Monday, March 22, 2010

The story of my birth, part 3- and the space for father was left blank.

      From here the story winds and follows the lines of Highway 101.   I was gestating, churning like butter in her belly, waiting patiently.  She, the girl named my mother, thumbed rides from Seattle to somewhere in California.  
   When I was young, bathed in the light of my grandparents HBO, watching 'St Helens', a movie loosely based on a cute old man that despite all warnings to evacuate the doomed mountain stayed in his little shack by the lake. My mother proclaimed she had stayed a spell on the mountain side with that very old man.  Suddenly the movie was far more interesting, and when the volcano blew, ash and tangled mass of mountainside came crashing down around his little cabin and buring him while he sat quietly in his rocking chair, I could only think of my mother sitting on the porch with him covered in debris and smothered in ash.  I cried, for him and for her, she stroked my long hair and assured me that she wasn't on the mountain when it blew and that it was just a movie.  That said, My mother made her way south by way of St. Helens.
     Somewhere else entirely, a question mark was forming in the mind of a man. It split and grew at the same rate as the unknown baby in the belly of my mother.  He wondered if the summer of '74, he spent fishing in Alaska bore him more than a fisherman's heafty paycheck.  That question mark would  remain fused to the side of his right brain and ebb and swell again and again in the years that followed.
      She crashed with family, she communed with long hairs and vagrants and eventually she turned north, but not home, to the far north.
   About this time vice president Spiro Agnew cast the deciding vote in the tied senate and passed legislation that would lead to the construction of the Alaska Pipeline project.  The 400 miles of 48 inch pipe that runs from Pruhdoe Bay to Valdez Alaska. Marked as the second Gold Rush, you could make $1500.00 a week, while the rest of the country was in recession.  And, thanks to the affirmative action requirements built into the legislation it was the first time in feminist history that a woman could make as much as a man and  was given equal opportunity to the wealth of jobs that were available from Valdez to Fairbanks.

    I was born in Anchorage Alaska, January 23rd, 1975 at 2:43 pm.  The temperature was deep below zero, and the spot marked father was left blank.  The birth certificate doesn't state a weight or a length, and though these numbers would remain arbitrary for thirty five years, they are an important element in the mathematical equation counting forward in months that should add up to nine. 
     The birth of a slightly over seven pound girl left a newly turned 18 year old woman bleeding and close to death.  The placenta didn't detach following the birth. There was blood, lots of blood.  My grandmother came from Ketchikan, she stayed by her side and held me tightly until the fear of losing a daughter and gaining a child had cleared.  All this is another part of an equation that counts back from January 23rd to the moment that he loved her and she got knocked up.
     I was a healthy beautiful baby girl, born on the coldest month in Anchorage's recorded history.  The Catherine was for my grandmother, Alexandria, my mothers best friend.  McRoberts would be the only side of my family I would come to know, but, it was the initials, C.A.M. that led to the name I answer to.  I'm sure there were mood altering substances involved in the creative brainstorming that brought C.A.M to Cameo, but the moment it was uttered it took and my unique moniker has been a driving factor in the unique nature of my being, the other, the woman named my mother.
       We homesteaded in a cabin with no door and traveled by snow-machine.  We were not rich and it was not easy.   I imagine Jewel and her father were yodeling away in the cabin down yonder, I have no proof of this, but it was the same homestead at the same time.
      My mother ran a back hoe, and worked in construction.  She worked long hours and in tough climate.  The ways she tells it I was nannied by the mammoth malamute but I'm sure there must have been people around because my uncle lived in Anchorage as well. He got shot in a bar brawl, when a drug deal went bad and has the scar to prove life in Alaska from '75 to '77 was reminiscent of the wild west, but with long-haired hippie construction workers and a bevy of illegal activities to spend money on.
    We migrated farther north to Fairbanks, by now, my mother owned a white van where she fashioned a crib in the cargo area for me to sleep in.  Once, when stopped by police and put in back of the car, she pleaded with him that her infant daughter was asleep in the van, and convinced the him to let her go.  He obliged.  She talked her way out of a ride in a cop car but also lifted a duffel bag of weed from the back of the car. Fairbanks in the 70's.  Nothing like the shithole I would eventually attend college in 18 years later.
   From Fairbanks we moved to Tok, I include this because 'Tok' makes my giggle, and, since I grew up around a lot of toking, it's been making me giggle for a long time.
     Finally in '77 work was drying up and the cold was becoming too much.  When you're 18 and responsible for the health and well being of a growing little girl, and you've filled you pockets working your ass off in sub- zero temperatures, in a work environment reminiscent of 'North Country' what do you do?  You might just think about moving to a commune in Maui.
     So, there we were in the jungle, making flower headdresses and bathing in the ocean. Livinging in grass huts running bare feet, and chasing insects the size of my fist.   I'd scamper about with a little man named Brownie and eat passion fruit until my belly hurt.  It was here that while playing in the surf I was taken to sea in an undertow, and my mother saved me, pulling my little body ashore and pumping seawater from my chest.
   By now I was 4 years old.  I was toe headed and blue eyed, I wore sundresses with bright pink hibiscus flowers stuck behind my ear. My favorite word was "Fantastic".
   We returned to Alaska, the prodigal daughter and her beautiful bastard offspring. 
This is where she met him.  He had a motorcycle and a decent job, he had just returned from the navy and wanted to take his Harley, with her on the back, down the coast to San Diego. She thought that was cool and she married him. It was later that we found out that he was an asshole.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

@Seattle Dances charity auction.

guilded raspberries! everything is pink and gold.

The story of my birth- part 2 - a vivid imagination

Before I continue, it is important to note; I love my mother, I love my grandmother and my grandfather, unconditionally, and with a with a force that comes full circle and back again leaving a mark where my love has been. I am Lenny with the rabbit. I am the child with the new toy that breaks it, not of malice, but of joy for the toys sake.
My mother has built homes where it seemed impossible a home could be, she has raised fatherless children and children of fathers that are among the saltiest of the earth.  We siblings three are the brightest stars we could be, in a galaxy of if, ands or buts.   My grandparents survived wars, grew up to be men and women in a time when men and women had different definitions.
When my mother divorced my stepdad, far beyond the story I've set into motion, my grandparents gave her the money to downpay a house, and that house she made a home and sold, to buy a piece of land she then built three stories of home on. This is not to say that a contractor came in a polished granite where a kitchen counter should be, but that she herself downed trees to create board feet that she then hammered nails at ninety degree angles and converted AC into DC to make light.  She built a home on the edge of nowhere, with her hands, with her will and with her imagination.  
My mother is no short answer. She is no victim. She is a force of nature. She is independence. She is strong and verile and insecure and righteous. 
Any one who's met my mother loves her, is amazed my her, is wrapped in her breath and her overwhelmed by the possibility of anything.  When you are in her grasp you are invincible. She gives you the tools to believe you can will the universe to bend to your whim, and if you can't, a force from beyond will hep you along. 

This story of my birth is not the story of my mother nor of my grandparents, and I repeat, it is not true. It is the story of me, and the remarkable story of how our mind works.  What fascinates me is the mystery of our history.  How our memories become what we remember regardless of truth.  The conversations we have, overhear, or create,  become the tapestry we create. 
I have decided to continue with the story without research, but to end this story with hard facts.  Facts rubbed from my inner cheek that have been run through a lab where my DNA is tested against his. But keep in mind my story is a tapestry of perceived truth , or rather as memory serves I may have it wrong.
But I am not making this up, this is what I remember. The history woven from question marks and loose ends, tidbits of unanswered questions and quilted squares of insecurity.  It is my story.
Chapter one, according to my mother was revealed to me:
1. my grandparents did not know my mother was pregnant when she left Ketchikan, though my grandmother stated to the contrary. 
2. that she was approached on the street by a bishop and his nuns
3. She was not babtized in greenlake till I was two or three.

My mother will no longer going to fact check this story,  because this story is not about truth.  It's about how we, humans, daughters, mothers, sons and fathers are fallabe and funny, pathetic andd lovable, sad but hopeful.
AND... while we can tweet, blog, facebook and text in an instant, it takes 7 days to solve the mystery of the 23 chromosomes that created me.
And if I have to wait, you have to wait.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The story of my birth- Part 1: The summer of '74

     This is the story of my life, as I know it, or new of it until 7 days ago.
It's a strange story, and after tomorrow, 9 am it will, after thirty five years have an ending.
     This is the story as I remember it, or as my memory has created it. By no means is it the truth, but a strange tapestry of question marks and loose ends, vague ideas and colorful tidbits of stories told over time.  I would also state that it is with all due respect to the parties mentioned and often times  respect is given where none is due. But that is the kind of person I have become, and I make no apologies.  I am who I am, strange and wonderful and how I came into this world is as unique as I.
     It's starts in a murky pool where dates and names are irrelevant, time is measured nine months backwards but with no real certainty.  The importance here is the number 23. The number of chromosomes that passed through him into her and started cell division that over the course of those nine months counting forward brought me into the world.  That 23 is a mystery, The Mystery, the gaping hole, the missing half, the wish behind the breath that blows out every birthday candle. The father.
The summer after graduation, the seventies, Alaska, washed denim bell bottoms, macrame as clothing. You could still come to Alaska, scoop up fish and cut down trees and return home to the lower forty eight a 'real man' pockets bulging  and liver heavily taxed. There was mud bight delight, black beauties, magic mushrooms and acid trips, whiskey, ludes, and amphetamines.  One long Lynnard Skynnard album. Somewhere in the murk that is the summer of '74 I was concieved. 
     Fast forward to a young girl standing in the living room of wood paneled walls, stoned with tearstained eyes. A mother and father looking down on her, heavy with dissapointment and shamed at the notion that a bastard would be born in their home.  Flash again, and the girl is walking off the ferry on Alaska Way, in downtown Seattle, barely beginning to show, with a mammoth malamute following in tow. Nary the image of the prodigal daughter.
     She had recieved her marching orders.  They were this; leave and do not come back an unwed mother with an illigitimate child or sadly something to that effect.
      It is here I must pause, and reflect on the memory of my grandmother and father who forced this ultimatum on a 17 year old girl scared and heavy with child.  Who were my surrogate parents through life, who I never knew asked this of my mother until I was old enough to forgive them.  My grandmother asked this of me as she was passing away in my arms, and confided in me that she and my grandfather carried that burden of shame with them my whole life. It was a different time.  We sometimes see our elders as infallible, but they are imperfect and often ignorant and at the very least worthy of forgiveness.  

My mother had made her way by now to a spot along highway 99, then as now, not the safest strip of highway to travel by thumb.   She was lost in the city looking to find a place that 'takes care of these sorts of things'.   Behold a station wagon, the kind with the paneled sides, ready for a long board and a beach boys tune, but this wagon was bound for glory, Jesus was the wave they were riding they were on a mission to save souls on the highway of lost souls.
     That is correct, a stationwagon full of nuns, picked up my unwed single mother and her huge dog at the moment she was considering abortion as an option.
     I can only imagine the depth of conversation, bibles rested idly on laps hands folded peacefully. The eyes of the pure at heart faced with the shamed and damned.
A six pack of habits a hippie and a malamute all pile into a car...
My future hung in the balance of what sounds to be the first line of a not very funny joke.  The punchline? Well, that carload of nuns pulled off to the side of the road at a sacred spot called Greenlake and washed the sins from my mothers brow in its cool water, sanctified in the eyes of god.  At that moment a soul was saved.
I don't believe that life begins at conception, I believe that life begins with a decision, and that decision we are free to make, and free to bear the consequence and the blessing.
At that moment I was no longer a mass of splitting cells infecting an otherwise irresponsible young woman. I was 46 chromosomes, 23 of which would be my mystery, a bastard, an illegitimate child, a point of light in the great murky pool of time that counted backward from January 23rd 1975 to the summer of '74, just after High School graduation.
To be continued.......

Saturday, March 6, 2010

If the devil is 6, then god is 7, god is 7!

     I had been dating Nate for a while, it was pretty serious, he was the mac' to my 'roni, and we were in love. With each other, with music, with food, life, and, with... well..., discovering. But this is not about my lustful teenage escapades this is about a band.
    Seeking independance and the kind of privacy teenagers are rarely afforded, he moved from the tiny bachelour pad that was his fathers apartment, to the 'shed'.  And a 'shed' it was.  We actually hauled firewood from inside to the porch to fit his double bed.  It was musty, filled with spiders, and leaked a in places we learned not to put stereo equipment.  We burned Nag Champa to combat the smell of wet wood and kerosene and made love like wild monkeys.  The shed listed at a 45 degree angle, so everything rolled to the far end of the room and throughout the night we'd hoist each other back up towards the pillows and listen to the rain pound the corrogated ceiling.  This musty litle moss covered wood shed  was where we discovered ech other and 'The Pixies'.
The first listen was Surfer Rosa.  I think Nate and I were equally in love with the topless flamenco dancer. I could stare at her perfect breast forever, the confidence in her pose the sex in her being, the sepia tone of the crusefix in the background.  She was beauty. And Kim Deal, the pearl in the oyster. Her voice cut through the crunching guitars, the desperate cadence of Frank Black's lyrics and commanded attention. A chanteuse that could devour you as easily as she could seduce you.  A woman who rocked with the boys, played bass and made no apologies.  

Cover of "Surfer Rosa"Surfer Rosa, was the beginning but Doolittle was the end.  Hands down one of the five albums I would take to space with me, or a dessert island or wherever you drop me to spend eternity doing nothing but listeneing to the same five albums.  The truly great albums, are the ones our subconscious holds onto and memorizes note for note, and without thinking about it we can listen to it in it's entirety without actually hearing it... super deep I know, but Doolittle is one of those albums. It's catchy, angry, sexy, whisical, and gritty.
I'm not alone, it's not a rare B-side or the most obscure of their works, I don't own a T-shirt and I never saw them before they were big.  I am sure I took my cue from Kurt Cobain's adoration of them, but I am steadfast in my love.
  The Pixies split the year I graduated High School, at the apex of my love affair, with them and with Nate. They 'reunited' the year of my thirtieth birthday. I still had Doolittle in my now MP3 player, and Nate,l I tried to hold onto him but time breaks hearts and then mends them with really awesome albums.  I bought a tickets for myself and my best friend the night they went on sale.  She came from Florida to see them in Chicago.
That night we were teenage girls, post-punk alterna godesses, not thirty year old women on the verge of becoming mothers and professionals, who had grown out of nose rings and manic panic.  We were at a fucking Pixies show!
Twenty years after Doolittle is released, after that wood shed had washed away or become mildewed feed for a miriade of rain forest mosses and ferns, I found myself in the mezzanine of the Paramount theater, now living in Seattle. Oddly I was accompanied by a friend named Nate, no relation, but the coincidence was the catalyst for the story.  I am nearly thirtyfive now and I am looking down to a flawless view of the Pixies. 
They played every song from Doolittle, the ep's, the b-sides, the downtempo version of "wave of mutilation UK", the only reason to hold onto that Pump up the Volume soundtrack, besides that sexy Arron Nevill track. Below us a new generation of angsty youth moshing and sweating, hanging onto every refrain, crying the lyrics without fail. I was seated high above the crowd in seats grown-ups get, seats where you can hear the acoustics and smell the doobage being exhaled amongst the crowd. A friend had hooked me up with the tickets hours before the show.  The whole evening was a surreal fold in time where  you skip out of work early, throw on something cute without appearing that you're clinging to your youth, throw back a couple of fifteen dollar Manhattans (I didn't know till I got the bill..Damn you Ruth Chris!!), and all of a sudden you're sitting in the good seats , watching a band that you have been intimate with and intimate with others with for the last twenty years.  They aren't over the hill, they haven't dialed it in, watered it down. They haven't gone from KEXP to the Mountain. And unlike other bands that chastise their fans for wanting to hear the songs they love, they embraced it, they rocked it, they regaled in it and for a band who spent half of that twenty years not speaking to each other, they too loved it. And I, like every soul in that theater was enraptured, listening to Doolittle for the first time the thousandth time and nary the last time.  This monkey had gone to heaven.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010