Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The dummy

It was Christmas morning and the first holiday I shared with a live-in boyfriend. Instead of being excited about my relationship, the fact that he didn't get me anything for Christmas made me a bit leery of our future. But I pushed my suspicions aside, at least until Bobby opened his mystery present from his mom. I couldn’t wait to finally find out what was inside.
“What do you think this is?” I shook it.
“Don’t break it,” Bobby grabbed the package out of my hand and carefully started to open it, making sure to fold the wrapping paper and ribbon for safe keeping. I thought it was weird that a guy would do that.
"Hurry," I said. He answered me with a nasty look and moved even slower. Finally, the wrapping paper was off. Inside was a black case that sort of looked like it might hold a miniature guitar or some other musical instrument. Bobby looked at me and raised his eyebrows.
“What is it?” I probed. He unlatched the case and opened it slowly. Starring up at him was the face of a wooden doll. It had a monocle, blonde hair under a top hat with brown eyes and dusty black plastic eyelashes that opened and closed. As he carefully lifted the doll out of the case, its mouth fell open, the red painted lips surrounded a square hallow empty vessel. Bobby was holding a ventriloquist dummy. I laughed so hard! I couldn’t help myself. He slowly took his eyes off the doll, turned and looked directly at me. In that instant, I realized the dummy resembled Bobby.
“What’s so funny,” a hint of a sinister edge was in Bobby's voice. I shut up immediately.
“I wanted a dummy just like this ever since I was a kid,” he said to the doll as he held it up in front of him. He was so careful, treating the dummy as if it was a real boy, eyeing it from all angles. 
Blondie came over to give the dummy a sniff and he pushed her away. I grabbed her and held her close. It was not okay for him to shove my dog but I kept my mouth shut as he made the dummy's mouth move.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Christmas Present

            Christmas came not long after I introduced the Perkins to my live-in boyfriend Bobby. As Santa's big day came near, Bobby received a large box from his mother in Oregon. Too big to fit under the tiny tree I bought with my equally small salary. So, he placed the present next to our tree and left it there on the kitchen table. 
            The tree was the only holiday decoration in my flat. It sat in on the makeshift kitchen table that I had salvaged out of someone’s garbage when I moved in. It was the perfect size table but in terrible condition. I covered it with a cheery red and white checked tablecloth and had two mismatched chairs on either side. 
           Bobby's mom had sent him a present that was larger than the tree and with both things on the table, there wasn't enough room to eat. I was so curious to find out what his mother sent him. I tried to convince Bobby to peek but he wouldn't. Unlike me, Bobby wanted to wait to open his presents on Christmas morning.
When the big day finally arrived, I acted like a child, waking up early on the day off and singing carols. Bobby and I sat in the mismatched chairs and sipped coffee.
“Here, open mine first,” I handed him a small box expertly store wrapped in bright red paper with green ribbon. I spent what little money I had that year on his gift. I was hoping he had present for me. 
“I didn’t get you anything,” he admitted, embarrassed
“Well, Merry Christmas anyway,” I said trying to mask my disappointment. I really wanted to cry. Here was this man who had just moved in with me a couple months earlier yet he didn’t get me anything for Christmas? He didn't pay rent or any of the bills. Basically, he was living off me and he couldn't even buy me a little something? 
I fought back the tears as he opened the present from me. He admired the simple sterling silver ring I gave him, engraved on the inside with the words “love S&B” for Susan and Blondie. He leaned over to give me a kiss.
“Thank you,” his eyes were tearing up. What on earth did he have to cry about, I thought to myself. “You’re so good to me,” he said, wiping his eyes. 
"What do you think your mom sent you? I asked, changing the subject quickly. I didn't really care anymore what his mother had sent him. I just cared about fighting back the tears.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mr. Happy

Bobby loved going with me to the parties I was worked due to my public relations profession. He definitely had a taste for the high life. As long as Bobby had a drink in his hand, he could chat it up with anyone. He was most at ease in a room full of strangers. It was my close friends and family members that seemed to make Bobby nervous. I felt just the opposite.
The happy, loving couple, Sean Penn and Madonna, who I frequently saw cuddled up next to each other in the front seat of his truck, started having daily arguments with each other. We could hear their voices echo from the castle building across the street. Apparently, our newlywed celebrity neighbors were hitting a rough patch in their marriage.  
The situation between me and Bobby was not much better and I began to wonder about this man who had moved into my tiny space. He was having a difficult time getting a new band together and was taking his frustrations out on me. His constant put downs were taking their toll on me. He complained about my looks, my intelligence, my job, even my dog Blondie was criticized. At first, I just let his comments roll off my back but in no time, I was struggling to stay positive myself. 
When I told my friend Berry Berenson Perkins that we were having problems, she suggested Bobby speak with her husband, Tony, best known for his role of Norman Bates in the Psycho films. What the public didn't know about Tony was his wisdom and knowledge of human behavior. I found out later that Tony had years of therapy which helped him understand and help others.
Bobby jumped at the chance to be counseled by the famous celebrity. But, before he left for his first session, Bobby drank an entire six-pack of beer. I was totally disgusted with his behavior and hopeful that Tony could set him straight.
“I’ve got to focus,” Bobby told me after meeting with Tony. “I’ve got to make a plan and stick to it. I can do it. Tony says I can climb that mountain.” Bobby returned seeming self confident and positive about life but within days, he was back to his crabby self. I called him “Mr. Happy” because he sulked around, so negative all the time. I didn't have a clue that his pessimistic attitude was rubbing off on me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Clean floor, broken dream

It didn't take long for me to figure out that Bobby was not a Rockstar. He was a professional handy-man/painter/construction worker/odd job for a buck guy who dreamed of stardom. Although he lacked profoundly in the boyfriend department, he was a big help to me in keeping my apartment clean, constantly sweeping the hard wood floors, doing the dishes and making my life look better by keeping things tidy. Bobby even painted the walls of my little home without being asked.
 At first, I really liked having a handyman and live-in maid. But when I realized that he swept the floor every day instead of looking for a job, the spic and span clean room began to annoy me.
“Didn’t you just sweep yesterday?” I asked as I entered my flat after taking Blondie on a walk.
“Yeah but you and the dog tracked dirt in,” he replied.
“It’s okay, we live here,” I said, as he pushed the broom toward my feet.
“Move so I can get that,” he motioned for me to get out of his way.
“You should think about getting a job instead of cleaning all the time,” I scolded as I took the leash off Blondie. He answered me with silence, just the sound of the broom sweeping across the clean wood floor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Should have listened to Osgood

I brought Bobby over to meet Berry and Tony Perkins and their two sons, Osgood and Elvis. I was excited to introduce my new live-in boyfriend (the first guy I lived with, even if it wasn't official) and couldn't wait to hear what they thought of him. Bobby had a sweet, caring side that made him really attractive to me and I was certain Tony and Berry would like that about him too. 
I was taken with Bobby’s dangerous side, his rebellious nature, which I found even more attractive then the amiable aspects of his personality. The Bobby I met at the bar didn’t seem to give a shit about what anyone thought of him or his actions. He did exactly as he pleased. He lived life on his own terms no matter what, without regret. Being with him made me feel like one of the cool people I had always aspired to be. I hoped some of his "bad ass" attitude would rub off on me.
Tony and Berry liked Bobby right away but their eight year old son had a different take on my new boyfriend.
“You’re like a secretary and he’s this totally cool musician, I don’t get it,” Osgood told me. Ah, the clarity and wisdom of children.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Living Hollywoodland

It was at this time that I moved out of my tiny Beverly Hills apartment for a new (also small) home in the Hollywood Hills. A friend of mine told me about the studio apartment above a garage in an exclusive area called Beachwood Canyon. I jumped at the chance to live in the Hollywood Hills, close to my dear friend Berry Berenson Perkins. The area was originally called Hollywoodland and the iconic Hollywood sign used to reflect that name. The views are a major tourist attraction and many celebrities have called the canyon home over the years from Humphrey Bogart to Aldous Huxley. You can see downtown LA all the way to the Pacific Ocean. 
My home was right at the beginning of the canyon in the flats. Tucked around the corner of my tiny place was a Catholic Monastery where a group of nuns lived and sold fresh baked bread and chocolates. Directly across the street was a magnificent apartment building that looked like a castle. I was excited to start a new life in a famous area high above the hectic pace of Hollywood. The relaxed vibe made my neighborhood feel as though it came from another era completely. I felt right at home there.
My worldly friend Berry helped me move. She immediately fell in love with my flat, commenting that it reminded her of Europe where she grew up. Something about the enchanting second story window with a view of the castle building across the street made me feel like I was living in the English countryside.
“Sean Penn and Madonna live there, can you believe it?” I told her.
“Have you seen them?” She asked. Not that celebrities meant much to her but with Madonna's rock star status and Sean Penn’s successful acting career, even Berry was intrigued that they lived across from me. I was surprised at her interest in the couple since Berry was married to legendary actor Anthony Perkins who starred as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Halloween was a sacred holiday at their house in neighboring Laurel Canyon. I remember Tony being interviewed on every talk show known to man-kind and Berry hosting an over the top costume party every year. One year, she dressed as Spuds MacKenzie, fictional Bull Terrier character created for advertising Bud Lite Beer in the 1980's. Her costumes were always very creative but even more impressive was her cooking; especially her signature dish, chicken wings. They were always cooked to perfection. She never had parties catered. Berry chose to do all the cooking herself.
“Yeah, Madonna and Sean have even waited for Blondie and me to cross the street, waving to us. Like typical newlyweds, they’re all lovie-doyevy, Madonna sitting as close as possible to him in the front seat of his truck,” I told Berry. I didn't share with her my secret fantasy that one day, Bobby and I would hang out with Sean and Madonna, the two musicians jamming as Sean and I rocked out.
“Isn’t that just divine,” Berry commented, a true romantic at heart. Shortly after I moved in, Bobby arrived with his box of personal items. Little did I know that my magical, European flat would quickly became a house of horror for me and my Blondie.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rock Star?

My relationship with Bobby the drunk was speeding out of control. We met. We walked my dog. He moved in with me. It all happened so fast without any consideration for the future. After only three months of cohabitation with Bobby, I completely stopped hanging out with my closest friends, afraid of what they would think about this freeloader living with me. 
The truth, as I saw it, was that Bobby needed me and I needed to be needed. He was a musician. I recognized his talent. I thought if I loved him enough, believed in him and nurtured his creativity, then he would become the rock star he was destined to be. And it would all happen because of me. The way I saw it, I was only supporting him until he got his big break. After all, he was working hard writing new songs and rehearsingIn fact, he wrote a song for me. Honestly, I don't remember the words but I do recall feeling thrilled that he wrote something for me.  I didn't know then that I should have been feeling concern instead of elated. My life was about to take a giant leap into a big black hole of fear. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Making the wrong choice

As the sun was setting at the Greek Theater, a few people started dancing in the aisles to their favorite Eurythmics song. Then Annie Lennox belted out “Would I Lie to You,” and the entire crowd jumped to its feet, rocking out to the music in wild abandon. James sprang from his seat and started dancing too. He grabbed my hands, pulled me out of my seat and twirled me right there in the aisle. I started moving to the music but felt silly and self-conscious. All of a sudden I flashed on Bobby’s face standing in his bathrobe waving to me, saying “later.”
“I’ll be right back,” I motioned to the bathroom over the loud music. Annie sang the words “Now would I say something that wasn’t true,” as I walked quickly, pulling the slip of paper out of my purse with Bobby's phone number. I stood for a while at the phone booth (this was before cell phones), contemplating making the call. I felt frozen with indecision until a woman bumped into me as she dashed into the ladies room. 
Slowly, I dialed Bobby's number. He answered right away but could barely hear me over the music. We made plans to get together the next day. When I hung up the phone, I immediately felt a sense of relief. 
James phoned me several times after our big date but I never returned any of his calls. I couldn’t risk falling in love with someone like him and then being abandoned. But Bobby, well, he’d never leave someone like me. I already knew that he was a troubled soul. Certainly, I could help him and then he would be forever indebted to me, declaring his undying love to the woman who stood by his side. 
We started dating, if you could call it that. Whatever it was, I felt totally comfortable. There was no pressure hanging out with Bobby. Our so called dates were simple. He joined me on walks with Blondie, he came over for dinner, we met at a local bar for drinks (and I picked up the bill). The third time I saw Bobby; he brought over a box of his things including some clothes, his guitar, even his toothbrush.
“Are you moving in with me?” I asked.
“Not really,” he said, hanging his clothes in my closet. I watched myself not say another word even after he slept over night after night. Turns out, the apartment where I dropped Bobby off the night we met was his friend’s home. He was staying there because he had no place to live, until he met me. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Greek

By the time James arrived for the big date, my nerves were completely shot. I had totally wound myself up into a frenzy, biting my nails and twirling my hair non-stop. I doubted I could sit through an entire concert, even if it was the Eurythmics. 
He held his car door open for me to get in, which was a complete surprise. I had heard about guys opening doors for women but I had never experienced that kind of chivalry myself. I got in and immediately started chattering, filling the quiet with the sound of my voice even before he entered the vehicle.
“So, what kind of Doctor do you want to be when you graduate?” I asked as he closed my door. He ran to the drivers door as quickly as he could to answer the question.
“Pediatrics, oncology," he said, closing the drivers door behind him. "I have a cousin who battled cancer when we were young so I decided back then that I wanted to get into oncology and save children,” his hands gripped the steering wheel as he put the car in drive and gently stepped on the gas.
“That must have been hard for you as a kid,” I couldn't believe my luck. A doctor, helping kids. My mouth was dry and I got that dirty penny taste from nervous adrenalin.
“It was hard on my whole family. At least I’ve know since childhood what I wanted to be when I grew up,” he said smiling at me. “How about you, did you always want to be in public relations? That must be a fun job.”
“Well, funny you should ask,” I caught myself mid-sentence from admitting to him that I wanted to be a reindeer when I grew up. 
“I was originally a journalism major hoping to graduate and cover sports. Actually, my motivation was to get into the men's locker room. I didn’t know anything about sports. I don’t even like football. In fact, the Super Bowl bores me to tears. But I did go to high school with quarterback John Elway.”
“I see,” he grinned. “Did you get into many locker rooms then?”
“No, I ended up writing about women’s sports at my college newspaper. No luck there unless I wanted to change sides, if you know what I mean,” I winked. Why am I doing this, I thought. Why am I sounding so stupid? Here’s this great guy and I am coming off as a complete idiot.
I couldn't wait to get to the Greek Theater, an outdoor amphitheater nestled into a green, tree-enclosed canyon on a hillside in Griffith Park. Once I stepped out of his car (I had to wait for him to open it), I began to take deep breaths, trying my best to settle down. The grandeur of the trees surrounding the theater took the edge off. We barely sat down in our seats when James went to get us some beer. I was happy to have a few moments alone hoping the soft night air would do its magic and finally calm me down. Everything was going to be just fine, I repeated to myself over and over again.
When he returned, he handed me a beer while I searched inside my purse for my wallet. I handed him a $20 bill. “Here," I said. “How much do I owe you for the ticket?"
He laughed and said: “You don’t owe me anything, this is a date, remember, the guy pays?”
“But you’re a student,” my throat started to close up, my hands felt clammy. I wasn’t used to being treated like a lady. I picked at my cuticles, embarrassed.
“My parents help me out financially,” he explained. “They expect me to have some fun once in a while,” He took my hand in his and smiled. “You worry too much,” he said as my heart raced out of my chest. He sure had me pegged. I did worry too much but I had no idea how to stop.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What to wear on the big date

I had a bit of a hangover the next morning but nothing serious. When I finally rolled out of bed, I took aspirin and leashed up Blondie for an extra long walk hoping that would clear away the cobwebs. On top of feeling queasy from drinking, I was also a nervous wreck about my date with James that night. Would he like me? Would I be good enough for the future doctor?
Blondie and I purposely strolled in the direction of Bobby's apartment. I didn't plan on seeing him but I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed him standing outside smoking a cigarette.
“Hi Bobby. Can I bum a smoke?” 
He gave me his already lit cigarette and bent down to greet Blondie.
“This your dog? Looks like a wolf,” he stroked her and smiled. Still in his bathrobe, he didn’t mention anything about the fact that I just showed up, seemingly out of the blue. “Want to come in?” He pulled out his camel lights and took out another cigarette for himself.
“No thanks. Maybe another time,” I said, backing up. He just stood there, shaking his head in agreement.
I drew deeply on my cigarette as Blondie and I walked home, contemplating what to wear on my big date. Obsessing, actually. I pulled every article of clothing out of my closet. I had all these clothes and nothing to wear. Too fancy. Too sloppy. Too ugly. Too fat. Looks like you’re trying too hard. I finally settled on my favorite pair of jeans, my sexy black v-neck top and strappy sandals. I took my time curling my hair and putting on make up. But I was so uptight, no matter what, my make up wasn’t right, my hair looked too curly, too flat, too frizzy. I was just going to have to accept the fact that I didn't feel good enough to date a future doctor. Maybe my nerves would subside once James arrived.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Meeting Bobby the drunk

The night before my big date to the Greek Theater, I went out with some friends to a bar in Santa Monica. The huge bar at this restaurant was the main attraction, crowed with people drinking. It was a dimly lit and reeked of alcohol and sweat due to all the bodies packed inside. I took one look and thought we’d be crowded like sardines, standing the whole night, but some chivalrous men waved us over, gave us their seats and even bought us a round of drinks. The bartenders were in a mad rush to help everyone, shaking, pouring and grabbing tips as quickly as possible.
That’s when I met Bobby. Seated to my right, this hybrid between an outdoorsman and a musician had shoulder length shaggy blonde hair and wore a wife beater tee under his blue plaid flannel shirt. The outfit was completed with black leather rock n' roll pants. He was grunge to the max!
“I wrote that song Jump for David Lee Roth,” he announced to the entire bar. “Go ahead and Jump, Jump!” He was pretty drunk, his light brown eyes barely open but he was definitely the life of the bar, even with his slurred speech.
“You might as well Jump!” I joined in, laughing.
“Jump!” My friends chimed in. Everyone was tipsy.
“Yea, that’s the one,” Bobby said attempting to point his finger at me. He had a devilish grin with straight white teeth. Bobby had a sun kissed look, tan arms and strong biceps, but his dirty fingernails were not those of a man who sat inside writing music for rock stars. They looked more like those of a construction worker or a mechanic. I chose to look beyond the obvious wanting to believe in his story; that he was a song writer for famous musicians.
When we all got up to leave, Bobby tried to tag along but was having trouble walking. It was obvious, he drank too much. Way too much.
“You shouldn’t drive like this,” I told him in my familiar role of caregiver. Since I learned that he lived in my neighborhood, I suggested he ride with me. When I dropped him off at a large, security building on a tree lined street not far from when I lived in Beverly Hills. He stepped out and almost fell over but managed to catch himself. I had no idea this man would become a great teacher to me.