Happiness, Gratitude for FB Friends, Dominican Republic in 2010, Ireland in 1994, Reflection on Motherhood

I am so happy. Not a day here or there. Day in and day out, I love my life.

I have said before on the blog(s), and many times on FB, how much FB has transformed my existence on a social, intellectual and emotional level (though recent changes in sharing and private messages are profoundly irritating), but I wanted to say on my blog, how truly grateful I am to Adam Zuckerberg for changing my life.

I just got off the phone with a FB friend with whom I do not speak frequently, but for whom I care deeply, and just thought what a perfect life I have. This morning I got a voicemail from Dad (I was with him three days this week while Mom out of town on business), very sweet, saying, “I woke up this morning and looked for you but you were not here. I miss you.”

I am so close to both my parents; indeed, I know no one my age with this kind of intimate friendship with her parents. It is a miracle and also a testament to the adage, “It’s never too late.” We did not speak for a decade, apart from some financial transactions, at times not tremendously civil to put it mildly and for over two years, I have spoken to them daily, each of them on the phone separately, when I am not in Los Angeles with Dad on weekdays Mom is at work. Dad is fit as a fiddle though this has been a rough year for him, but he cannot drive due to his eyes, and I am there about 8 days a month.

Dad and I laugh constantly. He is amused by my uselessness in practical life, my tendency to lose anything which isn’t tied around my neck: shoes, chargers, phones, earrings, clothes, books, papers, toiletries…. Actually I do not lose things very often. I go, as any girl who grew up around TV ought to, on “hiatus.” The length of the hiatus varies. Sometimes it is a day or two, other times a few months. The longest hiatus ever was a really expensive Nike jogging suit (a top actually, with a zipper and high neck, which was a present, as I would never spend 75 dollars on a workout top, to say nothing of 50 dollars for bike shorts). I was shocked to find it neatly folded and freshly laundered by Launderland (fluff and fold with 3 dollar delivery only, in Santa Barbara, which solved the “laundry problem” which was, as absurd as it sounds, quite troubling to me during my depression), on the stackable white plastic shelves in my messy closet.

In the last year, I have truly lost only two material objects. One was a gorgeous earring about which I still feel sad, bought in the Dominican Republic in late July of 2010. My ex-boyfriend took me and it was the first time out of the country since 1994, when I went with a girlfriend I knew since 7th grade to Ireland for 12 days. We spent two days in London as well, crashing in the flat of her hot Catholic boyfriend from Harvard (she was very Jewish so you can imagine how this went over with her mother), who was working for Darby Shaw, some investment banking house in London after graduation. She had backpacked across Europe, what in Alexander Pope’s Dunciad was referred to as the “Grand Tour” taken by all Europeans of a certain class as a sort of education prior to marriage and after school.

I do not need to stay in fancy hotels, though of course they are nice. I am fine at at Best Western (the San Diego one was quite nice, and it was only 90 dollars a night, which I split with a roommate, but for Easter it was on special, 60 dollars, and that was fine. The Super 8 on the last night, 67 for a single, left something to be desired, quite ugly by the freeway, but it was clean and fine.) However, I do need a bed, a room, and a shower or bath tub (preferably both). I don’t need granite in the bathroom or 600 thread count sheets. I don’t need a large room, or a room with a view. But a hostel, even at 22 years of age, would just not do. Nor would carrying around a 40 pound backpack in Tevas, those sandals favored by the youth hostel set. I am also not wild about the notion of barracks, endless rows of bunk beds in a room with total stranger, and not because I’m a scaredy-cat.

After all, I hitch-hiked all over LA as a teenager and was sexually assaulted at 15, though that did deter me and I never hitched rides again, dealing with buses until February 17, 1988 at 8 AM when my mother took me to the DMV to get my license in Santa Monica. I drove that night to my Jazz 2 class at Katnap Dance Studio in Venice, with Hama, the brilliant (Japanese) protege of Luigi in NYC, where I planned to go to a two week intensitve summer workshop before I became a gimp on crutches as a result of my fall in San Diego at the American Philosophical Association national conference two weeks ago. I also traipsed around New Haven in 1990 at 2 AM alone, with my purse and laptop, from CCL (Cross Campus Library, now Bass because I guess when you give Yale 20 million dollars, you get to name the structure in question anything you desire) to Vanderbilt, my freshman dorm on Old Campus. I have never been afraid of anything of that sort (never been afraid for my personal safety, though I have of course struggled with emotional and intellectual terrors, as any highly intelligent, depressed person has). I just didn’t like the lack of privacy implicit in a hostel.

So my girlfriend had just graduated from Harvard in the summer of 1994 and was taking no time off before beginning Harvard Medical School, aside from her summer trip to Europe. She traveled with her four roommates, with whom she lived the entire time, all brilliant girls (some with eating disorders of course, as in the early 90s I would say about 25% of Ivy League girls puked on a regular basis, though I did not). We met, flew to Ireland and drove from Dulbin to Galway in a little automatic which was nearly three times the cost of my extremely cheap “student” ticket through that International Student Travel organization. At least in 1994, the cost of renting an automatic versus a stick shift was enormous. Amanda never learned to drive a stick and my sister gave me a few lessons in case I got the 1988 Toyota Tercel coupe in a stick rather than automatic. My father was vehemently opposed to the stick (though Grandma, who bought the car in 10th grade didn’t care). But then the only stick was a copper color I did not like, and the cute charcoaol grey was an automatic and then I didn’t care about mastering a stick shift.

Of course, I had to get a new passport and I just have to say , of all the government agencies in America, the passport agency is by far the most mentally challenged. These people are hopeless! They don’t even know the rules, and I ended up having to pay 300 dollars over and above the fee to the U.S. government to an expediting agency I highly recommend, Rush My Passport. The short story is this: I needed a new passport, not a renewal, even though I had an old passport (with dorky but sort of sweet picture of me with bangs, pre-Perlane when my face was perfectly smooth, no dark circles, even without makeup). I spoke to three people, all of whom gave me conflicting information and when I awoke at 3 AM my time to call by midnight, the appointments were taken. Rush My Passport is staffed with very competent and bright people who keep in contact with you via email every step of the way and the company has been featured on CNN, the Today Show and other major national broadcasts. If you are in a pinch, do give them a call.

So the Dominican Republic was wonderful. I had never been to the Caribbean before. I had sailed three times to Mexico on my father’s CT 54, a beautiful ketch by Robert Perry (“Taiwan Tupperware” was the nickname), as well as the Channel Islands (by Santa Barbara). I had been to London for three weeks in the summer of 1984 with the parents of Shana Goldberg, my elementary school best friend, about whom I have written before. Her father, Gary, did Family Ties and Spin City, along with many movies, some better than others, and after Harvard and the Hasty Pudding, Shana became a wildly succcessful sitcom writer in her own right (Mad About You, Friends and her very own show on CBS this year, Better for You, or something like that. I don’t really keep upon all that much current TV (and reality TV does not count as TV; this is like calling Hustler magazine literature), but read about it in Entertainment Weekly at one of my father’s doctor’s offices.

I adored Gary. His Irish wife, Diana, went back to school (UCLA) for her Ph.D. in communications when we were in elementary school at St. Augustine and years later went on to found the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood. I’m told by friends with teens in LA that the Archer School is about 4K higher than all the rest of the private schools in West LA (Harvard-Westlake, Crossroads, Brentwood). (In part, she founded this as a reaction to the merger between Harvard Boys School and Westlake School for Girls, where Shana and I went, which meant that the only secular girls’ school in LA was Marlborough, a hell of a drive from the Westside or even the Valley, as there is no good way to get to Hancock Park.)

I am not well-traveled. Other than London in 1984 when Gary was shooting Family Ties in London (Michael J Fox credits Gary for launching his career) and Ireland in 1994, I have never been out of the country , other than the Christmas sails to the Sea of Cortez and Cabo San Lucas. So the DR was great fun and we had a glorious time eating, swimming, drinking, reading, tanning. I am very diligent about exposing my face to the sun, which along with genes, is probably why people regularly tell me that I look 30 not 39 in person. But I let my body soak up the rays and came back a “brown berry” as my father called me after my first year at sleepaway camp after 4th grade at Catalina Island Girls Camp.

The penultimate day, I wandered into the gift shop and bought a peridot/citrine/pearl drop earring for God knows how many pesos, but 140 dollars. It was not exorbitant, but more than I usually spend on an earring and I was heartbroken to lose it at Kinko’s in November after the funeral of a very dear family friend, the head of the DA’s office in Santa Monica, who had worked for my mother in the DAs office in the mid-1970s and been married to her best friend at the time, who had been a few people down from RFK on the stage of The Ambassador when he was assassinated. (She had been one of his press secretaries during the campaign, not the number one secretary, but one of the deputies.)

The other item I lost was a 15 dollar mesh top from a vintage store in Seattle bought my dear aunt, a genius of second-hand, vintage and clearance shopping with impeccable taste. She is the polar opposite of my professionally high-powered mother. She is a domestic goddess: chef, seasmstress, gardner/horticulturist, artist, painter, interior decorator. I have never loved a top this much and there was no way of course to replace it. I left it in a desk drawer at the Punta Cana Majestic (a hotel I reviewed for TripAdvisor and for which I won an award I never claimed, some 30 dollar electronic photo album which I did not want but which I thought would make a good present for one of my teenaged nieces).

So in the past few years , at least since 2006, I have only lost two things: the mesh top from Seattle vintage store, which I wore with Trina Turk half-priced slacks with nine buttons to my Yale reunion, bought in fact in New Haven in December of 2009 at Archetype Clothing Company in the Taft Apartments, where I lived for three years), and the DR earrings from the gift shop at the Majestic. (Just a note: the Majestic has two resorts, one for families and one for adults with no kids. I highly recommend the latter unless of course you have kids or adore kids. I fall into neither category of course, though I think kids can be charming, as long as they are not yours.). My dad, then, is amused by my absentminded was .That ex-boyfriend called me both his “sweet and useless creature” and his “absentminded almost professor.”

I love spending time in LA with parents and visiting new friends. I truly feel that FB provides for what I called months ago a “compensatory college experience.” I was not a hermit in college, but I was not a social butterfly either. I have loving, fun, stimulating friends now all over the country and it is like the do-over for which I always wished, not just for Yale which was not socially dead for me, but UCSB which was nothing short of a social death.

And the truth is, I would not be able to cultivate and nurture friendships if I ever had a child. I never, ever wanted kids (plural), but once in a while had a passing thought that one child (preferably a girl) would be a nice thing. I am not financially constituted to raise a child as I would wish, but even were I so constituted I have zero desire to devote the emotional and intellectual energy which a child requires. I love having 90 minute phone conversations with FB friends. I love spending hours writing essays about literature, film, and my past. I have a stack of ten books I have begun but not finished and I am sitting on six lectures from the American Philosophical Assocation conference which I have not yet written up for the blog. In addition, I have been meaning to order the complete 12-season set of NYPD Blue, and I still have not watched more than a fifth of the two seasons of Sports Night which I ordered months ago. I have yet to watch a single episode of Season 6 of Grey’s Anatomy with all the juicy storylines about Mark, Lexie, Alex, Callie, Meredith, Owen and Cristina. And I have yet to see more than one episode of a show I am positively dying to see, Parenthood, a favorite of two friends of mine, one involved with the entertainment industry.

Even without a job, other than my job as caretaker for my father, there are not enough hours in the day to finish all the reading and TV I desire. I cannot imagine having a child who would require all my attention and leave me even less time than I have now, with no obligations, for philosophy, literature, TV and film, much less hour-long phone conversations with FB friends, blogging, and other private messages and emails to new friends and old on FB.

And I have a wonderful boyfriend whom I love, and with whom I get to spend time when I am not in LA or NYC. He has a son here a few days a week, though I am often gone or occasionally, at my apartment, which I love but at which I rarely sleep in SB. I firmly believe in the premise of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. An intellectual and contemplative girl needs “a room of [her] own,” quiet and peaceful, in which to ruminate on life, her thoughts, culture. Quite frankly, though I hate Sex and the City, I did see the sequel to the movie on Jetblue, in fact, on the way home from NYC after the DR. I thought the idea of Carrie and Big having a second apartment, where one could stay alone two days a week was quite a good idea. If one has the financial means to keep a rental in addition to the primary residence one shares with one’s man (or woman, but I am 100% straight), I see nothing wrong with this, particularly if one’s partner has one or more children. So I feel truly blessed, eager to wake up each morning and start my day of what Richard Eldridge and other philosophers have called, following Hegel and Charles Taylor’s chapter in his seminal 1970s work on that difficult philosopher, “Expressivism: The Aims of an Epoch”: expressive activity.

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