"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Friday, October 1, 2010

Out of the 'Burbs and Into the Wild

We had movers move us to Santa Monica.  I thought our townhouse was nice.  I had my own room for the first time because Julie shared with Matthew; she was only 5, he was 7.  Maybe my mom wanted to give me a chance to have my own room.  I remember the movers broke the leg off my desk chair, which Mom said we could fix, but never did.  I managed to use my chair anyway, propped or anchored rather against the side of my desk.  The town home had cool stairs - I'd always wanted to live in an upstairs/downstairs place.  It seemed modern, even if it wasn't as big as our house in La Crescenta.  Our town home was one of 6 or 7 behind a gate with an intercom.  There was also a huge gated underground parking garage that was perfect for rollerskating in.  The movie of the time was Xanadu, which I loved and which featured Olivia Newton-John rollerskating in most of the time with her ribbon-strewn barrettes in her hair.  And leg warmers, too.  I know that the '80's have had a little bit of a fashion comeback, but people, there are some things that should stay in the 80's.  Leg warmers are one thing (unless you're a dancer); jelly sandals another; and I'm having a little bit of a hard time reconciling the "new" leggings.  And don't fool yourselves:  "jeggings" are just a new name for the skin-tight designer jeans that were so popular.  I'll get to that later.

My brother was always good at finding the kids in the neighborhood.  We moved to Santa Monica in the summertime so that we wouldn't have to change schools in the middle of the year.  My mom always did it that way.  (I, on the other hand, thought it would be more interesting to be the new student in the middle of the year, another attention-getting design, I suppose.)

The kids in the neighborhood were younger than me, except for Sergio who lived across the street in a house and was in my grade.  I wanted to like him, to be friends with him, but he was kind of gross, always spitting lugies (sp?).  He was hot and sweaty, too, a little overweight.  Basically, he was a 10 year old boy.  That summer is a little vague for me, other than the periodic visits from Direll and Mom's other old friend, Ed Pelleteieri, who I decided to refer to as Elliott because of something I'd read in a Nancy Drew book.

Ed/Elliott was an old boyfriend of my mom's, I guess.  I don't know how she knew him, but he lived in Illinois or Ohio or someplace like that.  He came to visit for a few days or a week.  At first, I didn't not like him.  He was okay.  He stayed during the workweek so Mom still had to go to work while he stayed at our home with us.  I was a good sport.  I even made breakfast one morning and set the table.  I was 10.

But then the hugs started.  He liked to be hugged and told us hugs were good, but his kind of hugs were not the kind I was used to.  His way, you would lie down on the floor and he would lie on top of you, with his arms around you.  I didn't like it.  It felt awkward, uncomfortable, inappropriate, but I didn't know how to get out of it.  Eventually, I would squirm away, I guess, but it was always awkward.  I wanted to avoid him and couldn't wait for him to leave.  He hugged my sister that way, too, but not Matthew.  Once I came home from somewhere and he was hugging my mom, but they got up very quickly when I came in.  Finally, he left and never returned.  Hallelujah.

Direll did return though.  By then I'd decided I didn't like him.  He slept all day on the couch and snored louder than I've ever heard anyone snore before.  It made watching TV uncomfortable and almost impossible, especially since there was no where else to sit to watch TV.  Remember, back then, people didn't have a TV in every room.  We did own a 13" black and white TV that sometimes worked, but it wasn't the same.  As latchkey kids, we were babysat by the television all day long.  It was at this point where I knew what were were going to watch all day long, every hour of every day.  The repetition and monotony were comforting.

But Direll's presence was suffocating, stifling.  Sometimes I would play Barbies or paper dolls while watching TV, but when he was there I didn't feel free to be myself.  I was self-conscious.  When he was awake, he was hard to understand and he smelled bad.  I mean BAD.  Other times he would get on the phone and make calls for hours.  Or he would shuffle around the kitchen, looking for something to eat, often making what I considered disgusting food, always leaving a greasy mess.  I resented cleaning up after him.

Febreeze did not exist back then, but we could have sorely used it after he finally left the couch.  It reeked with a B.O. I'd never smelled before.  Eventually, it would air itself out.

I started asking Mom when he was going to go back home to San Jose.  She would give me vague answers until finally one day she admitted that he was going to live with us.  I had to accept the fact that he was my mom's boyfriend.  I hated him.

I did find ways to distract myself.  I would ride my bike around the neighborhood, or Julie and I would walk down to the park which was just down the street.  We'd walk to the liquor store and buy candy or Top Ramen.  Matthew always found ways to get out of the house.  He'd play with the other boys in the neighborhood.  He'd ride his bike anywhere, go play video games at the same liquor store.

One time, he and a neighbor boy went to the park and came hurrying home, announcing that Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) was at the park.  I was skeptical, but Julie and I followed them anyway, keeping our distance.  The guy looked like Mark Hamill, but even I knew that Mark Hamill wouldn't be just hanging around some Santa Monica park.  Sure enough, the autograph he signed for my brother said in cursive (which Matt couldn't read) "Fuck you, Matthew."  Obviously, they'd make a mistake.

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