Part 87: You Used to be So Pretty


If you're just starting this blog, it has an order. Some entries can be stand alone, like this one, but most will refer to previous blogs. The one about Riley's porn writing is in Part 76, but it's loaded with foul language and references to porn, so if offended, don't go here. My investigation into my father's life begins with Part 1 and ends with part 65. The link to part 1 is here.


I begin to tell my story of moving around California with my father, Riley Shepard, in part 66. The link to part 66 is here. In this blog, I'm sorting out what lead up to a trip to Los Angeles I took with Riley...to an ASCAP meeting.


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A glimmer: Around 2007, I chatted with a woman about our shared past. She knew me, briefly, when I was twelve, before the accident. Decades later, we sat outside in the sun, talking about Riley and what she remembered, her straw-colored hair catching the light, when I noticed her looking at my face, her blue eyes narrowing, like something had distracted her. My hand flew up to my right cheek, as if it wasn't connected to the rest of my body, as if to brace myself for something.


“It’s too bad. You used to be so pretty,” she said.


She didn’t lower her voice, she didn’t even catch herself, not even when I was suddenly struck dumb, mouth open. We were both in our 40s then, but she blurted out her thoughts like a teenage girl. After the comment, she kept on talking, changing the subject to something, like a radio—always on send, never on receive.

If you had bad teeth, a back brace, a funny birth mark, or were considered too fat or too thin, too pale or too dark, or a combination of any of those things, I don’t have to tell you how mean kids are. Even a funny sounding name could make life a living hell at school. But here was this grown-ass woman…


Why did it bother me so much? I know intellectually that being considered “pretty” shouldn’t matter, the pressure seems to come from the outside rather than the inside. A person just wants to see, feel, learn, connect with others, without constantly wondering how they look. But back then, when I was a teenager, being pretty, or better yet, being considered by others to be beautiful, seemed more important than anything.


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In the Spring of 1981, I changed over to the blue journal. It's loaded with anxiety about plastic surgeries, and also about having to move yet again. I'm beginning to realize that Riley cannot keep jobs for long, and that perhaps the world isn't against him...on one page I describe him as "a strange old man who is said to be a writer."

Below, I refer to my parents as "unlucky."



I had nightmares about the accident, probably my brain working out what had happened. I write about one where I was awake when they cut open my tracheotomy scar up again. I spelled it "trek."

Looking back at my teenage journals, I seem consumed with thoughts about the plastic surgery, which I spelled “Surgeory” like surgeon, the two words must have collided in my mind. I also wonder who will pay for it? Around this time, Riley began seeking investments from local people in Porterville. He began selling songs, percentages of copyrights for songs, which might've been a grift he'd used in the past on people. At the same time, he was trying to get the Encyclopedia of Folk Music published, and writing letters to the Library of Congress.


In the entry with the red ink, below, I seem to be excited that Riley was going to take me to an ASCAP meeting in Hollywood, which I'll write about in the next blog.




The entry above was about my first scar revision, which Dr. Mitts called "Y" plasty. He also centered my nose back on my face. Riley drove me to and from these appointments, which were about a 30 minute drive from where we were living. I wish I could remember those drives, but I was probably frozen with fear on the way over, and a bit drugged up on the way back.


The surgery I described, above, was after the ASCAP meeting with Riley, which I'll cover in the next blog.

To be continued...

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