"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

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.


  1. What a blast from the past! I do a little late night/early morning search on Sequoia Junior High and I find your blog. Brought a smile to my face thinking of the "good ol' days" in the Valley. Great to see that photo of you and Tami too! Sometimes, those days seem like just yesterday.

    I hope all is well with you! Maybe I'll have to read more of your blog sometime, but for now it is back to work :)

    1. Tim! YOU are a blast from the past! Great to hear from you. I'm glad you smiled. Let's catch up sometime!

  2. That would be fun! How to catch up over 25 years?! It would be interesting to share perspectives on people that we both know and how lives have changed. I'm still very much in touch with Stacey and Jeremy and touch base with a few others that you'd probably remember.

    I read more of your blog and found it fascinating. The things I didn't know. Interesting to reflect back on time in the Valley and how it still affects who I am today (both positively and negatively). It would be interesting and maybe therapeutic to write my own "blog" even if it wasn't shared. I wonder what more I'd learn?

    I don't spend much time on Google+, but if you have a presence of FB, look me up - timhnelson.

    Hopefully your life is happy and fulfilling! After some of the stuff we all had to deal with, I'd like to think we are deserving...

    All my best!