Proms have become a trope in teen-age movies, which would have one believe that attending (or not attending) the prom defines high school existence (Pretty in Pink springs immediately to mind although there are plenty of others). This wasn’t my experience.
I went to several proms – all in the same lace-encrusted blue dress – and while they were all memorable in their own way, they were not the apex of my teen-age years. I doubt I’m not alone in this. I’ve never met one single person who claims their prom was the defining moment of their high school life.
In real life, I don’t think who got crowned king and queen of the prom was of matter of life and death (Carrie). I was never in the running so I didn’t really care. My parents, however, were the King and Queen of their high school prom
Our Prom Party sent up the movie-fantasy stereotype of a high school prom, it didn’t have much to do with the real thing. One of my Columbia students, Holden Weitz, wrote a hilarious teen movie that parodies this trope. That’s the movie I want to see made!
To this day, I think this is the only time John and I experienced Ren Faire so it’s kind of interesting (to me, anyway) how Ren Faire wove through my life anyway. Long after we broke up, my college boyfriend Luke became a weekend Ren Faire entrepreneur selling costumes and period weapons. I had no idea he was such a Renaissance buff.
It left a huge imprint on the four-year-old brain of our son, CD. For years, he and his girlfriend (and future wife) Serena spent every weekend with their network of friends at Ren Faire. (He’s a lot better at roughing it than I am.)
Later still, my screenwriter pal Art Everett and I collaborated on a spec script for the Practice (my sister Janet worked there at the time) which featured a comedic Ren Faire “B” story. Sadly, the Practice ended its run about the time we finished and our spec ended up in a desk drawer.
If I were going to do it again – and I’d like to, it’s only been 35 years since our last visit I’d spent a little more time and money (both of which I probably have more of now than we did then) and invest in an appropriate period costume, throw my inhibitions to the wind and enjoy a day of real-time role-play. Oddly enough, I think it’s also becoming easier to let loose and play as I get older.
If anyone’s up for an LA Ren Faire excursion soon, call me. Let’s meet up.
I was in charge of planning our cross-country road trip and booking our lodgings. Most of my selections came straight out of the pages of Eccentric America, a terrific resource. The Out ‘n’ About Treesort in Oregon and Ravenwood Castle in Ohio (exactly like it sounds like it should be – a replica of a Celtic castle) were the two most interesting places we stayed. I wanted to book a night at Sod House, so we could experience how early American settlers lived, but John drew the line at sleeping on sod.
There was a bag swing and rope ladders at the treehouse. I chided Sam and Alex when they were unable to climb up the rope and offered to demonstrate how easy it was. To my horror, apparently I’ve lost ALL of my upper arm strength over the decades – I couldn’t make an inch of progress. To explain my failure, I shouted “I have Fuchs!” and they responded with hysterical laughter. I do have a tendency to blame Fuchs (genetic cornea disintegration, basically – link to blog 9/4?/04) for everything, even though realistically it has no effect on anything but my corneas. This episode was videotaped but, alas, we lost the camera and all of the film well before anybody could post my humiliation on YouTube.
As one would expect, there was no television and no internet service in the treehouses so we spent an old-fashioned evening playing hearts and spades. I regret not taking more photos since each treehouse was unique. Ours had an upper adult unit connected to a smaller kid’s room by a swinging bridge. The only downside was showers, sinks and toilets were on ground level, about 75 feet away.
This is another one of those mortifying memories I would’ve successfully repressed if not for my diary. Obviously, at 21 my social skills were sadly lacking. I didn’t even try to engage when I felt intimidated – the only thing I could think of to do was escape. If that meant falling asleep under a table, so be it.
I never did become a party animal. Truth be told, I’m uncomfortable at parties now – even small dinner parties. I think today there’s a term for this – social anxiety – and it’s considered a genuine psychological disorder. I believe I suffered from it then (and now). It was worse when this condition didn’t have a name or diagnosis – when it was simply weird behavior.
Over the years, I learned to hide my social anxiety far more successfully than I did in ’72. I understood it sprang from extreme self-consciousness, the ridiculous fear that everyone was looking at me and judging all the things I did wrong.
For a few years, alcohol eased my self-consciousness and enabled me to socialize more freely but it was a temporary fix that – if anything – exacerbated my underlying insecurities. It was only after I gave up the crutch of alcohol that I began to make real (if slight) improvement. I’ll never be the life of the party, but I don’t think I’ll crawl under a table and go to sleep anytime soon either – although sometimes I still want to.
I can’t believe I wussed out on walking outside for a magical spectacle like snow falling on a geyser. Even harder to believe, I’d probably do the same thing today. Braving the elements to see something special appeals in theory and I admire people who do it – but creature comforts and gift shops thrill me just as much.
In the gift store, I gravitated to one book – Death in Yellowstone.
It detailed every death in the park since it opened. Some demises were more desirable than others. Given a choice, I prefer a heroin overdose to being eaten alive by a bear. I’d rather walk backwards and drop off a cliff than trip and stumble into a lava pit where my insides would get microwaved so even if rescued, I’d expire in agony as my internal organs melted to goo.
It amazed me, how many ways there were to die in Yellowstone, not that we were looking for anything darker than macabre conversation.
Growing up, Alex shared my distaste for dirt and outhouses. Sam was fine roughing it as long as her stuffed white cat “Kitty” came along. Kitty is no longer young and beautiful like she was on Sam’s first birthday but Sam hasn’t noticed any change. That can happen if people love deeply.
It can but it probably won’t, so don’t get your hopes up. My husband’s eyes laser my flaws like only the long-married can. He’s not afraid to call them to my attention (sometimes he should be). Does he love me less than Sam loves Kitty? I think not.
True love can’t get a foothold when infatuation blinds lovers. It’s born in the bitter realization you and your true love are not, after all, the same person. You disagree. He thinks you control him, you know it’s really the opposite. He’s not perfect, never will be. Neither are you. Now that you’ve seen him as he truly is (I’m kidding, you’re not even close – it takes years) can you look into his eyes and tell him that you love him?
This was one of my favorite family vacations. Sam graduated from an upstate New York college the week before. John and I flew to Buffalo and rented a gigantic van. Our plan was to load four years’ worth of Sam’s worldly possessions plus ourselves in the van and drive it across the country to LA. None of us had done it before.
Aside from the fact our luggage didn’t travel with us to Buffalo and we weren’t able to reunite with it until we hit Philadelphia – aside from that snafu, everything went as smoothly as it possibly could for a sweaty family of four jammed into a hot (that’s hot as in sweltering, not Corvette).
We picked up Alex at the Columbus airport after he finished his finals. Regrettably, Chris and Serena couldn’t make it. Just as well, since two more riders would’ve meant strapping someone to the ski rack. Our van featured a DVD player to help the boring miles speed by. In between all the anime, we viewed the first season of Deadwood again to psych ourselves up for our visit to the same.
A brief review of Deadwood, the HBO series. The first season was brilliant. The second had its moments. The third jumped the shark. A traveling Shakespearean acting troupe planted themselves in Deadwood for the season and – like the big black hole of an idea this was – gulped airtime and sucked away all semblance of plot. A mercy killing would’ve been kinder. The Shakespearean acting troupe was tantamount to a Deadwood Talent Show.
You remember the dreaded Talent Show trope, you’ve seen it before – most egregiously in the final season of Showtime’s OZ, when inmates in a maximum-security prison sang and tap-danced for their fellow sadistic killers. Laverne and Shirley’s brewery threw a Talent Show. So did General Hospital. Suffice to say none of them have elevated the art form. IMHO, when a show stoops to the dreaded Talent Show, it deserves to die. No appeals, no reprieves. Everything must end someday; some should do it sooner.
Back to the Great Family Road Trip through Eccentric America in a few days.
This day remains vivid in my memory even after all these years. I kept John company most of the evening. A Lakers play-off game aired on TV– I think it was versus Utah but I can’t guarantee it. I think they won because so far it was a quiet relatively benign evening. If the Lakers had lost a playoff game at least one of us would have been in a poisonous mood.
John’s mother called him shortly after 10 PM. (I called them in Fresno and alerted them he was staying overnight at the hospital during my mad dash home earlier.) Everything appeared under control. It had been a long day and both of us were tired. I left him chatting with Florence and headed home to relieve the babysitter.
Later I would learn that shortly after I left – still on the phone with his mother – John drifted out of consciousness and coded. His mother didn’t know what happened; he stopped talking is all. Doctors and nurses raced in with life-saving methods. John watched it happen from the ceiling and thought to himself, “That’s what I get for scheduling surgery on Friday the 13th.”
At home, I was probably in bed. That night, I let all three children sleep in my room with me. Meanwhile, my unconscious husband laid under a sheet on a gurney, being raced down hospital corridors to the Intensive Care Unit.
The first I knew about any of this was at approximately 4 AM when the telephone rang beside my bed. Groggy, I answered and John’s physician identified himself. I’ll never forget what he said next. “Your husband is going to live.”
Excuse me? I dropped him off the previous morning for a minor day surgery – now you’re calling me at 4 in the morning, breathlessly sharing the good news that he’s still alive? I wasn’t filled with confidence.
On the bright side, they got one thing right – John lived and continues to do so today. Generally, I’m not superstitious but after this I’d never schedule surgery on Friday the 13th.
In 1965, I was foolishly over-optimistic about how easy it would be to conquer my tendency to talk like it’s a race to the finish line (and the loser dies) whenever I speak to a group. The larger the group, the faster I gallop.
Obviously, nerves – or more accurately fear – is the root of this malady. A doctor explained it’s due to a primal burst of adrenalin – speaking in public triggers a “fight or flight” response in my reptilian brain.
Given my father, a Lutheran pastor, delivered a sermon to a large seated congregation every Sunday, you’d think I might acquire this skill naturally – by osmosis. I did not.
I made up for it in small groups – such as my nuclear family – where I felt comfortable. There, I morphed into “Chatty Cathy”, a nickname I loathed. It was all Janet could do to get a word in edgewise.
My father recorded us after dinner and doing family devotions. I belted out every verse of every hymn I knew by heart, barely pausing to catch my breath. In my monotone shriek, it had to be excruciating. My father tried to slow me down. “It’s Janet’s turn. Let Janet sing.”
And on and on, all recorded for posterity. Clearly, I was desperate to entertain them lest they decide I’d become redundant now that Baby Janet was on the scene. Photographic evidence of my terrifying ordeal can be seen in my gallery, “Kathy Vs. the Alien Baby”.
On Sunday, May 7, we hosted an overdue memorial for our beloved Yolanda Hernandez, who passed away in our home on February 12th at sixty-six, thirty-two of those years spent as a member of our family. There were so many things we needed to do first – such as ensure she was at least in transit to her final resting place. This was no easy matter since we failed to secure power of attorney before she died and we were not related. Given my husband’s legal experience, you’d think we would’ve been on top of such technicalities but you’d be wrong.
So, we had to run the minor obstacle course of securing notarized permission from her living relatives in El Salvador who didn’t speak English (and no one in our family speaks Spanish) before we could ship her body to El Salvador as requested. The real reason for the delay was denial. Even today, almost three months later, it’s still hard to accept I won’t see her again this lifetime.
Around May 1, John took charge and declared the memorial would be held on May 7th. That meant massive amounts of house-cleaning (to conceal the fact my natural state is clutter) as well as frantic phone calls and email invitations. (What if we threw a memorial and no one came because we didn’t give them enough notice?)
We blew up a great photo of Yolanda and set up chairs between the bar and the breakfast area. Twenty-one people braved spring rain and drove to Glendale. Father Terry Richie gave an informal eulogy which Yolanda (a devout Catholic) would’ve loved.
John shared biographical snapshots from her life. Mary Bennett spoke next. After Sam and Alex went to college, for years Yolanda took care of Mary’s mother (who was in her nineties) during the week and came home to us on weekends. She also helped out with Alicia Curran’s mother when an emergency arose. Yolanda made enough of an impression that Alicia and her mother drove up from Orange County to attend her memorial.
Sam reduced the room to tears with her memories of Nana. Chris and Alex added their thoughts, as did Eugene Harrington (Yolanda took care of his mother for some years after Mary’s mother passed away.) My sister Joyce said a few words too. Since both of my sisters live within five miles of me, our children saw a lot of each other and Yolanda loved every one of them.
Yolanda touched all of our lives with her boundless capacity for love, her patience and kindness and her childlike enthusiasm for simple pleasures that many people take for granted. Objectively, she led a hard life (emigrating from El Salvador, a brain aneurism and cancer) but she was an intrinsically happy person, so much so that others absorbed some of that happiness simply by being around her.
I didn’t trust myself to speak but – once the event was scheduled – Sam and I scanned photos and my dear friend – the very talented Lewis Bell – created a beautiful memorial video, which can be viewed here, https://youtu.be/g5YBloGLMDg.
We ordered food from Porto’s – a truly spectacular local bakery –if you’re ever in Glendale, it’s definitely worth a stop. People ate and mingled. The stark reality that the clock is ticking for all of us made catching up with old friends poignant.
We always say we’ll get together more often but somehow it doesn’t seem to happen until there’s a life-changing event – a wedding (like Chris and Serena in ’12) or a funeral like last Sunday. I can’t tell you how much I wish it didn’t have to be Yolanda.
I rarely watched sports at all (certainly not by choice) before my obsession – some might say my addiction – with the Lakers began. A novice at rolling with the ups and downs of a long season, I took every loss to heart. Viewing the game through the lens of a die-hard fan, I was outraged at how the referees routinely called phantom fouls (and otherwise screwed) my beleaguered Lakers. Did somebody pay them to make my team lose? When obsessed, my thinking gets increasingly deranged.
How did this obsession begin? My very first Lakers game – an early round of the playoffs, 1986. The Forum was shaking; Laker fans were confident they’d breeze past Houston on their route to a second NBA Championship. The Lakers led the scoreboard every single second of the game -– until the last one, when Ralph Sampson drained an impossible three and the Lakers were out. Dream over. If they’d won as expected, I probably wouldn’t remember it so clearly. The out-of-nowhere last instant loss was high drama, to say the least. I was hooked.
John’s theory was after a loss like that, they’d come back strong and win the championship the following year so we bought our first season tickets. We were high in the rafters but we made friends with the interesting crew of people who owned the seats around us and it was a great year. They did indeed win the championship. I almost fainted, it was so exciting. We videotaped the games (VHS) so – if they won – we could watch them again when we got home.
Yeah. We were really that crazy about the Lakers. And it was a blast to be a fan in 87, 88 and 89 when they won everything. Less so in 90 and absolute misery as I write this. I’ll never give my heart to another team, though. It can only be broken once.
When I wrote I was a “smidge” down, I was trying to manage my emotions. I’d read that using words that minimized pain could actually reduce one’s emotional reaction. It worked, but gradually I slipped back into my catastrophizing ways. This entry is a timely reminder it’s far better to be a “smidge” disappointed than bereft because my life is over.