Friday, March 5, 2010

Fresca, 7-Up

“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.”-- theme of Up series

I've been fascinated with the British documentary 7 Up film series since I saw 35 Up in 1991:
The series began in 1964 when Michael Apted asked fourteen 7 year-old British children (left) to talk about their hopes and dreams. He's returned to film them in their lives every seven years. The lasest installment is 49 Up, in 2006.

Now I too am turning 49--(today! March 5)--and I decided to put together a 7-Up collage of my own life.
So, here are photos of me at roughly seven-year intervals, annotated with some cultural and personal landmarks.

1.) Christmas 1960
My parents at my mother's family home, in southern Missouri.
My mother, 26, is seven months pregnant with me. My father, 30, is finishing his PhD in political science.

I am the product of a mixed marriage: my WASP mother was raised to be a Southern Belle; my father was born in Milwaukee, the son of Sicilian immigrants.
I always felt that they met at the crossroads of getting the hell out of the lives they'd been born into,
then kept on going, farther and farther away from each other.

The year I was born, 1961, sees John Kennedy sworn in as U.S. president, the Berlin Wall begin to go up, and Yuri Gagarin become the first human in outer space.
Other 1961 births:
George Clooney, Meg Ryan, and Barack Obama.

2) Spring 1967: 7 Up
My first-grade school photo, in Madison, Wisconsin. I am six.
I'm reading Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss, and Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

LBJ is president, Walter Cronkite reports on the Vietnam War every night; and my parents buy the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
On TV we watch Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Get Smart, and Hogan's Heroes.

My parents left their respective religious traditions behind them,
but I am deeply influenced by the philosophy of the peace and social-justice movement I see around me, growing up near the radical UW-Madison campus.

3) 1974: 14 Up
(I'm 13 here, but that's in my 14th year...)
This is the last photo of my childhood:
my mother had left the family that spring; my father spends this summer watching Watergate hearings in a darkened living room; Nixon resigns in August.

I get my first job, delivering the Wisconsin Times newspaper, and in the fall, I start a new high school where I know no one.
I watch Star Trek reruns on our black-and-white TV every day after school. See Truffaut's Day for Night and wish I could make movies.

Within two years, I will be unrecognizable as this child. After seeing Taxi Driver, I cut my hair super short and buy an army jacket.
The next year, at sixteen, I graduate from high school early and leave home, taking my Bruce Springsteen Born to Run cassette tape and a poster of Mr. Spock with me.

4, 5) 1983–1984: 21 Up

Yeah, I'm really 22, 23, but let's cheat and skip ahead a bit to when I'm happy again,
even though I'm worried the human race is going to destroy itself:
John Lennon has been murdered; Ronald Reagan [hearts] Margaret Thatcher; U.S. Marines are killed in Beirut and invade Grenada; a toxic gas leak at Bhopal, India, kills thousands of people.

Still, Lech Walesa, glasnost, and the Sony Walkman give us hope.

The photo of me smiling is taken after I've moved to Minneapolis, dropped in and out of college, quit my job as a fry cook, and biked up along Lake Superior for a couple weeks. (Little did I know that the damage I did to my knee biking up the steep hill to Duluth would still be with me as I type this.)

Then, inspired by David Bowie, I bleach my hair.
I'm living in a lesbian co-op, where we all gathered in the living room to watch Brideshead Revisted, starring Jeremy Irons (none of us had a video player yet).
Back in college again, studying Japanese culture, I type my papers on a typewriter.

Working together as janitors at the movie theater that shows Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight, bink and I become close watching old movies together, and later we become lovers. (We didn't say "partners" back then--such a boring business-world word.)
In 1986, we move to Chicago, where bink gets an MFA in painting and I learn paper- and book-making.

6) 1989: 28 Up
George H. W. Bush is prez; the Soviets leave Afghanistan, a country many Americans have barely heard of; Tiananmen Square demonstrations end in violence; Berlin Wall falls.

Living for a year in New Bedford, MA-- the port Ishmael ships out of in Moby Dick--while bink teaches illustration; I spend my time after my shift as a janitor at the YW working out to the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing (1987), and for the first time in my life am in great physical shape.
In the evenings I watch the Nickolodeon TV channel and catch up on all the junk TV my parents wouldn't let me watch.

Our friend Bruce dies of AIDS,
and bink and I, with our dog Bop, return to Mpls. and move in with his partner Jim.
While bink finds ways to live as a painter, I get a job at an art college library, which uses a card catalog and rubber date stamps.
I create collages and artists books, and fill sketchbooks.
Sometime in here, we get a VCR.

7) 1996: 35 Up
Nelson Mandela has won a Nobel Peace Prize and is president of South Africa; massacre in Rwanda; Dolly the sheep is cloned; Bill Clinton reelected

Having gone back to college (this time, I typed my papers on a computer at work), I graduate with my B.A. in Classics, age thirty-five. When people ask me what I want to do with my degree, I say,
"I want to lead a life of conversation."

Mostly this means I write volumes of e-mails during my evening library shift. (Blogger dot com won't be launched for three more years, in 1999.)

Within two years, I'll be baptized in the Catholic faith, end my thirteen year relationship with bink, and begin what will be a three-year affair with Oliver, a married man.

I love being in the church--not only because of the meatiness of the theology and the sensuality of the worship,
but because for the first time since childhood, I'm around people who talk and work for social justice and peace as a matter of course (even if the church's policies don't exactly match the talk).

8-9) 2002-2003: 42 Up

You remember: this is post-September 11, 2001:
George W. Bush is prez; the US & allies are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan; Jimmy Carter wins the Nobel Peace Prize; people line up at midnight to buy the new Harry Potter; Google buys Blogger.

I'd turned forty in 2001, quit the art library, walked the Camino across Spain, and broke up with the married man.
Now --top, left, photo-- I'm working part-time as sacristan (schlepper of holy knicknacks). I am vested with the power to use the holy blowtorch to light the altar candles, here in November, the month of the dead.
My mother kills herself the next month.

Second photo: At a youth hostel in New York City. I have begun to write world-geography reference books for teens, starting with Turkey.
I begin my first blog, flightless parrots, which I delete two years later, realizing with a shock that the Internet isn't kidding, if you know what I mean.
Nonetheless, I also buy my first Apple laptop.

10) 2010: 49 Up
Completing my 49th trip around the sun and feeling incredibly grateful to have left behind me the devastation of divorce, teenage-hood, suicide, adultery, the Bush dynasty, and the internal politics of the Catholic Church.

And grateful for all the wonderful, good things that remain:
writing and reading, art, film and filmmaking, music, the joy of physics, my best friend bink and other good friends, family, in the broadest sense--and, having rediscovered it a couple years earlier, Star Trek.

Having made my peace with the bright lights of the nets, I've been blogging again for a couple years, which comes pretty close to fulfilling my desire for a life of conversation.

Technorati states it is tracking more than 112 million blogs, which does not include the 72+ million Chinese blogs.
Thank you all out there, taking part in the conversation.


Margaret said...

Ah, Fresca. This is wonderful.

femminismo said...

Oh, my gosh! This was a fascinating trip through your life. I am so glad to still be chained to the computer, yet finished with my blog post so I caught yours before beddy-bye. I love this sequencing and the photos. Good lord, I think I also have a photo of me working out to Jane F. and wearing leg warmers! (Best butt I ever had, that year.) Other things resonate: friend dying of AIDS, listening to Cronkite, glad Bush is gone. So funny to become Catholic and then have an affair w/married man. Or maybe that is required! Thanks again for the trip. Live long and prosper!

Ginga Squid said...

Such cool photos - especially the cute first one! I think its funny how any journey back in time (for me anyway) seems to be all about the hairstyles!

Ginga Squid said...

- I mean your first grade photo (v cute)!

yvette said...

thank you for sharing..what a life...And yes..we have a conversation each at it's own way.

lang zal ze leven lang zal ze leven lang zal ze leven in de gloria in de gloria in the gloriaaaaaaaa♪ ♫ ♩ ♬ ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬
♪ ♫ ♩ ♬ ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬
♬ ♪ ♫ ♬ ♪ ♫
♩ ♬ ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬ ♪♬

The Crow said...

Happy Birthday!

Found an animation which I'll try to embed here, but if it doesn't work, I posted it at my site.

Oops, sorry. I'm still learning how to do this.

Well, happy day, anyway!

(Got an error message, couldn't post the embed.)

Fresca said...

Good morning, all!
I'm happy to see these fun messages on my birthday morning.

MARGARET: I'm glad you liked it. It was quite a ride, putting it together.

FMSMO: you gave me such a laugh:
The idea that you must commit big juicy sins to be Catholic isn't entirely off the mark... I mean, the church really is a Fellini-esque circus of humanity, which is why I love it.

GINGA: The hair! The hair! It's true, and of course I didn't post the absolute most cringe-worthy haircuts. (I actually rather like the bleach job.)

YVETTE: I searched youTube so I could hear that Dutch birthday song--it's dear--thank you!

CROW: I went to your blog and watched the animation you chose for me--the dear monster giving me a flower... I love it.

germiegirl said...

Happy happy birthday Fresca 7up and a fine red wine . . .

Fresca said...

GERMIE: Thanks! You know, I think I saw "35 Up" in 1991 with you and Barrett.

poodletail said...

Happy birthday, Fresca.

bookworm said...

Happy Birthday - wish we could teleport across the ocean to wish you Happy Birthday in person,

Beam us up Fresca!

Lots of love,

Hannah, Andy and Josh

ArtSparker said...

Happy Birthday, I admire your joie de vivre and determination. I know exactly what you mean about conversation - good conversation is so deeply satisfying. Have a wonderful day!

Dania said...

Happy birthday, Fresca! I hope you have a wonderful day and year.

It's interesting the similar family dynamics we both share. I suppose we're all far more a like than we realize.

deanna said...

Congratulations, Fresca, on your multi-media life, and happy conversationing for the next 49 years. :o)

Rudyinparis said...


Happy birthday. I'm so lucky to know you!

Lill said...

Happy Bday, fellow Piscean! Lovely to view this quick summary of your journey on the river of life.

I'm glad there is much of it I know -- at least in this concentrated account. Also glad to know the parts I didn't, like left home at sixteen! If I knew it I didn't remember --Holy Cow. How did you ever survive?

I love the red bleached hair!

Anonymous said...

The world is so very happy and such a better home because you got birthed. I, among many, am so glad this part of your life has been since the advent of blogging; what a wonderful life and thank you for sharing. Hope you are having a glorious day! It's been so beautiful all day!
Am in process of reading a novella by Lynne Sharon Schwartz--(whose stuff I haven't read in years ad have been hankering for)--which I bumped into at M& Q in Uptown. It's called LEAVING BROOKLYN; it's luscious. I'm only on page 35 at the moment and had to drag myself away from it to look you up on your day. I think you and many others here would love it. It's an everything work--full of light, philosophy, politics, love, perception, geography, physics and sodas of multiple flavors.

Happy Effervescence!


momo said...

this is wonderful! And that you have pictures of yourself from all those different times in your life is a treasure.

Fresca said...


I've had the wonderfulest birthday I've had in ages, and all the webby love has definitely helped push it beyond good into excellent.

Now must go sleep it off so I can go round 2 and 3 this weekend.

Manfred Allseasons said...

Happy Birthday Fresca! Sorry I'm a bit late, not on the internets as much as I'd like at the moment...

Wonderful pictures, truly...I'm going to post some of my own 80's stuff this weekend, you've inspired me...

1961 really was a wonderful birth year for prominent persons such as Obama, Princess Diana, Boy George, yourself, George Clooney, Peter Jackson, Michael J Fox too! And we have all gone on to great things - just some of us have been more publicity hungry than others...looking at you, Diana...

I hope you had a lovely day.

Fresca said...

MANFRED: I had no idea you were born in 1961! A good year...
I remember thinking how weird it was when Diana got married that she was my age, as she seemed in every other way to be another species.

I thought of you as I bravely posted that picture of me with orange hair, as it was YOUR post long ago about EBTG & 80s hair that first got me thinking about posting old hairstyles.
So, it is only right and fitting you should post some 80s stuff, absolutely.

I did have a lovely day--now am off to more birthday doings.

Jennifer said...

Happy happy belated best wishes!

I really like the picture of you with the bleached hair. You look (to lapse into LJ-speak) hawt--not the hair so much as the smirk, like you don't want to hear any more guff from anyone...but at the same time you're laughing a bit at yourself. It is a rather Shatner-esque photo, is what I'm fumblingly trying to say.

I begin my first blog, flightless parrots, which I delete two years later, realizing with a shock that the Internet isn't kidding, if you know what I mean.

Oh my, I do. That line made me burst out laughing. :)

Fresca said...

"It is a rather Shatner-esque photo"

This is the best birthday present anyone could say to me, Jen!