We all have revelations at the turn of the year when we, like the Roman god Janus, look both forward and back. This was the year I discovered that I am, in effect, homeless.
I haven’t really felt at home anywhere I’ve lived. I grew up in Ann Arbor, which is a lovely town, but the terrible things that happened to me there, mainly my mother’s suicide, left me feeling dislocated and alone. When I was in high school, my father and stepmother decided to become “gentleman farmers” with the predictable results of complete disaster. They bought one-third of an orchard, despite the fact that my father was a professor who knew nothing about farming, and ended up cutting down all the trees because one of the other purchasers didn’t spray his trees. This meant that insects on his trees spread and infected the apple and peach trees on everyone else’s property, eventually killing them all. In order to mitigate the ugly vision of acres of dead trees, my father had them all chopped down, but he couldn’t afford to have the stumps pulled out of the ground and hauled away, meaning that we were left with 10 acres of neatly-spaced stumps.
But the biggest disaster for me was that my parents decided to save on taxes by buying property that was located just over the county line from Ann Arbor, meaning that I had to go to the nearby public school, populated by the sons and daughters of local farmers and factory workers, rather than the children of intellectuals. Needless to say, I found it hard to get into a decent college from such a place, although I did make some friends while I was there. When one of these friends spotted me through our website about a year ago and invited me to the high school reunion of our class, I turned down the invitation with the explanation that “those were some of the worst years of my life.” I didn’t want to relive them.
I moved to New York City as a young working girl and had the predictably dreary series of jobs. Although New York City is a tough town to live in (and was even tougher in the crime- ridden, pre-Giuliani days when we lived there), in one way it will always be “home.” But New York is too busy and uncaring to seem homelike. When I’ve visited there during the past two years, I’ve found all the hustle and bustle, not to mention the smells, to be more off putting than exciting.
I spent ten years in Texas and left some very dear friends behind, but San Antonio is not terribly interesting culturally (at least it seems that way, after New York), and Whitley’s UFO writings made people there suspect that HE might be an alien.
Los Angeles has no problem with UFOs, but it’s a spread-out city made up of many small “towns,” which makes it hard to seem like “home” (although we live in one of the nicest of these areas). But lately I’ve begun to realize that the big movie career we envisioned when we came here probably isn’t going to happen. Ever since “The Grays” was put into turnaround by a major studio (meaning that, despite spending literally millions of dollars on two scripts, they aren’t going to make the movie), I’ve begun to doubt that we have a future in film. And this is a place where we don’t really have any friends, since it’s a “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” sort of place, so I’m lonely.
Over the holidays, I picked up the memoir “Lit” by Mary Karr, who wrote two of my favorite books: “The Liar’s Club” and “Cherry.” In it, she writes about her problems with finding a home in ways that make me stop feeling quite so sorry for myself. In one passage, she says, “What hurts so bad about youth isn’t the actual butt whippings the world delivers. It’s the stupid hopes playacting like certainties.” I’ve realized that I STILL feel that way! (and I can in no way be described as a “youth”). I think living in LA and dabbling in the movie biz infantilizes you, so you never quite grow up (or if you move here from somewhere more sober, you “grow down”). I don’t mean to scold myself, because the next thing I’ll inevitably do is reflect on, “What’s so great about growing up?” and decide that it’s only a LESS INTERESTING kind of pain!
On our daily walk, we often take the route that runs along the beach, especially if it’s around sunset. Besides the brightly colored sky, we also see lots of REAL homeless people, picking out their spots on the grass for the night. This is certainly an antidote for the way I’ve been feeling lately. You can be physically homeless and/or homeless in your heart. Before the tears start to fall, I’m going to try to remember that I’m lucky to only have the second problem.
And no matter how I feel about New York, it will always have a special place in my heart because that’s where I met a handsome young man who told me he wanted to be a writer. For me, “home” is where Whitley is, so no matter where I am physically, I’m always where I belong.
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