Friday, July 18, 2014

Wormhole to Arizona - A Place of Pain And Serenity


I had a strange thing happen a long time ago when a girlfriend who I had been living with for three years, up and moved out on me literally without any warning.  But that's all water under the bridge now.  With all of this in the past, one aspect of the experience remains poignant to me.  It was that when this was all happening (about the fall of 1993), it was extremely painful for me.  This caused me to go into a really strange place in my head, which will be difficult to describe here since I haven't completely made sense of it even to this day. 

I am not and have never abused chemical substances in my life.  The most I have ever experimented with was pot when I was fifteen, and that was only because I had a couple of friends who smoked it now and then, so I gave it a try a couple of times.  Two friends and I also took mushrooms at Disneyland once during our time at university, which was pretty interesting.  We chalked it up as a perceptual experiment.  I have pride in myself about my lack of interest in chemical substances because I had a biological father who drank excessively, so one might expect that I might have had an inclination to have either experimented with or have leaned on substances.  But I never have had the desire to mute my own pain at all.  I have always felt that surviving through pain directly strengthens me.  Having been adopted by a mother who was a child development specialist may have helped in this regard, as I was mostly open to my own feelings throughout my life.  I wasn't perfect with handling them, but that expressive channel was always there in myself.   

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Home Drive By - Some Self Soothing

Since my parents died and their house was sold by their trustees, I've had moments where I have driven up their street as if to verify, this was my home.  It's a slight compulsion, and not one that happens all the time.  But since their death, just two and a half years apart from each other, I've done just that five or six times; maybe more.  

Just a couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend was out of town and I felt a little bit alone.  With her absence, there was a vacuum and I started thinking about my former life with my parents, which doesn't seem all that long ago, but in retrospect, was eight, ten, twelve years in the past.  My memories of my mom planting bulbs in the front yard flower beds, and of my dad sitting at the family room table, carving out a slab or grapefruit while watching a baseball or football game, are based during a time during which they were still healthy.  It was before the period when they were diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  And I realize that these memories I have a from further back than my emotions would lead me to believe. 

And so just recently, after getting myself some dinner, I had one of those inklings to drive over to my old neighborhood.  It was about 8:30pm when I parked my Jeep just down the street from our old house and got out to feel and smell my old street.  Most of the same houses are there from when I grew up, but many have been extended upwards, backwards or both, to increase their square footage, and many yards have had a fair amount of light-scaping added to them for evening ambiance. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dennis Wolfberg - A Legend in My Book


Sometime in about 1990, when I was still living at the Sea Castle in Santa Monica, I invited my girlfriend, and about five other friends out for the evening.  We all had dinner in West L.A., and then I didn't really have a plan after that.  We finished our food and were ready to head onto some other activity when I remembered that not far from the restaurant was a small comedy club at 11637 Tennessee Place, West Los Angeles.  It was called, IGBY's Comedy Cabaret, and was a 190 seat capacity club with small tables and chairs. 

When we arrived at the club to investigate who was on that night, Dennis Wolfberg was scheduled to perform.  I had seen him a few times on television and remembered that his observational type of comedy was very funny.  I remember thinking that it was an off night, such as maybe a Wednesday or a Thursday evening,  and that the club was a little out of the way too, being just off of Pico Boulevard near Barrington, just west of the 405 freeway.  So I was surprised that we would get to see Wolfberg so spontaneously. When we sat down, we were in about the second row of tables, and the place eventually became about three-quarters full. 

And after a warm up by Robert Lee, Dennis Wolfberg came out and did a routine about his wife's pregnancy and child's birth that made the group of us curl up fetally with laughter.  He had so finely honed his craft that when one listened to his show, one literally hung on every word that he said.  He had a way with emphasizing his speaking with a volume and clarity that reminded me of a well enunciated professor.  In addition, he would bulge his face as he accentuated his story elements.  His routines were a tapestry of brilliant writing and stage acting. 

I would later see him performing this same routine on the Tonight Show and on other television programs, so maybe our audience was part of the final testing ground for him before releasing this routine to the world.  I think that had he not passed away shortly after our encounter with him, he would have been one of the better known stand up's (make that legendary) in entertainment history.  Wolfberg was just that gifted. 

The Effect of a Fourth

The 4th of July holiday always brings back to me a memory of one 4th when I was on a bus, from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona, during my search for my sister.  The reason for this specific trip was that I had just found the mother of the man and woman who had stood in as God parents for my sister at her baptism.  As I did all things in those days (around 1984), as soon as I had acquired the information about these people, I was on a Greyhound Bus as soon as possible to get over to her and meet her. 

During this outbound portion of the trip, I left on a mid day bus, so that by the time the bus got into Arizona, it was getting around 9:00pm, and being that it was the 4th of July, fireworks shows began to appear in the dimly lit skies from different parts of the city.  I recall one parking lot near a recreational field that the bus had to either drive through or near where there were a lot of youngsters tailgating with drinks and coolers and watching the fireworks.  I was sitting on the left side of the bus and I looked out of my window, separated from the activity and sound by my window, and I saw such excitement and pleasure on their faces.  I could see that there were groups of friends and families, being with each other for the spectacular show that was occurring. 

Because of the direction that my bus was going, and because the window tops were rather low on my bus, I could not see the actual fireworks, the source of which were above the roof of the Greyhound bus and about ten-o-clock above my left shoulder.  My view was of lights and colors changing and illuminating the vehicles and faces of those watching in the parking lot.  Teens and kids waved sparklers as the fireworks exploded above them while their moms and dads chatted and laughed.  This scene made an impression on me.

Though I had been to many fireworks shows with my own family and friends, somehow being separated from it all and witnessing the reverie that these folks were exuding made me feel how special these times of gatherings are; a 4th of July, a Christmas, a New Years.  When one is distanced from it all, as through a thick pane of observational glass in some scientific setting, it becomes even clearer that we as humans are so capable of intense pleasure and bonding, and that on the balance, we seek these moments for connection with ourselves.  It's nice to see so many happy people all at once.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Memorial for Marilyn

This past Friday was the memorial service for the matriarch of one of my favorite families.  She left behind three children, who I love, and three grandchildren.  Here are some words that I wrote, and which I spoke during the service:

Hello.  My name is Fred Herrman, and I was Trish’s high school boyfriend.  Trish and I met during our tenth grade year, though I had already noticed her in middle school wearing her government sash at a lunchtime assembly, but that’s another story.  Pretty soon after we got to know each other, she invited me over to her house to meet her parents, Marilyn and Dugan.  Being that this was my first-ever real girlfriend, I didn’t know what to expect from my new sweetheart’s parents.

I wondered to myself, would her parents like me?  Would they be critical of this guy who was dating their youngest daughter?  Would I know how to behave around them? 

And then I met them.  Marilyn and Dugan were very kind to me and made me feel comfortable right away.  As I remember it, pretty much as soon as I walked into the house, Marilyn, who had stationed herself in the Varna house kitchen, offered me a little snack, along with some lemonade.

As time progressed, I found out that these two people were very generous and welcoming and took a genuine interest in me, and I noticed that they were like this with all of Trish’s friends.  These were good people.  And as more time went on, I was invited to beautiful Bass Lake for summer vacations and was made to feel a part of the family.  And there were occasional Jackman family arguments that I witnessed too.  “Wow! They even feel comfortable enough to argue around me? Good!  They’re a crazy Jewish family just like mine! Now I really feel at home!”