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 Chapter four Day 6 NANOWRIMO 2021

Newspaperpeople

  1. Storkes

You will never know the wounds you are capable of carrying, until you have to. The era comes back to haunt you. The monster that he was.

And then you will think of all the kind men who surrounded you then.

As they prepare you for the anesthesia you whisper, to God, let me die.

Let me go now.

And then you sink.

Everything is gone.

They wake you up.

They wake you up as if you have made some kind of mistake and girls are so disposable anyway.

The pain lives in a vault, in a chamber of your heart, that you learn to bury deep.

You won’t be alone.

They are shaking you.

“Wake up,” they say.

“Nooooo.”

They keep shaking you and shaking you and shaking you.

You wake up.

It wasn’t your time.

It wasn’t time for God to take you. Not yet.

You were only 22.

Now you realize perhaps God himself put you through this.

He keeps driving up, after.

He keeps driving up.

A girl lies next to you in the little room they make you walk to.

There are two beds. So you can recuperate.

She weeps, softly.

You weep.

There is a list on the table, with hundreds of names on it.

And the names are lined through.

And the names have names to come, after the two of you.

They run them through here like cattle, you think to yourself.

Cattle.

Chattel.
Cattle.

Chattel.

That he never loved you is the hardest lesson you will ever learn.

Your mother, who had always told you, “Come to me with anything,” is going to be no help. She simply tells you her French friend Selima had to have 14 of them, because of the Nazis.

Jim offers to marry you.

In the cold silence of your room, full of beige, full of books, with the money he had thrown down on the table, to pay for it, you stepped into the bathroom, while he slept and photographed yourself in your white Mexican wedding dress, with his Leica.

You had grasped at straws.

There was no way to call your father.

Your uncle was gone.

Your grandfather was tending to your grandmother, who had had a stroke after her son died, suddenly.

“Stand on your own two feet,” he said.

It’s that Christmas, it’s that day, when you know you have no choice.

There will be millions of girls that day, across the country.

Like the girl lying right next to you.

You didn’t die.

Maybe because you had to write a book, that would come many years later, so that no other girl would have to face this kind of thing, ever again.

I drove down to Los Angeles to meet the French sperm who was my father. He had hired detectives to find me at Santa Barbara High School. When I was 16. He said, or his current wife said through the door, “His therapist feels that you need to meet him, now.”

I stood in terror behind the door of our place on Carillo Hill, that day.

I thought maybe my real father, not the man I called Daddy, who was my father, to me anyway. (Since Mother made it so I could never call him) and I actually was that naive, to think that he might be able to give me some direction. I was two weeks late on my period. Student Health at UCSB arranged for me to take a urine test.

I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way.

I was the girl who had no father.

Not like my mother’s father.

I was also a girl that my mother had no time for.

She made me into her best friend.

So I never even had a chance at being a daughter.

She told my best friend, “The men are going to come for Adrienne.”

My best friend told me that years later, going through her second divorce.

He lived north of Wilshire.

I found him.

I made an appointment to arrive, the last trip I ever took down to Santa Monica in my Audi. I was just a girl of 22, needing help.

There was no man to turn to.

Years later, reading the poem I wrote in Edgar Bower’s class, it’s what I wrote after.

I handed it to him, and he laughed it off. That acid dropping, clown. He laughed at my writing, some stupid little college girl who was getting D’s and F’s Winter Quarter at UCSB. The girl who he came up to rape and keep on raping, time after time, day after day, with that poisoned cock he had, covered in vitiligo. The cock that only knew how to rape, not love. He was like a battering ram, with it. Once he said, “I want to see my cock come out of your throat.”

To this day I remember his favorite position.

I never let another man put me in that position ever again, when I had sex.

The girls at work, the younger ones were having babies, and I made a quilt for Bonnie in Classified, for her baby.

Mine was gone, and I sewed the quilt for hers.

I’ll never forget how happy she was to see it. It was polka dots with an eyelet edge, and I tied it instead of quilting with many colors of embroidery thread.

Rosie had taken me aside.

I told her I needed to take three days off and I was crying.

I loved Rosie.

I also loved her funny boyfriend too.

She told me, she had to have one too.

I don’t know how I survived.

There has been some purpose for me to have survived.

Perhaps it is to write it down.

Never let a man kill your heart and soul.

Never.

The clinic was near Cottage Hospital.

Jim, offered to marry me.
Years later when we saw each other again, we discussed our lives.

I said, “What if we had married?”

I thanked him for the offer he had made me. His chivalry.

He will forever be in my mind as that.

Not all males are chivalrous.

I think males know other males very well, just as we know other women very well.

It’s in our genes,

I didn’t love Jim.

I was in love with the photographer.

I couldn’t have slept with Jim.

I couldn’t have asked Jim to take something on, that he wasn’t prepared to do.

He was still the cherubic blond baby of his mother’s.

I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way. The street where there is supposed to be true love.

I was the girl who believed everything men said to me.

He had said he wanted to plant his seed inside me.

He had lied.

“I don’t want you spoiling Christmas for your grandparents,” Mother said.

As far as she was concerned I had taken care of it.

On her deathbed, under the spell of morphine, I said, “You never saw yourself as a grandmother did you?”
She said “No.”

My mother was of the generation that had Andy Warhol.

That Christmas in 1981 my little brother and I were to take the train to Cambria, so our family could have Christmas. You will never know how strong you have to be for your family, until it is needed. You will also never understand why you had to put on a happy face as if nothing bad had happened.

As the train rumbled up the coast, I couldn’t say anything to my brother about what I had just gone through. He was too young. To this day, I wish I had had an older brother. This is what the men at work would become for me. Like Big Brothers. That is what Alan was to me.

We think of storks as the things that come with babies like miracles wrapped in swaddling clothes. There are myths we live out. There are also fairytales.

I was the girl on Red Rose Way who walked under Storke’s bells.

Up in his tower, I sat the books that held the millions of words.

They were bound books, every newspaper that had ever run.

I climbed the stairs all the time to see them.

The panic attacks began in my mother’s car, as we drove home to Santa Barbara after that Christmas. A bee flew into her car, and at the time, I was afraid of bees, as I had been stung once, as a very young child. Suddenly I could not breathe. My hands curled into little blue claws as there was no oxygen, coming in. I wasn’t breathing.

He put me through that.

And he still kept driving up.

He kept on sending postcards as if he were making a piece of Performance Art, like Chris Burden.

That’s what he was doing.

He had no plans to give me up and I couldn’t breathe anymore.
There was nothing left.

He had killed my heart.

Or so I thought.

Perhaps, my heart did not die, for it is the strongest organ that I have.

It is always with my heart that I have traveled this world.

I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way, and I was the girl who wore her heart on her sleeve.

I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way who thought she had met her second Prince Charming. The first one had not been.

I was the 22 year old they gave Xanax to. Harold was on it too.

Harold, the best boss in the world.

I walked between the Pacesetters, under his watch.

They were spitting out film.

They were spitting out thousands of letters, whole alphabets put together out of the people who were busily typing upstairs on the Third Floor, they had come down the pneumatic tubes, and been retyped and marked up in the Composing Room.

I was becoming a Journeyman Printer.

“Harold, I can trim the type.”

“No, you job is to bring the type to the hooks.”

“But I can do more than one thing, Harold.”

“No, you are doing your job.”

And so I had gone from being the girl that came from Fashion, through Classified Accounting, into a Switchboard Operator, to a Proofreader, and finally I was on my way to the Floor.

That’s how important all of us were.

That’s how hard we worked to make everything true and perfect, at the newspaper.

It had won the Pulitzer.

It had belonged to T. M. Storke.

Copyright 2021 Newspaperpeople by Adrienne Wilson – Nanowrimo 2021 – all rights reserved

MEMOIR NEWSPAPERPEOPLE #NANOWRIMO2021 DAY 5

Newspaperpeople

  1. Wounds

The problem with letting somebody so close to your heart in the way you might at say 22, is that you don’t know what kinds of wounds they might be carrying. You don’t know if they plan to napalm your soul. Because they had seen it. The Napalm.

Don’t choose somebody older than you if you can help it, although the heart always makes its own path doesn’t it?

This is going to get worse the older you get because you might have to carry a body so filled with the wounds that men might have inflicted, or that women might have inflicted you no longer even know what you might be holding.

It’s a heart.

It’s a heart that once was young and bright and skipped or skipped stones.

A heart that rode bicycles that switched to cars later.

All hearts on earth, have paths.

It’s the path of the heart that you will remember most.

Choose the path filled with flowers.

Choose the path with the least tears.

Choose the path that makes you laugh.

“I always drop acid before I make any important decisions,“ he says, bouncing along the beach at Thousand Steps. Just below Red Rose Way.

That was the day I told him.

“Now what,” he said. “I’ll pay for it.”

A girl, sitting in a beige carpeted empty apartment will have her first lesson. It’s the most painful lesson she will ever learn.

She will have nowhere to turn.

It happened the week he had off.

“We can spend the whole week together,” he said. “She’s going to be in Washington, on business.”

The he had the nerve to treat you like his wife, cooking in your sandy little kitchen. What was it he made then?

Brunswick Stew.

You looked out to sea, and the poems began to form, as poems always form. One word after another. You never imagined you would be like Hemingway one day, looking back at hills like white elephants, in the snow capped frost of winter.

He destroyed you that year.

He thought he could take Christmas, but he didn’t.

Maybe he thought you’d just off yourself.

He must have been used to offing people.

The struggle to breathe overtakes you in the doctor’s office out at Student Health. They offer Xanax and teach you how to breathe into a brown paper bag, if the panic attacks start in again.

And the postcards kept coming, daily, and there wasn’t going to be anywhere you could turn, and you realize that even now, some girl is in your position trapped butterfly-like against a wall, with a guy who was just using her as if she was a cotton cloud.

It’s the magic of other hearts that will hold you.

Strangers at work, all smiles, walnut desks, flirtatious males. You weave in and out of a landscape made of words, letters strung together on chains, paper chains, presses rolling, clanks and thumps.

We were the biggest Romantics in the world, once.

We were the ones who didn’t have to go to war at nineteen.

You think that women will be just like you, don’t you?

We aren’t.

“Take this fucking thing out,” he said, pulling the diaphragm from inside you. “It’s in my way.”

“Don’t” I said, hands trying to fend off what he was doing.

“I want to plant my seed inside you,” he said.

Over and over all that week.

The week he played house with you in your purple kimono, all curly and pretty and damp and he told you he didn’t love his wife anymore.

Maybe you should have taken it as a warning that day at LACMA, where he showed you
Back Seat Dodge.

Years later your breath engulfs you.

You surface, no longer undersea.

The tail of a mermaid has grown, you carry a knife. Your knife is made of letters, thousands. and thousands of letters. Your power? They always have one for you, when you turn your eyes on them.

Then you will smile.

You can use the words to tell him how much you hated him.

Margaux, late 60’s the dayside proofreader. She slips sexily on cork wedgies through the room and you are only 22 when you start as the night proofreader. The other girl quit, and suddenly you are making $10.00 an hour in the Composing Room. It happened so fast that your salary doubled, because you were in a Union. They called them associations in those years. The men you had known as friends out in the tear stained lobby swept you into their world. There were other girls in there, and there were women upstairs who were reporters.

Suddenly it was fun to have all the art tools in your hands, again. You could see the men wearing them. Pica poles and rollers and exacto knives, triangles. It was going to be graphic art, and you had studied that. Font after font. You learned the names of those.

“Come on in here, Andreean,” Gabe says. Margaux will show you what you need to know. On your desk, her desk, there are dictionaries, there are books covering every word you will ever need to know, and there is the AP Stylebook. That’s how important it all was once. There are baskets on your desk. Margaux shows you the marks, and you learn these by heart. Margaux dresses like Flashdance, a tiny little bird, with wicked dancing eyes. She misses nothing in the room full of men. It’s fun for her, you notice.

This is where you will learn not to ever make a mistake.

Because it’s too important.

“Good catch,” the reporters say.

Especially when you, just a college girl, question phrases.
Gabe is too important to ever let down.

You loved him as a boss, and you loved Harold. your other boss.

Gabe with a smile like the very best gelato.

Harold and his spiked Christmas punchbowls.

The typists cluck in their corner like hens, pecking the keys. Those are the women, and they are set into roles, most are mothers except one or two strays. Most everyone is married, except for one or two, or you. The difference is that only one of them has gone to college. All of them had gone immediately to work after High School, like you had, because that was all there was going to be for you, right?

Marriage, like a cotton cloud.

We all knew it.

We all wanted it, but just not quite yet.

The romantics were much younger in spirit than most.

That most of us might end up as DINKS was something we did not know yet.

It wasn’t what we had in mind, actually.

We wanted to fall in love. We wanted children.

There were millions of us.

Millions upon millions upon millions and millions.

Millions of our hearts shattered into glass splinters after 1973.

They used that as a back up for their mistakes. All the men who had no intention of being fathers. Men who used women just to get laid. That was that.

That’s all they wanted.

American girls.

Millions and millions of American girls, hearts felled.

Hearts, the petalled hearts, falling, tears running red, rivers of red, streams of red, oceans of red.

To men we were just a joke,

Just a series of little dishrags.

Sharon was a farm girl, she dressed in chinos just like men. Her eyes were slits, hardened slits from the Valley. She had horses, there, maybe she still lived at home, for all I knew. The women were mean. Not the ones in Editorial, the women who worked int he bowels of the building, down with all the dirty, greasy, men. They took it out on each other, and I watched this with horror, coming from Fashion as I had.

I wonder what they must have thought of me?

Thierry Mugler Jellies.

Kenzo oversized shapeless forms, cueing zen.

Sex wasn’t going to be part of the game with me.

She hated me.

“College girl,” she sneered.

The first night I sat down to proofread.

The first night I made my marks.

The first night I consulted the AP Stylebook.

In the basket, every story in the world passed through.

You will never know the responsibility that all of us had.

My job was to read everything in the baskets, and then, after the typists had typeset the story, to read it again, so that the story was perfect. You did this by compare and contrast.

Line by line, letter by letter.

The terror of making a mistake.

The terror of letting Harold and Gabe down.

The terror of seeing that in print the following day, at the place that I called home, with all the people I worked next to.

Soon he wasn’t going to be able to call me anymore.

Still the postcards came.

“There will never be a last postcard.”

The way he did that one, was write one word on each image, so they came like this:

THERE

WILL

NEVER

BE

A

LAST

POSTCARD.

I never want you to be a girl that has to stand on her own two feet. I want you to find a really sweet boyfriend that is your age.

I want you to choose that shy boy, the one that has poems he knows how to write for you. I want you to choose that pimple covered boy in High School who is going to take you to the prom. I want you to be wearing his corsage. I want you to fumble around making out, but you won’t go all the way unless you have birth control. I want you to know that he loves you. I want you to have a baby.

I want to see you dancing on a cotton cloud, under the moon in all her sweeping starlit curves. When he kisses you, I want to see you surrounded by stardust. I want to see you in the ballgowns, the pretty dresses, with the pimple-faced poet beside you. The one who can hardly speak because he is so taken with everything about you.

Don’t let him go.

Newspaperpeople by Adrienne Wilson copyright November 5th, 2021 – all rights reserved NaNoWriMo 2021

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

Memoir #Newspaperpeople #Nanowrimo 2021 – Day one

Newspaperpeople

  1. Red Rose Way

Be careful with the sugar shell that is your heart, for you will find the world can be full of evil. I did. I was a girl who lived on Red Rose Way, once upon a time. I was a girl who believed in Cinderella and that men would love me, as if they were Prince Charming.

The first man that breaks your heart will be the worst, for you will never be able to love again. Not the way you love in your twenties. I would rather not see you make the mistakes that I did, because I don’t want you to have to carry the thorns. I suppose that was my father. Or what was supposed to be my father. Instead there was only a blank that ended at thirteen, when my mother said, “I’m stronger than any man, and I am both mother and father to you.”

Maybe she had to say that, as women have to say many things to their daughters. He broke my heart, that is all I can say. He cracked the sugar shell into a thousand tiny pieces and she wasn’t even watching me by then, in the way that mothers have to let their daughters go.

I wanted to study art as I had always studied it, all my young life, in college. I thought that my life would be about making art, as growing up all my mother’s friends did that. My Dad did that, and my Uncle did that, as men are free to do whatever they want, most of the time. How light their lives are, compared to ours.

You open to them in a series of petals that they plunge into.

Choose the right one.

Choose the one who actually does love you.

It’s not easy to be a Muse.

He called it Documentary Photography.

I called it love with a capital L, only it wasn’t love. He was married. I didn’t know that at first. I didn’t know I would be an amusement he planned on using, not just to make some art. He thought I was beautiful, and so he hatched a plan.

On a low stone wall I sat fiddling with a camera my Uncle had left me, a Russian Leica from the years he was abroad on his films. It was all I had left of him, in the years after he passed. People took stills then, all the time. Daddy took them, my grandfather took them, my uncle took them and you learn to trust the lens with men that you love. He didn’t take pictures that way. He took them like secrets, like snares.

If only my father had known. That’s what I thought then. Didn’t he care about me either? He was the biggest pornographer in Hollywood at that time. Way past the era he made surfing films.

It was 1980 in Los Angeles, at Santa Monica College.

“Let me see that camera,” my teacher said. He had plopped himself down next to me on the low wall where I was trying to load Tri-X. He was tall, and too thin, and his clothes were stupid, like a square’s. He wasn’t even handsome. He had intentions. He wanted to grab a girl. He did this from a position of power, because he controlled her grades. That is how things worked then. Have we always been lesser than? Or is that what they think, trying to scale the walls Romeo once did. The solid stone, the slipping steps, a girl high on a balcony, looking down. Maybe it was like that. It isn’t something I will ever understand or know.

I wasn’t an object. I was an Artist. I was there to study Art.

I should have known when he took a 16 x 20 of the class and gave it to me. On the back he wrote everyone’s student number, and on me, he wrote my name. Girls on Film. I was an object, or maybe a subject, to a half rate teacher. It’s not like he was Ivy League.

Maybe I was just younger. Too young to understand him. Some girl who was fresh, some girl who was pretty. Some girl he didn’t really care about. Some girl he planned on fucking. As I say it, I want to tear his heart out. I want to cut his heart into shreds with my pen for you, so that this will never happen to another girl.

Maybe there are many who I want to tear to shreds. For they did that to me.

I walked in their worlds. The world of men. All of us did, in 1980. There were so many dreams for all of us, then. Our mother’s had them. That we wouldn’t have their lives. Our mothers never wanted us to have their lives. Perhaps they ruined ours, because of who they married. I never got to ask my mother things like that. How can it be possible for any mother to let her daughter go? When she already knows what might happen.

She was the only place you could always call, in tears.

She was always the place you could come home.

You had to look at her from a distance, not knowing.

There must have been thousands of kisses, thousands of kisses on film as he set it up. I reach back into corridors of memory to a forgotten style, a forgotten touch, a forgotten start that had seemed gentle. Not the battering ram he became.

Roses mean true love.

That’s what we were taught.

Poets compared us to them all the time.

His roses would become my downfall.

The petals became my tears.

It was months before we went to bed together, in a cheap squalid little hotel in the middle of Los Angeles called “TheBack Motel” and I remember the large purple dahlia I saw growing by the door to the room. He must have been thrilled at what he had done. He had gotten the girl.

By then I knew he was married and miserable, at least that’s how he framed it. I had already been in love once, and it hadn’t lasted. He was my second.

I would never fall so hard again in my life.

My heart hardened into a steel door.

I ran away from the city of Lost Angels, where everyone dies a slow death under the sun which weeps, daily. Friends brought me home into the clean light by the sea. My old friend Jim, who in High School had given me a rose once. Long stemmed, a red bud. He and his friend Mark packed me up one day, after I cried to him that I needed to end it, that I need to come home.

“My mom rents out rooms,” he said. “You can go to UCSB.”

I thought that would solve things, and it would be childhood’s exit. It’s just that I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

I was in love.

I was in love and I was leaving that love. Behind.

Jim didn’t get to have his father either. None of us did. They pulled massive acts of disappearance, they slipped away unnoticed into the night. All the marriages shattered themselves into tight shards of bitter glass in our childhoods. We became the fatherless kind, and our mothers hated men.

I hope that doesn’t happen to you.

Dad was probably screwing young actresses my age. The ones from Blue Movies he was making a fortune off of. It’s so hard to even talk about it I want to turn the page.

I missed everything after age thirteen. I missed being able to have Father’s Day. I missed Dad getting me a first corsage. Mother decided I should never see him again. It was worse for my little brother. It was worse for my best friend. It was worse for Jim, who was still a baby, wanting to marry me. At that time I thought men my age were babies. We were all just babies learning to navigate as adults.

Never give the flower of True Love to a woman you don’t intend to love.

Never give a rose to a woman if you don’t mean it.

If you don’t mean it, you will break her heart. If you break her heart into a thousand pieces she will never be able to love again. Neither will you.

In August of 1981, I came home to the little town by the sea where I grew up. I got a job at the biggest place in town, a place filled to the brim with Newspaperpeople. Maybe some of them saved my life. At least I had a job. I was like my mother that way. I wasn’t going to have to depend upon a man to leave me crumbs. Maybe that is who all of us were, then. The women of the Second Wave. We knew that we would be going to work, and we knew that we were going to go to school, and we knew we wanted marriage and a family. It’s just that, none of us knew how hard all of that was going to be.

I can tell you I was in love with the man who brought me roses and photographed me endlessly. Maybe he saw me like a model, or maybe he was just documenting his life as an artist. Maybe he saw me like a Muse in a time that he hated his wife, or was bored with his wife, and he needed something clean and fresh like petals in a many petalled heart. Maybe I was a fantasy he knew he could never actually have. Maybe I was somebody he just wanted to fuck. He used to tell me I was Tina Modotti to his Edward Weston, a thousand frames an hour, as he spun around me with that camera, snapping. Maybe I was his jump and leap like a fish out of water from some small Indiana town who had made it out to Los Angeles after Vietnam, barely intact, out of the Haight where on some kind of Military scholarship he got to get an MFA. At the San Francisco Institute of the Arts. Little did he know, I had intended Cal Art for myself, at fourteen. I thought I wanted that then.

Maybe I was just another Cinderella, in his long line of those.

I was the girl who lived on Red Rose Way, once upon a time.

I was the reddest bloom he would ever pluck.

I was the girl who took all his cheap tinfoil wrapped roses stolen one by one, from is own married garden, and those petals were my tears.

Copyright November 2021, Adrienne Wilson all rights reserved

~

*author note – I always write to music and so the pieces I chose, today were these

Girls on Film, Once in a Lifetime, Pictures of You, What I Like About You – those were all songs on the radio 1980’s. – where the novel starts. It covers 20 years of working at a newspaper. I was at UCSB when I started working for one. WC = 1855 but I pasted the music links into my Bean Version. So – over 1667 forst day and it feels fantastic. Been awhile since I have had the Muse hit. ❤