Ms. Wood Accidentally Shows Her Beaver to the World

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Beaver 2

I was barely 18 when I started my “illegal” club hopping days.

I don’t remember who gave me the fake I.D. but I know that it was good enough to get me into just about any club… anywhere in So Cal… and my club of choice at the time was:

The El Paso Cantina at Marina Pacifica in Long Beach.

The El Paso Cantina was a hotbed of illicit activities: booze, cocaine, sex, basically a poor man’s Studio 54 for the Long Beach crew, and since I was a minor and most of my friends were already legal adults, to be able to obtain a fake I.D. and dance the night away in a world that I considered “boogie nights party mecca” was beyond great.

It was a Wednesday, the most popular night at the Cantina, when I accidentally showed my beaver to the world.

The line to get in was lengthy: not because of my beaver… just because the Cantina was the place to be.

My friend Lori Stevens and I were dressed in our 80’s finery: super high black stilettos, skintight micro mini dresses, jet black bras, HUGE silver hoop earrings peeking out from our long blond bleached hair and of course: no underwear.

Now, we weren’t the only people who didn’t wear underwear at that particular time period in the 80’s: thong underwear was not yet a household name and though some of us wore them on the beach… few of us wore them under our skirts and so… to ensure “no panty lines” we often went “commando” when we went out on the town.

Lori and I had just shown my fake I.D. (and her real one) to the bouncer at the door and were heading up the walkway to the very steep indoor staircase that led to the club.

I had walked that particular staircase a hundred times or more and that night… was no different.

I had learned to navigate it drunk or sober.

Six inch heels or small black flats.

I never wavered.

I never bobbled.

I never stumbled.

Until that night… I had a perfect record on those steep, stupid, carpeted stairs but the event of that evening haunts me to this day.

I don’t know exactly what happened… I just know that as soon as Lori and I reached the top of the staircase, we took one look at the dance floor going off… the crowd having a great time…. felt the beat of the loudness of the bass… linked arms and made to walk forward to begin our mid-week shenanigans when one or both of us somehow caught our heels in the carpet and became “hooked” on the threads.

It was as if suddenly we were part of a slow motion segment of a film as we both grabbed at each other for balance, our smiles fading fast, our eyes locked in silent realization of our fate, as together we began the long backwards fall down the staircase.

Now, it’ s bad enough to know that you are about to fall down a very steep staircase:

1) It’s a very steep staircase… you seriously might not survive the fall.

2) If you do survive the fall, it’s gonna really hurt. Not just a little hurt… but a really BIG hurt. Like… hospital hurt.

3) There are large groups of people watching you fall from the top of the stairs and yes… also down at the bottom. Oh and let me add that most of these people “watching you eat shit” are really, really, REALLY good-looking guys that you have been trying to impress with your sly catlike club strutting moves for months and now… THIS.

Add to that… the shocking moment when you suddenly remember that you are absolutely panty-less as you go ass and elbows backwards down the stairs… yes… ass and elbows down the entire staircase and I really don’t think life can get any worse than that at the age of eighteen.

In fact, the only fear that comes close to rivaling this for me is the uncomfortable notion that yes someday… when I am old… I might actually shit my pants in public. Now.. maybe I will be too senile at the time to remember it… but if I am in full capacity of my facilities… it may actually earn first place winner for humiliating moment over the beaver incident but for now: the beaver stands alone.

I can tell you this… I don’t remember much of the fall.

Just a few good solid details:

My head taking a smart smack around the fourth step.

Lori’s back bending in an abnormally strange position somewhere around the seventh.

My right shoe flying off somewhere about the thirteenth.

But all in all… the memory of the fall is one that fades in-and-out of my mind as if a dusty haze has settled on that particular 80’s file of my brain.

However… the landing remains spectacularly vivid and fresh as if it just happened last night:

Lori and I twisted up together in a human ball.

Our arms and legs intertwined in a way that by looking at them… in my stunned state… I wasn’t even sure which arm or leg was mine.

We came to slowly… confused… not sure of what just happened… but it seemed, as I looked up at the shocked faces staring down at me from the top of the stairs, that something must be broken on one of us.

Their faces seemed to denote looks that spoke volumes:

Don’t look at your leg… your bone is sticking out or…

Oh my God! That’s a lot of blood… someone is going to have to get her to the hospital.

But that wasn’t the case.

Miraculously, Lori and I had survived the fall with just a few minor bruises and scrapes.

I should have been thankful that I was alive.

I should have been thankful that I wasn’t on my way to the hospital with a broken leg or broken back but…

I felt a cold blast of air brush across my “privacy” and aghast… looked to see that my legs were spread wide, Lori’s legs were spread wide, and our full frontal commando beavers were making a stunning surprise guest appearance to the excited and exuberant crowd.

I don’t think we could have drawn more attention if we had shown up with Pat Benatar and Debbie Harry.

Thank God it was a time before cell phone cameras because if it were today… my beaver would STILL be on display for the patrons of Long Beach and possibly… in some local hall of fame… a small notation beneath the frame stating: most notorious beaver shot in Southern California.

It was horrific.

The men at the top of the stairs gawked.

The men at the bottom of the stairs gawked.

No one came to our rescue.

No one rushed to cover us or comfort our wounded pride.

They had spent weeks… months… ogling Lori and I with our super fit little sporty girl bodies… wondering what exactly we did have for “view” under our tiny little lycra dresses and now… the moment they had been waiting for finally happened: FULL FRONTAL BEAVER EXPOSURE.

Lori and I tried to right ourselves but the small cubicle of the stairwell made it almost impossible to extricate ourselves quickly.

Each time we tried… we ended up in another awkward position… beavers posed… asses and elbows.

Soon the silence that had followed the fall, changed to a stairwell echoing with catcalls and vulgar innuendos.

We were mortified and actually crawled part way out the door where the bouncer helped us up and watched as we slinked away as quickly as possible to the comfort and safety of my little blue Audi.

We sat in the car… doors locked… heads down… not sure what to say to each other.

I’m not sure how long it was before Lori went back to the El Paso Cantina but I can tell you for me… it was never. Never.

Not even my underage need to be part of the cool older crowd could drive me back through that door and up those stairs.

The idea that so many people had seen my beaver was just too much to bear. (pun intended)

Today… it’s easy to laugh about the beaver incident but back then… there was only one thing I could do to swallow the shame:

I moved my late night party groove to the Sunset Beach Red Onion and prayed that nobody who frequented the club would recognize my beaver there.

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Ms. Wood Goes to Big Bear for a Week with Christopher Dorner Resulting in Mass Hysteria in the Small Town of Long Beach California

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WD

I wanted a vacation.

A break from the stress of the world.

A week away from the hustle and bustle of my busy classroom and so… I did what any good teacher would do: I decided to play hooky.

I told the children.

I didn’t lie.

I’m a firm believer in “mental health” days and who were they to complain anyways… this was their substitute:

sparkle stroosma

Mr. Stroosma.

Adored by all… wanted by many.

I was leaving him… as a token gift of my generosity… Stroosma, snacks and Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby at one of his most handsome film periods in time: 1974.

What could go wrong?

As long as Stroosma didn’t set the room on fire again… all should be well in my world.

But… I didn’t take into consideration the saga of Christopher Dorner.

At this time, he was still a stranger in Ms. Wood’s world but that was all about to change.

On the day I was planning to leave for Big Bear, a small group of overly concerned seventeen-year-olds headed into my classroom in a tight little group.

“Ms. Wood,” one of them said with alarm. “You can’t go to Big Bear, that cop killer guy is loose up there.”

I continued to shut down my computer for the day.

“I’ll be fine,” I said calmly. “Trust me. I’ll be fine.”

One of my militant punk students turned to the others and said, “I told you. It’s Ms. Wood. She’ll kick that guy’s ass!”
“No she won’t,” another one interjected. “She’ll talk him out of being bad. She can talk anyone out of being bad.”

This seemed to settle the collective as they nodded knowingly in agreement, smothered me in a flurry of hugs, and exited the room in search of another “high school crisis.”

I smiled and waved but inside: I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of Dodge.

I grabbed my things, hustled out the door and rushed to the gate before another group of little worriers came to find me.

By the time I reached the mini-van my phone was already going off in text messages:

Ms. Wood… don’t try to find that guy. I know you will. I don’t want you to die.

Ms. Wood… fuck that guy up… take a picture and post it on Instagram.

Ms. Wood… will you bring me back something from Big Bear… no one ever brings me back something from Big Bear.

“Jesus,” I mumbled to myself as I threw the van into gear and headed down the street.

I hopped on the 605 at Spring… floored it to the 91… jumped the Fastrak until I hit San Berdoo, and almost cried at the sight of my mountain.

Covered in snow… crisp and clear… it held everything I could want for a week: beauty, solitude, and a place to write.

I felt like a kid breaking free from her parents.

If the thought of Christopher Dorner even entered my mind… I don’t remember.

The trip up the mountain was uneventful.

No Dorner sightings.

No cops.

Just about a thousand idiots who had no idea how to drive the mountain in chains fighting their way up to the resorts and so… what was usually a two hour trip… turned into a four hour parking lot drive where good music, dark chocolate, and coffee provided the only relief.

Stephen, my man, had followed me up the mountain in his own car and by the time we reached Big Bear City… we were ready for a good meal and a good bed.

The next morning, we went about having a lovely weekend sure, as many people were, that Christopher Dorner was long gone, probably on his way to Canada or Mexico by now.

On Monday, Stephen headed down the hill and back to work and I prepared to spend the rest of my week writing.

I slept peacefully that night on my own… I did not worry about locking the doors, checking the closets, closing up the balcony.

And when the sun came up over the lake at 6am I was dressed and off to my normal routine: to walk the lake and forest path on the far side of Big Bear, close to Fawnskin, a trek that takes a couple of hours and connects with the Pacific Crest Trail.

I didn’t think to check in.

I didn’t think to call anyone.

I didn’t think about anything.

Oblivious to the news of the day, I headed out for a quick bite at the Grizzly Manor Cafe before I hit the trail.

I should have known when a giant man, similar in build to Christopher Dorner, entered the cafe for a quick cup of coffee and the table of deputies sitting across from me stood up with guns drawn that something was up… but I just assumed in a small town like Big Bear… the local law enforcement might just be “itchy” for action… willing to keep the antics up for a few days in hopes something interesting might happen.

I smiled as the guy looked around confused before he put his hands up and said to the deputies, “I just want a cup of coffee.”

He sat down close to me at the counter and rolled his eyes, annoyed that they thought he was a criminal.

He grabbed his sugar packets roughly and shook them back and forth numerous times before asking me, “Do I even look like that guy?”

I didn’t want to admit it to him… but he actually did.

I shrugged my shoulders, paid my bill, and headed off to the lake.

I parked in a remote part of the trail, put on my gloves and hat and started off at a good clip.

It was a beautiful day… quiet and cool….. everything was covered in thick soft powdered snow and I liked the sound of the crunch my tennis shoes made on the path.

I was about half way through the forest when I had that strange feeling of being watched.

I stopped: sure that I heard a noise.

I looked.

I listened.

Nothing.

I stepped up the pace.

Suddenly, I felt the labor of my breathing, the struggle of the altitude, and my usual “bravado” of being able to take anyone flagged.

I wondered what would happen if I was attacked?

Would I be able to fight back?

Would I be able to run?

I patted my pockets and realized I didn’t have my usual stash of Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s for calming difficult situations… my treats always a means of mediation.

I felt my heart beat faster.

I jogged the rest of the way to the bridge and much like Ichabod Crane in the Legend of Sleep Hollow, refused to turn around and look until I had passed over it and was safely on the other side.

The forest now behind me looked dark… looming… and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to walk that way back to the van but… the road was no safer covered in ice and snow… I would basically be a moving target for any yahoo making sharp mountain turns there on the 38.

I pushed the thought from my mind and headed down the lake path to the marina.

The wind was whipping across the water, the day had warmed to a lovely high of 30 degrees and so I walked out to the point and sat on the bench above the rocks and thanked God that I lived close enough to a place like this.

By 10 am, I was safely back home, showered and now warm in my jammies, sitting at my computer, hard into my writing day.

I worked solidly until close to 1:30 when once again… my mind stopped… alert.

I looked around.

Something seemed out of place.

Something seemed wrong.

I realized I hadn’t seen my phone in hours and jumped up to look for it, afraid that I was having some parental premonition regarding something going on at home, and that it was imperative to check-in.

It took me a good fifteen minutes to realize that my phone was wedged between the cushions of the couch and when I saw the massive amounts of texts I had missed I thought I might be sick.

I pushed in my pass code and prepared for the worst:

Stephen: WHERE ARE YOU???? VERY WORRIED!!!! CALL IMMEDIATELY.

My mind jogged.

That wasn’t what I expected.

It seemed that he was for some reason worried about me.

I hit the next message… my daughter Lexi:

MOM! THIS ISN’T FUNNY! ANSWER MY FUCKING TEXTS!

I went through scroll after scroll of worried messages from family, friends, and students.

MS. WOOD! ARE YOU STILL IN BIG BEAR???? ANSWER ME NOW!!!!

MS. WOOD CALL ME I’M WORRIED!

MS. WOOD SEND VIDEO I KNOW YOU NABBED THAT GUY AND BRING ME BACK SOMETHING FROM BIG BEAR NO ONE EVER BRINGS ME BACK SOMETHING FROM BIG BEAR!

I didn’t know what the hell was going on but obviously something was up.

I checked one more message from my friend Sharla:

You’re nowhere near that Christopher Dorner guy right? Call me when you can.

Suddenly, it all became clear.

I ran to the front door and threw it open:

Helicopters were flying throughout the area.

Sirens were going off in the distance.

Smoke was billowing from somewhere down the hill.

“Jesus Christ!” I shouted before jumping back inside and locking the door.

I didn’t know what to think.

Part of me was really disappointed that Christopher Dorner had been in Big Bear and I hadn’t ran into him.

I imagined how I would have lured him into the mini-van with the offer of a getaway car and an exclusive to his side of the story.

I knew that he had snapped and killed in the name of personal justice… but I hoped that it wouldn’t end in more bloodshed.

Right then Matt Vann, my friend and a teacher from Millikan, called.

“You with him?” he asked.

“What?” I said unsure if I had heard him right.

“You with him?” He repeated with intensity.

“No,” I said bummed that I wasn’t. “It’s not me.”

“Damn it,” Matt said. “I was so hoping they were gonna interrupt the State of the Nation tonight with a picture of you and Dorner.”

He hung up with an abrupt “Goodbye” and I rushed to the computer to check the CNN feed.

My Facebook page popped open and I thought it best to write a quick note to let everyone know I was okay… the responses were immediate:

Danny: D.D. I wasn’t worried about you. I was worried about Dorner… if he accidentally chose your place.

Timko: Go take him down Miss Wood.

Trevor: He’s never met sassy Miss Wood. There would be a citizen’s arrest for sure.

Cathy: Can you see the smoke?

I was happy to know that so many people had faith in my abilities to rule the world and once again I wished I had had a chance to intervene.

I hit the CNN feed and saw that Christopher was supposedly in a cabin… that the cabin was on fire… and that he was either going to give up… or die fighting.

I couldn’t watch.

I couldn’t think.

My heart hurt for everyone involved and I couldn’t bring myself to take a side.

I called my loved ones… promised to stay safe… before I grabbed a blanket and sat in the chair on the balcony looking out over the lake.

I thought of how life can turn on a dime.

How you can be the picture of mental stability, a symbol of strength to your community, someone loved… respected… and a vigilante outlaw the next.

I thought of his smiling face… the people he left behind… and I prayed for everyone who had lost in this game.

Just as I was letting the sadness of the day wash over me my phone beeped again.

Another text.

MS. WOOD PLEASE BRING ME BACK SOMETHING FROM BIG BEAR NO ONE EVER BRINGS ME BACK SOMETHING FROM BIG BEAR!

I smiled… and made a mental note to myself… to buy a present for my student the very next day… and be the first person to remember to bring him back something from Big Bear: Myself… alive, well, and there for all who love me… and some silly little gift to remind him that he mattered in my life… that he was important in my world.

Joe Wood Calls Me a “C. U. Next Tuesday” Resulting in a High Speed Pursuit with Pro Skater Eddie Reategui

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Ed and Joe

Back before I was a beloved high school teacher, I ran with a notorious group of musicians and skaters.

Basically, a Rat Pack of boys, sure to provide all types of trouble, and as Steve Soto of The Adolescents fame just recently said to me… I was their “Shirley MacLaine.”

But the problem with being the Shirley MacLaine to the Rat Pack, is that though you are a standing member; a band girl that has been deemed cool enough to hang with the boys… you never really ARE one of the boys and so… it set up a musical dichotomy: me on one side…resentful and hurt… the boys on the other…happy to continue on as they always had.

Having grown up with brothers, I had pretty much resigned myself to this “Continental Divide” this “He-Man Woman-Haters Club” until the day that Joe Wood went way too far.

Joe my boyfriend at the time (later my husband) was in T.S.O.L and we were caught up in a VERY passionate relationship.

We were actually known all around town for our knock down drag-outs.

We were the Ike and Tina Turner of Long Beach.

The Johnny Cash and June Carter of the Punk Rock World.

The Loretta Lynn and Doolittle Lynn of the local club scene.

Basically, we were everything that has EVER been represented in volatile musical couples since the dawn of Rock-n-Roll.

You never knew what to expect from either of us and we never knew what to expect from each other.

One day, as we were driving in our old 69 Buick Wildcat past El Dorado Park on our way to God knows where, we got into one of our terrible arguments.

I don’t know how it started but it escalated so quickly, that by the time we turned off of Spring Street and onto Studebaker Road, it was nearing fist-a-cuffs.

We were barely half a mile from the house, ranting and raving at each other, arms waving, cuss words flying, when the light turned red, Joe lit up a smoke, and said, “You know what? You’re just a stupid cunt on the side lines of music and I don’t really give a shit what you think” and jumped out of the car, ran across the street to the far corner, where he flipped me the bird, before sticking out his thumb and trying to hitch a ride with anyone who could get him as far away from me as possible.

I felt my face burning.

My heart was racing.

My mind was spinning.

If I could have floored that Buick and cut diagonally across six lanes of traffic and run his stupid ass over without killing an innocent bystander believe me, I would have done it.

I thank God that neither of us carried guns during our time together.

We were the perfect poster couple for why there should be U.N. mandated GLOBAL gun control.

Trust me… If I had had a gun back then… Joe would be ball-less wonder right now, singing some type of Hedwig and the Angry Inch cover set at Alex’s bar every Thursday night for the rest of his miserable “little” life.

I glared at Joe across the street.

Smug look on his face.

Leather pants and black shirt.

Cigarette dangling cooly from his mouth.

The Devil standing on the side of the road… and I snapped.

Any man in his right mind should know that you NEVER call a woman a  C. U. NEXT. TUESDAY if you want to live to tell the story.

He was gonna pay and good.

I couldn’t wait for the light to change so that I could throw that car into a U-turn off of Willow, and jet over to his side of the street where I could sock him proper.

But, just as I was making the turn, heading across the intersection to let him have it, a cute little 1970’s VW bug pulled up, Joe hopped in, and as they pulled back into traffic, I saw that it was Eddie Reategui at the wheel.

Now I had known Eddie forever, and I knew there was no way in hell Eddie would have picked Joe up if he knew what the hell was going down.

I saw Joe gesturing wildly and then point his finger forward repeatedly and rapidly as he told Eddie to, “Drive! Drive! Drive!”

But Eddie’s poor little 1970’s bug was no match for my V8.

I revved the engine and laid the Wildcat about five inches off of Eddie’s bumper.

He looked over his shoulder, face crumpled, hobbit like fear at the unknown danger he had found on the road.

He turned back and I could see him clutch the wheel and throw a hard shift into 4th hoping that he could out run me.

For a moment… he pulled away and I saw Joe break into a wide grin.

I let them have their one moment of relief before I floored it again, came up on Eddie’s right side and screamed, “You better pull over right now Eddie Reategui or I’m gonna kill you!”

Eddie shook his head no, a scared little shake of a nod, trying to remain “Boy’s Club” looking to Joe for reassurance, a sign that he was doing the right thing, but he found nothing to comfort him there.

Eddie’s not stupid: He knew the minute he saw me on his tail… that he had sided with the wrong team.

I pulled back and watched as in a panic Eddie cut in front of me and made a sharp left turn on Oak, a small secluded street right behind the Los Alamitos Police Department, hoping that the power of my heavy metal would cause me to blast past the turn and leave me having to make up time on Walnut before I could cut back and cut them off.

The VW cornered like it was on rails but Eddie had underestimated the moment.

I made my own hard left onto Oak, pinned the pedal to the floor, blazed past the boys on the wrong side of the street, before hitting the brake, throwing the car into a hard skid, and T-Boning them.

Eddie hit the brakes, his face one of total terror, Joe, no longer the big mouth in Eddie’s ear screamed as their car skidded towards me and luckily… stopped.

I jumped from the Buick before they had a chance to recover: 113 pounds of green-eyed bitch.

Black mini skirt riding up high…

bullet belt bouncing off of each hip…

boots clicking fast across the asphalt… as I screamed at the top of my lungs, “You get your ASS out of that car RIGHT NOW Joe Wood!”

Joe jumped out of Eddie’s car as if God had yanked him from it himself.

I stared him down.

Hell hath no FURY like a women called a C. U. Next Tuesday.

My eyes could have burned through his skin.

He tried to play it cool…

Strutting towards me as he stopped to acknowledge his nemesis.

He paused, lit up a smoke, I raised one eyebrow and stared him down.

His gaze faltered before he regained a little bit of composure, sauntering the rest of the way towards the passenger side of the car, my eyes following his every move.

I watched as he got in… slumped into the seat, arm extended out the window, chain tattoo prominent on his wrist, Marlboro light dangling from his fingers.

Fucker.

By the time I turned back to give Eddie Reategui what for… I saw that he had slipped his car into reverse and was silently edging away from me.

I raced towards him like the cyborg in Terminator, my steely gaze ready to cut him deep but he was gone before I could even get close.

I never thought I would ever see a 1970’s VW bug pull off such a slow Rockford but Eddie’s skating techniques, in the end, boded well for his escape. I’m sure by that time if Eddie had to perform a 360 Hard Flip in that VW just to get the fuck out of there, he would have figure out a way to do it.

He raced off and out of my general vicinity, happy, I’m sure, to leave with his balls intact and arrest free before the police station caught onto the insane domestic dispute going on outside of their main building.

I stomped back to the car and threw myself into the seat.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” I screamed.

Joe took a deep drag off his smoke and blew it into my face.

My eyes narrowed.

“Go ahead,” I whispered. “Say it again. I dare you.”

I waited.

My gauntlet thrown down.

Neither of us blinked.

I watched as his gold eyes glared into mine before his stonewall expression was betrayed by a slight twitch.

“That’s what I thought,” I said as I threw the car into gear, spun the back tires hard, and roared down Oak Street for home.