December 2018

December 30, 1974

December 30, 1974

My sisters and I, Christmas '74
My sisters and I, Christmas ’74

What’s the right thing to do about desperate strangers stranded in phone booths?

The story of Lot in Genesis offers an extreme example of hospitality. Lot sees two strangers in cloaks and insists they dine and sleep in his home. Later that night, his house is surrounded by a drunken mob of Sodomites demanding that Lot produce the two cloaked strangers. Ever the perfect host, Lot refuses. Instead, he offers the mob his virginal daughters, to do with as they wish. (I’m not kidding.  I wish I were.)

Lot flees Sodom

Luckily for Lot’s daughters, the strangers turn out to be angels who protect Lot from the mob and warn him to get the heck out of Sodom. Lot dillydallies but obliges. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, his wife ignores the angel’s order not to look back and is turned into a pillar of salt.  Things get a little worse from here. Since Lot and his girls are the only three people alive on Earth, the daughters decide to get Lot – their father – drunk and seduce him, to propagate the species. Let’s move on, shall we?

Striking a lonely, alienated pose
Striking a lonely, alienated pose

It’s impossible for me to imagine anyone in the 21stcentury as welcoming to strangers  as Lot – the protagonist (I can’t use the word hero) in an Old Testament story. That said, the words of Jesus in the New Testament are clear.

Matthew 25-25-36

I don’t see too many 21stcentury people following that example either.

Me, for real, Christmas
Me, for real, Christmas

Footnote: This story and other controversial or “forbidden” Bible stories – the ones they didn’t teach in Sunday School – are discussed in The Harlot by the Side of the Road by Jonathan Kirsch.

The Harlot By The Side Of The Road

 

December 27, 1978

 

December 27, 1978

“Success” was a syndicated (very slightly syndicated) half-hour talk show (and tax shelter). I recruited J’s boss, Mark P. Robinson Sr., because recently he’d been voted Trial Attorney of the Year.  Mark had an amazing history. He was the youngest wing commander in World War II and was shot down over Yugoslavia. While his plane was going down, he promised he would go to Mass every day if he survived. He kept his promise. He was broken out of a POW camp by an OSS operative, Joe Sampson, who became his permanent private investigator.

Mark P. Robinson
Mark P. Robinson

MPR was an impressive, amazing person as are his sons – Mark Jr., who won the Ford Pinto case (exploding gas tank), one of a series of fantastic results that have continued to this day, Greg Robinson, defensive coach for the Denver Broncos when they won their two Super Bowls, and Geoffrey, who J considers the coolest guy he ever met.

Mark Robinson, Jr. - Greg Robinson - Geoffrey Robinson
Mark Robinson, Jr. – Greg Robinson – Geoffrey Robinson

MPR was vice-president of the California State Bar and co-founded the American Board of Trial Advocates. In addition to being a brilliant lawyer and a devoted Catholic husband and father, MPR had a huge personality and a legendary temper. He formed and shattered at least half a dozen partnerships during J’s tenure with him. Let’s put it this way. No one ever forgot that MPR was in the room. Most of the time, that was a good thing.

Mark P. Robinson
Mark P. Robinson

Not surprisingly, J’s relationship with MPR was volatile. I was horrified the first time I heard them yell at each other on the phone and amazed when it was all smiles the next day. J learned a lot at USC Law School. He learned much more from MPR.

 

 

 

December 20, 1979

December 20, 1979

CD's 1st Xmas program 1

Growing up PK, I performed in dozens of holiday programs but this was my first in a parental role. I wasn’t embarrassed when CD abandoned the stage – who could expect more of a three-year-old? I hoped he’d enjoy the performance but I don’t think he did.  A live audience flicks a switch in some kids – not CD, at least at age three.

CD's 1st Xmas program 2

I was a show-off at his age, desperate to drown out my younger sister Janet. After I belted all four verses of “Oh Come all Ye Faithful”, my father would gently suggest I let Janet take her turn. “No, Daddy, she’s too little, she doesn’t know the words, I’ll sing it! Joy to the World, the Lord is come…”  All of this was recorded for posterity on reel-to-reel tape.

CD's 1st Xmas program 3

I’m not sure when I lost my taste for performing – probably when we moved to California and I was the uncomfortable new kid in kindergarten. My concern shifted from wanting to share my genius with the world to obsessing about how the world rated me (as yet unaware that most people weren’t paying that much attention.) My fear of not being good enough silenced the raging diva deep inside.

CD's 1st Xmas program 4

 

December 17, 1966

December 17, 1966

Sandy and Kathy 1966 1

 This wasn’t the only time Sandy and I boarded the wrong bus, which makes the bonehead move even more humiliating. The “best friends again” reference at the end of this entry suggests Sandy and I settled some temporary tiff.  Usually, the problem was something dumb and juvenile like me getting jealous that Sandy was better friends with someone else than me.

Sandy and Kathy 1966 2

“The Exorcist” was far in the future; consequently, Ouija boards did not have the satanic reputation they’d later acquire.  We didn’t play with the Ouija a lot. It spooked us. We were obsessed with the future, though.  How would our lives turn out? Would the guy we currently crushed on call?

Sandy and Kathy 1966 3

Personally, I still prefer to get a jump on the future if possible. I seek out internet spoilers. I read the end of novels before I get to the middle. My children hate this and beg me not to tell them what happens. They don’t want to ruin “the surprise”.

Kathy and Sandy 1966 4

Sometimes I wonder if they’re really my children.

 

December 13,1994

December 13, 1994

Boxes & boxes & boxes
Boxes & boxes & boxes

 Technically, I’m not a hoarder – but I totally get what they’re doing and why. For years, it was impossible for me to recycle newspapers and magazines until I actually read them, regardless of how obsolete they might be.  I’m more ruthless about recycling periodicals now, not so much because I can let things go as because I can google any article or story I need. Technically it’s progress, but is it really?

Shopping for more junk to clutter my closets with
Shopping for more junk to clutter my closets with

It’s harder to toss early drafts of my creative work because who knows? Someday I may need that bit of dialog in scene 3 of a movie that was DOA. Today, of course, I can save these gems on my computer, but I’m talking about the golden age of paper. Guess what? In my thirty-year career as a writer, I have never – not even once! – retrieved a piece of rejected dialog.

You can never have too much stuff!
You can never have too much stuff!

J is a different animal. He can trash yellow legal pads without scrutinizing every scribble. It’s true, he’s quicker to toss my rough drafts than his, but that’s because lawyers are legally bound to hang onto files for a specified number of years after a case concludes.

I wish I had an excuse half that good.

No Excuses!

 

December 11, 1967

December 11, 1967

 These conversations may not sound “deep” today (or was the word “heavy”?)  I’m glad I wrote them down – otherwise, I’d have no idea what my sisters and I talked about as kids. Do you remember childhood topics of conversation with your friends? Your siblings? Your parents? Do you ever wish you’d written it down?

Janet and I in 1967
Janet and I in 1967

I have zero independent recall of the vast majority of days described in my diary. They sound vaguely familiar – like something I might’ve overheard or said – but it’s my diary telling me what happened, not any real recollection.

Possibly our Christmas tree expedition - not sure
Possibly our Christmas tree expedition – not sure

Oddly, I do remember this conversation with my father – it started with my short story and evolved into a discussion of coming of age. I can see him on the floor, repairing that cupboard in our Del Monte kitchen. He made such an effort to meet me on my own turf. He listened to my Beatles records, listened to the Doors. Being young and selfish, I didn’t respond with reciprocal interest in his world. I wish I had; he had more to teach me than I could ever teach him. That said, his purpose was never to indoctrinate – he wanted to know me.

My Family
My Family

I should have written a lot more down.

 

December 8,1973

December 8, 1973 

This debacle – I truly tanked the GREs – was due to my own hubris. I hadn’t spent a minute in a math class since high school. For that matter, I avoided hard core English classes too, choosing to specialize in courses like Ibsen and Tolstoy in lieu of grammatical structure. I never did like diagramming sentences.

In front of Knudsen Hall, UCLA (our name was spelled with a T not a D)
In front of Knudsen Hall, UCLA (our name was spelled with a T not a D)

So, sure, my hard-core academics were rusty, but all my life, I tested high on standardized tests. Why should today be any exception? I sailed into the GRE exam without so much as a cursory glance at a GRE preparation guide. Why bother? How much can a person forget in four years?

Striking a pose

News flash. In four years, you can forget more math than you ever knew.  Granted, I could still nail basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division but guess what? They don’t ask that kind of question. Algebra and geometry were center stage. I suspect calculus and trig played starring roles, too, but I can’t verify because I didn’t take either one in high school.

Walking across campus at UCLA

So, how badly did I choke on the GREs? Suffice to stay, none of the Ivy’s competed to recruit me.

 

December 5, 1968

 

Deember 5, 1968

As I understand it, millennials – and, for that matter, gen-xers too – get to write their own ticket when it comes to senior pictures. Not only can they choose their own wardrobe, they can select the location(s) of their photo shoot – the better to accurately convey their personality.

Kathleen Knutsen Senior Picture

Back in the Dark Ages, things were different. All the graduating girls in my Wilcox yearbook flaunt the same black drape – it had been a tradition for decades. As a child in my grandfather’s house, I revered the four framed 8×10 senior portraits of my father and his siblings that adorned the wall. The implicit message was, your senior picture is for life – it will follow you to your grave.

My mother's high school graduation photo (I think)
My mother’s high school graduation photo (I think)

I wasn’t entirely wrong. Name a celebrity who hasn’t been mortified by the reappearance of his or her senior picture. Like the driver’s license photo that could double for a mug shot, a senior picture is forever.

My father
My father

I invite anyone reading this blog to post their own senior picture in the comments section. If you went to Wilcox, it’s in my yearbook, but rather than embarrass anyone, I call for volunteers. Any takers?

December 3, 1980

December 3, 1980

 These were heady, exciting days.  The chance to adapt S.E. Hinton’s novel for the screen was the break of a lifetime and I didn’t want to blow it. At my pitch meeting, I impulsively volunteered to return to high school – posing as a student – to determine if contemporary high school cliques resembled those depicted in Hinton’s 1967 novel.

As part of my disguise, I permed my hair to hide my face. Yikes!
As part of my disguise, I permed my hair to hide my face. Yikes!

I was a novice at writing as well as posing as somebody I wasn’t. I’d written two spec scripts and an unproduced MOW. Technically, I knew what I was doing; I could perform at a high level in academia but what about the real world, for real stakes?  The story meetings were intimidating. Facing blank pages felt terrifying. Add to that, the pressure to pass for a 17-year-old high school student when I was a 29-year-old married mother.

My high school student disguise
My high school student disguise

Because I was a nobody in a sea of somebodies, there’s no reason Jon Davidson should have recognized me – particularly since I worked all of three months at New World, ostensibly as Roger Corman’s assistant (my title) but actually as the receptionist (harsh reality). Jon was sweet to pretend; it gave my ego a tiny but desperately needed boost.

Real life - if Ren Faire can be considered real life.
Real life – if Ren Faire can be considered real life.

 

December 1, 1964

December 1, 1964

A very young Kathy learning how to release my inner powers to achieve confidence and contentment
A very young Kathy learning how to “release my inner powers to achieve confidence and contentment.”

I’m guessing that Julie, Debbie and I were doing a report together. Whatever the reason, I was already fascinated by psychology and still am. At one point, before I made a dime as a writer, I seriously contemplated returning to UCLA for a degree in psychology. Unfortunately, statistics was a requirement.

Julie Farnham & Debbie Callan
Julie Farnham & Debbie Callan

Books on psychology – anything, from pop psychology to doctorate tomes – are invaluable research resources. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the enneagram. Making certain all my characters are different enneagram types differentiates them. For the record, I’m a solid #4. David Schnarch is brilliant when it comes to relationships. Carl Jung provided a road map for mythic story structure and archetypes.

Enneagram Types - I'm a solid #4
Enneagram Types – I’m a solid #4

Psych experiments are also fascinating; as an undergrad, I volunteered for dozens to make pocket money. The Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment (1971) is particularly intriguing. Basically, students were randomly assigned roles as guards or prisoners in a mock prison for two weeks. Supposedly, some of them got too far into their rules –a few prisoners broke down and the experiment was terminated after six days.

Posters for the 2015 film about the Stanford Prison Experiment
Posters for the 2015 film about the Stanford Prison Experiment

Controversy surrounds this experiment because no one has been able to replicate its results. It’s been accused of unscientific methodology and possible fraud – were the guards coached to behave sadistically or did those tendencies emerge naturally from the roles the students played? Flawed or not, the fact the Stanford Prison Experiment is discussed half a century later confirms it was important – and probably warrants further study.

 

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