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.