memory

February 9, 1964

February 9, 1964

When dinosaurs roamed the Earth, if you missed Sullivan the first night he featured the Beatles, you were out of luck. No internet, no streaming, no DVDs, VHS or Beta. Today, when virtually any entertainment is a click away, it’s hard to recall when missing a show meant never seeing it, unless you caught it on summer reruns.

My sisters and I around '64
My sisters and I around ’64

Since then, I’ve seen this performance many times. Even if I didn’t own the DVD, it’s widely available.  While still entertaining, it can’t possibly match the excitement of watching the event unfold in real time, live.

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan

Do people born post-Beatles fully comprehend their impact. I write about them because they were that important. There’s “before” the Beatles and there’s “after.” How many entertainers – heck, how many people – can you say that about, on a worldwide basis? Their music was the soundtrack of my adolescence, their existence colored my world.

Around '64 again - a very different world.
Around ’64 again – a very different world.

When I listen closely, I still shiver with excitement. More than fifty years later, they still sound fresh. Different. Thrilling. Electric. She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, oooooo. I think I’ll watch that tape again.

February 7, 1966

February 7, 1966

Nobody likes to wait, I get that. Some people handle it better than others. I’m not one of them. It enraged me when friends arrived hours late. Ten minutes tardy, no big deal. Three hours late, and the least you can do is call and advise three solid hours are now available to do something else.

My sisters and I in front of Hope Lutheran under construction - 1966
My sisters and I in front of Hope Lutheran under construction – 1966

When somebody can’t be bothered to call, their silence sends a message. That message is, “Your time is worthless. Mine is precious because I am important, unlike you. The best use of your time is waiting for me.”

Another family photo, circa 1966
Another family photo, circa 1966

I phone when I’m more than ten minutes late which happens more often than it should because I cut it as close as possible. This is more than a little hypocritical because, when I cut it close, I risk being late. For sure, I’m never early because being too early usually entails waiting, too.

You can't be late until you show up

 

 

 

February 5, 1975

February 5, 1975

The morning after I met J, I told my best friend Gail “I met the man I’m going to marry.” I believed this but – as the above entry makes clear – J hadn’t reached the same conclusion. Because it was a done deal in my own mind, I needed J and Gail to get along.

J and I, a million years ago
J and I, a million years ago

It’s a problem when your best friend loathes your significant other. Usually, I’m the one who detests my friend’s beloved. The friendship suffers when my friend chooses the love of her life over me, her jealous, bitchy buddy. Go figure.

My best friend Gail
My best friend Gail

I didn’t want to choose. Choosing means giving up an option, possibly forever. I avoid it when I can. Luckily, J and Gail clicked. Despite many miles and years since that night, we remain close today.

Gail is part of the bridal party (in lime green) - I'm still apologizing about the dresses!
Gail is part of the bridal party (in lime green) – I’m still apologizing about the dresses!

For the record, I did not get more aggressive and gregarious around Law House although J did get more irritable (and irritating) as finals approached. It didn’t matter. My premonition was correct. I’d met the man I would marry.

RIP Judith Russell

Judith at an Oscar party
Judith at an Oscar party

Some of you may remember Judith Russell, a guest at some of our outrageous 80s and Oscar parties. I’m sad to report she died earlier this week, alone, in her apartment; her body wasn’t discovered for two or three days.  When I knew her, Judith was pretty, vibrant and funny.  Two industry heavyweights – Terry Semel and Sherry Lansing – hired her to be their personal secretary – she had the perfect voice, face and sassy attitude to charm the public.

Judith with writer Art Everett and Oscar-winning cinematographer Russ Carpenter
Judith with writer Art Everett and Oscar-winning cinematographer Russ Carpenter

Judith’s life was anything but enchanted, though. In the 80s, a fall on the Warner’s lot dislodged a brain tumor that could not be 100% removed – sooner or later, it would grow back, and she’d face surgery again. Hospitalized at UCLA, she was inundated with flowers and get-well wishes from almost every A-list celebrity.  Her hair grew back and she recovered.

Judith an Once at another Oscar party
Judith an Once at another Oscar party

She couldn’t recover from alcoholism, though. Employers paid for pricey inpatient rehabs because they wanted her sober. Judith had no interest whatsoever in life without alcohol. After one Oscar party, I took her car keys because she was far too drunk to drive home. In the morning, she was gone. Turns out she traveled with a second set in her purse, “just in case” something like that happened. That’s alcoholic thinking in action.

Judith in Edwardian costume with Kirk Hulstrom
Judith in Edwardian costume with Kirk Hulstrom

She lost the high-profile jobs and lacked the high-tech skills required to land an equally impressive gig. She withdrew from her friends. My sister Joyce hung in there the longest. She and Judith went to Saturday matinees in Burbank for years until it interrupted Judith’s drinking so she declined.

Judith and Joyce - yet another Oscars night
Judith and Joyce – yet another Oscars night

For the last ten years, Judith woke up and went straight to her local bar, where she spent the day and part of evening, until she staggered home or close to it – sometimes, she passed out in the parking garage or vestibule.  Her landlady was concerned. We all were, but she no longer talked to people that knew her before.

Judith playing bridge with me, J and Gail. I grieve for the Judith I knew in the past. I think she had a lot to give, but we’ll never know. I wish she’d let someone help her but she was adamant – to Judith, life without booze looked worse than death. So, of course, it had to end like this.
Judith playing bridge with me, J and Gail. I grieve for the Judith I knew in the past. I think she had a lot to give, but we’ll never know. I wish she’d let someone help her but she was adamant – to Judith, life without booze looked worse than death. So, of course, it had to end like this.

I grieve for the Judith I knew in the past. I think she had a lot to give, but we’ll never know. I wish she’d let someone help her but she was adamant – to Judith, life without booze looked worse than death. So, of course, it had to end like this.

RIP old friend

Rest in peace, old friend. I pray you’re in a better place.

Judith with Bill Connell and Joyce
Judith with Bill Connell and Joyce

February 2, 1970

February 2, 1970

Neil Sedaka was right – breaking up is hard to do, especially when you live in the same dorm.  Luke and I ran into each other in the dining hall, the lounge, the mailboxes, the path to north campus.  I wanted to talk to him and at the same time, I never wanted to see him again. He broke my heart and I missed him.

Luke and I separating
Luke and I separating

I didn’t see it coming, probably because I’d threatened to leave Luke so often. How ironic that he pulled the trigger every time we split. It took us at least half a dozen tries to master the art of leaving each other.

Going different directions
Going different directions

According to my friend Monica, a divorce attorney, our dance was the rule, not the exception. By the time the average couple follows through with a divorce, they separate a minimum of three times. While by no means scientific, her theory rings true. It’s hard to break the habit of another person, especially when it feels like they’re part of you.

Natalie Ann Nilsen high school graduation photoMy friendship with Natalie didn’t die but it changed – because I changed when I left Santa Clara. I thought my departure was temporary. I was sick with longing for my city. The landscape ached with melancholy as it receded in the rear-view mirror. I would’ve done anything to return to the life I’d known, the person I’d been. But, of course, all of that was already gone and there was no going back.

 

 

 

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 27, 1968

January 27, 1968

JoAnn Hill 1In high school, JoAnn was beautiful, vibrant and sunny. She was taller than I was – such a treat to feel short for a change! She was a fearless tomboy, endlessly curious, generous and optimistic. I could’ve learned a lot from her, if I’d paid more attention.

JoAnn Hill 2JoAnn moved to Los Angeles shortly after I did and we stayed close friends for at least twenty years. At some point, for no particular reason, our paths diverged and we lost touch. After google became a thing, I tried to find her. While I could track down a great many people from my past, JoAnn’s last name was one of the most popular surnames in the USA. Knowing where she graduated from high school as well as her birthday didn’t help.

JoAnn Hill 3Then, out of the blue, earlier this year, my landline rang and caller ID displayed an unfamiliar number. Usually, I let it go to voice mail, but for some reason I picked up – and heard JoAnn’s voice. Incredibly, I still have the same home phone number I had forty years ago. Even more incredibly, JoAnn had that phone number written down somewhere and dialed it.

JoAnn Hill 4A lot changed for both of us in the intervening years. We both lost our parents and she lost one of her brothers.  My children turned into adults. She moved back to San Jose and began raising borzoi dogs. As usual, our lives didn’t unfold exactly as we expected but our lives are good. We haven’t met in person again, yet, but I know we will. I can’t wait.

JoAnn and her smiling Borzoi (also called the Russian wolfhound)
JoAnn and her smiling Borzoi (also called the Russian wolfhound)

January 22, 1978

January 22, 1978

While combing my diaries for a suitable blog entry, if I find a snippet about CD, I usually send it to the adult CD just to give him some idea of his life as a two-year-old.  Since he has no conscious memories of his infancy, he can’t enlighten me about what actually ran through his mind.

CD at the park 1

A child psychiatrist might hazard an informed guess about which cognitive skills were in development but no one will ever know for sure. Odds are, my instincts were right and what amused him involved repetition.

CD at the park 2

As my diaries suggest, by nature I wrote down almost everything that happened, no matter how apparently trivial. I’m glad I did, now, since some of the things that seemed mundane – even then – acquired significance in the ensuing years. I forgot almost everything I failed to record for posterity.

CD at the park 3

As my firstborn, CD was the beneficiary – or the victim, depending on your point of view – of my meticulous record keeping. Sometimes, in bursts of energy, he’d run races with himself, up and down the family room, shouting “Go!”  a few seconds after he started. We could guarantee a smile by throwing a towel over his head, asking “Where’s CD?” and yanking it off. Hilarious! Two-year-old’s – the best audience ever.

J & CD at the park

 

 

January 17, 2007

January 17, 2007

What if it had been a serial killer? Remarkably, given my paranoid fantasies about scenarios such as this, I’ve never formulated a plan for survival. I have no idea what S and I would, or could, do. It would probably be prudent to learn how to change my own tire but since I haven’t done so yet, it seems unlikely.

Changing Tires for DummiesA woman stranded on a remote highway in the dead of night is a trope in thriller/horror movies – hopefully, not for good reason (I have no statistics). Most of the time (although not always), contemporary fictional heroines survive without the aid of a man. In the process, they discover hidden reservoirs of cunning and strength.

S and I - unlikely to take on armed marauders.
S and I – unlikely to take on armed marauders.

Should I find myself in similar jeopardy, I suspect the ending would be less satisfying (at least for me.) I’d be too frightened to scream and I can’t think of anything else to do. Take a martial arts course, maybe? Much like learning to change a tire, it seems unlikely.

Breakdown, Hitcher, Duel, Vanishing

Fortunately, stories like those told in Breakdown, the Vanishing, the Hitcher and Duel are far less common than real-life tales about kind strangers, willing to help change a tire.

A Good Deed

 

January 15, 1965

January 15, 1965

I don’t have any photos from Sandy’s slumber birthday (if digital film had been a thing, we’d have billions) so I’m running one of my own birthday party photos from around the same era.

Top row from right to left Natalie Nilsen, Susan Tanaka, Donna Duncan, Moi, Loretta Dirks, Julie Farnham, Sandy Walker
Top row from right to left Natalie Nilsen, Susan Tanaka, Donna Duncan, Moi, Loretta Dirks, Julie Farnham, Sandy Walker

I was a textbook “dork” (spazz, feeb, or brain.) For a female in 1965, “brain” was a major cut (chop, put down, shut down, slam.) I have no recollection about the game “Starlight, Starbright.”  I suspect it was something Sandy and I invented.

"Dork"
“Dork”
Sandy
Sandy

I wish I’d recorded the revelations that emerged from our game of “Truth.” I’m pretty sure they were silly and tame. As close as we were, it’s unlikely we shared deeper secrets; it never occurred to me anybody carried any.

Photo booth - a year or two later
Photo booth – a year or two later

I was naïve. The older I get, the more certain I am that everyone has a secret life, to a greater or lesser degree. Chekhov said it best.

 

He had two lives...

 

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