Life on TCB–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–February 1995, Part 1

Counselor Dude said when he gave me a grade in February that my working on the novel Jerisland since 1988 or 1989 showed persistence.  He said I had a good grasp of the mechanics of writing, and could become an editor if I wanted to.

****

Sometime early fall semester, Sharon saw two freshman guys put up a poster advertising the new Roanoke College BBS.  We were surprised, and checked it out.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones on campus getting connected to the wonderful world of the Internet and BBS‘s.

It wasn’t much, mostly a message board saying what classes were canceled and such, but it was still nice to have one.  It was a voice line, however, hooked up to the freshmen’s dorm room phone, so we could only call up at certain times of the day.

Every other college already seemed to have Internet access for students.  Roanoke didn’t have it until the next school year.  I’d watch the students on Beverly Hills: 90210 use the Internet on a school computer, and feel jealous.  We heard the access was supposed to be available senior year, but had to be pushed off until the next year–after I graduated.

Pearl had friends with e-mail addresses through school accounts, and now she could finally send them e-mail through our AOL accounts.  We got one account for all four of us with separate screen names.

But our favorite was The Crystal Barrier, or TCB, as I described here, because of all the fun we had with people who lived nearby:

The action words in Teleconference, or tele, were a lot of fun.  For example, if I typed, “slap stimpy,” Stimpy saw, “Nyssa Of Traken is slapping you!” but I saw, “…Wap!…Wap!…Wap!”

You could also do them to other people privately, like this: “kiss stimpy secretly.”  I saw, “Pucker up!” and Stimpy saw, “Nyssa Of Traken is kissing you on the cheek.”

More action words: “pave,” which said, “Crystal Dragon is driving a steamroller over everything, chanting, ‘The earth must be paved'”; “pkiss,” or “Nyssa Of Traken is kissing you passionately!”; “look,” or “Stimpy is looking at you,” which the user saw as, “Like what you see?” or “See something you like?”

“Look” was good for giving a funny look to someone who was acting very strange.  You could also just type “look” without directing it at anyone, and that showed up as, “Nyssa Of Traken is looking around the room.”

To direct an action at someone, all you needed were the first three letters of that person’s handle, or more if someone else online had the same first three letters.  You didn’t need to capitalize.

Sharon and I often spoke to each other and others offline as if we were in tele and using action words.  For example, I’d say to Sharon, “Nyssa is slapping you,” and we would laugh.

South Bend and S– BBS’s had different commands.  South Bend used dot commands.

Unlike with the South Bend area dot commands, which dealt with other functions on the BBS’s, on TCB you could use dot commands to send an action to someone who was logged into the BBS, but not in Teleconference or Farwest Trivia with you.  Example: “.kiss krafter.”

To look at someone’s registry, or a list of answers to personal questions, you typed “/r Krafter,” or went into the registry menu.  This registry asked for computer phone number, the name of your own BBS if you had one, your favorite food and movie and music and TV show, your least favorite show and music and movie, physical description, eye color, hair color, a short summary, etc.

You could answer each question however you wished: Some people typed “n/a,” or not applicable, to every question.  Speaker typed “.” after every question.  Some people gave answers that revealed them to be scary people, such as one guy who I believe called himself Nightstalker.

I either ignored the phone number questions or made up fake BBS names or spelled out fake numbers (“1800FUNWITHZARA,” for example).  My summary was often, “I long for the days when men were men, alternative was alternative, and mice were little furballs that squeak.”

Krafter liked this one.  I knew it was an adaptation of something I’d heard once (and I don’t mean the standard, “When men were men and women were women”), but I didn’t remember where.  Some time later, I discovered it came from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  My variation was my own, but the Hitchhiker’s version went:

In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were REAL men, women were REAL women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were REAL small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. —http://www.davekimble.org.au/humour/hitchhiker.quote.htm

We could also type taglines, which showed up next to a user’s handle whenever someone typed “/#” to call up a list of who was online at the time.  There was a default tagline, I forget exactly what; I generally had various taglines, depending on what I felt like putting there.

When someone was still logging in, the screen showed “login” in place of the handle, and “I couldn’t stay away!” as the tagline.  These were similar to the taglines on Pan-Optic Net.

I was Nyssa Of Traken, Sharon was Ziggy, and Pearl was Pearl.  My name, of course, came from my favorite handle from Indiana BBS’s, as I explain here.  Sharon loved Ziggy, and Pearl’s handle came from her nickname, so none of these names was a surprise.

Even Astrid went on TCB a few times, and called herself Tigger, fitting with her nickname, Boing Boing.

There, as in Internet chat rooms, normal punctuation and spelling rules went out the window.  In forums, people wrote normally (except for the occasional “4” for “for,” “u” for “you,” “c” for “see,” and other abbreviations).

But when chatting or playing in tele, you saw lots of ellipses and emoticons, and a lack of capitalization or punctuation.  Even I, whom Stubby once called the TCB spelling cop (I got better), was guilty of this.  It’s just quicker to write if you don’t have to worry about what your English teacher would think.

Sharon loved going online and being bombarded with “so and so is hugging you” from people all over the system.  I would go online, get such greetings, and type “.kiss Krafter” (which kissed him on the cheek) to greet him each time I saw him online.  Pearl was also popular.

The people online were so sociable and Sharon was so popular, in fact, that sometimes she went online and hoped no one would notice her so she wouldn’t have to answer their pages or return their hugs.  She tried to sneak on, check her e-mail and get back off again.

The problem, however, was that the system announced to everyone whenever someone came online, along with an entrance message, if one was set.  So it was hard to sneak on without being noticed, unless you figured out how to work the “invisible” function.

In my teens, the “cool” kids had never even heard of BBS’s.  (No, I was not one of the cool kids.)  Now, even the “cool” people joined the “geeks” online.

Other people liked to sign their names in various ways–all capitals, shortened handles, funny symbols–so I decided to use my own signature.  This is what I came up with:

}] Nyssa of Traken [{

For a short time, I changed my online summary nearly every day so that a different line of the first twelve lines to the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales–in Middle English–showed up.

When one of us was online, the other two often sat around the computer and watched.  Most often, we went into tele or Farwest Trivia (a multi-player trivia game).  There, the watchers would tell the one typing, “Page so-and-so and say this,” “Say this,” “Tell him Pearl says such-and-such,” etc.

When one of us was online, all three of us were generally online, even though only one of our screen names was logged in.  It was quite a party every night by the computer.

Oftentimes, people, such as Krafter or Speaker, sat in the menuing system (main menu), and just waited there for pages while doing something else.  Just like nowadays we do with, say, IRC, Facebook, or other instant messaging systems.

For me, the computer gave stiff competition to the TV.  Even though I wanted to see a new show named Sliders, Star Trek: DS9, and this new Star Trek show called Voyager, it was hard to pay attention because I was usually online while they were on.

I loved Sliders anyway, as did Charles, and we loved the various things that were different in each dimension the four sliders slid into.  One of my favorites had a dimension in which America had never broken from England.

(When Sci-Fi Channel picked up the show three seasons later, they ruined it, turning it into some action thing where favorite characters got killed off.)

As for the Star Trek shows, I couldn’t get into them.  After that year, I didn’t even try keeping up with them.  My love affair with the continuing Star Trek series had ended: There were just too many of them now.

For a short time, a guy called Atlantis sent me messages on TCB.  He played a game with me, a guessing game, with hints on who he was.  Then he disappeared before I could find out, upsetting me.

I heard somewhere that he was kicked off, maybe for a misunderstanding, but I don’t know if this was true.  Then Mike’s friend Brent finally admitted to being Atlantis.

Sometime during this period, Pearl’s sister came to visit and stay in the apartment for a day or two.  She saw my tapes and CD’s and went wild, because I had a lot of alternative, and the kids were really starting to get into alternative in those days.

She also went on TCB a few times as Squisha.  This name came from an inside joke between her and Pearl, a name one of them gave to a squirrel squished on the highway, Squisha Squirrel.  She had a lot of fun, and the other TCB users loved playing with her in Teleconference.

One day, I checked a user directory for one of the BBS’s.  The new user setup, or a series of questions each user needed to answer–what kind of computer and graphics you had, what password you wanted, your real name, address and phone number–included, of course, the question, “What handle would you like to use?”  The user directory listed all the users of the BBS by handle.  One person showed up as:

What do you mean “HANDLE

(No, no closing quote or question mark for “handle”; there wasn’t room; the handle could only be so long.)

Many teenagers hung out on TCB, and most of these seemed to love talking to Sharon, Pearl and me.  We felt popular.  Sharon said, “I think they think we’re cool because we’re three women living together.”

Though TCB wasn’t free, it wasn’t expensive, either: $5 a month got you five hours a day.

****

Sharon’s Sharon-isms included various expressions of disgust or dismay: “eww,” “ergh,” possibly “erckle” and “icky.”  We both used these online as well.  Another popular term among us roommies was, “Owie!  Owie!”  Sharon also sometimes said “cry” during a fake argument.

During second semester, it became common for my roommates to steal my seat whenever I got up from the couch.  I often ended up sitting in the armchair instead.

It was comfy, of course, so this wasn’t a problem, though sometimes I’d be in the chair while my roommies acted weird on the couch, joking and making weird noises and such.  I felt a bit left out.  But at least I had fun playing the straight woman.

Just as she did last semester, my old roommie Clarissa often came over to walk to dinner with me.  This, of course, was on nights when I didn’t end up eating mac and cheese or Spaghetti-os in front of the computer, while playing on TCB.  Now that we had our own kitchen and food, I could do this.

Tara and Pearl, having just seen Bugs Bunny’s A Hare Grows in Manhattan, began saying, “It’s a GY-raffe!  a GY-raffe!” instead, of course, of the usual “giraffe.”

My friends now watched Sesame Street every once in a while.  They thought there was nothing weird about this, that they had every right to if they wanted to no matter what their age, and that the show was cute.

Pearl’s sister liked Elmo.  (This was before the “Tickle-Me-Elmo” craze, which was in the fall of 1996.)

We noted that the same little African-American boy with an afro (probably John-John) had been on Sesame Street since we watched in the 70s, yet he was still there.

The show kept playing the same old clips even in the newer shows.  It was good, though, that the little kids wouldn’t miss out on some of the things we saw as kids, but wouldn’t they wonder why the kid’s hair looked so weird?

I never wondered about it as a kid, but that was in the 70s, and lots of people had hair like that.  (Of course, if Sesame Street still plays those clips of the afro boy, today’s kids probably think he looks normal.  Fashion is weird like that.)

Index 
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:

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Obsessed With Old Shows From Childhood–The Hunt Continues

I have always been obsessed with retaining as many memories as possible throughout the years.  I still remember things that happened when I was only a year old.

I keep diaries, journals, letters and e-mails to try to hold onto those things, not forget them, from a childhood desire to do one better than Laura Ingalls Wilder, and remember/write down everything that ever happened to me.

Maybe it’s a fear that if I lose these things, I lose myself.  Maybe it’s just in case I ever get stricken with amnesia.  Maybe it’s to help with story and memoir writing.  Maybe it’s so that if there is no afterlife, I will still live on in that form, my experiences and dreams and imaginings not lost to time.

In any case, part of that is remembering old shows and movies.  Some of them have been easy to identify and track down, such as The Red Hand Gang and Time Bandits, which I overheard my dad watching one night after I was supposed to be in bed, but it sounded dang interesting.  Or the Thief in the Night series, which I saw in Sunday School the summer of 1991.

But many have been much harder to identify, since even others who watched them with me, can’t remember them.

Ever since I was five years old (when it aired), I’ve been haunted by memories of a show my brother watched, with a girl in a frilly dress being thrown to a spider-like creature in a wood full of mist, thrown by a man suited in such a way that I thought he was a vampire.  I then went to take my bath, and in the suds I acted out the scene with my hands: one hand as the spider, the other as the girl.

It haunted me so much that I put a version of that scene into my book The Lighthouse, and into a piece of unpublished Labyrinth fanfiction.

There was also a witch running a hotel, a Frankenstein, and a vampire, along with others.  But when I asked years later, my brother could not remember what it was, even though I could swear he had a poster of the vampire on his bedroom wall for years.  (What did that poster say?  Come stay at the Horror Hotel?)

In the 90s, I thought it was Dark Shadows, until I actually watched DS all the way through on Sci-Fi Channel in 1995-1997 and discovered that it was not it.

For years, I have searched, and finally, I have found it:
The Krofft Superstar Hour with the Bay City Rollers

The girl was named Barbie and wore an old-fashioned dress.  The guy who threw the girl to the spider, was Dr. Deathray.

It was actually two shows, “Horror Hotel” and “Lost Island,” segments of The Krofft Superstar Hour.

It just figures that the insane world of Sid and Marty Krofft, who also made many of my other childhood favorites (which I do happen to remember, because I still have a Krofft show comic book), originated these two shows that have haunted me all these years.

Unfortunately, I keep searching the Net, but any videos which have been posted of Lost Island, keep getting pulled for copyright violations before I get to see them.  And there are no episode guides such as I found for all the other Krofft shows some 10 years ago.  So I still haven’t seen that spider creature again.  ARGH!

One episode, but not the “spider” one.

The Internet has made tracking down these shows still puzzling, but much easier.  In the olden days (ie, pre-Internet), you had to wait until the show/movie came back on TV to find out what it was.

Such as, the 1978 movie with the turtle which has haunted many Gen-Xers: The Bermuda Depths.  My brother (same one) watched it twice, and its disturbing images of a satanic nymph (Jenny) with green eyes and a monstrous turtle stayed with me.  But when I asked my dad what it was, he thought I dreamed it.

Then in 1991, I saw it again, while at college–and that it wasn’t near as good and scary as my memories.  Jenny didn’t seem quite as evil, and what happened to the cave scene?

I remembered watching the 70s version of the Mickey Mouse Club, and some of the segments (such as one of the girls in a dream sequence that she was Alice In Wonderland), but I did not make the connection to a cartoon of a Betty Boop-like character being captured by Martians.  For all these years, I thought it was a Betty Boop cartoon, but could find no trace of it.

I don’t remember how exactly I found it, but a year or so ago, I finally tracked it down on Youtube: “A Comic Look at Mars,” a cartoon segment of the MMC first aired when I was three and a half years old.  It was so wonderful to see it again and feel that burst of recognition.  Oh, yeah, I forgot about that scene, but I remember it now!

It’s no longer available on Youtube, unfortunately, but at least I’ve watched it twice and shown it to my son so he can remember it.  But one part of the cartoon has a secretary turn into a character who dresses much like Boop, and fight the Martians who have captured her.

The scene with the Martians turning into bugs, gives an eerie chill of recognition as I wonder if that inspired a nightmare, my parents and me in the kitchen, trying to get on a platform to escape an infestation of bugs, but my dad falls off and the bugs kill him.

Then there was a version of Cinderella where she has short brown hair and they sing, but the fairy godmother is actually an eccentric kleptomaniac, which I saw as a small child.  I finally found that one a few years ago: The Glass Slipper.

Then there was a movie shown on TV around the same time; about 35 minutes into it, the ship’s crew kills a plesiosaur, which they then eat.  I thought the captain saved some of its cells in a bottle.

My mom also served us all some grape jelly on crackers as we watched the movie in the family room, and we ate as this part came on.  I very easily connect food with gross things and then can’t eat it, which is one main reason why I don’t watch gross horror movies.  I connected the jelly with the plesiosaur’s supposed cells, got grossed out, and couldn’t eat jelly for a long time afterwards.

Turns out I also saw the end of this movie as a teenager, with my brother, noting at the end that the two characters who survived exchanged vows before God since there were no ministers and they were the only modern humans around.  I remembered this scene whenever I wrote stories about people on desert islands who wanted to marry, and a few years later, with my fiance/spiritual husband Phil.

But I must have missed the first 40 minutes, since I didn’t recognize the movie which put me off jelly for years.

Maybe a year ago, I finally saw it on TV and identified it: The Land That Time Forgot, 1975 version.  And those cells did not belong to the plesiosaur, but to the water they were sailing in.  If only I understood that when I was a little girl, maybe I wouldn’t have been put off my jelly and crackers.

There was a movie shown at my church when I was little, with a guy who gets killed, but in the last scene is in Heaven and says, “That was my first life.”  Finally, in July of 1992, they showed the movie again and I remembered what it was: Ordinary Guy.

Pity the acting was so terrible, typical of Christian movies of the time–and this got awarded Best Film of the Year 1981 by the Academy of Christian Cinemagraphic Arts.

But unfortunately, some movies and shows still elude me after all these years: My parents watched them on TV when I was small, so probably 70s/very early 80s.

In one, a girl, her mother and sisters dressed in the style of the 1600s; the girl goes to them and says she has discovered they can all go to Heaven.  But the mother says no, we’re going to Hell, and hands her a ticket to Hell.  They go into the gateway, maybe a tunnel, and give the guard their tickets.  In Hell things are not what they expected, as they get whipped.

What the heck was this trippy movie, and why can’t I find it?  Was it some old Christian movie shown on channel 46, our local Christian station?  Was it a Ron Ormond movie?  (I’ve scanned the videos for his movies, but they don’t appear to be it, even though the guard dressed much like the Commies in If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?)

In another movie, a comedy, some turn-of-the-century scientists/inventors take a rocket back in time (very steampunk-y).  They crash in the Neanderthal days, and one woman tries to eat one guy’s pocketwatch.

Another was a 1970s TV miniseries, with a married woman being stalked by a vampire who keeps biting her, but she doesn’t remember.  She only knows that if she’s bitten three times, she’ll become one herself.  I remember her seeing two bites in her car’s rearview mirror, and gasping.

You’ll note that it’s mostly the strange movies and shows which I want so badly to remember.

Please, Internet, don’t fail me.  Maybe by 2022 I’ll have them all identified.

And if anybody knows what these movies are, please post in the comments!

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
%d bloggers like this: