Aug 28, 2007

One Year Anniversary

Yikes, it can't be possible that I haven't posted a blog for over a month. But there it sits on my blog site, "July 21" as the last entry. There’s something melancholy about watching time sinking into the past and out of reach, like Leo DeCaprio disappearing into the icy Atlantic.

My lack of posting has been for good and bad reasons. We had out of town friends visiting, good. In-town friends going through personal crises, bad. Larry's Mac G4 dying, bad. Larry buying new Macbook, good.

Our homeowner Ted came down at the end of July for a week to shoot another Rozerem commercial. He’s Honest Abe in those commercials with the beaver. While down, he decided to build a simple carport, thinking he’d come back some time in the future, slap on some walls, and Bob’s your Uncle, he’d have a garage. Then a builder friend told him, no way. You want a garage, build the garage NOW. So Ted ended up here for a month as the garage project stretched on. It was painful to watch Ted go through builder hell. Setbacks, new problems, etc.

A friend Arlene, who I knew in New York was in town. She just finished her Masters in counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, so after two years of studying, she treated herself to a vacation in California. Our friends Tony and Martel came over with their adorable and scary-smart daughter, and we sat out on the deck. We talked and ate, and gaped at Loy’s intellectual prowess.

She named most of the letters on his shirt. And then Tony brought out a book of shapes. Not just squares and circles.
“What’s that, Loy?” Tony asked, pointing to a shape in a book.
“Octagon,” Loy replied.
What’s that one? He continued.
"Diamond," she replied again. She said it like she was playing peekaboo. At age three. The girl is 18 months old. And she's sweet and adorable too.

Hanging out was great. Leaving was hard. Tony, Martel, Arlene and I were all friends in New York and part of The Haven. We’ll probably never live in the same town again. Call it nostalgia, but it’s that longing for eternity where we are all together
again. I often think of my friend Aimee who lives in Virginia. I wish she lived close by. That’s what heaven must be like. All the people you know and love are just next door. Heaven must be a brownstone street on the Upper West Side, all your friends living on the same block. Central Park at one end of the block, Hawaii at the other end, The Rockies one block north, the Alps to the south.

Larry and I hit our one-year anniversary on Sunday. All week we were remembering, "what were we doing this time last year?" It made us homesick for our in-laws, for us all being together. We had such fun last year.

For our actual anniversary, Larry took me the OC to see my home town. He wanted to see the places I described in my book, and what made Susan "Susan." So we saw the house in which I grew up, the church I attended and its school where I was bullied by a sociopath from 4th to 6th grade. I showed him the blacktop where the bully got an entire class to oppose me in a team sport. We saw the principal's office I was sent to when I finally exacted retribution on that bitch.

It was weird seeing my old house. My parents owned it for 37 years; it's where I grew up. My sister asked the day before if I'd go up to the door and ask the current owner if we could come in. "NO way, man!" I cried. But when we arrived, I was so curious to see what it was like inside.

We went to the door but no one was home. The front door had lots of beveled glass now, so I got a pretty good view. The kitchen cabinets had been painted, a wood floor had been put into the back room. The entry hall had been decorated with tons of family pictures. Some other family's pictures. It was odd.

We got a room at the Holiday Inn in Newport Beach. We'd brought our bikes and rode down the Newport Peninsula, past the pier, through the million dollar houses crammed onto dinky lots. Watched high school boys boogie boarding the wedge.

Newport Beach people look the same as I remembered them. Waspy faces worn with leisure and money. The tanned, wrinkled skin, some puffed out with botox, others with the weary pursuit of pleasure and nothing else. It’s probably the same in every beach town. Though I remember the faces in New York and New Jersey were more ethnic: Italian, Russian, Greek. Less white, less moneyed. Still the pursuit of relaxation was the same. The same endless pursuit of total stasis.

We rode for a few hours, and everywhere we went, a memory was dislodged. The supermarket on the peninsula where I almost shoplifted in 7th grade. The pier where my sister and I went to buy Dittos pants. The fun zone where we took many photos in those black and white strips.

We took the car ferry over to Balboa Island and there were more memories.

Our neighbors moved to Balboa when I was in fifth grade and I visited them in the summer. Larry and I went looking for the house. I wasn't sure until I saw yellow sign in the water, "Danger End of Storm Drain," and the whole week on Balboa came back to me. Swimming in the still, oily water of the bay. Listening to the parents' copy of Beatles "Rubber Soul," where my Beatlemania would start. That was back in the summer of 1974.

And another memory I’d rather not recall. I'd pledged a sorority my second year at UC Irvine, a misguided attempt to make campus life at less sterile and depressing. The more time I spent, the less I wanted to be part of it. The girls were premed and engineering. I was a lost soul looking for art. Finding it in a sorority was a silly idea. So on an evening in late November, at a house on Balboa Island, I decided to de-pledge. The pledge captain urged me to stay, 'If nothing else, you'll have a party to go to every weekend." But with people I don't like," I thought to myself.

That all came back to me. Especially now in late August, when the light suddenly gets autumnal and melancholy.

By the time we arrived on Balboa Island's main street, it was 6pm on a Sunday, and the weekend was over for Balboa. There were no one left but the locals. They too looked like all the Balboans I knew from my past. Rich wasps in pursuit of pleasure that money can buy. There’s nothing wrong with pleasure. It's gorgeous down here, I understand why people dream to be here. Better than the slums of Bombay, right? But if all you want is the beach, then a beach in Mozambique would do you as well as the beach in Newport. No its’ more than leisure. It’s leisure and comfort and money.

It doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe it's fear of losing myself. Maybe it's fear of success. Not sure. But I don't like how it feels being around it. I mean they had a doggie store that sold $50 dog collars, gourmet dog caked with icing. Toenail polish for dogs. How is this happening?

Older well-coiffed wasp couples who live in Pasadena and weekend on Balboa, dining at the local cafes, thinking about how this is supposed to be the good life. But their faces looked blank to me. There were school flags up on the congested mansions. USC, UCLA, Arizona. I thought, wouldn't it be great to put out a flag for "CCNY-Flatbush?"

We walked around the island, gawking at the massive mansions squeezed onto postage stamp lots. A new one was being built on an alley. Probably six bedrooms. Behind it, an even larger house that was already up and lived in. Faux Italianate, a BMW SUV squeezed in front of the garage.

That stuff gives me the creeps. I don't know why. I mean, Larry and I would love to have enough money to know we're OK. But this kind of money? I get scared at the thought of having so much money that I'd be building a faux Italian villa on an island crawling with rich wasps who live to sit on a beach chair in front of an oily bay front.

We saw the same kind of thing at South Coast Plaza. I took Larry there because it was part of my history. My dad had an optometric practice in the Sears Store. When we moved in 1966, the mall consisted of a Sears, May Company and a Woolworth. Since then they built additional malls across every street, discount shops around the corner. It’s so big, it now has its own zip code. The Limited is on the low rent wing. The high rent wing has Cartier, Jimmy Choo, Bulgari, Tiffany. The kind of consumerism that makes me understand why the Muslims think we’re better off dead. Well that and the doggie toenail polish.

This is creepy, Larry and I said to each other. Let’s get out of here.

And to top off our aversion to consumerism, Larry took me to a nice restaurant, the Rusty Pelican, overlooking Newport bay. The food and service were horrible. We had more fun back in the overly chlorinated pool, talking with other guests.

And so on this year anniversary I think: God blessed me with a man whose passion isn’t for things. Not things you can hold onto. Larry is fired up about ideas, the spiritual life. About bringing the kingdom of God to earth now through building community by loving our friends through crises and good times. For making a difference in what we do in our work. For building a life not on wealth or security but on adventure and living. Even if it means we’re not comfortable or secure with a McMansion on Balboa. And for that I guess I'm thankful.

And that's the good part to this entry . I never imagined I could be so happy and at peace. And today, I am. Of course “this too shall pass,” and there will be struggles and crises to come. Or , maybe God figured Larry and I had enough of our pain already. But we’ll be ready. We'll be going together, and we won't have a McMansion mortgage to take with us.

I’m so looking forward to tomorrow. And the next day.