tacoma
for Dad and Sherri, so I was home alone for a while. It gave me enough time to watch
Disney’s Mulan, though, which I enjoyed quite a lot--and then I had time to listen to the
Cher CD, which Sherri just bought. It was great, because this time I could crank it and no
one living upstairs was going to complain. That was perhaps the most immediately
gratifying point of the evening for me.
I called Christopher while I was still at Gina’s to see if they were still going to
make it over--and they weren’t. They had been waiting for Katina’s school check to use
to come over with, and it never showed. So Easter had to go on without them.
Anyway, since there were no grandchildren staying over that night (according to
Sherri, it’s Becca and Nikki’s first Easter spent outside of Olympia), I helped color the
eggs after Dad and Sherri got home. That took sufficient time, and then I went to bed--to
sleep over a night that was robbed of an hour because of the daylight savings change. My
whole Easter weekend was cheated out of an hour of time, and that sucked like a Hoover.
Easter was quite nice. More like an average, pleasant holiday family get-together
than anything, really, but still quite nice. My dinner consisted of potato salad, macaroni
salad, and half a hot cross bun. There were no dinner rolls to be found, nor was there any
of Sherri’s spectacular shrimp salad. What a crock. Oh well: I filled up nicely on
chocolate candy, spread evenly throughout the house in dishes (spread by myself that
morning, as a matter of fact).
The true celebrity of the day was my photo album, which I brought down with
me. Everyone wanted to see my photos of the accident in California. I showed those
pictures to Dad and Sherri, Angel, Gina, Uncle Paul, Aunt Raenae, Bill and Joan, and
Grandma (who in turn showed it to still more others). I think that photo album made the
rounds more than any other specific person did that day. It was the one and only
At one point I tried making a crack about Grandma complaining that AAA didn’t
come out to help her, and instead what came out was, “Grandma complaining about AA
never coming to help.” This sure amused everyone within earshot, and I was asked if I
was going to include it in the newsletter.
Sherri drove me to the train station Sunday evening, and Aunt Raenae came out
with her, because she had yet to see the station, which is relatively new. I really didn’t
want to take that trip back home, because I enjoy my family so much--but once I got on
the train, I started to enjoy the trip immediately, it’s so much better than the bus (and
more comfortable than a plane--the only thing worse about it than a plane is how long it
takes, but it has more elbow room than any other transportation). The snack bar car, right
in front of the one I sat at, had this awesome picture on the ceiling of the Puget Sound
area with lights at every city and town.
It sure was funny when the train pulled out, and I looked out the window to see
Sherri and Aunt Raenae, waving to the train about three cars behind me. I tried to wave
to them, but they weren’t even looking in my direction. Of course they never would have
known that I walked up one car from the one I boarded on--but they were waving at cars
even behind that one. Oh well.
I took the bus from the train station home that night, even though I could have
walked the mile and a half with my too-heavy baggage. But you know me, lazy bum slob.
Now, in other news . . . before going to Spokane for my friend Lynn’s wedding, I
went on a shoe crusade. Dad and Sherri had been bugging me for weeks to get new shoes,
since the ones I was wearing had a hole in the side of one of them. So then I just went
gung-ho after work the previous Thursday afternoon, and used the list I compiled from
the phone book the night before, of all the places downtown I could look for shoes. I
even put them in order on the list so that I could work my way toward my apartment
while going to each store in turn. The first place I went into was called “Balley’s.” It was
very upscale, and I felt rather out of place there. I wondered if the people working there
looked at me with the mind of something like, Is that scum rif-raff loser lost, or what?
Then I found the perfect pair of boots--only to pick them up and find out how much they
I could feel my bowels turning into jell-o. Then I was rather driven to exit the
It wasn’t long, actually, before I found an “I guess” satisfactory pair of
shoe/boots. Technically they’re boots, as were my last shoes--but they seem more like
shoes to me. I actually found them at a place that never made it onto my list--at Century
Square on Fourth and Pike, six blocks from my home. I always noticed the “Women’s
Shoes” separate part of the store on Third and Pike, but only that day did I notice the
“Men’s Shoes” separate part, on Pike between Third and Fourth. I went in there and
found something virtually identical to what I had on . . . to find out their largest size was
a 9. What the hell is this, JC Penny? (The very same thing happened to me there the day
before.) What is with these people?
So then the employee showed me another similar pair of boots, and the closest to
my size they had was 11 (I wear ten and a half). I tried them on, and they were sort of
okay, I thought. I asked if there were any places nearby that she could think of that might
sell similar types of shoes--she suggested Ross and the Nordstrom’s Rack. She said she
couldn’t think of anything else: “I don’t get out much around here; I don’t like hanging
out downtown. I think it’s because I spend so much time here at work.” I told her that I
would go look at those other places, and if they didn’t have anything satisfactory, I would
come back and buy those shoes. She said she’d keep them behind the counter for me.
So I went to both Ross and the Rack, and neither had what I wanted. I figured that
none of the other, smaller places would either, and I figured that my best bet would be a
place called Shoe Pavilion. So I went and bought those size-11 boots, and took them
I did feel a lot better then, though, that I could go to Lynn’s wedding in shoes
without any holes in them. I had spent the previous four days searching all over town for
the right shoes, spanning an area within a radius of five miles from downtown, and I had
finally met the objectives of the mission.
Now, about my flight to Spokane. I kept on thinking that I had to be at the airport
an hour early, which meant I was supposed to leave at six o’clock, since my plane left at
seven. I imagine most all of my readers recognize immediately that this perception was
dead wrong, but for some reason it’s something I completely missed. What’s worst about
this whole thing was that I had nothing to do during that hour I was supposed to be on the
bus (between five and six p.m.), and all I did in my apartment was just sort of hang out,
doing really nothing at all.
I saw that it was six o’clock, grabbed my things, and headed out the door. I was
going through the door of my apartment when I felt something hit me (in the
metaphysical sense, I mean). Did that clock really say six? So I went back into the
apartment, and looked at the clock. Yep: it really did say it was six. And then, for some
reason completely unbeknownst to me, I still suddenly told myself that was okay: Oh
yeah, I was supposed to leave at six. So then I continued walking, intending to catch the
6:15 bus in the metro tunnel. I had a very vague sense of uneasiness, but consciously I
was convincing myself that everything was all right.
So then I was waiting in the metro tunnel underneath Westlake Center. I missed
the 6:10 bus by only a couple of minutes, but I was still under the impression that it
would still leave me at least 45 minutes until my flight left once I got there. So then I
looked at my bus schedule, and looked at when the next bus was supposed to leave: 6:40.
Trail my finger along the line of times for stops to the right, and see the time it’s
supposed to arrive at Seatac . . .
I did a double-take. My plane was supposed to leave at seven! I had just looked at
the giant clock that is on the far end wall in that part of the tunnel, and it said it was 6:20.
Heart pounding double-time, I raced back up the stairs to get to the street, thinking of
what I could do. I kept thinking that, if I missed my flight, the very least that would
happen is the minimum charge of $35 for changing my itinerary and taking the next
flight. I never thought of other people who might want to get on other planes at the last
minute, and the chances there were that I could have ended up waiting at the airport for
I went to a phone booth on Fourth and Pine, and looked in a phone book for a taxi
number. I was frantically in a hurry, and everything seemed to take forever. I called the
number, and asked if it would be possible for them to get me to the airport by seven
o’clock. The lady wanted the phone number to where I was at.
I looked all over the phone booth to find a number, and never found one. “I’m at a
pay phone,” I said, “On Fourth and Pine.”
So then she told me that she needed a phone number. I couldn’t believe it--who,
out of all people who have been in Seattle for a single day, let alone cab drivers, doesn’t
know where Fourth and Pine is? But evidently the only way they could make their
“system” work is by entering a phone number. It still didn’t make any sense to me, but
she asked for a land mark. “Westlake Center,” I told her.
Then she said she could get a cab to me by seven. You see, she still didn’t
understand. “No,” I said. “I need to be at the airport by seven.”
“Oh, that could be tricky,” she said. This after she moseyed through the computer
for what seemed to me to be an eternity. I was then indecisive about getting a cab. I asked
how much it would run me to go to the airport. “About thirty-four dollars,” she said. The
same, almost, as a charge for changing my ticket. So why on earth should I bother then?
Why not just take the next bus? But finally, I asked her when she could get a cab to me.
“Three to ten minutes,” she said.
“Okay, fine, send one,” I said. “Westlake Center.” I got off the phone, and then
another thing hit me: cabs were driving by at an alarming rate, first of all. Second, neither
I nor this lady on the phone had discussed which corner of this intersection I should stand
on so the cab driver coming would know that I was the one he was supposed to pick up. I
walked back over to the Westlake side, but found myself among dozens of people. This
was never going to work. After three minutes went by, I decided to regard the cab as too
late, and I simply went back down to the tunnel and waited for the 6:40 bus.
I got on the bus, thinking maybe I would get lucky. Maybe, just maybe, the bus
would be a little early getting there, and the plane would be a little late taking off! Hey, it
was possible! So I rode the bus in agony, constantly thinking this lady driving the bus was
taking far too much of her dear sweet time to stay at stops and keep the doors open.
Once I arrived at the airport, it was indeed 7:15. I walked up to the ticket counter
and said to the lady who greeted me, “I assume the 7:00 flight to Spokane has already
She was sort of like, “Uh . . . yeah.” She tried to tell me I could have used a kiosk
to check in, but then I got her to understand that it wouldn’t have made any difference--I
still would have missed the flight (the first I have missed, mind you, in my life--and for
no other reason than I am a complete moron!). I needed to be at the counter anyway, to
get onto another flight.
“So what happened?” asked the lady, clearly thinking that something beyond my
control had prevented me from making it on the plane. But I am adamant about honesty,
even with strangers:
“It was all my fault, actually,” I said. “I just wasn’t paying attention to the time.
It’s my mistake, and I should have to pay for it.” I also said, a number of times, “I can’t
believe I did this!” And then I went on: “Okay, so what do I have to do to get onto the
next flight out of here?”
That was when she revealed to me that a number of people were already also
waiting on standby for the 8:00 flight. This was something I had not even thought of.
What I did find out, however, was somewhat redeeming: instead of buying a whole new
ticket for another flight, I could just wait on standby for no extra charge at all. This I also
did not count on, but now I was counting myself quite lucky because of it. If I did not get
onto the 8:00 flight, I would still probably get onto one of the other three flights left to go
out that evening, the lady told me.
“So, how much of a chance do you think there is that I will get onto the eight
o’clock flight?” I asked her.
She did some checking in her computer, quite quickly I might add, and then she
said, “It’s really looking in your favor. There’s five people waiting on standby, but I put
you as a priority, which I’m not really supposed to do--and you’re the only one.”
I found it odd that she would make me a priority standby passenger for no good
reason at all, but thanked her for it profusely. She said the plane was to board in fifteen
minutes, so I had to get to the boarding terminal as soon as possible. I did so, and it was
not long before they boarded everyone with tickets. There were a number of people who
didn’t make it, and so they started calling standby passengers.
I was the very first standby name they called. I got right onto the plane, sitting in
the very back of the plane, next to a windowless wall. Two other standby passengers
ended up coming and sitting in the two seats to my left, and I heard them tell other
passengers that they had been on standby since 3:00 that afternoon. I couldn’t believe it.
These people had been waiting at the airport for five hours, and I had just gotten there not
twenty minutes before--and still I got on the plane before they did.
I have no clue why that lady made me the one and only standby priority
passenger, and the best I can come up with is that she was charmed by my striking
So anyway, I got to Spokane an hour after that, getting there only an hour later
than scheduled. I had had the lady at the counter page the Spokane airport to leave a
message for Barbara to tell her I was going to be late. The message to be left to her was
actually that I didn’t make my flight, and she should go home, and I would ride a bus to
her apartment building or something. I figured she would stay for at least an hour, but
later I found out that some schmuck told her that I had missed the next flight out as well,
even though I hadn’t. So she went home, and I arrived at a Barbaraless airport.
I called her on a pay phone, only to be reminded of what a pathetic city Spokane
is. Only one bus in that town ever goes out to the airport (the airport bus!), and on a
Friday night, their last bus was the only one left to leave that night, but not for another
full hour. Barbara could have taken the last bus from downtown out to the airport, but
then neither she nor I would have a bus to ride back. So I had to take a cab, and that’s
what ended up being the total monetary cost of this otherwise potentially very expensive
and stupid mistake I had made: $15 cab fare.
So, I made it to Barbara’s finally, and counted that as one of the luckiest days I
had ever had. I missed a flight, and the most it cost me was fifteen bucks and one hour.
Everything went extraordinarily smoothly, all things considered. And now I was finally
visiting Barbara for one full weekend. I was there to go to Lynn’s wedding, but that was
only a few hours on Saturday afternoon, and Barbara was going to go to it with me
anyway. Lynn suggested that, because everyone else was going to be bringing a date, and
she also wanted me to be able to have someone to visit with while I was there--someone
else that I actually knew (Lynn and her husband were the only people at her wedding that
I actually knew).
It was not many hours later when Barbara and I just went to bed that Friday night,
and before I knew it, it was Saturday. I had Barbara french braid my hair for the wedding,
for one reason and one reason only: Lynn once told me she didn’t think I would look
good with my hair that way. To prove her wrong, I went to her wedding with it like that.
No that she ever would have found that rude, or anything: I told her long beforehand that
that was what I had planned on doing.
I also didn’t wear any black (except for my coat) at the wedding. Lynn was very
adamant about this, because she didn’t want anyone at her wedding looking like they
were going to a funeral. Stupid superstition, in my opinion, but I respected her wishes
anyway--it was her wedding. So I wore blue jeans and a quite nice blue dress shirt with
thin vertical white stripes that used to be my dad’s. Of all the clothes I own that aren’t
black, I probably look best in that shirt: I have had a number of people look at me in it
and say things like, “You look really good in blue. You should wear it more often.” My
shoes, of course, were black, though.
The wedding was very nice, and thankfully brief. Not very traditional, because
Lynn and her husband are of a religion called Baha’i. It seems to me to be just like
Christianity--they believe Jesus was the son of God--but apparently it’s different
somehow. Anyway, Lynn wore a gown that looked strikingly like a nightgown she might
have worn to bed that night, with a really cool white scarf that wrapped around her neck
and then draped down to the floor behind both her legs. From the front it sort of looked
like a collar, and from the back it looked like a strange sort of cape.
I got the whole thing on video for her, as my wedding present to them, getting
even the large clang when Jordan, Lynn’s little boy (the one who erased all of Halloween
from my camcorder last December) knocked something over at the front of this large
YWCA room while she was walking down the aisle.
There was no priest or minister, only the two people getting married; they read
out of the Bible to each other and said things I assumed were some version of vows. Then
they lit some candles, along with Lynn’s boy and Jim’s (her husband) two teenage
daughters, after which they walked back down the aisle--and that was about it.
I was demanded to sit in for a picture of everyone who had been at the wedding,
which even Barbara stood in, all of us sitting at picnic tables that overlooked a beautiful
view of the Spokane River falls. Not long after that Barbara and I left.
The rest of the day was spent wandering about downtown, and then that evening
going to see the best action movie I have seen in more than a decade: The Matrix. Then,
the next day, I went with Barbara to a church where there was a concert of different types
of hymns, which I actually rather enjoyed. One of the songs that this rather talented choir
(which was based in Spokane but had been touring all over the Northwest) sang was a
chant-like version of the Lord’s Prayer which was truly beautiful. It was the first time I
had heard that thing and actually enjoyed it.
Directly after that I took the bus back to the airport, and I was on my way back
home again. Waiting at the airport for an hour and fifteen minutes in Spokane wasn’t too
bad, actually. I kept myself occupied by either reading my latest issue of Rolling Stone or
checking out the few good-looking young men hanging around nearby. And then I met
this really interesting man on the plane who sat next to me, and I essentially launched
into this very engaging, intellectual conversation with him that lasted the whole flight,
which made the trip seem quite short. We got to talking about the element of change in
technology, history, and science and such, which I eat right up. He even mentioned Alvin
Tofler’s book from the seventies, Future Shock (which I mentioned in one of my
columns at school), which was one of the few books in high school that I read that I don’t
believe I will ever forget. We got to talking about the analogy from that book about the
line graph representing the rate of change through history, and how up to the 20th century
it would be horizontal, and then at the end it would bend at a ninety-degree angle to
become vertical. God, that guy was cool.
I kept thinking, at first, that he might not be too impressed with this young freaky
looking kid next to him as he actually read Fortune magazine, but he said to me as he sat
down, “How are you doing young man?” I told him, “Fine.” We didn’t speak for another
fifteen minutes or so, and then he suddenly said, “So what do you do?” I told him, but of
course that inevitably led to my desire to write for a living. (One thing he said, though,
was “You’ll never get your letters published,” which I do believe will end up in print
somewhere at some time, whether before or after I am dead. It was the only thing he said
that I found myself thinking he was probably wrong about.) He then told me that his son
is a musician, music he described as “alternative, ska”-- which I understood immediately.
That was when I realized why he wasn’t fazed by my appearance, having a “rocker” son
who he encourages in all he wants to do. Anyway, this guy and I just talked and talked
At the end of the flight, he actually said to me, “I want you to do something.
Write down a list of your goals. Say, how much money you want to make in the next five
years; which novels you want to write, how often you want to write them.” I told him that
I have no doubt already written them down, since I write down every single thought I
ever have; he told me I should make an organized list of them. It made me think, I don’t
know, he may be on to something.
I started to think about how hard it might be for me to achieve all the goals I want
at the same time--for example, make a decent living even with this blatantly uncon-
ventional appearance. But then I mentally slapped myself. Why can’t I make an effort to
simply innovate (as usual anyway)? I got to thinking of those twits at Career
Improvement Group last summer, who said “you can’t” to me whenever it came to
achieving my goals under the conditions that I wanted at the same time. But why on
Earth should I live my life believing that the phrase “I can’t” even exists?
And that’s the note that the weekend ended on.
This was the first time I ever went to anything even remotely like this, let alone
this particular festival itself. But it was definitely worth going to, and I would absolutely
go again another year, and again and again.
That Friday, Grandma and Grandpa came down from LaConner (where the Tulip
Festival was at) to pick me up and then take me back up there. On the way, we stopped at
a Royal Fork for dinner just north of Everett. Grandma told me while we were there that
she thought of giving me a little bit of money for my newsletter, since it’s getting to be so
expensive, and then she decided that she was buying me dinner and that should be
enough. Of course, it was actually more than enough--I later told her in a letter that even
if I started charging for my newsletter, she would still get it for free, she has done so
many things for me; I owe it to her and it’s the very least I could do. However, I don’t
really believe that anyone would really pay to receive my newsletter, so when it gets to be
too much, I will probably limit it to simply posting it online and discontinuing the
practice of sending it out in the mail. I would save quite a bit of money by doing that--
cutting costs for printer ink, printer paper, copies, envelopes, and the increasingly heavy
Anyway, it was thought that we might meet Aunt Penny and Tammy while we
were there, but that never happened. We just ate on our own, and I had two full plates of
what was possibly the best buffet-restaurant food I had ever had. Maybe I was
subconsciously setting out to prove to Grandma that I really do eat like a bird (that is, ten
times my own body weight every day). I wasn’t able to eat everything I took, but that was
We went on the rest of the way up to LaConner, and Grandma asked me if
Grandpa’s driving scared me. In fact, I wasn’t even thinking about it until she asked me.
Even after the accident, I never think twice about getting into a vehicle. If it was time for
me to die, it would happen somewhere no matter what preventative measures I felt I was
taking, so why worry about it? So I never did. I did ride in their new truck, though, which
is longer than the last one, and far roomier, with an actual back seat in the cab. Far more
comfortable for the three of us than the other truck.
That evening I just sort of moseyed about, not doing much of anything; no one
else had yet arrived for the weekend. I hadn’t brought anything to write with or even to
read either, so I ended up going to bed fairly early that night.
Even much of Saturday was like that, with not all that much to do, because no one
began to arrive until early that evening--which was also Sherri’s birthday, by the way (her
age? It’s 100 . . . that is, divided by two, subtract 38, multiplied by (6 x 4), divided by
6.1276595). Until people started arriving, I just milled about some more, even going on a
rather long walk down to the beach of the sound. I ended up walking around a bunch of
sort of land outlets, including one rather large peninsula. One side of it had streaming
water that was little more than the size of a small stream, though, and it looked to me that
I could walk over it to land on the other side that was actually closer to where our camp
was at. Well, I was wrong: I ended up walking through water first of all, and then through
what I had not realized was a fairly large area of thick mud, into which my feet sank at
alarming depths. I got out of there as quickly as I could, but once on the other side, my
new shoes were completely brown with mud.
Later, Grandma and Grandpa and I went into town to watch what would turn out
to be the most pathetic excuse for a parade I had ever seen: maybe three blocks long (the
parade itself, I mean), with no more than seven or eight groups of people passing. It was
mildly interesting anyway, but the parade itself was not in any way the most interesting
thing to happen while we were down there.
Grandma, Grandpa and I were sitting on the “main drag” of LaConner, waiting for
this parade to begin. This young, blond girl in what looked like a satin skirt, a small
blouse, and a really cool belt-like collar walked by, in front of me, from left to right. Not
having a clue that she had noticed me, I actually did notice her--which is rare for women
to do to me. But she just looked really cool.
Anyway, we were sitting in front of a Seafirst bank, and I got up to get some cash
out of the Versateller. As I was walking back, that same young woman was suddenly
there again, right in front of me, holding out this little piece of paper, what looked like
the torn end of a bookmark with a black and white photo on it. I could see a moon and
the reflection of the light shining off of it in the water below it, and the rest was black: a
night scene. Obviously the left side of the picture, but I have no idea what else the picture
was (not that this is relevant at all). She handed it to me picture-side up, so those images
are what I first saw. A split second after I took the paper out of her hand, she simply
turned around and went on her merry way, back in the direction she had been headed the
first time I noticed her.
So, she was long gone by the time I actually looked at the message written on the
other side: “I like your hair it’s beautiful
I then just walked up to Grandma and Grandpa and said, “I can’t believe what just
happened to me.” And I related the experience, and more and more people heard about it,
and so on, and so on. Much of the family was there that weekend, which you already well
know, and they all knew about it.
It wasn’t too long after that when Dad and Sherri arrived, and I had to show them
my new shoes, since they had nagged me so much to buy them. Dad just looked at them
and said, “Those are nice. They’re all covered in mud!”
That evening, once everyone was there (totaling ten family members and two
friends of Grandma and Grandpa’s), we all had cake for Sherri’s birthday and she opened
presents. I had bought her matching earrings with a necklace, all having oval black
pendants trimmed in gold, with a golden silhouette of a unicorn against the black
background. I had no idea whether or not she would really like them, but she sure acted
like she did. I still told her, though, that I got them for her to put into the jewelry box that
Dad got for her, so if she wanted she could just toss them in there if she didn’t want to
look at them. I’m choosing to believe she really liked them, though.
The cake Grandma bought for her sure was good.
The next day, we all got up and went to the family lodge for an all-you-can-eat
french toast breakfast for only $2 a piece. Something extraordinary happened there too: I
ate more during that one meal than Dad did (he had five pieces of french toast, I had
six--but they were so good!).
Not long after that, we all went out to the Tulip Fields. They were some of the
prettiest sights I had ever seen, with fields of tulips of just one color--yellow, white, red,
other variations--stretching as far as the eye could see, or seemingly as far as the distant
Cascade mountains were. At one point Sherri, Uncle Paul, Toni and I were all walking
around the fields together. Turns out the yellow in that area was actually a huge field of
daffodils, but I had Sherri take pictures of me amongst them anyway, this black thing
sticking out of this huge sea of yellow.
After that we all went to a covered picnic area in a park to have an early dinner,
and this is where I have this oh-so charming story to tell about a particular in-law. I won’t
say which family member he is married to (and I haven’t even mentioned many of the
family members who were there), and I won’t say his name either (well, except that it
begins with a D, ends with an N, and has an O in the middle). And these are the relevant
details: the man went to prison for five years for child molestation; his wife waiting for
his release and remained married to him; he is also apparently the ex-husband’s uncle
(leaving someone in that family no doubt wondering it he’s his own grandpa).
Suffice it to say that few of the rest of us like him very much. I never knew that
much about him, and had yet to make a solid opinion, until he decided to put himself up
on a pedestal and tell us all how proud he is that he’s prejudiced.
This is where I must back up a little, to reveal how this came about. Grandpa and
I had gotten into a bit of an argument earlier, because he was convinced that the English
language is disappearing, simply because of how many people he hears speaking other
languages. I am assuming that the whole of my readers already know the many reasons
why this notion is simply ludicrous, so I won’t go into them here.
But now, back to the picnic. While I was under the impression that the debate was
over, Grandpa came up to me at the picnic table I was sitting at and said something to the
effect of, “See, what did I tell you? Did you hear any English out there [in the Tulip
Fields]? You didn’t hear any, did you?”
And this was when I snapped, yet again--something I really need to work on.
Much as I was irritated by him, Grandpa didn’t really deserve to have me start yelling at
him the way I did at that point. But that’s what happened: making the moronic conclusion
that raising my voice would help me to reach him proved a mistake, and he simply waved
a hand at me in dismissal, walking away from me while I was in mid-rant.
Now this, naturally, led everyone there to start talking about people of other races
and nationalities, and here is where the man previously mentioned started to tell us all, “I
gotta admit I’m prejudiced. I was a cab driver and I’ve seen the darker side of life.”
Having far less of a connection with this man than I do with Grandpa, I did not
participate in this conversation at all. Instead, I sat back and listened, in mental agony
over how someone can be so ignorant and blatantly closed-minded and racist. I then
heard Sherri tell him that she can’t find a white person who will work, and that’s why
she’d hire a foreigner--”They’ll work.” This, however, is also merely a stereotype.
Not long after that, Sherri broke away from the rest of the group to smoke a
cigarette (which she started smoking again, for the first time ever having reasons I
understood--although those influences are over and she should quit again!), and I stood
with her to give her some company. “I just hate prejudiced people,” she said. “You know
I just don’t see the need for it.”
Not long after that, Dad and I walked over to the mildly famous Rainbow Bridge,
which was right there at the park. We walked back sooner than we might have, if it
wasn't for an RV passing that made the bridge bounce so much we could feel it--and then
Dad told me that contrary to what I was told to be the plan, now this man who is so proud
of his prejudice was going to be the one to take me to the train station in Everett. At this
point, I didn't recall the many horror stories I had heard before about the guy, but when
Dad and Sherri reminded me later, I was quite thankful that Sherri took a stand and said
she just wasn't comfortable with that. At one point she said that if his wife was going she
wouldn't mind, but I later said I still wouldn't be comfortable with it. I mean, is it really
such a good idea to arrange for a convicted child molester who is proud of his prejudice
to be giving a ride to a now-out gay man who was a child sex abuse victim? I had
mentioned my own childhood in the car on the way to Everett, and it finally clicked with
Dad--he hadn't even though about that. Well, it was a long time ago--but still, I think I
would be a little hesitant!
So Dad and Sherri tried their best to be inconspicuous about giving me a ride
instead: “We’re going into town anyway, so we’re going to take him.” And soon enough,
we were off: a brief visit to some stores in LaConner (one a very charming store called
Good Kitty, Bad Kitty, “Gifts for Cats and their People”). After that we took the freeway
down to Everett, and found ourselves close to getting lost.
We stopped at a gas station to ask for directions, and I went in with Sherri. Two
men of some sort of Middle-Eastern descent were working the store, and they didn't
know where the station was. We came out, and Dad asked if they knew. "No," said
Sherri, and then: "It was Mohammed and his brother." And Dad laughed heartily.
Sherri went into a nearby Subway, where she found customers who knew the way.
She came out of the store saying that “Mohammed’s sister” worked there, but the
customers knew where to go. And we went--only to find ourselves at the seemingly
abandoned (and closed) train station an hour and a half before the train was supposed to
come. Dad and Sherri hung out for a while, and then left when I had about forty-five
minutes to go, because they wanted to get back to LaConner before dark. So I read the
newspaper I had just bought, with an article saying that the Space Needle was to be
declared a historic landmark the following week--rendering it virtually impossible to ever
tear it down or significantly alter it. I was very happy about that.
Beth is Barbara’s 24 year-old daughter, who came from Arlington, VA to visit
Seattle for about five days. It was the first time I got to meet her, and she stayed in the
Kings Inn across the street from my building. It was strange when I first met her, because
no big deal was made out of it: it was just as though we had already known each other
(and we had, though only through e-mail) and this was just another average visit.
She came into my apartment on Monday morning, to check her e-mail on my
computer, and she was taller than I expected. She didn’t look much like her mother. Then
I showed her a bunch of pictures, and she looked at all of my framed collage pictures of
friends and family hanging on my walls, and had me tell her who everyone was.
Anyway, she left and I went off to work, and after I got back home, quite soon
after actually, we took a ferry over to Bremerton and had dinner at the same Chinese
restaurant that Barbara and I did when she came to visit the first time, in July. I had
something so completely different this time: with Barbara, I had shrimp egg foo young.
This time I had crab egg foo young. Beth seemed to really appreciate the ferry rides. She
enjoyed them a lot, as did I--until I realized I left my camera on the ferry going over to
Bremerton, and it is pretty much now assumed to be lost forever. I did call their lost and
found while I was at work a couple of days later, and they didn’t have it. I also left my
name and number, but I really doubt it will turn up. We actually had someone on the
passenger ferry we took back home call over to the Sealth (which we rode over on) to see
if a camera had been found on it, and there hadn’t.
The next day, Tuesday, we got up really early so we could go up the Columbia
Tower. We got in for free this time, as the door was propped open and there was no one
there to take tickets. Inexplicable, but I wasn’t going to ask if a mistake had been made.
Then we went to another place I had not yet been to before: waterfall gardens, in Pioneer
Square (a neighborhood of downtown that I went through for the first time this month,
which is pretty pathetic considering how long I have lived here). I got some really cool
home videos there. It’s not exactly gigantic (it’s maybe half a block of plants and
waterfalls), but it’s really pretty. Beth loved it. Now I know it exists, and I know how to
get to it. After work and before I went to see the comedian Paula Poundstone that
evening, Beth and I went to see Go, which I saw for the second time and enjoyed just as
--Oh, yeah: I asked her a kind of rude question when we were in Bremerton. We
were walking out of the restaurant and I said something like, “I hope you don’t take
offense to this--”
“But . . . “ she continued for me.
“Does your dad have a big mouth?” I asked. Thankfully, she did not take offense.
Evidently she had never thought about it.
But then she said, after some thought, “Yeah, I guess he does.” I asked because
Beth has a mouth far larger than Barbara’s.
Anyway, she’s really cool, and I quite enjoy her company.
On the last day that Beth was here, she said she planned on being here at my
building, waiting, when I got home from work, so I would think she was stalking me. But
then she had to go to the bathroom, and she ended up getting back to my building after I
got home-- so she says she’s a failure at being a stalker.
Anyway, it was not long before we left for the bus, which was to take us down to
my first visit to Costco (the one in Seattle, anyway). She only developed her pictures
there (and she got some really great ones); I, on the other hand, bought a camera that’s
even better than my last one for $10 cheaper than the other one cost me (let’s pray I don’t
lose this one) as well as two photo albums for $10. We had really good pizza at the food
court. We waited for what seemed to be forever to catch a bus back downtown, and we
got to the Space Needle just as twilight was beginning. The mountain on this amazingly
clear day was pretty well hazed over by then, but she could still see it, and she took some
pictures. We weren’t up there for very long, but she seemed to appreciate it quite a bit
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about something that happened on the bus on the
way back from Costco. This guy asked Beth what time it was, and, being the incredibly
friendly person that she is, she happily obliged in telling him. Then he overheard our
conversation about her request to have me tape a copy of Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes
for her that night--I told her, “I don’t know if that will be possible, if I will have the time
or the supplies.”
The guy, apparently drunk (in any case, Beth said she just about got drunk herself
on the fumes of his breath), took a tape of some sort out of his inside coat pocket and
offered it to us, trying to hand it to Beth because she was closest to him. She had to
decline it, as politely as possible, more than once. Evidently the man was offended by her
rejection, and so he set the tape on the floor and then stomped on it a couple of times,
saying, “I was trying to be nice”--or something to that effect. I couldn’t get over it. I was
glad he got off at the next stop.
Anyway, we were at Costco until after 7:30, and probably got to the Space Needle
sometime a bit after eight. We then walked back across the park to the monorail, which
we rode back and then walked to my apartment. I then went over with her to see what a
“dive” her motel room was at the Kings Inn across the street. However, despite a split
seem in the wallpaper, it didn’t seem that bad to me--and she had a television twice as
big as mine. Still, her entire room was about as big as my living room, it seemed, and I
could still understand why she always wanted to get out during the day. She really
explored a lot on her own that week, and seems to really like Seattle. She likes the
weather, and she likes the city overall. It’s just a couple of the most famous landmarks
that she’s not that impressed with, most notably both the Pike Place Market and the
monorail: “It seemed kind of pointless,” she said of both of them. Still, she rode the
monorail twice, and bought quite a few things at the market (which she kept referring to
as “Pike Street,” when what she really meant was “the market”).
Anyway, I left the hotel room saying, “It was really nice meeting you,” and she
responded with that by saying that she would e-mail me. I found it kind of awkward
trying to figure out the proper way to say good-bye to her. It seemed odd to me to just say
good-bye as casually as if I might see her again tomorrow, when chances are I won’t see
her again until summer of 2000 at the very least. But that’s kind of what happened. Still, I
am really glad she came over, and we get along quite well. She’s a very unique, smart,
and funny person, with a quick wit and a good head on her shoulders.
One thing that slightly annoyed me about her: Beth sometimes has a problem
remembering not to call me Matt. I always correct her, though. I think I have proven to
her that I am far more picky and potentially irritating than she could ever hope to be.
When we were up in the Space Needle, she had to come inside after a brief stint out on
the deck because it was “overwhelming” her. When she later decided to go out again, I
said, “so you can get overwhelmed again?”
Anyway, something in the way my tone of voice was when I said it prompted her
to say, “You can be very caustic.” Of course I then merely indicated to her how much I
revel in being described with that word--which Josh did first, when he called me
“sarcastic, sardonic and caustic” all in one sentence. Yes! That’s what I want to be when I
The next morning I was just back to work again, and my bus to work made a
thirty-minute stop in Pioneer Square. Why? Because traffic cones were in the street,
causing the lane to the left to merge into the right. The bus obviously has the right of
way, right? Well, this lady tried to speed up ahead of us to get into our lane, and we
ended up hitting each other--damage probably amounting to about $20, is my guess. Still,
this woman’s white care hardly scratched, she got out, irate, yelling at our driver, “Look
what you did to my car!” So the driver refused to get off the bus, and he called the police.
They were all temporarily detained, and once they arrived, accident reports had to be
made, and one of the riders actually filled out a witness card. I couldn’t believe all of this
fuss. Why couldn’t we just move on? I didn’t actually mind much, though.
We finally get the bus moving, and another incident happens within ten
minutes--right at Spokane street, where I get off the bus. First of all, the West Seattle
Bridge runs along Spokane. There is a bus stop right before Spokane and right after
Spokane, because the buses stopping on the north side are forced to then take a right,
either down Spokane or to get up onto the bridge. Well, we passed the stop on the north
side, and this guy came up saying the driver missed a stop. “That’s our stop,” the guy
“No it isn’t,” said the driver. Why the driver didn’t just explain that the stop was
actually right across the street is beyond me, but he said no more than that.
“Yes it is,” said the guy.
“No it isn’t,” said the driver again.
“Yes it is,” said the guy again. Then he said, “Let me off here.”
“I can’t,” said the driver.
“Yes you can.”
“I can’t let you off in the middle of the street, you have to get off at a bus stop.”
We were, indeed, in the middle lane (the one on the right, of course, being the turn lane).
So then the guy said, “I’ll make it a stop!” and he stood at the top of the stairs
with one foot, and tried to push the doors open with his other--of course, to no avail. So
then he put down both feet at tried to lean on the door to get them open. I was beginning
to get concerned that he would actually get violent. He turned around again, toward the
driver, obviously looking for a switch he could turn to make the doors open himself.
Finally the driver just opened them and said, “The door’s open”--and the man
disappeared, right into the middle of the street. This is horrible, but I would have been
quite satisfied if he had been hit by a car as he stepped out into the middle of the street.
He was a complete moron, and that would have been an effective lesson. I didn’t wish
death on him, mind you--only mild injury, at the very least.
There just happened to be a van that had something to do with Metro when the
guy got off, coming up on the left side. The driver shouted the story out his window to
whoever was in the van. He then asked the rest of us: “Does anyone here ride the 132 a
lot?” I said I did. “Was that our stop back there?”
“No,” I said. “It’s right up there.” I was happy to mention this, because that was
where I wanted to go. The guy who tried to bust out heard the driver’s yelling about it,
and raised a hand in dismissal as he walked away. Ah, the joys of public transit!
the writing history
I LOVED your poem about your plan. It was great!
The guy on the plane sounds like a wise man.
-- Jeanni Rogers
. . . So, about original writing for the month. No stories to speak of, and
comparatively few letters as well. Too much other stuff to do, though I do plan on getting
some poetry out in the mail for possible publication by the end of the week, because I
gave myself an April 30 deadline. I have to get this newsletter finished and out into the
mail first, however.
What I did get written this month were two poems, one of which I tend to think is
rather good. Brought about by my encounter with the man on the airplane coming back
from Spokane, instead of making a mere list, I made a list in a poem--I’ve always got to
do things my own way, you know . . .
Pick yourself up off the floor
Look at my refrigerator door
THINGS TO DO:
Buy a condo, publish a book
Eschew commando, change my look
Keep up the poetry, make a decent living
Challenge all fallacies, keep a spirit giving
Sell another novel, make a long life of it
Own a view of skyline, be a man rife with wit
Expand my mind, never stay the same
Keep on growing, never cling to shame
Measure finesse by those who
Really like me just because
Measure success by how
Many people I have to love
I am here to prophesize
All of this before my eyes
Sometimes all it takes
Is deliberate rejection of pain
Sometimes all it takes
Is a stranger in an aeroplane
To tell you
Replace the word “can’t” with “can”
Replace the word “dream” with “plan”
Replace the word “can” with “will”
Keep the word forever still
I will always be happy
I will refuse anything less
I will not be caught napping
I will always confess
I will have material things
I will have mental health
I will have ethereal thirst
I will spread all my wealth
I will achieve my goals
I will attain my ends
I will suffer fools
I will sure offend
I will make a difference
I will always conspire
To turn many a head
I will do more than enough
To stay in my friends’ clutch
I will fall in love
I will stay in touch
I will glide smoothly on this adventure
Until the track dead-ends
I will make many a departure
From what you recommend
And when I fall
I will get up again
I will glide and I will fly and be an inspiration
I will go and I will grow until my expiration
I will not believe I won’t when I can
I don’t have a dream, I have a plan
(“copywrite” 8:25 pm thursday april 15 1999)
. . . So there you have it: all of this month’s news fit to print.
this has been presented 2 u by
on behalf of
fruitcake enterprises (4/27/1999)