Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Friend That Comes Along Once in Lifetime, Part One: Our Own Private Malibu

Ten years ago on Thanksgiving morning a special light went out in the world. That light's name was - is - will always be Donne Pinsky, born January 7, 1958. As best I can, and understanding that I won't be able to come near being able to put into words what Donne meant to me, continues to mean to me more than 40 years later. I've been lucky in my life to have friends from my childhood, women who have known me since I was nine or ten. Donne was one of those. This is an attempt to honor the friendship I miss so much. To honor the friendship that defined what a friendship could be.

It will come in parts because 40 years is too much to put into one post.

Part One - Our Own Private Malibu:

I met Donne in 1969 or 1970 at Camp Hess Kramer, a reform Jewish summer camp nestled in the Malibu Hills. We were both 9 or 10 years old. I came from Downey. Donne lived in San Marino. We were in the cabins next door to one another, named after Jewish women of the Old Testament. Leah. Rachel. Sarah.

Donne had long brown hair parted down the middle. She was short and wore overalls. I had short hair that had me often, and painfully, mistaken for a boy. We instantly liked each other and discovered a common love for the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin and Simon and Garfunkel. One of Donne's favorite things to do every morning was to run into our cabin and in her best Peppermint Patty voice, wish us all a good morning.

What also drew us together was our intense love for the camp we came to think of as our soul-home. It's hard to explain to those that didn't either go to camp, or who didn't like the camp they went to, but for 8 years of my life, summers at Camp Hess Kramer, and subsequently, Gilding Hilltop, were the most important summers of my life. Within the context of Judaism, I discovered myself, a self that was independent of the identity through my older brothers, my parents, our family.

For Donne, camp was the place she could escape the overly white and not-very-Jewish place she was growing up in. From the very beginning of our friendship, Donne showed a desire to be a part of the larger world that would eventually have living in many parts of the world. She had an early worldliness that was remarkably grounded.

After that first summer of our friendship, we wrote to each other and called and became part of a girl pack of five where we had slumber parties for each birthday, complete with Mad Libs, dirty jokes, dares and all the rest. One summer Donne and I decided to talk our parents into a second session. Both set of parents told us that if we wanted to go we had to earn our way. Donne and I went into the babysitting, car washing, house cleaning, dog feeding and whatever else we could get our hands on to earn a total of $185 each for two extra weeks in our own private Malibu. It took us all fall, winter and spring, but by the time the deposits were needed to reserve our space, we had the money.

One of the other things that bound Donne and I so closely together was that we both understood what it felt like to be outsiders at camp, as many of the others went to school together in the more fashionable areas of Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills.

I loved being at Donne's house. Her mother was a ceramic artist, her father a psychiatrist. I don't even know that at ten or eleven I even knew what a psychiatrist was, but I knew it had something to do with very modern furniture and listening to George Carlin's "7 Words You Can't Say on TV." I was introduced to Woody Allen at the Pinsky's house, as well as silent movies and I'll forever be grateful to them for taking me to El Chollo's Mexican restaurant. Her mother was gentle and funny.

Donne loved my family. Loved my dad's down to earth, quiet nature. Loved my brother's teasing and the strong ties that ran through us all.

We were each other's confidantes during the impossible adolescent years, whispering on the phone about how to use tampons, what size bra we wore, what the heck the difference was between second and third base. But we never referred to each other as best friends. Somehow we knew that the term was too immature for a friendship that was destined to last a lifetime. We understood, without every saying so.

When my family moved from Downey to Culver City, (on the West Side of LA!), instead of it causing a rift between us, it brought us closer because Donne's mother was part of a ceramic artist's cooperative and it meant we could spend more time together. Together we discovered the fine art of second hand and resale stores that populated the then extremely uncool Culver City.

Donne was a year a head of me in school and during her junior year in high school she made the decision to graduate and get the hell out of San Marino. She was fluent in French and lived with a family in Grenoble for her senior year. Her itch to travel was just beginning to be scratched, while my discovery of theater was just getting started. We supported each other in our dreams, although she was always more pragmatic and practical about making hers more of a reality. After Grenoble, she went to UC Berkeley, living in a co-op where pot plants grew in the window boxes. I went off to Northwestern and after we both graduate, we both ended up back in Los Angeles.

We didn't need to pick up where we'd left off, because we'd never left off. We just got to see more of each other and eased into our early 20's together, going to movies, eating great food and laughing. There was always laughing. Side-splitting, stomach aching laughter.

We also hung out in Laguna Beach, at a place her parents had picked up for weekend retreats. It was there I first heard Miles Davis or Mel Torme, drank red wine and fell asleep to the sound of waves. It was also there that Donne let me know that without a plan, the idea of being an actress would only be that - an idea. She was pragmatic and urged me to follow through on the daily actions of my dreams. It was advice I'd never gotten and is one that I still rely on when my dreams get ahead of my lagging practicality.

It was around 1986 or 1987 that Donne announced to me that she was going to graduate school at Johns Hopkins in the international politics program. Washington DC. Her life would completely change there. Mine would change soon after and both for the same reasons. Love...

to be continued...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Ugliest Bathroom in Boulder MINE

About two months ago, I read an article in the Boulder Daily Camera about "Invironments," an eco-friendly furniture and remodeling store in Boulder who was celebrating their 3rd anniversary, as well as acknowledging the difficult economic year, with a "Bathroom Confessions" contest. The winner, who would tell why she or he deserved a redone bathroom through a compelling and inspiring tale of turning lemons into margaritas, would get an environmentally friendly and beautifully upgraded bathroom worth $15,000.

Here's the thing. I'm a sucker for sweepstakes. Five years ago, I talked a dear friend into nominating me for TBS's "Dinner and a Movie" makeover contest and I won it. It was a silly thing, but at that point, with three children under the age of five and during a time when I rarely wore anything but my sweats and fleece, I needed some pampering. My friend met me at the Trident Booksellers and Cafe on Pearl Street and in the midst of our second cup of coffee, a stretch limo pulled up and out popped two well coiffed folks who were obviously not from Boulder, each bookended with someone holding a large microphone and video camera. They thrust the camera and microphone into my face and told me I had won a whirlwind day of pampering and new clothes.

I howled and hopped into the limo, where a chilled glass of champagne was waiting for me, camera rolling. The producer ran into the bookstore with my friend, who later told me that when they asked the guy behind the counter to sign a release, he asked what was going on. When they told him I had won a makeover, he paused and asked, "A spiritual makeover?" One of the many reasons why I love where I live.

I spent the rest of the day in a movie star trailer having my hair colored and highlighted, blown dry (and straight), beautified with makeup and then gussied up with fantastic clothes. I felt like a million bucks. I didn't even mind that the entire thing was just an extended commercial for Cover Girl and Nice and Easy, I was feeling great and taking home lots of booty to boot.

The kicker was that at the end of the makeover, I was to emerge from the trailer, and for the new me to be revealed to my husband and kids. The reason why this is a kicker is that my
husband hates makeup and my kids, well, they're kids. When I came out of the trailer, my husband was standing there with my kids dressed in the oddest outfits, hair unkempt and I sweat, grape jelly on their faces. On national TV. I don't even remember what my husband was wearing, except it wasn't much better. The kids took one look at me and started crying. I sashayed over to my husband, my eyes pleading with him to just play along. As the cameras closed in on our romantic embrace, when my husband's lust for the new, improved me was supposed to be shown for all the TV-world to see, he leaned in and said, "You know I hate lipstick." I smiled my best theater school smile and whispered back, "Get over it or I'll never have sex with you again." We smiled for the camera.

After three days of straight hair, I let my hair go back to it's natural post-twins, peri-menopausal sort of waves. I'm happy to say I've donated the clothes to a woman back to work organization since my now Bikram yoga body has rendered them too big.

Fast forward to tonight. I entered Invironments with a certain degree of trepidation, but determined to go by myself, not wanting to get my kids' hopes up of our bathroom finally getting redone and quite frankly, the memory of the very public reveal of my last sweepstakes win stays pretty fresh. I wanted to suffer the potential humiliation all on my own, although I did try to recruit the same friend from the last one to meet me there for a good laugh, but she wisely passed.

But as soon as I showed up, I relaxed. It was great to roam around the store, imagining how the gorgeously toned furniture, counters, cabinets, lighting and fixtures would look in our home. I sipped wine and tweeted about how pleased I was didn't know anyone there. The crowd was classic Boulder, hip, fit and self-conscious.

Jodi Feinhor-Dennis, Invironments' lovely owner and the evening's emcee, gathered the crowd together and explained how difficult a process it had been to decide on who would win the contest and how moved she was by the 55 contestants' stories. Her assistant, Katy, brought up a PowerPoint presentation and they showed a few samples of the competing bathrooms. And that they had made the decision to offer up some consolation prizes such as a convenient lay-away program, as well as a DIY coaching program with KBC's Mark.

The PPT presentation displayed a slide which read: 1st runner up and winner of "ugliest bathroom." The mouse clicked and then there it was, for the entire room to see - MY BATHROOM, I squealed and proudly took my white as freshly fallen snow organic cotton shower curtain and bar of rosemary and lavender soap as if I'd just won an Oscar.

President Obama can proudly claim having won the Nobel Prize for Peace for the potential of what his administration and presence represent, but he has the burden of now having to prove that it was the right choice. I have nothing to prove because I've won the distinction of the Ugliest Bathroom in Boulder County for something I've known I've had for almost ten years. An already established and now vindicated fact, nothing I need to prove. I can rest easy I have already accomplished this.

What's next after winning this kind of distinction? I'm still basking in the glow of the evening, but my first thoughts go to the following:
  • Holding an Ebay auction of the "Ugliest Bathroom in Boulder County"and let the highest bidder have at it
  • Running my own contest to transform this ugly duckling into the swan I know it can be.
  • Pitching my story to HGTV
  • Taking the "Ugliest Bathroom in Boulder County" on tour
  • Letting the "Ugliest Bathroom in Boulder County" have a crack at national and international exposure - why should I limit it's ugliness to just the county level?
In the meantime, I can go to bed with a clear mind and happy heart. Thank you, Invironments Design, for validating what I've always known and harangued my family and friends about. The sweet victory of owning the "Ugliest Bathroom in Boulder County" is mine. All mine.