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2004-10-30 @ 1:57 a.m.
memories of mah-velous marin


Well, my mom and I were having our usual end of the month conversation today. I have $15 left in food stamps, about $20 in the bank and $4 in my wallet. So our conversations usually go something like, “Gee witty, how can you make money?”. Of course this dilemma will soon be remedied, with my new part time job, but in the meantime, I will be driving around on gas fumes, wondering just how many bowls of cereal and tuna sandwiches I’ll have to eat between now and November 3rd when I get my disability check.

But our conversations always inevidably turn towards my writing abilities. My mom pretty much trashed everything I did growing up. The way I looked. My grades, which were actually pretty good. My drawing abilities. The way I rode my bike. The way I breathed. But my writing skills were so considerable (don’t mean to brag), that she could never really come up with anything bad to say about them. Not that she didn’t try. For instance, she’d read something of mine in fifth grade, and get downright gleeful if she found a spelling error. Because, for some reason, it made her feel superior, to find something wrong with the one thing I did right. Why is that? Eventually though, with the advent of spellcheck (damn that technology!), she had to start picking on stupid things, like the names I gave my characters in stories I wrote and misplaced commas. Fortunately though, she doesn’t know enough about English, to realize that I am actually the Queen of Run-On Sentences. So if you see her, don’t tell, ok?

She has gotten over the picking on witty’s writing thing somewhat. And now, at this late date, she is actually encouraging me to write a book. I guess she wants to see who plays her in the movie. (either Kathy Bates from “Misery” or James Gandolfini from “The Sopranos”).

I really don’t have a life worth writing a book about though. And to make matters worse, she wants me to start all the way back when I was growing up in Florida in the 1960’s. I don’t really remember much. A lot of it is blocked out, because a lot of it was bad (being raped and molested). And also most of what I remember from Florida was humidity, bugs and large poisonous frogs out in the yard.

In 1968 we moved to California. It was quite an adventure driving across the country in our Pontiac. It took us two days to get across Texas. We spent one glorious night in Vegas. The Grand Canyon was cool. We stopped at a place where a meteor had crashed. The gift shop there had little plastic space alien dolls. I saw my first mountains and snow in Yosemite. And then we hit the San Francisco Bay Area and I never saw anything like it. I loved it. I didn’t even miss Miami. We settled in Marin County, which is just north of San Francisco.

God love Marin. Marin County, which was satirized in the Cyra McFadden book “The Serial”, was like the epicenter of all the silly things you think of when you think of an archetypal California granola brain. Astrology, religious cults, biorhythm flow charts, Birkenstocks, lovebeads, transcendental meditation. We had it all. I had never seen a hippie til I moved there.

When I first got there, on my first day of school at St. Raphael’s, my mother made me wear this utterly ridiculous large pin which said, “Hi, I’m witty, I’m a Friendly Floridian!” Christ, if that didn’t make me feel like a large sized dweeb. And what was worst was the fact that none of my fellow fifth graders knew was a Floridian was. A Floridian? Is that like something from “Star Trek”, one little girl wondered? I was mortified, but I knew if I took off my Friendly Floridian button my mother would somehow find out and then I’d be in for it. Finally, fortunately, its novelty wore off by the third day, and she removed it from my Peter Pan collar and I was no longer the freak from Florida. I was just the freak from nowhere.

Fifth grade was incredibly hard for me though. Not because fifth grade was hard academically, but because I had just made a huge move across the country, my parents were fighting incessantly (my Dad lost the job he had transferred to California for right after we moved here), he was drinking heavily, my mother was out physically beating up our neighbors (yes, my Dad had to physically restrain her from pounding on Gerry Ludaka’s head one night, when he insulted her pot roast or something), and then we also had the Zodiac Killer stalking busloads of children. He was a serial killer in the late 1960’s who had written a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle and said he was going to kill children on school buses and sort of indicated it might be in Marin, so our school buses were tailed by police cars every morning and afternoon. (so, in case you wonder how I ever got started on feeling paranoid, try having the Zodiac Killer on your ass at age 11).

I also had the Nun-from-Hell. Her name was Sr. Constance, but I used to call her Sister Constantly Mean. She was only about 4 ft. 10 inches, but those 4 ft. 10 inches carried alot of malevolence. One day when I had told my mom she was mistreating me in class, my mom had called her and yelled, and then she took me out in the hall and slammed me so hard against the wall that I saw stars. I never said anything to anyone again. Another time when I was standing up at the blackboard doing a long division math problem, she started whacking the hell out of me with a ruler in front of the class, and I was never able to do math again, nor stand up in front of people. So see what happens when people don’t have sex? Or maybe she was the Zodiac Killer.

But most of the rest of my time in Marin County was good. It was very beautiful there, and my Dad and I used to hike alot. Fortunately my mom was never a nature person. She preferred shopping malls and bingo, so my Dad and I were able to go out together and take long leisurely hikes up on Mount Tamalpias and along the beaches in Marin. One such walk on Stinson Beach took kind of an interesting turn. We were walking along the beach and came upon this rock outcropping which blocked the next part of the beach. So we climbed up over the top of it only to find....A Nude Beach! Yay! Of course I was only about 10 or 11, but I got quite an eye-full, because spread out across a large sandy stretch, was about 25-30 people sunbathing and playing volleyball and frisbee. My Dad, to his credit didn’t totally freak out, despite his straightlaced Indiana farmboy upbringing. I think he just said, Whoops, lets go back, and we never talked about it again.

I also had a really good friend growing up there. Mary. She was several years older than me, and her mother was a friend of my mother’s. They went to Bingo together, so Mary and I were frequently left to our own devices. We’d go to the movies. We’d go to the Mall (we saw rock star Janis Joplin stumbling around the Northgate Mall once. Swear to God!). We also used to go down to my bedroom and make audio tapes of us singing and telling jokes. I’d write skits and Mary would perform them with me. One of the first jokes I ever wrote was: “That’s about as funny as a porcupine in a bubble factory”. Granted its not exactly something you’d find on Jon Stewart’s show, but hey I was 11.

So I really don’t know that there is enough material, from my early life to write a book about. My current life may be slightly more interesting, but that’s only because there’s flagrant bouts of nudity and pity parties that would make Martha Stewart want to bake chocolate cookies with triple chips.

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