Friday, May 27, 2016

Cannot Go Home Anymore

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 6/12/2008)

Cannot Go Home Anymore
Feeling awkward and clumsy
and fallen from grace
the doors and the windows are closed in my face
I feel displaced
all the locks have been changed
and we cannot go home anymore

The woman is awkward
the child is wise
so look at this placed through those innocent eyes
they don’t see the lies
that live in the woodwork
and we cannot go home anymore

I wish that I could do without it
sing and laugh and shout about it
wish I could see through the walls
and the curtain calls
that put on this show
but no–
The lighting is different
you can see that at a glance
and, standing divided, we’re trying to dance
they’ve sealed the past
revealed at last
that we cannot go home anymore

written by Lynn Maudlin; © Moonbird Music Co. 1974, all rights reserved
When I was 22 my parents moved from Los Angeles to San Diego, selling the house I grew up in. I have faint, fleeting memories, only flashes really, of the house we lived in the first scant two years of my life so, for practical purposes, I’d lived my whole childhood in this house. I literally got married in this house, at the tender green age of 17 to my high school boyfriend; a friend of the family played the love theme from Romeo and Juliet on the baby grand piano in the living room; later we all sat down to a dinner of cornish game hens.

It was a terrific house: five bedrooms, seven bathrooms (well, five full baths and two half baths) on a corner lot in Los Feliz. Summer evening traffic was a pain because we were on the Greek Theatre route but we knew how to drive to avoid the worst of it. It was lovely to be able to walk up the hill to attend most of the Crosby, Stills & Nash concerts (Neil Young was added between the booking and the gigs), either by an employee-friend letting us in, or patrons leaving after hearing Joni Mitchell (yes, she opened for the boys), or in the trees if need be…

It had a large lot with plenty of room for a swimming pool but my parents weren’t interested. In fact, there had been a pool in the house when first built, a therapeutic pool for a wheel-chair bound owner, in the middle of the patio. We called it “the patio” in accordance with the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition:
The Spanish word patio refers to the roofless inner courtyard that forms the center of the house in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world. In English, however, the word has come to have a broader meaning and can also refer to paved spaces that adjoin a house. Patio first appears in English in the 1700s in descriptions of houses in the Spanish-speaking world.
My parents remodeled the kitchen and dining room, adding a sliding glass door from kitchen to patio as well as a wet counter with a pass-through window, making it very easy to have outdoor buffets; after that we often ate outdoors at a small table round table, even breakfast throughout much of the year.

It was a great space for parties. I remember my dad inviting many people from his work at the Naval Ordinance Test Station to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon on July 20th of 1969. My dad and older brother managed to lug the massive color television set up onto the roof, facing the patio, and we set up chairs and folding chairs and maybe even borrowed chairs so we could all watch that incredible event. I was already pregnant, although no one knew and I wouldn’t be sure for another few weeks.

After Pete and I got married we moved into the “rumpus room” - it was a massive room with a separate entrance and bath (–of course!); the single-story house was situated on a gentle slope so this room was on the downside at the back of the house, about two feet below ground level at its entrance and probably 6 feet below ground level at the deepest point. This made it a naturally cool room, very pleasant in the summer. My folks had a 21-foot travel trailer parked behind the house, about 15 feet from the rumpus room door and we used its little kitchen. We lived there for eight or nine months while we both graduated from high school (I skipped ahead to graduate in February, seven months pregnant, and Pete graduated, president of the senior class, in June. I brought our son to the graduation ceremony; we were a big hit). I remember timing my labor in that room, finally waking Pete at midnight on a school night (!!) to say, “I think you’d better drive me to the hospital now.” Seven hours later our son was born.

My grandparents had moved out from Iowa about 6 years earlier and bought a house a mile or so away, a “triplex” - a three bedroom house on the bottom and two one bedroom apartments upstairs; when one of their tenants moved out, we were offered the vacant apartment at no increase of rent, I don’t remember if it was $75 or $80 per month. We took it gratefully and that’s where we were living when the big Sylmar Earthquake hit in February of 1971.

I remember the sound of the timber tearing, a soft roaring sound, and of course the insistent rattling of the windows. Every aftershock brought that window-rattling and for days my adrenaline would punch skyhigh; this was my first fear-of-death experience, the first time I really believed I might die - and I had absolutely no control over it.

I couldn’t stand being in the apartment so we bundled into the car and drove up to my folks’ house, my old home. It just felt more solid (well, it was more solid) and I was there when a Navy operator managed to get through the jammed phone lines, checking on our well-being for Dad, who was on one of his frequent business trips back to D.C.

Some eighteen months later, I moved back into that house with my son and lived there for a school year (August or September to June of 1973). My folks did an admirable job of letting me have some autonomy without entirely compromising their boundaries and standards; looking back at it I’m very impressed, although I didn’t have the maturity to appreciate it at the time. I made a close friend at L.A.C.C. and we rented a bizarre little apartment together: it was the upstairs of four garages with a stairway up the middle, two large rooms on either side in the front, a small bedroom, a bathroom with no door and the kitchen on the backside. Beth took the northern front room and I took the southern front room and my son took the little bedroom; I painted a concentric rainbow on his ceiling and stippled the color gradations - it was really beautiful.

We had a wild and woolly time for a bit more than a year, as I recall, and then that same upstairs apartment in my grandparents house became available again; I moved back.

My parents owned a lot with two houses on it, maybe a mile and a quarter from their home; the long-term tenants moved out of the front house concurrent with some friends looking for a rental property so Beth’s older brother and his wife and my son and I moved into this three bedroom house and I was living there when my folks decided to move to San Diego.

It wasn’t entirely their choice; the Navy Lab in Pasadena was closing and relocating to Point Loma and it wasn’t thinkable for my dad not to go; after all, he had all those computers to move and a couple of hundred people working for him at this point. The housing market had boomed in San Diego and was soft in L.A. - it took them more than a year to sell the Los Feliz home; I remember my dad getting nervous about the possibility of not selling it within the window for the rollover capital gains exclusion (that would have been disastrous).

During this time I did some of the care of the property. My former roommate Beth’s other older brother moved into the small front bedroom of my old home and kept the lawn mowed and the house occupied while real estate agents brought clients in and out and tried to sell the place.

Somewhere early in that window I wrote this song, Cannot Go Home Anymore, with apologies to Thomas Wolfe whose novel You Cannot Go Home Again was published posthumously in 1940. Writing the song was the way I processed the loss of this massive, solid, amazing house that I’d lived in for nearly 18 years of my life and around whose gravitational pull I’d orbited in every successive and intervening move. There were nine moves in less than eight years, all but one in the same zip code.

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