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Showing posts from April, 2015

The Trip

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I may have to bow out gracefully from the remainder of the #AtoZChallenge. I don't want to. I've been loving the excuse to write daily but we're taking a trip, leaving Saturday morning for the Florida keys, and I want to be as free from obligations as I can, better to blow where the balmy breeze takes me. I'm told that while Florida is mainly hot, sticky and buggy—sorry Floridians but that's what they tell me—I will have a chance to catch the balmy breeze in the Keys.

This will be my first trip to southern Florida since we stopped off in Miami en route from Puerto Rico to Los Angeles when I was a teenager. We stayed at some little Best Western motel near the beach waiting for our car to arrive; my parents had it shipped over from San Juan. I'm sure it was a Best Western, my parents swore by Best Westerns. We drove across the entire country plotting the day's travel by the Best Western Motels with swimming pools.  

I'm not interested in seeing Miami now; I…

My sister ... don't get me started.

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Laughing with my baby sister. Izmir, Turkey/ 1957
My sister, in an adjacent dressing room at Ross, is as doubled over with laughter as I am. We're trying on dresses and as we both squeeze into outfits designed with her twenty-something daughters in mind, there's plenty to snort about.

She's taught me a word I wish I didn't know. Gunt. The kind of fat that goes from your gut to your—ahem, I can't even say it. But that's Nancy, my younger sister. Brash, a little bit bawdy, she's always been the one that's more out there, unafraid to teeter on the edge of conventional good taste and expressing herself like a modern day Wife of Bath. Unafraid of being herself, while I shrink back, the good girl, wrapped up in gentility. Unless I've had a glass or two of wine, that is. Wine and my sister have always had a way of bringing out the naughty in me.
Don't get me wrong; we're not the kind of sisters who talk on the phone every day. We don't get togethe…

Revisionist History

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Still Life with Glasses and Tobacco, 1633 Willem Claesz. Heda (1594–1680)
Writing in the memoir genre can make you feel less like you're retelling an authentic part of your story, and more like you're rewriting it. Or should I say it can make me feel that way. Get out my red pen baby, cause we're doing some major editing tonight. There are times when that fine line between truth—yours, mine and ours—isn't straight but wavy. And undulating. Trying to grab onto, and hold it straight to the page, the line slips and slides through our hands, too fine to get a grip on, it flies through our fingers like fishing line spooling out from the reel, unstoppable, when a big one is dangling at the end of it. It's not that our personal stories are whoppers, tall tales a fisherman tells; it's just that our truths don't always match up because they never matched up to begin with. Like a meal we once shared, the fresh swordfish I raved about is what I recall, while you not on…

Queen Me

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I haven’t lived in England for years and years. And years. Basically a very long time. The kind of time you cough into your hand over, trying to hide the exact humungous number of years. Long enough ago that any reasonable person could be forgiven for calling me an American. But beware, should you say anything negative about the UK or Queen Elizabeth, my British roots will start showing and my British blood will start boiling. I’ll start flapping my British passport in the air, and put on my best True Brit voice. While I’m very much an American, I’m British by birth, born in 1953, in —as I’m fond of saying and saying—a scene right out of Call the Midwife. I’ve got a thing for the Queen from being born so close to her coronation day that my parents gave me Elizabeth for my middle name. Just a few days shy of being named Elizabeth Simone instead of the other way around. A few days days shy of being a Liz versus a Sim. Liz, Lizzie. I don’t mind the sound of that.
Growing up in Canada, the…

Past Perfect Imperfect

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The past is just another word for something I’ve left behind, and while it’s filled with omissions—like the post I meant to write yesterday—mistakes and missed connections, it’s also filled with an ever expanding array of amazing memories. So many memories we file away in our personal storage systems. Memories that fill up your headspace until that warning beep, better dump that stuff in the trash or archive that old data, transfer it to the iCloud where it can float freely, the barest whisp of a thought, until you decide to access it again. That’s how the days pass, we live in the now, or we try to, but the past is always there, getting larger and larger. It’s not all good. Some of that past should stay locked in that ancient old-timey journal you secretly keep hidden under last winter’s sweaters, to be taken out only on rare occasions, when the house is empty and no one’s around to see you looking at it. Unless you’re some weird inhuman humanoid you’ve probably been hurt and done yo…

Meltdown Moment

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Dennis Quaid really gave us Something to Talk About yesterday. His meltdown moment went viral with everyone on twitter wondering whether it was real or fake. Beats me but I do know there's no question it could have easily been real. Film sets aren't always the party that you stars-in-your-eyes kids wish they were; ask Christian Bale, ask Lily Tomlin, ask George Clooney, ask David O. Russell—come to think of it, do ask David O. Russell! He seems to have some real anger control issues. The reality is film sets are often tense workplaces where the work, while not rocket science or brain surgery, is just as, if not much more, costly. All that money tends to amp up the stakes; it often makes producer-types into edgy, over-zealous micro-managers, directors into control freaks who can't compromise and can't make a decision, and actors, nervous and insecure, and buckling under the pressure of constantly changing demands. Actors melt down but so do directors, producers, assista…

L: Let's liven this place up

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Due to my insane decision to take part in the AtoZChallenge, I've been hanging out here a lot more than usual of late, as well as taking time to visit many of you. One thing kept hitting me in the face again and again as I stopped by some of your very beautifully designed pages—I wish I'd gone with WordPress! So many sharp-looking blogs out there to covet. The look of my own blog was boring me to tears so I decided to liven things up a bit around here. Looking for a sleeker, cleaner feel I've freshened up just a tiny bit. It's not a complete face lift, more like a change of dress and a couple of small Botox injections. I can already see it needs a dash of color but I'm not sure what to do about that. I guess I'll live with it for a bit, see how it wears but you know how young girls get weary wearing the same old dress? That goes for web page designs too. I am sad the new layout means I have to lose one of my favorite pictures, this shot of my brother and me whe…

The Key of Blue

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I've dreamed of going to the Keys for at least two decades, and now, after years of nurturing the dream, I've booked a pair of plane tickets. That's when reality hits; the Keys I've crafted in my head might be a place I can't find using GPS. I've looked at the map, the thin tail that falls off the tip of Florida: Key Largo, Tavenier, Plantation, Isla Morada, Summerland, a skinny strip stretching about a hundred miles before it bottoms out at Key West, the most famous key of them all. I know I won't find it there, the key I'm looking for. Oh, I'll go. Key West is a writers colony of sorts, tourists flock to see Hemmingway's house, and the beaches look beautiful, but the key I'm looking for is as ephemeral as a breeze, more elusive than a hundred hours on the internet can deliver.

The key I'm looking for might be on a beach in Tripoli where, when I was five, I paddled at the shoreline while my mother held my sister's hands as she toddle…

Swooning Under the Jacaranda Trees

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The Jacaranda trees are blooming again; as I make my daily walk I'm dazzled by the purple haze blotting the sky, the dropped petals sticky beneath my feet. For the walk to do any good, it's supposed to be brisk, and I know I need to keep up the pace, but the lushness of the purple always takes me by surprise, stopping me in my tracks. I take pictures with my iPhone, wishing I were an Impressionist painter, Monet, Manet, I don't care. I just wish I could capture that feeling of being enveloped in an heart-stopping ultra-violet cloud of color. It happens every year in April, there's something decadent, sensual, almost sexual about the assault of purple passion. Sometimes as I drive the streets of LA, I catch myself half looking up at the canopy of blooms; distracted driving just as dangerous as texting. That feeling of being swept away is unhappily, as fleeting as pulse-quickening desire, and if you feel the urge to make love under the trees, you need to act quickly: th…

#4 Turkish Delight: Izmir, Turkey, 1957

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Turkish Delight
There’s darkness everywhere, shapeless black all around except for a blur of wavering yellow light in the distance. Something has woken me up. Muffled voices in the darkness; a man’s—deep, hushed, whispering. Then another—higher pitched, a lady’s? My mother’s? I hear my name, “Simmy” but I can’t make out the rest; just sharp, staccato sounds. 

A shadow crosses the yellow light, so big it blocks the brightness, and there’s nothing but blackness again. The dark shadow, darker than the darkness, is moving fast, coming closer, heading towards me and I’m too terrified to move or breathe or close my eyes. If I stay perfectly still maybe it won’t get me. I watch as the black blur moves towards me, growing larger as it comes closer and closer and just as it reaches under the blanket to scoop me up with its big hands, I want to cry because I can tell from the smell that it’s my father. 

“It’s Daddy” he says, pulling a blanket around me, and I relax into his arms. 

I still can’t mak…

There's no H in Satisfaction

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Growing up in the sixties means many of my adolescent memories revolve around the British Invasion. Gyrating in the kitchen and gleefully belting "I can't get no satisfaction" making my horrified mother sputter as she did the dishes.
"You naughty girl! Stop that!"           It was 1965. I'd just turned twelve; no way I was going to stop that.

You thought that was naughty, mum? Just wait until the Stones hit the airwaves with "Let's Spend the Night Together" a couple of years from now. You won't know what hit you.

I sang that song all summer long, not having a clue as to what fueled my mother's outrage, but loving to see her riled up, nostrils flaring. I sang that song while she drove Trixie and me out to swim at the Duff or Chippewa or the pool at the Cyanamid chemical plant, self-conscious in my new pale pink two piece, worried that my freshly sprouted tufts of pubic hair would show through when my swimsuit got wet.

I sang that song whi…

She's a Good Girl

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^is

G is for Good. But not necessarily the greater good. 
I used to hate my name. No one seemed to be able to pronounce my first name properly and my last name just sat there, wooden and clunky. Look at it up there, the way it looked in my high school year book, class of 1971. Ridiculous. Just waiting for someone to tell the dirty joke. The two names together, Simone, after the French film star Simone Simone, and Good, like it was torn out of the Dick and Jane primer. As if my parents tacked on a piece of poetry to a grocery list.  


Coming up with a satisfying signature, an obsession of the young, was impossible. Just as the pen in my hand would get into a nice loopy groove —the curves of the capital S, the rounded mounds of the m and and n, the long tail of the letter e —and suddenly everything stopped short. The big G, fat and stumpy, as ugly as its guh guh guh sound, followed by a couple of o's that went nowhere and then, that hard final d. 
Good. It didn't work as a descriptor…

Dirt, sex and Dr. Zhivago [memoir]

Dirty girl I was twelve and despite finding some rain-drenched girlie magazines in the basement of a house being built in our development, I knew little about sex. If the magazines, their pages stuck together by water or who knew what else, defined sex, then sex must be dirty, just as dirty as the foundation floor where they'd lain strewn, where you could smell urine and feces and something else, an organic moldiness that filled every corner. Something barely touchable and yet, strangely; new, modern houses were being built over these dank, dark, dirty places. Could those homes — bright, shiny split-levels in the mid-60's sun — ever be really clean with such foul foundations? That was my mindset, a grimy, murky kernel held close, when my mother allowed me to go with her to see Dr. Zhivago. I wish she hadn't. I was so excited, not just to see the movie, but because our neighbor Sylvia was going too. Sylvia was a decade younger than my mother; she and her husband Don were just…

Born in Britain

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#11 Salisbury Road, Richmond, Surry, UK



Day Two of the A to Z blogging challenge; I'll probably be back to my more lackadaisical posting schedule when this is over but for right now I'm trying to write every day. For newbies I mostly do memoir here, much of it linked by a tenuous connection to the multiple of places I've lived over the years. I'm not telling my personal stories in order because my mind is way too disordered for that; rather as they come to me which is more, how do you say ... willy nilly. I have attempted to map out the route under the heading On the Street Where I Lived Stories. If you're a regular reader this is going to be story #1, the original of those tales. While I can't seem to get close to the correct #11 address, this is Salisbury Road, the street where I lived first of all, the street where I was born.


Born in Britain
My mother said she and my dad had itchy feet, a condition I clearly inherited.While my older brother has responded by …