Monday, November 29, 2010

I have to brag on my daughter a minute

She toddled right up to each person at the meeting, held out her hand to shake theirs, went onto the next citizen, shook their hand, onto the next. Lizzie, barely walking yet, already knew how to work a room.

When Lizzie was about age two we lived in Arcata. I had run away from L.A. when she was just weeks old to bring her up in small town Northern California, got a little job on the little weekly newspaper there, The Union, writing a column about being an ex-pat Angeleno. One night I was going to a political meeting, Concerned Citizens of Arcata, local Arcatans meeting in a community hall to share their irateness with Arcata’s liberals proclaiming the town a sanctuary in the Gulf War, refusing to participate in America’s war effort, I think Berkeley did it as well and Ann Arbor (?)

For The Union I wrote a column on the editorial page so figured it was my beat to cover the meeting. As often was the case I had no babysitter for the evening, so brought toddler Elizabeth with me. At that age she was just walking. It must have been 1990 fall or 1991 winter, as those are the months of the Gulf War, and Lizzie was born in July 1988, so she was still very young the night of that meeting.

When we arrived, most the people were sitting in chairs lined up along the wall. My toddler in leggings, a dress, and a head that had not yet sprung all its hair, pulled off my arms and climbed down to the ground.

She must have seen a local politician doing it.

It was like Lizzie knew exactly what to do.

She toddled right up to the first Arcata resident sitting along the wall. Lizzie, put out her hand, shook the person’s hand, then walked down to the next person, shook their hand, then walked onto the next person. Of course, she must have seen someone else at this local political meeting doing the same thing, and she just jumped in and took on the behavior, but to everyone watching it was like it was what she was born to do.

Several people in the room joked, laughed, “She’s a future politician this one.” A lot of comments like that went around the room. And it was true, my daughter just knew by instinct how to go in and work the room.

Now I'm in Albuquerque and my daughter stayed behind in L.A., where she’s walked right into a world of comedy production, set design jobs, some costume design, some Production Assistant work, and taking improv classes. She’s also in that horrible city so I worry about her, but she’s doing what people stay in L.A. to do. As long as she’s entrenched in a population of colleagues, she’ll be okay. People who work in production in L.A. have fences and guards keeping everyone else from the city out, it's about the only way to live safe in that city anymore.

So I know Lizzie will do well. I’ll be watching her on YouTube from a hotel room anywhere in the world I want to be.


Whew, just went to take an early morning walk and the amount of car exhaust in the air here is astounding, like walking out into an atmosphere of poison on a planet not meant for human habitation. I'm glad my hotel room encloses me as if I were in a Tupperware container. No air at all from outside gets in and the fan on the wall seems to filter out a lot of the muck, as honestly, as I ventured out this ayem, wanting to just take a sunrise stroll, I had to cower and run back for cover inside. I'm close to a freeway, it's not only sunrise, but also morning commute time.

Sometimes I think I'm more Native American than a lot of Native Americans, just because I can’t take part in this car thing. When I see a freeway, I see concrete loaded down with roaring fossil fuel burning monsters. I feel like Earth cries out in agony in areas where freeways and overpasses pour the car people all over the place, and nowadays everyone must be burning cheaper gases, as the exhaust in the air is much more deadly than a decade ago.

Like I said earlier, Albuquerque is like L.A. exploded and part of it landed here and became Albuquerque, with everything you have in L.A. but in microcosm (macrocosm?) form.


Thinking a lot about my daughter and what happened in the 1990s that caused me to drop out of the movement, so to speak. I had been running a SNAP group that met in the public library downtown San Francisco at noon twice a month, and as a result I was getting the survivor phone calls. My daughter must have been hearing my conversations and picking up bits of information, she was middle school aged, nine or so.

There on the wall of the hallway one day a friend of mine found pencil drawings of naked people. Lizzie had drawn naked dancing people in various forms of celebration and happiness bounding all the way down the hallway, a child’s imagination turned loose with the strands of conversation she was overhearing from me running a SNAP group.

They were a lot like drawings I used to do as a child, and I was molested. So little Lizzie was experiencing part of the molest in my life, just by being around me at that time.

My response was to stop running the SNAP group and drop out of things and I didn't come back until around 2006, when Lizzie was in her late teens.

By the late nineties, Lizzie had seen more than I ever saw at her age, not because of pedophile priest stories, but because we always ended up living in slummy neighborhoods. In San Francisco it was Webster near the corner of Haight, very inner city. At that intersection, the projects were about to be torn down. They backed right up to our building, so from our apartment we listened and looked over the last straggling families that refused to move out of the empty projects, staying there as long as they could for free.

They dealt drugs, loudly.

They held dog fights.

Lizzie and I had no choice but to listen to the sound of dog fights from our apartment.

Two dogs would be snarling as they tore into each other, then one dog would squeal louder than the other, stop squealing, and become silent. Then male voices would cheer as the victorious dog howled.

It was horrible. And it provided for me the backdrop, the soundtrack that ran in the background as I got these calls from survivors coming out for the first time as victims of pedophile priests in San Francisco.

Still dog fights over the back fence were not the worst things Lizzie ever experienced; the worst was exposure to my oldest sister, who lived in a state of prolonged resentment that, I think, dated back to the early 1950s, the period when my middle sister and I were getting inordinate attention from Father Thomas Barry Horne-y.

Oldest Sister did not suit the priest’s tastes. As a result, first-born grew up to be totally different from middle sister and me, the youngest, because she was cut off, separated from us in ways no one can ever explain. Middle sister and I were like a carbon copy of each other in everything we did, thought, believed. And then oldest sister was this oblique overweight awkward person, who by adulthood lived in a nonstop state of rage.

Exposure to the antagonism of oldest sister in Orange County in 1998 was worse for the development of my daughter than listening to the dog fight sounds coming from the Projects in San Francisco a few years earlier. Indirectly it's all the fault of the Catholic pedophile priest epidemic.

See, now to Oprah it sounds like like I'm stuck in the blame game. In the real world the blame game is real and denying blame exists allows perpetrators to maintain power.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thank God for Emails or the Mystery Lady would be Insane

Adjusting to this life living in a hotel anywhere, it's so much more like I'm on a space station now than it was doing City of Angels Blog from L.A., because there, even though I was cut off from the world in the back of an apartment building, in the courtyard every day were these Armenian women drinking coffee, and gossiping. Their warbling soprano voices often would drown out the audio on the reality TV show videos I work on. Today I'm in a hotel room in any city anywhere, this month it's Albuquerque, working on the same reality TV show videos, just putting on a jacket when I go out to walk later in the day.

Just south of here is Roswell, New Mexico, known for its residents who communicate with space aliens, and when you look at the topography of this area on a Google map, you can see why spacecraft would choose this site for landing. The private sector Go into Orbit for Vacation project is also nearby, the entrepreneur founder of Virgin finished building a landing strip for the venture just last month. Maybe in a few decades they'll actually launch.

Point is I feel like I'm so much of a space alien myself, I fit right in here. As I ride around town staring at things I've never seen before, my little brain that never stops starts analyzing everything. You can see the Navajo influence, the Pueblo influence, feel its continued presence.

Story continues after this picture of a downtown Albuquerque bail bonds shop a block from the courthouses.

Then as you ride around town, on the landscape is the aberration, the slick, clean, more wealthy than the entire rest of the neighborhood, Catholic Church. I rode by one where I know James Porter of Massachusetts fame was allowed to perpetrate freely while he was an out-patient with the Paracletes just yesterday while out riding the Number 10 bus, just to see where it goes. Need to go back there and take a picture soon…

I went downtown to see the courthouses, one of which holds an archive of documents that I will dive into later on this trip. The real reason I went downtown yesterday was to see how people dress here as that's the kind of person I am, I don't want to show up looking all L.A. So I stood outside the courthouse yesterday to see what other women wear here, so I’ll know what to wear next time I come, as that's how space aliens blend in. I need boots and long skirts.

URBANE LADY on an outpost in space

I'm not really here, I'm just in a hotel, here to do my work, but still absorbing this geography at the same time I'm absorbing the horrible facts about what priests did to kids in this region, twelve-fold number of perpetrators per person compared to the rest of the country, at least it seems that way. More I learn about what really happened here in New Mexico, I can’t ignore the addition of a racist, who gives a damn about all these brown people, attitude that seemed to go with the turning loose of Servants of the Paraclete priests on these parishes.

In my hotel I'm isolated, cut off more than ever, but it feels right. From here I talk by phone and email with the world, I'm even geographically closer to the center of the country. I need to get even closer to the center. Maybe next year I’ll make it to Illinois.

Two or three times a week I file my report from the space station in the form of posts at City of Angels Blog.

I noticed it when I looked in the mirror the other day, I even look more and more like a space alien. My eyebrows have disappeared as my hair has gotten white. The white hairs are of a nature that will not absorb color from dye or even darkening with eye brow pencil, the eyebrows just aren't there, making me bear a strong resemblance to ET, the character in the Steven Spielberg movie.

My eyes now have this staring, penetrating, probing look to them that they never had before.

I can make this whole experience even more fun by pretending to be a mystery woman, hiding out, “I ‘vant to be alone’ acting as I venture outside my hotel room like there’s someone I'm hiding from, someone looking for me. So have to keep my identity secret, keep my location secret, and when I go out, interact with hardly anyone, just walk to the bus stop listening to Randi Rhodes on my radio, ride the bus around town as Progressive Talk Radio KABQ 1350 that sounds eerily like KTALK Los Angeles goes on to Ed Schultz. I have this ongoing relationship with the world that goes on only internally. Back to my hotel room, I'm hooked up to the world by internet connection, but never feel the human sensation of touch.

I'm that mysterious gray haired woman who around four AM you can see a glow of computer screen through her curtains. She has a job she does online, something to do with TV shows, working on videos that stream into her computer from Los Angeles. She’s done with her job around 10 in the morning, then spends a lot of time on the phone and riding around town taking pictures. That's her, walking with the hood from her jacket pulled over her face, always has earphones on which is another way to keep from making contact with anyone she passes.

That's me right now, the mystery woman in Room ___ at Hotel _______ who spends long hours behind a closed door, her head in her laptop. Sometimes from outside the room you can hear her breaking into uproarious laugher, sometimes she throws herself on the bed spasming in tears.

That's me right now, with this story to write.

Meanwhile I'm scared to get into cars even of people who are my friends. Hey, no one said I was sane.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Leaving L.A. was so hard, but so worth it

“You got a few dollars you can give me?”At the Amtrak station last week I heard, “I need ten dollars to catch a train to Oceanside.” Her voice came over my shoulder as I was bent over readjusting my pile of carryons. I looked up into a face you see a lot in Southern California, the aging crack head. Angular cheeks, rash-y skin, mouth indented due to missing teeth, a face that may once have been pretty but now reflects years of tricks at truck stops and Inland Empire street corners. She speaks with that accent you hear a lot in the lower rent areas of Southern California, the under-educated mangled word structures. Lots of “ain’t doing nothing’s” and “you know’s” and “I'm just saying’s.”

She put her forearm in my face. “These abscesses hurt so much,” she says in a cooing voice, “they hurt so much,” she repeated and I stared at her forearm, lined with scars of a junkie. It like a shock choreography shot in a Tarantino film, right in my face. Some of her abscesses were healed and hardened, some recently scarred so still red and brown, some fresh and oozing. I stared and stared, then thanks to my survival instincts I looked down and realized-

With her other arm the junkie was reaching for my laptop which was at my feet, as I’d been in the middle or readjusting my carry-ons when she approached me. I grabbed the laptop as her hand was just inches from it, put it back on my shoulder, and slipped out of the seat in the Amtrak waiting area to get away from her.

It was about the fourth time someone had asked me for money as I waited for my train out of L.A. last week. I went over and joined a guy who later sat next to me on the train and I realized his way of avoiding ever getting up until he got to his destination was to wear adult diapers. Hmm.

My departure from L.A. came with a comic routine as you can’t take bags on Amtrak that weigh more than fifty pounds. When I arrived I found out one of my bags weighed seventy something pounds, the other was 14 pounds over. So I'm on the floor in the Amtrak ticketing area, rearranging and rearranging my suitcases and everything got scattered, my clothes were thrown slipslod sloppy around in the suitcase and I think some stuff spilled out and got lost forever somewhere in the ether of the train station floor and people surrounding us. I ended up right there on the floor packing an extra bag that weighed forty pounds, and it would just cost ten dollars to send it extra, but then I couldn't check it because it was plastic, which they said would tear too easily.

I said, no problem, I’ll just add it to my carry on. If all I had done is go sit in a chair and wait for my train to come, the extra 40- pounds of carry-on would not have been a problem. But I'm so neurotic and wasn’t wearing an adult diaper and wanted to get away from L.A. so bad, I asked my friend to deliver me to the train station four hours early just to get out of my apartment as quickly as possible because I hated that place so much. So I mean at some point I had to go to the bathroom. Then every time I walked, the pile of bags on the carry on cart kept toppling more to one side or the other.

Why was I carrying so much weight with me?

I packed the scanner and brought it with me to Albuquerque.

I had packed my HP Inkjet 5600 in a large suitcase, and stuffed it tight with sweaters. Then in all the frenzy of getting the bags down to under 50 pounds, I threw the inkjet back into the suitcase without tightening the zipper tighter. So I spent four hours in the Amtrak station and later 16 hours on the train worrying that the scanner would be broken by the time I got to Albuquerque because it would be jiggling around, and it was all because I felt so rushed at the ticket station, when I shouldn't have felt rushed, I mean, I had four hours. If only I’d packed it tighter, if only.

Damn should have tightened the zipper on the suitcase, I kept repeating to myself.
But it's fine as you can see from the post I am about to put up at City of Angels 8.

I hate L.A. As I waited for my train, lugging around that extra 40 pound bag that kept overturning my whole carryon wheeler, five times someone came up to me asking me for money, not spare change but dollars. The woman who was telling me how much the abscesses on her arm hurt as she was using the other arm to reach down and grab my laptop was just the last person from L.A. I saw.

After another foray around the Amtrak station forever rearranging my carryons, having them topple over in doorways landing me on the floor repacking, I'm daydreaming about the days you see in black and white films, when gentlemen would never walk by and leave a woman buried under heavy suitcases, but not today, not in L.A., in L.A. if people see you struggling, they stand alongside and watch, waiting for you to drop something, so they can scavenge it.

At one point with that carryon that kept toppling over and I'm an old lady with gray hair and wrinkles, I was having so much trouble, all those people just kept walking by me, like I was invisible doing all that struggling. If only, if only there were some civility left in the world.

“These abscesses really hurt,” she said and put her forearm in front of my face, so I was looking at these pussy scabs up and down her veins. Then my eyes were riveted, just like she wanted, with her other arm she was reaching down for the laptop I’d set on the ground next to me. Goodbye L.A.

Now I've been in my Extended Stay room in Albuquerque for one week, and last night I wrote, “I'm so looking forward to getting up tomorrow morning, my coffee pot is set for four AM but I know I’ll be awake in the minutes before it begins to perk, just waiting for it. Here I am on my outpost, my space station, this splash of city thrown along a flat part at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.”

I'm doing what I always wanted to do. I'm set up in a place where aside from my little transcribing job, I have nothing else to do but write. Part of that 40 pound overflow in my luggage was caused by the book manuscript I have with me now that just needs a good rewrite. It's all here beside me in boxes here in my hotel room in Albuquerque.
I feel so at home here, in a way I feel like I'm still in L.A., which is my hometown, like it or not. This little city Albuquerque is like a tiny L.A., so much is the same here, just cooler and smaller. I get on the city bus here and the same exact voice announces the next stop, and “Please use rear exit.” They have the same machines by the driver where riders press their passes on an electronic thing and it gives out the same exact “beep.”

To me, Albuquerque looks like L.A. exploded and a splotch of it landed here at the foot of the Rockies and just kept on with daily life like nothing ever happened. But since from one end of the city to the other is only about 10 miles, it's like a little version of L.A. that's so much more manageable. I can get from one side of town to the other on the bus in an hour for 35 cents as they recognize I'm a senior citizen here, and they don't in L.A.

So here I am in this nice clean hotel where I pay about 70 percent of what I paid to live in L.A. and I can still do my job, that's why I was able to make this trip, plus I took Social Security early retirement, no I didn't get a big chunk of cash from someone as people in my emails and phone calls seem to be inquiring.

I can walk in this neighborhood without getting accosted.

After being in Albuquerque less than a week, already something is changing in me. I'm eating breakfast. For years I couldn't get anything passed my clenched teeth until late in the afternoon every day. Three days in a row here in my little hotel room, I've not only gotten hungry but been able to eat in the morning. I think that's a good sign.
Can’t believe how hard it was to get out of L.A. I talked about it almost nonstop beginning about 2006. I finally did it.

Here is another pic and a video from last Saturday. In Albuquerque riding hot air balloons is part of the lifestyle.

Watch the video of balloons going across the sky posted earlier today.

Albuquerque Sky on Saturday


I love it. Hot air balloons are part of the landscape.