For those of you new to Don’t Let The Days Go By, this is a continuing story set in 1997 about a university student making his way in life. If you came here looking to read some nostalgic fiction, I’m taking a break for at least a month, but you can start here with episode 1 (set in 1993) and then keep reading up until you finish episode 134. Unless you have no life and you are a very fast reader, I’ll probably be writing new episodes again by the time you finish. If you don’t have time for all of that, I’ll be doing a Season 3 recap soon.
I decided to do something fun this week. I’ve seen other bloggers and social media personalities do this. Usually I give snarky replies when others do this, so I guess I deserve it if you guys give snarky replies, but I would like to see some real replies as well.
Here is how this works: You share your assumptions about me. Tell me in the comments some things you’ve always assumed about me, and then in a later post I will share your assumptions and reveal whether or not they are true. That’s it. I’m curious what you think about me.
But… there’s a twist. I’m writing this post in character. Today is June 15, 1997, and I just woke up at my parents’ house in Plumdale after finishing my third year at the University of Jeromeville. So you are sharing your assumptions about Greg, the character from Don’t Let The Days Go By, and I will answer them from June 1997. If you say for your assumption, for example, “You like blogging,” I will reply, “What’s blogging?” since blogging wasn’t a thing in 1997. I first heard that term in 2000 when Brody Parker had a new girlfriend (whom he married a few years later, and divorced several years after that) and she showed me her blog.
Anyway, let me know your assumptions, and I will answer next week. Also, while you’re waiting for new DLTDGB episodes, follow my other projects, Greg Out Of Character and Song of the Day, by DJ GJ-64. And if you have assumptions about adult Greg, the writer of this blog, as his life is in 2022, I’ll be doing an assumptions post on the Greg Out Of Character blog soon.
Also, just for fun, here’s a picture of me all dressed up. This was June 6, 1997, on the way to my chorus performance.
I clicked Print and watched the printer run, then I stapled the three pages of my story together. I glanced over it, proud of my little creation, feeling especially clever since I had hidden a secret message in the story.
“Fall Away” by Gregory J. Dennison, February 1997
Here we go again, I thought, as I opened the door and saw her sitting there, her hair gently blowing in the light breeze. She was talking with someone I did not recognize. I wondered how I should react. It seemed like a little devil and a little angel had appeared on my shoulder, as if in a cartoon. The former told me to walk on by and say nothing, and the latter told me I should try to be friendly and at least say hello. I wasn’t sure how to act, since I still had trouble dealing with the time she rejected me. I have tried my hardest not to be bitter. I watched her as I walked by. She did not see me, so I kept right on walking.
Also, over the past few weeks, it seems like she and I have been drifting apart. We were once such good friends, and I had hoped so much that our friendship would turn into something more. When I finally got brave enough to ask her out, she rejected me. It was a friendly and sympathetic rejection, but a rejection nonetheless. A movie was playing on campus that night, and we had mentioned that we both wanted to see it. I asked her if she wanted to see it with me, and she said she would, but she had to get up early the next morning. She did not want to stay out late. That was kind of the last straw for me. A couple weeks later, I told her how I felt about her, and she told me she did not feel the same way back. I decided, though, that our friendship seemed too important to throw away, so I would try to stay friends with her rather than avoid her.
Love never works like that, though. Another month had passed, and my feelings for her were coming back. In light of this, I became hesitant to pursue our friendship, because I feared that my feelings would get in the way like they did before. Also, in the past month or so it has seemed like she and I have naturally drifted apart. When she and her friends are all together, it seems like they stick together and don’t really include me as much. I would still consider them my friends on a one-to-one basis, but as a group they seem kind of exclusive.
Every table seemed full as I scanned the room for a place to sit and eat lunch. I spotted two of my friends next to an open seat, but it looked like they were busy talking about something serious, so I didn’t want to bother them. I continued looking and saw someone else I recognized, but I heard someone calling my name first. I looked up and saw a girl who I had met about a month ago, sitting with a bunch of her friends who I barely knew. She asked me if I wanted to sit down, so I did.
“You look tired,” she said. I agreed. I proceeded to get out the lunch I had packed, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bag of tortilla chips. After saying a short prayer, I began eating. I thought about the situation. I looked at the people around me at the table. I didn’t really know them well, but they seemed really friendly. This was also the second time this week that I had sat with them at lunch time. Maybe this group was destined to become my new friends.
Curious to see what was happening around me, I looked up. I saw the girl I saw earlier that day, the one who had rejected me. She was talking to the two friends I had almost sat with. I looked down, unsure of what to do. Friendship is a valuable treasure, and I really hate to lose a friend. But ever since that day she turned down my offer for a date, I have found it so difficult to connect with her. We had talked a few times in the weeks since that happened, but it never seemed the same as it was before. We rarely hung out together anymore, and when we talked, it was rarely anything more than hi and how are you.
Her pretty blue eyes looked in another direction, away from my table, as she began walking toward me. I quickly moved my head down and looked intently at my food for about thirty seconds, so that when I looked up again I could be sure that she was gone. I began to regret my decision after it happened. I felt like a really unfriendly jerk. I wondered what had come over me. I’m not exactly the most friendly person in the world, but I have never noticed myself consciously avoiding a friend either.
Although I convinced myself after the rejection that nothing would ever happen between us, and I was comfortable with this decision at first, I seemed to feel worse about it every day. Something had gone wrong. I had wanted to remove my desire for a romantic relationship with her in exchange for a continued friendship.
Nothing I tried was working, though. I had discussed my feelings with a close friend of ours. He had felt the same way toward the same girl at one time. He finally told her the truth, and although she did not feel the same way toward him, they had grown closer as friends.
None of this happened in my case. I never told her how I felt about her, but more importantly we have not stayed friends. I have a really hard time carrying on a conversation with her. Maybe I should just have a long talk with her, apologize for avoiding her, and let her know that I wish we could talk more like we used to.
I finished eating and decided to go to class some time later. I made up my mind that I would deal with this situation again as soon as I had an opportunity to talk to her. A friend is a terrible thing to lose. God would want me to face my problems and not run from them like this.
Now, though, might not be the time to stay friends. It would make it harder for the feelings to go away, for me to get over her rejection. I did not know what I should do. As I walked along, thinking about what I really felt toward her, I saw her, sitting at a table eating lunch. She did not see me. I started to go talk to her.
Going that way suddenly felt like a bad idea; I took one step toward her and chickened out. I looked at her, to see if her eyes would drift up in my direction. They did not. I had run away from her again, the third time that day. And somewhere, off in the distance, a rooster crowed.
It was late afternoon on Thursday, and I had been working on this story off and on for a week. Most of the events in the story actually happened to me. One day last week, I saw Haley Channing three times during my lunch break at the Memorial Union, and I just could not bring myself to talk to her. I thought that telling her how I felt two months ago was the best course of action to get over her. There was an outside chance that she liked me too, but if she did not, at least I would know. It hurt to hear that, but some things have to hurt before they feel better, like ripping off a bandage quickly. Things had not gotten better; now I just felt awkward around her, and my rejection felt like another painful reminder of the cliques at Jeromeville Christian Fellowship and my position on the outside.
After the third time I ignored her, I thought about Jesus’ prediction that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. The title of the story was taken from Jesus’ words preceding this incident: “You will all fall away.” Peter insisted that he would never do such a thing, but he did, and he heard a rooster crow afterward. I had just denied Haley three times, and I added the part about the rooster at the end of the story to allude to Peter’s denials. I did not actually hear a rooster in real life.
The new friend who called me over to sit with her on that day was Alaina from University Life, the college ministry of a different church from the one I went to. A while back, on another crowded day in the Memorial Union, I was looking for a place to sit. I saw Ben, an acquaintance who was involved with U-Life but also attended JCF sometimes, and he was sitting with Alaina. Since then, I had often seen one or both of them at lunch, and I had met some of their other friends.
Two days ago, I took a significant step closer to this other group. I headed to campus in the evening and paid two dollars for a parking spot in the public lot on Davis Drive near the Barn. I hated paying for parking. A daily parking permit cost one dollar my freshman year. The following year it increased to two dollars for the day, but still one dollar for evenings for people arriving after five o’clock. This year the price increased to three dollars for the day and two for the evening, and I heard next year it would be three dollars any time. The cost was increasing much faster than inflation, tripling in three years. If this exponential increase continued, the cost of a daily parking permit in the year 2021 would be $19,683. (The actual cost of a daily parking permit in 2021 was twelve dollars, increasing twelvefold in twenty-seven years; I still found that outrageous.)
I crossed the street and walked into Harding Hall, looking for the big lecture hall inside. I followed the faint murmur of voices down the hall. As I approached the room, I saw a large sign that said WELCOME TO UNIVERSITY LIFE with a large Christian cross on the left. The setup looked very much like that of Jeromeville Christian Fellowship, with people filling out name tags near the entrance and a live band in the front, probably to play worship music.
“Hi,” the guy with the name tags said. “What’s your name?”
The guy wrote my name on a name tag, unpeeled it, and handed it to me. I stuck it on my shirt in the center of my chest. I walked into the large lecture hall, looking around for a seat, but before I sat down, I heard someone calling out, “Greg!”
I looked around and saw Alaina waving at me. “Hey,” I said, walking toward her.
“You made it! Come sit with us!” Alaina led me to a seat near the center of the lecture hall, next to her roommate Whitney, our friend Ben, and a few others whom I had met but needed to look at their name tags to remember their names.
The rest of the night at U-Life was structured much like JCF; I would not have been able to tell the difference, other than the presence of different people there. The group was led by an adult, the college pastor from the church that ran U-Life. The band played a few worship songs, someone made announcements, the pastor gave a talk about something from the Bible, and they finished with more songs. I saw a few other familiar faces around the room. Carolyn Parry, whom I knew from being in chorus last quarter, was in the worship band. I also recognized another math major named Melissa Becker, several people from my Introduction to New Testament class last quarter and New Testament Writings of John class this quarter, and Rebekah Tyler from my freshman dorm.
I enjoyed U-Life, with the intent to come back some other time. But I did not want to give up on JCF, even though it was cliquish and I would run into Haley there. Yesterday, the day after I went to U-Life, I finished writing my story, “Fall Away,” which I had been working on over the last week. I printed it just now, when I got home from class. I was still holding the printed copy of Fall Away when my roommate Shawn walked into the room.
“Hey, Greg,” he said. “What’s that you’re reading?”
“I wrote a story,” I replied.
“Really? What’s it about?”
“Something that happened to me last week that I thought would make a good story.”
“Can I read it?”
I debated whether or not to let Shawn read the story. My desire to share and discuss my work won out over wanting to keep the details of my romantic pursuits private. I handed Shawn the story as I got out my textbook for Euclidean Geometry and began working on homework.
“‘By Gregory J. Dennison,’” Shawn read aloud. “What’s the J for?”
“James. It was my dad’s brother’s name. He died in an accident before I was born.”
“I’m sorry. But you have a story to go with your name.”
“Yeah. And Gregory was after one of my dad’s good friends.”
“That’s cool,” Shawn said. “My parents named me Shawn because they liked the name. And they spelled it right too. None of this ‘Seen’ stuff.” Shawn had intentionally mispronounced the traditional spelling of Sean as if it rhymed with “mean,” and I chuckled. “I mean, I know it’s Irish, but hey, do I look Irish to you?” Shawn definitely did not look Irish; he was born here in the United States, but he was of Chinese descent. This made me laugh even harder.
Shawn continued reading my story as I turned back to my math homework. A few minutes later, he said, “That was pretty good. So there’s a girl you liked, and she didn’t like you back, and you can’t get her out of your head? And you didn’t want to say hi to her?”
“Is it someone I know?”
“Who is it?”
“I don’t want to say.”
“Come on, you can tell me.”
I had a feeling Shawn might want to know whom the story was about. I could have told him I did not want to reveal this information, but I had a feeling he would keep bugging me about it. Besides, my story had a secret, which could make this fun. “Promise you won’t tell anyone. Or make fun of me.”
“I hid a secret message in the story.”
“What?” Shawn said. I put my math homework aside, watching Shawn’s reaction as he searched for the secret message, looking carefully at the words on the page. “I can’t find it,” he said finally.
“Read it out loud,” I said with a mischievous grin.
“‘Here we go–’”
“Stop,” I interrupted. “Now go to the next paragraph.”
“Stop. Next paragraph.”
“Stop. Next paragraph.”
Shawn looked over the entire story, then began reciting the first words of each paragraph. “‘Here, also, love, every, you, curious, her, although, nothing, none, I, now, going.’ I don’t get it.”
“Try again. Start from the beginning.
“Next paragraph,” I interrupted, as soon as I heard Shawn make a sound.
“L– Oh, wait a minute.” Shawn flipped the three printed pages back and forth quickly, with a look of understanding on his face. He had figured out that I was trying to tell him to look at only the first letter of each paragraph, not the first word. “Haley Channing,” he said. “It’s too bad she didn’t like you back. She’s a cutie.”
“Yeah, she is.”
“You know what they say. Women… can’t live with ‘em…”
“Can’t live without ‘em?” I added
“Can’t shoot ’em,” Shawn replied, finishing a famous comedic quote.
I chuckled. “I’ve never heard that.”
“Women are always trouble. If it weren’t for women, O.J. Simpson wouldn’t be in the news all the time. You heard he lost the civil case, right?”
“Yeah. And now he owes the families millions of dollars.”
“He totally did it. He should be in jail.”
“Seriously, though, don’t give up. If something was meant to be, God’ll make it happen somehow. And don’t let it get you down. Just live your life.”
Despite Shawn’s advice not to let my romantic failures get to me, I still decided to wear black for Valentine’s Day the next morning. I did not wear solid black, though; I wore faded blue jeans with the black t-shirt from Urbana that said “What have you seen God do lately?”
The bus was crowded today; the air was damp, the sky was gray, and the weather forecast called for rain by mid-morning at the latest. No one I knew got on at this stop, although I recognized some people from previous bus rides: a pale-faced guy with a big blond beard, an Asian guy with unkempt hair, and a pretty girl with wavy brown hair and big brown eyes. When the bus arrived, I was one of the last from our stop to board. Even though this was only the second stop on the route, the 8:35am bus on a cold, rainy day filled up fast, with over half of the seats already taken.
I looked up and breathed in sharply when I saw the pretty brown-haired girl right in front of me, next to an empty seat. “May I sit here?” I asked her.
“Yeah!” she replied. She smiled.
“Thanks.” The bus stopped once more on Maple Drive, then turned left on Alvarez Avenue and stopped twice more. I looked up and saw that the girl next to me was looking in my direction, so I turned and made eye contact. “How’s it going?” I asked.
“Pretty good. How are you?”
“I’m okay. Glad it’s Friday.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
Trying to think of something else to say, as we headed south on Andrews Road, I asked, “What class are you headed to?”
“Bio 101. It’s really hard.”
“What about you? What classes do you have today?”
“Advanced calculus, Euclidean geometry, and New Testament Writings of John.”
“How is that John class? I’ve heard good things about it.”
“It’s good. I have a lot of friends from Jeromeville Christian Fellowship in that class too.”
“My roommate and I were talking about looking for a church.”
“I go to Jeromeville Covenant,” I said. “The one right back there, on the right. And Jeromeville Christian Fellowship too, but that isn’t affiliated with a church.”
“Maybe I’ll check those out sometime.”
“Yeah. That would be cool,” I said. “Hey, what’s your name? I know I’ve seen you on the bus before.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Tara said, motioning to shake my hand.
“Nice to meet you too,” I replied as I shook Tara’s hand. She smiled, and I smiled back. Maybe this Valentine’s Day would not be so bad after all.
Author’s note: Did you find the secret message? Have you ever written something with a secret message hidden inside?
“Fall Away” is an actual story I wrote when I was younger. I hope I have grown as a writer since then, because reading it again now, it really wasn’t that good. I only made minimal changes to it for inclusion in this episode, in order to resolve continuity errors between the original story and the way I have told the backstory now.
Welcome! If you are new here, this is not my usual kind of post. Don’t Let The Days Go By is a continuing story set in 1996, about a university student. In the fictional timeline, after final exams in June and December, I take a break from writing for a month or so, and the last episode included December finals, so I am on a break.
I started yet another blog, called “Greg Out Of Character.” In this blog, I will write about pretty much anything that isn’t an episode of DLTDGB. Maybe some of the events in my past that inspired DLTDGB, maybe thoughts about other writing projects, maybe I’ll share some other writing I did in the past unrelated to DLTDGB, I’m not really sure yet. We’ll see. I don’t plan on posting there on a schedule. But any of you who regularly interact with me, I would appreciate if you followed that blog too, especially if you actually find me interesting.
I’m not sure what I’ll be doing on this site during the hiatus. I’m thinking I should probably update the About This Site and Dramatis Personae pages, so watch for those soon. I might also make an organized and categorized list of episodes. I’ve also thought it would be fun to draw maps of the University of Jeromeville, and possibly of Jeromeville and the surrounding region. I started this a while ago, but whenever I try drawing maps, it just ends up looking too much like the actual place that inspired my fictional universe, and it feels like I should at least make it a little bit different. We’ll see what I come up with.
Hi, friends. I’m still on hiatus. I probably will be for a while, until I get some things figured out in real life. I promise I’ll have new episodes by the beginning of May at the latest, possibly sooner. Last night I worked on outlining what would happen in the start of season 3, so that’s progress.
If you’re new here, this is not a typical post. Don’t Let The Days Go By is an episodic continuing story set in 1996 about a university student figuring out life. Finish reading this post first, then please read some others. There are currently 88 episodes, listed either to the right or at the bottom depending on your device, so even if you’ve been following me for a while, most of you will have some that you haven’t read. So you can read those over the next few weeks while you’re waiting for me to write new ones. The episodes are best read in order, but can be read out of order, so if you’re new and ready to commit to be a fan of this site, you’re best off starting from the beginning, so you can experience the story as it unfolds. But, still, read this post first.
So I’ve been thinking about a few DLTDGB side projects, and I’d like your opinions on whether or not you’d be interested in these:
(1) A recap. I could do one post where I outline the entire plot of DLTDGB from the beginning of the prologue on July 5, 1993 until the most recent episode on June 15, 1996. I would summarize the highlights of Greg’s life so far, in a post no longer than one typical episode. I could also include links to a few episodes about the key turning points in Greg’s life, for those people who want to go more in depth without reading 88 full episodes.
(2) Avatars/Bitmoji/some kind of artwork depicting the characters visually. I can’t draw well, just to let you know. I made a bunch of fake email accounts and started using them to sign up for multiple Bitmoji accounts, with the purpose being to create Bitmoji for the main characters and show my readers what these characters look like. I did that for Eddie and Kristina and put the Bitmoji faces on top of the real faces in the photo I used for the most recent episode. I was having a hard time getting the Bitmoji to look exactly like the real people, but I know that I don’t have to make them look exactly like the people they were based on. In fact, it might be better to have them not exactly the same, for anonymity purposes. Most of the people that these characters are based on do not know that I am writing about them.
However, another glitch is that Gmail does not like that I made a bunch of fake email accounts, for obvious reasons. It makes me verify by text that I am a real person, and now it won’t even let me do that because I’ve used the same phone number too many times. I could start making fake emails with Yahoo or other free email services, I suppose. But there are so many characters that I could not possibly do this for every character, at least not with Bitmoji. I was planning on doing this for Taylor, Pete, Sarah, Liz, Ramon, Caroline, Eddie, Xander, Haley, Kristina, Brian, and Shawn, at least for now, adding others as needed if I needed to cover their faces in photos. I would not do every character, since the cast of characters for DLTDGB is just far too large. But those twelve are definitely among the most significant supporting characters at the current point of the story.
What do you guys think… is this something you would want to see? Also, if anyone knows a way to make characters similar to Bitmoji without having to have an account for each one, that would be helpful.
(3) Maps. Fantasy books with detailed geographical settings, Tolkien for example, often have maps to help the reader. Since I tend to describe Jeromeville and the surrounding Capital Valley Region in detail, I thought maybe I could do the same thing. The problem is, every time I’ve tried to draw these maps, they end up looking just like a slightly distorted version of the real-world places that inspired these stories, and while DLTDGB is based on true stories, I also want to make it my own fictional world, and I have not yet figured out how to make the maps not look like real places but still be true to the story so far. Any thoughts? Do any of you want to see maps of my semi-fictional world?
Finally, in addition to sharing any thoughts on anything above, please ask me anything you want in the comments. Questions about things happening in the story, questions about me as an adult, about the writing process… whatever you want. I’ll answer it, unless it would involve major spoilers.
Welcome! If you are new here, this is not a typical post. Don’t Let The Days Go By is an episodic continuing story about a university student, set in 1996. It is a story of living, learning, growing, and self-discovery, amidst a world of alternative rock and the emergence of the Internet into the mainstream.
Last week’s episode was the Year 2 season finale. I will be taking some time off, during which I will be planning for year 3. Also, in real life things may be kind of busy and unpredictable for the next few months, so I could use one fewer commitment. I do not know right now when I will start writing again, but I will someday soon. If you are new here and hoping for more episodes soon, you can always go here to read the first episode and then just read in order from there by clicking Next.
Just as with Year 1, I made a playlist with all of the music I used in Year 2:
I also added a new “Music” page to this site, with links to the playlists for each year. And I updated the Dramatis Personae, adding character bios for Abby Bartlett, Amelia Dye, Josh McGraw, and Dr. Gabby Thomas. I also added a number of new characters to the lists of other characters, and updated some other characters’ bios. I will be starting a new Dramatis Personae for Year 3 soon, removing people who are not part of the story anymore. I wonder sometimes if the large cast of characters makes the story more difficult to read or follow, or if I need more character development for the other main characters. However, in real life a university student is likely to know a lot of people, and this is primarily one person’s story, not a story with an ensemble cast. On a related note, I have considered, someday when I am done telling the main story, going back and retelling some of the more interesting episodes from another character’s point of view. Or maybe I could start doing that during these interludes, when I am taking a break from the main story.
I take a break like this after every June and December in the fictional timeline. One of the recurring topics has been the community shared by some of the Jeromeville Christian Fellowship students. Eddie and his housemates had Haley and her housemates right down the street, and Shawn and Brian and their housemates around the corner, to the point that it was almost like living in a Christian dorm. In real life, I have come to learn that that kind of community among Christians is very difficult to find in adulthood, outside of the context of being a university student. I have had a lot of struggles finding a church and a community as an adult, and in talking with people I have come to the conclusion that most Christians just do not have this as adults. Instead, they have families of their own around which their lives revolve, and outside of that, church friends are just one among several compartments into which life has been divided. Will I ever find that sense of community again in real life? I do not know (and COVID has thrown more complications into this, of course).
I have often found that I need to keep reminding myself that, first and foremost, DLTDGB is a work of fiction. Much of it is based on true stories, but I stress too much about getting every detail right. Maybe two people who are in the same Bible study in DLTDGB weren’t in real life; that’s okay.
Thank you all for your support. Please leave comments. I wish people would comment more often on this blog; I enjoy interacting with my readers. If you have any questions at all for me, about anything, please ask. If I get a lot of interesting questions, maybe I’ll share them as a question-and-answer post next week. Or offer suggestions and thoughts on my writing. Some of you a while back told me that my posts were too long, and ever since then I have kept them under a certain length. Or just say hi and introduce yourself and tell me how you are doing. I want to hear from you.
The first World War ended on November 11, 1918, and many of the countries involved now observe a holiday on November 11. The holiday goes by different names around the world; in the United States, we call it Veterans Day. Many government offices are closed on Veterans Day, and students are off school. When November 11 falls on a weekend, as it did this year, schools close on the nearest Friday or Monday.
Except for the University of Jeromeville. We got no day off. Even last year, when November 11 was on an actual school day, we got no day off. I never knew why. I wondered if this was a legacy of universities traditionally being full of anti-war hippie types who did not want to celebrate our military. But we did get a day off in May for Memorial Day, the holiday commemorating those who died serving our country. And the building I was walking through right now was called the Memorial Union, or the “MU” for short, named to remember UJ students who died in military service.
It had been a typical Friday so far. My day started waiting in the hallway of Wellington Hall for math class, because another class occupied the classroom immediately before our class. Jack Chalmers from my class said hi to a girl named Lizzie as she left that class and we entered the room for ours, just as he did every day. Math was easy. I crossed the street to the MU at 10 and did homework for an hour. I met some tutees in 102 Wellington, the tutoring room, at 11. I just learned that word this quarter working for the Learning Skills Center: “tutee,” meaning one who is being tutored. Tutee is a great word. At 12, I walked down Colt Avenue to 199 Stone for chemistry, and then back to the MU to eat lunch. I got up, went to the bathroom, and walked back through the MU on the way to my physics class in Ross Hall when I saw her.
When I see a familiar face in a setting that this person is not normally connected to, my brain always takes a few seconds to register what I am seeing. At first all I saw was two young-looking girls walking toward me. They were both a little on the short side. One wore a dark red sweatshirt with a hood and a brand name logo unfamiliar to me, and the other wore a black jacket with white sleeves, and a large letter P on her left side. I recognized that this was a Plumdale High School letter jacket.
What is a Plumdale High School letter jacket doing in Jeromeville? Who is this person? Do I know her?
Holy crap, it’s her. What is she doing here? What do I say?
The two girls stopped. Annie, the one in the Plumdale High jacket, looked at me, looking just as surprised as I was at first until recognition came over her face a second later. “Hey, Greg!” she said.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “Visiting your brother?”
“My boyfriend goes here now too,” Annie replied.
There it is again. The B word. I wondered whether she was still with the same boyfriend as last year, or if this was some new guy. Either way, though, Annie’s boyfriend was not me.
“It was good seeing you,” I said. “Have a great weekend!”
“You too!” Annie replied. The girl she was with waved at me; I recognized this girl’s face, she was from Plumdale High too, but I could not remember her name.
My mind raced as I walked away from them, toward my physics class. Annie Gambrell was here, in Jeromeville. I had a chance to talk to her, and I felt like I blew it. Should I have said more? She seemed busy, and she was not here to visit me. She had a boyfriend; she was not coming here to meet guys. But I did not know when, or if, I would ever see her again. Maybe I should have talked more. Or maybe she doesn’t really care about me, and all that nice stuff she wrote in my yearbook senior year was just for the sake of being polite and she didn’t really mean it. Should I tell Annie’s brother next time I see him that I ran into her? Does he think it’s weird that I have an unrequited crush on his unavailable little sister, even though I haven’t actually told him anything other than that I know her?
After physics class, I had another tutoring group back in the study room at 102 Wellington. “Hi,” the tall blonde guy who was just finishing a tutoring group at the table next to me said as I walked in. I knew from looking at the schedule of tutoring groups in this room that his name was Scott Madison. He looked familiar for some reason, but maybe I was just used to seeing him here.
“Hi,” I replied to Scott. I then turned to two of the three students in my group who were already waiting and asked, “Are you ready to get started?”
My tutoring group went as they usually do. These students were in Short Calculus, Math 16A, for majors which do not require any math above calculus. Their work focuses on finding and applying derivatives of functions without studying the theory and proofs behind derivatives. I did not enjoy tutoring the Math 16 series as much as I did the 21 series, for mathematicians, scientists, and engineers, because it was difficult for me, as a math guy, to gloss over the theoretical stuff. But I got paid to do so, and I did my best, hoping not to confuse the students too much.
At four o’clock, when the tutoring group was finished, I walked diagonally across the Quad to the Learning Skills Center in Krueger Hall to turn in my time sheet for tutoring, as I did every other Friday, then back along East Quad Avenue to catch a bus home from the MU. A few hours later, after napping and eating, I returned to campus for Jeromeville Christian Fellowship. I drove this time, because parking is easy to find and slightly less expensive in the evening.
Taylor Santiago, Charlie Watson, Sarah Winters, and Krista Curtis were standing around talking on the far side of the lecture hall where the group was held; I walked over to them and said hi. The four of them all lived in the same apartment complex, the boys in one apartment and the girls in another, and all of us were in the same dorm last year.
“Hey, man,” Taylor said. “How’s it goin’?”
“Pretty good,” I replied.
“How’s your day been?” Sarah asked.
“One of my friends from high school, she’s a senior this year, I saw her and her friend walking around campus today. It was unexpected.”
“What was she doing here?” Krista asked. “Touring the campus?”
“Her brother goes here. I know him. And she said her boyfriend goes here too.”
“So was she skipping school?” Taylor asked, adding sarcastically, “I don’t know anything at all about skipping classes…”
“She probably didn’t have school today,” I explained. “Tomorrow is Veterans Day. We always got that off in high school.”
“Oh yeah. It’s a holiday.”
“Why don’t we get Veterans Day off?” Charlie asked rhetorically. “It’s not fair.”
“It’s supposed to be a holiday?” I heard Jason Costello’s voice say behind me.
“Tomorrow is Veterans Day,” I explained, turning around. Ramon Quintero and his girlfriend Liz Williams were with him; they were all in our dorm last year as well. “I don’t know why Jeromeville doesn’t get it off, but I noticed that last year too.”
There had been no JCF the week before, because the group had been on a retreat with sister chapters of this organization at other colleges and universities in the region. I had not attended the retreat, but most of my friends here did. Taylor and Charlie were talking about something that happened to Pete Green, Taylor and Charlie’s third roommate, at the retreat. “Where is Pete tonight anyway?” I asked.
“He’s in San Diego,” Taylor replied.
“Visiting his family there?”
I heard someone from the worship band welcoming us to JCF and saying that it was time to get started. As the band played, and sang along to lyrics being displayed on an overhead projector, my eyes scanned the front of the room, watching the people on the worship team. I saw the drummer and realized something: it was Scott Madison, the other tutor who had said hi to me this afternoon. That was why he looked so familiar; this was my third time at JCF, and I had probably seen him play drums here before. At the end of the night, I said hi to him and formally introduced myself; he seemed like a nice guy. (A few years later, Scott would become the first non-relative to invite me to his wedding, and I still get Christmas cards from Scott and his family to this day.)
Although my Friday had ended on a good note, I woke up feeling down again on Saturday morning. It was a cool and gloomy day, with gray skies that threatened rain. Summer in Jeromeville is sunny and hot, and winter is relatively mild compared to much of the United States. It only snows high in the mountains, snow here on the valley floor is very rare, but rain is fairly common in the winter. And the transition period from summer to winter is very short, usually occurring around early November. Winter had arrived earlier this week, and it was supposed to rain intermittently all weekend. Rain made me sad and anxious.
I spent the morning doing homework and reading. By mid-afternoon, some patches of blue sky had appeared, and the threat of rain had passed, so I went for a bike ride. I started riding through the Greenbelts, then back down G Street toward downtown, but despite keeping myself busy, I kept thinking about my chance encounter with Annie yesterday. Why hadn’t I asked for her address or phone number, so I could try keeping in touch? I subconsciously knew that there was no point, though. I had given her my address at Plumdale High’s Homecoming a year ago and never heard from her, and knowing that she had a boyfriend made it feel futile to pursue anything, although I would have been happy just being friends.
Two years ago, I was a senior at Plumdale High, and I felt like I grew a lot that year. I finally had a social life, and I made new friends, including Annie. But then I graduated, I moved away, many of my senior class friends moved away in different directions, and I lost touch with many of my friends. There was no texting or social media in those days, and only a few of my friends used email, so it was difficult to keep in touch. And despite all that, I still felt like I was on the outer fringes of the social circle in high school, not really one of them.
I wished that the events of my senior year had happened during sophomore or junior year instead. That way, I might have had time to solidify some of those friendships before we scattered. Maybe I would have learned how to actually ask a girl out. Maybe Annie would have broken up with her boyfriend, and I would have been able to use those new skills.
What if I just ran away and pretended to be in high school again? What would that be like? What would it take? A fake birth certificate would probably be hard to find. Maybe I wouldn’t need one. Maybe I would just need fake transcripts to show to the new school. Being 19 and still in high school was unusual, but not exactly unheard of. My birthday came right at the start of the school year, so I started kindergarten when I was barely 5. Some parents would have chosen for me to start kindergarten the following year. My parents did that with my brother Mark; with his birthday in October, they chose to wait until he was almost 6 to put him in kindergarten. Mark would turn 18 in the fall of 1999, early in his senior year, and someone his age who had repeated a grade in elementary school would be a 19-year-old senior.
Could I do this? Would it be possible to fake my identity and get a second try at my senior year of high school? Probably not. Lying on important documents like transcripts seemed too dishonest and illegal for me to be comfortable with it. But, I thought, all of this seemed like a great premise for a work of fiction.
I had been writing again in my spare time recently. Last year, I wrote a short novel called The Commencement, based on all the growing up I did as a senior in high school. I had been revising and expanding it lately, and it was up to 62 pages. I was running out of ideas for how to expand The Commencement, so maybe it was time to work on something new.
As I continued riding my bike that afternoon, along the entire length of the Arboretum and back up Andrews Road toward home, I kept thinking about faking my identity and going back to high school. How would that be possible? Maybe this story would take place at a different point in life; going back to high school now seemed like too much of a stretch, and none of my thoughts led to anything realistic. Maybe my character would run away while he was a senior in high school, and go to a new school in a new town, pretending to be two years younger. I would focus my writing on everything he dislikes about life, and all of his unfinished business, to make the desire to run away real. But if he is not an adult, how can he just do this, and where would he go? That was easy; I could make him turn 18 early in his senior year. And I could give him divorced parents living far from each other, so he would have the option to go move in with the other parent.
When I got home from my bike ride, I showered and put a frozen dinner in the microwave. I put on some music from high school, starting with Pearl Jam’s Ten album, and began writing. I started my novel, which was still untitled at this point, by quoting a song lyric, as Stephen King often did with his novels, then proceeded to set the scene of a character who felt like he did not fit in with his friends.
“I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life”
“Where were you this morning?” Ryan asked Sara.
“I was…” Sara paused. “Sleeping in,” she said, with a mischievous grin on her face.
Sleeping in? Jon thought.
“You missed class?” Becky teased.
“He said we didn’t have to come today,” Sara said defensively. “He was just doing a review for the test tomorrow. I needed a break, and I feel prepared for the test.” Jon began to feel somewhat angry after hearing this.
“How did you get out of band?” Kate asked. “Does Mr. Jackson know you were gone?”
“He knows,” Sara said. “He knows I had to see the dentist.” Sara and the others laughed. All except Jon. Some people could just do whatever they wanted and not get caught. But if Jon tried it, he would get stopped at the gate because ___ High School was a closed campus. It wasn’t fair.
I left the name of the school blank. I had not decided yet where Jon and his friends lived. I usually wrote about places familiar to me, so they would have to live somewhere back home in Santa Lucia County, or Jeromeville, or maybe across the Drawbridge from Jeromeville in Capital City, or maybe Bidwell where my dad had family. But it would make more sense to have Jon run away to one of those places familiar to me, and to have the story open somewhere else, somewhere more interesting. I thought about different cities and states that had been on my mind recently and settled on San Diego, California, where my friend Pete had once lived and was currently visiting his family. I could ask Pete next time I saw him to suggest a good name for a high school in San Diego.
I continued writing about Jon’s day. Jon heard his friends talk about college applications, and about movies they liked that Jon had never seen, and movies they hated that Jon liked. I wrote about Jon’s feelings of inferiority regarding a lack of extracurricular activities for college applications, and a conversation he had with the school counselor about this, and more laments in Jon’s head about not belonging and not feeling good enough. I thought back to yesterday when I ran into Annie Gambrell and wrote this scene for the end of Jon’s school day.
“Jon! What are you doing?” He looked up at Kelly ___, one of the few underclassmen he knew. He met her last month while interviewing her for the yearbook, doing the page on the women’s’ JV cross-country team. Sometimes Jon thought that the fact that women’s’ JV cross-country got two whole pages in the yearbook was just part of an international conspiracy that ensured that certain people, who were labeled “popular,” got in the yearbook at least twenty times every year whereas other people only got in once. This was the same conspiracy that invented Homecoming Queens and the modern system of student government. Jon had nothing against women’s sports, or unpopular sports; he just didn’t like being unpopular.
“Hi.” Jon looked up and saw that she was with a friend. He thought the friend’s name was Nicole, but he did not know her.
“What are you doing? Waiting for someone?” Kelly asked.
“No. Just…” he paused. “Thinking.”
“Are you okay?” Kelly asked.
“I’m all right. I just kind of had a rough day.”
“Don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine.”
“Thanks,” Jon replied. “See you later.” Jon really liked Kelly. She seemed really nice, and she was pretty too. She had a beautiful smile. Unfortunately, she already had a boyfriend. Jon got in his truck and drove home, thinking about what it would be like to have a relationship with Kelly.
I thought about making the last name for the Annie character something that sounded like Annie, or like Gambrell. The only thing I could think of was “Aniston,” the last name of one of the actors on the TV show Friends. There was no way I would name someone in my story after Friends, so I left it blank and moved on.
I spent most of the rest of that weekend writing, finishing chapter 1 and half of chapter 2, establishing the mood of Jon feeling out of place and wanting to start over, wanting more time to live the high school experience. I also mentioned that Jon’s father lived five hundred miles away in Capital City, with a second wife who had two children of her own.
I never did see or hear from Annie again after that day. I could have asked her brother to get in touch with her for me, I saw him at church the next day, but that just felt weird. Annie was off limits because she had a boyfriend. But I continued to work on this novel for the next several months. I had no plans to act out the premise of this novel, to run away and go back to high school, nor did I have a realistic way of doing so. I knew that that would never happen. But it was interesting to think about, and fun to put these thoughts on paper. If they could not happen in real life, I could create a fantasy world where these things happened, as long as I knew that it was just fantasy and did not let it consume my life.
Author’s note: Yes, these are actual excerpts from a novel I wrote in 1995-96. More about that later.
Also, in real life it’s my birthday! Well, yesterday was.
Hello, friends. I started this project fourteen months ago, and now that I have reached a natural stopping point in the story, I will be taking a break for a few weeks, maybe more; we’ll see. Life is busy. I need to plan what I’m going to write about for the next school year in the story. I also have a few related tasks I’m going to work on; for example, I need to organize some notes to myself, so I can stay consistent with characters’ names and such. There are already at least three Mikes, two Jennifers, and three Kims in the story (although to be fair those were common names for people my age).
This is not a regular post. If you are new to DLTDGB, it is an episodic continuing story about a university student in the western USA in the 1990s. Scroll down to other posts to read some of these stories. Or if you are in this for the long haul, click here to start from the beginning.
One of the related tasks I’ve been meaning to do is complete: I made a playlist of all the music I used in year 1 of DLTDGB (42 songs). It is mostly early and mid-1990s “alternative rock” and pop-rock, along with some classic rock, because that is what I was listening to at the time period I am writing about (and I was going through a big Pink Floyd phase at the time, so they’re in there several times).
Anyway… I definitely want to thank you all so much for your support. I have enjoyed getting to know those of you who have interacted with me and shared this journey through my past. Hopefully you have found something in my story that has influenced you positively.
But I want to hear from you. I have a lot of thoughts about this.
Do you have any comments or suggestions on this project? How am I doing? Is it easy to follow, or is my storytelling too confusing? Are the episodes too long? Too short? Just right? Does it depend on the story I’m telling?
Should I change the title of the blog? I took the title from a song lyric from the time period I am writing about, but I did so without permission from the artist, so if this blog gets too big I might have to change it.
I wonder sometimes if I have too many characters. I’m not really sure how I can do this project without a lot of characters, though (and this is why I included a dramatis personae page). But do I need more character development for the minor characters, or does that not really work well for short episodes told by me? Should I name other characters by just their first names, or would it make it easier to remember if I referred to more people by first and last names at least once per episode? Do I need more physical descriptions of what the other characters look like?
Of course, DLTDGB is based on true stories and real people, but I have taken liberties with many of the details, particularly conversations. I don’t remember every word of every conversation from 25 years ago, obviously. I also made some minor changes for artistic reasons. For example, I know I did not actually listen to Bush on the way home from my last day in the dorm because I never owned that album until I got it at a used music store in my late 30s. I wrote that in because I want to end every school year with the song that this blog is named after, but that song was not released to radio until early in my sophomore year, so the album was the only way I could have known the song by the end of freshman year. Another obvious example: the episode about the “football championship” did not use any actual NFL team names or trademarks, and the real life events that inspired that story happened during a regular season game, not the championship game.)
But I still wonder, how much should I deviate from the truth? Should I keep it mostly true in broad strokes as much as possible and just fill in the details, as I have been so far? If I have a story from another time in my life that would make a good DLTDGB episode, can I adapt such a story and pretend it happened in Jeromeville in the 1990s? Or would that take away from the integrity and truth of this project? I suppose ultimately only I can answer this question, since this is my writing project, but I am curious what people think about this.
I am also unsure exactly when to end the project. My original thought was to go up through December 31, 1999, since that is the last day of the 1990s, and then tie up a few loose ends with some “epilogue” stories set in 2000 and later. I am still leaning toward doing this. I also considered continuing the main narrative up to July 2001, since that is when I actually moved away from Jeromeville, but it seems like most of my most interesting stories happened before then, and if I deviate from the truth slightly, as I mentioned before, the most interesting stories from 2000 and 2001 I can probably rewrite as if they happened earlier.
So, yes, please share if you have any thoughts about any of the above, or about anything else, or if you just want to say hi. I can also answer questions about anything you read on here, although I might give incomplete or evasive answers if answering your question would give away major spoilers for future episode. (I know, for example, multiple people have asked me what my career is as an adult. I have not answered that question, because I will eventually write about experiencing the process of exploring and discovering careers throughout most of 1997, and since I am still today in the same career field that I settled on before finishing my undergraduate studies at UJ, answering this question would give away things that I will write about later.)
I got tagged in another Hoppy Tales post. If you are new to this site and you expected stories about being a university student in the 1990s, scroll down, or go here to read from the beginning. If you are a regular reader and are waiting to hear about my spring 1995 finals week, that post will be coming later today or tomorrow. :)
You will be tagged to complete one of these five elements, along with given a theme (such as: beauty of simplicity, comedy, overcoming fear, love and romance, youth and beauty, coming of age, circle of life, friendship, empowerment).
As Olivia approached the familiar stairwell leading to her office, her footsteps faltered, having seen something she’d been evading her entire life. A shadow lurking around in the dark had finally emerged in broad daylight, but this time, to settle old scores.
The good news lay buried beneath the shrieking yelps escaping from her nearly blue lips, before everything went pitch black.
Olivia awoke at the bottom of the stairs outside her office. Olivia had not seen her father up close in twenty years, since she was a girl and her mother grew tired of the abuse, but he had finally found her. As he pushed her into a car, Olivia saw her coworker watching. She knew what she had to do.
My theme was “Thriller”; I wanted to make it about Michael Jackson, naturally, but I couldn’t really make that fit the story. Next, I have been asked to tag Shantanu from https://ckonfab.com, and I’ll choose overcoming fear as the theme. I’ll post a link to the finished product when we get there.
This is Greg writing as an adult in 2019. I’m doing something different for this post. I was tagged in a blog thingy, and I can’t really work this into my 1995 story, so I’m just going to do that for this post, and I’ll get back to 1995 in a week or so. If this is your first time reading DLTDGB and you were expecting to read an episodic coming-of-age story set in the 1990s, then scroll down and read the previous post, or click here to start from the beginning.
Does anyone else remember sending around a piece of paper and writing pass-along stories with your friends growing up? If you enjoyed it, we think you might enjoy this, too.
Just as there are five parts in a traditional plot structure, we will have:
You will be tagged to complete one of these five elements, along with given a theme (such as: beauty of simplicity, comedy, overcoming fear, love and romance, youth and beauty, coming of age, circle of life, friendship, empowerment).
Kathy moved quickly, narrowly missing the rocks and roots scattered about the forest floor. A branch grazed her cheek once or twice, but she pressed most of them away with her free hand. In her remaining hand, she held fast to a new beginning, her heart beating nearly out of her chest. Hope bubbled inside her with each new step.
I was given the theme Comedy.
Kathy turned to look at a squirrel, taking her eyes off a branch that smacked her face a second later. She screamed, falling to the ground and landing in bear droppings. “Kathy?” a voice called. Kathy blushed, mortified, seeing the handsome gentleman she had come to meet, the source of her new hope. He had witnessed her moment of clumsiness.
Tag… Kathy is it. The climax is next. Your theme is love and romance.