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Silent Night, Holy Mulholland

3 Jan

Happy 2015!

holiday door

If you have given me the honor of being a regular reader, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a long time. I kept trying to do so, coming up with cute, funny, or ironic phrases and ideas about how I was feeling, and what I was doing. But it didn’t work; I kept going to bed early, sleeping late, cancelling fun activities with friends. A yearly occurrence: worsening depression.

Bow on sidewalk

One wouldn’t be able to see it necessarily; because I’ve experienced clinical depression for so many decades I know how to cover it. (Close friends see it, damn them.)

Me with tree on head My depression isn’t so serious that anyone worries about me hurting myself, but I do take meds, and I do see a (GREAT) therapist once a week. Twice during the months of November and December.

The (GREAT) “holiday season” and I are not on good terms.

devil santa

‘Tis the anniversary of my parents’ deaths, and a time I feel particularly alone. Goody for me, I know: A LOT of people find Christmastime depressing–because it’s a consumerist GOB STOPPER, and because of intense pressure to have fun, love your family, and celebrate with grand gifts,  delicious food, festive parties.

The Christmas cards start piling up: everyone seems to be healthy and successful and wearing matching pajamas. As for me, I am feeling bad about 1) my book manuscript being rejected without so much as a word of explanation, 2) my professional identity being uncertain (no word of explanation there either),  and 3) my love life having fallen into a chasm of nothing, weirdness, and more nothing (would you believe no word of explanation?!). There’s also a 4), 5), and 6), but I’m even more tired of my woes than the dear ones who listen to me talk about them.

Manageable, of course, my troubles: I have food, a roof, and great friends. And yet the depression this year was bad.

Estes Park

A lot of days I accomplished nothing but showering, and even that task was arduous. If you have depression or love someone who does, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, please understand that depression is not being sad. It’s losing a sense of self.
shadow self

On the days when I could get out of my apartment, I saw some things that cheered me up. L.A. has a refreshing “take” on  December:

X-Mas colors:
palms with stockings

Honoring the historical Jesus:

Me with tree on head

Stockings on the mantle:

palms with stockings

Other times I saw displays that made me feel like crawling down Rodeo Drive on my hands and knees.

Christmas happpiness on Rodeo

The day I saw a homeless guy actually crawling down Rodeo I gave him a dollar and chastised myself for being a big fat whiner.

When depression hits, I feel like an alien watching the humans. (Not like Scarlett Johansson in “Under the Skin”;  she is, after all, getting her needs met. GO SJ!) When not feeling alien, I imagine myself  a snake that cannot slither out of a suffocating skin. Or a small animal trying to claw its way out of a sink hole. To no avail.

This year, my brilliant new shrink, and my brilliant old friends– dragging me out of the apartment–provided solace and some relief. So did…Mulholland Drive.

Mulholland with Fence

I can’t explain this exactly, but every time I set out on Mulholland Drive for my tutoring jobs in Studio City and Bel Air, I felt as if I were almost able to wriggle out of the tight scaly skin around my soul, as if someone had offered a hand that might pull my rodent self out of the sink hole.

Mulholland with light and road sign

A road. Curve after curve. On High.

Mulholland love 2Driving Mulholland, I feel airy, light, an eligible flyer.

The view is surreal: waves of soft hilly terrain, enormous ocean of sky, congregations of cacti.

mulholland drive cacti view

On Mulholland, being an alien seems OK; in that lofty and arid setting, what a human is “supposed to be” seems as distant as the mansions embedded in the landscape. (Does anyone really live there?)

Now that the holidays–with their happy shiny expectations–are no longer being piped through airwaves and media narratives, I’m feeling better. I hope, Dear Reader, that  you enjoyed November and December 2014 as much as possible, and have fun stuff to look forward to in 2015.

I also hope you have  a spot where you are surrounded by light, a place on earth that reminds you that we are tiny beings in a grand design, a location where you see yourself moving forward,  even when feeling  stuck, or lost.

shoes, sad

Or absent.

Mulholland love 3

A path. Ahead.

Las Vegas # 3 feet on the way home

For everything there is a season.

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Christmas, All Its Glory and Ghostliness

26 Dec

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Last year at Christmas I said to Noah, “Next Year in Beverly Hills!” A desperate prophecy, or unsuccessful joke? A few weeks later my bags were packed, my furniture in storage, and the Ithaca apartment rented. Noah was setting up a (precarious) life in Queens.

I drove out in a blizzard;  six days later I arrived at my old friend Natasha’s tiny apartment on Reeves Drive, right across from *my* new tiny apartment on Reeves Drive. Eleven months later, I am spending Christmas in the unholy Holy Land, City of Angels, Demons, and Highly Desirables. (This is my tiny tree in the tiny apartment on Reeves):

IMG_1606Spending it with Noah:

Noah, thoughtful, at Malibu And Natasha:Nic and me  arrival in LANatasha is single again.  She had moved into a place with Marcus a few months after I arrived. And then last week, she found her own place, a few blocks from here.  To quote T.S. Eliot:

Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future contained in time past.

(Burnt Norton, Four Quartets.)

I won’t quote the rest because it’s a little depressing, and basically I just want to say that “all time is eternally present.” As it happens,that’s what Eliot said too. I also want to say what you know well, Dear Reader: This Christmas makes you think about last Christmas, and every other Christmas.  It’s a holiday that frames one’s sense of family, community, God knows what else.

I already mentioned last year. Going back in time, (you do that too) here’s a memory  from three years ago–when Noah was off to Ithaca College. When I was trying to sell the big old farmhouse. When Felix the dog was alive (note ribbons around Felix’s neck; that’s how you know it’s a Christmas pic–he insisted on wearing our presents’ ribbons):IMG_1605

Further, much further. (What is your picture?)

IMG_1601This was taken by my mother. She was still alive. And Noah was three. I was. . .young.

Further back:

IMG_1595 That was the year that my mom got me the book Little Raccoon And the Thing in The Pool.  You can’t tell it’s Christmas, but the tree is in the background. As is my dad, who took the photo.

Way way back:IMG_1602I am holding some kind of ornament–all of my German-Irish tribespeople were crazy about tree decorations. I’m saying, in Holiday Red Tights: I got a thing here, right?

And here are Audrey and Dick, before me, before all the trouble:

IMG_1594So  that’ s as far back as I can go.  Ghosts of Christmas past. . .they always visit this time of year. Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present…

This year, Noah and I went to a performance of the Messiah at the Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. My stepmother Cleo gave us the tickets as a Christmas gift. She is the woman who loved Dick after Audrey did.  And  divorced him after Audrey did.  And has mothered me, after my parents died fifteen years ago.

Noah, fascinated by all things religious and musical, loved the performance. I told him about how my dad and mom, separately, (atheists both) played The Messiah very loud every  Christmas and Easter. I told him how Grandpa Dick would bellow,  “WE LIKE SHEEP” making it sound as if it meant simply that we sinners were fond of  wooly creatures.

This is the 2013 Christmas picture I insisted on:

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After the Messiah, I drove Noah to his apartment, and he told me what he knew about Jesus (from Cleo).  Then I turned around and drove back to the tiny apartment in Beverly Hills, thinking of my parents, Noah, Natasha, some layered history.  (I had to stop to get espresso at Starbucks.) And I kept thinking of this bit in Part The Third, after the Hallelujah chorus (how to follow that?!)

Behold, I tell you a mystery: we/shall not all sleep but we shall/all be changed in a  moment, in/the twinkling of an eye, at/the last trumpet.

Yes, we shall/could/should all be changed in a moment…

Looking at my years of Christmases, I am thankful for an unconventional cycle of  family and friendship. (Someone has a sense of humor.) And the ghosts of Christmas Past are around to remind us: Time Present. Merry, Merry, Dear Reader!

Rodeo Faux Snow, Or: Don’t Know From Cold Out, Ho, Ho, Ho!

7 Dec

I’m having a hard time taking very seriously the Christmas decorations in my ‘hood.

Evergreen on columnsHow is one supposed to feel the Greco-Roman New England Holiday Vibe, when one is wearing shorts and Ray Bans, and right across the street is this Sunshiny OZ Candy Land vibe:

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Don’t get me wrong, I am the ONLY one wearing shorts. The natives have donned wool caps, scarves, down coats, and they shiver when they step inside the juice store: “OOOOH, it’s so cold out!” (59 degrees.) I give them a look. You don’t know what “cold out” is. Cold Out is 10 degrees below zero. Cold  Out is your blue fingers inside your gloves, scraping thick ice off of the windshield. For the tenth day in a row.  Cold Out is when you don’t even register cold, you  feel only pain–in your bone marrow. Cold Out is when even the dog won’t leave the house. 

People accustomed  to warm sunny days, and birds of paradise growing year-round in the front yard have a unique struggle getting into the Christmas spirit–with its North Pole associations, and older Pagan rituals celebrating evergreen and light during the season of cold darkness. The only cold darkness in Southern California is the air-conditioned broom closet at the plastic surgeon’s office. (Don’t ask how I know.)

Not until December 2nd did I feel the need to turn on the heat.  This is my furnace.

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Yeah, it doesn’t look like much and it doesn’t do much either. Fortunately it doesn’t have to. I have yet to wear a coat, and all around my street  lawns are being mowed;  last week  the distinct smell of fertilizer floated in the winter air.

Those of us who know the meaning of Cold Out have to question the meaning of “Happy Holidays” in the land of  blue skies, temperate weather, and a notion of snow balls such as these: IMG_1495

(Beverly Wilshire in the background–the hotel in “Pretty Woman,” and where, rumor has it, Obama stays.)

Take a stroll with me, Dear Reader, down Rodeo Drive, where “Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” “Winter Wonderland,” and the like are piped in on speakers. Because there is no organic cold white stuff to be had, Beverly Hills does the best it can:

IMG_1494

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Snow is so pretty! As is Mrs. Claus:

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And while you do see the occasional teenager wearing Ugg boots to protect herself from “the cold,”  most of the footwear demonstrates that Cold Out is really just a fashion statement.

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No one in Ithaca is wearing these to the Green Star Co-op, methinks.

OK. I. Admit. It.

I miss the fluffy flakes in the air landing on eyelashes, coming inside from the bracing air to make a fire and drink hot chocolate, then waking to trees glistening in crystals, the ground covered in mounds of sugar. THAT is the Holiday Season.  I. Miss. It.  And this will NOT suffice:

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Faux ice, faux snow being blown around with a fan. PUHlease.

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Well, despite the beautiful weather,  this year Noah and I will read, as we have for almost two decades, Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

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Snow figures large.

IMG_1521(1)“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea town corner and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”

(The man knew from a sentence.)

And I can’t remember whether it snowed for fifty two years or whether I exaggerate the weather of my past. I wonder whether these balmy and forgiving days are  some halcyon breeze  of a weathered yet hopeful imagination. . .

Enjoy what the season brings, Dear Reader.