AVHS HALL OF FAME MY TALK September 22, 2022
Thank you for this honor! Your praise and appreciation is deeply moving.
My grandparents moved to the Antelope Valley when I was six and they soon bought us grandkids a horse that became our transport into the then wild desert. Gramp installed the glass in the new schools and housing for Boeing and Edwards Air Force Base workers. The flood of these new residents generated a real estate boom. When my family returned to California from our stint in the Bahamas, I was thrilled by the prospect of attending a real high school.
I arrived at Antelope Valley High School as a junior, followed later by my brother Ted and sister Peggy. I’d spent my freshman and sophomore years, along with my older sister, Ginger, at a very strict girls’ boarding school where there were no televisions, radios, or record players. Our mail, in and out, was read and censored, though somehow a few letters from friends in Arcadia, where I attended middle school, arrived with news about high school life: surfing, the Beach Boys, sports, boys, dances! And, oh yes, so many classes! Wow!
The first day of the fall semester at AV, I was terrified: There would be boys everywhere and such a complex world, one I had longed for but that suddenly looked overwhelming. Quickly, however, it became my teenage paradise, a feast of opportunities. There was a theater program, a speech team that went to tournaments, student government, a newspaper, clubs and classes of all sorts. There was sports for girls as well as boys, and modern dance, and so much more. I loved it even as I suffered my teenage miseries. And there were my excellent teachers, especially Mr. Guzman, my English teacher, who was a foundational influence in my life.
My two years at AV, junior and senior, shaped my life in ways that have become more and more clear to me over the decades. In fact, my first one-woman performance, “Origins of Praise,” was based on my experiences in the Antelope Valley desert.
I’d like to share with you the poems I wrote and presented at my class reunions which starts with the year of my graduation. I think it describes the world I experienced and that deeply shaped who I am and how I have lived:
For Antelope Valley High School’s Class of 1964
High desert children
migrants to Lockheed payroll
to Edwards Air Force Base
to test pilot’s BOOM banging into windows
to Yes it’s gonna BOOM next year
real estate jumping up and down
with a speculator’s wink
Oh beautiful for spacious skies
wide ocean skies
wind blown into waves across the Great Basin
the ancient dust stirred
from dry lakes’ once blue green shores
Joshua forests made farmland
alfalfa, hogs, cattle, horses, and wheat
Wildness around the edges
coyote’s cry heard in the housing tracts
Kids working on their algebra look up
smell dust in the wind
worry about their hairdos
Dardenelles, LaDonnas, Debonairs
Spartans Barons Lettermen
our tribal collection
who we thought we wanted to be
each the most lonely
most likely to say the wrong thing
Cruising the Drive In, A&W, Denny’s, cafeteria odors
drift from sandwiches all day in paper bags
trays rattling with the jukebox beats
Angel Baby my Angel Baby He’s a rebel and he never does what he should
Do you wanta dance and hold me tight?
spread out so wide
the moon is no limit
Burst from our simple desert socks
Right on! Sisters and Brothers
into George Orwell’s arms
We, so finely shaped
and sent to the streets to change.
“I had a good time at my 10th when I went with my wife.
Going single to my 20th was different….”
20 years making lives
To explain atom bombs to step-children
our short hair
coifed to fit an uneasy era.
How do we look?
How do we feel?
Deaths, broken homes,
sagging or sharp successes
new loves, knowing our work well
Those of us who are happy with small things
happy with layers and layers of things
Alma Mater, nourishing mother, the reliable desert wind
reveals our bond:
it is not this year
this paraphernalia of the past
Our bond: death and the dreams
we measure against our youth
Dancing at the Antelope Valley Inn
awakening the dreamers
for another 20 years.
“All paths are the same: they lead nowhere…I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.” Carlos Castaneda
Since we met, thirty years
to get it right
or wrong, to fit our lives to
old dreams new dreams no dream
dawn to dusk
the wind still blows,
dust clutters the windowsills
ravens turn across the sea blue sky.
Our memories toss their burdens, bright
or fraught, into the present
We fray and bag in familiar places
old Levi’s fade, stitches loose at the seams
Yet we are sturdy in spirit
children unto grandchildren
careers unto beguiling vistas or debt and worry.
There are no recliners for our lot
the fuse of history lighted under our hearts
sent us flying into our lives
with rockets to the moon, space shuttle to the space station,
classes to teach, newspapers to edit, pipes to fit, gardens to tend.
Vapor trails of Endeavortomark our passage
through wars, assassinations, climate threats, cycling boom and bust
Wherever we go, our inevitable interior landscape:
desert simple vistas.
If all paths lead nowhere,
here we are
Our bond: death and the dreams we measure
against the spaciousness of our hearts
We 60s dreamers
this year more dining than dancing
at the Embassy Suites Hotel.