“Something I know (another memoir)”
By Dusty Nathan
It would be a lot easier to write about the things I don’t know anything about. At first glance, I wanted to write about my keen sense of knowing people and a focused ability to motivate people. Yet, within those intuitive talents, originates the thing I know best.
Then again, I hesitate to say I know anything well. Decades ago, I recall thinking true knowledge might be the understanding of how limited we are to understanding anything in totality. But without further ado the thing I know something about is putting my observations and feelings on to paper as the written word.
I began writing about the time I learned how to write, because I couldn’t paint. My mom was an artist and one of the earliest Flower Child types. Each morning at daybreak she woke me and made me breakfast. Then it was off to the room with the big windows where my easel was set up next to hers. The problem was I couldn’t draw a stickman – still can’t. As an aside, my walls are covered with oils, and I’ve had recent yearnings to learn to paint. I’ll probably go over to the Philadelphia Art Museum, as the Cezanne exhibit has opened; many women I’ve dated over the years were artists. Art surrounds me like a protective cover that I’ve really never understood. Just another thing, I’ll never really understand.
My earliest writings were poems about Love and God. I remember how much my mom enjoyed reading and showing my work to her artsy friends. You know the types, gay, hippie, posers who dress w-a-y too flamboyant, but go to the “right” restaurants, drink the right vegetables in the morning and the “right” wine at night. They like to talk about wine, vineyards, music, art, brushstrokes, love, sex, sex, sex . . . I hated them.
But I digress. I hated them so much that when I was nine, I burned those early writings on my mother’s expensive Bengali rug in the living room, just off the room with the big windows where my easel was set up next to hers.
Here’s something I know: Retribution is an ugly thing.
I spent my afternoons in my room for quite some time, had to visit the “doctor” once a week for months, and never was allowed near matches again. It was in
my room that the thoughts began. I wrote them down and perhaps had hundreds of pages of what I called Nothings by the time I had my first date at 12.
It was a double date with my best friend, Rick, who wanted me to start calling him Richard. My date was with a girl named Avis. Funny, Avis Rental Car had an ad on TV and I still remember teasing her that night at the bowling alley about “We try harder.” Richard and I prepared for our date for two or three weeks, and we took a bus down to Culver City (just across the street from MGM Studios) to the shopping center – no malls yet – and went to the drug store. We walked and walked around in there for about half an hour before getting up the nerve to go to the counter to buy some “rubbers.” Of course, this was long before I lost my virginity, but I carried that Trojan in my wallet for years. Never actually used it though.
But I digress. The family moved back east to Virginia. There I found out my father was cheating on my mom and he swore me to secrecy and bribed me with a brand new sports car and shipped me back to Beverly Hills. I moved into W.C. Fields’ house on Canon Drive, but the owners now were Murray, who created the Water Pik, and his actress wife, Rosalyn. I came about the place because Richard’s girlfriend, Missy, was their daughter and he hooked it up for me via long distance. Rosalyn knew something was wrong, but I never let on. I’ve never let on. Here’s something I know: certain things are so painful that a strong man carries the burden in privacy to death. Or is that the fears of a weak man?
Anyway, I went to Beverly Hills High, and worked at Jaccamo’s Pizzeria on little Santa Monica Blvd. I delivered to everybody including stars like Burt Reynolds, who gave me a $20 tip in an era when my average tip was .50 cents. I still remember the Sunday morning delivery up on Sunset Strip some 25 years ago. Also, I worked at the L.A. Free Clinic and met writer Ray Bradbury and his wife there. They spent a lot of time getting through to me and I can honestly say I don’t know if I’d be here today had they not intervened, by taking the time to listen and guide a young lost soul.
The boring stuff? I wrote daily and I was published. I’ve written poems, lyrics, songs, news, columns, opinions, memoirs, short stories, papers and blah, blah, blah. They paid me. I typed. When I was younger, I jammed.
I wrote because it was the only thing I could do. I knew I never did it well. It was just that I was able to understand the ways of the world. Maybe too early. From a “wealthy” background, I inherently learned what deprivation and poverty – of spirit – are all about. Here’s something I know: Love is the only thing that is eternal. An honest name is the most important thing to own.
“How does one know when they understand something well,” you might ask. With me, it has always been empathic. If I feel it in the sense of laughter or tears, I usually have a fair insight. I’ve never really wanted to know anything after my revelations of the amount of feeling it takes to “really” know something. So, I try to teach my children to become part of the story; to be part of the people we are quick to judge – step into their shoes with their mindset. I see people as being 99.9999 percent the same; although I love the 100,000th percentage of difference.
I surrounded myself with great editors, musicians and had a God-given gift of gab that allowed me to live on the edge with some of the greatest people from many diverse walks of life – and to see 49 states and 80 nations.
But I digress. I would love to learn to paint . . .