Archive for the ‘teen years’ Category

How I ended up in journalism

June 14, 2013

I promised to tell you about how I threw over The Hot Guy for The Smart Guy. I have to get to it, because on July 26 I have a story about us, and you should have been introduced to him by then.

Let’s recap what we have so far of my post-high school adventures: I worked as a hula-hooping singer at a ’50s place until a former customer saw me in public and offered me a job at a college where a Hot Guy came in asking for paperwork for a semester in Mexico, which I had never heard of but said I was doing, too.

So there I was, living in Mexico based on the lie that I could speak Spanish. I lived with a family there. I was a student at the Universidad de Guanajuato.

Every morning we rode an open-air bus over the cobbled streets to the university. All of us Californians got picked up along the same route.

There was a panaderia next to the school, where several of us would buy bolillos fresh out of the oven. I remember standing in that bakery in the overcast of the mornings, breaking my bolillo in half so I could shove my face into the steam and aroma.

In Mexico, papaya juice is their orange juice. They use what’s labeled here as sweet butter — there’s no salt in it. And when you order cheese on something, you get a white, crumbly goat cheese. I didn’t like any of these things, but I liked bolillos.

From the panaderia we tackled the stairs to our classrooms. I counted them once, and wish I had written down the number. There were more than 100. First there were the wide steps to get into the building, which you can see a picture of in Photos O’ Mine. Then there was a series of short switchback stairs we took to the top tower, about six stories up.

It was on those switchbacks I lost my heart.

There was a guy with unruly hair and tragically matched clothing who went up ahead of me. I always made sure I was behind him, so I could smell his cologne. I go weak in the knees for Polo. The Hot Guy smelled like cigarettes.

By the time we were loaded on a bus for a weekend in Guadalajara, I had completely lost interest in The Hot Guy. I made a point of sitting by the guy from the stairs for the six-hour ride.

He was wearing green denim pants and a turquoise sweater vest.

He had a gentle voice and kind manners. He told me interesting things and laughed at my stories. When we ran out of conversation I read aloud to him from my Katherine Stone novel. We got so engrossed in the story, that when all the kids went out dancing that night, we stayed back to finish the book.

This smart guy had become much hotter than The Hot Guy.

I loved being around him. By the time we were back in Guanajuato we were together all the time. We knew each other’s favorite things.

He had been a writer for his school’s newspaper. “Me too!” I said, which was true insofar as two of my St. Patrick’s Day entries won the limerick contest and were published.

As the summer grew short, I got worried. He had been accepted to Stanford, and would be moving there from Laguna Niguel a month after we returned. That was far from me. I began to send him telepathic messages to ask me to go with him. Ultimately he learned my hope when we wrote entries in each other’s diaries. He asked.

Back in the States he showed me the newspapers he had been a part of. I was inspired. When I enrolled for the fall semester, I joined the staff.

This story picks back up with The Earthquake story. After that quake, The Smart Guy, along with many others, suffered from depression. He cut me loose out of guilt for bringing me down, which broke my heart.

Then in spring I was sent to Hawaii….

The Smart Guy is now running Yahoo!

Click here for photo

Saw my old lover in a grocery store…

June 2, 2013

I spent 10 years wondering what happened to my high school boyfriend after he went to jail.

I had loved him in that deep, drowning way 17-year-olds do.

His family was poor and fractured, and his talent and intelligence went to waste as he was forced to do whatever he could to help keep his mother’s electricity from being turned off.

His father was living in the van he sold drugs out of in front of the laundromat.

I share this, because I will always argue that he was a good boy in a bad circumstance. He was just a sweet boy.

About a year after high school he was arrested for drug possession.

We wrote each other before he was moved to a drug rehab facility in Sacramento. He was not allowed contact with people from home. That’s when I lost him.

A couple of years later I did my semester in Mexico and found someone else. The next year I got a reporting assignment in Hawaii and met my husband. I fell into that deep, drowning love adults have.

Despite having moved on from my teen heartbreak, I wondered. I didn’t know where he ended up. I expected to hear he’d died.

About a year after we moved from Boulder back to my hometown, I saw him at the grocery store. I was on my way home from a workout, and looked sloppy in a baggy T-shirt and pony tail.

I squinted at him approaching in the aisle, thinking he looked familiar. Then I recognized his mother. If he had been alone, I might have walked by. He wasn’t a boy anymore, and I didn’t know him as a man.

I froze, right in front of the pasta. I whispered his name questioningly to myself — maybe it wasn’t even out loud. Then he passed by me and I was sure. I spun around and called it.

He turned around.

Then he crushed me. He said, “I thought that was you. I don’t have my glasses on –”

He wears glasses?

“– but when I heard your voice, I knew for sure. You were talking to that lady giving out cheese samples.”

That lady was in the entrance. He had known I was in the store the whole time, and wasn’t going to say anything.

His mom left us to finish shopping. I told him I was married with two kids and working in journalism. He told me he had recently spent six years in prison and had a child he wasn’t allowed to see. He said for a short time he had a nice truck. He might get a job at a furniture factory.

I was sad for his past, but excited for his job prospect. He seemed cautious. Did he think I would look down on him? This crushed me some more. I had always seen only the best in him.

I told him I had tried to find him. I tried for years. I told him I had thought of him often. I was genuinely thrilled to see him looking so strong and healthy. And alive, I thought but didn’t say.

He said he had to go, and he walked off. I never saw him again.

It was my very own Same Old Lang Syne.

A high school prank

May 26, 2013

When I was in high school I hung around with a guy I enjoyed every minute of.

He messed with people, but he did it smart. He made me laugh all the time, and the best part was that he included me, like a conspirator.

He was also a brilliant tennis player.

One afternoon during our junior year, he, his best friend Kirk — who was boisterous and friends with everyone — and a quiet, smart boy named Kiwon were on the court. They took turns being the spectator sitting next to me.

When it was Brian’s turn off court, he picked up Kiwon’s wallet and slipped out a 10-dollar bill.

Then it was Kirk’s turn to sit out. As they passed, Brian handed him the money, “Oh hey, here’s that 10 bucks I owe you.”

At the end of the match, Brian looked distressed. He went over to Kiwon and said, “Kiwon, buddy, I can’t even believe what I think I saw, but if I’m right, while we were playing, Kirk took some money out of your wallet.”

Kirk heard this too. I wish I could show you the face he made. He was used to Brian, and loved him as much as I did, so I knew he wouldn’t be angry.

I was dying of laughter as Kiwon checked first his wallet, then Kirk’s, which was lying beside it. Kiwon showed us a side of himself we’d never imagined as he gave Kirk what for.

Last summer the three of us were together at our 20th high school reunion. It was the best moment of my year being with these guys again. I remembered that episode to them, and we all laughed as Kirk made his panicked face.

Brian ordered us a round of kamikaze shots and we toasted our memories.

He told the bartender his name was Kiwon, and to put them on his tab.

My prom story

May 22, 2013

Tonight my son’s friends are throwing a private prom at my place. They strung little white lights in the wisteria arbor overlooking the orchard. It empties onto the carriage house deck, which they made into a dance floor.

My son will put on a tux to stay home.

I hope it turns out better than my prom experience.

Here’s what happened. My boyfriend didn’t have the money to ask me to the dance, and my best friend was between beaus.

She and I grabbed a can of Pam cooking spray and beach chairs and went to Whitewater — a creek just outside of Palm Springs — for some after-school tanning.

Our friends Craig and Eddie showed up on Craig’s motorcycle and asked us to go, as friends, to that night’s prom.

Eddie and my best friend went back in my car, and I hopped on the back of the motorcycle.

The boys left us girls at my house, where we put on our leftover homecoming dresses.

They picked us up on time. Mom took pictures. We were off.

We drove to Rancho Mirage, parked and walked up to the door of the prom facility.

That’s when the boys admitted they hadn’t bought tickets.

We leaned across the open door to exchange waves with people inside, got back in Craig’s mom’s Camaro and went to Carl’s Jr. for dinner.

Then they took us home.

It was awful.

Though he won’t say it with regret, my son and I will both be able to say we spent prom night all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The end-of-a-crush story

April 27, 2013

Today I returned to that Spanish class at my old high school. After I picked up the key to the room, I stood where the line forms for the snack window and remembered something that happened on that site.

This is a story I’ve told many times, as an example of how quickly affection can end.

There was a boy at school I had a crush on. By sophomore year I had had it bad for about three years. He didn’t know.

By some happening, my best friend’s parents became friends with his parents, and they invited the family over for dinner and visiting. I practically lived at their house, so this had my best girlfriend and me trying every outfit in both our closets to find the perfect thing for me to wear.

Things were going great. The teens were sent outside to eat by the pool. It was my crush, my junior high best friend, both their brothers and me. There was laughter and not a little flirting.

After we ate we went swimming, and when it was dark out we got in the hot tub. I was making a fool of myself with the eyelash batting and shoulder tucking, until I saw my soon-to-be-ex-crush had a huge, slimy, green booger half out of a nostril.

I moved to nudge my girlfriend, and when I looked back, it wasn’t there. I could not get out of that water fast enough.

The next day I was in the snack line, because I needed an ice cream bar for English class. The ex-crush found me there. He invited me to the Homecoming dance.

I made an excuse and declined.

I wasn’t able to come up with something sensitive and convincing, though, because I was focused on how excited I would have been if he had asked yesterday.

The sniper story

March 9, 2013

When I was in high school a sniper came to my town.

A retired woman was shot in the early morning walking her small dog. A man was shot having a lunch break in his truck. Everyday there was another death. No one knew who it was. There was no apparent motive.

After about four days of this came the weekend, and my friends and I went out as usual.

I think this was ill-advised. I formed this idea when my car broke down next to an orange grove.

Then I said my idea out loud. This was also ill-advised. I suddenly had a car full of panicking girls. That’s a fun Friday night, right there.

We knocked on a nearby home and called my dad. We piled into some poor stranger’s living room and waited, away from the window.

Saturday night I stayed home.

Sunday morning my girlfriend was freaking out. They had gone to the party spot overlooking the city, where teen-agers parked, turned up their stereos and hung out. It was an off-road labrynth of dirt paths in the hills.

It got chilly early, and my friends climbed in their car to warm up. Seconds later a burly man in fatigues waving what looked like a broomstick jumped on the hood of the station wagon.

As fast as they could, they locked their doors and peeled out of there.

So there’s my girlfriend on the phone Sunday, saying the guy on the front page of the paper under the word ‘Captured’ was the burly man. He seemed to have survived the fall from the car.

I don’t think he was waving a broomstick.

The ghost story

March 7, 2013

I grew up in a haunted house.

It was a hundred-year-old craftsman that had for some time served as a convelescent home. We assume our ghosts were old people.

I’ve got 15 years’ worth of hauntings to talk about, but this is my favorite.

One afternoon, when I was in high school, my friends and I went to my house for lunch.

When it was time to return to class, I followed everyone through the hardwood entryway and was the last out the door.

The door had a wood frame, but was primarily glass panes. There was a sheer white curtain on the inside of it that didn’t do much to obscure the view.

On each side of the door were vertical panes of windows. Indoors there were thick glass shelves clamped in under each pane. My mother had little blown-glass vases on them that she bought at art shows.

It was my job to clean the glass in the entryway. I hated wrestling those shelves out of those metal clamps.

I was turning the key in the lock when I realized I had forgotten my purse. I changed the rotation of the key and stepped back inside the house.

I was barefoot. I was always barefoot. Fun fact: I fed the school some story about my American Indian heritage. I don’t know if they bought it, but they said if I carried my shoes around with me they would let it slide.

When I stepped back into the house I felt cold under my feet. I was standing on a 100-year-old glass shelf. I made a noise.

My friend had turned around yelled something like ‘no way.’

Ten little glass shelves were lined up like stepping stones from the door to the living room. The clamps were empty. The vases were gone.

Most people say, ‘They were probably like that when you walked out, and you just didn’t notice.’

This is impossible. Even if we hadn’t seen the path or the absence of vases, the shelves were thick. Four teen-agers had just tromped through there. One of us would have kicked them, and I would have felt the cold under my feet.

No one had had time to move them, and they sure didn’t fall.

Over the next four years my parents and I found those vases one at a time: one morning we spotted one behind the leg of a desk; another time one turned up in the refigerator.

My friends, meanwhile, didn’t go to my house for lunch anymore.

The standing on my desk story

March 5, 2013

During the year I subbed, or as I refer to it, Hell, it was on this date I finally got a job for my daughter’s class.

My daughter wasn’t there.

She was with her teacher at the school’s talent show.

At the end of the day, her friends said, “Your mom told us a story about standing on her desk.” She told me she heard this 30 times. 

As many times she said, “Yeah, I know that story.”

My daughter doesn’t think I’m as entertaining as I do.

I had to tell it after I introduced myself, because one of the children said, “Instead of calling you by name, can we just stand on our desks to get your attention?”

Middle school kids think they’re entertaining.

The first week of high school my geometry teacher was beginning a lecture on finding the measurement of an angle when I butted in, “Can’t we just subtract the other two angle measurements from 180?”

In hindsight I get that his point that day was to show us a different way to get the answer. His response to me was “I never said the angles equal 180.”

Yeah, but don’t they?

“Show me where it says that.” Silly me, I thought he really wanted me to.

He went back to his lecture.

I found it in the book and raised my hand.

He went on with his lecture.

Undaunted, I stood on my chair.

At this point it was a showdown. I sat toward the front. He couldn’t pretend not to notice me.

He pretended not to notice me.

I stood on my desk.

He no longer had the class’ attention. He dropped his chalk hand to his side and shrugged as if to say Uncle.

“Yes Miss C?”

“Page 94!” I was proud.

He didn’t seem proud of me. He went on with his lecture.

I never did learn the other way to find the measurement of an angle.

The ski trip story

February 20, 2013

My kids are gone tonight with their school ski clubs. They’re great snowboarders. They didn’t get it from me.

Two cool guys, both named Steve, invited my high school best friend and me skiing once.

We were excited. We bought outfits. We looked great.

It turns out, this is not the important part of preparing for a ski trip.

It was still dark when the boys picked us up. We bopped in our seats to the Beastie Boys all the way up the mountain, flirting, laughing, looking great.

The Steves got on the lift in front of us. Our plan was to watch what they did and copy it.

First they glided off the lift. They unbent their knees and stood. Got it.

We had less finesse. Our skis tangled together and we were lucky to fall in a heap clean of the lift chair.

I don’t know if our inexperience was evident at that point, but I know we were no longer looking great.

The jig was up quickly enough, though, because we couldn’t get up. In fact, the lift attendant had to scoot us out of harm’s way by the armpits.

After lots of humiliating sliding we came to be upright. It didn’t last.

It was dusk when we got to the bottom of the mountain. We got there through a combination of sitting on the skis and gripping the fence we discovered abutting part of the trail.

Occasionally the Steves would call  to us from overhead as they ascended for another run. There was nowhere to hide from them.

We didn’t do any bopping on the drive home, but half of us did a lot of laughing.

How I came to work at the college

February 16, 2013

Here’s the story I promised last week.

After high school I worked as a stunt hula-hooper. I played a character — Chantilly Lace — at a ’50s-themed restaurant.

With hoops awhirl I danced, jumped, dropped to my knees and stood. I held a tray of beers over my head and crossed the room without going around a bench and table but over them.

I was a waitress, singer, jitterbugger and comedienne. My coworkers had names like Jughead, Moondoggie and Boom Boom.

Part of my job description was to be outrageous. For instance, I was once spraying whipped cream on a guy’s sundae, (the sundae was ‘female,’ which meant without nuts,) when he said something rude to his date. I turned the nozzle on his face and earned a $200 tip.

My customers would be mid-order and I would tell them to ‘cool their jets cuz my dogs were barking.’ I would nudge them to make room in their booth and prop my saddle shoes on their table. While I rested, I would refresh my lipstick in the reflection of their napkin holder. They ate it up, my rudeness.

A month after I got fired for giving my friends free food I was in a fast-food line behind an unfamiliar man.

“You’re Chantilly Lace!” I got that alot. “Remember me? I gave you a $100 tip.”

I had learned to pretend these people stood out. “Of course! You made my week.”

He was the officer manager at a local college. He couldn’t help himself. He beamed over his bag of chicken nuggets and offered me a job.

I’m not over it

February 15, 2013

This morning, by way of dangerous driving on my part and lots of luck from the cosmos, my son was on time for school. He had been out late at a badminton game and overslept some.

I’m no stranger to this. I treated my high school tardy office like homeroom.

But one semester I took an introduction-to-law class I was motivated by. I was motivated to attend, study, do homework and be punctual.

The cosmos did not support me.

During this particular semester, the city underwent construction, which hopscotched its projects in synchronicity with my desperate and changing route to school. The street I took to avoid the road closures was inevitably unfortunate. I was running into class seconds after the bell everyday.

Here’s the thing: I was running in prepared. For the most part, I had thrown the honors classes in the wind in favor of shooting pool at the local bowling alley, but this class had me home at night reading the text, and up in the morning primping for high school. This was the one that was getting me back on campus.

And I was trying to get there on time, which was new for me.

On the day of our first big test I slipped into my seat in the back corner, right inside the door. I was out of breath, but the bell was still sounding. The teacher counted out the exams and handed them to the first person in each row for passing back.

My row was short one.

I raised my hand. I was all smiles. I was ready for this test.

Mr. Wheelock asked me to step outside the room with him. I was to go back in for my backpack, leave and never come back.


I own a lot of irresponsibility. My mistakes were my fault, and I passed up plenty of offerings from the cosmos. This event, though, I’m bitter about.

I’ve chewed on it for 20 years, and can’t figure out what I could have done differently. I was leaving early, changing my route, planning ahead. I couldn’t get there.

Added to the loss of the class was the humiliation of walking back in that silent room for my things.

The cosmos has a sense of humor. Mr. Wheelock appears to be the only teacher I had who is still at the high school, where I’m now subbing as a Spanish teacher. We have the same planning period, and cross paths in the hall outside the bathroom every day.

I don’t say hi.

The revenge on the ex-boyfriend story

February 12, 2013

My son just broke up with a girlfriend. She took it badly. Now her friends are warning him to look out.

I had a boyfriend in high school named Sean who had to look out.

Sean dumped me for one of my best girlfriends. I hadn’t been excited about this guy, but my pride was bruised.

He gave her crabs.

This was not my revenge.

Shortly afterward, I ran into Sean at a party. As I walked by, I caught him unawares with a fist to the gut. This was not my revenge either.

My revenge was writing this, and posting it around the high school:

Some you hit, and some you throw.

Some you kick and watch them go.

Some you pong, and some you ping.

Some are tethered on a string.

Some you miss, and some you catch,

But some are Sean’s, and those you scratch.

Sean has crabs. Pass it on.

How I came to learn Spanish

February 9, 2013

I once was a long-term substitute in a Spanish class. I can speak the language pretty well, but most of the words surprise me by sight. I often say, “Is that what that word looks like? I would have spelled it completely differently.”

This is because I have never studied the language.

When I was 19 I worked in the office of a college. How I came to work in that office is a whole story in itself. I will tell it soon.

One afternoon the Hot Guy I had been trying to figure out how to meet walked in to ask for an application packet for a semester in Mexico.

“I’m going on that,” I said. I had never heard of this program.

I went to my mom and gave her one of the packets to sign. She didn’t even lift a brow, which makes me wonder how she stood me.

She said, “It says you have to be able to speak Spanish. You checked ‘Yes.’ ”

“I’ll figure it out by June. I took French in junior high.”

She signed the form and wrote a check. It was mid-March.

How cool is this? I called my grama to tell her about my upcoming trip, and by bedtime my grandparents, two of their friends and I had plane tickets for spring break in Mexico — a 10-day crash course on location.

My grandparents both spoke Spanish fluently. This is how they communicated when they didn’t want their kids to know what they were saying.

We went to Mexico City, San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque.

We saw ancient pyramids recently discovered underneath forests, with hidden sarcophagi. We hitched a ride to a village on a sideless VW bus, and when we got there we met a woman making tortillas on the ground and children who had never seen sunglasses. At night we ate fresh blueberry pancakes from a vendor with a griddle on wheels outside a cathedral.

I learned Spanish by hanging out with children trying to sell me little things they made. I taught them some songs, and they taught some to me.

Before I left, I gave a little girl my sunglasses.

By June I spoke broken Spanish, but I could make myself understood. I was able to survive living with a family and attending the university there.

I dumped the Hot Guy after a week for the Smart Guy. That’s another story too.

link to photos


February 1, 2013

Something painful and humiliating happened to me.

I don’t want to talk about it.


January 31, 2013

This morning I drove my daughter to a rehearsal. She’s been accepted to play flute in a band made up of the best in the county, and it was important we be on time.

We had enough time to get there, but we were cutting it close.

On a narrow road that leads out of our neighborhood, a woman was stopped right in the street, chatting through her open window with a woman in another car.

I waited.

My daughter said, “Just honk at them. Why won’t you ever honk?” So I told her.

My Oldest Friend and I were newly licensed at 16,  driving through a nearby small town where her grandparents had a shop. 

It was a beautiful day. We had the windows down in her hand-me-down Datsun that you could start with a nickel if you didn’t have the key.

She was driving, and she upset another driver.

He blasted his horn. My Oldest Friend threw her head back and laughed. She called, “Ah ha! I made you honk.”

I was totally impressed.

This struck me as profound. That guy gave her the power to make him angry, but she wasn’t about to give her power away. She was so cool, she was amused.

I haven’t honked since — until this morning.

The answering machine message

January 29, 2013

I asked my daughter which story I should write about today, and she chose this one.

When I was 18 my girlfriend Boom Boom and I had an apartment, in which we would watch the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs. We couldn’t get enough of the little alien who bursts from the guy’s belly, puts on a flat straw hat and sings “Hello My Baby” ragtime-style on a diner counter.

We wrote this outgoing message, which we sang into our answering machine:

Hello my baby,

Hello my honey,

Sorry we’re not at home….

Just leave your name and

Just leave your number.

We’ll call you on the phone! (big crescendo at the end, followed by our own applause.)

One night we came home to a message from Boom Boom’s father, who was never effusive with praise, “You damned crazy kids!” That was the whole message.

Boom Boom started to cry. “He liked it.”

The trumpet story

January 24, 2013

My son is walking around humming “Dust in the Wind.” I told him I have the sheet music, and that it’s fun to put the synthesizer on the violin setting and play the instrumental solo.

This reminds me of something I tried to get away with when I was 18.

I had gotten that keyboard for my 18th birthday. It’s a Roland HS-80, and has great tone quality and can do many things. I am not tech savvy enough to appreciate most of the features, but I have always had fun playing Jingle Bells in fart sounds.

There was a busboy at work who was calling me. We were getting ready to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and were in that talking-on-the-phone, finding-out-we’re-perfect-for-each-other-because-we-both-know-how-to-get-Oxy-back-in-the-tube stage.

He told me he played the trumpet.

“I can play the trumpet!” I lied. “Wanna hear me?”

I put my keyboard on the trumpet setting and played him a song. After a few measures I said, “Here’s my favorite part.”

“Hey! How can you talk while you’re playing a trumpet?”


The mansion

January 18, 2013

My goddaughter called me this afternoon. She’s planning her wedding and wanted to know the name of the mansion where I married. She was 3 then, and served as my flower girl.

I loved the opportunity to tell her the story of that mansion, because it stars her mother.

In the late ’70s Linda Blair and Vincent Van Patten filmed a movie at this mansion. It was called Hell Night. There wasn’t much story. College pledges had to spend the night in the mansion, where a family was rumored to have been massacred. They don’t survive. It’s a slasher film with generous impalings and decapitations.

My goddaughter’s mother and I shared an apartment when we were 18. We had this plan that we were going to watch the movie at night, then drive over to the mansion, get out of the car and walk around the grounds.

The mansion is technically in a park, but it’s not the kind of park with a lawn and swings; it’s a forest with walking paths and a clearing up a winding drive for the mansion and gardens.

It always went the same way. We rented the movie, (at some point the video clerk started rolling his eyes at us.)  We watched the movie. We put on our jackets. Even if it was warm, we put on our jackets. It was part of the ritual.

We drove to the park. At the entrance to the estate, we looked at each other and held hands. We drove up the winding drive. We parked in the deserted lot.

We never once got out of the car.

Finally one of us would suggest we weren’t going to get out of the car.

We went home and watched The Three Stooges.

The dead boyfriend discovery story

January 15, 2013

I was 17, and it was just after New Year’s. My Best Friend, three friends and I were cruising around, up to no good. I was driving.

Near to My Best Friend’s house, we saw stationary police lights.

“Hey, this is one of those checkpoints they’re doing to catch drunk drivers,” one of us said. I don’t know if this was a new practice, or just new to us, but we were curious about it.

We approached, but, being teen-agers up to no good, chickened out and turned the corner a block early. We went to My Best Friend’s house.

After a period of restlessness, we piled back into my car and went to watch the police catch drunk people. 

It wasn’t a checkpoint.

There was a motorcycle on the ground, and a boy lying very still. We couldn’t get close enough to get a good view, but we parked and stared.

“Best Friend,” I started hestitantly. “Doesn’t that look like David’s bike?” David was My Best Friend’s boyfriend.

“I guess,” she said casually, “but he’s working tonight.”

I got out of the car and walked over to an officer. I found out that the motorcyclist wasn’t carrying identification. They didn’t know who it was. I didn’t look at the boy. I acted casual to My Best Friend, “Let’s go back to your place.”

When we got there, still trying to appear calm, I suggested we call the grocery deli where David worked and see when he gets off. His boss said he got off early; he should be home by now. I said, “Hey we have nothing better to do, let’s call him at home and see if he wants to join us.”

His sister said he wasn’t home. He was at work. Was he wearing the new helmet he got for Christmas? No. Does he have his wallet? No, he forgot it on the dresser. Uh oh.

I don’t know now how I got the nerve, but I mentioned there was an accident around the corner from his house. I remember saying, “It’s probably nothing, but there was a motorcycle there.”

It was him, and he was dead.

He was hit by a Greyhound bus, the driver of which hadn’t taken his insulin and was declared to be completely at fault. Apparently this approximates driving drunk.

A few days later My Best Friend and I were alone in the mortuary viewing David. He looked different, rubbery. My Best Friend was sobbing.

It was one of my first experiences with death. It was profound. He was just there the other day, and now he doesn’t exist. Where is he? And wow, David knows what happens when you die.

But I learned something, too. If blood isn’t circulating, hickeys are forever.

Lyrical confusion

December 27, 2012

When I was a teen-ager I used to stay at my grandparents’ a lot. One night Nana and I were in the kitchen, and I had one of my Beatles cassettes in her ghetto blaster.

I was singing along to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. “…A girl with kaleidoscope eyes. Aaaaahh.”

“Did they just say what I think they said?”


“What strange lyrics,” Nana said. “People will write songs about anything.”

This was some 25 years ago. Recently we were listening to the song again and she said, “This is that strange song about the girl with colitis.”

Her memory is better than her hearing.

Boyfriends in bands

December 26, 2012

I already told you an ex-boyfriend of mine was a part of Green Day. This post is about a different boyfriend and a different band.

The first love of my life was a blond dreamboat named David Lowy. Everybody mispronounced his last name as Lowery.

He was working in the student store the summer I took biology, and I don’t remember a thing about that class except watching the clock, waiting for my flirt break.

The eye batting worked, and before you could say ‘osmosis’ I had my very first boyfriend. I caught him right before my 16th birthday, and would have kept him forever, I think, if he hadn’t been my first.

A couple months into my junior year I got greedy. I was wanting to sample more of the selections at the buffet. In fact, I thought if I didn’t kiss the boy who sat behind me in history class I would just burst.

Almost 10 years later I was living in Boulder watching Letterman, and he introduced a band from my hometown — where everybody knows everybody. I squinted at the set, which we had salvaged from an alley where someone was throwing it out.

The front man looked like David! I didn’t know he was a singer. Then again, he used to croon Sinatra with my mother in the kitchen while she was cooking.

When they finished, Letterman introduced the members, starting with the front man — David Lowy. Bonus bragging rights for me. I ran out and bought the Cracker cassette, Kerosene Hat.

Another 10 years went by and I was back in my hometown. Scotchie, who I just really want to be as cool as, was telling me one of his favorite bands is Cracker.

Rockin’ good. I did some name dropping and got major cool points with Scotchie. I e-mailed him a picture of David me in 1985. I asked him if he wanted my autograph.

About two years ago I got a birthday e-mail from David, who had found me on

Know what? The Cracker guy is David Lowery.

The funeral story

December 14, 2012

It’s been pouring rain here. My kids are about to go on winter break, and it’s cold, windy and pouring.

One day My High School Best Friend and I were home from school on a day like this. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t break.

We were kneeling against of the back of the couch, watching the rain for boredom, when we saw black-clad people begin to file out of the church across the street.

What terrible weather for a funeral.

We started guessing who the people were. One of us grabbed the newspaper, and learned it was a 48-year-old man being mourned.

We went like this: That must be the wife. I’m thinking those are the parents, and that’s his sister, Lily. Everything we needed was in the obituary.

After about 15 minutes the funeralgoers made their way to their cars, where an attendant was putting neon ‘funeral’ stickers on windshields.

My Best Friend said, “Let’s go.”


We raced up to my room and changed into black dresses, then jumped in my car. We drove across the street and around the block so we could come in the back of the church lot. As we came toward the front, we got a neon sticker.

We inched our way to the cemetery toward the back of the procession. When we got there, we put on our somber faces and made our way to the gravesite, heels sinking in muddy ground and rain pelting our hair. It occurred to us we should have grabbed an umbrella.

By the time the service was over, we were both depressed. It felt like we knew the guy.

We joined in the post-burial mingling, offering condolences to the widow — called it — and her family. We hugged cousins, co-workers and the guy he played racquetball with.

Back at my house we changed out of our sopping clothes and cried.

We heated up some canned soup and tried to get over the loss of whats-his-name.

The Christmas tree story

December 13, 2012

Today we got our Christmas tree.

This is one of my favorite parts of the holiday. I always make a pot of spiced cider, (which turns into hot buttered rum for my husband and me), and put on my Cyndi Lauper Christmas CD. When she sings the Christmas Conga, we abandon our ornaments and conga around the house.

This one was my 24th tree. Which leads me to tell you about my first.

When I turned 18 I got an apartment in Riverside with two of my girlfriends. One of them was dating a paramedic named Chip.

We got a call. Chip was volunteering at a Christmas tree farm in Rancho Cucamonga for one night. If we went there, he would sneak us a free tree.


We listened to the radio as we got all cute, which seemed important at the time. The radio told us to stay home.

“There are record-breaking winds blowing trees out of the ground and cars off the road. Unless you absolutely have to go somewhere, stay home.”

Unfortunately, we absolutely had to go steal a tree.

We climbed in Kelly’s Volkswagon Rabbit and held on tight as we made our way across the overpass. We were strugging to stay in our lane as we banked, high in the air. We had to shout to hear one another for the battering roar of the wind.

As people do, we picked out the biggest one we thought we could fit under our ceiling. Chip chopped it down and strapped it to the Rabbit’s roof.

We had an even harder time getting home. By then the winds had reached 90 mph, and we had the windows slightly open for the ropes that Chip had wrapped through. That one-day storm was whipping right through the back seat.

Through the power of our screaming, panicking and making unfullfillable promises to greater powers, we made it back to our apartment. We even managed to get that tree up the stairs and into the warmth, where we collapsed on the floor, all of us amazed to be alive.

Death upon death

December 3, 2012

By request, I’m writing about a death.

In January I told you about the time My Best Friend and I happened upon her boyfriend’s dead body.

She fared poorly in the aftermath of that, and the gaggle of us girls donned our blacks and skipped school to support her through the funeral.

David’s friends were supporting one another, too, lined abreast in their pew, trying to look tough despite their suffering.

After the service, we girls went out to lunch. We laughed and hugged and ate.

I’m not sure what the boys did, but My Best Friend was feeling strong enough to join them in late afternoon.

At eveningtime she asked them to take her home. They were mourning by drinking, and she was emotionally exhausted.

From there they got on the freeway to cross town. There were four of those boys in the car. The windows were down and the music was blaring.

They took a tight curve on an offramp at 113 mph.

When the car flipped, Conrad went out the rear window, and the car crushed him as it rolled.

One group of friends saw two boys die within four days, not even a week into 1987.

My gaggle of girls made it to today, though, and when the time comes for me to grieve, I know they’ll put on their blacks and hold me up.

Where’s that from?

November 28, 2012

I love to play guess-what-this-line-is-from.

When I was a teenager, my best friend and I would make lists of lines from songs and present them to each other in first period study hall. I remember in my sophomore year chewing on the line “Strangers making the most of the dark” all day.

I could hear the melody and hum the next line, but it wasn’t until dinner that the answer came to me.

That’s my idea of fun, for sure.

I also play this with movie quotes. There was a poster at Blockbuster –101 famous movie quotes, can you name the films? — that I wanted bad. I would have put it on the wall and then thrown a party to see how many people gathered around and tried it.

But this was when I was subbing, and no way was I going to spend $15 on a poster, knowing I didn’t have the money to throw me a see-who-gathers-at-my-new-poster party.

I found it online for $8 plus shipping, but I still won’t buy it. That’s how cheap I am.

Today I’m sharing a movie quote challenge that I have chewed on for years — and even Googled, which I frown on as the height of cheaterpantsery — and can’t find the answer to.

In 1999 my husband and I rented a VHS movie with the following line: “Yeah, but if less is more, think how much more more is.”

I thought this was the funniest ever. I don’t remember what movie it was. I thought it was American Pie, so I rented it and watched it again. No dice.

Now I’m setting the spinner to All Play.

If you know the answer, you win.

And because the chewing will finally end, I’ll win too.

The transfusion story

November 4, 2012

I got a call at work from my mother this morning, saying Nana was in the emergency room because of internal bleeding.

It’s a quarter to 11 p.m., and I’ve just come in the door, still in my suit and heels, because they only just got her settled into a hospital room.

She’s having a blood transfusion.

She had one before. Here’s the family’s oft told story about it.

AIDS was new and mysterious at the time. Nana was afraid to have blood from the blood bank. She wanted to select her donor by reputation.

We all volunteered and learned we weren’t pure enough.

Auntie Doreen, Nana said, was the only one she believed was truly innocent. She wanted that blood, and that’s the blood she got.

Doreen’s husband, my Uncle Punt, came in after the transfusion and shook his head at my grampa. “I’m sorry,” he said. “But now that she has Doreen’s blood, she’s going to want to go out for dinner every night.”

And you know what? She did.

The nerd party story

November 2, 2012

Every Monday night my kids’ band has to show up to practice in costume. Each section has a theme. Tonight, my son’s section went as nerds.

When My Junior High Best Friend and I were in ninth grade we threw a nerd party.

I would give anything to put the invitation verbage on this post. I have one of the invitations somewhere. It was in rhyme, and it was brilliant. I’ll look for it. Check back.

Essentially it told guests to put on their polyester high waters and come on over for an evening of dancing and junk food.

We had a great turnout. We put my Hitachi turntable in the laundry room window and blared The Clash onto the deck, where all our favorite ninth-graders were getting their groove on.

It never occurred to either of us to dress up. I wore tapered jeans with a The Who final tour concert shirt.

Then a boy named Doug walked in from the driveway. He had an elaborate nerd get-up on. It was beautiful. He had too short plaid pants that came up to his nipples, and fake bucked teeth under greased-down hair.

He got up onto the deck, looked around in horror at everyone in street clothes, and ran back up the driveway.

He ran all the way home, several blocks away, and changed his clothes.

My mom was disturbed. “That poor boy is going to remember that moment for the rest of his life.”

Great, now I was disturbed.

So disturbed I remembered it for all of my life.

I punched a guy

October 24, 2012

When my grandparents took me to Mexico, I got groped a couple times.

I learned something about myself. I’m slightly violent.

The first time, the guy brushed my chi chis too close and too long to be an accident.

Without thinking first I slapped his face, con fuerza.

He just kept smiling.

Two days later we were boarding a crowded bus for an open air art market. A Donny Osmond-looking passenger motioned me go first and said, “Pasa-le.”

I gave him a nod-smile with a ‘gracias’ and squeezed by. My eyes were ahead, but I felt a grope, in front, down low.

In a split second I had Donny sucking wind from my fist in his gut.

I saw my grandparents go through three rapid reactions — surprised, concerned, amused.

It wasn’t until we were at the market that we could recap. They shook their heads at me.

“Why did you punch that guy?”

“He touched me.”

“I don’t think so.”

They said he was sincerely shocked, confused even.

Down went the Welcome-to-Mexico sign.

I punched the wrong guy.

My ex-boyfriends

October 3, 2012

I was adding a picture of The Smart Guy to Photos O’Mine when it occurred to me I should have put an update on the post, How I ended up in journalism, mentioning that he’s now running Yahoo!

Then it occurred to me I could write a post about Garth, who is also said to have risen to greatness.

Garth was my boyfriend when I was working as a hula hooper. At the time, he worked in a record store.

He was a good time. He sang, danced, joked and was up on his Broadway musicals. He appreciated that I was up on my Broadway musicals. Once I told him his hair was doing a Sweeney-Todd thing. He threw his arms around me and professed love.

His pick-up line to me was “Do you have any German in you?” No. “Want some?” I really liked this guy.

Many years after he threw me over I worked with a guy who said he was best friends with Garth’s father. I asked what he was up to.

He said Garth was in South America that day, touring on trombone and trumpet as an auxilary member of Green Day.

Finally my son said I was cool.

I really only bring this up to point out that not all my boyfriends ended up in prison.


October 2, 2012

Tonight we had a cut-throat game of Sorry! My family rolls up sleeves and works the strategy good on this game — takes us almost two hours for one round. We must go through the deck 10 times.

At one point, my son and husband were way ahead. My 16-year-old son announced with pride to his father that girls have cooties. Knuckle touch.

Darned if this didn’t remind me of a story from high school.

My drama teacher came to class from lunch laughing once.

He had seen elementary children yelling at each other from opposite sides of the street outside.

The girls yelled at the boys, “You have cooties.”

The boys yelled back, “Oh yeah? Well you have AIDS!”

When I heard this story, I thought it was funny, even though I didn’t know what AIDS was.

Those 7-year-olds were more worldly than I.