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41) I Remember Princess Diana

TETBURY, UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 18: Princess Diana Resting Her Head In Her Hands Whilst Sitting On The Steps Of Her Home At Highgrove, Gloucestershire. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

20 years after her tragic death in an automobile accident in Paris, Princess Diana remains an important historical figure. The wounds for all of us are still fresh from that fateful day. Diana embodied the seismic shift of a world coming apart. She represented everything the world needed: love, compassion, grace, and humility.

As beautiful as she was, Diana was also imperfect. She had an eating disorder, was needy, and desperately wanted someone to truly love her often straining those around her in her pursuits. A shy daughter of an English Earl, the dreamy 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer married unwittingly to a man who was forced to give up his own true love for a more suitable match as dictated by the Monarchy. Love and feelings had nothing to do with it. Though Charles and Diana’s circumstances were tame by comparison with past Royal coupling arrangements, nonetheless, their experience was a painful situation in any time.

At first, Diana Spencer found the attention of the press amusing and even liked it. But that soon wore off as she was thrust into the public eye becoming a prisoner, a passionate young woman suffocated by the heavy expectations of a fusty, royal family born into privilege, resolute in the knowledge that all they are cannot be destroyed.

I remember Princess Diana, growing up. Her short, feathered hair and bright, blue eyes exposed the goodness of her soul and the pain inside her heart. In the summer of 1984, my mother and I cut our hair off just like the Princess. My father wasn’t happy because he liked his wife to have long locks. It was a moment I shared with my mother when we both felt the same giddy excitement as mother and daughter going to the salon to have our hair cut like Princess Diana.

I suppose my mother saw her own feelings reflected through Diana’s simmering blue eyes. Like Diana, my mother was unhappy in her marriage and didn’t show it but through tears that would escape her now and then. I had other reasons for cutting my hair just like Diana. I loved who she was, trying to make things work as best as she could, through tears. Sure, she had everything. Sure, she was beautiful. But I saw something inside her that was raging. I would not have been able to express these words at 9-years-old, but years later I understood that rage. What was not known or said in public spoke volumes to women everywhere.

Counter to the typical Monarchy’s raising of children, Diana showed the world how devoted she was when she became a mother to two beautiful boys, openly displaying her affection, taking them to school, and constantly playing with them. In high school, I fell in love with the Princess all over again as she went out on her own and began her charity work. There is no one that could quite replicate the conviction Diana had in her voice underneath the soft British accent as she spoke on behalf of AIDS’ victims. Princess Diana was never afraid to touch and hold and console and love on anyone who was suffering. That is why she became the ‘People’s Princess’.

Diana Spencer shares the same birth year (1961) with many other notable members of Generation X; Peter Jackson, Michael J. Fox, Brent Eastwood Ellis, Douglas Coupland, Enya, Martin Gore, Henry Rollins, Boy George, Julia Gillard, and Barack Obama. 1961 marks not only the beginning of what most historians agree as the beginning of Generation X, but a watershed year of political and cultural changes that correspond with this particular generation: the rising of a great wall that divided Germany into east and west, the introduction of the birth control pill which would lead to sexual revolution, the Cuban missile crisis and an accelerated shift away from post-World War II prosperity into the Cold War, the moon landing, the environmental crisis of the 1970s, and the free-wheeling decadence of the colorful, synthesized 1980s.

Diana was special because she had a relentless heart. She changed everything because it had to be done and she had to do it, her way. Her life force was captured in the hearts and souls of the people. Perhaps it was this reality that would eventually lead to her untimely death. I remember seeing Diana on television and in my mother’s People magazines. I watched a 19-year-old girl grow up and become a figure that eclipsed the grounds of Buckingham Palace and the British Monarchy and ultimately, inspire the people of the world to make it better.

Princess Diana, Princess of Wales cradles a young child stricken with cancer at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore in this February 22, 1997 file photo. August 31 marks the fifth anniversary of her death in a high-speed car crash in Paris. REUTERS/John Pryke

 


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40) No More Babies For Bullets

Baby Machine by Leta Gray

‘Baby Machine’ Stone Lithograph Print (2008) Courtesy of Leta Gray with permission.

I never wanted to bring a child into the world – in my time.

I’ve seen too much heartache, gross negligence and repulsive events. I live in a world of certain horrid creatures that care nothing for their own kind. Why would I labor to bring an innocent being into a world of rabid destruction?

Why would I, in my right mind bring a babe into the world where the prospects of any kind of life is destined to be grim at best, more violent, more competitive, more people? Maybe I didn’t read enough ‘learn how to be happy’ books in my youth because the reality of the world jockeyed for my attention first.

I am tormented by a belief in good things, in an ideal world where humankind takes great care of humankind, that all children never really grow up because their world is more relevant. I wrap my own placental blanket around my vessel, safe and warm from the disintegration all around.

Am I selfish for not wanting to continue my bloodline, a bloodline that feels too deeply and lives too long? Why should I bring a profound and emotional creature into the world with those who use human beings for their own selfish purpose – money and power? To plant a lovely soul into a world where women are shoved aside, women are irrelevant, just to be incubators to breed more armies of men?

NO, I will not. I have no good reason to bring a child in the world. The world does not deserve my beautiful child. The world will get my words instead.


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30) Comfort In Fearful Things

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.  – H. P. Lovecraft

I was born in 1974, the same year that Stephen King’s first book, Carrie was published and less than a year after the The Exorcist was released. It scared the crap out of my 11-year-old brother and perhaps incidentally propelled his spiritual life, transforming him into a God-fearing conservative Christian. The film broke box office records with millions of people standing in long lines. Many audience members passed out, up-chucked, and left the theater because the subject matter and raw graphics was too horrific to watch. I discovered the film on The Movie Channel, long after my brother left for college when I was 10-years-old. My parents never thought to dismantle the cable outlet…

I became my own parental control and watched anything that was dark, scary, or controversial. By the age of 10, I sampled a glut of R-rated horror films before I set eyes on The Exorcist. My earliest recollection was Blood Beach (an exquisitely dumb B film), then A Nightmare on Elm Street, Cujo, Halloween, Jaws, and Friday The Thirteenth (just in time for the coming of age of the 13th generation, AKA Gen-X). Rather than becoming desensitized from watching movies that most parents would never let their children watch today, it opened up my mind and hunger for knowledge.

Blood Beach Movie Poster

Although, I could not articulate it as a child, I was fascinated by anything that was physically unfamiliar, strange, unexplainable, and ultimately, anything that would horrify my mother or enrage my father. It wasn’t that I was rebelling from their attitudes. I was curious of why certain ideas provoked intense emotions within adults. I wanted to understand their reactions. At a very young age, I had a sense that the world was full of hidden truths behind closed doors, the back of dusty closets, underneath crawl spaces, the bottom of my mother’s purse and amongst the coins in my father’s pocket.

At night, I was afraid to run to my parents’ bedroom; it was too far away on the opposite side of the house. My dad built it that way. To get there, I had to run past a long hallway of tall closets, and my old bedroom where Mom reScary Treead her Bible every morning and night, and the bathroom, turn the corner past the fireplace, the entry way, the living room and kitchen, and finally, the dark ominous opening of my parents’ bedroom.

I learned how to be still, and breath, and conquer my fear of being alone. I grew to love the stillness of night, the rhythm of the moon, and things that moved in the darkness. My imagination was more colorful than reality and I learned to keep my eyes and ears open without fear of the vampire underneath my bed with his red glowing cape, or the Bogeyman outside my window that might pop his grizzly head up, or the wind quivering the finger-like branches of the tall twin pine trees against the full moon’s light.

I watched everything that was on television, if it peaked my interest. I grew to understand that basic fear was a human impulse resulting from a lack of knowledge in that, which is feared. Real fear was primal, the kind that connected to your gut. I learned the differences and the middle ground in between.

As a young adult, my experiences were haphazard, sometimes pushing the edge of what was good for me, but knowing when to lay low or get the hell-out-of-dodge. Most of my real fear in these situations was in direct response to mortal human encounters: relationships gone bad, deceptive adults, and unpredictable human behavior. I learned how to trust myself: my senses, my impulses, and my intuition. In this way, I have always felt unique in my experiences, generationally and spiritually.

I am less afraid of Bigfoot, Extraterrestrials, Chupacabra, UFOs, and Demon Possession, and more afraid of men with guns, blatant sexual urges, deranged agendas, entitled egos, reinforced by political alliances.

I am less afraid of ghosts, haunted places, werewolves, and vampires, and more afraid of political instability, nuclear weapons, social chaos, and natural disasters.

Born and raised in San Bernardino, California, cult capital of the nation and one of the most geologically dynamic places on earth, I was less afraid of the devil and creeping things and more afraid of large rickety building structures and mass gatherings of people. My Atheist/Agnostic father and Seventh-Day-Adventist mother provided a rich contrast of dispassionate mechanical thought vs. constrained fundamental belief for my inquisitive young mind to ponder; a perfect environment for analyzing contrasting viewpoints playing out in a post-Nixon world. It is difficult to imagine the 1970s without the horrors of the time as it metastasized into classic American Horror films on cable TV.

When I first saw The Exorcist, I had absorbed large amounts of data through television, reading National Geographic magazines and my mother’s SDA literature and the KJV Bible (I think I was halfway through reading the begets of Chronicles, because my mother insisted we read the Word of God from cover to cover – enough to make one want to barf up green soup). Even though the movie was scary, I couldn’t help but feel a hidden hand moving over the whole thing to increase Church membership and tithe. I began to doubt my mother’s religious ideas early, before I was a teenager. I wanted to believe what she did because I dearly loved her and saw that she desperately wanted to transcend all that was bad, but she couldn’t provide answers that were concrete enough for me to accept them.

The Exorcist proved how powerful religion is over the minds of those too afraid to question things they do not understand. I have no doubt that there are evil ‘things’ in this world. But those ‘things’ tend to be human generated through calculated motivations. True knowledge saturates perceived fear. It provides a clear path for humanity to evolve beyond its own planned obsolescence. I take comfort in fearful things and seeking knowledge to understand them.

SUPPLEMENTS:

The American Nightmare: A Documentary
Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown Documentary
Fascinating Facts About The Exorcist
The Movie Channel Commercials – 1980s

 


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27) April Fools

April 1, 1992

I was at home. The pregnancy test was positive and all I could think about was my father. He told me he’d disown me if I ever got pregnant, as if somehow he knew about my nightly excursions. The boy I was with; we played in the garden of earthly delights, forbidden fruit we consumed, each ravaging the other – exploring all that can be done between two people of the opposite sex.

Parrish-Ecstasy_2

“Ecstasy” by Maxfield Parrish

We sailed oceans of great feeling and played like children in our secret garden, where adults only dream: in closets and backrooms, at the airport in my car, in the clear waters of a swimming pool, the tennis courts at midnight and swing sets in playgrounds with blushing stars. Our torrential sex flooded into haunted lands and forbidden spaces; and only when the sun came up, did we really see the sobering reality, a thing we hated because the fantasy was over.

Was it love? My young mind couldn’t describe it; how does one know what love is with all the feelings that conflict and collide?

April fools…

Ours lives were a vast chasm, a generation of desire and hopelessness born of previous generations. We embodied the 13th generation in our reckless lovemaking. A trepid anger of the ages crept into our cells and frenzied us into heat – he, high on meth and I, high on sex. I couldn’t be apart from him. I held onto the feeling like a ghost in fall when the leaves trickle down to the damp forest floor, and the bounty of sacred, fertile things take over memory… and I in my youth, sexually erect and potent and empty. I cried out and raked my nails into his skin like a rabid animal.

The world around us was terrifying, rotten and void: void of beauty, void of life… and in this existence, we held on to one another in rapture, a kind of appalling sustained ecstasy. Nothing else mattered…

He snuck me into his house at midnight and no one was around. They were asleep. His sisters, four of them under 14 and he laid me down on the floor in the family room, my head by the couch. Caribbean Blue was playing in the tape deck. We dripped hot wax on our bodies to burn the pain away, our naked forms created heat on the carpet. He took me into his room and we stayed inside for hours until I had no water in me.

We slept until his sisters went to school and his parents left for work and then, he handcuffed me to his closet and penetrated me from behind and I moaned and we persisted until our bodies relented.

We let hot water pour over us in his parent’s shower. His body, wet and soapy and mine, the same, we washed each other and time disappeared down the drain. And then I drove him to work and I was alone.

Those days are a blur of highways and signals and strange thoughts that soar like floating clouds that disappear into the sun. Speeding cars, sex at midnight, blurs of life and endless dreams of escape.

April 1 – April Fools – God, I wish… I was pregnant and Mom had cancer and Los Angeles was about to burn. Mom told me to forget, to forget her, that I didn’t have a mother anymore, that she was dead.

I was late. I was supposed to start a week ago. I bought a pregnancy test. The test was positive. I knew what I had to do. There was no way I could have a child in my time. There is no future.

April Fools…


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24) School Violence in the 1990’s

I was in 7th grade in 1987. As a middle-class white kid living in the San Bernardino Mountains, our school was mostly safe. One afternoon, I recall two girls fighting in front of my locker, pulling hair and scratching each other. I had to get my books for my next class, so I told them to knock it off and yelled for a teacher. There was never a thought in my mind that one of them might pull out a gun.

Bullying was a problem in 8th grade. A girl in my English class threatened to kick my butt over a boy I would talk to in class. She told all of her friends and before I knew it, I had kids telling me that she was coming after me and I should prepare myself. I was terrified. I told my mother that I was afraid to go to school. I dropped out and enrolled in a home school program.

We moved to the city when I was 15 and I enrolled at a three-year high school. Socially, I adjusted well to my new school, larger and more diverse than in my mountain hometown. Violence was always at the edges of my world, but our campus was open and we didn’t have armed security guards at entrances with metal detectors.

It was the late 1980s and pop culture gave us punchy, satirical references to school violence and teen suicide. Julie Brown’s music video, “The Homecoming Queen’s Gotta Gun” made the MTV rounds in 1987 in classic 80s fashion.

 

Heathers

Newspapers.com

Films of that era, Three O’clock High, Tuff Turf and the teen cult film, Heathers explored the violent tendencies as school violence became more frequent, particularly in white suburban neighborhoods.

Released in 1989, Heathers was a psychotic fantasy crossing over into a grim reality. Dubbed by the media as, “the ‘Carrie’ of the 80s,” Heathers probed the dark interior of teen angst and the many layers of contemporary suburban high school life.

Veronica, played by Winona Ryder, tries to resolve herself between the sinister world of the three Heathers, the most popular girls in school, and Veronica’s anarchist lover, J.D. (Christian Slater).

Slater’s character takes on an eerie foreshadowing to Eric Harris, one of the two boys responsible for the Columbine tragedy. Veronica’s character is desperate to seek justice in a world gone wrong, but feels the pressure to perform with the popular girls.

Courtesy of IMDb

Courtesy of IMDb

In 1991, the controversial film, Boyz N The Hood, was released. John Singleton, the film’s 23-year-old director, responded to accusations that his film prompted violence in several theaters around the country, “I didn’t create the conditions under which people shoot each other… This happens because there’s a whole generation of people who are disenfranchised.”

It was one of the first movies to show the plight of African-American kids growing up in the South Central Los Angeles, experiencing violence in school and on the street, every day. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character, Tre Styles, reminded me of Veronica – both trapped in a cultural prison trying to find higher ground, to overcome the reality of powerful cliques, raging bullets, broken families and indifferent or absent parents.

Where Heathers was a morbid satire; Boyz N The Hood was stone cold reality. Veronica and Tre face an existential conflict, desperate to separate from the status quo, both revolting against a sociopathic, senseless existence.

14 June 1989 • Newspapers.com

14 June 1989 • Newspapers.com

From Boyz N The Hood, I learned that America’s black youth are completely neglected and left to fend for themselves. From Heathers, the message was clear: dethrone ineffective, exploitive leadership and stand up for those who are left behind.


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07) Once, I Was a Mall Rat

In the late 80s, I used to hang out at the Inland Center Mall in San Bernardino with my best friend. We would do anything to get away from our parents. Luckily, her parents would drive us to the mall, drop us off and we would shop, smoke cigarettes, look for cute boys and catch a movie afterwards.

1989 Mall Rat

We bought colored eyeliner and burgundy lipstick at Center Stage. We caressed the sweet smelling leather at Wilson’s Suede and Leather shop, hoping for fringed or zippered jackets with pumped up shoulder pads for Christmas. Sipping on our Orange Julius’s, we inspected the CDs at The Wherehouse, scanned the latest Teen Beat magazine for River Phoenix and Kirk Cameron at Waldenbooks and tried on clothes at Wet Seal and Contempo Casuals.

Taking a break from our mall routine, we would sit in an open area on a bench and smoke cigarettes (you could smoke inside the mall), looking cool with our designer brand bags and blown out hair.

We were 14 and 15, but could pass for 18. We never got carded for cigarettes at 7-Eleven and if we were desperate, we could buy smokes at any vending machine (I hated vending machines since they only came in soft packs, which were instantly mushed in the bottom of my small purse). Cigarette vending machines were found at just about every public place at that time.

If we detected a crop of cute boys, we followed them slowly, talking in British accents about some made-up vacation on a ritzy beach somewhere to peak their interest. We practiced this all the time, pretending as if we were the latest girls of Duran Duran’s, Simon Le Bon and John Taylor.

My best friend had more money to spend and I bought cheap accessories with the hopes that in 6 months to a year, she would be bored of what she bought today and I’d inherit her clothes as hand-me-downs. Since, her wardrobe was ‘way’ cooler than mine, I had no sense of expiring ‘hotness’ when it came to fashion. I trusted her judgment and would wear her clothes until there were holes in them and the bright colors faded to pastels.

She was really boy crazy and the bolder one. I just went along with her, having no real identity of my own. It wasn’t until we got a little older that I would stand up to her and understand how superficial, meaningless and desperate our teen years truly were.

[image from Newspapers.com]

[1987 • Article via Newspapers.com]


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02) Turning 40 in 2014

I am 40 years old this year. I am just beginning. Seeds of cynicism have grown into clear and determined purpose…

Everything I have experienced is akin to waking up from a generational hangover –familial obstacles, false starts, occupational upheaval, delusional relationships and the constant interruption of WTF moments. No kids, no marriage, NO – to all of it.

When I turned 18, I believed that whatever happens, I must be held accountable – every mistake, every decision, every vote, every relationship, every failed opportunity. I adopted a three-part view of existence: the world I was born in, all that came before me, and my own life. This was the world I was born into…

40 years ago, the Rubik’s Cube debuted on the market pissing off all normal people except for those kids who would eventually become affluent in command line prompts in MS DOS, the Watergate scandal was in full swing as my mother put the groceries away and descended upon the hospital to bring me into the world, owners of automobiles were lining up to put gas in their tanks if they were lucky enough to find a gas station that still had gas, Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was on the printing press and women everywhere retired their wire hangers to the closet upon having access to legalized abortion.

Tricky Dicky

President Richard Nixon gives his resignation speech from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington D.C., on Aug. 8, 1974. Photo by: NBC NEWSWIRE/GETTY IMAGES, courtesy of mysanantonio.com


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