Grandma and the Medicine Men

Arizona sunsets don’t mess around.

My grandmother Betty, from my mother’s side of the family, had some great stories of strange things she witnessed and experienced in her life. Most of them are intertwined with the Arizona desert, as she lived many, many years in a hilltop house a few miles outside of Winslow, AZ. While some of the finer details of this one are fuzzy (due to nobody ever writing them down), the main bit has always stuck with me.

Everett, my grandfather, was an art teacher as well as a skilled jeweler of desert stones. He was especially fond of Navajo (Diné) jewelry made with turquoise and silver, and through this he came to know some Navajo artists who eventually became friends of the family. They both had great respect for Navajo people and culture.

Sometime early in their marriage in the 1950s, Betty suddenly had some kind of health issue. This is where my memory gets fuzzy, because I can’t remember exactly what was wrong…but whatever it was, it was fairly serious and her doctor’s treatment wasn’t doing much to help. With some desperation, Everett reached out to his Navajo friends and asked them if their medicine men (tribal healers) could help.

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What happens in Amsterdam…

NOT an exaggeration.

Based on my travel journal from 9/15/2006.

On our way back to the hotel we passed a mushroom shop, and I really wanted to check it out.  The shop was amazing inside, designed to look like the inside of a giant melting tree.  They had just about every kind of mind-altering drug you’d ever want, and the mushrooms were all laid out in a case with little cards detailing what kind of trip you could expect from each.  Some were high on visual effects and energy, others gave more of a “brain high”, and others were a mix of other things.  After talking with the sales guy, who seemed very knowledgable, he recommended “philosophers stones” (psilocybin truffles) since we had never taken shrooms before and they usually gave a smoother experience.  So I bought two packages of those, at 13 grams each.  He fetched them out of a refrigerated case — apparently it’s only legal to sell fresh shrooms in Amsterdam, nothing dried — and we headed out.

We stopped by New York Pizza for dinner (piping hot and ridiculously huge slices), and then went back to the hotel and took a nap before launching into hyperspace!

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Learning to say “nope”

Quick note: this isn’t the same grandma from my earlier post. This grandma is from my Dad’s side. Grandmas everywhere!

When we were kids, my brother and I had a weekly routine. Rather, it was our parents’ routine: they’d drop us off at our grandparents’ house every Saturday evening, where we’d have some Grandma & Grandpa time, stay the night, and go to church with them on Sunday morning. More accurately, they would go to church and we would go to Sunday School. Afterwards, my brother and I would walk home and enjoy the rest of our weekend. It worked out well — our parents would get Saturday nights off from the kids, and our grandparents would get some time with us. (Our parents were what we’d call “spiritual but not religious” today, and definitely not the go-to-church types.)

This was the weekly routine for years, until one morning when I was 10 or 11. I woke up and just didn’t feel like going to Sunday School. The thought of getting dressed up and sitting in the church basement doing Bible-centered “activities” was suddenly the last thing in the world I wanted to do. So I informed my grandma that I was just going to hang out and wait for them to get back from church. And boy, she was not pleased with this development.

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Grandma and the merchant

One evening, while visiting my grandma at the age of three or four, I ended up on her lap (as I often did!). I began to feel a little drowsy, and as she rocked me and stroked my hair, my eyelids began to droop. I wasn’t sleeping, but somewhere in that in-between place. My grandma, being open-minded and curious, chose that moment to gently ask me if I remembered who I was…before.

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Music formats: a journey of inconvenience

Warning: rambling ahead.

Memory time!  In the 70’s, my dad was a DJ at the Los Angeles mega-station KFI (his call name was Roger Collins — he passed a few years ago but his legacy lives on via his Facebook page).  My brother and I still lived in Arizona, but my dad would mail promo LPs to us when they went out of rotation — so as kids we had a steady stream of cool records coming to us, which was how we enjoyed a lot of music that was otherwise hard to come by in our little country-music town.  We had a lot of records by a lot of popular bands, but I remember The Bee Gees and Donna Summer most.

This is exactly what I had. ‘Cause I was classy.

I mostly grew out of LPs when tapes came along. I loved buying them, but I loved recording them more. I kept them in those ugly-ass plastic cases with the fake wood look. Several of those were needed, mostly because of all my horrible mixtapes… It’s kinda funny to think about this now, knowing I’d later be listening to so much music in so many new ways, and also having to find a way to store (and re-store) it all.

Side note: even after getting to tapes as a teen, I did still listen to a lot of records when I discovered 12″ remixes.  This was long before the 90’s came along and ruined remixes for me almost forever — they’d take a song you loved and completely annihilate it, leaving barely a lyric or two to remind you of the original.  But I digress…

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A facepalm 30 years late

In my late teens I wrote some dumb freeware games for the Atari ST computer. They were just silly fluff, but fun to make and somewhat educational programming-wise. One in particular was a bit on the tacky side and is best left forgotten (though it had a decent number of downloads). Aside from that, I played a ton of games on that thing and had a blast.

Cut to today. I’m able to emulate the old Atari ST on my modern PC and run all those games I used to play. So I downloaded a ridiculously large collection of games and started digging thru and playing my old favorites.

And then I spotted it: that tacky game I made in 1990, the Gulf War one that would be borderline offensive it wasn’t so completely dumb. Right in there with far more respectable titles. They even included screenshots and the original doc file I wrote for it…both of which include my full name and address in AZ where I used to live with my parents. OMG. 🤦

Naturally I did some searching to see if the game surfaced anywhere else, and behold: some French guy actually “reviewed” it on YouTube a few years ago. He thought it was as dumb and pointless as it was meant to be. It’s also pretty difficult, and I have to admit feeling a little smug watching him try to play it. (No, I’m not linking to the video!)

Why couldn’t it have been one of my other games, like “Zit Blaster”? Or its inevitable sequel “Zit Blaster II: Revenge of the Whiteheads”?