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Swamping old files–Zen meditation

February 22, 2020
1040A from 1975

February 21, 2020

Going through our file cabinet today drew forth obscure memories and emotions.  While shredding tax papers, I held back our return from 1975, the last year I was in the Marine Corps, stationed at El Toro, California.  Cryptic information on a government form.

Then we lived in Tustin, perhaps five miles from the Marine Air Station, in a two-bedroom duplex on a dead-end section of C Street. Our kids were 2, 4, and 5 years old. Our gray poodle rescue dog, Pepper, had run away.

We bought a Peking duck we named La Sa Lusa to keep in the back yard. Her nickname was “Juicy Lucy.” We found an egg most days under a bush in the back yard. La Sa Lusa liked to escape out the gate to the front yard to gobble snails before I could catch her and put her back. I was amazed how quickly and efficiently she could get the snails.

I examined the 1975 tax form from our file cabinet.

On the 1040A, I checked a box “no” asking if we lived within the Tustin city limits. Here’s the obscure memory: our neighbor, Sadie Chafee, who lived across the C Street from us, remembered when the adjoining street was a county road that stretched miles from Los Angeles to remote places to the south. I remember she told us our corner of the world was a tiny unincorporated part of Orange County. (Yes, of “Arrested Development” fame.)

Next door to Sadie a woman lived by herself with an ocelot for a pet. She invited us in once to meet it. She guided us into an empty bedroom and gestured toward an open closet and there, on a high shelf, was a sleek wild cat.

In the 1970s Gulf oil crisis, the price of gasoline shot up from 30 cents to more than 70 cents/gal.  (Remember when a standard typewriter keyboard had a “cents” sign (a lower-case “c” with a vertical line through it)?  My laptop has no “cents.”) A gas station was around the corner from our house. Near an Alta Dena Dairy and a U-Haul rental.

Our family of five lived on exactly $7124.37 in 1975.  (Plus, what I earned delivering the Orange County Register and buying, fixing, and selling old Volkswagens.)  In 1975 we earned $38 interest from a savings account, a greater amount than we earned in 2019—or any other year I can remember.  

Of course, we were saving to move back to Montana. I got readmitted to the University of Montana School of Journalism and into family housing for a reasonable monthly rent. We got a four-bedroom apartment in the X-s, across the street from the green hill and Mount Sentinel.

Our duck, on the other hand, lived on commercial poultry food and the occasional snails. We tried frying her eggs, but they tasted fishy, so we made Christmas ornaments of them. We poked holes in each end, blew out the contents, then decorated the shells with glue, glitter, and rick-rack. We still have a few, packed away with the Christmas stuff.

Before we moved away from California we got permission to leave La Sa Lusa with a great flock at the Santa Ana Prentice Park zoo. We looked back and she blended in perfectly.

Back to the present, 2020. I took Gunther around the block, off leash because our mail carrier, Gordon, had come and gone. Busy, Gunther ran up on a nearby porch to check for snacks. As usual, he found none.

Keenan’s house. No snacks found.

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