Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dance of Victory

“Dood!!!! Matt ALMOST LIKED ME FOR ONE DAY!!!! We spent the whole day in the special needs room helping and he touched me 3 times, COUNT EM’ 3 times! FOR NO REASON AT ALL! ALSO! He talked to ME about his COMPLETELY UNWORTHY girlfriend. AHHHHHH! ::Dance of Victory::” -Age 16

:: I am closing my eyes and shaking my head in embarrassment:: Puke.

The most embarrassing/ kinda awesome part of this entry (which I am unfortunately unable to replicate in computer-land) is the stick figure drawing to the left of it, detailing each herky-jerky, fat-girl step of the victory dance. Someday I’ll get a scanner so my angsty illustrations can be made public. You guys will love it.

Omitting the “fat girl dance of dashed hopes”, this excerpt reads like a teenage self-esteem pamphlet. I was ecstatic that he ALMOST liked me?! Somebody should have signed me up for a building confidences seminar, or a dignity workshop or something. Even tattooing the word DESPERATE across my forehead would have been a step in the right direction. I am slightly worried that while reading this passage I felt twinges of long-begotten pride. “Yea, he DEFINITELY liked me for one day” my nearly 30 year old self just smirked. Get it together, Courtney. Get it together.

DISCLAIMER: I want to make sure all my readers know this is the same Matt who appears in every diary from high school. The worst of myself was consistently on display around him, and it makes my “not leaving the country immediately and forever” all the more heroic. So please, take the time to re-read all of “his” entries to familiarize yourself. Go on, I’ll wait here. Good. Now, THIS particular day went down in awkward girl history, and was glorious.

It started in first hour art class, where Matt came and sat down next to a pleasantly surprised me. (Pleasantly surprised is a devious understatement. His class was in the upstairs art room, so he had no business being in mine. I’m using the phrase “pleasantly surprised” to convey “had a small asthma attack and spat out some of my sausage biscuit onto the table”. Just so we’re all on the same page.)
I managed to say hello as I was wiping up the biscuit chunkies, and Matt started in on being upset about his girlfriend. I honestly can’t remember who he was dating, or why he was upset with her. Because the entire time he was pouring out his emotions, I was only hearing this:


When he finished explaining his inner turmoil, there was a significant pause. It looked as though I was expected to say something profound, helpful or comforting. I needed to get this JUST right, I wanted him to see how much I truly cared for him, how much my presence could establish his well-being. I was going to help him through a difficult time in his life, and later he would realize true happiness was right in front of him. So I took an asthmatic, ragged breath and said as lovingly, loudly and quickly as possible; “MAYBEYOUSHOULDBREAKUPWITHHER.”

This is when he took his leave of me, being always the gentleman with a “thanks for listening” and a half-smile. I gave him a short wave, and after he had bounded up the stairs I slammed my face onto the art table. I was simultaneously ashamed and exhilarated. I took out my inhaler and checked for any left-over sausage matter. The bell rang and I made my way to the special needs room where Matt and I would be together for the next four hours. I didn’t know whether to be jumping for joy or hiding in a locker, but considering my general propensity to face humiliation head-on; I strode into that classroom beaming.

Those next four hours I was in 7th heaven. It was some sort of a holiday, or close to a holiday and the kids were in happy spirits. Matt seemed to have forgotten my previous art-room debacle and was no longer fretting about “Ms. Not Worth Remembering”. It was here that he touched me 3, (count em’ 3) times:

1. I asked for an orange crayon and Matt handed it to me, but held on a fraction of a second too long. You’re thinking it was just my overly desperate teenage mind playing tricks on me, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Justin, a sweet natured Downs Dyndrome boy ALSO noticed. He may not have been the most reliable source, but at that moment he was The New York Times. Justin always had a bit of a crush on me and when Matt (finally) pulled his hand away, he said “Matt, is Courtney your girlfriend? No, she mine girlfriend!” Oh, how we laughed at that. I quietly explained to Justin that I wasn’t his girlfriend or Matt’s girlfriend, that Matt had another girlfriend who didn’t have time to come to the special needs room because she was too busy killing baby kittens.

2. Because it was such a beautiful day, the class went outside to throw around a football. I, being completely lacking of any hand-eye coordination, watched on the sidelines. Matt came up and asked me why I wasn’t playing. I explained to him my sport deficiencies and he said (oh my god, he actually said) “I’ll teach you how to throw a football”. He then did the classic move of positioning himself behind me and teaching me the proper football throwing technique. His arm on my arm, his hand on my hand. It was like something out of a John Hughes movie and it was delightful. Immediately afterwards I was a hundred different shades of scarlet, and was expected to show off my new football skills. I wanted to boost his ego by proving he was a great teacher, but the ball (and I don’t even know how this is scientifically possible) flew 1 ½ feet at a completely downward angle. It hit the ground and bounced back up at my face. It didn’t hit me, but I screamed and ran.

3. After the final bell rang and we were packing up our things, Matt came over and put a hand on my shoulder and said “I’ll see ya later”. It was simple and perfect. The perfect ending to a (for the most part, especially for me) pretty good day. Honestly, it was almost awkward…on HIS part. I nodded and gave him a half-smile. We were strange, “sort-of” friends and I believe he was acknowledging that.

Re-reading through all of my diaries I’m starting to see a pattern; people enjoyed my company a lot more than I remembered them enjoying it. It’s obvious in the great LENGTHS classmates went to save me from my own humiliating actions. They were constantly trying to throw sandbags whenever I was cracking, even some of the “pedestal dwellers”. My journals serve as detailed reference guides so that now, unfettered by teenage hormones, I can look back and understand the truth of the situation; I was awesome. It’s unfortunate for those who don’t have such resources, because it’s eye-opening to have written your own coming of age story; if only to realize that your most reverent memories are total bullshit.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Hut

“Welllllll, I quit/got fired from the hut today. That guy was a crazy fucking nazi! Gunna miss those snowcones though…”

Good God.

The “hut” I’m referring to here is a SNOW CONE hut, and the Nazi I’m referring to was the snow cone hut owner. I never actually saw this man, but did speak to him on the phone a few times. The reason I referred to him in such harsh terms is because of the way he handled our final phone call. He was angry because I hadn’t opened up the shop that day (but the dumb shit hadn’t left the keys and I was 17 years old, you do the math). I just assumed it was one of those unimportant holidays like Presidents Day or Hanukah, and went home.

He called four hours later asking why I hadn’t opened up shop. When I told him there weren’t any keys, he started flipping out and screaming. He asked me why I hadn’t called him, did I have any sense of responsibility, and what would my parents think? I answered him plainly enough on all counts: “I didn’t call you because I didn’t have a phone; I’m responsible enough to leave the KEYS when I CLOSE at night and my Mom would be enraged at a grown man yelling at her teenage daughter.” He spit out a few lines of shocked and angry garble before I shouted, “I QUIT YOU FUCKING NAZI!” and slammed the phone down. The most embarrassing part is I was so impressed by the “cleverness” of my quitting line; I also put it into my journal as if for the first time. Apparently calling somebody a “Nazi” was a real DOOZY.

The hut wasn’t all bad, though. I worked there with my friend Kara, and we always had a great time flinging around syrup bottles like Tom Cruise in “Cocktail”. I was able to eat as many snow cones as I wanted AND I got to play with ice-picks! One of the Harry Potter books came out that summer too, so I drew a make-shift “CLOSED” sign and lay down on the floor until I was done reading it. Getting paid minimum wage to read Harry Potter in an air conditioned room filled with snow cones is BASICALLY my dream job. I’m pretty sure that was the best four days of my life.

I was also in a tap dancing phase (still AM) and could bring my tap shoes and practice for hours on the tiled linoleum. Sometimes I would get too caught up and a customer would be watching me through the window before I realized they were there. I would scream, and fling it open gasping asthmatically; sweat flying in every direction. The customer would stare at me, completely terrified, and just push the money across the counter. My words would always came out too loudly then, quickly, and got jumbled because of the embarrassment:

There was one customer that I remember above all the rest. She’s one of the most memorable characters of my life and I only knew her for about 10 minutes a day, for 2 months. It’s because she literally was a character! She was like a drawing from a Roald Dahl book, or a part of your nightmare that came to life. I’ll try to describe her, but I don’t think words can do her justice…

This girl was a troll in human form. Give her a club and she would have fooled most. She was hefty and dense, with a splayed stance and perpetually scabby knees. She would tromp down the sidewalk in a Trunchbullian manner, flopping her arms while systematically letting out dissatisfied grunts. The most unsettling was that she only wore dresses, the type you typically see young children wear to church on Easter Sunday. They had a lot of ruffles and doilies and ribbons and silk flowers shooting off in every direction. It was like a pastel Quasimodo without the charming deformed parts.

She would snort her way up to the hut at the same time every day and slap the window open with the entirety of her mammoth palm. As I glared at the greasy bear print on my window, she would shove in the sweaty five dollar bill with which she intended to buy a snow cone. I’ll bet some of you are wondering what flavor of snow cone such a person would ask for. Well dear readers, I will tell you: EVERY FUCKING FLAVOR! The monster demanded every single flavor (we had 37) be put on one large snow cone, every single day. Oh, and it should only cost five dollars. For the normal consumer, adding more than 3 flavors would cost you an extra .25 per flavor. However, with (let’s just call her “Pork-chop” for the sake of time) that wouldn’t fly. Pork-chop would just continue shoving her five dollar bill in your face until she got her thirty-seven flavored snow cone. When somebody tried to tell her differently (while a line formed behind her), the conversation would go something like this:
“No, Pork-chop! You can only have 3 flavors!”
“……I want all.”
“Yes, I realize that you want all of the flavors, but you don’t have enough money and that’s impossible.”
“Can I have all the flavors now?”
“Okay…. I’ll just have all the flavors then.”

The first time this happened, I just stood there in shock. I tried explaining it a couple more times until I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere. I gave in and said, “Okay I’ll put all of them on it”, thinking I would just do enough to make it a slushy brown and then hand it over. However, that did NOT pan out as planned. When I started pouring the syrups, pork-chop hoisted herself up through the window and onto the front of my counter. I was mortified. She watched me like a hawk, ensuring every single flavor was poured into her precious cone. She would also dart her eyes around the hut to make sure there wasn’t a stray bottle lying around. If I DID miss a bottle, she wouldn’t say “You missed that one”. Instead she would point to it and declare, “I want THAT ONE the most!”

One day I decided to deny her; just close the window and wait until she walked away. The problem is she didn’t walk away. She just stood right next to the window and asked every single customer what they were getting on THEIR snow cones and if she could taste them. Sometimes she would start patting their backs while they’re were ordering, as if to say “Yes, that’s good. That’s going to taste just fine”.

It was always fun when a nosy line member would say, “HEY! Just give the kid all the flavors, what’s the big deal?” Then I would shrug and smile, acting like I hadn’t thought of that until they had mentioned it. I would proceed to make a two foot tall snow cone, and slowly pour a drizzle of each flavor into it. By the time I was done creating such a spectacle, the interfering party was either gone or came to the window with an apologetic look of defeat. I would cock my head with a smirk that said “THAT is why it’s a BIG. FUCKING. DEAL. And sorry, we’re outta cherry.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Jazz Hands

"Dear Journal, You missed a freaking CRAAAAAZY week in 7 & Senators!! You seriously shouldve BEEN THERE. OUT OF CONTROL! We had to sing for some old people and some retarded people and both shows were HYSTERICAL and TERRIFYING in that order!"~age 17

Before Glee, and before Zac Efron crooned sweet statutory; being in show choir was just plain "gay", and I LOVED IT. There was nothing better than catchpenny choreography to out of date showtunes and Disney Classics. Occassionally we would get lucky and afford the rights to some hip, pop number; like R. Kelly's "I believe I can fly".

"I used to think that I could not go on
And life was nothing but an awful song.
If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it!"

Inspirational. It's especially moving knowing R. Kelly's future. He believed it, and there was really nothing to it. Just find an 8th grader and pee on her. No big.

To truly be a part of show choir, you had to be of a certain stamina. Extreme cheerfulness and a continual, cocain line of energy was expected. Most of us did community theater and had a flair for the dramatic. Tears flowed freely in the choir room; tears of sadness, of joy, of not getting the solo, of it being Wednesday. We were the students with a lot of emotions, and damnit, we just had to sing it out! Nothing can quelch the teenage despair like a broadway ballad. Break-ups, a parents divorce, running the mile- perfect reasons to start belting out a powerful melody. "Les Miserables" was the only thing that got me through mono.

This particular entry was written right before Christmas break, when all the nation's show choirs go flouncing about retirement homes, singing for the local infirms. These types of shows are always excruciating. The geriatrics are usually asleep and we just start clobbering them with JINGLE BELLS, so they wake into a state of screaming, frenzied panic. It's awful.

There are two of these shows I remember with alarming clarity, and I can only assume these are what I was writing about. The first show took place at a home for the severely mentally disabled. We set up our sound system in a room much too tiny to hold everyone in it. We had to short-change our dance moves and were about 1 and a half feet from the audience. In front of ME was a woman in a wheelchair. She was about 50 years old, fasted to the chair with restraints, and was wearing a large,chin-strapped helmet. When I got into position by sitting on the kneeling leg of my song partner Scott, the woman began bearing her teeth at me. Scott sensed my tension and whispered "It's all for the money" into my left ear. This was quite a good joke, considering the complete lack of money we would be receiving. The music was taking awhile to get started, so I moved to adjust my dress. The woman did NOT like that. She began rolicking back and forth, sticking her tongue out, barking and gnashing her teeth. Her helmet was flying everywhere and the wheels on the chair rocked up and down with her convulsive movement. As the music started, I opened my mouth to sing "silverbells" as she brayed the phrase "DIRTY WHORE!" 11 inches from my face. I croaked and Scott snorted/laughed. I was no more than a foot away from this woman the entire song, and she bellowed out a stream of expletives directed towards me the entire time. It went a little something like this:

Me: "City sidewalks/ Busy sidewalks..
"Dressed in holiday style..
"In the air there's/ a feeling of Christmas..."

I was completely traumatized, but Scott was laughing so hard his shoulders were shaking and he couldn't finish the song.

The second number started out better, because we got to move positions and Miss Helmet was no longer in my line of sight. Unfortunately, we chose to sing "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer", which everyone knew. Many of the inhabitants started singing and/or clapping along, which would have been a refreshing delight if one denizen hadn't been smacking all of them across their faces. This particular person felt she was the only one afforded the right to applaud. As soon as another audience member would begin clapping, she would scream "NO FRANK!" and slap them as hard as she could. There were about 18 aides in the room, but nobody acted as if this was something that needed addressed. So we just swayed back and forth singing rudolf, while one woman clapped wildly, and the rest of our audience let out pained shrieks as they were attacked. You will never know how long "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" is, until you have sang it under such circumstances.

The second show took place in a retirement home which was business as usual; old people screaming, covering their ears, or smiling blankly. Just as we began our crescendo in "Hark How the Bells", the loudest furnace/radiator/ice-maker on the planet began to growl. The sound was defeaning! This beast drowned out our singing entirely. We started to look around, realizing we couldn't even hear the person next to us. Our choir director started laughing and just shrugged "keep on going". But then the old people began snapping out of their trances, noticing our singing was replaced by the familiar machinery rumble they so loved. There was a hoot/ holler, and a maniacal laugh from a woman who was presumed a vegetable 3 minutes prior. They started crowing and pointing, clapping their hands and pumping their arthritic fists, as if to say "WE WIN!"

Saturday, January 22, 2011


(Immediately following Columbine)

“I had to carry ALL my books today because we can’t have backpacks now, for fear of bombs. Unless they’re clear, but I wouldn’t be caught DEAD with a CLEAR backpack!”- age 15


I desperately wish that I was just being inappropriate and insensitively ironic, but I was not. This is an accurate account of how Columbine affected my fifteen year old self. My reaction was that of… gentle displeasure.

This tragedy provoked national debate on gun control, goth culture, video game violence, and quite nearly put the HOT TOPIC out of business. Yet, I was unmoved. The worst part is I remember pretending to care. The teachers would turn on the news coverage and I would mimic their head shaking anguish. Other students cried, so I threw on some water fountain tears to match their empathy. I was the devil.

I remember doing that kind of thing a lot actually. I didn’t LIKE being emotionally stunted; I knew how I was supposed to feel, I just didn’t. Sometimes I would stare into an overhead fluorescent light to give my eyes that “beginning to mist” facade. I wanted to wear my heart on my sleeve like my hormonally electric friends did. The injustices of the world allowed them to shamelessly cry in public! And I would just be standing around, looking like an ass-hole robot from planet Don’t Care.

I realize this makes me look like a sociopath. It’s a bit “Dexter-esque”, isn’t it? But I can assure you that I’m not. It turns out it was just a phase, just your average 24 year phase. And all that sympathy/ emotional connectivity I couldn’t feel for those first 24 years now bubbles out of me at any given moment. A picture of a dog in a butterfly costume? I’m WEEPING. The beginning of the movie UP? I called in sick to work…out of grief. And don’t even get me started on those soul inspiring GE commercials! Sometimes my drive to work, the same one I have taken every day for three years, is too beautiful to digest. And if there are cows are grazing I’m useless the rest of the day.

In High School I only cared about myself, my own drama induced delusions. Even then I rarely shared them with anybody and just wrote them in my diaries (luckily for you). So while the entire nation was crying for the victims of a small town; forever changing public school policy, I became disgruntled under the weight of my school books. I didn’t see the “clear back-pack” as an increase in security, but instead a fashion faux-pas, something I tried frantically to stay away from. Though looking back through photos I clearly failed.

During this time we were also given lanyards that we had to wear while on school property. It was a plastic ID with our picture and grade level on it. During first hour, some guy with a cleft lip came around and checked to make sure we were all wearing it. I replaced my picture with a picture of Cartman from SouthPark. I was looking forward to getting into “cool-kid trouble” for standing up to “the man”. But Cartman’s fat head and constant scowl must have registered similarly to me, because it was 5 weeks before anybody noticed. Fail.

While researching for this blog post, I came across a charity ( that helps set up anti-bullying seminars and preventative measures in the education system. I donated to it. Did I donate because I feel REALLY bad about my one sentence reaction to the Columbine tragedy? Yes, most definitely. But I mainly donated because of the sentence that followed;

“…for fear of bombs. Unless they’re clear, but I wouldn’t be caught DEAD with a CLEAR backpack! In more important news, Matt looked SUPER HOT TODAY!”

Hopefully karma was a teenager once too…

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Picture Day

“Okay, well I am a stupid idiot! We got our school pictures today and it was HORRIBLE!!! I went up to get it and I fell on my FACE! GROSSSSSSSSSSSS!! WHYYYY am I cursed?? My life is in constant turmoil!! Complete and utter CHAOS! Well, I’ll talk to you later diary… I’m going to go cry myself asleep…again! ~ Age 13

Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Angsty teen much?

Also, I want to mention that this entry is MANICALLY scrawled into my journal. The letters are slanted all over the place and the pen marks are deep enough to draw blood. This doesn’t look like the work of a pre-teen girl, but instead some sort of asylum escapee, living off berries in the woods and suffering from trauma induced flashbacks. There’s an ominous dark stain on the page too. My first instinct was blood, but after a CSI like investigation (sniffed it), it appears to be chocolate. Of course.

I cannot stand to read the above passage. I can scarcely believe I would write something so embarrassingly trivial. Who was I back then? I realize that I was thirteen and cannot be held accountable for my self indulgent scribbles, but still. I think I wrote it best with a long-winded “GROSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”

Oh, I WISH that taking a spill was one of my biggest problems now. Can you imagine, as an adult, thinking your world was turned upside-down by one miss-placed foot? Tossing and turning over it? Writing paragraph upon paragraph about the injustices done to you? No. Of course you can’t. You know why? Because you grow up and realize that life is kind of a drag and that being thirteen was AWESOME.

I will say that being thirteen for ME wasn’t as awesome as it was for most. Awkward, acne, fat, star trek obsession; you name it and I had it. I was also in a C cup bra size and it wasn’t “cool” yet to have boobs. The only thing boobs did for me back then was throw off my center of balance. I was constantly falling forward and tripping over myself, much like how this entry began…

So there I was- Mrs. Wilcox’s science class. She was a young, trendy teacher who found it amusing to taunt and mock students in front of their peers. Our school pictures were regrettably delivered to her classroom. She began holding them one at a time, high in the air for everyone to see, and bellowing out the poor students name simultaneously. Most students flew to the front of the room, snatching the picture out of her hands, hoping their lives hadn’t yet been ruined. The more popular students lazily strolled to the front as if to say, “Yes, hold it up for the world to see. Let’s give everyone a minute longer to gaze at 13 year old perfection, I don’t mind at all”.

I fretfully waited for my name to be called; sweat dripping from every hormonally charged pore. I had one foot in a runner’s start position at the side of my desk and my hands clamped down for a magnificent push start. I was near the front, so with any luck the picture would be viewable for no more than two seconds, maybe three. Of course, like many days of my youth, luck was NOT on my side.

“COURTNEY BURGETT!!!! Mrs. Wilcox screamed from behind her desk of torture, “LOOKIN’ GOOD!!! HAHAHA!”

I leapt from my chair in one swift motion. The runner’s foot was a good idea; it propelled me forward with surprising grace. Even the push-start went well! The desk stayed in position, no lurching noises or creaking metal. Two giant steps, and I was almost home free! Then, disaster struck.

(Remember those “new” dry-erase projectors schools were so fond of? They projected images onto a pull-down screen that was always too tall for anyone to reach. They were inevitably at the front of most class-rooms and were usually the teachers’ prized possession.)

Mrs. Wilcox, being evil and an environmental succubus had left hers plugged in. After the greatest running start of my life, my right foot became entangled in its thick cord protruding from the wall. I hopped up and onto my left foot but that didn’t help matters, because my left foot came down on the cord closest to the projector. The bulky and expensive piece of equipment came hurtling downwards toward my knee-caps. Still off-balance I screamed and tripped/dove forward; hands grabbing feverishly at the air, hoping to take the dreaded school picture down with me. My hands caught nothing, but with a SMACK my face hit tile. It was terrible. I lay in a face-down spread eagle, a solid five feet away from Mrs. Wilcox’s horrified expression. I hadn’t even been close.

I gathered myself and jumped up as gaily as I could pretend. “I’m okay!” I cheered and put both fists into the air. Nobody bought it. I think there was a blood stain on my shirt and shattered projector pieces matted to my hair. Mrs. Wilcox, open-mouthed, was unaware she was still holding my picture when I snatched it. I looked down and was beyond shocked, completely baffled. It was…a REALLY GOOD PICTURE! My hair fell at the right places, I didn’t look THAT fat and my smile looked natural. It was a miracle! I couldn’t have been happier. I spun around, smiling like a crazy person, and saw my path of destruction and the horror-struck faces of my class-mates. I mumbled “sorry” and took my seat. Mrs. Wilcox complained about not having a projector, a janitor came in to clean up the mess and people kept asking me if I was “okay?” I hardly noticed any of it, because for the first time in my life- I had a decent school picture! It took awhile for the embarrassment of what happened to settle in (hence the night-time journal rage). But until then, even the blood in my mouth tasted sweet.

Good picture.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mark Paul Gosselar

“The top 50 things I love about Mark Paul Gosselar..” ~ Age 13



I can’t think of fifty things I love about anything anymore. That list is too long! Perhaps it’s the innocence and happiness of childhood which allows someone to become so enamored. Or maybe it’s that nothing in life can, or ever will compare to Mark Paul Gosselar. Let’s be clear; it wasn’t Mark Paul Gosselar I was in love with, it was Zack Morris. The fact I even knew Zack Morris’ real name is astounding. It shows what a truly devoted fan I was, considering I didn’t know my Mom’s maiden name until 2003.

In the 6th grade I was given an assignment to write an essay about “somebody in history, alive or dead, whom I would want to meet and why”. Most students wrote about Thomas Jefferson (boring) or Jesus (lame), but I wrote about Mark Paul Gosselar. My three reasons were as awkward as the subject matter:

1. “Mark Paul Gosselar is the BEST actor I have seen”. I do remember watching other television shows, so I’m certain this is false. Have you ever gone back and really WATCHED episodes of Saved by the Bell? They’re awful, complete garbage. Unfortunately they’re as addictive as ever.
2. “You can tell he really cares about people.” (No evidence is given)
3. “He is gorgeous and you can tell he’s funny in real life too”. Okay, now we get down to the heart of the matter; Zack Morris is a sarcastic hottie with a propensity for trouble. This is the honest reason I wanted to meet Mark Paul, and why he became the type of guy I always fell for. Zack was one in a long line of “douche bag, hot guys” that I loved. It all started with Garfield (don’t judge- He was such an adorable little bitch of a cat). Raphael the Ninja turtle, Macaulley Culkin, ALF, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Liutenant Commander Riker were all characters in my daydreams. Looking back, Zack was actually the best crush I ever had. At least he was charming… and human.

He was the ultimate heart-breaker with his bleach-blonde quaff, cock-sure attitude and the ability to stop time. He continually committed felony crimes with no real consequences AND managed to score a 1502 on the SAT without attending a single class. Can we say DREAMBOAT? He even had a diverse and fantastical group of friends who stood by him no matter what. It was delightful how they each fit into their own little, cliché box; The Jock, the Environmentalist, The Cheerleader, The Fashionista, The Dork, and once Tori joined – The Big Ol’ Lesbian.

Real friends are much harder to deal with. Their catch-phrases aren’t solidified, and you never know what kind of reaction they will have to your schemes. With The SBTB clan, you always knew. There was a friend for each situation in life, and a lesson to be learned from all. My real friends couldn’t teach me jack-shit, except that being in band/choir/scholastic bowl made you a candidate for social suicide. And let’s face it- I would have learned that one on my own: QUIZ BOWL FOREVA!

I desperately longed for Zack’s hip way of terrorizing adults and his charming affection towards women. Because of this, Kelly Kopowsky was both the bane of my existence and a definitive role model. I would study pictures of her, trying to decide how to get my hair to look so perfect (ultimately deciding on a wig). I tried to eat less, so I could become thin and perky (for about 30 minutes until that second snickers bar proved too tempting). And her adorable little mole (which I drew on with a marker) made me look like a hobgoblin.

Being Kelly was NOT my destiny, and no amount of pleading with the cosmic forces was going to change that. She was quintessential High School perfection who was impossible to live up to. This includes the girl who played her: Tiffani Amber Theisen. While Kelly Kopowsky lives in our memories as a vivacious teen beauty, Tiffani Amber walks around with a large and extraordinarily flat pancake face. I realize that we all age and body parts sag, and things aren’t “where they used to be”. But has that saying ever applied to somebody’s FACE? It’s downright bizarre! Something happened to Ms. Theisen after SBTB because she showed up to Baywatch wielding that face of hers, and it has yet to stop melting outwardly. Kelly Kapowsky would have married Zack, had two perfectly adorable children, and lived a long and fulfilling life with a normal sized face. Tiffani Amber is NO Kelly Kapowsky- that is certain.

Unfortunately, I did manage to bear a resemblance to one of the cast members- Jesse Spano. “Best Friend” to the hottest guy in school? CHECK. Annoyingly concerned with the environment? CHECK. Prone to abusing prescription drugs? CHECK that box for a decade. Later in life she would take her clothes off for money in the worst film ever made; something I would have done in a heart-beat had my body been up to par. Luckily though, I didn’t settle for some acid wash loser like Slater. Did anybody else feel like you were watching him go OUT of style? He was always about two years behind in his fashion, and he tried to make up for it with crater sized dimples. It clearly didn’t work, because while Mario Lopez is skipping about the E! Network, Mark Paul is busy banging Mary Louise Parker in the latest season of Weeds. Oink, Oink Baby! (Worst catch-phrase ever).

All that being said, Mario Lopez is an angel of mercy compared to his co-star Dustin Diamond (aka Screech). His character on the show was grating and never ending. I think he would have played that part until “Saved by the Bell – the geriatric years”, but unfortunately he was cancelled and had to find new ways to support himself. So, first things first- he releases a tape on how to play chess. Apparently “how to be a nerd” tapes weren’t raking in the dough, so he went with the obvious next step of releasing a SEX TAPE. And for those of you who are wondering, it’s not just a run-of-the-mill sex tape. Oh no, it’s golden. My favorite part is he hasn’t done ANY filming since the release of the sex tape in 2006. This means the last shot of Samuel Screech Powers anyone can see presently, is of him performing a “dirty sanchez” on an unsuspecting porn-star. Perfection.

I need to wrap this up: basically Mark Paul Gosselar is a hunky God who deserves a list longer than fifty. He managed to continue a solid career while becoming more attractive and honing his acting skills until he was actually pretty good. That’s WAY BETTER than you can say about the rest of the cast of Saved by The Bell. Let’s do the rundown:
1. Kelly/Tiffani Amber: Pancake Face
2. Slater/Mario Lopez: E! Network bitch
3. Lisa/The black girl: probably dead
4. Jesse/Elizabeth Berkely: stars in NC17 film and then becomes a hermit
5. Screech/ Dustin Diamond: Plays chess and enjoys dirty sanchez’s
6. Tori/The lesbian: maybe a lumberjack?
7. Mr. Belding: I have no idea, but I’ll be he’s doing alright
8. Zack/Mark Paul Gosselar: Starring in dramas, bangin’ hotties and getting buffer by the day

I rest my case.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


“We will look forever. I know we will solve the mystery of BURNT BABY!” - age 10

Years of reading Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children books had a profound effect on my imagination. At nine years old I memorized Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and would repeat it to myself every night in bed. I don’t want to say that I was morbid. I wasn’t morbid. I never lit animals on fire or wanted to paint my bedroom black. But I DID enjoy a good murder mystery. When I was ten, one such mystery found itself in the backyard burn pile of our newly purchased home: The Mystery of the BURNT BABY.

My Mom’s backyard was a fantastical place when we first moved in. It had overgrown bushes we used as forts and old gnarled trees that looked like hands. At night I would peek out my window and see the finger branches reaching out and snatching up a squirrel or low-flying bird. It was awesomely terrifying. There was also a long forgotten burn pile that up until BURNT BABY day, we had stayed away from. It was ashy, dark and near the back of the yard where monsters were most likely to live.

One day, sometime in the fall, our cousin’s came over to enjoy the backyard shenanigans. Each of us had a stick and we began poking them into the burn pile. My sister (who has always been the most fearless) got right in there and started picking out little pieces of who knows what (clothes, papers, shards of glass, poisons). You know, stuff for kids. About 10 minutes in, she came up covered in soot and holding a strange piece of seared cloth. It could have been anything; a dishrag, a shriveled up phone book. But for some reason, we immediately assumed it to be BABY CLOTHES. All of us started digging in this sick pile until we unearthed another shocking indication; negatives. After holding them up to the sun light, we saw that they were old baby pictures. My cousin Greg dove into the pile and picked up something that looked like a charred banana peel. He put it slowly up to his nose and sniffed it with dramatic emphasis. He turned his head to each of us and declared, “It smells like…BURNT BABY!”

We all started screaming and ran back towards the house. We attacked my Mom demanding she call the police, because there was clearly a baby body in the burn pile. She was surprisingly calm considering the situation that was unfolding. We couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to cal the police! Had she been involved somehow? Was this “burnt baby” the reason we got the house for so cheap? How did Greg know what a burnt baby smelled like? There were too many questions left unanswered. We spent the better part of the next two years discussing the mystery and digging for clues. “Burnt Baby” took over our young lives and we did find a few other pieces of evidence.

Evidence 1: A few days later, I found a key in the yard. It was unanimously decided that this was the key to the lock to the secret underground trap where the baby had been kept until its fateful demise.

Evidence 2: An old looking soda can turned up. Somebody was watching us and drinking old soda. We were getting too close to the truth.
Evidence 3: A few weeks after the initial discovery, the four of us spent the night at my grandma’s condo. My cousin Jessica and I were staying up late in the guest room. I looked out the window and saw a flickering light coming from a condominium unit across the street. I told her I saw somebody moving in the shadows under said light. Jessica, always the realist, explained intelligently (at age 10) that it was probably just the dark playing tricks on my mind. I explained to her that she should take this more seriously. This was obviously the baby murderer, and we were his next victims. It is well known that people who murder babies move onto older children as they become more proficient at murdering. We were the perfect targets to try out his newfound skills.

Evidence 4: My sister Haley pooped her bed. She had never done this before, and I was confident it was because she was slowly being poisoned.

Evidence 5: I found a piece of well-cooked rope somewhere near the burn pile. Do I even need to say it? The rope that the baby was tied up with, obviously!

My sister and cousins grew bored of “burnt baby” much faster than I did. My imagination has always run rampant and being a detective was my go to career move when asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Even after the attention had faded, I would occasionally write about it in my diary. There are entries spanning three years! I’m sad to say that I never did solve the mystery of BURNT BABY, but to this day I check out friends and neighbors burn piles. I can’t help it. When recently purchasing my first home, having a large and tangled/ somewhat creepy backyard was a must. Knotted trees, overgrown ivy and thorny bushes hiding secrets are my weakness. I bought the house with the worst possible yard. It’s been the bane of my husbands existence, and my secret indulgence.

I planted a garden this spring, and during my excavation of the land- I found an archaic looking garden tool. It was made entirely of heavy metal, and looked like something out of the dark ages. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about the burnt baby murderer once I uncovered it. My thought process went exactly like this-

“What the fuck is this? Oh wow… COOOL! OLD GARDEN TOOL! Somebody has gardened here, in this exact spot, hundreds of years ago!... Or did something else and tried to bury the evidence…man, this thing is heavy. Really heavy. Heavy enough to hurt somebody… This reminds me of burnt baby… Woah, my mom’s house is just around the corner. Oh yea, I’m keeping this.”

Parents, when your kids are “finding clues” to things in your backyard and digging up your flower garden- don’t deny them the fun. I was allowed to explore all aspects of my imagination (even the more gruesome parts). Doing so helped me retain some of the magic of childhood, even in my adult life. Nothing makes me happier than finding a relic buried deep underneath my front porch, or coming across a black and white picture of strangers. I never really wanted to solve the mystery of “burnt baby”, I just wanted the story to keep going. Much like life, it wasn’t the ending that I was excited for, but the surprise twist around the next corner. When everyone else has grown up and forgotten how to believe in what was never there, I strongly suggest taking the opposite stance. I continue to trust in the power of a good story and because they are constantly unfolding around me, my life will never be boring. I can only hope the same for my children…Maybe I’ll throw a couple of dolls in the burn pile though, just to get things started.