NEWSPAPERPEOPLE MEMOIR NANOWRIMO2021 Day 7

Self Portrait 1982, myself – UCSB student in my first studio apartment on the tiny balcony it had, first garden

Newspaperpeople

  1. Places

Places the heart goes. I wish I could stop you, from getting hurt, like I did, so I will just repeat, don’t be a dumb girl. When you get to college.

The first thing that happened was that TA, who was in charge of all my grades, and he was married too. His wife had just had a baby, and guess who he was following trying to carry her books across the campus? Me.

I was there to study Art History.

After the mess of that first quarter full of D’s and F’s because 1981 was the worst year of my life, I knew it would take years to get my GPA back up. So you never want to let your GPA fall. Just don’t.

Alan helped me find my first little apartment and it was on Figueroa Street, right across from the Police Station. It was behind an old Victorian house from the turn of the century, and it was one in a row of three studio apartments over garages. Like most things in Santa Barbara, every square inch was rented out, to somebody. But I was 22 and I had my own studio apartment at last! I had a tiny little balcony off my kitchen, and I planted my very first garden out there, in pots. I went down to Home Improvement, because that was my first job after High School, that was serious. My mom had gotten me my first job. I was a model for Trunk Shows at Robinson’s. Alan’s girlfriend Cathy had a sister that lived in the front house, and I could walk to work, if I wanted to.
Suddenly I had three rooms all to myself, and they were from the 1930’s. I had a Murphy bed, that folded down from the wall, so when it was folded up? I had a living room! Futons didn’t exist yet, at least in America. I had my own kitchen! I had a parking spot! I was becoming grown up at last. I had utility bills to pay.

I was learning how to cook.

There was only one problem.

He followed me.

The post cards kept on coming, and they came to work, too.

I started seeing a therapist, who I met because he was the boyfriend of the man who ran the Arts Library out at UCSB. When I think of all the actual angels who have crossed with me in life? I am probably the luckiest girl on the face of the earth.

The panic attacks had stopped and now I had a plan. A safety plan.

At work, because I was in the Composing Room, I didn’t have to take his calls anymore. If the phone rang at my place at night, I didn’t have to answer it.

My therapist Dennis was like the biggest angel I ever met.

He said one sentence to me.

“You have to get away from this man.”

He was right.

So when that married TA tried with me, I was secretly laughing. No way, not ever, not ever, I thought to myself about him. All he ever talked about was something called “The Snuggery.”

Except that night I threw my first party. I invited everybody.

I began the process of splitting up with him by deciding to date others.

By my second quarter, my grades were going back up.
It was so different than working in the cage had been, it really was.

I wasn’t trapped anymore, and the whole Composing Room buzzed and hummed and I guess I looked pretty fashionable because, well, that was all I knew. We didn’t wear much make-up in the years when I was 22, but we wore mascara, blush and lipstick. I guess you could have called us pretty natural that way.

I loved Perfume the most. Lipstick, too.

Your personal style sets in when you are in your early 20’s. You will probably keep that all your life.

I threw my very first party, in that apartment. I had taught myself to cook by getting a few cookbooks. I made a huge vat of Italian Cioppino for everyone. It was “Bring Your Own Bottle” so everyone had stuff they wanted to drink, and some of that was quite fancy, because my generation loved cocktails, but there was also wine and beer. My mom loaned me some huge serving platters and I made canapes, and all kinds of things from my little books. I invited Dennis and Felipe and there were so many bodies packing my little apartment, it looked like that movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The only weird thing was the next morning, when I had kind of a hangover and I woke up with Alladin curled against me, and padding me. I was off that day, and I planned to start the day with the biggest best bubble bath ever, only, when I pulled back the shower curtain, there was a tiny bag slipped over the spout in the tub. Like a muslin bag.

I was wondering what the hell it was, frankly.

I looked inside and saw something really dark red. Red Rose petal red, actually. Ewwww, I thought. Maybe somebody had their period and like, left this here.

I shook it out, and it was a pair of panties, from Dior.

There was a typed note, that said, “You are Very Beautiful, Adrienne.”

I was totally creeped out, because I had like 75 people, that had come and gone all night at that party. So? Who had done that.

The whole thing totally bothered me.

It was the creepiest thing that had ever happened.

Guess what?

It was that TA, who carried my books.

He had been there, too.

All the arty types I knew had been.

“Did you do that?”

I asked him the next time he tried to carry my books.

He was blushing.

Well, he wasn’t my type, anyway. Also he was married with a new baby. Just like that photography teacher, the fact I was a student at college, he thought he could. That’s what it was like in 1982. Just like that Photography teacher, he thought he could. Because they controlled our grades. I don’t even remember his name, but I remember how scared I was that he would give me an F grade, that whole quarter.

He didn’t, and nothing ever happened beyond that because he was never a TA I saw again. Do they still even have TA’s? That was a Teaching Assistant job, because Ph.d’s got a job out at UCSB and they could have Married Student Housing, too. He lived in one of those.

Can you even imagine not being able to call my Dad with a thing like that?

I was only 22, and he was making movies guys like that TA were watching.

How creepy is that?

Walking to all my Art History classes meant, I had to walk by Art Studio classes. And that is where my heart longed to be. It really did. Every time I passed those classes I wished I was in there, instead. Mostly it was guys who were.

Well?

They told me I wasn’t going to be able to get a job unless I took Art History.
When you are just a young kid, you take advice from just about anyone. Including school counselors. I was around the coolest bunch of teachers, ever, out in the Art History Department, but I was jealous of the people in Studio. So, I started taking art classes in my spare time, just for fun, because in my town almost everyone is an artist. In one form or another. If I had gone to UCSB straight out of High School right after all the art teachers I had, had in town? My whole life would have gone differently.

But the places you will go, the things you will do?

Nobody knows what those are at 22.

You can think you know, but probably not.

The paths we take in life are ever evolving.

That’s how I met Hacker.

Those sculptures of his were the most monumental things I had ever seen. He was older than me, too, and he was living where the Alhecama Theatre was, in some kind of tiny little room where he was sleeping on a foam pad. His face was craggy like a boxer’s, like he had been through everything on earth. He’s the one who was washing dishes at the Paradise. All of us were working our way through college, except Jim. All of us had taken so many paths in life.

I was a girl who was studying Art History with her own studio apartment.

He must have thought it was Paradise.

In those days I cooked for my friends who dropped by, and they were always hungry. Like Jim and Stevie B. My first big pans were speckled enamel, and I got them at the market where they had displays of pans you could get. Mine were black with white speckles.

Spend $30 and you could get a pan for $1.

Something like that.

Suddenly I had my first pans, my first tiny kitchen, and my first herbs, growing on my balcony. Suddenly I planted my first roses. I had four of them in pots out there. I think my place must have been Paradise for the men I let sleep there, in those days.

I was in the process of growing up.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, let me tell you.

During that time, I met a man who couldn’t. It was a first for me, as I thought men were all the same. They aren’t.

They are just as different as women are.

The first time that happened I didn’t know what to do.

I was lying under him, and he apologized.

I remember I put my arms around him and hugged him, and whispered, “It’s okay.”

Then I got up, put on my kimono, and said, “Let’s have dinner.”

I guess for me, feeding people that need it?

Well, that was going to become something I would get to be good at.

Sometimes your life might not have anything to do with what you declare as a major in college.

Maybe your life will be “Cioppino for all.”

Copyight 2021, November 7th by Adrienne Wilson – all rights reserved

MEMOIR #Newspaperpeople DAY 4 NANOWRIMO 2021

“The Kiss” by the artist Gustav Klimt – this is the cover of my writing journal for this years Nanowrimo – he was one of the many painters I loved as a young art student, and Art History student. I had it on my wall, when I was 22.

Newspaperpeople

  1. Mistakes

It’s only through the hardest lessons of life that you can be shaped and formed into what you will become. Nobody knows that at 22. It’s all so fresh and fine and full and you are going to go to college because it will be the best time of your life. It’s something you can’t miss, and you must choose the right school. While I am at it, choose the Major you really love, because chances are, that one won’t be the job you get. If you declare the wrong major for you it will be an uphill battle to claim something like Studio Art, at work, especially if you work for a newspaper.

I was a girl who sat in an iron cage in a lobby of a building where things hummed at night because in other parts of the building people were getting the paper out. I think I worked something like 5 – 9 in those times, just part time, but I loved it there so much, after what Mr. Sykes and Mr. Plet had done for me? In retrospect, I should have gone to them with the problem I was having, as they would have known what to do, because he kept calling. Every night. Every day the postcards arrived at Red Rose Way, black and whites that jarred the memory of everywhere we had been in Los Angeles on those shoots we did. Behind my own lens I photographed him. It seemed a way of keeping him at bay, behind my lens. But the arrival every day of those made my heart glassine, like the strips we kept negatives in those years.

He did this to me, and I never want this to happen to you, because you will never get over it. Not ever.
That’s how I met Alan and Harold.

I think they heard me crying in that little iron cage, because I did.

Nightly.

After he hung up.

My first relationship had ended for reasons that were different.

Getting out of this new one was going to be one of the hardest things I ever had to do, to break that bond. To this day I cannot stand to look at pictures of myself, because of what he did. Besides, as artists we like self-portraits best anyway.

How can I explain the minefield that men were going to be?

That’s what it was.

They rule the world, they always have and they always will.

You will meet good ones and bad ones.

You will meet cheap ones.

You will meet violent ones.

You will meet poetic types.

You will meet handsome ones.

You will meet ugly ones.

You will meet generous ones.

You will meet sexy ones.

You will meet shy ones.

You will feel sorry for some of them.
You will learn that you are a temple and it’s very holy.

You will meet men who have no idea what making love actually is.

You will meet men who can’t last.

You will meet men who can’t get one anymore.

You will meet a whole generation of men who don’t actually want to be fathers.

Perhaps that is the saddest part of this tale.

I only met one with a soul so diseased that sometimes he looked like Satan to me.

I only met pure evil once.

I met some very evil men at that newspaper, but not in the earliest years, and not Alan and not Harold and not Jack and not Eddie and not any of the men in the Pressroom, or any of the Reporters.

Harold’s smile. His wit. His charm.

Alan’s cockiness, his English wit.

Those two must have thought to themselves, how come that girl is crying?

I can’t remember if I told them or not.

Every night it was as if they came to check on me like angels, like Mr. Plet and Mr. Sykes had been. In my darkest moments in that cage, when I did not know what to do, and Winter Quarter 1981 had started, and I, who had been the A student was suddenly getting D’s and F’s on everything, and when I would drive to school, I would think of crashing my card out on Ward Memorial just so I could end it, those two saved me. Just like Henry had.

Alan had the prettiest girlfriend. She was petite and blond and she made the best little Christmas cookies ever. They were mini cheesecakes made with vanilla wafers in the bottom of muffin cups. They had cherries on top. As pretty and delicate as she was. We had worked together in accounting, with Rosie.

Those were the days we were so very young, and we must have both been so very much in love. I know we were, but maybe we were too young to discuss our personal lives yet. That comes later, for women.

I didn’t know how to stop him.

It’s as if he was a secret.

I couldn’t talk to anyone about him, and that was my first mistake.

The panic attacks began with the postcards, and I had no idea what they were. I would get this terrible feeling as I was driving, kind of pins and needles in a way, and it would take over. I wasn’t breathing. The hyperventilation would start in as I was driving to class.

I was so frightened by these I had no idea what was going on.

Do you know what that bastard did to me?

He took away all my sense of control.

He had me pinned to a wall, in a cage I could not escape. The phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing and I had to answer it, because that was my job.

The postcards kept coming to Red Rose Way like affirmations of love.

It wasn’t love.

It was never love.

To begin to unpack my hatred of him for what he did to me is a secret I have had to hold for forty years.

He was responsible for my having the panic attacks.

There are two types of men in this world.

Good ones, and evil ones.

They will all try to bed you if you are beautiful.
So, I decided to become like them.

I decided I would bed them.

I needed to erase him.

It’s a very long process when you are going to erase a man.

Especially one you were madly in love with.

Alan and Harold would come out to check on me, and shoot the breeze with jokes, and I loved them. I sat in that cage and pulled the biggest fanciest Selectric typewriter I could find, (these were all on rolling tables, then, everywhere in the building) because the building was built of words, thousands of words and thousands of fingers typing those words) over to my little cage and began to write my first papers for Arts & Letters, which was what I had declared.

Every day, I read the paper cover to cover.

It had everything in it.

It had stories.

It had the town in its palm, and I belonged to that.

I belonged to something so much bigger than myself. I had made new friends there.

He was going to recede.

I had my little electric typewriter at home. I was taking poetry.

I was learning to compose lines.

The phone never rang at night unless it had been raining and people were full of rage that they had a soggy paper. Otherwise it was him, standing on some cold corner in the city of Lost Angels in a filthy phone booth, dialing.

And I was typing.

I was a girl that lived on a street called Red Rose Way taking poetry from Edgar Bowers who lived in one of the little houses facing the sea at Miramar Beach.

There weren’t too many of us in class.

The girl sitting next to me, I shall never forget the first lines of something she did, a poem on marriage.

This is how she began: “It waited for me like a cotton cloud”

The poem was about a wedding cake, and as I recall she didn’t want that cake.

The again, all of us were only 22, and what did we exactly know about life at that age.

My bed was about to become a cotton cloud for the bodies of the men who wanted to bed me. I did favors for two of them. One a 19 year old who begged me to show him how. He was heading off to medical school that fall and he told me he wanted to know how so he could get a girlfriend. We worked together, there. He wrote me a love letter. I probably still have it around here somewhere, in all these pages and papers and boxes that say “a life was lived, here” that I just happen to have.

“Can I carry your books for you?” begged the TA who tried.

He liked that pretty flowery dress I designed.

He actually used to follow me, and pop up out of thin air.

You think that you know the lives of women if you are a man.

You don’t.

You started with your mother, and she was your template. Then, everyone you ever bedded. Maybe it was just one.

My heart locked itself behind doors made of corten steel.

After what he did to me.

When the sculptor ran after me down the street I turned to look into that rugged face. There was something about his weldings and colors and his pseudo Motherwells that I liked. I had Diebenkorn up on my wall, right next to Klimt’s “The Kiss.”

My generation. The generation who were the most Romantic people in the world, had their hearts broken.

Nearly all of us have had this.

Lucky, the few who escaped alive.

I never want you to be as dumb as I was at 22.

If you ever meet a person who is making you have panic attacks?

Get out.

No matter what it takes.

Copyright November 4th, 2021 by Adrienne Wilson – all rights reserved