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The Legacy of Loss

February 21, 2020

The night air is cool, but the feeling on the patio is warm, cozy even. Gathered together in grief we are all, at once, comfortable and at ease. Twenty years may have passed since some of us have seen each other, but it doesn’t matter. Time, distance, and age are not obvious tonight. We are, as we have been hundreds of times before in years past, hanging out, teasing each other, laughing and telling stories. The only difference is, we are missing one of our number.

From the moment that Julia went missing the call to come together was both unspoken and resoundingly loud. It didn’t matter that we’d drifted apart as adults or that the years had changed us and we didn’t recognize each other at first sight. We rallied and marshaled our resources to do what we could, even if it didn’t get us what we wanted in the end, we were unfailing in our resolve. We felt Julia needed this from us, and we knew we needed this from us. This is how it is when you grow up in a small town. Even one that is world-famous and no longer resembles the outpost of our youth.  You come home and together however you can.

When the worst of all possible endings befell Julia, we reached first and foremost for each other. Knowing that we wouldn’t have to explain the anger, the loss, and the sorrow. We just knew we’d each get it. Explaining it to others would be harder because they didn’t know Julia, and they didn’t know us. They couldn’t fully understand. They would have questions that muddied our reality. The how and why of Julia’s disappearance and death are now just details in a sad story. It’s not who she was. Not to us. For us, it is the Julia we knew and what we do with the loss and her legacy that matters.

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We were friends before we understood that adulthood brings pretense. We knew and loved each other when we had greasy hair, acne, braces, gangly limbs and all the embarrassing awkwardness of puberty. Many of us didn’t realize until Julia disappeared, that this bond and these relationships, were something we’d been desperately missing. It is her inadvertent final gift to each of us. She has given us back our most formative friendships. It is our obligation to carry them forward as a tribute.

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Where The Fuck Is Julia?

February 17, 2020

A morning like any other. Having my coffee and scrolling through Facebook. A mindless daily activity. Until a post appears and there is a moment where reality fractures for a second and my brain cannot process what it is seeing. A chasm between certainty and disbelief.  A brief moment of dizziness followed by nausea, then dread. The face staring back at me from a missing person’s flyer is familiar. But how can that be?

This is the kind of thing that happens to other people. To strangers. Where I can feel sympathetic at a safe remove from my own reality. That’s how life is supposed to work. Right?

Apparently not.

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Julia’s been missing for 8 days and we’re no closer to knowing where she is or what happened than we were when she first disappeared. She has, as they say, vanished without a trace. Where the fuck is she?  That question keeps rattling around my brain. It is the same question that her friends and, I presume, her family keep asking each other.

Yesterday, wandering around the street where she lives, 6 of her childhood friends gathered. We wanted to help. To search. To solve the mystery and bring her home. Of course, we weren’t up for the task. The hills were filled with highly trained search and rescue experts with dogs and the skies were filled with helicopters and drones. We, clad in good intentions and workout clothes better suited to yoga than rappelling down cliffs, turned our search for Julia into a quest to try and put ourselves in the mind of the woman we know, and the girl we grew up with.  And to try and answer for ourselves the question of where the fuck is she?

Each of us has different relationships with Julia, going back nearly 50 years.  We each played roles in her life, and she in ours, at different phases of our lives. For me, she was my closest confidant in my early 20s. The years when the struggle for identity and figuring out what the future held for us were paramount.  The girl I remember was unfailingly kind in the way that reminds you that you are not her equal in this regard. As an artist, her dreams and visions poured out of her into anything she could get her hands or paintbrushes on. She painted the back of my denim jacket with a school of colourful fish. The jacket is long gone now, but over the years, every time I have donned a denim jacket I have seen a split-second flash in my mind’s eye of the one she created for me.

As so often happens, life, geography and years have intervened and the relationship I once treasured has become a fond memory. We live within 30 minutes of each other, but it might as well have been an entire country for the amount of time we spend together as adults. If I didn’t already regret the distance that has existed between my childhood friends and myself, this week has cemented it. Yesterday the six women gathered to find a trace of a treasured friend swore we would not let the years divide us anymore. Wherever the fuck Julia is she has brought us all together.

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Julia is 5′ 7″ with blonde hair and blue eyes. She has the most enchanting and quizzical smile. It’s like when she looks at you she’s letting you know that the universe has made her privy to all your secrets, but she’s not going to mention them. Just know she knows.  If you see her, tell her to come home.

Celebrating MLK Day the Hallmark Way

January 21, 2019

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Let’s be clear. I love me some Dr. King. I wish we did a lot more than pay lip service to him once a year. I wish we lived and breathed his words and deeds. I wish he’d rise from the dead and smack that MAGA hat off Kanye West’s head. We’d be a much better country and people if he’d been allowed to live or if we had the courage of his convictions.

There are a lot of ways you can honor Dr. King’s memory. Chief among them is to get on the Twitters, Facebooks and Instagrams and post his photo and/or a quote to show you are woke. If you lean to the right, be sure to include a comment about how he was a Republican and would totally want a border wall.

If like me, your company considers this a paid holiday or you’re a furloughed federal employee, you can opt to stay in your PJs and hunker down on the couch and watch Hallmark’s Winterfest Movie Countdown! Nothing says “day of service to humanity” like binge-watching romance movies.

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I’m pretty sure I just heard my woke friends groan. Certainly, there are better ways to spend the holiday. Well sure. Except all the national parks and monuments that honor MLK are closed thanks to Donny’s shutdown. There are no branded MLK Day Holiday sales where I can show how patriotic I am by buying a mattress or a car in his memory. Hell, there’s not even a Hallmark card to honor his legacy.
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I’m pretty sure the groaning I hear is not only because I choose to do something so riddled with middle-class white privilege with my day off, but also because, well, Hallmark Channel. Yes, I should be ashamed of myself for any number of reasons, but watching this kind of television is the least among them. The Hallmark Channel is one of my favorites because it is white noise in its purest form. Everything is perfectly formulaic. I don’t have to care about any of the characters or the plot. I can walk in and out of the movie at any time without having to pause my DVR because I know what is going to happen and I won’t be lost if I wander in mid-movie. Better than a cheap carnival clairvoyant I can predict the future from the opening credits. Even the Poor Bastard has learned the formula. (Okay, yeah. I should be ashamed of having broken his spirit in this way.)

And they are so true to life. We all know that real relationships are built on a solid foundation of truths shared over copious amounts of hot chocolate, not drunken bourbon-fueled confessions. Sadness and regret can be wiped away in a single chaste kiss. Financial worries can be solved or an entire town can be saved with a simple whimsical poorly executed business idea. Every woman owns at least one ball gown perfect for that special gala event she’s hosting with less than a week to prepare.

And the best news of all…there are so many unmarried princes running around Europe looking for American brides in the throngs of tourists in their kingdoms. I always thought that there were 7 monarchies in Europe, but apparently, there were 11 others like Landora, Calpernia, Monstsauri, St. Ives, and Voldavia where everyone has egregiously fake posh English accents and queens are notoriously uptight snobs. Of course, they can easily be won over by showing her that you don’t have a Cinderella Complex, you’re an independent woman who just wants to love her son and help the poor disenfranchised children of her kingdom.

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Every girl dreams of marrying her prince, you’re lying if you say otherwise. I had my eye on Prince Edward of England back in the day. And, as Meghan Markle has proved, it’s still viable to believe that, even for an American commoner, someday your prince may actually show up. In these bleak days of Trumpian America, we all want a dashing foreign prince to come save us. Or even rule us.

So, judge me. Question my taste, my commitment to ending racism in this country, my life choices. Sure, I could spend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in service of others, but that would mean showering. And besides, I’ve got an Amazon Prime shipment coming for which I have to sign. Priorities people. Cheezits.

 

Existential First World Problems Of A Worried Girl

November 10, 2018

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Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Me? I’m Facebooking. It’s the middle of the night and television news is sparse. So it’s time for rampant speculation and misinformation. Because it is comforting. I’m culling through threads in my junior high school Facebook group. Looking at photos and clicking links to fire maps. The whole day has been spent with the local news playing in the background. The Poor Bastard and I drank wine while watching the local news team stand around burning structures speculating on where the fire will go next. It’s exhausting, compelling, and I need more Advil and Pepcid.

I’m safe. All the people I know are safe. Their animals are safe. They are in evacuation centers, the homes of friends and family, or in the case of my mother, ensconced in a Motel 6 near the airport. The important stuff, survival, is taken care of. It’s the other questions that remain unanswered. “Is my house still standing?” “Did my business survive?” “Fuck. I think I left without my favorite sweater. I hope it survives.”

The information coming out of my hometown is sparse. We’re taking to social media for clues. We’re reading Twitter feeds and following conversation threads on Facebook. Asking each other for updates. “Hey, anyone know if my parent’s place is still there?” Information is coming in fast, furious, and conflicted. “I heard the whole neighborhood is gone!” “Nah, you’re okay. It totally skipped that part of town, but remember the old Smith place? That’s rubble.” “Check the fire department’s Twitter.” “Anyone know what area is being evacuated now?” “Has anyone seen my parents? Cell service is shit and I can’t get a hold of them.”

We’re all using references for places that aren’t modernly relevant to help identify locations. It’s been 20 years since the Smith’s lived anywhere near that house, but calling it “the old Smith place” gives us a universal geographic landmark to work with. We don’t remember street addresses, just who lived where. That’s how you do geography as kids. That’s how you pull it up in the catalog of memory. We’re referencing the old names for businesses that have long changed hands. We’re calling the high school by its former name. We’re struggling to hold on to an identity for a town that has changed over the years and now will never be the same.

For many of us it’s been years since we lived there. Years even since we’ve last visited. But we’re all tense and grieving. We’re grieving not just for the loss of property. Not just for the displacement of people we know and love, or the displacement of total strangers. We’re grieving for the loss of our personal histories. Total first world problems to be sure. Greater crises have befallen man over the eons. But right now, this is the thing we’re focused on.

My hometown is an enclave for the wealthy, for movie stars and normal people. The storybook land of Hollywood and California dreams. Many people have their own mental and emotional stakes in what happens to this small coastal town, even if they’ve never set foot in it. People from all over the world are reaching out and asking about my home. They are, of course, worried about me and my family. But they are also experiencing their own sense of loss. This town is the place of legend and fable, and in some ways belongs to them as well.

For me, I’m waiting on news, not only to whether or not several of my family members have homes, cars, or favorite sweaters to return to. But also, to find out if the last vestiges of my childhood are still standing. The places that formed my sense of place – my notion of “home” have been slowly disappearing. The structures I have called home over the years have all been sold and re-developed into tract home developments or McMansions. Making it harder to identify my memories. When I drive by I’m often puzzled. It takes a minute to situate myself and grab on to the threads of memory. “There used to be a garden there where I played.” “Remember the dilapidated shack where we used to solve mysteries?” “That, over there, that’s where I lost my virginity.”

Those changes and losses were for the sake of “progress” and the inevitable change of times. Homes get sold. People move on. It’s LA, we tear shit down for the fuck of it. Tonight is different. This is not progress. It’s wholesale destruction. Not just of property, but of memory and identity. The fate of what we’ve always known, the familiar, the comforting, is at the mercy of the wind.

We’re all safe, sure. And that’s what’s important. We’re just unmoored.

I Offend; Therefore I am

October 27, 2017

Every so often I am reminded that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. That I am an acquired taste. That I offend. You’ll not be surprised to know that the number of fucks I give about this is nil. Zero. Zilch. None.

I am not here to tell you what you want to hear. I am not here to provide you with a safe space because you’re too precious to hear what I have to say, or how I say it. I am too old to be told that my behaviour or language is not ladylike. I’m over 50 and no longer have to answer to my great-grandmother’s Victorian rules of etiquette, or my cotillion teacher’s rules for the deportment of young ladies. I don’t cross my legs at the ankles, I don’t keep my opinions to myself, and I don’t curb my tongue.

I am outspoken and brash. I will respond to most situations, even the bleakest, with snark. I use profanity. Effusively. I like the word “fuck” very much. I will use it when, where, and how I want. I will say it in front of your children and will not put money in the swear jar. Frankly you should tip me for teaching your offspring proper English in an era where they are learning to use emojis instead of words, and that it’s rude to complete a sentence in a text with a period. Fuck that.

I give the finger. I give it for all kinds of reasons and for no reason at all. If you want to take my photo you’re agreeing to me flipping you off as it is rare that I will pose for one where I’m not. Not even my own wedding photos.

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I don’t know “my place” and I won’t be put in it by anyone. I’m a grown ass adult with a lifetime of experiences, ideas and opinions. I will not change to make you feel better. The issues you may have with me are yours, not mine, and you will need to find a way to come to terms with them. So, if I’m not your cup of tea, don’t drink me.

Slow Your Roll

February 20, 2017

Bitch, please. If y’all are gonna survive you need to slow your roll.

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Sweet Mother of Cheezits, anyone else exhausted yet? Cabinet nominations, travel bans, Russian spies, imaginary terrorist attacks ,and campaign rallies… CAMPAIGN RALLIES? We’re one month in and I’ve already blown my annual bourbon budget. People, please, slow your roll.

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Since day one of what may well be the Last American Presidency both sides of the aisle have been on the offensive. The left has been taking offense to everything. The right has been demanding supplication, and the media has been trying to keep it all straight in the face of accusations of being “fake news.”  It’s fucking exhausting to be everyone.

Basic fact is that no matter what side of the chasm you’re on, you’re not gonna make it through the first 4 years of the rest of America’s life, if you don’t slow your roll. This isn’t high school kids, you can’t get off and go again, better than…

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#imwithbitch

February 7, 2017

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