OK, I know I’m late to the party. I resisted it for some time. But, you know what? Facebook is fun. A lot of fun. It’s also provoked a complete flood of nostalgia for every station of my life. There’s a page for Roosevelt Elementary School, where I spent grades K-6 and where I thought a little hillock of land on its corner at Lincoln and Montana was a mountain (and I really did fly off it once, using a wind-blown umbrella as a sail. Really.) My brother’s on the site–he’s the one who convinced me to join–and he has assured that every business on that stretch of Montana has been memorialized. I posted about the candy I used to buy at Patton’s Pharmacy. Everyone stopped there after school and ogled the whole aisle of impossibly-colored wrappers. My favorite, for the record, was the Chick-o-Stick.
Then there’s a group for reminiscing about the whole town, the Santa Monica of my childhood, with it’s open-air promenade that is now a chic shopping destination, but was then a modest collection of stores that were grand only in terms of their size, their buildings proclaiming “Toni” and “Thom McCann” in the scrawled, optimistic text of the 60s. I posted about eyeing the paisley and other very hip shoes at Vin Baker, before buying the cheaper platforms at Carl’s, and about Sol’s Yardage, a warehouse-sized place where women would sit at the long, slanted wooden tables, in rows across from one another, licking their forefingers as they turned the pages in the pattern catalogs. There was mention of the Smuggler as a “head shop”, though, of course, it was more–a den packed with turquoise rings and macrame chokers and tiny vials of floral scents and buttons with hilarious (to a teen) sayings. I contributed the Sorrento Grill to the memory bank, a wonderful fry joint on the beach with checked tablecloths and black-and-white photos of old volleyball players and surfers on its walls. It was torn down after the summer of 1974. Appropriately, the last song I remember weeping out of its jukebox was Alone Again (Naturally).
Then there is perhaps the weirdest Santa Monica memory. Across from Sorrento Beach (and the Grill) was a retaining wall that sat nestled into the bluffs on Pacific Coast Highway at the foot of Montana Avenue. The wall was a remnant from the unfinished Gables Hotel, a grand conceit that had been abandoned during the Depression. For years, every time I’d walk or drive by the wall, I’d see it: Huge, black graffitied letters, of a sort that would never stay up for years today, proclaiming: “Tommy Surko says, for my girl, there’s only one. Tommy Surko.” I always wondered what happened to Tommy Surko and whether he got the girl. (Or any girl.) On Facebook, I might not find out, but I can at least find people who also remember Tommy Surko and that particular time and place.
There’s a junior high group, of course (with the word “Survivors” in its title.) And high school ones. And groups for people of similar vintage who went to the same dance clubs I did, in L.A. and then in New York, and who remember every incarnation of the floating underground ones whose names I could never hope to recapture by myself. And groups for people who just like the same architecture, or philosophy, or relatively arcane hobbies and passions. That’s the beauty of this large selection of people, and why I’m finding it so different from the smaller boards I’ve been on since 1991.
I’ve also found people and they’ve found me. These are good friends who live in other parts of the country that I’d been in occasional touch with. Now I can see what they’re reading and listening to and thinking about and doing, and what their kids–and even they–look like. And I’m really enjoying that.
It’s only been a few days. I’m not ready to proclaim, “Facebook, C’est Moi!” For one thing, its interface and search functions are clunky and inept. I don’t need the e-mail updates when a stranger writes “You go, Girl!” to a friend. But, for the most part, I’m finding it one more fun aspect of a full life, and thinking about all the connections that are duplicated for other people’s hometowns and elementary schools, not to mention the people finding companionship, or at the very least a group of people who also like to eat jelly doughnuts, is cause enough to smile.