Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Playgirl model


couldn't wait to view the videos at Great Expectations and find my destiny. I knew he was looking for me too. I just knew it. The very first day, I sat there for eight hours, watching the men who had joined, listening to their hopes, their dreams, their hobbies, careers, did they smoke, drink, want children? One man wore a wrinkled tee shirt and had missing teeth but stressed that he would only date a woman who took great pride in her appearance. Another man noted that his hobby was to wrap himself in scotch tape and roll around on the floor. Too much information for me.
Then I saw an ex-fling of mine who was looking for “friendship.” This guy, who could not commit to anything more than friendship when we dated, was at least in touch with what he was looking for in the opposite sex. Tom was still hunky. When we dated, he was a clerk at a grocery store and a model for Playgirl Magazine. He didn't mention his modeling career. I’m sure if he did, he would have made a lot of “friends.” 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Video dating


For the Great Expectations video, I was ushered into a tiny room and seated in a chair next to a fake tree
"Can I get an extra chair for my dog?" I asked the GE employee who was rolling his eyes, letting me know he thought it was strange that I wanted my dog in my video.  
"I guess so," he said before leaving the room. He returned quickly with a table instead of a chair.
"Can your dog sit on this?" 
"I'm sure she can," I answered as I lifted her up and placed her next to me. The GE employee rolled his eyes and stepped behind the camera to turn it on.
"And action," he said, pointing to me to begin. I stuttered a bit and had to start over several times. I could feel myself stiffening up and my voice cracking. Being in PR, I was used to telling my client’s stories. But when it came to talking about me, I was uptight and nervous and it showed. 
“I'm Susan and this is my dog Blondie. I work in the field of public relations and am as comfortable in blue jeans as I am in a cocktail dress,” my face strained for the camera, Blondie's legs began to slowly spread out in front of her. I reached over and placed her in a down.
“I like long walks on the beach,” with an elderly dog, long walks anywhere were out of the question plus, walks on the beach were something I rarely did so why did I say that? 
“A sense of humor is important to me but a love of animals is even more critical," I looked toward Blondie to make sure she was okay and was practically knocked over by her bad breath. 
"I would like to have children one day and enjoy spending time with my friend’s kids," just not changing any dirty diapers, I thought to myself. 
"I consider myself spiritual and attend church,” which was a stretch. I attended occasionally and felt total contempt toward God, holding him responsible for making this video in the first place. 
“I was raised in the San Fernando Valley and my parents still live in the house that I grew up in," important to mention in case someone was looking for an original Valley girl without the affected accent. 
"I am looking for someone with a good job," since all my boyfriends up to this point did not have jobs at all, this was high on my priority list, "someone who wants to share their life with me," how about start with just a date, huh? A little pressure there…. 
"Well, me and Blondie.” 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Great Expectations


Out of total desperation, I decided to join Great Expectations, the video dating service, (this was before dating websites even existed, before I knew anything about the World Wide Web). I never thought I would resort to joining a dating service. I had always been the kind of person who had my choice of men. My mom said I drop kicked men. But I argued that I was just being picky, not setting for someone who wasn't right for me. Now, I was starting to realize she was right. I was my own worse enemy when it came to the opposite sex. Maybe this service would help me slow down, take my time to get to know a man before I got into a relationship. Of course, when I went to make my video, Blondie came along with me.  
“I’m Susan and this is my dog Blondie,” I started my video. We were seated together in front of a vase of flowers, Blondie panting and staring at me as I spoke, her bad breath smelling like old, used tires mixed with rancid meat made me feel woozy. Older dogs get bad breath, even when owners take good care of their pet’s teeth. I had Blondie’s teeth regularly cleaned at the vet and actually brushed them nightly myself with beef flavored toothpaste. But she was 13-years old by this time and her breath really smelled her age. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Red balloons


Blondie was there when I released two red, heart-shaped helium balloons into the sky. I attached another love note with my contact info thinking he could be anywhere in the world and hoping he would travel hundreds of thousands of miles to find me. At least that’s what I prayed to God about. I asked Blondie to pray to her God too. But even with both of us praying, I was still single. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Message in a bottle


Blondie lay right next to me on my bed and watched with curiosity as I placed on a piece of wedding cake under my pillow, hoping to dream about my future husband. She used her little nose to nudge at my pillow, trying to get to the cake and eat it. We didn't get much sleep that night.
Blondie stayed in my car as I lit candles in the Catholic Church near my home asking God to send me my husband  When that didn't work, I was prayed over by an Episcopal Priest hoping his connection to God would make the difference. Next, I found a fortune teller who let me bring my dog to a reading. Blondie relaxed at my feet while I learned that I was going to be married by the time I was 34 and would have two children. Blondie watched me take special baths filled with love potion I bought at a Botanica and gave her sniff of approval before I lit love candles.
One foggy overcast night, Blondie joined me at the beach where we howled at the moon to summon my man. I threw a bottle into the ocean to carry a love note to my soul mate on some distant shore. I wasn't worried that Blondie would run into the tide to retrieve it. She hated to get her dainty little feet wet. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wish upon a star


I didn't let the latest dating debacle get me down. Okay, Hank was not the one for me but surly there was a man out there waiting for me. We just had to find each other. So I read all the self help books I could find on the subject of ending my single status and followed some crazy advice. Of course, Blondie was right there by my side loving me unconditionally without casting judgement.
One book suggested I empty a drawer in my bedroom to make room for “him.” As I took the socks out of my top drawer, Blondie watched with curiosity. She stuck her nose in the middle of the mess I made on the floor then proceeded to roll around on my socks.
Blondie got bored and fell asleep while I wrote a list of all the qualifications I wanted in the perfect man. I read list nightly until I grew completely bored. So Blondie and I took the list outside and burned it sending smoke signals to the Gods. Blondie scratched her butt during the impromptu ceremony. 
None of the book advice I read was working so I signed up for expensive seminars designed for single people like me. I left Blondie at home when I healed my shame, met my inner child and cried over former lovers but she was with me when we danced to the new moon and wished upon a star. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Soul mates


Finally, Hank returned from the men's room.
"I thought you got lost," I jokingly said to him. 
“No, no," he responded, all grins. I just had to speak to my wife. Thanks to you, we've decided to try and work things out,"  he said as he handed me a $50.00 bill. "Please take this for your dinner and grab a cab ride home. We're getting back together tonight!” 
didn't know whether to be happy for him or sad for me. Hank turned and walked quickly out of the restaurant, wiping his brow with a paper towel.
I downed the rest of my wine, ordered dinner to go and left. In the cab ride home I became angry. Another wasted night. Another man who was not for me. Would I ever find my soul mate? I thought about it as I sat in the back seat of that cab in silence. Suddenly, it dawned on me. I was the lucky one. I lived in this beautiful city. I didn't have to compromise my life for anyone. And I hadn't really liked Hank that way anyway. At least his little girl’s daddy was back at home to love her. I helped a child. That was something. I began to feel better about the evening. 
When I got home, I shared my dinner with Blondie.
“You’re my soul mate, aren't you,” I said and she wagged her tail. I started cutting the meat off the bone to give Blondie a special treat.
 “I saved a marriage tonight.” I put half my dinner in her bowl and placed it in front of her. She didn't look up, instead; she concentrated on the chicken. I ate my half of the dinner, lost in my own thoughts until I felt her little wet nose touching my leg.
“What is it?”  She stared at me with those big brown eyes that were starting to show her age but still seemed bright and alert, especially with the possibility of more chicken, smacking her lips in delight. I knew what she was asking.
“Anything for you.” I put the rest of my dinner in her dish and watched her gobble it up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Merlot


Hank and I entered the restaurant and were greeted warmly by the hostess. Immediately, Hank's over powering cologne was masked by the smell of garlic and fresh bread. My stomach actually growled. Always the gentleman, Hank had made a reservation so we were seated right away.
“Will you please excuse me? I've got to visit the men’s room,” Hank said as he pulled out my chair and motioned for me to sit down. I noticed his forehead was soaked with sweat.
“Sure,” I nodded, figuring he needed to wipe off his brow. As I waited, the waiter brought over a basket of bread and a bottle of olive oil. I hesitated for a moment but my growling tummy got the best of me. I love bread, especially when its fresh from the oven.
“Would you like to order a glass of wine while you’re waiting,” the waiter asked.   Since Hank seemed to be taking his time in the men's room, I thought why not?
“Well, I guess I could,” I said as I looked over my shoulder toward the restrooms. “I’ll have a glass of Merlot.” 
I was half finished with my glass of wine and had completely devoured the entire bread basket by the time Hank returned, grinning ear to ear. I smiled back. The wine was starting to ease my nerves, thankfully, because I was about to be surprised. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hank


One of the men who passed the “Blondie test” with flying colors turned out to be married. He was separated from his wife but the couple had just given birth to a baby girl. When first we met, I didn't notice a wedding band on Hank's left hand. Apparently  he had taken it off and neglected to inform me of this important tidbit proving even the “Blondie test” was not a guarantee of success. I did notice big, soft, cuddly teddy bear of a guy eager to please. 
Hank asked if I would join him for dinner and I thought to myself, why not?. Even though I really didn't find men with facial hair attractive, he seemed extremely nice. Anyway, his beard and mustache were neatly groomed.
Hank showed up at my apartment that Saturday night, dressed in khaki pants and a plaid shirt. His casual attire was a welcome sight since I had on my tight blue jeans and a light pink sweater. When I opened the door, I was over powered by his cologne, and not in a good way. I didn't say anything about the sickly, sugary smell. Instead, I smiled sweetly and grabbed my purse and coat as Hank pet Blondie. It was strange that she didn't bark at this man. I took her silence to mean Hank was the one. I could get over the cologne.
"Blondie, you're going to stay here," I told her and her little face sank in disappointment.
Hank was a true gentleman, helping me put my coat on and opening the car door for me. He was easy to talk to and made me feel comfortable. Before we reached our destination, my heart sank when I learned about Hank's marital status. It sank even further when he told me that he had just become a dad. 
“Were you there for the delivery?” I asked.
“I was even her Lamaze coach,” he boasted to me as he drove, pushing his wire rim glasses back on his face. He started sweating when he spoke about his wife, even though it was chilly outside. I kept my coat buttoned up inside the car, embarrassed to politely suggest he turn the heater on.
“That must be hard to split up with someone you once loved enough to marry after going through something as important as bringing a new life into the world. I mean I would think something like that would bring you even closer together,” I commented.
“It’s been hard,” Hank sighed. “The most difficult time is at night. Samantha can't talk on the phone yet," he grinned. I smiled back, even though I dreaded having to spend an entire evening with this man who clearly wasn't in the right space to begin a new relationship.
“I can’t even imagine that,” I touched his shoulder like I would a brother. “I have trouble sleeping without my dog.”
“You understand,” Hank seemed relieved that I wasn't judging him. “It’s like a part of me is missing. From the first moment I held her in my arms, I don’t know, I felt complete. You probably think I’m crazy.” He hit his steering wheel with the palm of his hand in embarrassment. “Why am I telling you all this? I just met you.”
“It’s okay,” I said as he pulled up to the valet at the restaurant, CafĂ© Angeli. I needed a glass of wine (or maybe an entire bottle) to make it though another disappointing date.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making love work, lint brush optional


Determined to change my unhealthy cycle in the romance department, I signed up for a course called Making Love Work. The instructor suggested telling everyone in my life about my single status and asking them to set me up on blind dates. I met all the men my friends and associates suggested, and there were many.
Before I would commit to more than just coffee, they had to pass the “Blondie test.” Usually, the “Blondie test” took place at a French Bakery near my house. Being the 12-year old sage that she was by then, or 64 in human years, I depended on Blondie’s wisdom more than I should have. (This age based on a dog-human comparison that says the first two years of dog’s life are equal to 24 human years and then each year after that is the same as four in human terms). I hoped she would have the good instinct that I lacked when it came to men. And right away, I could tell who was appropriate for me and who wasn't based on their initial comments, or lack there of, regarding the fact that I brought my dog with me.
“Oh, what’s your dog’s name?” If they praised my dog when we met and began petting her, then that was a good sign.
“You brought your dog?” on the other hand told me that we were definitely NOT compatible. Even worse, those who were allergic or who were concerned about getting dog hair on their clothes. My outfits were never complete without her blonde hair attached.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Miss fix it



A couple days later, Bobby showed up at my work with flowers in his hand and remorse in his heart, promising never to hit me or hurt Blondie again. He looked awful, like he hadn't slept since the unfortunate incident in West Hollywood. He also reeked of cigarettes and alcohol. It was all I could do not to turn away from him in disgust but this was my place of work and I didn't want anyone to know what had happened.
We went outside and stood in the parking lot and stood with the all the grease that had leaked out onto the cracked pavement. He tried to put his arm around me but I put up my hand up to stop him, like a trainer would do to communicate "stay" to a dog. He got the message. Even the tears streaming down his face didn't move me to comfort him. I was determined to stay away from him; if not for my own sake, for my dog Blondie.
At that moment, I saw that his alcoholism was just one of the symptoms that ran Bobby’s life. He suffered from so many symptoms. His obsessive cleanliness, for instance, struck me as an attempt to cleanse his own dirty parts. I realized that I was drawn to people like Bobby because of my need, my own obsession, to fix others. When I uncovered that truth in myself, I felt completely mortified. Who nominated me as a Saint? It was time to focus on myself. I needed to let others live their own lives and learn their own lessons. But with this need to help others so ingrained in my psyche, I wondered how I was going to do that. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Licking our wounds


It took some time for me and Blondie to catch our breath after running like the proverbial wind from my once live-in ex boyfriend who chose the corner of Sunset Blvd and Larabee to beat us up. But now we were safe sitting in my locked car in front of the Perkins home where I was house sitting for the summer. I waited for my lingering dizziness to go away before stepping out of the car. I didn't know if it was the result of Bobby's blows or an overwhelming a sense of shock that this middle class girl from the valley had actually been the victim of domestic violence. That sort of behavior was just not supposed to happen to someone like me. And to top it off, Bobby hurt the one being I loved the most in the world, my pound mutt Blondie.  
Once inside, I took the pretty pink collar off Blondie and threw it in the trash. 
"We'll get you a new collar, Miss B," I told her and she wagged her tail as if in agreement.  
Rubbing my temples, I headed straight for my bedroom to lie down. I felt so numb that I was ice cold, shivering as if I had fallen into a bathtub filled with ice. I motioned for Blondie to join me in bed and checked her body to make sure she wasn't suffering from some trauma as the result of the night's unfortunate incident. I moved her head to the right, then to the left as I rubbed her neck softly. She closed her eyes, enjoying the massage.
We lay there while I thought about what had just taken place. It was as if I had crossed a line of sorts and not in a good way. Then I realized that while Bobby was hitting me I hadn't fought back until he brought Blondie into the mess. I kissed her and thanked her for waking me up, getting me to fight back, to stand up.
That was the night I first sang to her what became our song, Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World.” I sang the words softly to her as we lay there, licking our wounds together: “You and me against the world, sometimes it feels like you and me against the world, when all the others turn their back and walk away, you can count on me to stay.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Safe


 There I was pleading with my ex-boyfriend, sitting with my back against a wall off Sunset, the Boulevard of broken dreams. I felt broken, my head aching, a mad man looking down at me. Suddenly  I realized I had dropped Blondie's leash when Bobby unleashed his furry on me. Thankfully, Blondie had not run away but she seemed confused, not knowing if she should bite this man who had been living with us or not. 
“It’s okay Blondie, it’s going to be okay,” I reassured her motioning for her to come to me.
That’s when Bobby went completely ballistic, his eyes dilated and enraged. I braced for the next assault but he wasn't aiming for me this time. Instead, he grabbed hold of Blondie’s leash and lifted her off the ground. Her pretty pink collar became a hangman’s noose.
Jumping to my feet, I tried to help her but Bobby pinned me against the wall with his free hand.
I prayed that the faint sounds of sirens in the distance meant help was on the way. But I feared it would be too late for my dog if I didn't act quickly. Bobby must have heard the sirens too because he turned away from us and eased his grip on me. That’s when I smacked Bobby in the mouth with my fist. His eyes widened with surprise and he dropped Blondie's leash to grab his split lip. Blood trickled through his fingers.
“Run Blondie, run!” Pushing him out of the way, we ran as fast as we could up the hill to our car. Adrenalin surged through my body as the sirens were got louder. When we finally made it to the car, I was shaking so hard that I dropped my keys, but I managed to pick them up and get the door open. Blondie jumped in and I locked the doors, then started the engine. As we peeled past the corner, Bobby was already gone. He wasn't waiting around for the police to arrest him. 
I put my hands at 10 and 2 to concentrate on the drive back to my temporary home at the Perkin's Laurel Canyon house. When I finally reached the safety of Berry’s house, I pulled Blondie to my lap and we sat there quietly in the car. Blondie licked my face as I hugged her close. We were safe at last.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hitting the wall


I heard Bobby calling my name and ran even faster. 
 “Wait, I just want to talk to you,” Bobby yelled with slurred speech. I kept going but could feel him gaining on me as I turned the corner on Larabee. If Blondie and I made it up the steep slope to the car, we would be safe. I thought to myself, just putting one foot in front of the other. I saw my car ahead and dug deep for the stamina I needed.
"Come on girlie," I encouraged Blondie. We were both slowing down as we tried to make it up the hill. I turned around and saw Bobby gaining on us, fueled by his anger and alcohol. My breathing became labored and my fear crippling. 
"I said WAIT," he exclaimed again before grabbing me, shoving me back against a wall. His fists clenched as he caught his breath.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again,” his face was drenched in sweat.
“I didn't do anything to you,” I tried to squeeze past him but he put his arm up to block me.
“You abandoned me,” he pushed me back again.
“Let me go, please,” I was scared, he was a lot stronger than me.
“Is that all you have to say? ” He braced his back leg like a boxer and punched my arm. I fell back and hit my head against the wall. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. I was terrified. His eyes were glassy and blood shot, sweat was streaming down his face and his blonde hair was so wet it looked greasy. He grinned at me and I knew something very bad was about to happen.
“You think you’re too good for me, huh?” Then he hit me in the stomach so hard, I doubled over in pain. I couldn't breath but I held onto Blondie’s leash, terrified she’d run into the street and get hit by a car. He pushed me upright and tipped my head back, yanking on my hair.
I remember covering my face because I didn't want him to give me black eyes. His fists hit me on my shoulders, my arms, my hands. Tears were streaming down my face as he continued to pummel my upper body, blow after blow, while I screamed for help. 
Someone from an apartment across the street yelled “Shut Up.”
“You left me, wasn't I good enough for you? Am I good enough for you now? How’s this.”
He punched me in the right temple and my head hit the wall again. Then he followed with a left hook and I slowly slid down until I was seated against the wall. 
"Please, Bobby stop!" I cried.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Run for your life


Guests began arriving and Blondie acted as a one dog welcoming committee, wagging her tail to greet everyone to Randi's party. I was sitting on the floor, listening to Randi strum her guitar when I felt an overwhelming negative energy hit me, making my mouth dry and giving me that dirty penny taste of an adrenaline rush.
I looked up just as Bobby entered. My entire body tightened in fear and I trembled inside. Even Blondie reacted, slinking away from him to hid next to me. Bobby was like a volcano about to erupt and we didn't want to be near him to witness his explosion again. 
Quickly, I stood up, remembering the last time I saw him, acting like a mad man when I came to get my stuff from my place; his face scarlet with anger, throwing my things out the window. I wanted nothing more to do with him. 
He made a bee line toward me and Blondie but I quickly got up and turned my back to him. Then I attached the leash to Blondie, got my purse and headed toward the door. He just stood there, looking like he was going to cry as I brushed past him to get out as fast as I could. I could feel his eyes starring me down, even as the door closed behind me.
 “Hurry up Blondie,” just seeing him gave me the creeps. We started to run for our lives. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Sunset strip




I took some time off from cleaning cat poop and grabbed Blondie to head out to a party at my friend Randi’s apartment off Sunset Boulevard. It was one of those rare quiet evenings on the Sunset strip. The night sky was clear and filled with stars and for some reason, even the traffic was light. 
Randi was an artist, musician who I had met through my former live-in boyfriend Bobby the drunk. I parked my car one street over on Larabee and was surprised by how easy it was to find a parking space so close to her place. 
I walked Blondie up the hill for a little exercise and a bathroom break before heading to Randi’s. We were the first to arrive because I had offered to come early and help her get ready. There really wasn't anything to do once Blondie and I arrived. It was a low key party and guests were invited to BYOB  We placed some munchies out but that's about it.
Her home was decorated mid-century with her own art work on the walls. Besides being a rock-n-roll musician, Randi was a celebrated photographer and crazy artist who could make a masterpiece out of any trash you brought her. And her art was on every surface. She smoked cigarettes and was a pothead so the space smelled like a combination of stale cigarettes and marijuana. In fact, Randi was smoking a joint when we arrived. 
"Hi Susan, hi Blondie," she greeted us and tried to hand me the joint.
"No thanks," I told her. "I have precious cargo," I said motioning to Blondie, "and I have to drive through Laurel Canyon."
Blondie wagged her tail as if she approved of my decision. She proceeded to make herself at home, sniffing out the place she had been many times in the past. I guessed that there were new smells since she was there. 
Randi put the joint down in a bean bag ashtray and grabbed her guitar. She always had to have something in her hand, be it a joint, a cigarette or a guitar. I sat down on the floor next to Blondie and listened to Randi play the Blondie song, "Don't Leave Me Hanging on the Telephone."
"Did I tell you my friend wrote that song," she asked.
"No, I din't know that." I wasn't surprised since Randi seemed to know every musician and song writer in Los Angeles. I knew the night would be fun, with all her eclectic friends, myself and Blondie included.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Rat Pack


I was surprised when an overweight woman in her 70s touched my arm. I hadn't noticed the woman with grey hair pulled back in a bun because I was so focused on all the cats living at the sanctuary. She obviously heard my remark about wanting the big black cat with the torn ears.
“Oh that’s Dino, named after Dean Martin. He’s been with us for six years, been in a few fights that one,” she wiped her eyes. “You’ll love him.”
Turns out Pet Pride named all its cats after celebrities in honor of Edith Head, the legendary costumer who left all her money to them when she passed away. The grey haired woman pointed out the sanctuary's version of the Rat Pack: Frankie (after Frank Sinatra) who was a Siamese with blue eyes, Sammy (after Sammy Davis Junior), who was missing his right eye and a tall lanky tortoise shell named  Lawford.
"Joey Bishop was adopted to a wonderful family last week," she explained. The original Rat Pack was started by Humphrey Bogart in the 1960s and I wondered if there was a cat roaming around named after him. The media gave the group of actors it's name and it stuck. I figured a cat named after a member of the Rat Pack would take have to live up to his name!
Pet Pride gave me a cardboard cat carrier for Dino. He wasn't too happy about going in there, spreading out his front legs. But the Pet Pride woman had obviously done this before because she simply turned him around and placed him inside feet last. He barely fit in the small space. All the way to the Perkins house, Dino cried. I felt bad about taking him from his home and all his kitty friends. 
I brought Dino inside and introduced him to the dogs. He was such a big cat that the dogs didn't dare mess with him. I was hoping the rats would feel the same way.
From the moment I put him down, Dino made himself right at home. Although I had prepared for his arrival, setting up a box with kitty litter, Dino preferred to relieve himself where-ever he wanted. 
I saw Dino the first night in the kitchen, crouched down hiding waiting for the right moment to pounce on the biggest rat I had ever seen. The creature was perched on top of the kitchen curtains. I bite my nails in anticipation as the rat came down onto the counter, not noticing, or not caring that Dino was watching. Then, Dino moved into position, like a tiger would. In one move he leaped onto the counter and landed on top of the rat, grabbing it in his paw and bringing it down to the floor in a masterful tuck and roll. Quickly, I opened the back door to let Dino outside with his prize to do with it as he pleased. 
Word must have spread quickly in the rat community because the house became very quiet within a matter of days. I still had to clean up the cat's poop and pee every day but at least I got some undisturbed sleep at night!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I'll take this one


I heard the meows echoing from the Pet Pride sanctuary as soon as I parked my car. The no-kill shelter was located in an old tutor style home near the freeway interchange where the 10 and the 405 meet. When I entered, the house was staged like any normal home, with furniture in each room, refrigerator in the kitchen, sofa in the living room, beds in the bedrooms. The furniture was old and tattered but that didn't seem to bother the feline occupants as each room was filled with cats. And I mean filled!
It smelled like that too. With that many cats, it was impossible for it not to reek of used kitty litter, no matter how many boxes they had and how many times they cleaned out the clumps. Cats were everywhere, crawling, running, swatting, playing, hiding. Felines of all shapes, sizes and colors, from baby kittens to elderly cats, all living happily under one roof. It was a bit overwhelming at first but I was glad to know that a place like this existed where so many felines could live peacefully together.
My mission: to find a cat for the Perkins, one that would go after the rats that had infested their home in Laurel Canyon. This lucky cat would then become my own pet when the family returned for spending the summer at the Cape.
I wanted to pick a big bruiser cat, a rat killer to go after the monsters that were keeping me up at night. I stood in the corner of each room, surveying my selection as the cats sauntered about, effortlessly jumping on top of the furniture, carelessly playing with one another, cleaning themselves by licking their paws then gracefully patting their faces while they swished their tails. 
Of course, I was drawn immediately to the kittens. They were so cute, especially one grey and white one. The kitten with the white whiskers was hiding under a blanket on one of the beds, swatting at the bigger cats near by. While watching the little rascal, I noticed a big black cat with ears that looked like he had been in one too many fights. When he walked, his entire body swayed from side to side. The other cats moved out of his way, giving him room to pass. Even the little kitten didn't mess with this cat. 
He came over to me and rubbed against my leg.
“Meow,” he looked up with big green eyes.
“Oh you want me to pet you, do you?” And he was bossy too. Just the perfect candidate for the job. “I’ll take this one.” 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Designer cat land


Over the next month, I made coffee every morning for the two rat men. They showed up each day, except weekends, wearing their uniform of jeans with a plain white tee-shirt that had a huge image of a rat face on the front and a rat tail on the back. I assumed they had several pairs of jeans and shirts because they were always clean looking when they showed up at the Perkins house.

The rat men checked the traps each time they came and the result was always a big let down. The rats were not biting. Just as they had predicted, the smart vermin kept moving around the house, staying away from the traps. I finally had to face the fact that if I wanted to get any sleep at night, I had to bring a cat into the Perkins home. 
I had been thinking about the possibility since the rat men first arrived and came up with a perfect solution. I would keep the cat at the Perkins until they came back at the end of the summer. Then I would take the cat with me to where-ever I would call home.
I called Berry at the Cape with my idea and she loved it! We hoped that the rats would leave after a few months with a cat in the house. And then the cat would leave with me preventing any allergic reaction from Berry.
Imagine my utter happiness at the prospect of finding a pet for a friend. This wasn't just any pet. I didn't want to get a kitten. I wanted a big cat that would hunt down and get rid of the rats. So I did my homework and found out about a cat rescue funded by iconic costume designer Edith Head. Turns out the woman who defined cinema style for more than fifty years from the 1940s to the early '80s, left all her money to this particular cat rescue when she died.  The legendary costume designer didn't have an heir apparent but she loved cats. She was as famous as the productions she worked on, winning eight Academy Awards, more than any other woman at the time. In the early days of her career, she was contracted with Paramount Studios but later, moved to Universal Studios to work with Alfred Hitchcock, the same man who directed Tony in his famous role of Norman Bates in Psycho. Head was a favorite among many of the leading female stars of the 1940s and '50s from Ginger Rogers and Elizabeth Taylor to Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. She was also a favorite among cats that needed to be rescued. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rats vs sneezing


The next morning, I called Berry at the Cape and explained the rat problem. She immediately called me back letting me know she hired an exterminator to take care of the problem.
Sure enough, an hour later, two strange little men showed up at the Perkin’s front door. They were identically dressed in workman's jeans and a tee-shirt with a big rat face on the front and were obviously prepared for whatever rat situation required high rubber boots. I couldn't imagine what the boots were for but from the looks of them, I was sure they knew what they were doing. 
"We're here to get rid of your rat problem, Miss" the taller of the two told me. All three dogs started to bark at the rat men and continued to howl as they set traps in kitchen drawers and the attic.
"Rats are very cleaver creatures," one of the rat men told me. "We'll set these traps but they'll know where we've been and find new spaces to hide." 
"The only way to get rid of them for good is to get a cat," the other rat man added
I knew Berry was allergic to cats so that solution was out of the question. I hoped the rats would heed the warning from the rat men or we would have to weigh rats vs sneezing. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dog will bark


The Perkin's house was protected by an alarm service with a special panic button that I could carry around the cavernous space at night. The very first night I slept there alone, I was awoken by strange sounds in the walls. Was I hearing things? What was buried in the walls? I immediately got out of bed, grabbed the panic button, ran down the stairs with three dogs in tow, and began turning all the lights on. I went from room to room keeping Blondie, Charlie and Gregory close by my side, scared half to death. This was, after all, the home of the man who starred as Norman Bates.
I walked down the long hall towards the master bedroom. The floor squeaked and I jumped, which made the dogs bark like crazy. Immediately, I ran toward the front door and hid under the stair case that led to my room. I kept pushing that button until a security person arrived. When I heard the door bell ring, I almost jumped out of my skin, making the three amigos sound the bark alarm.
"Who is it?" I asked sheepishly over the dogs.
“What seems to be the problem miss,” he asked as I opened the door, the dogs still barking.
“I’m hearing strange sounds. They’re coming from inside the walls,” I lead him up the stairs where I first heard the strange sounds.
He put his ear up to the wall to listen over the loud snarling that continued.
“Those are the rats. They’re all over the canyon. Nothin’ we can do ‘bout ‘em. You’re lucky. Sometimes they trick off the alarm.”
didn't feel lucky. I felt tired but my heart was pounding too hard to sleep. Finally, the dogs settled down and within moments, were sound asleep. I lay awake all night as the dogs' barks were replaced by snoring. Ahhhh, to be a dog.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My summer home


That summer I was still looking for a new place to call home. The Perkins once again came to my rescue. As the family vacationed on Cape Cod, I was left in charge of their home.  
My main focus was looking after their dogs, Charlie and Gregory. Both mutts, Charlie looked like a collie of some sort and Gregory was part black lab. They were both friendly to Blondie, which made the situation even possible. 
I left the three dogs at home every day when I went to work. By that time, Charlie and Gregory had entered their mid-life and Blondie was starting to age so they slept most of the day. But when I came home, the three amigos, as I called them, were ready for a long walk. The walks in the canyon allowed me the time to take stock of my situation. All I knew was that I never wanted to go out with an alcoholic again. Especially one that was as abusive as Bobby.
Instead, I wanted a partner, an equal. I didn't know where to begin to find that someone but I did know couples that seemed happy. Tony and Berry, for one, had a loving and lasting marriage that I admired and they were wonderful parents. Although Tony's life prior to Berry was confusing when it come to his sexuality, he did try to cure his homosexuality in therapy. This was way back in the day when an actor like Tony had to stay in the closet to keep his acting career as the hunky "boy next door" intact. The studios would arrange dates for him and the gossip columns would photograph the tall, lanky actor with aspiring starlets
During therapy for what he believed would cure his homosexuality, Tony flipped through a copy of Vogue Magazine to determine what type of woman attracted him. That particular issue had a spread of Berry and her sister Marissa, with lots of photos. Tony pointed out the tomboy Berry as his perfect match. 
Turns out that Berry had a crush on the actor during her time in Switzerland at boarding school. She had clipped out photos of Tony and pasted them into a scrapbook. 
In 1972, the couple met at a New York party. Berry told me that she knew Tony was going to be at the party and was excited to finally meet the man who she dreamed about since boarding school. She didn't see him at first but could feel his presence. Tony saw her right away and struck up a conversation. The two began dating. 
They married a year later on the grounds of his Cape Cod home. She was 17-years his junior and absolutely head over heels for the man. Tony's dog at the time, Murray, who looked a lot like their current collie, Gregory, was the ring bearer at the ceremony. Berry still had the pillow she made to hold their rings, stuffed with Gregory's fur. She was barefoot at the intimate ceremony.
I remember attending a high school play that Osgood was starring in and Tony was there offering encouragement to his oldest son. I heard people in the audience whispering that Tony Perkins was there. Tony tuned them out. He wanted the attention to be on his son. That was Tony. He didn't want the attention to be on him. He wanted everyone to see the miracle that he and Berry had conceived together. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Perkins


The Perkins house was originally built as a barn, the old stalls converted into bedrooms with a long hallway connecting to the kitchen, dining room and living room area. I was staying in one of the upstairs bedrooms that summer with the rest of the house empty except on occasion when Tony came to town to promote the latest Psycho movie that was in the Theater that year. He was tall and handsome and very much into health and fitness. I would prepare for his arrival, stocking the refrigerator with fresh juice, his favorite fruits and vegetables, goat cheese and a special blend of coffee. I made sure his favorites were waiting for him when he came home to be on The Tonight Show.
I can still remember the first night I met the Academy Award-nominated, Golden Globe-winning American stage and screen actor, best known for his role as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and its many sequels. He and Berry were going out that night. My friend, their usual baby sitter, couldn't make it at the last minute and asked me to step in for her. I jumped at the chance to meet the woman whose photographs I had studied in journalism school, Berry Berenson. She was a cult icon and her husband Tony was more than a movie star, he was a legend. I couldn't believe my luck.
When I entered their house, Tony was seated behind their kitchen counter drinking a bottle of water, long before it was something everyone did.
“Would you like some goat cheese?” the tall, lanky actor asked as he stood, smearing cheese on crackers. I had never tasted goat cheese before and it sounded very fancy to this simple valley girl.
“Sure,” I said as he motioned for me to take a seat across from him on one of the kitchen bar stools. He looked right through me, as if he could see right into the heart of me. It was a bit unnerving at first.
“Here, try this,” he gave me a cracker with cheese and they were delicious. I happily crunched away. “So tell me about yourself,” he asked, I was surprised that he put the spotlight on me. Then I became nervous. I mean, he was a movie star and he was asking about me. I didn't expect this at all. 
As I opened my mouth to answer, the goat cheese, along with my nerves made my mouth so dry, I could barely talk. He sensed the problem right away and jumped to my rescue, opening the refrigerator to get me a bottle of water. “Here, have some water.” “Berry will be right out.”
Berry came down the hall wearing a red Byblos pants outfit that looked amazing on her. She was such a natural beauty who had a confidence and warmth that immediately made me feel like part of her family. She was so unpretentious, generous in time, spirit and love. At the time, she drove a 67 Chevy, took care of her husband, her kids, their two dogs and two bunnies. That day, I didn't imagine myself being on that list but as luck had it, Berry soon took care of me too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rat heaven


They say that when one door closes, another door opens. In my case, the door belonged to Berry and her family. They asked me to house sit for them that summer while they relaxed at their home in Cape Cod. This gave me some time to heal in beautiful surroundings. 
Their house was located in Laurel Canyon, an eclectic residential area with homes ranging from mountain retreats and English Tudor cottages to Mediterranean and Cape Cod style architecture. Living at their Spanish Hacienda fashioned family home tucked away in the hills allowed me to stay completely away from Bobby because he didn't have a clue where I was living. 
Blondie and I looked after the Perkins home and their dogs, mutts named Charlie and Gregory. It was relaxing and I felt blessed to have the opportunity. 
There was only one problem. Rats.
They kept me up all night. Dancing inside the walls. They came knocking in the kitchen. They haunted the house in the Canyon. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leaving everything behind


I ran outside and down the stairs, hoping that maybe I could catch something, anything, before it shattered. But from the street below, I realized that was a stupid idea.
“Take this,” he yelled as my clothes came dancing down in slow motion. Next, he threw pieces of that small dining room table, already smashed to bits, followed by the two mismatched chairs. Neighbors came out of the apartment building across the street where Sean Penn and Madonna lived; the building that looked like a castle. Now, my belongings lay in front of it smashed and broken to bits, compliments of Bobby, the man I tried to help.
“Do you want us to take care of that guy?” One of the neighbors asked, flexing his arm muscle.
“No, I just wanna get out of here.” I left everything behind.
I thought later, why did I say “No” to the neighbor. Why did I let Bobby get away with hurting me and ruining my things? The answer is that somewhere, deep inside I've always had faith. I may not have known it but somewhere; there has been a speck of it because even though Bobby had ruined my life, I couldn't bear to sink to his level. I would let God or karma or my higher power take of care of him. 
Bobby stayed in my flat for the rest of the month. I never did get my deposit back.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crash and burn


Things were totally out of control with my boyfriend Bobby. He got so abusive one night that I ran out before things could go from bad to worse. I knew I couldn't get him out of my flat. I had tried before but he wouldn't leave. So the very next morning, I decided to move out myself. I rented a U Haul and came back to get my possessions and move them into storage. I didn't ask anyone to help me because I felt too embarrassed about the situation. For the time being, I was going to live at my friend Berry Berenson Perkin's Laurel Canyon home. I left my pound mutt Blondie there just to ensure her safety.
I opened the door and was surprised to see him already awake. He was standing at the window that looked out to the castle building where Sean Penn and Madonna lived. I started shaking, unable to look at him directly. "Bobby, it's over. I'm moving out," I told him. 
“You're moving out?” Bobby said as he took a swig of beer. The place smelled like stale cigarettes and I noticed beer bottles scattered about and several of my antique saucers filled to the brim with butts.“I’ll give you your things.” 
One by one, he threw out the entire set of my grandmother's wedding china from the second story window. I cringed at the sound of the delicate grey and white porcelain plates with the gold trim crashing to the pavement below. Then I noticed; he had a pile of my belongings stacked up in front of the window. I stood frozen, not knowing what to do. He looked at me with a sinister smile then picked up my prized Nikon Camera that I had since college with the zoom lens my father gave me for Christmas one year. It too went soaring out the window like trash.
I was stunned. Growing up with my little dog Siesta as my guide did not prepare me for life with a crazy alcoholic boyfriend. In fact, I had no idea what an alcoholic was until then. In my naivete I still thought how could he be so cruel to me? I didn't yet know that his actions had little to do with me. No matter how much I loved him, he had a disease; alcoholism. No amount of love from me would make him better. He had to decide to get into recovery for himself

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dog groomer


 I was pleasantly surprised that Bobby, my live in boyfriend, kept his word and stopped drinking. He  attended AA meetings daily and started his own recovery. There was hope. Bobby and I made sense, I told myself. After all, Bobby loved my pound mutt Blondie almost as much as I did. He started doing more than just cleaning up around my flat, including waking up early to see me off to work with a hot cup of coffee. He even bathed Blondie in my tub.
“You should think about becoming a dog groomer,” I told him while he was rinsing the suds off her. “You’re really good at that.”
“You think so?” He asked, now drinking in the approval instead of booze.
“Well, look at her, she seems to be relaxed, don’t you think? I bet Berry and Tony would pay you to bathe Charlie and Gregory. You could get lots of clients just from people we know.” 
He shook his head in agreement, then took Blondie out and proceeded to towel her off.
But he never did try and get grooming clients and his recovery didn't last long. Less than a month later, he started drinking again. That was bad enough but to add insult to injury, he bathed Blondie while intoxicated, a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
“Please don’t smoke and bathe my dog,” I told him. He was leaning over her, the tip of his cigarette dangerously close to her eyes as she sat in the tub covered in suds, looking up at me shivering, not because she was cold, because she wanted out of there. Blondie was not happy. 
“In fact, do us a favor and stop giving her baths completely.”
“What? You told me I was good at this. She likes it,” he protested speaking in slurred speech.
“Not when you’re drinking,” I said.
“I’m not drinking, I’m perfectly sober,” he lied.
Bobby didn't listen, he did what he wanted when he wanted, the exact behavior that drew me to him in the first place now repulsed me. Nine months after Bobby had not really moved in with me, I had to move out in order to get away from him.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What's a nice girl like you doing in a relationship like this?


Early Sunday morning I returned to my flat to find Bobby still passed out on my bed. He looked like he hadn't moved since I made my get-away the night before. I left Blondie at my friend Berry Berenson Perkins house, where I had escaped the previous night, just to ensure her safety. I didn't know how he would react when I broke up with him but I was determined to get him out of my home once and for all. 
"Wake up, Bobby," I said, leaving the door open behind me and staying as far away from him as I could.  Sleepily, he rolled over, opened his eyes and held out his arms to hug me. He had obviously sobered up from the night before and was feeling remorseful. 
"I'm sorry I scared you," he said, his voice shaking. "Please don't kick me out. I won't drink any more, I promise." 
I didn't know what to do at that point. He did seem to truly regret his actions from the previous night but I couldn't trust him. I had never been attacked like that before. I kept saying "what's a nice girl like you doing in a relationship like this" over and over in my mind. I told him I would think about our relationship but I wanted him to move out that day. 
Having said my peace, I headed back to my friend Berry Berenson Perkin's house to spend another night there. I got up early and headed for work, leaving Blondie with Berry's dogs Charlie and Gregory. I was hocked when Bobby entered my office, looking all disheveled, his eyes forlorn in self pity, his body shaking from alcohol withdrawal. I quickly ushered him outside to talk, hoping this would be the end of it. I stood defiant in the otherwise empty parking lot next to the dried grease marks on the asphalt. I’d finally had enough. My mind was made up. I wanted out.
“If you break up with me, I’m afraid of what I might do to myself,” he said, his eyes welling up in tears. “ I've never loved anyone as much as I love you.”
“Bobby, are you threatening to kill yourself?” I felt angry that he was manipulating me like this but I was moved all-the-same.
“Without you, what do I have to live for?” He turned his back sobbing, hunched over, his hands hiding his face. Would he really do something like kill himself? Over me? I was too scared to find out the answer to that question. How could I ever live with myself knowing that I caused the death of another human being? It was up to me to make things right between us.
“Bobby, it’s going to be all right. We’ll work it out. You don’t have to kill yourself. You've got to stop drinking and start taking better care of yourself,” I said, my own voice breaking from tears. I would help him become the man I knew he could be, I told myself.
“I will, I promise I will,” he said, teary eyed.
"You've got to go now so I can get back to work," I told him. 
"Okay, thank you. I'll make it up to you. I'm going to stop drinking and get a job. You watch. I'll do whatever it takes to keep you in my life."
I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No way out


There were many times I felt threatened and scared of my live-in boyfriend Bobby.. The last of the frightening episodes I remember started with us arguing over I don't know what and ended with him blocking the door so I couldn't leave.
“So, you want to leave, do you?” Like a hunter after his prey, he held out his arms, crouched down, forcing me back every time I went for the door. He was so much stronger then me when sober and brutal when he was drunk.
“No you don’t,” he pushed me hard away from the exit.
“Bobby, let me out,” I pleaded. That’s when he grabbed me and forcefully threw me on the bed, straddling on top of me, holding my arms down with such force that I had finger bruises after the terrifying event.
“You’re not going anywhere,” his face in mine, I could smell the alcohol on his breath. It was like he was another person all-together. I didn't know what to do. There was no way out. I lay perfectly still, my head turned away from him, afraid to even breathe. He was a wild animal so I did what you’re supposed to do when you encounter a bear in the woods; play dead. I didn't moving an inch until he passed out on top of me. Quickly I grabbed Blondie and ran out of there headed straight to the arms of my friend Berry Berenson Perkins. She wouldn't judge me. She would just offer her unique kindness and love. I couldn't believe I had to leave my own home. It was time for Bobby to go.