Long Ago and Far Away, Or Not So Long Ago Nor So Far Away

12 Feb

palm treesOn my first morning  in Beverly Hills, Natasha made me espresso–which I don’t drink, but as Nick Carraway says, heading into Manhattan with Gatsby: “anything can happen here.” I hoped this would be one of many outrageous steps into a new life.  Begin with espresso and soon I’ll be tan, wearing stilettos and slinky dresses, discussing offers for screenplays in the Hills, partying with  Leonardo downtown,  cutting a record deal on an agent’s deck in Santa Monica, driving a Maserati, screening messages from Angelina, and calling Jon Hamm to make  plans for his birthday (March 10).

Soon. First things first: sitting on the steps of our white brick, Depression Era apartment, Natasha and I considered the unlikelihood of our being on these steps, in this place, at this age.  Suddenly we realized that we had Tim to thank. Long story, but suffice to say, we’d both kissed Tim (at different times), and those kisses kinda changed the course of our lives. . .in one way for Natasha–who got involved with Tim, and in another way for me, who never saw him again.  (Sometimes men kiss and tell. Sometimes they kiss and come back for more.  Other times, they kiss and call your friend.)

Nod to Tim, and just for good measure the two other guys we had both kissed–again, I assure you: on*separate* occasions. AND SO LONG AGO. Perhaps Jeff and Joe are now on front steps somewhere thinking about who they’ve kissed in common. Or, perhaps not.

And then I was writing down things I needed to do on Day Number One: get light bulbs, a map, order a mattress, buy food staples,  acquire an overnight parking ticket, contact the people on my list of people to contact, set up the printer, start writing, and find clean underwear.  I accomplished none of that the first day, Dear Reader.  This is what I did:  buy smaller jeans (I’m not smaller myself, but hoping–and noting that clothes smaller than your body here is the going rate,) purchase a bubble-maker, and call my babysitter.

I went to the hardware store for sensible things and came out with a bubble maker. It’s La La land, it’s Arcadia, it’s an amusement park, it’s heaven and hell, it’s adults acting like kids acting like adults. I’m not an adult, but could play one on T.V. After this purchase, I called my babysitter.

Yes, the brilliant and beautiful teenaged Penelope who, lo those many years ago lived across the street and babysat me, is now a professor of French at small, prestigious school near L.A.  Penny drove right over with a huge bouquet of pink flowers from her yard. And after we stopped peeing in our pants with happiness in the street, we meandered over to the Beverly Hills Farmer’s market, where we bought black bean tempeh, and avocados for 75 cents, blood oranges, 4 for a dollar. The beauty selling the tempeh  was at least six feet tall with a strong resemblance to young Muriel Hemingway but less weird looking.
“Where do you model?” I asked as if I were really, profoundly in the know. She smiled kindly at me, though this was a question she’d been asked every day since she was sixteen. Then she explained she’d modeled for two years but “got tired being in a room with a bunch of other girls who looked just like me and hating them.”

We bought seaweed in a plastic bag, telling her we were sure none of the other girls were as beautiful as her.  Plus they couldn’t sell tempeh and seaweed the way she did. This is so refreshing, I thought–at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market the vendors, generally speaking, are not models who resemble Muriel Hemingway. But more refreshing was this:  at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, right about now I’d be worried about running into an ex, or quite likely, most or all of them.  (Not that I dislike them or would find it awkward, but my romantic history in Ithaca–twenty one years  with two marriages and  two long  stretches of dating–is not always what I feel like addressing at ten in the morning on a Sunday. Made that bed, now buy your vegetables in it.)

Back to my brand new apartment, Penelope and I. As we turned the corner, there was Natasha and Markus. The sun blazed on our four heads, and we gasped as it dawned on us:  we four–normal-appearing adults with (except for me) real lives– grew up in the same town, went to the same high school, had my mother for English, shopped at Eisner’s, and undoubtedly Penny and Markus had kissed some of the same people, or perhaps each other, but that didn’t come up. What did come up, as we talked about the fact that Penny and Natasha and I all lived on the very same street (Penny and Natasha hadn’t known each other though they met at my mother’s funeral), was that Markus had two decades after we’d all graduated, dated a woman who lived at 208 West Pennsylvania, where I grew up.

“You had sex in my house?!” This is not what I came to L.A. for–to find out that Urbana High School classmates had, years later, been doing it in my ancestral home. Markus insisted the act occurred elsewhere. I deferred to his authority. A great moment, the four of us, all hailing from the soybean fields of central Illinois standing on a corner in Beverly Hills. Where ever you go, there you are. We did not weep, but did make an attempt at a group hug, which is SO not L.A.

Exes. The fact IS . . . I did see an ex in my first week in L.A. Where ever you go…there he is!  But it’s not like we ran into each other at the farmer’s market. We  talked on the phone first, then drove together to Venice Beach–which, is  so far one of my favorite places here. Medical marijuana booths, people setting off fireworks, kids playing guitar and drums, and an old woman playing a piano with a cat on top until it jumped on the keys and the old woman turned out to be an old man, young folks on skateboards in pirate costumes and short shorts with ripped fishnets–a good look on more guys than you’d think. There’s only one guy in Ithaca with that look;  he  always stood out in the  sea of down coats, Wrangler jeans, socks in Birkenstocks. (In Ithaca the best dressed men are the cops.  They trim their hair and shave and even iron their clothes. It’s a weird finding policemen attractive in a town where we all hate authority. Sleeping with the enemy? I wish.) Anyway, nice to see the ex; we talked about who, way back when, spurned whom. Couldn’t decide, and then he drove me home. Or was he spurning me again?

Later that day I was traipsing through Rodeo Drive, gaping at the Fuck Me/Don’t Talk To Me sartorial ethos: skirts like little do rags, boots over the knee with 7- inch heels. The pony-tail-on-top-of-head-girls  walk without looking up–texting on the phone and stroking a dog in the purse, or is it  texting the dog and stroking the phone? Just as God rules the Mojave, little dogs named Bianca, Dagwood, and Francisco  rule Beverly Hills.  This is in contrast to the Ithaca dog park where everyone is all bundled up, and cell phones are frowned upon, and the dogs  are named Star Goddess, Moon Love, and Druid Peace.

Cultural and social juxtapositions  make one think about what feels right, or not, what’s familiar, what’s strange.  And: what’s strange and familiar and right and not.  All of it, I’ll take all of it. I’m running away from and embracing my history. And trying to figure out what, if anything, it adds up to.

So the whole Who Am I Conundrum continues, Dear Reader.  Thank God you are reading. And thank God my babysitter is here. And Natasha and Markus and the ex. Still wondering who spurned whom, if Markus had sex in my house,  if Jeff and Joe ever think about the blonde and the brunette who were such good friends.

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7 Responses to “Long Ago and Far Away, Or Not So Long Ago Nor So Far Away”

  1. nic February 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    What an entertaining and funny tell all, written smoothly like thick vanilla frosting. Can’t wait to read it all over again!

    Like

  2. Mary Holland February 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    you and your babysitter–SO A. M. Homes. And I must admit, I’m relieved it’s now your turn to have your life go a little like a Homes novel, not mine! I think I took three or four turns by now anyway.

    Like

  3. nic February 13, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    I read it again! It’s even better the second time. Here’s to the blonde and the brunette…and the cops in Ithaca.

    Like

  4. Robin Botie February 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Okay, I’m packing my bags, gotta go on a road trip to reconnect with my own past. It sounds so – so – invigorating. And no one throwing a wet blanket over your party telling you to take out the garbage or be home by midnight. Keep going. More.

    Like

    • kwasson2012 February 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      Ok, you GO, Robin! I feel like a teenager. (A creaky one.)

      Like

  5. maw14747 February 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Moral of the story: what comes around, goes around. Sometimes more than once.
    We all need babysitters and, if at first you don’t succeed, pet your phone and text your dog.

    LOVE your style, girl, and your love of the preposterous.

    Like

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