Reunion ho! In which I reminisce, with real names


my friends under the stairs
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

It’s my 20th high school reunion coming up. I can’t bear to give $39 to THAT WEB SITE OF EVIL which seems to control all information from the past. So, I figured I’d blog the names of people I might actually want to talk to from that time.

I went to a huge high school in northwest Houston, Cypress Creek. The graduating class must have been at least 500 people. The junior high, Campbell, was also pretty huge and I remember its weird 70s architecture with some fondness; the open ramps with the library in the center were kind of cool looking.

I was clued into this 20 year reunion thing by Thad Davis, who lived in my subdivision, Champions West. Bear with me for a moment while I provide context. Houston in the early 80s was expanding like a vast horrible pustulent tumor, or like gangrene. Malls, freeways, strip malls, and “subdivisions” which were housing developments of hideous sameness and no city-like infrastructure, were flowing like lava over the scraggly, piney woods and fire-ant-infested cow pastures. There was Huntwick, which was fancy and rich with a fancy country club, and there was Champions, which was marginally less fancy with a less fancy golf club. I lived in basically the scungiest one, Champions West, and by scungy I mean that not all the houses were two-story, I guess. Oh also you could measure scunginess by whether ditches were in the front yard or whether people had paid to put in a culvert and soil over the ditch. We had a ditch, which I played in, and we did not belong to the golf club.

It seems so exotic and strange, looking back…

Back to our story! Thad and I rode the bus together, played D&D together, and were in a lot of the same classes. Also in the early 80s, tracking was “in” but was ever so slightly masked. So, if you were regular you were in “L’ level classes. If you were somewhat smarter you could be in “K-level”. And if you were considered “gifted” then you were in “H-level” or “Horizons” classes as well, one extra every year. So in 5th grade I think the Horizons class was… Oh well I don’t even remember. In 6th it was Study Skills (joy…) and in 7th maybe it was English. In Horizons classes you got to be kind of flaky and genius-like and creative, but the main benefit of it for me was that I could tell who the other super smart people were. At any one time there were around 30 of us in this program.

In junior high, I would check out 2 books a day from the library, read them, and return them by the end of the day. And I do fondly remember seeing Thad’s name in many of the books I would read, and wondering what he thought about them and what he was “really like”, but I never found that out. Anyway, the two of us must have read through the entire junior high library.

The elementary school, Yeager, I only went to for one year. It was major culture shock. People called me a damn Yankee a lot, because I had moved to Texas from “the North” — from Michigan. I found out that the Civil War was not over. Being a damn Yankee basically meant you were accused by white kids of not being racist enough. I was also besieged with demands that I be more properly gendered. Apparently I was doing something right, because they called me “Liz the Lez”. My friend Julie, who was 9 years old, helpfully explained what that meant. One time a howling mob of other 10 year olds chased me around demanding to know all the details of how I had gotten a sex change. What can I say? Don’t raise your kids in Texas!

What a nasty place! And yet I am curious to go back and to see these people!

Onward, to list the other people I would be interested in seeing at the reunion!

Some people, I’d like to see just to see how they turned out, because they were really jerks! Like Trent Wallace! What was up with you, dude? You were a little misogynist and homophobe, always screaming at me that I was a nasty little twat and shoving me around in gym class in 6th grade! I didn’t even know what that meant, but I had a good guess. In retrospect, I wonder how you got that way, so mean, so young. Have you mellowed? Did you go on to work at Enron?

But most of the people I would like to see were sweet. Or, they always seemed quite decent and yet I never really knew them. Elaine Lamm, Jennifer Lupa, Christy Clark, Sandy Alvarez, Karen Tesch, Kurt Muehlner, Heidi Neumann, Jill Blankenberg, Scott Harris, Jill Adams, Melissa Jones, Peter Duggan, Elisa Dingsdale, Greg Dean, Greg Magyar, Kent Kornett, Lara Rupf, Jeff Darin, Holly Volek, Jeff Gallamore, Tereese Mangaroo, Jeff Smith (who I have heard from, lives in Seattle), and Jack Yee (lives in NYC, was fairly close to ground zero of the WTC on 9/11). Jack and Chris Deeves and Christi Redilla and I were often in competition… who would fail to get a 110 on the math exams… That was fun. Robert Dubose, who I’ve been in touch with, and who was always super nice, and who introduced me to Herman Hesse books at the proper age – 13 or so.

And then the people I played with when we were younger and yet lost touch with. Pam Berry, Charleen Handzel (we all 3 used to play Breyer model horses, obsessively), Susan Rickey, Julie Carter, and Samantha Medlock.

That’s it for my list; I’m sure there are more. Now, if any of these people had ever cared to google me, I’m out there, but maybe they will vanity google and find themselves here and drop me a line!

liz – at – bookmaniac.net

SXSWi impressions

All important communication happens on Twitter.

Hanging out at Little City checking my email on the street with a tall iced chai. The guys at the table next to me had a blog which explained how to secede and establish your own government; they just got a takedown or cease and desist letter from the NSA! I told them to send it to Chilling Effects.

Old friends. Kristine K. swooped in to the cafe and carried me off. We lived together at 21st St. Co-op in the mid-80s; me in the loud suite, 1A, and her in 1B. I used to slip love poetry under her door, comparing her to fire and minnows and volcanic lava. With brutal casualness, she would explain to me how my ankles were too thick and she only was attracted to women who were dumb. Then she’d go “come and talk to me while I’m taking my bath!” and like an ass, I’d go and die a thousand deaths. Meanwhile, her and Roy and Katya… I won’t go there. Anyway, we drove around Austin, talked about her writing, about everyone we know, about our marriages, our kids, the past; went to visit Ken at the Open Door preschool, and then me to the Cedar Door & her to go work at the convention center doing something music-related. Next week she interviews Peaches – rather thrilling. Her big hulking old steel american car does not have a working reverse drive, so she carefully positioned the car for me to hop out and push the car back. As always I gain +10 to my tonguetied butch roll and that seemed also to give me magic muscles, because I succeeded in pushing the car into the parking spot.

Her tips for Austin: Ran, a bar or nightclub with dancing, over on 2nd and Lavaca, where there are all types of people but things are pleasantly queered up; Alamo Drafthouse, movie theater with dinner, also at 2nd and near there, maybe Colorado. El Arroyo – where I remember going in the 80s. We lamented the death of Chances, the best lesbian bar in Austin. Now it’s Club Deville and is still pretty good.

At the Cedar Door. The standard Austin bar thing with a patio, a sort of tent thing, christmas lights. No trellis though – usually there is a trellis. Where the fuck is my bar patio trellis! Long wild conversation with Prentiss Riddle about open source, labor, ownership of work, capitalism, alternate economies and their effects good & bad. He talked about Ed Vielmetti’s concept of the superpatron – open source libraries – community developers. I didn’t get to talk as much as I would have liked to David Nuñez… maybe later… I met a bunch more UT people including an interesting guy who is “bibliotrash” on last.fm. I do not remember his real name but with that handle, I’ll be able to find him.

More old friends. Dennis Trombatore came to pick me up. We had the depressing conversation quick in the car so as not to upset his wife about one’s expected lifespan and aging and the meaning of life and how one chooses to life one’s life. “It’s not me that will have to deal with it so it doesn’t upset me. A few months of pain and morphine… then poof.” “Yes, while it lasts enjoy going out and sitting in the air and feeling the sun. Then bang.” Of course this was upsetting as in theory I would be one of the people left grieving. But we cross our fingers for radiation and hormones! Dennis is proof that being a philosopher for real improves life, because you’ve thought plenty in advance about death. I finally got to meet his wife Sheila and see their house. Books & pottery everywhere! It was like old times as we were instantly catapulted into the most intense out-there conversations. His pottery teacher Joe Bova. 500 animals in clay. I admired his bowls and other people’s. We talked about the odd gestalt of fun people we had at work in 1987 or 1988. Lisa, Abbey, Stephanie, Sabina, me, and others… Jim McCullough and how he’s a fantastic writer… Hegel. The meaning of life. The experience of time. “Every animal’s objective is to corrode the boundaries of time.” Sentences like that used to fly out of him at an insane pace and all pretense of library work would stop and I remember (my 18 year old self) thinking, “Wait! Stop! I have to hold onto this thought and this minute!” Because often it was so far over my head that I couldn’t follow as fast as I would have liked, but could only react in parallel. I am advised to read Heraclitus, and Alex Mourolatos’ book and translation of the pre-Socratics. I admired his edition of Singer’s History of Technology in many volumes and resolved to buy it as a present! I told him to read “Flow” and also “Understanding Poverty” as we got deeper into talking about class (in relation to everyone we know in common.) I am also advised to read Robert Coles who wrote about the psychology of children. We talked about work and the way that he is in the library and how it is being “on” all day long

Vespasio is the best Italian restaurant in the entire southwest, according to Dennis.

Then off to about 8 million bars as I followed Chris Messina and Tara Hunt around, because they’re fun and cool but mostly because I needed to get into their hotel room and go to sleep. I can’t even remember whatall bars they were at. Moonshine, Buffalo Billiards, something else very loud. At bar #8 million I realized I could just take their key and go, so that’s what I did, but on the way (very tired and spaced out) I met more fun people, talked with Min Jung, Glenda, Leslie, the french maid guy (and I did not get into that but maybe I will later) and Scott from Laughing Squid and all those people. Everyone that I don’t know is familiar-seeming. Sipped drinks out of test tubes. Fell over with exhaustion. Then a hot bath. My roommates showed up. Tara and I talked non stop about our work, about co-working, all that sort of thing.

In the morning they were very beautiful. You know how people look all innocent when they’re relaxed and asleep? Like that. Also the bed was very white and they were very pink and gold and blond looking, Tara in her lacy camisole and Chris looking more macho than you’d think. I almost took a photo of them curled up with arms around each other, asleep, but figured I could bloggaciously violate their privacy just as well with words as with pictures. They were the sweetest thing ever!

Breakfast at Las Manitas, as planned. Ran into Scott B. and Shannon Clark and more people I vaguely know or might have met once. Heavenly, heavenly coffee perfect and mellow and strong, with chilaquiles verdes and platanos. The food is like a fabulous dream. As we left I talked for like 1 second with someone named Cory who wanted to talk to me, but she vanished as I paused to talk with Sarah Dopp.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

A girl can wield a mean soldering iron

When I was around 10 and 11 I was very into soldering irons, little electronic bits and pieces, and anything that made me feel nerdy and mad-scientist-y. I loved the smoky metal-hot smell of the solder and how scary it was… and making things that worked and were “real”. At first I just made different kinds of switches and circuits with tiny lightbulbs, and then advanced to collecting hydrogen in a test tube and lighting it on fire to make it pop. EXCITING! The coolest thing I ever learned about was electroplating. I copper plated every small metal object in our house, adding all sorts of weird stuff to the copper sulfate solution to see what effect it would have; my sister’s dollhouse toaster came out really well when I made a strong solution using tons of ketchup. And hello, what could be cooler than safety goggles and a voltmeter?

I had a point in here somewhere.

Erica Rios of Xicanista, a former instructor for Techbridge, passed on this job call for me to post:

Techbridge Program Manager

Want to make a difference in a girl’s future? Help change girls’
images of and experiences with technology and have an opportunity to work with a dynamic team of educators. Techbridge is an innovative program to inspire girls in technology, science and engineering. The program is hosted after school at elementary, middle, and high schools in Oakland, San Lorenzo, and at the California School for the Blind in Fremont. In these after-school programs, girls work on a variety of projects such as making solar LEGO cars, soldering, digital photography, and building robots. The girls also participate in field trips and meet with role models.

Under the supervision of the Program Director, the Techbridge Program Manager is responsible for supporting and supervising staff, coordinating and implementing our after-school programs, developing and piloting curricula, and leading professional development workshops for teachers, role models, and professional audiences. We are looking for an experienced and dynamic individual who has the ability to supervise a team of instructors, work with the Techbridge project director, and oversee the development of training and resources to teachers, professionals and partners.

It sounds like a GREAT job getting to be a nerd role model for techy girls. Write to techbridge@chabotspace.org if you’re interested in the job!

Now, part of my point was that I was extremely into the soldering and circuits and experiments, but I reached a point very quickly where I had nowhere further to go with it, and no where to go for information or leadership. Books from the library only went so far, and then information stopped. How to take it further? So — if you DO get involved with a program like this, or you know a young nerdlet, please try to find them mentors and books and extra information, to keep their interest going and feed their love of science and tech.