Monday, November 12, 2012

What It's Not

-This is not a poem about when you break an Oreo cookie in half, and part of it is still stuck on the white and you have to pull it off with your teeth.
-This is not a poem about how a shoelace starts to tatter at its most anchored points.
-This is not a poem about the cold and wet the underside of a rock is, nor the feeling that there might be something that could bite or sting you living creepily underneath.
-This is not a poem about why your seatbelt occasionally doesn’t recoil to fit your body’s contour, and so you have to tug on it to get its attention.
-This is not a poem as to why the word “its” without a comma is actually the possessive form of the word.
-This is not a poem about why every time you finally sit down at the end of the day to have dinner, the phone rings.
-This is not a poem about how you end up manually going to the same website often, yet you fail to simply bookmark it for yourself.
-This is not a poem about already being in the shower and realizing that you didn’t bring the new bottle of shampoo with you.
-This is not a poem about cleverly marking your place in a book, and then spending three minutes looking for your marker when you reopen the book.
-This is not a poem about what kind of crazy maze of sewer systems exists under the streets that you drive every day.
-This is not a poem about walking past a place you used to work early in your career, and it’s now a completely unrecognizable entity such as a condo.
-This is not a poem about how 92% of the items stuck to your refrigerator door are notes and numbers, which are irrelevant.
-This is not a poem about the difficulty of getting the correct mixture of milk to cereal.
-This is not a poem about how there are about three pieces of clothing you own which are the most comfortable to wear casually.
-This is not a poem about how each elevator should have their call buttons distributed at a radius far enough away from the doors so that you can press them on your way and not have to wait standing there.
-This is not a poem about how you have realized that two or three times earlier in your life you thought of an idea that someone else has since made millions on.
-This is not a poem about how when you are flying back home from a trip and are approaching your home city, you think to yourself, “Wow, I live most of my life in this tiny little section of the Earth.”
-This is not a poem about really knowing the number of miles you can probably get out of when your car’s gasoline indicator is hovering over the empty line.
-This is not a poem about the variations and clusterings of common boys’ and girls’ birth names tracked over decades.
-This is not a poem about how high over sea level you actually are at any point when you are inland, and if there were a cliff right next to you showing your actual height over the ocean’s surface, it would freak you out.
-This is not a poem about life and the universe as we still aren’t able to comprehend.

For, this is not a poem at all.  It is about nothing and the undefinable.  That which goes on forever with no boundaries, but at the same time, doesn't exist.   

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lactal Inebriation

As an eleven year-old, I tended to get obsessed with music now and then.  During the time when the Abba song, "Fernando," was popular, I used to sit at the desk in my room at about nine o'clock at night, playing a plastic little bronze mechanical poker toy thing I had, and I’d keep vigil with my AM desk radio on waiting for Fernando to be played.  Something particularly about this song fed my melancholy thirst.  I think it was wintertime and the nights were long, and I was wistful about everything in my life right then.

Part of the tradition for that short period was sitting in my white robe and having a gallon of milk parked there in front of me on the desk; the whole plastic carton.  I would chug and chug it until finally I would have to put my head down on the desk due to an expanded stomach.  It was akin to getting stone drunk, but on milk.

Fernando would eventually come on the radio during my malaise, which I would end up hearing through a partially milk-induced sleep, head still cemented to my desk. 

What exactly was going on there, I just have no idea.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lower Passages - A Short Story by Fred Herrman

Just a few months ago, like a fog that clears and reveals a place and a time, I suddenly recalled that as a child, I used to use to explore a set of underground easements and tunnels from a passage in my old house.

It sounds strange, I know. 

At the age of eight, my parents and I moved into a large old house in a semi-suburban, semi-rural area of northeastern California, which was built where there had been gold-rush industry many years earlier.  One could see while driving around the town that there were skeletons of rusted mining apparatus and earth-sifting equipment built into the hillsides and sprinkled throughout the small city.  We lived there for about three years. 

My parents weren’t around much, and I was raised as an only child.  They worked a lot and then spent most of their free time socializing with friends of theirs.  This was a town where there wasn’t a whole lot for a kid to do other than to explore around and make his or her own playground out of whatever was available in this wooded and hilly area.  Our old house was built on slab, rather than on foundation, and one of the features of the large home was that in one of the dens, the most remote of the two, was a set of what appeared to be built-in book cases on either side of a mason fireplace.  They were innocent looking enough, just holding old accounting and finance reference books. 

However, the bookcase to the left of the fireplace was actually a door built with a long, vertical hinge on one side, which could be swung open smoothly to reveal a somewhat roomy wet-bar.  This was comprised of a sink, mirrors, and shelves of cleaned glasses of all sorts, full wine racks and other assorted drinks.  The space was large enough to fit three adults cozily, who could sit down in tall barstool chairs with high wooden backs and cast off another day’s work with a good liqueur and a smoke.

What I discovered sometime soon after moving in there was that one of the lower wall panels, and a piece of an adjacent floor panel in the back of the wet-bar, lifted up and out.  I remember showing this to my father once, who passed it off as part of an aging house and as a section that was possibly needed at some time in the past to access plumbing for the bar.  The next time that my parents were gone, I lifted the pieces out, and with a flashlight, I lit up the hole and found that there was a shallow passage under the level of the house slab that was wide enough for an eight-year old boy to squeeze into. 

I don’t think I entered during that first viewing, but rather ruminated on whether it was worth further exploration.  The concept of a vacuous nothingness just tens of feet from my bedroom arrested my thoughts for probably two or three nights laying in bed.  But sometime during that same week when I had the house to myself, I went back.

Opening up the wood panels and shining the flashlight in again, I summoned up the nerve to squeeze into the hole in our bar floor and wall and then crawl down into to the cool and musty space.  I crouched silently for a minute, whipping the beam of my light in either direction.  What I found was that the space was not wide or long at all.  I was sitting in what was more like a cement box.  But to one side of this cube on the floor was a slat.  I peered over and saw that I could slide myself lengthways over the ledge to yet another level below, the floor and walls of which were all dirt. 

Now I was in some sort of actual underground passage that looked like it had been hand-carved into a natural rift in under the ground to make it wide enough for a person to fit through.  There were two directions to go, but one looked more inviting than the other, being that it headed at more of a downhill slope.  The other direction had a tight corner to it and then a bottleneck, but proceeded on after that.  But I wasn’t sure if I could fit through it. 

I headed down the easier side, mostly crawling with my elbows an occasionally goose-stepping.  I almost always wore Toughskins blue jeans, which were jeans, made for kids who played hard in the mid 1970’s.  They had pre-ironed on knee patches that could withstand a lot of friction and scuffling about.  There was no doubt that I would get dirty down there, and I knew it, but I could explain this all away to my parents should they later catch me laden with mud and grime that I had just been playing in the nearby hills.  They wouldn’t know the difference.

I crawled for what I figure now to be about hundred-fifty feet through this slightly descending tunnel, when I came to a turn to the left, and then it dropped off like a shelf to an open earthen cavern.  Below the drop off was a wooden ladder fastened into the earth that was about twenty feet down.  After testing the ladder to see if it was secure, I attached a string that was part of the end of the flashlight to my belt loop and let it hang down to illuminate my way down the ladder. 

The light swung with each movement I made casting ghoulish shadows onto the side of the cavern walls, magnified and complicated by the flashlight’s swaying back and forth near the rungs of the wooden ladder.  It was cold down there.  A curious eight-year old is either scared or not scared.  Further thought into what and why all of this was didn’t enter much into my young mind.  I wasn’t scared.  It was there for me to explore, and that’s all that mattered. 

The bottom of the ladder reached a thin dirt ledge that was met with a sloping slab of concrete leading down away from the ladder.  The concrete was the width of the whole cavern on the side that I was on, and it ended at the dirt walls about thirty feet on each side of where I was.  So the only direction I could go was down the concrete.  It was at about a 45 degree angle, and course in texture, which made for an easy surface to squat my way down, and I knew, a not very difficult way to get back up.  I was all legs in those says from being a boy who continuously ran and climbed in the hills. 

I untied my flashlight from my belt loop and shined it along the whole cavern, up, down, and each corner where the earthen walls met.  Even I at that age could tell that wasn’t just a coincidental meeting of natural openings underground.  This was large enough that it was definitely human excavated.

There were three or four tunnels that led out of this cavern.  From one of them, I could hear something like the sound of machinery coming from that direction.  I walked slowly into that tunnel opening, which quickly opened into a room that had burnt out old-style light bulbs recessed into the top of the earthen ceiling. 

To the right of the room was a large metal cabinet; one that might house electrical or generator equipment.  The cabinet hummed with a steady mechanical sound, and occasionally seemed to change gears, as if it was running equipment that was either lifting, like an elevator, or was changing due to torque requirements. I stood there and just looked at it, expecting it to stop, or to somehow give an answer about its purpose.  But it did nothing different.  It simply kept at its work uninterruptedly.   

As an adult, considering how far I crawled and climbed, I’d have to say that at this point I was about fifty, to sixty feet below ground level.  And yet, to me, this was neat, wondrous, and convenient.  It did not seem completely strange and perplexing, as it should have.  It would become an ordinary, yet private part of my life, and that may be why I had forgotten about it for so many years after we moved away. 

To the opposite side of the machinery, going left in this tunnel was yet another room.  It was connected by another opening and was recessed by only a few feet from the room with the machinery.  I could see cement foundations of things that had once been affixed to the floor of this room among the earthen floor.  What came to my mind back then were things like lathes, cutters and such. The cement foundations were no wider than four or five-foot wide squares, and they seemed to have steel stumps, which has been sheered off at the surface of the cement indicating that, more than likely, machinery with legs had once been attached to these cement foundations.   

Thinking about it now, I realize that I never found any signs of other people recently in these areas.  I didn’t look for this fact as a child, but remembering how these tunnels and rooms looked, there were no abandoned sleeping bags, trash or evidence of partying, as one might find in easily accessible abandons sites.  So, I have to think that it was completely unknown to most people.  I suppose the exception would have been for whoever maintained the machinery in the previous room.  That is, if it was maintained at all, and not some forgotten system that had never been turned off.

There was only one time that I thought I heard someone in these passages.  It was one of my solo visit, and it had been when I had taken one of many other tunnels that I found along the way, most of which seemed to loop around in a way that I could not understand an could lose my bearings in.  I never got to the bottom of whether someone else was actually down there or not during that visit.  But it spooked me badly, and I believe that most often after that, I brought a friend along with me.

From this recessed room, I found a vertical tunnel that lead down, as a manhole would, to yet another lower level.  This hole had a steel encased at the top with metal rungs that protruded out from one side.  After testing these rungs, which proved to be secure, I climbed down the hole and found that it turned into a horizontal tunnel after about fifteen feet, and then lengthened high enough for me to walk through without crouching at all.

From my vantage point, I could hear the faint sounds of water, like a small, babbling brook underground.  It seemed to come from an adjacent tunnel in this section that appeared too small for me to fit through, and which in my three years worth of visits, I was never able to locate the source of.  But the sound of what I liked to think was a brook brought a calmness to my wanderings down there. It made me feel as if I was not that far from normal things.

I walked for several minutes.  It was the longest section up to this point.  I’m sure now that I walked between an eighth and a quarter of a mile; probably about a thousand feet.  The tunnel made small variations in direction, but was mostly straight, and very dark, but lit thanks to my flashlight.  In all of my times down there, I knew to keep fresh batteries in my flashlight, but I never really thought about how well I could have found my way back if my flashlight had completely failed for some reason. 

I came upon some sort of break in the dirt ceiling of this tunnel, where a metal beam, like one that would hold high-tension power-lines, stabbed through the right side of the tunnel, as if the tunnel was inadvertently dug towards this beam, or that the metal beam at some point pounded through the tunnel.  There was a very faint light up next to the beam, and I could tell it eventually lead up to daylight.  Somehow the earth around the beam was jiggled loose making a little bit of light slightly penetrable at my depth.  But, now, looking back and understanding a little better about the topography around those parts, I have to assume that in the great distance I had walked, I was then in an area where the hills had sloped slightly down above me, reducing my actual depth under the surface.  That would explain better the little hint of daylight I could see.  But the only direction possible for me was forward.

I walked another probably 300 feet, when the tunnel took a sharp turn to the left.  When I made the turn, I could see some metal housing ahead of me.  I had to climb over a large slab of rock that looked like it had slipped from its natural place in the side of the tunnel and which blocked my way.  From there, I was able to get to the metal room.  When I arrived inside it, the area looked like some sort of observation perch or control room.  There were intercoms, metal controls on a panel board with three seats bolted to the floor, and what had been windows in front of the panel board.  But upon looking out of the direction of the windows, there was nothing.  It was all welded shut with light green and pale yellow steel.  The most I could do was to climb a set of stairs that left this room, like a ship’s tight staircase, which led to yet another enclosed metal room, with even less hint of what it once was.  This point tended to be me and my friends' destinations when we went down there during successive visits.

In one freakishly strange occurrence, I woke up one late night in the first part of the tunnel system nearest our bar opening, having sleep-walked, or sleep-crawled into it and then going back to sleep on a mat that I had bought down there at some point.  I never disclosed this to my parents because of how seriously dangerous it could have been had I gone a little farther to the ladder area.  I thought I had been found out when the next morning, my father told me that I had slept walked.  Without my saying anything, he continued on with the story that at about 9:30pm, which was earlier on that same evening, I had wandered into our kitchen in my pajamas, lifted my shirt to him to expose my belly, and proclaimed to him that I had holes in my stomach.  He dismissively sent me on my way back to bed.  Apparently, that night I had experienced a propensity for sleep-walking, something that has never again occurred since that strange night.

When I think about where our house was, and about what direction I was probably going while underground, I can make a good guess of where I ended up each time I took these passages.  Our home is no longer there.  In its place now sits an area gym and small corner mall.  But, within a mile of our house was a very large industrial complex, which even to this day is still owned by a private company.  It has always been inaccessible to the public.  The complex sits in the nearby lower hills, which descend from our old neighborhood.  An Internet map of it shows that it is not a working site anymore, but is rather grown over by trees and shrubbery.  But I suspect that at one time it contained a large quarry or two.  It would explain rooms that are now underground, but which at the time needed observation of the excavated area below it.  Why any of that connected to our old house in such a circuitous and almost impenetrable way is still a complete mystery to me.  I drove back to the area just a two months ago and ask people if they knew of anything like this.  A couple of the long time residents said that they had heard of similar stories of underground passages, but they couldn’t give me any definite answers about them. 

As I mentioned in the beginning of this account, there were selected friends of my age that I used to bring down there with me; really just two that I remember.  They were close friends, and probably as luck would have it, were as afraid of what their parents might prohibit them from doing during their spare time as I was of mine.  So they never said anything of this to their parents either.  The friend who I used to take down there most often was named Gary.  He was slightly smaller than I, and I think admired my confidence and adventurous nature.  So I found it easy to explore the tunnels with him and he followed me without question. I trusted him.  It was a way of my feeling like I had command of the navigation of these tunnels, and yet at the same time, I didn’t feel all-alone down there.  I’ve never seen Gary since we moved away from that little town and I don’t even remember his last name.  The other friend that I brought down there once or twice, unfortunately died later in life when he was about 35 years old, so the passages are not a memory that I am able to share with anyone who experienced them with me.  I wonder if Gary is still around, and what he remembers of this; if it’s a lost or vague memory of his now, and how impacting versus coincidental those explorations were to him.

When I remembered all of this recently, the most powerful feeling I recall is that of having mastered something.  I conquered the unknown and developed an internal map of this hidden underground.  In my account here, I haven’t bothered describing all of the pathways that led into areas that I never fully explored, partially because they were so off of the main route that I had worked out, as it were.  But there were many of them.  So part of the confidence that I felt was from the idea that I could leave the confines of my parents house and navigate these passages in a world familiar to only me; a world that few others even knew existed.  It used to give me a sense of self-identity and pride.  And just as the purpose of the passages still remains a mystery, I am also at a loss to explain how I had forgotten about them for all of these years.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Aurora, Colorado Theater Shooting

One of the issues that will invariably come up from the Colorado massacre is how to recognize the signs of someone who is very troubled and would act on their troubles.  It is very difficult because there are so many anti-social loners and depressed individuals in our society.  I used to work in group homes and psychiatric hospitals, and I saw the gambit of mental and social disorders, including a lot of borderline personalities, which can seem very aggressive and anti-social on their surface. The question is how would someone like the shooter in the Colorado event both be recognized before hand, and then how would action by health care workers or law enforcement actually be taken in a preventive way? Picking someone out and acting on signs could potentially be a violation of individual rights.  I'm fine with just about anything that could potentially save lives that would be done in a legal way.  But how do you do this without misidentifying a lot of people who don't really pose a societal threat?  It is a very tricky issue once you drill down.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Expression of the Diddles

Diddles are all around, but very small, on the order of the follicles of a peach’s fuzz.  They often borough themselves on the stems of leaves, in paint cracks in doorways, getting uprooted and re-settling wherever they must after being blown around by a moderate wind. 

They are observant creatures, watching with the exhausted and bewildered expressions that remind one of Fred Armisen’s impression of Penny Marshall on Saturday Night Live.  However, they are not non-thinking beings.  They take in their surroundings and communicate their experiences on small instruments made of twisted and braded dust particles, called Deedles, over which they draw their legs the way a cricket does to make his chirping sounds.  The vibrations produced from the Diddles’ Deedles constitute their music, or Doddles.

It has been noted that rather than simply playing what they see, they build their music based on past experiences interwoven with current perceptions.  So in this way, the Diddle’s music is a sort of oral history of their species.  Deciphering the Doddles has not been an easy task. 

Researches endured painstakingly long hours of rigging up the most sensitive of recording equipment to archive the musical communications of the Diddles.  The sounds are so minute and are of such a high-frequency pitch that an enormous amount of post-recording work has been needed to extract the musical sounds from unwanted background noise. 

By seeing what the Diddles saw, and reviewing the recordings of their music, these researchers were able to begin to build a vocabulary of their communications, a sort of encyclopedia of the musical motifs which made up groups of common communications.  Working backwards then, the scientists have been able to build a historical knowledge base of the Diddle’s past.  Not all is yet understood since this is an on-going project. 

But a mosaic from their Doddles has indicated that they are a species that first came into existence from a scientific experiment at a university gone awry.  The knowledge base of the Diddles’ Doddles and old hymns seem to all point to a “great escape” from a laboratory setting, probably only a few years ago.  Their descriptions allude to a sudden “big bang” in a sterile white clinical setting that begin an exodus of their species out into a much larger world.  This would likely indicate that some sort of scientific test of fungi or other minute life form had gotten out of it’s containment due to human error.

The amount of time estimated for their existence as being “a few years” was roughly calculated by unweaving their historical hymns and comparing them to their current music.  Using the backwards trajectory of the Diddle’s rate of increased vocabulary in their Doddles over time pointed to a somewhat focused span of time at which their doddles began.  This indicates rough idea of when they became a conscious group entity.  From a petri dish culture of likely just a few hundred thousand, today’s estimations of Diddles playing their Deedles is around 80 billion strong. 

And why the overwhelmed, Penny Marshall type gaze in most of their faces?  This is still unclear, but the researchers think that it is a species reaction to all that the world is.  One has to remember that the Diddles, though not created in the petri dishes, were harvested there first and therefore probably gained their group consciousness in this quiet setting.  Upon their escape from the laboratory, the unexpected slammed into every one of the Diddle’s faces.  The loud, changing light, changing colors, dirty busy outside world.  Their shock-ridden faces may simply be their inability to completely ever digest the world in which they now live.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thirty-Seven Years Later

I don’t know how many times in the past few decades I’ve found myself showing someone where I lived in the Hollywood Hills and have knocked at the front gate to see if anyone was home only to be answered by silence.  But just the other day on my way back from seeing my mother at her assisted living home, I decided, instead of driving back either of two routes I always use, I would drive up Laurel Canyon and give it another try.  It was about heading towards 6:00pm, and maybe at this time of day, someone would be home.

So up the long haul of narrow roads I drove, keeping an eye out for any down hill speedsters that one must always keep a cautious eye for since there is so little margin for passing error.  I drove by Wonderland elementary school, a seeming asphalt island between two converging canyons where several friends of mine attended while I was in Oakwood School.  I passed Doris and Neal’s house somewhere on the right.  It’s hard to remember exactly where it was anymore.  It was a small, rust colored wood home that sat up about twenty feet from the street.  Even at the time my parents knew these 1960’s hippie holdout’s well.  One time my friend Devin and I walked way down from my neighborhood to this part of Wonderland Drive as a sort of test to see how far we could irresponsibly wander, and we both decided we didn’t want to walk back up the hill.  I rang Doris and Neal’s doorbell to see if one of them would drive us.  My assumption that friends of my family would always want to be helpful to me was not so on target in this case.  Doris answered the door, somewhat stunned and flustered, and told us that we really shouldn’t just pop in like that.  She got her thin leather vest on, let us into her beaten old white sedan, and deposited us back up to where we belonged.  After that, I shied away from leaning on them again in that way.

Passing all of these memory markers has always been fresh to me each time I have gone up to the old neighborhood every five years or so.  There’s the corner house on Wonderland Avenue and Green Valley Street where there was once a large green lawn with a black and white bulldog that perennially sunbathed itself.  The owner has since replaced the lawn with dark ivy.  And then I headed up the final stretch of Green Valley Drive, where, as the road straightens itself out, our big neighborhood radio tower appeared looming through the white haze of a typical Los Angeles day.

With a quick left onto Green Valley Place, I arrive onto Crest View Drive, park my car near my old house in the cul-de-sac, walk up to the gate, and ring the door bell, which now has one of those security speakers attached.  “Hello?” a gentle man's voice answers.  “Oh my God,” I say to myself.  “Someone is actually home this time!” 

It’s a preposterous proposition, really.  Some guy off the street asking to get into someone else’s most intimate of havens. But I solidly blurt out my request.  There’s just no other way. “Hi, my name is Fred Herrman, and my parents built this house.  I was wondering if I might be able to see it again…”  I didn’t even complete my sentence when he says, “Who bought it from them,” as if he had been expecting me for a half hour already and he just needed the password from me.  I give him his answer and I immediately hear the front door open from within the gate. 

A good-looking, kind man in his late thirties opens the gate for me and we exchange greetings as he proceeds to let me in.  I throw out a few quick facts about the house that pretty much no one could know just to reassure him that I’m not a kook.  I walk into the entry and feel a little light-headed.  I have not stood in this house for exactly thirty-seven years.  Revisiting it has always been a dream of mine.  I look to my left, and a partition that separates the entry from the dining room is missing.  It’s not much of a loss.  The partition felt very 1960’s, and now the room feels more open.  My mom used to put the Halloween candy out there for the neighbor kids.  It’s also where I made my parents set up my record player with the original Disney’s Haunted Mansion album.  Each time kids came to the door, my parents were instructed to turn on the haunted mansion sounds on their record player each time the door bell range.  My dad was on door duty most of that night, and when I returned, he told me he had done it a good number of times until a group of smaller kids had come and gotten scared by the stormy, haunted sound effects.  Well, I determined that he had done a fine enough job for me on that front, so I had no quarrel with him.  Boy, what parents will do for you!

On the right of the entry I noticed regular window glass.  When I was younger, we had some kind of bottle glass that always frustrated me as a child because I wasn’t able to see the wind swaying the trees clearly when it was raining.  We proceeded into the dining room, which was the central hub of this home.  Going from anywhere to anywhere else, one had to pass through this room.  It was the site of my birthday parties, our putting out the Menorah during Chanukah, and also a center of play for me.  Were we the only Jewish family that also celebrated Christmas?  Well, we had a Christmas tree every year anyways. I could have a whole room myself; yet still keep my mother in ear’s reach during the afternoons.  My dad told me that I was “under foot” often since so much of my time was spent playing on the floors.

I looked down, and there was the same cross-pattern wood floor beneath me that I used to drive my Hot Wheels on.  This was really emotional for me.  My heart was soaring being back there again.  Most of what I remember after I was adopted happened right here in these few rooms inside this very house.  The gentleman walked me into the living room.  There was still the same white-painted brick around the fireplace and an adjacent wood built-in cabinet where we used to keep our long playing records.  My parents seemed to have everything on vinyl back then.  Lots of Broadway shows such as “My Faire Lady,” and “Hair.” They also had spoken comedy albums by Woody Allen and Allen Sherman (“Take me home, oh mudduh, faddah, take me home, I hate Granada”), and 1960’s pop and folk music such as Mammas and the Pappas, and The Beatles.  I would often come across the “Rubber Soul” album with the acid drippy graphics on the cover in that same stack and imagined my dad single and driving around in with his brown suede jacket in a little convertible red MG that he used to always talk about listening to the Beatles in his prenuptial days.  The time frame wasn’t really a match because they were married before the Beatles became known.  But that was the story I made up for that album. 

The living room had high ceilings and was always this long, tall, white box to me.  It was bigger than most of my friends’ living rooms.  As the contractor was laying out the stakes delineating the boundaries of the rooms and perimeter, my dad often told me that he moved all of the stakes for the structural boundary about one foot to the north to make our living room a bit roomier.  It made sense to me later as I recalled that the exterior north side easement had a very narrow set back.  And now, standing at six feet tall and one inch, it was still a large living room.  How nice! 

My parents designed this house to have a lot of light coming in with large plate glass windows facing out to the canyon.  The owner in between my parents and this gentlemen had removed slatted windows that one can rotate for airflow, which used to populate this house.  It had been a security risk in the intervening years. 

The gentleman walked me through the large sliding glass door of the dining room and out to our back yard, which overlooked the canyon on the other side of Wonderland Drive.  Still a majestic view, though there are more houses on that ridge than used to be.  My dad drove me to that other side, a barren dirt road at the time, to see our Christmas tree lit up one night.  I pointed out to this gentleman a spot of utility equipment still visible on the southern end of the ridge.  “See all that stuff over there?  There used to be an old air attack warning siren in amongst all of that.  Every last Friday of the month at about 1:00pm, we’d hear it go off if we were home.”  He chuckled, recalling something similar in his upbringing.  I also showed him where my parents had planned a spiral staircase to lead up to the roof over their bedroom for a sundeck.  They decided not to do it at the last minute for reasons of expense.  But I told the gentleman that the roof over the master bedroom was actually reinforced, unlike the rest of the house for that reason.  It was nice to tell a man who’s been living there many years a few things he didn’t know about the house.  And it made me feel still connected to it; some sort of mastery of the home.

We then walked to my parents’ bedroom, which has a master bath with a vanity on the outside of it.  I said, “Boy, I always thought that vanity area was larger.”  He replied, “Oh, that always happens when you revisit places.”  The bathtub and the bidet had been removed and the shower expanded, but all in all, it looked quite the same structurally. We exited the back door from the master bath to the part of the back yard, which wrapped around the side of the house, where now sits a swimming pool.  It used to be full of dichondra grass and is later where my jungle gym sat.  But still, the brick that formed the boarder of the flower gardens, which butted up against our neighbors’, the Norton’s property, was still there, only painted a light gray now.  My friend Kristian and I used to put my parents’ hose on one end of this flower garden, build a dam out of mud and let the water back up.  On the lower side of the dam, Kristian and I would carve out roads and a makeshift city built of dirt and twigs. When the city was built, and the water was high on the banks of the mud dam, Kristian and I would use the flat of our palms to bull doze through a couple of points on the earthen dam and the water would rush through the openings and obliterate the roads and town that we had built.  It was always a success!  Obviously, whoever the city planners were hadn’t thought out things too well in allowing construction of a town in the shadow of such a precarious dam!

We walked back inside back through my parents’ room and the dining room and into the kitchen.  On the dining room side of the kitchen, we used to have wallpaper which consisted of a light brown burlap.  It was stringy and because I used to grab at the door jam as I'd pivot from my hallway through the dining room and into the kitchen, this burlap began to ware thin.  The stringiness of the material eventually fell apart around that area from where I had worn it thin.  My mother was never pleased of this progress. 

Though the kitchen’s general shape and location of appliances had not changed, the mood was much different now.  When my parents built the house, they had chosen an avocado and gold color scheme.  It took my asking my aunt after visiting the home to recall that exactly what had originally been in there.  We had flowered wallpaper with these colors and with a texture of what my aunt remembers as being called, grass cloth. The paper alternated between a smooth paper feel and fine vertical striations, which one could feel by drawing one’s had horizontally across the wall, not unlike the feel of those pictures that change as you turn them, usually the prize in some children’s cereal box.  The floor was cream white linoleum with pinky-finger sized, amorphous-shaped splotches peppered throughout. 

On the counter next to the dishwasher was a metal breadbox that somehow we still had as late as about three years ago.  Amazing that it lasted that long.  In this breadbox were cookies.  My parents kept cookies for me, and also there was a dish of candy next to the entry.  My parents’ feeling was that I would never get obsessed with sweets if they were just always available and not to be fussed over.  Their plan worked with the exception of Oreo cookies.  I still obsess on those.  But my friends of yore were always amazed at the sight of candy sitting out in the house in a neat little dish by the front door.  When asked, “May I have a piece of candy, Ms. Herrman?” my mother always told them, “Take just two…moderation.”  She was always the teacher.  I had a lot of friends visit me there.

The breakfast nook where my dad and I used to build model airplanes together, and adjoining service porch looked almost exactly the same, minus a Pacific Bell wall-hung dial phone.  Looking into the service porch, I even asked him, “Are these the same machines?” referring to the clothes washer and dryer.  I realized the stupidity of the question as soon as it came out of my mouth.  He answered, “No, these are newer machines.”  “Of course,” I thought to myself, “There’s probably no chance this hip young man would have kept machines from the 1960’s, nor that they would even work anymore.” I wasn’t intending to fit every single thing that was currently in the house back into my own childhood experience, but the excitement of being there and also the spatial familiarity, well it was pretty overwhelming for me and distorted the reasonableness of my questions at times.

We then proceeded back through to the dining room towards the other two bedrooms.  Along the hall to the bedrooms was a full bath.  This bathroom now had a much different look.  Gone was the vertically striped blue, green, red and white wallpaper, and instead, present were more reasonably paint colored bare walls.  A much smaller mirror, nice tub and floor made it all look very modern.  This had been my bathroom. As we walked into the bathroom, I was reminded of the pattern that once occupied the floor.  It had been a cream color with dark green marbling.  When I used to go in there as a child to sit on the toilet, there was one pattern that looked like a skull winking at me and consistently freaked me out at night.  I would put my foot over it while doing my business.  I told this gentleman about the time I had crashed my bike on one of the empty lots near Glen Campbell’s house with two of my friends.  The kickstand on my Schwinn turned dirt bike, which had developed the habit of coming down, had done it’s thing in the middle of a jump between two lots, and acting as one leg of a tripod, had thrown me over sideways as I landed.  Oh, that hurt!  I knew that I was somewhat beat up more than usual when both of my older friends looked at me and said, "Oh wow.  We should ride back to your house, Fred."  Great, what did I look like now?  Was I a mutant?  This bathroom had been the triage site for clean up of my bleeding forehead.  My mom was probably upset seeing me all bloodied, but thankfully, seemed calm about the whole ordeal.  I guess that’s one of a mother’s pragmatic jobs in the face of bike wrecks.

We finally arrived at the last two rooms.  My room was the larger of the two.  Large closet space, one of those hutch doors you’d find in a barn, which lead to the back yard area where the jungle gym had stood.  This was the room where I learned about music.  Classical music from my mom and I listening to “Peter and the Wolf,” pop music such as, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” many of Glen Campbell’s hits, John Denver, and later Elton John and many more songs.  I played all of my music on a little blue and white record player that had a build in speaker covered by a sort of plastic weaving on it’s sides.  My room was dressed in Dr. Seuss furniture, which was comprised a single sized bed with multi colored slats in the head and foot boards, bright orange and green beehive and hanging lamps of varying shapes, tables, chairs, and at least two bean large bags.  It was like a Dr. Seuss book had exploded in this room.  I liked it a lot.  I had a fish tank with lots of guppies.  There seemed to always be a few that were pregnant in that tank swimming around obliviously their rectangular domain.  This was also the room that when I first came to live with my parents and was still quite unsettled in spirit, they would read to me until I fell asleep.  That was so sweet of them!  They told me later that I had recurring nightmares of dead animals floating in the sea, probably triggered by an afternoon when my parents and I happened upon a beached dead seal near our Malibu home.  But more likely, the dreams were a remnant signpost still bubbling up of having just lost my biological father just a few months earlier. 

Someone had made the suggestion to my parents of getting a pet who could sleep with me.  One day, three puppy Weimaraner-Lab mix female dogs were brought to my parents’ house by a man who’s female Weimaraner had gotten pregnant by a neighborhood chocolate lab jumping a six foot fence to mate with it.  The three puppies were lined up in the kitchen entry near the dining room (I can’t write this without tearing up), I walked over to them and one of the three puppies came to me.  I chose her and named her Willie, after the first book I ever read, “Whistle for Willie.”  She was my best friend always.

The gentleman and I went to the spare room, which was now his office, and I told him of the opare we had from Denmark, named Inger, who although she was with us for only a year or so until she missed her boyfriend aback in Denmark so much that she finally left, was always considered part of our family from that point on.  She was charged with keeping an eye on me and taking care of me while both of my parents were working a lot. She was a sweet, patient woman. After she left due to missing a boyfriend back in Denmark that her mother didn't approve of (and was why she was sent out to the U.S. by her mother), she always sent me these Danish calendars for the month of December where I could open each door for each day leading up to Christmas.  I always looked forward to these heading into the Holidays.

My tour that day never included the garage, but I can only assume that hasn’t changed much. It wasn’t so important for me to see it, though David Haskell (the famed arranger, Jimmy Haskell's son) and I used to park our bikes in the empty garage after school with water bottles in our hands and pretend that it was Station 51 from, “Emergency.”  We’d imagine getting the call,”Squad fifty-one, squad fifty-one, respond to a brush fire on the Norton’s lot.  Time out, 3:45.  Okay, this is engine fifty-one. We’re responding…KMG365” and then we’d holler our pretend sirens and be off to fight the fire with our water spritzers.  This was also the garage where when the lot catty-corner from our house was open, I used to ride my bike around, and one day an older kid from down the street started bullying me and telling me that I couldn’t use the dirt jumps with my bike as if he owned them.  My dad happened to come outside, walked over and yelled at the kid. “You don’t tell anyone what they can and can’t do,” and that was that. Yeah dad!!! He was my hero!  Although, ironically, my dad was telling him just that. With his tail between his legs, the kid then came over to our garage and showed me how to turn my stock Schwinn into a quasi-dirt bike, acquiescing to my father’s earlier confrontation with him. And in this same garage was a combo fridge and freezer in the garage too mostly stacked with meat to be rotated into the house refrigerator.  But sometimes, it contained the overflow of frozen ice cream bars.  I learned this pretty quickly.  My dad had his boxes of Playboys in this garage dating back to the 1950’s.  And my friends Devin, Nick and I used to scour all of the magazines for every picture, each article we could understand, and every cartoon.  To this day, I feel like I intuitively understand the evolution of Playboy Magazine’s looks, layouts and photography better than most people.  A lot of dedicated research went into this knowledge. 

My tour came to an end.  The owner was literally one of the nicest and most sincere people I had met in a very long time.  I thanked him profusely for allowing me to tour the house.  He could have just as well said no, as probably a lot of people might have in this day and age.  What made me happy, aside from seeing all of this again and reliving so many memories, was that this gentleman, who had lived in the home longer than the former owners and my parents did combined, was that he really loves the house.  He cherishes the privacy, and functionality, and the beauty of the home.  It makes me happy that he is the owner.

The sun was dropping behind the Hollywood hills now. I got into my Jeep, started off, partially running over a wooden pallet that had been left on the side of the curb next to some trash cans.  The pallet creaked and crunched until my right front tire passed completely over it’s edge and released the pressure from the pallet, and then I made my way up Crest View Drive.  I felt the excitement of just having been inside the place where my parents built their life together on the west coast, made their careers, and then later adopted a five year old child.  My mom and dad were strong, vibrant and alive.  They gave whatever they could of themselves, far beyond what could be expected from parents.  And as I continued driving home down Skyline towards Mulholland, I began to feel something else.  It was strong.  Sadness. The sadness of what wasn’t anymore.  My father is gone, and my mother is confused and frustrated in an assisted living facility.  I compared all of these things and asked myself how all of it, the early life on the hill, the traveling, their respective occupations, all of their friends of that time, how could it all could have been reduced to this; my mom with dementia in a place that is really not home to her.  It just seems unfair after all that they accomplished both individually and together, and yet, I know that this is all a part of life; the joy and the sorry.  I felt both feelings deeply as I turn onto Mulholland Drive and looked at the city below, a view that my mom, my dad, me and my best friend, Willie, once shared together on a daily basis.  

See Captions Under Each Photo.  The compass directions indicate which way the camera is facing, not which way the subject in the photo is facing. 

Facing West.
Facing West.
Facing West.
In Dining Room Looking East Towards Kitchen
In Living Room Looking North
In South Yard Looking Northeast
In South Yard Looking Northeast
In Cul De Sac Looking Northeast
In Cul De Sac Looking Southwest
On Property Line Of North Neighbor and Ours
In South Yard Looking Northeast
In South Yard Looking Northeast
In South Yard Looking Northeast
North and East Wall of Living Room
Looking Southeast from Dining Room into Kitchen
In South Yard Looking Northeast
Looking South out of Middle Bedroom

Looking East Across South Yard (The Pool Sits There Now)

Looking Southwest To Exterior of House

Looking Northwest in Living Room (I have no idea who this kid is)

In Kitchen Nook Looking North

In Living Room Looking West

In Living Room Looking North

In Living Room Looking West

In Dining Room Looking East into Kitchen

Outside of Dining Room Looking East (That's Dalton Trumbo's Daughter)
Looking East On Lot that Extends West Of House - The Awards Producer Lives In That House Now

Looking East Down Green View Place Towards Green Valley Road

Looking West at Our North Property Line - That is the arranger, Jimmy Haskell's, Son

Looking East Down From Our Garage Roof

Looking South at Ralph Matthew's Front Steps
Facing East in Southeast Bedroom

Facing East in South Yard (has pool now)

Facing Southeast in South Yard (has pool now)

Facing East in South Yard (has pool now)
Facing South in Master Bedroom Make Up Counter (Bathroom To Right)

Facing Southeast in Front of Neighbor's Garage To Our North

Facing Southeast in South Yard (has pool now)

On West Side of Master Bedroom Looking North

Outside Middle Bedroom Looking North

On Driveway Outside Our Kitchen Facing Northeast

Outside Master Bathroom Facing North

In Living Room Facing East

In West Yard Facing West Northwest

In Cul De Sac Facing North

In Living Room Facing West
In Cul De Sac Facing Southeast (Ralph Matthews' Garage Partially Visible)
West Yard Outside of Master Bedroom Facing Northwest

In South Yard Facing South (Norton's Property Is Over Fence)

In One Of Our Yard Areas

I Will Always Love Willie