Autobio Chapter 8
I did not do well during the 1968 Spring semester. Maybe the classes I took were too difficult, or maybe it was just preoccupation with the wars, assassinations, and having my second love in a row drafted right out from under me, that made it hard to concentrate on preparing for life in a world that seemed on the brink of being destroyed. Missing a semester broke the momentum, and, although I was able to move back home and attend Palomar in the Spring, I had missed the fall semester. My grades, which had placed me on the Dean’s list the first two semesters, had taken a nose dive. I did, however, learn about yoga and start to meditate. After completing that semester, I didn’t take any more classes for nearly a decade.
I gave up my career plans of becoming a psychologist and would work at clerical and manufacturing jobs for decades. I was a semester behind on the credits needed to transfer to a 4-year University. I didn’t know how I could do it; it seemed impossible, so I gave up that goal. It was extremely difficult living with my parents, and I didn’t think I could stand it any longer. They did not have a high opinion of me, did nothing to build me up, and lots to tear me down. I clearly needed to get away for the sake of my emotional health.
There had been 221 student protests at 101 colleges and universities in 1968. During the Democratic national convention in Chicago, in August, 1968, 10,000 anti-war protesters gathered on downtown streets and were confronted by 26,000 police and national guardsmen in a brutal crackdown in which 800 demonstrators were injured. On September 30, 1968, the 900th U.S. aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam.
I made a white outfit with a fitted neck, long sleeves with a large yellow fabric suns in two shades of yellow with protruding rays sewn onto the front and back with white pants. I planned on going out to the desert wearing this outfit and fasting for as long as it took me to find myself. Instead, I moved in with my cousin, Mary, who had a little house in Altadena. For years she had taken me backpacking in the Sierras, and other California wilderness areas, with her Community College hiking Club, the Pasadena City College Highlanders, while I was still in high school. I began attending group therapy with Dr. Dale Dunlap, the psychologist who had given me the horrible advice, about losing my virginity, that had completely alienated me from my parents.
Although passionately against the war effort in Vietnam currently underway, I accepted a job with a defense contractor, Electrical Optical Systems. I had an office job in the budgeting department. I didn’t get my hands dirty with the actual manufacturing of sniperscopes. Still weapons I helped build by working in the budgeting office may have been used in the ongoing and escalating conflict in Vietnam. So in spite of my objection to Ray joining the service, my body was also being used for war.
The Price of a Woman’s Freedom
I wore my white sun outfit to a concert in the Rose Bowl. Several artists were there including Big Brother and the Holding Company and Buffy Sainte Marie.
After the concert. I went for a walk on the beach in Santa Monica, and ended up staying all night by myself on the beach. I didn’t sleep. The next day I was exhausted and had to get myself back to Altadena. I accepted a ride with a stranger. He pretended to want to see me safely to my bed then took advantage of me.
I had expressed that I did not want to have sex. I only acquiesced when he insisted. Did I think I had to cave when a man insisted? Maybe it was the bullying I experienced as a youngster from my father that made standing up for myself seem like a strange concept. He may not have even realized that he had raped me. I wanted the freedom to spend the night at the beach in meditation by myself, and the freedom to accept a ride home from a stranger. The price of my freedom was an occasional unwanted sexual encounter, an occasional rape. As the price of freedom for a woman who refuses to adhere to the curfews and restrictions placed on the lives of women, a gentle rape is not terribly traumatic, but it is annoying.
On some level, I was always willing to have a relationship, always hoping that the relationship will be right, will evolve into a marriage eventually, always hoping, even after disappointment after disappointment. There was a spark of truth in me, a virtue as yet undefined. My heart was right. I was seeking the heart of gold, not always wisely, but in a perfect world I would have the freedom to explore and travel without restriction and still remain unmolested.
When I was young I had terrible sunburns especially after an exciting day at the beach. Sometime during my teens, I decided that I would not pass the propensity to sunburn on to the next generation, and dated primarily dark-skinned men.
However, in spite of the choices I would make of a black man to father my first child, and a brown man to father my remaining three, my third daughter would seem to have inherited the milky white skin of her maternal grandmother.
My eager search for love was in full force at Mary’s cute little house in Altadena. One day while I was there alone, two guys came over. One of them was someone I thought was hot and had developed a crush on the moment I had first seen him. He had been there before at my invitation. Much later, I would realize that he had been a drug addict. There was something about the emotional coldness of an addict that I thought was cool for same reason. The other was one of the guys who had been in a car that had picked me up while hitchhiking. The guy I thought was hot was in the house by himself for awhile, while the other guy talked with me in the backyard. He said the day he and the other guys had picked me up hitch-hiking they were going to gang-rape me. But after talking to me, they decided I was nice, and they would each date me instead.
Suddenly the pickup started and he ran out through the garden gate and got in the truck. I walked into the house through the back door. The front door was open. My cousin’s stereo, that we used to enjoy listening to the Moody Blues on, and the speakers handmade by my uncle were gone! I ran after them, but they out-distanced me. I was unable to get the license plate or even the make of the pickup. I only knew the first names of the two boys. They stole my cousins stereo and left me looking like an accomplice.
My cousin was hurt and angry with me. Mary’s psychologist, Dr. Dale, suggested that I pay Mary $5 per week until the value of the stereo was paid off. Mary agreed, but when I tried to make the first payment, Mary refused to accept it.
There was no way money could have paid the emotional value of the stereo with speakers hand-made by her dad. I was well aware of that. I was a sex addict, and my sex addiction had hurt my cousin. At the time I didn’t realize I was a sex addict. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do. I was looking for the right man to marry. I was getting to know someone who might be the right one. When it didn’t work out, I moved on.
My Aunt Elizabeth (Marys mother) was convinced, and apparently convinced others, that I stole the stereo for drug money. This was written in a letter to my mother that I would see a couple of years later.
Drugs were not my drug. I was only a casual user, and only if I didnt have to buy it myself. My drug was sex. And yet, whenever I was in a relationship, I was content with my partner.
If I could have found the thief (and I searched after the heist), I certainly would not have made a baby with him four years later, I would have pressed charges for theft! There seemed to be no shortage of black guys willing to provide a bit of melanin for the progeny of a pale white girl. As bad as his temper was, I dont believe Perry would have stolen something from my family that hurt and humiliated me to the extent the stereo heist did. And yet decades later, my sister would ask me if my oldest daughter’s father was the guy who had stolen Mary’s stereo!
I didn’t know how to make amends with Mary. She wanted the stereo not to have been stolen. I was unable to lol make it not have happened.
“Mary, I have the five dollar payment that we agreed on.”
“I don’t want it.”
“I thought you agreed with Dr. Dale that I would pay five dollars a week until the value is paid off. By the way, what is the value?”
“No.” A long time prior to that, Mary and I had been in the bath together. I was probably 10 or younger. Mary is 5 years older than me. She pretended to be the witch that had eaten Mary. Her act was very convincing. I was reminded of that witch again.
“You had no business bringing that boy here.”
“You’re right, I didn’t, and I’m sorry.”
“Sorry isn’t good enough.”
“I know it isn’t but it’s all I’ve got.”
“I will always resent you for this. No number of five dollar payments can bring my stereo back, with the one-of-a-kind speakers hand-made by my father.”
“I know that, Mary. I tried to find him, but I don’t know where he lives. — I can feel your resentment. It’s hurting me.”
“Good. — What was that charade about with Bob? Did you care for him at all?”
“I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to hurt him.”
“Sorry is your middle name isn’t it?”
I was culpable, and felt powerless to lessen the probability of becoming culpable again. I didn’t know that sex addiction was the name for what I had. I didn’t know what was wrong with me or how to fix it. Bob and I did have a one nighter. I didn’t know if it was love or just exploring. Honestly, it didn’t feel like love, but then I was still hurting over losing Ray to the military. Looking within, there may have been a part of me that still wanted to get back at Ed for cheating on me, by me sleeping with the brother of the woman he had cheated on me with.
Mary also had lost a love. Her boyfriend had come back from Vietnam, severely brain-injured, a year earlier. He was not expected to recover. He had been a conscientious non-concombatant. He had served his platoon as a medic.
I moved out as soon as I could and stopped attending group therapy. Later on Bob visited Perry and me at our apartment, before we got busted for dope. Perry commandeered me into the kitchen to grill me about my relationship to Bob, and to brainstorm how we could take advantage of him, while Bob sat in the living room.
Mary would eventually get over the loss of her boyfriend’s mental acuity, if one can ever get over such a thing, and would go on to marry Paul, the fireman during our Muir Trail Trips. I had learned some useful things from Paul, like how to get and keep a campfire going, even with wet wood and no paper. They would move to Butte, Montana and have several boys together.
I got an apartment with my cousin Deb. We shared an apartment in Pasadena in the summer of 1968. I was in grief from losing two loves to the military and was doing my best to numb the grief with my drug of choice. She may have been drawn into my sad lifestyle a little, possibly against her will, though at the time she seemed willing enough. like when she would date the friend of my date. She seems to have carried resentment against me throughout the intervening years.
Deb thought that I should have tried harder to pay Mary back for the stereo. I didn’t know what else I could have done when Mary flatly refused to accept the payment. Honestly there were plenty of other places I could put the money if Mary didn’t want it. One of those places was having $40 stolen right out of my shopping cart, when I turned to look at something on the shelf, then turned back around and my wallet was gone. Another lesson learned for me. Don’t allow two guy friends in the house at the same time if you are home alone, and hold your wallet at all times while shopping.
When I met Perry, I succumbed to his charisma and committed myself. To Deb’s disappointment I let Perry move in. Deb moved out, and she was angry with me for letting Perry move in. I knew I said, “We’ll have guys around when we want them and not when we don’t,” but then I fell for him and wanted him around all the time. Now I had two cousins mad at me. I didn’t know how to help them, and I didn’t know how to help myself. It was a rocky road getting to know the man who would eventually father my first child. I also held down an office job with a defense contractor. I carpooled or took the bus to work, I was still not driving. I felt my parents had neglected an important part of my education. Later I would make sure all my kids got drivers licenses at least by the time they were 18.
My cousin, Deb, is one year younger than me. She and Mary are also cousins. When Deb and I had been about ten and eleven, she had came out from Denver with our grandparents, and had stayed at our home overnight. The kids, including Deb, my two brothers, and me, had been playing a game. The game was not over; it was not a good time to stop, but Grandfather suddenly interrupted and told Debra it was time to go to bed. She argued a little, then acquiesced muttering, “I hate Grandad.” Why was it so important to Grandfather to follow Deb up to the girls room and tuck her in before I got there? A few years after that, Deb told me Grandfather had molested her repeatedly throughout her childhood.
Deb may not realize how badly physically abused I had been by my father. Abuse is abuse. It all takes a toll. We both had been habituated throughout our childhoods to accept abuse. The extreme frequency and severity of corporal punishment I had been subjected to and the constant sexual molestation she had endured, until Grandad died a year or two after interrupting our game, strongly affected the decisions we made as adults. Deb would have an overweight problem for decades. She would manage to get a college degree. She would marry a man from Greece, and, in spite of health problems that would prompt a medical recommendation to terminate at least one of her pregnancies, she would give birth, one at a time, to two children. The marriage would split up, the ex would take the boy and the girl to Greece. Deb would eventually get them back. She would make her home in Colorado for most of her adult life.
I had the telephone number of a boy named Emerson Divine. I called him a week or two after the stereo heist, and he told me he was in a relationship and was about to become a father. Emerson had been in the car with three other boys that had stopped for me one day while I was hitchhiking from Altadena to Pasadena. Another of those four boys later become the accomplice in the stereo heist. I think his name was Pedro. This information may have been useful to a police detective, but the matter was never reported to the police. Why did I not call Emerson after the theft and ask for information about Pedro and the other thief, whose name I knew then? I don’t know.