Joe and Jack Watch the Baby

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Many years ago when my youngest child was barely two, I left the baby to be watched by his favorite people: His father, Joe, and his uncle, Jack, and went off to my work day teaching the youth of America.

Now Joe and Jack, are both punk rock legends and therefore considered symbols of “wild, reckless abandon” and RARELY tagged as “responsible, mature adults.”

Why?

Because let’s face it: in the punk rock world, sex, drugs, violence and three chord repetitive anthems sell. The only thing the title of “responsible, mature adult” might sell in that world, would be Activia yogurt and Depends adult briefs and I don’t know any hardcore punks looking for those products right at the moment.

Now, one of these men, in my opinion, looks like the devil and… the other one… I believe… IS the devil. But… I well never tell you which one is which… feel free to debate the topic among your companions and friends.

And you may be thinking right now, What type of woman leaves a baby with Lucifer and El Diablo?  Why would she do that?

And my response would be: despite public belief and my personal quarrels with each… they both loved and very competently protected and cared for the baby until one day… things went terribly awry.

Dylan, aka, “the baby” was toddling around the house, as usual, in a diaper, pudgy little feet and hands naked and free, big over-sized baby belly protruding over his diaper, long silky locks of lovely curls bouncing upon his shoulders: cherubic little man.

He was known for getting into trouble but doing it in complete silence. Yes… the baby rarely talked.

He loved to terrify us by striping stark naked, hiding in the neighbor’s bush next door, and watching quietly from the shadows, as we would run up and down the street screaming for him, horrified that we may have actually lost him.

This daily routine left each of us distraught and shaken but, every time we thought he was truly gone, he would somehow magically appear out of nowhere and stand in the middle of the grass staring at us until we noticed him.

It actually took us over six months to find his hiding place: Bad baby.

On this day though, Dylan wasn’t trying to terrorize his parents or his uncle for that matter. He was just running about, playing with his toys when he approached Joe, his father, and said, “Ow.”

According to Joe, his expression was deadpan. He wasn’t crying. His face in no way conveyed pain.

He just kept taking his tiny little dough ball of a finger, touching it gently to the side of his nose, and repeating the word, “Ow.”

At this point in time, Dylan’s uncle, Jack, came into the room to see what was wrong.

For awhile, both Joe and Jack stared at the baby, unsure of what to do until one of them, or both of them, got the bright idea to look up the baby’s nose and that is when all hell broke loose.

The baby had a large yellow, glossy wet, massive orb stuck up inside of his nasal canal.

They didn’t stop to ask questions.

They freaked out and called me.

I was in the middle of my teaching day when the office rang through to my room and said, “D.D. your husband needs to talk with you. He says it’s an emergency.”

I waited for Joe to break through the line and before he had a chance to speak said, “Is everyone alive?”

“Yes,” he answered and was immediately overpowered by the booming voice of my brother in the background shouting, “I’m sure it’s his brain!”

I tried to remain calm as Joe explained the situation.

The baby.

The pointing finger.

The repeated use of the word “Ow.”

And the protruding, glossy-wet mass of whatever was stuck up my baby’s nose.

“I think Jack’s right,” Joe whispered, as if the baby could understand him and he didn’t want to cause him concern. “I think it’s his brain.”

“BRAIN!” Jack shouted from the background, our family legendary in our ability to intensify any given situation by a magnitude of a hundred.

“It’s not his brain,” I said. “Jesus. You two.”

Joe yelled to Jack, “She doesn’t think it’s his brain.”

And for a moment… there was a peaceful silence on the line.

“Put the baby on the phone,” I demanded.

“She wants to talk to the baby,” Joe whispered to Jack.

“She wants to talk to the baby?” Jack repeated.

“Put the fucking baby on the phone,” I said, annoyed at the Heckle and Jeckle shenanigans I was trying to deal with.

I heard Jack pick up the baby, bring him to the phone, where Dylan’s soft gurgly baby breathing, his tiny little coo sounds, let me know that he was present and listening.

“Dylan,” I said. “Tell mommy what’s wrong.”

“Ow,” the baby whispered. “Ow.”

And I could picture his little finger pointing to his tiny baby nose.

Jack carried Dylan away and I waited for Joe to come back on the line.

“It’s not his brain,” I said. “He’s obviously stuck something up his nose and you two are going to have to pull it out.”

“Pull it out?” Joe sounded as if I asked him to diaper an old man’s ass. “How do you want us to pull it out?”

“Get some tweezers,” I said. “Have Jack hold the baby down, while you pull whatever it is out of his nose.”

Joe laid down the phone and I heard a ruckus in the background as he spoke to Jack.

“She wants us to do what?”

“Pull it out,” Joe said.

“Are you sure it’s not his brain?”

“I don’t think so.” Joe said, trying to remain calm.

A few moments later I heard the baby being held down: whiny, squirmy protests… a few baby sobs… then…

“Oh my God! Look at it!” Jack said followed by…

“Dude it’s a grape. Look it’s a fucking grape.” from Joe before I heard the baby cry with annoyance struggling to be let go.

There was another brief silence before I heard Dylan’s fat little baby feet toddling quickly away from the scene.

Joe returned to the phone out of breath, “It was a grape.”

“I heard,” I said as I hung up the phone, apologized to my students for interrupting their class time and my inappropriate use of the “F” word, and then finished out my work day.

When I arrived home that evening the boys were very excited to show me the grape which, I realized immediately, was not a grape, but one of the yellow, golden raisins I had given Dylan two days ago which he had obviously stuck up his nose.

“That’s disgusting,” Jack said. “So that thing was up there for like two days just juicing up.”

Joe looked at me as if I had been the one to cause all of this trouble.

“What?” I said, before grabbing the baby up, kicking open the front door, and sitting down on the swing.

I listened as Jack and Joe squabbled over the size of the object they had pulled from the baby’s nose, while I gently pushed the swing back and forth with one foot… Dylan cuddled close to me… his little head nuzzled upon my shoulder.

I wondered if he would grow up to be like his Father or his Uncle Jack?

“Bad baby.” I whispered, “Very bad baby.” before I kissed him on his forehead and waited for him to fall off to sleep.

Lying to the Lake Patrol in Big Bear

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Charlotte was nine-years-old when I lied to the Lake Patrol.

Dylan and Lily weren’t much older… a few years… but still quite young.

It was our first summer, with all of us together in Big Bear, and I thought it would be fun to rent jet skis.

Everyone in the group had been swimming since they could walk and since I, unlike my brothers, preferred jet skis and water skiing to surfing… I thought it would be fun to show the kids what I could really do.

Was I showing off?

Yes.

Isn’t that what water sports are all about?

I can do things with a jet ski that moms aren’t supposed to do.

Moms apparently are supposed to ride safely.

Moms are supposed to stay close to the kids.

Moms are not to see how deep they can submerge the tail while they spin a tight 360 and then pop the jet ski out of the water with a child on the back of it.

Moms are not supposed to know how to reach under the cover and reset the switch so that the rental jet ski can now do exactly what it is supposed to do: HAUL ASS… but this mom… well, that’s a different story.

I knew that Lily really hated the lake water: she did not want to get wet.

She did however want to ride on the back of the jet ski with Dylan, who she adored at the time, and so poor Charlotte, having no idea yet how crazy I was after only being connected to our family for about six months, was stuck with me.

I putted out to the buoy, looking like the perfect PTA mom, waiting for the children, waving at the lifeguards, riding close to Dylan and Lily, pretending to enjoy the leisurely pace, until I had enough distance from the rental office to open it up.

Dylan was smiling… happy to have his own jet ski to ride. Lily was smiling, happy to be snuggled up to Dylan… and Charlotte had her little fingers wrapped in the belt of my vest… not really worried about anything.

I waited until Dylan pulled along side of me before turning and telling Charlotte to hold on. Now, Dylan didn’t hear me say “Hold on” but he saw my face when I turned back to crank the throttle and he knew (having lived with me since birth) he was in for it.

I gunned the jet ski and shot off across the glass with just one smug look back at Dylan who was trying his best to catch up. I waited until he and Lily were dead center in the lake before I spun a large circle around them and headed back towards them… ready to play chicken before I stopped about twenty feet from where they now were, cranked the handle hard, and watched as a good seven foot high wall of water flattened them.

They didn’t have a chance.

They were tipped over and in the lake in a matter of seconds.

I wasn’t really sure what Charlotte was up to. I could feel her hands now clawed into the armpits of my vest. I’m pretty sure she was screaming bloody murder as we roared up to Dylan and Lily, positive that we were going to kill them, but she hung on through it all and I was quite impressed that the child who once used to stare out the window at me, afraid that I would walk too far away from the house and strangers would somehow jump out of the bush and snatch her while I was somewhere near the garbage cans for five fucking seconds, was actually a bit ballsier than I had given her credit for.

I waited until Dylan and Lily got back on their ski before I took Charlotte for a few more passes at them, hitting them hard again and again with walls of water, before I raced off to freak Charlotte out with some 360’s.

This is when the Lake Patrol came on the scene.

I turned to Charlotte and said, “Whatever you do… don’t speak.”

I doubt she would have… by this time her lips were blue from the cold wind and the cold water, and her face was pale white, ghost like in the terror and realization that she really had picked the wrong jet ski to ride. I saw her glance back towards the dock. I’m sure she was thinking if she just jumped off now and made a swim for it, she wouldn’t go to the Big Bear Lake Patrol jail wherever the hell that was.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The Lake Patrol officer asked.

“What?” I said, looking confused and humble with my little mom pony tail and my little mom bathing suit.

“We have rules on this lake missy and you just broke every single one of them.”

“I did?” I asked and I used this opportunity to practice my “totally innocent”‘ face which isn’t one that comes easily to me.

“Speed limit, reckless driving, those tricks aren’t allowed in California,” He stopped here and removed his aviator shades and leaned over the edge of the boat. “Did you know that?”

I actually did know that, but the good thing about being a mom, is that most people would believe, as I said earlier, that a mom would NEVER break the rules intentionally.

“Really?” I said. “Officer, I’m so sorry. This is the first time I’ve ever been on a jet ski. I just rented it over there.” I stopped and pointed to the far dock.

He made a face, “Those tricks you were doing were tricks only experienced riders can do.”

I looked at him and blushed. “Really?” I smiled, and pretended to act shocked at my “natural” ability. “I just watched a how-to video on TV about an hour ago and thought I would see if I could try it.”

This was the moment where he could have written me a ticket.

This is the moment where he could have taken me in.

This was the moment where he had to decide if I was a true mom: responsible, honest, mini-van driving, church on Sunday, bake sale cooking woman or…

a she devil… a harpy from the lake… a sea nymph waiting to lure him down.

He chose wrong.

“No more,” he said to me as he pointed his bony, weathered finger my way. “I’m going to be watching you.”

I smiled and nodded before I putted off towards the dock.

“You lied,” Charlotte whispered from the back of the jet ski. “And you’re a teacher,” she said as if God himself was about to come down and smite me.

So I lied again.

“You didn’t want to go to jail did you?” I asked. “You know, they take everyone on the jet ski… not just the driver.”

Charlotte was silent.

I could tell she didn’t know what was worse… hearing a mom and a teacher, a double pillar of the community, lie so blatantly to an Officer of the Law or… believe that she could go to jail at the age of nine.

Either way… in the end I left without a ticket, Dylan and Lily had a good story to tell, and Charlotte learned to never ride on a jet ski with me again.

Lexi Berates an Old Man for Looking at Her Boobs in the Hospital Recovery Room

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Lexi 4th

Lexi, my daughter, is quite the “Sassypants.”

She can trade barbs with the best of them.

She’s quick.

She’s smart.

And she can make you wish you’d never engaged.

This is not a surprise… it seems to be a family trait that has been passed down from sassy generation-to-generation.

We have been blessed with a gift.

Our family is always in search of the better moment… the better story… and love us or hate us… we do tend to liven up a room.

My father was legendary. Known for his inappropriate Polish jokes and ability to light his chest hair on fire after one too many 4th of July cocktails.

My brother: a punk rock sociopath. Actually started a riot in the middle of downtown Los Angeles during one of his sold-out punk shows… definitely in a league of his own.

My own son? A giant 6′ 1″ furry bear willing to wear short shorts all four years of high school while accepting mass amounts of public ridicule and humiliation because he believed that wearing short shorts was the “new true punk.”

And so, when it comes to dealing with my family, I am usually prepared for the unexpected at every turn.

However, when Lexi had her tonsils out, I had no idea that her brash manner would be enhanced by anesthesia and used to berate a poor little old man.

I have to admit, that even I felt pity for her unwitting victim.

He was just trying to do his job.

He was just trying to lend a helping hand.

a seventy-year-old frail, thin, rod of a man, who was passing out big stick popsicles, in the recovery room at Los Al Medical Center.

I had been waiting for the nurses to allow me to come in and visit Lex after her surgery, when one of them finally popped out and said, “Man, do you have a handful in that one. Could you come in please?”

I turned and looked at my boyfriend, Stephen, who looked at me as if I had no right to comment, being that in his opinion, I was quite a handful myself.

I pushed open the recovery room door and immediately saw from the look in Lexi’s eyes that she was completely belligerent.

I had heard about this happening to people after receiving large quantities of anesthesia but I had never witnessed it.

I had a feeling the next hour in the recovery room was going to be a long one.

Lexi was propped up in bed, her hospital gown untied and falling loosely around each of her large, bouncy, tan breasts.

She was working a big stick popsicle in a way that can only be described as… pornographic.

As her mother, I was speechless and at the same time, totally amused.

The nurses were keeping their distance. They circled her as if she were a wild animal ready to bite.

“Lexorcist,” I said as I walked towards her… “What the hell are you doing?”

Her glazed eyes settled on me and I understood why demonic possession seemed so terrifying.

She didn’t answer.

She went back to working her big stick and glaring at something in the far corner of the room.

I sat down in the chair next to her and turned to see what she was focusing on.

And that’s when I saw him.

The old man.

He was quietly trying to pass out popscicles to the other patients without disturbing “the beast.”

I could see it in his eyes.

He was hoping that she would somehow forget about him… be distracted from her prey… that her wrath would somehow fade… but like a cat who is focused on toying with a bird, Lexi barely blinked her eyes, obviously obsessed, as she burned him through with her steely stare.

I couldn’t imagine what he had done to entice her anger in such a way until she suddenly screamed out.

“Old Man!”

I jumped at the ferocity of her voice.

I had assumed the removal of her tonsils would silence her but I could see now that her voice box was very much intact.

“OLD MAN!” she shouted to him again from across the room.

I was now stunned… in full view of a train wreck that could not be stopped.

The nurses looked at me as if I had brought this plague down upon them.

I smiled and waved, pretending I could confidently handle the situation, but I knew the truth.

Stephen, unwilling to believe that there was nothing that we could do, went to the other side of the bed and tried to quiet Lexi down.

He placed his strong hand upon her forehead, prepared to brush the loose hair away from her face, when she wrenched away and actually snarled at him.

She broke eye contact with the old man just long enough to let Stephen know with an icy glare that if he stepped between her and the old man again she would kill him.

Stephen’s eyes grew large as he backed away slowly and stood quietly against the wall, finger itching to hit the emergency CALL THE DOCTOR switch.

“OLD MAN!” she screamed again and I watched as the old man cowered behind a hospital curtain afraid to make eye contact but afraid to look away.

He slowly cast his eyes up and upon her as she used her big stick to point at her breasts and say, “I know you were looking at these babies when I was out cold old man. Do you hear me? I know what you were looking at!”

The old man shook his head in terror.

She pointed the big stick out in front of her as if she were Babe Ruth calling her spot in the outfield, her arm out firm… pointing that big stick at his frightened little face… She squinted her eyes and glared… then she gave him a knowing nod… before pointing the big stick back at her boobs and saying, “That’s right old man. I know what you did.”

The other patients looked on in doped-up enjoyment.

They slurped on their popsicles, amused with their own live recovery room stage show as the old man hurried to finish passing out the pops before rushing from the room in total fear and humiliation.

She calmed then. She looked at me and winked. Her chin raised high with pride in her ability to terrorize him as she finished off her big stick, her eyes becoming heavy, before finally falling off to sleep.

The relief of those in charge was palpable.

The nurses shook their heads and rolled their eyes before quietly getting back to their discharge paperwork, most likely now moving Lexi’s file to the top of the stack.

I mean let’s face it… I would have.

An hour later, Lexi was quiet as we wheeled her through the hospital and out to the car.

She had made a complete mental recovery and was unaware of her hospital hi-jinx.

Stephen and I thought it best that we wait until a few days later to share the details of her hideous behavior.

We turned the corner to the elevator when suddenly, the old man she had been terrorizing rounded the corner and ran straight into Lexi and her wheelchair.

His face was priceless.

He gasped and stopped cold before scurrying to the far wall, his bony little hand clutching at the corner.

If he was wearing an adult brief at the time, I’m sure he took this opportunity to fill it.

“Oh sorry about that,” Lexi said unaware of the total humiliation she had just recently caused him in the recovery room. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

I almost laughed.

I watched as his face turned furious with indignation.

How dare she blatantly pretend she had not terrorized him just minutes ago.

He glared at her before gathering his wits and stomping away.

“What the fuck was his problem?” she asked me and Stephen innocently.

Stephen looked at me as if he was having second thoughts about choosing to be part of my family.

“What?” I said with a snarky snap…. feeling that Lexi’s recent twisted behavior was somehow a reflection of how fucked up I was as the actual birth parent.

“It’s not my fault,” I said to Stephen.

“What’s not your fault?” Lexi said, now completely bewildered.

“Nothing,” I mumbled as I pushed the elevator button and waited for the doors to close.

“Could you stop and get me some popscicles on the way home?” Lex asked sweetly.

“No big sticks,” Stephen said. “I don’t ever want to see a big stick again.”

“Amen,” I said as the doors closed and the elevator moved towards the ground floor.

Peeing on Annika, Dylan and Stroosma While Riding the Matterhorn at Disneyland on Grad Night

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I don’t think people should be punished for having bladder issues.

But that is exactly what happened.

Annika, Dylan, Stroosma… all shaming me in the line of the Disneyland Matterhorn ride because I had to go pee super bad right before we were about to get in the bobsled.

“If you go now we’ll lose our place in line,” Dylan fussed.

“You’re tough,” Stroosma said. “You can hold it until the end.” Obviously… he was a teacher already exhausted from a long grad night… ready to hit this one last ride before cutting out, what was considered early, at 4 am.

“Ms. Wood,” Annika, my student, whined. “Come on! I don’t want to wait in line like two more hours again.”

“Alright,” I said… giving in… though my bladder was past the point of full… actually ready to balloon out as if I was hiding a boda bag of urine.

I stepped into the bobsled and sat in seat #4, considered the brake position in a real four-man sled, with Annika between my legs, Dylan, my son, in front of her, and Stroosma between his legs, in the first position as the “driver.”

“Don’t pee on me.” Annika laughed as she settled in, sure that her teacher would never do such a horribly nasty thing.

But she would live to regret those words.

I knew things were going to go terribly wrong when we hit the first stop in the track and I felt my whole body lurch forward and my bladder just about shake loose.

Oh my God… I thought to myself… I’m not going to be able to hold this pee. I’m seriously gonna lose it.

I felt my heart beat faster… and panic set in.

If I pee’d my pants and actually urinated on a student… I would NEVER be able to live the moment down.

I tried to wave to the ride operator, ready to beg for him to let me out of the sled, but it was too late.

We glided into the cavern of man-made rock and began our ascent up the track to the top of the Matterhorn and each click, click, click of the sled chugging up the rail… seemed like the sound of a time bomb ticking:

Go!… tick tick tick… Go! tick tick tick… Pee! tick tick tick…. Pee!… the track beckoning me to give in.

I worked to give myself a pep talk.

You can do it, I said. Just a few minutes and you can get off this ride and pee.

I even thought that this might be a good time to practice those Kegel exercises I’d been putting off for years, when suddenly, I came up with a brilliant master plan.

“QUICK Annika!” I shouted. “Let me put both my legs on one side of you.”

Annika turned around and looked at me as if I were a demented stranger. She couldn’t even imagine Ms. Wood EVER putting a child in peril during an amusement ride.

“Are you out of your mind?” She screeched. “Ms. Wood! You can’t do that in the middle of the ride. We could be hurt!  And you’re a teacher,” she snapped. “YOU should know bet…”

But she didn’t have a chance to finish her scolding and I didn’t have a chance to cross my legs and close them tight.

Stroosma and Dylan began to scream, Annika threw her arms up into the air and wailed wildly with joy, and I knew that in a matter of seconds I was going to decimate everyone in the entire bobsled with a long stream of urine.

I tried not to scream as we rocketed down the hill but as soon as the first abominable snowman popped out and scared me from his perch…I screamed bloody murder and the peeing began.

Annika was so engrossed in the moment that at first she had no idea that I was actually peeing all over her.

She screamed and squealed with glee until we hit a calm curve and catching her breath looked around before saying, “Wow. I really got wet.”

Stroosma grabbed the edges of the sled and turned back to look at me as if I were Judas. “You are NOT peeing on us are YOU?”

My face full of shame and betrayal… he knew immediately I was.

“It’s just water!” I lied. “I swear! Just water from the ride!”

“STOP IT!” He shouted. “STOP NOW!”

And then we hit the next big drop as we all screamed like mad.

My peeing escalated.

It was now a violent river rushing forward at an alarming rate.

“STOP PEEING MS. WOOD!” Annika shouted. “STOP!”

But I couldn’t.

We hit a drop and screamed again.

By this time… I was laughing so hard and screaming so loud… Stroosma’s yaking GUFFAW punctuating the moment as we barreled down the mountain… Dylan holding on for dear life screaming, “STOP MAMA! STOP!”  as my urine saturated my jeans, rushed out towards Annika, and flooded the bobsled floor.

I began to cry and curse my lot in life.

Why hadn’t I thought to wear an adult diaper?

Sure I was only 40-years-old but maybe the battle of old age was won by building reinforcements early.

I had a quiet epiphany:

If I had truly been smart… I could have been peeing and shitting myself comfortably right now in my adult diaper, while totally enjoying the ride.

“Noooooooooooooo!” Annika cried as we hit the last big turn… Stroosma still hysterical… Dylan disgusted by the entire episode.

And then the ride came to a stop.

“How could you do that?” Annika turned around and screamed at me. “How could you Ms. Wood!”

I sat in silence… my arms crossed… my brows knitted into an angry frown… pouting over the fact that they wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom…. furious at my idiocy for not thinking of wearing the adult diaper sooner… and distraught that I would have to walk the full mile to the exit with my pee-pee jeans rubbing and rashing my legs, while all of the grad students pointed and mocked me.

“Fuck you all,” I whispered. “If you would have just let me go to the bathroom, none of this would have ever happened.”

I climbed out of the sled, pulled my sweatshirt roughly over my head, wrapped it around my soaking butt, and stomped off towards Main Street: a dirty mess trapped in the Happiest Fucking Place on Earth.

My Very First Visit to Raji’s Night Club: Or… How I Survived Being Woolied and Molested by El Duce and Top Jimmy: Two Very Drunk and Disorderly Punk Rock Legends

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DUCE-1

It was 1985.

I was underage, barely 19, and sporting a fake I.D. the first time I went to Raji’s Night Club.

I was dating Joe Wood, who was already well-known as the lead singer of T.S.O.L. and I was new to the gig scene, just barely starting out with my own band: Gypsy Trash.

Joe was dead set on getting me to make the jump from gigs in Long Beach to L.A. but I was young, a bit unsure of the Los Angeles club scene, and really… a bit out of my element that night.

I had grown up under the watchful punk rock protection of legendary Long Beach and Orange County bands such as: Vicious Circle, T.S.O.L., The Adolescents, The Vandals and being baby sister to Jack Grisham, and then Joe Wood’s girlfriend, as well as a musician in my own right, I was used to being cocooned in even the most disgustingly seedy club environments throughout our “home” territory of L.B. and O.C. due to my connections to the notoriously violent boys of the scene but this… this was different.

It wasn’t that I was naive… I don’t think anyone in our punk rock crowd could have been considered naive… but the L.A. scene seemed harder, faster and I felt like a baby in their world.

I was withdrawn by the time we pulled into the back parking lot, trepidatious as we walked up to the Hastings Hotel, where Joe introduced me to Bernie the doorman, and down right disturbed as he lead me inside to the club.

The front of Raji’s was a thin dark corridor, smoky and dirty, with a long bar on one side, and there wasn’t a single familiar face for me to look to for comfort.

I felt like the perfect idiot 80’s girlfriend: scantily dressed, jet black cropped hair and large doll-like smile plastered across my face, as I waited for Joe to make the rounds of the room.

I didn’t want to seem like a downer or a drag so I tried to act cool. I think I even lit up a smoke, imagining at the time that it made me look mysterious and older, until Joe turned and pulled me close, kissed me hard on my forehead and whispered that he would be right back; he just wanted to find Dobbs, the promoter, and a bottle of Ten High.

He went off on his search, sure in the knowledge that his L.A. punk friends would keep me company until he got back but, being that I was an unknown outsider in their world, they all dissipated in a matter of seconds, moving off to the shady fringes of the room to snort coke, pop pills, chain smoke, or cop a grope while they waited for someone of notoriety and “interest” to walk their way and man… did they ever get it when El Duce and Top Jimmy came rolling out of the back room.

I knew both El Duce and Top Jimmy by reputation only and I swear when I saw those two together, stoned out of their minds, lumbering towards me, I actually felt my stomach drop and my hands turn cold.

I scanned the room for Joe, praying that he was close by but he was long gone.

I would have given anything to have my brother, Mike Roche, Ron Emory, any of my big Long Beach boys with me at that time.

I was trapped.

I looked down at what I was wearing: a tight white and black animal print dress, braless, bare legs, high heels.

I actually ran my hands down my sides in a panic just to make sure I was actually wearing panties that night; something we often went without during the 80’s so that the lines of our super tight dresses didn’t ruin the lines of our ultra thin figures and I was fearful that a small piece of black cotton cloth with strings would be my only defense against these Punk Rock marauders.

I looked at the door wondering if I could get out before they saw me.

It wasn’t an option… I wouldn’t make it in time.

I felt that my best defense was to hide in the shadows and so I backed up slowly against the wall, trying to be low key, but I knew I stood out like a debutante in a biker bar.

Everyone else was in black: black leather jackets, black leather docs, black leather pants, black lipstick, black eyeshadow and here I was, the Punk Rock Princess, with my large green eyes, my fair white skin, deep purple lips, looking like one of the girls from a Nagel painting or a naughty Punk Rock Barbie doll that those boys couldn’t wait to pick-up and play with.

Panic set in.

I side stepped and tried to hide myself in the dark corner but it was too late.

El Duce’s eyes locked on me; a brand new toy that he had never played with, and he stomped towards me, pants unzipped, sweaty large belly protruding from under his ripped black shirt, bald greasy head, glassed over eyes, God knows what drink in his hand, as he snatched me from my hiding spot like I was a rag doll.

He woolied me about and then held me tight until Top Jimmy, distracted by someone in the crowd, heard him calling to him to come across the room and meet his new baby trick.

Jimmy smiled: a big hill billy gap grin with numerous teeth missing from his mouth, and I thought to myself, Oh God… I’m about to be fucked by the punk rock men of Deliverance.

I looked back towards the door, hoping for help, but saw only Bernie who waved, gave me a big thumbs up and a happy nod, sure that I must like being woolied by two of the most notorious Punk Rock Legends of all time but I assure you… I did not.

El Duce and Top Jimmy had me pinned tight in that corner so fast that I was sure my initiation into the Los Angeles club scene was going to end with me being knocked up by El Duce: the most disgusting man I had ever met in the world or tag teamed by the both of them.

El Duce leaned in and laughed loudly in my face.

His eyes were crazy.

My mind reeled through the numerous stories I had heard about him: stories about El Duce and The Mentors sexual deviancy were legendary.

I felt like I was going to be sick.

I’d probably end up with crabs, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, just from him laying his dirty old fingers on my skin.

By this time, Top Jimmy was licking my neck and El Duce was up my skirt and trying to work off my underwear.

The amount of alcohol on their breath, and in the air around them was overwhelming.

I tell you… if I hadn’t been brought up with some of the hardest punks in L.B. and O.C. I probably would have fainted and woke up a victim of “big man” abuse.

Luckily… I kept my sense of humor, and my pretend calm demeanor, as I used my sass to keep El Duce’s hands from going “all the way” and Top Jimmy from covering my body with an enormous puddle of drool as I looked to reach for the nearest Budweiser bottle to clock those mother fucking clowns as soon as I could get a chance.

I felt my skirt being lifted higher.

I pushed El Duce’s face away as I turned to see what was going on with my skirt.

Top Jimmy was now pulling it up from his side and I knew if a miracle didn’t happen quick… I wouldn’t have much longer.

I scanned the room in a panic… praying someone would do something but everyone was completely oblivious to my plight or just accepted that when it came down to El Duce and Top Jimmy: You let them do what they liked.

Just as I was about to totally give up hope, Joe came strolling back into the room, one arm around a large, jolly man I could only assume was Dobbs, and his other hand firmly wrapped around a low ball glass, I could only assume was full of Ten High, acting like he was the God damn Punk Rock Frank Sinatra of the club scene.

I wanted to kill him.

I swear if I could have gotten a hand free from the lecherous grasp of El Duce, I would have clocked Joe with a Budweiser bottle first and then used the broken neck to ass torture El Duce in a night club.

Joe took one look at me being molested by the big men and rushed across the room and knocked El Duce away from me.

I will never forget the look on El Duce’s face: it was as if Joe had just pried raw red meat out of a wild bear’s mouth.

I thought El Duce was going to kill him.

But Top Jimmy loved Joe. He stepped in between Joe and El Duce, wrapping his arms around Joe, and soon… they both had El Duce calming down as Joe explained that I was his girl and that El Duce would have to move on to someone new.

I watched as El Duce clinked glasses with Joe, walked away, heading to the back room, but not before he turned around one more time, staring me down as if to say, Another time Princess, then pretended to jack himself off, flicking his tongue back in forth in a grotesquely sexually explicit gesture, as he disappeared.

I was furious.

Now that El Duce was away from me, I wanted to run back after him and slap his big fat greasy head as hard as I could but I was sure if I tried it, he would chase me all the way to the parking lot, all the way home for that matter, and make me sorry for doing it and so… I held my anger for another day.

Top Jimmy, was nothing more than a toadie. Without the likes of El Duce to egg him on he was soon happily entrenched at the bar with Joe, settled in for a long night of drinking, while Dobbs, who took an immediate fancy to me, babied me the entire night and made sure that I wasn’t left alone again.

I can’t say that it was an enjoyable experience, but it was of course, and infamous one… and a story worth telling.

It’s been thirty years since that night at Raji’s… Dobbs, El Duce, Top Jimmy all long gone now… and I’d like to think that Dobbs and Top Jimmy with his big goofy smile are somewhere off in a musical Heaven; Dobbs telling stories and Top Jimmy apologizing for his sins.

But El Duce?

I’m sure El Duce went down swinging.

Off in some Punk Rock Purgatory on the outskirts of Hell: wrecking havoc and mayhem and I imagine… still loving it.

Neighborhood Barnyard Critters

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The Barnyard Critters

It will be a year ago this next month that my chicken, Matilda magically appeared in my life.

It was late night, while I was walking the park, when this funny little red head popped out from behind a tall pine tree and called to me as if she had been waiting for me and only me.

It did seem like fate that evening… the way she followed me down the road, sure… now that she had made herself known to me, that I must realize immediately that we were kindred spirits. And I must admit, no matter how I pretended to protest to my friends walking with me that evening, how we already had too many pets how I didn’t need a chicken in my heart, I already considered her mine.

And so… when I said begrudgingly, “Come along, Matilda”  she seemed to smile at me and say, “See? You did know my name! I knew you were my bosom friend.”

And now, I have Frida. She, like Matilda, was also left abandoned late night at the park and as I saw her dark red shape huddled down by a tall oak, I realized that unlike my Matilda, she was just a baby… unsure of herself and the world…. and that she had resigned herself to her fate: the dark of the night and the idea that she may not survive the moment.

Once again, I was with a friend who even said to me, “You are not going to bring that chicken home.” But I could not leave her to fend for herself, and as I stepped up quietly on her, making soothing whispers, my hands gently reaching down to enclose her, she cried small coos that reminded me of the sad sound of the mourning doves that some times nested in my tree outside my bedroom window… as if she longed to go home… where ever that had been… and couldn’t understand how the people she believed had loved her… had left her there… all alone.

“Don’t cry, Frida,” I said quietly and then I held her tightly to my chest and watched as she laid her head in the crook of my arm, her bright yellow legs stretched out like spindly twigs beneath her, the only part of her body which betrayed her fear at being handled by a stranger.

Shocked from her experience, it took her nearly a month to come close to us and almost two before she would eat from our hands yet now, she sits bravely each day, on top of the small table on the porch, eating grain from a tin, and acting as if she is queen of the yard.

And then there was Rupert.

Unfettered by feathers and claws, a fat, hairy little hoofed black and white pig, who was brought to us in a cat carrier, dropped at our house by someone who believed that a pig was “way too much work.” His tiny little tail the only thing we could see swishing through the holes in the side of the cage as he hid his face from us, unwilling to come out of the carrier. My son and I understood his fear and so… we quietly popped the top of the cage, lifted the lid, and watched the wee small man climb over the edge and head to the mound of chicken feed on the dirt, while our pet squirrel, Jax, now five years past being “Star of the Yard,” watched in horror from the roof top as if to say, “Two chickens and now a pig? Are you out of your mind? Isn’t a squirrel enough for you?”

Rupert, entitled from day one, threw his weight around daily. He destroyed gnomes, stepped on top of our German Shepherd, Emma, as though she didn’t even exist, and pushed his way closer to me and what he believed was my endless handful of  “manna.”

And really… I can understand why people choose not to have critters when I am surrounded by so many needy animals.

They are noisy and messy.

They must be fed and cleaned on schedule.

And of course, like any pet, you take the risk of falling in love, becoming attached, and losing them, heartbroken, to a hundred different maladies.

But really… is this any different from anyone or anything we love in life?

When I picked up Matilda that night in the park, brought home Frida, gave Jax her first peanut, accepted Rupert into the yard, I had no idea the gift that I would be given in return.

The stories I am able to tell, the people that share in the joy of my barnyard world, and the community that has been delivered to my front yard gate due to this motley crew of critters.

Every day, when I sit and write, I hear out my office window a steady stream of foot traffic coming to my yard to see my pets:

I know that Kay’s sister is about to retire from teaching, is an author like me, and that Kay loves to keep turtles.

I know the toddlers, Faye and Mia, believe my yard to be magical and almost always wear their princess gowns when coming to visit.

I know that Bruce and Bridget, the widowers, met in French class, wed in their 70’s (after long successful marriages to other people) and found solace and joy and love in each other.

I’ve learned that Richard works late but still rushes down the street in his work suit so that he can bring his boys to see Rupert before my pig goes to bed. And I know that his son Max’s autism finds peace in the quiet petting of my animals.

And even as I write this, I stop to meet Eric and Bekah, a young married couple who live over in the Ranchos and had heard about our yard, word of mouth, questing out on their bikes across the busy street, to find this “mythical” farm yard and were actually just leaving when a young boy named Logan, not more than four, ran up to my fence with his brother, mother, and father, following close behind, to let me know they had just gone to the pet store to buy mice for their snake, but had stopped by to check on my pig. Logan racing back as they left, to give me a flower saying, “You can put it on your computer so when you write, you think of me.”

It would be a fault that I could not bear to carry, if I did not acknowledge how my “cup runneth over” by what some would consider a burden, a nuisance, a hindrance.

The joy I find in these shared moments of togetherness are worth the work and the risk.

How fortunate am I to have a life filled with children and neighbors who find a moment of connection and happiness on a random corner of Anywhere, U.S.A.

There is a comfort in knowing that I will watch these children grow over time, as they first walk past my house on their way to elementary school and then soon… maybe even becoming my own students when they are teens, and one day… when I will be gone as we all soon will… may still stop at my front yard gate with their own children, point to a particular corner of the yard and say, “When I was little this garden was a magical place.” And though I will not be there to stand witness to the moment, I find solace in knowing that I will become a thread in the stories they tell.

The Food Poisioning Incident: Or how I found out that Stephen truly loved me.

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poison

Many years ago, when Stephen and I were first dating. We liked to go out to Hof’s Hut for dinner.

It was just one of those silly stupid things you do when you are first dating: Go to “your” regular spot. Order “your” regular dish… and try on “being” a regular couple.

It had only been about a month, but we seemed to be doing a pretty good job of getting along and easily bonded over our shared love of Chicken Tortilla soup.

So one night, we followed our regular routine: soup at Hof’s… and then headed back to my house to lay on the bed and watch some mindless TV.

I don’t remember who fell asleep first… but I do remember who woke up first: that would be me.

I felt funny.

I felt woozy and sweaty… poo sick basically and so I quietly snuck off to the bathroom where in just a matter of seconds… I eliminated what I thought was my entire dinner and most likely also my meals from the previous day.

Like most people… for a moment… I felt relief and was sure that I was fine.

I washed my hands, splashed water on my face, and then headed back to bed.

It wasn’t more than a moment later that my stomach began to cramp and I knew that I was in trouble.

This time… there was no “walk” to the bathroom… I raced towards the toilet… just making it in time… where once again… I thought that everything exiting my body could not have been found even if I had chosen to do a HIGH colonic.

I put my elbows on my knees… I felt the room spin…. I was hot and irritated and upset that I was dating.

I was irrationally angry with Stephen who was sleeping peacefully in my bed.

I heard an Exorcist style voice from inside me hiss, “GET OUT!”

But there was no movement from the other room.

Stephen slept on… blissfully unaware of the horror that was taking place in the bathroom.

This time… I was unable to exit the toilet for a good fifteen minutes.

I knew then, that something we had just eaten had made me sick.

We had basically had exactly the same thing yet Stephen was fine.

It must of been the Ranch salad dressing, I thought to myself. He had the Honey Mustard. I seethed. “Fucker…” I whispered. “Fucking men.”

When I felt able to rise, I quietly crawled back into bed, weak and worn and hoped that I would be able to sleep.

“Are you okay?” I heard Stephen whisper from the other side of the bed.

I wanted to say, “No. Go home now. I’m sick and I don’t want you here to witness it.”

But we were new in our relationship and I was still trying to hide behind the facade of the perfect woman and so I said, “No I’m fine. I was just a bit sick to my stomach but I’m okay now.”

I would have to say… that amongst my many “famous last words” that these sit firmly at the top of my “wish I hadn’t said that” list.

I closed my eyes… and fell to sleep… thankful that I seemed to be stable after my incident.

I don’t know how much time passed… ten minutes… fifteen… but I had crossed over to the place in which you are definitely asleep but still… something in your brain… is awake and watching. Like… when you are observing your own dream or listening to someone rustling around in the kitchen late night… a quiet alarm really somewhere off in the distance… but still not yet in a place where you are “willing” to wake up and see what’s going on… and that… is when I needed to fart.

I could feel the urge to push and yes… somewhere… inside of my twilight… I thought… maybe it would be a bad idea… but I was too far gone… too far worn and groggy and so I pushed and immediately felt the warm rush of wet sludge fill the back of my panties as if filling a hot jelly doughnut.

My eyes opened wide… I moaned in embarrassment when I realized what had happened. I saw the stain on the bed and ran to the bathroom, hoping nothing more would escape my pants.

I barely made it to the toilet before I began vomiting.

Can you imagine?

Four weeks of dating…

Still in the limerance of the moment…

Never a burp or a fart or a misstep and now… on the floor… shit seeping out of my underwear…. my head halfway down the toilet… vomiting and crapping myself… sobbing uncontrollably between bursts of excrement and bile: the perfect picture of Aphrodite in all of her glory.

I heard a gasp and looked up to see Stephen standing at the bathroom door and that is when I completely lost it.

“GO AWAY!” I screamed. “DON’T LOOK AT ME!”

But look he did.

In fact, he even walked into the bathroom, grabbed a hair clip from the vanity and pulled my hair back.

My crying grew louder… so touched by his small act of kindness and so embarrassed that my current “love interest” was seeing me at my absolute worst.

“Please go home Stephen,” I cried. “Please… I swear I will be okay. I just need you to go home now.”

I felt him place his hand on the back of my head for a moment before he walked out of the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

I cried hard against the rim of the toilet seat. My sobs echoing in the bowl before I once again lost all control and my body gave way at both ends.

I stayed there for sometime before my pain eased… and then I stepped into the shower: panties and shirt still on… to clean the excrement from my body and clothes, before stripping naked, drying off with a towel, and heading back to the bedroom to clean up the mess that I had left all over the sheets.

But when I opened the bathroom door, and walked to the bedroom… there was no mess.

There were fresh sheets on the bed… a large towel placed across the spot where I would be sleeping… a lined, clean trashcan by the side of the bed in case I got sick again in the night… and a good, good man waiting to see if I was okay.

“I couldn’t leave you,” Stephen said. “I wouldn’t have felt right about that.”

I can’t tell you how much this still touches me today: to be with someone who doesn’t leave… who doesn’t abandon someone at their worst.

I sobbed all over again knowing that this time… I was the lucky one.

Stephen helped me into bed where he held me close until I fell into a deep sleep that lasted into the early morning.

Of course… by then… Stephen was also shitting himself… vomiting uncontrollably… and writhing around on the bathroom floor in pain.

It was the soup… not the dressing: Our shared love of Chicken Tortilla had betrayed us.

But seriously… it was okay.

We spent 24 hours caring for each other living on Saltines and Gatorade.

We laughed… we cried… we crapped… we vomited… and we swore… and then… we shared a vow… a solemn vow… that we would never eat the Chicken Tortilla Soup at Hof’s Hut ever, ever, again… as long as we both shall live.