Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Here comes your band

On Wednesday night, my husband and I saw the Pixies. We’ve seen them many times, but despite seeing them so many times, their music never gets stale. For one, I’ve loved them since high school and their album Doolittle was the soundtrack to my catastrophic senior year. And they always play the old favorites like Where Is My Mind, Debaser and Wave of Mutilation. Also, they’ve put out two new albums in the last couple years and their newer music is sublime, songs that capture you with their off kilter melodies. And finally, Frank Black’s voice is perfection. It’s grainy but pure at the same time. If that makes any sense.

We left Riverside at five in the evening. It took us an anxiety inducing almost two hours to get to Hollywood. We parked for a ridiculous price and went to the Bowery, a bar across the street. The bar was tiny with small high tops against the wall and I felt like I was hanging off the edge of the narrow seat. This place was made for small skinny hipsters, not voluptuous forty somethings. But I let my anxiety go and we relaxed and ordered some food. Adrian ordered whiskey and I had one beer then remembered that I’m driving home so quickly switched to Diet Coke. After we ate (this isn’t a food blog, but just for texture, I ate the chicken sliders with spinach sans fries and husband had a burger with fries), we paid and walked back across the street to the Hollywood Palladium.

As we crossed the street, I felt the adrenaline and it was like I was sixteen again.

Inside, it was time for our mandatory "merch" (hello short for merchandise). In line, a girl with a Smurfette bag and a huge skirt with dolls on it cut in front of me in line. Her Smurfette bag kept hitting me while I waited. I said aloud (I couldn’t help myself), "Everyone, beware the Smurfette bag". The girl made a face at me after she finished her slower than snail order.

My hubby opted for the hoodie and I chose the Pixies cat girl tee but visibly shuddered when they said large only. It’s a girl tee and I knew my boobs would be squished so I asked, “no extra large?” The merch dude answered my reasonable question with a monosyllabic annoyed "no" and I winced and bought the shirt anyway and said, “Guess I will stretch it out then." A girl with cool rockabilly hair replied, “Cut the sides and add in some leopard fabric.” “Great idea,” I responded (knowing I can’t sew a stitch).

The opening band, Eagles of Death Metal, were on stage playing so after I changed my shirt from one Pixies tee to another (cat shirt did fit, yeah!), we walked inside the auditorium. We were on the floor, and being five foot three, I couldn't see anything standing next to six foot plus tall Adrian on the floor. I shook my head and walked around to the middle and got shooed to the side by a guy with a flashlight. But the side I get shooed to was perfect.

There was a white line you were not supposed to cross, but other than that, there was only one person in front of me on the banister. I had an unobstructed view and I knew, I couldn’t leave so I got comfortable and placed my tote with Adrian's hoodie on the floor. Adrian walked over and we hunkered down.

Eagles of Death Metal, despite their name, were an old fashioned garage style rock band and I was in heaven. There was a little blues in there too and they reminded me a bit of one of my favorite 1970s bands The New York Dolls. When they did a Bowie song (Moonage Daydream) I was hooked.

After EODM, the stage hands came out and checked the mikes and instruments and next on were the Pixies. The Pixies started their set with three ferocious classics, Gouge Away, U Mass and Wave of Mutilation, and I sang and danced along. Then they played two newer tunes which I loved. Head Carrier, the title track of the new album and another track off the latest album, Um Chagga Lagga. It went on and on for 34 songs. The Pixies played all of my favorites, including Where Is My Mind, Here Comes Your Man, Hey, Nimrod's Son and others. And they added in newer stuff too. Songs like Classic Masher, Tenement Song and Bel Esprit. The songs got in my head and I knew that the next day, I would listen to them on repeat with the new bad ass bassist Paz’s rythmic bass lines dancing in my head.

By the end of the night, it was almost midnight and Adrian was exhausted. We had both worked all day and yet, somehow, I was still pumped. I literally pogo danced to the last couple of songs, fist in the air, singing and dancing along with the twenty somethings that made up most of the crowd. It was my band dammit. And I was there. In the moment.

We left right before the last encore song (sigh, of course, it was my favorite song Debaser), but it was OK because I had to work early in the morning and we needed to get on the road. Adrian nodded off and I drove the whole way home singing along to the Pixies on Pandora.

My point of this essay is not that these moments mean anything in particular. My point is that these moments are everything. Life is about going to a concert and singing along. Life is about crying when you hear a Bowie song. And even, having a girl in a doll skirt hit you with their Smurfette bag.

The details of life matter and so do the moments. So savor them my friends. And write them down to remember. And please sing along and dance.









Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tripping

Yesterday, I tripped and fell in the street. My bag and glasses went flying. I fell on my right knee and tore my tights. My two work colleagues picked me up and I limped into the diner we typically eat lunch at.

When I think about it, my trip and fall is the perfect metaphor for my life right now. I keep stumbling with my health, both mental health and physical health, as well as with managing and motivating myself to get the things done that are important to me. The crucial things that will show why I was put here on this planet.

Perhaps my scraped and bloody knee is also a symbol for my broken, bruised heart. For some reason, I keep falling on this same knee, but I also keep getting up. The trips and falls have not sidelined me. And maybe, a heart, like a knee, can heal eventually.

What I do know is that in order to survive and thrive, I must grow. I must, I must, I must, work on myself. It’s hard. It’s so damn hard to be honest and true with myself and my therapist. It’s easier to rationalize and justify why I run myself into the ground. The truth is, if I keep running in circles, then I’ll never get anywhere.

But ultimately, if I don’t succeed at my life and growing and transforming into the person I know I am meant to be (a happy, peaceful artist), then I have no one to blame but me.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Good grief

I was thinking about grief. I’ve grieved much in my four decades on this planet. My sister’s death in high school, my father, my father in law, my beloved cat Leopold Bloom, and my child that never was (at least not in this life).

When I really focus on it, I realize that grief is good. But for the overwhelming grief at my father’s death, I would never have decided to change my trajectory and leave the big firm life for a career as a deputy public defender.

Grief can motivate. I began writing to relieve the grief and pain of my childhood and my sadness motivated me to write my feelings out. That was the greatest gift of all. Because while I can’t sing a note or play piano, I can express myself in literary prose and always have been able to. So, thank you God for that one.

Grief makes one re-examine one’s choices. It makes you think about why we were put on this planet. I love hedonism as much as anyone, perhaps more than most, but grief made me realize that a hedonistic lifestyle is just escaping life, not living it.

Ultimately, I think what I am trying to express is that grief is part of life. We are here, along with our loved ones, for what relatively speaking is a very short time. And the pain of loss, combined with the reflection that comes along with that enduring ache, is a gift because it makes you see how important it is to live life to the fullest.

By living life to the fullest I mean enjoying the day to day moments. It is the journey that counts. Sometimes the destination is beside the point. Be in the here and now. Feel the sun on your face. Enjoy the taste of your coffee. Relish eating. Put down the phone. Don’t be a mindless drone. Take a day off and walk on the beach by yourself and savor what it means to truly be alive.

And, if you’re so inclined, play your music at full blast in the car and sing along. World be damned.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

hey witchypoo

Sophomore year of high school my metamorphosis began. I ditched the swim team along with school and dyed my hair blue black. Soon after, I pierced my nose which was shocking to many at my high school back in the 1980s. I began wearing all black outfits to school paired with some combat boots, an ankh necklace and thick black eyeliner mimicking the eyes of Siouxsie Sioux.

By junior year, the change was complete. The new style got me attention. When my best friends and I would walk by all decked out in black, sometimes we could hear whispers. “They’ll put a spell on you.” With eager hand wringing curiosity, we bought a book on Wicca and pledged to only do white magic. But in truth, the only magic we really attempted was reading our fortunes with tarot cards and pouring over horoscopes and astrology books at the Crystal Cave in Claremont. We were a coven like in “The Craft” without any spells, potions or powers.

In truth, I really was more of a poser Catholic witch who was more style than substance and one who was really into the dark wave of music by The Cure, Joy Division, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Sisters of Mercy along with UK punk bands like The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks.

My mom was horrified by my change in style and would say disdainfully, “You look ridiculous, why do you dress like that?” Dad was more gentle and would say, “Jenny (he always called me by my nickname Jenny), don’t dye your hair so dark, it’s pretty brown.”

What no one understood however, was that my change from goody two shoes to goth like punk princess, was not about my outside. It was about my insides. It was interior not exterior, the change I mean. I recognized way back then, although I was never educated about it until years later, that I had a melancholy sensibility. Add in punk rock anarchy and there was no way not to change. Ultimately, when I found the art (namely, music) that touched off that spark in me, and hit a nerve, there was no going back.

Homecoming, in my mom’s opinion, was a disaster from the pictures. She didn’t appreciate my shiny luminescent black dress with lace sleeves that would make any goth girl swoon. She hated my blue black hair curled in waves and my stud earring in one nostril. And my makeup! Black eyeliner lined so thick on the upper lid that it would take days to come off. And bright red lipstick.

Mom wailed, “How can I show these pictures to my friends?” I should have responded, “I am, and will always remain, inside and sometimes out, punk rock girl.”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

My Melancholy Life

I've been thinking about my melancholy life. The impetus for these thoughts were the the two nights of Morrissey that I experienced last weekend at the Hollywood Bowl. I was ecstatic watching him from my close seats in the pool area. For me, it was a rejuvenating experience seeing Morrissey live and up close in concert again and it brought back thoughts of my teenage angst filled years and the impact Morrissey had on my life.

When I was in high school, The Smiths were like butter on toast for me. Morrissey's lyrics and Marr's guitar captured all of the sadness and angst of my teenage years. Morrissey's plaintive lyrics expressed the loneliness of that time for me perfectly. I wrote the band's name on my Pee Chee folders in different marker colors in script. I saw them live at the Palladium my junior year and it is a concert I will never forget. I believe you find things when you need them, and I found The Smiths right in time to help soothe my worried soul.

By my junior year of high school, the chaos of my childhood had caught up with me. I was sad and depressed. I had changed from goody two shoes to punk rock/alternative girl and I listened to all of The Smiths' albums (specifically, The Smiths' debut self named album, their second album Meat is Murder and their magnum opus The Queen is Dead and finally, their finale, Strangeways Here We Come, which has aged well) on repeat memorizing all of the lyrics.

Morrissey's literary knowledge was evident in his lyrics and he inspired me to seek out the works of poets. He also articulated everything I could not about the sadness and melancholy inherent in life. But, what many did not see was that he was also ironic and witty and his lyrics had a humor to them that you only found by listening (or reading as I did, pouring over his sleeves) carefully.  Now sometimes known pejoratively as the king of mope, this descriptor ignores how very funny Morrissey was evidenced by the self deprecating lyrics of songs like "Bigmouth Strikes Again". When one adds in the jingle jangle of Morrissey's guitar, the Smiths were anything but mopey. I might even call them uplifting and at the very least, inspiring.

To make it clear, The Smiths saved my life. And, now as a forty something woman, a woman beaten down at times by life's tragedies and tribulations, they continue to. The sadder songs of The Smiths speak to me even more deeply now. Classics like "Asleep", "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" and "I Know It's Over" strike a chord. Ultimately, they describe the folly in life and illustrate that life is short, sad and fleeting. And you need to grab what you can while you are here and live life to the fullest.

Morrissey knew this even as a very young man. I don't know if I knew of my mortality as a teenager, but I know it now.





Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dad's Voice

You could hear Montana in his voice. Dad's voice was gentle and gruff at the same time. It sounded like fishing in fresh lakes, ice cold beer, country music, and snowy mountains. It’s been more than a decade since he died and the only thing I can hear in my head is him saying his favorite phrase, "Girls! Where are you?" He always called us his girls. He loved me and my sisters fiercely. Dad was over protective, more maternal than paternal and we needed that. 

Dad had lost a daughter and always said he was never going to lose us. "I would never leave your mom or you girls," Dad would say crying when he was drunk. He would point out the blue angel tattoo on his arm, "That's Debbie.  She died when she was three, the babysitter threw her against the wall."  What he didn't tell me is that he was sleeping with the twenty year old babysitter. I found out about all that much later. 

By eight or nine, I already knew why someone would leave Mom. It was her rages, when the nice mom left and the monster came over her. In those rages, Mom would yell, scream and hit at whatever was in her path. As an adult, my husband tells me I am often cruel and abrupt and snap for no reason, I suppose we model what we see, but I try to keep it under control. It is a matter of degree and I hope my degree is far less rage filled. Sometimes, I am not so sure. 

Don't we all eventually become our fathers or mothers?

Unlike Mom, Dad rarely got angry, Dad never got upset even when he was drinking (which was often). Dad was a happy drunk and would put on a Laser Disc movie and make us girls homemade popcorn, the margarine seeping through the brown paper Stater Brothers bag.  

Dad loved him a drive-in theater and we frequented the one in Montclair. Dad preferred horror and science fiction. He also adored all of the Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor movies along with the Herbie the Love Bug movies. And he took me to see the Bad News Bears. And suffered through Little Darlings with us covering his eyes and ears.

When VCRs came out, if was if God had invented the device just for him. Dad was so happy taping movies on the television set and labelling his VCR tapes with his illegible handwriting. 

Music moved Dad the same way it moves me. His musical loves were Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, the Oak Ridge Boys and being a true feminist in his musical tastes, of course, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline. There was always loud music playing in our house.

Dad had a way about him. It was as if he owned the world in his blue jeans and cowboy shirt all held together by his Big John belt buckle. Dad was never intimidated by anyone. As a young child, I remember him going up to people and introducing himself. He would always shake their hand. People gravitated toward him.  He had the best laugh. He would guffaw with his whole body, slap his knee even. He loved to play practical jokes, and he would even take out his false teeth and bulge his eyes out to make someone laugh.

The depression came later, when he was older, beaten down by life’s tragedies and deaths.

I remember when he lost his daughter Barbara, my half sister. We were in high school when she was killed in a car accident and she died instantly. Barbara was in her late twenties. And she had four kids that were in the foster care system, kids that she was working on getting back.

I came home from high school and Dad was crying. Mom didn't go to work and so she was there when Dad locked himself in the bathroom with his gun. He sounded like a wounded animal, howling out his sorrow as I sat in my room covering my ears until finally the wailing stopped. 

Thankfully, Dad didn't shoot himself that day but I think that's when the depression started for him. When his voice changed.

Dad’s new voice still sounded like Montana but this new voice was slower and sadder. Like old whiskey in a bottle. The new voice sounded like empty country roads, dried up lakes, lonely truck stops and honky tonks. Like the saddest country song you had ever heard. Dad was never the same.

Dad lost himself at the casinos, shoveling much of his monthly social security check into the slot machines, hoping that the machine would pay him a big jackpot and change everything, 

After Dad died, me and my sisters were cleaning out his apartment and I took all of his Dean Koontz paperbacks along with his Reader’s Digest condensed books and those damn old VCR tapes (MASH seasons one and beyond, Superman on ABC and every Twilight Zone episode) and placed them on a table outside of his senior apartment while my mom watched. 

I wondered to myself, and might have even said it aloud, “who would want this junk?” The piles of books and VCR tapes were gone within the hour and I shook my head as I watched senior citizens come with their carts and leave scurrying away probably to go watch old Mash episodes (commercials included). 








Saturday, October 7, 2017

I could be happy

There is an Altered Images song called “I Could Be Happy”. And I wonder, what would make me happy, today on my birthday? Don’t ask me how old. Past forty it really doesn’t matter.

I think happiness is contentment. And fulfillment. Feeling as if you accomplished your goals. And feeling loved.  I definitely have the love. But, the realization of my goals is more fuzzy.

Sometimes, I wish I could be happy with what I’ve achieved. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job as a deputy public defender. And I’m grateful that my hard work paid off putting myself through UCR and USC Law. I get paid to help people.

But there are two things that nag at me. Two things that are always on the outer reaches of my mind.

The book and baby. Which will I accomplish? Neither, or one or both? Sometimes, dreams are surreal. The reality of it may look different. But I want these dreams to come true. I really do.

The book may be something different than I ever imagined, including memoir essays, film like scenes and poetry. Mixed genre. And maybe the baby will not be a baby but an older child.

And, then maybe, I could finally be happy.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

While my pen gently weeps

To say this has been a hard week is an understatement. Lying in bed, listening to the Beatles song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (off the White Album), I am struck by how the song captures grief. Not in the words so much as the sound the guitar makes, and how the strings almost make you cry just hearing them.

I feel as if I am a string that has been plucked dry. I can't cry anymore, or so I think, and then I start bawling again. Just to watch the news and see the faces of the victims makes me ache deep inside.  My heart feels bruised. No wait, beaten is a better word.

The saying "there are no words" is a cliche but it is true. How do you capture the immeasurable grief we are all feeling as a country, as a people? It almost feels like we have turned a corner and the worst is yet to come. I try to remain an optimist but it is hard.

I am so damn angry at the shooter and the damn horror of it all. I keep reminding myself that there is joy left, but I can't seem to find it right now. I just can't. These thoughts are ugly I know.

Maybe I am not a writer here, but a mere ranter. The poet in me is lost.

But maybe, we are not meant to feel better in times like these. Maybe all we are meant to feel in times like these is pain and sadness.

Dear reader, I wish I could make you feel better. That I could find meaning in it all. That I could write a beautiful blog that could heal us all.

Instead, all I have to end with is this: please forgive me, but I feel as if my pen is crying.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Taste of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is like butter on bread for me. Or should I say margarine. Growing up, Dad would only use margarine. I never had butter until I met my husband Adrian and I was flabbergasted by the creamy salty taste as opposed to the hydrogenated oils I had grown up on. Unlike margarine, however, most of the foods from my childhood still tempt me.

For example, I still love me a frozen chicken pot pie. Not the Marie Callender's one. I like the cheap two for a dollar one. With careful precision, I wrap the foil around the rim and put it in the oven and wait for it to heat and bubble up. Yanking it out of the oven at the exactly 45 minute mark, I cover it with pepper just like my dad used to. Biting in, I get so excited to eat it, I often burn my tongue.

My dad's three addictions in life were food, alcohol and gambling. He passed them all down to me. This essay is only about the food addictions (the other addictions will wait for another day and another blog).

Just like my dad, I love me a piece of fried chicken from the box. And donuts. On donut day, Dad would go down to the Yum Yum donut shop and get the day old ones for 75 percent off. It rounded out to less than ten cents a donut and my jelly filled glazed was worth every cent.

To this day, I cannot resist a glass filled case of the fried jelly filled wonder. It is not that it tastes delicious. I would say today's donuts are only passable. But, it is the feeling I get when I eat it. I can almost hear my dad's voice and see me and my sisters scrambling over to the box to grab our favorites. And homemade buttered and heavily salted popcorn is still my go to in times of stress. I do not put it in a Stater Brothers brown paper bag like my dad did, but the feeling is still the same. And hard candy that I hated as a kid, is now tasty to me. Channeling Dad through candy and popcorn is hard to beat.

Sadly, many of my dad's favorite food choices do not exist any longer. Pioneer Chicken's orange crispiness is long defunct as is Pup n Taco. Carl's Jr. is still around, but the hamburgers definitely taste different. And Pizza Hut, which was a restaurant with red and white checkered tablecloths when I was growing up, not a delivery service, is pathetic.

Nostalgia is why I still occasionally eat McDonalds. It doesn't taste very good, but the sight of the orange wrapping on the cheeseburger triggers the memory of my dad bringing us happy meals to our elementary school.

I guess what I am trying to say, lest I ramble, is that nostalgia does have a taste. It is why Italians pass down recipes and why my Argentine mother in law still drinks mate every day.

It is as if the very experience of drinking or eating something from when we were young brings back the youthfulness, at least for a moment.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The little Wookie that could

I hear him cough. He spits up. Just spittle. One more cough. It is 4 am.

Then he stops. I look at him and say, "Chewbaca, is there something stuck in your throat?" As if he could answer. Chewie gives a little wave of his caramel colored tail, tongue sticking out the side of his muzzle as if to say, "I'm fine mom." Adrian rolls over in bed and mumbles, "turn off the light."

In the dimness of the room, I squint for the black and white bundle in the middle of the bed. Frodo's eyes are already open from hearing us up and he reluctantly rolls over and lets me pick him up and place him on the cold tile floor. I open and close the bedroom door and turn on the upstairs light as Frodo and Chewie, our two shih tzus, pad down the stairs a bit earlier than usual.

"If he coughs let me know immediately. It could be heart failure." Is that what Doctor Chris, our vet, had said? Or was it, "if he coughs, I need to know so we can check him for heart failure"? The difference matters. Because if that one cough could be the end, I do not want to know. I can't know. It would be too much to take.

I sound dramatic. But you need to know the history. Not the history of the Wookie, that's easy. Chewie came on a plane and we picked him up and the poor puppy was covered in piss. He had flown in with cargo and was terrified. A mere 16 weeks old. He was the runt of the litter they said. Adrian's dental school graduation present was snuggled by me all the way home. I was already a shih tzu fanatic having been quickly converted by Frodo, who was a year old, from a crazy cat lady to dog obsessed. I didn't care that Chewie smelled. He licked my face and I was hooked by his light brown eyes and his tongue that didn't fit in his mouth. We got him home and I washed him and soothed him and he has stayed by my side ever since. More of a baby duck than a dog. I love him to distraction and pamper and spoil him. Chewie is co-dependant and a small ten pound version of a famous Wookie, hence his name. Chewie is the opposite of Frodo in many ways who is beefy and all dog. Frodo is both independent and stubborn, but for some reason he lets Chewie boss him around. Maybe it is because Chewie is not fixed due to his heart murmur.

Chewie is needy and anxious. Like me. You look in his eyes and it is all soul. And a constant quest for food (also like me). Chewie once knocked a loaf of bread off the table and we came home to him gnawing on it and the loaf of bread was more than half gone.

My history will have to be brief although it is complicated. The important stuff for this essay is that I am in my mid forties and barren. Yes we tried to get pregnant for many years and on many fronts. It all ended in heartache. Too much heartache to tell you here. Other than to say that I have still not gotten over the constant rock in my chest from it all.  But when I look at Chewie, it eases a bit. He needs me so desperately. And eagerly.  Chewie follows me around and while it is annoying to have a little dog staring at you for the last 8 or 9 years while you use the restroom, it is also beautiful to have that same little dog by your side while you watch the latest episode of Project Runway, or talk to your mom on the phone, or cry when you get bad news, or write a story.

I still owe Adrian a graduation present.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

LA Woman


One of my best memories of Los Angeles is a trip to the now defunct Tower Records in Hollywood. It was the 1980s and I was in high school. My best friend Melinda and I had ditched class to go to the record store. We drove there in her white 1964 Chevy Covair blasting the Violent Femmes from a boombox. 

This kind of trip was a common occurrence. We ditched often and our favorite spots were Hollywood and Newport Beach. This day was even more of an adventure because we were on a quest for autographs from one of our favorite bands, Oingo Boingo. It was rumored that the lead singer Danny Elfmanalong with drummer Johnny Vatos, would be at Tower Records. And they were. We got our albums signed and talked to Johnny and Danny for a while in disbelief. 

Afterward, we got in the car and jumped up and down in our seats. Our gamble had paid off. We decided to stop off at Nanas on Melrose, the once famous punk rock shoe store, and I bought some red patent leather boots. When I got home that evening, the school had called and I got a slap in the face from my mom for my ditch day. It was well worth it.

That trip went down in our memories as one of our most memorable ditch days. We had neglected to invite my twin sister Jackie and it is almost thirty years later and she still hasnt forgiven me. That was messed up. Oingo was my favorite band, remember?” she always says when the story is told with irritation edging her voice.

Despite my high school adventures in Los Angeles, I never thought I would live there. It was a magical place to me growing up. We lived in Ontario, about sixty miles east. Los Angeles was where the cool people lived. It was also the land of the punk band X, a band I worshipped. It was where the Ramones’ movie Rock and Roll High School was filmed. It was where concert venues like The Roxy and the Hollywood Palladium were located and where we traveled to see bands like The Smiths, X, the Pixies and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

My senior year of high school was a disaster, I spent more time in LA ditching than in school and when this former straight A student, preppy goody two shoes turned punk rock girl dropped out senior year five units short of a diploma, no one was surprised. I had planned on attending Claremont McKenna but somehow, I lost my way. I spent graduation day under the bleachers in my Sex Pistols t-shirt watching my twin sister walk to get her diploma, tears falling on my cigarette and my thick eyeliner blurring my eyes.

Looking back, my apathy was a combination of all the money problems, Dad losing his business (a tavern called The Big O), my older half-sisters death, my undiagnosed depression and all the chaos at home. All of this combined with my predilection for partying my cares away in a bottle of Strawberry Hill created a lethal combination to my college dreams. Looking back, it was all too much. I folded my dreams like a losing poker hand. Life seemed to be over.

Always a survivor and fighter, I pulled it together. I really can't tell you how. It took years and a lot of hard work, but I managed to pay my bills by waitressing full time and attending school part time. Starting out in junior college, then UCR, then USC Law.

At USC Law, I ended up back in my favorite city, the city of dreams, but this time, I was in LA on a different kind of mission.

Most of my time in LA was spent drinking a plain cup of coffee studying at Starbucks with my roommate Bridget. We were also obsessed with watching The X Files. Most weekends, I took the train to visit my boyfriend Adrian (now my husband) in West Covina. Thursday nights was called Bar Review night, which was really just a drunken pub night. I never went and I remember someone calling me a goody two shoes and I guffawed. If they only knew. I was no goody two shoes, but I was focused and determined to not screw it up. The tens of thousands of dollars in student loans I took out weighed heavily on my mind.  

And my hard work paid off. I graduated in the top twenty percent of my class. It felt vindicating. And when I walked across that stage in my cardinal and gold cap and gown, I saw my parents and sisters in the audience cheering for me. I wasn't crying under the bleachers any longer. I had made it.

It is fifteen years since graduation. Big law firm practice didnt work out. I tried law firms in Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Nothing felt real. It all felt like I was playing a role, my own version of Eliza Doolittle. The only thing that kept me sane was my creative writing. When my dad died, I knew I had to make a change. When I came to the public defenders office in Riverside eight years ago, it immediately felt like home. I represent the mentally ill in incompetency proceedings now, protecting them from a system that has no empathy for them. People see my clients as criminals, but I see them as someones mother, father and children. It has become even more important in this current climate to protect these people from non caring institutions.

My job is hard and I go out to Los Angeles to decompress from it all. In January of this year, I saw the forty year reunion of X at the Roxy. I jumped up and down in my combat boots screaming out the lyrics to the song Los Angeles. And while I may not technically be a Los Angeles girl, this Inland Empire girl has a history there and so l call Los Angeles a close second for home.  

Ultimately, the city of angels made me who I am. Lawyer, writer, punk rock girl, thats me.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Top 7 school movies

School is starting, and so I had to write an article about the top 7, or should I say my top 7, education related movies of all time. This list is made with the caveat that I am a lawyer who is obsessed with the music and movies of the 1980s. I have tried to be broader than my obsession in my picks.

7. ​“Dead Poets Society” (1989)
Boarding school can be a lonely, but also uplifting place and you just might find yourself and how to live life to the fullest with the help of Walt Whitman and a wise professor played by Robin Williams (along with a stunning cast of young actors including a young Ethan Hawke). Heartfelt sentimentality combined with an artful handle of tragedy makes this a top pick. Carpe Diem my friends.
(Another great movie in the same vein is “School Ties” from 1992 which deserves an honorable mention)

6. ​“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
Ferris Bueller is the ultimate rebellious teenager ditching school after asking himself, “How could I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?” Ferris goes to any lengths to avoid the principal and his pissed off sister played by Jennifer Grey.  What is essentially a buddy movie, morphs into something for the ages with a star making role by Matthew Broderick under the amazing direction of John Hughes. And who could ever forget the line, “Bueller Bueller”?
(War Games (1983) is another treat from the 1980s starring Matthew Broderick about a high school student that who hacks into the wrong database and almost causes WW III).

5.​“The Paper Chase” (1973)
How could a lawyer ignore what is perhaps the greatest law school movie of all time? Starring Timothy Bottoms as the 1L law student, the epic Academy Award winning John Houseman as a stern law professor and Lindsey Wagner (later the Bionic Woman) as his daughter, the movie is part romance, part law school quest and ultimately, a treatise on how to abuse the law school Socratic method.
(The movie is based on the 1971 novel by the same name written by John Jay Osborn, Jr. and for a double treat see the book IL by Scott Turrow.)

4. ​“Grease” (1978)
The ultimate 1950s movie starring the unforgettable John Travolta as Danny Zuco and Oliva Newton John as Sandy (and who can forget Stockard Channing as Rizzo). This is the ultimate stage to screen version of a high school romance complete with a fabulous soundtrack. As a kid, I had the 8 track soundtrack of this movie which I would play in my dad’s pickup truck over and over. The Pink Ladies and The Thunderbirds were forever captured on the silver screen in this gem and no one will ever forget the tunes or the story of Sandy’s metamorphosis from goody two shoes to pink lady in leather. A wap bam boom!
​(For fun, watch Grease I and then Grease II. Sometimes, depending on my mood, I prefer the cheesiness of the sequel which stars a young Michelle Pfeiffer.)

3. ​Rudy (1993)
One of the most uplifting movies ever made. Rudy tells the story of a steel worker’s son who wants to attend college and play football at Notre Dame. The movie is all about achieving one’s aspirations, despite the odds, and stars Sean Astin as a young man who will achieve his dreams no matter how poor or how small he is. The movie is a textbook quest movie, but its heart lies in the portrait of Rudy’s family, friends and teammates. Based on a true story, my favorite part of the movie is not the triumphant ending, but where, after years of junior college, Rudy finds out he did indeed get into Notre Dame.
(The movie also stars a young Jon Favreau as Rudy’s tutor and best friend in college)

2. ​Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
A young and burgeoning writer named Cameron Crowe wrote the screenplay for this movie after going undercover at a high school in San Diego. This 1980s classic stars Sean Penn as the ultimate surfer stereotype Jeff Spicoli, Judge Reinhold as Brad, a hardworking high school student, and his sister Stacey, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh who is looking for love in all the wrong places along with her best friend Linda played by Phoebe Cates. The classic sex, drugs and rock and roll storyline along with the strong ensemble cast showed just what it was like to be a high school student in Southern California in the 1980s. And don’t forget Ray Walston as Mr. Hand.
(Another honorable mention must go to another Southern California classic high school movie, Valley Girl, from 1983 starring a young and punk Nicolas Cage.)

AND THE NUMBER ONE EDUCATION BASED MOVIE IN THIS WRITER’S NON SCIENTIFIC OPINION IS:

1. Breakfast Club (1985)
Who can forget the ultimate high school movie starring Brat Packers Ally Sheedy as the misfit, Molly Ringwald as the beautiful popular girl, Emilio Estevez as the jock, Michael Anthony Hall as the nerd and Judd Nelson as the delinquent. The group comes together for a Saturday school detention and what results in a coming of age story times five. It puts the common high school stereotypes up to the light and shows that everyone has their own trials and tribulations no matter where they fit within the social hierarchy of high school.

(Personally, I would also put Pretty in Pink and 16 Candles in my top 7, but they were not included here due to the fact that they are all from director John Hughes and two John Hughes movies are enough in a set of 7. That said, for me, 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink comprise the holy trinity of high school movies from the 1980s.)


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The old grey mare

This morning I woke up, like clockwork, at five in the morning. The older I get, the more I go to bed early and wake up early. Last night I went to bed at 8 pm, not because I wanted to but because I didn't have a choice. My eyes started closing of their own accord.

My chronic pain issues don't help. There are nights I just want to sleep to escape the pain. Surgery in December will hopefully help.

After my morning ritual of making my shih tzu Frodo take his medicine and feeding the dogs, I picked up a magazine on the counter. It was my mother in law's Elle. I flipped through the fashion magazine marveling at the beautiful faces and fit (sometimes too thin) bodies and their unlined faces and foreheads. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror at my lined forehead and face.

Fashion magazines may be the fountain of youth for the old. The magazine made me remember what it felt like to be young in a short dress and high shoes. It made me forget my health issues and pain, at least for a moment. It reminded me of how little I appreciated my own youth and beauty when I was living it. I was always fat, even when I was thin, or my face was too round, or my hair too frizzy for my own taste. No one told me I was inadequate. I told myself. Yet, when I look back at pictures from my teens and twenties, I marvel at how fantastic I look.

I wonder if some day I will look back at myself now and marvel at how good I look. Pictures are an illusion and so from now on, I will perpetuate the illusion by taking flattering pictures of myself that will appease my older self. Wrinkles and forehead lines be dammed.

This old grey mare is what she used to be.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writing life

I've been working on my memoir for more than ten years. I started writing again in my thirties, while working as a big law lawyer in Houston, Texas. Law school had sucked creativity out of me. They taught me to write in legal form. But, in the process, USC Law failed to remind that you can always be creative.

Depression and late nights as a big firm litigator brought my creativity back. Always a better writer when sad rather than happy, I would stare out my high rise window and poems would come pouring out of me. I would collect them on poets.com and read them, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life.

Life had went a place I never expected. For the first time in my life, I had plenty of money. Yet, I was desperately unhappy. I was all by myself in Texas. Yes, I had friends. Making friends had never been a problem for me. But, my boyfriend of ten years (who later became my husband) had stayed behind in Southern California to finish his last semester at Cal Poly and apply to dental school. And, my crazy dysfunctional family was now thousands of miles away. I missed them.

In my apartment, I had little furniture except Leopold Bloom, a black cat I had named after the protagonist in James Joyce's Ulysses, and my books.

The poems I wrote out there in Texas started out a bit melodramatic with echos of Dickinson and Plath, my poetic heroines. Eventually, I turned to prose and memoir.

Those first poems paved a path for me, however, to rediscover myself. And years later, while in San Francisco with my boyfriend turned fiancé who was attending dental school at UCSF, my dad died suddenly three weeks after Christmas and his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

His death forever changed me. Within a couple of years, I would change jobs to become a deputy public defender and be attending writing workshops at VONA at USF and UC Berkeley. The stories, many of which comprise the opening chapters of my memoir, would come pouring out like water that had long been bottled up. All those memories turned into stories. Stories I am proud of.

The problem with memoir is that you must pick an end point. And now, that is where I stand, looking at it all with a furrowed brow. In some ways, I am no longer the burgeoning writer who wrote those first stories, but in other ways I am. Maybe, after the last ten years and my struggles with fertility and anxiety, I don't know who I am anymore.

Ultimately, I may just have to find myself to finish this damn book.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Me an ENFP

I've been thinking a lot about things. My life, my accomplishments, my struggles, my goals and my future. Outwardly, I seem the same. I feed my dogs, go to work, come home, eat, read or watch tv, sleep and wake up again in the morning. My routine remains unchanged. But internally, I feel as if a storm is raging. It's almost like I'm having a mid life crisis in my brain.

There's something about your mid forties. It's a time of re assessment. Questions. With little answers.

Perhaps, I thought to myself, I just need to look inward more. And so I did.

I took a personality test. There's 16 different ones in the Meyers Briggs universe. I fell into the ENFP category. I read the description and it fit me to a T. Suddenly, everything made sense. I experience through performing and am very intuitive, I can read and connect with people. Some call us inspirers or champions. The drawback to this personality is that we have a hard time figuring out what we want to do, and because we are eternal optimists, we see the possibilities in everything. And we live through embodiment which is why so many of us ENFPs are writers, actors and filmmakers. And why we have so may stomach problems. We literally feel our emotions.

We go, go and go, and are pros at trying everything. The problem is that sometimes we rush into things without asking ourselves whether it will fulfill us. And fulfillment and authenticity is everything to an ENFP. Now my 7 years in big law made sense. I was trying it out. I had jumped into it without thinking, is this really for me? The other problem ENFPs run into is that if commitment is a core ethic of theirs, they will not let others down or give up. Now all my inner conflicts make sense. I find it very difficult to cancel a commitment even when I want to desperately. This description also explained my searching and searching for something new to do. Essay and non fiction writing, performing, songwriting, film making. All these things call me. But, add in my demanding job, my writing, all the boards and committees I serve on, and my husband, dogs and friends, and well, it all can be overwhelming.

The key they say, is to slow it down. ENFPs are whirlwinds (especially in court, I can beat anyone on calendar), but slowing down will help let us be taken more seriously. No one sees the hours of prep I do in my office to make it look quick and easy. I want credit. I have always known I was smart, but others don't always see it. They think I am flighty or scattered when really my brain moves too fast for me to keep up at times.

With this new knowledge in hand, my goal is to experience the world and figure out what will truly make me happy. If I want creative fulfillment, what will get me there?

And I cannot rush it. I know that now.

(P.S. I must give a shout out to the "personality hacker" website where I did a lot of my research)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What's the matter here?

Last weekend, we watched Natalie Merchant dance and sing under the stars at the Greek theater. We almost didn't go, exhausted from the casino the night before, but were glad we did. It was sublime. Natalie's voice was so pure and lovely. It echoed in the theater around the tall trees. It felt almost spiritual. Magical is perhaps the better word.

And today, it's 6 am and I lay in a bath pondering why we are all here. It's something I think about often, especially the older I get. I never worried about why I was here as a young adult. Survival mode does that to you. It makes surviving and getting by the only goal and my years as a waitress working her way through school were tough for sure, but they also made me resilient. There was not a lot of time, however, for self reflection. Leisure time gave me that. I'd almost prefer to be blissfully ignorant of the existence of life's questions, except for the fact that without them, my creativity would be limited.

So here goes. Why are we here? Some might say we are here to procreate. But, for me, that didn't happen. After years of trying, I've given up. I'm a very tired 45. So that theory doesn't hold water in my case. What about the idea that we are here to make a difference? At first perusal, this sounds doable. But then I think to myself, I'm participating in a broken system. I'm a deputy public defender who sees just how messed up the criminal justice system is on a daily basis. At its core. And while yes, on the micro level, I might make a difference, on the macro level, I'm a failure. Also, if we were just here to make a positive difference in the world, that would render anyone not advocating for the greater good useless. And perhaps, "good" is too relative of a term. I am sure many Republican operatives in this administration tell themselves they are there to do "good". My point is that "good" is not always right and true. Or constitutional.

Maybe we are here to have fun? In the purest hedonistic sense, maybe we are meant to take what we can out of life and run. Live life to the fullest, play hard and all that. But, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint, I can tell you from experience that acting out that theory leaves one exhausted and melancholy.

I suppose, that maybe why we are here is to answer that very question. Why are you here? Why am I here? Why are we here? Answering that question could be one's life work and is one of the very fountains from where art and creativity springs.

So back to that concert. I can tell you this, for a split second, only a fleeting moment, no bigger than a nano second, I knew why I was there. And that was to be right where I was, listening to the voice of Natalie Merchant under the stars, while the wind whistled in the trees and the stars twinkled in time.




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Vacation all I ever wanted

There's an old Go-Go's song called Vacation. It's all about getting away and finding oneself. Well I found myself and it's not pretty. But it's me.

The vacation I'm on with my husband and the moms, we're at an all inclusive resort in Cancun, has taught me some things.

The most important: Never choose a discount tour company for your excursion or you will end up falling in a puddle and be covered in mud from head to toe limping with a sprained foot.

Other things I've learned: I drink too much. I love to meet people. I'm overweight. I love excitement. And I can't sleep very well. And, finally, I'm clumsy. I've fallen twice literally and many times figuratively on this trip. I want to be kind, sober and fun. Instead, I've been sloppy, clumsy and inebriated.

I've also learned that I'm struggling more than I want to admit about who I am and want to be. There's a reason I haven't written for months, shit years. I write blog posts but I'm talking about stories. New stories have dried up. To say I'm in a rut creatively is an understatement. I'm sinking.

It's almost as if I know the stories are there but I feel as if my fingers can't reach them. The problem is that I'm rarely alone with my thoughts. I'm always on the phone, watching television or on Facebook or CNN or something. Anything to distract myself from the fact that I'm failing at this writing gig.

Then I start telling myself negative thoughts. Maybe I'm just not very good. Or maybe the five or six stories I've published are the best I've got in me? Yet, there's something, a little voice whispering, nagging at me, telling me I have more to give.

The high from writing is the best drug. When I write a good story, I feel buzzed. I get to editing and it's all zen. Almost like magic. It's the invisible point I find in swimming when after the tenth or sometimes even twentieth lap, it just becomes easy.

Nothing's been easy as of late. I can tell myself I've been trying to write but the truth is, I haven't been. I've been going through the motions existing. Auto pilot on a flight to nowhere.

But if nothing else, this vacation has taught me that I don't want to be a barfly on the beach. Or even a lawyer. I'm a writer, plain and simple.

And, I gotta try. I might end up covered in mud hobbled and crying for help, but if I can just do it, the rewards will be worth all the effort. I just know it.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Everybody loves Annie

People underestimate sibling rivalry. I am watching an old episode of Everybody Loves Raymond and watching the dynamic between Raymond and his older brother Robert. Raymond is the golden youngest child and Robert, no matter how hard he tries, can never eclipse him in his parents' eyes.

Growing up, everybody loved Annie. She was the youngest and my mother's favorite. She could do no wrong. My twin Jackie and I could never compete with Annie's long straight brown hair and smile. We had short frizzy hair and crooked smiles. When Annie was around, Mom lit up. She was nicer and calmer with Annie. I think it was because Annie reminded Mom of her own mother due to Annie's passive and sweet disposition. "Even as a baby, she never cried," was Mom's constant refrain.

 Jackie was a fighter and fireball of a child and I was an outspoken advocate always arguing for our rights. Annie always just gave in. She cleaned her room and did her chores while Jackie and I made a mess and were always reading or watching TV instead of cleaning.

Annie had her own room with a lock on it (after we had killed her favorite doll, Mom got her a lock). Jackie and I shared. We had twin beds that my dad had built in. I knew this was unfair. I was the oldest by a majestic nine minutes. No matter now much I argued my point, Mom wouldn't budge. Jackie and I were twins so we had to share. That was the ruling.

Similarly, when Mom bought us bikes, there was only one cherry apple red beach cruiser. Of course, because God has a sense of humor, Kmart only had two other beach cruisers, both yellow. Jackie and I grimaced but we didn't want to wait so we got our yellow beach cruisers and for the next two or three years, the boys on the block called us the banana bike twins. We paid Annie back by ramming her pretty red bike into a tree while laughing maniacally.

Likewise, when Mom saved up her waitressing tips to buy us fur coats for winter (coats as adults that we would call the hooker jackets), there was one white and two brown. Of course, you can guess it, Annie got the white one.

As an adult, the roles continue. Family dynamics shape you more than you realize. Jackie is still a fighter and uses it professionally to her advantage standing up for the rights of special education children as a teacher. And Annie, she's a Mom and a good one. She will do anything for her kids. And that sweet disposition is still sweet but she has strength underneath the smile.

And me? I think that none of it scarred me. It was just how it was. Plus, I wouldn't have as much to write about without my parents' mistakes would I? And I probably wouldn't be a lawyer. Yet, I still think I should have won that motion for my own bedroom.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bigmouth Strikes Again

When I was little, I would read. A lot. Sometimes a book a day. In grade school, I went through my mom's Harlequin collection (hundreds of the books with their white covers and gold insignia were in our garage in the built in bookcases my dad built my mom) in a year or two. By the end, I had a (perplexing to most) habit of dropping words like ravishing or swooned into conversation.

I was a somewhat odd child. I was also obsessed with a certain green frog shirt and feeling the marks made by watches on people's wrists. It's as if I was mesmerized by the indentations.

As an adult, my obsessions vex me a bit. I am hyper verbal and love to talk. I've learned through practice to not interrupt but it's very difficult for me. When I do interrupt now, I apologize. Court has helped in that regard because judges hate to be interrupted or talked over. As an attorney, I love oral argument. It's that time where you feel like, this is what I went to law school for. On the same vein, I am very impatient and preoccupied with timeliness. I am often early to parties. Also, I can't sleep in so often text at 5 am.

And in this era of texting, I love to talk on the phone, as well as in grocery lines with people I don't know and in the jacuzzi when my husband is trying to relax. There is something about the sounds of silence that I like to fill up. I have been known to share too much.

Politics is my recent obsession. I've been researching the 5th amendment and subpoena power as if it matters what I find. Some days, I wake up and read all of CNN's articles, then the politics section of  the NY Times and the Washington Post. It frustrates my poor husband as the light from my phone often wakes him up.

Why am I telling you all this? Well dear reader, what I realized today is that I love this blog (and writing my short stories and essays) because it is my way of talking to the world. It is my solace. It is so comforting to know that I can be vulnerable and true here on the page in a way that might be too much to handle in person. The term voice is used in writing classes to connote one's style, but I am using it quite literally here. I am speaking to you in this writing voice, just hoping that someone is listening.

Can you hear me?


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Everybody hurts

Sometimes, I feel as if I am sabotaging everything good and true in my life because I don't know what I want. It reminds me of my senior year of high school. High school had started out well. Freshman and sophomore year I was able to put the chaos of home aside and study and get good grades. I was a preppy goodie two shoes in all GATE classes. The classes weren't easy. Yes, this was before the grueling era of IB and AP, but the classes were still difficult. My home life did not help. Most days, I had to find time to write my papers and do math homework over my parents' screaming voices in the background. It was a stressful time for them. We were losing the house after Dad's realized dream of buying a bar became a nightmare and led us into financial ruin.

Junior year began my downhill slide. I was working at Round Table and partying almost every night, even on school nights. We would drink beer from the keg after hours. Although I can't remember specifics, what I do remember is having a blast. There was little drama, our manager was super cool and my best friend Tracy and I ruled the world of pizza. Or at least it felt that way to our high school minds.

The cast of characters at Round Table was varied, like something out of a John Hughes film. There was Lydia, a chubby black girl who loved to sing and play practical jokes. She could crack us up with a lift of her eyebrows. Then there was Mark, a blond, loud punk guy who hung out with the uptight assistant manger John who never let us drink. Then there was Sean, the cool manager who let us drink after work. He was in college getting his engineering degree. There was also our buddy Chris, a freshman who looked like a brown haired Anthony Michael Hall from Weird Science. He was tall and skinny with dark hair and long bangs that covered his face Ian McColluch style. Finally, there was Tracy and myself. Tracy was blond to my brunette with blond spiked hair to my curly unruly mess of brown curls. Tracy was taller and thin, whereas I was short and round, but we both loved our new wave and punk music and wore thick black eyeliner mimicking Siousxie Sioux's makeup, our punk idol.

What I remember most is laughing all night and cracking jokes and speaking in our fake English accents and making fun of people on the phones we manned in the back for the pizza delivery lines. We would make false orders to get free dinner and sneak our friends free pizzas out the back door when the manger left to do an errand.

On Friday nights, we would stay there until 3 in the morning. The pizza place closed at midnight, but I lied and told my parents I was closing and doing side work and then going to Denny's. School suffered of course. For a time, I had dreams of attending Claremont McKenna. It was a different world that I yearned for, a place of books and education and learning, where I could put all my family drama aside. I could lose myself and create a new me. Alas, it was not meant to be. My goals shifted from school to drowning out my sorrow with a mix of Coors Lite and Strawberry Hill wine. It worked. I felt nothing. And, slowly but oh so surely, my grades slipped and most mornings, I ditched class and went to Hollywood or the beach or the mall. Anything was better than going to school hungover.

It must have driven my poor mom crazy to see me throwing it all away. I had always been a superstar in school, it was almost easy for me to excel. Aside from Math, which I worked my ass off to get a B in, I was an A student. I always loved history and English. I even aced Economics which is ironic considering my math struggles, but the core of economics was philosophy and that intrigued me, Yet, senior year, I sabotaged myself and just gave up. I stopped attending class altogether at some point, I can't even remember how it happened. My family was in free fall at that point. We were living in a rental after losing the house to the bank. To make it even worse, my twenty something half sister Barbara had died and Dad was in a deep depression. He locked himself in the bathroom with a shotgun the day he found out she had died in a car accident. Weirdly, I don't recall crying or grieving, but I do remember my twin sister's cat getting hit by a car. I cried and cried. It was probably the only time I cried that year and the only time I remember feeling anything real and true.

Eventually, it all broke down and I stopped going to school. I only needed five credits to graduate but I didn't care. I threw it all away and took my GED.

This pattern would repeat itself through out my life in different ways. I was waitressing my way through school but floating from job to job. Whenever there was stability, I somehow messed it up. At some point, my sister and I ended up in a trailer park in Pomona, a combination of bad luck, my car blowing up and me losing my job again, and bad choices. What I knew once I got there, however, was that the trailer park life wasn't for me. There was a hopelessness and desperation there. It was palpable. I worked my ass off to get out of that trailer park. I transferred to UCR and everything changed. Then USC Law.

Now, many years later, I almost feel as if my life has lived me. Those years after USC Law at the big firms I was never happy. I jumped from firm to firm mirroring the chaos of my youth. Finally, after almost 7 years and my dad's death, I ended up back home in the Inland Empire as a deputy public defender. And some things passed me by. No baby. And my writing career has stalled. Am I just biding time till retirement?

Despite all the accomplishments and successes, I'm still floundering. Disappointment haunts me and the yearning for something more is so strong. I don't know what it is. My husband Adrian is the bright spot in all of this. I am loved and love.

Yet, I feel as if I'm on a precipice looking down some days. Into the abyss.






Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I wish you could see me now

I woke up at 4 am and started crying. It felt like my eyes were leaky faucets, tears slipping outside of both my eyes until my face was all wet. My pillow damp with tears, my nose runny, I sighed.

You see  Dad, I was thinking of you. Maybe it was that poem about my childhood that I was working on in my writing group last night. Or what was a physically painful day yesterday with my chronic health issue. Or maybe it was your birthday that just passed, or maybe God, but I woke up feeling an overwhelming sense of loss. I didn't even know I could still feel that. That immensity of pain, the kind that overwhelms you in its intensity. For years, I've felt anxiety and depression and acute sadness, but I haven't felt this kind of raw pain since you passed all those years ago. Maybe, I've been numb.

And the pain awoke something in me. Something real and true. People don't always realize it, but the truest art comes from the deepest pain. All of my best stories spring from a well of sadness so deep that you could drink from it for ages. The last couple years, especially after the miscarriage, I felt like I was dried up. The reality is that I've been existing in a state of perpetual paralysis, not feeling much of anything. And certainly not feeling enough to write open and true, blood on the page and all that.

I kept thinking as I sobbed into my pillow. I wish you knew me now. To see who've I've become. I would spent hours with you. Telling you everything. And I would listen to you, like I never did. I say I wish you knew me now, but the truth is, I wish I knew you now. So I could appreciate you more. The way you deserved.

You were a great father, flawed, but fucking great. You taught me all the important things. Cards. Movies. Music. The passions of my life. But I never really got your sadness. The loss you'd experienced, losing so many people in your life so young.

But Daddy, if you're listening, I get it now. I truly do. And I fucking miss you so damn much.

I will finish my book because I must put your voice, my voice, and all of the scenes in my head on paper. And because putting pen to paper to see you, is really the only way I have left to know you now

Monday, May 1, 2017

Magic

When I was in high school, I was into Wicca. My best friends and I would go to the Crystal Cave in Claremont and look at the potions. We would buy spell books at Barnes and Noble. We were very cognizant of the price of magic. Anything negative would come back on the spell caster exponentially. We never wanted to access dark portals. We were more interested in tarot cards and astrology.

As an adult, I still believe in magic. But now, I see that magic is about intention and belief. It's about directing your energy at a goal.

This has worked out for me in my life. I've gotten almost everything I've ever wanted. Well, everything except for the baby. Sadly, my infertility could not be fixed or healed, a result of waiting too long for what I really wanted. But other than that, I am lucky. Some might say blessed. This high school dropout found a way to thrive.

Those early years, after high school and taking my GED, are a blur. I don't know how I made it through those no car, junior college waitressing years. Once at UCR, it became almost easy. I loved school and school loved me. When it came close to graduation, I decided to apply to local law schools. I wasn't into big name schools, but debated whether to apply to USC Law. It seemed like a pipe dream. My then boyfriend now husband urged me to. I would have been happy with a second tier school. I wrote my application essay on pink collar jobs like waitressing and when I got the fat envelope with the cardinal and gold seal, I knew. My life would change.

After law school, I went for the big paycheck. And after years of representing large corporations at mammoth law firms, I decided to change my life again. My dad had died and I was desperately unhappy. My job was making me sick. I would cry before work most days and started leaving early to sit at Starbucks and write. I thought about teaching or maybe even getting my MFA in creative writing.

It took a year, but I finally found a job with the Public Defender. I had to convince them in my interview to take a chance.  Yes, I was burnt out, I told them, but I grew up in the Inland Empire. These are my people and my town. Ultimately, I willed them into hiring me.

When I gave notice at my law firm, a partner said sarcastically that he didn't understand why I would want to be a public defender. I told him, in the nicest way possible, that I didn't understand how he could work at a law firm. I said I found the work unfulling and meaningless. "There has to be more than this," I said.

There was. Life as a deputy public defender is fun and rewarding. It's never boring and only occasionally frustrating. I specialize in representing the mentally ill incompetents. They are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. My favorite part of the job is helping support other attorneys in my office with mental health questions and consults. And working with the expert psychologists.

Some people might find what I do unmanageable. And I have my bad days. But usually, I love my work. Yet, I keep on thinking to myself, is it time for another change? Or is my natural restlessness just making me think change is needed?

For now, the plan is just to let the universe guide me. I will work on my health and wellness and being kind to those who are closest to me. Life is difficult enough without trying to over control the navigation. At this point, I'm letting magic take the wheel.




Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vegas baby

I have an affinity for blogging while in Vegas. This affinity is primarily driven by an inability to sleep. I wake up at six in the morning no matter what time I go to bed. After a late night out in Vegas, I usually write in the early morning, one eye cocked open, a bit hungover, while hubby snores.

Today is no different. Out past one in the morning, I awake at the ungodly hour of five a.m. I fall back asleep until seven and then awake grudgingly. I know that those tossing and turning five crap hours of sleep are probably the best it's gonna get.

Yesterday, I had went into work groaning and by lunch, I was dizzy, my head all fuzzy and I was sweating through my clothes. I was on enough pills to kill a horse. And when I came home early for a nap, I lifted my black and white chubby shih tzu Frodo on the bed and heard a pop when I turned the wrong way. Fuck, I thought to myself, my back. I laid down and tried to breathe through the pain.

Two hours and another Tylenol later, I started getting dressed. Dressing consisted of an old black peasant dress and leather sandals. I was lucky to be wearing a bra. I piled the dogs and Moms in the car and headed up the Cajon Pass to meet my husband Adrian. We waited for Adrian at his mom's house in Oak Hills near Hesperia. The weather was cool and a bit breezy. I sat outside with my dogs tapping my feet anxious and still not feeling well.

Adrian got home at almost six and we got on the road. I was grumpy and rude to him, and he snapped back at me. I think, why am I so irritable? I'm always grumpy. My mom agrees. "She was a grumpy monster earlier Adrian," she says in a sing song voice. Tattle tail.

The dogs are anxious. There's not enough room in the back seat. Chewbaca can't get comfortable. In three hours we're in Vegas. The Golden Nugget crowd is a bit rough. Everyone seems drunk. Tracy and John are already checked in. We wait in line thirty minutes for the room keys. Finally in our room, I change. Adrian watches me maneuver into my tight black leggings and asks if I'm planning on saving the world. He makes me laugh out loud and with the laughter, the pain and irritability flies away. Suddenly, I feel like a super hero. I throw on my Pixies concert tee tank top and a shawl and fringe boots and fluff my hair out. I race downstairs to find bestie. And a beer. And the slots.

Let it all be damned. The strep, the bad back, and the premenopausal sweats.

It's Vegas baby. And I'm back.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Memories

My father loved most holidays. He was not a religious person like Mom. Dad was raised dirt poor and Protestant in Montana. Later in life, he was probably more of an agnostic. But he loved the food that came along with all of the holidays. And, Dad never met a decoration he didn't like. In our house, less was not more, and there would be cardboard rabbits and garland placed there by Dad.

The night before Easter, Dad would sit with us at the table watching us making our Easter eggs. We would dip them in food coloring and write on them in wax crayon. Dad would always have to make at least one, he was really a kid at heart. I remember his Easter egg being a mix of least five different colors, a gaudy mess. After making eggs, we would play our usual game of 500 rummy and then go to sleep at a decent hour because Mom would be forcing us to church in the morning, even though she got home late from her shift at the restaurant.

In the morning, we would wake up early and go to church. Mom would give us each a dollar to put in the basket. By the time we got home, Dad would have hid plastic eggs with quarters and a few highly prized silver dollars in the backyard. Me, Jackie and Annie would scratch at our fancy clothes and run in the backyard screaming and fighting for the coin. Mom would put our Easter baskets on the table and I would always grab the chocolate bunny out of the basket and start nibbling at his ears.

We ate early on Easter because Mom usually had to go to work. I've written before about Dad's famous ham. Easter was not Easter without a ham. Covered in pineapple and maraschino cherries, and glazed to a high sheen, it was a sight to behold and delicious, a mix of sweet, crispy and salty. Dad would pair the ham with homemade potato salad, his secret, he always said, was his addition of pickle juice.  He would bake hot Pillsbury rolls and slather them in margarine and put them in a basket. There was always a dessert too.

 After lunch, Mom would get ready for her shift at the restaurant, a waitress never had holidays off. We would yell "bye mom see you later!" Mom never seemed unhappy about going to work, but looking back it must have been hard to leave. I can picture her gazing wistfully at the house as she drives away to her shift at Yanghtzee's Chinese restaurant.

The day would usually end with a movie. Dad would pull out his prized laser disc and put in his favorite, Superman. Dad always marveled at the scenes where Superman could fly. Us girls would sit and watch the movie stuffing Dad's hot buttery popcorn in our mouths by the handfuls.

Sometimes, we would all fall asleep in front of the television. Dad would put blankets on us. We would wake up when Mom got home. No matter how late it was, Dad would always warm her up another plate of ham and rolls.
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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The worst of times

I have had depression since high school. My first episode happened senior year. I slept and drank the year away leaving school to get my GED five units short of a diploma. It hit again almost 13 years later when I graduated from USC Law and moved to Houston. I fell into a deep black hole and almost couldn't find my way out. But I did. The third episode was after my father's death. I had moved back to the Inland Empire leaving my San Francisco law firm job and husband to finish his last year of dental school. I felt I had to come home and found work as an associate at a Riverside law firm. I cried in the shower most days hating my job and toward the end, I had no choice but to leave my law firm job to do something else. It was my job or my life. That's how it felt. That something else I found turned out to be both a job and a calling and I loved being a deputy public defender from day one.

My latest episode hit me after losing the baby I wanted so very badly after trying for many years. It was a mix of anxiety and depression, which I had never felt before. I muddled my way through the darkness. And wondered would it end. On the outside, I was good at pretending. I still went to work most days, but would have crushing anxiety driving home. It's as if I had learned a very unhealthy compartmentalism. My husband knew it was bad. I would cry in the bathtub and he would try to fix it, but some things are unfixable.

I wish I could explain how a deep depression feels. It's like being in a cave where everything is darkness and you have to feel your way around. Nothing creates happiness. Where once was joy is just emptiness.

I was lucky. I came out of it again. Back to my life and after more than a year and a half since my last episode, I see the beauty in life once again. I've been laughing more and drinking less. Food has always been a comfort, but I know that as long as I can see the light I can try and do better with my choices.

Occasionally, I still have my bad days. The night before last, I received horrible news that left me sitting alone in the dark weeping my eyes away. But in the morning, I went to work and left early to go to church. I prayed and sat staring at the stained glass windows of the church in Montclair where I had made my first communion as a young girl. It felt calm and I could finally breathe again. Then I visited my father at the cemetery down the street and when the florist handed me a freshly made bouquet of my father's favorite flowers when I had not specified any kind, I knew I was In the right place. I dug my fingers into the earth and pulled the vase out of the ground. Mud got under my fingernails. I splashed water on my shoes filling the vessel with water. And I talked to my dad and asked him to protect us. I told him we all missed him. As I drove away from the tiny cemetery, I felt some peace.

Maybe one has to strive for the light. Life is obviously not all beauty but the older I get, the more I see how we create our own happiness. And I want to be happy. I really do.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Story of my life

I woke up this morning all stuffy and congested. Pollen is in the air and my allergies are going haywire (pun intended). I have to try and rally because Monday is my husband's birthday and we are going to see the band Social Distortion (Social D) at the Fox Theater in Pomona tonight.

There is a song by Social D, probably their most famous, called Story of My Life and one of the lyrics has always spoken to me because it captures my story as well.

"High school seemed like such a blur,
I didn't have much interest in sports or school elections.
And in class I dreamed all day,
Of a rock n roll weekend."

My last years of high school were marked by concerts. These concerts were all I looked forward to. These concerts were why I got a job at Round Table with my best friend Tracy because we needed to be able to afford the twenty dollar tickets. Twenty dollars seems low now, but back then, when I was working minimum wage, it was almost a full day's work (minimum wage was three or four bucks an hour back then in the late 1980s). These concerts were how my style changed from goody two shoes to dark gothic punk rocker. I remember going to buy my first pair of monkey boots with Tracy in Hollywood at the infamous punk shoe store Nana's. Monkey boots are an English made short style combat boot and I chose red. I wore those shoes until they were softened by use.

We saw all of our favorite bands live:  Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths, The Pixies, Echo and the Bunnymen, Midnight Oil, The Smithereens, The Church, Social D, X and many more. It was all I could think about. The phrase, when is the next show, always echoed through my mind in class. Most of these shows were in Los Angeles, about sixty miles away, but the cheapest shows were at a place called The Green Door. It was a dump/dive of a place but it booked some great punk and rock bands. But the most common venue was The Hollywood Palladium. It was a standing only venue but if you were brave and lucky you could get to the front right by the stage.

Music has always been my muse. Most days, I listen to calm the beating wings of my brain. People who know me might call me impatient, but I see it more as a restlessness that is calmed by the sounds of songs. A live show does the opposite, I get such a rush of adrenaline and happiness that I spontaneously jump up and down.

It is the only place I truly feel alive.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Falling

I am in Portland, with my husband and best friends on vacation. I am up early as usual and in a booth in the coffee shop, surrounded by books. As I sit here listening to the rain fall, I am writing. I am writing to drown out the restlessness in my brain. Even though we went to bed at 1 in the morning, I was still up at 7 am. I kept it mellow last night more out of necessity than choice as my body was saying stop. My body refused to let me have more than a couple of drinks and no matter what I did, I felt muffled and distant. It could be that I am missing my dogs or just anxious, or both.

Tomorrow, we are going to on a waterfall tour to Multnomah Falls. I call my mom and she tells me that we often went there when I was little. Perhaps, I was too little to remember. I think of all the times with my mom and dad growing up. If you've read my stories about childhood, you would probably think that it was all fights and screaming and running away from that. But, I remember the good times too. The road trips to South Dakota, seeing Mount Rushmore and the caves underneath, being amazed at Flintstone Land and fishing in Montana's lakes. Staying at AAA campgrounds. That trip to see the huge trees in Yosemite Park. Camping out there in a tent and being deluged by the rains. Dad cleaning the fish and urging us to try the crispiness of it. "C'mon girls, just try it."

Mom and Dad would fight of course, but there was something about those road trips that bought out their best sides. Mom would make bologna sandwiches and we would eat them in the car along with potato chips and Shasta Cola. Dad would hum along to Johnny Cash or Loretta Lynn. Us girls, there were three of us (me and Jackie-the twins, and our little sister Annie who was only 14 months younger), and we would fight in the back seat. I remember pinching and scratching each other's arms and when Mom and Dad could not take the carousing anymore, switching to the license plate game and then to the alphabet game where you tried to get through the alphabet using names on signs. This was the 1970s and there was no television in the car, and no videos to watch. We had to entertain ourselves. I would always have a book, usually one of Mom's dog eared Harlequins, the pages rendered crinkly by bath water, but it was too hard to read in the car without getting sick.

Occasionally, we would stop at a Motel 6 to sleep. We probably all shared a room. Mom and Dad saved all year for these road trip vacations. Mom's waitressing job and Dad's truck driving barely paid the bills and it could not have been easy. At the motel, we would get a pizza and watch television together. And play Rummy gathered around the table. Those moments are the film reel of my childhood. It is what makes me tear up as I write these words. If I concentrate hard enough, I can see it. Jackie, me and Annie in our matching pajamas sharing a bed falling asleep to Dad's snoring and the blaring television static. Getting pancakes at the diner next door in the morning before getting back on the road.

I think of my life and how self absorbed I am. Other than the dogs, I don't have to take care of anyone, much less three little girls. I have no one to worry about but myself.

There is a freedom to that. Yet, there is also an emptiness to it all and as I sit here in the booth, all I can think is that I wish, oh how I wish, that I had a little girl to take to the waterfalls tomorrow.







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