My niece went halfway up the ladder for the high dive and then back down. “You can’t go back down, once you go up, you have to dive,” a kid said to her. Stupid kid.
“I think you want to do it,” I told her. She climbed back up.
Last year beat me so hard I am still numb the first inch of my skin. I’m just realizing we have a woman nominated for the presidency. Obama meant something to me for my students, for who my neighbors were and who they could be. Hillary Clinton means something for me. People call her a bitch, and they call me a bitch, and some of them mean it as a compliment. So I try to take it that way.
I saw candy cigarettes on the counter at the ice cream shop on the boardwalk in Newport Beach. I threw them at our pile of treats. I was being Joan Didion, I read Didion on the beach. She explained the Santa Ana winds. She wrote:
There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point.
At Disneyland, we rode in the baby fire truck that Walt Disney drove around, in his day. And old man drove us down and up Main Street, USA, miniature town of something, nowhere, windows with inside-joke windows honoring artists and friends of theirs who built the place. I didn’t get why Disney was drawn to a fire truck, why little boys want fire trucks, is it just that they like vehicles that can do something? A hose and ladders on the sides of the truck.
I was in a bar with one of my favorite Republicans as Hillary gave her acceptance speech. The TV was on and muted. I heard the speech hours later. I have been so carefully avoiding news, since That One Guy has been splashing through our news every goddamn day. It surprised me to watch something about current events that felt good.
The night Bill Clinton was elected the first time, I had just gotten contacts for my birthday. I was sixteen. If he had been losing, I would have gone up to bed, depressed. I fell asleep on the couch and a contact came out of my eye somehow. They were the only pair I ever had with green tinting, they made my eyes greener. I forgave Bill.
In 1997, Kenneth Starr was wasting the time of the entire United States, and I was temping. The worst part was that instead of my engaging NPR shows marking the work hours, I was forced to listen to Starr’s hearings. Or bring CDs and a discman to work. Or The Portable Nietzsche, what I was reading then, what that year of temping looks like to me, the bronzed image of Nietzsche on the front.
It was hard to see Hillary then knowing she could not be president. Women couldn’t do that then. They couldn’t. It was absurd and accepted. I was required to wear pantyhose if I wore a skirt. So I wore long skirts. I felt girls could not be wild, or I didn’t know how they could. It took me a long time to figure it out.
A hundredish days until this election is settled, and everything can settle. In a hundred days I better have a job, I hope to vote in New York state, at least one more time, right now and as summer dies, there will be dry, dry wind.
Joan Didion from “Los Angeles Notebook.”
Image: “Wind,” Harold Anchel, Metropolitan Museum of Art.