About Me

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Kymberlie Ingalls is native to the Bay Area in California. She is a pioneer in blogging, having self-published online since 1997. Her style is loose, experimental, and a journey in stream of consciousness. Works include personal essay, prose, short fictional stories, and a memoir in progress. Thank you for taking a moment of your time to visit. Beware of the occasional falling opinions. For editing services: http://www.rainfallpress.com/

Monday, October 22, 2012

Water And Bridges

My bridge is falling, so much water rushing past has pulled it down in jagged wooden pieces.  Life is a never ending river current; I wonder when mine will turn to dust and leave me longing for relief. 

I'm not sure which is the stronger pain. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Carefree Highway

“Her name was Anne.  But I’ll be damned if I recall her face.”  The grizzled features that stared back at Ray from behind the bar couldn’t possibly be his – the shaggy gray beard with fading streaks of color, the lines that ran deep in the sun-colored skin, eyes that had seen the world and all of its evils.  He wasn’t that old.  His gaze went right through the bartender as he continued to take in his reflection.  “She left me not knowing what to do.” he drank from the cool beer in front of him. “And that I’ve never forgotten.”
          Why was he telling this guy?  Until a week ago, he hadn’t thought of her in over three decades.  Keep lyin’ to yourself, buddy.  Tell the old man another lie too.  Ray swiveled his head like an owl to see if he was still the only one in the joint.  Yep, just him and the barkeep.  That’s why you’re telling this guy.  There’s nobody else to overhear your pathetic tale of wanderlust. 
          He reached back in his memory.  “I gave my little girl a porcelain doll once.  Pretty little thing, it was.  Soft when you touched her.  Dark hair, with green eyes and a smile that was painted on, but like there was a secret inside that couldn’t be seen unless you broke her open.”  His daughter had adored that doll.  Ray hadn’t wanted to admit to himself why it called to him from the store’s window.  It fed his dreams whenever he saw it on her white storybook shelf, propped against the well-read books. 
          The bartender dipped a used glass into a small sink full of soapy water and wiped it dry before placing it among the others.  He’d heard this story before, Ray was sure of it.  His, or a thousand others just like it.  The light peeked in through the dirty windows, casting shadows behind the bottles that glinted beneath the mirror.  All lined up, begging for stories.  Each shot that was poured was a tale waiting to be told. 
          Ray pulled out his tarnished watch and sprung it open.  .  He should be on the road right now, logging miles in the rig to get to his next load, but when he’d seen the sign for Apache Falls as he rolled through the Midwest, it lured him from his route.  He shoved the watch, a gift from his old man back when he finished school, back into his jeans pocket. 
          He’d seen the sign on many of his trips across the country, and tried like hell to outrun it as he pushed on the gas just a little harder than usual.  The memory of one night had haunted him for a lifetime.
          “A dark, green-eyed beauty ain’t nothin’ to forget.”  The bartender mused.  The name above the door as Ray had wandered in read “Joe’s Place.”  He figured it was Joe standing there – had to be a one-horse bar in a two-horse town.  “Where ya headed?”
          Tennessee, this trip.” 
          “Yeah?  Always wanted to visit the old South.  Take the wife to that there ol’ Opry, see some of the greats.”  As if on cue, Merle Haggard came alive on the jukebox that sat in the corner.  The volume was low, to match the empty bar. 
          “I’ve been there and back a hundred times or more.”  Ray said. 
          “Where ya comin’ from?”
          Oregon.  That’s where my family is.  Wife and my little girl, Sarah.”  He closed his eyes for just a moment as he pondered what he’d done.  Sarah had driven with her girlfriend off to college the week before he’d left.  “Hell, she isn’t so little anymore.  All grown up now.” 
          “Got a few of those myself.”  Joe chuckled. 
          “She’s the only one.  A surprise when she came along, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.”  Ray told the old man how nineteen-year-old Ellie had tearfully given him the news.  He stared in horror at the blue-eyed blonde-haired girl before him.  The girl next door, literally; they’d grown up together.  They’d messed up, and now she was pregnant.  They were small-town kids, he only a year older at twenty.  Back then a man did one of two things – stepped up or fled the coop, and he wasn’t a runner.  Until now. 
          They weren’t in love, but they liked each other enough to get hitched for the sake of the baby.  Ray and Ellie grew into each other, and Sarah bonded them.  But Ray had a secret. 
Just as they’d begun seeing each other the year before, he’d put a down payment from money he’d saved working at the local service station on a used long-hauler.  He hadn’t been on too many gigs when he rolled through Apache Falls one afternoon as the sun was setting over the prairie.  He remembered it like it was still painted fresh in his mind.  Reds and oranges and pinks streaked the sky as the blazing yellow sun settled into the distant hills. 
As he pulled in to stay for the night, there was a roadhouse with an open door where a young crowd stumbled in and out, smoke trailing behind them that clouded around the neon beer lights.  Figuring he could use a drink to wind down, Ray parked his truck in the vast field behind the shack alongside two others.
It was three Budweisers after he figured out this was a guy who didn’t ask for proof of age when he ordered a shot of Jack with the next round.  While he waited on the drinks, a girl about his age slid onto the stool next to him, rubbing shoulders as she leaned with laughter at whatever her girlfriend had said behind her. 
“Oops!  Sorry!”  She straightened herself on the chair and giggled at the bartender when he came back.  “A champagne cocktail for her,” she nodded to her friend, “and…“ glancing at Ray, “I’ll have what he’s having!”  Her green eyes rested on his for a millisecond, but it was enough.  Admiring the way her chestnut hair fell in waves just past her shoulders, brushing against the western-styled plaid shirt tied at her waist above the faded jeans covering the longest legs he’d ever seen, Ray forced himself not to stare. 
“Uh,” he stammered, “It’s on me, whatever she’s having.”  He tugged at some wrinkled bills from his pocket, tossing them on the bar.  Suddenly there was no crowd, no Journey playing in the background.  There was only this creature smiling at him.
“Thank you!  I guess that warrants a name then, doesn’t it?”  She offered him her hand.  “Anne.”  When he didn’t answer, she laughed again, softly.  “What’s your name, stranger?”
Coming back to his senses, he shouted his name above the din while her friend snatched her pink cocktail and danced her way back to a group of friends.
And there they sat until the bar closed down.  They walked outside and around to the back field, neither ready to say goodbye just yet.  He learned that she was a rancher’s daughter, some days content with that but there was an artist in her longing to be freed. 
“It’s nothing more than a silly old dream.”
Ray couldn’t stop himself from reaching into the starry night and caressing her cheek.  “There’s nothing silly about that.”  And then they kissed.  It seemed to last for hours, and he knew he wanted it to last a lifetime. 
The more they shared, the further in love they fell.  When the sun began its ascent, Ray and Anne couldn’t pull themselves apart without a sadness overtaking them.  But he had a job to do.
“It’ll only take me two days to reach the west coast, and another two to get back after a quick stop at home.”  Ray held her chin up high so he could hold her gaze steady with his.  “But I’m coming back for you.  If you’ll have me.”  It was a promise he wanted to carve in stone.
“I think I want that… very much…” she raised her lips to his again as they curved into a smile.  And they parted.
Two days later, his promise was lost in that prairie when Ellie shattered his world.  How the hell…?  They’d only been together three times.  Hell, they’d only been dating for just a few months. 
The mornin’ after blues from my head down to my shoes… words echoing through him like a witch’s chant.
Ray never could bring himself to go back to that little town.  Surely she was better off thinking it was a magical night that never really happened, rather than being with a man who ran off and left a baby behind.  It was a secret he harbored from Ellie for the last eighteen years.  They’d settled into a life that was content, she went to work running the office of a local attorney, and the road trips gave him the quiet he needed; but Ray knew his heart wasn’t in the marriage and knew that hers wasn’t either.
One day they’d gone to a museum in nearby Ashland, a last family outing before the summer ended and Sarah was off to school.  There was a collection premiering of Midwestern artists.  His heart nearly seized when his eyes fell on a canvas featuring an old ramshackle roadhouse, dimly lit on a starry night, with two lone figures beneath the moon.  The placquard next to the art read Anne Turner. 
It was then that he made up his mind.  His little girl was going to be on her own now.  It was time, and Ellie deserved better than what she had.  They’d made a good life for their daughter, but it was time.  After dinner that night, Ray sat his wife down on the front porch swing, and they talked.  They were good enough friends that the tears were brief, but this wasn’t an unexpected twist for either of them. 
But now what the hell do I do?  Quietly that weekend he stuffed his clothes into oversized duffle bags.
“Don’t worry.”  Ellie watched him with a forlorn, faraway expression, a prideful grace keeping her still. “Your stuff’s not going anywhere.  You can come get it when you figure things out.”  He loved her then, more than he ever had. 
Guess it must be wanderlust or tryin’ to get free from the good old faithful feeling we once knew…
And now here he was in Apache Falls, telling his story to a stranger while he nursed the broken heart he didn’t deserve to have.  “The thing that I called living was just being satisfied, knowing I had no one left to blame.”  The two men were silent for a moment.
Joe reached beneath the payphone that hung on the wall like a lonely reminder of simpler times and grabbed at the thin phonebook, tossing it on the bar in front of Ray. 
“I could keep pouring what-ifs into that glass, or you could take your chances, if you’ve got a nerve to.”
Ray stared heavily at the mirror again, still trying to recognize the man he saw.  Slowly he opened the dusty book, turning the thin pages until his finger rested on her name.
“She’s still here.”
          “Yeah, took over her daddy’s place there when he died, she’d been without a Mama since she’s just a girl.”  Ray looked at him with a question in his tired eyes.  “And no, she never did marry.  Lived with a feller for a long time, but the story went that she just wouldn’t make it official, so he left town a few years back.  She’s made a name for herself around these parts with those paintings of hers, but she stays pretty quiet out on the ranch.” 
Reaching for his cell phone, Ray realized he’d left it in the cabin of the truck.  Joe bounced a couple of quarters at him, and as if in a trance he watched them roll to a stop and fall down on the bar top. 
“This one’s on me.”  The bartender smiled.  “Don’t you think it’s about time?” 
Ray pushed himself to his feet, still unsure.  He could walk out of here right now, and nobody else would ever know he’d been here.  Indecision hung in the air, shadowed with fear.  Finally he moved toward the phone.  Joe walked off to the other end of the room, pretending to dust off the pool cues in their rack. 
Searching through the fragments of my dream-shattered sleep, I wonder if the years have closed her mind?    Dropping the coins in the slot and lifting the receiver that smelled of many drunken pleadings for forgiveness, Ray pushed the buttons with trembling fingers. 
Her name was Anne, and I’ll be damned but I still recall her face...

© Kymberlie Ingalls, June 2, 2012
Inspired by the song Carefree Highway, written by Gordon Lightfoot

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Heavenly Fever

Well, this has been a shit week.  My youth is being obliterated right and left!  Such legends are leaving us.

The Brothers Gibb are a part of some of the most joyous moments that I can remember.  That's saying a lot, if you know anything at all about my not so joyous life.  It wasn't until I met my husband, who is ten years older than myself at fifty, who educated me on the stellar songwriting talents of the younger, purer Bee Gees.  I'd known of Barry's collaborative effort with Kenny Rogers in the 80s on one of my favorite albums, but knew absolutely zero about their acclaim two decades earlier. 

So far as I ever knew, they were the kings of dance.  They were the beat behind The Strut.  When I held that double album with the shiny black cover and sexy young Travolta on the flashing rainbow of a dance floor in my hands, I couldn't wait to get it on my little suitcase turntable and secretly shake my little six year old body around my bedroom.  It was grown-up music!  And I loved it. 

Later, as a teen, it was the glue that bonded my friendship with the first real Valley Girl I ever knew.  She'd just moved up here to the Bay Area, and beneath the modern rock attitude as though she'd just walked in from a John Hughes movie set lay a girl who had the Night Fever.  At first I wasn't sure about Jackie, we couldn't be more different.  I was a girl dressed in pastels and sent out into the world, forbidden to take part in most trends of the day.  Once we discovered our love for all things disco, something took hold and it's been our only common musical love ever since. 

At my wedding, I threw a curve at Jackie, my maid of honor, and had the DJ play her favorite song from the album, You Should Be Dancing.  The poor woman was embarrassed as hell when I shoved her out on the floor to show off her moves, because we had a pretty tame crowd and nobody else would join in.  Our friend Bill gallantly stepped out to join her and despite their twenty five year age difference, they were a perfect match.

In my twenties, I grew into my inner party girl, and like Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Shaun Cassidy and a slew of others, The Bee Gees, including brother Andy, taught me how to let loose and live like there wasn't a tomorrow, even if only for a night. When the 70s came back around in style, I gave in to temptation and bought a pair of platform heels, five inches high.  Then another, and one more to boot - black satin, with an open heel that was tall and thick, criss crossed over my red-painted toes.  At long last, I had my Bad Sandy moment!

I never really was a girly girl.  When I reflect and search for those brief times throughout my history, they are set to this soundtrack, to these anthems.  There is something about disco that brings a girl out of her shell.  I am fortunate to have actually been alive when this revolution lived, to see the blossoming of a nation of women who felt free to dance, no partner needed. 

Rest in peace, Robin, Maurice and Andy.  Somewhere, if there is an "up above," I suspect there's a fever of a whole new kind spreading itself amongst the clouds.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Last Dance Of Summer

Maybe it’s having turned 40 that put a curse upon the world, but it seems this year that I find myself bidding a sad farewell to pop culture legends that have me longing for a yesterday when they, and I, were invincible.

Well, they.

Many eons ago, I interviewed someone, back when I was exploring my roots as a writer and thinking I was going to take the celebrity world by storm.  This comedian gave me my first break, after which I promptly realized I sucked and had better find another use of my skills.  But Larry said something that I never forgot; “When I was in the third grade, I’d see the other kids playing on the monkey bars and I’d watch them having fun but all I could think was, ‘what’s the point, we’re all going to die anyway.’”  It was a key joke to his dark, brooding comic act, but not far from reality.  Larry, aptly nicknamed “Bubbles” for his far-from-optimist personality, resonated with me.  
I’ve always felt vincible. 

Before there was the ‘reality’ fame of today, we had real celebrities who touched our world with a talent, a shine to them that captivated some part of an American dream we wanted to touch, and live, even if vicariously. 

Before I got this old and began to act sensible in a quiet, consistent way, there were those moments when a song could come on that made me want to drop everything, and dance.  Songs that brightened a day, or jazzed up a night.  Sometimes I hear those melodies and memories come like a waterfall, raining down like a crystal shower. 

Often those songs begin with a disco beat, and are sung with the joyful, soulful voice of the era’s greatest talent.  We lost that talent yesterday, and while Donna Summer hadn’t had a hit in nearly three decades, the loss was still great.

Being one of the most successful artists of a time that is often looked down upon for its superficiality and encouragement of mindless excess, my iPod would not be complete without the Summer anthology in heavy rotation. 

I worked for awhile at a radio station whose format was metal/goth/grunge, and never was there a more devoted listener base, but one April Fool’s Day I brought in my old vinyls and had a field day with a ‘sudden format change.’  The phone lines flooded with these metalheads calling in and requesting more Donna. 

When strutting our Hot Stuff hadn’t paid off, being a Bad Girl just wasn’t working out, and the magic that could have been just walked out the door without you on his arm - whenever “Oooooh ohhhhh….” floated through the air, suddenly what might have been a heartbreaking, ugly night became a worthwhile memory because it was the Last Dance, and there was still a chance at romance because Donna said so.  There wasn’t a roof she couldn’t raise.

A memory is a priceless thing, and that’s what music is for me – beyond value.  With the recent loss of Dick Clark, who was responsible for introducing us to a plethora of songs to make us want to laugh, cry, and sing out loud with, this is another blow to my younger days, and there will only be more to follow. 

I look at music differently now, knowing there will never be the same waterfall feeling.  There are no songs I’m going to have a 40 year love affair with, no new artists that will make me feel young again. 

It just doesn’t hit home until I’ve lost one of my childhood friends. 

© Kymberlie Ingalls, May 20, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hey, It's Mr. Dick Clark!

One man dies, but it is the death of a generation.  That’s a pretty hefty legacy. 

It’s funny, the twisty turns that affect us in the middle of a day, isn’t it?  I’ve been staring at my computer screen for two weeks, waiting for the next brilliant words to tumble from my brain to the keyboard, but a circuit broke down somewhere.  Half-thoughts, half-truths, half-assed.  Then along comes a headline that knocks us back a little.

When I was a kid, and fortunate enough to have a rare weekend at my mom’s house, she made sure that time with my older brother and I was well spent.  Shopping, dinner with the grandparents, Sunday morning omelettes that my stepdad stuffed seriously fat with anything we wanted.  But Saturday mornings were hers. 

After losing the battle to watch the Smurfs to my brother, I’d crawl, defeated, into bed and lay against Mom.  She’d wrap her arms around me, excited as the horns started, Dick Clark smiling in the little set top box on top of the dresser.  The volume went up, and there went any shot at breakfast for the next two hours.  The woman loved her music.

My brother would eventually get bored with his superheroes and make his way into the bed too.  Mom would talk about these bands with weird names like The Chordettes, The Coasters, The Marvellettes – and we made fun of them, but then there were songs we knew and liked.  As American Bandstand came to a close, it was then time to get on board the Soul Train.   Then the three of us would scurry to the kitchen to scramble for a bowl of Cheerios, with extra sugar dumped in ours when Mom turned her back on us, and we’d rush back to the bed for a half hour of Scooby Doo before the real start to the day. 

Bandstand kept current with music, but sometimes a hot new act was one Mom knew about long before I did.  I come from the generation that learned Twist & Shout from Ferris Bueller, not four mop-topped Brit boys.  The Bee Gees were the hottest disco band that, who knew? were around singing before I was thought of.  When this exotic lady with long legs and hair sprouting wildly came to the stage asking What’s Love Got To Do With It?  in 1984, I was taken with her sexy moves and sultry voice.  Next thing you know, Mom’s playing Ike & Tina on the turntable and dancing like a runaway train.   

The thing with my mom was that she never took on that “old” mentality.  All music was great, not just “back then.”  It was an infectious enthusiasm that she instilled in me in our short years together.  Much of my core values were little gifts she gave in between the birthdays, Easter baskets and Christmas stockings. 

With a bright laugh, she pulled out Paul & Paula and sang along, telling me stories of boyfriends and square dances.  Maybe because our time together was so rare, I actually listened without rolling my eyes or looking for the nearest getaway.  My mother was fun, without trying to be.  Somehow she managed to find the magic line of knowing when to be our friend, and when to take a door off its hinges because I slammed it in her face one time too many. 

The day Marvin Gaye was shot, my mother cried.  She was of the Elvis era when girls did that sort of thing.  I imagine she’d have mourned the loss of Don Cornelius some months back, and I think today would have devastated her. 

It seems my generation of 40somethings is the last to feel the loss of Dick Clark.  When I told my 33 year old friend Josh in passing of the news, it was a faint blip on his radar.  Understandably so, Clark was just the guy on the New Years Eve show that talked funny.  But even through the stroke, Dick showed up every year, his eager, tanned face smiling as young as it did more than fifty years ago. 

And that was his talent, his sheer excitement at bringing music to America.  Vicariously through Dick Clark, we all caught glimpses of a time when falling in love wasn’t something to be afraid of, people weren’t shot just for walking down the street, and we helped one another rather than tuned each other out.  Maybe that’s an idealistic view of an endless summer, but that was the beach party Clark invited us to each week. 

I fear that with the loss of this cultural icon, the rapid free fall that our nation has seen will win. 

I want this moment to remember Mr. Clark, and thank him for the time spent with Mom, my brother and me, even in the hospital rooms when she shooed the nurses away so she could be lost in two hours of a rare bliss.  Saturday mornings were never the same after we lost her..  I suspect the world going forward from today won’t be either. 

To everything there is a season; a time to be born, a time to die, a time to dance, a time to mourn.  A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together…

© Kymberlie Ingalls, April 18, 2012
Lyrics: Turn, Turn Turn (To Everything There Is A Season) / Pete Seeger
            (adapted from The Holy Bible / Book Of Ecclesiastes

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Withering Of Whitney

"Step by step, heart to heart, one by one they all fall down... like toy soldiers."

 Another one down. 

In 1985, I was fourteen years old, and had my first affair with a married man.  In the rare moments alone at home, music would fill the room around me and I'd stare at the exotic looking young woman who laid her soul all over my turntable.  I wanted to be Whitney, saving my love for one who secretly longed to be with me. 

In the following years, I came to relate to Whitney Houston as a friend, a mentor of men.  A sharer of wisdom that echoed my own romantic discoveries.  First there were songs of love, then came the dancing that lured girls like myself out of a shy awkwardness and made us believe we could be the star of any ballroom. 

I Wanna Dance With Somebody

But while Whitney was looking out for her young followers, who was looking out for her?  Who was watching as she sunk beneath the glitter and the glory into a dank pit of desperation?  The first hint was her all-too-real performance in 1992's The Bodyguard, in which she played a musical diva with a drug problem, and what happens when we lose touch with the harsh reality that surrounds us.  It was a grittier side of Houston that we hadn't seen until then. 

I didn't want to like The Bodyguard, because as I'd grown with Whitney, I'd also grown with another homespun gospel of wisdom - Dolly Parton.  And Dolly had always loved Porter, and Burt, long before Whitney ever loved Kevin.  There was some interview that has stayed with me like a scar where Whitney said the song I Will Always Love You was nothing until she took hold of it. 

Nothing - a foretelling.

I Will Always Love You

But alas, like the rest of America, I not only fell for the movie and the savage love story of Rachel Marron and Frank Farmer, I fell for the music that surrounded their story too.  It was a surging flame of a dying fire, we just didn't see it starting to dim. 

Waiting To Exhale was, for me, the last ember.  What I felt was a brilliant ensemble that showed us more of the real Whitney Houston, it eclipsed the insanity of her offscreen life.  Her marriage to Bobby Brown and the subsequent violence, substance abuse and power-tripping antics made her fodder for the entertainment industry and her pop culture status slid further down the backside of the Hollywood hills, where many stars had fallen before her. 

Waiting To Exhale

It was on 1995's Exhale soundtrack that I feel, in looking back, that this superstar had taken her last breath.  It's rare that I let an artist's personal life influence the effect of their work and my attachment to it, but in Whitney's case, that's exactly what happened.  Like Michael Jackson, like the tragic truncated talent of Lindsay Lohan, and like the joke that was once known as Judy Garland, my respect for their contributions and talents waned in what felt like the loss of friends I'd held dear. 

Whitney never did climb out of her volcanic self-destruction.  I think Oprah said it best for each of us in her landmark 2009 interview, heralding Houston's "comeback" that never happened, in stating that fans were angry with the singer for wasting away her voice, likening her talent to a "national treasure." 

Without a doubt, Houston's voice is one of the greatest of the 20th century.  It is my personal opinion that she possessed one of the greatest voices of all time, and I place her above Streisand, Celine, and Liza.  It was the spirit of that longing young woman wanting nothing more than to be loved that captured me, and that's who I'll choose to remember this evening, as I listen once again to the album that introduced us to Whitney.

Saving All My Love For You

Superstars are only human.  Actors, writers, singers and songwriters - we want to place them on pedestals, if only to watch them fall.  As artists, we crave the attention.  We want to make others feel what we often can't because we've numbed ourselves as a way of protection against the very things that inspire us.  Some of us are lucky and can still outrun our demons without the aid of substances but others simply aren't strong enough. 

I don't think Whitney ever wanted to be the angel that others expected her to be,  I think she just wanted to be. 

Why Does It Hurt So Bad?

(c) Kymberlie Ingalls