My Light




M y earliest memory is of a large white house, something like a Southern plantation house fronted by Greek columns, blindingly white, glimpsed through the windshield of the car my mother was driving. I was about one year old. She left me there, inside this large, white house. I never saw her again.


It was a place for orphaned children. After my mother realized my father would not leave his own wife and children as he had promised, the pressure to put me up for adoption was evidently too great to resist. It was 1951 in Southern California and my mother was from a proud military family. She loved me, I was later told, but the situation was unacceptable, especially to her parents. She loved me, but everyone agreed that “a boy should have a father.” It was a solution. It did not make everything all right. Nothing could do that. After all, we’d been together every day during my first sixteen months of life. She was my mother.

My insecurity was born that day. If I could lose my mother, my home and everything I’d ever known in such an instant, then what was left? Who could I trust?

I grew up seeing the world as a threat, expecting to be rejected by everyone, expecting to lose everything. I expected abandonment. My fears were fueled by the cruel and abusive parents who adopted me. This is my darkness.

I also grew up seeking the truth about my first year and a half of life, hidden from me for so long. In the process I learned there is much about our lives that is hidden by pretense and artifice – hidden by others; hidden by ourselves. And in this search, in finding the truth, in finding myself, I have found a healing love far stronger than the darkness of my troubled soul. This is my light.








~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Notable People I Have Met ~ Part Five



Rafael Méndez ~ trumpet virtuoso

I ’ve met a fair number of famous and accomplished people, which is remarkable considering how shy and introverted I was as a child, a condition born of abandonment, exacerbated by abuse, and finally mitigated by a career as a newspaper reporter.

I was put up for adoption by my single mother at the fragile age of 13 months, and subsequently adopted by people who stubbornly defied the verdict of biology – that they were not intended to have children.

My first encounter with a famous person came at age ten. I was a blustery student of the trumpet, taking lessons from Mr. Collins, owner of the Covina Music Store. I think his first name was Jack, but I only knew him as Mr. Collins. Playing the melancholy “Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen,” I used to hit notes by accident that took years for Miles Davis to perfect.

   Mr. Collins just happened to know virtuoso trumpeter Rafael Méndez, who was coming to our little city to perform with the local college orchestra. To quote Wikipedia:
Rafael Méndez was legendary for his tone, range, technique and unparalleled double tonguing. Méndez's playing was characterized by a brilliant tone, wide vibrato and clean, rapid articulation. His repertoire was a mixture of classical, popular, Mexican folk music and jazz. Méndez contributed many arrangements and original compositions to the trumpet repertoire. His Scherzo in D Minor is often heard in recitals. He was considered to many people the best trumpet/cornet player in the world.

Rafe, as Mr. Collins called him, was a kind man, treating me as if I were a young prodigy, which Mr. Collins generously hinted I might be. Fortunately, Rafe could not stay long enough to actually listen to me play. Otherwise, he might have wanted his autograph back.


~ By Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Notable People I Have Met ~ Part One


This world is full of famous people and those who have met them. As a newspaper reporter, it’s not unusual that I should have rubbed elbows with a few famous and infamous folks. What is unusual is that it happened to me at all, considering my ragged beginnings as an orphaned child, born out of wedlock, placed in a foster home and eventually adopted by soul-crushing parents.


Reporter Russ Loar meets presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.
I grew up being constantly punished, made to believe that I deserved constant punishment, told repeatedly how inadequate I was as a human being. It’s not surprising that I grew up expecting rejection from the world at large, considering what a failure I was in my parents' eyes.

I entered the tumult of adolescence with a serious inferiority complex, taking refuge in music, in playing the guitar. I was lucky enough to have steady gigs as the years went by, content to be in the background. And in my early twenties, smoking marijuana provided another refuge.

It was only when my wife became pregnant with our first son did the inner adult begin to emerge. I had been hiding from the world, extending my adolescence, just talented enough to have gigs but not talented enough to have an actual career in music. Imagining what kind of father I would make in my current condition, I belatedly realized it was time to grow up. I returned to college, earned a journalism degree and began a new career for which I was not only trained extensively, but one in which I could actually excel.


   Thus began the journey from a frightened little boy who would hide under the bed whenever the doorbell rang, to an intrepid newspaper reporter who would one day meet the man who would become one of the most popular presidents of the most powerful country on earth–Bill Clinton.

   Meeting famous people is a routine fact of everyday life for many journalists, especially those on television who have their own star power. But I was a 36-year-old college graduate with only an internship and a year at a public relations firm writing newsletters when I got my first newspaper reporting job at a small weekly paper. It was not only the journey from being a dope-smoking, introverted guitar player that was remarkable, but also a combination of luck and the ambition to seize opportunity that led to my memorable encounters. Here I was, the boy who was brought up to believe he was among the least capable human beings on the planet, interviewing some of the most brilliant and accomplished people on the planet, writing stories about them for thousands of readers.

   For those reading these essays about my life who are not members of my family, I don’t expect you to be that interested. This world is full of famous people, and of course it’s far more interesting to be a famous person than to be a person who has met a famous person. But I am writing these essays for my family—my sons, my daughters, and perhaps someday grandchildren and their progeny. I have had an improbable, lucky life, and even at my advanced age of 65, I continue to have ambitions. I am writing these essays so that my succeeding generations will know where they came from, for I am the beginning of what I hope will be a long line of family. I was born out of wedlock by a father who already had a family and a mother who gave me away, perhaps out of concern for my well-being, perhaps not. They are the accidents from which I was created.

   I am the beginning of this family tree, married to my dear wife Cheryl for decades now, a loving mother who is highly literate and intelligent with a sophisticated appreciation for the aesthetics of this life. So to all those who follow, whether by way of family or in spirit, I write these essays for you. I write them to let you know who I am, or perhaps by the time you read this, who I was.



~ to be continued


~ by Russ Allison Loar

© All Rights Reserved

A Message




I remember the day when my mother left me at the Children’s Home Society and never came back.

(◄ Click to enlarge.)


That’s why I always knew I was adopted. And as the years passed I often wondered about my birth parents – who they were; where they were; if they were still alive.

Several years after my first son Joshua was born, when I was 30 years old, I felt suddenly overwhelmed one day by the desire to find out as much as I could about my birth parents. I immediately sat down and wrote a letter to the Children’s Home Society. It was Friday, October 24, 1980. My emotions were flooded. I was seized by the need to take some kind of action, to begin the search.

After about two months, someone wrote me back, giving me as much information as California’s restrictive adoption laws would allow. It was not much, but it was something. It was important. My father had an extramarital affair with my mother, who had kept me for a little more than a year hoping he would leave his wife and children and marry her. When it became apparent this would not happen, my mother put me up for adoption. About six months later, I was adopted.

I searched for years trying to find out additional information without much success, until 2006. I’d posted my information on an adoption site online and a professional searcher quickly found out all my birth information and put me in touch with my two half-sisters, my birth father’s daughters.

My wonderful new sisters told me many things about my birth father, including where he was buried. He’d passed away twenty-six years earlier. When I called the cemetery to ask about the location of his grave, I also asked for the date of his death, something I’d forgotten to ask my sisters. I jotted down the date on my notes.

Every bit of information was gold to me, so long sought after, so long in coming. As I assembled and transcribed the vital statistics of my father’s life, I had all my records and paperwork spread out on my desk. I typed in the date of my father’s death. Then my attention was drawn to the letter from the Children’s Home Society, the response to my first letter of inquiry. The first paragraph reads:


Due to pressures at the CHS office, it is taking from two to three months to respond to inquiries such as yours dated 10-24-80.

My father had died on that same day, Friday, October 24, 1980, the day I was so overwhelmed by a surge of emotion, prompting me to finally begin the search for his identity by writing to the Children’s Home Society.

I have never heard a discarnate voice from beyond the grave. I have never seen a ghost. But clearly, on the day my father died, some kind of message was sent. Some kind of message was received.











~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Collections


The first things I collected were stuffed animals, but only two of them slept with me at night. Of all my friends and playmates, I dearly loved the little gray cat and floppy brown and tan spotted dog who slept under the covers and kept me from feeling lonely at bedtime.


I’ve never lived anywhere very long without cats. I sleep with a little calico cat named Sally now.

I collected small metal cars and loved to drive them around cities I made from colored blocks.

When I was 17 years old I raced my mustang at Irwindale Raceway and won a few trophies.

I collected 45 rpm records, songs I heard on the radio. I listened to them over and over again. Each week when I went to the music store for my trumpet lesson, I bought a new “single” to add to my collection. I pretended I was a disc jockey and would announce each record I played.

One summer I won a contest on radio station KFWB by being the first caller. I talked to disc jockey Gary Owens and he sent me a Gary Owens coloring book and KFWB bumper sticker.

When I was 42 years old and working as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Newport Beach, California, I did daily newscasts for a local FM radio station. Someone once told me they heard me in a supermarket where the station was playing.

I collected coins and stamps, ordering them from catalogues and putting them into albums. I looked through everyone’s pennies, trying to find a 1909-S VDB, the rarest of Lincoln pennies. It never turned up. I learned that the reason certain coins and stamps were worth so much money was the same reason I’d never find them.

I began investing seriously in my late 40s, having more luck in recognizing an undervalued stock than knowing when to sell it. I learned that for many investments, value and worth are temporary.

As I grew up, my collections shifted from things to experiences. I collected friends, lovers and accomplishments. I collected books I’d read. I collected knowledge and learning. I collected songs and poems I wrote. I collected performances I played as a musician. I collected the talented musicians I played with. After I became a newspaper reporter, I collected my best published stories. I collected every famous and interesting person I met.

I collected family photographs, all the way back to great grandparents, arranging them in albums. I collected my family, my parents and grandparents, the years of my marriage, the companionship of my sons. I'm waiting to collect a grandchild or two.

I collect memories and as I grow old they reveal meanings to me I’d never fully understood. I collect the acts of kindness I’ve received and try to pass them on to others. I collect wisdom and continue to learn and relearn the lessons I’ve been taught from those still living and those who have passed on, their words still speaking to me.

I collect knowledge of the joy and sadness in this world, the tragedies and victories of the spirit, the damnations and the revelations. Sometimes it’s all too much and so I pack some of my collections away in boxes and label them, knowing I can always go back and unpack, knowing I’ll never look inside some of these boxes again, knowing all things change and life should move forward, mindfully forward.

My house is full of things useful and decorous, impractical and silly, remnants of a long life. I look at these things and they remind me of who I have been, who I still am. I suppose I will never completely discard my past, as long as it has something to teach me. I suppose all that I’ve collected has been an attempt to preserve happiness, wisdom and love.

Someday I will leave all these collections behind, passing these objects and their meanings on to others, but keeping the joy of having lived on this Earth in my eternal heart.





~ Text and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Flying



I can’t remember the first time I dreamed of flying. But oh how natural it seemed, like becoming my true self once again, unrestricted by gravity. No more up and down, just here and there. Each altitude a sovereign space.


I was flying,
Swift and sure
With the lift of a hand,
A miracle on demand.

But more than the addictive bliss
Of flight,
Or the intoxication
Of height,
I was most proud
Of my position above the crowd,
Most proud
And most alone.
I was the only one.

Out of loneliness I descended,
And flew closely by,
Urging all to try.

But not one would leave the ground,
So sadly I ascended
And flew once more above them,
Unnoticed,
Without sound.


I flew over yellow gold meadows, lifetimes of oceans and mountains, lakes and forests, sometimes above the clouds and sometimes skimming the surface of the water.

Then I started flying closer to the ground in some of my dreams, more like hovering. I’d be walking down a city sidewalk and then lift slightly off the ground and slide along like a sailboat in a strong wind gliding over the water, angling my body in order to change speed and turn, like a freefall, only sideways.

In some dreams I felt possessed by the need to demonstrate this remarkable ability to others. I would be in a crowded room and lift myself up off the ground about three feet or so. It felt like something akin to proving that God is real and manifest in our everyday lives, proving that miracles are within our power. "Behold!" I would declare.

But in these dreams no one thinks my flying is remarkable. They are always busily engrossed in day-to-day activities and seem not to notice -- not to care.

When I awaken it takes me a while to realize I can’t fly. When I was younger I’d actually try to reach that certain mechanism in the back of my brain that could lift me off the ground, but alas, it never worked. I could not defeat gravity. Perhaps there are other ways.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Scene #19 by Cristian René
© All Rights Reserved

Notable People I Have Met


The Whole Bunch

(Names in blue are linked to short essays.)

(2nd part means the person is on the second half of the post.)


Bill Clinton: Author, screenwriter and winner of a Pulitzer Prize lifetime achievement award.

Ray Bradbury: Author, screenwriter and winner of a Pulitzer Prize lifetime achievement award.

Sherwood Rowland: UC Irvine chemistry professor who won the 1995 Nobel Prize for discovery of man-made depletion of the ozone layer.

Alex Trebek: Host of “Jeopardy” ~ A brief question and answer period during taping of the show.

Rafael Mendez: Trumpet virtuoso.


Gary Owens: Radio and television personality.


O.C. Smith: ~ Pop "Little Green Apples" singer. (2nd part)


Ralph Humphrey: Virtuoso drummer who played and recorded with Frank Zappa.


Carlos Vega: Virtuoso session drummer who toured with James Taylor.


Tom Hayden: California state senator and activist at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.


Abbie Hoffman: Political activist at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (2nd part)


Harlan Ellison: Science fiction novelist and television screen playwright.


Don Callender: Founder of Marie Callender’s restaurant chain.


Stan Wall: Pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Johnny Carson: 30-year host of "The Tonight Show." (2nd part)


Steve Allen: Original host of the “Tonight Show” and songwriter.


Marty Baron: Journalist and editor who hired me to work for the Los Angeles Times, later editor of the Washington Post.


Michael Chabon: Novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001.


Michael Dukakis: Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.

Quentin Crisp: Author of “The Naked Civil Servant” and gay rights advocate.


Robert Bork: Solicitor General nominated by President Ronald Reagan for the Supreme Court in 1987.


Chang-Lin Tien: Chancellor of UC Berkeley.


Jack Peltason: Chancellor of UC Irvine and later of the entire UC system.


Oakley Hall: Author of “The Downhill Racers” and head of the UC Irvine writing program.


David Stockman: Reagan administration budget director.


Jack Kelly: Co-star of 1950s TV show “Maverick”


Joey Bishop: Entertainer and member of the “Rat Pack.”


Sonny Bono: Singer with Sonny & Cher, later congressman and U.S. senator.


Leslie Nielsen: Film and television actor in “Airplane,” “Naked Gun” and others.


Politicians: Dana Rohrabacher, Chris Cox, Bob Dornan, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Kathleen Brown, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, Dan Quayle, Ann Richards.


Oliver North: Ronald Reagan aide implicated in Iran-Contra Scandal and later NRA president.


Ed Meese: US Attorney General in the Reagan Administration.


Barbara Bush: Wife of President H.W. Bush.


Mamie Van Doren: “B” movie actress and sexpot.


Arnold Beckman: Inventor of the PH meter and philanthropist.


Duvall Hecht: Founder of Books On Tape.


Daryl Gates: Los Angeles police chief.


James Edwards Senior: Founder of the Edwards theater chain.


Chuck Jones: Animator and creator of Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and others.


John H. Dalton: Secretary of the US Navy.


Arthur Laffer: Supply-side economist who influenced President Reagan’s monetary policies.


C. Everett Koop: US Surgeon General


Boyd Coddington: Hot rod and custom automobile designer.


David Broder: Washington Post writer, political columnist and author.


William Kennedy: Novelist and author of “Ironweed” ~ mail contact


Patrick Stewart: Actor who portrayed Captain Jean-Luc Picard on “Star Trek.”


Ken Norton: Former boxing heavyweight champion of the world.


Adrienne Rich: Poet


Edward Albee: Playwright


Robert Hass: Poet


Seamus Heaney: Poet, playwright and translator.


Czeslaw Milosz: Poet


W.S. Merwin: Poet


James Roosevelt: Son of and secretary to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


David Harrington: Co-founder of the Kronos Quartet.


John Cleese: Actor and a member of Monty Python.


Robert Pinsky: US Poet Laureate.


W.D. Snodgrass: Pulitzer Prize winning poet.


Louise Gluck: US Poet Laureate.


William Rusher: Publisher of the “National Review” magazine.


Neil deGrasse Tyson: Astrophysicist, author, television host & many appearances ~ by email.


Henrik Drescher: Children’s books illustrator ~ by email.


James MacGregor Burns: Historian and presidential biographer.


Jean-Michel Cousteau: ~ Environmentalist, oceanographic explorer and son of Jacques Cousteau.


Frederick Reines: UC Irvine Physics professor awarded the Nobel Prize in 1995 for discovery of the neutrino.


[And many more who I've either overlooked or forgotten.]


~ by Russ Allison Loar

© All Rights Reserved

What I Learned In School ~ Part Two





Originally published May 15, 1986, in the Irvine World News.



Teaching must be a calling. I suppose many enter the profession with the idealistic desire to calm the little savage beasts, to salvage a few more candidates for an enlightened democracy, to do something that matters, something that counts.


Mrs. Voss was that kind of teacher.

She was an unusual lady. Every morning she stuffed her magnanimous frame into a dented, off-white golf cart and drove to the little stucco school where she taught fourth grade. She taught us object lessons.

It was cold as we sat at our twenty wooden lift-top desks, faced with the choice of a large black blackboard in front, and a wall of windows on the left, through which I watched the enviable freedom of little birds and wandering leaves. I was a malcontent.

As the blackboard steadily filled with sentences split into undecipherable parts, I filled and embellished my paper with a drawing of Mrs. Voss. It was a symbolic drawing. And, seeing as how my drawing skills were poor and her body shape was prone to satire, the drawing came out a bit unflattering, to say the least.

As the morning wore on, Mrs. Voss eventually noticed my unusual dedication to paperwork, and walked directly to my desk, perhaps to kindle this new spark of concentrated study. Seeing the drawing, she silently held out her hand. Not knowing nearly enough about the First Amendment to refuse, I gave it to her. "Russ, please see me after class," she said softly.

It was like a living death, waiting for the end of class. The picture was bad enough, but I had added some remarks I thought some of my more unrefined classmates would think clever.

Mrs. Voss showed no anger and continued her sentences and their diagrams as if nothing at all had happened. I was in hell. She worked that way. After my classmates bolted out the door, on their way to the freedom of recess and the challenge of foursquare, I stood before her large and bruised wooden desk in front of the blackboard.

She still had no look of anger, she actually gave me a sweet smile as she began to speak. Sinning would have been so much easier against a tyrant, but against a saint—I stood squashed by my tiny shame.

“Please read what you have written on your drawing," she said.

The shame of that moment has erased my memory of the captions I wrote, but I remember the ugly sound of their heartless intentions, how odd and foreign they sounded on my lips.

"Now you know what it means to eat your words," she said, smiling, letting me go.

Yes, now I know. She taught me. I learned.

And today, I cannot see a man push in front of a woman to get through a doorway, without hearing Mrs. Voss' intoned command, "Women and children first!"

It was not just an empty phrase, to be learned by rote. It was, she told us with dramatic calm, what the noble gentlemen aboard the Titanic said as that hallmark of gracious cruising edged lower into the sea.

"Women and children first," the heroic gentlemen said, knowing that when all else is lost, kindness is still possible, and necessary.

"Women and children first," Mrs. Voss said as we practiced filing in and out of the door.

I was one of her least rewarding students I suppose, and yet, somehow the best of what she was able to give found a place within me, lying in wait.

I suppose good teaching is like that. It finds its mark, long before the student is ready to use it, to fully understand it. Then, years later, the words, the voices, the lessons of old teachers are called into being by life's events, lessons saved like extra fuses to be plugged in someday when the lights go out.

So kind teachers of all ages who despair of their wayward students as I once was, do not dismay. Your best lessons are not lost, just waiting, percolating—they live!




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

What I Learned In School ~ Part One

















I  went to first grade in a little red schoolhouse, which was actually called The Little Red Schoolhouse. It was small. It was red. It was a school. What else are you gonna call it?

It was a private school. The public schools just wouldn’t do for my mother, who always demanded a certain level of exclusivity about things.

I was indeed an excluded kid. I did not play with the neighborhood children—definitely public school types—for I lived in a moderately wealthy home, next door to my grandparents’ even wealthier, immoderate home, surrounded by their acres of orange trees.

The neighborhood rat pack lived in more moderate homes on a modest street bordering the orange grove. Every day they saw each other come and go. If one kid came outside to play basketball on his driveway, all the other kids knew he was there. The ice cream truck drove down the street once a day during summer and the driver knew most of the kids by name. He had no idea who I was.

I had my own private orange tree forest to play in and large gardens to wander through, long driveways to ride my bicycle on. Even my older sister was not interested in playing with me. She was, after all, a girl and wanted to do girl stuff, but she also knew I was a misfit, not easy to be with.

When I began first grade, the other children were like wild animals to me. I viewed them with curiosity and trepidation. My unfamiliarity with the rules of first grade decorum branded me as outcast. I had no idea how to make friends.

One day at recess, I lifted up a little girl’s dress. I can’t remember why. I was probably just teasing her, the only way I knew how to interact with other kids. O yes, loneliness makes the best comedians. The little girl told a teacher who took me to an empty classroom for a little conversation about girls.

After trying to make me understand I had done something wrong, the teacher gave me an example:

When people watch ice skaters on television and the girls’ skirts fly up in the air, people don’t look at the girls’ underwear because they know it’s not nice.

Lesson learned.

Yet before too many years passed by, I would be looking at girls in magazines who wore no underwear at all. These were magazines my friends got from older brothers or sometimes found tucked away in the bottom of their fathers’ dresser drawers.

Less than ten years after I graduated from first grade I would be having eye-bulging sex with my busty blonde-haired girlfriend on the backseat of my hot rod. It was actually her idea.

So much for ice skaters.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

My Revelation



For me, this existence, "This," is eternity.

The kingdom of heaven, and hell, and everything else in-between is at hand. Right here. Right now.

Whatever is past and whatever may come, this moment is all about how far along I am as an eternal soul, an eternal being, an eternal something or another, names and labels being limited as they are.

This is my revelation.

So many of us believe heaven is somewhere else, a reward for a life well-spent, our ethereal home where there will be no more strife and struggle.

But what if we died and awoke in heaven and it was a place just like Earth, where we inhabited physical bodies and had to put our spirituality to the test in a physical world of human interaction and social evolution? We might very well doubt we had entered the kingdom of God.

For me, entering the kingdom of God is about awakening, seeing what has always been here. And for me, hell is also here. Wherever there is the possibility of heaven, there is the possibility of hell. It has something to do with free will.

This is my revelation.

I do not know where I will be after my body dies. Perhaps “I” and “where” will no longer apply. Nevertheless, today, I am in heaven. I cannot imagine a more heavenly miracle than the persistence of life, hope and love on this planet, here among the uninhabitable planets of our solar system. I cannot imagine a more heavenly miracle than the birth of a child.

Here in heaven, you put a small seed into the ground and it comes back flowers.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Artwork by Maxine (aka Maxxximpact)
© All Rights Reserved

Haunting













Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To the places I lived,
Where my life was made,
To my childhood home:
The sidewalks still here
Where I rode my bike.
I hear the voice of my grandmother
Calling me in from play
For a sandwich and a glass of milk.
That long summer day
Walking with my grandfather
And all the things he said
About the life that was coming,
Things I scarcely understood,
Things that have guided me,
Lifted me when I fell
So I could begin again
To be like him,
A decent man.

I will not reawaken childhood sorrows.
I have buried them here
After years of torment,
And questions,
And finally,
Resolution.
Yet,
There is a light breeze of melancholy
Blowing through this place,
Blowing through all the places of my life
Where joy and sorrow,
Anger and ecstasy once lived.

Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To the places where my life took shape,
On my own in tiny rooms,
In anonymous cities:
The rooming house and it’s red-haired landlady,
Mothering the young and single men there
With morality, discipline and compassion,
Teaching us how to respect
What was once a grand hotel
Where dignified gentlemen and ladies
Gracefully ascended
The carpeted stairs of the seaside resort.
And how many lonely nights
Did I sit on the sand at ocean’s edge
Learning how to listen?

Without chronology I travel,
My haunting is outside of time,
Drawn to the passions,
The silly exclamations,
So silly and profound this human animal,
This creature that can love:
Love that girl who gave me her life.
We exchanged lives,
Awakening,
Awakening,
In passion and in play,
Keeping the outside world away.

There are sad and angry rooms
Where I will not return,
For my haunting is to be free of regret,
Except for a kind of regret that sends me back,
Back in time to where happiness began,
Where happiness had the power to overwhelm,
To overwhelm life’s myriad frustrations.
O my soul has traveled in dark haunts enough,
Finally worn out its punishments,
Deserved and undeserved,
My penance,
Paid.

Now my soul travels in light,
In melancholy radiance:
I see my young family,
Laughter in their voices,
Youth and electricity in every movement,
And the future is infinite,
Full of imagination,
Full of hope,
And the growing of my life
Becomes the growing of my family
And I am no longer a single being,
I am larger.

Some call it haunting,
These visits I make
To where my beginnings began,
But this too will end
When I begin again.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

A Lie



I was playing with a baseball I’d found in my front yard when two older boys walked up to me.

One of them said, “That’s my baseball. I hit it over here all the way from the park.”

The park was about three miles away, but I was seven years old and I believed him. I gave him the baseball. The two boys walked away down the sidewalk laughing.

Lying in bed that night, thinking over the events of the day, I realized those boys were laughing because they had told me a lie and I believed them. They were laughing at me.

I decided I wouldn't be so stupid next time. Despite my decision, more than 50 years later I’m still surprised how skillfully people can lie and how easily I can be deceived.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Punishment





I  must be a bad person.

That’s what I thought, because I was punished so often. My mother was uncontrollably angry with me, but it was anger without explanation. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong or why I was being hit.

I lived under a cloud of near constant disapproval, always in trouble.

One day when I was very young, my mother was furiously hitting me when my grandmother who lived next door came unexpectedly into our house. I can still hear her loud, clear voice: “Do not strike that child!”

That was the day I learned I did not deserve to be hit. That was the day I learned it was my mother who was doing something bad.

It is interesting that some childhood memories remain so vivid. For me, it is the acts of cruelty and kindness that stand out.

I remember my grandfather holding me in a rocking chair as I fell asleep, singing:

“Home On The Range.”

I remember my grandmother buying me a toy rifle at a department store, even though it was neither Christmas nor my birthday.

I remember seeing my mother’s face in the bathroom mirror above mine as she shook me violently while I was trying to brush my teeth. I was beginning to understand my mother’s inner demons had nothing to do with me.

I remember when my enraged father was hitting me one night, hearing my mother scream: “Not in the face!” That taught me something about guilt.

I remember the last time my father spanked me. I was getting older, and as he started hitting me I decided I would not cry, no matter how hard he hit me. He finally gave up trying to make me cry. I’d been silent the entire time. He never spanked me again.

As I grew older, my mother found more sophisticated, psychological ways to be abusive toward me, to demean me. But I was learning to defend my own soul and I became strong with understanding.

After I’d left home and was married with two sons, I confronted her numerous times over the years about her behavior. She never acknowledged what she’d done.

Some people get better, some get worse. It’s taken much of my life to rid myself of the damage that was done, but I recovered and made a new life, freeing myself from the ghosts of my childhood.

My mother died at age 91, never facing the truth about her life. I took care of her during her last years, treating her with as much compassion as I could, compassion I’d never received, and in so doing, saved my soul.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
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Notable People I Have Met ~ Part Ten



Harlan Ellison ~ author & screenwriter



During my journalism studies at Cal State Long Beach, professor Larry Meyer arranged for several of his students to interview Harlan Ellison for the college magazine. It was the early eighties, 1981 or 1982 I believe. During our frenetic interview with this manic personality, Ellison felt the need to explain that his psychiatrist said he had a “distended ego,” but that it was not a serious problem.

Good to know.

If I remember correctly, he lived somewhere near the Hollywood area in a large house packed with books and LPs. He had semicircular, ceiling-high bookshelves stuffed with books, accessed by a sliding library ladder. In another room was a room-length shelf overflowing with hundreds of LPs.

No mere mortal would live long enough to read all those books or listen to all those albums, but they were necessary companions for this very intense man and his very intense mind.

Interviewing Ellison was like drinking from a fire hose. He spoke with a kind of rapid-fire energy that intimidated the other students. But I was older, a returning college student on the path of a new career, so I had a little more resilience, a little more courage. And courage was required. When I prefaced a question by saying “As a science fiction writer. . . .” he exploded into a near rage about how he had written in many genres and how he hated being branded as a science fiction writer, even though he’d written stories for “The Outer Limits” and "Star Trek" television shows in the 1960s and the 1980s revival of “The Twilight Zone” and won numerous science fiction awards.

Ellison’s Wikipedia page calls him a writer of speculative fiction.

{Click Here For Harlan Ellison's Wikipedia Page}

The student photographer was shooting so constantly during the interview that when Ellison excused himself for a bathroom break, I advised the eager young man to back off a bit, as I could tell it was irritating Ellison. But the intrepid student photographer was undaunted and did not heed my advice. When Ellison returned, the student resumed his rapid-fire photographing and Ellison erupted: “If you don’t put that thing down I’m going to shove it right up your ass.”

Clearly a man who could only be pushed so far.

Ellison was angry about the state of American politics, especially about Watergate and former President Richard Nixon who resigned from office in 1974 under threat of impeachment. President Gerald Ford had unjustly spared Nixon from criminal prosecution, according to Ellison, by issuing him a pardon. Ellison said Nixon should have been made to stand face to face with the American people who would each slap him in the face as they walked by.


Our interview with Ellison was during the time when the first video game consoles became widely available. Ellison was not a fan of the new technology. He objected to the games that could not be won, games in which the player could only advance toward inevitable defeat as each level became increasingly harder to complete. He believed those types of games were programming young people to expect defeat in the real world.


This prescient writer, who so often explored the future in so many of his stories, viewed the coming technological age with considerable apprehension. Like other iconic writers of science fiction and other genres, Ellison sounded a warning that so many in this age of smartphone addiction still refuse to hear.


~ by Russ Allison Loar
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The Music Of Sound





S ome people are more visual, some more audial. For me, it was always sound that penetrated my senses deeper than anything else.


I love sound, all kinds of sounds. Like young people everywhere, I found emotional refuge in music while I was growing up. Music was a drug that restored the chemical imbalances in my brain. I loved sound so much I even became a musician for a few years.

So many of the sounds in everyday life sound like music to me, even voices, and that caused problems in elementary school. I was never very good at math, but I had the added challenge of a math teacher with a Swedish accent, Mr. Westman. Every word he spoke sounded like a note. His sentences collected into melodies. His classroom lectures were sonatas some days, jazz improvisations other days.

Then, every once in a while my name poked through the melodic line: “Russell! What is the answer?” I didn’t even know the question. And even when he repeated the question, all I could hear was the music of his voice. I shook my head to signal my complete confusion, accompanied by the laughter of my far more attentive classmates.

After I was adopted and living in my new home, my earliest memory is of the record player at my grandparent’s house next door. It was so tall I had to stand on a chair to turn it on. It was an old 78 rpm record player on the top of a mahogany cabinet that also contained a small black and white television and a radio. I was too young to actually place records on the record player, but somehow, I managed to turn it on and put the needle on the record. The booming sound of the music was magic.

One afternoon I was listening to some old scratchy record of my grandfather’s that could have very well been “New San Antonio Rose,” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. My grandfather was from Texas and I loved this recording. Suddenly the sound slowed down and the singing slowed down and I thought some kind of monster was emerging from the music. It sounded like the voice of some awful demon accompanied by a train wreck. It was incredibly frightening. That was the day I learned what electricity was, and what could happen if its magic flow was briefly interrupted, for the demon and the train wreck quickly disappeared, and like a movie run backwards, the music reassembled itself and rose again from the darkness of some terrible underworld.

Moon in all your splendor knows only my heart,
Call back my Rose, Rose of San Antone,
Lips so sweet and tender like petals fallin' apart,
Speak once again of my love, my own.

Yes, that was the day my grandfather taught me something about electricity. I also learned something very important that day about fear.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Under The Bed




















I remember seeing a white, colonial building fronted with columns
    on the day I was left at the orphanage.

At least this memory was always in my mind, but knowing how insatiably curious I’ve always been about my biological parents, my biological circumstances, I knew that I may simply have been filling in the blanks of the great mystery that was my first two years of life. After all, I have absolutely no memory of the mother I'd lived with more than a year.

Then one day when I was in my early twenties, I went there. It was the first time since being left for adoption. I'd phoned a social worker who agreed to meet with me, to tell me some basic “non-identifying” information about my parents. As I approached the address, the building came into view. It looked exactly as I’d remembered: A white building, colonial style, columns and all.

What followed is a blank. I don’t remember the foster family I lived with for the next six months and I don’t remember being taken home by my new parents. Many years later, my grandmother told me that for the first few months, every time the doorbell rang, I’d run and hide under my bed. It took me a long time to shake that fear, and even now, I still get the urge once in a while.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Painting by Erin Payne
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Notable People I Have Known ~ Part Three




Sherwood Rowland ~ Nobel Prize Winning Scientist

I first interviewed UC Irvine chemistry professor Sherwood Rowland in 1987 when I was a reporter for the Irvine World News, the first of many subsequent interviews. It was during the time of the Montreal Protocol On Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, a worldwide effort to limit and eventually ban the industry-wide production and use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). 

Rowland, with postdoctoral research assistant Mario Melina, discovered that CFCs were destroying the earth’s protective ozone layer, a conclusion that was heavily criticized during the early years of his findings.

When I first interviewed him in his campus laboratory, he told me that global warming was the most imminent threat to the planet. To my surprise, he said that in addition to the man-made chemicals that were warming the planet were gas emissions from cattle—cow belching!

He was very generous with his time during that first interview, despite the fact that I was just a small-time reporter for the local newspaper. He even showed me his ice core samples.

Rowland and Melina were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.


~ to be continued


~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo by Rick Loomis\Los Angeles Times
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I Am Born




W hen did I start? What is my first conscious memory? You might as well ask when Being burst out of Nothing and became Something.
Who knows?


I was warm, living in a dream. There was sound but not much light. There were thoughts and images without meaning. There was no passage of time, no wanting, just being.

There surely must have been some kind of struggle at the time of my emergence, but this I do not remember. I do remember being removed from my squishy cave into a bright blinding light. I remember crying, but it was more like listening to myself cry from a distance, rather than feeling any personal, emotional impulse to cry.

I was wrapped in cloth and put in what I now believe was the white metal cradle of a scale to measure my weight. I fell asleep, trying to fall back into that place from where I came.

I don’t remember anything else until thirteen months later, the day my mother left me at the orphanage home and never came back.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
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Poetry Class


“Nothing beats an 18-year-old pair of hips.”

It’s from a poem. Her poem. That blond-haired girl in my college creative writing class, reading her poem out loud, a poem about her love of sex, of having sex, preferably with lean 18-year-old boys at the zenith of their sexual energies.


Within a few days of her recitation I noticed she began coming to class with the professor, a man not quite twice her age who evidently was quite willing to submit his hips to her critical assessment. 

Yes, they had definitely paired off, but unfortunately, the adademic quarter came to an end before she had a chance to construct a poem about this new sexual experience.

But why should I let that fact limit my own imagination?

You Are Not My Daddy

Yes, you are not my daddy.
Yes, you are not my boyfriend.
Yes,
Yes,
Yes.

Oh my God,
Yes!

~ © Blond-haired College Girl

There’s nothing like a college education to expand one’s imagination.


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