Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lost Youth

This is me 30 years ago.



At the time, I worked for Hugh Hefner in West Hollywood, with a wonderful group of talented people who produced a secondary men’s magazine for Heff. I lived in Santa Monica, California, a beach city in west Los Angeles.

On the weekends and evenings, I wrote my own material: vignettes, poetry, random essays and rants. When I wasn’t partying, I was writing. Sometimes I partied and wrote at the same time. I’ve saved a lot of that material, and occasionally I look back at it and marvel at the free spirit, the free-wheeling writing, the youthful style.

Writers like Tom Wolf, Hunter Thompson, and Joan Didion had impressed me in the mid- to late 1970s with their radical, new approach to nonfiction, which was personal, gritty, and clever. I was a hippie from the ‘60s who was attracted to anything revolutionary. Instead of writing as a detached, invisible narrator, the new journalists injected themselves into their work, becoming part of the story, and they focused on revealing the humanity of their subjects. Those writers have influenced my writing style for decades.

I was deeply into drinking and drugging too. At the time, it seemed to be the gateway into uninhibited thought, into free association, into creativity itself. I think now that might have been true.

Looking at these photos now, I’m struck by how resilient I was, how eager I was to explore, experience, and invent. It would be another 10 years before the drugs and alcohol beat me down and destroyed that sense of power and possibility.

Today, I’m glad I was what I was. I like this young woman. I’m thankful for everything that brought me to this day, this life I now lead. I’m thankful that Something was there, 10 years later when the addiction shattered me, to save me from self-destruction and renew my life.

~~~~~

This is a Sepia Saturday post. For more personal glimpses of history, visit the Sepia Saturday blog here.

~~~~~

34 comments:

Paul C said...

Thanks for sharing this vital reflection about youth, creativity, loss, and healing.

Monkey Man said...

Quite an impressive past.

TechnoBabe said...

Was it just these pictures, or were you a serious young woman? You do not look happy in these pictures. The best part of this post is you saying "I like this young woman". For me, that is a very important statement. It took me most of my life to get even close to being able to say that.

Martin H. said...

Some of us just have to hack our way through the rough patches in life, in order to find ourselves, not lost, but hiding. So glad you're happy with the person you found.

RNSANE said...

Ah, youth...at that time, I was finishing nursing school, had made my first trip to San Francisco and looked in awe at Haight Street and all the hippies - this Southern girl, brought up by the Daughters of Charity, had yet to let her hair down and really enjoy life. Oh, but when I did, nothing stopped me. Funny, though, I never did any drugs other than alcohol - one puff of marijuana was enough for me. I didn't like smoke of any kind! I did - and do - still like wine and alcohol, in moderation, not rot gut, though!
For me, my youth was saying goodbye to so many friends at home
( Ft. Benning, GA, going off to the war in VietNam, many not returning ), being a young Florence Nightingale and thinking all things were possible.


At 65, I've done it! My poetry book - Life's Journey by Carmen Henesy - is out on Amazon!
( Poems about the things that have been important to me in my journey through life, some humorous, some sad, some that may have meaning to you as well )
http://www.amazon.com/Lifes-Journey-1-Carmen-Henesy/dp/1451547366/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274652997&sr=1-1

Meri said...

It's good that there was enough you left inside to recover after the addictions. Some people burn themselves to ash and can't revivify.

joanny said...

Beautiful story about a talented young writer -- the living fabric of history shaping our thoughts as we weave our current garment..of who we turn out to be today.

Love the hat and ensemble and the typewriter photo...just classic

thanks for sharing --
Joanny

joanny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nana Jo said...

This is a wonderful post, full of wisdom. It took me a long time to understand that in order to be whole, you have to cherish all the parts of yourself, and that includes the hurting, untidy, seeking, unfinished parts, too. It's what makes us human and really, it's what makes us more lovable.

Andrew said...

You give meaning to the promise of we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

Brian Miller said...

nice pics chris...everything we go through leads us to where we are. i would do it all again to get to this ponint if that is what it took...

Barbara and Nancy said...

I was living in L.A. at the same time. I dappled in drugs but luckily it didn't take hold. You couldn't socialize at the time, at least in L.A., without taking a puff or two. And, of course, it'd be pretty hard to go to a party and refuse a drink.
I'm glad you got something out of it and also got renewed. I must say, I miss those days- maybe not the drugs, but certainly the creative atmosphere. I was in advertising and design and I think it was a very special time.

willow said...

I like how you've embraced your whole life, the good and the not so.

Terra said...

These photos show a sad and serious woman, to me. I hope your journey today is full of joy.

Syd said...

I like this young woman too. I like the free wheeling style--something that has long attracted me. That's how C. and I got together. Interesting post.

Elisabeth said...

It's wonderful that your resilience got you through to tell this story. amazing.

steveroni said...

Yes, your thinking I cannot deny for myself also--I had to do, to go, and to be the Pr**k who I was, in order to get where I am. That is, sober and clean, and living a fairly--not perfect--sane life, sans chaos.

We in AA have so much in common because of our alcoholism, that all else is inconsequential. Because it is "life-an-or-death".

I'll need to look at more of Enchanted oak's history...it appears to be really interesting story.

lettuce said...

do you ever wish you could go back and visit your youthful self? not to interfere, just to watch and remember?

How great to be at ease with who you were and to be able to see that resilience

Alan Burnett said...

A moving post which somehow perfectly matches those photographs. And on another level it is an interesting post from the point of view of writing styles : in some ways it is as if those writers of the seventies invented blogging thirty years before everyone else.

Marion said...

I really like the young lady in the photos...she is one I would have been friends with, had I been there at the time.

I am glad I did what I did when I was younger...it made me into the person who I am mostly satisfied with today. AA is such a super tool for me. It jump started me on my quest for a saner life.

A super post, as always, Chris!

Georgina said...

What an awesome story. For me, an al-anon member, I sometimes think that as difficult as my Dad's drinking years were for my family, when he found AA and sobriety, I felt a very strange and calming sense of "this is exactly how it was meant to unfold". I can't tell that to non-AA or non-Al-Anon people because they just don't get it. Thanks for sharing this. - G

PattiKen said...

Thank you for sharing this bit of your story. I love hearing about the road that led people to who they are today. I have to agree with TechnoBabe, though: you don't look happy in these pictures.

Magpie said...

It's good to look back on times like these and see them for what they really were. To glean the good and learn from the not so good. It is what makes us who we are today and we do need to acknowledge and learn to love ourselves "warts and all". I'm glad you've found that place.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

you and i are seperated by 1/2 a generation and yet we seemed to have in some respects come out of our generations with some amazing insights about our lives and our creative spirits and instead of allowing the manic creativity to run rampant we learned how to live with the muse in each of us and how to not stay addicted to the drugs/alcohol that did eventually trap our creative natures...so dear Chris..here is to freedom on a weekend that is all about our love and freedoms.
Much love to you.

e said...

Chris, thanks for sharing your photos and reflections. Your post reminds me of a discussion I recently had in which it was mentioned that the safety net of youth, now gone for us both, has been replaced by a sort of urgency to get things sorted and make the most out of life at this point...

Younger Chris was certainly resilient and you, like many other things, get better with age and sobriety.

Barry said...

Great photos of you and a terrific post.

I admire the adventurous spirit in people that lead them to risk and live life to the full.

Beth Niquette said...

Dearest Chris...I read what you wrote to Mumsie--Oh, dear one--you have been through the fire, haven't you?

Mums walked through those hard days when her Mom, my Grammie, didn't know who she was, and slowly lost her mind to the mists of old altheimers. Grandpa had much the same thing happen to him. God was the One who walked with her, Who wept with her--sharing her tears, treasuring them.

It may be that I will watch my precious Mother lose her identity when she gets older. But I will be there for her. And I know God will walk with me, with her.

You are so dear. So VERY precious in every way. You are an inspiration and I think you are amazing.

Prayer Girl said...

Thanks for this intimate look into your youth.

It touched me.

PG

Birdie said...

dear Chris, first of all, you look beautiful at the pictures!, secondly, you made me cry actually. I so understand the world 'addiction' and the pain it can bring. Sometimes I think I would not want to repeat it, to have follow a different way, an easier one, but the I remind myself, that I would not be who I'm today and I like the person who I'm now and here... we need those experiences to help us to grow, we really do ... hugs!!

Birdie said...

Chris, and I forgot to mention that I'm happy for you that you have found your peace!! :-)

L. D. Burgus said...

I find your history amazing and I find your life now with reflection and no regrets interesting. I relive some of my haunts in life and can still feel the same pain and I wonder if others do that too. I hope not.

Scott said...

it's nice to be able to look back and admire ourselves and be pleased with who we were... nice post Chris :-)

Tari said...

Well your "about me" says you spent time in "magazine publishing" but I would not have guessed it was working for Hugh Heffner! :-)

Interesting to hear about your writing life. I love reading these types of stories.

Nancy said...

Do you remember when these photos were taken? Do you remember how you were feeling - sad, or just serious, or...? This was a thought-provoking post, including the comments. Thanks for sharing.

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