Posts Tagged ‘November’

The playland tubes story

August 25, 2013

I recently heard tell that the ball pits that were popular when my kids were babies have been removed from all fast-food playlands.

I once sneaked into one as an adult — they didn’t have stuff like that when I was a kid — and regretted it. I took a flying leap into the pit. The balls are hard. It hurt everywhere.

Being a California native in Boulder, Colo., I struggled with preschoolers and snowy days. I used to call my friend Katherine up, and we would drive to Broomfield for a field trip. There was a McDonald’s there with the biggest Play Place I ever heard of.

It was indoors, but the walls were all clear plastic, so you could see all five stories of colorful crawl paths from the freeway. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the tubing structure had its own ZIP code.

I was such a rude costumer, I would feed the kids at home, and then just take them to play. I knew it was wrong, but it was 10 degrees below freezing and I felt wronged by the world. I spent winters feeling indignant.

The structure was intimidating, both in size and population. My son was pretty shy about it. He lingered around the little-people area, popping peek-a-boo through cut outs in padded plastic, or throwing the little balls that escaped the pit of pain.

One afternoon when I was almost nine-months pregnant with my daughter, he braved up and went into the maze of tubes.

For reasons passing understanding, he waited until he was in the center of the topmost tube path to decide he was frightened.

He called to me through the windows of his tube. I called back, “Crawl out!”

He could neither figure out how to turn around, back out the four miles he had traversed nor understand that going forward meant a short downhill path to freedom.

I had no choice. I crawled in to get him.

Picture an eight and a half-month pregnant woman in several layers of thermals and wool sweaters wriggling through a habitrail lined with dry, gummy ketchup.

The McEmployees were not pleased.

They scolded me, “The Play Place tube maze is for children only.” I supposed it was for customers only, too, but didn’t mention that.

Since then I’ve seen many things, such as the Internet, and learned that those playlands were said to be chock full o’ dirty diapers, vomit and used hypodermic needles. I read terrible tales of children getting trapped and killed in the depths of the ball pits.

The moral here is plain: never live where it gets cold.

The dog-in-the-street story

June 9, 2013

You cannot unread this story. Probably you should surf to another blog today, or read one of my better stories, like The Special Day Class or The Pregnant Teenager Story.

This will conclude my three-day series of stories non gratae.

We were about two blocks from home when my son looked out the window and saw a little dog running alongside our car. “He’s racing us.”

The dog’s legs were short, but he was fast. We thought it was funny.

We lived on a wide, busy street. As we pulled in front of our house, my husband said, “We oughta get that dog before he runs into traffic.”

My son ran to the sidewalk, crouched and patted his thighs. “C’mere b–”

We heard thu-thunk.

My son says the dog turned and looked at him just as a truck caught him. The truck drove off.

I held my son while he repeated, ‘Oh no.’ I hated that he saw that.

The kids and I went in the house while my husband went to see if the dog was alive.

When he hadn’t come back after an hour I called his cell phone. He was sedate, “Yeah?”

“Where are you?”

“In the garage.”

The dog had looked dead, but when my husband moved it to the sidewalk it started jerking.

Silence. Then, “I’m looking for something to kill it with, but I can’t do it. I don’t think I can do it. I’m just standing here. The dog’s on the sidewalk. It’s thrashing. It’s in too much pain.”

I was so worried about my son, it hadn’t occured to me to worry about my husband.

I called the animal hospital for advice. They told me to bring the dog in.

By then the dog was dead. Can I bring my husband in? He needs a shot of whatever you were gonna give that dog.

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.

Dinner talk

January 13, 2013

My son reports that his high school drama department announced this year’s musical.  It’s called, ‘Once upon a Mattress.

“I know that one,” I said. “It’s the story of The Princess and the Pea.”

“It sounds like a porno,” he said.

“That version would be the story of The Princess and the Penis,” I said.

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.

Follow-up post

November 30, 2012

My sister tweeted that Tiger Woods had a karma accident.

The die story

November 26, 2012

A few Thanksgivings ago my baby cousin Sterling and his girlfriend came down from Washington. At dinner, they announced their engagement.

Wee hooo! I love a big announcement on a holiday.

After dinner, we pulled out the party games. We were going to play one of my favorites, Scattergories. Sterling’s affianced had never played before.

For this game, you have 12 categories, and a letter. You have to think of something in each category that starts with that letter.

Fun stuff. I always win.

I started passing out pencils and category lists, and we realized the die wasn’t in the box. I had left it in my bag of tricks for the Journalism Club I ran at the elementary school.

Alison said, “No worries. I have a die in my purse.”

We tried to stop her. “It’s not a regular die. It’s a many-sided die covered in letters.”

She kept walking toward her purse. Sterling’s fiancee doesn’t listen, I thought.

She came in rummaging through her little purse. Me, I carry a backpack. Between my canister of Wet Ones and my novel, I have no use for Louis Vitton.

“Here’s a die!” she said. I shook my head at her.

She pulled out a hand-carved wooden 26-sided die with letters on it.

My son yelled, “Welcome to the family! You pass.”

click for photo

A return favor

November 22, 2012

We just drove home from Bakersfield. On the way through the Tejon Pass, there was a woman pressing three small children against her legs in the wind, standing in the dirt on the side of the road. The hood of her car was up.

My husband and I agreed we should stop, so he pulled off at the next exit. It was a rest stop with no onramp the other direction.

As long as we were there, my husband went pee.

We went to the next offramp, got off and headed back the other direction, but missed our offramp.

By the time we got back to the damsel in distress, a tow truck was there.

That reminded me of a story, which Mike will be pleased I told, since I hung him out to dry with The Favor post.

One Thanksgiving my college roommate and I decided to show up in Southern California for Thanksgiving and surprise our families. We took my car from Boulder and dropped her first in San Clemente. It was Wednesday.

Never drive on Southern California freeways on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I could have walked faster.

Round about Yorba Linda my car began to smoke. Here’s my engine savvy. I pulled to the median and distanced myself from it in case it was set to explode.

A car pulled up next to me, a sedan, with about nine people in it. They bade me dive in across the six laps in the back seat, scooted me across the five lanes and dropped me at the call box.

The call box phone didn’t work.

From there a nice lady drove me down the offramp. She told me she had never picked up a hitchhiker in her life, but that I cut the most unthreatening figure she’d ever seen.

She left me at the Carl’s Jr., where I borrowed their phone and called Mike.

Michael jumped in his Sprint, with the ‘Don’t laugh, mister. You’re daughter might be in here.’ bumper sticker, and sat in the holiday traffic for hours to get me.

During the years I was logging frequent passenger miles in that car, my father never commented on that bumper sticker.

Mike put water in my overheated radiator and handed me the keys to the Sprint. I followed him at a creep to my parents’ house, where they were cozily watching a movie with a fire going.

 I had to walk in and say, “Surprise! Dad, can you fix my car?”

He had grace not to say, “You’re home. What a treat,” as he pushed himself off the couch.

I hope I’ve redeemed Michael’s reputation. The truth is, if he called me at 2 a.m. again, I’d go.

Why I love my husband

November 16, 2012

Yesterday my husband was walking around shirtless in baggie cords, which slung low on his waist. He had them rolled to mid-calf, like cabana pants.

He looked scrumptious, but that’s not why I love him.

“I like those pants like that.” I gave him a lecherous look.

“It’s my Tom Sawyer look.” I like the Tom Sawyer look.

“I was hoping someone would come along and see how much fun I was having cleaning the shower.”

That’s why I love him. He’s well Twained.

The tissue story

November 12, 2012

When I was in junior high I went to my Auntie Martha’s after school. She lived across the street from campus.

Auntie Martha was one of my grama’s older sisters.

I would snack on the Frosted Flakes she kept hidden in the bottom cabinet and watch General Hospital on her little black-and-white kitchen TV. After that I would push the chairs aside and jump on the Linoleum under Richard Simmons’ guidance.

Auntie Martha watched Guiding Light and then Phil Donohue in the den.

After my workout I went in where Auntie was. We would play gin or backgammon. She taught me to sew.

Then in the evening my dad would pick me up. Sometimes he would sit on the patio and have a beer with Uncle Phil before we left.

One afternoon I went in the living room and she was pulling wadded balls of pretty paper out of a new gym bag and ironing it.

The bag had come stuffed. My mom had just bought a bag like this. I was fascinated by the whole scene.

“This will make nice wrapping paper.” She was making a pile of the ironed. Each sheet was different.

I couldn’t get past that she was ironing wrapping paper.

My dad showed up just as she told me that she also irons her tissues and reuses them.

Dad was in a hurry.

This was too much. We went back and forth with ‘You really do?’ ‘I really do’ as he dragged me out.

I never knew Auntie Martha to be cheap, and that was disgusting. My incredulity was consuming.

The next afternoon it was the first thing I wanted to talk about.

“Auntie, I want to buy you clean tissues. I think it’s gross you iron and reuse them, all full of mocos.”

I wish I hadna said that.

I’m sure you’ve deduced she meant tissues for gift wrapping, not Kleenex. I’ve been teased it about it these past 28 years. This kind of embarrassment spreads fast through my family.

And 28 years later, I’m still using the wrapping paper I went home and pulled out of my mom’s new gym bag and ironed.

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.

My jury duty

September 19, 2012

I waited for my kids after practice today with another parent. He was my jury foreman. We reminisced about the case.

His son went through elementary school with my daughter, and his nephew with my son. I know his wife well, and knew him for years — as long as he was with her.

My jury summons came last fall. I used to love a jury summons.

It may have said, “Report to serve, as is your duty as a citizen of the United States,” but I read, “Come and spend several hours reading your novel in peace before being dismissed.”

I reported for my day of heaven, took my seat among 300 strangers and opened my book.

A man was looking at me, smiling. I smiled back, nodded and made my best effort to look absorbed in my story.

He kept with the giant smile, and when I looked up — because who could resist looking up? — he threw in an upward chin jerk.

Now I was getting a little scared.

He stood up and walked over to me. He was 7 feet tall if he was an inch. The lady next to me took a powder and he took her seat. Thanks, Lady.

Then he said hi to me by name. Ah. We knew each other. That’s a horse of a different color. I would have to play pretend-to-recognize-while-frantically-thinking-through-all-the-places-I-know-people-from.

I suck at this game. I made him identify himself.

I ended up grateful to have a friend sharing the experience. The trial tried my emotions.

The defendant was a paranoid schizophrenic drug addict who completed his sentence in a mental hospital after robbing a bank. He did this by lying that he had a bomb in his backpack.

Ours was to determine whether he should be released in the face of his total lack of rehabilitation.

To extend his sentence, it had to be proven beyond doubt that he was seriously mentally ill and a danger to others.

The rub was that he was the gentlest person I’d ever heard of. It came down to the gray area of what danger meant.

He was unstable and unpredictable. He believed he received messages from the CIA, sent through household electronics to the chip in his eye. They told him they controlled tsunamis and earthquakes.

He robbed the bank because he needed money to save people from the tsunamis. He was awfully sweet.

It was argued he would never hurt anybody. It was argued he created dangerous situations.

His mother cried. I stayed strong.

But when his father cried it was too much. After the verdict, I scurried to the elevator and let flow when the doors closed.

I’m still bothered by it, mostly for the loss of looking forward to a jury summons.

I was touched

August 24, 2012

The last of the Beatles’ birthdays is today. It’s George, wiping up the rear. Like the rest of us, he’s turning 42.

I guess we all go around talking at people and don’t realize which moments they’ll remember forever.

George said something to my husband and me a few years ago that touched me deeply.

He said he looks to our relationship with our kids as his goal with his own son.

I was overwhelmed by how much that meant to me. I make a point of remembering it often, as a means of appreciating what I have.

As if being George’s friend didn’t make me feel lucky enough.

Mötley Crüe concert

August 1, 2012

It’s midnight on the nose, and I just got home from Cruefest 2. I was working a concessions stand to raise money for my kids’ high school’s music program, but I abandoned my post when Mötley Crüe came on stage.

I’m a Mötley Crüe lover from way back.

When I was 14 they played at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino. That concert kicked off the Shout at the Devil tourQuiet Riot opened for them. I realized tonight, while I was complaining that the music was giving me a headache, that that was 25 years ago.

They can still rock just as well as ever. But they’re very loud.

Fun fact: Aerosmith’s ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’ was written about Mötley Crüe. They wore a lot of make-up.

This concert trip was a different experience from the one 1984. Midnight didn’t feel so late last time.

Instead of being  Too Young to Fall in Love, I have to close my eyes and wait for the Motrin to kick in.

I’m with the band

April 16, 2012

I have an aunt and uncle who lived and raised three boys in Modesto. The youngest boy and some friends formed a band in my aunt’s garage.

The next thing we know we’re getting reports they’re touring, making albums, showing videos on MTV. David Bowie named them as his favorite artists. We heard them on the “I am Sam” soundtrack. Two of their songs were in car commercials.

I was a proud cousin. I got a button made that says, “I’m with the band.”

One year they played at the Troubador in Los Angeles right before Thanksgiving. Later that week my aunt and uncle, my parents, the band and their spouses joined us at my house for dinner.

My Oldest Friend and her husband were in town from the coast, having Thanksgiving with her parents. They were supposed to stop by to see us.

After dinner she called to apologize for running late, “My husband has just discovered this band called Grandaddy, and he’s downloading all their CDs off Napster. He’s almost done, and we’ll be over then.”

“Grandaddy’s here,” I said.

For the first and last time in our lives, I got to be the cool one.