Who was that girl?

Notebook page

I was so precise, I even included commercials.

I could read at age 2 and 1/2; I could write at age 4. Writing was always my retreat—what I did when I was excited or confused or sad or angry or not wanting to do something less fun.

Cleaning out boxes several months back, I discovered so many of my own writings that gave me pause. Here are just a few of the things I found:

  • Poems about my stuffed animals, created before I was enrolled in school (so I must have been 4).
  • Lists of names for my future children (I was dead set on a daughter named Abigail Rhode so I could call her “Abbey Road” for short; and a son named Lincoln Paul, after my favorite president and my Grandfather/favorite rock stars).
  • Lists of names for the pets I’d have if I wasn’t allergic (the somewhat basic “Champ” for a dog; “Drama” for a llama; “Buttermilk” for a bunny, named for a favorite book). Hilariously, there are no names for cats. I always hated them, even as a kid.
  • Stories about my Sea Wees having all kinds of oceanic adventures after they “escaped” the bath through the drain (Sea Wees were bath toys—little mermaids that floated on sponge lily pads).
  • Lists of the fireworks my dad bought for the 4th of July one year, and what order I thought he should set them off in (not sure he listened, but he was probably glad the writing kept me busy while he barbecued).
  • Lists of my favorite Beatles songs (divided by lead singer).
  • Transcriptions of favorite TV shows and film scenes. These came only when we finally got a VCR and I could pause and rewind what I missed—I wasn’t typing; I was hand writing every word.
  • Fan mail (I kept copies of what I sent, so I could match up replies and see if the celebrities actually read them before responding).

… and the “list” goes on. As you can see from above, it wasn’t all narrative work. Much of what I was doing was putting things in their place. Sorting something mundane or hypothetical, just so I could keep it organized. I’ve always been creative, but I also came out of the womb very “Type A.” I’m a planner. I like to bring order to chaos. I like to fold laundry and organize my closet by color; I get perverse joy from making agendas and researching trips and watching everything fall into place.

So, as often as I wrote stories or essays about my experiences—especially when I was younger—I also made lists. I don’t remember ever doing anything with these lists, other than feeling an immense satisfaction at their completion. And from the dust that’s gathered on them, once I finished them, I must have just tucked them away, or wrote another list a few pages later in the same notebook.

On a cleaning spree when I last moved in 2013, I remember ripping out pages of notebooks that were gibberish or outdated so I could utilize any remaining blank pages. Start fresh.

One of those notebooks I shoved in my hall closet only to be discovered again today. What was inside? The photo you see above. The first week of MTV, catalogued by hand, complete with time stamps.

I have no idea what compelled me to do this nor do I have much practical use for it (I’m sure the VHS that must have contained these gems is long gone by now), but it was a kick to see after all these years.

It’s interesting to look back on my younger self and wonder what she was thinking.

Catch up in 10

U2 in concert

Opening night of The Joshua Tree Tour 2017. Photo by Chris Enns.

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in, so here’s an update for all who may read this …

Here are 10 updates about my life:

  1. I started a new job in March (yep, still in Tech Marketing).
  2. The U2 tour (see above) started in May!
  3. I wrote this about the best song on that tour.
  4. I wrote this about perhaps what was the most anticipated song on that tour.
  5. The 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival started in May!
  6. Yes, I still cover it. Just on my own blog instead of Cinebanter.
  7. This site got a makeover a few months back, thanks to Lemon Productions.
  8. Twin Peaks is back, and this is a great post that mirrors my thoughts on it.
  9. I joined Orange Theory in April, and have lost 10 lbs. (so far).
  10. I discovered Positive News via Twitter, and I check it every day.

I promise, I’ll check in more often.

When I was a budding journalist…

When I was young I wanted to be many things when I grew up: ice skater, rock star, ballet dancer, wife of Michael J. Fox, etc. but when I got to be a teenager, I really had a feeling I’d end up a writer. Writing always came easy to me, and it was something I couldn’t physically stop doing, no matter what the situation.

Of course, when I was young, we still had those things called newspapers, so I naturally wanted to be a reporter. I found chasing stories and asking people hard questions to be an exciting job.

I would take my fashionable Minolta Disc camera (it was green, silver and awesome) to take important photos of whatever I was supposed to be covering. But of course, I had to wait for the roll of film to be finished, so it always seemed like a lifetime before we got the actual photos back.

This is what a roll of film looked like post-developing:

What disc film used to look like post-development

Thankfully, when I became the editor of the paper in high school (it was called The Verdict, because our school was named for a Supreme Court Justice), I had photographers with real SLR cameras to accompany me on my assignments, and they always took better photos like the one below this paragraph. This was the day we got to ditch class (with the journalism advisor’s permission) and head to downtown Portland to catch a glimpse of Madonna filming Body of Evidence with Willem Dafoe. We didn’t meet her or speak with her, but I wrote a review of the film and Jason snapped this great picture. I wonder whatever happened to Jason.

Madonna in Portland

Also important in a young journalist’s life were the obligatory Steno pads. In the days pre-digital-recorder, and pre-laptop, we had to resort to good, old-fashioned paper and pens, and because I’m painfully nostalgic, I kept my favorite two Steno notebooks: the one I had while working at The Oregonian and the other one I received at journalism camp my junior year.

I wasn’t too concerned with privacy back then, putting my home address on the cover.

What was a high school student doing at The Oregonian? Working hard, that’s what! No, really, I was living out a geeky dream. I had been chosen to write for a city-wide student newspaper called Youth Today and our advisor was Judson Randall, a senior editor at the paper back then. We met and worked in the actual Oregonian newsroom, and the summer after I began there, I was chosen to attend a journalism workshop in Washington DC, which led to me meet some lifelong friends and contribute to another student newspaper called Young DC.

Apart from the actual fun of reporting news and crafting stories, those experiences marked my first real moments of independence as a young adult: I took a bus (or drove myself) downtown to work at the newspaper, signed myself in with a security badge and taught myself how to use the prehistoric (but at the time very cool) computer terminals. I would walk down to Powell’s Books and research stories for hours; I took my first solo plane ride to Washington DC at age 16 and have been a frequent flier ever since.

One of my favorite articles back in the old days was a piece I did for the traveling exhibit that featured Anne Frank’s actual diary on display. That had been my favorite book since I first read it in 6th grade and I was obsessed with Anne for many years, identifying with her in many ways (though I wasn’t Jewish). When the show came to town I literally got goosebumps just reading a flyer for it, so I knew that assignment had to be mine. I contacted the American Friends of the Anne Frank Center (they were sponsoring it), and they gave me a guided personal tour so I could enjoy the full scope of the presentation. I was moved to tears and promptly went home to write the article you see below. It made the front page.

Check out that byline!

Less than a year later, I had applied and been accepted to the famous University of Missouri-Columbia journalism school. I worked briefly a real newspaper before deciding that I couldn’t earn a good enough living doing that and became an advertising writer instead. Hence, my career today.

The money is certainly better, but marketing will never take the place of a well-worn Steno Pad.

When I Was Punk Rock

Me, proud of my new look.

Being the baby of the family, I was often talked into things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but later proved to be ridiculous.

One example is the Sunday that my sister spent dressing me up as a “punk rocker” when I was four years old. No, it wasn’t Halloween. No, there was no costume contest to attend or pageant for tiny fake whores, just a barrel of laughs at the expense of the littlest Kokkoris, who was more than game to get gussied up in the fashion of some of her favorite rock stars.

Even at age 4, I knew how to work it.

In fact, I distinctly remember liking the getup so much that I begged to dress that way on a permanent basis. Thankfully, my mom vetoed that wish and the next day I went back to being Sweet Little Tassoula.

Me, back to normal with a face free of makeup.

Maybe that’s why I turned out to be such a groupie?

Part of the Club

Originally posted: March 14, 2010

That’s me in the front row, with the hair I wasn’t allowed to cut.

When we’re young, there are always clubs that we want to join. The big one for me was the high school dance team, the Marshall M-Ettes. I had taken dance classes all of my life and was sure I’d make the team at my first audition freshman year.

And I did. But I made 2nd string, which at the time was like being benched on the basketball court (and hurt me deeply).

I didn’t make first string for two reasons: 1) I could do the splits on both sides (right, yes — with practice; left, not so much) and 2) I had absolutely no self-confidence when it came to flaunting my body in front of large groups of people.

I was always an excellent public speaker, and loved being in front of an audience, but dance was different — I was raised in a home that dictated I should not make myself attractive to boys, and much of dance team dancing at my inner-city school was very sexual and flirtatious.

So I had trouble leaving what I’d been trained to act like at the steps of my house and bringing it to the audiences of Marshall High School. It didn’t help that we had a horrible bitch of a coach who did her best to humiliate me every chance she got, or that my dearest friends were co-captains and 1st string dancers, but somehow I got through it.

At the heart of it all, I loved to dance. I would practice with the team every day for two or three hours, then go home and practice some more. I practiced my way to 1st string (finally, in my junior year) and lettered in the sport (a big deal to me when I was 16), then went on to become a captain my final year.

Some of the best and worst times of my high school years were spent with my fellow M-ettes — many who I’ve remained friends with and some who I’ve been lucky enough to reconnect with on Facebook.

And, wow! I was thin back then. A tiny 97 lbs.

Perhaps I should have never quit dancing.

I’m front and center here, performing a Madonna-themed medley.

Underage Marriage

Two more items of interest popped up as I was sorting through a pile of childhood papers tonight. My marriage certificates.

What?

These were apparently something we did at the Sadie Hawkins dances in what would’ve been my sophomore year of high school.

The funny thing? I have a memory like an elephant and I have absolutely no recollection of this whatsoever. I apparently married my friend Scott (not once, but twice), though we never dated in reality. Perhaps he lost a bet?

Now I also wonder what else I have forgotten from those events. Did I register for gifts? Wear a pretty dress? Had I known at the time it would be my only wedding, would I have done things differently?

Sheesh, time flies.

Child of the 80s

Folks older than me seem to assume that I identify more with the 90s because those were the years in which I graduated from high school and college, but really, I consider myself a child of the 80s. To me that decade was much more interesting and colorful — if given the choice to revisit either, I’d easily pick the 80s.

And what would the 80s have been without Cabbage Patch Kids? I remember yearning for one of these in a way no other toy had previously captured me. They were overpriced, ugly, impractical dolls that flew off shelves most likely due to their clever adoption gimmick. Whenever you purchased a doll, it came complete with its own name and adoption papers, and the company that manufactured the dolls would keep in touch with you if you properly completed your paperwork. In addition, to validate the authenticity of the dolls, you had to find the Xavier Roberts signature on its bum. It was all very important and official.

But these dolls were hard to come by. Not only were they easily out of the price range of most middle class families, they sold so quickly, the company couldn’t keep up with the orders.

I had all but given up on getting one when my 9th birthday rolled around. I carefully examined all of the wrapped gifts and saw that none of them bore the famous shape of the Cabbage Patch box, and I didn’t want to make my parents feel bad by showing my disappointment, so I acted especially excited about a lavender terrycloth robe that my mom presented me with, and rejoiced when I saw the solar powered calculator that was supposed to help me improve my math skills. At least there was cake, I figured.

Then my mom and my sister disappeared into my parents room and returned triumphantly carrying my new Preemie™ and my mom told our guests the story of being afraid to walk it home from Fred Meyer for fear she’d get robbed.

Marlena and me, right after she was “delivered” on November 25, 1984

My baby’s given name was Marleen Berty, which I thought sounded terrible with “Kokkoris” so I promptly re-named her Marlena Charisse. Marlena after my favorite character on Days of Our Lives, and Charisse after one of my close friends at the time.

In this photo you can see Marlena with her adoption papers and her first birthday card. She still sports the outfit she came in.

In the 80s I also begged for another toy I never got: Atari, the revolutionary home video game system that pretty much all of my friends had. Instead of giving in to that desire, my parents and grandmother supplied me with a steady stream of quarters, which I rapidly fed to the arcade across the street at the Eastport Plaza mall. My games of choice: Tempest, Centipede and of course, Pac Man (or more specifically, Ms. Pac Man). Below you’ll see a sticker from one of my stationery collections featuring the character.

Above the sticker is my book about Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton. Mary Lou was what kept me glued to the ’84 Olympics and also what made me take gymnastics for the next four years. I had a bodysuit and training suit identical to hers and practiced my winning smile (another thing she was famous for) in my bedroom vanity mirror on a daily basis. I still watch and enjoy the Olympics, but I don’t remember ever liking another athlete as much as I liked her.

Abbey Road

Perhaps the most mainstream fan-girl thing I’ve ever done is to visit the legendary road where The Beatles shot the cover for their famous album of the same title.

The first time I saw it was in May of 1998. I was a recent college grad and went on a literary tour of England, Ireland and Wales with a bunch of classmates and my two favorite English professors. On one of our last days in London, my roommate (Trinn) and I journeyed out for a Beatles walking tour led by the “Biggest Beatle Brain in Britain” and had a wonderful time. The last stop on the tour was Abbey Road. Walking up the steps to the studio was like entering a sacred church. I was shaking in disbelief that I was on the land that sparked such amazing masterpieces. It didn’t disappoint.

Left: My first walk across the famous road. Right: Me with the sign.

The second time was July of 2005. I was reporting live from Live 8 in London for @U2. Paul McCartney and U2 had opened the show with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, which thrilled my sister and me to no end. We had the time of our lives in Hyde Park with all the music and fanfare, then later at Harrod’s and other city hot spots. The next day with no “work” to do, we ventured on to a Beatles walk similar to the one Trinn and I went on in 1998. It was a wonderful year only made better by this trip and I’m glad I could share this great place with the person who made me a Beatles fan as a young child (my big sis).

Me in 2005, from a slightly different angle (and much better fashion sense).

In September 2016, my Mother and I ventured to San Francisco to celebrate her 76th birthday. While there we wandered into an art gallery that featured several band images. After the docent saw me gravitate toward the Beatles section, she asked if I was a fan. I replied I was a super-fan who had visited Abbey Road twice. She then led my Mother and I upstairs, out of the area the public was allowed, and showed us the original prints taken on the day of the shoot. There were only a handful, and every take was represented. I was speechless. It was part of a special series that would be shown at a later time, after we’d left the city. I was so grateful for that special sneak preview.

Fan Girl

My parents recently moved into a new (smaller) home, so I was required to pay them a visit and pick up many of my childhood archives that were cluttering their space. As someone who loves scrapbooking and cataloging everything I do, I’m taking special pleasure in uncovering my younger self as I dive into boxes and boxes of memories.

When I find common threads in my life then and now, I’ll be posting relevant notes and photos. I hope those of you who knew me then will smile, and those of you who know me now will enjoy meeting Little Tassoula.

The first grouping I realized was my obsession with celebrity (which, let’s face it, hasn’t exactly faded). I’ve been writing fan letters as long as I can remember — these three are from 1988. The first is what I received back from then-crush Vonni (now Giovonni) Ribisi, who played Corey on the sitcom “My Two Dads.” After gushing about how I hoped the main character would pick him (over Chad Allen) to be her boyfriend, he (or his fan club president, I suppose) replied with this standard black & white glossy (autograph on the back).

21 years later, I the Groupie, would stand next to he, the movie star, at a U2 concert. And no, I didn’t mention the fan letter to him.

The next letter I received was a personal response from Jim Davis, the writer/creator of Garfield. I remember sending him a long-winded tome about how I hated cats, but for some reason loved Garfield and he should be very proud of this grand achievement (making a cat-hater a fan of his cat-based cartoon). He apparently got a kick out of it and was nice enough to send me an autographed print AND this hand-signed letter. I always thought when I became famous, I would be as sincere and personal when writing back to fans.

The third response here shows that my political activism started very young. Watching the news rabidly every night with my parents, I became an admirer of the first female Filipino President Corazon Aquino. When we had an assignment in Miss Prentice’s English class that required us to write to an important figure, I didn’t limit myself to the American variety and wrote directly to the Philippines. My Mom shook her head, sure that I’d be disappointed when I didn’t receive a response, but she was mistaken. Not only did I receive a letter from her Correspondence Secretary, I got an official photograph of my hero.

Not bad for a middle-school kid, eh?

So—how did I do with the U2 setlist?

Earlier in the week, I posted my setlist prediction for U2’s performance at Dreamforce. As with any opinion piece, I had some mail about “how so wrong” I was and how some of my choices were “beyond long shots.”

I’m pleased to report, that although I wasn’t completely right, I was mostly right. See above for the side-by-side comparison of what I thought they would play and what they actually played, in the order they played them.

The set was also shorter than I had projected (by three songs), but that’s okay. Their performance blew me away and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. Especially their epic Trump rant and “40” at the end.

Simply brilliant.

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