Being a single mother is a brutal plot twist

Over the weekend I watched the movie American Woman.  The heroine (Deb) is a single woman in her early thirties who lives with her teenage daughter across the street from what’s left of her family in a working class town in Pennsylvania.  Deb has a job in some kind of big box store, smokes, drinks and has affairs with married men. She is a mess and her daughter, who’s just had a baby boy out of wedlock, seems to be following in her footsteps.

Deb is not a bad mother.  She’s just a pretty girl who got pregnant at sixteen and now grabs whatever fun she can regardless of consequences. Are there opportunities available to her that she’s not taking advantage of?  We really don’t know.  We only see her family becoming increasingly aggravated with her behavior.  Until … enter the cruel plot twist. 

The movie skips over a period of years to show Deb’s painful crawl toward a more socially acceptable lifestyle.  Finally, another cruel plot twist (this one expected) and she has enough self-confidence to leave town with her then teenage grandson.

I grew up in a gambling town. Many of my friends had single, working class mothers. Those with good legs worked as cocktail waitresses (better tips), those who were good at math were dealers, and those with no particular skills worked as maids or waitresses.  The casinos were open twenty-four hours, seven days a week, and holidays which gave them more flexibility in their working hours.  Men were generally bad news and the smart women preferred to go it alone depending on neighbors, who also worked at the clubs, for childcare help.

Mapes Hotel/Casino where my mom worked.

I guess there is a plus side to living in a gambling town.  But don’t make me say it twice. 

Here’s what bothered me about American Woman.  Being a single mother at any age is a brutal plot twist but being a teenage single mother is especially brutal. You don’t need to throw in the loss of a child to make their transformation acceptable to your audiences. 

Here’s the point that should have been made and wasn’t: American women who find themselves in Deb’s situation (for whatever reason) get no help from the government and are often blamed for the situation they are in.  I didn’t become a single mother until I was in my late thirties and had a college education.  Unless you have strong family support, it’s a brutal plot twist.

 

Gads – sounds like a stumping speech for Elizabeth Warren, doesn’t it?  It isn’t.  I’m still undecided.  But she does have a point. 

Who will win … Austen or Bronte?

2019 was, for me, a year of frustration.  I’d no sooner complete one project when I was late on another.  Things I assumed I’d handled successfully, unraveled into chaos.  Appointments were cancelled and rescheduled at the last minute. Checks and invitations got lost in the mail. 

You know … it was that kind of year and so when I heard that Masterpiece Theatre was broadcasting a new rendition of Jane Austen’s incomplete and posthumously published novel Sanditon, I figured, finally something to look forward to. But alas. Not that it was bad entertainment; it just wasn’t the Jane I’ve known all these years.  Below we have the hero and the heroine in some screenwriter’s idea of a romantic scene:

Mr. Parker: “I say Miss Heyward.  Would you mind dreadfully if I warmed my frigid male instrument in your silk petticoats?”

Miss Heyward:  “Mr. Parker. Kindly return to the sea so that the bass who nibbled off half your cock can bite off the rest!”

The first thing amiss for me about Sanditon was the father sending his daughter off to a naughty seaside resort with perfect strangers and only a brief admonishment to “trust no one.”  While it’s true that fathers in Austen novels tend to be either doddering hypochondriacs (as in Emma), vain and conceited nitwits (Persuasion), or witty curmudgeons (Pride and Prejudice)  they would have never sent their daughters off with a couple they just met.  

Mr. Bennet of P&P: For what do we live but to make sport of our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?

Even if her father was worthless (or dead), an Austen heroine could always depend on a wise older woman to dispense good sound moral judgment. In some cases the advice is wrong (Lady Russell in Persuasion) but it’s always well meant. The only woman giving advice to the heroine of Sanditon is Lady Denham who reminded me of an aging madam in a house of ill-repute.  No woman of that day and age would discuss money with a man except a prostitute. 

The heroine of Sanditon, Charlotte Heyward

Which brings me to the main character.  Was it just me or does the actress playing Charlotte Heyward bear an uncanny resemblance to Meghan Markel? I half expected Prince Harry to show up and  comment on her ruddy complexion. “I say, you’re no English Rose but won’t my granny shit her knickers if I marry an American divorcee!” 

The real Meghan Merkel

Instead Sidney Parker roars along a coastal cliff in a two person carriage scowling like a mad dog.  And why?  Apparently he’s responsible for a rebellious and suicidal heiress from the West Indies. Life is such a drag. Plot sound familiar? 

Rochester, old chap, you’re in the wrong production! Return to Jane Eyre, immediately.

Of course, being an Austen-inspired production, Charlotte and Sidney Parker will misunderstand each other, pout and huff about, and then fall madly in love after he selflessly saves the town.  However, if Bronte again haunts the screenwriters, we may find out Sidney Parker is secretly married to the heiress from the West Indies. After he suggests that they lock her in an attic and live in sin, Charlotte will have a come to Jesus moment, and run off to live on the moors with a religious zealot and his two sisters who coincidentally turn out to be long lost cousins.  When she finally returns, Sanditon will be in ruins and Sidney Parker hobbled and at her mercy.  A true Bronte ending to a Jane Austen story. 

ThursdayDoors: The Music of the Spheres

A few weeks before Christmas while cleaning out the storage area under the house in preparation for a new furnace and some asbestos removal work, I found this long neglected print.

The artist, a childhood friend, called it “The Music of the Spheres.”  It dates back to a time, when young, we both gave unconditionally of ourselves and our work, fully expecting that the universe always made right the innocent.  And it does, although not in the ways we expect.  I framed the print and it sits on the piano.  A good start to a New Year, making right at least one of the treasures cruelly hidden in storage.

I rarely post pictures of my family but here, for Norm’s Thursday Doors is my favorite picture from Christmas.  This little critter likes to slam doors in the faces of his elders.  I suspect he will find many fine doors to slam in his lifetime.

He sometimes gets along with this damsel of the neon lockes.

But she’s rapidly approaching the teenage years.  Oh my.  Enjoy – I tell the parents because the sun sets on everything.  Every year and every innocent friendship of youth.

 

 

 

Above, the last sunset of 2019 reflected in the window of a mobile home in a state park accessible to all.

Reflected in the wall of a gated community just across the street.

Looking up as the sky grew dark.

I hope this next year you uncover many hidden treasures, bring them to the light and enjoy them.

Emaciated Horses

Yes

tin hats

It comes to me and it comes again … like leaves circling in the wind, higher and higher away from the mud and blood upon my hands

A blank face, a lost bet, and let us consider the dead, let them awaken upon the river rocks, let them lift you upward

Look where the green blade sprouts through the eye socket and how there is advantage to everything if one can read the invisible signs

Take my hand little one and let us traverse in reverse to where you have come from, let us cut our bodies and go two by two into the genes of your blood, sit astride the lightning of who you are

Let me show you how it comes to me and then comes again and you can do it too

It comes to me in the blindness of shadows when the sun goes down and…

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Favorite Doors of 2019

For me, one of the bright spots of this year has been Thursday Doors, a  challenge by blogger Norm Frampton that encourages photographers (and those of us who point and click) to share entrances, arches, doors, and even sometimes windows from around the world, both the grand and the not so grand.  Sometimes those entrances have a backstory and sometimes they’re just whatever catches the eye.

My favorite doors from this year were actually garage doors.  I found them in a neighborhood of San Francisco known for its extremely diverse culture:  The Mission District.  Before the 1970s this area was heavily hispanic and not on any tourist’s map.  Then artists and hipsters, attracted by the low rents, began to move in.  They convinced home owners, restaurants and shop keepers to let them brighten otherwise dark and suspicious alleyways with their artwork.

Many of the murals (like the above) have political messages.  Others are whimsical.

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A few had cultural overtones. I don’t know what Che is doing in the above mural but there he is.
Because the Mission District is named after 1776 Mission Dolores, it’s not uncommon to see religious murals. Some are inexplicable.

To see other Mission doors click on any of these links

Finally, this door caught my eye down in San Diego.

In the park where we had breakfast one Sunday morning

It’s dark and rainy here and will be for the foreseeable future.  Jesus and Guillermo are in the basement removing asbestos (our furnace was condemned) and the cost of removing all of those sixty year old ducts and hopefully getting warm again has dulled the excitement of Santa Claus’ arrival. And so instead of filling the airwaves with uplifting stories and holiday cheer I’ve been on a grim mission to track down and label dead ancestors. 

 

On the back of this picture is written: In the park where we had breakfast one Sunday morning.

I’m guessing the woman wearing a head scarf and the man pouring the coffee are my great aunt Millie and her husband Ben.  I met them at least a couple of times when I was quite young and vividly recall thinking Ben was too handsome to be sentenced to life in a wheelchair. Shallow, I know but I was in the Disney princess stage.  As to how Ben came to be in a wheelchair, time has dulled my mother’s memory.  Was it WWI or polio?  Who knows.

This picture, and several others of a similar ilk, have nothing written on the back.  Nothing.  The bespectacled young woman in the front row, with the “you gotta be kidding me” look on her face, is my grandmother.  She was probably only sixteen but that look never changed.  I believe one of the two elderly women is my great-grandmother but mother can’t tell which one. 

Mother:  “I was dead before my grandmother was born.”

Me: “No mother.  I think you meant to say she was dead before you were born.  You’re still alive.”

“One of them could be Mrs. Pease,” she suggests, a neighbor lady who looked after her grandfather after his wife’s death.

“Which lady is Mrs. Pease? You must remember her.”

“I only remember their cow.  We used to bring it down to the barn so that Mr. Pease could milk him.”

Her, could milk her.”

“I remember the cow.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever played “identify the ancestor” with someone who can’t remember what day it is … but five minutes is my limit.  Of course, to a five year old all old ladies look alike but a cow – who could possibly forget their first crush, even if it was on a cow?

Unlike his daughter, my great grandfather seemed only too happy to have his picture taken.  In this gathering he’s the fella sitting on the right with a little girl on his lap.  The couple behind him are my grandparents and thus the little girl must be my mother. So who is the elderly lady sitting next to great gramps?  She can’t be his wife because we’ve already established that she died before my mother was born.  She must be that friendly neighbor lady, Mrs. Pease.

After comparing the two photographs  I believe Mrs. Pease is the lady on the right (below) which means the lady standing behind my grandmother could be my great grandmother. 

What do you think?

This assumption gained new legs when I compared photos of my great aunt Millie (from the Sunday picnic breakfast scene) through the years.

Here she is with my mother and uncle, aged 2 1/2 and 18 months respectively.

 

And years later at my mother’s wedding (on the left).  

Yup, I’m reasonably sure I’m right although I’ll never really know.  All I know for sure is that one Sunday morning long ago three people had breakfast in a park somewhere and apparently that’s how they wanted to be remembered.  

Name Dropper

I’ve known Duke since 2014 and this is the first time I’ve understood the dog and pony shows that people would rather see than the greed that will destroy us.

tin hats

I’m a name dropper.  We’re all name droppers … barking on all fours at the feet of the well-know, people just like us except they’re better looking, luckier, richer, probably more fucked up.

Cheryl Tiegs, the model, you remember her, right?  I asked her if she’d mind if I took my pants off in order to get a shot of penicillin.  I told her to just sit there, but she said, no I’ll wait in the hall.  That was a real missed opportunity.

Just back from the genocide and the phone rings.  I don’t answer.  Later I find out it’s Julia Roberts calling, she wants to come over to discuss what I saw.  A few days went by and a friend told me she had called, but by then she and Lyle had already left town.

Tipper Gore will be there and you have to show her around.  I said…

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