Friday, November 28, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 32

Did you know there are professionals trained exclusively to maintain funhouse mirrors? That's how Will makes his living-- anyone in the carnival business knows the half-dozen people who specialize in this maintenance.

Will stumbled into this job-- how else might one get in?-- but immediately fell in love with it. Did you know, for instance, that you can't use standard Windex on these mirrors? The glass is of a different nature, for one thing, and any streaks on the mirror make the intentional warp effect less pronounced.

Will also builds the mirrors on the side. He has created some gorgeous pieces that can make you look lonelier, more at peace, or just tanner.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 31

As far as he knows, Gary invented " void astronomy" (also known as "inverstronomy").

Void astronomy is the classification of the sky based on the space and shape between constellations... or simply put, constellations created by where stars aren't.

His idea began with the popular optical illusion of the vase/faces. He realized that so much is defined by the space and void around it-- the anti-matter, the shadow, the rest of the shape.

Applying that to the sky was simple. The eye is naturally trained to look at the stars, but with a slight perspective change Gary found he could focus instead on the space where there were no stars.

Gary is currently working on an illustrated book of new constellations from the perspective of void astronomy. It will change the way you look at the night.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 30

Erin taught herself to play guitar.

Erin is also deaf, but the first time she picked up an acoustic guitar it hardly mattered. She was very attuned to the vibrations in the string; she plucked out rhythms and chords that felt good to her fingertips.

She wasn't always deaf; she lost her hearing after some head trauma when she was 4. She has almost no memory of what hearing was like, but she is aware that her guitar playing has a different effect on other people than it does on herself.

Because Erin uses such a different technique to create music, her compositions sound like nothing else. They are unique and true to her, and there are a good deal of people who find her music very pleasurable. The songs sound very experimental, but not devoid of cadence and feeling.

New pictures!

Starting today, you'll see a slight shift in the pictures that are published here!

I used a full page of a generous donor's yearbook, but I ran out of pictures. I am now moving onto another benefactor's yearbook-- the pictures are slightly smaller and they're from an earlier year, so if things look a little different that's why.

Thank you to both people who have sent me yearbook pictures so far! I hope you're enjoying the project!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 29

Craig simply could not be impressed.

People tried! His parents were particularly diligent, sending Craig to Cirque du Soleil performances, monster truck rallies, historical re-enactments, you name it. Craig was not impressed by anything that he ever saw.

None of his other emotional faculties suffered. He was not a sociopath, he was not autistic. He expressed glee on his birthday! He cried when his sister needed surgery.
You should have seen his interpretation of Hamlet at the community arts center.

Only he could not be impressed. He visited all of the Wonders of the World-- even the ones that no longer existed, by virtue of a special virtual reality museum that was created in his name.

His story has been told in countless newspapers and on every major news network. When asked what he thought of his strange disorder, Craig is quoted as having said, "Eh. I guess it's fine. Nothing to write home about."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 28

Harold was once the reigning Dimple King of Schaumberg, and troubled was the head that wore the crown.

Harold's smile won people over when he was still in diapers, and when the local hardware store decided to hold a competition comparing dimpled children, Harold was a natural candidate. (The contest was in some way tied to a popular brand of staple gun, but no one much remembers the details. The endorsement was a stretch.)

Harold, then 6 years old, was an easy favorite of the judges' panel and handily won the competition. He spent much of his adolescence trying to shake the popularity that came with the much-coveted Dumpling King title.

He finally outgrew his dimples late in high school, but his title stuck. True, it opened many doors for Harold in the years to come and was quite the conversation piece on his résumé, but the effect on his self esteem was immeasurable.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 27

Joel is a die-hard Weird Al fan-- always has been, starting when his mother listened to Dr. Demento's radio show when Joel was only a child.

Joel is often teased about his admiration for the accordion-wielding parody king, but he finds solace in Yankovic's oeuvre. And not just the parodies, thank you very much-- some of Joel's favorites tunes are Al's original work, such as "She Never Told Me She Was a Mime," "Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung," or the pseudo-love ballad "Good Enough For Now."

Joel grew up knowing the parodies long before he ever knew the original songs, and still tends to sing along with the wrong version when stuck in elevators or at Applebee's. Once at a karaoke bar he even signed up for Don McLean's "American Pie," but instead sang all the words to the parody version "The Saga Begins."

Joel is downright proud to be an Al-coholic.

(Okay, okay, Joel is more than a little bit me. Happy 27th story, everybody.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 26

Tony's fondest memory is of the time when he played the Big Bad Wolf in a 2nd grade production of Little Red Riding Hood 2: Back to Grandma's!

Often in his formative years he would model Big Bad's behavior. It was a source of strength and courage for Tony, and filled a sort of father figure role that was otherwise missing from his life. As he learned to morally separate good from bad, he abandoned the darker, sinister side of the wolf while retaining the wit, the power and the hunger that epitomized his favorite childhood character.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 25

Kyle hates tongues!

He is not sure how it started, but for as long as he can remember he has been completely repulsed by the concept of the tongue. Not only is it like some kind of heavy slug living in the human mouth, but it makes vile sounds. Not speech-- that's another topic altogether-- but the slapping, slick sounds as the tongue interacts with food, with teeth, with bubblegum.

Movies are almost impossible for Kyle to watch. Even in the seemingly most benign movies, the most artistic or even the most action-packed and violent films, there is always a passion scene where two characters are jumping at the chance to slosh their tongues together.

The very thought of it turns Kyle's stomach inside out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 24

Dani made a fortune when she created the first neck brace disguised within a turtleneck. The brace was outrageously popular with people injured in embarrassing ways or while involved in illicit activity that they did not wish to be called on. For this reason she had a difficult time finding users who would provide testimonials, but in time she built quite the niche market.

You can see Dani modeling the prototype here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 23

Karen saw an angel once.

She was 14 when it happened, but she never bothered to tell anyone. If someone had told her the same story, she would not have believed them for anything. But Karen wholeheartedly believed herself; she had definitely seen an angel, and she was content to keep the vision to herself.

14 is a scary age, and Karen had taken to spending time solo. She hadn't called upon the angels, hadn't been praying or even deeply reflecting at the time. Karen had been writing things in the gritty sand at a park, scrawlings that expressed things she would never say aloud. An androgynous figure approached her-- not closely enough to make her nervous, but near enough that Karen could see a humming glow around its skin. Karen's head ached when the angel smiled, and it left as quickly as it had come.

There was a new message etched in the sand when Karen's head cleared, but she will take those words to the grave.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 22

Darren had a type of reverse-OCD where everything had to be asymmetrical, awkward, skewed, chaotic. Most people afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder favor order and calculation, but these things drove Darren to distraction.

A few of Darren's favorite things:

1. The Illustrated Guide to Entropy, purchased by a caring aunt

2. Jackson Pollack paintings

3. LEGOs (dissembled, scattered)

4. The games "Perfection" and "52 Card Pick-Up"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 21

Most "goths" manifest in late middle school/early high school. Mary Anne ("Aryan," as she called herself as early as in the 6th grade), on the other hand, developed a taste of the trendy occult before most of her classmates learned to count to ten.

Mary Anne/Aryan is pictured here with a hint of her fangs, filed into her teeth at great expense. She was one to scoff at the fair weather goth-types who put more emphasis on the sleek slickness of their hair than in any passion for the dark arts or core black rituals.

In high school she was encouraged to put her knowledge and passion to good use by forming an after-school activity, which casually became known as the "Blood Club." The group was well-attended and raised record-setting amounts of money for school fundraisers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 20

Lynne was born with a rare disorder in which the only hair she could grow was bangs. It's a form of alopecia found only in Lynne and three other documented cases in the United States.
Honestly, it neither helped nor hindered Lynne's personal life. Kids can be cruel, but there simply aren't that many jokes to be written about such a specific issue. For many years Lynne wore hats, scarves, bandannas, etc... but around puberty she discovered that her classmates hardly noticed her hair, so caught up were they in their own various awkwardnesses.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 19

Robert had the kind of eyes you couldn't help but fear.

He hated his eyes. They set people against him right off the bat, made women look at him timidly over their newspapers. He'd even tried thinning his eyebrows and wearing lighter shades of contacts, but the shock of his eyes proved deeper.

Eventually he married a feisty Italian woman who wasn't afraid of anything. Robert made a name for himself in ninja movies, which specifically cast men with strong physiques and memorable eyes to glare through the traditional black bindings.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 18

Angela dreams in black and white.

She's read stories about why this happens-- they say that if you were raised with black and white television you dream without color. Her friends all had boxy color TVs, but in Angela's home everyone huddled around an ancient, rabbit-eared set each night before bed.

She has always wondered what it might be like to dream in color. She assumes she's missing something important, some deep and meaningful layer of detail.

Angela tried to force it once, in a weekend-long binge of color television. She focused mostly on game shows, which are the brightest and most visually offending. It didn't work; she dreamed of Rice-a-Roni for a few nights, but still in dingy grays.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Don't forget to rate!

Thank you for those of you who are already rating the stories. If you're not one of those, uh, two... please take half a second to star 'em so's I know what's good and what's not-so-much good.

So far you don't like sad stuff. Good to know.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 17

Cass writes horoscopes under the name Cassiopeia. She has been writing astrology pieces since she was 17, but picked up a real following when she found a niche focus-- the following is a taste of her nationally syndicated Horoscopes for Cats line.

Aries (March 12-April 19): This month is rife with danger with your Mercury in retrograde. Find a new tight space.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): This is prime time for the bull-cat! Throw your weight around-- you've earned it.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): There is something you're not telling yourself. Try being honest.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): A gift you give a loved one will go unappreciated.

Leo (July 23-August 22): You wear your heart on your sleeve, but tolerating those around you will pay off big. Take things slow this month. Do some hunting.

Virgo (August 23-September 22): If you feel the urge to mark some territory, go with it! This is not a time to be coy, and no one's going to do it for you!

Libra (September 23-October 22): Toward the end of the month, be on the lookout for a stranger. Guard your sunspot.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21): You will feel pensive as big changes are made around you. Keep your chin up; you will be rewarded on a rainy day.

Sagittarius (November 22- December 21): An old friend makes an appearance. A new possession is suddenly lost.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19): You're not making yourself heard, or you're experiencing a language barrier. Try a new method.

Aquarius (January 20-February 18): Your dreams will be interrupted by something greater. Fight the urge to lash out.

Pisces (February 19-March 20): As a cat with a fish within, you will deal with grave inner conflict this month. Others will see you as moody, but those closest will understand.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 16

Bea fancied herself a hardcore skeptic. She intentionally cocked her eyebrow at the last moment during this picture; she was hoping to use her yearbook photo on the jacket for a book she was writing (The Lies You Help Me Tell, which she abandoned promptly after entering middle school).

Religion was her favorite concept to reject, and she was especially vocal against atheism: to Bea, devoutly claiming to know there was no God was every bit as presumptuous as proclaiming there was only one.

She was an intense girl, smart and quick to play the devil's advocate. Though she would surely have excelled on the school debate team she avoided it, preferring to make conscientious cases at town hall meetings and on local cable-access TV.

Though an argumentative personality can distance many people, Bea did find a group of friends attracted by her passion. Bea never outgrew her sly opinions and contrary perspectives. After college she taught high school for many years, where her staunch skepticism found new ways to express itself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 15

For a couple of years now, Andrew has been having a recurring dream. Actually, it's more of a recurring dream element-- the dream itself changes, but not the device of an escalator.

The escalator has manifested itself in five different ways in Andrew's dreams:
1. An escalator with no side rails.
2. An escalator which does not go straight up or down, but rises and falls in hills, almost.
3. An escalator moving at incredible speed.
4. An escalator with no set landing points, so that riders must jump off between floors.
5. Some combination of 1-4.

Andrew tries not to take much stock in dreams, but this escalator (or series of escalators) pops up frequently enough that Andrew sought out a therapist's opinion. The therapist believes that the device speaks to a control issue in Andrew's life: each form of the escalator forces Andrew to balance, almost surfing precariously on the stairs, with nothing to hold onto and no control over where he's headed.

After taking a good look in the mirror, Andrew has been able to limit the occurrence of the escalator, though it still makes an appearance from time to time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 14

Nicole is voting today.

She is urging everyone she knows to also vote today. She believes it is her civic duty, her responsibility, her right and her privilege to vote in this and every election.

She recognizes that there is big change on the horizon and she is anxious to be a part of it. She is excited about where her country is headed and knows that throwing her hat in the ring is crucial to that progress.

Nicole has not always been this politically involved and feels apprehensive about pushing politics on other people. She remembers what it was like to be uninvolved and how pressured she felt in the past (and even in the present) when people tried to cram their beliefs down her throat. But for the past couple of years she's spent time carefully evaluating her stance on things, her place in the world, her values. She truly wants to make her voice heard and hopes others will follow her lead-- even those who find politics difficult to swallow.

She realizes that this story is a cop-out but she doesn't care because go vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New: rate the stories!

You can now rate and every Where Aren't They Now post! Each post has a star system at the bottom, and if I did this correctly you should be able to rate through your RSS reader as well. (Please let me know if this is not the case for you.)

[UPDATE] Um, I don't think you can rate through RSS. Sorry. I'll look into it in the future.

I'm no code monkey so I'm pretty pumped about this. I'd love to know what you think of the stories, and I believe this will make it simpler for you than commenting every time. (You are of course still welcome to do that. I love comments.)

As we start to get results, future readers will be able to search by the most popular stories... so get to rating!


Where Aren't They Now: 13

At 28, Sarah doesn't look like this anymore and is sharply aware of it.

She assumes that other women feel the same unease in their skin, but Sarah lacks the courage or energy to ask anyone else about it. She's walked into too many "blame the magazines" conversations this way-- that's not it, exactly. It's a smarter pressure from within.

In the moments of roughest discomfort she scrunches her face up and focuses on the herself. She's no longer 9, or for that matter 19, but she knows enough to realize that in 10 years she'll yearn just as hopelessly for these days. She cannot enjoy the moments now, but that won't stop her from being something-like-jealous in the future.