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Before Barbara Kramer was a famous Rock and Roll star touring the world with her band, Avi Buffalo, she was my student.
If you were to ask any of my former students what they remembered most about my class, their first answer would not be, “Studying Catcher in the Rye” or “Learning about John Adams” but would have something to do with the stories I tell them about my life.
They all loved my stories and over the years, I got into a habit of always starting off my class lesson with a “Story of the Day.”
Today, I was reminded of one of those stories by my friends: Rodney Zaccardo and Steve Hendrix.
No, they are not former students, but Rodney almost became a former friend, when he posted a photo on my Facebook page of a bar of soap titled, “Filthy Beaver” with my name tagged to the beaver.
Steve, smart man that he is, commented with, “I don’t know where to begin…” and I honestly didn’t know how to respond myself.
What the hell was Rodney thinking?
Did he really just call my beaver filthy on Facebook?
Luckily, my friend Margie, who was sitting across the table from me working, looked up from her computer and said, “He’s talking about your beaver. You know.. the one that has it’s own Facebook page. That beaver that travels around the world with the band.” She then looked back down at her computer again before I heard her laugh and whisper, “Dork.”
I felt like an idiot for not getting the joke.
One phone call and two text messages from Rodney later… I realized he was worried I hadn’t gotten the joke either.
But don’t worry Rodney.
You’re not in trouble.
I get the joke.
The whole thing with the beaver started because of my chihuahua, Nico.
Nico loves to carry around little toys. He has a buzzy bee, two brightly colored wiener dogs, a piece of a stuffed tiger, just one leg, that he refuses to give up, and… a beaver.
These toys are usually scattered all around the house. And Nico, likes to pick one up and then drop it down to pick up another, changing them randomly, as he shows them off to house guests and moves then about, unwilling of course, to share them with any of the other dogs.
Yes… he is a stuffed animal hoarder.
One day when I was getting ready to go teach school, I heard a loud “SLAM” from the living room and then silence.
I ran out of the hall and looked around but saw nothing but Nico’s beaver on the floor and Nico, standing close to Nana’s lounge chair wagging his tail as he seemed to look off into the backyard.
Now, it was rare to walk into the living room and not find my 84-year-old mother sitting in her blue lounge chair watching TV but, it was even stranger to walk into the living room and find the chair empty AND the room in complete silence:
No Two and a Half Men blasting from Nana’s TV cabinet.
No dogs barking for Nana’s McDonald’s breakfast meal.
Just a beaver lying in the middle of the room and a small chihuahua looking actually, quite suspicious.
Something inside of me told me to call out for my mom and so… I did.
Immediately I saw my mother’s pudgy little grandma arm waving at me from behind the blue lounge chair.
“I’m over here!” She shouted as I watched her hand flap back and forth more like a windshield wiper than an actual signal of salutation.
“What the hell are you doing over there?” I asked as I hurried towards her and worked to pull her back up.
“Oh,” she said as I righted her and sat her back in her recliner, “I tripped over that damn beaver.”
I looked at the stuffed beaver lying on the floor.
I looked at Nico still wagging his tail, pretending to be the perfect dog in every way.
My mom looked at me as if I was stupid because I hadn’t responded quick enough to what she just said, so she rolled her eyes and snapped, “That thing!” as she pointed at the stuffed lump on the floor. “Nico’s beaver!”
For a moment, my mind went to one of those weird places… a place where it associates words with a specific period of time, a place where random images collide with random events… a place where you really don’t want your mind to go and suddenly… I pictured my mom tripping over a giant 70’s porno bush: Nico’s beaver.
I could see it vividly.
The giant vagina somehow detached and misplaced in our living room…
My mom, shaking her head in exasperation as if she knew it had been there all along hiding in the tri-colored shag carpet…
And somehow… she had just forgotten about it while worrying about other 70’s calamities such as my dad’s polyester pants or Dr. John’s latest hit: Right Place Wrong Time.
I couldn’t stop laughing.
I was trying to shake this horrific image out of my mind.
You never EVER want to put “Mom” and “porno” in the same thought box or even in the same paragraph for that matter, and the thought of the ridiculousness of what I was invisioning only made the whole situation worse.
Finally, my mother became totally annoyed with me and said, “I’m fine now. Just go to school. It’s not that funny you know.” Which made me laugh all the harder as I left the house and drove over to my classroom.
When I told the kids my “Story of the Day” of course I had to share Nico’s Beaver.
Everyone was in hysterics except for Barbara Kramer who seemed to be skeptical. Her eyes narrowed as she ran her tongue over her braces, before saying, “Is there really a Nico’s beaver?” with a smack of her lips.
The entire class paused.
They had never even considered the idea that I might be lying, that I might actually just make all of this shit up like a comedy routine I was trying out on unsuspecting English classes.
They all turned to me, begging for confirmation that I was telling the truth, and so, I gave Babs my best, “I’m so disgusted with your question face” before I said, “Yes Barbara, of course Nico has a beaver. Why would I make that up?”
She continued to look at me as if I was a fraud but by then, the rest of the class was convinced I was definitely telling stories in the genre of “non-fiction” and so we moved on for the day.
Weeks later, Barbara came to my house to play with my son Dylan. They were both in a band called “Return to Radio” and practice would take place regularly at our house.
Babs walked inside and met my mom.
“Hi Nana,” she said as she waved to her.
“Oh, hi honey!” My mom waved back.
And then Nico ran up to Babs: growling and wagging, fussing and barking.
She stared at him, as if he somehow had the answer to her question regarding my authenticity as a story teller.
Was I a true raconteur? Or… was I a cheap side-show sham?
I knew what I had to do.
“Nico,” I said. “Go get your beaver! Go get your beaver!”
Nico shot off across the living room floor as if he was in a dog show and knew he was about to win first place for performing this trick.
We watched as he rooted about in his little doggy bed of toys and then plucked his favorite worn brown and beaten beaver out of the batch and rushed back to show it proudly to Babs.
Her face radiated bemusement. She couldn’t contain her glee.
She looked at me as if I was the Holy Grail of Honest Teachers before reaching down and taking the beaver from Nico’s mouth.
“Nico’s beaver,” Babs whispered and the rest, is history.
Babs joined Avi Buffalo. She began to tour the world, and she took Nico’s beaver with her… photos of him appeared with Ben Stein and on ampitheater stages in Canada, Europe, and everywhere in between.
He became legendary, that beaver, and I think Babs loved him. I think that beaver kept her grounded as she learned the world of music first hand… on stage…. and that beaver… always represented love, truth, family, and home.
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I don’t ask for much as a parent.
Well, at least I don’t think I ask for much as a parent.
Dylan and Lexi may choose to disagree with this statement and it’s fine if they do because I AM THE PARENT and I don’t care.
Every once in awhile I ask for a minor thing to be done:
Pick up the dog poop.
Change the Sparklett’s water bottle for Nana.
Take out the trash.
Don’t forget to move the car for street sweeping and…
For God’s sake give me a bun when I ask for one.
It was Dylan who refused me the bun.
All I wanted was one bun for my chicken.
It was Matilda’s first night at our house.
She was a guest.
I had no chicken feed and thought how nice it would be to give her a lovely fresh bun.
Dylan actually snatched the bun bag from my hands.
“You can’t have a bun,” he said and I looked at his face and saw that he was totally serious. “I have exactly eight buns and exactly eight hot dogs. Do you understand?”
Oh, I understood.
Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive was refusing to give me a bun.
I couldn’t believe it.
He was lucky to be alive.
If I hadn’t grown him in my magical uterus he wouldn’t even be standing here with a bag of buns in his grubby little hands… the little shit.
I almost got in a knock-down-drag-out with him right then and there but we had company… not just Matilda… but a whole house load of guests. So, I had to let it go and I honestly planned to let it go forever until I found the bun bag in the trash can exactly one week later.
The whole bun bag.
All eight buns… moldy and in the trash can.
I looked at those buns and I felt like they were mocking me.
Dylan would pay for this injustice.
I waited until he was making his way through the house, walking with one of his little band friends, when I stopped him, pulled the bag from the trash can, and in my best motherly voice said, “What is this?”
Dylan looked at the bag as if he was unable to fathom the alien object in my hand.
“What?” he said but I could tell from his tone he knew he was busted.
“I asked you for one bun. One bun! And look,” I thrust the bag towards his face. “You didn’t even eat one. Not one! Here they sit, molding in the trash.”
“I’m gonna feed them to the ducks,” Dylan said.
This sent me over the edge.
“The ducks? The ducks!” I shouted. “You wouldn’t even give me one for my chicken!”
“Well, you fed your friends my spaghetti sauce!” He snapped, throwing out this minor counter point as if he could win an argument against me with such a weak comeback.
“How much is your rent?” I asked.
He was silent before mumbling, “It was just a bun.”
“You’re right,” I said. “Just a bun.”
We stood quietly for a moment pondering that thought before Dylan said, “We’re going out to the garage to practice now.”
I watched as he walked away wondering what he might refuse me next:
An adult diaper?
My pills and ice cream when I’m 102 and unwilling to eat anything else?
I could see now that I would have to keep my eye on this little man.
It starts with a bun and ends up with a trip to the convalescent hospital for a nice long vacation.
Oh… but he had underestimated his opponent.
My wrath would be legendary.
I would be the old woman who would pee as I walked down the supermarket aisle each time my son took me to the store.
I would be the old woman who would sit in the back seat of his mini-van and flip people off in other cars for no apparent reason.
I would be the old woman who would feed his children candy and play Grand Theft Auto with them when they turned 4.
Refuse me a bun.
We’ll just see about that.
Before the Red Hot Chili Peppers became Rock and Roll namesakes they were just a bunch of goofy guys, playing music and hoping to reach the big brass ring of Super Stardom like everyone else in our music scene.
In the mid-1980’s they were touring with T.S.O.L. and Fishbone and since I was dating the lead singer of T.S.O.L., the man that later became my husband, I was at the show.
I have never been that smitten or taken with rock stars… growing up around “band boys” you are privy to a decent amount of information that takes away the glitter and the glamour of the stage and brings the “fantasy” down to earth…. trust me…. when you watch many of your family members and good friends throwing their talent away on drug and alcohol addiction… the fun goes right out the window.
But at this time, we were all still young and beautiful, still having fun in our world of music and mayhem, and not really concerned much with the future. Most of the players in our group were “interchangeable” which is a really nice way of saying there was a lot of inner circle incestuous dating going on… and because of this… people often kept an “eye” on their significant others for fear that they might pop off with someone much more interesting in a different band at a moment’s notice.
I’ve often actually thought… that these guys weren’t even really that concerned about the person they were “with” … as much as they were worried that the person would leave them for a guy in a band that they considered “better” or “more popular” because there is a a fair amount of EGO dominating this rock world.
I had just walked into the club that evening, and watched as Anthony made a b-line towards me, hair brush in his hand, rubber band around his wrist.
“D.D.?” he asked in his little boy voice, “Would you please brush and braid my hair for the show tonight?”
Now, Anthony is actually three years older than me but I swear he looked like he was about fifteen at the time and tended to act about the same age.
I rolled my eyes, grabbed the hairbrush and the rubber band, and sat down at the bar table to brush his hair.
“You really can’t do this yourself Anthony?” I asked.
He turned his back towards me, stepped backwards until my legs were straddled around him, placed his hands on my knees and said, “No, you brush it.”
Once again I felt my eyes roll as I began to brush his hair. I already had Lex, my youngest child by this time, and so I brushed his hair as if I was brushing my daughter’s hair on a day she was really frustrating me.
“Ow,” he said in a baby voice. “Too hard.”
I fought the urge to hit him on the top of his head with the hairbrush… but I didn’t… I just continued on with my task.
Now there is something soothing, often mesmerizing about brushing long hair and soon we were both quiet as I worked gently separating his strands into three individual groups of hair before twisting them into a long neat braid. I put my hand over the braid and ran my fingers down it from top to bottom, the last touch in the process, making sure that it was smooth and hung straight.
“There,” I said. “All done.”
Anthony turned around, his hands resting gently on my hips as we now looked at each other face-to-face, his body still straddled between my legs, smiling his goofy smile and about to get all flirty with me when my X walked into the club.
It was one of those horrible moments that you can’t explain.
How do you explain how Anthony Kiedis got between your legs?
How do you explain your arm wrapped around his shoulders, holding the braid hanging down his back?
How do you explain Anthony staring at you like you’re a giant ice cream cone and he just wants a taste of it?
You don’t I tell you.
What you do is you push Anthony Kiedis away as roughly as you possibly can before you stand up from the bar stool, and pull your teeny tiny mini skirt down to cover your legs hoping that the five extra inches of black spandex will somehow make you look “virginal,” and watch as your current man storms towards you, hate in his eyes, and you pray that Anthony doesn’t die before set time.
“What the FUCK Anthony?” my X screamed at him.
My X is a big, burly handsome man…. often confused with the Devil… gold eyes, jet black hair, skull tattoos and Anthony backed away with his hands up.
“Hey —,” he said to my X trying to calm the situation down by playing the cool friendship card, “I didn’t know D.D. was your girl.”
And once again I felt my eyes rolling in my head. Everyone knew I was with X… Anthony’s lame excuse was not going to save him from a massacre.
My X was pressing the issue, leaned over, pounding his finger against Anthony’s chest. Every imaginable cuss word being used in the most creative way as it spewed forth from his mouth at an astonishing rate.
I was looking around for ANYONE to come to my rescue, stop them both before they were a bloody mess, and that’s when Mark Johnson appeared on the scene.
Mark Johnson… one of the sweetest, kindest guys you could ever want to know and today, if I had been a smart woman… I would have spent more time hanging out with him but I was too often seduced by the dramatic dysfunction of the scene.
Mark got in between them, calmed my X down, and lead Anthony away upstairs where he was going to hang out in the Green Room until set time.
I spent the next 30 minutes trying to explain to my X that what had just happened was totally innocent but… no luck… he ended up storming off to the bar for a big shot of Ten High as I sat back down at the table… the now “infamous” table where I had illicitly brushed and braided Anthony’s hair, put my hands over my eyes and just shook my head back and forth for a minute, disgusted with the total comedy of errors that had just transpired before me.
I felt like I was wearing a LARGE SCARLET LETTER and I couldn’t help but think to myself that maybe I should just go home now and call it a night. I had a feeling that the fight might ratchet back up after hours if me, Anthony and X were all in the same room and both of the boys were stoned or drunk.
Just then, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and almost afraid to look up, I raised my gaze and was relieved to be looking into the smiling face of Mark Johnson.
“Anthony asked me to give you this,” he said.
I opened the small folded white piece of notebook paper that he had held out to me and read the word, “Hi” with a child-like smiley face drawn next to it.
I looked up at Mark, and then looked back at the note.
“Are you serious?” I asked before rising from the table and grabbing my purse and walking away.
“What do you want me to tell him?” Mark shouted after me.
“That I’m going home,” I said.
“Home?” Mark Johnson said, his voice full of amusement and surprise that I was turning the “little man” down.
“Home,” I said and headed for the door.
I strutted past the bar where I saw my X happily settled in; surrounded by friends and fans, smoke in one hand, bottle of Ten High in the other, and gave one last look back at Mark who waved sweetly before he headed off to the Green Room to disappoint Anthony with my response.
I almost broke into a jog, dying to climb into my old 63′ Buick and race for the safety of home.
“You back already?” My mom said as I came into the house.
I watched as Lexi climbed off her Nana’s lap and rushed towards me.
“Boy drama,” I said to my mom as I grabbed Lex and scooped her up into my arms.
“Oh those boys,” Nana said, “Just like your father was in high school. Pachucos on parade.”
I tried not to smile but I couldn’t help it… she was so right… Pachucos on parade.
I carried Lex into her bedroom, kicked off my heels, climbed up onto the bed with her to read “Pat the Bunny” and left the Pachucos behind me.
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