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#11 BEACH MUSIC: A time of tans, blonds and hot pants

Beach Music, an On the Street Where I Livestories is really a tale of two cities; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California. It was originally published in the LA Times Sunday Magazine.

Beach Music We came to California from Canada, with a detour to Puerto Rico that lasted one endless summer of a year. A year in which I turned 15, and my hair turned blond from living in the sun. “Psst,” the boys and men would call after me in the blue-cobbled streets of San Juan. “Psst! Hey, blondie. Psst! Hey, cutie pie.” I was devastated when my parents said we had to go, that it was time to leave the island so that my older brother, Russell, could get a first rate education. The plan was to drive cross country from Miami and settle in San Francisco so that my brother could finish high school before going on to UC Berkeley. But, once we got there in the fall of 1968, we found that …

Leaving Home: A Divorce Story [Part Three]

I looked at the clock glowing on the dashboard; just after eleven...

He was tall and almost cool with aviators and a mustache that matched his shaggy golden brown hair...

Leaving Home: Part Three

The next couple of months blurred by. Phillip kept up, I don't know, I guess I'd call it a full frontal attack, but gently. First came the awkward acknowledgment that calling all over Vegas, hunting me down, was going too far. He neighed his whinny of a laugh.

"I guess I got a little crazy."

In return, did I tell him I didn't need crazy in my life? Did I tell him to scram, to get lost? Did I tell him we were on two separate journeys? Or instead did I say nothing? Did I find his fascination fascinating and blush demurely when he talked about the skin in the hollow of my throat or told me I looked pretty in pink?

Funny how something like that, a compliment when you're craving one, can stop up a hole for awhile.

Otherwise the days kept disappearing; going, going, gone, poof. I kept going to classes, bumping along in the Big Blue Bus from the corner of Fourteenth and Santa Monica to UCLA, feeling out of step with the world around me. I'd fooled around, taking too long to get the required credits to transfer from Santa Monica City College. English Composition. Journalism, Modern Dance, Theatre Arts classes like Sound Production and Beginning Acting, Astronomy, Marriage and Family, Speed Reading, Piano. A soupy mess of credits. By the time I transferred to UCLA, anyone I might have known from high school was gone. Most of kids I knew at all had gone away to school anyhow, living lives straight out of Goodbye Columbus, while I was still living at home in my parents' two bedroom apartment in Santa Monica. 

I went to class. I went to work at the drug store across the street. I went home. I went to class. I went to work at the drug store across the street. I went home. It felt like my entire generation was hanging out on the lawn, barefoot on the grass in front of Royce Hall, while guys with guitars played Ventura Highway and hackey sack between classes. All the while I hurried by, weighted down by Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton and Saul Bellow, keeping my head down, following my pattern; class, work, home, class, work, home. 

Work meant seeing Phillip. No matter what my schedule was, his always seemed to match up. If I was on my break, smoking upstairs in the stock room, Phillip found reasons to come up, searching for a case of Pampers or WD-40. It was that kind of drug store; we carried everything. Or I'd be working in the hair care aisle, pulling bottles of Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific forward, filling in the empty holes, turning them so the labels all faced front, and he'd show up asking what was the best shampoo for his kind of hair. What did I use to make mine so shiny? Or I'd look up and find him standing at the end of the cosmetics aisle, tossing the red zippered cash bag back and forth, checking to see if I needed singles or quarters. 

Little by little, we got to talking more and more, my built-in defenses evaporating like the vinegary smell of the Windex I used to clean the mirrored cosmetic counters. Bit by bit, my sharp, protective edges got a bit blurrier. He was nice to me, he was growing on me. And the biggest truth? There wasn't anybody else.

Chris had been too young; I'd let him know that he should move on and he did. No big deal. Like a bottle of Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo: No Tears. The last time I'd seen Derek, my old boyfriend, months after we broke up, I realized I wasn't hurt or angry anymore that he'd gone to Europe with his friend Gary instead of me, even after all the plans we'd made, I was just over him. Utterly over him. That point where you look at someone, and just can't see what you ever saw in them? I was there. Done.

I'd dated other guys but they were in the past. After Derek, there had been Evan, adorable Evan who starred in the SMC college production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and who seemed destined to be a Broadway star. Oh Evan, who slayed my heart before he broke it, telling me he loved me like a sister, ditching me for another girl, an older actress of 26. Jerry, a jock studying to be a lawyer so he could negotiate sports contracts and who smelled like sweat and sex. Mike, a basketball player so tall it hurt to look at him. Steve who sang me a song he'd written for me on our very first, and therefore last, date.

There'd been this a guy I met at the bus stop a couple of times. This super handsome guy who said he'd moved from Atlanta to LA to be an actor; he was just riding the bus while his car was in the shop. He took my number, he never called. I guess he got his car out of the shop, I never saw him on the Big Blue Bus again.

There wasn't anybody at school either, except maybe this one nice-looking boy in one of my English classes; The American Novel: Fiction post World War II, 1945 - present. I sat in the same back corner of the room every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am, and every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am, he came in and sat next to me, made small talk, asked if I'd finished the assigned reading, stuff like that. I could never figure out if he was flirting or just the friendly type. He never stopped me on my way out of class, never said 'going my way?' never said 'hey, you want to grab a cup of coffee?' the way guys do in the movies. I wasn't bold enough to do the asking, I wasn't that kind of girl. Instead I continued as before, following my established pattern, living by rote, wearing a groove in the road. I went to class, I went to work, I went home to my parents' apartment. I went to class, I went to work, I went home to my parents' apartment.

Something had to give. It turned out to be me.



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