Panorama of San Bernardino

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Under the inland empire sun

In high school, I had blue black hair and a pierced nostril. I wore a uniform of sorts. A punk rock tee (usually my Sex Pistols one) and red thermals with monkey boots and I put male boxers over my thermals and a men's thrift store bought vest over my tee. I would line my eyes like Cleopatra and add bright red lipstick.

I was trying to morph from goofy goody two shoes to punk rock girl. Trying to change into someone darker to match my insides. Looking back, I was trying to find myself. And find myself I did, discovering myself in the music of that time. I found solace from the chaos of home in bands like The Smiths, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Replacements, The Pixies, Joy Division, The Sex Pistols and of course, the Los Angeles punk bank X. It was the melodies and harmonies of John Doe and Exene Cervanka that attracted me at first. I was always drawn to the melody within the chaos. Then I read their lyrics and it was pure poetry. Real poetry hidden within the music. It captivated me.

While I no longer look the part of a punk rock girl for the most part, my musical obsessions have remained the same. I still try to go to shows as much as I can. It brings something out in me. I feel free and happy at a concert. Like I can do anything at all. All the misery goes away. The pain of my infertility struggles, my dad's death around this time almost a decade ago, my clients' legal criminal problems, the deaths of all my rock icons this year along with the lingering dark depression I have had since my teenage wasteland years. It all goes away, and vanishes with a poof, with the opening strings of a Billy Zoom guitar riff.

Tonight, my husband and I are celebrating forty years of X at the Roxy in Hollywood. I'll line my eyes with thick eyeliner, I'll put on my high socks and monkey boots and my X tee covered by a blue cowboy sweater and I'll scream with excitement when they come on. I'll sing along to every song jumping up and down like a maniac and remember what it feels like to be young under an Inland Empire sun.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Mantz Girl

I am finishing up season seven of Gilmore Girls. I happened upon the show more than a decade late, but it has become one of my (and my 82 year old mother-in-law's) favorite shows. There is something about the way it captures mother and daughter friendship and femaleness, as well as music and pop culture. But, in the end, it is most about the character of Rory. She wants to be a journalist and ends up as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

I had a similar experience in college, albeit on a much less elite scale. I was editor-in-chief of the Mountaineer, my junior college's newspaper. It is an experience that I have written about before. I loved layout, headlines and editing. There was nothing like last minute deadlines to give me a rush. It was my first love and I fell head over heels.

In the seventh season, Rory fails to get her journalism internship and is questioning her path. I faced a similar conundrum. I had to transfer to a four year university and the question was, where to? My advisor on the paper was named Gina and she had worked for the Washington Post. She wanted me to apply to Columbia for journalism, but I was too scared. New York seemed so far away and such a huge city. I was a pink collar waitress girl from the Inland Empire. A high school dropout, I had waitressed my way through Mt. SAC after taking my GED and had gotten almost straight As (damn that Algebra II class that I eventually got a B in after much consternation). It just seemed too much of a stretch to see myself in New York City in the Ivy Leagues.

Now it was time to make a decision that could impact the rest of my life. I could go anywhere I knew in theory. Transfer students with high GPAs were in high demand, I knew this. But in my heart, I was boxed in, I couldn't see a path ahead. How would I support myself in NYC?

I decided to apply to UC Riverside. I got in, of course. They didn't have a journalism program, so I decided to major in English Literature. I never worked on the school paper because as a junior it was hard to break in. But here's the rub. Despite the fact that I chose the path of least resistance, I think I made the right decision. UC Riverside was a wonderful supportive environment. I met two great friends there, Emily and Gina, who were both English majors as well. We ruled the school, at least in our minds. I studied James Joyce under a Joyce scholar. I ended up with a nice scholarship and as a result, in my last year at UCR, I didn't need to work for the first time in my life.

At the end of my UCR tenure of a too brief two years, I applied to USC Law and got in. I was floored. I knew my life would change. And it did. And I can only hope that I ended up in the right place at the public defender's office helping the mentally ill and protecting their legal rights. I am not a journalist, but I am a defender of the US Constitution.

Yet, here I am, twenty years later, my junior college days a mere hazy memory, and I am still writing. My nonfiction has been published in literary journals, I have done readings and even a performance at a real theater. My stories are out there, one was taught in a class. It is unbelievable if you think about it.

That's the thing. Sometimes, your dreams find you.

Despite it all, your dreams find you.