The Pavlova is gorgeous, you’re bringing it to the Christmas Party in the MGA the two of you have, all decorated with flowers from your little garden in the tiny apartment you have behind the Craftsman on Pedregosa. You read the Los Angeles Times too, the Food Section and the Garden Section and suddenly you are pasting up color.
Sharon says, “What’s that?” as you place it on the waxing table, all covered with scratches from the years of Journeymen, and pages. It slid a bit on the floorboards, driving down, the flowers blurring into each other. You had no idea how to be a girlfriend, much less a wife. You buy magazines at the store that are going to explain how, one by one. It’s taken the place of the Winter Fruit Cocktail, you were known for. You will only stay in Grad School for one quarter. You drop when he takes over, the man that is going to be your husband.
“This is a kitchen, not a darkroom,” he says.
Suddenly you are working full time.
The paycheck doubles.
You don’t have any Seniority, though, and through her slitted eyes, she’s laughing, because she is about to move up a rung, with better hours. You are at the bottom. On that Floor. You have the full kit of Printer’s tools now. An Exacto, a Triangle, a Roller, and a Pica Pole. They engrave your initials on it.
Mr. Catamaran is too busy building a giant printing plant, to actually bother you. He’s rarely there, and it is a fun job, 2:30 to 10:00, at night. The level of camaraderie on the Floor, is best when Editorial comes down, with the blue pencils, the excitement growing, knowing that paper is coming out, the Printer’s hands fly all over the pages like birds, cutting in letters if they have to, in 6 point. The Street Final is what all of you are putting out, and Loveton jumps all over the room, wild, sweat flying off of him. The Sports Department is last. They are getting the scores right, no matter what. It’s the same on Political nights. The pages are covered in blue marks, Proof after Proof, until Editorial is satisfied. Bill, in Brooks Bros. Best dressed Newspaperman in the building. “Let’s put this paper to bed,” they smile, finally. Then the Press begins to roll, paper after paper, and we chase down any page, because anything can be fixed that late at night, in the rumble and roar, inking a million letters a day, all the words people in the City clip, for recipes, for obits, for favorite columnists, for everything actually.
They need you on Dayside for TV Week, and you have been taught to string the type. Chuck looks at you, towering over you, watching you make a mistake, and he says nothing. It’s miles and miles of type, miles that you use cotton string on to measure. If there is a mistake? Fixing it will take hours. He knows that. He’s just standing there laughing watching while you make it. The he watches while you tear it apart, and make it up all over again. Actually, that was part of the training. Becoming a Journeyman Printer was one of the hardest jobs I ever had. Ad Alley was going to be easier, somewhat.
Wenke is nicer than Bill had been. Ad Alley has Judy, and their own typists. New people are coming in, one by one. You will float, back and forth, with Joby to do whatever is needed. She had come from Offset, which they closed down.
You ask to learn Mark-Up, but it is too hard. Suddenly there will be the Camex Breeze.
Suddenly all of you will have to learn a new way of doing things.
There are electronic pens attached to huge tables, and a TV set is in front of you.
There are so many new women in the room, sitting at the sets. They’ve come in from outside, but mostly all locals, needing jobs. Many are educated, climbing ladders of their own, wanting to be in charge. Suddenly Wenke and Jed are the last two old timers. In Ad Alley.
You create the ads, and they come out intact.
The machines cost thousands of dollars.
The Printing Plant will also cost millions, it’s being built at the edge of the city. It’s going to be printing everything for miles around. Kim works in Systems, and Thad, and Sturtzenegger, all bearded and plaid, and they are raising the floor and laying in cables and everything is hurtling into the future, very fast. Sales reps come in to put you through trainings, State of the Art.
There are fonts, upon fonts, upon fonts, upon fonts. In the Art Department, they get the Macintosh that has even better fonts. None of the computers can talk to each other. All of them are different systems.
Suddenly it is the era of The Manifests. Hundreds of manifests, for every single thing, every ad. Nightly it prints out, green and white, and sprocketed edges. Everything is checked off against it.
It’s keeping track.
The Press is calling us DINKS, you see that headline “Dual Income No Kids” and it isn’t what you want. Under the floor the wires seethe like snakes, full of venom, we are becoming machines that have to work on software some guy planned.
I was a girl.
I was a female.
I wanted a baby and everything had become science in those years.
I hadn’t extracted my eggs.
The ring slips onto your finger.
My period was so heavy in those years I had to call in sick, sometimes, because of the cramps. They told me a baby would fix that, at 20. Now I was thirty, and I was chained to my job. Don’t make my mistake.
Tarrer comes down, and comes up behind me at the light table.
His hands plant themselves on both sides of me. At the table. I wriggle to escape it.
Do these machines emit radiation? I think to myself.
Planned Parenthood has given me a book on Fertility awareness. I’m going to have to use the thermometer. I want this for the two of us. We need a baby. We are four years together when we decide. But we aren’t on the same schedule anymore, and we are both exhausted most of the time. It’s hard for us to even be together.
I move from the hill down to his place, and because I am now a wife, I take on what I think wives are supposed to do. Magazines are going to be teaching me. At Von’s there are rows and rows of them that I study.
Fashion is leaving me.
I’m being drained dry.
We remodel a place, get our first pups out at Santa Barbara Humane.
We are a family at last.
The four of us and Alladin, and more cats I rescue.
We make a kitchen, and host our first Thanksgiving. We put in skylights.
I’m his third marriage, and Margaux and Carol call all the time wanting to talk to him, and I don’t know what to say.
He’s my third love.
I mean it when I take the vows, at last. “Till Death Do Us Part.”
I’m not going to live my mother’s life.
He’s not going to live his father’s life.
I won’t know this for years.
Cathy sitting on the Camex, she’s the oldest of all of us, always calling in sick, having operations. We have to get the ads out, this team of girls. Lori steps up, taking over. Joan and Lisa and Kirsten. Sheena, the wildest of all of us.
“I throw darts at a map,” she says. “I only work because I want to travel.”
She’s back from Paris, sprawled, making all of us laugh at her freedoms.
Sheena, with a name like that how could you ever go wrong?
Joan’s just graduated from Art Studio, painting massive Abstract Expressionism from her studio, on Ortega. I tell her, “don’t give it up.”
She’ll head north, like Lisa and Joan and Judy and Thad. They’re going to Portland, heading to the green places in Oregon soon. The Oregonian. So will Rhonda. She’s on the floor now, cracking jokes, and all of us love her. Her father in law had once run accounting.
“I’m looking for a Yellow Violet man,” she says. Before moving.
“That’s what his aura is going to be.”
Finally we buy ourselves a little nest.
It’s a Craftsman, from the 1930’s.
It’s the place we are going to be able to start our family.
Our bedroom has all the purity in the world. White eyelet curtains, the kind of windows that barely open, because you have to push them up and down. We become Westsiders. It’s all we can afford. We love the house. It’s formidable, and we are close to downtown. Minutes from our jobs.
The guy who does our taxes is an old High School friend of his.
Suddenly, I understand that marriage is going to mean all kinds of new things I hadn’t thought about. Things men knew about, and I did not.
“We want to start a family,” I say. My voice is little and tiny then.
“Children should be seen and not heard” was the rule in my family, growing up.
You will earn that every family has rules.
He’s doing our taxes, and I say this in a friendly way.
“I want to stay home and make pottery, and sell it at the Beach show.”
“You can’t do that,” the accountant says. “It’s going to ruin your retirement.”
I’m the third wife.
I don’t count.
The accountant was divorced, too.
From his first wife.
He ran the biggest accountancy firm in town.
Suddenly we have a garden.
Paperwhites for the 1930’s return.
The thermometer is cold.
The bed is warm.
The Jazz thunders through the house.
It’s only at work, or on the street, men will say things like “Nice day for something,” or “When is the baby coming?”
I still plant pansies, the first flower I loved best at 13.
I carry the Roses, from Red Rose Way to the house. In they go.
There is a red rose at our house.
The house of the truest love.
The house that we call home.
My mother loved him so much. She felt he was the perfect man for me. That first Christmas in our new house she sat before the fireplace in what was our formal living room. Sheena and some of the girls from work came over. I baked tons of Christmas cookies that year. In the living room, we had a Batchelder tile and the best fireplace on earth.
“Why don’t you just stay home and work on this place? Sheena perks up.
Little does she understand there are now two mortgages. Two.
Other people will be raising their children, in our old house. We will be having to pay for that. With our souls.
Strapped to a machine, that is possibly emitting radiation at me, I start to get scared.
How am I ever going to get to be a stay at home mom, like I want to be?
Is it even going to be possible?
I was only 30.
He was 45.
The girls around me are all leaving work, heading into marriages, where they are going to get to be mothers.
I’m going to be a girl who has to pay for mortgages.
How come had to be that girl, I ask myself later.
Carol calls all the time, drunk out of her mind, for my husband. She is still in love with him and I keep waiting for him to say something to her, like “These calls might not be a good idea.”
All the men are having vasectomies that year.
They don’t want any kids.
They tell us, in the print magazines, that we need to freeze our eggs, in case we want to have children later, but I don’t want to.
The doctor tells us, we might have to try artificial insemination.
It becomes a science project in those years.
Lying on the table, you realize the world you live in is controlled by men.
“The Old Boy’s Club,” is what we called it then.
Joby lives with Andy.
“I don’t think I could have a child, “ she says. “If anything ever happened to my child, I don’t think I could take it.”
She’s a DINK too.
“Why did they do this to us?”
I was a girl.
Not a man.
I was a girl.
I thought men were going to care about me.
Do you know what they wanted?
They wanted to get laid.
They wanted a worker.
They wanted a machine.
So they could have one.
It would take until 2021 when they built the female robots.
They had managed to wipe us from the face of the earth.
Now they really didn’t have to be fathers did they?
They planned on heading up to Mars and Venus. They were no longer even on planet Earth with us. Were they?
I ask myself to keep on pressing these keys, the ones that they designed, for these keyboards. Suddenly I see I am at 19,875. I’m so close now to 20,000 that I might as well go for it. The girl who was taught to never learn to type, the girl whose keyboard is now on fire, because this girl became a writer.
Not only that?
This girl became a writer who knew all about how to write LOVE.
I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way once.
I was the girl who once believed in Cinderella, just like you.
We take to the mountains, when we can. Into the high snows of Yosemite, and he drives, he knows how to gather the wood, he knows how to catch the trout, he knows how to pitch the tents, he knows the best routes to travel. He’s the man and you are the woman.
He’s the man you married.
Memoir Newspaperpeople by Adrienne Wilson copyright November 11, 2021 all rights reserved