Wrong place, wrong time. We; my mom, my brother and I were good foils for the inner conflicts of the socially conservative yearning for objects of disdain or exemplary moral decay; my mother, corrupted by east coast intellectuals and divorce; my brother, weird and feral, an eight year old unable to sit still or cease pontification on Bobby Fischer or Karl Marx or Picasso. Me, too young to choose a side but already groomed to dispense with princesses in favor of the runaway or vagabond. From our arrival in Whittier, my mother and brother wanted nothing more than to escape this judgmental place. I was torn. My grandmother’s suburban complex–built during the depression with a swimming pool and patio garden added later– was where I learned an algebra of meaning: reading in Grandma’s living room was the formula. Outdoors was the alchemy of a semi-tropical environment where fantastical flora and unnatural fauna invited a paradoxical belief in worlds larger than our confined and dissolute suburban life.