I have been away since Thursday. At the beach. In San Diego. I planned to have all the time in the world to read my favorite blogs, write some of my own and generally spend some time thinking about what I want out of the next year. I am about to turn another year older and it’s been pressing on me. What happened instead is a bit of a mystery. I read almost nothing. I thought almost nothing. That’s not right. I thought about a lot of things, too many to remember, but they went by like a swift river. I remember nothing. Maybe that’s a good thing. Today we go home. I like home, I just wish it were somewhere else. I live in a desert, remember? I think it’s more of an outpost really, like in the Old West. We are geographically separated from “everyone else” and it feels like it. You have to make do with what the outpost has in stock or use mail order, just like on Little House on the Prairie.
I never realized how much “what’s available” in your environment challenges/affects who you become. The menu is decided by “what’s in store”, so to speak. A Frankensteinian way to assemble your life and a terrible way to try supporting yourself.
My family always did with what was available to them. They were migrants, settlers, and used to finding an angle in each new town. Bookmaking was one way, gambling on baseball and the horses, entrepreneurship, the military, but also hard work, niche work (using the failings of a town to their advantage) and bringing in something special like the family skating rink in Blythe, California. (you’d have to see Blythe to understand how odd that was in the 40s). Entertainment. They were entertainers, storytellers, talkers, doers, competitors, investors, strivors! But these were the men. The women… oh the women.
My grandmother had 7 children and still fulfilled her artistic urges with elaborate tatting and cooking. Her husband died young and she raised those seven alone. My mother became the oldest (and developed a firm hand) when her brother joined WWII. My mother grew up in a farmhouse, and longed for what she saw as the peace and serenity of the coming 50s suburban lifestyle—housing tracts, neighbors, stability, schools, newly paved streets. She couldn’t have known that the place they settled wouldn’t have enough “in store” for her to realize her ambitions. My parents suffered through two devastating depressions in Palmdale. Lost work, lost the house, were separated by daddy’s having to leave town for work. My mother opened a (fabulous) bakery in a town too poor to support it. She tried her hand selling real estate in a town too poor to buy it. My dad eventually made a decent feast-and-famine living in construction as an electrical contractor.
So what’s “in store” now for me? I’m still in the desert, next door to the town that barely supported us, barely supporting myself. “Why don’t you move” would be the question now and an excellent question it is! When times were good and my wages went up, I hung on for dear life to the rising tide. I never thought to flee while the money flowed. I assumed this was the turnaround I’d been waiting for all my life. Blood out of a stone. A miracle. It’s taken me all these years to realize that ALL WELLS EVENTUALLY RUN DRY in the desert. Now that the area, all areas, are depressed again, there is no way to sell our house, take chances, find jobs elsewhere. We are stuck like thousands, millions across the country, waiting for a new well to be dug. Waiting for resources, rescue, another miracle.
So, what did I want from my home town of San Diego this time? I thought I was scoping out job opportunities, housing prices. I was, but it was in a half-hearted, fantasy kind of way (job listings here=science, medical, technology…and I’m an artist/illustrator). The fact is, I don’t know how to move from there to here. And I had a revelation on Grand Avenue on Friday. I was talking to a young man that lives here. We were talking about the town, housing prices, how it’s changed, his dismay about his mom’s swapping her bungalow for a townhouse. I told him how I was born here, lived on Chalcedony, was here during the 60s, when it was a real beach town. When he left I said “Enjoy my town.” Enjoy my town. My town.
It was supposed to be my town. I was coming back. My sister came first with her husband and new baby and suddenly I had an “in.” My godparents were still here. I came down to stay with my sister until I got my bearings. It was gonna be perfect. Then we found out my brother in law was drinking in bars all day instead of looking for work and eventually they couldn’t make the rent. They moved back to Palmdale and my dad put him to work (begrudgingly). The rest is too sad a story to tell about my sister and her husband. And I, not having big sis to follow, followed my hippie future husband in his big adventure, foresaking mine for the next 15 years.
In San Diego I am still 16. I never reconciled the fact I never came back. I planned to come back just as soon as I graduated high school. And I left my heart here to wait for me.
to be continued…