Monday, May 07, 2007

Know Your Audience

In 1984, although Orwell's nightmare didn't exactly come to pass, I was living my own little nightmare out in San Juan Capistrano, Ca. Because my father's family has lived in that town for 7 generations, he felt it my right, nay my familial duty, to become Miss San Juan Capistrano at some point in time. 1984 was that time. I told my dad I did not want to do it, but, as usual, he decided for me that I did.

The Miss San Juan Capistrano Pageant was not a pageant in the strict sense of the word -- there was no pageantry, in fact. Rather there was an essay and an interview. Five girls applied for the job -- I mean, the honor. Whoever won would spend the next year attending ribbon cuttings or presiding over local traditions like "The Hariest Man Contest." Whoever won would be expected to mix and mingle at the Historical Society monthly gatherings; she would preside over Swallow's Day activities like the Old Mission Fiesta and the Swallow's Day parade. She would return her library books on time, drive the speed limit, wear modest clothing, brush her hair regularly.

I remember well the day of the big decision. The city coucil held a luncheon at the El Adobe Restaurant for the final, I don't know, screening? During that luncheon, each candidate was asked to stand at a podium and answer one more question for the judges: who is the person you admire most?

When I got to the podium, I had no idea what to say. At this point, I didn't want to lose because I'm competitive by nature, an Aries, for Christssake. I looked at the judges: the mayor, a couple city coucil members, Carmen O'Malley (the city matriarch), and Father Martin, our parish priest. I leaned into the microphone, and my first inclination was to answer Barbara Streisand. But at the last minute, I looked directly into Father Martin's eyes and said Jesus.

I won.

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