Declaration of Independence
our july playmate discovers there's nothing wrong with painesville, ohio, that leaving it won't cure
You can tell at a glance that there is nothing ordinary about Deborah Borkman. As she says, "The Eurasian combination certainly gives you a different look." Deborah's mother is Japanese; her father -- whom she hasn't seen in eight years -- is Swedish-American. Deborah, the fourth of six children and the first born in America, is so striking a woman that when she went to Japan with her mother a couple of years ago, she attracted just as many stares as she always had in Painesville, Ohio, where she grew up. As a matter of fact, all four Borkman girls looked so exotic that the neighborhood boys used to hang out on their front porch; whenever the courting got difficult, they would press Mrs. Borkman into Ann Landers-type service: "She has always tried to help everyone, and she's the kind of person with whom you can't be anything but yourself." Debbie's admiration for her mother is in sharp contrast to her negative feelings about her father -- a soldier who wouldn't allow Japanese to be spoken in his home -- and about Painesville, a small industrial city that, for Debbie, has always lived up to its name. "There was nothing for me there," she says. "All I thought about was getting away." Despite her obvious intelligence -- she chooses her words with care and uses them with accuracy -- she dropped out of high school in her freshman year ("It was so violent they had armed guards in the corridors"). She worked as a cab dispatcher for a while. Then she broke a leg in a motorcycle accident; advised to swim as part of her therapy, she became a lifeguard and spent a year working in Florida ("It was OK because of the sunshine; I'm a child of the sun and as long as I get it, I'm happy"). Then came the trip to Japan. Debbie and her mother traveled throughout the islands, visiting long-lost relatives. Deborah intended to stay there and model, but she found that getting into a new culture and a new profession was a bit much. Back to Painesville -- but not for long. Our heroine went to visit some friends in Los Angeles; while there, she was offered a fashion-modeling job. And, of course, she stayed. There are some things Debbie doesn't like about L.A. -- such as the "meat market" singles scene and the rampant image-consciousness ("Sometimes I feel like saying, 'Could you please scrape away the plastic, so I can get inside and talk to you?'"). But, of course, she digs the great California outdoors. She also likes to go dancing and to shop for funky items at L.A.'s many antique shops and garage sales. Not too long ago, she visited Painesville -- to help her mother move to Kent, some 90 miles away -- and realized how good things were on the West Coast: "I saw all my old friends who had tried to discourage me from quitting school. I'd expected some of them to amount to something, but they were all just working and drinking, and they were all unhappy. I could remember feeling the same way -- but at a much younger age." Deborah, who is all of 19, couldn't resist walking down the block to see her old cherry tree: "I would sit up there in the summertime, looking at the sky and eating cherries. That was where I found peace of mind; in a family of six kids, you've got to do something. So I looked up at it this time and I thought, How the hell did I ever get up there? And I didn't dare try it again. You're not going to write that, are you? It's pretty silly . . ." Not by us, it's not.
Photography by Phillip Dixon