Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Oscars and Other Elixirs


Until I go blind, whenever I look at a digital clock and the time is 10:26 I will be reminded of Harry who has indoctrinated his world with the date of his birth, naturally omitting the year. We have adapted to and adopted from our friends’ little weirdnesses. I will never pass a buffet without thinking of the Kaz. Richard has indelibly inculcated our family culture with a reverence for the Oscars. Since breeding, I have been deemed unfit to engage in the monastic rite that is watching the telecast in Richard’s company. Blackballed, we are fortunate to have found an Oscar soul mate in Broderick Miller. Brod and I feng shui the proper Oscar cynicism and optimism and respect. Plus we are both jealous as shit that we aren’t up there accepting a statue. I would like to say that my beloved Gwenie is equally captivated with the ceremony but truth is, Gwen’s function on this, the holy of holies is to keep the good grape flowing from the Miller cellar and to wash dishes. But, joining together annually for this ritual is NOT A PARTY.


Broderick is supporting There Will Be Blood. Leo is rooting for No Country for Old Men. I am voting AGAINST Juno, (which has been seen by Brod’s daughters a number of times) a pithy little lesson for girls about how to fuck without rubbers, look all cute and big bellied in stretchy ironic t-shirts, discuss cool music with a handsome older man, have totally supportive understanding parents, happily give up a baby and go back to the cute boyfriend in the end.
I have alluded discreetly here to certain emotional exchanges at Casamurphy due the fact that Leo and I do not see eye to eye on a few subjects, the chief of which is Leo. As the night of nights looms, I look forward to a rapprochement and a time of family unity. Leo gets it about the Oscars. I was complaining to Leslie yesterday about all the things that Leo doesn’t get and sighed, that I am sure glad not to be 15.

This segued, of course, into inquiries about my life at age fifteen, a discussion which has left me with much to ponder. From the time my mother and dad divorced my mom dated a man named Sumner, but who, for some reason she always called Jose. Oddly I always found my mother’s proclivity to ascribe nicknames as rather icky, but I have taken to (affected?) this habit myself. I wonder if it makes Leo a little sick.

Every Saturday afternoon Adele would have her hair done in a big blonde bouffant by Mister Al La PrĂ©. Every Saturday night Sumner would arrive and stand behind the dark wood burled bar in the den on Fulton Avenue and mix two gin martinis. He would spring for a babysitter for me and take Mom to The Dresden Room or Frascati or Mr. H at the Beverly Hilton. On Sunday morning there would be a doggie bag for me in the fridge and strict instructions not to wake my mother. When I was fifteen, he died of pancreatic cancer, and towards the end of his life he slept at our house one night, the only time I remember that he spent the night. I do not remember her taking weekends out of town with him but maybe she did. I think she loved him. When she got angry at me she accused me of being the only reason that Sumner didn’t marry her. They were together about eight years. So many of my memories of my mom are not flattering but I wonder if she sacrificed sleeping the night in the arms of the man she loved in order to do the right thing as a mother. I began attending Camp JCA in Barton Flats when I was about twelve and perhaps my mom indulged in sleepovers with her boyfriend then.

I loved my time at Camp JCA and fresh pine air still causes a warm rush of joy. The year my mother’s boyfriend died was also the year I applied to be in the teenage service program, TASC, a group of 30 elite 15 year olds who were selected via written essay, previous camp history and an oral interview to receive name embroidered jackets and complete some sort of public works project on the site of the camp. I agonized over every facet of the application process.


That year Camp JCA moved from its old location in Barton Flats to its current location in Malibu. It was determined that the new facility was more in need of teenage service and a larger group was selected, more than 50 kids I think. All of my friends and even kids who had attended the camp only once and were quite indifferent, were chosen. Every single kid who applied was selected, except me. I was number one on the waiting list. To this day I do not know exactly why. At the time I ascribed it to being fat (although I was probably only about 20 lbs. overweight then) and, unable to come up with another possible reason, I still do.


Midway into a desolate summer, Jaime Sutton telephoned me and condescended to tell me that she had an opportunity to go to Europe and was forsaking TASC and I, number one on the waiting list, would be able to attend. We built an amphitheater. It’s still there but I am unable to make out my name on the bleached out plaque. My jacket was ordered too late for my name to be embroidered on it and it was too small. I don’t remember much else about being a TASCer except that there was an evaluation session with the counselor at the end of camp and she said (I think her name was Becky) that I’d not really achieved true TASC spirit, having spent too much time reading on my cot.

Leo attended Camp JCA in Malibu for the first time last summer. He was miserable the first week and sent home letters that writhed in agony. His later letters and the photos of him I was able to see on the camp website were much more cheerful. When we picked him up from camp he said he intended to apply for TASC, although now, a lifetime later in February, he is wavering. I’ve told him how much I loved JCA but never really much about what I was escaping from when I was there. I never told him about my own TASC experience but I will. I want him to apply (but won’t pressure) and have a great experience, for both of us. We are flawed and base and imperfect at Casamurphy but I am determined to make this home be a better home to be fifteen in than the home on Fulton Avenue was. Leslie says that to achieve this, I need to return to being fifteen on Fulton Avenue and with this, I am tapping on the door there. For Leo and for me too.

2 comments:

FionnchĂș said...

Quite an elegantly structured post. Or else I am bedazzled after reading eleven straight research papers from my Advanced (sic) Comp class with another as many to go. Your prose sparkles! Thanks for the uplift. xxx me

harry said...

I agree, your posts are getting architectual. In a good way.

If you went blind you'd have one of those cool brail watches and you'd still need to touch the raised surfaces of ten twenty six.