selfimage

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 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 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 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...

 

January 12, 1972

January 12, 1972_edited-1

I knew that I bragged too much – “I had to tell people…I got into Kessler’s poetry class.” For sure, I boasted to the pages of my diary. I doubt anyone ever paid me a compliment I didn’t promptly record, verbatim. I’m probably bragging right now, by reprinting this particular diary entry. (“Look how great I used to be!”) That said, if I’m ever going to correct my character flaw of vanity – or is it pride? – I need to own it, so here goes – I’m conceited.

Yay me!

It’s not very Norwegian.  My parents raised me not to “sing my own praises.” (On the other hand, there is that parable about not hiding your light under a bushel but I’m not sure that exonerates me.) I always dislike myself after I “toot my own horn” – just not enough to stop doing it.

Good Norwegians avoid the limelight.
Good Norwegians avoid the limelight.

Obviously, my braggadocio stems from a pervasive sense of inadequacy. Einstein didn’t announce he was a genius. Garbo didn’t brag that she was a famous movie star. Brilliant, talented people don’t need to tell the world how smart and exceptional they are. It’s obvious. It’s equally obvious when they are not. And no amount of self-promotion can turn mediocrity into greatness.

Not always, though.
Not always, though.

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.

 

January 7, 1984

January 7, 1984

Dad, Mom, Dolly and Jani - I must have taken the picture
Dad, Mom, Dolly and Jani – I must have taken the picture
Mom, Dolly & Dad
Mom, Dolly & Dad

Looking back, our end-of-the-evening ennui seems inexplicable – it sounds like a pretty darn good day – but in 1984, J and I tended to focus on what we didn’t have– rather than what we did.  Now that we’re older and wiser, we’re more inclined to gratitude. The days we took for granted look golden in the rear-view mirror.

Irene Miracle
Irene Miracle

I’d give anything to see my parents off on another cruise. After retirement, my father served as chaplain for many voyages. J and I took a few ourselves – one of them with my parents and extended family to celebrate their 66thwedding anniversary.

On voyage with grandparents
On voyage with grandparents

In 1984, CD had just turned seven and S wasn’t even a year old. I’d just begun to make it as a film and TV writer and we didn’t have household help. Sometimes, the pressure felt overwhelming. Today, the difficulties of raising small children and juggling a career seem insignificant. I’d welcome the chance to savor those moments of their childhood again.

J and I with CD, S and my parents around this time.
J and I with CD, S and my parents around this time.

I can’t justify the angst, today. We had it good. I need to remember this when I’m tempted to dwell on my daily disappointments. We’re alive and well. We still have it good.

 

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.

 

 

 

Skip to toolbar