gaeln (gaeln) wrote,

An unaccessable Letter & the accessable beginnings of an Memoir-like Story

For me, doing mission101 was, and continues to be, about finding balance and consistency in my life -- something I'm not good at being easily distractable -- and not only about accomplishing tasks. I will draw...or write...or whatever for two three months consistently and then some other thing will come along and I won't pick up a pencil...or type a word...or whatever for months.

So on my mission101 list I put a lot of 'do this' or 'do that' ONCE A MONTH.

I should also have included OR ITS EQUIVALENT just to cut me some slack. Because while I am getting better at CONSISTANTLY, I am by no meas there.

That having been said, I put on my list to write and post an experimental story...or poem...or writing of some sort ONCE A MONTH. Well, summer came along and vacationing came along and writing went out the window. Now I'm trying to catch up...July is a letter and August is the beginnings of a memoir-like story.

I'm including the letter -- a fan letter to an older artist the words of which I could NOT get to stop buzzing around in my head until I wrote them down & then mailed away-- because, although I currently have the post locked,  I find it all a little too embarrassing, should I recieve a positive response -- highly highly unlikely, I don't even know if I have his right address -- I will unlock the post and be very very happy. It's an experiment because I have NEVER written a fan letter before and am seriously a little too old to start now. Whatever.

Title: Dear Mr.>>>>>
Written by: gaeln
Word Count: 1,115
Fandom: none

a link to that which, currently, is not

awhie back, an lj friend did a post wherein he wrote about his growing up, until the age of three, I think, on his grandparent's farm. I thought, at the time, that it was a cool idea and very well done. That he could remember more up until the age of three than I can until the age of twelve, or so, was helpful to his story.

Still, I figured...whatthehell? My August experiement, and it really is because I DO NOT write about myself, is some little family history along with my very brief memories until the age of three-ish in San Diego CA..

I think I'm really kind of doing this for Lauren.

Title: From the 1640s to the 1950s in 2000 Words or Less
Written by: gaeln
Word Count: 2,115 (From the 1640s to the 1950s in 2000 Words or MORE just doesn't sound right and this will give you  just a little idea about how I've written this story although I am as faithful to the truth as I am able to be)
none and, like the others, not beta'ed

Over the years, and more times then I’d care to recount, I was told that a large percentage of the Americans who weren’t Californians and probably a not -too-small percentage of the Americans who actually were, believed that this great land of ours tilted from the Atlantic to the Pacific with just enough downward slope so that all the ‘nuts’ could more easily roll from the east to finally settle in the west. And as with most of the seeming absurdities I‘ve been told over the years, there is undoubtedly a grain of truth in there somewhere just aching to be confirmed.

My father’s people came to America at its beginnings, during the mid-1640s undoubtedly fleeing persecution of some sort in England -religious? and Germany -political? and the vast, vast majority remained exactly where their forefather’s first landed on the wind-swept coast of Massachusetts. Or maybe Connecticut. Either way, they remained looking east. Except for my father’s father who as a very young man and by train rolled his way westward sometime early in the 20th Century  It would be nice to say that his one and only reason for doing so was a long-repressed need finally recognized for mad adventure, an assertion partially true, but he wasn’t just running toward, he was also escaping from a broken home, leaving behind both his young wife and baby son, not to mention the entire rest of his clan, for reasons that are anyone‘s guess.

It wouldn’t be until he was in his early 80s that my father would learn of these relatives, of his long dead step-mother, of his only two-years dead half-brother, and of his still-living step-uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews. And only then because of an internet search done by them looking for him, they somehow knew of him, he just never knew of them. Apparently his father had never felt it important enough to inform his second west-coast family of the existence his first east-coast one, an inherent inability to communicate that would eventually lead to an 25 year estrangement between my father and his.

The forefathers of my mother’s parents, in comparison, were relative latecomers having arrived from England and Wales to America some two hundred years later in the 1850’s. Because to desperate economic times, my grandpa and grandma left their farm in Arkansas and their families in both Arkansas and Oklahoma. -- my grandpa was born there when Oklahoma was still Indian Territory, a fact he took great pride in -- twice. The unsuccessful first attempt was during the mid-1920s when land prices sky-rocketed in the plains states, the successful second at the beginning of the Great Depression. They rolled their way west in a black Model T Ford -both times, camping by night next to the dirt roads they traveled over by day. The trip took some weeks -three? four? There were few restaurants or hotels, and those that did exist they couldn’t afford. There was nothing else other then the wide open spaces of plain and desert and the Sierras Nevada Mountain range to contemplate. My mother was just two years old during the first attempt, and a well-seasoned traveler of six during the second. Of their exact route either time, honestly, I have no knowledge, although I have to believe that Route 66 was involved in some way.

So as might be imagined, I’ve always taken great pride in knowing that I am the offspring of the ‘nuts’ who journeyed just as far west as they possibly could in hopes of finding, at least to them and for whatever reasons, a better way of living. My father’s father, Herbert ended up in Washington State in Bellingham right next to the American/ Canadian border where he soon enough found his second wife, my father’s mother, Helene. When my father was three the little family would relocate to San Francisco. My mother’s parents, Grandpa Dewey and Grandma Inez ended up in Colton in inland Southern California where they lived out the rest of their many years and my parents, Herbert and Mary ended up in San Diego where I was born in the early 1950s, and where for better or worse, we wouldn’t stay too long.

The San Diego of my childhood was, as I experienced it, a world apart isolated not only from within California but also from within America, the furthest point both west and south a nut could possibly roll and still be an American. It wouldn’t be until 1958 that Interstate Highway 8, following ancient Indian trails through Mission Valley, linked us conveniently north while immediately south we were fairly snug-up against the border with Mexico which, to me, meant Tijuana. To the west the warm silken-blue Pacific filled the horizon from edge to edge with another continent beyond and to the east miles and miles of nearly uninhabited scrub-yellow desert bowed out and away from you all the way to Arizona with the rest of this continent beyond.

Of the time until I was three I have only a few memories, actually four and at that they aren’t really so much memories as flash-images, quick but clear. Two are site-specific and have to do with where we first lived, my dad, mom and I, in one of the two ground-level apartments of a little four unit building which sat facing directly onto Pacific Avenue. The third memory is more general while the fourth is prolonged, several little memories all rolled into one big impression.

In the first, in my mind’s eye, I’m standing in the middle of and looking straight down that wide and normally very busy avenue, all alone but with our apartment to my left and without even a car parked along its entire length. I must be about three and it’s as if I’m standing behind myself looking over my own shoulder, I can see my shortish blonde hair gently caught in a sea-breeze. The street seemingly runs blissfully and straight-as-an-arrow into the ocean conveniently located a couple of blocks west. Seen beyond the buildings lining both sides of the street, the ocean fills up the lower half of the horizon while the cloudless, so pale-blue sky domes over me filling in the upper half. When I remember those days, the sky always seems to dome over me, over us, as if we were living within some kind of snow globe where no snow ever has, or ever would be allowed to fall. In my flash-memory I can not only hear the waves breaking -not possible unless it’s storming, but I can also smell them -always possible, the smell being another constant of my memories, one that’s always associated with a sticky saltiness at the back of my throat. Why I’m there, I can’t say. Or even why I’m alone. And it doesn’t bother me that I’ll never know.

My other site-specific memory is of an aftershock of a much larger earthquake which had taken place some months earlier and several miles north-east of Los Angeles and undoubtedly involving in some way the San Andreas fault-line. This time my view is as if I’m standing to the side watching as my mama, with me in hers arms, rushes down our apartment’s narrow hallway going somewhere, presumably out. I’m two-ish and in my flash-memory I don’t know where we’re going nor do I care because where or even why isn’t the point. The point is that I’m absolutely gleeful as the hallway cabinet doors seemingly fly themselves open and soft things like towels and linens playfully throw themselves on top of us, only to finally land in piles on the wooden hallway floor. I must have imagined that it was some kind of game, all done for my pleasure, the world as plaything. I’ve experienced other earthquakes, too many really, and I can say with absolute conviction that the first was the only one done so with glee or pleasure and whether hard shake or gentle roll, they’ve never again seemed playful. It’s been all downhill ever since, finally descending, with Loma Prieta in 1989, into a kind of just-below-the-surface terror. I feel as if I’ve danced long enough with that fire-breathing dragon, still, I remain.

My third more general memory-flash is of being in a car, of darkness, of harsh red, yellow and white lights and of one or two big men, they must be big because, like dad, they tower over our car. I’m in the backseat behind my dad who’s in the driver’s seat with my mama riding shotgun. It’s nighttime -the darkness, and we’re on our way home. The car is stopped -the red, yellow and whites lights, and daddy is talking to someone -one of the big men, out of the car window. I’m scared, huddling in the corner -- remember those flirting-with-disaster pre-seatbelt days -- and in my flash-memory I’m watching my scared self from the opposite corner. A light scans the backseat, includes in its pointed white beam little me, and my fear amps up. Later, several years later, I found out, like with the earthquake, the memory’s genesis. I know what you’re thinking and no…it’s not the police.

When I was a kid one bottle of mescal, with the requisite 1940s marketing ploy dead ‘worm’ floating in the bottom, could be brought  back to the states from Mexico -- which for us in those days for all intents and purposes extended no further then Tijuana -- per person in the car, no matter how old. As a person, I equaled one bottle. During my youth, we visited Tijuana frequently. The harsh lights, the big men were the remnant memories of a nighttime border crossing, perhaps my dad had had just a little too much libation while actually in Tijuana and one of the guards was concerned, a speculation on my part but not even vaguely out of the realm of possibility. My parents, darlings that they were, once told me that the first time they took me ‘over the border’ on a liquor run was when I was six months old.

Family legend? Could be. Could also be that’s why I started stealing their liquor when I was a teen. Was my thievery merely an attempt at getting even, the acting out of a long hidden wound because I unconsciously felt ripped-off after having been denied my fair share of the worm juice? Seems plausible, right? Just as good as any other reason, no doubt. Plus, more importantly because I wasn’t greedy, I never did get caught. And really, is it any wonder that the first time I was drunk I was four? There was a party, there were a lot of unattended nearly empty drink glasses and suddenly, I am the life of the party. Sadly, I don’t remember, and I think that would like to. I was informed, at some later time, through tears of laughter. It was always good to know that I was so nicely able to keep them entertained.

The last memory-such-as-they-are also involves driving but this time the driving wasn’t the real memory so much as the prelude to it, the anticipation, the possibility. Because when I was three, we began our weekend ritual of driving from our little ground-floor apartment on Pacific Avenue to a strange new place where we would witness first-hand the prior week’s progress on our little 50s ranch-style house being built on the rim of ’our’ canyon, and with the width and breadth of the Pacific beyond. We went from the ground floor to the penthouse, or as much of a penthouse as a 50’s ranch could be, and it only took a year. We were there as the foundation was dug out and poured, as the slender yellow pine 2 by 4s were raised and nailed into place, as the walls and the chimney went up, as the roof went on, and as the view of the canyon bit by bit became obscured from the street, as the eventually pale yellow house became the lot’s dominate feature and where, by day listening to Casey Kasem‘s music show on the hi-fi and with by night the canyon’s pitch-perfect coyotes lully-bying me to sleep, I spent the next five years of my life .

I, amazingly, have a few more memories than four both flash-images and more solid ones, from those years. Memories of what it was like to live in a naval town, a town built, not on rock and roll, but on ‘defense’, a town always on the alert to the-eventually-of war, during the years immediately following America’s involvement in Korea and the continuing buildup of the Cold War with the Soviets, a town which literally and figuratively believed itself to be living precariously on the edge, both at continent’s end and quite possibly of existence‘s as well. But those are memories for another time

The first is a story Across the Room from February
     The second is a story
Golden Watchman from March
     The third is a poem
when I was sixteen from April
     The fourth is a period story
Some Enchanted Evening from May
     The fifth is a poem Plato Would Be Proud from June

Tags: personal_story_experiments

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.