Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!
And thank you for your loyal following.
You would have thought I had asked to have dinner with the President of the United States.
You would have thought that I had asked to be the first woman to go on the Mission to Mars.
I don’t really understand why Lexi seemed so bent… my daughter who once burned past my house, a dead body in the back of the hearse and Ozzie Osbourne blasting from the speakers.
It was Ray Charles for Christ’s sake.
Look at the photo of Ray that I posted above.
Does he seem like a man that would have a problem coming over to our house and having a little visit and photo-op with mom?
I don’t think so.
From what I know about Ray Charles he was quite the ladies man… I’m sure Lexi with her playboy body and quick wit could entice him to come to the house.
Okay… so yeah… he was dead.
I know that.
I’m not being disrespectful here.
I just wanted to pay homage to Ray and Lexi was about to be his driver.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be taking him to his final resting place mom,” she whispered into the phone. “I think I’m the one… but I don’t know for sure yet.”
“Well, you have to get Ray,” I demanded. “He’s one of my all time favorites and I never got a chance to meet him.”
“I thought you did,” Lexi said.
“No, that was B.B. King.”
At this point I became annoyed. “It doesn’t matter who I’ve met bring Ray by the house.”
“Jesus,” Lexi said. “It’s not like I can just swing by with Ray and open up the casket so you can take a photo with him.”
“Why not?” I asked. “Ray won’t mind and if you put on his glasses, it will look like we were just having a lovely little chat while he was still alive.”
“You’re out of your mind,” she said, her tone full of disbelief.
“Bring Ray to me,” I shouted. “You bring Ray Charles to our house or you don’t come home.”
She mumbled under her breath… something that sounded like “Totally out of your fucking mind…” before she hung up on me.
I ran to the bathroom and freshened up.
I wanted to look my best for Ray.
I brushed my hair and put on my favorite dress before sitting out on the porch steps with my camera and imagining my time with Ray.
I wondered if Lexi would let me prop him up on the piano bench.
I could put a lit cigarette in the ashtray and a highball glass next to it.
I could stand behind the piano… leaning over it casually… sharing a private moment with Ray… a bit of a giggle really as he played me one last song.
“What are you doing?” Dylan asked as he looked out the door and saw me daydreaming.
“Waiting for Ray Charles to drop by,” I said.
“Didn’t he just die today?” Dylan asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “Lexi’s going to bring him over… just for a short visit.”
“You’re out of your mind.”
“That’s what Lexi just said,” I told him.
“You know they’re making a movie about his life,” he said. “Why don’t you just go watch that when it comes out.”
“That’s not the same as having Ray over,” I fussed. “I mean really Dylan. You know that.”
At this point… Dylan rolled his eyes and walked away.
Every time I heard an engine come close to our house I sat up straight, excited that I was about to be with Ray and each time it wasn’t him… my hope would fade.
Then… the phone rang.
“Listen,” Lexi said. “I know how much you wanted to meet him… but you can’t meet Ray. I’m sorry,” she said. “But he won’t be coming over.”
It was horrible.
Forever kept from me by my own child.
“Fine,” I said and hung up the phone in a huff.
I sat there for a moment… my hopes crushed… my heart…broken.
I pictured Ray in heaven, stopping mid-song, disappointed that our visit never happened. I mean really… why wouldn’t Ray want to meet me?
A good friend of our family, Bobby Sepulveda, worked as a Removal Driver for several years.
What is a Removal Driver you may ask?
Well… it’s a person who picks up dead bodies.
From Nursing homes.
From the hospital.
From the beach.
From the store.
From parked cars at the football stadium.
Really… wherever you decide you want to punch your final ticket you’ve got someone to take you on that “last call” cab ride home: A Removal Driver.
Now… if you have a problem with dead people or removal drivers… please don’t read any farther.
You won’t like it because it’s about to get good… in a really, really bad way.
Bobby always had great stories about people he picked up.
He called me once from the morgue… and I said, “Where are you? The phone connection is really echoing.”
and Bobby said, “I’m with Donna Reed.”
“Donna Reed?” I asked… a bit confused… not “getting” the big picture…
“Yeah,” Bobby said. “She passed away today and I’m with her at the morgue.”
I felt my face drop.
I had always really liked Donna Reed… ever since she played Jimmy Stewart’s sweetheart in It’s a Wonderful Life, and I wasn’t really sure I wanted my last memory of Donna Reed to be “hanging out” with Bobby Sepulveda in the morgue.
If you knew Bobby Sepulveda… you would understand… I swear you would…. but since you don’t… just picture this…. one of the guys from Jackass in the morgue with Donna Reed.
See what I mean?
It doesn’t really seem right now does it?
Sorry Bobby… but you KNOW it’s true.
Lexi, my daughter, was very interested in working in the medical profession when she graduated high school.
She wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do at that time… and so she decided to talk to Bobby about becoming a Removal Driver.
“Why the hell do you want to do that?” I snapped at her, my own fear of being a Removal Driver getting in the way of my child’s one true dream.
“Because I want to know if I can handle being around dead bodies,” Lex said. “I don’t want to go all the way through medical school and find out I don’t have the stomach for that type of work.”
It was a good answer… A reasonable answer and so… I backed her choice.
Our friend Bobby was happy to get her a job… in fact, I’m sure he was amused… he probably thought an 18-year-old who looked like a Victoria’s Secret model and was often mistaken as a show girl when we went to VEGAS… probably wouldn’t last a day picking up dead bodies… but he was wrong.
Lexi got the job, and reported to her first day of duty wearing a nice tailored black suit.
She looked stunning… a TOTAL GLAMAZON on a mission to care for the dead.
I waved goodbye to her, proud as I watched my daughter drive off to her first job… so excited to meet her “Removal Driver Trainer.”
But later that afternoon… Lexi called me on the phone and sounded a bit emotionally distraught.
“Mommy?” she said.
“Yeahhhh?” I said a bit hesitantly.
“I want to come home and see you for a minute is that okay?” She asked.
“Yeah, sure,” I said even though inside I was really saying, “Oh Jesus God please don’t come home because you’re gonna smell like a dead body or something and I’m gonna freak out.”
But… when you are a parent… you have to make sacrifices and if that means you have to support your child by smelling dead bodies all over their clothing… then so be it.
She rolled in about 5 pm with a good looking young man named Tom, from Boston, and his accent killed me.
I love that South Boston accent… I’m a PUSH OVER for a “Southie” I really am… a guy could be the biggest tattooed criminal from the East Coast and walk up and say something to me all flirty like “Ah Dee…. you’re wicked smaaaart.” And I would probably BEG him to marry me… and run off to be a little toonie… living with my townie… somewhere down around Charlestown or maybe Dorchester hiding assault rifles in my dresser drawer and wildly in LOVE. (East Coast Irish boys being my fatal weakness of course)
Tom and Lexi were just adorable together you could absolutely feel the “spark.”
Their conversation popped back and forth with witty banter that could’ve given Kate Hepburn and Spencer Tracy a run for their money back in the day… and I couldn’t help but pray that these two would end up together just so I could tell people how they met….
Tom, sweetheart that he is, had brought Lexi home to see me because unfortunately… the first dead body Lexi ever saw… was a pretty bad one.
Now… maybe you think all dead bodies are pretty bad… but I think I would prefer someone who was fresh and had died in their bed over what Lex had to witness.
She walked in to meet Tom, her trainer and soon to be “love” interest, and found him in the morgue with an old guy they had just brought in…who had been dead… for over a month.
He had died about 30 days prior, had been laying out in the backyard naked decomposing… until one of the neighbors peeked over the fence and got quite a bit of a shock… and so when Lexi got her first look at him she said that she actually thought he was wearing a plaid bath robe and then felt like she wanted to vomit.
“He was naked,” she said….
(and I wondered what the hell he was doing out in the backyard naked… but I didn’t ask)
“but his body was all red, blue, and green… with these weird patterns on him from where the blood pooled,” she cried before running over to me, begging for a hug.
I swear to GOD I almost pushed her away.
I wanted to run to my bedroom door and shout, “It was nice meeting you Tom… but Lex is ALL yours now! You two have fun with your dead bodies! Mama needs a nap and a valium!”
But I gave in… holding my breath the entire time… before she pulled back and smiled at Tom while I tried to get a good gulp of air… hoping that their little flirtation would keep my antics from being obvious…
And then watched as she batted her eyes at him and said, “Thanks for bringing me to see my mom.” And I loved it.
I knew right then and there… that Tom was a good man.
Later that night, Lexi returned home… excited and chattering on about how she couldn’t stop looking at Tom… how even over the dead guy’s body she couldn’t help but flirt with him…
and that after their shift was over, he had taken her upstairs to his apartment, which was of course, over the morgue, and they had shared their first kiss.
It was SO romantic.
The two of them… over the dead bodies and the refrigerated body drawers… having a moment while everyone lay there…. waiting… doing nothing really.
And I thought…Ahhhhhhhh…. young love… Nothing can distract it. Not even dead bodies.
Tom and Lex became quite the “serious item” for awhile and I can only imagine how many fond memories they’ve shared retrieving dead bodies together…
But… young love is young love…. and often doesn’t last…
Tom is back on the East Coast now… running his own funeral parlor… while Lexi of course is still out here working on her medical training…
And though Lex claims they are both now “just good friends” I pray often that someday they will end up back together… working as a team… Lex helping people to live… Tom taking care of all the ones that got away…
And me…. sitting on the front porch swing… their children on my lap…. telling them the story of how their parents “Meet Cute.”
Something you must know about people who swim or play water polo.
We tend to get naked a lot.
Because when you spend a life time running around in a bathing suit… changing behind towels at meets, at the beach, somewhere in public… you stop caring who sees you.
And… back in the day when we were all swimming, playing water polo or whatever…. our bodies had no wobbly bits… no bouncing blobs of fat… just nice sleek tan taught muscle.
It was lovely.
Ryan Ballance and Erik Prosser two of my high school friends, were both polo players at Wilson… I of course was a Millikan girl…. you weren’t SUPPOSED to like the Wilson boys…. but we often did…. maybe because it was “forbidden” fruit… going against school spirit to want to make out with the “red and the gold.” How extremely unsportsmanlike.
It didn’t matter to me… I adored them both.
Erik and I had a friendship that went back and forth from friends to boyfriend and girlfriend for years… and I still miss him today… I hate that he is gone from this Earth… a fluke accident.. leaving all of us to miss the beauty of his spirit…
Ryan… was always my buddy… maybe a casual flirtation here and there… maybe a moment of sexual “wit”… but nothing more than that… and today… I take great joy in seeing photos of him in love and happy in Florida where I imagine he still runs around in speedos, mostly naked, with his girlfriend probably shaking her head as she says to herself: “Christ, everyone must think I’m dating a European.”
Anyways… it was the year of Wilson’s 10 year high school reunion, and Ryan and Erik invited me to a night before “pre-party” at Ryan’s parent’s place down on the Peninsula.
Now… I remember that Ryan was dating someone at the time…. but I cannot for the life of me remember who… but… if you are reading this… I’m sorry we were such complete idiots that night. You must have been mortified and by the way… “Well done you!” for taking the high road and not smacking the shit out of all of us drunkards.
I don’t drink often… I really don’t… but with Ryan and Erik… I don’t remember much of that evening except that we thought it would be a really good idea to strip down to our skivvies and go for a swim in the Bay sometime around 2am.
Okay everyone… listen up….
1. Don’t swim drunk. It is probably one of the stupidest things you can EVER do…
2. If your last name is Wood… don’t swim drunk… do you really want me to bring up the whole Natalie Wood incident? I don’t need people running around Long Beach using me as the butt of their driftwood jokes… I’m sure I’m already the butt of so many Long Beach jokes that we don’t need to add another. And Tim Grobaty… if you are reading this… DON’T get ANY ideas.
3. As you are stripping down to your skivvies don’t prance around and prattle on about your body… and how you STILL have it… you just sound like a COMPLETE AND TOTAL conceited MORON and… nobody likes a show off.
Don’t go out in the Bay at 2am.
People will come.
And not in the cool Field of Dreams sort of way…
They will not pay money to watch you play and frolic in the water… as they sit satisfied… content in nostalgic memories of their own high school reunions… no… they won’t…
They will call the cops.
They will have you arrested.
You will be cited for Disturbing the Peace…
Drunk and Disorderly…
YOU NAME IT…. their ON IT at 2 am when a bunch of yahoos wake up the Peninsula.
The ENTIRE Peninsula.
Now, I do remember Erik went in first and he was half way to the buoy before I shot in after him… we were always competitive so I busted my ass… or what I believed was busting my ass… who knows what I was really doing… probably floundering around in circles believing that I was somehow moving forward and catching up to him.
I looked for Ryan… who started to follow but then seemed to pause and disappear… either he stopped because he had a moment of clarity and thought better of it or his girlfriend grabbed him and forced him to the ground….. either way…. he never made it into the water which ended up being a really good thing for him.
Erik and I frolicked about from buoy to buoy laughing and screwing around up and down the tow line, spitting water at each other, slap fighting waves, until someone turned on their porch light and stared us down…it was a BIG SOMEONE… a hulking MAD MAN SHADOW of a SOMEONE… ready to call the cops… we reverted back to high school…. hid behind a buoy whispering God knows what, until he went back inside and turned off the light, leaving us to giggled as we backstroked our way over to the beach grabbed our towels and headed back up to the house.
We were about to enter the gate when I grabbed the pull string… realized the latch was stuck… pulled harder and watched as the string broke, and the metal washer that had been weighting the end flew straight at me and cut a half moon slash right between my eyes.
Erik didn’t even flinch… he just started laughing at me which of course led Ryan’s father to become involved.
He wiped off the cut, told me I would live and then insisted on me spending the night… and rightfully so… here is another thing you NEVER do after a 10 year high school reunion pre-party:
YOU NEVER… EVER… DRIVE HOME DRUNK.
Do you hear me children?
I slept on the couch until about 5 am, when I woke up in a Homer Simpson moment and shouted “DOH!” before I rushed home in a plain white over-sized man’s t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans.
I knew I had more clothes somewhere… but I couldn’t figure out what had happened to them.
I drove home at an alarming pace, all windows down, blowing the stink off, praying to GOD that my husband didn’t see me and think the absolute worst because… if he would have seen me… no matter how innocent that evening had been… I would have paid for it over the course of a lifetime.
I looked like I was heading home from a “walk of shame” and you don’t want your wife showing up at home… 5 am… no shoes… another man’s t-shirt on her back and a crescent moon shaped bloody cut in the middle of her forehead… EVER at 5 am… trust me people… it looks bad.
Now, I learned a lot by being sneaky in my youth and I knew that if I cut the engine as I crossed the Cohn’s house… I could coast up to the front of my childhood home (where we all still lived) in complete silence…
I cut the engine at the appropriate time, and let the car roll easily to the front walk.
I jumped out, quietly shut the door before I crept up the steps, into the house and lay down on the couch to wait and see if the coast was clear.
After about fifteen minutes… of shallow breathing and twitching at every little noise… I knew I was safe… no one was awake.
I tip-toed into the back of the house and found my husband asleep with our son…
I went into the bathroom, washed my face, brushed my teeth, cleaned the wound on my head and covered it with make-up before putting on my nighty, that was hanging on the back of the bathroom door.
I was going to have a hell of a hangover day and I had to get some time alone to recover.
I knew what I had to do… I had to find a way to get my husband out of the house and his love for surfing was my ticket.
I went back into the bedroom and shook my husband gently…
“Babe,” I said in my sweetest voice. “Babe?” I whispered again.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“The surf is supposed to be really good today,” I said. “It’s 5:30. Why don’t you get up and go catch some waves… I’ll watch the kids.”
“Okay,” he said as I climbed into the bed and he exited out the other side, grabbed his car keys and flip flops, before heading out for the day.
I’m surprised he couldn’t hear my sigh of relief from the driveway. In fact… I’m surprised he couldn’t hear it from the Huntington Cliffs for that matter.
I slept my stupor off for several hours before heading off to load up my system with a lot of greasy junk food and coca-cola and was right as rain by the time my husband was back home.
I returned to the Peninsula later that afternoon in search of the rest of my clothing… and that is when Ryan’s father informed me that my cowboy boots, my black t-shirt, my jacket and my belt had been strewn in a long path across the bay in front of a block of his neighbor’s houses… and that he had to gather them up, apologizing for our behavior, before he placed them in a brown paper bag which… he was now handing to me… as if it were a bag of something dirty… secret porn… and I took it with my eyes cast down, embarrassed and ashamed, as I rolled the top of the bag over and hurried towards the door.
“Oh,” he said. “By the way D.D….”
I turned back to look at him.
“You and Erik might like to know that the Bay was closed yesterday due to bacteria contamination. So… you were basically swimming in shit. Probably wasn’t such a good idea to go for a swim last night… right?”
I suddenly felt like I was seventeen again.
My face flushed red and my mind flashed back to Erik and I swigging mouthfuls of dirty Bay water and spitting it at each other…
I was sure for a moment… that I was going to vomit… but I didn’t… I just nodded my head slowly and said, “Yes Mr. Ballance. I completely understand Mr. Ballance. It will never happen again Mr. Ballance.”
As he looked at me…. fatherly sternness radiating like laser beams from his eyes… Ryan standing behind him…. laughing his ass off.
Erik and I didn’t get sick from our late night misadventure…it’s amazing really that we didn’t… and I’m just glad that neither one of us drowned that night.
I don’t regret it though… I really don’t… it’s a good story… contaminated… or not and it is one of many great memories I have of Erik and of Ryan…. most of which involve some type of inappropriate activity.