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Category: Craving Normal Moment

Writing About Life – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The thing about life is, if everything went smoothly, just as we plan, all the time – no awkward experiences, no “get me outa here!” moments – it would be much harder to appreciate the pleasant moments. Life can be like people we may date: Awkward, odd, horrifying… but then, along comes a good one. After all the bad dates, you appreciate him/her all the more.

With dating in mind, I share some awkward dating moments in my up-coming book, “Craving Normal.” Here’s the beginning of one blind date I write about.

Right when we meet and get into his car, the guy starts making gaga eyes at me, trying to hold my hand, not taking the hint from my don’t-touch-me body language – arms folded over my chest, body pressed into the passenger door, and nervous laughter. At a stop light, he stares at me for an uncomfortably long time and says, “You remind me SO much of my dead sister.”

Nooooooooooo!

Oh, and it only got worse. The entire night he stared at me with a creepy reverence, as if I were an angel whom he’d never let go. Hence my physically wrestling him all night until I finally fled.

Still talking to myself on this blog, but if you happen to read this share one of your “date from hell” stories. I’m not the only one, right? We’ve all endured crappy dates. I know. Tell me about it.

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Wild Child

You can take the child out of the wild, but not the wild out of the child… apparently. This may explain many of my stories. When your brain is formed a certain way – on freedom, travel, adventure – makes it hard to be happy sitting in a cubicle, or locked up in school, following bells, rules and clocks. It’s a huge reason I’m self-employed. And why I’m still wild today.

Photo: Nude beach, Mykonos, Greece. I’m second from left; Little sister, far left, with beach friends.

I write about living in a rock hut on this nude beach in my book, “Craving Normal.” The story’s called, “That’s Not An Eel!”

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Fighting for My Right to Paaaaarttttttyyyyy!

In my book, “Craving Normal,” I write about my childhood experiences, memories and perspective of growing up in the era of 1960’s counterculture. But I follow those pages with stories of my own teen years in the ’80s. An era nothing like the Sixties. My teen/young adult stories in the 1980s are often pretty goofy. But so was that decade – a blur of neon spandex, head bands, big hair, and bouncy dancing. Totally counter to the years in which I grew up, where everyone seemed so deep and serious. But my teen years? Not so much!

Back in the 1980s, I was brain-dead. A lot of young people were. I don’t know, maybe the mass idiocy was our only way to rebel against the generation before us, those “Flower Children.” They dropped out, sat in, protested, and wanted to start a revolution. The most revolutionary thing I did was to discover the height my hair could reach with hair spray and a big comb. The only thing I ever fought for was my right to party. Hey, it wasn’t easy to rebel against a generation that enjoyed public nudity and dropping acid. I guess I could’ve gone punk or goth. Instead I went vapid. Hence the plethora of shockingly stupid moments I’ll be sharing with readers in my book.

I should preface my book with this cautionary small print: “Don’t try this at home. Results may vary.”

Photo: Yep, I’m wearing a headband. Must’ve been too tight, because my brain was numb. Excuse the bad Photoshop. But I blurred out my friend, as to not insinuate she’s as lame-brained as I was.

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Constant Craving

(Photo: Here I am orating behind the podium at Anarchist Forum in Hyde Park, London. And, yes, I’m wearing lederhosen. See, you’d be ranting too if you had to wear suede shorts with suspenders, didn’t have a TV or any junk food. My dad wrote on this slide, “Michele mouthing off.” My mom said I drew a small crowd.)

Look I’ve been working on my book, “Craving Normal,” for so long I have posts on my dusty old blog about it… from – gulp! – ten years ago. As a lover of words, writing and books, every year I attend the LA Times Festival of Books. Here’s one such visit I blogged about on my now defunct (or is it de-funked, as in lost its funk?) blog, “Aprilbaby’s California Life” –

I walked by the NPR booth and heard author Susan Straight being interviewed.  I stopped because I heard her mention her eldest child was at the Coachella music festival.  The interviewer asked, “Oh, so do you think she’ll tune in to hear you on the radio?”

I knew I could relate to Susan when she said, “Uh, no.  She doesn’t listen to me at home.  Why would she want to hear me on the radio?”  Spoken as a true parent to a teenager.

Susan Straight is an author from the Inland Empire.  I only learned that after stumbling upon the book, “Inlandia,” and saw that the forward was written by the very same Susan Straight.  Intrigued, I bought the book and attended a panel discussion with Susan and other writers from “Inlandia,” an anthology of  writers from the Inland Empire.

My only time spent in the Inland part of California is whenever I have to pass through it heading for the San Bernardino Mountains to go skiing or the one time I cruised down part of Route 66.  As the  writers of “Inlandia” tell it, their home has been disparaged as nothing more than where the Hell’s Angels, neo-Nazis and smog dwell.  Until then, I knew so little about the Inland Empire, I didn’t even realize that much about the area. 

During the panel, the writers spoke of a place they grew up where orange groves and date tree forests were so vast they’d get lost in them; where the Santa Ana winds and the sand would blast the paint off of cars; where the air smelled of Eucalyptus and orange blossoms.  It was where they arrived, grew and stayed.

As a resident of the San Fernando Valley, another maligned Southern California area, I could relate.  While I’ve only read a few chapters of “Inlandia,” I’m really enjoying getting lost in the stories of their misunderstood land.

As I bought “Inlandia” from the Heyday Publishing Founder, Malcolm Margolin, he asked me what I do.  I told him I’m writing “Craving Normal,” my stories of growing up in California and traveling the world as the kid of hippies.  Malcolm, the bearded Allen Ginsberg look-a-like, threw back his head and laughed.  “Did your parents feed you lentil loaf when all you really wanted was junk food?” 

I slapped him on the shoulder.  “Yeah, how’d ya guess?”

He told me his kids could relate as children of hippies. 

“Yep, I just wanted a Twinkie,”  I told him.

He nodded in sympathy, as if he’d heard it a million times from his own now-adult kids.

Yet I’ve got a craving to be heard, so I persevere, closer than ever to having my book, “Craving Normal,” published. In all these years a lot has happened – raised my daughter who went off to college; started a successful business, Tree Audio; dealt with life and death – but always I go back to my stories, crafting them, shaping them, editing them. My craving is a constant obsession, as you see.

 

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Why Is My Book Called “Craving Normal”?

Hey, wanna see some photos I’ll have in my book, “Craving Normal”? Here’s one. Consider this photo (Dad and me) is from the time in my life I refer to as the “normal” period, and you might understand the thesis of my book. This was an ordinary day in my life. But It just got weirder from here. So please feel free to share your own freaky childhood photo or less than typical memory in the comments below. Pleeeeeease. Come on! I can’t be the only one.

Well, now that you’re here, I’ll let you know more about my book, “Craving Normal.” I do have a thesis: Born into a relatively calm period in the mid 1960s, which I considered “normal” – right before the explosion of the counterculture movement – I watched and experienced my world change. Language, music, fashion, lifestyles, ideas and expectations changed faster than we could toss out my slinky and turn on a lava lamp. While this period in history is often spoken about by the young adults of that era, a.k.a “flower children,” I write from MY perspective, that of a child, a REAL child. I like to think that’s one thing which makes my stories unique. What were we kids thinking? What were our experiences? My stories then follow my growing up in the shadow of all these changes. While many are quite goofy, they show how I bopped around the world, a world I was still trying to figure out on my own – just as the generation before me tried to figure it out. But I also try to bring humor to all these experiences, whenever I can.

Like this photo I posted, I mean, how can I not look back and laugh? Seriously, this was just a typical day in my young life, one I thought completely ordinary. Why not? What else did I know? And I sure didn’t know things would get even more colorful… real soon.
If you’d like to keep updated about the progress of my up coming book, please leave your email here.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Who is Michele Miles Gardiner? And Why is She So Weird?

Hellooooo-looooooo-loooo-lo! (I can hear the echo bouncing off the walls of a massive empty room)

Anybody out there? If so, I’m writing this just for you. Oh there you are. Hello! I have to tell you, setting up this new site and blog feels a little like being the new kid in school again.

My first school, I walked into the school yard, parting a sea of cardigan sweater-wearing kids, dressed in my smelly sheep coat. They stared at me while holding their lunch boxes, most decorated with TV show characters, as I clung to my transparent produce bag filled with that day’s lunch. Dad packed it.

But the worst part of the day, watching kids in the cafeteria open their lunch boxes. Torture. They’d smile while chewing their American cheese on soft, snowy-white bread, as I’d choke down my grainy sandwich. I’d be pulling sprouts from between my teeth, as I’d hear the crinkle of plastic coming off some lucky kid’s Twinkie. If only I had a treat to trade, I’d think. But no kid wanted to swap one of those golden treasures for a natural yogurt. Every now and then my mom added treats. But I knew whole grain wheat fig-filled cookies from the health food co-op were lame imitations of soft and moist Fig Newtons, the same way carob’s a sad, waxy imposter of chocolate. They didn’t fool me. I used to eat the real stuff back in the suburbs, back when my parents were sane.

Now I’m here writing to myself in this virtual school cafeteria. And I still don’t have Twinkies (Have you read the ingredients? Turns out my mom knew what she was doing). To make myself feel like a weirdo all over again, I’ve been writing about myself in the third person on my bio and home page: “Michele Miles Gardiner has written essays and articles for newspapers and magazines, and performed her stories on stage. She’s currently working on her true tales, “Craving Normal,” a collection of stories about being born to suburbanites who veered way off and transformed into nude-beach-loving, world-traveling-hippies, and other adventures of growing up during the ‘Me Generation,’ and beyond.”

See, she’s a weirdo! But she wrote a book, so this is what she is supposed to do to promote her book.

Anyway, nice talking to YOU. You’re a very patient person and a great listener.

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Come to Our Commune

My first blog post!

Here I am in La Jolla, dancing and singing to The Fifth Dimension’s “Aquarius,” just before these men (on the lawn) talked my dad into taking our family to stay at their religious commune in San Diego. Not that my dad was religious, just that he had a deep reverence for penny-pinching. Getting stuff free was the closest he got to a spiritual moment.

Wearing my super groovy vinyl dress, I danced and belted out, “This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius…” clueless about where we were headed.

More about this commune experience in my up-coming book, “Craving Normal,” in the story titled “Jesus Freak for Cheerios.” To keep posted on my new non fiction book, join my email list here: http://michelemilesgardiner.com/

 Observation: Looks like the woman in red scarf is scoffing at our hippiness, and/or at the dude on the left who may be toking a joint.

 

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