Finally Alone

When I divorced my first husband in 1961, we had been married about 3 1/2 years. I went to Mexico to get a quick divorce. But before i went, it seems that my ex was traveling with his new girlfriend in California. I decided to go there too. Everyone thought it was to see him, but it wasn’t. I went because I always admired the fact that my ex travelled a lot and I really hadn’t. I needed to do something on my own so I decided I would go to San Francisco.

When I first got there, I called an old friend of mine I knew from the city. He owned the Fillmore East and West Theatres. He said come and stay with me! So I did for a week but then suddenly realized we were attracted to each other. He was French, what can I say!   I was seeing someone back home and didn’t want to get involved. So I left.

I rented a room in a hotel. It was more like a boarding house and it was mostly filled with older single men.  But it was right in the middle of everything happening in San Francisco. Every morning I would wake up nervous about going out alone. So I would paint until about noon and then clean up and go out to walk around.

One time this guy approached me. We had lunch, dinner, sex and the next day we went on a drive along the coast. What can I say, it was the 60’s! But I didn’t really like him so I decided not to see him again. But when he dropped me off I walked into the lobby of the building and all of the men staying there were waiting for me! Turns out the were worried because they didn’t see me come home! It was actually very sweet. It was like having 10 or 15 fathers.

One day I looked up an old friend from NYC. Her name was Doris. She suggested we go walk around. Well, San Francisco was very hilly so the walk was short. But we decided to eat instead. Doris was my eating friend. When I was with Doris we ate. SO that day we had Chinese food for lunch. Then we had Chinese food for dinner.  I love Chinese food. The first solid food I ate as a child was an egg roll. My parents usually used Chinese food to bribe me too. It always worked. That day, Doris and I didn’t have snacks because we were eating so much Chinese food.

I didn’t do a lot of touristy things during my trip. That guy I spent some time with in the beginning of my trip tried to come see me again, but got into an accident on his motorcycle on the Golden Gate Bridge. But, I mostly wanted to experience being in an unfamiliar city all by myself, and that’s what I did. I experienced being nervous about doing something but surviving it. And I also had a really good time and found out I was stronger than I thought.

At the end of the trip one of my 15 fathers from the boarding house took me to the airport in a taxi to make sure I got there safely. I was very touched by that.


Out of the Box into My Sneakers

I was 1 of 8 women out of 180 people in my Architecture class at Pratt. Being a woman during the 60’s and 70’s wasn’t as hard for me as it was for the people I knew. I was one of 2 women in a class of 40 people in my Physics class. I realized at one point they all assumed I knew nothing because I was a woman.  One day I asked a question in class. But my question had a lot of physics information in it. After I asked the question there was a huge silence and then the men started whistling and stomping because it was clear I knew what I was talking about.

During this time NYC was in trouble financially. I started working for the city as an architect straight out of Pratt. Once I had my license I moved in with 3 guy roommates. All architects. The 4 of us were working on a project together. My friend Ford was leading us but needed to leave town for a trip. While he was gone we were talking about a bathroom in a project we were doing. I said the ceiling had to be higher and the other 3 disagreed! It was infuriating because if the ceiling wasn’t raised the owner wouldn’t be able to wash under his armpits! I knew I was right. They didn’t agree until Ford came back into town and said, “That ceiling needs to be higher!”

One time i was in a dress shop in Broadway trying on dresses. The woman who owned the place asked if I would redesign her store. My roommates and I did the work. When I sent her the bill she wrote me back and said she’d called Albany and found out I wasn’t licensed. Well I was and I called Albany and they confirmed I did have a license. She just didn’t want to pay a woman for a design. So I contacted an attorney friend who wrote her a letter and before I knew it I had a check in my hands.

The Brooklyn Museum was doing a show of “Women In Architecture”. My friend Roger was one of the architects in my roommate gang. He took a blueprint of a house we all designed in Vermont to the Brooklyn Museum with only my name on it. I received a lot of accolades from my peers for that. A lot of stomping and whistling too!

Later in the 70s i was in my later 30s and early 40s. I was seeing Don. People never said things like, “We are going steady.” Everyone in the 70s had one foot out the door. This was when the fitness craze really took hold. Everyone was doing Jane Fonda’s work out tapes. Me included.Don went to some sailors gym twice a week. He inspired me to go to the gym too!

I joined the Paris Health Club. I was there for the classes early before work. Also to have juices at the juice bar. And the sauna. I loved the sauna!I started running in Riverside Park with one of the instructors. She was a red-head and really in shape and a me and a bunch of women would try like crazy to keep up with her. I loved it!

I really got into the gym, so  much so I joined a second gym downtown Lucille Roberts.Now I could go to the gym during lunch when I was at work.This was where I learned the “Butt Walk”. This is when you sit on the floor with your legs straight out, you cross your arms and you cross the floor on your butt.  It was a great party trick! This is why my butt hasn’t flopped to this day.

Today I joined the gym. Most people think that a woman ay 78 should just stay at home. Instead I’m taking a sketching class too! If I was a man at 78 they’d say Im a cutie. But because Im a woman doing it, if I hadn’t seen the prejudice as a young woman I don’t think Id see the prejudice I am getting as an older woman.

People say, “You’re almost at the end of your life” I don’t think about life that way, I just do. Whatever the next page is thats the page! But for now, Im doing it!