Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!
And thank you for your loyal following.
Robbie and I have been in a band together for over twenty years.
Sometimes we love each other.
Sometimes we hate each other.
But as it is with most good marriages in life as in art: We can’t seem to live without each other.
Robbie loves to give me a bad time and in fact, just called me at school yesterday and began to verbally abuse me in a long stream of multi-syllabic words, and if I even tried to chime in… would stop and say, “Can you shut the fuck up for just one minute? I mean fuck… just listen to me for once? Just for once!” and then laugh and laugh as if his abuse were amusing… which in all honesty… even though it sometimes does infuriate me… it was.
Robbie, my lead guitar player and co-vocalist in Gypsy Trash, is someone I have always considered as my kindred spirit and so… I would prefer to have attention from him… even if it is totally negative and annoying… them no attention at all: He means that much to me.
And so, I booked a show in Reno and took the “kindred spirit” with me.
I was pretty excited about the trip. I had heard the show was going to be a big event and like the good little “mother hen” that I was… I prepared the mini-van with snacks… plotted our course… had music picked out to perk us up at the boring parts of Interstate 5… and was prepared for a day of fun with Robbie and Corey in the van, Craig, our drummer, following somewhere in his car close behind us with his girlfriend Nickie, and Reno, of course, it’s own entity before us… holding a fabulous string of shows.
There is nothing like being on the road with your band: The camaraderie is palpable.
I pulled up to Robbie’s house, big stupid smile on my face, optimistic about our time together when frumpty-grumpty rolled out of his house with his guitar case and said, “Get the fuck out of the driver’s seat. I’m driving.” Threw his case in the mini-van and said, “Where’s the coffee?”
“I thought we could stop along the way and…”
“Jesus, fuck, D.D!” Robbie interrupted. “You don’t already have the coffee?”
Corey, installed happily in the backseat, rarely the talker, always the introvert, always the peace-keeper mumbled, “I could do with some coffee and then lit up a Lucky Strike, preparing himself for the long drive ahead.”
And it was.
A LONG DRIVE.
Several hours of Corey and Robbie chain-smoking Lucky Strikes over numerous conversations and musical debates, cups of coffee, Robbie’s harassment, Corey’s mumbles, and my people-pleasing all of the way to Reno where… we found out… like most musicians find out at one time in their musical career or another… that the show was not a big festival of fun but a sadly thrown together affair at an old hotel that was currently fighting to regain their liquor and entertainment license.
I won’t even go into Robbie’s tirade here. Just note… that it began with “Jesus fuck” and ended with “God damn it D.D.”
His vehement lecture was close to legendary.
Lucky for me, we were in Reno which meant that gambling and booze were close at hand. So, we met up with Craig, our drummer, played our first afternoon gig to a skimpy audience of about twenty people, before we packed up and headed over to the strip to gamble, booze, and eat before our show the next day.
I didn’t see much of Robbie and Craig… somewhere ensconced in a game of poker… drunk on the free drinks in a matter of minutes… I left to sit at the other end of the casino with Corey, both of us totally sober, as he tried to teach me the finer points of Black Jack.
I wouldn’t say I was a complete and utter failure but, after I knocked my large glass of Coke into the dealer’s chips and cards, alienating myself from almost every seated player and resulting in me being cussed out by two super drunk, spray-tanned orange, bleach-blonde, Reno sluts, I decided to call it a day.
I waited almost two hours in an all-you-can-eat casino restaurant for the boys before I finally realized they were addicted to the cards, and walked back to the hotel where I waited for them to show up.
The next day’s show was not much better… in fact I would say the crowd of twenty had thinned and after a fight with the drummer of Hellbound Hayride, a no talent asshole that almost got his ass kicked by Corey and Robbie for mouthing off to me (one of the perks of being a girl in a band… hardcore violent back-up at your finger tips) Robbie shouted “Fuck this place.”
And we all left to head home to our next gig at the Orange County Tattoo Convention. Supposedly another “big gig” but after this fiasco we just weren’t buying it.
“Fuck that show,” Robbie snapped. “Fuck everything. I need some food. I’m hungry and right now… I fucking hate Reno.”
He flipped off the hotel both hands held high, middle fingers blasting, before we piled back in the mini van to stop for a quick bite at the Donner Pass restaurant before heading home.
“They seriously have a Donner Pass restaurant?” Robbie said as he looked at me and Corey with mock disbelief. “Do these fucking idiots know that the Donner party basically ate each other’s frozen dead asses until a rescue party found them in the spring? Jesus.”
He kicked open the glass entrance door with his boot, sat down at the first empty table and began chain smoking.
Corey and I looked at each other but said nothing.
We knew if this didn’t go well, things were going to turn ugly rather quickly… but when you are a member of band… your loyalty requires you to ride the train wreck to the very end and so… we sat down next to him.
I prayed that nothing would go wrong.
I prayed that we could order quickly.
I prayed that the food would appear in a matter of seconds and that we would be fed, content, and on our way but… that didn’t happen.
An hour later we still hadn’t been served and Robbie was irate.
“What do I have to do to get something to eat around here?” He shouted out to the entire restaurant. “Do I actually have to eat someone’s ass? Is that what you people want? Do you want a fucking show? Do you want some fucking Donner party action at this table?”
Corey lit up another Lucky Strike and calmly gazed around the room, almost challenging anyone to speak up.
I sipped my Coke, focused my eyes towards the ceiling, and pretended I hadn’t heard Robbie say anything really of any interest.
Our waitress grabbed someone’s food off of the hot rack, today I still don’t know if it was ours but at that point…I couldn’t give a flying fuck: I just wanted Robbie satiated and satisfied.
“That’s more like it,” Robbie said as she handed him his plate and he immediately attacked his steak.
“Jesus, I hate this fucking place,” he said through a mouth full of food. He pointed his fork at me as if he were teaching me a lesson, “Town of illiterate idiots, D.D. they don’t even have a fucking clue that the Donner’s ate ass.” And then he attacked his steak again.
Corey took a long drag off of his Lucky Strike and smirked as he looked out the window at the pass.
I was trying not to laugh by now, the embarrassment and the reality of the situation way too much for me.
It was a matter of minutes before we paid our bill, climbed back in the car, and drove to the actual historic location of the inevitable ass eating Donner party episode.
“Shall we go check out some history and see where all this shit went down?” Robbie said, excitement taking over, now that he was fed and away from the travesty that was named, Reno, he was full of historical gusto.
“Lead the way,” Corey said as he followed Robbie down the path into the woods.
I walked behind them, glad that it was modern times, spring, and happy in the knowledge that I would not be eating either of the asses walking in front of me.
You can ask just about anybody.
I don’t drink.
Well, I don’t drink very often.
Maybe once, twice a year.
I believe that years of partying with the “Bad Boys” of the 80’s might have something to do with my lack of interest in drinking today and…
After spending most of my time around recovering alcoholic-addicts, I have a lifetime full of cautionary tales… so I don’t.
But I have to admit… that maybe this night in New York City, with Brian May from Queen, might have had something to do with my decision to give up the “big party” for good.
We were both in town for CMJ: the huge music/publishing festival that takes place annually in New York.
I flew in with my band, Brian was there solo.
But we were both on Hollywood Records and so the president of the record company wanted to take us both out to a schmooz dinner, after we played CBGB’s that night.
Our job was to impress publishers, journalists, radio station owners in hopes that they would find us “down to earth” yet “intelligent and witty” and therefore, want to buy our music or play our music because not only were we talented but heck… we were just damn good people.
Now… I have always been good at schmoozing… it’s just something you have to do when you are playing in “The Show” but deep down inside…. it always made me extremely nervous and super sick to my stomach.
So, when it came time to leave for the big dinner party, my band thought it would be great if I drank a few margaritas and tequila shots with them… just to relax me before the special event.
Well, anyone that has been drinking in New York, knows that the bartenders of the Big Apple really like to make their cocktails strong and so… next thing I knew… I was in a limo, heading to a dinner party… empty stomach… well… now full of booze… and pretty much already bordering on inebriated.
My A&R person was trying to get me to pay attention as she did the run down on who would be there and why it was important to impress them but… I was in a bit of a stupor, looking out the passenger side window, enjoying the street lights, and basically spun out in my own little world.
“D.D.,” she snapped. “This is serious.”
So I gathered myself together and tried to sober myself long enough to at least LOOK interested in what she was saying.
We arrived at the restaurant: Upscale Mexican. Tequila and Margaritas strewn across the table.
This was going to be bad.
My thoughts of getting a coke or a cup of coffee to get myself back on track dissipated.
The record company president handed me a shot and pressed me to down it.
Brian May stood up, towering above me, gave me a giant hug, placed a margarita in my hand and that is basically all I remember.
I have a faint recollection of trying to pull a girl’s ear off her head, believing that she had something stuck in her hair.
And I guess I did actually get up and cross the restaurant to smell Robin Leech, from Lifestyle’s of the Rich and Famous fame because Brian May dared me to do it.
Other than that… my next memory is me on a street corner, outside of CBGB’s talking to a middle aged Italian man in a wife beater, who had a 1980’s Cadillac with a back seat full of hand guns and kept telling me not to worry about anything.
He would take care of me.
“Johnny” would take care of me.
At this time, I knew I was in trouble.
I picked up the pay telephone and called my brother Jack and started to cry.
He could hear “Johnny” rambling on in his heavy Bronx accent in the background, people outside the club screaming and fighting, and me… having my first breakdown on the road… and he wasn’t sure what to do.
“Where’s your A&R person?” He asked.
“I don’t know,” I sobbed.
“Go back to CBGB’s and get a cab back to your hotel now. Call me when you get there.”
I hung up the phone, told “Johnny” my brother said I had to go now, and so he saluted me with his heavily-clad-in-chunk-gold, pudgy Italian hand, and wished me well on my way.
I did grab a cab.
I did make it back to the hotel.
And when I woke up in the morning, naked in a bathtub full of rusty water in one of the old rooms at the Algonquin… my all time favorite New York hotel… home of the Algonquin Round Table… host to many of my favorite writers and editors: Dorothy Parker, George Kaufman, Harold Ross… I felt like I was going to vomit.
Not only because I was in the beginnings of the WORST hangover of my life but, because I had acted a fool and ended up a physical wreck in my literary place of worship.
I felt like Bukowski was the only writer that might actually applaud me at the moment, raise his glass to me in celebration of last night’s debauchery.
It was horrible.
And when I suddenly came completely to and remembered what I had done… I actually slapped my hand to my forehead and shook my head in disgust… hoping that I might somehow be able to forget the idiot I had been.
Had I actually tried to pull an ear off of a girl’s head?
Had I actually walked over and smelled Robin Leech?
I leaned out of the bathtub, grabbed the edge of the toilet, and vomited.
Ten minutes later the phone rang.
I dragged myself, naked, across the floor, and picked it up to hear Jack, my brother, and Joe, my husband, both screaming at me for scaring the shit out of them.
I guess I never called the house back to tell my brother I had made it safely to the hotel and they had no idea where I was staying until they were able to get hold of one of the record company reps in the morning.
I made my pathetic apologies and hung up.
The phone rang again.
This time it was my A&R rep.
I was ten minutes late for the record signing and press junket for my first album.
“Get your ass in a cab and get down to the Kimmel Center now!”
I had no idea where I was supposed to go but I rushed to get dressed, did everything I could to try and look like I wasn’t a drunken mess the night before, and made it to the Kimmel Center just in time to take some publicity photos with Brian.
Seeing him standing on the red carpet, his arms outstretched ready to pull me in close, a big smile on his face, soft-hearted giant, I felt like I had just been granted an “idiot” reprieve.
I rushed towards him and snuggled close, as he held me tight, and leaned down to whisper in my ear, “I loved that you actually went over and smelled Robin Leech. It was just so great.” and that was the moment that they snapped our photo.
Light bulbs popped off around us, people screamed out our names, questions were fired from all angles, and though I was a bit dazed… overwhelmed from the attention, and sick as a dog from my hell of a night. I made it through.
“Welcome to my world,” Brian said as he squeezed my hand and then sat down next to me at the autograph table where we spent the remainder of the morning visiting with fans, signing our names on cds and posters, and joking about Robin Leech until we both caught the late afternoon flights home out of JFK… me back to Los Angeles and my small home in the suburbs of Long Beach… Brian back to England… to his mansion estate… but both of us forever connected through our mutual love of music, drinking, and Robin Leech.
Anyone who knows me knows… that I would never purposely set out to get a teacher high.
Seriously…. Not on a holiday.
Not on a weekend.
And definitely not on a school day.
I’m pretty unpredictable… but after a lifetime surrounded by addicts and recovering addicts… it would be the last thing I would ever do.
It was an accident.
It was many years ago, before my current job at MHS, and three of my best friends, let’s just call them Mr. D, Mr. C, and Ms. E were all struggling with anxiety.
There has been a long running joke in education that Xanax is “teacher’s candy” and during hard times, many of us have dabbled in anti-anxiety medication, doctor prescribed of course, to make it through a particularly trying school year.
Well, this year must have been a doozy because EVERYONE was packing.
I, being somewhat of a Xanax “light weight” had been prescribed the white pills: 0.25 mg. basically… the lowest possible dose.
“You can take up to three a day,” my doctor said. “For anxiety.”
“Three?” I looked at the bottle suspiciously.
“D.D.” he said. “This is a very low dose.”
Now, I’m not sure what a “low” dose is to him, but after I returned to the safety of my home, I tried one and not twenty minutes later, my husband found me on the front porch, basically having some weird alter-ego karaoke session with me, myself, a guitar, and a blasting rendition of “Brick House.”
I vowed that I would never take one of these pills during a school day EVER.
The thought of what I might do during class time, while hopped up on Xanax, was enough to cause my anxiety to rocket through the roof.
What if I stole the little security golf cart and raced it around the campus?
What if I ran up to the rally stage, grabbed the microphone from ASB, and screamed out the lyrics to GOD SAVE THE QUEEN while the cheerleaders looked on in horror and the quad broke into a riot?
What if I crank called the Principal with one of those really HOKEY Popsicle stick jokes: “Hey Principal Smith… where do baby cows eat?… In the CALVE-A-TERIA” and laughed hysterically until Nurse Anderson had to come and take me away.
I could just see Tim Grobaty’s article in The Press Telegram looming in front of me: BELOVED HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER FOUND DOPED UP AND DROOLING ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD: P.S. NO THIS IS NOT THE D.D. WOOD I KNOW AND LOVE. I HAVE NEVER ASSOCIATED WITH THIS WOMAN. LEAVE ME OUT OF THIS.
I shudder still at the thought of it.
So, I left my pills at home and learned to manage my school day without medication.
Six months later, Xanax at bedtime was a regular routine, I barely reacted to the dose, and my anxiety reduced significantly from several months of “good sleep.”
The school day suddenly seemed like a breeze to get through.
That was… until the phone call.
It was a Friday I believe when I received the call in my classroom from Ms. E.
“Room 525,” I said as I answered the school phone.
“D.D.” Ms. E said panic obvious in her voice. “You take Xanax right?” she asked.
I wasn’t sure if this was some type of trick question: Was this a PTA intervention? Had the militant helicopter parents found out I was a closet Xanax addict or was my friend really in need?
“Yeah,” I said as I tried not to sound hesitant.
“I need one,” she said, almost in tears now. “I can’t make it through the day. I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack. Please may I have one.”
“I don’t bring them to school,” I said. “I only take them at home.”
“Shit,” she barked in a harsh whisper. “Shit. Shit. Shit.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond at first but then the magic light switch flipped on in my brain.
“Mr. C packs,” I whispered. “Do you want me to ask him for one?”
“Yes,” she practically came through the phone her “yes” so emphatic.
“Hang on,” I said. “I have conference period in five minutes. I will grab one from Mr. C and bring it to you.”
“Okay,” she whispered before I heard her shout at her class, “Sit down! Sit down! You people have no understanding of what it means to be ME RIGHT NOW!”
Crap, I thought… I need a pill and fast.
The bell rang and I hustled the children out as quickly as possible before I bolted down to Mr. C’s room.
“Ms. E’s having a panic attack,” I blurted out. “She needs something.”
Mr. C, on conference period as well, gave me a knowing nod before he reached in his California Teacher’s Association satchel and pulled a small blue pill out of a plastic baggie.
“Can she handle a blue?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I know she takes Xanax on a regular basis so I guess so.”
I didn’t know what a blue Xanax was and though I am a teacher, me… the MORON in this scenario, didn’t bother to ask.
I squirreled away the little blue pill in my hand and palmed it all the way out to the far bungalows that sat practically on the baseball field.
“Here,” I handed it to her. “She popped it in her mouth without a thought, took a giant swig of water off of her bottle, and smiled as it seemed the “magic little pill” was already working.
“Okay everyone,” she said sweetly to her group of students. “Let’s learn about the Donner Party and why you should never eat anyone’s ass.”
I caught myself making a face… maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea but hell, I wasn’t exactly the cornerstone of Conservative teaching… maybe this was a typical day in Ms. E’s room.
“Whatcha doing?” Mr. D said as he walked up behind me.
Mr. D and I had been program friends for several years and had spent many an after school session at our local Al-Anon meeting ranting about our addiction to addicts and our need for control.
“Nothing,” I said, unsure if I should tell Mr. D that I had given Ms. E someone else’s drugs, afraid to just come clean. I mean, he was on “the Xanax” like everyone else… but then… the moment passed and I let the thought go.
“Drive with me up to Starbuck’s?” He asked. “So I can get a coffee and have a smoke?”
“Sure,” I said and we both left campus to enjoy our conference period away from our busy school day.
We were gone I’d say 15 minutes; just long enough for Mr. D to get in a whole smoke while we sat waiting for coffee in the Starbuck’s drive-thru.
When we returned to our campus, we made a full circle of our school in the car, and then pulled up to park next to Ms. E’s bungalow.
We were shocked by our immediate view.
Ms. E was not in her classroom teaching.
Ms. E was hanging over the railing of the bungalow ramp, swinging her entire upper half of her body over the rail and trying to touch her toes with her pudgy little hands before she would rise up, throw her arms up into the air, and then swing them back down and try to touch her toes again.
“Wooooooo Eeeeeee!” She said each time she raised back up and saw me and Mr. D staring at her from the car. “HEY YOU TWO!” She shouted. “Wooooooooooo Eeeeeeeeee!”
Now, I am always the first to blame in these situations… known as the Punk Rock I Love Lucy… once told by a former boss that I ALWAYS LOOKED GUILTY OF SOMETHING and today was no exception.
Mr. D took one look at Ms. E, before turning to me and shouting, “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU GIVE HER?”
“Xanax,” I said trying not to sound like Curtis Mayfield’s Pusherman. “It was just Xanax.”
“What color was it?” He asked.
“YOU GAVE HER A BLUE?” He shouted. “A fucking blue? That’s like eight times the size of the dose that we take you idiot!”
I’d like to say that I was stunned at that moment. Even… apologetic for my actions… but really, I was watching Ms. E and wondering how the hell she was still standing after such a massive dose of Xanax and wondering how Mr. C was able to pop blues on a daily basis while making it through, what appeared to me, a “sober” school day.
Mr. D was out of the car in two seconds.
He ran across the field and gathered Ms. E up, as if she was a ball of limp bread dough, while I stood at the curb and watched him carry her past me and hurriedly put her in the car.
“Cover her class,” he shouted.
Ms. E was already enjoying making fish faces at me through the car window: cheeks puffed out, hands pressed against the door glass, drool running down into the door channel, until Mr. D slammed the car into gear, blasted away from the school and they disappeared from view.
“Jesus,” I whispered to myself as I locked the school gate and headed into her classroom to finish out the teaching day.
“Where’s Ms. E?” the students asked, each small group hard at work on their Donner Party Informational Chart: Why We Don’t Eat Asses.
“Ummmm,” I said, as I quickly walked around the room collecting the work, afraid that it might be used against us in a court of law, “She wasn’t feeling well so she went home for the day. Pass me your classwork. Ms. E told me to give everyone an “A” on this assignment and you get to have free time for the rest of the period.”
By their reactions you would have thought that I had declared school over for LIFE.
There were no complaints, no worries… cell phones popped out, ipods popped in, random conversations sparked up around the room.
Teachers crave Xanax…. and students “jones” for “free time”… for them… it’s the most addicting drug.
After a weekend of recovery for Ms. E, and an Al-Anon meeting where Mr. D “called me out” on my actions in front of my sponsor, we all returned to school and went back to business.
Nothing ever came from the incident, and blue Xanax was never again given… or asked for… at school.
Well… at least not between us teachers… I can’t speak for the administration.
I don’t ask for much from my substitute teacher.
You can ask any of my students: Stroosma’s job is cake.
Silent Reading for 30 to 40 minutes… followed by a nice “book to movie” dvd and his day is done.
So when I left for four weeks in the early spring of 2008 for a Writer’s fellowship in Vermont, I assumed, stupidly, that I could somehow trust that my classroom would run smoothly for the entire time I was gone… as long as I had Stroosma at the helm of the ship.
Stroosma is definitely one of the “beloved.”
A small group of teachers, substitutes, and staff members at Millikan High School that students actually really do enjoy being with…
The kids would be super stoked to have him as their substitute teacher for four weeks.
He’s good looking…
A very talented musician (former fantabulous bass player for the Sea Monsters) and…
My Facebook husband; which earns him TOTAL cool points in my book.
Girls have crushes on him… (and boys too)
Boys want to be like him… (and girls too)
He is “Thee” substitute and the kids know, when walking into the classroom, that “YES! STROOSMA’S HERE TODAY!” and that they are going to have a lovely day of respite from their regularly scheduled teacher.
Now, I’m sure you have already duly noted that I did not mention academics in the above description and this is why…
Don’t get me wrong… academics are important and Stroosma can teach…
But when you’re going to be 1,500 miles away from your students for four weeks… academics runs a FAR distant second to CLASS CONTROL.
You don’t want the Principal rolling around to your classroom every day, amped up because your substitute teacher can’t keep 180 high school students entertained for a 90 minute period… SERIOUSLY… you just don’t.
You need a “show” man…
You need A HEADLINER…
You need a man with a plan that can handle your clan.
And that’s Stroosma.
Sinatra would have wanted him in the “Rat Pack” every day of the week.
So… I spoke to him WAY in advance… because a substitute like Stroosma is always in high demand… and said:
“I’m going to be gone four weeks, and I need you to take my class. All I ask… (and I paused here for emphasis) is that you and the kids don’t burn the room down while I’m gone. Okay?”
Stroosma smiled his little Stroosma smile…
Winked his little Stroosma wink…
And gave me the thumbs up.
“No problem,” he said.
And like a FOOL… I believed him.
Two weeks later I was in Vermont… sitting in a beautiful Victorian house, content in my warm room, looking out the large bay window at the snow falling gently all around me, as I typed out the first full draft of my novel.
The view… serene…
The icy river… crystal crisp.
The rolling snowy hills… the water wheel of the old red mill.
I couldn’t ask for more of a picture postcard moment if I had planned it with God himself when suddenly… it was like a text bomb went off on my phone.
There must have been 30 alerts within 10 seconds and I am not exaggerating.
My students were bombarding me with messages all of which read: STROOSMA JUST ALMOST BURNED OUR ROOM DOWN. COME BACK.
Oh funny… I thought… look how much they miss me… I smiled to myself… they just love to tease me… such a funny game… Aren’t they silly children…. like I can just magically get back to Long Beach in a blink of an eye…. aren’t they just so cute…
I was sure Stroosma must have put them up to this and I’m telling you, I thought that right up until message number 31 which was from Stroosma himself and that’s when my little warm and fuzzy moment fled my little writer’s room and my brain almost exploded from my head:
HEY D, THE ROOM WAS ON FIRE BUT EVERYTHING IS OKAY.
Now… “WTF” was not even being used in text vocabulary at this time… but if I had been in my right mind at that moment… I would have made it up on the spot and typed it to him.
I called immediately.
I started to panic and dialed again.
I dialed again.
My mind was racing…
I could imagine my students, scared to death after their classroom burned down, all lined up next to the chain link fence… out on the field in a School Wide Fire Drill all because I had left to go to the Writer’s Colony in Vermont.
I was a bad teacher.
I had abandoned my flock.
I dialed again.
Stroosma picked up the phone and I heard all of my students shouting and frolicking in the background… their voices not full of terror and pain but ringing with complete and total joy and ecstasy that they had just had a memorable “event” in their English classroom…
“What the hell?” I shouted at Stroosma. “It was the one thing… the ONE thing I told you not to let happen! Shit… Stroosma!”
My students were suddenly silent… my voice can cut through a classroom even when I’m on a cell phone across the Great Divide and though they couldn’t hear the words… they most definitely heard the tone… and like the well-trained students they are… they knew that when Ms. Wood was going “insane” you better shut the fuck up.
Stroosma was silent as well.
“Well?” I snapped. “What the hell happened?”
“We put a pad thai box in the microwave and then forgot about it.”
I waited… unwilling to give him one inch without more description.
“It caught on fire and the smoke started to billow throughout the classroom,” he tried not to stumble on his words.
“IT WAS TURNING AND BURNING” I heard a wise-heimer shout with glee somewhere in the background, followed by a long barrage of slap sounds and shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhs… vigilantly justice being handed down by the “citizens” while the Sheriff was out of town.
“Nothing happened,” Stroosma said. “Not even the fire alarm.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that my students were safe, my room was still standing, and my Principal would not be signing my pink slip out of Millikan when I returned to Long Beach.
“Miriam was the one who told me,” Stroosma said.
Miriam… my German foreign exchange student… who could barely hold a basic conversation in English had raised her sweet little hand, pointed her militant little German finger at the microwave, and in heavily accented broken English said… Summ theeeeng ES burn ING!”
I could have had a God damn international incident on my hands because of him.
“You having fun?” He asked.
“Oh yeah…” I said sarcastically. “Great time… getting a lot of good writing done.”
“Okay then,” he said. “Talk to you later.”
I hung up the phone and spent about another 45 minutes retrieving text messages from students who wanted me to know that they loved me, missed me, and thought everything that had just happened was super funny…
I sat back in my chair and watched the clock… as I pictured my classroom back home… sad that I was minutes away from the actual Vermont Ben and Jerry’s factory… and I had none of the children I loved with me….or Stroosma… to go eat some ice cream with and enjoy a good laugh over the day’s event.
To this day, Tim Grobaty tells his daughter, Hannah (Who happens to be one of my favorite students and so… as my little educational minion… has no problem spilling all of her father’s secrets to me) that… Mr. Grobaty, columnist of the Long Beach Press Telegram, refuses to admit, yes actually DENIES, that he ever tried to break both of my legs after hanging out with me on the porch, one summer evening, many moons ago… while dicking around behind the wheel of his car.
But I am here to tell you… that he did.
Of course… If I were Tim Grobaty… I wouldn’t admit that I almost tore Ms. Wood’s legs off in a freak accident either.
Ms. Wood, Beloved High School English Teacher maimed by Beloved Long Beach Newspaper Columnist… it would just be bad all the way around… worse for Tim because he may have a shit load of readers following him but I have a veritable Dumbledore’s Army at my command…. 20 years of teaching… averaging over 1,000 interactions a year, with young adults who have pledged their loyalty to their favorite teacher until DEATH (mine obviously) and you can see why Tim would be in trouble.
If Grobaty HAD actually taken both my legs off… and left me as a little bitter stump of a woman… I would still be able to roll around… (much like Johnny Eck in the 1932 film Freaks)
bossing people about…
controlling my young adult army
and basically making sure that the rest of Tim Grobaty”s life was h*ll.
Lucky for Tim… my legs are still intact.
Back to my story…
Tim and I had become fast friends after meeting accidentally during a bar show at the Blue Cafe.
I still remember when I first opened my mouth to sing… Tim turning around slowly on his bar stool and watching me quietly. I think I was the only member of my family he had not seen perform or written about…
We didn’t talk that night… but the next day in the newspaper… I opened the entertainment section and saw that he had written a full page article titled I’m in LOVE with D.D. Wood…
Thankfully, Jane… his wife, better half, and definitely the most reasonable person in the relationship, was not bothered that Tim titled his article this… OR that he decided to post this on the date of his actual wedding anniversary…
Jane, as always… takes these things in stride and I love her for it… I really don’t know how she does it.
If my husband had written an article about Jane on our wedding anniversary… I probably would have crumpled the piece up with fury… tried to stuff it down his gullet, before walking outside and beating his favorite 59 Ford Fairlane with a bat…
You could say… that I’m a bit of a hothead.
My mother of course showed the article to everyone and I figured… it would probably be a good idea to get to know a man who was supposedly “in love” with me… and so Tim and Jane, me and my husband started getting together for dinner, or a visit on my front porch swing, on a regular basis.
These were lovely times….
We spent summer evenings laughing together… our children all very small… Hannah actually just a baby then… Dylan and Ray still little enough to be into toy guys and camouflage… until one night Tim and I were alone on the front porch playing guitars…
My husband must have had a show… because he was absent from this scene… and I’m sure Jane was already in bed… all cozy and comfy reading a good book… all of our children fast asleep…
While Tim and I were jamming away until our 10 o’clock curfew came around… and it was time for me to go inside and for Tim to go home.
Tim and I packed up our guitars before I walked him out to where he had parked his Jeep…directly behind my car…
and for some reason…
I decided that I needed to grab something out of my trunk. Now, to this day… I can’t imagine what I obviously felt I HAD TO HAVE out of the trunk of my car at 10 o’clock at night but, that isn’t important.. what is important… is THIS is when all of the trouble began…
(Although some would argue that the trouble began when Tim Grobaty wrote that he loved me in a local publication.)
I walked between the space of the two cars as Tim waved goodbye and climbed into his Jeep.
We shared a quick smile as he pretended that he was going to put his car into gear and run me over.
I laughed the “ha ha ha you’re so funny” obligatory laugh, then turned back to pop the trunk when I heard Tim’s car lurch forward and felt a sudden hard hit to the back of my legs…
My spine pitched towards the trunk, my knees buckled and pinned beneath the rear bumper of my car, and if I had been just an inch or so taller, Tim would have snapped both of my legs right then and there… and this story wouldn’t be quite as funny as it now is…
My hands slammed onto the hood of the trunk as if a police officer had just knocked me down and told me to “spread em”… the pain was intense.
I looked back at Tim in utter horror.
His face was one of shock… and I could see him fumbling to shift the gear stick and free me from my misery when we both had a moment…
A “cosmic” connect I guess you would call it…
A moment where Tim suddenly knew exactly what I was thinking….
Me: Please God don’t let Tim shift it into another forward gear and break my legs.
and I knew exactly what Tim was thinking…
Tim: Oh my God, what if I shift it into a forward gear by mistake and break her legs?
I freaked out.
“Tim!” I shouted. “Jesus Christ, what are you doing?”
Now… this probably didn’t help the situation but I have to admit that I was under duress and not thinking clearly…
Tim shifted the gear into reverse and backed up about four feet as I felt my legs release. I took a moment before letting go of the trunk and trying to stand full weight on my legs afraid of what I was left with and wondering if they would even work.
I looked down… no blood… no protruding bones… I was fine… a bit agitated… but fine.
I hobbled over to the driver’s side window and leaned in… “Are you insane?”
Tim was already laughing…. laughing as he ignored me and turned the wheel tight before peeling out for home….
I watched as he screeched past me… his tail lights heading into the night…. and I thought about getting into my car and chasing him down to make him acknowledge his part in this fiasco and demand an apology but… I didn’t …
10 o’clock curfew had come and gone….
My husband would be home soon…
Jane would be waiting on Tim…
and our confrontation would just have to wait until another late night jam session on the porch… or maybe on stage, in the middle of a set, the audience witness to our brawl.
I’m sure Tim will post a rebuttal to my tale… maybe an I HATE D.D. WOOD article will appear in the paper some time in the next few weeks but I doubt it… we share a love of writing and music… and that is a bond that can withstand anything.