Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Taste of Summer; Southland Dairies Part 1

Sipping grape Fanta, it tastes like summer.

Visiting Beacon Hill Park the other day, I saw the Heron circle and land 25 feet up on the fir tree branch, it’s neck and body leaning down to peck at grubs. The squirrels were hyperactive, with nine month old black squirrels chasing each other in spirals up the tree, then down. The winner stood on a branch, waving his tail as wide as possible, marking himself of King of the Hill for a minute. Finally realizing that no one was watching, he scampered off his victory branch, down the tree and over to where the loser was chasing another squirrel.

Short lived victories, and the attention span of an adolescent.

In LA, the Southland, I was always the chasee ('The Cheese Stands Alone'); never saw the point in joining anything that would involve me running that hard just to hurt someone. We had only moved to LA a few weeks before the girl gang in the apartment we lived in took some offense at me or how my mother had spoken to her mother, that sort of thing, and I was running, climbing stairs three at a time, running back and trying to make it home, hoping someone was home to open the door.

Thankfully we moved after some months to a small house east of Pasadena, an area under Latino gangs, but with enough whites that I was bused quite a distance to my school (a policy to ensure racial representation within schools against ‘separate but equal’). My window faced the neighbors, a group of males who had lots of loud booming music. My father complained to them. They laughed. So he called the police and a black and white squad car showed up. I was listening with my window open when the police had left and the music went back up.  My father, returning to let them know he would call the police again, was met with promises of ‘retaliations’ against us. At age 8, I still knew that could mean bullets, or more likely a rock through the window, which would be my window. That threat hung over me for a couple months until they were evicted, due to late rent and the police visit. It was relief. I already had an enemy from someone several houses down who asked to see my scented pens then when they had them, went into their house and closed the door. My mother went and the mom v. mom conflict occurred with my pens back along with insults that we were white trash and to not be seen again, as we were both unwelcome. Scary stand-off but scented stickers and pens were serious business! But since our yard offered a host of delights that was unlikely.

During summer or on weekends our house was the place as it had everything from my detective agency, inspired by reading too much Encyclopedia Brown (I had a card table and a sign, but oddly, while Jr. Brown got cool cases, I just bored); The international lending library with books and stamps of Elizabeth McClung, LA, USA, Earth, Sol, Milky Way; the full musicals by my (‘not out and not GAY, honest’) brother, would ‘stage’ them with the kids on our street; the kids at church and with the girls at Thanksgiving (not me, however, I used the time to use the other families’ lego’s to build a rubberband lego firing gun; we didn’t have lego’s as they a) cost money and b) were inspired by the devil). Also, we would try to catch pigeons with a box, stick and a bit of bird seed, with much debate on who got to hold or pull the string on the stick, and how far to let the pigeon go under the box. Plus, they could use our ‘trail’ up a cement block wall, over a roof to the rails where the trains came to unload lumber to play on the tracks. While I had no ‘friends’ on the street, my brother did allow me to pick ONE song for him to choreograph while we sang it to the tape in a performance for parents. I choose, “One Eye, One Horned Flying Purple People Eater.” He was not impressed. Thankfully it was before puberty when Peter had the ‘everything must be from that FABULOUS Barbara Streisand’ bug hit.

At the same time I was showing OCD ticks, due to stress of having an opaque window inside the shower instead of a solid wall, so the person in the shower was highlighted in opaque, like some film screen to those outside. My father said that as it didn’t face the street it wasn’t a problem. For me, even at eight, knowing that anyone could see my silhouette while I could not see them was giving me nightmares and trembling, envisioning someone coming through the window while I was showering.  It was not a logical fear, but nor was having a window in your shower.

Our street was fortunate in that there were no drive by shootings. It was several years before a new gang, facing 3-1 odds, used drug profits and extreme violence to make National News, changing my life and the Southland forever: The Bloods against the Crips.

(end of part 1 of Southland Dairies)


Baba Yaga said...

Lego the work of the devil? You had a very odd upbringing.

You learned to live on adrenaline early on, didn't you? Like it or not.

Also to entertain yourself creatively. Your gift for description is great.

JaneB said...

lovely pictures!

But honestly, LEGO demonic? That's... either very bad spelling of Danish, or really, really illogical. In my house it was 'the devil makes work for idle hands to do' so lego was a handy tool in keeping hands busy!

It's raining and cold here, I'm huddled in a chunky knit cardigan thinking that it feels like autumn... maybe I should get some grapefruit-and-pineapple soda, that's one of the tastes of summer for me.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Baba Yaga: Odd indeed, and instead of saying 'I couldn't begin to describe it', I will, in essense, try to do just that.

Yes, the jangling of unresolved fear does make life memorable, but not enjoyable - like taking a family trip the day before a paper is due, but haven't told the parent that lest they cancel the trip - in retrospect, wanting the cake and taking the lumps only made the cake taste off and the fear build.

Jane: Thanks. I don't think it had to do with Denmark but envy and covetousness - which was better than the 'idolity' charge of the devil using Teddy Ruskbin and Cabbage Patch dolls to train the young into this thrall of lust and obedience to desire. Apparently 'it all starts with legos.'

I hope for better weather to enjoy and yes, grapefruit and pineapple sounds lovely, better than the dandelion squash of Southern Wales.

SharonMV said...

dear beth,
yesterday was a bit cold with some rain in the afternoon. today is warmer & sunny. I'd like to get out and plant a few herbs in my (now & for sometime) dead garden. Right now, I'm still into working on my needle-woven bracelets.

It's interesting to hear about your young life in the Southland. You've written about it some, but there is much more I'd like to hear. Beth as a child - a very intriguing character.

I hope Linda is doing OK and getting used to using her mobility devices. A scooter would be a big help for getting about outside.

Take care of yourself Beth - I know it's hard when your loved one needs help too. Rest, eat & drink!!!

Love to both of you,

Tina Russell said...

Thanks for these snippets from your past, Beth! It’s very moving to hear how you grew up. And yeah, it’s annoying how Encyclopedia Brown gets all the cool cases, right? I mean, I read the Boxcar Children when I was a kid, and I wondered how every town they wandered into seemed to have a ready-made caper wrapped up with a bow for them to solve. Maybe it’s a conspiracy.

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Being of only average intelligence and sometimes easily convinced of value in a new approach or line of reasoning, I have been fooled into initially accepting viewpoints that I have later determined to be wrong. Tom Baugh's was one of these. I feel certain it won't be the last, but I learn, adjust, and go on, trying my best to do what is best. Trying to understand and reason clearly. Always trying to adhere to honesty and truth, although my understanding of what is true may be flawed at times, until I know better.
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