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December 16, 2009

> Welcome to the first post on Double Exposure. My name is Dave Gardner and I plan to post once a week, with the hope that what you find here will entice you to keep coming back. What’s it about? It’s a very personal blog that chronicles the years 1956-1960, most of my teen years, growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico. We lived in a Mexican neighborhood and my sister and I had Mexican friends and attended Mexican schools. It was a unique experience and the best thing that ever happened to me, in spite of an abusive and alcoholic mother.
Why am I doing this? It’s an engaging and entertaining coming-of-age story that I want to share. It’s also a cross-cultural history that provides a perspective on that time and place. And, frankly, I think I write well, but that’s for you to decide.

I welcome comments, questions, and feedback; my goal is to respond to all of you. Comments will be moderated and the usual expectations apply: no personal attacks, no slurs of any kind, no commercial recommendations. As for language, I don’t plan to censor but neither do I welcome gratuitous use of obscenities/profanities.
Finally, my posts are all excerpted from my memoir, “Double Exposure: Coming of Age in Two Cultures.” I figure it’ll take about 18 months to run through the whole thing. Most names have been changed because I want to respect people’s privacy.
Thanx! And enjoy!

Dave Gardner

Suicide

Dad’s car, a gray ‘53 anniversary edition Cadillac with the gold-colored “V” emblem on the trunk and the grille, is parked just off the highway. The scene is bleak. Boulders dot the sere scrubland as well as the nearby hills. Dad is heading off into the desolate landscape.
He walked a long time, finally finding an isolated ravine off Highway 101 near Camarillo. The California Highway Patrol found his car parked on the highway with a note indicating his intentions. It took them a long time to find him and another long time to retrieve his body from the steep ravine. I’m puzzled. If he didn’t want to be found, why would he leave a note? And if he did want to be found, why did he go to so much trouble to conceal himself?
I try to put myself in Dad’s frame of mind. Depressed over having been fired from his job as one of LA’s top newscasters. Depressed over being told that his TB was active again. Depressed over a failed marriage. Depressed over his addictions. People don’t always think right when life’s pressures mount their fierce and unrelenting attacks.
Mentally, I retrace Dad’s final trip. He gets in the car, making sure he has his barbiturates to which, along with prescription painkillers, he has long been addicted, a demon he can’t control. He backs out of the driveway of our home in Sherman Oaks and heads for the Ventura Freeway, not too far away. Does he know where he’s going? Has he pored over a map and said to himself, “Camarillo sounds like a good end of the road, I think I’ll go there”? Has he even decided at this point that he’s going to OD, kill himself, take his own life, commit suicide? These phrases must dance through his head as the miles unravel the last threads of his life. Heading west, is he struck by the irony of the pleasant-sounding names of the suburbs he passes through? Woodland Hills. Hidden Hills. Thousand Oaks. And then, just the other side of Oxnard, there it is, halfway between Thousand Oaks and Ventura. Camarillo.
I don’t know if Dad left during the day or at night. My mental recreation of his agony places it at night, matching the darkness flooding his soul as he pulls to the side of the road and stops. Is the suicide note already written? It was a short note so it was probably written on the spot, but not necessarily spontaneously. Dad was very methodical and organized. The note was written and rewritten in his head countless times.
He places the note on the dashboard, gets out and closes the door. Does he lock it? Or does he think ahead, beyond the point where he ceases to exist, and leave the car unlocked so the police won’t have to break the glass? He hesitates because force of habit dictates locking the car. The final decision of his life is made and he turns and heads into the landscape, leaving the car unlocked. But wait. It’s not the final decision. He has yet to decide just where the camera will fade to black.
I try to follow Dad, but it’s hard. I don’t know how long or how far he walks. He’s left me behind and I’m alone. Now all I can see is Dad dead. I’ve missed the crucial point where he stopped and I could have talked with him, pleaded with him, screamed at him, done something, anything. It’s too late. He’s dead and my whole life is changed forever.

N O T E S

The photo above was a publicity shot taken after Dad was chosen to replace Glenn Hardy as the newscaster for the “Alka-Seltzer Newspaper of the Air,” the top-rated TV news show in LA. The caption reads “Jack Gardner is the newscaster for the ‘Alka-Seltzer Newspaper of the Air’ seen twice daily on Channel 9.” He landed the job in 1952 and three years later killed himself. This is where my story begins.

NEXT WEEK: SNAPSHOTS

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2009 4:30 am

    >You will probably be looking for a way to reverse your order of posts. In Blogger, the newest post will always be on top! There is a work around in my blog "FAQ & answers". Please click on my photo on your follower gadget and you will see my blog. Click on "journal" under labels in the side bar.Welcome to blogosphere!

  2. December 19, 2009 6:28 am

    >I sort of remember a picture of your father that either you or your mother showed me – not sure if this is the same one – and am surprised how much more you have come to look like him as you (we) have aged, especially down the center of your face. This is starting out as something quite interesting, and I hope you continue to roll out your story, since I have heard it in little snippets and never with a coherent time line.Nick

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