One of my friends and fellow performers from my high school theatre days is making his Broadway debut this week. It’s very exciting! I once dreamt of being on Broadway, and I still do, though not so much as a performer but as a writer. I went to Northwestern University. A few writers I knew from there have been produced on Broadway. Bruce Norris, John Logan. John Cameron Mitchell created Hedwig and The Angry Inch which i believe was Off Broadway. John and I were classmates together. He and I used to workout together. We were the same size. Our wrists and forearms measured exactly the same. I have lost touch with John but fondly remember our days together in writing workshop and acting class when we were kindred spirits for a short while. He gave me a writing book for my 21st birthday, Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. It meant a lot to me and still does. He is one of the first people to acknowledge me as a writer.
And this brings me to present day. I need to write more and feed that monster, the writer in me. Writing is one of my greater gifts, so why deny it.? I must keep writing.
There is more to say on this matter, of course, like the memory of my first trip to New York in High School and subsequent trips in college and after when I dated a writer from Saturday Night Live. But I kind of just want to get off this blog and write Barbie’s Cousin the musical right now. Right now!
Over a month has passed since my last Art-A-Day project post. I have had good response on the Facebook posts. People like, comment, etc. I’m tracking the likes and comments and plan to do a “best of” type of entry at some point – definitely at the end of the year.
As I draw every day, even though it may not seem like it to the outsider, I am exploring ideas for larger work. The sketches I am doing for the Art-A-Day are generally 6×9. These are only part of what I plan to work out in a larger format of up to 30×40 inches.
I have been studying textile design for a number of years and though I have made some work related to this, I have not exhausted my interest. From the library where I work at Dakota County Technical College, they often have book discards. These are…
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What is wrong with me? I returned to the post office on Beverly and yet again bad things happened. My labels got stuck in the printer at the remote self help machine. I went to the line. Once I got to the front I got the middle aged asian guy. I like his face. He always has a natural smile. He’s patient. He’s my favorite. He stamped my envelopes and sent them through. Phew. No parking lot issues this time. Time of day; about an hour earlier than when I was there last. Time of day is KEY.
Despite my better instinct yesterday I found myself at the Beverly Post Office, the one by the Grove, the one with the rude people and impossible parking. Not the PO staff – they are lovely and have been there forever. I especially like the Chinese middle aged guy – he’s always so patient. I’m talking about the people who use this particular PO; they’re not so patient. I think this is where the term PO’d comes from.
Today I had two ebay autions to mail out and used the automatic machine for priority mail. In and out in five minutes. I get to my car in the crowded parking lot, look to make sure no one is coming. It takes a while because there are cars going both directions and also backing out from behind. And one stupid car sitting there waiting for a spot. I am about to back out when I see an affable young man standing in front of my car. Is he really going to try and direct me I am thinking. I dare to roll down my window and say “I think I got this, but thanks.” He says, “No I was just waiting to get into my side oor.” Oh. I laugh and say, “Oh sorry, I will get out of your way.” This time I forget to look and start backing up, right into a white car. He says “Stop!” but it’s too late. Crunch. He makes a face.
Serves me right. I should have asked him to help me rather than chastise him when he wasn’t even trying to help me. He gives up on getting in his side door and ducks out of the way, never to be seen again.
I get out of my car. The lady I hit is not so nice. It’s barely a scrape – we merely exchanged some paint. To be honest my car is the worse off but she’s being difficult about it so we exchange information. I consider giving her a wrong number but no, I pull out my business card and everything. I tell her it will buff out but she says she is not sure. I say the damage is worse on my end and she whines in her slightly British accent “You backed into my car!”
I didn’t even try and argue with her. But whereas the guy was so nice but in the end was no help at all, the woman was rude. But it was nothing. I bet if the roles were switched he would have let it go.
I don’t think she’ll bother to call. She was just miffed.
I am never going to that post office again.
This blog post was written in July 2011
Just got back from Minnesota, and sadly it is warmer here in normally tepid LA than it was there. Everything feels dull compared to the pretty green landscape and gorgeous blue sky dotted with little white clouds I saw in St Paul and surroundings. I have re-entered la la land, the land of bland, the city of blah.
It was a fun holiday weekend, filled with all the typical Minnesota good clean fun and quirks I have grown to love. We ate, we drank, we played lawn games, we watched dvds, we played with cats, we got dusted with fireworks cinders. Much of the agenda is created to please our little niece Ellie, who at nearly thirteen is not so little anymore. With three doting aunties and her very patient mom Ellie is the only one of the next generation in our family. Oh the pressure. As a result of being an only child she is a picky eater and a stickler for rules. I have a one-up on my windbreaker wearing sisters in that I am a “girly-girl” as Ellie puts it and can coach little miss Ellie in all things hair, nail polish and clothes, clothes, clothes. She once asked me, “Claire why are you a girly-girl?” “In this family someone’s gotta be it” I answered. I deserve to have this special privelage. I live 1300 miles away.
Ellie isn’t like the kids in LA. She is more innocent. Less sarcastic. More interested in what’s going on among her friends than Hollywood, although she was vaguely interested to know that I actually know Nikki Reed from the Twilight series. Ellie lost interest when I mentioned Nikki was engaged to someone she hadn’t heard of, namely Paul with the Rod Stewart like voice and cute smile from American Idol. I think she just wanted to polish her nails and watch High School Musical with me which is what we ended up doing. We watched all three!
I was surprised when on our little sojourn to the Fraconia sculpture park that Ellies’ sullenness wasn’t due to being away from her friends and stuck with her aunties in a car on a holiday weekend. “What’s wrong Ellie?” I asked. She surprised me with, “We should be interacting! We should be connecting! Instead we are walking around looking at these big art pieces.” WOW. She actually wanted to interact with us! What to do? It took me a while to really get it. First I told her “Oh hey I know the drive was a drag but we’re e going to a fun dinner tonight…”
What she was asking for was interaction. NOW.
We climbed atop the giant skin segment wart installation. I ventured to give her what she wanted. “Okay. So you want interaction. We’ll ask each other questions! I’ll start first. This is an easy one. What’s your name?”
“Your full name. And what does it mean to you?”
“Ellie Raine Martinson”
“I like your middle name”
“How do you spell it?
“That’s cool. Another question. If you could be any other name than your own what would it be?”
“I like Raine.”
“That is a pretty name. Are you thinking maybe you will switch to it in college when you need to break away from your childhood identity?”
She pondered that for a bit. She didn’t answer but maybe five years from now we will all be calling her Raine. She spoke.
“My turn; what’s your name?”
“Claire Louise Partin”
“Louise? I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah – it’s my mom’s middle name too. Grandma Martha’s middle name.”
“Neat. Okay more questions.”
And so I created a monster. We all asked each other questions the whole ride home and I found out about my sisters’ favorite teachers, Ellie’s favorite foods, places my sisters wanted to live, and dreams of careers we wished we would have pursued. We remembered things we’d forgotten about our childhood, we laughed, and we gave Ellie some fun new knowledge about her family. Ah youth. Thank you Ellie for expressing your concern.
I can’t wait to go back to Minnesota and play the question game again.
While driving along Fountain yesterday I spied the coolest looking yard sale on my way to pick up a co-worker for our job working a party in the Palisades. I am a mid-century modern fanatic and my radar can always pick up on it. I’ve seen this sale on Fountain before, a block or two west of Highland, but never stopped by sensing these are pro yard sale sellers and prices won’t be so negotiable. I spied more cool kitsch than usual such as a set of green wakefield chairs, atomic barstools, yellow mod file cabinets, a fabric rainbow wall hanging and a patio set (Brown Jordan, perhaps?) It was only 10:30 am. I was hoping the really good stuff might still be out later. Not everyone is a mid-century modern fiend like me.
Later after working this awesome gig in the Palisades at a charity event where we all got a very handsome tip, then navigating pre-grammy night party traffic and dropping off my co-worker, I was ready to hit the sale again. Sure enough the cool stuff was still there, and lots of it. “Uh oh,” I thought, “They must be charging a lot since everything is still there.”
I sloppily parked my car. It was starting to rain but still light out. There was a gorgeous sunset in the west and I was hoping for a rainbow. The only rainbow I saw was the fabric wall art. I flagged down the seller and he told me the wall art was $100. Despite my generous tip burning a hole in my pocket that price was too steep for me. I remembered we are bordering Weho and rainbows, not to mention kitsch, are popular here. I asked some more prices. He had to go across the street to ask the sellers over there. I figured this must be a joint yard sale. But he had to walk all the way over there, not yell, because the other sellers on the other side of the street were deaf.
Ahh the infamous deaf yard sale. I have heard about this for years and have never been. Because they are deaf they have no problem staying up all night and selling. One of the guys across the street is only partially deaf and the hearing guy on my side of the street could in fact yell to him if only to get his attention, but not always. You can’t read lips or sign that far away.
To be clear there were two deaf guys across the street, one completely deaf and one partially hearing, and one hearing seller on the side of the street I started on. They were all gay (I presume) and all quite savvy about their pricing. Whereas they used to sell a lot of mirrors and more current decor they seemed to have recently switched more to vintage and nostalgiac kitsch (my kind of merchandise.)
The negotiations went like this. It took forever to get prices on things because the hearing guy had to keep yelling and/or going across the street to ask about prices. I wasn’t clear who’s items where who’s. It took frigging forever. I was starting to see that the reason they still had so much product was not just because of their pricing.
I got answers on some prices right away: the 50’s styrofoam wig heads with authentic painted faces were $20 each, the atomic coffee table with black legs was $60 (reasonable – I would take it if I actually didn’t need it), the atomic barstool was $30 but apparently there were two others across the street. I never saw them. When it came to the tin laquered camping mugs the hearing guy had to ask deaf guy if he would go a dollar less for the chipped one. He also had to ask about the price on a lamp and a trunk. I had to go across the street to find the plates to match the tin cups. I wanted to negotiate a price on a coat. They wouldn’t go down. Crazy. There was an amazing daisy painting in late sixties hand carved frame that would have matched a similar one of mine with purple flowers, but whereas mine was $12 at a thrift store, they were asking $75 for theirs. I ended up buying the cups for a dollar less but decided the rest of it just wasn’t worth it.
Neighbors complain about this sale.
I think it’s hilarious. A yard sale that goes all night. They have so much stuff they just keep it out all night for a two days sale. I wanted to go back later to see if the sale was in fact still going on in the middle of the night, but the Grammy traffic was too daunting to deal with. Seriously, the only worst night to drive through West Hollywood than the weekend of Gay Pride is the night before the Grammys because of all the parties in the Hollywood Hills.
I am happy with my camping mugs but to be honest I never would have bought them if not for the nostalgia factor.
Next time I go back maybe I should learn sign language and they will be more willing to negotiate. Everyone appreciates when you at least try to speak their language. They speak mine: mid-century modern.
I recently started doing stand up comedy. It’s hard. Not because I get nervous in front of a crowd – I don’t. What’s hard is developing a voice and connecting to my material then editing it down to make it funny then getting enough practice. The good thing is I get to write it all by myself and I don’t need anyone or anything to do that besides remembering to carry around with me my writing tools and the discipline to write stuff down when I think of it. The bad thing is I cannot perfect my material without getting in front of an audience, and getting in front of an audience without perfect material is in fact a little scary for me. If only I didn’t have the kind of artistic ego that needs to be in front of an audience. If only I wanted to sit alone in my room and draw silly cartoons all day and sell them to The New Yorker. If only I didn’t need approval in person.
The other night I was at a comedy gig I ended up doing last minute. I met three tall, cute white young men who were performing that night as well. They were friendly enough, despite the expected natural wariness of other performers all comics seem to carry on their shoulders. I think they were taken aback by me wanting to know their names. I am not hitting on you, mr gangly white boy comic. I just am flirting with you because I am a little nervous.
I have been there and done that. I used to date a comic, years and years ago, and here is what I found out. Male comics don’t laugh at other comics. They nod if it’s funny, or do a single clap. I laugh. I like to laugh. It feels good to laugh.
First gangly white boy gets up on stage and spews out a series of one liners he has written on a note card. None of them funny. He gets into a dicey area of one liners about women rejecting him. “Uh oh” I think, “Here it comes.” The inevitable next line in his anti women trajectory is particularly offensive and comes out of nowhere besides his own insecurity. I cannot remember what he actually said. I must have blocked out his entire set by instinct to protect my brain from useless poisonous crap. In the pause he has learned to take to see if anyone laughs, and the silence of that laugh deprived pause, I found myself saying “Boo.”
Another puase, maybe some nervous giggle from the people in the back, and the white gangly young man says ” I see we’ve brought back the boo.”
That’s right. I’m bringing boo back.
Second gangly white comic I met before the show gets up onstage and he’s a little funnier but lost me at “I’m married” and some jokes about what a pain in the ass it is to be married. All I could think is “You’re lucky to be married with that attitude, especially considering you’re an unpaid stand up comic.” I wouldn’t have thought that if he were actually funny, but I just couldn’t relate to his bordering on anti-female line, and mind you we were a primarily female audience.
Third tall white guy comic I chatted with before the show is someone I have seen before. He’s good looking and somewhat charming, but the last time I worked this gig he didn’t know I was performing later and made fun of my table and me the entire time. Tonight when he started on a rant of animated movies that make no sense and are stupid, particularly digging into the movie “Up,” I couldn’t help myself and heckled him. Out of my mouth came “I liked the movie UP.” Two women chimed in, “So did I” and, “Me too.” What I think he might have been getting at was not relating to sentimentality, but going there without making it funny just alienated all of us. He said something back to me and I muttered “This is payback” hoping he didn’t hear me. But he did and now it’s on. Oops.
Later in the set another guy I hadn’t met thought it was hysterical all the women let that guy know they liked the movie “Up.” I liked this comic. He was more in touch with the audience and a little scruffy, probably a cat lover. However despite my redemption by the later comic I still felt bad for being the house heckler that night. I mean, karmically speaking, I better be ready when the heckles come my way now.
Now that I think about it it’s hysterical the subject of my heckling was an animated children’s movie. Watch out comics if you put down my sentimental favorites. I’m just saying.
Earlier in the evening I had done something new which is the improvised Set List at Flappers, run by Mark Troy. It was my first time up and I learned a lot, mostly how our insecurities are more pronounced when put under pressure. The way it works is you don’t know your four topics before getting up onstage and you have to improvise your jokes as if this was your actual set. I noticed my go-to place was talking about my body insecurities and relationship regrets. Ugh I am that person too that resorts to insecurities. But why do both sexes take it out on women? Men take it out on women and we take it out on ourselves.
Here was the set I was given: God tee shirt, Last Accountant Standing, Aids Marathon, Donkey Dilemma. For God tee shirt of course I thought of a brilliant couple of lines after I got off stage but instead went into tee shirts from the 70’s with sayings on them like “Have a Nice Day” “Keep on Trucking” and “Hmmph.” When I was younger I didn’t want to wear these tee shirts because they advertised your boobs and my boobs weren’t my best feature. I was happy when sweat pants came out in college with sayings across the ass like “Alpha Ki” or “Juicy” because that was my better feature.
I don’t want to be known as the girl who brings boo back, or even sexy back. I want to be known as the girl with a sexy back.
What would have been funnier would be if I imagined what God’s tee shirt would say if he/she had one. Maybe sing a little of the Joan Osborne tune “If God had a tee shirt” which was the original title to “What if God was one of us.” Would God’s tee shirt say “I heart my gay son” or “Virgin AIrlines, the only way to fly?” Or maybe since this is an election year “I’m God and I approve this message.”
The Last Accountant Standing is an obvious take on the show Last Comic Standing which of course I didn’t get when I was up there, probably because I am new at this and not aware of them having auditions. My take was no one would hire me as an accountant even if I was the last one standing on earth. I should have thrown in even God wouldn’t want me as an accountant, and the fact I got audited once and am fearful this might keep me out of heaven. See if only I had stuck with the God theme.
Before they even had put up my list I saw “Jesus Email” from the previous guy’s set and said “I’m glad I didn’t get Jesus Email.” But there’s a joke there too. I should have added “Isn’t that was praying is?”
Third topic was Aids Marathon. Still I could have kept up with the God theme or tee shirts. God wants more people in heaven. He’s lonely and needs some good jokers up there to keep him company, hence the Aids plague. Instead I went on about how people do these walks for aids and I’m thinking don’t you want to walk against aids? And how an aids marathon sounds like a giant orgy of people with STDs, and that’s icky.
May segway into the last topic was it’s even ickier. Donkey Dilemma reminded me of a time I went to Mexico with this kite boarder. I tried kite boarding, totally not my thing, mentioned I am not a water person. I acted out the kite boarding thing a bit. Then I mentioned how I am stuck in Mexico with this guy who keeps bringing up that we should go see a donkey show. How do you get out of Mexico and away from a guy like that. I didn’t even say that a donkey show is where a woman who has been kidnapped and drugged has sex with a donkey for all to see. Here’s the obvious joke that it still kills me I didn’t go to: “I did it. I did the donkey show. I mean I was in the donkey show and I was not the ass. I made five hundred mexican dollars that night. And you know what they say. Once you go Donkey you never go back.”
Would that have got a boo? I don’t think so. Maybe a groan. But not a boo. The only one I am offending here is the donkey, and everyone knows donkeys don’t laugh; they just nod when it’s funny.
I am being mocked. Mocked, I say. Mocked.
I came to the palisades yesterday for three weeks of bliss by the sea. I got here in record time despite all the carmageddon worries. Fastest return up the 5 from OC ever! Getting to the Palisades from Weho was equally dreamy. The 405 opened 18 hours early. I was tempted to drive it since it would be basically traffic free, but I was equally eager to unload the car, get the cats settled, and hop in the pool.
While unloading things in the kitchen I heard the garage door open and found the lady who was checking in on the cats here. She didn’t know I was coming early. Somewhere in the time she showed up and left I lost track of my keys. I remember thinking oh I should put them near the door or on the kitchen table. Then I forgot about the keys after my car was unpacked and I went in the pool.
Either my car automatically locks after a certain period of time (I hope not!) or I managed to lock the car with the remote which would mean the keys are somewhere in the house. It’s a big house and I have looked everywhere, including the recycling I took out and the fridge (it’s happened before) and every empty top drawer in every room. I dumped out my purse about three times, computer bag twice, and looked through all my trader joes bags of supplies i brought with me.
This is all pay back I see for making fun of a facebook freind earlier today who announced she had lost her keys. “Did you leave them in the door?” I commented, snidely. I’ve done that, I admit. My comment sparked an entire slew of comments from friends saying they thought that was something she would do. I felt smug and glad it wasnt me. Apparently I smirked to myself too soon.
At nearly ten pm the AAA guy came and opened my car door, with thirty seconds of alarm going off,
but i could not turn off the alarm without the key. And my spare is all the way in weho. I really hope you can’t set the alrm without the remote. But some alarms set after a certain period of time regardless of whether you pushed the button or not. Oh dear. If those keys are in the trunk I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.
I just knew such breezy traffic during carmageddon was too good to be true. Now I have to – gasp – take the bus all the way to WeHo! The bus!
3:12 pm key update 7/19/11
Bad news: The keys weren’t in the trunk of my car and I still can’t find them.
Good news: I didn’t have to take the bus to get the spare set, thanks to another lucky friend’s generosity who also lives in weho and is housesitting in the palisades.
Bad news: Though I thouroughly checked the trash I took out they may have been in the trash that was collected this morning. Yikes!
Good news: I thouroughly checked the recycling in lieu of it going out today. It will go out next week.
Bad news: I still cannot find these keys.
Good news: At least I have keys and can lock my car tonight.
3:32 pm Tuesday 7/19/11
I FOUND MY KEYS! They were on the lawn – must have dropped them when chasing after Puppet the tricky little black kitten before she ran into the street. They smell like lawn, but the car key still works and Puppet is still alive so all is well with the world. PHEW!
by Claire Partin on Monday, September 27, 2010 from facebook
I have a confession to make. I beat my mom. I have been doing it for years. I do feel a little guilty about it, but figure it’s okay because she used to beat me. Now before you go calling the authorities I should clarify. I beat my mom at scrabble, dominoes, and now online with words with friends. She was the master but now she is getting older and having sight issues and let’s face it meanwhile I have gotten better knowing the weird quirky words like “io” and “qat.” I learned them from her. These are words my mom spent years learning playing the sunday crossword puzzle. She does it in INK! Such a smart cookie. But now the tables are turning and she rarely beats me anymore.
When I pathetically bragged about this on facebook my sister Melissa made me promise not to beat my mom on her birthday. Thankfully I had already beat her the day before and we had started another game.
I went to take my mom for a belated birthday lunch yesterday and we played dominoes and yes, I won. I told her, “I don’t like beating you, I just really like winning.” I think she still battles her motherly instinct to let her child win. But she now resists her impulse to help me and has become a little more of a ruthless strategist. And its fun to play with her. A great way to be together without getting into any sort of deep conversation. If we want a real conversation we need to stop playing and go sit on the couch, which we will occasionally do, maybe twice a year. It works for us. It’s the Partin Way.
At the beginning of the year I was taking a meditation class and learning how to ask for what I really want, and I wanted a red and purple quilt, a bigger version of one my mom had made and was giving to a friend. The back story on this is this particular friend also got some chairs I really wanted from my childhood and also got some of my mom’s best quilts. I was never very good at asking my mom for things, and when i would i wouldn’t get them. So asking for this quilt was kind of a big deal for me. My mom said the fabrics were no longer available and gave me a guilt trip that i did in fact have some of her best quilts. My feeling is my sister with the kid (Melissa) is the one always getting a new quilt from my mom. So I asked for what I wanted.
Melissa (maybe from her own guilt?) offered to help my mom find the fabrics online after I told her the story. She validated me saying I should get that. The meditation classes were working! I was learning to express my desires not only to my mom but to my sister and was being heard! My mom made the quilt!
BUT she loved it so much she wanted to keep it for herself. Damn! And not only that she told me this on MY birthday and then went on to say I need to lose weight because it shows up in my face! Jeez! Can’t I ever get what I want? And why can’t I be complimented at least on my birthday!? This was turning into a guilt quilt and I didn’t like it, not one bit.
I think I may have complained, yet again, to another sister and here is the solution to all this. My mom made another version of the quilt for herself. But I still don’t have it because she needs it for an example. She’s dangling it front of me like a carrot! No, it’s sweet really. I’m not sure what the real lesson is here. Maybe I will know once I actually have that quilt in my hot little hands. It really is beautiful!
My mother, though losing her sight from macular degeneration, is like Monet in his later years doing her best work ever, and it all comes from love. I know she really loves making them. She loves fabric and color and design and working with her hands. She also expressed to me she loves that people have her quilts to wrap around themselves. It is like she is hugging each and everyone of us when we use them. She has also made many baby quilts and loves that she is part of their young lives. Lucky kids! Lucky us!
Relationships are like quilts, with many fabrics and patterns and textures. If you’re lucky they turn out beautifully designed like my mom’s quilts. I love my mom and feel like our relationship is still developing, perhaps waiting for the border or backing, but a creation in progress like a quilt or painting. I still won’t let her win at scrabble, but she will always be the master designer and artist. I can only wish to be like her and get better and better at what I choose to create.
And if I am lucky enough someday when I am 79 some younger lady will be beating me at scrabble or dominoes, and not feeling guilty about it.
by Claire Partin on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 from facebook
They say that some of us get stuck somewhere in our childhood, that this is where we go emotionally when things get tough. I don’t know if I am emotionally a five year old, but this is definitely where my design aesthetic is stuck. Back when my parents were still together, back before I knew about pain or separation or what it meant to be an outsider, my parents bought a super cool 60’s house in the Eichler Tract of Orange, CA when my father, Robert, (everyone called him Bob) got a job teaching art at Cal State Fullerton. He was a hip young artist, his large canvases informed by his years in New York at Columbia when artists such as Rothko, Frank Stella, Jasper Johns and Warhol were emerging prominently on the scene. My mother, Martha, was a stylish Vassar educated woman who graduated at the top of her class at Parsons School of Design in New York City. And though my parents were probably both in New York at the same time they did not meet until my mother moved to Los Angeles to be a young designer for Lanz. Rumor has it my dad was first attracted to my aunt Molly at the party set up for young adults associated with the University of Kentucky; That’s where my Grandpa Ted (Martha’s dad) ran the Art Department and my dad had taught for one summer. But since my dad was shy, my mother was definitiely more his speed than charismatic aunt Molly. When my parents met they were two adorably shy, gorgeous, thin and stylish young adults in California. (When My Grandpa Ted and my Grandma Doris met they were two gorgeous stylish young adults at the Art Institute in Chicago – I see a pattern forming.)
On their first date my dad took my mom to Zuma Beach to see the Pacific Ocean. Imagine her joy at coming over the hill to see the long stretch of beach and the impressive blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean! She said she had never seen it, though she had, but certainly not like this. They collected pebbles on the beach. They were in love. They got married. From what I can tell from the photos it was a very sweet wedding except that my dad insisted she have blue roses and the dye got all over Martha’s hands. Still Martha was gorgeous in the fifties gown she designed, and daddy was devilishly handsome in his white tux. I think it was white.
My parents moved to North Carolina where my father got a position teaching art at North Carolina Greensboro, and one after another all three of my sisters and me were born in Moses Cone Hospital. Then my dad got a better position at Cal State Fullerton and off we went. California was so very dramatic in those first few years. I was only 3 1/2 when we first got there. I got very sick and was hospitalized before we left, and my younger sister Melissa was with a high fever when we moved out. What with sisters in and out of the hospital getting tonsils out, getting stitches for hitting our heads (usually me), not to mention floods and fires and Santa Ana winds, it was very dramatic being here in Southern California. Not only that as I recently learned the people who brought my father to the art department at Fullerton had a falling out with the department and he was left without a political foothold in the department.
And then there was a big earthquake, literally, a really big one. My bed slid across the room. Daddy said he was in the kitchen and felt like he was surfing. I have never been too much afraid after that of earthquakes; nothing has been that bad since in my experience, not even the Northridge one. So if you are ever freaking out during an earthquake just know that maybe I am the one who will be cool enough to check the gas line.
Ironically not long after that quake my parents separated and eventually divorced. The day my mother sat us down at the table to tell us they were getting divorced is a story for another day, and it’s pretty interesting in terms of mine and my sister’s reactions and how we all turned out. I used to perform a monologue I wrote about that day called “Divorce.” It is so very common now, but it wasn’t so much back then.
But before all that turmoil my parents were supposedly happy together, and we kids loved playing tiger with daddy (daddy on all fours, one kid on each leg, one on his back, one hanging from his stomach) in the hip orange rug living room of our modern house with the gorgeous tall windows and white painted fireplace. After you got out of the station wagon parked in the cool carport you opened the turquoise front door with the exaggerated large knob to an atrium where I bounced around on my blue hippity-hop. Sliding glass doors opened to a pebble walkway that looked like a river bed. We even had burlap covered closet doors. Outside, lining the front of the house, fun banana leaf and bird of paradise plants to run behind and a fairy ring of pink geraniums. Inside, beamed wooden ceilings and sleek Danish Modern sideboards and living room tables and chairs and lots of light. Daddy would come home from his studio in the Orange Circle off Chapman in his paint bespeckled coveralls and kiss our mommy. We were happy. Is it no wonder this is where my design aesthetic is stuck?
And don’t think this was the stuffy heavy Hollywood Regency coolness like you see on Mad Men with all the fake gold and big heavy ceramic ashtrays for smoking. Sure they smoked but they quit when I was seven and everyone grew two inches. My parents were hip and colorful and streamlined; think Marrimekko. They both had fair skin and dark brown hair. They made a beautiful couple. My dad wore these soft velour striped sweatshirts in blue and green and drove a light blue VW bug. He had a soft elegance about him, a quiet American earnestness. My mom made these bright bold patterned sleeveless dresses she called jumpers, and had her thick brown hair piled in a big bun on her head, and when my parents had dinner parties she would laugh and laugh through her bright red lipstick. I thought my mom was the coolest woman to walk the earth. She wore pantyhose. She was slim from her days as a dancer. My dad was handsome and funny. I learned later he was shy and reserved around strangers. And sometimes he would get mad. But to me he was silly and warm and fun, especially when we played tigers or went to the park to play on the swings.
I once asked my mom if she missed fashion design once she got married. She said she didn’t have time to think raising four girls. Besides which she was very creative making all our clothes and matching clothes for our dolls. Apparently my dad told her when they got married there would only be one artist in the family. “How could you let him say that to you?” I asked. Martha shrugged and said, “It was the fifties.” Wow.
But the time I am idolizing in my brain was when my parents were still together and I thought it would be like that forever. And it’s no wonder I find the 70’s aesthetic to be a little sleazy and uncomfortable. Oh sure now I can appreciate the kitschiness of a smoky plastic dining room set or a hang ten tee shirt or a hooked rug you hang on the wall or a torn boot clay planter, not to mention macrame. But at the time I cringed at the brown plaid couch we had in our rented townhouse that my mom got while she was selling our gorgeous wood paneled, high ceilinged, beautiful Eichler Tract home. I hated our Avocado fridge even though the Brady Bunch had one kind of like it. It took me a long time to wear brown and I still shy away from earth tones.
Case in point my current couch is a sectional in bright pink. Super kicky and bright. Maybe this is a combination of 60’s and 80’s. The eighties were when I came into my own as a young adult. I bought clothes at thrift stores and developed my own style. I wore stretch black denim skinny jeans (back in style!) with a long, cut-out neckline bright pink sweatshirt, and scarves; lots of scarves. I stopped being the girl from Orange County (who I never really was anyway) and embraced the midwest.
I have been back in California for many years. I love it here. But I don’t think I could ever live in Orange County again, despite the nice wide streets and ample parking they have there. No, I like LA and all it’s ethnic diversity. But it doesn’t mean I will ever give up my love for 60’s mod and mid century modern. No way. I guess to me it represents the new happy. It signifies a new life, the sense of possibility California presented to me and my family when we first moved here. And there is nothing wrong in staying stuck in that design bubble, so long as I mix it up with something new and keep it fresh, so long as I am aware of what I like and am not just drawn to it out of comfort. I have learned a lot about mid century design since then. Who knew the Eichler tract would turn out to be so revolutionary and famous? I didn’t. As a child it wasn’t design, it was home. Nothing wrong with going back home.