September 2017

September 30, 1979

September 30, 1979

When this was written, J and I had been married four years and CD was two, going on three. Looking back, I can’t help wondering if my assessment of J’s restlessness wasn’t pure projection – I was just as edgy and impatient, I just didn’t cop to it. Our role models were better at this than we were. My parents routinely spent similar Sunday afternoons with me and my sisters and if they wanted to be somewhere else, they didn’t show it.

John and I with CD circa 1979
John and I with CD circa 1979

Why weren’t J and I better at this when it was our turn to parent? Arguably, we were too young to be married with a child. While that excuse only goes so far, maturity did play a part. I’d enjoy lazy afternoons like the one described above more today than I did then.

On the beach
On the beach

As proof, J and I have maintained a family membership at Descanso Gardens for at least fifteen years. Unlike the vanished LA landmarks I wrote about a few days ago (see September 24/73) Descano Gardens stands more or less intact since the late thirties although the camellia named for John’s grandmother has disappeared.  The miniature banana-yellow Enchanted Railroad gives toddlers and their parents a tour of the 150 acre gardens. There’s an elegant Japanese Tea Garden and ducks! On some summer Sundays, you can enjoy live music in the ampitheater.

Close-up of a camellia
Close-up of a camellia

Admission is reasonable General $9; Seniors 65 and over/Students with ID $6; Children (5 to 12 years) $4; Descanso members and children under 5, free). Parking is free and the gardens are open from nine to five every day of the year except Christmas. If you’re looking for someplace to enjoy natural beauty in LA (especially in the Pasadena/Glendale/La Canada area), check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

John at Descanso a few years ago.
John at Descanso a few years ago.

September 28, 1965

September 28, 1965

Usually, when I brought dilemmas like this to my parents, they strongly advised me to stick it out and argued against the change (read escape) that I wanted. For example, I was miserable in third grade. For the first time, I was not teacher’s pet, a situation I considered unbearable. If anything, the teacher (whose last name rhymed with cruel – seriously) actively disliked me. I wanted to transfer to another third grade class and tearfully pleaded my case to my parents.

With my sisters, circa 1965
With my sisters, circa 1965

Unmoved, they pointed out that in the course of my lifetime, I would encounter many people who – like Mrs. Cruel – not only didn’t favor me, actively detested me.  In most instances, transferring would not be a possibility. I might as well learn to cope with this unpleasant scenario now since I’d surely have to face it later. I managed to survive third grade, even though the situation never improved and it remains my least favorite year of elementary school.

In Elgin with my sisters (pre move to California)
In Elgin with my sisters (pre move to California)

This wasn’t the only time they failed to rescue me. Going back further still – to when we lived in Elgin, Iowa, and I was under five – a neighbor boy encroached on my toys. I raced inside to enlist my parents on my behalf. “Kathleen, you’re old enough to fight your own battles,” my father said.

I'm the tough little girl on the far right.
I’m the tough little girl on the far right.

I took him seriously and upended my plastic wading pool on top of the neighbor boy, trapping him until my parents intervened. I don’t think I’ve fought my own battles quite so effectively since then.

 

September 26, 1988

September 26, 1988

Père Lachaise Cemetery, where Jim Morrison was buried
Père Lachaise Cemetery, where Jim Morrison was buried

I call on this memory in times of trouble because circumstances reversed so drastically. In less than thirty minutes, utter despair about losing a dream turned to exhilaration about a vastly improved, doubled version of the dream – all with no great effort or sacrifice on our part. It was a gift we didn’t expect or deserve, but there it was – almost as if there was someone watching over us.

John doesn't remember as much of his high school French as he hoped.
John doesn’t remember as much of his high school French as he hoped.

I’m not suggesting God has a hot line to reservations at American Airlines or that J and I are so special, travel angels stand ready to perform miracles on our behalf. What the experience says to me is, don’t judge so hastily. What appears to be a disaster might be a blessing in disguise. If you’re too focused on life’s injustice, you might miss the boon fortune wants to grace you with.

Me, streetside in Paris

This insight is a lifeline when everything in my life simultaneously goes south and it looks like there’s nothing left – a situation I’ve faced more than once. I remember that afternoon at LAX when instead of losing we won more than we knew to ask for. If that could happen – and it did – my present disaster might turn around too, even though I can’t imagine how. I don’t have to. The trick is to open my mind to possibilities instead of bemoaning my bad luck.

Another shot of me at Père Lachaise Cemetery

[1] A word of explanation. In 88, we wouldn’t – couldn’t – indulge in a trip to Europe unless it was free – which it was, thanks to a MasterCard promotion offering a free flight and lodging in Paris to customers who racked up 25 thousand Mastercharge points. Challenge accepted! We charged everything humanly possible and paid our bills on time, thus avoiding interest. Hence, the trip was free.

John posing by AA sign

 

September 24, 1973

September 24, 1973

I wish I’d known this was the one and only time I’d set foot in the historic Ambassador Hotel – let alone that the Ambassador would cease to exist in 2005. I’ve bemoaned the changes to the Santa Clara I used to know – what about my Los Angeles? Much like how it’s hard to observe my aging process when I look in the mirror, LA’s changes frequently slip under my radar because the landscape is so familiar.

The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles
The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles

Objectively, a lot has changed since I moved to LA in 1969. Almost all of the iconic clubs and restaurants of the 60s and 70s are gone. Chasen’s – once so trendy, their chili was flown to Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra – closed in 1995. Today it’s a Bristol Farms. Scandia’s been gone since 1989. The Brown Derby that used to stand on Vine is now a parking lot. The Cock’nBull is now a Jaguar dealership and alas, the Formosa Café – down the street from one of my first apartments – recently closed although I’ve heard it’s been purchased by someone with plans to reopen it.  Musso and Frank’s remains alive and well (I think).

Chasen's & the Cock 'n Bull
Chasen’s & the Cock’n Bull

Most rock’n’roll clubs from the sixties or seventies have disappeared or changed hands. It’s Boss became Kaleidoscope which became Acquarius (where I saw “Hair” in 1969) which became Art Laboe Oldies Goodies and later became a headquarters building for Nickelodeon. Ciro’s was a West Hollywood nightclub that opened in the 40’s and that location is now The Comedy Store.

Hullabaloo-Aquarius
Hullabaloo – Aquarius
Ciro's - The Comedy Store
Ciro’s – The Comedy Store

Gazzarri’s was demolished in 1995. Two venues that stood the test of time are the Troubadour and the Whisky-A-Go-Go.

Gazzarri's

Troubador & Whisky-A-Go-Go
Troubador & Whisky-A-Go-Go

TheAquariusTheater1967-1Schwab’s Pharmacy on Sunset – where legend has it Lana Turner was discovered – closed in 1983. Today it’s part of a shopping complex anchored by Virgin Records. Rexall Drugs at Beverly and La Cienega is now Beverly Connection. Bullocks Wilshire, built in 1929, once an iconic department store, declined as high-end retail trended west. Today, it houses Southwestern Law School but the original 1929 building has been restored. The famous Max Factor building, where I once bought fake blood for Roger Corman’s New World Films, is now the Hollywood Museum. Even Tower Records on Sunset went bust.

Schwab's, Rexall & Tower Records
Schwab’s, Rexall & Tower Records

In the past few weeks, the Writer’s Store closed; I was especially sorry to see that one go. Because the changes have been gradual, though, it still feels like my city – at least for a little while longer.

Very sad when the Writers Store closed
Very sad when the Writers Store closed

If you are interested in the history of LA’s clubs and restaurants, please check out the research section of my website (Sixties Venues/Clubs). A lot of information is collected in one place!

 

 

September 22, 1978

September 22, 1978

Where do I go? What do I do?
Where do I go? What do I do?

 I still ask people for feedback even though I rarely follow it. In retrospect, I ran all of my life questions through my friends and family until someone told me to do what I already wanted to do. Why did I bother? To justify my poor decisions by blaming somebody else?

NOT ME

Anybody who knows me knows it’s torturous to make me do anything I don’t want to do – even when the benefits are great and the penalties severe. Well-adjusted mature people worked through this issue during their Terrible Twos. I must have been absent that day because it’s an on-going struggle.

Advice to or from Janet
Advice to or from Janet

In the above example from 1978, my friends’ advice is close to unanimous – if I want to escape my slough of despair, I need to get out of bed, get out of the house, welcome some external structure – aka a job – into my life. I knew it myself, I brought it up with J. Did I follow through with what everyone, myself included, agreed was a good idea?

Agreeing on a good idea
Agreeing on a good idea

Don’t make me laugh. At most, I doubled down on guilt, berated myself for not doing what I knew I should do. This probably sounds insane to people who are mentally healthy – but understanding my behavior was self-destructive led to self-loathing which amplified my self-destruction. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, a debilitating downward spiral. Fortunately for me, some person or event – something beyond my control – eventually snapped me out of it.

Something beyond my control

I wish I had some brilliant advice for someone trapped in this cycle. Bottom line, I regret wasting all that time. If there was some way to get it back, I’d use that time more wisely. Then again, I might not.

 

September 20, 2016

September 20, 2016

I felt terrible about being tardy on the very first day of a nine-month class and the panicked rush to minimize the damage made me even more nervous than I would have been anyway (which is pretty darn anxious). A fight-or-flight surge of adrenalin takes over when I have to speak in front of a group of strangers and unless I’m very careful, I talk at supersonic speed. I felt like I was making a terrible impression on this new group of kids which flustered me even more. There’s an obvious solution – think less about how I’m coming across and more about the kids I’m here to teach. Gradually I leveled out. I took some admittedly poor photos of my class that first day.

They weren't being rude and texting. I asked them to take selfies and email them to me - to help me me learn their names.
They weren’t being rude and texting. I asked them to take selfies and email them to me – to help me me learn their names.

This was the first day of my second year teaching Screen Writing Symposium at Columbia and I couldn’t imagine ever liking a class as much as I liked my first class. I kept up with them (as much as you can with occasonal updates on Facebook) but I actively missed our Thursday afternoons in Room E.  I struggled to remember the names of my new students. I thought, it will never be the same.

Josh Andersen, Kevin Salcedo, Peter Zaragoza, Kaitlyn Hutchins, Justin Thompson, Alex Falcon, Charlotte Scrivener, Holden Weihs, Ryan Brennan. Not pictured: Tanner Novotny
Josh Andersen, Kevin Salcedo, Peter Zaragoza, Kaitlyn Hutchins, Justin Thompson, Alex Falcon, Charlotte Scrivener, Holden Weihs, Ryan Brennan. Not pictured: Tanner Novotny

I was right; it wasn’t, in the same way my second child isn’t the same as my first and my third is quite different from both siblings. Inevitably, every class – especially one that meets four hours a week for nine months – develops it’s own unique identity. Comparing them is futile, they’re both special – irreplaceable – in their own way. Just like I miss the kids in my first class on Thursdays, I miss the kids in my second class (except, I taught them on Tuesdays, Fridays, and finally Mondays, so I didn’t associate them with a day).

top, l-r: Jarred McClarty, Kendall Collins, Danae Fishman, Andrew Levin; bottom, l-r;David Alvarez Faith-Ann Bishop, Ryan O'Donnell, David Lugowski. Not pictured: Michael Akkerman, Natalie Frank
top, l-r: Jarred McClarty, Kendall Collins, Danae Fishman, Andrew Levin; bottom, l-r;David Alvarez Faith-Ann Bishop, Ryan O’Donnell, David Lugowski. Not pictured: Michael Akkerman, Natalie Frank

I hope to keep up with them as they traverse the real post-college world, probably via Facebook.  I’d like to see all of them again too.  I fantasize that if and when I retire, I’ll host a party at my house for all my former students and the ones that show up will regale me with the highs and lows of their careers. Hopefully, their wins will far outpace their losses.

top, l-r: Jarred McClarty, Kendall Collins, Danae Fishman, Andrew Levin; bottom, l-r;David Alvarez Faith-Ann Bishop, Ryan O'Donnell, David Lugowski. Not pictured: Michael Akkerman, Natalie Frank.
top, l-r: Jarred McClarty, Kendall Collins, Danae Fishman, Andrew Levin; bottom, l-r;David Alvarez Faith-Ann Bishop, Ryan O’Donnell, David Lugowski. Not pictured: Michael Akkerman, Natalie Frank.

September 17, 1979

September 17, 1979A

My career had yet to begin. I was closing in on a paying gig as a writer but it hadn’t happened yet. If you’re in my situation – no prior job, no WGA membership, no credits – you need to do what I did. Seek out fellow young, hungry producers or directors, work out stories with them as a team, pitch them to anyone who will listen.

Typing

I was fortunate to find a friend and champion in David Bombyk, a smart, ambitious, charming guy from Michigan. He was a year younger than me. We laughed a lot when we got together to gossip or break stories. I can’t remember who slipped my spec script to David – Martha Coolidge? Kip Ohman?  David and I partnered on several spec pitches and a couple of bona-fide (paying!) development deals but – alas – none of our joint efforts survived to see the light of day.

David made it big without me when he found, developed and co-produced “Witness” in 1985. The same year he produced “Explorers” and in 1986 he produced “The Hitcher” with his friend Kip Ohman.

David Bombyk, Producer

Kip succumbed to AIDS in 1987 at age 41. I met David for lunch a few months later. He looked haunted and thin; he talked about how hard it was sorting through and dispersing Kip’s belongings after he was gone.

David Bombyk 1952 - 1989

It was the last time I saw or spoke to David. He died on January 20, 1989, age 36.  His mother got in touch with me shortly after the funeral and sent me a beautiful ceramic vase David wanted me to have. He collected them.

Green Vase_edited-1

She was charged with the excruciating task of sorting through and dispersing her son’s possessions. I can’t imagine how painful that must have been.

LA Times - David Bombyk

AIDS took a lot of good people, especially in the 80s. For me, David Bombyk was one of the great ones. Unfailingly kind, loyal to his friends and brilliant when it came to developing scripts. Witness has long been a staple in screenwriting classes to illustrate a near-perfect script. I see David’s fingerprints on it. I don’t know if I’d have a writing career at all if David hadn’t believed in me before anyone else did. I’ll always be grateful; I’ll miss him and his laughter forever.

Of Mere Being

 

September 15, 1967

 

September 15, 1967Statistically, I had a miserable time at the Wutzit – or any other dance venue – far more often than I had a great time. A line from Buffalo Springfield’s song “Everybody’s Been Burned” always made me think of the Wutzit.

“Anybody in this place – can tell you to your face – why you shouldn’t try to love someone”

Not exactly “I Could Have Danced All Night”. This night in 1967 was an exception. I’d met Lewis a couple months earlier but hadn’t seen or spoken to him since. This time we connected instantly and dated for the next six weeks, until he broke up with me. As usual, we promised to stay friends but we didn’t follow through.

Lewis at Rio Del Mar beach
Lewis at Rio Del Mar beach

Occasionally, over the next four decades, I wondered what happened to Lewis – where he went, what he did. I didn’t hold out much hope for internet searches since his last name – Bell – is popular. To my surprise, I got lucky in 2014 and happened upon something he posted to encourage someone dealing with cancer. Despite the odds – he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 1996 – he survives, in large part due (IMHO) to his relentlessly positive outlook on life.

Lewis 1967Even though we haven’t set eyes on each other for almost half a century, we became FB friends and we know each other better today than we did in the sixties. He’s still a brilliant pianist and it turns out he’s a composer too. He also has an eye for art and gift for graphics that I lack and has graciously shared some of his free time in retirement to help me with these diary-blogs (when he’s not volunteering at his local SPCA, something else I admire about him).

Only photo of Lewis and me together in 1967.
Only photo of Lewis and me together in 1967.

I’m grateful to Facebook for making some of these re-connections possible – and grateful to Lewis for being such a great friend.

September 14, 2003

September 14 2003

I strongly considered skipping this diary entry; I prefer the impression I have a perfect marriage and this entry shows the cracks. I decided to publish it anyway because – while I can’t see behind anyone else’s bedroom door – I strongly suspect most long-married couples suffer through periods when they are less than enchanted with each other – when one of them is so unhappy that walking out the door is an option.

John absent for this big family shot.
John absent for this big family shot.

I was miserable enough to fantasize about divorce more than once but I never followed through. I realize now that I blamed John for my deep dissatisfaction with myself and my life. This was particularly true early in our marriage, when I was stuck at home with a baby and a writing career looked like an impossible dream.  I told myself I’d leave him as soon as I was self-supporting but when I became self-supporting, I was happier with myself so I no longer wanted to leave.

There were difficult times in the early days too.
There were difficult times in the early days too.

In 2003, we did separate – for a week. I think the reality of a split scared both of us; it scared me, I was a basket case. Things were significantly better when we got back together because we both chose to be there. That’s a big part of marital happiness, I think – the knowledge you chose and have been chosen.

Have things been all sunshine and rainbows since then? Of course not, we’re human. We disagree about many things. We can get on each other’s nerves. We know each other’s weak spots so we’re masters at sticking the knife in – although we do it far less often than we did when we were young. We’re old enough to know that most of the things we fight about aren’t worth it but that doesn’t always stop us. Both of us want it our way, all the time. Neither of us get everything we want.

Kathleen & John

That said, we get enough. We’ve been married 42 years and counting and I don’t see either of us filing for divorce anytime soon. If any young marrieds read this, don’t give up too soon. There are times when your relationship might look hopeless. That doesn’t mean it is hopeless. You’re not the first or last couple to feel broken. That doesn’t always mean it’s over.

 

September 12, 2012

September 12, 2012

Sick on Vacation 2

The view from my hotel window.
The view from my hotel window.

 My youngest son, Alex, was working at Disney when they offered their employees a great deal on a fall visit to their Aulani family resort in Hawaii. The whole family went – me, J, Chris, Serena, Sam and Alex. I was the only one who spent 90% of it in bed (which also explains the dearth of good photos – I’m usually the family photographer and I didn’t leave our room until the last two days).

Disney Kleenex

The family in hotel corridor.
The family in hotel corridor.

Those final days were great. I braved the water slides and the whole family went to a luau. I took romantic couples pictures of Chris and Serena on the beach – they were getting into heavy wedding planning.

Chris and Serena
Chris and Serena

I wish I’d been able to take better advantage of our surroundings but in a way it’s good we went when we did. It’s easy to travel as a family when the kids are little and have no lives of their own. Traveling as a family with adult children, all of whom actually do have busy lives packed with commitments that can’t be rescheduled as easily as a play date, presents some logistical challenges.

At the luau
At the luau

Chris was thinking through his Thesis film for UCLA. John never travels without frequent calls from the office. Sam was embarking on her MLA in Library Science from Drexel. Somehow, we made it work – five of them did, anyway. I spent six full days hacking away in bed.

John and Alex check cell phones to take care of business (at Luau).
John and Alex check cell phones to take care of business (at Luau).

 


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