life

May 19. 1972

May 19, 1972

Asleep

 This is another one of those mortifying memories I would’ve successfully repressed if not for my diary. Obviously, at 21 my social skills were sadly lacking. I didn’t even try to engage when I felt intimidated – the only thing I could think of to do was escape. If that meant falling asleep under a table, so be it.

Wanting to escape reality
Wanting to escape reality

I never did become a party animal. Truth be told, I’m uncomfortable at parties now – even small dinner parties. I think today there’s a term for this – social anxiety – and it’s considered a genuine psychological disorder. I believe I suffered from it then (and now). It was worse when this condition didn’t have a name or diagnosis – when it was simply weird behavior.

Social anxiety
Social anxiety

Over the years, I learned to hide my social anxiety far more successfully than I did in ’72.  I understood it sprang from extreme self-consciousness, the ridiculous fear that everyone was looking at me and judging all the things I did wrong.

Cornered
Cornered

For a few years, alcohol eased my self-consciousness and enabled me to socialize more freely but it was a temporary fix that – if anything – exacerbated my underlying insecurities. It was only after I gave up the crutch of alcohol that I began to make real (if slight) improvement. I’ll never be the life of the party, but I don’t think I’ll crawl under a table and go to sleep anytime soon either – although sometimes I still want to.

 

May 15, 2005

May 15, 2005

My favorite photo (that I took) of Deadwood
My favorite photo (that I took) of Deadwood

 This was one of my favorite family vacations. Sam graduated from an upstate New York college the week before. John and I flew to Buffalo and rented a gigantic van. Our plan was to load four years’ worth of Sam’s worldly possessions plus ourselves in the van and drive it across the country to LA. None of us had done it before.

Alex joins the Rowell Road Trip a couple days late
Alex joins the Rowell Road Trip a couple days late

Aside from the fact our luggage didn’t travel with us to Buffalo and we weren’t able to reunite with it until we hit Philadelphia – aside from that snafu, everything went as smoothly as it possibly could for a sweaty family of four jammed into a hot (that’s hot as in sweltering, not Corvette).

The second time we drove far out of our way to see Mt. Rushmore and - once there - stuck around for less than five minutes.
The second time we drove far out of our way to see Mt. Rushmore and – once there – stuck around for less than five minutes.

We picked up Alex at the Columbus airport after he finished his finals. Regrettably, Chris and Serena couldn’t make it. Just as well, since two more riders would’ve meant strapping someone to the ski rack. Our van featured a DVD player to help the boring miles speed by. In between all the anime, we viewed the first season of Deadwood again to psych ourselves up for our visit to the same.

Alex in the Maze
Alex in the Maze

A brief review of Deadwood, the HBO series. The first season was brilliant.  The second had its moments. The third jumped the shark.  A traveling Shakespearean acting troupe planted themselves in Deadwood for the season and – like the big black hole of an idea this was – gulped airtime and sucked away all semblance of plot.  A mercy killing would’ve been kinder. The Shakespearean acting troupe  was tantamount to a Deadwood Talent Show.

Laverne & Shirley - The Talent Show

You remember the dreaded Talent Show trope, you’ve seen it before – most egregiously in the final season of Showtime’s OZ, when inmates in a maximum-security prison sang and tap-danced for their fellow sadistic killers. Laverne and Shirley’s brewery threw a Talent Show. So did General Hospital. Suffice to say none of them have elevated the art form.  IMHO, when a show stoops to the dreaded Talent Show, it deserves to die. No appeals, no reprieves. Everything must end someday; some should do it sooner.

Great Family Road Trip

Back to the Great Family Road Trip through Eccentric America in a few days.

May 13, 1988

May 13, 1988

 This day remains vivid in my memory even after all these years. I kept John company most of the evening.  A Lakers play-off game aired on TV– I think it was versus Utah but I can’t guarantee it. I think they won because so far it was a quiet relatively benign evening. If the Lakers had lost a playoff game at least one of us would have been in a poisonous mood.

John in young workaholic lawyer mode
John in young workaholic lawyer mode

John’s mother called him shortly after 10 PM. (I called them in Fresno and alerted them he was staying overnight at the hospital during my mad dash home earlier.) Everything appeared under control. It had been a long day and both of us were tired. I left him chatting with Florence and headed home to relieve the babysitter.

When he was working a hundred hours a week, John had this vision of the two of us watching a sunset. Kind of like this.
When he was working a hundred hours a week, John had this vision of the two of us watching a sunset. Kind of like this.

Later I would learn that shortly after I left – still on the phone with his mother – John drifted out of consciousness and coded. His mother didn’t know what happened; he stopped talking is all. Doctors and nurses raced in with life-saving methods. John watched it happen from the ceiling and thought to himself, “That’s what I get for scheduling surgery on Friday the 13th.”

At home, I was probably in bed. That night, I let all three children sleep in my room with me. Meanwhile, my unconscious husband laid under a sheet on a gurney, being raced down hospital corridors to the Intensive Care Unit.

Me with the three kids. We all appear smile-challenged in this photo.
Me with the three kids. We all appear smile-challenged in this photo.

The first I knew about any of this was at approximately 4 AM when the telephone rang beside my bed. Groggy, I answered and John’s physician identified himself. I’ll never forget what he said next. “Your husband is going to live.”

Excuse me? I dropped him off the previous morning for a minor day surgery – now you’re calling me at 4 in the morning, breathlessly sharing the good news that he’s still alive?  I wasn’t filled with confidence.

Amazed and thrilled he's alive and kicking years later.
Amazed and thrilled he’s alive and kicking years later.

On the bright side, they got one thing right – John lived and continues to do so today. Generally, I’m not superstitious but after this I’d never schedule surgery on Friday the 13th.

May 11, 1965

May 11, 1965

The picture in the front of that diary - still hideous after all these years.
The picture in the front of that diary – still hideous after all these years.

 In 1965, I was foolishly over-optimistic about how easy it  would be to conquer my tendency to talk like it’s a race to the finish line (and the loser dies) whenever I speak to a group. The larger the group, the faster I gallop.

I call this facial expression "the Silent Scream".
I call this facial expression “the Silent Scream”.

Obviously, nerves – or more accurately fear – is the root of this malady. A doctor explained it’s due to a primal burst of adrenalin – speaking in public triggers a “fight or flight” response in my reptilian brain.

Given my father, a Lutheran pastor, delivered a sermon to a large seated congregation every Sunday, you’d think I might acquire this skill naturally – by osmosis.  I did not.

Mom! Kathy is doing all the talking again!

I made up for it in small groups – such as my nuclear family – where I felt comfortable. There, I morphed into “Chatty Cathy”, a nickname I loathed. It was all Janet could do to get a word in edgewise.

Word in edgewise

My father recorded us after dinner and doing family devotions. I belted out every verse of every hymn I knew by heart, barely pausing to catch my breath. In my monotone shriek, it had to be excruciating. My father tried to slow me down. “It’s Janet’s turn. Let Janet sing.”

She's too little!

(atonal shrieking)

Joy to the world

 

Let Earth recieve her KING

And on and on, all recorded for posterity. Clearly, I was desperate to entertain them lest they decide I’d become redundant now that Baby Janet was on the scene. Photographic evidence of my terrifying ordeal can be seen in my gallery, “Kathy Vs. the Alien Baby”.

 

 

 

May 9, 1993

May 9, 1993

Jim McCann, Judith Russell, CD Rowell, me and John outside the Great Western Forum.
Jim McCann, Judith Russell, CD Rowell, me and John outside the Great Western Forum.

I rarely watched sports at all (certainly not by choice) before my obsession – some might say my addiction – with the Lakers began. A novice at rolling with the ups and downs of a long season, I took every loss to heart. Viewing the game through the lens of a die-hard fan, I was outraged at how the referees routinely called phantom fouls (and otherwise screwed) my beleaguered Lakers. Did somebody pay them to make my team lose? When obsessed, my thinking gets increasingly deranged.

1985-86 Lakers team
1985-86 Lakers team

How did this obsession begin? My very first Lakers game – an early round of the playoffs, 1986. The Forum was shaking; Laker fans were confident they’d breeze past Houston on their route to a second NBA Championship. The Lakers led the scoreboard every single second of the game -– until the last one, when Ralph Sampson drained an impossible three and the Lakers were out. Dream over. If they’d won as expected, I probably wouldn’t remember it so clearly. The out-of-nowhere last instant loss was high drama, to say the least. I was hooked.

The Forum basketball court
The Forum basketball court

John’s theory was after a loss like that, they’d come back strong and win the championship the following year so we bought our first season tickets. We were high in the rafters but we made friends with the interesting crew of people who owned the seats around us and it was a great year. They did indeed win the championship. I almost fainted, it was so exciting. We videotaped the games (VHS) so – if they won – we could watch them again when we got home.

Arty night shot of Forum
Arty night shot of Forum

Yeah. We were really that crazy about the Lakers. And it was a blast to be a fan in 87, 88 and 89  when they won everything. Less so in 90 and absolute misery as I write this. I’ll never give my heart to another team, though. It can only be broken once.

John and me in front of the Forum.
John and me in front of the Forum.

When I wrote I was a “smidge” down, I was trying to manage my emotions. I’d read that using words that minimized pain could actually reduce one’s emotional reaction. It worked, but gradually I slipped back into my catastrophizing ways. This entry is a timely reminder it’s far better to be a “smidge” disappointed than bereft because my life is over.

 

May 7, 2014

May 7, 2014

Daisy's last day. We had her for ten years, from when she was four to roughly fourteen. She was a PERFECT dog.
Daisy’s last day. We had her for ten years, from when she was four to roughly fourteen. She was a PERFECT dog.

After our beloved Daisy (a golden retriever mix) crossed the rainbow bridge, we adopted a terrier mix from a local rescue organization. Before long we discovered Nicky’s head was full of bad wiring (as opposed to any trace of a brain). He’s pathologically devoted to me, so much so that even after two years, he’ll attack John if my husband dares to get too close to me. Then there’s his piercing, ear-shattering bark.

Nicky's intellectual look.
Nicky’s intellectual look.

It was clear why Nick’s two previous owners dumped him; if I followed suit, his next owner would do the same thing. My dog was a lemon but he loved me so much! How could I save my psychotic little terrier? My novel and brilliant solution? Adopt another small dog and hope Nick follows the new dog’s example. I am nothing if not a clear thinker when it comes to adopting more pets.

Nicky and I before Zelda.
Nicky and I before Zelda.

Enter http://lhasahappyhomes.org and a lhasa mix named Xyla (now Zelda). Her previous owners surrendered her because she needed eye surgery, which the rescue organization provided. They were honest about her flaws (she was a chewer but that’s over now). On the plus side, she was smart – dolphin smart, as opposed to Nick, no brighter than the average mollusk.

The beautiful regal and QUITE entitled Zelda.
The beautiful regal and QUITE entitled Zelda.

Zelda watches television like she’s following the plot but she’s actually watching for the appearance of a dog (or cat, pig, horse – any four-legged creature). Then she goes bonkers, barking and launching herself at the TV,  frantic to vanquish the intruder in our home. If Nick tries to assist, she lunges and growls at him.

Nick and Zelda share space.
Nick and Zelda share space.

Zelda’s more into food than Nick, as you might surmise from her chunky physique. If Nick doesn’t finish his food, she drags a piece of paper on top of it with her nose (she’d be unstoppable if she had opposable thumbs) and then nudges it from  Nick’s side of the room to hers. She’s adept at distracting him, stealing his treats and hiding them to enjoy later – usually in the corner cushions of my sofa. I once found a square of cheese waiting there.

Zelda loves to read.
Zelda loves to read.

They were both about a year and a half old when I adopted them which makes them roughly three now. They still act like silly puppies which is fine by me; the rest of my family is less enthusiastic. Sure, pets are work but I can’t imagine a life without animals around me. Our current crop is Fitzgerald-themed – Carroway, Gatsby, Wilson (the cats) and Nick and Zelda (the dogs). I talk to them like they’re people because to me – given their wildly different personalities – they are.

Nick doesn't know how to read.
Nick doesn’t know how to read.

May 5, 2012

May 5, 2012

Hollywood Bowl1
It was thrilling to explore a legendary venue like the Hollywood Bowl. Actually, any casual visitor to LA can explore its exterior – the site is neither gated nor guarded. Tourists can park in the lot, stroll up and down the shell, even take the stage if they choose on off-season days when no one is doing a sound-check or performing.

13 Daisy Dell

Backstage, of course, is off limits. That and its exclusivity endows it with irresistible mystique, at least to me. I’ve been backstage at a few rock shows (notably Bruce Springsteen, Motley Crue and Kiss) but on those occasions I was so in awe of the performers that specific details about the surroundings were a blur.

Dressing room, Hollywood Bowl
Dressing room, Hollywood Bowl

The tour Michael arranged was perfect. Our guide, who’d worked there for years,entertained us with anecdotes about the rich and famous and we could take our time. I took a lot of photos, many already in the clubs and venues section of my site, some reprinted here.

View from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl
View from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl

Why my interest in the inner workings of the Hollywood Bowl? I’m writing a novel about a defunct rock’n’roll band, famous in the sixties. One member went on to success beyond his wildest dreams. My hero did not. The book – half of which takes place in the 60s – is about their attempt to reunite 25 years later. Will the secrets and betrayals that shattered them in the seventies resurface in 2000? Have any of them really changed?

Hollywood Bowl Empty Seats

May 2, 1981

May 2, 1981

My sister, Janet, and me in 1981.
My sister, Janet, and me in 1981.

Living in Los Angeles, it’s not uncommon to run into celebrities. (It’s not exactly “common” either. It’s definitely an “event,” more unusual than not.) Generally speaking, when they’re out with their families doing things normal families do – like going to a play – it’s considered bad form to approach them.

He was very gracious.
He was very gracious.

I make an exception in cases like this, in which (a) I have a deep, genuine appreciation for a specific piece of their work and (b) the work in question is relatively obscure. I’m not speaking from experience, obviously, since I can’t say I’ve ever been approached – let alone mobbed – by fans. However, if that was my problem, I suspect I’d be less annoyed – possibly even charmed – if the fan who interrupted my theater experience complimented something I wasn’t used to accepting compliments on.

He was super nice.
He was super nice.

“The Morning After” deserved a lot of compliments. It was an ABC Movie-of-the-Week that, to the best of my knowledge, aired only once, on February 13, 1974. It’s  been released on DVD but is very hard to find and I can’t find more than a snippet of it on YouTube. According to Wikipedia, it’s shown in some treatment centers (for alcoholism). IMHO, it deserves a much wider audience. It moved me deeply when I saw it in 74 – I waited in vain for a rerun. Van Dyke was nominated for an Emmy for his lead performance but lost to Hal Holbrook.

The Morning After4

The Morning After3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most likely the reason it didn’t get more attention was its downbeat ending. Van Dyke plays a successful PR man with a family who struggles – unsuccessfully, as it turns out – with alcoholism. The final scene, which I vividly recall, finds him ragged and alone, under a pier on the beach, chugging a bottle. It broke my heart – just like similar real-life scenarios break hearts every day.

The Morning After1

The Morning After2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 74, people didn’t talk about alcoholism as freely as they do today. According to Wikipedia, Van Dyke was one of the first celebrities to admit to a problem with alcohol – quite different than today, when sometimes it seems like rehab is a requirement – not an impediment – to celebrity.

 

The Dick Van Dyke Show

 

I loved the Dick Van Dyke show long before I saw “The Morning After” but “The Morning After” meant more to me. I’m glad I got the opportunity to tell him so.

April 30, 2005

April 30, 2005

Jack and Mary deNove, my sister Janet, me and John
Jack and Mary Denove, my sister Janet, me and John

I met Mary Bennett my first quarter at UCLA, when we both snuck into an encounter group for depressed Sproul Hall residents. (Neither of us were depressed enough, according to their survey – we must have hidden it well.)

Mary Bennett, Cowgirl. in the Sand, circa 1969
Mary Bennett, Cowgirl. in the Sand, circa 1969

Ten minutes into group, we cured our depression by deciding to be roommates. I did take the precaution of checking out her LP collection first. When I discovered that – like me – she owned Mason Williams’ obscure first album, it was a done deal. I’ve never regretted it.

Mary (bridesmaid) and Jack at my wedding in 1975
Mary (bridesmaid) and Jack at my wedding in 1975

Mary met future husband Jack Denove before I met John but they married five years later. Apparently they weren’t quite as impulsive. Since Mary and Jack went to Loyola Law School and J was in law school at USC, they were one of the first couples we socialized with. Mary and I served as bridesmaids in each other’s weddings and John eventually joined their law firm – now Bennett, Cheong, Denove and Rowell.

Jack & Mary

I didn’t know Karen Stuart well but I liked her. John worked for her husband, Tony Stuart, before joining Mary and Jack. In this instance, my first instinct was correct. I shouldn’t have let Karen read my book without doing a rewrite. Since writers generally get only one shot – one read – I should have made sure it was as good as it could be. This is Not My Beautiful Wife, the novel in question (title taken from the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime)  wasn’t ready.  Karen was kind and gave me  useful notes, but this once in a lifetime opportunity was over.

John, Jack, Mary, Becky Miller Cheong (Wilkie Cheong's wife - Wilkie must be behind the camera - me)
John, Jack, Mary, Becky Miller Cheong (Wilkie Cheong’s wife – Wilkie must be behind the camera – me)

Maybe one of these days I’ll pick it up and try again.

April 28, 1968


April 28, 1968

My nuclear family circa 1968
My nuclear family circa 1968

It’s difficult if not impossible to convey what life was really like in 1968 to people who weren’t even born then. IMHO, most films set in the sixties are cliched embarrassments. The best was “The Big Chill” but even that was nothing like my reality.

I never considered running away. My father made a concerted effort to stay close. He would sit beside me and listen attentively to both sides of a new Beatles album – not to censor my music but to stay connected to my world. He took me – my opinions, my passions – seriously. Since I was still a self-involved child, it never occurred to me to exhibit similar interest in his music. My loss.

My father and I on my Confirmation Day.
My father and I on my Confirmation Day.

Baby boomers like me – teenagers in the late sixties – weren’t all about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll although “revolution” was in the air. My friend JoAnn, an aspiring model, had been obsessed with appearances – her personal revolution was reflected in a new craving for more authentic relationships.

My friend JoAnn
My friend JoAnn

The times exerted a powerful effect on Tal Pomeroy, who drew a high number in the draft lottery. One of the smartest boys at Wilcox, he was successfully challenged in his efforts to help me grasp the periodic table of the elements.  He didn’t take a traditional route to his eventual M.D. like he might’ve in the fifties. Instead, he criss-crossed the US, worked all manner of jobs and got to know all kinds of people. Along the way, he handwrote long beautiful letters which could never be condensed to a text or tweet.

Tal Pomeroy
Tal Pomeroy

I’m grateful I came of age in the sixties. Were they better or worse than other times? I don’t know – but I doubt any other era could be as interesting.

Coming of age in the sixties


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