1967 – How much is your childhood worth?

I’ve been fooling around on my laptop tonight, and for some reason, thought about the first thing that my mother let me send for through the mail – it was 1967, and I really wanted the Yellow Pages dress, so she let me mail a dollar bill with the order form, and reminded me that it would take “six to eight weeks for delivery.” When I got the dress, I was a little dismayed to realize that it was paper, and I ended up tossing it after a botched styling attempt with scissors. I was unbelievably shy when I was a kid, and there would have been no way that I was going to wear a paper dress out in public, especially one that I had cut to micro-mini status. (And I know that this conflicts with being an introvert, but  I was also a tomboy who loved to play kickball and get into fights with boys, and if I was going to do either of those things in a paper dress, it was certain that my day would end badly.)

In 2007,  “Antiques Roadshow” had someone on the show who decided to bring their version of the paper dress to have it appraised; the appraisal value was from $1800-$2200. Now, if I had been a savvier little girl (or psychic), I would have put away the scissors and kept the dress in a Zip-Lok bag for 40-plus years.     I would have also kept my metal Slinky, except that my brother and I were bored at daycare one morning, and decided that we would stretch the Slinky out completely to see if it would go all the way around the playground (it did), and my Click Clacks:

If I remember correctly, Click Clacks were found to be dangerous, as they tended to crack and sometimes shatter – it’s a wonder I survived my childhood at John A. Sutter Elementary School, although I was more in danger of getting beat up than anything else.  I had no problem squaring off with boys, and girls, too – I did get smacked a few times, and a girl stabbed me in the leg with a stick in the bathroom, but otherwise, I got out of grade school intact.  (Only one boy socked me in the stomach, and as it turned out, had a crush on me, and got into trouble for carving my name and his into a tree. Cute.)

If I were to gaze into my crystal ball, or check my Magic Eight-Ball (which is still sold today, so no reason to have held on to that toy), what little gadgets would we pay large dollars for in 2046? Maybe you have an idea – I’m going to go check my steamer trunk for those Click Clacks.

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Mom

Mom,

I miss you today, more so than usual, since it’s Mother’s Day.  You left two years ago, while in the hospital; you waited until I walked outside to make a phone call, and when I came back, the look on the nurse’s face as he walked toward me was all I needed to know. If you were still here, you would have been without a foot, as they wanted to amputate it when the sore on it from being bandaged got so bad that nothing else could be done, and it wasn’t healing because you had no circulation in your leg from the stroke, and your skin was so fragile.  I was told that even if the decision was made to amputate the foot, that you still might not make it, as you had an incredible amount of blockages in all of your arteries.

There was no one else to help me with deciding what to do, and when I asked you what you wanted to do, you said you wanted to keep your foot.  I still don’t know if it was the right decision, but it was the one that I made.

My earliest memory is of you singing to me when I was in my crib; you  usually sang “Would You Like to Swing on a Star?” I think I remember that because it had so many verses, and choices; I could be a mule, or a fish, or a pig, and that was pretty neat.

Would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a mule

A mule is an animal with long funny ears
Kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny but his brain is weak
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule

You loved Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin, among other crooners.  I grew up with music, dance, art, and books, because of you and Dad, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m all right most days;  and I miss you when the going gets rough, like it has been today. I like to think that you are with Dad, and Steve, and Naomi – give Asia a big hug for me. I love you, Mom.

Won’t you rock and roll with me? (Ten times)

A couple of weeks ago, I made a list of all of the concerts that I’ve been to in my life.  Doing that started me thinking about the collection of mental screenshots I have for each one (some I can share, others – some other day); here’s a few for you:

1.  Elton John did five encores at the Forum 1n 1975, and changed his outfit for each one – one of his most memorable costumes was a white sequined jumpsuit and a pink feather boa, with white sequin platform shoes. My first concert, and I was hopelessly hooked on rock and roll – my attraction started about three years before with the Beatles, and seeing Elton John resulted in a full-blown obsession.

2.  We waited in line for twelve hours to see Frank Zappa at the Long Beach Arena on New Year’s Eve, and even though we were among the first dozen or so to get in, we still ended up in the balcony.  Zappa seemed a little bored, or irritated, or both; at midnight, he said, “Happy New Year” in a monotone, while everyone else was going crazy. Oh, and our ride took off sometime in the afternoon, and never came back; we were lucky enough to find someone that we knew with a car who gave us a ride home at about 3 a.m.

3.  During the Blues Brothers concert at the Universal Ampitheatre, John Belushi was introducing the  band, and when people didn’t clap enough, he said “C’mon, lame-ohs,” resulting in uneasy laughter from the audience. Later, after he had overdosed, and I read more about what led up to his death, I realized that he was probably whacked out of his mind on drugs. (I don’t know for sure,  just speculation on my part….you make the call.) And Steve Martin, at the peak of his “Wild and Crazy Guy” white suit and banjo period? Have you ever laughed so hard that you couldn’t breathe?

4.  During the Peter Frampton concert at the Anaheim Stadium (what’s it called now? Angel Stadium?), fans were so crazy , that during his act, they jumped up and down so hard on the upper level that we could see it moving. I was really more interested in watching the upper level shimmy than in PF (no judgment; I think sitting so far away from the stage put me out of the mood for the talk box experience, although I will listen to Frampton today with no hard feelings). There were a couple of acts before Peter Frampton – Gentle Giant? Gary Wright? And Yes was the headliner; by the time they came on, I was ready to call it a night.

5.  A fight broke out between a concertgoer and a bouncer in between acts at the Doobie Brothers concert at the Long Beach Arena; the bouncer, who was twice the size of the fan, told him, “Oh, I’ll be seeing you after the show,” then sat down in his seat near the stage, and glared up at the guy all night. Don’t know what happened to the guy, but I’m guessing it couldn’t have been the ending to the night that he was hoping for.

6.  I am positive that I spotted Senator John Tunney during the intermission at the Wall show; my friend thought that I had lost it, which considering we were seeing Pink Floyd, wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.  The set also caught on fire during the show, and the band had to have a do-over on one song (can’t recall which one).  “The Wall” was one of the most overwhelming shows I think I’ve ever seen – I had no idea that it would be so significant at the time, just that it was Pink Floyd, and that I was going to see something amazing…thirty-one years later, amazing doesn’t begin to cover it.

7.   X was an outdoor show on the field at Cal State Long Beach, right about where the parking office and the parking structure are today.  It was a free-seating show, and a bunch of us were standing around and dancing, when I was knocked to the ground – some girl who was on some guy’s shoulders fell off and fell on my head.  No harm, no foul, and the band played on…

8.  When Bob Dylan sang his first song of the night, I realized that not only did I not recognize the song, but that I couldn’t understand any of the words that were coming out of his mouth.  Then I thought, “Is he purposely doing this so that the people who really like him will stay, and the ones who don’t get it will leave?” Doesn’t that sound like something Dylan might do?

9.  I won free tickets to see the Rolling Stones at the Staples Center in 2003.  The Stones played for two and a half hours, and were fantastic.  This band, at the average age of 60, had the ability to reach out and grab my heart and soul and make me dance in my seat at the other end of the arena. The Stones are the masters – and that’s a fact.

10.  Social Distortion opened for Neil Young – I had seen them once before, in front of the Student Union at Cal State Long Beach when I was a student (1989? It was a free concert, and I had instant love for the band), and had no idea that they were going to be playing on this night.  When they were announced, I went berserk – the best part was these guys sitting behind us who were only there to see Neil Young, and who kept yelling rude things, “Get off the stage! You suck!” This only served to make me yell louder to drown them out, “Whoooooo!!!!” “All right!” “Yeah, baby!”

Yeah, baby, yeah!

Did you go? A musical history by-the-numbers

Friday night – and  just because I feel like it, here’s a list of concerts I’ve seen in my life, as best as I can recall- check them out and see if we were together in different rows at any of these shows (due to a faulty memory, I don’t have all of the dates, but I tried to list them in chronological order):

1. Elton John and Kiki Dee – 1974 – Forum, Los Angeles

2. Frank Zappa, Flash Cadillac – 1974 (New Year’s Eve) – Long Beach Arena

3. The Doobie Brothers – Long Beach Arena

4.  Yes – LB Arena

5. Jefferson Starship – LB Arena

6. Emerson, Lake and Palmer – LB Arena

7. Yes, Peter Frampton and Gary Wright – Anaheim Stadium

8. Pink Floyd (Animals tour)- Anaheim Stadium

9. Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult and Ted Nugent – LB Arena

10.  Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Los Angeles Convention Center?

11.  Yes (with a rotating stage) – Forum?

12.  Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps tour

13.  Steve Martin and the Blues Brothers at Universal Ampitheatre – 1978

14.  The Kinks – 1980 – at Universal Ampitheatre

15.  Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson – Roxy, 1980

16.  Pink Floyd – The Wall at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1980

17.  The Who – 1980 – two nights at the L.A. Convention Center

18.  David Bowie – Los Angeles Forum

19.  The Who, the Clash, and T-Bone Burnett – Los Angeles Coliseum, 1982

20.  David Bowie – Anaheim Stadium, Let’s Dance tour

21.  US Festival 1983 – David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, INXS, U2, Pretenders, Berlin, Missing Persons, Joe Walsh (so I’m told), etc.

22. X – California State University Long Beach

23.  Fishbone and the Dead Kennedys – Olympic Auditorium – 1985

24.  Sugar Cubes and Public Image – Irvine Meadows (now Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre)

25.  Tina Turner – Pacific Ampitheatre

26.  Jane’s Addiction – some outdoor venue in L.A., can’t remember, sorry

27.  Iggy Pop (with Slash on guitar), Alice in Chains, Mary’s Danish – Palladium, early ’90s

28.  Bob Dylan – 1992

29.  Tina Turner  and Cyndi Lauper – Greek Theatre

30.  Neil Young – Greek Theatre, acoustic set

31.  Neil Young with Crazy Horse and Social Distortion – L.A. Forum

32.  Rolling Stones – Staples Center – 2003

33.  Tom Petty and Jackson Browne – the Forum? (If Cyndi reads this, she’ll remember, because I don’t) 2002?

34.  Social Distortion – House of Blues

35.  The Blasters – Coach House

36.  The Who – Hollywood Bowl – October 2006

37.  The Who – Long Beach Arena – February 2007 (seats on the floor, Lemmy was walking around before the show, cool)

38.  Weezer and the Foo Fighters – Long Beach Arena

39. B-52’s – Orange County Fairgrounds

40.  Jack’s 4th Show – Foreigner, Eddie Money, B-52’s, and I can’t remember who else we saw at Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre …anyone?

I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a few, but these are almost all of the concerts that I’ve seen, plus these, all at the Orange County Fairgrounds:

Three Dog Night – one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen

Temptations

Guess Who and Bachman, Turner, Overdrive

The Gap Band

Davy Jones, Bobby Sherman, and Herman Noone (of Herman’s Hermits) – all in one night? Way cool…

And I forgot about two more, let’s just say #41 and #42, although they were back up among #14 and #15:

41.  David Crosby and Graham Nash – Universal Ampitheatre

42.  Stephen Stills – Forum (it was supposed to be Stills and Neil Young, but NY didn’t show up, and Stephen Stills couldn’t hide his annoyance; good show, though)

*****

Peruse, and let me know if you were there and what you remember. Rock on, babies!

Steve

It’s ten years this month that my brother has been gone, and looking at this photograph floods my heart with memories…

It was the summer of 1983;  My parents thought it would be a good idea to have some photographs taken, so they hired a photographer to come to the house.  This particular one was taken by my mother, and I like it more than the photos that were taken by the guy we hired. I never did like the blouse I was wearing, but my brother was fond of the vest, and wore it out a lot.  He was 26 here, and I was 22. I remember being so unhappy during this time, and as I look at this photo, I remember that hanging out with my brother made things better, because even if he couldn’t help me with my life, he was good at offering distractions – telling me about a movie that he knew I would like,  or a concert that he thought we should go see, or making me laugh at the stupidity that was all around us.

So much has happened in the last ten years that would have thrilled my brother – iPods, blogs, TiVo…Steve loved gadgets, and any gadgets that were movie- and music-related would have been amazing to him.  He would have started a science fiction blog, and owned a Kindle, but wouldn’t have given up the hundreds of books that he owned, because they were precious to him.  He stopped loaning books to me (a very wise move), because I used to bend the covers and the pages.  This was one of the few things that would make him mad, and I understood; the more I love a book, the more I beat it up.  Steve was a collector, so beat-up books weren’t really what he was looking for to add to his collection.

Steve was enthusiastic about life, funny, sarcastic, and (most of the time) too smart for everyone in the room,which could be entertaining or infuriating, depending on the day; to me, he was never dull, even though there were days where we would say that we needed a big jar of “Never-Dull,” which sent us over the edge (you had to be there, but yes, it was really funny). I miss Steve’s friendship, and I miss having a brother.  There is no replacement for that relationship, and no replacement for Steve. This post feels inadequate; if you knew my brother, I don’t have to describe him to you.  And if you never met him, trying to describe him just sounds lame coming from me. So…I have a favor to ask.  If you knew Steve, write a memory of him for me, and for the people who didn’t know him. That would be a nice way to remember him on this ten-year anniversary.

To finish this, I’ll just say – to absent friends…

Coloring Venus

Feeling shredded, physically, mentally, and emotionally…Mom’s house is being worked over this week, with new paint, and no more paneling and random wallpaper. Next up will be new carpet (no more burgundy in the living room and bright red in the bedrooms), oven, cooktop, and whatever else needs to be replaced. Funny how my brain works – I know that this is necessary to do in order to rent the house (at first, I was going to sell, but I’ve reconsidered, and will now be having adventures in renting property -stay tuned!), but I can’t help thinking that in making all of these changes, I’m also erasing her character and her spirit. Not true, I know, but it’s a feeling I’m having – it’s a sad process.

My husband came with me to therapy last night, and during the hour, it came up that he was bothered by all of the furniture in my therapist’s office. The furniture bothered him because it is positioned at all angles; nothing in the office is parallel to the walls. Jamal is an engineer, and almost entirely left-brained, so this didn’t surprise me much.  We laughed about that, and it occurred to me that in the six years that I’ve known my therapist, I had never noticed the angles of the furniture.  What I did notice was the vivid colors and textures, and the paintings (she is an art therapist). I’m sure this is why I knew I was in the right place when I walked into her office back in 2004 – I have never been a right angle woman; I like off-center, asymmetrical, mixed assortments, and color (although you wouldn’t guess it about the color from looking at my wardrobe; it’s probably 75% black and grey – I’m sure I would be ripped to pieces by those people on that show, you know the one, “Are You Going Out in That? Because We’re All Judging Your Worth on What You Wear,” or something like that).

The back bathroom at our house is now deep teal and green, and the tile for the floor is dark brown with blue-green running through it; when I’m in there, I want to feel like I’m standing on the bottom of the ocean. To give you an idea of how un-mechanical I am – when I was a kid, one of the movie theatres that I used to go to was the Crest Theatre on Atlantic Boulevard in Long Beach; it had a drinking fountain that was built inside a giant clam shell. If I could, I would put in a giant clam shell for my shower, then I could emerge from the shower like Venus (complete with runny mascara).

Botticelli – I feel better already.

Halloween at the Long Beach Drive-in

I remember going to see the movie “Halloween” at the drive-in with my friend Jim on Halloween when it first came out in 1978; I thought it was one of the scariest movies I had ever seen (The Exorcist probably takes the top spot – scared the beejeebies out of me in junior high, and the book scared me all over again when I read it).  I grew up going to the drive-in and watching truly awful movies like “Phantasm” (a shiny round orb that would hurtle through the air, attach its sharp thingie into a person’s skull and suck out the brains, or at least, that’s how I remember it), “The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” ( so bad it’s now on the best of the worst lists everywhere, and isn’t George Clooney in that one?  You may Google the film if you must know right now; it’s OK, I’ll wait), and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (when the girl is sitting at the kitchen table with all the mutants, screaming at the top of her lungs, and they are having the time of their lives, I knew this was a crazy way to spend an evening).

I loved going to the drive-in, didn’t you?  In the Long Beach area, we were lucky enough to have an abundance of drive-ins to choose from:  The Long Beach Drive-In, where the 710 and the 405 freeways meet, The Lakewood Drive-In , at the corner of Carson Boulevard and Cherry Avenue, The Circle Drive-In, at the corner of Ximeno and Pacific Coast Highway, and the mother of all drive-ins in the area, the Los Altos Drive-In, on Bellflower Boulevard. I think the Los Altos Drive-In had four screens, which was cool, because if the movie you were watching was boring, you could kind of see what was on some of the other screens, even though you couldn’t hear anything.  I used to go with a bunch of friends, and we would bring a blanket and chairs, and if it wasn’t crowded, we would be able to take over the space next to the car and watch the movie under the stars.  Or if we had a truck, we just parked it backwards, opened the back, and hung our feet off the end of the truck bed.

Yes, the sound was horrible, and the picture quality was marginal at times, but that wasn’t the point of going to the drive-in.  If you wanted to watch a movie for the dialogue and the deep meaning behind the silences, or marvel at the cinematography, you didn’t go to the drive-in with a bunch of rowdy friends, you went to a walk-in theater (funny, that phrase is obsolete, is it?) to lose yourself in the experience.  The bad sound, as well as disruptions by your friends and by people in other cars all were expected during the evening.  It was inevitable, and always hilarious, that someone would forget to put the speaker back into its stand on the pole, start driving away with the speaker still in the car, and have to stop because the speaker pole would bend, but not break off , thereby preventing them from leaving.

I did see some good movies at drive-ins; “Arthur,” “Airplane,” “The Jerk” at Los Altos, and “St. Elmo’s Fire” (can’t remember which drive-in), “Back to the Future” and “Grease” (probably Los Altos), and one of the more memorable drive-in events, seeing “Animal House” in 1978 while on a double date when it first came out.  We had no idea that it would become part of classic movie comedy history; we liked reading National Lampoon magazine (like Mad Magazine, only more so), and we loved John Belushi, so it seemed like a good bet – and the first time I ever saw “Grease” was on the night of my last day of high school, with Terry Warner, who bought a ring for me; I turned him down because I didn’t want to be married at 18.  I believe he’s married with children (probably a grandfather by now), and living somewhere in the Midwest. “Arthur” was a girl’s night out, and what I remember most about the evening is that it got foggy, and we could barely see the screen, but stayed anyway.  And how could I forget “The Shining” with “Here’s Jack!” Nicholson? Definitely belongs in my top five scariest movies, and a great movie to see at the drive-in.

Drive-ins were really more about socializing than the movie; the film was usually background accompaniment to what was going on in the car, or on the blanket, or sometimes on the hood of the car – I would sometimes throw a blanket over my ’70 Nova, and we would sit on the hood and watch the movie in the open air. A good drive-in movie was either a comedy, horror movie, or action film; it had to get your attention, but not tax your intelligence or attention span. I don’t see as many horror movies as I used to when drive-ins were around; as I get older, real life gets scary enough, and I don’t have to pay $12.00 for the privilege.

If you are interested, visit drive-ins.com for more excellent drive-in photos and information; and if you’ve never been to a drive-in, Time Warp Memories is an outstanding web site, with a virtual drive-in, complete with car speakers and a great list of drive-in ready movies.  Not quite the same as sitting in a cold car, listening to scratchy dialogue from a speaker attached to a pole and hooked inside your car window, while your friends won’t shut up about the bad pizza, but won’t give you any, and the fog starts rolling in…but you  get the idea.

*****

Exciting news! I just discovered a drive-in fairly close to where I live – it’s the Vineland Drive-In in the city of Industry; four screens, and the sound comes through your car radio.  Let’s go!