Monday, November 29, 2010

Family Ramblings


A word with so many different meanings to so many different people it's hard to know where to start.

I have always had mixed emotions about family since I was old enough to feel like I didn't know where I belonged.

I was given up for adoption at birth and found my way to my parents when I was about 6 weeks old. I have no idea where I was in those 6 weeks and since I can't quite recall back that far it will remain a mystery.

I always knew I was adopted and that fact didn't bother me. It was the fact that I grew up as an only child with eccentric parents that drove me a bit nuts.

I hated being an only child more than I hated anything else. I had scores of cousins and they all had several siblings. I felt very left out. I used to beg my parents to adopt another kid and I even remember them going to the adoption agency once where I got to stay in a room full of toys while they went to a meeting. But nothing ever came of it. So I remained alone, growing up in a rambling 1920's Spanish "mansion" (as my friends called it) in the Hollywood Hills.

I didn't want to live in an out-of-the-ordinary house. I wanted to live in a normal house. And have normal parents who had normal jobs. As much fun as it was to get to meet stars and go to the studios it made me feel like an outsider because everyone thought it was so special. And my mom always wanted everyone to think it WAS so special. I think some of their own families resented them for the appearances my mom put on. Everyone thought we were rich because of how the house looked and the jobs they had. But the truth was, my mom was tighter than scrooge. I wasn't allowed to get a drink when we went out to eat because water was fine (and free). I couldn't buy the cereal I wanted because it 25¢ more than the other kind. And more than once I got a used toy wrapped up for Christmas. The house fell deeply into disrepair as I grew up because neither of my parents wanted to spend real money to get it fixed. So everything was done as cheaply as possible which meant it rarely lasted. My mom had the carpet pulled up sometime around 1980 and it was never replaced until Jeff and I moved in and did it ourselves 25 years later.

I loved my parents.. a lot. But growing up with them was quite an experience. They worked a lot so I was alone a lot. This is probably the main reason I grew up and had 5 kids (then adopted one more). Then got 2 step kids. I wanted to be surrounded by people because I hated empty houses. ( I think I cured myself of that.. quiet is now a rare commodity in my life and I have come to enjoy it).

And what did I learn from all this as my own children grew into adults? That no family is a normal family. All those families out there that seemed so perfect and ideal to me turned out to have problems of their own. Most worse than mine. My lament of wanting to "just be normal" was just a charade. There is no normal because being normal is extremely subjective.

I eventually found and located my birth parents. My birth dad was very happy that I found him and for a few years we were actually quite close. I also found siblings that I didn't know I had.  My birth mom on the other hand wanted nothing to do with me. That was a hard one to swallow but its been 19 years since then and I live with it. But I also discovered those families didn't fit into the "normal" range either. And I also realized blood doesn't make family. The people who raise you and are there for you and love you no matter what are your family. I wish my parents were still alive so I could tell them that. I think my search for my biological roots hurt them more than I ever understood while I was doing it. And I regret not waiting until they were both gone before I undertook that journey.

I guess the holidays bring out the need to reminisce. I am sadder than usual this year because the older kids are spread out all over creation with no hope of getting to see them anytime soon. I always had this dream of having my family grow up and live close so we could visit each other on the weekends and I could babysit and spoil my grand kids (often). I guess there is always hope that it will still happen.... that the older kids will move back and the younger ones will grow up and stay close.

Again, I'm always reaching for that elusive "normalcy". That which it seems everyone else but me has.

But when I think about it, I guess that desire in and of it itself falls within the realm of being normal.

What do you know... I'm not that far off after all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Way Back Disney Sunday ~~ 1969

Well the holidays got the better of me and I have been absent all week.
I was going to go back and post a Way Back Wednesday post but decided I would just combine my weekly posts into one.

So here I am in February 1969 for my 4th birthday at Disneyland (Yes I was born in January but better late than never). This was my very first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.

I don't know any of the ladies in this pictures, they were simply horning in on my big moment with Dopey.

Even more dwarfs!
Happy and Bashful is my guess.
I really loved that sweater I'm wearing.
I had quite the fashion sense even back then. (No really, don't you think?)

And the last one is me with Pinocchio.
No one to steal my moment, only a couple of kids hanging out in the background and a disembodied hand off to the right.
The rental strollers weren't much different then my own stroller from my childhood.
I'm guessing this is outside Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Not a lot else to say about these pictures.
I REALLY wish my parents had taken more shots so I could remember this day better but I believe these were taken with the old Polaroid my dad owned and if I remember correctly it was real pain to work.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and your turkey didn't get too trampled by the incoming reindeer who are now fee to frolic unimpeded by superfluous holidays who get in the way.

Have a great day everyone!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Charlie's Angels

Once upon a time there were 3 little girls who went to the police academy.

And there was one little girl who stayed up way past her bedtime just so she could watch them.

This show was an huge part of my life. I have no idea why I became so obsessed with it but you would have thought I was a teenage boy.

I could barely stand the anticipation waiting for Wednesday so I could see what peril the Angels got into next.

The night would start off pretty good, with the 8PM airing of Bionic Woman which was especially good when Jamie got Max the bionic German shepherd. But then there was a lull when Baretta came on. It was sort of OK because I liked his bird but overall it was just filler and I would watch the clock and count the commercials until the the real reason I was up so late would come on.

I wanted to be exactly like them. They were thin, had beautiful faces, and gorgeous hair. I thought I was fat, not so pretty and was sorely in need of some professional hair help. They also had cool clothes and weren't afraid of anything. I had dorky clothes and was scared of everything.

It was escapism. Pure and simple. I recently watched a few episodes of the first season and aside from the nostalgia there wasn't a whole lot to get excited about. But I was 12 when I first started watching the show so I wasn't exactly a connoisseur of good TV. I was a huge fan of Love Boat too so that should put it in perspective.

But no matter what I think of it now, back then it was a very important part of my life. It was one of those things that I looked forward to and gave me a giant amount of pleasure. In some respect though I think it gave me unrealistic goals. No matter how thin I got I could never be as small as any of them. It wasn't my body type. I run towards the athletic build which in my mind as a young teen meant I was fat. Now I'm glad I carry more muscle but back then it seemed like a curse.

Because my dad worked for CBS and did a lot of freelance work for movies, commercials and anything else he was asked to do, he could often call in favors. The biggest favor he ever called in was getting me onto the set to meet the cast. I don't think I was ever as excited to meet anyone in my life.

I can still remember exactly what the set looked like and how I felt when we went in. I got to watch them film a scene in their office and I got a huge kick out of watching Bosley and Sabrina sit on the set in full makeup and costume in front of the camera while Jill and Kelly sat off to the side reading their lines while they were robes and had their hair up in towels. Later that afternoon they switched places to film the same scene from a different angle and it was Jill and Kelly sitting all done up while the other two had changed into more comfortable clothes.

I remember meeting Farrah Fawcett and realizing not only was she barely as tall as I was (and I'm a shorty) but she couldn't have weighed more than 100 pounds soaking wet. She was SO tiny. Her hair was the biggest thing about her.

Kate Jackson was very nice to me and shook my hand and told me how great it was that I was a fan. But by far the nicest of them was Jaclyn Smith. She put her arm around me and took me back to her trailer where we took pictures together and she sat down and talked with me. She told me twice she thought I was such a pretty girl and for me at the time I was over the moon. I don't think I stopped smiling for a week.

Unfortunately my parents were never big on photographs so the I only have a few from my visit and Jaclyn was the only one I took a picture with. I have all their autographs and I would have liked to have scanned them and posted them but I'm a bit at a loss as to which memory box they are in.

No matter though. It was such a dream come true for me at that age and truly happy memory that still makes me smile to this day.

It occurred to me if I really looked into it I could probably figure out which episode they were filming that day by looking for the outfit she was wearing in this picture.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Way Back Wednesday ~ 1960

This is a picture of my dad appearing on The Red Rowe show which ran on CBS from 1959 to 1960.
My dad was huge collector of antiques and some of his favorites were these old Edison phonograph players from the turn of the century. 
He was invited on the show to demonstrate two of his machines which were in pristine condition.
The one on the left has a built in speaker horn under the player and the one on the right has the horn taken off on the counter next to it.
These play old Edison wax cylinder records which he had in the case in the middle.
I eventually sold these machines some years back and they each went for well over $1000. 
I still have several boxes of the wax records.
They are also highly collectible, especially the politically incorrect ones.
Did you notice the huge microphone hanging above their heads? 
It looks like a giant ray gun ready to disintegrate my dad's head.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Never give up.... Never Surrender

You're never too old to try something new.

So say those who are in shape, coordinated and have no shame what-so-ever when it comes to embarrassing oneself.

My overachiever husband, who excels at anything and everything he tries is a 2nd degree black belt in traditional Japanese Karate.

He has a certain sense of style and perfection that he strives for in all the things that he does so he makes it all look so easy.

For years I have wanted to join him at the dojo, but there have always been parental duties that I had to attend to at the times he trained.

My kids have all done karate, some quitting after a few years, others going all the way to black belt. Jeffrey and Katherine train twice a week and Alex goes on Saturday mornings.

Currently Jeff trains 5 days a week and teaches several of those days.

Last week he came home and announced that he would be teaching a beginners class at 9 AM Mondays and Wednesdays and I would finally get my wish to learn the art of self defense.


I was going to get my chance to show everyone how easily and efficiently I could learn something new.

People would look at me in awe.

"You've never done this before?"

"That's amazing how quickly you learn and with such skill and perfection, too."

"You're a complete natural."

Yes, I was going to take the karate world by storm. I would get my black belt faster than anyone who came before me and I would be a force to be reckoned with.

I should have gotten a clue as to how my introduction into the world of marital arts was going to go when I discovered my Gi pants wouldn't stay up as I walked.

And the fact that Jeff had to keep saying  "No, your OTHER left hand..... the other one.... the one that's not your right...."

And then today I got sent to the corner to practice blocking and punching while my classmate got to move on to learn a new kicking routine.

Clearly my brain was writing checks that my body couldn't cash. I mean I TRIED to cash them... but they bounced. The truth is that the 3 year old pee-wees look better at this than I do.

But I am determined to use this as a learning experience. I will not quit no matter how embarrassing it is or how much I look like a fish trying to ride a bike. I have usually given up on things in the past that required too much time in the "newbie" phase. If I couldn't do it correctly right off the bat (and look good doing so), then I was through.

I know that's not how you go about learning and growing. If I only work on the things that I am good at from the start than I guess I won't be working on many new things.

Jeff has a shirt with a saying that suddenly has much more depth of meaning than when I first read it:

A black belt is white belt that never gives up.

And I promise to keep saying that as I fall over while trying kick and whack myself in the face while trying to block. It doesn't matter what I look like doing it, as long as I just keep doing it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Captain Mom

Sometimes the backseat is in a completely different dimension than the front seat.

Driving along on what seemed like a perfectly ordinary day, suddenly out of nowhere I hear:

"Self destruct in:




"What's going on?"

"Self destruct mode has been activated"

"Yes. I got that............. but why?"

"The aliens are closing in and they cannot be allowed to intercept our technology."


I had no idea that a Honda van was so valuable to other civilizations.



"Why can't you just jump to lightspeed?

Am I having this conversation?

"The jump engines are malfunctioning"

Yes I thought I felt something a bit off when I turned the corner back there.

"OH and you can't fix them?"

"Not in time to save the technology from the aliens.
Self destruct is the only option"

Unfortunate for those of us that didn't make it to the escape pods.



"Can I finish? We're almost to the market and I want to get this over with before we get there."

"What if some of  us aren't ready to give our life in the line of duty?"

"This is the price you pay when you are a starship captain on a dangerous mission through the universe."

See and here I thought I was just a run of the mill mom on her way to get groceries.
I learn something new every day.

I found a recent picture of me in my Spaceship Captains suit with my totally awesome ray gun.
Maybe this isn't so bad after all!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Knaggs Berry Towne

On Wednesday I mentioned my parents property on Ventura Blvd in Studio City called Knaggs Berry Towne.
My parents bought it in the late 1960's.

It was a small motel probably from the 1940's that had about 8 units each with a double car garage where you could park your car and on the right front corner there was a gas station.

My dad networked with all the prop people he knew until he got together enough wood and facade materials to turn the entire thing into an old western town.

They rented out each renovated motel room to small store owners who sold everything from hand made crafts to old books to small bakery items. The front store on the left was my parents antique store and the old gas station was turned into a hamburger stand called "Billy Goodins".
They also rented it out as locations for movies, TV shows and once for a Playboy photoshoot.

It thrived for several years until they got a few bad tenants and they got tired of hassling with them to pay the rent and keep the place clean. There was also small deli in the back that apparently was selling more than just sandwiches and got shut down by the police.

They closed it down in the mid 1970's and it sat unused for the next 20+ years except for the old hamburger stand that got walled in and made into a Thai food restaurant called the "Thai Spoon".

This place was a huge part of childhood and I have mixed feelings about it.
I spent so many hours there, alone, while my parents worked on it.
I used to watch old game shows on a little black and white TV they kept upstairs above the general store in a small room that was always hotter than Hades because it was uninsulated.
But downstairs they had an old fashioned glass candy counter and I always got to choose a few pieces of candy to take upstairs with me... and we know how great that is for a kid.

I came across some pictures recently....

Here is a shot from across the street

This is the front sign

This is my parents antique shop the called "The Antiquest".
Somewhere I have a close up of the painted sign on the roof line.
Its a mermaid and I have no idea how that relates to antiques, but I guess it made sense to them.

This was one of the old motel units made over into shops. Actually when I look closer, it was one of the car ports that was transformed into 2 plain stores. The motel units actually had a bathroom and shared a small kitchen between them.

This was the "Star General Store" that my parents ran.
It was a popular place for the kids of the day to stop by on the way home from school and buy sweets from the giant glass candy counter in the back.
In it's heyday there were display pieces in those upper windows.

Here the Towne is making a cameo appearance on Emergency.
The firemen are going into "Oil Can Harry's" which was a gay bar and I can proudly say that was where I had my 6th birthday party. Surprisingly every one my kindergarten class showed up.
Yeah my parents were a bit ahead of their time. 

One thing I forgot to mention is that when my parents bought the place it came with an old lady who lived in the very back unit and refused to move. Her name was Irene and she was well into her 80's or older. My parents let her live there rent free for years. She smoked like a chimney and mostly sat in the room (which only had one window in the kitchen) and listened to the radio. As a kid I always felt sorry for her that she was alone. She had no family we knew of. Eventually my parents talked her into moving into an old age home (they paid for it) and it totally transformed her life. We went by to visit her a couple times a month and she was always playing the piano or socializing with the other people. She eventually died but I was happy that the last years of her life she had people around and seemed genuinely happy.

These next pictures are when the shops were done up for a movie that was shot there in about 1972 called "The Christmas Visit".

It starred Marty Allen who was a Christmas Elf trying to help a little boy learn about the magic of Christmas.
A really original theme.
It was made for TV and I believe that you can still buy it on Amazon.

Because my parents were always looking for an opportunity to push me into the spotlight, they got the director to let me be in the parts of the movie that was shot here.

This is a long shot from the sidewalk.
That plastic snow got everywhere and literally years later we were still finding it under stairs and in cracks.

They brought in a horse and buggy which I loved

Some more crew shots

And there's me,  right in the middle, overdressed in the fancy bonnet, red velvet coat and mink muff (I was supposed to be an urchin but apparently it paid better for me than the others).
This was my mom's way of making sure I was seen.

And the piece de resistance was having a bunch of publicity shots taken with the two stars of the show.
Of course my mom showed the photos to everyone and told them how I starred in a movie and she had the pictures to prove it.
Updated to add that the boy (Billy Simpson) who actually starred in the movie found me a Facebook and gave me a copy of the movie so I was able to watch my stellar performance for the first time! It was a real treat I have to say.

So there was my 15 minutes of fame.
Even if it was mostly fabricated.

I guess no one can say I didn't have an interesting childhood.

Jeff and I finally sold the place awhile back and unfortunately it was in such disrepair that the people who bought it tore it all down except the Antiquest building which last time I drove past, was the office for the used car lot that they put there.

It feels a little like a movie where you can see what used to be there in flashbacks but when you look at what it is now, it's very surreal and you can't quite get your head around the fact that it's all gone.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Dad's Navy Days

I thought I would commemorate Veteran's Day with a few of my dad's pictures from his tour with the Navy.
He was a communications specialist and served at the end of WWII with the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Memphis.

Here he is (on the right) with a couple of his buddies.

And here he is (far right bottom row) with the men he served with.
ARM AR-26 Sec. H

And this last one is a postcard with a photobooth picture slid inside that he sent home thanking the "Folks" (as he called them) for the candy they sent.
He had a real sweet tooth!

Thank you for serving Dad.
And thank you to all who have and are serving to this day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Way Back Wednesday ~~ 1971

Today we venture back to my 6th birthday party.
My parents owned what was originally an old motel on Ventura Blvd in Studio City.
They fixed it up to look like an old western town and called in Knaggs Berry Town.
(Their last name was Knaggs, it was on Berry drive and it was supposed to be a town).
Across the street from it was a gay bar called Oil Can Harry's.
My parents became very good friends with Bert the owner.

He was a wonderful man and when my parents were looking for a place to have my 6th birthday he offered the use of his main dance floor. The whole place was only open after 8 at night.

My parents, ever mindful of saving money thought it was a wonderful idea so out went the party invitations inviting a bunch of kindergardeners to a fun filled afternoon at the local (gay) watering hole. Apparently not many people were bothered by it because most of my classmates showed up.

The first picture is me on the pool table. It looks like Ive been having a good time already because my stockings were filthy!

The next 2 pictures are of the piƱata portion of the program.
The first one is me having a go at the parrot.
And there's my dad with his usual cigarette.
You can also see ALL the way on the right the Pin the Tail on the Donkey poster.
I think I cheated when I played so I could win.
I'm glad I developed a sense of ethics as I got older because I don't think I had any at this age.

This next picture shows my mom placing the blindfold on a little boy whose name I do not remember.
I do remember that he had a lot of really cool red hair and freckles.
You can't see me in this picture but I CAN see Sally who is still my best friend to this day.
As crazy as it sounds, I still have that skirt that my mom is wearing.
 (I think it's the same one that she is wearing in my first WayBackWed post?)
Don't you just dig that retro yellow daisy wallpaper in the background?
And those pink and blue doors were the bathrooms.

I have a whole tray of slides from this day and I think I may break them out soon and show them to my kids.
They may need some color fixing if I go to develop them but showing them on a big screen in the living room sounds like a lot of fun. 
Now if I just find a slide projector that actually works!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Countdown Begins

We have entered the month of Jeffrey's birth.
Exactly 21 more days to be precise.

Which is followed 25 days later by Christmas.

Given this chain of events.. I do not think Jeffrey will not stop vibrating until sometime mid-January.

We stopped in at "Toys R Us" recently and came home with a holiday catalog. If he spent as much time and depth of focus on his schoolwork as he does on this book, he would be graduating high school next spring.

He has a detailed list outlining his wants and desires. I think we are on the 7th or 8th revision (so far this week).

And since we have previously determined that Jeffrey has no internal dialog, I hear about what he wants, why he wants it and how it will improve his life if he gets it at any point there is dead air space. Which includes car rides, moments between swallowing and taking another bite at dinner, the 1.2 seconds between commercials and the time between my closing the bathroom door and the sound of the flushing toilet. He finds standing in my bedroom pretending to be talking to himself while I am otherwise occupied an opportune moment to get the maximum amount of air time for "Jeffrey's Wheel.............. of................. Desire"

High on his list are Star Wars Lego sets, video games (the titles of which change daily), Bey blades (I gotta look these up since I am unfamiliar with them), tech decks (I thought he'd had these before and didn't play with them but I have been informed I am mistaken on this fact...) and any kind of "sience (I forgot how to spell it)" equipment like microscopes or kits to grow things like bacteria or mold or crystals.

I told him thats what refrigerators were for but he didn't seem to think that was a reasonable substitute.
Well I tried.

"Whatever you can't afford to get me for my birthday, I will put on Santa's list and he can get it for me for Christmas."

Yeah I wished it worked that way. I have always told my kids that Santa sends a bill after Christmas and we parents have to pay Santa back for all the toys he brings and that's why they couldn't get really expensive toys just for the asking. I mean Santa has to pay his elves and feed his reindeer right? And what about the electric and gas bill? It's gotta cost a fortune to heat that place of his. He does us parents a favor by gathering the toys and delivering them but we still gotta pay. It is after all the real world.

And because you were wondering, YES my going on 10 year old still firmly believes in Santa. If he asked me outright I would probably own up to the truth but the real truth is that since he is my last little guy (in a long line of those who came before him) I enjoy that he still holds onto the magic. At least one more year.

Kids in his class have been telling him that there is no Santa since 2nd grade but he tells me these kids have no idea what they are talking about and he refuses to pay any attention to their deluded ramblings.

So for the next 46 days there will not be many peaceful or quiet moments but looking at the spark of happiness and anticipation in his eyes, I guess it will all be worth it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Way Back Wednesday ~~ 1948

Today we take you back to the mid to late1940's.
The date is approximate but I know my dad was somewhere in his 20's when he worked here so we are settling on 1948.
Both of these were taken when he was managing a King Cole grocery store  (The Friendly Place) which was either in Oklahoma or Texas. Judging by the products I would say this was around Christmas time.

The first pic he is putting a display together (a carload sale) and holding Softasilk which was a cake mix that had cornstarch added to it. And you could buy it for the bargain basement price of 37¢ each.
Unfortunately everything else is a bit too blurry and even blown up in photoshop I cant make out the names of the other products. But they were all pretty cheap.

In this second picture my dad is hanging up candy canes which could be yours for just 10¢ each. FOr some reason this seems pricey to me considering the prices of the boxed goods. 
The other things for sale include K's Grapeade (It's refreshing!), Lady's sliced Cranberry Sauce, Teaser's Popped Corn and Libby's Tomato Juice which is priced at 27¢ each.

Gotta love that tie my dad is wearing!

I have a couple of other pictures of his time in the store but I will save them for another time.

See you soon!