memoir newspaperpeople day 11 nanowrimo 2021

Mr. Lincoln by Adrienne Wilson

Newspaperpeople

  1. Pavlova

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.

It’s 1987.

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.

They might.

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

MEMOIR #NewspaperPEOPLE DAY 8 #NaNoWriMo 2021

Newspaperpeople

  1. Roads

If only I could have predicted the road ahead. In my generation, we fell in and out of so many arms. In 1982, that became dangerous. There was a disease. Suddenly it appeared on the scene. Out of nowhere it came, and I was worried for Stevie B.

To wipe him out of me, there would need to be others.

Dennis Dunn told me to say one sentence. It was, “I can never see you again.”

I said that over the phone. It was going to be the last time I ever said a sentence to him.
By that time the grey box of photographs weighed a ton. I would sit on my Murphy bed and look at them sometimes. It was hard not to. My friend Bob at work started to scavenge a darkroom for me. He was finding all the parts for it, all over town, because we had Brooks Institute here in town. He found me a Leica, too. M2.

I said the sentence into the phone.

He didn’t listen.

Hardly anyone listens to girls.

He didn’t listen. Instead, one day when I came home from school he had scaled the balcony of my apartment on Fig, and broken in.

I got home from school and he was sitting in my apartment.

Imagine that.

A girl who he was causing to think about driving into a cement pier on the side of the freeway every single day, and he did not give one fuck.

“I hate to think of you sitting up there all alone waiting for me, “ he said.

“Dennis told me I could not see you ever again.”

He didn’t care. He just pushed me down on that Murphy bed.

Then he zipped up and drove home.

Imagine a girl, crumpled into a ball weeping, after what he had done.

You might have to survive all kinds of things in your twenties, just to stay alive, and I want you to be as strong as me. If you need a therapist you can find one. You are going to stay alive no matter what. Dennis Dunn kept me alive. Once a week I went to see him. Maybe for six months. Little did I know, that the next time I saw Dennis, I would be telling him I was going to get married.

“That’s a good idea, “ he said.

I never met a bigger angel than Dennis Dunn.

Hacker was the first I invited to my apartment to spend the night. I broke the spell with him, and I don’t know if I ever told him that. We were only brief together, arms around each other, two artists. He would come over now and again, and we would sleep together. That foam pad made me feel sorry for him. You might feel sorry for some of them, in your life too. So when that 19 year old asked me for help? I was 22. Sure, I said. One night stands had pretty much been the rule in those years according to men. I was already quite experienced in the years past 19, so now that I think of it, I had in in love twice. I decided to be just like men, with their kind of freedoms. Why not?

In that era we all did.

The fact that her wrote me a love poem after that one night?

That’s what mattered.

Because he was sleeping with a poet, that night.

He brought that poem to me at work, at my desk, to say thank you.

Then he was off to medical school. I never saw him again.

Hacker and I palled around a little, like friends. My friends came over, for my vats of things. I was a girl who had her own apartment, just like an adult.

Suddenly one of the works of Hacker’s was up on my wall, next to those framed photographs of the two of us, the photographer had given me.

Hacker made it easier not to think of driving into a cement wall, because I had been so much in love with a total liar.

Imagine a guy running out of a restaurant to ask a girl for a date, and he was the dishwasher at The Paradise.

I was just walking down the street, across the street from the paper.

“You have to be my date,” he said.

He had to be two inches from me, face to face on Anacapa.

People here didn’t really go out clubbing like I had done with all my friends.

There was only one dance place, really.

Because I had my job at the newspaper, I could feed all my friends. The boys I knew then were always hungry. Most of them still lived at home.

Jim and Stevie B. were the two most fun people I knew, because Jim would drive Stevie up. He was Bisexual, and he was one of the handsomest men I would ever meet in life. Ever. So, we were just friends then. Did we ever go out on the town when Stevie was up. We went everywhere together, the three of us. Girls like me did not go out alone. We went on dates, and the guys were either lovers or chaperones. A girl alone in a bar? This was not done.

Stevie was from Pasadena, and so was I.

He was a charmer.

They were gentlemen.

The place where Hacker lived was by the best Theatre in town, for stage plays. Lots of artists lived in the little wooden places there. It was a hotbed for them. Men can get by with less than women need, in many ways. But for them, there was always going to be another woman around, if they needed a bed for the night, for instance.

I was a girl who had her own apartment.

I was a girl who had a job.

Judy worked for one of the meanest men in the Composing Room. He was the nightside boss in Ad Alley and his name was Bill. To say that being the proofreader was one of the hardest jobs in the whole building? It was, because you would not even believe what we had to read, nightly. Not only that, but everything had to be correct. Ever single letter. Every single punctuation mark, every single line of type.

I was that girl.

The only harder job, was going to be the Floor.
Judy had the hardest job in Ad Alley, under the meanest boss I ever saw. To say that men gave us a hard time in the early 80’s at work? Is only the beginning.

They had been hardened, working there, because in those days every single town had a newspaper. They had seen it all, the murders, the deaths, the obits, the all in all of a town. Advertising was how the paper was able to print itself.

So there were two parts to the paper.

Editorial & Advertising.

Bill didn’t like me. His eyes were cold and mean.

Sharon didn’t like me. Her eyes were hardened slits.

Maybe it because of the way I dressed, then.

Maybe I worked in the meanest part of the building.

Maybe everyone seemed mean because nothing could go wrong.

Not one letter could be off.

Nothing could be wrong.

And all of us cared.

You think the Reporters had it easy? No.

People like Gil the Gardener, had it easy. The columns he wrote were fun and full of metaphor.

Judy did Mark-Up, and mark up was the hardest job in the world. It was kind of like math, in the Cold Type days.

I made a mistake.

It was the worst mistake anyone could ever make at the paper, and it was humiliating.

It was for a Jewelry store in town, maybe at Christmas, that year. They were having a sale, and somehow, somehow, somehow, the typists had typed the whole thing twice, and I had proofread the whole thing twice and it had been pasted up twice as two columns, and it was the SAME two columns, twice and when it came back to my desk, I read the material twice. The only problem was? It was only supposed to be one column. I had read the identical material twice, when. I was the one who was supposed to catch that kind of thing. I read for both Editorial and Advertising at night, in those four hours.

The ad ran in the paper.

I’ll never forget the day Gabe called me into the office, and Bill was sitting in there.

Bill was glaring at me.

Gabe handed me the paper.

Bill said, “Look at this mistake.”

It was my fault.

Not only was a man terrifying me at my apartment, but now a man was terrifying me at work. I was going to be spending the next 20 years of my life, with bosses who terrified me.

I hope you never get a job like that.

I hope you never get a job where some men can make you feel really small, like I felt that day. Not from Gabe, who was my boss, but from Bill.

After that, he rode me.

Every single night.

I was so scared to proofread after that, as I returned to my desk, that I knew I was never going to let Gabe down again.

I felt like it was all my fault, but it wasn’t. The typists hadn’t noticed they had typed the ad twice, the paste-up person in Ad Alley hadn’t noticed he had pasted up the whole thing, twice, and by the time it got to me? Well, it was in something like 3 point, Times Roman, maybe.
Seeing the printed piece?

That I had not caught it?

I would never make a mistake like that ever again.

This was going to be even more important when I got to the Floor.

Can you even imagine how the Publisher felt?

Getting that call from the Advertiser?

Can you imagine how Gabe felt?

I had let Gabe down. I thought I was going to be fired.

I wasn’t.

It was part of the great learning curve that is life.

All of life is a series of roads you will take. But nobody knows where those might lead at 22.

Judy’s job was one of the hardest in the Composing Room, and she was in a man’s world, just like I was. Most of the women? They were just typists. It didn’t matter. We all had jobs. We had all gone to work.

Now that I think of it?

So was mine.

That was a full page ad.

I will never know how Gabe must have been raked over the coals after it ran.

Then it went down the chain of command, one by one, until it got to the girl who had made the mistake.

I never made a mistake like that again.
It was the road to be a Journeyman Printer.

At that time, I didn’t know I would be taking that road.

It was the road of honor, and of duty.

From the littlest paperboy right on up to the top of the Tower, where the Publisher sat.

Memoir Newspaperpeople by Adrienne Wilson copyright November 8th, 2021, all rights reserved #NaNoWriMo2021

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 #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 DAY THREE #NaNoWriMo 2021

Gulls, Harbor by Adrienne Wilson

Newspaperpeople

  1. Cockroaches (cont.)

He only wanted one thing. To come up here and fuck me. So, that is what Jim wanted too, and thing is, that is how it was in the late 70’s and 80’s. An entire group of people in my generation got shortchanged on love. I think we all started as the most Romantic generation that ever lived. We were. You have to watch out for your heart, because believe me, you will fall in love.

Not having a father to guide me, or my best friend, or my friend Jim – this happened to millions of us, in the years our parents split up. For girls like that? You have no idea what is going to come next.

That was probably what made me into a man. I had to be as strong as one of them. I decided to act just like they did, which is the total opposite of being a Cinderella. For one thing? I was going to earn my own way, and I had a job. Although, on my job, I would find out later that some women used sex to get ahead. With their clothing. The thing is, I read Vogue, just like my mother did, by the time I was 22.

My clothes became my armor.

Our mothers were on The Pill, starting in the 1960’s.

We had options for birth control, because doctors prescribed them. You could have an IUD, The Pill, or you could choose a Diaphragm. That is what I chose. Student Health taught me that. Because before Student Health, I depended on men to know everything about sex. I also knew they could wear rubbers. I had only been with two men at 21.

“Take that thing out,” he said. “I don’t like the way it feels.”

“I don’t want to wear this thing,” he said. “I can’t feel you.”

If you knew how much I hate him as I write these words, you would not imagine me capable of that much hate. Nobody that knows me, anyway.

I’m not going to hate myself, or the millions of other women who knew a guy like this, because there are millions of guys like that. But not all guys are like that. We are capable of falling in love so hard when we do? That we listen to everything he says, and we do what he says, and so I do not want you to be a really dumb 22 year old. Because there are going to be lots of chances for you to fall in love with the kind of guy that really will love you. He’s out there.

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

Looking around at the cockroach filled apartment and my cat Alladin, trying to get to his can, with them streaming from the walls as they did? As I drove downtown yesterday to vote, I was on the street where that place is. Right downtown. Still there.

Thus began the period, when he drove up.

He had no intention of giving me up. None.

His camera was like a gun, a barrage of bullets every time he turned it on me.

“I just want to be with you,” he said.

He had a can of cockroach spray in his hands, when he arrived. I don’t care where we sleep, he said. I just want to be with you, be with you be with you be with you just throw down a pile of coats and we can do it. He was 36 to my 22. He was married, and he was the biggest liar I have ever had to live through. Ever, Ever. Ever. Ever.

He threw a bunch of coats down on the floor.

He started up with that kiss he had, and suddenly, I was back in his arms all over again.

But it was Henry who would save me. My boss at work. He was slight, and Hispanic, and he moved through the office with a dancer’s grace and power. Of course, at work, we weren’t exactly discussing our relationships at that time. Just a pool of office girls, working, sorting through piles and piles of paperwork, Pink pages like pink ruffles, pink pages like pink tears. We were in a man’s world and we knew it. Navigating those shoals? This will take you a lifetime of experience.

Henry was so kind to me. Because he was something like head of all the advertising billing, and the people who owned that slum had a store on State Street, and I told him I had spent my last dime on the first and last and a deposit, that they weren’t going to refund, he simply made one phone call. “You’ll never advertise with us again,” he must have said. Something like that. He was like the dancers at Fiesta, the Flamenco dancers, when he moved. We saw them every year in the Plaza.

“What am I going to do Henry?”

“We’ll get your money back, “ he said. “You need to call Roommate Referrals up across from Danica House. They are in that big Craftsman and we run their ads.”

That money came back so fast my head spun. In fact it was delivered in the form of a cashier’s check to my desk at work.

Men can be really good guys. Henry was. That was the power of the place. Men with power had begun it, and men with power worked there, and in the beginning they were good men. They were some of the greatest men I have ever met in my whole life.

He had pushed me down onto the filthy floor of a place filled with cockroaches and called that “making love.”

I’m letting you know, because, I don’t want that to ever happen to you ever. Not ever.

Two hundred billion roses will not make up for what he did to me.

That is how I came to live on Red Rose Way in a beachy apartment with a girl who was older than me. Maybe she was 31. Together we could rent it. She was blonde and petite and she had just broken up with a guy in the harbor. She moved in with one suitcase, full of clothes that were like costumes. She was a legal secretary. Neither of us had beds.

In fact, neither of us had anything to furnish that place with. I had books, my books, and a blender, and a wooden spoon, and my record player so we had music. I got that at Creative Stereo. Morning Glory Music is where we all went to buy records. I bought a first measuring cup at Thrifty’s, and some towels for the bathroom. I had lots of clothes, though. I loved clothes. With my paycheck from the paper, I was able to pay the rent and fill the place with food. I could feed Alladin. When my first student aid came, in the form of a small grant and a largeish student loan, but not that large because, really at the end of UCSB, I was only about $10,000 in debt. Because of my job I could afford to eat in the UCEN which had really great food, and I was going to be walking under TM Storke’s massive bell tower, very soon.

My roommate was like this chameleon. All she did was go on dates with guys and she had a costume change for every single one of them. I was full of hope in those years, about what was going to lie ahead for me. UCSB is huge now, like a gigantic city. Back then it was huge as well, so giant that to get around people had to have bikes. Or run to get to class.

Once he said, “I want to go to class with you,” and he drove up and sat in the lecture hall, as if he were a student again. Like me.

It was going to be impossible to make the postcards stop. They came every single day to Red Rose Way, and for years I would not drive down that street here in town, because of what happened. What happened is one of the most painful secrets of my life. As you get older you realize that everyone has painful things happen to them. And this is what you will learn. Other people are your angels, because good always wins. It always does. Henry was one of those angels, for me.

In my earliest years at the paper I was surrounded by nothing but gentlemen, and all of them never trespassed any boundaries. They were kind, like Gabe, who would eventually be my boss. But first I had to face Mr. Plat and Mr. Sykes and tell them I was going to have to quit because it was Winter Quarter and I had to go to school. On the day I did that, they said, “We can’t lose you.” It was that simple. “I think we have the perfect position for you they said. “Night Switchboard Operator.”

“You’re going to be able to go to school, that way,” they said.

And that is how I went from being an adding machine style girl, to a telephone answering style girl, almost overnight, it seemed.

I was a girl who lived on Red Rose Way, and I sat in an iron cage, in a deserted lobby four hours a day.

I was a girl who was going to go to UCSB.

I couldn’t ask my mother or my father for help.

I couldn’t ask my grandparents.

I had to learn to stand on my own two feet.

I think the first thing I bought for the place was a can of paint at Standard Brands. It was sandy beige, and it was going to make that kitchen look like a beach. I bought some grass mats that looked beachy and covered over the flocked 60’s kitchen wallpaper by taking that up. Then I painted all those empty cabinets golden beige, just like the sand I loved down at Thousand Steps. I think I got a couple of pans at Thrifty too, or I went junking for some, at the Alpha. In the living room I had a pine mirror, my mother gave me, and a marble topped sewing machine base. I didn’t have much time to sew things anymore, not with school starting. My roommate never bought a thing for that apartment, isn’t that funny? Most of the time I was eating out just like my mother had brought me up in restaurants here in town, so lots of the food, was tossed.

I’ll never forget my roommate digging through the trash, for things, telling me, “This is still good.”

No it wasn’t.

We were white wine girls at 22.

I was Mouton Cadet.

copyright Adrienne Wilson, November 3, 2021 – all rights reserved

Newspaperpeople #Memoir #nanowrimo2021 Day Two

“Lightline” by Adrienne Wilson

Day 2 Nanowrimo Newspaperpeople

  1. Cockroaches

On the phone you cried to Jim, over and over about what a mistake you had made. He was a friend, leftover from what was the dawn of adulthood. He had rescued you once before, the night after your first relationship ended, and you had come home.

Pam lived with Carlos at his mother’s house down on Bath, she was in love so madly those years, with his Aztec everything. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other in that little living room and she had told you you could spend the night there. It never crossed your mind that that wouldn’t be possible, but after the double date, you looked over at Jim and he said, “I’ve got a place we can go.”

That night I took a chance.

We slept together, two 21 year olds, in an empty apartment where he had been crashing with Jeffy. Two party boys, on the cusp of growing up. The condo was totally empty, only a mattress on the floor. I can’t remember the bedding, just that there was sea of red carpet, and the two of us fell into each other’s arms that night. Students.

Jeffy bounced in – that morning after. He was a Montecito party boy, Jim’s best friend. So was Carlos.

“Hey you two,” he bounced. All the spiral curls he had. I pulled the sheets up over my head. I was the girl who was adult before my time. My first boyfriend was a grown man. Jim was safe. It was because of the second boyfriend that I called him again. We’d been talking ever since we both started college, he at UCSB, and I Santa Monica College. I was embarrassed that morning with Jeffy. I was the kind of girl who only liked one man at a time. I’m still that way.

Friends are people who stay friends across years falling in and out of touch. The next day, he taught me to drive a stick, in that glamorous green Triumph he drove, down in the parking lots by the harbor. When I think of that smiling blond face, even across years, I see us then, just starting off. Just kids, just two fatherless kids trying to navigate our futures.

“Let’s go out for breakfast,” he said.

“Get out of here,” he said to Jeffy.

Jim’s mother was a real estate agent, and her husband was gone. Her squat ranch on the Mesa had to house all her kids, four of them, and they were all leaving for their own lives. She rented out rooms to college kids, and Jim said, “You can live up here and go to UCSB, with me.”

I handed his mother a check for $300.

I was leaving Los Angeles, I was leaving all my teachers, I was leaving him. That man I was in love with. My married Art teacher. The one who handed the roses off to me, nearly daily. I was accepted into UCSB. I told my mother. And then I was going. I was leaving into the unknown future that awaited me back in the town where I grew up. I had friends there, like Jim and Pam and Carlos, and by then I knew Stevie B, and I knew it was going to be fun, and I was going to be a grown up at last. I was smart enough to know I had to leave that relationship.

I wasn’t prepared for what would happen next though.

“Mark and I will move you up. Start packing,” Jim said.

What did I actually have then?

Very little. I was living in my mother’s house.

Mark was Jim’s mechanic. He only worked on English cars, like Jim’s. The day I left Los Angeles for good, the day they were putting my very few adult-to-be girlboxes in the back of Mark’s Land Rover, I put my cat Alladin in the car in his little cage, on top of my clothes. I had him, my little rescue Persian, with the watery magnificent eyes. So, I had the most important thing. Something to love, who could love me back with his purrs, and moods. Perhaps I have always been a rescuer of sorts. Maybe that is what my life has been about. All I can tell you now is to be very careful if you plan to rescue people. The rescuer always becomes a victim. I guess I had to learn that the hard way, and I don’t want it to happen to you.

My Art teacher walked by us that day. He dropped a long stemmed red rose into one of the boxes, as he passed.

I saw the flash of his brown leather jacket go by, down Barrington. I ran after him to say goodbye.

“Is that the guy?” Jim said, frowning.

I had tears in my eyes. You are only going to actually fall in love a few times in life. I say this now, so you won’t make mistakes like I did. Years later I remember the day I told him I was leaving. He photographed me, my eyes full of tears, hands full of all his dried roses.

Then we were gone. Jim and Mark and I, heading north, only about 100 miles, but the safety I felt. I had escaped with the help of a chivalrous friend. I had left all of my friends, all of my teachers, and even my mother in the swirling eddy that is the city of Los Angeles. I had also left my job and I was about to get a new one. The first thing I did was apply for a job at the paper, I did that the very next morning. For my generation, jobs were our identities, and so was going to college.

I met Jim’s mother that night, in all her billowing Aussie caftan. She was large and harsh and in the middle of a hard part of her life as a single parent. Jim was her baby, the last of her children, daughters already married or moved on.

“You can use this shelf for your food,” she said. Her arms sweeping the air. “I know girls like you. Your hair is going to clog up all my plumbing.”

“I’ll try not to,” I said.

I went to my room, and I called my mother.

How many times will you need to call your mother? Millions.

I did.
That night, when Jim knocked at my door, I knew I had to go. He expected that he had a built in girlfriend, under his mother’s roof. We had already slept together once, hadn’t we? We had been telephone friends since that year of 21, only. Maybe, because for men it is different, when it comes to sex, he thought, well I saved her didn’t I?

But that isn’t how it goes for girls. We fall in love so hard, or at least I did, that when I was in love there is only that man. It would have been impossible that night. I was too sad. I don’t think I was ever that lonely for someone in my life. Because he was an artist and so was I. Modotti and Weston. Steiglitz and O’Keefe. By then, I had my own Nikon. I bought it myself.

I was so in love that all I could think about was him.

But I couldn’t call him.

That was one of the rules.

Never call his house.

He called me from pay phones in little booths all over Los Angeles.

This was going to get worse after I had my job, because I gave him my number there.

Four dozen long stemmed roses arrived at Jim’s mother’s house. She thought they were for her. The first of the postcards was attached.

“He thought of her.”

I decided to move that night.

I could not let Jim in.

I probably cried all night that night holding Alladin.

What had I done?

I was so in love with that man it is hard to write it even now.

Because we were artists.

The bond of love with someone is very hard to break. Very hard.

My best friend Pam was in love and living with Carlos at his mother’s. She intended it to last. Jim was single. He was in his sowing wild oats phase, so young just 22. I was in love with a married Art teacher and he was 100 miles south of me, and I looked up into the night stars, hunting for the moon in any slim curve she might take. The scent of Jim’s mothers Hawaiian Ginger wafted in from the garden behind her tract house by the sea. I held Alladin in my arms, tightly after getting off the phone, and I told Jim, “No.”

I had a job!

“Mom, I got a job, “ I said. My first week back home and I had a new job. In the biggest place in town. The most imposing place in town, and I was going to be walking under Storke Tower. I was going to start UCSB Winter Quarter 1981. I had transferred up, and I was going to one of the finest Universities in California.

I had the simplest job in mind, so I had applied for Cashier. In the lobby full of Walnut desks, the sea of faces who greeted me, smiling.

“You have too much experience to be only a cashier, “ said Mr. Plet.

“We want you in Classified Accounting.”

That’s how I met Rosie and Cathy and Toni, and all the other girls who had desks in offices in 1981, and maybe by then we had all been in love for the first time and all of us had jobs.

Rosie smiled at me and led me to my desk, which was huge and antique, in the way all the desks were. Imposing, as was the paper itself. I was taken on a tour to see all the different departments and I was a very small cog in a very large wheel that kept tabs on everything. I knew how to use an adding machine, from my job in Fashion. Rosie told me about the five girls who had had the job before and they had all walked out. I was determined not to fail them, so I sat down to a mountain of pink pages. The billing hadn’t been done for something like five months. It took me several weeks to catch it all up, working nine to five, and all of us had weekends off. I have never met so much kindness on the job as I met in all those people in the sea of faces at the newspaper. They saved my life, once. How can I ever thank them for those years, of Mr. Plet and Mr. Sykes and the way they helped a young college girl begin at UCSB? How can I ever thank what was once the throbbing heartbeat of a town?

*author note – copyright Adrienne Wilson November 22, 2021 all rights reserved

ps: thank you Matt of WP and Nanowrimo for making the two best places for writers ever.

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. ❤