Well, it's going to be my mother Jill's birthday this Sunday, September 18th. She died May 2, 2016. I'm going to post things that remind me of her this weekend.
this (above) is one of our favorite scenes in the 1991 film Dogfight. The first time we saw it was shortly after River Phoenix died. We turned to each other simultaneously when this part came on and started crying because it was so sad that River was dead.
My mom and I loved Guns N' Roses. We had the video for Patience (above) on VHS and both loved the scene (at 5:19 - 5:21) where he's watching TV in his hotel room and looks disenchanted and handsome. We rewound the tape just to see that part once or twice and even had it on "pause" at that scene before, and took a picture of the TV screen.
us in front of her apartment, garage sale, 1997
one of her many (possibly over a thousand ) cat portraits.
3 of our favorite things: Old Bill, my favorite cat Betsy and Halloween.
If you are a frequent reader of the blog, you
know that much of what appears on here is an exploration of two of the main
characters of my life, my mom Jill Crane and her best friend Bill Tunilla, and
the years spent with them in Pasadena.
Whenever I walk around my old
Pasadena stomping grounds (often), I take note of the changes versus all the things
that have stayed the same, and I take it all so personally, thinking things
like “When I was a kid, I had no idea they would build a Target on this block
someday.”I have a hard time keeping up,
and often give Geof (who is unfamiliar with the area) directions that apply to
the Pasadena of two decades ago, like the other night when we went to a movie
at a Pasadena theater he hadn’t been to before and that I guess I hadn’t been
to since I saw “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” which seems like just last
year or something but was actually released in 2005 (I looked it up).I told him “Just park behind this building,”
but there was a structure in the place where I’d imagined the old parking
spaces to be, but that was okay, because there was a brand new parking lot the
next block over, where I’d imagined a building to be – when was the parking lot
put there?How and why do things change
in the place I feel to be mine?I used
to think my fascination with walking the same blocks of Pasadena I used to walk
as a kid and revisiting the mostly completely changed old spots I used to know had something to do with my interest in time travel – I believe that time
travel is possible, and to some degree, when I re-walk the same paths from my childhood,
I get the feeling that such repetition and circling back will
someday be a part of what makes time travel possible.
But I have totally done too many drugs,
and I think my belief in time travel sounds like a drug-person’s thoughts,
right?I just recently discovered a
different way to describe my fascination with Pasadena as it relates to my
childhood -- Metaphysical Solipsism, "a type of Idealism which maintains
that the individual self of an individual is the whole of reality,
and that the external world and other persons are representations of
that self and have no independent existence"
(http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_solipsism.html).It’s true that to some degree, when I walk
around the old streets I used to walk with Bill (dead) and mom (dead) it seems
weird that the place exists when my old Pasadena companions don’t exist
anymore, and I do sort of believe, against logic or the decent amount of
self-involvement, that Pasadena is mine.
I’ve been sort of researching my personal
landmarks for years, for facts to flesh out my own personal Pasadena, and in
particular, facts about the location of House of Fiction, Bill’s old bookstore,
where I spent so much of my childhood just hanging out and getting primed for a
bohemian adulthood (I remember sitting at the store and pondering the poster for the 1980’s Bukowski
biopic Barfly that hung from a wall, thinking it was pronounced “Barflee” and wondering what one of those was, and then, years later,
when Bukowski-literacy was a necessity to a writer-drinker, thinking “Oh, it's Bar-fly”).Every so often, I’ve done internet searches on
Bill’s name and the House of Fiction, as well as other of my own landmarks,
partially to satiate my old curiosities about certain places I remember, and
partially to help flesh out my writing when Pasadena appears in my
writing.I didn’t used to be able to
find much, but about half a year ago I stumbled on http://pasadenadigitalhistory.com/,
which provides history and photos of many of these landmarks of mine.
For instance, when I was a kid, it was one of my – goals?predictions?
– that I’d be familiar with gay culture someday, and there was a gay bar called Nardi’s next door
to the bookstore that I was always so curious about, always trying to see
inside, and excited when I’d hear their Juke Box through the wall, often
playing that Smithereens’ song “A Girl Like You.”I am so intrigued by the Pasadena Digital History information on the bar:
I also had a childhood fascination with
flophouses and there was one two doors down from the bookstore, “Crown Hotel,”
which was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I'd gotten to go inside it when it was a filming location for a while, and one of my grown-up friends, Michelle, used it to film her short film Pin Feathers, but it was just an empty building at that point -- none of the rumored hookers or their imaginary retired hobo flatmates lived there anymore.
I don’t know – I’m writing about my solipsistic
nostalgia sort of jokingly above, but the fact of the House of Fiction having
been demolished (currently the site of the movie theater where I saw Me and You and
Everyone We know), and of Bill and Mom both being dead, of course gives me a
feeling of deep sadness, and I am both pained and grateful for the constant
dreams I have of us all spending long hours hanging out at the bookstore
together, though the store is usually partially demolished and often under new
management.I found a short film (below) on Vimeo the
other day (by film-maker George Porcari) that is about the House of Fiction and Bill, and it is the
jewel of my Pasadena-personal research – my poor mom and poor Bill leaving
their sanctuary at the end, on the day the store closed, slated to be torn down
and turned into something more profitable, the way it always goes in this fucking country.
All generalizing aside, nothing special ever survives, ever.
-In fourth grade my teacher was a flamboyant gay drama coach whom I adored even though sometimes he was high-maintenance, requiring constant attention and adoration from his students. He had a very lesbianish friend he'd known for forever who was a part-time flight attendant - because she loved adventure - and also a substitute teacher; she taught our class whenever our teacher was out sick. They were probably both in their forties. He wore a professorial cardigan and a goatee. She was tiny, with thinning short hair and an appealingly ugly face, and when I saw Rocky Horror years later I was reminded of her by the character of Columbia. I was very attached to them and always imagining what they were like in their regular lives outside of school, just hanging out with their friends, and what their respective apartments may have looked like and what music each listened to. One day, the woman must have been on campus to sub for a different class, and she peeked in on our class to say hi but the door was this really heavy monstrosity, made of iron or something instead of just a regular wooden door, and when she poked her little head in without securing the door open with her body, it closed on her head and it looked like it hurt so much, but you could tell she didn't want to turn it into a big deal so she was just sort of like "ouch" and said goodbye -- but you could tell it really hurt.
Pride mixed with a Sense of Foreboding:
-When I was an older kid, like twelvish through my teens, and I'd be super-bummed and pouting, mom'd say "Cheer up, son," quoting a line from "Apocalypse Now," the scene where Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore is putting "death cards" on the bodies of Viet Cong civilians his platoon has just killed, and one of the soldiers looks really sad and scared about it. The perfect gallows-humor irony of this private joke of hers coupled with the fact that she'd groomed me to pick up on it made me feel proud of our household, but also, uneasy with the certainty that this would be me someday, a cool, depressed mom with an impressive appreciation of film.
-In college my freshmen and sophomore years, there was a kid named Rory who was in many of my classes. He was very quiet and looked like Kurt Cobain (same hair and clothes but without Kurt's handsome face), and I was always curious about him and wanting to be his friend, but I was sort of a jerky punkish girl so I would be mean sometimes when I wanted to be nice instead, and one time when I was with a friend who also knew him from classes, he was petitioning to legalize weed, on behalf of a socialist group he must've been a member of, and even though I was probably stoned at the time he approached me for my signature, and I believed in all the good, kind generosity that comprises socialism, I made some crack about him being a hippie, and blew him off. The following year, he killed himself, jumping out of his window in the tallest building in town, which happened to be the dormitory he lived in. I should have been his friend.
*Side Note: Painful Awareness of Mortality: I was a campus janitor at the time of his death, and in fact, the Janitorial Headquarters were located in the basement of the building he'd jumped from, so I'd actually seen his dead body covered up with a sheet before I knew it was him. In a very understanding way, my supervisor had asked if any of us would be willing to help clean the blood off the pavement with the pressure washer. I didn't offer, but I'd considered it, and then felt guilty about it, realizing how much I'd enjoy the sympathy and gratitude of being one of the brave ones. **Further Side Note: Coincidence/People's Interwoven Experiences in Some Grand Cosmic Design of Interconnectedness: I'd had an awful on-campus psychologist who'd threatened to have me put on a 72-hour hold in a psych ward, clearly on a power trip and not because I was a danger to myself or others. I remember being truly scared of her and the damage she could do to me. Later, it came out that she'd been Rory's counselor and had possibly sort of fucked him up by pushing him to come out of the closet when he was still figuring out his sexuality. She was put on administrative leave or fired or something. I guess I dodged a bullet. I had survivor's guilt, though.
Little Nell as Columbia in "Rocky Horror Picture Show"
Here is the first chapter of my recently completed novella.
My mother’s big trick for survival was
to imagine herself as a blameless, incognizant wild animal.She didn’t want to be forced to admit
culpability for mistakes, or to feel the need to examine these incidents for
causalities later on.I think this whole
philosophy of carelessness may have been an extreme reaction to her feeling
like a failure.When she was young, she
used to write poems and stories and paint, all with the assumption that such a
careful record of self-reflection and observation would set her apart as
someone special.It probably could have,
but unfortunately, my mother has always been lazy.She let herself decline intellectually and
physically more than any normal person would, though she is, truly, the most
special person I’ve ever known – she’s the one who draws everyone’s attention
on a crowded street.She was pretty like
a flower that’s starting to turn brown, and the kind of smart that sounds dumb
sometimes – if you caught her at the wrong moment she’d stall with uh’s and
um’s, but if you gave her just a minute more to collect her thoughts, she’d
treat you to an inclusive private joke or express opinions formed in part by
important books that she’d assigned herself to read.
“I never, ever imagined myself with kids,” she said once.“I know, you hate it when I talk about having
you --you think I sound too objective when I talk about having carried you and
how hard it was to give birth and all the drugs they had to give me and
everything like that.But just listen to
me a sec -- I didn’t want to have a kid because, when I was a kid, I always
thought I needed to grow up to do something;
I thought I needed to be, like, some solitary woman just living and breathing
art all the time, no kids or anything else to distract me from some lasting work.But then I had you, and you are my purpose.You’re
what I did.”
She’d woken me up to tell me this in the
middle of the night, of course, because she’d gotten sad watching some movie on
TV or something, and wanted the company.I adored my mother, Gloria, but to adore her, one had to figuratively
roll one’s eyes at about half her declarations, especially if they were
slurred.One had to figuratively shrug
one’s shoulders in a gesture like “That’s our Gloria,” only in response to a
benign destruction, though.Only when
she was just telling white lies or asking to borrow money while joking that
she’d never pay it back.Some of the
damage she caused scorched the earth, and sometimes those who adored her wished
we’d never known her, wished we’d never even be born.
I was fully awake by now, so she kept
on:“Remember that man Jake that used to
come in to the bookstore?Did I ever tell
you he was a writer?He had two novels
published, and he was really great.He
got everything just right on the page, like, the most perfect way to describe something.And he was really handsome too, remember?But when we’d talk sometimes he’d just sound
so self-obsessed and depressed, and after a while I couldn’t stand it – I’d
just avoid him when he came into the store.It was really sort of maddening that he thought his ideas were so
important.Sometimes I’d hear him
talking to George and I’d just want to go over and shake him and tell him, ‘Stop
thinking so much!’I wanted to tell him
he’d be happier if he just gave up and had a kid.”
Now here I am trying to painstakingly
record the details of my upbringing.It
seems that I’ve been saving up all these details over the years, though I thought
that I’d been throwing them all out or forgetting them along the way, trying to
keep my story spare and current, like mom tried. She spent so many unsuccessful
years trying to teach me an unfettered enjoyment of good sensations, like when
you know you don’t have to record or remember a significant moment later on,
and you can just move beyond bad experiences, no reflection necessary, the way
a pet that gets lost outdoors will accept the stranger who takes it in, with no
apparent longing for its old family.We’d taken in several stray cats over the years – at least eleven -- and
without exception, each animal eagerly adapted to its new life.Or at least I think so.