Friday, December 4, 2009

Titty Mountain

For NaNoWriMo I was working on a memoir book. 1967- 1969, the years we lived in the mobile home park on the beach. A good twenty miles north of Malibu proper, it was a micorcosm of a setting for a few pivotal years of our family. Thought I'd share a smaller vignette.

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!”

“MOM! Look UP! Look up at Titty Mountain! It’s ME!”

From the top of the hill in the State Park, on the outer edge of the man made drop off of a cliff, I jumped up and down and waved my arms in the air. I did an Indian pow wow dance and a whirling dervish. Nothing was catching my mom’s attention. I stood for a moment contemplating her putzing around in our yard, completely oblivious that her eleven year old middle daughter was looking down on her from high above.

I stopped trying to gain my mom’s attention and just observed her for awhile. She looked so innocent and vulnerable and small from my vantage point. I felt an ache of tenderness for her. Pure love with a bittersweet edge.

Was it the altitude? The seeming godliness of my perch above the mobile home park and the Pacific Coast Highway on this clear fall day?

Fall was my favorite season to live on the beach; the elements seemed to jump out at you. Riding home from school I would sit on the right hand side of the bus where if I was to leap from the window I might have cleared the rocks and landed with a splash into the ocean. Sitting on the bus and watching the sunlight dance on the ocean’s surface like a swarm of dazzling sea fairies hypnotized me and encouraged my habit of daydreaming. One day a young classmate had sat down beside me, and with a mirror attached to the top of his shoe, gazed up at my panties for a bit of time. Until my friend Sarah saw him and punched his arm. I might never have noticed myself.

On this day, I’d had the heebie jeebies and needed to get out and about. I’d stopped over at Sarah’s, but she only wanted to lounge around her bedroom, listening to 45’s and eating snacks. She wanted to leaf through teen magazines and talk about boys. She was nearly two years older than I and was a little more boy crazy than your average 12 and a half year old.

I’d made up an excuse and ducked out of there. I hadn’t felt like returning home and lying around my own place any more than Sarah’s. At least Sarah’s mom left the girls’ bedroom alone and gave us some privacy. My mom could not stand to see people relaxing. It made her more nervous and anxious than her normal busy bee buzz.

Our beach was such a small little cove that at times it felt confining. My urge to be one with nature that day went beyond standing at the end of the pier and staring into the horizon, and even went beyond climbing along the rocks on the north side of the beach and watching the waves smash against the biggest boulders. Sneaking as close to the raging surf as one can.
No, what I needed that day was some real physical exertion and a sense of freedom.

So off I’d gone on my own to Titty Mountain.

Titty Mountain got its name from its appearance. The hills along the west side of Sycamore Canyon formed a ridge and there was a trail along the top. On one side you could look down at the Pacific Coast Highway, out and across the ocean. An eagle’s view. The other side of the hills sloped down into Sycamore Canyon itself. The beginning of which was the campground, but the canyon narrowed and went on and on and made its way all through the hills up and into the back of Newbury Park. A place I would be living four years from then, but I had no idea at the time.

The reason the edge of this range of hills looked like a big tit was purely man made. A section at the end had to be sliced off for the Pacific Coast Highway to pass around. The flat, brown cliff that occurred from this destruction of nature had the shape of a humongous boob. Something that looked like it could come to life and face off Godzilla in a Japanese film. At the pinnacle was a giant sagebrush. It looked exactly like a nipple sitting there on top. My friends and I had not named it Titty Mountain. It was already christened by those who had come before us.

The location of our mobile home at the outer edge of the park and right next to PCH was directly below Titty Mountain.

From my summit I could see directly into our back yard and whatever my mom was doing. She was oblivious to my shouting and I eventually tired of observing her. I let my eyes wander up and over the amazing horizon that I had all to myself.

Even at eleven I had a strong sense of and appreciation for infinite space. Standing on the edge of a cliff and looking out over the vastness of the ocean on an ethereal fall afternoon was a better high than what the older teens were doing down in some hidden hideaway. A part of me almost felt like I could lift my arms and soar like a hawk. The fact that during my childhood I had recurring dreams where I could fly, and had witnessed panoramic landscapes similar to my ledge on Titty Mountain’s summit, only increased the surreal feel of the moment.

I could also see south down the PCH. Brown, sage brushy hills rolled slowly into the hypnotic ocean of shifting blues and greens, with the winding black ribbon of highway separating the two giants and rippling towards the haze of Los Angeles.

I could almost feel the sensation from my dreams, the lift of flight. I raised my arms to my sides and closed my eyes to better feel the breeze on my face.

I’m not sure how long I was poised there on the edge of the cliff. But when I opened my eyes, and peered down again into our back yard, my mom had definitely noticed me. She was doing her own version of the pow wow rain dance whirling dervish. Her version involved finger wagging and hand signals. Gigantic mouthing of words, which, curiously, I could figure out.

“Get. The. Fuck. Off that ledge. Back off. What the fuck are you thinking? Do you want to give me a fucking heart attack?”

Maybe some other curse words thrown in. My mom really knew how to string them together when she was on a role. One of her talents I was proud to inherit.

For a moment I stood there, feigning innocence, leaned over the ledge a smite more to get a better look at her and pretended to listen more carefully with pantomimed hand behind my ear.
When I realized she had reached that crucial point where her eyes actually bulged out of her head like a cartoon, I backed off. I felt slightly guilty, especially remembering the tenderness I’d felt only moments ago for my mom.

But I did not go home right away. I followed the ridge along the top, walking parallel to PCH heading north. I passed by the first trail that zigzagged down into the campground and opted instead to keep going and head to another crest or peak where I could feel my spirits lift with the sky.

As mad as my mom was, I knew if I waited a couple of hours, by the time I got home she’d be well past her first few drinks for the night. She’d have taken a valium or three and she’d either be happy slosh or scary slosh, but sloshed all the same. My dad would be running late from work. Again. There would most likely be a huge fight when he finally arrived home and my mom would probably escalate to crazyville and suicide threats. This sad slow dance was becoming a regular routine. Just the night before she had walked around with a loaded gun, swirling it around her index finger and detailing how the next time we saw her we would be “picking her brains off the rails of the pier.”

My father had ignored her and continued to watch TV, so my sisters and I did likewise.

I settled down Indian style on another cliff to watch the sunset.

34 comments:

Amy said...

All I have to say is you are an amazing writer. I felt I was right there with you..

Brian Miller said...

wow. great piece...i was there too...it makes me yearn for more..

otin said...

Ahh, you made me want to climb on top of titty mountain! lol

Seriously though, that was brilliant!

blueviolet said...

What a beautiful escape that must have been, a place where you could breathe and be. :)

Mrsbear said...

Titty mountain, the comedy of the name plays against the gravity of your struggle at home. Lovely descriptions. My mommy instinct was urging you to back away from the ledge though. ;)

creative kerfuffle said...

i love the juxtaposition of titty mountain and the struggle at home too. and? my mommy instinct just wanted to give that little girl a hug.

Jeff D'Antonio said...

Excellent writing.

We had a Mount Boobie where I grew up. Like yours, it got its name from its appearance, but ours was all natural. I have many fond memories of childhood excursions to the top of Mount Boobie. There was also a cave a little ways south of Mount Boobie - guess what we called it...

Jen said...

I visited Malibu earlier this year! PCH is a beautiful stretch of highway. I'm jealous you got to live there.

anymommy said...

I felt it all. I loved the moments of tenderness and then the shocking revelations at the end. I felt I knew mom and girl from this.

Heather said...

I know all too well, the feeling of escape and the serenity places can have. Where family can't touch you but yet they are still in sight. Being on top of the hill alone and embracing the solitude, I was there with you.

Thanks for sharing something so close to your heart.

Jan said...

Between you and Irish Gumbo (and a couple of other bloggers I read on a regular basis), I spend a lot of time being impressed...and swept away.

And a little envious too.

Gaston Studio said...

Okay, I was both you, on top of the cliff enjoying the freedom and serenity, and your mom, down below, scared you'd fall to your death! Or maybe she was just a control freak?

Fabulous writing Pseudo, just fabulous.

P.S. You know that, supposedly, all dreams of flying are about sex, right? That and Titty Mountain made me smile.

Sandi McBride said...

OMG I loved this adventure! Sounded so much like some of mine, but I was on the East Coast in Tampa...and I nearly laughed my butt off at the "man made titty mountain"...leave it to a man!
hugs
Sandi

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Oh, I'm so excited to be reading this! How many pages did you wind up doing?
This is wonderful stuff. The parts looking down at your mom, then her up at you. It jumps off the page with life. All that wordless action....I love it. And then you saying that stuff about her being sloshed and the fighting, followed by you sitting down to watch the sunset. Aaah! Understated. Poignant. Spot on beautiful.

ds said...

Wonderful. I can't add anything to what's been said before,so I'll just repeat it: wonderful.

Thank you.

only a movie said...

Wow.

I can picture it all. I will tell you a story one time (not on the blog)about my ex husband hanging on the precipice of a similar cliff...

only a movie said...

Oops, hit submit too fast -- Truly, Pseudo - brilliant writing. xo

Kristan said...

I'll second or third what people have said about how great this piece is, especially the way you juxtapose the comedy of "Titty Mountain" with the gravity of your mother's... instabilities. It's amazing how we get such a strong sense of your independence and strength as a young girl, but then also feel that natural protective instinct when we figure out where it comes from.

Well-done. I can't wait to read more.

Anna See said...

This is riveting, Pseudo.

Ice Queen said...

You made me remember what it was like to be a kid and trapped inside a rough home. There's always the horizon to remind us that there are much greater things out there beyond our front door.

Sprite's Keeper said...

I've been in a place like that too. You almost feel untouchable, even though you can see others reacting to you. Dreamlike, really. Lovely words, Pseudo.

midlife slices said...

Oh my. Thanks for taking me along to the top to Titty mountain. The view was sharp, clear, and ever so insightful into your past.

Eternally Distracted said...

Excellent. I have to admit to not stopping by for a while, vistors, visitors and visitors...but glad I came back today.

Life with Kaishon said...

Wow. You write so well. I was totally involved in this story! Good luck with your book!

Smart Mouth Broad said...

My heart aches for the girl and rejoices for the woman you became.

Smart Mouth Broad said...

I got so caught up in your story that I forgot to say thanks for the awesome shout-out in your sidebar.

Melissa B. said...

Captivated me, from beginning to end. Say, have you heard of The Christmas Breasts? A Scribe Family holiday tradition...

Twenty Four At Heart said...

I think I KNOW titty mountain! Ha! I loved this post. A peak into family life at it's finest ...! Beautifully written as always.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Simply terrific!!!! I loved this!!! You have done great work this past month!!! I hope you'll share more!!! This was extraordinarily powerful...heartbreaking, and yet, there is freedom and hope promised! ~Janine XO

Captain Dumbass said...

That was good stuff, Pseudo.

Beth said...

I love how you swing from tenderness for your mother to indifference. Lots of emotions in play here.

Good writing, Pseudo!

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

Seriously intense, Psuedo - in a good way. ((HUGZ!))

mo.stoneskin said...

Titty mountain was man-made huh?! Makes sense!

Cliffs scare me, I felt slightly nauseous just reading.

Robert said...

Thanks, I enjoyed your blog. You write well. If you are looking for a writing challenge then have a look at the post on 50 word stories. See if you can create one. Thanks