November 27, 2016

November 27, 2016

After such a rocky start, the last thing I expected was a magical wedding – but then, all of my expectations were wrong. I figured spotty attendance, at best. Aside from John, how many lunatics would brave freezing roads and icy wives to witness nuptials?

Sharon & Phil Wedding

A whole lot, it turned out. When two people as well-loved as Phil and Sharon wed, their collective iPhone contacts show up en masse. When Sharon walked down the aisle in a gorgeous traditional white gown, I was moved to tears. There was something so unique and poignant about two people (in my own demographic yet!)  who got lucky and found love again.

The Newlyweds

Phil & Sharon Wedding

And how about the Tenaya Lodge, dusted with snow as the sun flickered toward twilight? I can’t imagine a more stunning site for a winter wedding. Surrounded by so much beauty, I felt compelled to  snap a selfie or two while waiting for the reception to start.

Selfie at the wedding

The hits kept on coming.  The bride and groom’s adult children were all ecstatic about the union because it made their parents so happy. The DJ played music I loved and and adorable grandchildren danced in wedding attire. John and I were seated at a table packed with fascinating people and lively conversation. Even the food was good!
Our table

Last but not least, in a rare moment of clarity I conceded most likely I wouldn’t have finished  the great American novel if I’d stayed home instead of attending the wedding.  John refrained from saying “I told you so” in words.

Phil & Sharon's family
Phil & Sharon’s family
The Bride & Groom
The Bride & Groom

November 21, 1973

November 21, 1973

 When I met Larry Payne in November of ’73, he was one of two McCall’s west coast advertising salesmen working under the supervision of Mr. G.  Don Draper was decades away, but (in hindsight)  I saw a guy on his way to becoming Draper unless he made significant changes. Not that there’s anything wrong with being young, successful, handsome and charming – all of which describe Larry and Draper. The difference is, Larry wanted his life to be more than a slick Madison Avenue ad for success.

My family at Janet's house along with Larry Payne
My family at Janet’s house along with Larry Payne

Astute as ever, Larry’s secret spiritual leanings flew far under my radar – not too shocking since I quit McCall’s less than three months after I started. My best friend Gail replaced me and when Gail moved on my sister Janet got the job. Via this grapevine, I heard what Larry was up to from time to time. One thing I never suspected was that – of the two of us – his name would appear on book jackets long before mine.

Yoga for Dummies

Cut to the present. Hopefully, I’ll fill in the middle someday. Today (from the bio on back of his book) “Larry Payne, Ph.D., is an internationally respected Yoga teacher and back specialist. He is Founding President of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, founder of the Yoga program at the J. Paul Getty Museum, co-founder of the Yoga curriculum at UCLA Medical School and founding director of the Yoga Therapy Rx and Prime of Life Yoga programs at Loyola Marymount University.  Most Recently co author of his 5th book, Yoga Therapy & Integrative Medicine  Turner Publishing.”

Larry Payne1

Here’s the best part. More than forty years after we parted ways at McCall’s – we are now FB friends – and he’s just as charming as he used to be.

Larry Payne2_edited-1


November 16, 1969

November 16, 1969

Paul McCartney Dead

Not to cast aspersions on any of my high school friends who read this, but in retrospect I think Luke was wrong. While it’s possible most of Santa Clara was more together (mentally) than me, I don’t believe the bulk of my contemporaries charged toward their destiny without a missed step. Luke and I made the mistake of comparing how polished my friends looked on the outside to how messed up I felt on the inside.

To me, Sandra always looked confident she knew exactly where she was going.
To me, Sandra always looked confident she knew exactly where she was going.

In truth, teen-agers navigating the tail end of the sixties had plenty of reason to be confused about the world and their place in it.   From the vantage of almost fifty years worth of hindsight, many of my peers explored multiple paths before finding their purpose. Sandy Walker briefly aspired to be a dental hygienist. (Not to disparage dental hygienists, but it wasn’t Sandy’s thing and she lasted a month.)  At her next gig – receptionist for the Whirlpool Company – she made it all the way to two. Today, she teaches fitness classes part-time (Yoga and Pilates mostly) for a Modesto health club. Tal Pomeroy traveled the country, butchered meat and sold encyclopedias before he became Tal Pomeroy, MD.  Against all odds, my art major college boyfriend Luke became an accountant – I didn’t see that coming.

My art major boyfriend Luke advising me I'm not "together."
My art major boyfriend Luke advising me I’m not “together.”

If you, too, travelled bizarre career paths before you found yourself where you belong,  feel free to comment here or on my domain. I’m endlessly intrigued by the strange trajectories of our lives.


November 4, 1973

November 4, 1973

I know that girl

I realize how vain and conceited I sound and that’s fair enough. I spend too much time worrying about my looks, comparing myself (negatively) with other girls or models in magazines. If anorexia or bulimia had been a “thing”, I probably would’ve been first to sign up. In 1973 (and before), I bought every wacky diet book– Twiggy was the ideal, remember – and obsessed about my weight.  Who knows what I might’ve accomplished, if I’d turned my mind to something meaningful instead of making endless diet plans (“If I lose two pounds a week, on January 7th I’ll finally be skinny!”).

What the mirror reflects
What the mirror reflects

I suspect I suffer from body dysmorphia alhough I haven’t been formally diagnosed (because  I never told a therapist how much time I waste obsessing about weight. They’d think less of me.) Basically, that means no matter what I look like in the mirror, I see a fat person. Anorexic thinking without the starvation.

What I see in the mirror
What I see in the mirror

That glimpse – on November 4, 1973 – was the first and only time anything like this happened. I’ve never forgotten the sheer shock – the burst of euphoric self-confidence – I experienced. I might’ve been dangerous if I’d been able to hang onto it. Alas, I can’t remember what I looked like – only how I felt.

I remember how I felt
I remember how I felt

I wish we lived in a world where everybody felt like that all the time but maybe we’d turn into  narcissists. Our insecurities keep us humble. Still – enough is enough.


October 24, 1995

October 24, 1995

Perusing these diaries years later, I can’t help noticing how often I say something like “I want to hold onto the image…” – and how rarely (never) I do retain it. If I hadn’t written things down at the time, I wouldn’t recall most events, forget images.

I simply don't recallIt’s a weird sensation, reading my description of a conversation or encounter with no independent recall of the event. I don’t doubt that it happened, more or less the way I described, because (at least IMHO) my diary style isn’t emotional or subjective. I consider myself a “just the facts, ma’am” diarist. I had no reason to lie or embellish the truth because I had no intention of letting anybody (let alone the entire internet!) read my innermost thoughts.

Some, but not all, of my diaries.
Some, but not all, of my diaries.

Intellectually, I know I’m reading about my own real life but emotionally it’s like reading about someone else. In my unassisted memories of my life, I’m a much finer person than the girl who wrote these diaries. We all tell ourselves stories about our lives, whether or not we consciously frame it that way. I wonder how many of our life stories are true? I can’t be the only one who prefers to see myself in a better light.

Me in a better light.
Me in a better light.

It’s disheartening to face my pettiness, my envy of others, my callousness and my shallow values. I cared more about cute clothes and popularity than making the world a better place, I was more interested in myself than others. I take some solace in my belief that I’m less self-obsessed than I was as a teen-ager, but who knows? If I read the entries I write today in twenty years, I might be just as appalled.

Guaranteed, I won’t remember much, if anything, about today’s obsessions. It’ll be like reading another person’s diary. Barbra Streisand wasn’t wrong when she sang,

“What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.”Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten a lot of the laughter and good things too. That’s why I continue writing things down even if my thousands of diary pages are more likely to be recycled than read. I want to remember every single moment and image.

Laughter remembered with Martha Coolidge
Laughter remembered with Martha Coolidge

In the words of a Paul Simon lyric,

“Preserve your memories – they’re all that’s left you.”


October 7, 1971

October 7, 1971_edited-1

Marjorie Arnold A

I don’t recall how I came across Marjorie’s ad for a roommate but we clicked instantly. As the photos show, Marjorie was beautiful – she was frequently compared to a young Natalie Wood. Someone so pretty might have intimidated me – put me off –  if Marjorie hadn’t been so refreshingly candid, unpretentious and down to earth. Since the age of 16, she supported herself. When we met, she worked weekends clerking at the Med Center.

Marjorie Arnold B

We had a lot in common, since both of us were in the Theater Arts department. Luckily, she was an actress and I was a writer so competition wasn’t an issue. At the time, she was dating a moody Scottish playwright who’d won the Eugene O’Neill award. He proved it was possible for somebody with no Hollywood connections whatsoever to succeed as a writer.

Marjorie Arnold CMarjorie and I shared apartments for two years and our lives ran on parallel tracks for a while. We married within a year of each other (she to a doctor, me to a law student) and had our first children within months of each other. Her daughter, Jenny, stole the spotlight from my son, CD, when the two of them were extras in the day-care scene of “Nine to Five”. (Sterling Hayden picked up Jenny, because clever Marjorie armed Jenny with an attention-getting near-lifesize doll – an actress trick that would never occur to a writer, at least not this one.)

9 to 5 Daycare Scene - Jenny being held, CD to the far left
9 to 5 Daycare Scene – Jenny being held, CD to the far left
Marjorie and I together
Marjorie and I together


October 3,1969

October 3, 1969

Abbey Road played everywhere, all the time, that fall – to my mind, the most melancholy Beatles album. They hadn’t officially disbanded, but their imminent break-up rippled through the sad melodies.

Abbey RoadDespite my lunatic decision to pledge and unpledge a sorority in less than ten minutes (December 9, 1969 Diary Entry ), I had almost no involvement with Greek life at UCLA. The incident described above – the casual cruelty of that nameless guy who mocked Louise (not her real name) – was reason enough to give fraternity row wide berth.

My UCLA Student ID
My UCLA Student ID

There’s always a girl like Louise on the fringes of my friendships and I never knew quite what to do for her. In a perfect world, I’d offer sage advice and smooth her path but – as readers of my diary blog have no doubt discerned – I wasn’t a font of wisdom at 18.

Looking for guidance

Louise and I lost touch after sophomore year and I have no idea where life took her. Looking back, I wish I’d been a fearless heroine who stood tall for defenseless underdogs like Louise.

If I was wisked back in time.....
If I was wisked back in time…..

I’m ashamed of my silence but I’m not sure I’d do much better if a time machine whisked me back to that Fiji frat house. While conflict and confrontation of any kind freak me out (because my family didn’t do that), what really terrified me was being identified with Louise – becoming Louise. I was too much of a social coward to do more than be a sympathetic observor – and I knew, even then, it wasn’t enough.


October 1, 1998

October 1, 1998 Much like every other Baby Boomer girl, I grew up playing with Barbie. My first – and still my favorite – was the classic titian ponytail. Much like my own wardrobe, we rarely splurged on store-bought Barbie clothes – my mother sewed them. And, unlike little girls today, I had one Barbie and probably a Ken, Midge and Skipper too. We spent hours playing the Barbie board game, trying not to get stuck going to the prom with Poindexter. Feminism was far in the future, as a casual perusal of the rules and goals of the Barbie board game make abundantly clear.

Barbie Characters

When I left for college and my parents prepared to move to San Diego, they asked me what to do with my dolls. “Give them away,” I said cavalierly, confident that I was far too sophisticated to ever miss them.

Barbie Images

I was wrong. As an adult collector, you could argue – as my long-suffering husband does – that I spent a fortune trying to reconnect with those dolls I so casually gave away. After years of being oblivious to 11 inch fashion dolls, in the mid-nineties I browsed a Barbie Bazaar magazine while shopping for toys for my children at FAO Schwartz  – and I was hooked.

Barbie image

Naturally, I didn’t collect in moderation – I don’t do anything less than obsessively. Meeting Chris Varaste was a lucky fluke.  He was writing a book about Barbie (Face of the American Dream) and many of my dolls were immortalized in photographs for the book.

book cover

With affection, I call Chris my “idiot savante” of the Barbie world. He knows which shade of eye color appeared which year and which ones are rare (example – say what color and year). Thanks to his eagle eye and willingness to curate,  my collection was elevated in class almost instantly.

Chris and I last Christmas with Miss Zelda
Chris and I last Christmas with Miss Zelda

Neither of us are as mad about Barbie as we were then although she’ll always have a place in our hearts – how could she not, being an American icon? More important, Chris has a place in my heart. We’ve talked about far more than Barbie over the years and he’s proven himself to be as trustworthy as I intuited on the day we met – nineteen years ago today.


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?


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 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.


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


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