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...

1 comment:

Ilona Linden said...

Dear Lisa, Thank you for sharing your memories of Donne with us. Several of us from her distant past (San Marino and beyond) reunited recently, and we were stunned to learn of her death. In an effort to find more information, I googled her name and discovered your blog. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it was to read about your friendship with Donne. I found myself nodding my head in agreement and smiling at many of your observations.
I will try my best to be patient as I await further installments, but I can guarantee you that it won't be easy.
Some of my friends who were close to Donne at various stages of her life may wish to contact you.