Pictures of the Gone World

me in 2003

I had an epiphany in the car this morning on my way to Archer's school. It was a song that did it as songs so often do. Ask me what the song was and I don't even remember. It had been many years since I'd heard it, a time capsule of cacophony, suddenly leaking memories.

I moved here when I was 18. I grew up here. Lived in a house full of guys, here. Got engaged when I was twenty before calling it off when I was twenty-one. I did drugs in bar bathrooms, here and got so drunk I woke up in my own puke, here. I had sex with strangers, here. And friends. And other people's husbands. Men my father's age. And then I cried about it. Laughed about it. Felt empowered and ashamed. Wanted to move so I left. Missed L.A. so I came back. Made plans to join the Peace Corps... to save myself from becoming an LA cliche. Met Hal the day the forms came in the mail. Got pregnant and now here I am.

I used to live off Melrose, behind what used to be a Smart and Final where my old roommates and I shopped for parties we frequently threw. It's an American Apparel, now, which reminds me of the Warehouse parties they used to throw downtown. One memory leads to another until it's hard to recognize myself. In this new life that isn't really new at all. Driving every day down Melrose, past the cheap shops and ATMs and thrift stores where I used to trade in my clothes for someone else's; to drop Archer off and then pick him up from school.

I've lived here nearly a decade. No one recognizes me from the past. Last week I saw a guy I one-night-standed (or maybe he one-night-standed me) years ago, while hiking, my newborn daughter strapped the chest he once fondled. I'm good with faces so I recognized him. Our eyes met for a moment before he looked away. Had no idea who I was, that we were naked together once. Maybe even twice. When my hair was still blonde and my eyebrow was pierced. This stuff happens all the time.

.....................................................................................

I got a shipment of books in the mail last week. Books with stories I wrote and edited in High School and when I should have been in college but didn't go. Stories first published a decade ago under names that were not mine and names that were. A "best of" collection of some of my many lies. Truths, too, but mostly lies. Secrets hidden in teenage stories for teenage readers. Dreams of being taken seriously as a writer after being laughed at by Lawrence Ferlinghetti who told me to my face when I was nineteen, that I was a "sell out." I had introduced myself to him as a writer and a fan.

"What do you write?" he asked.

I showed him the books I was signing and he frowned.

"Every writer should be so lucky to "sell" something," is what I should have told him but instead I smiled, pretending, and asked him to sign my copy of Pictures of the Gone World, with its pages torn and the following passage highlighted:
'We think differently at night' she told me once
lying back languidly And she would quote Cocteau
'I feel there is an angel in me' she'd say
'whom I am constantly shocking'
Then she would smile and look away
I wanted so badly to be the girl in the poem. Sometimes I still do.

.............................................................................

A close friend of mine recently moved to Encino with her husband to raise her son. Out of Silverlake and into the suburbs. Selflessly pulling herself out of what was. Growing up.

I never understood why. "Your apartment was so great," I told her. "You could have raised your son there just as easily."

But I get it, now. After one song on the radio, I understand. She didn't want to take a trip down memory lane every day she drove her son to school. She wanted to be able to listen to the radio without falling down the rabbit hole of yesterday or five years ago. Or ten. She wanted to make a new life without having to bury the old one, being reminded daily of who she once was: the single girl who ate breakfast at noon and dinner at midnight. Who was reckless and careless and destructive. She didn't want to see that girl at every intersection, in every store window, ex-lover's eyes.

A disclaimer for those of you who plan to raise children in the playground of your youth: Beware the boulevard of broken heels and broken hearts. Ghosts forever lurk in storefronts and sidewalk cracks and songs on the radio. Take the long way to school. Listen to CDs.

GGC

52 comments:

Miss Liza | 12:07 PM

I am a new fan to your site, and I just have to say, that this post struck home so very, very deeply. Thank you. I was also a "girl that ate breakfast at noon and dinner at midnight" until recently. Growing up is lovely, albeit terrifying too.

chantalart | 12:44 PM

What a beautifully written post...I grew up in New York, went to high school and college in Manhattan and I still live here. I totally know where you're coming from. I passed by my high school building yesterday and felt such a disconnect! Here is a situation where I take comfort in the fact that NYC is in constant flux and nothing stays the same- all my old hang-outs have been closed, turned into corporate chains. The all night coffee shop where my husband and I went on our first date is a Starbucks now, for instance. I try to view my city and myself as intertwined and see us both as evolving. The difficulty, I suppose, is when I realize I have evolved out of the nightlife that starts happening at my bedtime.

Cheryl Ann | 12:49 PM

I'm new here and have spent the last hour and a half of my work day reading through your posts. This one in particular resonates with me - don't have a kid, but have settled down with a nice boy and have left the drugs and drinking and one-night stands behind me. Sometimes I feel as though I can't shake that coat, though. Still trying to get comfortable in my new outfit, while not completely wanting to burn the old.

You rock.

Margaret B | 1:05 PM

I thought this was beautiful. I moved back to CT, where I grew up, with my husband two years ago. We've since moved away, but I remember driving down the main road of my town, in the same car I had when I turned 16, and hearing a song on the radio that would remind me of high school days. All of a sudden I wasn't sure which time I was in. I felt like I was two people, a junior running to Starbucks after school and a married woman, riding to the train station for the morning commute. It was a strange year of living two lives, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it, if briefly. But I'm also glad we moved away, now I'm having my first child in a new place, away from my former life, even if it wasn't all that bad. I think like is a continuation of changing selves. The person we will be at 45 will be so different from who we were at 24. But it's a good thing.

bmcisofftothealibitogetmistyoverggc | 1:19 PM

why i could never move home to dc. that and the fact that it's congested with traffic and big boxes and lameness.

but i can't wait for my kids to come home from grad school for thanksgiving and point out all the bar bathrooms they've had sex and drugs in. i wonder if it'll be the same places i rock while they're at school.

in other news, ARHGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRHHHHHHFFFFFFF, you're never leaving LA. send me more CDs, babytalk. i'm feeling nostalgic.

Kelly | 1:44 PM

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, just like you. You are totally my girl crush, says married girl with a child. :)

I clicked on one of the links, and is that you at the Crips and Bloods themed party? That was a fantastic read. This line:
...not to be confused with “Sup?” meaning “Do you have a problem? If so we can kill each other with guns.” ?
Just killed me.

Sarah | 1:52 PM

Oooooh, yes. Every time I am back in the places I grew up in the Philly suburbs I feel my chest compressing. I cannot imagine living there now, with or without the child. I think the memories would overwhelm me completely.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 1:54 PM

Yes. Totally me. With the bandana and the teardrop. Summer 2000.

caleal | 2:04 PM

I love this post. I always snap into moods like this, from the tiniest trigger.

I'm also amused that I read that book so many times when I was younger. The very last one in the book was my favorite. Now I read this blog. Surprise, surprise.

goodfather | 2:07 PM

Great post. I'm lucky to have long left my younger days' haunts - I'll never run into anyone I knew 'back then'.

sweetmelissa818 | 2:14 PM

I still live where I grew up. I couldn't agree more with you (as soon as we're able, we're going to leave and find a place for my kids to grow up). There's just too much. The one that got away, the people who hated you, the people you hated. It's hard enough to be a mom and try to map out your place in the world as a mother without trying to avoid your past (which just happens to be walking down the street).

She Likes Purple | 2:35 PM

I just wrote yesterday about wanting to write for a living, and then I read something like this and think "I'll never be this good even though I really want to be." You're talented and beautiful. I love this post.

nancy | 4:02 PM

Hm. It's possible that One Night Stand guy didn't recognize you. It's also possible that he did, and didn't quite know what to say to a fling who now had a kid strapped to her. How exactly does that conversation go? "Hey! The kid's not mine right? Heh heh."

Maybe, in the presence of a person you were once intimate with, however briefly, and then lost track of, a moment of silence is exactly what you need.

Wicked Step Mom | 4:07 PM

I don't like driving by where I grew up. There are a lot of bad memories for me there and I was a different person. A weaker one and a stronger one... I can't imagine driving by there every day.

kittenpie | 5:37 PM

I live in the neighbourhood I grew up in - I love it. I love that I know every nook and cranny of it. But that was when I was a child and a teen, which is simpler.

Ray | 5:44 PM

I found your site through Dooce.com a couple of days ago (and I found Dooce.com through Novelle360 from blogspot, whose site I read all the time) and I can't help but to continue coming back. You are one hellavue writer (!) and I enjoyed reading this entry. I wish I had found you in 2005 when you first started, instead of just now.

Take, care.

Erin, Nick and Merrick | 5:57 PM

Wow- great post and just like everyone above me says- it hits close to home.
I too drive my son to daycare everyday past the college I graduated from, past my old apartment buildings, etc......
Haunting isn't it?

J. Murray-Szarvas | 6:18 PM

WOW! I am completely blown away by what you wrote today. Have been a reader for several weeks. The way you wrote this post struck such a deep cord with me, echos of days gone by whispering in my ears.

I have to say though, I am so happy to be where I am with my husband and baby. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I will be back for more.

Jenn | 8:27 PM

I just started reading your blog last week and I MUST de-lurk to tell you how much I LOVE your writing, especially this post.

I'm twenty-five and it appears that I'm busting at the seams to experience any and everything. I'm undeniably at the most SELFISH time in my life, where I think, "BABIES? Gah. GROSS!"
Then I come here and see what an amazing woman you are, with this great little family, your sense of self still intact and brilliantly painted over these pages. And I think to myself, "Yes. That. That would be nice. Someday."

Lindsee | 8:43 PM

I'm living and raising my kids in my hometown that I once left to start a life of my own.

These days I've been wanting a change and you articulated exactly what I've been feeling. I couldn't put my finger on it.

Everywhere I go, I think of what was and what I had here. It was my childhood and as good or bad as it was - I'll never live those times again. I'll never be able to recreate that for my kids.

I think its time for a move...

fibibuffy | 9:09 PM

Thank you for this post. I am headed to my hometown over the Holidays. For the past few weeks I have been feeling nostalgic and old. You put into words what has been whirling around in my head. I think you are an amazing writer and I am addicted to your blog.

Farnés | 6:36 AM

Oh, that description was beautiful. Hope you have great weekend. Farnés

Hilary | 6:40 AM

We so would have hung out in high school. I know just what you mean with this post.

motherbumper | 6:55 AM

I have the strangest feeling mixes and distractions whenever I take Gigi to my Melrose. I've thought of raising her there but you've captured exactly why I don't.

pamela | 7:35 AM

jesus! stop it all ready.
i feel narcissitic even writing this... i i i me me me....but i swear this happened to me yesterday. in a grocery store. daughter strapped to chest. onenightstand staring me in the face... although in my case he did recognize me. and we talked and i fumbled with the self checkout payment, hitting no three times to the amount due instead of yes.
it was hard being in that moment and i wanted to get my daughter and run leaving all the stuff behind. i live in a suburban area in a small "city" but it's the same... driving past the houses where we partied till the next day our brains finally slowing down. it's such a weird feeling to think what i could be doing right now at 27 instead. but i don't care and i don't want to.
i like what you said in your last post about how when you're 45 it will still be a good age to start travelling again... i think about that too. i experienced a young, wild free life and now i'm experiencing being a mother. each new experience is a new chapter, episode, moment... i love them all.
thank you for encapsulating my thoughts once again.

Marie-Ève | 7:53 AM

Amazing post, Rebecca. Now I have a great excuse for having moved to the 'burbs.

And Ferlinghetti, ah? Knowing about the ballsy 19 year-old you once were makes me get the fantastically talented and driven 27 year-old you now are more.

Average Girl In Average World | 8:43 AM

I still live in the same old boring town I was born in. But the fun part is when you see people from your past that didn't quite turn out like you thought they would - the cheerleader who got REALLY fat, or the geek who is DROpDEAD Gorgeous, or the little poor girl who has more Prada than the devil herself. Yes i have skelatons, but they don't scare me, I am a woman now.

Beautiful post!

Miss M | 8:53 AM

I also find myself saying, "Hey! Me too!" after I read one of your posts. You have articulated exactly why I want to leave my home town far better than I ever could have. I'm impressed , as usual, with your writing style. Thanks!

Heather | 9:14 AM

So beautifully written and stated. You speak to my heart so often. It is amazing really. Do you know me? I just recently moved back to my old stomping grounds with hubby and our three girls. I have come face to face with a lot of memories and people that I could just as soon never see or remember again, but I kind of feel like I am growing from it too. Like I can be the bigger person now. Thankyou for being the great writer that you are.

The Slick Mom | 9:35 AM

I could have written this post as well. I grew up in Detroit. A wild child. Out every night. Drugs, parties, one night dirty stand in old motels. I cringe when I think of some of the moments, yet get nostalgic for some as well. Even now when I go out on a rare night with single friends I feel the urge to do the bathroom ski again. But then I think of the beautiful baby I have at home and the thought rushes away. It's really just abotu growing up and moving on. We cherish the old days yet can look forward to the future. By the way, the song I was listening to the other day that brought back the memories was Close to Me, by the Cure. "just try to see in the dark
just try to make it work
to feel the fear before you're here"

Molly | 10:31 AM

Thank you for this beautifully written post. I just found your blog not too long ago and am quickly becoming a groupie. Too often I complain about being away from "home", thank you opening my eyes. There ARE a few good things about being in a land far, far away.

maryandliam | 10:42 AM

I found your blog a few months ago and have been following your blog since. This post made me cry. I thought there must me something wrong with me as a mother to feel nostalgic for the times when I drank till I blacked out, did drugs in bathrooms and then went back for one night standers in the same stall. Thanks for making me feel not alone. And to feel more grateful for what I've gained from the perceived loss of my youth.

Grace | 1:03 PM

My college friends have begged me for 10 years to move back to the city where we went to school and where they now make their lives.

How can I explain that I can't keep seeing the places where I had the most amazing sex, had the insanely hopeful dreams of a teenager in love on a homemade loft, the failure of relationship after relationship, the sinking depression I could not yet understand, driving myself in my studies and punishing myself when I got a bad grade, the growing that resulted, the girl left further and further behind...

"We wish you were here" they say.

"I am there" I want to tell them. Little pieces of me are all over the place... I just prefer to visit the me that I left behind. I'm not her anymore, but I love her from afar.

Thank you for your writing. Thank you.

courtney | 2:20 PM

What a wonderfully written post. I feel that way sometimes and I don't even live in the place where all my drama occurred. I live close enough to it, though, that I visit there a lot. Lots of memories. Lots of good and bad times.

Michele | 3:09 PM

I am currently living in the home I grew up in. My sons attend my elementary school. I must live here to take care of aging sick parents. Since my brothers refused, I feel I must be the daughter they deserve. But man. My past keeps sneaking up on me and smacking me in the face. I'm not that person anymore. But oh so many stupid decisions. I'm not that person anymore.

jjlibra | 5:10 PM

first of all, you are prettier now than you were then so that has to mean something. this new life is good for your face :)

second, i thought the crips article was pretty funny and am really confused by all the bad comments.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 5:20 PM

That's just Vice Magazine. Chris (friend who wrote the piece) gets that kind of response... but it's all in good fun. He's beloved.

lauren p. henderson | 7:28 PM

you make me feel brave.

Jessi Louise | 7:32 AM

Whenever I go back to my hometown it's like going back in time. And mostly not in a good way, in kind of a depressing way. I don't know if I could ever actually live there.

Amber | 3:13 PM

just... yes! yes yes. i've been mulling a post like this myself (but my blog is down at the moment...grrr). ditto to everything.

Darcie | 9:12 AM

I just found your blog today and this post really hit home. My husband and I often talk about moving back to where I grew up (and someday we will, I stand to inherit my childhood home) but I'm afraid of all the ghosts still lingering around the town, including most of the people who knew me 10-15 years ago.

adsiza | 11:43 AM

thnks

eda | 7:42 PM

thnks

single mom seeking | 3:39 PM

It's only about time that I post a comment here -- after all, we're both Seal authors, and I'm FINALLY reading your book (it's about time!!).

Get this: I'm Rachel, and my sister is Rebecca.

And my whole life, relatives have mixed us up. Just yesterday, my dad called me "Rebecca" again. (He has had 30+ years practice... oh Dad.)

Happy, happy!

Carla | 8:09 AM

You have such a magial way with words. I grew up in NJ, went to college in Boston and am now in RI. I often long to go back to both but I realize often that I romanticize those places and that being back there isn't going to do anything for me and my family. This post is a great reminder of why I'm staying put. Thanks and happy holidays =)

Anonymous | 8:42 AM

This is so beautiful and catches my heart in a fist but it doesn't hurt too much - it just moves me. I love it.
You are such a good writer.
G.

BOSSY | 7:09 PM

Hmmmmm, very poignant. Perhaps this is why Bossy's instinct was to leave the city... even though she's been asking herself, "WHY?" nearly every day since.

Sure wish you could remember the song. Just curious.

Binky | 12:02 PM

I don't know who Lawrence Ferlinghetti is, but he sounds like an asshat. You're much more than any girl he could ever conceive of.

Apropos of nothing except the fact that his poem referenced Cocteau: my uncle-in-law was Cocteau's lifetime lover. I think that's my family's only real claim to fame.

zjahazel | 5:35 PM

i didnt know anyone could feel exacly the same way i do. echo park silverlake and hollywood always make me think of the old me. the cool me.

Anonymous | 10:44 PM

How do you do it?

You always manage to read my mind.

Your words, perfectly put into understanding, why I avoid the radio. Any song from the past will trigger the me who I used to be.

Your writing is perfect, I cannot get enough of it. You are really something. Really something.

Deb, i obsess | 6:13 PM

Ha! Vice Magazine.

And: mmm, mmm. I dare to dream of the day when I might leave the corners of my terrible twenties, teeming with ghosts of former selves, draped in costumes of hilarity and sometimes horror, I dare.

I'm with you, sugar. It's good to begone.

(It's also good to remember, but then, I'm older than you. I get to say things like that with [near]impunity. I'm audacious in my elderliness.)

You're such a gorgeous, spirited dame.

samantha | 3:46 PM

I agree with this. I was born, grew up, went to high school, and met my husband all in the same town. We moved away, grew apart, grew back together, and I think about home sometimes. I just . . . I long for it, you know? That lack of responsibility, that tank full of reckless. I miss that boy, and even though I watched him grow up, sometimes I don't know this man that I love with.
There are songs I hear that tear me up inside and there is that instant of vertigo of "omfg where am I?" and it take me an instant to recover me - it's not Senior year anymore and we're not sneaking off to go have sex in the back seat.
The same can be said for our split history. In our time apart, a lot happened here (where we live now) and I hate living in the middle of the reminders. I see his ex-girlfriend sometimes and I alternate between wanting to punch him and punch her.

I take the long way and rock out to cds, and try to avoid those memories. I like knowing which me I am, you know?