I Was a Teenage Stalker
What you're about to read is not for the faint of heart (nor short of attention span). This is the portrait of two sister's decent into madness. A mania born out of suburban ennui and frustration. It is difficult to convey the enormity of what really went on. So much happened and it was so long ago. Due to the herculean nature of this task, I've enlisted the help of a foreign correspondent (o.k., it's just my sis). As with any recounting, the story changes with the perspective of the narrator. In order to create a better understanding of how obsessions develop, I've broken this into two separate versions of the same story. Neither of us discussed beforehand what we'd write, in an effort to keep each of our individual memories untainted. Maybe you'll identify with what we're saying. Maybe you'll think I'm an even bigger nut than you did previously. Take it as you will.
Up until now, I've kept things pretty innocent and impersonal, focusing on celebrities and all. Frankly, I didn't want to scare you off. I've hinted at real life stalking escapades, and yes, I still do engage in this behavior, but in a greatly modified manner.
Lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking and fretting about getting older. It's strange, when I was teenage, people always thought I was older and I sure thought I was pretty damn mature. But all of a sudden people have started carding me for cigarettes, which would make me 17 or younger. This is disturbing. It makes me wonder if I've changed at all since my youth. While packing a bunch of stuff, I came upon the answer to my dilemma. I found these audio tapes made by my sister, Melissa, and myself when we were about 13 and 16, respectively. And no, there is no way humanly possible that I could even be like 1/10 as asinine as I was then. The tapes were appalling. It was us going over a list of the people we'd nicknamed downtown and discussing the first and last times we'd seen them. That doesn't sound so bad in itself, but believe me, we sounded idiotic. You know, "downtown" used to be a mythical place--somewhere you couldn't wait to get to, and made plans for all week or all day. To a suburban girl, the paradise of hanging out on park benches, nursing one cup of coffee for hours, and smoking cloves, was a mere 45 minute light-rail ride away (and eventually a 30 minute car jaunt).
What I've been working up to is the name of the game--stalking--in it's purest infantile stage. I never knew that what started out so casually and benignly would totally consume almost two years of my life. It set a pattern that I still follow and seriously made me the obsessor that I am today. It all went down the summer of '88 and I'm still feeling the repercussions.
In the beginning it was Melissa, our token gay friend, and myself, who were involved. On one of our frequent downtown trips we became enamored with a record store employee that we christened, "Adam" (no biblical first man connotation--we just thought the name fit). Eventually, through some smooth detective work, Melissa found out his real name, Dale Hammer. He was a babe, all right--long dyed black hair, skinny as a rail, sharp yet delicate features, and a keen fashion sense.
We decided on the most obvious and logical way to get his attention. You know, the ol' sending-anonymous-postcards-with-cute-one-liners-written-on-them routine. Originally, we trailed him to his apartment, then later got the exact number out of his building manager. Ask and ye shall receive. I really don't know what we were attempting to gain from this. Did we think that he'd fall madly in love...with all three of us?! This didn't end up getting us anywhere so we added a return address to one of the postcards in hopes of a response.
I think we were expecting a letter, but within a week we got a breathtaking phone call from an extremely inebriated soul claiming to be our Dale. What we were able to deduce was that Dale was actually in the background and the caller was some guy name Gary. Melissa and I took turns being verbally assaulted by this lunatic. It was really demented now that I think about it. The "real" Dale got on and wanted to know how old we thought he was. We guessed 23, he was 22 (God, that sounds so young to me now). In turn he wanted to know our ages. Melissa answered, "really young". He was wanting to know how young. We told him to guess. He says, "Well, I thought you were older. I don't know. 19?". Shit! We were 13 and 16 and didn't make any bones about it. I don't think they were as freaked out as they should've been because Gary was saying some pretty suggestive things and said that he was going to come pick me up in his Corvette and that he was a cop. I reminded him that I was underage, to which he retorted, "Nah, 16's legal" (this crazy cop had some interesting interpretations of the law). We all went back and forth for a couple of hours. We were kind of excited, but kind of sickened. Dale sure wasn't as sweet as he seemed from afar. There was also a woman, Annette, on the line. She and Gary convinced us to meet them the following day at a restaurant downtown. I'm not sure why we arranged this rendezvous.
Well, they never showed up, but had the audacity to call us that night and ask where the hell we were. It was messed-up and I think we were getting in over our heads, but we'd do anything to win Dale over. A lot of the details are hazy, but I know that we kept going to Dudley's, (the store where he worked) staring at him, buying records, and never exchanging a word. You should see my record collection, the proportion of 1988 releases compared to the whole is ridiculous.
Though we rarely spoke to Dale, we'd often joke with his co-workers. They were a peculiar bunch of thirty to forty something males. We nicknamed them all: Tiny, Nougat, The Bearded Bastard, Sport and Shave Ken, and Scummy Bono, (like a smaller and grimier Sonny Bono) and had fabricated a bunch of stories about them and Dale. Women employees were suspiciously nonexistent and the entire store was painted pink. A sign posted in the store read "please don't come behind the counter", which we used as a title for an imaginary gay porno involving all of them and their 12" collections. If this wasn't enough, we also made Dale comics, Dale quizzes, and even planned out a Dale zine! At the time, the only exposure I'd had to anything remotely zine-like was "Flipside" and "MaximumRockNRoll", so we thought we were being inventive. We took photos, wrote captions, and planned on xeroxing them and putting them all over downtown. It never matured into a publication, but I still have most of the raw material and notebooks.
I'm not sure how we knew, but we got it into our heads that he'd moved back home. After some research we found his mom's address (along with every place she'd lived and occupations since 1968) and began an almost daily routine of driving by his house. We were scary. We'd stare for long periods out of the third floor library window, which looked directly on Dudley's and see him doing the window displays. Sometimes we were bolder and just sat on the benches directly opposite Dudley's front door. The Galleria was a typical place to hang out. Inside there were two cafes, one upstairs and one downstairs. We were regulars at La Patisserie, he at Coffee Ritz. For some reason there was an invisible boundary, we almost never ventured into his haunt. It was tortuous at times. In order to go to the bathroom, you had to walk right in front of all the clientele at Coffee Ritz. I'd hold my pee for hours because I didn't want him thinking I was following him (like he wasn't already scared shitless).
At one point he got evil and told us, "no more mail", so we stopped sending stuff. But our motto always was, "if he wanted us to leave him alone he would just say so". Since he never flat-out told us to back-off we liked to think that he enjoyed being stalked. We kept up our relentless pursuit despite the nagging doubts and unspoken realization that he couldn't give a rat's ass about either of us. We took Diane on "Cheers" sage words to heart, "indifference is worse than hate" (I still believe that to be true. Shelly Long's a genius).
We were determined to make him sit up and take notice of us. Occasionally we'd phone his home, but he'd always weasel his way out of talking to us. It was growing more and more apparent that he was drifting away. His appearance gradually changed, he grew more conservative, and eventually disappeared from the Dudley's scene altogether. We grew more bitter and upped our nutty behavior. I remember driving to his house in August of '89, one year after the fated phone call. We had our friend Lema prop a big sign in his driveway so he couldn't possibly miss it when arriving home in his mid-80's, silver Honda Accord (actually it might've been a Civic--my memory fails me). It read in huge letters, "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!". If that wasn't enough, we got out of control once and called. His mom answered and said that Dale wasn't there and asked if she could take a message. Yeah, she could. We screamed at the top of our lungs, "Hit the deck, pancake!!". That is so fucked-up, but we thought it was hysterical and for some dumb reason it still makes me chuckle.
He let his hair go blonde, cut it short, and was spotted around town in a suit. He could've been employed virtually anywhere, but we were convinced that he was working at Meier & Frank. My chum Lema had an older sister who just happened to work in their clerical department. All it took was some fancy computer maneuvers--and bingo--Dale Hammer, a confirmed shoe salesman. This seemed so terribly wrong. This weird knowing where he worked reinforced his ultimate connectedness to us. We knew he was our destiny, I guess it just hadn't dawned on him yet.
From that point on things started to fall apart. I was entering my senior year and Melissa had transferred to an "alternative" school. We didn't hang out so much together anymore. Time passed. In college I befriended a former "downtowner" who put an interesting slant on things. She didn't know Dale personally, but knew exactly who he was and claimed that he was gay. He very well could've been, but he should've said so. That's a perfect excuse to get pesky girls off your back. In April of '94 I spied him at a Kinko's and we didn't even exchange glances. I always assume that people are unable to recognize me and that I'm the only one with a detailed memory. I'm judging that he did remember because he stood behind me in line--a good ten feet away! It was refreshing to know that I still had that Garcia magic.
This summer we decided enough time had passed to look at the "Dale Situation" objectively. We still don't know what we were trying to accomplish and were seriously wondering what he must've been thinking. Actually, I tried to imagine what I would think if two teenage brothers were chasing me around. And like the perv I am, thought it would be cool. We compiled a concise, non-threatening letter asking for his thoughts on the matter. We promised the harassment would not resume, and as insurance, sent the letter from England so he'd see that an ocean was protecting him. For some reason we kept procrastinating, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The only address we had was his mother's and we didn't think he'd still be there, considering that he'd be 29 now (32 now in 1998). Our letter was returned to sender. He had moved, and mail is only forwarded for six months. We'd missed the cut off by six days! When your forwarding period expires, they just tell you the new address. Our little pal had made the trek to Seattle. (He probably just heard that there was this great new music called "grunge" and he wanted to check it out for himself. Always the trendsetter.) We promptly mailed it to the correct address. No fancy detective work, but I bet he soiled himself when he got it. Predictably, we've received no response.
Dudley's, itself. has ceased to exist, being replaced by a cafe (that makes darn good scones). It changed locations and reemerged as "Route 66". Most of the originals still work there, but everything's changed. It's all cds now and a whole new breed of alternative teens inhabit downtown. I think I am finally getting older because I see them on the street corners and I just want to yell at them. I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just jealous of their lack of responsibilities and insulation from reality. No, I'm not waxing too nostalgic. It's just that this whole era is ingrained in my memory. There's certain stores that I associate with these times, and I avoid them. The Violent Femmes, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Nirvana (before they were NIRVANA. Dude, I'm so old-school) always make me think of all those calculated drive-bys when they were playing in my car. I certainly wouldn't want to go back and do it again. Why should I when I can continue to stalk even as we speak. This seasoned veteran isn't about to throw the towel in. I'm still perfecting my art.
If you have the stomach, read my sister's version now--you
won't regret it.
My Neverending Story
God bless one of my former co-workers (at the library across the street from where Dudley's used to be) for providing me with amusement and source material. This guy almost peed after reading my Dale story. It turns out that they're the same age and knew each other as teens. What luck! I guess that back in the day, Dale was the shit and everyone was after him. He wasn't gay, but people always thought he was. In the moody 1980's, when all black was the coolest, Dale was so zany and different that he'd wear all white. He used to bleach his hair and put kooky colored streaks in it. With this spiky 'do he resembled, Limahl, the old front man for Kajagoogoo. Thus, Dale was dubbed "Kajagoogoo" by all the kids. I don't mind that he never wrote back now. Just knowing this is enough.
2005 Update 8/14/05
5/16/05 Desdemona 8/13/04
hammer. damn. back in the day, i was so in love with him. he was my own personal
nickrhodes. my friend jen and i stalked him and his friend dave at the plaza and
then skootchies (or however you spell it). they liked to dance on th speakers.
dale was one fine dancer.
jen hooked up
with dave, and i with dale. we even made up a song about them, but for the life
of me i can't remember it. we'd meet them at the metro (HA!) and share $0.25
coffee (lots of cream and sugar and free refills in those days), gelato, and
russian tea cakes. we spent time together at dave's parent's home. and once an
evening at dale's mother's condo (i think) eating that imported fancy ice cream
called fuzen glaje or something like that.
dale called me
at home. i lived in beaverton. it made me feel so cool to have this boy from
downtown call me at home. my mother hated it.
he was a
but there was
also a dark side to him. he wasn't the nicest boy in the world. but damn, i can
conjur up the way my heart used to race when i would spy him in his black trench
floating down the steps of the metro. me pretending i didn't care. and inside i
was on fire.
thanks for the
Donít think that this teeny niche of the web has been forgotten. Every half decade or so I actually add minor superfluous content. In the past year I have received a few Dale Hammer related messages and now feel itís high time that these memory lane missives (spelling and punctuation as is) be liberated from my saved mail folder.
...I had to write and let you know I laughed until I peed at your story. Such great details. It brought back vivid memories of downtown portland in the 80's. I found it when I was googleing old boyfriend's names. Yup, I dated Dale Hammer in 1984 & '85 (confirming he was not gay). Kinda' kills my buzz to know he was a shoe salesman at M&F though. Although I never stalked Dale, there were so many others in my day that I had similar experiences with. Roz from Theatre of Sheep, Arnold Pander etc. Ahhh, youth.
Thanks for the great laugh and trip down memory lane!
Came across your website and guess what?! I had a Dale Hammer and Gary experience in the 80s, too!
I wonder what ever happened to those guys. I had such a crush on Dale in '84, when he had the white/silver hair with colored streaks and wore all white and hung out in Pioneer Square and the Metro. What a babe he was.
Gary asked my friend out and she agreed, on the condition that it would be a double date with Dale and me (what a friend!). They agreed and at the end of the evening, we ended up back at their place. I thought my dreams were about to come true when Gary and my friend took off into a corner and Dale invited me to crash in his room. But when I tried to hook up with him, it was to no avail! I tried everything humanly possible for an entire night. I'd unbutton his shirt and he'd button it back up. I'd try to kiss him and he'd push my head away. This went on until the sun came up pretty much. So totally frustrating!!! %^&*$#@!!
He claimed to have a girlfriend, but no one downtown had ever seen her. I think it was a cover. He and Gary were quite close. We always thought they were an item.....
Anyway, thanks for bringing back memories! Glad to see that someone else was as enamored and frustrated as I was with the elusive and beautiful Dale Hammer. I wonder where he is today?
did you live my life? i mean - did you??
dale hammer. damn. back in the day, i was so in love with him. he was my own personal nickrhodes. my friend jen and i stalked him and his friend dave at the plaza and then skootchies (or however you spell it). they liked to dance on th speakers. dale was one fine dancer.
jen hooked up with dave, and i with dale. we even made up a song about them, but for the life of me i can't remember it. we'd meet them at the metro (HA!) and share $0.25 coffee (lots of cream and sugar and free refills in those days), gelato, and russian tea cakes. we spent time together at dave's parent's home. and once an evening at dale's mother's condo (i think) eating that imported fancy ice cream called fuzen glaje or something like that.
dale called me at home. i lived in beaverton. it made me feel so cool to have this boy from downtown call me at home. my mother hated it.
he was a mighty-fine kisser.
but there was also a dark side to him. he wasn't the nicest boy in the world. but damn, i can conjur up the way my heart used to race when i would spy him in his black trench floating down the steps of the metro. me pretending i didn't care. and inside i was on fire.
thanks for the memories.
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