Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reflecting Without a Cause

The first time I ever watched Rebel Without a Cause I thought it was way too melodramatic for my taste. James Dean's Jim and Natalie Wood's Judy acted like their entire lives were ruined by their unaware parents. Crying, screaming, pain filled expressions, arms wrapped around the face, fingers pulling their hair. My eyes would roll with annyance until one day I rewatched this film and the memories of my own teen years came pouring forth into my consciousness. I realized that I had acted just like Jim and Judy.

At 16 years old my parents went up to Victoria, Canada for a rare weekend away. While they were gone, I took their car out on a snowy morning, slid on black ice as I was going down a hill, did three 360 degree spins, a mailbox smashed through my front passenger seat, and I and the car landed in a tree. I didn't know what to do with a totaled car and didn't want to unnecessarily ruin my parent's weekend, so I just left it there to be seen by them as they drove home two days later. Worried with no idea what had happened or if I was alive. They were upset but surprisingly calm. My step-dad told me I would have to pay the insurance deductible of $500, causing me to subsequently lay on the living room carpet bawling my eyes out saying they were ruining my life and that I would never have that much money. They were cruel and didn't even appreciate that I let them have a lovely time away without me informing them of my accident. I was the one that saw snow and ice outside and decided to still drive in their car. I was the one that got in the accident with their car and left the car in the street for them to find and think something terrible had happened to me. My own responsibility in this mess didn't compute at all. Instead, I decided that these parents of mine were at fault. They were, after all, making me pay the deductible and that wasn't fair. In fact, life wasn't ever fair. I would never have any money to ever do anything fun ever again. My own melodrama was quite comparable to that of Jim. It could have easily been me screaming that famous line, "You're tearing me apart!"

On Sunday, I took a hike up to Griffith Park Observatory where James Dean and his new classmates went for a field trip that ends in a knife fight. I was thinking about how my life seemed so complicated and helpless as a teen, and yet there was so little I had to figure out. I wasn't paying for anything besides my car insurance and gas...and that deductible. I wasn't dating with the criteria being whether this person would make a stable and loving spouse. I wasn't even trying to make good grades so that I would have a bright future. Life was all about the moment and what I was feeling right then. Anything more than the now was too exhausting and overwhelming. Making it to the top of the mountain and seeing the cement wall that overlooks the L.A. skyline and the Hollywood sign, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the emotional stability that time away from adolescence has granted me. Hardships come and go, but thank God I'm not on the floor or hunched over with a tear stained face crying that my life is over. When trials enter my life, all I need now is a breath of fresh air, some exercise, prayer time, and a deep reflective conversation with a good friend.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

Astronomer's Monument in the front lawn of The Griffith Observatory.

Bust memorial of James Dean in the area that the Rebel Without a Cause fight scene was filmed.

The fight scene fimed at The Griffith Observatory in 1955.

L.A. skyline--smog and all.

A fancy vintage telescope.

Part of the hike.

Gus took a potty break while Alex walked him.

My hot hotdog.

The melodramatic one in my household. Gus was acting like it was 110 degrees instead of the 74 degrees it was, and took a break in every single shady spot he could find.

Alex showing off her 1980's visor.

Gus doesn't want to see the view. No interest.

My hiking apparel: Floral tank razer back tank from Urban Outfitters; vintage high-waisted Levi cutoffs from the flea market; thrifted leather belt with pocket (I kept my camera in it); vintage brown hat from American Rag Company.

Close-up on my thrifted version of the fanny pack.
Close-up on my vintage hat from American Rag Company on La Brea in L.A.

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