"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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ghetto Girl

I am irritated.  I am tired.  Christmas in retail is finally over except for the after holiday rush of returns and customers in need of electronic device support at a store that does not specialize in electronics.  Have you noticed that the more advanced electronics get, the smaller the instruction manual is that comes with the device?  When I bought my smartphone - my first one ever - it included the equivalent of a double-sided quarter-folded piece of glossy paper.  I get more instructions when I buy a box of hair color.  And it doesn't help that most of my customers still think they are in the age where you just plug in the nice shiny box with the knobs and the picture appears.

So after another long day of dealing with someone else's emergency after another, I come home to this dismal dwelling we call home, this apartment that we have come to dislike so much (thank you, higher power, for finding us a house to rent on the street where we used to live), I walk into the kitchen to see that one whole side of the counter has been cleared; there is paint or drywall or something above and under the top cabinet and as I look around I see that everything that used to be in that cabinet is on the other 2 countertops, cluttering up the entire kitchen. 

You see, we just discovered a few days ago that our kitchen had a giant leak from outside that had started to mold over.  Yeah, nice.

Maintenance got right on it, and I understand that they had to empty the cabinet, but does the management staff realize what an inconvenience this is?  I'm not Martha Stewart or Marion Cunningham but maybe I would have liked to have come home and cook dinner, as I do on many occasion.  As it was, I could barely access the microwave, cringing as I am forced to pile things on the electric stove top (what if somehow, something made it turn on and the kitchen burned down?)

Well, at least there's the toaster, set up nicely in the tiny dining room with the mugs and the plates as though one would enjoy her morning coffee with a slice of toast and jam; but no, the toaster doesn't work either because the electricity to the outlet has been turned off to prevent electrocution of the nice maintenance men.  So, having experienced this phenomenon once before in this apartment, I am forced to move the toaster to some nonexistent space in the kitchen because I know it will work plugged in there.  And are the dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty?  I can't tell because they are all wet but have a vague sense of being not clean.

Yes, I know that Mom will no doubt remind me of the time we - well actually, she and Direll and Julie and Matthew (I was in the college dorms by then) - used to make meals nightly in the motel room using an electric frying pan for cooking and a cooler for the perishables.  She will say it with a laugh, the way people laugh about mishaps and missteps years later ("someday we'll laugh about this"), and with a certain degree of pride at her ingenuity.  I'll grant her that.  Whatever the situation, Mom made it work.

But I don't want to be reminded of those times.  I don't want to remember the ghetto lifestyle that is part of me.  It's the part that has made me strong, a survivor, but I don't need that anymore.  I am, after all, my grandmother's granddaughter:  elegant, artistic, well-mannered and proper; never a hair out of place is how my husband describes her.  I deserve to have nice things and live in a nice place.  I am the one who pays attention to the last detail, who picks precisely the right gift for the right person, who adds the finishing touches to the small but carefully orchestrated get together.  There is a difference between kalamata and black olives, and certainly one can appreciate the baked bried en croute, but why is it the guests always go for the chili and velveeta slow cooker dip instead?  And don't get me started on the wine.  Suffice it to say that it does not count if it comes in a box.

I am tired.  I have used up this post for venting and ranting and now I am spent.  All I really want is some kind of gesture on the part of this apartment management company acknowledging our inconvenience.  Of course, we don't want mold poisoning, but just because it's Taco Tuesday doesn't mean I automatically head for the drive-thru.  Sometimes I actually make tacos with homemade shells (thanks, Mom!).  Maybe they will consider this when it comes time to reconcile our broken lease.  One can hope.  In the meantime, once I have resisted the urge to go to Starbucks instead of digging my way to the coffee grinder and maker in the morning, I guess I'll have to consider what fine fast food establishment our dinner will come from tomorrow night.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My First Real Crush (the first of many)

Remember your first crush?  Do you remember how it happened, how it felt?  The butterflies, the inability to formulate words, the idea that you could will someone to look at you and the moment they did, the whole world stopped for a moment.  How long could you hold their eyes before you had to look away out of embarrassment at being caught?

My first crush happened in Mrs. Wolfe's English class in 8th grade at Sequoia Junior High.  I didn't even know I liked boys yet - Paul had simply been an experiment that completely failed.  I had no idea at that time what a crush, infatuation, love at first sight felt like until that fateful day when I was sitting in class and I looked over at the same boy I'd been sitting near all semester and suddenly I noticed him.  I mean, really noticed him.

I think anyone who knew me in 8th grade knows who my first crush was.  Should I say?  Would he be embarrassed or does he even remember me?  This is where my mom gets nervous because I have used people's real names; but in every autobiography, don't we use real names to keep it real, unless we are trying to protect the innocent (or ourselves, I guess)?  For the record, though, I invite anyone who has been named in this blog to message me and request that I change your name, innocent or not.

This being my story, I'm going to keep it real, so here's to you, Arash Majlessi, for being my first crush, for inspiring in me the butterflies and daydreams adolescents have about what true love is like.

I had never spoken to him before, but I was in love.  Or in like, as we used to say.  "Who do you like?" we would ask each other.  Back then, liking someone was like saying you had a crush on someone.  It was actually too lame to use the word crush.  It was old-fashioned, like saying you were sweet on somebody.  If you "liked" someone, that said it all. 

Arash was beautiful, dark-skinned, brown eyes, mysterious, and he already had an admirer.  She had the good fortune to sit behind him and was the opposite of him - pale skin, red hair.  She reminded me of Pat Benetar.  Everyday I watched her flirt with him, and she was good at it.  It didn't take long to figure out that they were going together or that he liked her back.  I was devastated, but I wasn't giving up.  It happened that his best friends had lockers right next to mine so it wasn't unusual to see him there, and I had other classes with him.  At the time that I discovered I was in love with Arash, I was still friends with Lori and her group.  Maybe they were sick of me mooning over him, too shy to actually talk to him, but one day Lori told Arash and his friends about my infatuation.  I was so embarrassed, but you know, when you're that age and you are "in like", you want to keep your crush a secret, but at the same time you want him to find out.  Because, then of course, he would realize that he was in love with you, too, and had just been waiting for the right sign to walk over to you and tell you he'd been waiting for you his entire life.

Okay, so I was/still am a hopeless romantic.  It's just that at age 13, I didn't know that love happened any other way.  It's like Rosie O'Donnell says in "Sleepless in Seattle" to Meg Ryan, "You want to be in love in a movie."  Well, that's all I had to base love on; that and soap operas and the young adult novels I read about "love, oh, love" as my dad used to tease me.  I wasn't interested in sex, but I was interested in being suddenly kissed by the boy of my dreams.  I wanted to be romanced, and for all of us who have been 13, male and female, we know that that is not going to happen.  Romance is the last thing on a 13 year old boy's mind.  At least, that's what I've heard.  Those of you with experience, feel free to dispute me on that.

So now Arash knows I like him.  I even remember the little smile he gave when Lori pointed me out to him, but it wasn't the smile I wanted.  I was mortified, especially when time went by and there was no indication that he was interested in me.  So Lori's next method of offense was to tell him and his friends that I didn't like him anymore.  Well, then I was mad.  How could he fall in love with me if he thought I'd given up on him?  Maybe that was the end of our friendship.

The one time I thought maybe there was hope was after school one day.  I was there late for some reason, but noticed that so was he and he was talking with his friends and he looked upset (I was quite a distance away, so don't ask me how I could identify his facial expression), and somehow I knew that he and Pat Benetar had broken up.  And then he looked my direction.  Maybe they broke up over me!  Or maybe he realized he did love me but was upset because he thought I didn't feel the same way.  Oh, the daydreams I had, the scenarios I made up.  They were fairy tales.

Things like this happen the other way around, too.  You find out that someone likes you and while it's flattering, he's not The One.  This happened to Tami.  This boy who liked her actually had the guts to tell her and gave her a vinyl single of "The Reflex" by Duran Duran (who, ironically, was the favorite band of the boy she ended up dating throughout high school).  The "Reflex" boy might have even asked Tami to a dance that was upcoming, but my friends and I all knew at the time he was not boyfriend material, poor guy - just too awkward, too 13.  Adolescence.  Who in their right mind would want to go through that again?  I'm sure this person grew up to be very happy and married to the woman of his dreams.  You saw my 8th grade photo.  I wouldn't have dated me either.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sequoia Junior High School, 1983-84

Sequoia Jr. High was my new school after moving to Reseda in 1983.  Sequoia was a campus that was adjacent to, or more specifically, shared a campus with another school, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, or CES as we called it.  CES was a 6th through 12th grade school, if I remember correctly, with smaller class sizes and overall a smaller student population.  We called them "CES snobs" because apparently the year before I arrived there was a decision made to close Sequoia so that CES could expand and take over the entire campus.  There was a whole movement called "SOS" or "Save Our School" that occurred while I was in 7th grade in Santa Monica.  It's funny because a lot of my friends that I ended up going to high school with after Sequoia mistakenly remember me as having been part of their 7th grade class.  I think it's funny.  At any rate, as I mentioned in my earlier post, by the time I started 8th grade it had already been decided that Sequoia was closing and I would be going to high school at Reseda High for 9th grade.

1982 - New school, new perm. 
Notice the coordinating
purple eyeshadow.
 Once again, I was the new girl, and I guess "new girls" gravitate toward other new girls because at 13 years old we are desperately looking for friends, or rather not wanting to appear as though we don't have friends.  I think I met my first friend, Lori, in PE class (that's Physical Education to those of you who grew up going to "gym class"; California lingo, I suppose).  She was in 9th grade and we became fast friends, but it's sort of like your first college dorm roommate.  If you don't instantly hate each other, you become inseparable until you become comfortable with school life and figure out that you actually have nothing in common except a room, or in the case of an 8th grader, being new at Sequoia Junior High. 

Since she was a year above me, we didn't have any other classes together, so I was faced with walking into each new class with a brave face, but shy as can be, hoping someone nice would talk to me.  This shyness was new to me, but given that I had started keeping my innermost thoughts to myself and had a guard up all the time, it's not surprising that I was always about to jump out of my skin if anyone talked to me, especially a boy.  Being fair-skinned, I am so prone to turning red at a moment's notice, a physical reaction I have for the most part, managed to control by now but I am still cursed with it (although now I can laugh about it.)

Lori and I became friends with 2 other girls, Ruth and Jennifer.  They were all three obsessed with boys and constantly made sexual innuendo.  I laughed along but I had yet to have my first crush and while I was curious about their discussions, I was apprehensive.  I sooned learned as well that some things were shared between some members of our foursome, but kept secret from other members. 

In the movie "Mean Girls" there's a scene where the girls are 3-way calling each other.  I can't remember what they called it in the movie - an ambush, maybe?  Anyway, 3-way calling was relatively new in 1983 and we used it all the time.  One time I was on the phone with Lori and Ruth and I had to excuse myself for a moment to do something.  When I came back on the line, I listened to their conversation before I said anything.  They were talking about sex, how far they'd gone.  Lori finished by telling Ruth not to say anything to me about it.  Ouch.  That's when I pretended I had just come back to the phone.

They introduced me to a boy named Paul and decided that the two of us should start "going together".  That's what we called it back then.  Paul and I talked on the phone a few times.  He was cute, again a year above me.  Someone told me that he wanted to teach me how to French kiss.  Eeww.  But when he asked me to go with him, I said yes, but nothing happened.  Basically, in 8th grade, and you go with someone you basically spend breaks together, maybe holding hands.  Nothing physical ever happened between us and I promptly broke up with him because I hardly knew him.  That kind of thing happened all the time.  I don't think I knew anyone who had a real boyfriend.

As I started to realize that these girls were way too fast for me and that we had nothing in common, I began to withdraw and spend time with girls I met in class, in my own grade.  I started making actual friends is what happened.  That's when I met Tami Paperno who became my best friend for many years to come.

Tami and me
8th Grade Graduation

Tami and I clicked instantly.  At the time, her best friend (the label of "best friend" was so important back then), was another girl, Kristi, but I had started having lunch with them.  I don't think Kristi was too happy about it.  In the end, I think she thought I "stole" Tami from her.  But the nicest thing that happened was that Tami and I had started being friends right before her birthday in November, and at the last minute she invited me to her birthday sleepover. 

It was amazing.  Her party reminded me of the sleepovers I'd had with my friends in Santa Monica.  And her mom was hilarious.  They had baked individual cakes and had a table full of icing and toppings for us each to decorate.  Tami and her mom laughed so easily.  It was contagious, and the other girls I knew mostly from my classes at Sequoia.  They were all so nice.  They taught me how to do the 80's dance - oh, how can I describe it - help me out, Nik.  I guess the best way to describe it is in technical dance terms (you'll have to look them up).  It's a pas de basque except you stay in one place and the movements are smaller.  You have to catch the rhythm and then you just go, repeat, repeat, repeat.  No one had ever taught me how to dance before, other than the few ballet classes I took when I was younger.  But this was popular dance.  This was the way people danced at school dances.  I was being immersed in early 80's adolescent culture.

Speaking of culture, one of the gifts Tami received was the newest record (yes, vinyl) from Culture Club (who?  Boy George?), and we listened to Karma Chameleon and Miss Me Blind all night.  It was the first time I actually felt comfortable at Sequoia.  I had friends.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why I Love Christmas (or whatever you prefer to call The Holidays)

Okay, have I mentioned lately that we are in December now?!  I can't believe today is December 2, 2010 and while I have had a firm resolve not to let the holidays interfere with my blogging, I guess they have a little.  As most of you know, I work retail, so my time is taken up working, as opposed to the pleasantries of holiday decorating, card sending, shopping for those I love (okay, well, I've done a little shopping.)  Bottom line is I am still getting over the busy-ness of the retail weekend after Thanksgiving.

I do have a post in progress, but it is not done or ready to be seen by any other human eyes yet, so I actually have been working on it!  I had plans to continue my progress on that post today, but I realized that I need to clear out some of the cobwebs in my brain, so to speak, so either bear with me or just skip this post.  I won't be offended.  Ha, I won't even know, really.

I'm preoccupied with thinking about the limited time off I have this month.  That will be nice for the bank account but in the meantime, how do I appreciate this holiday I love so much?  It has been a challenge almost my entire working life. 

For me, Christmas is not about presents.  I long ago let the frenzy of shopping for people out of some kind of obligation slip away.  The best Christmas Deril and I ever had was the year we decided not to buy any presents, period.  We instead spent whatever money we had on our lovely dinner, decorating the house and treating ourselves to things we might not normally do.  Deril and I have also given up the pretense of shopping for each other, firstly because Deril does not shop, secondly because we usually don't have the immense cash flow needed for such extravagance in one month.  As he pointed out one year, with no kids, we pretty much get whatever it is we really want or need throughout the year.

I do love shopping for the people I love if money permits.  If it doesn't I find some other way to appreciate those people.  I have a knack, if I do say so myself, for picking out just the right gift for just the right person.

But truly, I love the spirit of the season.  I love the idea that for one month out of the year it is generally acceptable to focus on hope and the miracles that the universe has brought us or might bring us in the year to come.  I am truly blessed.  I have a loving husband - the man of my dreams - a loving family, a roof over my head, a job and food to eat.  I am so much more fortunate than so many others in the world, than so many others just down the street from me.

In this economy, while I hope for all of us it is turning around, my wish for everyone is that they take care of themselves this year.  By that I mean, don't max your credit cards.  Don't go gift crazy.  I know it's hard if you have kids and I certainly don't want to deprive them of the magic of the holiday, but if you are able to pay a bill that is long overdue instead of participating in that office white elephant party, then pay the bill.  Give yourself and your family the peace of mind that comes with taking care of your financial business.  Spend time together, reminisce together, create a tradition.  Donate canned food.  Pay every creditor you have $5 if that's all you can do, but take care of yourselves.  You deserve it.  You have worked hard this year, and I certainly would not want to be the reason you can't make your car insurance bill this month. 

Miracles can happen, and there is hope for peace on earth.  And karma will come back to you in ways you can never imagine.

PS:  If you can find a copy of Baz Luhrman's "song" "Everybody's Free" (also known as "The Speech Song"), get it.  I listen to it everyday to remind myself of what is important.

Happy Holidays!