What's this in the box?
I waited to open my new Blythe until I had some time to take pictures. I managed to get this one fairly quickly from a "buy it now" person on Ebay.
Notice the total early 70's look to the box. They were trying to make the original packaging as best as they could. Blythe first appeared in 1972 - still on the tale end of the "60's" - let's not forget...
The Blythe dolls currently being made in Japan have only three different eye colors - but the original versions had four, and so does this reproduction.
Here she is in all her hippie glory. Disco and the rest of the polyester "glam 70's" fashions had not yet descended, and when my parents went out to dinner parties with their friends in 1972, there could be women counted on to appear in "granny dresses" not all that different from this. On the hills rising below my home were a series of old Victorian houses - and the women there all could be seen wearing variation of these kinds of clothes. We'd spot them in the library, or climbing into their battered Volvo station wagons when the snow was on the ground and firewood was piled up near their porches.
I took Blythe outside and pondered her at the edge of our garden. Of course, given the clothes, Blythe would be into gardening and growing her own vegetables. My dad did this for years and had a huge garden in our backyard. We had fresh tomato plants growing next to our driveway - in front of our garage he had converted into an art studio.
Once, when some of our neighbors went on vacation, I was hired to take care of their cat. My dad came down with me and saw that their vegetables were going to waste while they were on vacation and helped himself to some giant zucchinis.
“It would have been terrible to let them go to waste,” he told us.
Ebony Anpu once told me that Grady had said that there was one giant blackberry bush growing under Berkeley and Oakland - like a Cthulhu-type creature. You could try to hack away a part of it, but you'd never get the whole thing...
There aren’t any blackberry bushes near our house, but I have seen them all over the place. Every time I do, I cannot help but think of what Ebony told me.
What mysteries do those eyes convey? Does Blythe mourn for the death of the space age? Can she recall gathering around the TV to watch flickering black and white images of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon? Where have we come from since then? Can she tell us - and do we have the patience to wait for her answer?
Back in the 60's, my parents had a hippy friend named Richard Lester. He rode around on a motorcycle with a big dog and sometimes crashed at our home. When we woke up, we'd discover than he had done little odd jobs around the house - done the dishes, fixed a screen door - to thank us. Then he disappeared as abruptly as he had entered our lives, leaving us as the counter culture died. Richard was with us when the moon landing took place and watched it with my parents.
Years later, when I was in High School, my mom had a manager at the Nyack YMCA named Mary George. She was tanned, young, fairly friendly, but still projected a peculiar, off-putting (to some people) sense of aloofness or distance. Once, while talking to Mary george in her office, my mother noticed a business card on her desk. It read: "Richard Lester, General Contracting" and had a phone number. My mother excitedly told Mary about the Richard Lester we once knew and wondered if it was the same guy.
Mary responded by saying, "That's nothing." She abruptly picked up the business card and threw it angrily into her wastepaper basket. We pondered this exchange at length.
Mary George left the Y shortly thereafter...
My friend John's family lived on the street above us. Their house was at the very end of a dead end street, and on the edge of a densely wooded area of several acres - all owned by the water company. John asked his father to build him a tree house and his dad, who hated doing home repairs of any kind, but who would spend hours happily working on any building project outside of his house, readily agreed.
His father asked John what color he wanted the tree house painted. John, like I did, loved the color purple. His father compromised and painted the inside of the tree house a bright purple and the outside a brown color to camouflage it against the trees at the edge of their property. This property was marked by a crumbling stone wall - once made by the farmer who farmed the land that had turned to woods and suburban homes.
As I lay awake before going to sleep, I find myself, in my mind, revisiting that crumbling wall. They had to take the tree house down a long time ago. The swing that was under it is long gone too.
Many years ago, when I first arrived in the Bay Area, I worked with a fading flower child of the 60’s who had arrived much earlier – during the “Summer of Love” I believe. She had seen better days and was more than a little confused. Once she confided to me, as I believe she took me for a sympathetic listener, that in the late 60’s everyone believed that Berkeley and North Oakland were part of a vast government experiment, and that the entire area was bugged. Everything anyone said or did was taped and recorded. She seemed pretty crazy to me and just stopped coming to work one day.
We never saw her again…