Monthly Archives: July 2014

Regret: Night Sounds

With racing heart I rushed into the warm night, no sleeves, no bra. Straining to see, my weak eyes searched the darkness to see her. Why didn’t I reach for my glasses before leaving my bedroom? I could hear her voice seemingly far, far away…not of the present…maybe someone’s television set, or maybe the radio, iPod, or Pandora. It couldn’t be the latter two because it was not music to my ears. It would have been great if it were music. Jazz or even better some nerve calming classical, or maybe the blues. No, no, not the blues, not now.

Life can be a bitch/bastard!


Regrets Regarding Socks

Socks cover your feet, most often before placing shoes on. Socks can also be received or placed on someone, maybe, not happy with something you/they said or did (as in a sock to the jaw). Socks come in pairs, as shoes do. So, what do socks have to do with regret in my life? I think socks can be another metaphor for things that come in pairs, that seem unusable when one is missing and only one remains as a symbol of what used to be.

However, there are uses for a lone sock. My mother used to keep a “little extra” in a sock stuffed in her garter held stocking with the top of the sock folded over the outside of the stocking to secure the precious coins and bills carefully hidden there. I first discovered her secret when she decided to take the four of us, my three brothers and myself, to see Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” at the movie theatre.

I walked to the ticket window of the theatre with Mom as my brothers excitedly waited together at the wide windowed door entrance. Their eyes aglow and feet unable to remain still as they observed the other patrons buying popcorn, hotdogs, drinks and candy before the next surreptitious entrance into the darkened seated tiers behind the next set of doors. As today, for anything waited for, the prices had increased for this movie and Mom had only a certain amount of money in the ready to pay for our tickets. As she stepped out of line to move to a darkened corner of the arched building front, I watched in horror as she turned her back to the busy gathering and lifted the hem of her dress to the top of her stockinged left leg as she pulled out the socked away stash. As she let her dress fall back into place and my embarrassment eased, she calmly and coolly, stepped back in line and paid for our tickets. If she saw my mortification, she did not recognize it.

Another memory of that experience is that after the infamous shower scene where we endured the shock of Janet Leigh’s character being murdered (unheard of, at that time, where an A-Lister is bumped off early in the story line), audible screams and moans could be heard throughout the theater, above that never-to-be-forgotten sound track of the knife’s fatal blows. We were all scared silly. My brothers seemed to take the scene pretty well, scared, but in control. However, when the detective, played by Martin Balsam, was accosted on the stairs with the same, screeching sound track, my oldest brother disappeared. We found him under the seats of the theatre. To this day I cannot figure out how he managed to get his ten-year-old body under those seats.

There is another meaning for the word when used to impress – as in “to knock the socks off.” The word in that phase, so used, can be an attribute: in the workplace (as in making a great presentation), in the fashion world (as in the look of a well put together garment), or in the public presentation of oneself (as in the looks of beautiful people of the fashion world, silver screen or television). Some are born with the type of beauty that literally takes one’s breath away (or knocks your socks off). I’ve met those in my life that were blessed with that kind of beauty and I can say that it worked for the betterment of some, but, for others, it worked as a detriment. They reached their peak in high school or college but could not retain that same glory regarding their looks and/or impressive skills in sports, such as track, basketball or football. Or, for others, their physical beauty simply and quickly faded naturally. Some of the beautiful people I knew got drawn into the dark side, caught into that kind of lifestyle where the blazing light of their beauty was eventually squashed, a slow smothering their brightness until it dimmed and flickered out. Unfortunately, in my day, nerds did not receive the respect they do today, unless they were beautiful nerds.

Physical beauty can therefore be a blessing or a curse. Today’s society puts so much prestige in beauty, if I could choose, would I select inner or outer beauty? My granddaughter often compares her looks to her friends and companions (the size of her butt, breasts and even the shape of her eyebrows!). She didn’t get that trait from me, at least I hope not.  I cannot convince her that she is unique and that being perfect does not ensure a good and happy life. Inner beauty cannot be easily described. There is an effect on the outer looks that the calmness, honesty and goodness of inner beauty that enhances. I would like to think that I would choose inner beauty; however, come to think about it, once you have the outer, you have the option of working on the inner.

I’ve only socked someone once in my life and that was when a younger me had to beat up the neighborhood bully to protect my brothers. I wear mated socks around the house for warmth, in winter especially. Mated socks go into my tennis shoes. Some women wear socks with heels and manage to pull it off and look good doing so.

So what so I do with one single sock? When a sock disappears in the dryer, do I trip regarding one unmated sock as I did/do regarding one silken shoe? Heck no!


Regrets?  What About Promises?

Looking through the prism of the past, and the jolting reality of the present, what can one expect as the promise of aging. More important, is there any promise in aging or does one just live one day at a time feeling blessed that you wake up each morning?

I may have mentioned this in a previous blog; but it’s worth repeating because of the unexpected shock of passing a mirror one morning and glancing at an old woman whom I didn’t recognize, staring back at me. I stood stupefied looking at the messy hair, the sagging skin, and the washed out coloring, and asking myself “when in hell did I become this?” I had a bootylicious butt and small waist, with big sparking brown eyes and plump lips. That was the young “thing” I once was. I was never the beauty that my friend Shane was. I remember once walking into a bar with her and an up and coming business man, whom we both knew, came toward us and as he dropped down onto his drunken knees; he proposed marriage to Shane. He was not embarrassed and no one in the crowded bar seemed to take notice. Shane had that kind of effect on men. She was beautiful.

The fabled fountain of youth has been found and is being offered in the form of Botox and plastic surgeries. This fountain can be bathed in; submerging oneself into the painful waters that only hurt for a relatively short while with the promise of smooth skin and fat-free bodies. The moneyed and the wanna-bees hock their lives and/or inheritance trusting the promise of those knives and needles that have become the mystical waters searched for by voyagers and explorers of yore.

It’s not just women who wish to dive into and swim in the dangerous waters of the fountain. Men, bravely and boldly choose to navigate the knives and needles of the precious fountain too. They too, hang on to what used to be. After the shock of seeing myself as I am now, I wonder where did my youth go? When did the years sneak up on me and surreptitiously and criminally change my appearance? As I looked in the mirror each day, why couldn’t I see the changes as they occurred? It was really a jaw dropping experience to, at once, see oneself as an “old lady.”

Younger men refer to me as “mam” now. Even the ones with bald heads or grey hair no longer turn as they used to when I walk by. These days, the new reality is a relative going into hock for breast implants in her fifties. Another friend, a few years older than me, claimed that her swollen face and puffy eyes was due to “problems with aging” – well she didn’t actually lie. Her facial skin is now as smooth as a baby’s butt. She really looks marvelous.

Aging gracefully is the answer. But, how do you do that? A nip here, a tuck there, a needle as well – is that graceful? A good example of the dichotomy is Tippi Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and her daughter, Melanie Griffith who starred in “Working Girl.” Google each of them and it’s amazing how beautiful the mother is with her aging face still beautiful and obviously not cosmetically altered, compared to her daughter. It’s not about the genes – Melanie was a beauty in her day. The difference in how they each have aged.

For a price, doctors offer the murky waters of that sought after fountain that I once dreamed of as a warm inviting place like the waters of the Caribbean, is now filled with knives, needles, strong lights and a doctor’s/surgeon’s steady hands that renders pain, blood and gobs of fat. Joan Rivers has swum too often in the dangerous waters, in my opinion. However, she seems as happy as one with her personality can be.

Am I going to take a chance on getting into the water? Maybe Botox. But, not plastic surgery; however, a little suction for getting rid of that stomach roll might not be so bad!

Aging brings about the break down of the body requiring pills, salves, other required surgeries and every kind of restriction imaginable from food, drink and activities. Can you blame one for wishing to look good as you break down?

However, as of right now: with acceptance and promise, play the music, take away the mirrors and sing with me as I gracefully dance into the daylight, laughing and unafraid.

King Kong: A Story of Regret and Remembrance

I grew up in the projects of a relatively small Bay Area town in California. Although, at present, it has an undeserved reputation for crime and violence (and there is much more than there should be), in those days, during and after WWII, there was a dignified innocence in being poor and struggling for survival. I was the oldest of four children and the only girl.

The project buildings had been built to house the tidal wave of mostly poor migrants from the South lured by the siren song of jobs and riches offered by the non-stop churning of riveting steel in the ship-yards of WWII. My town was one of those teaming industrial port towns. We lived in a two bedroom downstairs unit. Above us lived the handsome Napoleon, his tiny, beautiful wife, Naomi and their young son, Lester. Week-days consisted of walking the three blocks to the Boulevard, arriving just in time to watch the lumbering yellow bus chug to an exhaustive stop to transport our neighborhood children to school. However, Saturdays were special. On Saturday mornings Mom and Dad slept late while the four of us gathered around the radio to be transported to other worlds of fiction and fantasy. I can still hear “plunk your magic twanger, Froggy” and “that’s my dog Tide, he lives in a shoe, I’m Buster Brown, I live in there too.” A catchy commercial was as important then as now. From fairy tales to super-heroes, they were there waiting for us as our sleepiness was replaced with wide-eyed wonder at the sounds that emanated from the mahogany, bullet shaped box, stoking each of our imaginations for a few hours of giggles, shoves and shut-ups on Saturday mornings.

Saturday evenings offered a different kind of entertainment as the sound of music filled the air as doors slammed and voices buzzed with expectation. It was Saturday night and there was always action at Red Robin pool hall and bar, Minnie’s bar or sometimes a dance at the Civic Center Auditorium for Dad and resentfulness for Mom. There was definitely a double standard – the men went out on Saturday nights and only a certain type of woman was seen regularly in the bars and pool halls, but everyone went to the dances at the auditorium. There was usually the obligatory fight that Naomi and Napoleon performed for the neighborhood. We kids listened for the yelling to start; followed by the scuffling, then the thud of a body hitting the floor. When the ambulance came and the EMTs brought down the body of a bleeding Napoleon, we would strain to ascertain the seriousness of the beat-down that he had taken this time. He went to the hospital; she went to Red Robin. He would miraculously return home at some point (I think he would sneak upstairs upon return) and they would commence being the loving couple until the next Saturday night. I never knew where Lester was during the Saturday night fights.

Between the radio shows and the fights, Saturday offered another treat for us. If we were good; if we had been obedient; if our father deemed it OK; we could go to the movies; if there was enough money. After all it cost twenty cents per child, plus the cost of popcorn, a soda and a Power House five-cent candy bar. The cost was not much by today’s standards; however, after the war was over and shipyard lay-offs took effect, money was fugally managed.  Dad searched for work, while Mom worked at the Del Monte Cannery. She worked with peaches and often came home with the skin peeling from hands scalded from handling the hot fruit.

Although the original “King Kong” was made in 1933, in the early 1950’s it came to our local theatre. The advertisements were spine tinkling and breathtaking. “A Monster of Creation’s Dawn Breaks Loose in Our World Today!” This movie was the topic of conversation at school and anywhere else that people gathered. We all wanted to see “King Kong.” And no one wanted to see it more than my brother Chance. He was the middle brother. Chance usually followed the lead of my oldest brother, Earl; however, on this issue, Chance was his most outspoken self. His eyes sparkled and his lips quivered when the subject was the giant gorilla. Looking back, I believe that Chance’s creative side was intrigued by the thought of seeing on screen this product of Ray Harryhausen’s creative genius.

In those days, so unlike children of today, you did not talk back to your parents. It was unheard of in our community. So, late one evening, although we had been told there was no money for movies, my brothers and I had conspired and they had convinced me to approach my dad about letting go to see this special movie that everyone, even he, had been talking about. Being the only girl and the oldest, I was my dad’s favorite. I got good grades, cooked in my mom’s absence, cleaned house and watched after my brothers. It was decided that if anyone could convince my dad to let us go, it would be me.

The four of us approached Dad together (Mom was at work). He was searching through his toolbox and kept up his search rattling the various tools, as I had to lift my voice to be heard over the static sound. “Daddy, can we go to see “King Kong” this Saturday? “What you say Baby Girl?” I said in a louder voice “We’ve all been good, can we go to the movie and see “King Kong”?  He looked at the four of us with one eye half closed and his answer was a curt “No. I turned to walk away. Two of my brothers, my oldest and youngest, turned with me. However, Chance hung back a little, then turned slowly to follow us, but said under his breath, “I want to see “King Kong.” That moment froze in time. Everything slowed. Horrified, I turned to see my dad’s reaction. I looked at Chance whose head was lowered in dejection. The overhead light fixture reflected against his bowl haircut’s shiny scalp. “What you say, boy? You want to see “King Kong?” All right then get your tail outside and run around this building until you see “King Kong.”

Chance tried a feeble show of defiance and attempted to puff out his chest as he stomped toward the door. The night air was balmy. A full moon glimmered a pale yellow smile at Chance as the starry blanket blinked in random play twinkling down at skinny nine year old as he ran around the twelve family unit (two levels of six). We were ordered to helplessly watch as he twice passed the front door. As he began his third lap, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I decided to take a chance on defying my father too. I ran through the kitchen to the back of the house and from my mom and dad’s bedroom window I could see from the street light the shadow of a haggard and perspiring Chance as he approached. I whispered in a frantic voice as loudly as I could “Tell him you see “King Kong.” He didn’t seem to hear me on that lap; however, on the fourth lap his gait had so slowed, I knew that he heard me as I whispered even louder “Tell him, tell him that you see “King Kong.” I hurried back to the living room and waited to see if Chance would make his admission to Dad. Chance passed us again going for another lap. Finally on the fifth turn, a sweating, Chance with his tongue hanging out in exhaustion, probably ten pounds lighter, staggered through the door into the living room and with a dazed look in his eyes he told my dad in a choking voice. “Daddy I saw “King Kong.” My dad looked up at Chance in a dismissive way and with a “harrumph,” put his toolbox away.

We finally got to see “King Kong” and not one of us enjoyed it as much a Chance did. His eyes danced and the smile on his face lit up the room whenever he talked about the big ape.
It’s ironic the things you remember about loved ones who have passed on. I told the story of Chance and the ape at his Memorial Service. He died in a local hospital, the result of a tragic beating. His life was one of missed opportunities. His love and devotion to his older brother lead to a degeneration of values where he found comfort living the kind of life that his sweetness and kindness left him without protection or escape. Could I, as his older sister have done more? I don’t know, but I do now realize that he was probably an undiagnosed dyslectic, which would explain his problem in learning to read.  Would that explain his total adoration and dependency on an older brother who could not protect him when a monster attacked?

I’ve written about his death and how it has affected me. For me writing is cathartic. Writing helps with the healing process. The irony is that how he died is not what I dream about, think about and feel. Now, I remember the goofy things that happened when we were young.