Saturday, July 19, 2014

From the Personal Archive

Here's another one.  I found this in the pages of an old book at Qcumberz (seriously, that fucking name, I'm going to start calling it something else) a few years ago and was so amused by it, I kept it.

It's a packing list for a vacation, or camp or something.  The notepaper the list is written on is brittle and deeply yellowed at the edges where it peeked out of the pages of the book.  I instantly assumed it was at least 40 years old from the condition and the terminology used, but I could be wrong.  Things keep well when trapped in books.  It could be older, but I don't think it's newer.

ITEMS NEEDED BY YOUNG GIRLS ON VACATION IN THE 60S:

curlers
bible
makeup
perfume
money
stockings
church dress
shoes (shoe subcategory: 1. sandal  2. tennis  3. loafers  4. church  5. thongs)
everyday dresses
sweater
coat (1. raincoat  2. umbrella)
skirt and sweater
underwear
bra
b. c. (!!)
bathing suit
pajamas
purse
pants (1. long wool  2. couch (illegible)  3. shorts)
shirts
deodorant
shaver
toothbrushes
mouthwashes
shampoo (1. rinse)
brush
comb
slips
girdle
pillows
lotion (1. suntan)
first aid kit
hairdryer
stationery (sp)
candy
sunflower
bubblegum - 100 pieces
radio
batteries
camera
shower cap
pizza mix
books
eye drops
fingernail polish (1. file)
knee socks
hairspray
robe
magazines

Obviously, items like stockings, girdles, skirt/sweater sets and everyday dresses indicate that this is pre-70s.

What cracks me up is the "b.c." which covers a line that had been erased in which it appears that she began to write "birth control," but then thought better of it.  This list could have fallen into the hands of a man, or a parent, or the Pope!

I assume this is a young person due to the need to put candy, sunflower seeds and gum on an important list of things to remember, as well as the awkward, flouncy cursive.  I also enjoy the order of the items, with curlers, the bible and makeup as the first things she thought of.

I wish I could remember what book I found this in.  Whatever it was, it was unremarkable, and I didn't buy it.  Yeah, I stole this letter too.

I have a rosy, incorrect view of girlhood in the 50s and 60s, mostly because I watched a lot of movies with heroines named Gidget or Tammy when I was a kid.  Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap was my fashion inspiration in ~1994.  Obviously, life as a female at this time was not quite as adorable as it looked in "Tammy and the Bachelor" (1957), but in my mind, when I'm not thinking clearly, it was.

For me, it felt kind of easy to relate to those times when I was 10, 11, 12 years old because we lived in a house built in the 50s and my bedroom was largely unchanged from the way it had looked then, with the same furniture that had been chosen for some other family's daughter 40 years before.  As I have mentioned, our house came with all of its original 50s & 60s furniture, mostly unused as it had been a summer home, and we moved in and left it pretty much as it had always been, down to the glass grapes on the coffee table.  This is weird, right?  I think it's weird.  My bedroom had a custom built blond wood vanity, dresser and desk built into the wall, with a little stool covered in pink velvet.  I used the 50s jewelry box to store my own stuff, and the old ceramic cocker spaniel coin bank that had been the other little girl's is in my bedroom right now.

So anyway, I imagine this list was written by some everyday Sandra Dee.  What would she think if she knew someone had her list, and that something of such bland utility then could seem so interesting now?

 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Aerogramme

I've collected a number of letters and bits of paper over the years that have held some historic significance to me.

This is from a series of pen pal letters written between two young girls in the late 60s, a Miss Delfina Sapien of Phoenix, AZ, and Miss Stella Hardacre of Lancashire, England.

The set of letters was donated to the Children's Museum, assumedly by Delfina's family, because the museum is housed in what used to be the Monroe School, a monolithic 1914 classical revival in downtown Phoenix.  Delfina would have been a student at Monroe.

To my knowledge, the pack of letters still sits unknown, un-transcribed and generally uncared for in a filing cabinet in the development office of the museum, which is not really a museum, but rather a giant Wonka factory of installations meant to encourage children to learn through play.  So far, the Children's Museum has failed to realize its duty as the steward of its building's history, but we don't get too snippy about it; 15ish years ago, a demo permit had been issued for the building when the Children's Museum chose it for its space, saving the perfectly sound yet uniquely unwieldy building from destruction.  The building has been largely renovated since, but there are still entire rooms left in disrepair, with rotten wood floors too scary to walk on and discarded furniture covered in a furry coverlet of decades of dust.  Neat!

When Delfina attended the school in the 1960s, it would have been old, outdated, and mostly attended by poor children from the neighborhood.  It was closed in 1972 due to low enrollment, as people filtered out of the downtown area and entire neighborhoods were razed for commercial buildings.  When it was built, the Monroe School was one of the most modern and progressive public schools in the country, filled with such cutting-edge technology as flushing toilets, early intercom systems, and a teacher's lounge, the latter two being unheard of at the time.

The letters are written on tissuey, pale blue air letter paper, pre-printed with ninepence postage featuring the profile of young Elizabeth II.  We only have Stella's letters, naturally, one of which I inadvertently stole.  I took it home to read it, and, woops, I still have it!

This one is postmarked 22 July 1967, in Burnley, Lancashire.  Delfina's address is listed as 114 S. 8th Street in downtown Phoenix. Her house would have been a little bungalow built between the teens and the 30s.  Not only is the house long gone, the street is too, having been swallowed by the widening of Jefferson St.  The house's foundation is probably now in the middle of Jefferson's westbound lanes, a stone's throw from Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe.


In the letter, Stella shares the details (all of the details) of a family trip to Spain, then refers disapprovingly to the arrest of Mick Jagger & Keef Richards on a drug bust earlier that year.

"Dear Delfina,

I am writing this letter the day after we arrived back in England.  We have had an unforgettable, wonderful holiday in Spain and come back with a sun tan.  Early Wednesday morning July 5th we got up, had our breakfast, and at 6-40 am we set off in our car for London.  It took us about 6 hours to get there and we waited for about 1 hour til our flight was due. We had our passports checked and then we got into a coach which took us out onto the airfield where our plane was waiting.  We were shown to our seats and after about 10 minutes, we took off.

It is lovely looking down from 17,000 feet onto the ground!  You can see all the fields and tiny dots of houses.  Soon we were over the English Channel and we passed many boats.  We crossed the coast of France and I noticed that this part of France was nearly all country, but my dad said that southern France nearly all was.  Then the captain came on the loudspeaker and he told us that we were climbing to 19,000 feet to fly over the Pyrenees.  I felt a bit air sick when we started to climb.  Soon we were above the clouds (you couldn't see the mountains, just clouds) and it looks like you are floating through a sea of cotton wool.

Then the stewardesses came round with snacks.  This was: ham sandwiches, piece of cake, cup of tea and an apple.  We landed at Barcelona airport where we went through the customs and then we got on a coach which was taking us to our hotel.  We went through Barcelona city.  I am glad I don't live there.  Just one road was 8 miles long.  There were 4 lanes of traffic on either side of the road and they were overtaking on the right, left and centre.  After about one hour we came to a small town and our coach went up a street and stopped outside a hotel called Mar Blau.  We realized it was ours and our luggage was carried in and we entered the lounge.  Unfortunately we found that no one could speak English in our hotel and we just had a representative man who spoke English coming over once a day to see everything was all right.


We went on two excursions: one to Montserrat, and one to a night club in a nearby town.  All the rest of the days we went on to the beach and sunbathed or did some shopping.  We did not like the food very much.  It was a bit sickly sometimes.  The meat was not good as well.  We are hoping to go to Spain again next year so we are all saving like mad.

I agree with you about the Rolling Stones.  It is awful.  I don't think they should let them go out on bail.
This is all for now.

Love, Stella

P.S., Did you get the postcard?  Also if the friend of yours is not going to write to Marlene, could you find someone else please?"

Stella - you can't please her!


Friday, July 4, 2014

It is very hard to feel patriotic about a country with so much potential, yet which has always been half spoiled by various unforgivable offenses, most of which have been unthinkable to our developed, western peers.  America seems to take so much longer than its sister countries to rise above its crimes against nature.  This is, of course, due to ignorance, arrogance, and religion: the trinity of American disgrace.

Not to get too heavy-handed - it is my favorite federal holiday, because it's the only time we, as a country, would ever engage in a wide discourse about stars of the Enlightenment period.

Even if you are suspicious and resentful of the current charade, there are writings from the Revolutionary period and after that can touch even the most offish of disaffected hearts.  Reading these documents is the only time I have felt legitimately, personally proud of the concept of America.  There have been other times, stories of bravery and humanity under duress by soldiers or nurses or civilians, positive Supreme Court rulings, certain elections, but these stories always seem to be marred with a rotten underside, an unexpected or hitherto unknown terrible repercussion, something.  Anyway.

The most important things you can read this summer:

The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine, 1791.  Before this, the concept of individual human and civil rights was almost completely undiscussed, unconsidered.  How terrifying and telling that we have been focused on this type of human cultivation for such a short time.

The Virginia Act of 1786 by Thomas Jefferson.  Introducing!  Freedom from religion.

George Washington's Farewell Address of 1796.  Sweet, articulate and inspiring.

Read while listening to this on repeat for max effect.



and this



Past 4th of July posts:

J.A. says N-O

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Percival

My relatives are putting together a family reunion.  One of those giant outdoor picnics of heredity that I have only seen in comedies.  By popular request, it is being held at the old farmhouse where my grandmother was born, in Iowa. 

It's weird to me that over 50 people will be attending this and that many of them requested meeting at the house instead of the original proposal somewhere else in the Midwest.  Weird because that's my house.  It's mine, and I will always entertain illusions of living there someday.

Up until recently, the house was owned by my great-aunt, whose frostiness was tempered only by her antiquated sense of hospitality when we went to visit a decade ago.  She was nice because she had to be, but that didn't stop her from bitching about things her brothers in law had done to her 60 years ago.  After she married my great-uncle Chick, it was decided that she would move into his family home while he was overseas during WWII.  What I thought sounded like a charming prank still stuck in her craw: the night she was to arrive for the first time to her new home was a late one, and after long hours of driving, they pulled up in the middle of the night and trudged carefully up the dark stairs to their bedroom.  On the upper ledge of the door had been balanced an open box of shot pellets.  Instead of slipping into a quiet bedroom for some long-anticipated sleep, they got a cacophony of hundreds of little metal balls clacking onto the wood floors and bouncing down the stairs, accompanied by the belligerent male laughter of many new brothers-in-law.  One got the feeling she had hated them ever since.

When we chuckled at the story, my dad particularly as he remembered fondly his uncles, she shot us a poison-tipped glance.  "Well it was certainly not funny at the time."  I remember that she seemed to be bragging about being from Ohio, a place that she thought was considerably more refined than Iowa.  Being from Ohio, she said, it took some time to adjust to the country ways of Percival.  I recall marveling that someone would speak of being "from Ohio" with the level of righteous pretension usually reserved for New York natives.

She was kind of charming, though.  We were initially wary because my grandmother hated her, hated her fucking guts, because she had thrown out a bunch of family heirlooms when she and her husband took over the house in the 1960s.  Allegedly.  She never visited and we had never met her, only thought of her as an evil witch living in my grandma's house somewhere towards the middle of the country.  We only met her after my grandmother died.  She was cute and old, with a 1960s tv set and a wall-mounted kitchen phone as her only windows to the outside world.  And an old radio, of course.  She asked me if I wanted to see "the Monaghan family library," and opened a linen closet to reveal stacks and stacks of Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey paperbacks.  Lots of phrases began with "The Monaghans..." in which she would illustrate what they do and don't do.  The Monaghans love barbecue.  The Monaghans have lived in this town for 100 years.  The Monaghans were the first Catholics in Fremont County.  The Monaghans fly planes and write copy for Chevrolet!

The Monaghans also had a cross burned in the yard of that farmhouse by the Klan in the nineteen-teens,  because of the Catholic thing.  My grandmother's sister told us stories of going to class in the one-room school and being teased and pinched by all the little Protestant children, who called them "cat-lickers".

After the great aunt's death, I was terrified for the house's fate, but all is well in that it conveyed to her genial son, a lay historian and riverboat card dealer.  That means I still have a chance to someday acquire the house.  In fairness, they have been careful stewards of the building's integrity, and apart from various stumbles, they have preserved it admirably.  When they diverge, though, they really mean it.  There is an upstairs back bedroom that, when I saw it, had 4" rainbow shag carpeting.  I don't know if that's period correct.

In spite of the occasional dashes of gingerbread and scallops, it is a practical, sturdy example of rural Victorian architecture.   It's not as flouncy or dark as I like them, but it is charming in its farmy way.

I like the glossy, polished dark wood thing and hallways so dark you want to put your hand out.  The first thing I would do in this house is strip the paint on the walls and find the original wallpaper pattern.  SUCH EXCITE!  Then I would, of course, remove all carpet to reveal the original wood floors, but I might just leave that rainbow shag in the back bedroom, because fuck the police, right?

So from the second photo, it appears to me that the house was not white originally.  I seem to recall an ancient conversation with my grandmother in which she said it was a garish color to begin with, something that sounded ugly to me at the time.  Perhaps yellow?  We'd do some archaeological peeling on that as well, just to see.




Circa 1913.  Not much changed.  My great-grandma in the middle holding a baby.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

This just in: newsmedia totally sucks

Last week, I started watching the morning news while getting ready for work.  I never watch tv, but have done recently because I felt a sort of nostalgia for the unintelligible background electronic din it creates while one is doing something else.  I also feel uncomfortable sometimes, because I get my news primarily from the various hard left, feminist, gay, socialist, Jesus-hating blogs I read, which means that viral non-news always escapes my notice, and I'm constantly having to be apprised by my exasperated co-workers of whatever the hell they are talking about at lunch.

I don't know anything about the current pop culture.  I don't think I've willingly listened to any music made past 2003, I don't know anything about new movies or shows, I have no idea who most celebrities are or why they are famous.  It's like a blackout, I'm like that gay couple in Brooklyn who are living a completely pre-war lifestyle and don't allow anything manufactured after 1940 into their home.

So when I started watching the news, I observed a few things:

1. I can't overstate the term "non-news".  I can't believe that people accept this into their lives and don't get angry about the zillion media dollars spent and made in the effort of explaining to you that Demi Moore's kid went topless at Whole Foods to protest being banned on Instagram.  And that is one of the more interesting bits because I've forgotten all of the really awful ones.  Or what about the rich asshat in SF who is planting envelopes of cash around the city as a "philanthropic" effort when really he just enjoys seeing people crawl all over each other like insects trying to find negligible amounts of free money.  Why do we have to pursue super dry or super partisan shows to get info on the things that actually have the potential to affect our lives?  Like, I may be a crazy Rachel Maddow devotee, and it's partly because she's one of my liberal sistren, but it's MOSTLY because next to few others (Moyers, Olbermann), she 1. fact checks and 2. isn't afraid to aggressively editorialize.  #2 isn't exactly missing from networks like Fox, but the left is usually way too chickenshit to do the same.  NOT MY RAY THO

2. Everyone is so happy and excited about everything.  The hosts act like pageant queens, the music is all hyper blaring dance music, and there are colors and sounds and special effects whizzing by at all times.  The shows resemble something meant to appeal to dogs while they're home alone.

3. Hearing them talk about controversial, highly partisan political topics in objective ways is hilarious and disturbing.  That said, it seems like the mainstream media has officially accepted gays as a regular household occurrence rather than as novelty items.  Now the novelty items are trans people.  I felt a little surprised by that.

Overall, though, I can't even.  Normally when I'm getting ready for work, I listen to podcasts, or the sound of Christopher Hitchens destroying something.  I can't get enough of his smug velvet voice and his weary jokes, even when it means I have to listen to him support Bush II, blame 9/11 on the Clintons, and treat the Iraq war (in 2001) as a mere impending skirmish.  I guess when you love someone, you must take the bad with the good.  Right?  It's worth it when you hear him summarize the first 90,000 years of human life in 5 minutes and then unexpectedly recite 10 lines of Chaucer or something.  There is no comparison to this man.

Overall, the occasional bits of mainstream media that I take in remove all question re: why are Americans so desperately stupid and vapid.  It disappoints me in a time in which information is overwhelmingly available, that people simply switch on the tv and watch a show about former tv stars dancing.  If people took the time to cultivate specific interests, they would naturally be led away from the horde into something more localized, even if that is stupid too.  At least it's customized to you.  To be handed your tastes by sponsored media is very sad and unfortunate.

That said, television isn't all bad.  Two things that just killed me lately:

1. Cosmos.  Obviously!  With my two dads, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the silent specter of Carl Sagan.  In the opening sequence, the letters "CS" appear before stretching into the word "Cosmos".  That almost made me want to cry a little, thinking about how hard it was for him to make the first Cosmos, and all of the anti-intellectual, anti-science shit that has gone on since then, and how amazing that it is back and so prominent, so much of the quality of which is thanks to Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, who was such a major contributor to both the current and original series.

2. After the last episode of Cosmos, the Freedom From Religion Foundation aired a commercial ON the Fox network AT prime time ON a Sunday in which Ron Reagan, child of that Ronald and Nancy Reagan, unapologetically flips off mainstream religion and then does wheelie chased by flames.  Basically.  Seeing that on tv felt kind of historic.


MAN.

Monday, June 23, 2014

This guy has carefully documented his family's extensive photo history.  I love the Edwardian photos the best.  I love this era in fashion so much.  Cream and white cotton dresses, lace and giant bows on everything.  Dark, glossy hair was fashionable then.  Simple, trim lines.  I'm into it.





Baby on a pedestal

I think these are earlier.  Big, puffy blouses, tinier waists, crazy hats.  Also, is that Tina Fey's great-grandmother?

ಠ_ಠ



Beautifully austere

Her giant fur collar!  Oh my god.  Is that wild poodle?


Friday, May 30, 2014

Will never get over it.

My dead gothic vampire wolf boyfriend was a feminist.

Every year, sometimes more than once per year, I remember that Peter Steele is dead.  This is still pretty hard for me to accept, and I generally mark these occasions by watching a million live shows and interviews on Youtube, and feeling very sad, then feeling ridiculous for feeling sad, while still feeling sad. 

This year, I was joined by my jewelry bff, with whom I spent all of this week's idle hours at work discussing the matter at length.  I think we are probably friends because of Type O Negative, in fact.
Soon after meeting in a jewelry class, she showed me a keychain or pendant or something that she had made.  "Looks like the Type O Negative logo," I said, instantly regretting my comment.  My foreverlove for this band isn't really something I bring up in mixed company, because most of the people one meets while out of the house in this town have a "Rascal Flatts" air freshener hanging from their rearview mirrors.  Those who do know the band instantly call my taste credentials into question.

Worn constantly in the 90s and never again. I keep it with the clothes I wear regularly, though.
Mock all you want, jerks.  DGAF

"It is the Type O Negative logo," she said.  I raised one eyebrow.  We were now besties.

So anyway, in trawling interviews this week, I noted how remarkably without prejudicial hangup Peter seemed to be.  Believe it or not, a 6'8 white guy with a Brooklyn accent who fronts a doom metal band is fed a lot of baiting questions by music journalists, trying to lead him into representing the cliched mentality of many of the genre's fans.  He batted each of these questions away with bored yet witty answers that would have made any one of today's contributors to feministing.com give a reply of, not bad.

Despite insisting that he hated everyone equally, Peter kind of sounds like a third wave feminist to me.  Labels are offensive to everyone, and I wouldn't go around re-casting a dead person's values to better suit my own, but it's true and you should know it.

In one early interview, he was asked about the recent national criminalization of marital rape (1993).  Obviously, it was a leading question intended to elicit a controversial reply re: marital rape isn't real rape, that you somehow forfeit sexual sovereignty when you marry (if you're a woman), or whatever stupid ass opinion stupid frightened men were having at the time.  He instantly rejected this position and instead talked at length about consent, the lack of which was completely unacceptable to him.  I don't think I can over-emphasize how unusual his approaches to topics concerning women were for his lifestyle and surroundings at the time, not to mention the fact that there was no mainstream outlet for feminist thought at the time that could have influenced him - he was influenced by his lifelong positive, supportive or familial relationships with women.  He may not have described the issue in the way that I would have, but the message was the same.  Certainly not what that two-bit music journalist was expecting to hear, no doubt.

He was accused of misogyny, and rightly so, in response to the band's first album.  The songs are frantically angry, all written about and immediately following a breakup, and the music sounds like 80s hardcore.  I bought the album as a young teen and pretty much instantly threw it out a window.  It was not the band I knew from the super baroque and atmospheric Bloody Kisses album.  Peter took a lot of heat for the lyrics on this album, again rightly so, but I believe his explanations when he says he was a very angry, very young and emotionally shattered person at the time of the writing.  Additionally, the songs were not written for an album.  They were demos that he had made for himself which were made into a record in a very questionable move by the record company.

Believe me, I almost never accept the inevitable excuses when a guy is accused of misogyny.  Rarely do these characterizations result from misunderstandings - many men express themselves expecting the support and lauding that they've received all their lives, and when they get busted for crossing the current societal boundary line of acceptability, it's all a big misunderstanding, no one has a sense of humor, it's a witch hunt, they're being discriminated against, and all of the other tearful protestations regular white guys get up to every time they get into trouble.

But I believe Peter.  And not because I love him.  I believe him because everything he said from the beginning of his career to the painful end was almost confrontationally authentic.  At the height of his career, he discussed his fear and insecurity, his self-loathing, his suspicious feelings about praise, and all of the other issues that people of his particular emotional constitution feel on a daily basis.  When asked about how he got into bodybuilding, he says flat out, it's vanity and insecurity.  He thought he was unattractive and that his considerable height made him look ridiculous, and he did what many young men do in response: worked the hell out.  People rarely admit that kind of shit, particularly not when someone is writing it down.  When he became a sex symbol among female fans, many of whom rabidly pursued him in person, he said, "What's wrong with you? I'm just another asshole in a band."  He openly discussed his drug addiction and subsequent destruction late in his career, and it is heartbreaking to watch.  Aged beyond his years, these interviews show a frightened and gaunt-faced man discussing the bitter experiences he had in the penal and institutional asylum systems as a result of his addictions.  His eyes were wild, his teeth were rotten, and he could have walked through a crowd of his own fans without being recognized.  That is, if he hadn't still been the size of Andre the Giant, with hair down his back like the metal version of Marius the vampire.  (Anne Rice, fool! It's goth night)

His bandmates and family say that he was finally clean and reasonably happy or hopeful when he died.  His cause of death was aortic aneurysm, a breach resulting from the weakening of the walls of the aorta - an ironic, fairly common malady among recently rehabilitated long-term addicts.  It's a fast death following a very long one.

If I misrepresented him when talking about his openness about his discomfort with life, it's because I didn't mention that he normally expressed this with a black, rapier wit.  He slipped dark jokes into his conversation constantly, sometimes absurd one-liners, and sometimes subtle, razor-thin remarks that only revealed themselves when one started to bleed.  He seemed to enjoy expressing his frustrations and troubles comedically, and he was very, very funny - but then, his brand of bleak wit is just the kind I like, just the kind I am attuned to look for, one that we all possess in some way but that few are able to hone.

Plus he was hot.

The end.








Scraggly, early 80s, Carnivore-era, cartoonishly adorable.  Fascinating for the Brooklyn street scene, too.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tile Parade

I started a new tumblr about vintage tile.

I'm not generally looking for tile in my day to day life, but when I see it, I remember how strongly I feel about it.  Tile may very well be my number one concern when house/apartment hunting, aside from obvious things like structural integrity, air conditioning, and a dishwasher - one thing that is never guaranteed in a historic house.

Other people seem to think that caring about antique tile is a strange and trifling dissipation, or at the very least something that should be left in the hands of middle aged gays, but that's because other people are tasteless fools who own suede furniture and don't know why.

http://oldtile.tumblr.com/

The address is after Charles Lamb's "Old China," because it is relevant and because I am a pretentious fancyperson.  Get over it.

I kind of figured that tumblr would end up being full of pictures of bathrooms, but I'm way more interested in that old subway tile.  It's so fucking DAZZLING!  Especially when it's all dirty and forgotten and maybe halfway covered with new construction, and finding it feels adventurous and like looking through a grimy peephole directly into the past.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mommie Dearest

I watched Mommie Dearest for the first time in my life recently. My main question was,

Why would Faye Dunaway do this?

All the Hollywood Babylon types despise Christina Crawford and reject she and her book as lies, but in the interest of fairness, I decided to research (Google for 10 min) this matter.  There are quite a few people, all as credible as the deniers, who agree that the kids did seem to be receiving some kind of abuse, and that Joan was, at the very least, unusually strict.  Her drinking was also completely out of control while her children were young.  Christopher Crawford always backed his sister up, while the younger two (four adopted children in total), twins Cindy and Cathy, have staunchly denied all allegations of abuse, even in the decades following JC's death.

I think the youngest two not only benefited from not being the first drafts of Joan's motherhood, but they also saw the frightening dynamic between Joan and X-tina and probably learned how better to deal with their mother.

Even if she wasn't really waking them up in the night to beat them with cans of Comet or, you know, strangling them, Joan's mothering skills still seem to have failed.  All of her children grew up to be unhappy underachievers with emotional problems, and they all seem to have reverted right back to poverty after her death.  Her estate was pretty small, at only $2m, and even the "good kids" only received inheritances of <$80k.

The movie is a camp classic now, but it wasn't really intended to be, which is why I wonder why they picked such creepy actresses to play Christina.  Both the child and teenaged actresses are strange, dead-eyed white blond things that make me think of those Fortean Times stories of black-eyed zombie children who kill people.  Even though her character is clearly being mistreated, the kid's creepy expressions and staring eyes don't stir a ton of pity. 

But seriously, even to non-fans of Joan's (I'm still not sure), this movie's bullshit is visible to the naked eye, and it lies by omission all over the place.  In the movie, it's implied that Christina wrote the nasty old book because her bitch mother left her with nothing at her death, but in reality, she was already writing the book, and it's reasonably likely that Joan knew, hence the expulsion.  Oh what she and BD Hyman couldn't talk about.

Just two regular gals

I used to think of my stepmother as a Mommie Dearest type.  No one had ever given me rules before my dad married her, and all of a sudden, I had this grown woman following me around, commenting on my behavior, and forcing me to adjust it.  I was horrified.  Looking back, I wonder how different I would be now if she had not been around.  I suspect I'd be messier, and I probably wouldn't notice the dog-like eating habits of other people.  In short, life would be easier.

She made me eat all meals at a fully set dining room table instead of on the floor in front of the tv.  Additionally, I had to eat all of the food I was served, something that felt like abuse when the meal was a giant bowl of navy beans and ham, like we were some wartime military regiment eating for energy and sustenance only.  I tried everything not to eat that (generalized anger about legumes continues into adulthood), and there were times when I was forced to sit alone at the table staring at the food I couldn't eat, but unlike Joan, she didn't make me sleep with the food in my room or eat it the next morning.  I had to keep arms off the table, chew with my mouth closed, never drag my fork on my teeth and keep the sound of silverware clinking against plates and bowls to a minimum.  Next, I had to shower.  I was seven years old and despised bathing.  As children are wont to do, I would take much more time in trying to deceive her than just taking the shower would have.  Eventually I gave in and got used to being clean.  I also had to dust all the wood furniture on the weekends, which she would check afterwards, usually ordering me to re-do it for unacceptable work quality.

My stepmother was irritable and prone to moods, like Joan.  Like Joan, she was vain, and her young prettiness had changed into a sort of severe, angular handsomeness with age, all heavy eyebrows and long acrylic nails.  She really was a sort of middle class Mommie Dearest, sans violence.

Oh, and.  She went to therapy to deal with childhood feelings of abandonment, as her parents had pretty much left them to themselves at a young age.  The therapist's recommendation was for her to engage in the activities that a child would, to nurture her inner child.  She also had to call the child by name, to differentiate from her adult self.  Thus "Little Nancy" came into our house, and she bought toys, crayons and coloring books for "her," all of which I was strictly forbidden to use.  Although I was still very young, I thought this was bullshit and couldn't believe I was not allowed to play with those things despite being the only person in the house, Little Nancy included, who wanted to.

I'd write a tell-all about her, but I guess I just did.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Too Much/Not Enough Information: Complaints

Why is it so hard to maintain an appropriate amount of information on anything in particular?  I'm living a life in which I know way too much about people I don't care about, yet I am not quite sure if my dad is married or not.  This lack of clarity can only be expressed in .gif form.


I'm frustrated because I'm trying to finish my research on my diarist, Anna.  What I need, and all I could really hope to acquire in this type of case, is her obituary.  I know her birth year, birth location, and probable location of death, which SHOULD make finding the obit fairly easy, and yet I have nothing.

Corresponding with her nephew's wife was not as fruitful as I had hoped it would be.  Once she decided that I wasn't of much use to her for her own genealogical needs, she blew me off.  SUCH TYPICAL.  I did learn that Anna remarried someone named Charles "Chick" Davis, that she was living in Phoenix at least in the late 60s, and that her daughter married a doctor, which is why I can't find her by her maiden name.  She did send a picture of Anna, though, which was worth a million dollars to me.

Ancestry.com has a social security death index entry for an Anne C. Davis (could easily be my Anna H. C. Davis), who died in Maricopa County in 1996.  None of our online newspaper databases have a corresponding obituary, however.  I think that means I have to drag myself into our disgusting main library and look at the microfiche.  Seriously, navigating through that place reminds me of the old Simpsons Nintendo game.  End of analogy.

If I can find the obituary, then it might include the married name of her daughter Colleen, which might allow me to locate her now.  But if I have to search in the microfiche, then I have to look at every paper from that year.  Because all I have is the year.  Do obituaries only come out on Sundays?  I need to locate someone who reads actual newspapers and ask them.  Looking at microfiche is incredibly tedious even when you know exactly where you're going, so I expect that looking at all of the obituary pages for all of the papers in an entire year would take months, at least.  And I'm not even sure I have the right year.  Those death indexes are often slightly off, and that might not even be my Anna.

It might be easier to apply for a copy of her death certificate with vital records first just to be sure I have the right date, but they are somewhat tough customers at that office when it comes to handing shit over to non-relatives.

I wonder, if I found everything I needed and then located the daughter, if she would want the book.  What if she packed the diary with a bunch of other Goodwill stuff because she hated her mother?

And yes, I could just ask my dad if he married his longterm banshee (actually, I have called her La Llorona for years), but he can be oddly secretive, and if he didn't tell me, then perhaps he doesn't want me to know for some reason that I suppose I will respect.  He hasn't told anyone.  He informed my uncle that he was considering doing it, then never followed up or announced anything.  I only know because my uncle told my cousin, who told me.  I assume they probably did marry because they each wear a matching Harley Davidson ring (real cool, guys) on their ring fingers.  Dweadful.