Under The Bed




















I remember seeing a white, colonial-style 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.

One day in my early twenties I returned to the Children's Home Society, 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.

I don’t remember the foster family I lived with for the next six months and I don’t remember being taken to the home of 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 to hide under the bed.



~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Painting by Erin Payne
© All Rights Reserved

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
© All Rights Reserved

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 and never came back.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Incarnation
















D o I believe in reincarnation?

Well, does reincarnation depend on whether I believe in it or not? I definitely believe in Incarnation, because I’m here on this planet writing the inconsequential story of my life, aren’t I? College philosophy aside, yes, I am here. I was incarnated. And if I had prior lifetimes I cannot remember them, which is just fine with me considering how painful it is at my age to remember the more inglorious episodes of this particular incarnation.

Who wants to remember what it was like to have a diaper full of poo? And believe me, that was not worst of it. How deep I go and how much I tell about my life will be tested by this exercise, but at least I’ll have something left for my descendants to ponder, aside from the typical diary which so often disappoints:
June 13, 1776: Had dinner with the Jones tonight. A little rain. Going to fix the wagon tomorrow.
Yes, memory of prior reincarnations would be way too much for me to handle emotionally. So, whether I was Mozart, Hitler or a cocker spaniel in a past life, I just can’t say.

I do remember being born, however, whatever, and can you believe it? Now I’m not saying that it’s a real memory, a true memory. It may very well be a manufactured memory, part of my anarchistic imagination which has been so influential in inspiring me to be no one in particular all these years.

Here’s what WebMD.com has to say about how much newborns can see:
Babies are born with a full visual capacity to see objects and colors. However, newborns are extremely nearsighted. Far away objects are blurry. Newborns can see objects about 8-15 inches away quite sharply. Newborns prefer to look at faces over other shapes and objects and at round shapes with light and dark borders.
So whether or not my memory is based on any truth at all, I cannot say, but I will tell you all about it.




Grandma's Cat Hotel




I was a lonely little boy.

My father was a traveling salesman and a workaholic. He was from the generation that believed children should not be seen or heard. My mother was a spoiled only child who thought having a boy and a girl was the socially correct thing to do. Things didn’t quite work out. My older sister and I were adopted.

My sister was adopted first, as an infant. About five years later I was adopted shortly before my second birthday. I was a troubled child; wounded by homelessness; adopted by parents who soon decided they didn’t really enjoy being parents at all. My sister and I were supposed to be ornaments, but we turned out to be flesh and blood.

I lived in a house surrounded by my grandparents’ orange grove, next door to their wonderful two-story, Spanish-style home. Their orange grove became the enchanted forest of my childhood and their home was my sanctuary. They were wise, saintly people who gave me the love and guidance I was missing from my parents.

Yet I was a lonely boy. I was generations away from my parents and grandparents. I was born in 1950. My grandparents were born in 1885. The neighborhood kids had little use for me. They lived on a crowded street of lower-middle-class homes. I was from a privileged, upper-class family on acres of land. I didn’t fit in.

So what does a lonely boy do? I became friends with my grandmother’s cats. She was such a kindhearted soul, not only would she make sandwiches for homeless men who showed up at her back door now and then, but she also fed every stray cat in the neighborhood. The orange grove was a sanctuary for strays who inevitably made their way to my grandmother’s back porch. My grandmother was a worrier, so she talked my handyman grandfather into constructing a large extension to a tool shed, using lumber and chicken wire. It became grandma’s cat hotel.

Grandma’s cat hotel had shelves at different levels, handmade wooden beds and all sorts of cubbyholes for the cats to hide in, to feel safe and secure in. She lured them in every afternoon before dark by filling up a wide, flat basket with pie pans of cat food. They gathered each afternoon on her spacious back porch. Just in case there was a straggler, she called, “Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty,” using a high-pitched voice that sounded almost like hog calling; something you’d hear on the Texas farm where both my grandparents were raised. The cats were so hungry even the wildest of them raced inside grandma’s cat hotel to get their food. She distributed the pie pans and then closed the chicken wire door. She was protecting them from the predators of night.

Each cat had a name and a particular set of habits and peculiarities which my grandmother taught me. One short-haired gray cat with a white ring around her neck and white paws was named Trippy, after her habit of rubbing against my grandmother’s ankles while she walked, threatening to trip her. Bobo Blackie was a solid black tomcat with many battle scars, named after a television wrestler. Most evenings I would visit the cat hotel in the hour or two before dark—petting the friendliest and trying my best to tame the wildest. There were usually about a dozen residents of grandma’s cat hotel.

The wildest cats were so afraid, nothing could tame them. They were driven into the cat hotel by hunger. No matter how many times I spoke kindly to them; no matter how many treats I gave them; they remained fiercely wild. They shivered and hissed as if attacked when I tried to pet them.

After dinnertime was through, they settled into their favorite places of repose. I sometimes spent an hour or more speaking to them, petting them, watching them curl their paws, narrow their eyes and commune with the eternal. We had a lot in common. I too was a stray, saved by the love of my grandmother.





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