The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall (A Reflection)

Here’s a must read for anyone interested in learning what sort of boyfriend/lover Ted Bundy was as revealed by his former girlfriend of seven years, Elizabeth Kendall, a single mom struggling to make ends meet in the late sixties and early seventies. Right away, Kendall refers to herself as a “failure” following her divorce. She leaves Utah for Washington in hopes of a new start for herself and her young daughter, Tina. Once settled in Seattle, Kendall admits her loneliness and throughout the book, like so many young women, continues to berate herself as ugly and stupid and so on.

Heartbreaking and familiar.

Enter Ted Bundy, handsome, intelligent, ambitious, attentive, sweet, charming, great with kids, and loves to cook. He’s also the bomb in the sack, or so the author implies, although she’s not forthcoming with details. Too bad. Yeah, I said it. Kendall had a sexual relationship with America’s most notorious serial sex killer. I want details.

Oh, well. The main thing is, Ted Bundy came off a Prince Charming, and if Kendall were writing a romance novel . . . well, she wasn’t.

Prince Bundy was an illusion he fought hard to maintain even as he succumbed to his dark impulses and murdered young women all over the country.

Poor Elizabeth Kendall. I mean that.

Imagine you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship then add finding out he’s a serial killer. Yeah. He would have snowed me, too. That is what is so powerful about Kendall’s story. I relate to her. That’s what makes Ted Bundy so scary. I would have fallen for him, too. How emotionally and physically exhausting to try and keep up with Ted’s infinite manipulations. He turned on the crocodile tears and overwrought sentiments of love over and over and over again. What a mind fuck. How painful.

Did Ted love Elizabeth? Probably not. I’m pretty sure Ted didn’t experience emotions the way most of us experience emotions. I’m also pretty sure he wished he experienced emotions the way most of us do but was unable to because of wiring and biology. Ted admits to Elizabeth during a phone call from jail she was a touchstone for him, a reality check, the way in which he tried to feel and appear “normal.”

One of the most powerful moments in Elizabeth Kendall’s story happens when she drives to the mall where Ted attempted to abduct Carol DaRonch, the one who got away. Kendall asks herself if a handsome and well mannered stranger (Ted) approached her and said he was a police officer and asked her to come with him, would she? Her answer is probably, yes. Me, too. Especially in 1974. I wouldn’t have seen him coming. That trick with the cast on his leg would have worked wonders on me.

Here comes this handsome, wounded man asking for help then chatting me up. “Your name is Noel? Like Christmas. That’s pretty neat. That’s a pretty name, Noel.”

There’s me walking to his car and carrying his books for him.

Here’s him coming up behind me with a crowbar.

 

Postnote:  The above is an edited (although not much) review I posted on Goodreads, May 17, 2015. The Phantom Prince has been out of print for decades and remains difficult to find, unless you’re willing to pay a lot for it. I paid a lot for my copy and consider Kendall’s memoir the best book about Ted Bundy. Polly Nelson’s memoir, Defending the Devil, runs a close second. I dreamed about Ted Bundy last night. I dream about him once in a while. He was a boy in this one. Six years old? Asking for a hug. I picked him and hugged him. XO

More than Silence

Watching you play our favorite song,
Shutters down, headphones on.
I want the world to know my pain.
You play a cold game.

Wounded soul, bi-polar tears,
Whisper your name so no-one hears.
I’ll be the mirror of all your fears.
I’ll play a slow game.

I could use a little more than silence.
Just three words that echo in my heart.
I could use a little more than silence.
Silence is the moon in a lonely sky.

Wondering who you’re gonna be.
Fall into her or into me.
I want the world to know your name.
You play a cold game

Wounded soul, bi-polar tears,
I whisper your name so no-one hears.
You let me mirror all your fears.
I’ll play a slow game.

I could use a little more than silence.
Just three words that echo in my heart.
I could use a little more than silence.
Silence is the moon in a lonely sky.

Don’t talk, don’t try.
Don’t try, don’t lie.
Don’t lie.

I could use a little more than silence.
Just three words that echo in my heart.
I could use a little more than silence.
Silence is the moon in a lonely sky.

Deepening words, deepening words, more than silence.

Words by George O’ Dowd

 

I Snort Survivor

Jeff Probst, host of the “reality” TV show, Survivor, has a tag line. “Survivors, ready?”

No.

I will not sit at my desk and write.

I will snort one more line of blow episode of Survivor.

Jeff Probst is a savage in a baseball cap and khakis. My son once described him as a dad who shows up for your baseball game eighteen years in a row and counting.

Probst has tanned arms.

I have been snorting lines of blow episodes of Survivor a couple months now. Right up the nose. Junk. Thrilling junk. Shit burns. Your eyes water. Worthless junk. Familiar junk. I have seen all these seasons before. I know who will win, what Probst will say.

I know. This is certain. No other way.

Something sweet in the familiar. Something pointless. Something reassuring, like when a man wraps his tanned arms around you, and you stroke those arms and feel safe.

I had this dream the other night.

This semester, I decided to start over with my English 112 class. Threw out the familiar. Same old. Yawn. Decided to go with something new. Shit. This leaves room for mistakes. Classroom activities that bomb. Writing assignments that blow up in my face.

Every class this semester is another chance at failure.

I am excited.

I snort Survivor.

So far, my students and I have read and written about a poem called “Our Deepest Fear,” in which the poet, Marianne Williamson, suggests our most ingrained fear is not that we are not good enough, but that we are, in fact, good enough, if not better.

We have watched and discussed a Saturday Night Live skit, “A New Day,” in which the writers suggest people give up too easy. We lack fortitude. Resilience. Why bother to incite change when anything we do will make no difference anyway?

Complacent.

Apathetic.

Lazy.

We have discussed “grit,” and what that means, and whether we are gritty people or not, and how grit, also known as passion and perseverance, trumps IQ, talent, and good looks. Crazy idea. We have discussed and written about Angela Lee Duckworth’s  suggestion that in order to succeed, we must be willing to fail.

What?

Fail.

Are you shitting me?

What does failure look like? How does it feel?

Today, we discussed “instant gratification” versus “delayed gratification” then watched a TED Talk called “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow.” Not yet. Wait for it. Hold out.

Where does life happen? The journey or the destination?

Where does sex happen? Foreplay or orgasm?

Where does a relationship happen? A commitment or the chemical reaction?

Where does a novel happen? Writing the thing or publishing it?

I am writing a novel. This novel excites the fuck out of me.

I snort Survivor.

This week, my students will give presentations in which they talk about a longterm goal they have (delayed gratification) and a “marshmallow” they keep shoving in their mouths (instant gratification) that interferes with their ability to see that longterm goal through. I am starting over with my English 112 class. I am writing a novel that excites the fuck out of me. I am forcing myself out of my comfort zone every week and enjoying new experiences and meeting new people. Also, I snort Survivor. Over and over.

Look.

I have started over before.

I have started over more times than I can count and reinvented myself. Adapted.

I have written novels before. I have finished novels, actually.

I am no stranger to the stamina and faith such a feat entails. I know all about time and effort. Couple years ago, I published a book. Here’s the thing.

At that point, your book no longer belongs to you but to the world, and they will do what they will with it. My ex didn’t even read my book. He decided it was that awful.

I live for the process. I love the journey.

Writing is a labor of love. Discovery excites me.

I fall in love with my characters and learn so much.

The end result blows, actually, saying goodbye, being finished, but mainly publication, when you hand that result over to other people. If you do. Here’s the thing.

Other people judge you.

Criticize you.

Insult you.

Won’t read your book.

Worse, they might read your book and praise you.

Rock and a hard place, that’s the thing.

They hate your book, and you are a terrible writer.

They love your book, and you are a terrific writer.

Catch 22. Both could be the death of you. If you hand the end result over to other people.

If, in fact, the end result is the point, the thing.

I started over with my English 112 class this semester. I am writing a novel that excites the fuck out of me. I had this dream the other night. I snort Survivor.