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The Book Signing.

My night began sharply at 5:30pm, with the sweet sound of Jennifer’s car horn beeping in the parking lot of my condominium complex. I grabbed my copy of Alison Weavers book and my oversized purse. Cigarettes check, keys check, hair tie check, cell phone check, map quest directions check. I ran down the 4 flights of stairs inside my building as if I needed my heart to race faster than it already was.

I walked outside the front door, already perspiring, only to be greeted with a slap in the face of steamy humid air. My hair grew three times it normal size.

I jumped in Jennifer’s car and immediately began my rapid fire of vanity questions; “Do I look okay?” “Is this outfit alright?” “What about the face?” “Too much make-up?” “I feel like I have on too much make-up.” “I need a napkin….I have to wipe this lipstick off.”

Jennifer put forth her best efforts to convince me I looked fine (all to no avail) then she handed me a freshly cleaned white linen handkerchief. After smearing my face all over the hankie, covering it with sweat and make-up residue, turning it into a filthy wad of fabric, Jennifer told me to ‘keep it.’

[good call]

The CD of her self made album played quietly in the background as we headed towards the NJTPK. We stopped, just once to fill up on gas and picked up an extra pack of cigarettes.

Once we were on the road I decided I needed to reapply new make-up. I don’t know why I was so obsessed with my appearance, more so than on a regular day. Maybe it was an attempt to distract myself? Maybe its because I haven’t thought about the school since the day I left. Ever since found out about the book, then read the book, it brought back all of the memories that have been lying dormant in my head for years. As a direct result of the book and the onset of emotional distress that proceeded, I have been breaking out like a 14-year-old pubescent boy. (not just normal acne either). Giant, oversized, itchy zits, that look like a sever case of chicken pox have been steadily making their way across my face. I wanted to cover them up as best I could, without looking like an aged old bag. I was not successful. I did, however, learn something new; the best way to clean a make-up brush is to stick it out of the window of a vehicle that is traveling in excess of 80 miles per hour. Nothing removes pressed powder from a sable brush quite as well.

As we approached our destination I felt the knots balling up in my stomach. The pit of my gut was heaving as if I were on one of the rollercoaster rides at Great Adventure. Breathe, I kept telling myself. Just breathe.

Once we arrived, I was easily taken out of my head by the scenery. I love New York City. I love cement. I find great pleasure in watching the people. I enjoy taking in all of the smells, or gazing at the larger than life billboards. I can’t help but stare in awe at the enormous buildings that are so tall they almost touch the sky. There is something exhilarating about the feel of speeding yellow taxis as they breeze past you.

Parking was as if by a stoke of magical luck. Usually it is impossible to find a space, or a garage near the desired location. It was as if the parking gods were smiling upon us that day. We found a garage right across the street from Barnes and Nobel.

We parked; we stopped in the rest room, than we hurried up the escalator following the sound of Alison Weavers voice. She had already begun reading from her book.

Jen and I took our seats closer to the back rows. I was trying to maneuver without hitting anyone with my giant oversized purse or drawing any attention to myself. That’s when Marc noticed me. I never met Marc prior to this event. I had only known of him. I have had nothing more than email contact with him through the Cascade Survivors Group that I belong to. He was in the graduating class above me. He left the school two weeks before my arrival.

Marc casually walked over to where we were seated, he placed his arms around me and bear hugged me. It was at that moment, that it didn’t matter we didn’t ‘know’ each other. Just having been to that school together (yet separately) was enough to transcend time, age, or anything else that would normally preclude me from having psychical contact with another human being. He remained seated next to me for the duration of Alison’s reading while I clutched and gripped his hand with my sweaty fingers and palms.

After she finished, Alison asked if there were any questions. Silence fell over the room. There was a woman standing horizontally across from Alison, (maybe someone who was on ‘team promote the book’) in an effort to start the ball rolling she asked two questions. Alison answered. The stillness returned to the room.

I hate, absolutely hate, uncomfortable silences or long pregnant pauses. I can’t stand that kind of tension in the air. I feel the urgent need to fill the quiet with noise as quickly as possible.

In that second, SomeGirls comment rang in my head, “Don’t forget to speak up, don’t leave wishing you had said SOMETHING. That’s the worst feeling.”

So I raised my hand. Alison pointed at me. Suddenly, I felt the long since dried scab had been ripped off an old wound releasing new blood. Tears rolled down my face. Streaming salty wetness glistened my checks while I tried to compose myself and construct a sentence in my head.

…”I…I…I went to Cascade too…I…I read the whole book…I think it was very brave and very well written.” I ….Um… oh, and Katherine K88n8y wants me to say Hi.” I stammered out, in-between blubbering. Which I realize was more of a statement and not even close to a question.

That’s when Marc raised his hand. [Thank you Marc, for deflecting my humiliation]. Marc, who is much more of a cheerleader for Cascade, asked her a few questions.

“Do you think Cascade helped you? Or hurt you?”  “Do you hate / love the school?” “It sounds like the school changed a lot from when I was there.”  (I’m sorry I can’t remember the exact words, I was incapacitated with emotions).

Marc went on about how his experiences at Cascade were much different than hers. He still holds such a deep fondness for what he was given during his time spent there. He was obviously saddened, because she did not receive the same level of love he acquired from the school. The fact that she Alison walked away from the school with the taste of disdain in her mouth bothered Marc. As his voiced cracked choking back tears of his own, it was my turn to hold a supportive hand.

Alison answered Marc, noticeably uncomfortable. She replied gracefully with, “There are times I think of Cascade and love it, and there are times I hate it…but, it definitely did some damage.”

After the question and answer section was over, the signing began. I walked up to the table with as much trepidation as excitement. After having my book signed, Jennifer asked if she could take a picture of Alison and me. [Thank you Jen, I would have never had the courage to do that]. Alison agreed.

It turns out there were two ladies in the front row, friends of Alison, who also attended Cascade. In addition, there were two other gentlemen present, who attended Cascade, all at different times. Seven Cascade students had been brought together in this one room. Almost immediately, questions started flying out. “When were you there?” “What was it like then?” “Did you know so and so….”

As the conversation continued, all too eager to talk about our own history, a circle near the front of the table was formed. That’s when the War Stories began as each student divulged little tidbits about their Cascade memories and experiences.

When I am nervous, I suffer from can’t-shut-the-fuck-up syndrome. I will say just about anything to keep the quite from returning. That’s when I heard myself say things that were left hanging in the air, making little to no sense. Yes, I made an ass out of myself. At one point someone asked me where I was from. I vaguely remember saying, “Can’t you tell? Big mouth, big hair…Jersey of course.” [insert foot in mouth]

I don’t know how? Or why? Or what the catalyst was for the mention of this blog, but Alison said something about reading a line in the post I wrote that said, “I don’t even know if she wants Cascade people at her book signing.” She followed up stating she thought to herself, “I hope that girl (meaning me) shows up, she liked my book.”

I was humbled and intimidated at the same time.

[she read my blog?] [insert gulp.] [she wanted me here?] [insert my socially awkward behavior.]

Eventually the circle formed into two groups, Alison and her two Cascade girl friends, and me with the other Cascadian’s. Finally, Marc said, “Let’s all go and get some drinks.”

We went outside the front of the bookstore trying to decide where to eat and drink. Alison thanked us for coming. She was sweet, honest, and she looked fabulous. Her and the other girls soon left walking down the street in a guided direction.

The other five of us: Jennifer, Marc, Brandon, David and myself, started walking aimlessly with no particular direction. Four generation of Cascade people, in search of alcohol, walking through downtown NYC. Marc was the eldest Cascadian whom had the best experience (attended cascade from 86-88). Followed by myself (attended 88-92) and Jennifer (the only non Cascadian). Then Brandon (95-97?) who has managed to erase the entire experience completely from his brain, and followed by David (attended the years 2000-ish) he was a resident of the school closest to the time of the Cascade’s ultimate downfall.

We finally settled in at a restaurant and sat outside chatting, smoking, eating and drinking. We talked about the good memories and the bad memories. We talked about how much the school had changed from generation to generation. When Marc and I attended you couldn’t so much as get a Tylenol from the nurses station for a headache, yet by the time Brandon and David attended, the school was handing out prescription medications, like amphetamines and other psychotropic drugs.

At one point Brandon made a sideways comment about Alison’s ‘big sister’ from Cascade not being behind the book. That somehow, Alison’s version of her life before and after Cascade had been fabricated. I shrugged that statement off as simple jealousy on the ‘big sisters’ part. How would she know what Alison’s life was like then anyway?

Alas, the conversation flowed, drinks were poured, and the food was devoured. Time flew by.

I was most surprised by Brandon’s lack of memory about the school. I was shocked by his ability to delete most of, if not all of the details. Mid-meal, his face grew a shade of pale and he told us he needed to leave. He was done. He was out. He took our email addresses and cell phone numbers and then he disappeared into the crowded street. He was off onto what appeared to be the hunt for drugs. Sad really.

Dinner was finished around midnight. Brandon was already gone, more than likely stoned on something by then. David had to go to work the next day, as did I. However I wasn’t ready for the night to end. I wanted more. David kissed us goodbye and headed home. Jennifer, Marc and I walked back to get the car we paid the bill and took it out of the garage. Then, we traveled up the West Side Highway, back to Marc’s apartment.

Once we were comfortably seated on the sofa I was surprised by Marc with a Cascade Year Book. (I have my own Year Book, but it is filled with a different peer group). The names and faces in Marcs book was brimming with people I recognized. Some of those people I still keep in contact with. Like Flint, who is now a kick ass rock star. When I saw his Cascade picture, he looked so young, like a typical lanky teenager. Not even close to the man he is now. I saw a bunch of other upper student Cascadians, some that are on my MySpace page as friends, but I saw them again as children in the yearbook.

And then, there it was, the picture that sent me into a fit of hysterical laughter and brought me so much comfort. My Leslie. The one I’m always talking about here. When I saw her ‘Family’ photo, I zeroed in on her mug shot. I just about peed in my pants. Oh, she was glorious as an angry teenager. Pissed, defiant, she was awesome! It made me laugh so hard, because she was one of the true bad-asses of Cascade. Now that’s she’s grown up, she has become such a pillar of the community, such a brilliant writer, I forgot what a rebel she was at her core. No wonder why she became my ‘big sister’. I would have never listened to anyone other than her.

Then again, as I flipped through the pages, there were other people I haven’t thought about since I was 14 years old. I wondered what happened to them? Marc had some of the answers. Some people died, drug over doses, or medical conditions. Some were married to each other and had children. Some went on to do great things with their lives. A few of the other students have formed a new school, located in Virginia based on some of the Cascade concepts. We Googled random students names, to find some alarming articles about other Cascade Graduates and some Cascadians have simply dropped off the face of the earth.

I cried, I laughed. I remembered some people with fondness and others with crossness for ripping into me during forums. I saw photos of the students coming out of the ‘Summit Workshop’ dressed in all white. I saw the ‘Dishes Committee’ and was vividly reminded of the people who used to put me on Grill every single night. I saw the names of the ‘Families’ the school was divided into. I had completely forgotten the ‘Family’ names. I read quotes in yearbook that were used as ‘tools’ in workshops and celebrations along the way at Cascade. I was reminded of the acceptable music that pumped through the main house on campus. It was a wild journey down memory lane. We took funny pictures and reminisced until 2 am.

I still didn’t want the night to end, but I knew I had work the next day. It was time to leave. Time to end my short-lived journey.

Jen and I kissed Marc goodbye, we took the slowest elevator to the lobby of his building that smelled of freshly baked bread and returned to her car heading back to New Jersey.

On the ride home, I was quietly stuck inside my head, reliving the night and other moments at Cascade when Jen broke the silence. “I don’t want to speed.” She said. “No one is asking you to speed Jen.”  “I know,” she continued, “but these taxis are making me feel sluggish.” I busted out laughing. The rest of the ride was more of the same Meli-fer jokes playing off each other’s lead.

I arrived safely home and tucked into my bed by 330am. But I couldn’t sleep. There was still too much going on in my head. Even days later there still is. I am interested in finding out more about the Carlbrook school, located in VA, because I am very curious, since three former Cascade students are on the faculty: John Henson, Justin Merrit, and Grant Price. I am interested in finding other Cascadians. I am dying to do some real research on the evolution of the school, and obtain a detailed version, fact based, about the exact nature of what led to the downfall of Cascade.

It was a wonderful experience to say the least.

I hope Alison, or someone else from Cascade writes a book, with more detail, about other workshops she did not mention in this book. Who knows, maybe one day I will get around to doing that myself.

*The school has been closed for awhile now and was bought by some religious group.

Photo Album of the nights events HERE.

I did not upload a lot of the pictures I took that night, because I don’t know if I was told I am allowed to?

If you liked my post, feel free to subscribe to my rss feeds

  • The pics should be fine to upload – they are all either already in the public domain (yearbook)( or taken in public domain (signing)

  • and a good time was had by all…… i am so thrilled.. a part of this event will live on inside you forever,, making your definition of you just that much clearer…

    i think it ought to be you who writes that book, as no one else’s rendition of what it was like will ever meet up to yours…

    who knows,, it may open doors you didn’t even know were closed and shed some well needed light on jasmine… thus making the interpretation of the time spent as “her”,, fall so much more easily into place….

    all in all i am thrilled,, and cant wait to view the pix!!!!!

  • Meleah

    Leslie: Your MUG is now up… (as the rebellious and PISSED off teenager!)

    ——–

    Paisley: I think I will write a Cascade book, including the history of the founding staff ect ecte… but I have to write about Jasmine FIRST. I did have a great time, and I do feel more like I have a sense of who I am, who I was, and where I want to go from here. xxoo

  • Meleah, I am so thrilled with your experience. It was/is so powerful, and you relayed it so well. I was transfixed!

    Its like this is the gateway to discovery for you. Of who you were, who you are, and who you will evolve into being. Wow. Just amazing. xxoo

  • Meleah

    Thanks Holly, I feel like this was waaaay to long, I just had so much to say. I’m still uploading a shit load of pictures today, so check back whenever if you want visuals.

  • Marc

    Loved your post and getting to relive the night. It is definitely a night a wont forget, thank you so much for driving all the way to the city for it (and for the insane belly laughs that made me cry). It was incredible to finally meet you face to face, I feel like i have know you forever. You are welcome here anytime you want.
    You are definitely the one with the skillz to write THE Cascade book, and I know that I will read it one day.
    XOXOXOXOXOXO

  • Lis

    Great post, Mel. If you ever decide to write that Cascade book, I’ll definitely read it. I’m really intrigued by your school.

  • Wow! What a emotional rollercoaster ride. I would have slept for like a week after that experience. That night gave you something so valuable. It gave you the ability to think about that place in your life without that sense on terror anymore and that’s BIG. Here you are thinking about researching it further, talking about a possible book, meeting someone from that time….One less chain holding you back. Next: The Jasmine Chain…but the difference is this evening is proof of your fortitude.

    PS: My big head over the quote wont deflate for at least a day. 🙂

  • Meleah

    Marc: It was a great night. I’m gad I covered all of it in the post. i will be returning to to city, you can count on that. xxooo

    ——–

    Lis: Thanks! You better!

    ——–

    SomeGirl: I kid you NOT…your comment got me through that part of my evening. and yes, I am still TIRED as FUCK.

    ———


    PS… I just found/ and uploaded the pictures of me at age 12, in front of The Cascade School the day I was dropped off there. (they are at the END of the photos in the picture link.)

  • Also, there is a detailed fact based version of the school’s end on both the private groups for grads. Or yu cn call Annie – she loves to hear from grads and she was there.

  • I’m glad you enjoyed the experience and got to attend!!!!!!

  • Meleah

    Leslie: THANK YOU!

    ——-

    Michael C: mee tooo. so worth being tired for days afterwards.

  • Well it sounds like it was all worth it in the end. It’s really amazing that she saw your blog.

    I’m sure memories are still going through your head as this sounds like one crazy school. I think facing this was also the right thing to do also. Not easy, but the right thing.

  • Wow what a good read! I felt as if I was there with you, sharing, crying and laughing with you. And I can’t get enough of it.
    Yes I do hope you get to write the book.

  • Oh I thoroughly enjoyed that.
    I was almost with you throughout the whole episode, which I’m so glad turned out well!!!
    Exhausting and cathartic – in the best possible way.
    Well done, Meleah xoxo

  • Thanks for taking us with you! I’m proud of you. I can tell it was a huge milestone for you.

  • Meleah

    Ricardo; yes… it was just what I needed.

    ———

    RMH: Thanks! I haven’t told a “story” about my adventures in a while.I kept thinking it was too long, but I didn’t know what part to delete, so I left it all.

    ——–

    MINX! I love you and thank you for all of your support.

    ——–

    Micki: It was. it was.

    ——–

    Now If I could only learn to SHUT THE HELL UP when in public, things might turn out better!

  • Olly,

    WAY KEWL!!!

  • Olly,

    THAT WAS BEAUTIFULLY EXPRESS MY DEAR KUDOS
    IT MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE THE JOURNEY FOR ONE EVENING.. BLESS YA SWEETCHEEKS!!!!

  • Sarah-Beara-Sunshine

    Mama….. Im so glad you went 🙂 It sounds like it was very healing. Thank you for the blog~ and lol at the Marc looking like Rob Schneider pic. I havent seen him in like 6 years but he does!
    BTW, did I tell you that I actually spent a couple days visiting Carlbrook when it was still new? Matt Stafford and some others were there. We will talk ok?
    I love you Melz…… I dont know how I would have made it through Cascade without you and Leslie…..

  • Awesome–you guys win. I must learn more about Cascadia. I was thinking how much different it must have been then my conservative all-girls Catholic School–but it was certainly screwed up in its own way–which still plagues so many of us

    But one thing it did do is produce a lot of kick ass girls, I get the sense that Cascadia did the same.

    ~Becky

  • JENNIFER

    That post was great. you’re the best writer.
    xooxooxox
    I had so much fun, and connected with Marc.

    xoxooxoxo

    I love you guys…

  • Awesome post! I’m glad you had a rejuvenating time and made some friends along the way.

  • Meleah

    Jennifer: Thank you for taking me. Glad you had FUN too.

    ——

    Dazd: Thanks!

  • Yo Momma

    oh meleah! when i saw that picture of you in front of the cascade sign, i burst into tears at my desk. all of those horrific feelings came flooding out of my eyes. i remember taking that picture and trying so hard to be brave and smile when all i wanted to do was throw up. it was so vivid. and my scream! my screaming my guts out driving all the way down the mountain road from the school into Redding. my g-d, my scream — i can still hear it in my head and feel it in my arms and legs and elbows like my skin was on fire. thank g-d helen was waiting for me and held me up when i tried to get out of the car. it was the worst day of my life. i don’t know how the two of us made it through alive. i love you so much! yo momma xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

  • Meleah

    Mom: Your comment made ME cry at MY DESK.. sheesh! I’m just glad its OVER. I know…THE PICTURE was all too intense. I found that picture last night. No wonder I had creepy dreams. I love you too mommy.

  • I’m glad it worked out for you. Facing your demons can be such a release…
    Fantastic post! 🙂

  • Flint

    wow…what a trip seeing those photos, especially the yearbook ones, you and barb cass by the fireplace. such a mix of emotions seeing those, part of me wishes I could go back. It was one of the few places that made sense and it was nice having 70 other peers.

  • Thank you–Off your topic: I know I am right but iI let them to get to me.– thank you:)

    ~Becky

  • The comment by momma and the follow-up by Meleah…

    Well, let me just say my damn monitor is all blurry now. Stupid monitor…it’s contracted BMS. Better know around the blogosphere as Blurry Monitor Syndrome.

  • Meleah

    OLLY: Thank You
    ———–

    BECKY: (off topic stick to your guns). and you will know all about CASCADE one day!
    ———–

    DAWN: It most certainly was.
    ———–

    FLINT! (YEAH! FLINT! xxoooo) I don’t wish I was THERE perse, but I do wish WE lived a little closer to each other or at least got to see more of each other. I do miss my big brothers. (I have an old picture that I am going to email you, Im sure you will get a kick out of it.)
    ———-

    SARA: I couldn’t have made it without little sisters to look after and love.
    ———-

    DAZD: Yeah must be the “monitor” !!

  • Hey Meleah. What can I say that everyone has not said before me. Sorry I was so late in catching up.
    It was like being there with you, I could feel your nervousness… I think we get obsessed about how we look because the perfection of the mask we put on can hide the tumultuous feelings inside. The more insecure we are feeling the more we need to look perfect.
    There were passages in your post that I was thinking ‘oh my god, I know how she must be feeling’, the pounding heart in the throat feeling, when your heart is beating so fast it’s like it’s in your ear.
    Whichever book you write, it will surely take your reader through all the emotions you want them to go through because your words have the honesty and guts of having been there themselves.

  • Jodi

    I am with Random…what else can I say…
    But I am happy, truly happy that you went. Thank you for sharing this story with us, and this ever important part of your life…

    You wrote this so well, I was sad that the post ended…
    Peace

  • Harry

    🙂

    Hi stranger! Look at you go sweetie! Proud of you!

    Tell Ron I still am feeling his pain dood!

    Hi Jennifer!

    🙂

  • Wow! What a story and what a response!

    I felt I was there with you every step of the way, your post really drew me in.

    I think you’ve convinced me (without trying) to read Alison Weavers book and anything else about Cascade – my school in comparison was the epitome of dullness.

  • Meleah

    RANDOM: you are dead on about the reasons for needing to “look perfect” its like armor. I am so glad you could FEEL what I was saying, that means I did a good job.
    ———–

    Jodi! Thank you that means a lot coming from such a brilliant writer yourself.
    ———-

    HARRY: Darling! where have you been? sending you an email! xxoo
    ———-

    GEEDOS: ha ha ha… I feel like I have been her personal promoter this last month! I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • SARAH BEARAH!!!!!!! I’m so happy. Almost all my peeps are here.

    SMOOCHES! LOVE YOU FOR ALWAYS, LADIES!

  • Josh

    Hey
    I just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your post regarding Alison’s book signing. I recently picked up her book and read it in about 48 hours, and its interesting to find comments from other grads/former Cascadians.
    Alison was in upper school when i moved into Cascade at the end of the summer of ’95, and I agree with her that the Cascade experience certainly is a unique one. Glad to see other people out there who can relate to those extremely bizarre couple of years we’ve endured. I wish there were more places to talk with people who went there at whatever point.

    Re: the school in Virginia, there are a number of people associated with Cascade who are now on faculty there, including Glenn Bender and Kelly Dunbar.

    Great blog. Cheers!

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  • Katherine

    I attended Cascade from 12/99 to 12/00 and then again (yes, again) from 11/01 to 06/02. I never graduated, but I am the only student to ever have been pulled twice.

    I just ordered a copy of Alison Weaver’s book, but I have to say I am really nervous to read it. Cascade was not a very positive experience for me, and even though I am still close to many of the people I was there with, it is very difficult for me to discuss my time at the school. I left for the last time almost six years ago, yet I still have horrible nightmares about getting sent back.

    Thank you for your post. It helped calm my nerves about what is in the book.

  • Meleah

    Your Welcome. Its a GREAT BOOK. but, very vivid.

    I didnt even know someone COULD go to cascade twice.

    *yikes*

    xxoo

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