CHAPTER ONE

 

 

1977 

July 15

North Hollywood

 

I float through a foggy mist toward a man’s welcoming arms. His face is obscured in shadow, but I know it’s him. My true love. I yearn for connection; hunger to drown in him as he envelops me in his arms. And then he whispers the words I’ve waited so long to hear: 

                                                                    "Je t’aime.”      

      Our lips softly touch in a slow, tender kiss as a flush of warmth floods through my body. He loosens my diaphanous flowing gown, caressing my face, my shoulders, my.....Yes, oh Yes, Yes! ...What the...? Ouch!

     

The dream evaporated along with my ethereal gown as thirty-five pounds of adorable shepherd terrier mix pawed at my old Berkeley T-shirt, poking, licking, barking “Let me out!”  

       “Okay, Lucy, go chase the squirrel,” I murmured, blearily crossing the room and letting her out into the pre-dawn light. She was so-o-o demanding, but I had to admit that Lucy had been my best (okay, only) bed partner for a while. I crawled back under the covers, eager to return to dreamland and that delicious kiss...when a ringing phone pierced through my sleep-fog. 

         Damn. In my stupor, I picked up the receiver, ready to slam it down and hang up, when I heard the words “Kate, it’s afternoon in Paris.  Time to work!”

          A job was calling. I covered the phone with one hand while I slipped out my dental retainer, blew my nose, and masked my fuzzy brain with enthusiasm.  

          “Bonjour, Patrice! It’s six a.m. in North Hollywood.  What’s so fabulous you couldn’t wait to call?” 

           “Kate, you have no idea! Our TV ratings will explode,” he exclaimed in near flawless English, yelling into the phone to make sure his voice carried all the way to LA.  “New studies of human sexuality. It’s at one of your universities, exactly what Cahiers de Californie needs. We’ll take sex out into the open. Forget Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson.  Old news.  These days it’s Louis B. Engler –– the French need to know!”

            I was skeptical that the French needed to know more about sex, but half-listened to Patrice’s passionate zeal, imagining him pacing around his office as far as his phone cord allowed, waving a cigarette in smoky circles to punctuate his daring idea.

           That’s how it always was with Patrice. I wouldn’t hear from him for months, then a call from Paris at some unholy hour, and he’s arriving in a week and I absolutely must help him produce another documentary for French TV’s Antenne 2. 

            Patrice Carrière had gone from covering the Vietnam War to what he enthusiastically called a new kind of conflict."The brave new frontier of California culture will invade France and liberate it from Old World stultification!  And who better than me to record it?"  

           As far as I was concerned, the ‘70s in L.A. had gotten out of hand. I wanted more stories of love and commitment; not Patrice’s recent focus on male strippers, roller skating discos, and women with guns.  I tried to dissuade him. “Sex studies? It’ll be difficult getting permission to film.”  

           “Kate, that’s your job. Find out where Engler is, what his research is about, and book him. I’m sure you’ll do your usual excellent work, as I’m paying your usual excellent salary.”  

           Patrice knew me too well.  I was on hiatus (i.e. unemployed), the mortgage payment was

 due, and he paid in cash. I instantly changed course. “I’ll do it, Patrice. Anything for you.” 

           “A wise decision, Kate. Maybe you’ll learn something, too,” he teased.  

            “Oui, monsieur. A bientôt!”  I hung up and shook away the last vestige of my dream.  I  had a job!      Lucy came bounding in for breakfast, then took her vigilant position under the kitchen table while I slurped cereal and read her the LA Times headlines.  

           “Hey Lucy, Led Zeppelin’s coming to the Forum.  Wow!” 

           Lucy pawed at the paper, eager to sniff out her own version of it. She had the enthusiasm of a four-year-old child, and the way things were going, maybe my only kid.  At least I didn’t have to send her to college or pay for a big wedding. In my precarious financial position, I was happy to keep her in kibble. 

           I’d accepted long ago that documentaries perched on the bottom rung of the Hollywood financial ladder.  It was my personal trade off: I lived from paycheck to paycheck, but in return the work fed my insatiable curiosity. I learned about everything from savage bees (scary) to alien astronauts (fake). I learned so much I did crossword puzzles in ink and was a whiz at trivia games. 

           So far I’d made it on my own. Free-lance jobs paid the mortgage on my old (but charming!) ranch house. The house was the only good thing I’d gotten out of an ill-conceived rebound marriage and not-quick-enough divorce. Case closed. Sure, I lived under a leaky roof surrounded by a wild garden, but there were also wood floors, shady trees, and French doors.  The bad things in my life? Don’t let painful memories get you down, right? Better to forge ahead.

       I admit there were a few small details I needed to work on: finding the right man, having a baby, discovering the meaning of life. In that order. But since I vowed not to repeat the mistakes I’d made in my questionable choice of males, the playing field had narrowed considerably. My dating life, along with my other goals, had gone into hibernation. 

        So what if I was thirty-five and slightly behind schedule? As Scarlett O’Hara said:                                                                          I’ll think about that tomorrow.

 

To be continued.....

copyright Joan Meyerson 2022