Subject: Love, Lost and Found: (autobiographical)
Date: Nov 28, 2006 (updated 10/2009)
Author: Tal Bachman
Has your life ever changed forever in just one moment? Mine did, the moment I first glanced at (my future wife) Tracy.
It was one night in April of 1990. I'd been off my mission for a few months and had found precisely zero girls I was interested in at Utah State. There was a bit of a cultural divide, I suppose - prior to visiting God's favourite state, I'd never seen girls with "the Wasatch Claw" hair-do (made possible I presumed by some kind of industrial-strength aerosolized lacquer they sold at Utah hardware stores). I was amazed at the open-mouthed gusto with which the local girls chomped on bubble gum, with how over-browned so many were from the tanning salons...I'd returned from Argentina to Utah (rather than returning to my dad's place in B.C.) because Utah was "Zion", and I wanted to be the very best Mormon possible. But the truth is (sorry to all the Utahans out there), Utah struck me then as a parochial, almost backwards in some ways, place, and (to tell the truth), very culturally barren. I fought to keep myself from thinking such things, though. I "knew" it had to be just about the best place on earth, since there were more members of the only true religion in the world there, than anywhere else in the world.
Another thing that, in spite of my best thought-control efforts, bugged me, and I know I'll sound like a flake saying this, but...many of the girls I met at USU seemed unable to speak English. I kept chatting with girls in my student ward, and without exaggeration, it would be like this:
"Oh maw hick, I'd might coulda wint but they was all late HAW HAW HAW (chomp chomp chomp). Then Lisa said they'd got beat real bad at the game and they's all tired so they gone to JB's 'n after that to the born dance (chomp chomp SLURP chomp)".
And after a few more minutes of chatting I'd say, "So, are you going to school?". And if you can believe it, a sizable percentage of these girls, who I couldn't even imagine could write a single paragraph in their own native tongue, would say, "Yah (chomp chomp), I'm doin' elementary ed. I'm sit to graduate spring"! I still to this day shudder at the thought that one of these girls might just have been hired to teach somewhere. Most of them didn't seem to know anything: no books, no music, no cool movies, no ability that I could tell to have a deep conversation about anything - not even "the gospel"...They couldn't even seem to speak English! And worse, it was like they had *no soul*. They seemed a millimeter deep. Underneath the lacquer, lip gloss, and fake tan, what was there? It almost seemed like...nothing (not saying I'm right, but that's how it seemed to me at the time). And while most of them were very nice, most of them seemed just plain dumb.
Keep in mind that I was 21 at that time, and certainly felt as though I were just BARELY keeping a lid on a very non-Packerian, rumbling, one-helluva-gigantic-about-to-explode-HIROSHIMA-like ATOMIC BOMB "factory" in my magical underpants; in retrospect, given that, I think I should have been as indiscriminate as a starving man in a desert would be about food. And yet, despite all that, I just couldn't imagine even kissing one of these girls, let alone...spending my life with one. The prospect of "celestial marriage" to one seemed a lot more like an eternity-long banishment to outer darkness wearing a hair shirt and a puncture belt; and I guess if there's one little thing I can take some solace from, amongst the long list of my regrettable attempts to subsume myself entirely into Mormonism, it is that I could never manage to adopt the weird, Moonie-like detachment from the concept of "the individual" that was implicit in all the "get married, young men!" talks from Mormon General Authorities and lesser leaders. Those kinds of comments made it seem like, for them, all females were pretty much interchangeable; as though they were still operating under the stupid assumption of Spencer Kimball, who believed that any man and any woman could have a happy marriage as long as they were both faithful Mormons.
Sure, I thought, a lot of these weird hick girls seem pretty interchangeable, and I do see certain generally-held traits unique to each sex...but that was a lot different than saying every girl everywhere was interchangeable. Stake or regional leaders would get up and say things like, "You returned missionaries, choose a beautiful, choice daughter of Heavenly Father, and take her to the temple". Uh, is that it? What about "one you're in love with"? What about "one you're compatible with"? What about "one who sees the world as you do"? Love, courtship, marriage, were supposed to be joyful, and yet, while I know all those church leaders would say they believed that, at the same time their words seemed to infuse what I intuited could or should be a profoundly beautiful pageant, with a sense of sterile perfunctoriness, a task to be performed in the end, or if needs be, with as much punctiliousness as cleaing the chapel during an Elder's Quorum service project.
For some reason I can't explain, I felt like I knew my own experience would be something special. Somewhere out there, I felt sure, was someone who was "the one", and she would be "interchangeable" with *no one*.
But where was she? The Lord needed me married to her, PRONTO. I'd already been home from my mission for three months, and STILL NO FIANCE. "Oh my heck" - what to do?
The answer was obvious: enroll at BYU. The odds of Miss Right being there were far greater than those of her being at Utah State. And so, by March of 1990, I'd already surmised "the one" wasn't at USU, and decided to apply to study at "The Lord's University". I felt good that I'd be doing what the Lord wanted me to do. I was thrilled when, some months later, I opened up the envelope from the BYU admissions office, and found out that I'd been accepted for spring semester of 1991. I was one step closer to "the one, true girl" I was supposed to marry.
Subject: Love, Lost and Found, Part II
Date: Nov 30, 2006
Author: Tal Bachman
Not that I hadn't been really trying to find Miss Right at USU. I had. I'd tried to "get into" the whole student ward dating thing...
Like, for example, one night not long after I returned from Argentina, the doorbell rang at my mum's house where I was living. When I opened the door, no one was there. As I was closing it, I noticed a glass jar on the welcome mat. I picked it up. It was full of Hershey's Kisses. "Weird", I thought.
I brought the jar into the kitchen. "Cool!", said my little sister Emilie (who grew up in Logan with my mum after the divorce). "Who do you think it was from?".
I said, "How should I know?"
She said, "Well, you should have an idea".
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's obviously an invitation".
I was like, "HUH?"
Emilie said there would be some sort of trick to the thing, some hidden invitation somewhere. That seemed nuts to me. We spent the next ten or fifteen minutes opening all the Hershey's Kisses, and finally found one that had a slip of paper inside the foil, with an invitation from a girl in the student ward named "Crystal", to me, to go to the Sadie Hawkins Dance with her.
"A dance? There's no way".
"'No way'? You HAVE to go", said Emilie. By then my mum had come in. She said, "Yes, you have to go".
I said, "Why do I have to go?"
"Oh", said Emilie. "You have to. If you don't, it will totally humiliate her. You can't say no to this, believe me".
I said, "There is NO way I can go to a dance. I'm very clear on the rules here. I'm male, I'm caucasian - and that means 'no attempts at freeform dancing, ever'".
They both said, "What are you talking about?"
"It's the law. You probably don't know about it", I said, nonchalantly shoving an entire donut into my mouth (actually, I don't remember eating a donut, but I thought it was kind of a funny image), "because no guy's ever lived in this house with you. Bottom line is, if you're white and male, you should *never* attempt dancing unless you're doing an actual choreographed thing, like ballroom or line dancing, that you've been trained to do. Otherwise, you're an idiot. And this thing is like freeform. See? It's impossible".
If you can believe it (:P), they both claimed to not know what I was talking about; and I am embarrassed to admit that after all sorts of pleading and warnings about how much I would crush this girl's feelings, who I didn't know at all, I ended up letting myself get talked into going to the USU Sadie Hawkins Dance with Crystal.
It was a total disaster - one long, torturous Andy Kaufman skit, so awkward that not even the resigned chuckling humans usually do to alleviate embarrassment seemed possible. No - it was one of those few 100% awkward experiences, every single moment of it. Amazing. I hadn't even batted an eyelash when the sister missionaries came round on me once taking a leak behind a house in Argentina - out of a sense of perverse humour, it was all I could do to not smile and wave at them then. But this - this was different. This was a depth of awkwardness I'd never experienced before. And it went on...and on...and on.
She'd planned out the whole evening with two of her girlfriends, who had also invited guys to come with us. I'd asked her what I should wear, and she'd said, "you know, whatever you want". I didn't have a lot of clothes, just having gotten back from Argentina, so I threw on (perhaps unconsciously highlighting my stultifying caucasian-ness) a beige pullover sweater, with beige pants. I looked a lot like a 6 foot tall, vertical 2 by 6 plank.
When I opened the door that night after the bell rang, I was surprised to find Crystal wearing a very nice pink dress, obviously far more formal than what I had on. I saw a look of surprised disappointment cross her face as she gazed on the human plank before her. "Why didn't she tell me it was more formal, if it was? I've never been to one of these things before", I thought. (Cough - this is before I became "Dr. Love", and learned how to decipher girl-language with as much ease as that with which Joseph deciphered the hieratic on the Breathing Permit of Hor).
When I got into the car, the other guys were wearing dark suits. Otherwise, they seemed close to as clueless as I was. Crystal brought us all to the bank where her dad worked. It had closed some hours earlier, but her dad was letting her use it for the "activity" part of the evening. Inside, the girls invited us to go on a treasure hunt (I feel like the tone of my writing here is totally detached, as though the event was so traumatic that I emotionally shut down, and am now describing it like it happened to someone else :P ). We were supposed to figure out the riddles on each clue, and then find the next clue, and so on. A few times I said to the other guys (I don't remember where they were from), "So...what are we actually doing here?" Both of the other guys were like, "I dunno. I've never seen anything like this. Seems kinda...immature". "Yeah".
We finally wound up at the USU Sadie Hawkins Dance and approached the dance floor. I said, "By the way - I'm really not a dancer". Crystal didn't believe me until she saw the human plank standing motionless before her. I just couldn't do it. What was I supposed to do? I didn't belong there. I thought I would give the whole thing a try, but I didn't really know what was going on. I'd just gotten back from a mission which was rather like the religious equivalent of a tour of duty in Vietnam. I'd seen people die, seen kids with distended stomachs, dodged venomous snakes, braved death threats, baptized hundreds, lived in the most remote parts of the Formosan desert sleeping in trees at night, opened up brand new areas in the jungle, bumped into Nazi hunters and gypsies and witch doctors, and I was still even accidentally lapsing into Spanish without realizing it. I hadn't even wanted to come home. I was one of the few missionaries I'd known who experienced no culture shock upon arrival. The shock was when I came back. I'd never been homesick or anything. I'd even asked Elder Groberg personally if I could stay another year. The most I could get was another month. I didn't even want to be in North America, let alone wandering around in a darkened bank trying to find an "Oh Henry" bar with a candle jammed in it, or standing there on a university campus dancefloor surrounded by streamers and helium-filled balloons in front of a very nice girl, who nevertheless - to me in that state of reverse culture shock - seemed, in a way, utterly unfathomable.
After a few awkward minutes, Crystal said, "So, that's cool you're taking political science. What do you want to do with it?". I said, "Well actually, I WANTED to become the president of the United States, but I was born in Canada, so that's out". Crystal seemed to think this was a very weird thing to say. I guess she hadn't met anyone else who thought it would be great to be the (sigh) very first LDS president of the United States, and help save the Constitution, which was after all "hanging by a thread". No...this answer seemed to do it for her, deflate her entirely. And that was kind of the end of the evening.
A month later I found myself sitting next to the two other guys who'd been on the big group date with me during Elder's Quorum. "So...was something supposed to happen after that?", I asked. "I dunno", they said. "Were we supposed to ask them out again, as a kind of 'thank you' or something?". "Dunno - I didn't ask mine out". The other one said he hadn't either. I hadn't either. We just shrugged and forgot about it.
A few months later, the spring semester ended (after some bizarro student ward Hawaiian luau night activity that everyone was supposed to attend in full costume, but which I skipped for the purpose of staying home by myself to watch a very, very important episode of "Cops" or something), and we all attended the final student ward sacrament meeting before summer break. It was a testimony meeting. Crystal stood up to bear hers, and in the course of it, she started to talk about some of the things she'd learned that year.
"...And one other thing I learned", she said, "was that some guys in this ward are just...like...*clueless!*...". There were chuckles in the audience. "I mean...just totally...completely....you can't believe how...CLUELESS! Like, NO CLUE IN THE WORLD!". Everyone laughed.
And she was right. I had no clue what I was doing there, or what to say to girls like her....just like I'd had no clue what I was doing on the other disastrous "dates" I'd been on. Like, the one with the real...live...Lamanite.
To be continued...
Subject: Love, Lost and Found, Episode III (autobiographical)
Date: Dec 06
Author: Tal Bachman
Of course, not all my "dates" were as unsuccessful as my date with Crystal. Once I was invited out to another "girl's choice" thing by a girl I home taught named Renae, a convert from Vermont. She was pretty in a classic sort of way, and nothing like many of the other girls in the ward. She was fun but not goofy, smart but not nerdy, secure but not arrogant, and all in all, really great. As it happened, she also wanted to go to a USU dance. And as it also happened, proximity to a dance floor once again turned me into a human plank. Renae, however, was very understanding (I'm describing this as though she were taking a retarded child out on a field trip, which is probably what it was like for her). Once she witnessed my instant plankification, she delicately suggested we simply sit down and chat. That was very sweet, and I always remember with fondness her easy grace throughout that whole evening.
It's funny - as I'm typing this, I keep marveling at how I kept trying to do something I felt so uncomfortable doing, without ever thinking, "hey, this kind of thing just isn't for me". I "knew" God wanted me married, and...I thought, this is what you have to do to get married. You go to these dance things, and then go to JB's (restaurant), meet her roommates.... If you don't like this procedure, there's something wrong with you.
Encouraged by the fact I had actually spent time with a girl without finishing the evening plotting to re-apply for another two year mission under an alias, I asked Renae out. I think that was the first time I'd ever asked a girl out, ever. I saw in the school paper that the ballet company was putting on something, so we went.
Fifteen minutes into the thing, I was feeling confused and uncomfortable (pretty much my standard state on these excursions). None of the dancers had sung any songs yet, or spoken any lines of dialogue. Somehow I had arrived at the age of 21, growing up in an intensely musical family, without any idea that ballet was just...all dancing (guess I don't have much right to describe Utah as culturally backwards). Truth is, I'd always thought ballet was kind of like a Broadway play, like "Fiddler" or something, except with everyone wearing tights.
"Do you know when they sing or get to the story?" I whispered to Renae.
"Hm...I think that they just dance. I think what they're doing IS the story", she said.
I looked again at the figures, shocked. They were twirling and jumping and posing...I couldn't make out any story at all.
"Well, what's the story?", I said.
"Hmm...I don't know", she said.
After what seemed like forever, they had halftime or whatever they call it in ballet. I immediately started apologizing. I now see this as lame, but that's what I did. Fortunately, patient Renae was her gracious self and just laughed it off. I finally said, "What do you think about....*going to JB's*?". So, we left at intermission and went for a bite.
That night, lying in bed, I wondered when things would click for me. "When do I get to be, like, a hero or something? I can't get myself together...I don't know what I'm doing...I want to go back to Argentina - playing guitar and baptizing people is all I know how to do...I have no life skills...they all said I'd return home from my mission a real gentleman, but instead I couldn't help but end up going all 'Dances With Wolves'...Wonder if I could get back..." (I was out in the boonies working with "the Lamanites" for most of my mission, far from any big city). "...I finally meet a girl who's pretty cool, and I still go all 'plank'...".
As much as I respected and appreciated Renae, the truth was, I knew she wasn't the one for me, and this was all about finding Miss Right for me (it's too bad my focus was so narrow - we probably could have had a lot of fun together even if we weren't "husband and wife" material).
I just remembered, I was supposed to describe my date with a real, live Lamanite in this episode. I'll have to do that in episode four.
Subject: Love, Lost and Found: Episode IV (autobiographical)
Date: Dec 07 14:42
Author: Tal Bachman
They flash through my mind now, embarrassing scenes from all my attempts to "get with the program" and find a "choice daughter of Zion"...
The night I accidentally humiliated Virginia Osmond, Donnie's niece...the night a mission comp and I double-dated with two latina girls, who both turned out to be nuts...the Venezuelan girl I hung out with a few times, who also turned out to be nuts...me wandering around in the Logan Spanish-speaking ward, like some lost puppy trying to somehow vicariously get back to Argentina, searching for some special Mexi-angel...the returned missionary girl in my Spanish class who invited me over to "listen to some South American music", but who then appeared in a mini-skirt, garments off, asking her roommates to leave, very sexually aggressive, me clutching my backpack in total fear of giving way to temptation and losing "my eternal reward" (don't worry, I split)...
But the nadir (hi again tol) of all my disappointing attempts was one that I thought actually had quite a bit of promise, for one particular reason.
You see...the truth is that the girls in my student ward were pretty aggressive. Like, they almost seemed desperately so sometimes. Not that I blame them - Mormonism had created a situation in which that was all but inevitable. But exacerbating this was the fact that the university had shifted around the designations of some of the ward dormitories some months earlier, making what had been all-male dorms, now all-female dorms, but church leaders hadn't yet adjusted ward boundaries to accomodate that shift. As a result, when I was there, my student ward was probably 70% to 75% female. And when you figure in that only about half the guys there were returned missionaries, and therefore, immediate potential husband material, you can imagine how intense things would become.
Can you imagine - girls, only 22, nearly panicking because they weren't engaged or married yet? It seems like absolute madness now; yet in that world within a world, that was how it was. What, they couldn't help but worry, would they do if they got to 23, or 24, or God forbid, 25, without finding a man? Perhaps their prospects for love, marriage, and family, would consign them to perpetual Sheri Dew-ness. And no one - not even Sheri Dew herself - wants that.
What I'm trying to say is that most of my "dates" up until then, (such as they were), were initiated by the girls (except my reciprocated invitation to Renae). Maybe, I one day thought, my chances for a successful outing would increase if I started taking more initiative myself. Maybe it would affect my psychological state or something. Maybe that would make me (magically) more "with it"...Of course, I had an excuse for not having taken more initiative: I didn't really feel attracted to hardly any of the girls I saw. But, I thought, that didn't matter. I needed to get rolling. The Lord helps them who help themselves and all that.
And that was how it came to pass, that one day at the Bridgerland Vocational College in Logan, I spotted the cute "Lamanite" girl I'd seen a couple of times, and decided to chat her up and ask her out. I think that was the first time I'd ever started cold.
She was leaning against the wall in the hallway, looking over a collection of papers.
"Hi", I said.
"Hi", she said.
I smiled. She smiled. (So far, so good - two seconds down, who knows how long to go?).
"I've seen you around...I'm Talmage".
"I'm Sarah", she said.
Split second panic - I didn't know what to say next. So I just went in for the kill.
"I was wondering...how'd you like to go out Friday night?"
"Sure", she said. "That would be fun".
WOW, I instantly thought. AMAZING. That's all it took? HA HA HA. INCREDIBLE. Maybe I have some incredible super power mojo going on! All I had to do was ASK! This is going to be great!
"Give me your number and I'll call, and we'll set it up".
She gave me her number, smiled, and we said goodbye.
Well, I had a difficult time walking to my car that afternoon, because, for the first time in weeks, my broncos, and Buffalo Bob who rode above them, had instantly, explosively begun to increase in size and potency. Gone would be the days of plummeting T levels and accompanying testicular shrinkage. I was on my way, baby. I had a date with a HOT LAMANITE PRINCESS.
Seed of Lehi...right on. Like my mission. By the time I'd left Argentina, I didn't even want to hang around with white people anymore. But a lot of the latina girls I'd met since coming back...well, I don't know how to put this...sexy, but...let's say, unpredictable. We'll call it bad luck. Sarah seemed kind of like the best of both worlds.
Nothing would be left to chance. I went home and checked the Logan Herald-Journal movie listings. There was a good date movie playing Friday at 7 (can't remember what it was now). We'd go there, and then we'd...uh...we'd go over to JB's (okay, not that original, but it was something), and then just play the rest by ear.
"By ear"....I should explain that a bit.
I was parched. I mean, parched. I needed to touch, hug, embrace, kiss, something. I felt like Vesuvius was about to explode inside me...I kept fighting off really crazy thoughts, some of which almost scared me in their intensity...Every cell in my body seemed to be screaming for some kind of romantic, sexual encounter, some contact, yet "my spirit" said, "NO ABSOLUTELY NOT". I yearned to spend time alone with a beautiful woman as much as I feared it - I felt I wouldn't be able to control myself, and yet I still wanted to...and all the while of course, no selfy touchy. I felt half-mad in a way. How did those Catholic priests do it? Oh yeah - they all went nuts, too.
But I had the gift of the Holy Ghost, and still I was half-mad, at once feeling a sense of irresistible attraction to Venus (idealized woman), and at once feeling an overwhelming sense of FEAR of her, like I needed to RUN AWAY.
What did all this mean about me? It meant I was really struggling with evil. If I were righteous, I wouldn't feel the things I did. I had to maintain. I didn't want to end up like my friend Pete, who'd just gotten back from Ireland, and who'd ended up "breaking the law of chastity" with a girl he knew...That Sarah was pretty, and she seemed really cool. I could imagine the backseat with her...mmmm, please, I wanna rock n' roll...I'm like a man dying of hunger...must engage with mothership, must engage with mothership. Maybe after JB's, things would "evolve"...
And this is the state of mind I was in, as I prepared to drive up to the little farming town of Richmond, north of Logan, to pick Sarah up for the big date. Silly me - I had no anticipation of what was about to happen...
To be continued tomorrow...
Love, Lost and Found: Part V (autobiographical)
12/08/2006 - Tal Bachman
It's funny - just as I was about to walk out the door to go pick up Sarah, something told me to doublecheck on the movie I'd planned on taking her to. I grabbed the Friday Herald-Journal and flipped to the movie page.
GAH!!! NO!!! The movie I'd picked wasn't playing anymore. It looked they had changed it that day. I scanned every movie theatre in town. Nothing jumped out as a "date movie". Crap. I went over everything again. The best option was, I thought, still a pretty lousy option: "Hunt for Red October" was playing at 7:30. I'd seen it already but Sarah didn't need to know that...another thing was, it definitely did not seem like the kind of movie an 18 year old girl would be that interested in. But I didn't know what else to do. I jumped in the car and began speeding up to Richmond to pick up Sarah.
Twenty minutes later, I knocked on the door of a farm house. A white lady answered it. She introduced herself as Sarah's foster mom. Sarah walked up as her foster mother told me that I should have Sarah home by eleven. I said, "Sure, no problem".
As soon as we got in the car, Sarah said, "Don't pay attention to what she says. I stay out as late as I want". I said, "Well, I wouldn't want to contradict your foster mom". She laughed a bit and said, "Really, it doesn't matter".
So, we started to drive back to Logan. Within sixty seconds I'd made my first misstep. Sarah happened to mention that she'd won the local dairy princess contest, and would represent Richmond in the upcoming county-wide contest. "So...you're the Dairy Queen, huh?", I said.
Sarah looked agitated. Apparently she thought I was making fun of her through allusion to the fast food joint. "No, it's not 'the Dairy Queen'. It's nothing to do with Dairy Queen. I'm the 'dairy princess'". A strange silence fell over the car. I said, "Yes, the dairy princess. I just thought they would call the winner 'the dairy queen'".
My explanation only seemed to further agitate her. "No - that's the restaurant. This is completely different". Odd how sensitive she seems about this, I thought. Well, whatever. I decided to leave that alone and try to change the subject.
I found out that Sarah was indeed a "Lamanite", a Navajo from Arizona who was in the church's "Indian Placement Program". She said her foster mom was pretty cool, but too strict.
Well, we showed up at the cinema and got in line for "Hunt for Red October". The line was quite long and wasn't moving very quickly. I tried to keep the conversation moving, but Sarah was rather taciturn and this made for some awkward silences over the ten minutes we waited.
I finally got up to the counter (this is the cinema at the Cache Valley Mall), accompanied by my hot Lamanite dairy princess date.
"Two for 'Hunt for Red October'".
"That'll be fourteen dollars", said the clerk.
"So, who do I make it out to?" I said, grabbing my check book out of my pocket.
"We don't take checks", said the clerk. This brought me up short.
"What? What do you mean?"
"We don't take checks".
Sarah was standing right there. I felt my face start to flush and...my broncos start to shrink.
"Everyone takes checks", I said.
"Not us. Cash or credit, that's it".
NO...(I had no credit cards yet).
I began frantically searching my pockets for cash...but I had no cash. After half a minute of frantic searching while Sarah, and people behind us, and the clerk, waited, I accepted the terrible reality that I had no cash, in any of my pockets. I didn't need to keep searching the same pockets I'd already searched - there was none there.
I was stuck. I didn't know what else to do, so I looked at Sarah, with the people around us observing and hearing everything, and said rather feebly:
"Do you, uh, by any chance have any money?".
Sarah had a look on her face that said, "this is lame, and you're embarrassing me". People in our line, and the one just next to us, were staring at us. She said, "no, I don't have any money".
Now what? Think fast, think fast...everyone watching...face flushing...Sarah starting to get kind of weird...not another disaster, please God...
"Okay...I know: I just live up the road, and we still have some time before the movie starts, so we can just run up to my place and I'll borrow some money off my mom". Sarah looked even more embarrassed than she had a few seconds earlier...but I didn't know what else to do.
So we walked back to the car, and I drove east up fourteenth north to my mom's place. She'd been there when I left the house earlier...yet in the back of my mind, I worried that she might not be there. Something about the cruel luck of all my forays into the world of dating...No, that's impossible, I thought. She's always there this time of the evening.
My heart sank as we pulled up, and I noticed her car was gone. It had been there when I left. Now it was gone.
"No...", I thought. Maybe...maybe someone, like a neighbour who needed to go to emergency but their car suddenly broke, borrowed her car, and she was still inside. Maybe she'd leant it to local teenagers looking for a quick joyride. My mind began conjuring up the most absurd possibilities so as to keep me from having to conclude the near-certain (just like you find at FARMS "strategizing" meetings)...
Well, I parked and said, "Wanna come in?". Sarah got out and came in with me through the garage and through the door, which opened directly into a little TV room. We walked in and immediately saw my little brother Brigham sitting on the couch wearing nothing but his underpants. Sarah gasped and covered her eyes. Now this seems like no big deal - a thirteen year old in his shorts. At the time, it seemed very awkward. Sarah seemed embarrassed - again. Brigham scrambled and grabbed a nearby folded up blanket.
"It's okay now", I said. "Sorry", said Brigham. Sarah opened her eyes. "This is my brother Brigham", I said. "Yeah", said Sarah.
"Hi", said Brigham, from beneath a blanket.
"Hi", said Sarah.
Well, I called out for my Mom. No answer. "She's gone, brudder", said Brigham. NO...
I invited Sarah to sit down in a chair in the TV room and told her I would be back in a sec with some money. She sat there next to Brigham in awkward silence as I ran upstairs. Mom's purse - nowhere. I felt frantic, desperate. Buffalo Bob and his pair of broncos were now in full-tilt miniaturization mode...I felt like Bednar right after he's gotten out of the pool...
I ran up to my mother's bedroom. I ripped open the bedside tables, the dresser drawers, the bureau drawers, the cupboards...earrings, necklaces, rings, garments, bras...but no money. "Where's the money?!", I thought. "This is nuts. I just need twenty bucks". I ripped open every last drawer in her bedroom looking for any cash. I couldn't stand another humiliation. But...there was no money. I was stuck. How embarrassing...meanwhile, Sarah was still downstairs sitting in awkward silence next to my brother.
"Well", I thought, as I ran back down. "I just had no idea the theater didn't take checks...I guess these things happen. We can't go to a movie". But fortunately (or so I thought), I had another idea.
I got back to the TV room and said, "Well, I can't find any cash up there, so I think a movie's out for tonight." Still reading Sarah's body language/facial expression. And...not good. "BUT, I do have an idea: We can go to the university and shoot some pool!". I held my breath in that instant...Praise Allah she seemed to think that might be fun.
"Yeah, we could do that...let's go", she said.
At last, I thought, this date's on some kind of track. We would go to the university, play some pool, have a bite, and then....mmmmmmm....didn't know. It was a mystery. Cool. Looks like maybe I can salvage this thing after all, I thought. Mr. Mojo's comin' a-LIVE. I've been down to the USU game room loads of times...what could possibly go wrong there?
I was about to find out.
To be continued.
Love, Lost and Found: Part IX (autobiographical)
12/16/2006 - Tal Bachman
What happened in that next split-second was this:
Somehow - mystifyingly and miraculously - the Human Plank vanished. I felt calm and composed and even confident. I didn't even think, "how odd". I didn't even think. It was just gone, no longer a part of me. It sounds fanciful, but literally in that moment, I felt perfectly at peace, and for the first time in front of a girl, just...me.
I walked in, said hi and shook hands with everyone. Before I could sit down next to Miss Right, however, my blonde and brunette escorts sat down closest to Tracy on the couch. That left me on the far edge, next to Geraldine, who was sitting in a chair.
Who were these people, and how had they come to arrive in my living room? Well, it was like this....(screen gets all blurry...).
Back in the 1980's, the church had a program whereby Mormon families could contribute to missionary work by purchasing Books of Mormon, which would then be used for missionary distribution. The donating families would write up a short little testimony or message to the recipient of the book, and then paste in a family photo along with their address. We used to get a lot of these in Argentina on my mission, and I must say, seeing those photos and reading those heartfelt little messages really seemed to mean something to investigator families.
Well, I believe it was in 1986 that my mother purchased a bunch of BOMs as a program participant, pasting her photo, testimony, and address inside each one. Her BOMs left Salt Lake City, and in my imagination, began a long and circuitous journey, resting in depots and then being sent out somewhere else....until they finally did wind up in London, from which point they were shipped north. And so it was, that one day, the box of my mother's Books of Mormon arrived at the apartment of a missionary from Texas named Kurt Parker, who was serving in a town in northern England.
Oddly, Elder Parker wrote a note back to my mother thanking for her for the donations. I never knew any missionary in Argentina to do this, so upon finding this out, I naturally believed Elder Parker to have been inspired. My mother got Elder Parker's note and wrote back to him. He then wrote back to her. After a couple of notes, that was the end of the correspondence.
Fast forward four years, to April of 1990. Elder Parker is at BYU, and feeling nostalgic for England. On a whim (or by inspiration), he calls up some of the folks he used to know on his mission. During conversation, someone tells him that people he used to know, from Blackburn, Lancashire, were at that very moment in Utah on vacation: Geraldine, a girl named Jane, and Tracy Hartley. He gets the number where they're staying (at a member's house in Murray) and calls up. He then finds out that Geraldine's son is studying at Rick's, and that she, Jane, and Tracy, are all hoping to get up to Rexburg to visit him. He volunteers to drive them up (Jane later decides to stay behind, so only Geraldine and Tracy go).
And so this Elder Parker drives Tracy, then 18, and Geraldine up to Rick's...and then, on the way back down to Murray, Elder Parker remembers something...
He remembers that there was a lady in Logan who'd sent him Books of Mormon, and who he'd corresponded with. And he decides that since he's there, he wants to meet her. As it happens, he has her address in his address book, which he has with him; and so he announces to his two already tired passengers that he wants to stop and find this lady that wrote to him.
He drives to the address, but my mother isn't there. She'd moved, and the current occupants have no idea where she might have gone to. But Elder Parker is a brash fellow; he badgers them until they start to call around to people who might know.
After twenty minutes of calling, the current house occupants give Elder Parker the address of the house my mother had moved to. He manages to find it, but when he knocks on that door, my mother isn't there either. She'd already moved from that house, too. He then badgers those occupants to find out where Lorayne Stevenson had moved to. After another flurry of phone calls, those folks manage to find someone who knows where she's moved to, and give Parker the address. And that is how it happened that he showed up, entirely unannounced after no contact for at least four years, at my mother's house that evening, with Geraldine (an imperious and cranky woman), and Miss Right (who, by the way, was so tired that she almost didn't come into the house that night, just like I almost didn't come up from the TV room).
Now if you ask me, that whole story so far entails a pretty remarkable series of coincidences or lucky accidents, which at that time anyway I would naturally never have viewed as "coincidences" or "accidents" at all, but rather, manifestations of the spirit at work, bringing a Mormon boy and girl together, who very much seemed as though they would never have really matched with any other person they would ever meet. God, it was easy to believe, intervened to allow us soulmates to meet (and even now I like to believe that there was some sort of providence at work).
But there was even more to the story...Tracy, only 18 at the time, had grown up in a family with little money. She would never have dreamed of being able to come to America...it was in fact one of her church friends who had purchased the ticket to come to America on this little vacation, but who at the last moment couldn't go. This friend had asked Tracy if she would like to pay her for the ticket and go in her stead, but of course, Tracy didn't have anywhere near the money, which was about 1000 pounds.
However, Tracy's big brother David had, a year earlier, gotten a job, and had saved around a thousand pounds from his job. When he found out that his little sister had an opportunity to visit the U.S, he gave her all his savings so she could go. Very generous.
And so it was that, quite unexpectedly, Tracy - I think the most sincere and devout Mormon girl I'd ever met - was able to come to America, after which she and her friends met up with Elder Parker, traveled up to Rexburg, and then, after Parker's annoying attempts to track down his old pen pal, my mother, had landed smack dab in the very seat in which I'd spent the early part of that afternoon reading that stupid Bob Millett book.
And now, I was only a few feet from her...and I was for the first time ever, devoid of all plankitude...and the only thing in between her and me were the two girls who'd invited themselves over...and I figured, it would only be a matter of time before I figured out how to get myself next to her without causing an embarrassing scene (like telling the two girls to beat it)...
Imagine how I felt, then, when just a few minutes later, my two escorts suddenly stood up and announced it was about time for them to go, leaving now nothing between Miss Right and me, but a few feet of sofa...
Which I instantly slipped across, coming close for the first time to the mysterious and beautiful girl I'd been waiting to get near for the previous fifteen minutes...
And that moment, when I first slid over to that side of the couch, close to her chair - in that moment right after I'd slid, but before I'd ventured to say anything - remains in my mind as one of the most exhilirating moments of my life, like that split second when you've juuussst gotten to the top of the first big steep hill on a rollercoaster, and you've stopped moving up, but you haven't started to move down yet, and for that one delicious second, you are frozen, feeling a thousand butterflies right in the pit of your stomach...that, but times 1000. I can still feel it now as I did at that moment, like..."what - in the world - is about to happen RIGHT NOW?!"
Subject: Love, Lost and Found: Episode X
Date: Dec 17 16:36
Author: Tal Bachman
(In our last episode, I'd just scooted over close to Tracy, and was about to speak).
It's strange – there was no aforethought, no strategizing, no nerves...it was just “go”, and all seemed perfectly natural.
“Hi”, I said. I felt entirely at ease, even a bit cheery.
“Hello”, she said.
She had on a loose-fitting, pumpkin-coloured shirt with the word “pinstripe” embroidered across the front in gold and violet letters. It was very flattering. She had on what looked like casual black tights. Her wavy blonde hair was loosely pulled back and clipped, before spreading down the rest of her back....and unlike the student ward girls, she didn't have base plastered all over her face, or weird blue junk all over her eyes, or neon lip gloss, or an overdone fake tan. In fact, she had very little make-up on: just some eyeliner and a bit of “dusty rose” shade lipstick. And yet, she was far more beautiful than any girl I had ever seen.
“You're from Blackburn?”
“How long have you been over?”
"Over a week. We just went up (ohp) t'Idaho, it's been nice".
Our very first chat was on its way...
In those supercharged moments, when all of one's attention is hyper-focused on the object of romantic interest, there is nothing so subtle about them it isn't noticed. Nothing else exists in the world except that other person, and you drink in absolutely everything about them: their body language, their facial expressions, their tone of voice...
Ah, her voice. I had never heard anything like it. I certainly had never heard Lancashire dialect before (Tracy would later shift to standard English out of necessity, but that's another story). It is unlike anything most North Americans have ever heard. There were hardly any dipthongs in pronunciation, for example. (A dipthong is the quick mutation of a vowel sound, which we all make without realizing it. Like if we slowed down a recording of an English speaker saying the word “home”, we would actually hear something like “ho-OH-um”. But this girl didn't say, “ho-OH-uh-m”. She said “h-oh-m”. There was no dipthong at all, just a pure “o”, like the “o” in the Spanish “hola”). I know it sounds superficial, and it will sound funny to the Brits reading this who won't hear Lancashire dialect in the same way as I did then, but the truth is that I found her speech intensely alluring...my unfamiliarity with it made it sound mysterious and almost exotic (at least as exotic as anything Anglo can seem to another Anglo). And what's more, is that those uninflected vowels and those rarely heard words sounded *ancient* to me, as though the girl before me could have been a character in Chaucer who'd just come to life. (I later discovered that much of Lancashire dialect actually is quite ancient, having remained relatively unchanged for many centuries. It is even still fairly common to hear “thee” and “thou” used there).
“I've never heard a Blackburn accent before...”
“Well, mine is nought (nothing) like some (pronounced: "mahn-eez nowt lahk zohm"), not 'z broad 'zme brothers' (broo-thez)”.
Far out, I thought. This is like Old English or something...
And then we continued on....I mentioned the reference to Blackburn (“two thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”) in the Beatles song “A Day in the Life”. She smiled and said, “Aye, that's funny (foo-neh). It's about th' roads, they're full (fool) of holes”.
“Oh - potholes...that's what that's about. I didn't even realize...”.
We talked about what she was taking in college, and how she was liking her trip, how she and Kurt Parker and Geraldine all knew each other. As we chatted, I noticed how soft her skin looked, how blue her eyes looked (that is, when I could get a glimpse of them), how cute her lips looked...
But do you know that for the entire time we chatted, I could detect not the slightest bit of interest – I mean, boy/girl type interest – in anything she said or did for me? I looked for ANY of the standard girl signs: the eye contact, the tendency to self-deprecate, the laughing at the guy's jokes – nothing. She even seemed throughout the entire conversation to always slightly avert her gaze, so I couldn't even get that two or three second eye contact thing going. In fact, I couldn't even get one *millisecond* of eye contact going. She was perfectly polite, but...no indicator of interest. (Why that was is coming up in a future episode).
This was a big change from what I'd been used to. I (and all the other guys at the student ward) seemed (to put it hyperbolically) to get pounced upon every Sunday by an estrus-fired horde of jockeying, neon-sign-flashing, Wasatch-claw gum-chompers, each trying to get one of us to come to whatever the next student ward activity was (“You comin' to 'Bobbing for Apples Night”? It's gonna be [chomp chomp] way cool!”), to go to some dance, to come over to the apartment to watch videos...even that afternoon I'd had a girl that I barely knew drop in with a friend...now I was sitting in front of a breathtakingly beautiful, entrancing girl, around whom I felt for the first time perfectly at ease...but I could get nothing. I mean, nothing.
Given my history around girls, one would think her neutrality would have triggered a relapse into plankitudinous unease, but it didn't. It just made me more intrigued. She wasn't like the rest, or really, like any girl I'd ever met. She was modest, but more than that – that natural modesty gave her in turn a natural, entirely unaffected coyness....I don't know how to describe it, but she just seemed to radiate every trait I valued most: total goodness and purity and innocence, genuineness and integrity, and a kind of sober wisdom underneath her genial exterior. I'd never been around anyone as alluring. No – she was not only the most beautiful girl I had ever seen – she actually seemed like the best. And from what I could tell, she certainly was the most devout Mormon girl I'd ever met.
After a few more minutes, Elder Parker said they'd probably ought to get going. It was getting late and there was still a couple of hours of driving to do. I had gone the entire ten or fifteen minutes we'd been chatting with my radar sensitivity levels jacked up to the hilt, (vainly) scanning every single aspect of the vision of loveliness before me for any indication of interest. And as I said, there had been none. But now, in just a few seconds, we would stand...and we would shake hands, and say our final goodbyes...and I thought, surely, in that moment, if there is ANY interest AT ALL, I will get the “eyeflash” - I will get something. Not even the coyest of girls could entirely hide interest, if there were any...
We started to stand. (In that split second, by the way, I remember distinctly I had my first moment of carnality – her voluptuous figure caught my eye for the first time. If you can believe it, I'd been so intrigued with, and impressed by, everything else about her, that it hadn't even crossed my mind to do the once-over).
I said, “Well it was great meeting you...”. Nothing.
“Aye, it were very nice, thank you”. Nothing.
We shook hands. There was no “lingering hand”. There was no eye contact. There was...absolutely nothing.
We walked Geraldine, Elder Parker, and Tracy to the door, all saying goodbye. They walked out, and we shut the door. My little brother Brigham, fourteen at the time, was standing right next to me. It was the first time since I'd walked in the room and seen Tracy that I'd even noticed him. We both stood there staring at the closed door for four or five seconds. I looked at him. He looked like he was in shock. He looked at me. I must have looked as in shock as he did.
He looked at me. “BAH-RUDDER!.......”, he gasped, eyes wide.
Silence...Neither of us knew what to say. We stood in the little front hallway, in front of the closed door, not moving (I swear to God this is without any exaggeration).
A second later, he finally blurted again: “BRUDDER - - - - did you SEE that girl?!”
“BRUDDER...........THAT IS...........that's like................Bah-RUDDER.........!”
It was only after they left that the shock really hit me. The truth is that when I first walked in and saw Tracy, I didn't consciously think, “I want to marry her”. I wasn't that conscious. I actually felt, in the split second I saw her, as though I was suddenly plunged into some trance-like state, where everything else blurred away, and I felt irresistibly attracted to her, unable to stay away from her, unable to feel nervous or awkward around her, unable to think of anything else other than going to her and engaging with her. That was all. I felt more in control of myself than ever, yet at the same time as though I were on some sort of auto-pilot program, focused entirely on her, right then. I had no thought of past or future, only of her in the exact present, throughout the whole sequence. It seemed at once the most real thing ever, and the most surreal, as though I'd stepped out of normal reality for fifteen minutes, and now I was re-entering it. That extreme narrowing of consciousness was being undone as I, so to speak, came to.
So as I stood there in shock next to Brigham in front of the door, I still wasn't thinking: “I will marry her”. I was just regaining full awareness...and I remember feeling shocked because I had (earlier) come sorrowfully to assume, prior to the visit, that girls such as the one I'd just met, didn't exist anymore (I assumed they once had). So I began thinking, standing there, “I can't believe girls like that actually exist”. I thought it over and over. “I can't believe it...they actually exist”. After a few minutes, as I more and more regained my awareness, that thought gave way to this: “...I have to find a girl just like her...that's what I want, one exactly like her....”. And I am embarrassed to say, since it makes me seem slow-witted, that it took several minutes for that thought to give way to the next thought, which was the most momentous, and in a way, crazy, of all:
“What am I thinking?..........Why not *her*?...........Wait – not 'why not her?'......I should pursue *her*. Yeah – her! Of course – I must pursue *her*!”.
It was Sunday. Dream Girl and her friends were returning to England the following Thursday morning. I must make contact with her before she leaves, I thought. Kurt Parker had left his phone number with my mother. I got it off her and dialed the number. One of his roommates in Provo picked up.
“Kurt was just up here at my house in Logan”, I said. “I just met him. Will you do me a favour and leave him a note where he can't miss it, to call Tal – 'T-A-L' - the moment he walks in?”
“Sure”, said the roommate.
“And write on the note that it doesn't matter how late he gets in. It could be three in the morning. I need to talk to him. It's urgent”.
“Yeah, I'll do it right now, no problem”.
“Thanks, I appreciate it”.
I hung up.
This was it. I felt different, no lie. I felt primally focused like never before (Cue Duran Duran: "I'm on the hunt, I'm after you...I'm hungry like the wooolf") (now try to get that song out of your head for the next hour). And I knew I wouldn't blow it. It had all clicked, and I knew it would continue to click. I didn't feel one shred of hesitation or nervousness. Plank was definitely out. It seems I'd experienced an influx of serene mojo as overwhelming as that blast of testosterone at eight weeks while I was in mommy's womb, that originally turned me into a boy (see http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Books/story?id=2274147&page=1&GMA=true for a great little article on this).
I laid back, rolling over everything in my mind. The plan was simple. Parker would call around two or three that morning, I'd get Dream Girl's number, call her first thing in the morning, and set something up - maybe for that very night (Monday) - I'd drive down there, and we would hang before she left. And when we did hang, it would go great, just like tonight had, but this time I'd "crack" her - I'd somehow get to her, get her to open up to me, get her to smile or something - and once that happened, there'd be nothing but horizon in front of us...
I drifted off to sleep content, rolling it all over in my mind...just a few hours later, I was awake, and had begun to realize that this would be a lot harder than I thought. And the reason why had a name:
Subject: Love, Lost and Found: Episode XI
Date: Dec 18 01:58
Author: Tal Bachman
I woke up. It was morning (Monday, April 9, 1990). Did I sleep through Parker's call?
"Did anyone hear the phone ring last night?", I said at breakfast. No one had. Weird - that roommate I talked to sounded really together...but maybe Parker didn't see the note...
I dialed Parker's number. Answering machine. I left a message for Parker, telling him to call me as soon as possible. I then left for classes. I tried to pay attention to the lectures, but I was a man obsessed - I couldn't think of anything else but Dream Girl. As soon as I could, I got back home.
"Did Elder Parker call?", I said to my mom. No, was the answer. I called again, got the answering machine again, and left a message again. Guess he's been out all day in classes, I thought. That night after dinner I called again, and again I got the answering machine. I tried just before bed that night. Again, the machine. Crap - that was one day gone.
The next morning I left another message. That afternoon I called again, listening with increasing frustration as it rang. Just as I was about to hang up, someone picked up the phone. Unfortunately, it was another roommate, who said Kurt was "out". He said he'd tell Kurt to call me as soon as possible. But by that evening, no call had come. I left another message.
I hadn't detected any vibes between Dream Girl and Parker when they were over; and I was pretty sure that if there had been any, my pumping lupine, LeBonian instincts would have picked them up immediately. So, I couldn't quite figure out what was going out. I knew that Parker had to know I was calling, and yet...there was no call back. I would have driven down there to track him down, but I had no idea where he was. I couldn't get an address from directory just from the number, nor was the last roommate I talked to very forthcoming...I didn't know what else to do but keep calling.
Wednesday night - which I knew was Dream Girl's last night there - came and went, still with no call back. WHAT'S GOING ON? It was all I could think about.
Thursday morning, as I ate breakfast, the phone rang. It was Parker.
"Hey, sorry man, I just been runnin' around and jus' got a chance to call ya", he said in his Texas drawl.
"Yeah, I've been calling you since Sunday night".
"Yeah, sorry man, just been runnin' around".
(WTH? Anyway, I thought, least I can do now is get her contact info. Maybe they're even still at the house where they were staying...).
"The reason I was calling you is, I want to get the number of where Geraldine and Tracy are staying".
This is no lie. The guy says, "Well I don't have the number of where they're staying". This brought me up short.
"You don't have the number?"
"Didn't you have to call over there to make arrangements to pick them up to take them to Rexburg?"
"Yeah...but I lost the number".
Okay, I thought. Remain calm.
"Okay, what's the name of the family they're staying with?"
"I don't know what their name is".
Either this guy was abnormally unsociable, or stonewalling me.
"Okay, well...would you just tell me the address of where they were staying? I'd love to say bye to them".
"I don't know the address", said Parker.
I laughed incredulously. "Dude - you picked them up, and then dropped them off at this place in Murray", I said. "You *have* to have the address".
"It was dark". (Yes, that's actually what he said).
"It was 'DARK'? Dark doesn't have anything to do with this. You have to have their address written down somewhere..."
"Sorry man, I don't know where it is".
Is this guy a total moron, or what?, I thought. Can he really not know any of this stuff? I didn't know.
I might have gotten testy, except that this guy was my ONLY link to the girl I'd met. Somehow or other, I had to get some information out of the guy. I took a deep breath.
"Okay, listen...could you just give me their contact info for England? What's her number?"
"She doesn't have a number", he said. I did remember Tracy saying something about her parents recently having split up, and her moving somewhere new...maybe she didn't have one.
“Okay, what's her last name?”
"Okay...what about her address?"
If you can believe it, he said, "I didn't get any addresses".
I said, "So you don't have ONE phone number, or ONE address, for either this Jane girl (who I'd only heard about), or Geraldine, or Tracy? You don't have ANYTHING?"
"What about the numbers of the people in England you originally called a couple of weeks ago, who were the ones who told you these guys were over visiting?"
"Their numbers have changed and I don't have the new ones", he said.
"So", I snorted, "you don't have one single bit of contact info for anyone, anywhere, that could help me get in touch with that Tracy girl?".
"No, sorry man". I was being stonewalled, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was going to have to do this - somehow - without Parker. I hung up.
Obviously, this is pre-internet. A google search wasn't an option.
I tracked down the number for telephone directory in Blackburn, Lancashire. There was no listing for "Tracy Hartley" there or "in surrounding areas". Now that I thought of it, I wasn't even sure she lived in Blackburn proper...she very well might even live in some town ten or twenty or thirty miles from Blackburn, making locating her seem even more hopeless...And remembering the mentions of her recently moving, I realized I wasn't even sure she was still in that area at all. And, I didn't know Geraldine's last name, either. Dream Girl had completely vanished.
I spent the day at USU in a state of shell-shock. The girl of my dreams had been IN my living room...I'd actually talked to her, met her, SHAKEN HER HAND...now she was gone - like, vanished, without a trace - and I didn't have the slightest idea of how to find her. I had no money, or I might have tried flying to Blackburn, and I knew neither my mom or dad would hand over a couple of thousand bucks for me to fly to a city of 100,000, to try to find some girl I'd talked to for fifteen minutes, who I wasn't even sure still lived in the city anyway.
I spent all day Thursday walking around on campus, trying to figure out what to do. Nothing came. Then I spent all day Friday trying to figure out what to do. Nothing came. Saturday was the same. The whole time I kept re-living every moment of our encounter, remembering her face, her goodness, her cute accent...and I was stumped. In the most distant regions of my mind, a horrific thought had just barely presented itself: **what if I could never find her again?** It was her, she was the one - I'd spend the rest of my life pining and wondering if I couldn't find her...it would be a nightmare.
How could I find her?
That Sunday, a week to the day from meeting Dream Girl, I sat in a pew in the Logan 28th ward as deacons passed the sacrament, my elbows propped on my knees, my hands propped against my cheekbones, staring at the floor, depressed, stumped, obsessed, exasperated. Some "Mission Impossible" this was turning out to be...seemed like it really WAS impossible...
And suddenly, in a flash - I was certain it was the spirit - I had it. Sure, it was still very low odds, but at least it was something. And it seemed so obvious, I didn't know why I hadn't thought of it before.
That afternoon, I wrote a very platonic letter to Dream Girl, asking such scintillating questions as, "Did your friends like the U.S.?" (had to keep it light at first, I thought. Didn't want to scare my prey...).
First thing the next morning I called church headquarters in Salt Lake City, and asked for someone in the missionary department. They put me through.
"What mission is Blackburn, Lancashire, England in?"
"Manchester, England", the guy said. I asked him for the address of the mission home, which he gave me.
I then put my letter into an envelope, addressing it to the Manchester, England mission (Stockport Road, Timperley), but writing on the top, "Please forward to the elders at Blackburn, Lancashire - *see back of envelope". On the back, in big capital letters, I wrote: "PLEASE GIVE THIS LETTER TO TRACY HARTLEY. I BELIEVE SHE'S IN THE BLACKBURN WARD. THANK YOU VERY MUCH".
I walked out to put the letter in the mailbox, but even as I did, a dozen possibilities flashed through my mind that left me feeling more and more hopeless: the envelope being filed incorrectly at mission headquarters, lazy mission home missionaries not passing it on, Blackburn elders not knowing a Tracy Hartley, Tracy having moved, the elders losing the letter amid piles of laundry and paper airplanes, and a hundred other things...No, the odds were nearly nil it would ever reach her. I didn't even know if the postal service would pass my letter on, what with all the scribbling all over the envelope.
And still, the letter was my only hope of making contact once again with the Dream Girl I had found in my very own living room, and then lost again. And any chance was better than no chance – so I took a deep breath, put the letter into my mother's mailbox, lifted the little red flag up, and walked back to the house wondering if I'd ever know the fate of my letter.
(Tune in to Episode XII to find out what the letter said [I have it right here]. Also, not looking for compliments, but as always, gimme a quick hit if you read this just to let me know people are still following along).
Love, Lost and Found, Episode XII
Date: Dec 19 01:17
Author: Tal Bachman
That evening, when the mailman came, the stars continued on in alignment....No more mix-ups at movie theatres or pool halls or restaurants...no...now, for the first time, it seemed like The Fates had unanimously decreed that everything would work out...because *not one of the things that could have gone wrong, did*. Only FOUR days after it arrived and was processed in Salt Lake City on Monday, the fifteenth of April, 1990, it had not only made it across the Atlantic, been sorted in London, sorted in Manchester, been carried to the mission home, and then forwarded to Blackburn - it had actually been (by that Friday, the 20th) hand-delivered by elders to Tracy at a Blackburn branch social! Wow. My luck really had changed.
Or was it even “luck” at all....? Tracy told me later that in the moment the elders handed her the envelope, she felt a "flush of emotion", saying she knew instantly (she presumed by the spirit), it was from me. She opened up my letter right then and there, and this is exactly what she read:
April 15, 1990
In case you looked at the back of the envelope and wondered who was sending this letter, I'll tell you. Remember in Logan, when you searched and searched for the house of the sister who'd sent Books of Mormon to Elder (Parker) during his mission? And then finally you found it - Sis. Stevenson's house? Well, I'm the guy who you spoke with there - her son. Our surnames are different because she uses her maiden name, and I of course carry my father's, which is Bachman. Anyways, it's Easter Sunday evening, and I was sitting here wondering how the rest of the trip had gone for you, and how the flight back had gone, and I decided to drop you a note.
Did your friends like the U.S.? Did you all miss England?...I'd love to go to the U.K...
..It was great to meet you all.
Not knowing how quickly she'd received my note, I was shocked when two weeks later (April 30), I got a letter back from Tracy. This is part of it:
It was a nice surprise to receive your letter. It was quite unexpected!
It was so nice to meet you and your family. While we were over there, we met so many lovely, friendly people, and so many Latter-day Saints - it was great! I would have liked to have brought my friends up to meet you all, but we had so much to do in such a little time. It went so fast!
Your letter reached me Friday, 2oth April. I was at a branch social and it was handed to me...
It is difficult being an LDS over here; people seem to think that you are strange for going to church, never mind truly believing in a religion; I'm the only member at my college. Everyone who knows me, knows I'm LDS, and they know I'm different, (but) I love being 'different'...The adversary is strong here, but you have to ignore it and keep going!
It was great to meet you, too.
God bless and take care,
I wrote a pretty long letter back. Here's an excerpt:
May 1, 1990
Last night when I came home from my grandmother's house (who also lives here in Logan), the family told me that a letter had arrived from England. I might've been just as surprised to receive your letter as you were to get mine! I wasn't sure when I sent it that it would ever get to you, but I'm glad it did...
Did I tell you I was in a student ward? You know, all students except for the bishop and his counselors. It's alright. One thing they have is this sort of massive match-making thrust...which I don't personally care for that much."
Tracy wrote back:
May 14th, '90
It was really good to receive your letter. I love receiving letters, especially long ones! (RFM regulars insert joke at my expense here)
It is interesting to hear that you lived in Canada. I would like to see Canada myself. Why did you move to Utah?
I don't remember if you told me or not, but how long have you been back off your mission? Did it feel strange to come back to everything? You'll have to watch out, I'm full of questions today, I'm in that kind of mood!
If you wanted to come over to the U.K., my mum said that you stay at our house, and you are welcome at any time. That would cut a lot of money down for accomodation, also we could show you all the best places!
What are you going to study? What do you want to do? I'm so confused about my career at the moment...I love drawing, especially horses. I want to own my own horse one day - I haven't even had the chance to ride yet. It is too expensive. Is it expensive there? Do you ever go horse riding? What do you like to do?...
Bye for now and take care,
OH YEAH, I thought. YEAH. Thank you Big Man Upstairs, she's cracked. Green light, full steam ahead. She even bit on the "I'd love to visit the U.K" comment. Parker could go screw himself. I was rolling!
The next "mission impossible" was how to actually get over there. Now that I've traveled and have a bit of money, it seems like no big deal to hop on a flight to anywhere. But at the time, virtually broke, only just having gotten a job (census worker), the amount of money needed for a ticket seemed daunting...the U.K. seemed like a million miles away.
One funny thing, though, was...that there WAS a way I could get over there. I had just repeatedly declined to take advantage of it on moral grounds. I was concerned that doing so would be a violation of the hardcore Bensonian Mormon principles I'd adopted and adhered to since the moment I had my big spiritual experience prior to my mission. On the other hand, if I said "yes", I would be flown to Britain to work for a month, and then given two thousand pounds. But...the nature of the work...was it not intrinsically evil? And if not intrinsically evil, wouldn't it still corrupt me? I couldn't risk that - no way. I'd be doing something I'd done a lot of prior to my mission, but which since serving I'd decided was "inimical to the spirit", and so didn't want to do anymore. I'd declined repeated offers...
But now this had all come up...and I started thinking, maybe it's not as evil as I'd thought...maybe I could hold firm to the Bensonian rod while still...
murdering people for the IRA? No...
Smuggling drugs? No...
Running a roulette table? No...
None of these, my friends...but in a way, what I'd be doing struck me as just about as perilous spiritually:
playing guitar on my (non-Mormon) friends' album, which they were recording for Geffen Records at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales. SCARY!
They were non-members. They DRANK BEER. How could I play on their songs, without being overcome by the sinister spirit of Satan which haunted everything rock n' roll? This was a very serious concern...as a representative of Jesus Christ and his one true religion, I had to avoid even the appearance of evil...
I knew Chris, the band's guitar player, would be calling again in a few days to beg me once again to come over.
So that night, I knelt down, and asked Heavenly Father for guidance as I tried to make the most righteous decisions I could. A few days later, I had my answer.
Subject: Love, Lost and Found, Episode XIII
Date: Dec 20 23:01
Author: Tal Bachman
People might think I am exaggerating my post-mission rockophobia. I'm not - my biggest fear at that time of my life was to turn out like my dad, or at least, how I thought my dad was. (Mom had made sure we all grew up believing that Dad didn't cut the gospel mustard). I came home off my mission like the Mormon Timothy McVeigh or something, I was so into "the gospel". I wanted to be like Ezra Taft Benson. Mormonism was the one true way, and I wanted to embody it one hundred percent.
And so it was with genuine concern that I knelt and prayed that night, asking Heavenly Father whether I was right to decline my old Vancouver buddies' offer to come and play on their record in Wales (who it must be said, in fairness to myself, gave more cause for concern than just beer-drinking, as you'll see below)...but the more I prayed, the more I thought of Tracy...and the more I could see myself visiting her...and the more I became convinced that I was strong enough to resist the potentially smothering spirit of the adversary...hmmm...yes...it did seem to make sense now, the whole thing...and my mind drifted back to how I had even ever gotten this unique invitation in the first place...and once I remembered the remarkable story of how I'd even met these friends, I became even more convinced that this whole Tracy thing had been put in motion by none other than GOD HIMSELF, starting in late December of 1986...
(Screen goes blurry again...and yes, this has something to do with the point of the whole story)
"Jingle Bell Rock, 1986" - Vancouver's annual Christmas charity concert at the Commodore Ballroom (one of the best rock venues in NA). My dad and stepmother played a few numbers and had me up on drums to accompany them. After we were done, I was lingering off to the side of the stage...when I recognized a local celebrity I'd only ever seen in photos. He was tall and skinny, with dyed white hair which was short and spiked. I approached.
"Hi - Are you Ziggy?", I said.
"I'm Tal - I just played". He nodded.
Ziggy had been one of two guitarists in Western Canada's biggest, baddest, most infamous, lewd, comical, ruckus-raising indie rock bands, a band called "Slow". For the previous two years, I, like thousands of other teenagers around Greater Vancouver, had heard the most unbelievable stories of this band and their concerts: Tom, the singer, tip-toeing across bar counters while singing, then accidentally slipping and crashing into the cabinet, Tom being hauled offstage by bouncers during the shows, screaming obscenities, their covers of old Nazareth, Lou Reed, Motorhead, Bowie, Sex Pistols songs...They had the same kind of effect on the imaginations of hip Vancouver teens of the mid-80's, as did Led Zeppelin did on the minds of '70's teens - you never knew how true the stories were, but they were larger than life, cooler than life - BETTER than life, almost more like a walking performance art troupe than a rock band. And the problem was, we were all too young to get into the clubs to see them!
Of course, I had finally been able to see them once, at Vancouver's Expo '86. I took my girlfriend Heidi (the same girl I mentioned in the story posted a couple of months ago, about me missing the opportunity to jam with bluesmaster Albert Collins), and we sat down in the Xerox Amphitheatre on a warm summer afternoon, excited. Local bands had been invited to perform at Expo, but since the fair had been sponsored by "right wing capitalists", most had declined. Slow, however, much to everyone's surprise, had accepted (I would soon find out why), along with mostly far lesser known bands. Slow's show, in other words, would kick off a week of concerts by local talent.
Long story short is, the band ran out on stage, with Tom, the singer, grabbing the microphone and screaming something like, "This show is dedicated to our fascist leader Bill Bennett. Sieg heil!" (Bennett was then the right-wing premier of BC). They then rolled into their set, shortly after destroying large, upright rectangles made with 2X4 beams which were propped on to the stage, throwing the beams into an audience of shocked observers from all over the world. In between profanity-laced, anti-government monologues, the band played their (I must say, clever and catchy) songs, while Tom, bit by bit, disrobed. Their intent, in other words, was to ruin the entire week in the name of...well, something or other. It's often hard to say *what * musicians are actually protesting, and even they often seem very sketchy on the details.
Anyway, after a few songs, Tom was down to his boxer shorts, and had decided to climb up one of the narrow speaker stacks during one of the songs. He seemed rather like that Chris Kattan "monkey boy" character off of Saturday Night Live – scrawny, hyper, primal, utterly insane. The audience held their breath as the speaker stack swayed as Monkey Boy climbed - if the stack went down and the speakers all toppled, Tom would no doubt be crushed. And it was swaying...Fortunately, he made it up and down without it falling and killing him.
After repeatedly warning the band to knock it off, the promoters pulled the power. This enraged the band even further, prompting their obese bass player Hamm to drop his pants in protest. The band, noticing that security had begun filing in to apprehend them, suddenly ran off stage, then (as I later learned) jumped into a van and sped off the Expo grounds. I also found out later that rather than cash, they had asked for payment in beer, and had consumed it all before the show.
Now here I was backstage with Ziggy, one of the guitar players, of this band, which had recently broken up. (For a brief write up on this band, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_(band)
"I heard you guys broke up", I said
"Yeah. Tom and Chris (Slow's main creative forces) are starting a new band now."
"Yeah. They practice in a warehouse at Yukon and Sixth every night. You should go down and check them out."
The very next night, I drove from White Rock (the suburb where I lived, on the other side of the border from Blaine, Washington), into Vancouver. I found Yukon and Sixth (then in an industrial area), parked, grabbed my guitar, and began to walk around. It was dark, and there was no one around. There were no signs or lights, only locked buildings. I finally found an open door in one of the buildings, which opened on to a staircase, which I walked up, not knowing what I'd find.
When I got to the top, I found another door (this is like a Lewis Carroll opium hallucination or something). A few butterlflies flew round in my stomach, as always happened on these adventures. I opened the door on to a big room, converted into something like a giant loft apartment, dimly lit...I could make out an old couch, amps, guitars, a drumkit...and a small, scrawny dark-haired guy sitting cross-legged on the floor. A thin trail of smoke rose from the mysterious cigarette he held in his hand.
"Who are you?" he said.
"I'm Tal...do Chris and Tom play here? Ziggy told me to come".
The small guy stood and walked toward me. "They're not here right now".
“Who are you?”, I said.
“I'm Lev. I'm their friend”. (Lev was named after Leon Trotsky, but that's another story). I went in and chatted with Lev, who I found out was a drummer. He was very friendly. He told me to come back the next night, and that Tom and Chris would be there.
By the end of the week, I was a regular at the loft. I'd go in every night to Vancouver to jam with Tom, Chris, Lev, and another guy named Eric on bass. And listening to their songs, which I thought were far better than their old Slow songs, I thought, "I might be nuts, but...I think this could be the biggest band in the entire world. These songs are AMAZING". And they were - the best way I can describe them is that they were exactly like, or perhaps even better than, if you can believe it, Nirvana songs - except that Nirvana didn't exist yet (at least that we knew of). This was late 1986-early 1987. But all the same elements were there – raucous, snappy, post-punk alt rock, oozing cool and “cred”, but infused with fiendishly clever lyrics and a wicked (very Cobainian) melodic sense. The music world was still dominated by glammed-out metal bands like Poison and Warrant...but how long would it last?, I thought. The stuff I was hearing was so *real* sounding compared to that stuff, so *to the point*, I could see it bursting the whole bubble.
After a couple of months of jamming with them, Tom and Chris asked me to join the new band they wanted to put together (this is pre-mission remember, before I got all Bensonian. And no, I never drank or smoked or anything). They next convinced a guy named Pete to play drums for us, and we then began practicing and writing in earnest, at the same warehouse loft. The songs came tumbling out. The whole band gelled. I felt it in my gut – we could be huge.
But by July of 1987, after a lot of thought, I'd made a decision – God was more important than rock 'n roll. I'd been feeling unfulfilled, adrift in a way...and I had begun to re-read the scriptures...and like so many other young people who start pondering why they exist, I began to feel the lure of purpose, identity, meaning, community, higher cause, that religion, and in my case, the religion of my birth, Mormonism, offered...and those Mormon siren songs began to entrance me...and I felt that stirring inside me saying “this is truth, this is truth, this is for you”...and so I met with Tom and Chris one day and said, “I'm going on a mission for my church”. What could they do, but accept it?
(In one sad little episode, though, about a week later, Chris, who I was closest to, gathered up his courage and asked if we could talk for a minute. Evidently he had by then done a wee bit of research into the freakish fraud I was about to go risk my life for...And he gently produced a present for me. It was a book, and it was called “The Power of Myth”, by Joseph Campbell. He managed to get across, despite the guy-language self-interruptions and mumbling, that he hoped I'd look through it before I left. And I'm embarrassed to say that I did look through it, but for the life of me, couldn't understand what relevance Haida life-and-death myths had for me, who already “knew beyond a shadow of a doubt” that everything taught in Joseph Smith's King Follett discourse was true [apparently, that was more than Hinckley knew, as I would find out ten years later in Time magazine]).
And so, I quit the band that I thought could become the greatest band on earth, and left for Utah in the summer of 1987, to live at my mom's and prepare myself to fly a plane into a building I mean “go where the Lord wanted me to go”. The road I had been traveling boasted a very good chance of fame, glory, wealth, power, ego strokes...but it seemed totally selfish. The road I now walked, I believed, was the one God himself, who I now knew to be a devout member of the Mormon church just like I was (boy was I stupid), wanted me to walk down. There my efforts and exploits would be writ large in The Book of Life...my true father, the most powerful man in the universe, would smile on me, acknowledge my sacrifice and devotion...I would lay up treasures to myself in heaven, not on earth, where rust and moths could corrupt them. So I submitted my papers, and was called to the Argentina Rosario mission, where I would spend the next two years trying to mimic the bold missionary exploits of one of my heroes, Wilford Woodruff. At the end of it, I'd baptized hundreds. I'd discovered entire clans of “Lamanites” in the deserts of Formosa and Chaco, never before proselyted, and helped “restore them to the House of Israel” by baptizing them, preached to entire evangelical Christian congregations and in some cases helping convert them all at once, and then transforming with my comps the entire congregations into Mormon branches in one day, and in short, done pretty much doing the sorts of things my man Wilford did in England on his mission (my grandpa used to send me cassettes of him reading from Preston Nibley's “Missionary Experiences”, which really fired me up. WAY better than Tony Robbins! I also found Alvin Dyer's book “The Challenge”, and got really pumped up by that...).
My friends back in Vancouver, meanwhile, were having an adventure of their own. And I wonder now how different my own life would have been, and theirs - and not-so-far-fetchedly, the course of rock music history - if I hadn't been a member of a cult and serving a mission for it, and had stayed in the band, the day that an obsessive, slightly-deranged (in the best way) talent scout working for Geffen Records named “Angela Stadler” came across, by accident (or as I thought, divine providence), a record by Tom and Chris's first (now defunct) band Slow. And if you can believe it, my friends, one listen of the Slow record was all it took to convince Angela that she had just - struck - GOLD: these guys, or whatever their new band was, she decided, had what it took to completely change the face of rock music, and become the biggest band in the world. And with the power of the Geffen machine...it was a very real possibility. Angela played the record for her boss...and her boss agreed with her. And then he played it for his boss, and his boss agreed with him. And finally, they all played it for David Geffen himself (about whom more later)...and David Geffen himself agreed with them. And so, the obsessed, driven Angela began calling people in Vancouver from her office in Los Angeles, trying to track down the guys who were putting together what would become the biggest band in the world...the band I had just quit to go serve my mission.
Finally, one day, she found them. A few weeks later, my old band had been signed to Geffen Records; a few months after that, Geffen and the band had decided they should record with producer John Porter (of Smith's fame) at the legendary Rockfield Studies in Wales (where "Bohemian Rhapsody" had been recorded and many other classics), and now, the band, and Angela, and their manager, all wanted a reluctant Mormon boy, now disdainful and rather frightened of the potentially corrupting nature of rock n' roll music, to re-join the band, or failing that, at least fly to Wales to play on the record.
But as I prayed, the more obvious it became...after all, Mormon prophets had made it clear that modern inventions came about to facilitate the spread of "the gospel"...God had obviously inspired Marconi and Bell and Farnsworth and whoever invented the satellite, for the cause of Mormonism...why then would he not intervene to help out individual Mormons?...Was it really a coincidence that Angela had found that Slow record in some back bin of a dusty old shop in Los Angeles? What were the odds of that? What were the odds of my buds recording in Wales of all places, just a few hours train ride from Tracy's house? What were the odds of them recording at that very moment, when I most wanted to go over to meet Dream Girl? What were the odds of me even bumping into Ziggy in the first place?
What were the odds of my Mom's BOM getting into the hands of Elder Parker? What were the odds of him calling England, hooking up with Tracy and her friends, him stopping at my mom's house? What were the odds of my letter reaching her?...I added it all up - it was fate, destiny. Why did I need to keep praying? Obviously, God had caused my friends to get a record deal so I could have a way to get over to meet my celestial soul mate. YES. For me to refuse my friends' offer (it suddenly seemed clear to me), would actually be a REJECTION of all the work that God had OBVIOUSLY put in on my behalf. And who was I to do that?
Sure enough, Chris called again a few days later from Wales to beg me to come. Imagine his shock when I said, "Chris - I'll come. Bring me over as soon as you can".
The only questions now were whether Tracy was as interested in me, as I was in her; or even if she had been, if she still was; or whether if she was, if she still would be by the time I got over there.
I was soon to find out.
A long flight and a drive through the rolling Welsh countryside to the historic town of Monmouth (birthplace of Henry V), and I was at the legendary Rockfield Studios http://www.rockfieldstudios.rockfieldmusicgroup.com/ (this is May of 1990). It was nice to catch up with the guys in the band. I hadn't seen them for nearly three years. In chatting with them, and meeting their producer, John Porter, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Porter_%28musician%29, I did sense a bit of tension, though. When I listened to what they'd recorded already, I found out why.
On the demo cassette they'd originally sent me, when I was in Utah, there was a fantastically catchy, cool song, an obvious lead-off single, called (if I remember right) “A Matter of Fact”. It had all the elements that made the band great: raw guitar riffs, sneering, comical lyrics (“she thought I seemed a little squirrely....she liked my hair a little curly...”), a rip-roaring chorus...it was like The Strokes meets Mick Taylor-era Stones, with some Iggy Pop cheek. The song was brilliant, I thought - an instant, timeless classic. Apparently, everyone at Geffen thought so, too...no wonder the band had been signed, I thought. I couldn't wait to hear the “Matter of Fact” bed tracks (bed tracks are just the completed drum, bass, and maybe rhythm guitar tracks).
We all sat in the control room listening to the beds. After forty odd minutes, the last notes of a song died out. Here comes “the one”, I thought. Instead, there was silence.
“Whaddya think?”, asked Tom. He peered through gaps in his long brown scraggly hair, sheepdog-style.
“Well, the drums sound great...”.
“Yeah – we set them up in the loading bay”, said Chris.
“So........where's 'A Matter of Fact'?”, I said.
“We're not doing that one”, said Tom.
“WHAT?”, I said.
“It didn't fit”, said Chris, taking a drag from one of his hand-rolled cigarettes, his eyes narrowing. They seemed as defensive as they did decided.
“What do you mean 'it didn't fit'? Sure it fits. Besides, it's a total smash.” Shocked, I glanced at John Porter, the producer. The look on his face said it all.
“We've had a bit of a row about it:”, sighed John. “It was Angela's favourite song, and mine - everyone at the company thinks it's a smash...but they keep saying it doesn't fit”.
“It *doesn't*”, said Tom, glowering. Tom, like so many other talented, creative folks, was a volatile, impetuous brat prone to spasms of self-destruction and seemingly irrational stubbornness. The conversation, I knew, was all but over. I decided to approach Tom and Chris quietly later on, individually, to see if I could persuade them to change their minds.
Of course, that would still leave the matter of the other songs...they were all new. At least, I thought they were all new (the bed tracks didn't have proper vocals on yet), until Chris told me that a number of the songs were those we'd played before I left for Argentina. We listened back, with him pointing out which songs the present versions were mutations of. They had all been slowed down quite a bit; and what scratch vocals there were didn't include the catchy chorus melodies in place when I'd quit the band. No – the songs had changed. Actually, in my opinion, they had worsened, and Tom and Chris either didn't think so, or didn't care.
In any case, the most important thing was the missing hit, so that night I made an attempt at convincing them to just try recording it. I came in and sat down on the sofa opposite Tom and Chris in the fireplace/living room of the residential area.
“So Porter seems like a cool enough guy...”, I began.
“Yeah, he's alright”, said Tom.
“Who else did you consider as a producer?”
“Well, we had a meeting with John Paul Jones”, said Chris.
“From Led Zeppelin?!”. Wow, I thought.
“Yeah”, said Tom. "He really wanted to produce us".
“Guy's a nerd”.
“Whaddya mean?”, I said.
Tom looked very serious. “He had red teeth – you know, from drinking red wine”. (I swear I am not making this up - that's exactly what he said).
I didn't really understand why that would matter, especially since Tom and Chris drank like fish. “Uh.....so?”
“'So'? Don't you get it? The guy's a nerd, okay? He lives in a castle and drinks red wine all the time. He's one of these guys who went to music college. He's a muso, a dweeb. I just said, 'no way'”. (“Muso” is musician slang for an uncool guy who focuses too much on technique to the exclusion of feel and hipness, etc.).
“Well, what about Zeppelin?”, I said.
“'Zeppelin'?!”, snorted Tom. (Tom had more of an underground set of influences). “What about them? I don't want anyone associated with Robert Plant shrieking 'BABY BABY BABY' over and over again for twelve years, producing our album. Besides”, he continued, “I know a girl who was propositioned by Robert Plant. She worked in a restaurant in England, and right after Robert Plant broke his leg in that accident, he had a cane, and she said he came up to her and put the cane right between her legs and said something, like, really awful. I'm serious, the guy's a pig”. Ah yes...Tom always had hated Robert Plant...
I was about to ask what Robert Plant's cane had to do with John Paul Jones as a producer, but decided to try to steer the conversation toward the missing hit song.
“So.....I know you've already done beds, but I just wanted to put out there that I think 'A Matter of Fact' is a totally cool song. I think it would really do a lot for the record, and we could still do it. I-”.
“It doesn't fit”, interrupted Tom.
"I don't get it...Why do you think it doesn't fit?”, I asked.
“Because it doesn't”, said Tom.
“Doesn't fit”, added Chris.
I looked at them both. Angela Stadler loved them..."Al Rosenburg", her boss, loved them...the whole A&R staff loved them...and what had spearheaded the whole love fest was that one special track. It didn't make sense. Maybe that was why they never would record it. Maybe they were nuts...and maybe if I'd stayed in the band, I could have kept the hooks in (“hook” is slang for the catchy parts of a song), and even the big hit song, but my comments now were too little, too late. I'd quit before they got their deal...I'd declined over and over to come over earlier...and now, yeah, it was too late.
Ah well, I thought as I slipped into bed that night. It was their record, their career. I would never be in the band again anyway, no matter how big they got. I was going to continue on in my quest to become a true gospel hero. And this Tracy girl...well. She was in for a surprise. I deliberately hadn't written to her after I talked to Chris (probably a month earlier), so she had no idea I was even on British soil. I wanted to surprise her...tomorrow I'd send my letter letting her know I was just a few hours by train south of her. I wondered what she'd say in reply...
Love, Lost and Found, Episode 18
02/08/2007 - Tal Bachman
I noticed it when we first saw each other the next morning at breakfast - there was some element of tentativeness or concern on Tracy's part. When we had a moment alone afterwards, I asked her how she was doing.
She paused, then said, "How are *you* doing?"
I said, "I'm feeling good. How are you?"
She seemed relieved, and said shyly, "I thought you might have changed your mind overnight..."
I was surprised. "No...Why would I have changed my mind?".
"I don't know...I just thought you might have".
The good news is, I ended up figuring out the reason why she thought I might have. The bad news was the reason itself: as far as my beautiful and innocent fiance had ever been able to discern, that was just the way the world was: something good happening meant that something terrible, something heartbreaking, something cruel, was about to follow. The definition of hope was: the prelude to despair. Happiness was just the set-up for sorrow. That was just the way the world was in a home with a violent, alcoholic father. Where does this cycle begin...?
What is known for sure is that Tracy's paternal granddad had gone as a soldier to war against the Nazis, serving around the Mediterranean. And after those years of killing, Soldier Hartley came home from war more vicious, more besotted by drink, than he had left, and sired a little boy named Jack, with the wife he regularly beat. The photos of Jack (Tracy's father) as a boy show him to be one of the cutest children you could ever imagine.
Around the time Jack turned four (1949), ex-soldier Hartley began to take his toddler son to the front door in the mornings, and tell him not to come back home before dark, "or else". And if what Jack said later was true, he would be pushed out with whatever clothes he had on at the moment regardless of the weather, with nothing to eat or drink. But being outside was at least some respite from the beatings he received at home for the most trifling errors.
And so cute young Jack grew hard - how could he have survived otherwise? - and by the time he was a teen, he was in a gang, and had become a prolific drinker, smoker, delinquent, abuser, and fighter himself. To make a long story short, this was the troubled young man who became Tracy’s father in 1971.
In a very rare moment of voluntary vulnerability, Jack told Tracy many years later, after the divorce, that he had "really loved your mother". But throughout their marriage, the demonstration of that love was, as I understand it from Tracy, quite rare. Jack was a tortured and violent man, a man at war with himself, a man who hated the alcohol that controlled him more than words could ever describe, and yet loved it more than life itself, loved it in the pathetic way that only an abject slave can love his ruthless master.
The morning after a particularly violent night, he would promise Tracy’s mother he wouldn’t touch alcohol again. A glimmer of hope would run through the family - but within a few days, the teetotaling would end again. And once that happened, the violence, cursing, smashing, crying, and at times, even jail time, would return. I am abbreviating here for the sake of decorum, but I find most of the stories about Tracy’s childhood absolutely heartrending and infuriating, and I wish I could go back in time to stop some of these things...In any case, I can say that Tracy grew up in a home in which the only predictable thing was that her heart would always be broken.
And then came the church (the missionaries arrived when Tracy was 14). Well, my former-Mormon friends, the church was a giant step up for my future wife. The thing is, Tracy actually grew up in neighbourhoods where squalor, alcoholism, drugs, gangs, rampant promiscuity, unwanted pregnancies, every kind of abuse and social pathology, were common...So “the church” was safety, identity, predictability, direction, friendship, surrogate family, hope, light, and truth. The songs we might find insipid (“I Walk By Faith”, etc.) were profoundly meaningful to her. The lessons we all found mind-crushingly boring as kids, imbued her with faith in herself, and respect for herself. Mormonism was salvation.
And this is why, if I can digress for one moment, I have never said, in anything I've ever written about the church, that “everyone should stay away from the Mormon church”. My concern is more that people have easy access to all the information they deserve about whether to become, or remain, members (i.e., I think the church should stop lying about its past). Maybe this sounds contradictory, but I guess I feel that even though Mormonism really is salvation for some people, just like evangelical Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism is for others, that that still doesn’t warrant all the ongoing lying...
Anyway, by the time I met her, all of Tracy’s experiences had led her to a place where Joseph Smith's invented religion had become completely synonymous with life, safety, stability, love, joy, truth, reality, self, emotion, marriage, children, thought, existence, everything (and this is why, many years later when she discovered that the *whole thing had been a fraud*, it was the worst moment of her life, literally disorienting, triggering something like a full-scale psychic and emotional breakdown. But here I am getting ahead of myself...).
In any case, I managed to reassure her that I still felt great about everything; and we spent that day as newly engaged boy and girl. And there began the most incredible month that either of us had ever had.