Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spin Cycle: Halloween Past and Present

This is a repost, but Jen said "Halloween then and now" and this fits the bill to the tee.

Circa 1960’s
When I was young and growing up in the San Fernando Valley with my two sisters, Halloween was a huge deal. We COULDN’T WAIT for dinner to be over and dark to descend so we could go trick or treating. My dad had this horrid awful mask that he would drag out, not only for Halloween but also for slumber parties. It came from a movie set and beat the shit out of anything they sell today. It was SO REAL. Not at all rubbery. It was the scariest, creepiest, wrinkled, evil face ever. At least that’s the way I remember and I’m sticking to it. He’d wait until our guard was down, which means sitting on the floor, sorting our candies, and with mask, trench coat, and big ol’ boots, he’d slam open the back screen door and come tearing at us. Clenching hands and BRUUUUUHAHAHA. I’m surprised we never pissed our pants. That’s how much we fell for it every year.

Halloween 1991
Daughter was just over two and we had mostly managed to keep her from chocolate and sweets. Instead of taking her trick or treating, we dressed up and took her to a restaurant/club. You see, my husband and I met working at Bobby McGee’s. I was cocktailing to pay my way through college and my husband was a waiter. EVERYONE wore a costume at this crazy place to work. Even though we had both moved on, we still had a lot of friends there and they did a happy hour thingy on Halloween. So we dressed as the Flintstones. Cave clothes- mine and Daughter’s hair twisted around big, fake bones. It’s a great picture of back in the day when my husband and I used to both work out. Daughter was two and was the most precious Pebbles ever. Not that I’m prejudiced or anything. We went at, like 5 PM, and even after a shitload of fun and frivolity, we were back home by 8. Within 5 minutes of sitting down some kids came trick or treating. There was no hiding from the two year old the fact that I was giving stuff away and that was the end of her not getting candy for Halloween.

Halloween 1993
We had just bought our home that summer and it was Son’s first Halloween. He was 16 months old. He had the CUTEST fucking tiger costume. He toddled along and I swear our block looked like that scene in ET, where swarms of kids come out right at dusk. Being a new neighborhood, it was a beehive of toddler hood. I was holding his hand and waited on the sidewalk as Daughter and our friend’s kids went up to the first house. Son could barely talk, but he sure let it be known that he had observed what went on at the front door. He grunted and grumbled to see inside the kids pumpkin buckets. When he figured out that they were partaking of give-away stuff, he pulled and pulled on my arm until I walked him up to the next door. That was the beginning of his professional status at trick or treating. Everyone thought the baby tiger was too too cute and gave him twice as much as the other kids. But half way around the block he figured out how to unwrap a piece of candy and that was the end. Afterwards, he wanted to sit in the middle of the sidewalk and eat his whole loot. My friend had to take all the kids around so I could haul his little butt home and check his candy before he scarfed down a razor blade or an LSD tab.

Halloween 2006
My children are 17 and 14 and they have made plans to go out with some friends. Son is actually trick or treating in a friendly neighborhood that lets the teens keep up the good work. His professional status is still intact. Daughter is in a play and after rehearsals they are having a party. My husband has to work. I have the night to myself, but I’m being a Halloween Homebody and have decided I don’t want to answer the door and give away candy by myself. So I turn the porch light off and all the downstairs lights too. I go upstairs and treat myself to an aromatherapy bath with candles. As leave the bath I pause to look at myself in the candlelit mirror and contemplate the effects of the last few months. I’m still officially bald, but the first soft down of baby soft fuzz can be felt more than seen. My radiation treatments, finished just two weeks before, have left a thickening of red welts under my left arm. But it’s not as bad as they said it would be. The aloe must have really helped. My scars are still fairly new and jagged and my skin still has the sallowness of all that chemo. But I made it. I’m done with the treatments and have returned to work. I walk to the upstairs window and peek through the blinds to see the families on the sidewalks with their ballerinas and spidermen. I don’t feel the least bit sad to be by myself. I had insisted my kids not stay home for me; I want to make up for all those days and nights they had hung out with me in my room the previous summer. I curl up in bed with a book, grateful that the worst is over. Happy that life is moving forward and back to normal.

Update 2011
In March of this year I made my five year mark as a survivor. Yea. This is huge and I am so grateful to be here.

Looking back at this older post I cannot but help notice how it ended, "happy that life is moving forward and back to normal."


After nearly two unbloggable years, with life events I found much more challenging than even cancer itself, I am flabbergasted at my naivete.

I have no idea what I will be doing this year for Halloween. I do know I will dress up as something so my homeroom students get the extra spirit point. Other than that, I am still grateful to be here, more so with each passing day. Taking the good with the bad and one day at a time.

For more spins on Halloween, head on over to Jen at Sprite's Keeper. She puts the list up on Friday.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TTT: Ventura County

When I said in a previous post that my trip home was amazingly perfect, I wasn't even using hyperbole (one of my fave literary devices).

My mom was well - physically, mentally, and emotionally. She has not only adjusted to living in assisted living, she has thrived.

Thank-you God.

The day that my younger sister and her husband met up with me (all the way from Florida), and the three of us took Mom out for the day played out to be what might be tallied as one of the best days of my year.

Come along and I'll show you how to have a great day in Ventura County - featuring our family's favorite haunts.
On the Ventura County line of the PCH is Neptune's Net. It has been there forever as far as I know. Back in the day it was quite the dive, but has been updated and the menu looked awesome. We even were tempted to eat there, but had just had In and Out burgers, fries, and shakes; so we only went in for beers and iced teas for a picnic.

Neptune's Net is also a favorite stop for the bikers on a weekend and then you would find more like 40 or 50 bikes outside. We were there on a weekday so you only get two cool bikes in the photo.

We had to pass Sycamore Canyon to head to Neptune's Net for the cold ones, and while we were driving down PCH, a school of dolphins were swimming parallel to us.

Beautiful, clear, no winds, fall day.

Frolicking dolphins.

Auspicious, yes?
This Sycamore Canyon day park is where our mobile home park used to be in the late 60's and early 70's. That's grannie and my little sis there. My sister does not blog nor even use facebook, and when I asked her if it was OK if I put her photo up here, she said, "blog away!"

Behind Mom and Sis is the old clubhouse. The rangers use it now and it is a bit run down, but it used to be the center of the park, both physically and socially. The upstairs was a party room for the adults, but the manager let my friends and I have sleepovers up there sometimes.

Good times.

After a couple beers and a picnic, you can take a nice walk on our little beach. That's Castle Rock down there and my friends and I climbed all over it like indigenous crabs back in the day.

Between the rocks the waves rush in and flow back out to the ocean. Like rapids. We used to jump off the rocks and let ourselves get flushed out to sea. Again and again.

I would never have let my kids do anything half that dangerous, but we were not watched quite as over protectively back in those days.

After a few hours at Sycamore Park, head on up the coast to Oxnard. You will be following my old school bus route.

Out at the beach in Oxnard, right on the marina, I recommend you head on over to the Whale's Tail. I used to hang out there with my BFF and I am pretty sure it was with a fake ID. That's how long ago it was.

It is still a happening happy hour spot.

Here's sis showing off our "cucumber Bloody Marys." Sis used to work as a bartender at the Whale's Tail in the '80's. I was already living in Hawaii.

After happy hour head straight into Oxnard itself to Cabo's for some of the most real deal Mexican food to be had. I am ready to leave my computer right now and go make myself something to eat just thinking about our dinner that night.

When you walk into Cabo's there is a woman making hand made tortillas right there in the center of the restaurant.

Oh. My. God.

Best tortillas ever.

Can you tell we have MEH Mexican food over here? I was so ready for this meal.

Cabo's also does the best table side guacamole I've ever had. My BIL was talking about it all day.

Some beers, some chips (also made from their home made tortillas)....

We had tacos to die for. I was too busy inhaling them to get a photo for you all. My favorite is the Taco Dorados de Picadillo. It is pork, beef, and potato; all cooked down together and served in a crispy, fresh, hand-made minutes before tortilla.

We also ordered the Carne Asada and Carnitas tacos, which are served in soft tortillas with cilantro, onion, and lime.

Then we all shared so we could have one of each.

Cabo also does a Bloody Mary with cocktail shrimp inside. Which we also ate too fast to take photos.

There you have it. Ventura County a la Pseudo.

Got a favorite haunt where you live? Where you grew up? Link on up!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spin Cycle: There is no Black or White, Just Shades of Grey

There are all kinds of ghosts and it seems that lately I have been more inclined to deal with the ghosts and hauntings of my childhood, of my young adulthood, and even of times not so long ago.

Everyone says all families are dysfunctional.


Go ahead and play the music video. You'll figure out why soon.

If you read yesterday’s post or have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know I grew up in a home with a mentally ill mom with an addiction problem and suicidal behavior. So yeah. A bit dysfunctional.

My first day back in LA last week I arrived at the airport in the morning on a red-eye. By 10 AM I had my rental car and was tearing up the 405 headed north. I was on my way to the cemetery to deliver leis to the ancestors.

The feelings aroused by hitting the road on a glorious sunny Southern California day overwhelmed me to say the least. I had not been on my own on the roads of what felt like a past life in a couple of decades. I got off in Granada Hills to find the house where we had lived until I was 10, before we moved to the beach. While I was prowling the streets, looking for my first home ever, I was listening to a country music station and Miranda Lambert’s song, “The House that Built Me” came on.

Seriously. Sometimes the Universe has a perverse sense of timing.

My friend’s death (at 47 years old) the week before combined with the nostalgia for my past, and the remnants of my memories came flooding in like a hurricane. How can one describe the layers of all one’s former selves drifting in and out, together and yet separate from this person I’d become?

It was difficult to tell whether all the old me’s were the ghosts or if I had become a ghost just drifting through my past.

And there were still the ancestors to deal with.

My father’s death eight years ago was a difficult time for my sisters and me. It turned out that while we had all painted my mom out as the bad guy for so many years (a concept encouraged by both my father and his family), in the end, dad was no innocent. A much better liar than my mom by far and just as manipulative. For anyone harboring a life of lies, here's a warning. Death and dying sometimes have a way of bringing everything to the surface.

It took me a long time to truly forgive him. I wish I could say I was a better person, but the truth is I was mad at him for a couple of years, and those were his last years.

Even worse, I was left with a gaping hole in my long secure feelings for my Uncle, my grandmother, and all the rest. These loved ones had been my force of resilience through my childhood and teen years and I credited them for my coming out of it all somewhat OK. But I found myself upset with them for not protecting us from him. For encouraging us to believe that everything wrong was my mom’s fault. For their trusting dad to take care of us and do right by us when he was not capable of any such thing. He was their son, their brother, they should have known better....

I had spent my life putting these beloved ones on a pedestal and it was painful to feel abandoned by them, even though none of them were around to explain.

Does it make me sound like a horrible person to say this aloud? To write it, even anonymously?



As a 53 year old woman I see what a narcissistic perspective I had at the time.

But it was more the 13 year old inside of me that was hurt than the middle aged woman.

The Eternal Valley Memorial Park is the resting place for my father, my Uncle (dad’s older brother and my grandfather figure), my paternal grandmother, my Aunt, and my Aunt’s husband (uncle by marriage).

I had not been back since my father’s funeral in 2003.

As I laid the leis on their resting places and said my prayers for them, all the love in the world came flooding back in. I knew I was loved, their love was what carried me through some crazy times. All the rest did not matter anymore.

Of course they had to trust dad back then, to give him a chance to do the right thing. It did not matter that he was not able to live up to their hopes for him. Giving him a shot was a generous and noble choice.

I felt a peace I had not felt the last time I was there.

Later, I thought as I headed back towards Santa Monica, later I may go by my Uncle and grandmother’s house.

The refuge.

Perhaps I might even stop and walk to the side of the garage to see if my three year old footprints are still in the cement there. If the owner of the house comes out, I'll explain I just need a reminder of a favorite memory.

For more ghost stories,head on over to Jen at Sprite's Keeper.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Titty Mountain Redeux

That pretty blogger at the top of my side bar is Jan from Jan's Sushi Bar. Her blog is in the running for an award, so click on her picture and please go vote for her. Then run to her blog and check it out. She is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

We always come back to this place. This is where I spent a wonderful day last week with my mom, my younger sister, and her husband. That cut off mountain in the back is "Titty Mountain."

The fact that the day went wonderfully is pretty fucking huge.

This is the beach that used to belong to the Surf and Sand Mobile Home Park. The beach where I sowed the seeds of my soul as I watched my family implode around me.

In lieu of writing anew, for now I am reposting something from my memoir writing. For many of you, it will be familiar. When I went back and read it, I was amazed how many of you have hung in with me through the unbloggable years. Thank-you for that.

And now I give you a story from Titty Mountain, circa 1969....



“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 the way 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.

So, 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 knew 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 could be a huge fight when he finally arrived home and my mom might escalate to crazyville and suicide threats.

Two nights before she had walked around with a loaded gun 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.

With the slightest of sighs and then a deep breath, I settled down Indian style on another cliff to watch the sunset.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spin Cycle: Home and Heart

Well, I certainly found a hidden perk to having a second job.

Road trips.

I had not hit my home turf sans family, in..... like....


It was one of those events where everything fell into place, everything went smoothly, good times were had by all.

Since this was my first time to travel the roads of the girl I used to be on my own since I married and had children, I will count this as my Spin on Firsts.

Since I traveled, worked my business, and visited with friends and family my entire week of break, I am playing catch up on lesson planning. I hope to capture in words the feelings the trip brought up, but for now, I will link you to a post on the beach where I grew up, the beach where I had a lovely reunion with my mom and younger sister last week.

For more Spins, head on over to Sprite's Keeper.