los angeles

April 14, 1978

April 14, 1978

The house today - it didn't look like this when we lived there.
The house today – it didn’t look like this when we lived there.
Our front yard - it didn't usually look like this, it's decorated for a Halloween party.
Our front yard – it didn’t usually look like this, it’s decorated for a Halloween party.

J and I bought our first house on impulse. I’d seen and rejected thirty houses before we walked into this one and fell in love. The fact it was a little eclectic – or, to put it another way, weird – made it irresistible. It never occurred to us that such an unconventional floor plan, not to mention the fact it was on a flag lot, might make it hard to sell. Of course, we didn’t intend to sell it, ever. Why part with perfect?

Our faux-wood paneled family room, decked out for a prom party.
Our faux-wood paneled family room, decked out for a prom party.

The money part terrified us. Millennials, avert your eyes. These numbers might make you weep. Instead of paying $225 per month for our two-bedroom apartment, we were on the hook for $596 and change in monthly mortgage payments (for a slightly odd but large three-bedroom, two-bath house, half in Glendale, half in La Crescenta.)

Our living room - note adobe walls and weird cabinet built into wall on the left.
Our living room – note adobe walls and weird cabinet built into wall on the left.

Had we gone too far, were we in over our heads? The sum sounded insurmountable when we bought it, but every one of the mostly happy ten years we lived there, our house payments seemed less daunting. Knowing what I know now, if a time machine took me back to 1978, fear wouldn’t slow me down. I’d spend every last cent and then some to snap up real estate at those prices.

Another shot of the family room, like it usually looked. Built-in bar in rear.
Another shot of the family room, like it usually looked. Built-in bar in rear.

 

 

 

January 29, 1986

January 29, 1986

J and I had CD when we were (relatively) young. None of our friends had children (yet) so we had no frame of reference. In retrospect, we assumed CD would be like us – that he’d want the same things, behave the same way. He was and is a lot like us – sometimes I read him so clearly, it’s as if we have mental telepathy. More often, though, he baffled us, especially when it came to education.

CD & me at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco
CD & me at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

I walked into my very first parent-teacher conference fully expecting to hear he was the smartest kid in the class.  His kindergarten teacher said, “I don’t know any other way to put this. He’s a space cadet.” Her exact words. J and I never doubted CD’s intellect but he refused to show it at school.

CD & me on the Golden Gate Bridge
CD & me on the Golden Gate Bridge

The Hillside Learning Center was one of many attempts to figure out what was going on. They confirmed he was gifted, particularly in verbal ability. This was a relief because I feared I might be over-estimating his brilliance due to maternal bias. And yes, I probably did, because what parent doesn’t? Still, he did “blow the top” off one of their tests.

Hillside 1

But he wasn’t the eager-to-please student I was at nine and never would be. He gripped his pencil in an unwieldy way and reversed d’s and b’s. We found solutions for those problems, but not the deeper issues that stopped him from fulfilling his “potential.”  I vividly recall him angrily telling me, “I hate the word potential!”

CD & me overlooking San Francisco Bay - perhaps from Alcatraz Island
CD & me overlooking San Francisco Bay – perhaps from Alcatraz Island

This story has a happy ending. Despite dropping out of high school as a sophomore, eventually he graduated valedictorian of his class as a film student at UCLA. Bottom line, he performed when he wanted to perform – J and I couldn’t force him. Our efforts had the opposite effect.

Another shot of us on the bridge during our 1986 San Francisco trip
Another shot of us on the bridge during our 1986 San Francisco trip

These were difficult times but we learned a lot. CD wasn’t – and never will be – a mini-me or mini-J and that’s great. Learning to lighten up and let go of expectations was excellent practice for parenting our other two children.

 

January 10, 1970

January 10, 1970

Apparently, it escaped me that these were the golden years of UCLA basketball. I saw, maybe, two games during my four years there. I wouldn’t become a basketball fan for another 17 years, when I fell in love with the Lakers. ( They had a GREAT game last night!)  I still don’t follow college basketball but the more I learn about John Wooden, the more I admire him.  Three of his quotes – “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” – “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

70's UCLA Basketball
70’s UCLA Basketball

Luke and I were in the midst of one of our many break-ups so I was dating. It was awkward and uncomfortable to talk to a new guy, especially compared to the rapport I enjoyed with Luke – even when we were fighting.  I don’t remember anything about Bill at all; for me, he exists only in this diary entry.

Don't forget me.
Don’t forget me.

That strikes me as sad, but he’s far from the only person I crossed paths with that I no longer recollect.  I’m sure that’s true for everyone (I hope so or my memory is worse than I thought). We all meet so many people in the course of our lifetimes. Only a handful make a lasting impact.  I like to fancy myself unforgettable, but no doubt Bill has forgotten me too.

 

November 26, 2006

November 26, 2006

I’ve got the potential to be a crazy cat lady with a special place in my heart for tuxedo cats – like Henri, the existential cat.

J isn’t a cat person – but even he can’t resist the occasional clumsy cat video.

Common wisdom holds that you can’t “herd cats.” Nobody told whoever trains the stars of Moscow Cats Theatre. Recently, a mother and daughter cat-training team competed on America’s Got Talent. They didn’t win but I was entertained

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZsVF13anwY

My favorite tuxedo cat, Deeter.

Deeter

My favorite picture of girl-with-cat – Sandra Walker Hegwood.

girl-with-cat

 

August 24, 1967

August 24, 1967

 matt3

Once you see the cracks in the fantasy façade, it’s impossible to pretend they’re not there. At sixteen, I prided myself on being a cynic and eagerly traded wonder for the worldly superiority of seeing through everything.

Our family, circa 1967
Our family, circa 1967

The enchantment came back when I took my children to Disneyland. I suspect most parents feel the same way.

J and our kids at Disneyland - I'm evidently taking the picture.
J and our kids at Disneyland – I’m evidently taking the picture.

According to this entry, I liked the Matterhorn. The way I remember it, the first time I rode it with my father, I howled, “Daddy, make it stop!” My final ride on a roller coaster – Space Mountain, at the urging of my sister Joyce who assured me it was a metaphysical experience, not remotely terrifying – ended in hysterics. I staggered off, simultaneously laughing and crying, dimly aware of nearby teens asking, “What’s the matter with you, lady?”

My turn to be in the picture.
My turn to be in the picture.

Apparently, on thrill rides, I easily suspend disbelief.

animated-disney-image-0159

 

 

March 29, 1989

March 29, 1989

Joyce and Judith Russell
Joyce and Judith Russell

John talks to Martin in b.g.

Me with my boys; John talks to Martin in b.g.
Me with my boys; John talks to Martin in b.g.

Almost thirty years later, I can answer that question with some authority. Yes, I was definitely losing interest in movies, a trend that would continue. Today, IMHO, the most innovative, exciting and inspirational writing can be seen on cable television or a streaming service.  In 1989, I couldn’t imagine the myriad entertainment options we take for granted now. To illustrate just how different things were, check out our eighties pride and joy – the gigantic rear-projection television that consumed half the family room. The yellow velveteen sofa is another eighties winner.

Rear-projection TV

Anne Kurrasch, Aviva, and rear-projection TV
Anne Kurrasch, Aviva, and rear-projection TV

Joyce and John Salter

Joyce and John Salter
Joyce and John Salter

A couple people who were there that night – Ed Cutter and Jake Jacobson to name two – have died. I lost touch with JoAnn Hill and even with the full resources of the internet, I haven’t been able to find her due to the sheer volume of JoAnn Hills.

JoAnn Hill and young Thomas Dadourian
JoAnn Hill and young Thomas Dadourian
Martin and Roberta Gundersen
Martin and Roberta Gundersen

My adorable little blond boy in the white faux tuxedo jacket is in his thirties now, living in his own condo and too busy with his job and girlfriend to see us more than every other weekend. The other day he laughingly told me I couldn’t guilt him anymore. We’ll just have to see about that, won’t we?

Me and Alex again
Me and Alex again
JoAnn Hill and John on classic eighties sofa
JoAnn Hill and John on classic eighties sofa

Enjoy these pictures and take lots of photos of your life as you know it now. Before you know it, everything will change and you’ll want to remember how it used to be. In the immortal words of the great Paul Simon in “Bookends”:

Ed Cutter and John Salter
Ed Cutter and John Salter
Sam and Roberta
Sam and Roberta

Memories from March 29, 1989

February 27, 1969

February 27, 1969

 This entry captures my skewed priorities during my senior year (aka known as my Great Depression). Getting accepted at UCLA was momentous (and kind of crucial, since I neglected to apply to any other institution of higher learning). It was truly life changing.

Reading acceptance letter from UCLA
Reading acceptance letter from UCLA

That said, my obsessive focus was on pinpointing where I stood in my relationship with X – talk about an absurd waste of time!  A mollusk could’ve deduced I was nowhere – the same place I’d been for almost two years.

Even a Mollusk would know
Even a Mollusk would know

It’s a peculiar kind of hell, pretending to be satisfied being “just friends” with somebody  you’re madly in love with. To level the “just friends” playing field, I invented a boyfriend to compete with his living girlfriend. When he tortured me by rhapsodizing about how much he loved her,  I could retaliate with my make-believe relationship with the non-existent Pericles. (I gave him a more normal name which is not to imply he was one iota more believable.)

The letter that forged my destiny
The letter that forged my destiny

To render an already pitiful situation more pathetic, I repeatedly pulled my fictional punches. Instead of touting my relationship with Pericles as a love affair for the ages, at the slightest hint X might be interested in me again, I kicked poor Pericles to the curb. My brilliant reasoning  went, “X secretly wants to come back to me but he’s afraid he’ll be rejected for Pericles! Play it smart. Tell him you dumped Pericles so you’re fully available to him.”

Saying goodbye to Santa Clara
Saying goodbye to Santa Clara

Yeah, that’ll work every time – somewhere other than the planet earth. Suffice to say, my Herculean efforts to recapture X’s heart failed miserably. When I left Santa Clara (as it turned out, for good – and in June, not September) I never expected to see or hear from X again – but at least I had UCLA in my future.  And that’s what actually mattered.

February 9, 1971

February 9, 1971

San Fernando Earthquake

As frightening as that 6.5-6.7 earthquake was, I don’t think I really did take the possibility that I might die soon seriously. I was still a teenager, I thought I’d live forever. And – although I’d lived in California for fifteen years, fourteen of them in Santa Clara, this was my very first earthquake (at least the first that I can remember). Luke was on a high floor in the boy’s wing of Sproul. Hall; I was on the 6th floor of the girl’s wing. I’m not sure if this is technically true, but it seemed like the higher you were, the wilder the ride.

Sylmar Vetrans Hospital Prior to and the day of the 1971 earthquake.
Sylmar Vetrans Hospital Prior to and the day of the 1971 earthquake.
With my 1971 roommate, Miya Kamijo
With my 1971 roommate, Miya Kamijo

In a weird coincidence, that week my Swedish class was translating a fictional article about an earthquake in the US. Since the Sylmar, I’ve experienced two more reasonably big ones – the Whittier (1987, 5.9) and the Northridge (1994, 6.7). As I write this, I can’t help but notice it’s been a long time – almost 28 years!  – since the last big one hit LA – and, of course, we’ve been primed for “The Big One” as far back as I can remember. That said, personally I find earthquakes less threatening than other natural disasters California is spared – hurricane and tornados.

Trying to take the possibility that I might die soon seriously.
Trying to take in all the possibilities of what might happen next.

On a side note, that night there was a screening at Melnitz Hall – UCLA was great about inviting directors to talk about their latest movie before its release. That particular night, the guest director was Martin Ritt. In one of those 6-degrees-of-separation coincidences, I recently became FB friends with his daughter, Martina. LA can be a small, small world.

December 4, 1973

December 4, 1973

Lost on Larrabee Restaurant

My parents didn’t allow me to date until I turned sixteen and waiting for it probably built my anticipation. It was thrilling at first – I loved going out to restaurants (fast food qualified as restaurant to my untutored taste buds) and feeling so grown up. The rules were clear and easy in the sixties. Boys always paid. Boys placed the phone calls, boys asked for the date. Girls had it easy. All we had to do was say yes or no and follow the advice in magazines such as Seventeen let him do the talking and act interested. Find little things to compliment him about – his driving, for instance.

I had better conversations with my dog.
I had better conversations with my dog.

Six years later, the rules hadn’t changed much but I had. Dating felt more like a torturous death march than a thrill. I was sick of pretending to be interested when I was bored. Somehow, my dates were both dull and stressful, a bad combination.  I was sick of exchanging resumes over dinner, worried about that sprig of arugula stuck between my teeth.

Go on, tell me more. I'm fascinated._edited-1It’s no coincidence I didn’t get to know the two guys I could talk to in a genuine way on a date – my college boyfriend Luke lived in my first undergraduate dorm, my future husband John lived in Law House (grad school lodging). Proximity eliminated the artificial structure of a date while we got to know each other. I recently read Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance and learned that  until  recently the biggest common denominator in romantic pairings was proximity. People married people they met in their neighborhood or at work.

Modern Romance

That’s no longer the case, thanks to the internet and various match-up apps. I was married long before any of that happened, so I can’t speak from personal experience.  Does it feel more like a date or like getting to know somebody who lives nearby, now that we’re all only a modem away from each other?

Just a modem away
Just a modem away

 

 

November 29, 1968

November 29, 1968

Royce Hall, UCLA
Royce Hall, UCLA

I’ve written elsewhere about how right UCLA was for me (link) but I knew little more than its four initials when I applied. For all I knew, it could’ve been located in the dregs of downtown LA. (Except then it would’ve been called USC. Whoops, my snark is showing.)

The article where I found this picture called it the Ugliest Law School in America. Their words, not mine.
The article where I found this picture called it the Ugliest Law School in America. Their words, not mine.

My parents were equally ill-informed – their now-void plan had been to send me to a Lutheran college where I’d meet and marry a guy at least half-Scandinavian. To their credit, they hid their disappointment well and didn’t try to change my mind.

Life was paradise as an adored only child.
Life was paradise as an adored only child.

Consequently, on Friday after Thanksgiving in 1968, my parents and I left my sisters in Santa Clara and drove to LA. It wasn’t often I spent significant time with them without my sisters as buffer. It was exhilarating to reclaim their undivided attention but also unnerving. Too much focus on me risked revealing defects I sought to hide, especially from them. Based on the most formative experience, which took place when I was two years and two days old, imperfections – the failure to entertain, for example – were cause for replacement. Either one of my younger sisters – both less flawed than me – could easily take my place.

The day they brought a new baby home and my world fell apart
The day they brought a new baby home and my world fell apart

It wouldn’t be the first time. They’d done it before and could do it again.

From this point forward, every photo depicts Janet being held and me in a state of acute distress.
From this point forward, every photo depicts Janet being held and me in a state of acute distress.

Click this link to view family photo albums illustrating the inner torment of a highly sensitive recently displaced first-born child.  You’re not being disloyal to Janet or Joyce. They signed off on my weird obsession decades ago. I’ll add new photos and captions in the near future.

 

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