26 January 2012

24 Years of Grateful California Living

My mind, as if thumbing through some old photo albums, still thinks back to January, 1988. That was the month I began life in a new city (dumping Houston for Los Angeles), a new home environment (living single in a River Oaks condo to having a live-in 'significant other' (1st in a series) in one of Park La Brea's towers (401 S. Burnside Ave 11B).
By moving west with Bob, I also escaped a merger-muddled career @ 'the new Foley's' for the prestige and stability of Federated's profitable 'crown jewel', Bullock's.This was entirely due to Christine Valentine's trail blazing when she moved there in August 1987 and skipped over Bullock's to land at Bullocks Wilshire.
Her flawless recommendation letter + Max's own stubborn insistence he be given the one Assistant Buyer opening.  He landed in what was called 'Utility Bedding' in the 'Home Textiles' division at swanky BDS. Less glamourously known as 'Pillows & Pads'  in Domestics at Sanger Harris/Foley's.

I got the job and a raise even with bad shoes. Yes, I was told my interviews were impeccable but my shoes were not worthy of a Bullock's associate. And wear a pocket square in a suit, not sport coats and trouser combos.

My smart-ass comment on my first day was that I was 'over' senseless mergers, I believe brought about the downfall of the American Department Store Industry. I've rehashed those awful days ad infinitum. Thus, 'nuff said and my naivete at just how bad things would continue to get,  STILL makes me ill.

But my love of Los Angeles carried me forward...I soon learned I had nothing in common with Bob, and he would transferred away that November. I couldn't afford Park La Brea alone, so I headed for Silver Lake, then bounced back Hollywood, then Montebello, then back to Los Angeles.

TONIGHT I am stretched across my sofa on the 6th floor of my beloved Hollywood apartment of 18 years.   I'm single, and satisfied with that. It does help that the delegate from Wisconsin has been lobbying me since December. He reminded me he doesn't 'do' blogs or have time for them, yet as managed to catch up on the 25-30 blog posts I've done around the net. And knowing he didn't like blogs, I was brutally honest in my writing and yet, he appears to be ok with that, boasting how he'd read every post. At my end of the phone, I was cringing.

Financials, the future and my career crisis dog me.  Retail seems to be one of dilution now. My life is one without health insurance and hating traditional medicine anyway...but from 'nowhere' I suddenly go into a panic. And such panic you never can  believe.
For me, my anxiety attacks came with my 'Story of Job' storyline that began in 2007 with my novel's first printing and hastened by Partner #3's departure in 2008.
These panic attacks have been ...triggered as they see fit, and have become the biggest boogeyman I've battled. ...and I only realized that last week after two 'new' friends pointed the pros and cons out to me. I am grateful for their insight.

I am very grateful to live in Los Angeles. It captured my attention as a child, and that fascination has never stopped. It remains a constant in my constantly re-written story.

14 January 2012

Thoughts on Twelve, and I Remember Mama

72 hours ago, I came to an interesting realization about my long-departed parents and thus, some insight about myself. As someone who is approaching 50 years and has pondered 'what makes me tick', 'who am I?' 'why am I here?', this was akin to finding the lock that an old key fits.
An old friend of mine would be throttling me now while saying 'STOP Navel-gazing!' It's true: I over-analyze. Thus, I blog onward.

The number 12 holds a unique place in my life. I was born on October 12. Thursday would have been my mother's 84th birthday. She was born January 12, and died on June 12, when I was 12. This month marks the 24th year I've lived in California. What all these 12's mean, if anything, I've yet to find out.

My mother, whose favorite movie was 'Valley of the Dolls', died of a drug overdose: her 'problem' or 'struggle' was in a time before the Betty Ford Center, before it was de rigueur to announce one's addictions. In fact, my family announced that she'd died of a heart attack, while privately blaming my father as the 'cause'.
Meanwhile, the 12 year old me blamed myself....illogical as that sounds, but nonetheless true. And I don't recall anyone talking to me about it. I continued to blame myself...and quite frankly, I'm  still forever trying to 'rescue' people: with no thought to my own self-preservation, it seems.

It was the summer of 2000, I think, and I was back in Texas, visiting my cousin Marcie in DeSoto. How the subject came up, I don't know, but I do remember her saying, in her wonderful plain-spoken drawl: "Oh, Hell! We all knew she was using drugs in the 1950's. In fact, we were surprised you weren't born with two heads!"
My mother worked for a time for a Dr. Green. Most likely he gave her something; Mama always had a very poor self-image of herself. But there was more to it than that. I asked Marcie her thoughts and her response made sense.

My mother would not want to be thought of as tragic or a victim of her times. I remembered Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft had said this about their mother, Judy Garland (who also died at age 47 of a Seconal overdose).  I paraphrase when I state they felt Judy lived her life as she wanted.

I thought of my mother: the youngest of 5 children, living in the shadow of her older, glamorous sister in Duncanville. Although Mama would re-write her backstory to that of a poor farm girl picking cotton, fact was her father had sold the farm and was working at the Federal Reserve Bank. Mama married her high school sweetheart, but this marriage ended in divorce. Mama thought Dallas was the ultimate big city, and she moved to the Oak Cliff neighborhood as soon as she could.

She met my father and they were married in 1959. He was 24 years her senior, had been divorced twice, with two grown children and was very much A Man With a Past. Daddy bought my mother diamond jewelry, large homes, two restaurants to run, a new Cadillac every two years and so on. Of course, material goods don't buy happiness, but the attention must have been fantastic.
Most importantly, I feel he gave her freedom. She did not have to work, she did not have to clean house(we had 'the help'). She gave him a child, me, and I remember her telling me that having a son was her goal in life. Not travel the world, not became a congresswoman, not to win  the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes.

Freedom can also become a prison. I never recall her telling us she wanted to stop knocking herself out with painkillers. Or that she even had a problem. She was busy planning my adult life: Medical and law school, marry a virgin have 3.5 kids, and I would hire her to work in my office. Mama really was into the Perry Mason scenario: a mink coat and leather gloved Della Street, racing into the courtroom with that all important file right on cue. She laughed at herself, could imitate anyone and worshiped Jackie Onassis. And I've realized that, given the choice, she wouldn't have changed anything.

Ironically, her death and that of my father's soon after gave me freedom: and that is their legacy. I miss them so very much, yet I would not have this life had events played out differently. And that freedom has served me well, and also imprisoned me.