On the 21st, I wrote in my diary that “the thought of that psycho [Phil] often repulses me.”  A couple of days later, I wrote about still desiring him, and wanting God to take that away.

So I didn’t know what I wanted, was still vacillating between hating him and wanting him back.  Over Christmas Break, I wrote down all sorts of dreams about him, bizarre situations as my dreams usually are, where sometimes he was good and sometimes he was evil.

Christmas Break began.  As always, I spent a lot of time on the computer late at night after my parents had gone to bed.  I played games, and went on America Online (AOL) and local BBS’s.  (BBS’s, or Bulletin Board Systems, were the online playground of choice before the Internet, which, sadly, has caused their demise.)

I always found this time therapeutic, especially after a breakup.  Books, music and the computer–those were my counselors, and they did an excellent job.

They were better than the TV, which I often couldn’t watch at home anyway, since I didn’t have my TV and didn’t want to wake up my parents by watching the one in the living room.  When I could watch TV, I often had fun finding faraway channels on the antenna.

I believe part of my Christmas Break was also spent finishing up my typed copy of Jerisland for Counselor Dude.

I also had two outings: one with Becky and the other with The Vampire.  Vampire, you say?  You shall see.  This is quite a story, and not a bit of it is made up.  (Of course, nothing else in here is made up, either.)

On Thursday, December 22, my high school friend Becky and I went to see Addams Family Values in the Scottsdale Cinema, which was in the Scottsdale Mall.  It was at 2:30pm, and only $3.75, which was half-price.

It quickly became one of my favorite movies.  The part with the summer camp and the screwed-up play was surreal, unexpected and wonderful.  When the kids dressed up as ninjas, I whispered to Becky, “They look like Peter!”

We stopped at Becky’s grandmother’s house, which had a huge Christmas tree in the living room.  We watched Rudy and Plymouth Adventure, the one with Spencer Tracy.  I’ve told you in the September 1993 chapter that one of my high school classmates was the stand-in for Sean Astin in Rudy.

I saw Plymouth my junior year of high school, and kept watching for it around Thanksgiving each year, but after that none of the stations played Thanksgiving movies anymore.  Nowadays, it’s all Christmas stuff.  I’d always liked Thanksgiving pilgrim movies better than Christmas movies and looked forward to Thanksgiving.

Anyway, young people were in and out all night–cousins, friends, etc.  One guy came over during Rudy, stood there in his Notre Dame jacket, and said, “Good movie!”

Rudy, since it was a Notre Dame movie, was extremely popular in South Bend when it came out.  My dad even remembered the game in which the fans chanted “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy,” though he didn’t know then why they were chanting.

That night, Becky showed me AOL, as she flirted with some guy in a chat room.  After I went back home, I discovered that my dad had it on the computer.  So I logged in and became EstrellaRC, taking the handle from my letters to Mike.  That’s Estrella, Roanoke College, because there were other Estrellas before me.

People thought I was Spanish.  It was better than using Dad’s handle, which I used until I discovered I could put in my own screen name.  People kept asking why I had a masculine handle if I was female.  (My later screen names: Nyssa15273, and, even later, Nyssa and maybe Romana.)

I liked going into chat rooms, like Becky did, and joking around.  I liked the Star Trek one, “Starfleet Academy,” in which people talked about anything sci-fi, sometimes vampires, and usually spam.

We’d make jokes by adding “spam” to any word or phrase.  Then people would get mad about all the spam jokes.  It was fun.  Any chat room you went in on AOL, there was a good chance someone was going to start making spam jokes.

I didn’t know back then why spam was such a popular joke, that “spam” now meant junk e-mail.

Ever since 1985 or 1986, I had played on BBS’s.  First there was The Owl’s Nest, which was run by a friend of Dad’s who worked at Radio Shack.  We could play or download games for our Tandy (Radio Shack) computer, the CoCo2.

There were text-based games such as Hamurabi, in which you tried to run an ancient city, text- and graphics-based games such as The Sands of Egypt, and simple, graphics-based games.

I guess Dad and I were elites, since we were allowed into the section with pirated games.  Only text-based games could be played on the BBS.

In those days, a 300 baud modem was normal, but computers did so little in those days that you didn’t notice how slow they were.  When we got a new 1200 baud modem, that was lightning-fast.

When you logged into The Owl’s Nest, a figure something like this– ^/ –would fly down the screen, like an owl.

You could post messages in the forums, which were divided into different topics the same as now, get into the occasional flame war same as now, send e-mail to others who used the same BBS, and occasionally even chat with the sysop (system operator).

This was not the Internet, but a phone-based system, so you could only send e-mail to people who used the same BBS.  This also meant that people rarely used a BBS outside of their own phone area, because of long-distance charges, so you could easily meet fellow BBS users.

Until some BBS sysops started adding extra lines, only one person could use the BBS at a time.  For that reason, time on the BBS was limited per session or day, and if you left the system idle for too long, the BBS logged you off.  Most BBS’s were free, though in the 90s, some began charging if they had many phone lines.

Around 1986, when all BBS’s were still one-line only, I typed up a story based on BBS chats.  I used a word processor program which also was used for logging in, so the format looked just like a real BBS chat, rather than a narrative.

There were three characters, all logged in at once and chatting with each other, all teenagers, two girls and one boy (so there was also flirtation, maybe a love triangle).

This story was science fiction at the time; I imagined what it would be like if BBS’s began using party lines.  But soon it became science fact.

My handle on The Owl’s Nest was The Swatch.  I started out with the handle Princess Leia, since I’d just seen Star Wars for the first time on my brother’s laserdisc player, and was obsessed with it.  But that handle seemed cheesy, so I began wondering what other one to use.

I watched a game show on Nickelodeon one day, and one of the teams called themselves the Swatches.  (Swatches, a brand of Swiss watch, came in all sorts of designs and were popular with kids my age at the time.  I didn’t have one, though.)

When I logged into The Owl’s Nest and the owl flew down the screen, the screen read, “Hey, The!  How are you doing today?” (since it used first names).

Just as when I used my dad’s handle on AOL, people on the Owl’s Nest often thought I was a guy.  Once, I wrote, “I know the meaning of life!” (basing it on my religious beliefs).  Some guy wrote, “Yeah, and I bet you understand women, too.”  That’s when my gender was revealed.

All through high school I had played on The Owl’s Nest, The Pan-Optic Net, and various other BBS’s.

The Pan-Optic Net was based on Doctor Who.  The sysop (system operator) was called Rassilon, many people had Doctor Who handles, and a few sci-fi sub-forums were specifically for Doctor Who.

When you moved through the different menus and screens, you’d find Doctor Who-based language and themes.  This, of course, was my favorite BBS (or “board”), since I was a Doctor Who freak.

I kept changing my handle; once, I was Romanadvoratrelundar (the full name of the Doctor’s Time Lord assistant).  Some guy wrote to me in a forum that I shouldn’t be surprised if nobody writes to me, with a name like that.

I finally settled on Nyssa Of Traken, the name of my favorite Doctor Who assistant.

One site says the Pan-Optic Net started in 1990, but I don’t know if that’s correct.  Over the years, it got more sophisticated.  Fast baud rate was now about 14.4K.  And now, a few people could be online at the same time, talking in the chat room or sending each other private messages.

Because of college I hadn’t logged onto The Pan-Optic Net for years, but my handle and password were still effective.  We now could use taglines, which would show up at certain times, probably whenever someone checked to see who else was on the BBS.

Mine was worded similar to this: “Traken–where everyone is terribly nice to each other!”  (Yes, that was a significant characteristic of Nyssa’s home planet.)  At one point I playfully added “aack” or “ugh” or “shudder” or “puke” or some other such word.

One evening around Christmas, using my dad’s account, I carried on a flirtation in Starfleet Academy with some guy called VVlad, who was in Southern California.  I gave him my school address because I didn’t know much about Internet safety in those days.

He took on the role of Vlad the Impaler/Dracula, and was carrying on a spear battle in the chat room when he discovered this person with the masculine handle was female.  And legal, as one of the other guys so gallantly pointed out.

In the wee hours of the 27th, I was on Pan-Optic Net when a sub-op (suboperator), handle The Vampire, wanted to chat with me.

He ended up having the first “intellectually stimulating conversation” he’d had in a long time, with someone who didn’t care just about computer viruses and which hacker he could hook them up with.

He’d written a virus himself, you see, and he, at 24, was one of the top 10 hackers in the area.  (Yes, he used the word “hacker,” not “cracker,” though technically “cracker” is correct.)

But that wasn’t the weird thing: He also called himself a psychic vampire.  I’d never heard of such a thing.  They don’t go for blood, but for energy, he said.  He could leave people feeling very tired or with a bad headache.

Even though he was Methodist, he practiced white magic, and some other weird stuff, which I didn’t like.  But he really liked me, and made me promise to call up the board again soon and leave him my address at school.  He said if he was a stalker, Wisconsin would be a long way to drive.

Life began to take on more interest again.  I couldn’t just write him off as a friend because he practiced magic, but I did wish he wouldn’t.

Part 2

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: