Cultural Autobiography

Sun. October 23, 2005
Categories: Uncategorized

A few words about my cultural influences: My father is a blond, blue-eyed, 30% Scotch-Irish Marine born in Kentucky; my mother is a fair-skinned brunette born in Nogales, Mexico and raised since infancy in Los Angeles. I was “W.A.S.P.” born and raised and attended a private Lutheran elementary school followed by public junior and senior high schools.  I have vague childhood memories of watching early Hollywood movies with my mother, and wanting to dance with Fred Astaire, speak like Bette Davis, look like Katherine Hepburn, and marry someone like Cary Grant until Star Trek came along and captured my heart and intellect.

The Civil Rights Act was enacted by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, roughly two years before Star Trek first aired, meaning that racial segregation was outlawed during my childhood, however rights remained denied. There was, therefore, a large increase of riots as well as crime. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were shot. The Vietnam War was going on and in 1970, while I was in junior high school, the Kent State protests occurred along with the shocking news of the shooting of college students by the National Guard.

Halfway Up The Stairs

Through music I learned about love and war, being so restricted at home that I did not dare to protest with my friends.  I mainstreamed on television, pop radio and newspapers: Dylan, Baez, Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and importantly, the Grateful Dead. I didn’t even know about Bowie, the Velvet Underground, and more until much later. Meanwhile it was bluegrass and barbeque.


Musical Influences

Retrospectively, taboos relating to sexism and racism were loosening up. I was, and still am, inspired by feminists who have fought for our sexual rights.  Roe v. Wade in 1973 was historic, and I am so grateful. The Supreme Court decided our right to privacy was protected under the 14th Amendment. Unlike battles being fought today, State restrictions were unheard of. I am hugely thankful that I was born and raised in California with a refuge like Planned Parenthood always nearby. It has been the only place in this culture where I have felt safe, protected and cared for as a woman regardless of whether I was pregnant or not.

Religion and Intellectual Influences

I was aware of the 60’s – 70’s as a time when the Pentecostal and Evangelical movements were growing.  I accepted Jesus into my heart, my family became born again Christians, and the Jesus Movement influenced us. After conversion, my path took many twists and turns: my questioning served to open the door to the study of church-denied thoughts: Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, and Neopaganism were taboo subjects and since I was going to hell, as my father said, the trip was going to be interesting. Today, my vision is more integral, that is, the beliefs I hold currently are both Christian, Buddhist and, Vedanta. At 25, I was initiated into the (Hindu) Vedanta tradition by Swami Swahananda and was earnest for monasticism until I turned 30, the final decision point. It was in the jacuzzi at the Montecito YMCA that my final decision was made. No. The easy life was not for me although I longed for an idealized community to live in. In retrospect, spiritual communities can be politically suspect places.  I would be thrilled to build a straw bale house, preferably in New Mexico. I don’t know if that dream will ever come true. I’ll settle for a nice tree house somewhere, or even a tiny house.


An ex-Green Beret lover once named my mainstreaming into corporate America at 30 as “castration.” I argued that I was raised with an ethic of hard work. As a result (after 25 long years of showing up every day to sit behind a computer in a cubicle) as least I have a small pension from a moderate salary which provided some security all those years: a perch to look down and around from and the ability to depend financially upon myself. After the predictable layoff due to downsizing at the end of the Space Shuttle program, I can squeak by. Ah, regrets: it can be useful to look back and ponder if the toil was meaningful because in the end do I really want to rely on my memories to find meaning? Yet, in spite of my fears and because of bravery, I am satisfied with most of my choices in life.

Work Life

My physical development was normal until my teens when things got crazy. I developed a thyroid disorder and an auto accident followed that left me with a concussion and a retinal detachment that was later repaired at 25 years old (in the meantime, I went on a journey to Israel, and then tried to move to Portland only to return home for surgery and recovery). In my twenties, even though I went to acupuncture school and should have known better how to take care of myself, I experienced gallstones and still bear the long surgical scar. I regained my health through yoga. I loved living at a mountain ashram for 7 years while at the same time driving into the city on a daily basis to work, and during that time obtaining a college degree. I was just trying to stay alive and find moments of peace and joy. More recently, I have taken up regular bike-riding, and I supplement wisely.

I Love Yoga

I recall antipathy towards the Chicano Movement by my mother, a sentiment that does not convey her deep love of Mexican culture. That was confusing. There were over one million Chicanos in Los Angeles according to the first attempt to identify the entire Hispanic origin population in 1970 (U.S. Census, 2002). Even with awareness of that part of my heritage, I felt that I did not want to be identified as Mexican. People would often ask me where I came from,  and sometimes still do since I have olive toned skin and different eyes but I never knew which group I belonged to.  I remember the focus was on not being Mexican, unaware that I did not look the part entirely. Even though my mother taught Spanish in the Lutheran elementary school we attended she did not speak it to us. Strange aversion. I preferred to identify with my father’s background but by avoiding machismo, I bumped into Michael Moore’s “stupid white man” patriarchy. Aren’t they all different versions of the same thing? Nevertheless, I tried to make peace with my background and flew my mother to Mexico to visit my grandfather one last time; and then flew my father to Kentucky to meet my hillbilly relatives living in the hollow of the mountains where they once farmed (now where the corporations claim the coal). An acquaintance once cleverly called me a ‘hicspic’.  All of what I have said here informs how I see myself and reflects that I have always stood at a crossroads, culturally speaking.



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