Fourier Analysis is a mathematical tool which can do a number of things: separate out signals from noise; help identify patterns or trends in data; filter out all unwanted data and focus on a single signal; use approximations to make generalizations; make approximations of real world signals (think electronic music); combine harmonics to get a stronger signal. That's what I'll be trying to do here!! Won't you join me with your comments?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A California Adventure

This story is part II of a continuing series I am doing for Soap Opera Sunday, sponsored by the beautiful 'Twas Brillig and the fantastic Walking Kateastrophe. Please visit them for more stories to make you laugh, cry, worry, commiserate, reminisce, live vicariously and enjoy reading.

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Why didn't some one stop me? Wasn't it totally obvious to anyone who knew me that this was a train wreck about to happen? Probably it was. But like with a train wreck, there was little anyone could do and they all knew it.

You see, even at 19, I "knew" it all. I was confident and smart and determined and strong-willed and had already proven in a number of instances that I could get what I wanted. So everyone just knew better than to try and talk me out of something that I had already set my mind to. No one really understood I wasn't in my right mind. And everything happened so fast that I think everyone was in shock. But I had already been living away from home for over 2 years and my brothers were both a handful. So my parents had enough to worry about and figured I would be okay. They had never really had to worry about me so were not used to thinking about how wrong this whole situation was. My Dad, bless him, did sit down and have a serious talk with BF, but they ended up laughing and telling good-ole-boy stories and so nothing came of it. My Dad told me many years later that he knew that even if this was a bad idea, I would eventually get my head on straight and get myself out of it. No one had any idea of how bad it would get before that happened.

This was only 3 months after my accident. Although I was, for all outward appearances, "recovered", and the memory lapses were less frequent or I was able to disguise them better, I still cannot remember much about this time. I have one strong memory of sitting in front of my closet, surrounded by boxes and a big trash bag, bawling my eyes out and feeling utterly desperate. You see BF had insisted that I get rid of all of my old love-letters, mementos, pressed flowers, old boyfriend pictures, etc. Ostensibly this was because we were moving and had to pack all our worldly possessions in a small U-Haul trailer. But he was not happy with me packing these things into boxes to store at my Mom's. He was insistent that I make a clean break for the start of our life together. While this seemed like a reasonable declaration of devotion and mild jealousy, it was actually just part of a pattern of controlling me and cutting me off from everything and everyone I had ever loved or who had loved me.

So I remember reading through some of the more precious declarations of affection from several special boyfriends. My first "real" love was prolific and poetic and it took hours just to read through his letters. But I could not bring myself to just throw them away without one more look. So there I was on a long lonely day, while BF was at work and taking care of various errands, reading, crying, wailing, reading more, and throwing away. I was also required to do this for the letters from my girlfriends. In fact, I had to dump a whole scrapbook I had made of my high-school years, keeping only the few photographs. I managed to put them and my high school yearbooks (containing all the messages from friends and schoolmates) in a box of books I was leaving behind at Mom's. I even hid a few tape-recorded letters in with some other music cassettes. By early evening, I had been alone for the longest period of time since the accident. I was emotionally exhausted, had filled 2 trash bags, had 2 boxes of things for my Mom's and no real shred of my past other than a few photographs of my family was to accompany me on my adventure to California. This was how I spent the day before my wedding.

I have no memory myself of the wedding, but have some "created" ones of me in the white halter dress I had worn the previous year to "Senior Day". It was a simple ceremony with just a few family friends, but none of my own, held at my Mom's house with a Justice of the Peace. In Texas, in 1977, you were of legal age at 18. You could drink, vote, sign a contract, get married, serve alcohol, sell cigarettes, etc. In California, most of these "rights" did not kick in until you were 21. BF was 20. I was 19, turning 20 the next month. The only way we could take care of one another while moving to/living in California was if we were married. I guess this was the argument that convinced my Mom about this as it kind of made sense. I can't tell you about the wedding night or much of anything leading up to the move. It is all just a kind of mixed blur of loading boxes and saying goodbyes. I did not know when I would be coming back.

One incident stands out in my mind. It must have been the evening before we were to leave for California. We went to see BF's grandmother who lived 40 min. away. I had met her once before, but she had not really bothered to speak to or notice me. She was a fairly wealthy old widow woman living in a very nice house with a housekeeper. BF and his Mom had told her of all the plans and she had even been invited to our wedding, but did no choose to come. So we came to have dinner with her and say goodbye. She spent most of the time crying and telling BF how it broke her heart to let him go and how her daughter had also made a mistake by marrying young and she hoped he would recover from it without too many problems. The only time she even deigned to speak to me was to inform me that her will was set up in a trust so that no spouses could get control of her daughter's and grandchildren's inheritance and I should just forget about expecting to benefit from anything. What a wonderful "welcome to the family" that was.

So we were off on our grand adventure to build our new life in California. I have a few nice memories of the trip. The Grand Canyon was spectacular. The Petrified Forest seemed like an alien landscape. The drive across Death Valley made me realize how appropriate it was named. California did seem like the promised land after that. Lush and green and lovely. I had an uncle and his family in San Pedro, but BF was anxious to get settled so we went directly to his Mom's place. She lived in a beautiful mobile home community near Ontario, California, about 40 miles East of Los Angeles. She lived with her "boyfriend" (BF's parents were divorced when he was very young) in a "double-wide" trailer that had a guest room for us.

The day after we arrived, we went to see this wonderful restaurant we were about to start managing. I don't know exactly where it was, but it was not too far away in a fairly rural area. Restaurant is not really the right term for it. Cafe might be a better term. Salmonella Haven is what I termed it in my mind. While we had looked over the accounts and it seemed as if this was a really going concern, when we arrived, after the "lunch rush" apparently, it was to find two customers finishing up their coffee, and the owner and his wife were "clearing up" (cleaning is not a word that could or had been used in that place for a long while).

This business was located right next to a very large stock yard. Its main customers were the truckers hauling cattle. Breakfast was served starting at 5AM. As the only eating establishment in the area, it did a booming turnover in eggs, coffee, and toast. Lunch was less busy, which was probably a blessing for the poor waitress/wife who looked run off her feet. The menu was limited as there just was not much call for anything other than simple truck-driver fare in large portions. The "added bonus" was the living quarters that came with the establishment. It was right upstairs with a great view (and unobstructed smell) of the miles of cattle pens and feed lots that surrounded it on all sides.

I won't describe it any further, as it was just one long, horrible, nightmare with goulish details at every turn. Shortly after we arrived I went to the restroom. The restroom. Only one, no male & female. Used by all of the customers who frequented the place. Truckers. I could not even throw up in that toilet. I just grabbed the sink to steady myself, turned on the water and splashed my face, and caught a glance of myself in the mirror and had a moment of clarity that I had not had in months. Every fiber of my being was screaming "No". I could not take it. Not the smell. Not the flies (I didn't mention them, use your imagination, it defies description). Not the accumulated grease and grime. There was no amount of money you could pay me to stay there.

BF, his mother and her boyfriend were busy chattering away with the owner who was bragging about how this was such as great business and how reluctant he was to sell it. As he said those words, I got a glimpse of the look on his wife's face as she stopped wiping down a table to look up at her husband. She was horrified that he might not want to sell and she would be condemned to continue the drudgery that she was in. She then caught me looking at her and a pained expression passed quickly over her face before she turned back to her work.

I don't remember the conversation I had later that evening with BF. I remember a lot of crying and shouting. I remember him getting so angry he turned pale and stormed out. His mother came in later and told me I was crushing his dreams. I told her that if this was his dream, she had failed as a mother to inspire him to improve himself, but that what I had seen had qualified for me as a version of hell I had not dreamed of and did not aspire to. I was eloquent in my righteousness. Mother-in-law's boyfriend joined the conversation trying to show me the books, going over 6 months of accounts to show that this was a "goldmine". I glanced at the papers and immediately noticed that while there were six months of accounts, it was not a continuous period. I pointed this out.

The conversation stopped while they looked at the figures more closely. BF came back and they all got on the phone with the realtor. Later that evening they got the figures for the entire year. It seems the business has some seasonality to it. Only in the months where there were auctions and stock were being transferred did the restaurant do any business. The months in between there were almost no customers. So there was no real income for 4-5 months of the year. Something that had not been fully disclosed, but was stated in the fine print somewhere.

So suddenly all talk about buying a restaurant was dropped. Now we had to think about getting jobs and a place to live. But we were "underage", so could not work in any place that sold alcohol. This included the pizza business where BF had most of his experience. Our choices were limited to McDonalds and other fast-food establishments, with all jobs paying only minimum wages and little or no chance of tips. After 3 weeks with only enough in my savings for airfare home, I informed BF that I was returning to Texas. BF's Mom was urging us to stay, saying she she knew of a place coming up for rent in the mobile home community and there was a groundskeeper job available there that would be perfect for BF. I told BF could come or not, the choice was his, but I was going "home". In a week's time we had again packed up a U-Haul and were headed back to Texas.

I don't know why I said he could come with me. I guess I had barely mustered enough strength to stand up to BF and his Mom about the restaurant and then moving back to Texas. I was suddenly coming to grips with the fact that I had gotten married and I hadn't even really thought about it. I was in a state that did not regard me as an adult, though I had been supporting myself already for 2 years. I had just celebrated my 20th birthday, and no one had even noticed until after a my Mom called congratulating me. I was lonely and confused and for the first time in my life I felt like I had really screwed up something. I had failed. And I was coming back home with my head down and my tail between my legs. I guess I wasn't ready to admit that my marriage was a failure as well.

So when BF decided that his best options were probably also in Texas, I did not object. I was relieved that I was not returning alone, and besides he was a nice guy and seemed to really love me, so maybe it wasn't so bad.

It wasn't then. It was later...

14 comments:

Dedee said...

My heart is cringing when I think about what is coming--and I don't even know what it is.

Next week will be slow in coming.

(Is this cathartic for you?)

Jen said...

I'm going to read this tomorrow... my brain is fried tonight.

summershine said...

I'm glad you stood up to them about the restaraunt.

Brillig said...

Oh my gosh, FA. This is crazy, intense, horrifying. Like Dedee said, I'm bracing myself for your next installment--I don't know what happens next, but I know it's not good! Yikes.

Robin said...

Reading this I'm so glad that I've gotten a glimpse into how your future turned out. I hope the road to get there wasn't as painful as I'm imagining it's about to be from what I read here.

anno said...

FA, I'm so glad to know that somewhere after all this, there is a happy ending where you live in Germany, meet a German/Italian scientist, and then live in a country that is a perpetual garden and raise two beautiful daughters. This is scary stuff. I can hardly believe you were alert enough to notice the lapses in the books (I sure wouldn't have been, back then), but I'm glad you were.

soccer mom in denial said...

I'm so with Anno on this one. To know you are at the other end of this story makes it much more bearable to read (I can't imagine living).

Bravo for getting out of the cattle cafe. What a nightmare.

Kateastrophe said...

Holy crap. This is so crazy! I feel like I'm reading fiction but it's not! I can't wait for next week!

Jen said...

Yup, ditto Anno and SMID - this is why I waited until today to read - I knew this was going to be very, very heavy. I had a similar experience around the same age - 1979 instead of 1977. You're being very, very brave writing this. Huge, huge hugs to you, FA.

Fourier Analyst said...

Ah, if only it were fiction... My life would have been much different from now, but not necessarily any better. Still there are some lessons I wish I had not had to learn the "hard way". Next week's installment is proving very difficult to write. It is cathartic, but brings up so many things I have not looked for such a long time. Gonna be a lot of cryin' for me this week, so I may not post much. Be sure and have the tissues handy next week...

Goofball said...

what a thriller...sorry to hear that it wasn't fiction for you then.

Luisa Perkins said...

Wow, FA. It broke my heart to read this. What a creep, making you get rid of all your mementos. You're a good writer; you should turn this into a book!

Adventures In Waitressing said...

Thank God you didn't get into that restaurant. That sounds like the worst place in history. Really nervous about what you are going to tell us next.

Jenn in Holland said...

There isn't much more to say here than to echo the comments above mine. This is a heavy, amazing, almost unbelievable tale. The fact that it is every word true makes it all the more chilling.
I too am impressed that you saw the discrepancies in the books and stood up for it. I couldn't have done that at 20 years old. I know I couldn't have. What a blessing to you to have such a strong knowledge of who you are and what you are capable of... even if it got lost in the muddle a little bit.
I am gathering the tissues for next week's installment.
Love you friend.