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.

Getting in a Fight with Stephen, Somewhere in Kansas in Front of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, While on a Cross-Country Road Trip

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I had been married to my X for almost twenty years and NEVER took him on a road trip.

Never.

The idea of bringing a man on a road trip seemed absolutely ridiculous to me.

My road trips were private matters.

I wanted to be completely alone.

If I wanted to listen to music… I did.

If I wanted it completely silent in the car for hours on end… it was.

This was my NO MAN’s land.

My best story ideas, song ideas, and big thoughts on life and spiritual matters came to me on my road trips.

Highway 10 from Long Beach to Santa Fe New Mexico… alone… silent… could solve a host of problems that couldn’t be solved by thinking about them at home.

And so… it was with great reluctance that I allowed Stephen to join me.

Stephen… summer of 2007… one year into our friendship.

And how… you must be wondering… did I allow myself to cave?

Well…he said, “I’ve never been on a road trip before.”

“Never?” I said. “Not even with your guy friends?”

“Nope,” and then his shoulders slumped and he made a little sad face. “Never.”

And since I cared for Stephen… and knew the value of a good road trip in a person’s life… my heart felt for him and so I invited  him to come along.

Of course, once I invited him… I immediately started saying things to get him to back out. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to let someone in… be close… give up my private experience.

“You know…” I told him. “I do what I want on the road. I don’t set a destination. I don’t go to any specific location. I drive as long as I want… I sleep in small motels in off beat towns. And I’ve NEVER taken a man with me before,” I paused here for emphasis. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

He nodded his head… excited to be invited on a road trip and I knew this would be a turning point in our friendship… we would either survive this road trip together and be bonded for life, or we would burn out somewhere close to Albuquerque with Stephen shouting at me to “STOP THE CAR” before kicking the door shut, flipping me off, and hitching a ride to the closest airport where he would fly home, never to be seen again… Maybe even silently “wishing me the best” (the ultimate fuck you really) before boarding a plane and drinking as many cocktails allowed on the two and a half hour flight home to Los Angeles while praying that I would die in a fiery car crash somewhere outside of Nashville.

I sighed.

Weeks went by and Stephen excitedly planned for his big adventure. I saw him programming a GPS and I actually started to sweat. I NEVER used a GPS… that was cheating… I felt anxious… but I sucked it up each time I saw him pore over a map… his reading glasses high on his face… his eyes looming large… magnified through the glass as he fantasized about all of his future destinations and scribbled furiously… little notes and words in his mini notebook.

“What’s that?” I asked one day.

“I’m preparing,” he said with pure glee.

I looked at him as if he were a bad student in my class. “Don’t,” I said sternly, my face stone. “Just stop.”

He looked at me as if I was speaking some foreign language it almost seemed he was ignoring me…. before he went back to poring over his maps and scribbling furiously.

This is a mistake I thought. We’re going to be in a fight before we even get out of L.A. county.

But I held my tongue, shocking I know, but I did and when the day arrived for us to leave, Stephen was prepared.

It looked like I had the ultimate Boy Scout ready to set off with me… wait, strike that, let’s make him an Eagle Scout.

I have never seen anyone so organized for a trip. He even had his passport in case we decided to cross a border.

Jesus.

We left Long Beach at 4 am, stopped at a drive-thru Starbucks for coffee and were on the road and on our way to Maine.

California to Maine…. one of the best drives ever…

There is nothing like watching the sun come up from the highway. It is one of my all time favorite moments in life.

Me.

The car.

The road.

Complete silence as the skyline goes from jet black to a purple opaque with a hint of orange, before the sun bursts into bright yellow streaks and illuminates the blue sky.

Only… that’s not what happened.

What happened was TOOL was blasting from the speakers as Stephen bobbed his head to the music, tapped his foot against the dash, drank his coffee with gusto and I sat in silence, big headed baby, pouting… as I drove the car.

I was miffed. Distraught. But Stephen was so pleased to be on a road trip… I kept quiet.

I headed for highway 70… it is a beautiful path… not stark beauty like the 10… which is actually quite a lonely road… the 70 is America in all of it’s patch work glory.

Coming over the pass into Colorado… the river running along side it… boxed in by mountains… until you rise again and see the Great Plains laid out before you… it is a drive that makes the traveler a hopeless romantic.

And Stephen said, “I thought you were taking the 10?”

I tried not to make a face.

“I’ve programmed my GPS for the 10,” he said in a pitiful whine of a voice.

“Well,” I said. “Unprogram.”

I could see that he was bent.

Perturbed.

Annoyed.

And I thought… don’t you dare… don’t you dare…. who are you to be any of those things on my road trip?

We drove all the way to Vegas without a word… Stephen heavy metal thumping while I looked out the window and prayed for the audio system to fail.

By the time we hit the plateau above Grand Valley, Colorado… I wasn’t sure if we would make it through the next two weeks but then the road opened up, the view down was amazing, and Stephen turned off the music which left Colorado ahead of us, and a quiet car to take in the beauty.

The rest of the day was really uneventful… as was the next…. we discovered a common love of SIRIUS’s stand up comedy channel and laughed all the way to Kansas where things then took a turn for the worse.

We were tired from driving… hours and hours of travel… when we finally started looking for a hotel room around 10 o’clock at night.

This is when we heard two words that I never imagined could be so dreaded:

State Fair.

“What?” I asked.

Then there were three dreaded words:

Kansas State Fair.

Shit.

Every hotel within 100 miles of the Kansas State Fair was booked solid and Stephen and I were beyond exhausted.

It was the first time ever I felt myself falling asleep at the wheel. In fact, Stephen had already flopped over into the back seat and passed out. I was glad that he was quiet and resting but still totally annoyed that he was at that moment… no help.

I prayed that I would make it to a hotel before I nodded off and lost control of the car and thankfully, around mile 83, there was one room left available at a Best Western.

We pulled in, checked in, and passed out in a matter of minutes.

The next morning, I was “hungover” from such a long day of driving the day before, that I didn’t want to get up… but… Stephen wanted to get moving.

“Get up,” he said. “Come on get up.”

I was tired, angry that he was bossing me about, and pouting because I knew that if HE hadn’t been in the car with me… I would have found a hotel easily, I wouldn’t be getting up early right now, I would be following my OWN time frame and completely ALONE. I climbed out of the bed in a big baby fit threw on my clothes and shoes and reached to grab the keys and stomp to the car when Stephen reached out and grabbed them.

“I’m driving,” he said.

I gave him a look…. ready to kill him, but he just turned and walked out of the room and headed to the car… unwilling to give me my way.

I climbed into the passenger seat, slammed the door and sulked. We weren’t even out of the parking lot when I said, “Go through the KFC so at least we can get something to eat.”

Stephen rounded the corner for the drive-thru and thought for some reason that the lane he was in was not for the drive-up window.

“It is!” I shouted. “Trust me. Just go right there!” I pointed towards a loud speaker and watched as Stephen ignored me, passed the window and made a loop around the front of the KFC.

“No,” he said calmly. “I’m sure that was the wrong lane.”

I felt anger seething out of every pore… I set my jaw so firmly that it must have looked like it was wired shut and believe me… in just a matter of minutes… I was going to wish it had been wired shut…

Just as Stephen was making the turn to go back through the lane I originally told him to, a large white bus full of black Baptists rolled in front of us and I watched as the Minister ordered 15 buckets of chicken, obviously for his entire congregation, who I could see through the large rectangular glass bus windows… smiling and happy, seriously spiritually enlightened people, radiating  God’s joy as they waited patiently for their chicken and I actually went insane.

I don’t even remember what I said to Stephen, but it was every angry thing you say to someone when you “kick the cat”….

Why did I bring you?

What were you thinking?

Why couldn’t you listen to me?

Who the HELL do you think you are?

LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE GOD DAMN BAPTISTS EATING MY CHICKEN!

By the time we got to the window… I was spent… which often happens with us passionate HOT HEADS leaving our quiet introverted family, friends, and lovers, totally stunned by our outbursts and often feeling

MORTALLY wounded while we HOT HEADS just move on to the next big thing to be passionate and upset about…

Stephen however had, had enough.

He pulled up to the window to pay the KFC kid and wait for our chicken while I, now calm… said, “Could you please open the trunk so I can get something out of my bag?”

“Just wait,” he said… his tone one of intense loathing…

“Wait for what?” I snapped and popped out of the car and headed to the back of the trunk.

Stephen, by now, so TOTALLY pissed off at me took one look in the rear view mirror and floored the car. The wheels screeched as he took off and then laid a big skid and stopped about twenty feet from the window.

My mouth dropped open as I watched my door fly shut as he burned out… but the funniest moment was when I looked back at the drive-thru window and saw that the KFC kid had hung the food bag out for Stephen to grab right as he pulled away… so the teenager’s arm was just dangling out the window with a big bag of KFC floating in mid-air waiting for no one to take it.

I paused a moment… I really wanted to laugh but I was still just too angry.

I walked over and grabbed the bag from the kid, walked up to the car, opened the door and climbed inside where I threw the bag of chicken on the floor and shouted, “I’m not even hungry any more.”

Stephen could have given a shit. He burnt out and hit the Interstate at an alarming pace. Probably anxious to find the nearest airport and fulfill my earlier prophecy.

We both stewed in silent obstinance across the entire great state of Kansas before we finally just busted up laughing hysterically… barely able to breath… tears streaming down our faces, as we crossed the border into Ohio where I then picked up the bag, pulled a cold, hard biscuit from it, and handed it to Stephen as a peace offering.

It was the only fight we got in during the entire two weeks on the trip and I believe that it really was necessary for our bonding experience and that the event brought us closer together.

After that, we went on to see thousands of wild geese land on a secluded lake somewhere in Ohio, scare ourselves to death sleeping in Lizzie Borden’s house in Fall Rivers Massachusetts, nap on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s lawn in Salem, and drive through the Bad Lands of South Dakota on our return trip, a place Stephen had never been, and was so thankful to see… the desert at dusk, the look of the sand and the cliffs, so alien and mystical… really something everyone should experience in a lifetime.

I will never regret that fight at the KFC… or letting someone in, and sharing my road trip.

What I find as I grow older, is that staying and building relationships, even when at times you want to run away… desert all… find security and safety in yourself… believing that it will be easier… somehow protect you from hurt… or build a wall so that people can’t get in…

Only makes you the person who is UNWILLING to take the road trip… to see what lays before you… what discoveries are out there to find… what common interests, ideas, spiritual moments you can share, even if it is only a ridiculously stupid fight behind a bus load of black Baptists somewhere in Kansas….

The beauty.. is in the shared story… our shared story…

Saving the Crack Baby

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I was 36 and back in school working on my Master’s degree. It had been a hard week. I was in the middle of a difficult divorce, teaching middle school during the day, taking classes at night, and resentful that Dylan my youngest, was left at home while I had to make a new life for my family due to my X’s departure.

I was in my classroom at school finishing up my final thesis essay, for my FINAL Master’s class, when I realized my printer was not working.  Frustrated… I typed the last few sentences in a rush, slapped my thesis onto a floppy disk (which makes me laugh now to think of it) and raced out of the building in hopes that I would make it to the class on time, which was next door to a teacher resource center, where I would be able to print out copies of my thesis, present it to my class, and argue my educational philosophy and hopefully, receive a stellar grade , an advanced degree, and finally, be back home again with my kids.

I arrived in a frantic state. My teacher, Dr. Isabel was an amazing teacher, a fantastic woman, but quite the stickler regarding class minutes. I rushed to the TRC with just moments to spare, flashed my district I.D. and ran towards an open computer and printer. I put my disk in the disk drive and watched in horror as the computer screen flashed, “DISK ERROR. DISK UNREADABLE”

I felt like I was going to vomit.

Dr. Isabel would never go for a Master’s candidate showing up to the final class, ill prepared.

This was disaster.

I had heard stories of students having to repeat entire classes after this type of incident.

I was terrified to walk into the classroom… but I steeled myself for the moment and marched in: the last one to arrive and the first one scheduled to present.

“You ready?” Dr. Isabel said with barely a glance up from her notepad, where I could only imagine she was planning to write, Deidre Wood: FAIL. Obviously some type of idiot who wandered into my class believing that “Master’s” means, show up to class unprepared with your head up your own ass.

I could barely breathe.

I told her what had happened with my disk.

“So, you didn’t have time to print out your papers for your classmates this week prior to our class time?”she asked.

What could I tell her?

My husband just left me?

I’m a total wreck?

I’m only doing this so that I can make more money and take care of my children?

“No, I didn’t have time,” I mumbled.

“Sit down Deidre,” she said as she scribbled fiercely on her tablet before asking another one of my classmates to begin the presentations.

I don’t remember much from that class other than that I felt full of despair, and that I just couldn’t catch a break. Despite what had happened between myself and my husband, I missed him. I missed my life with him, no matter how flawed, and at that moment… I just prayed that he would come back and we could start again.

Dr. Isabel asked me to give a brief presentation sans notes and print-outs at the end of class and then asked me to stay after.

This is it. I thought. This is where she tells me I’m going to have to repeat the class. My heart was pounding, I was ready to pass out.

“I’m sorry Deidre,” she said. “I understand that you are going through a hard time.”

Her kind words almost sent me over the edge and I fought not to cry in front of my college professor.

“I’ll give you one hour to go home and send this to me through email and then I will decide where we go from there.”

I nodded my head, afraid to even try to speak.

“I’m sorry,” she said again and then turned and walked out of the classroom.

I headed back to my car and tried not to freak out.

I could get home and get this emailed to her within the hour. It was do-able. She had always admired my writing and so, I started to become a bit hopeful that my thesis, and the fact that I had never missed a class, always received straight A’s on her assignments, and never acted like a jack ass, would be enough to carry me through.

In fact, by the time I reached the stop light on Spring and Cherry, I was feeling almost happy again until I turned and looked at the driver in the car sitting next to me: my ex-husband.

He was in his old ’59” Ford. He looked cleaned up in a hot greaser way: fresh Tres Flores on his hair, black short sleeve shirt, tattoos, dark glasses, and blues blasting from his stereo. It was a horrible moment. One of those moments when you know that your X has moved on and you are still the broken idiot trying to remove the pain from your forever wounded heart.

He turned and looked at me and nodded and waved as if we were both just out on separate errands and would plan to meet up at home for a nice dinner later. His cavalier attitude towards me and his obvious lack of remorse, related to our almost twenty years together, infuriated me. I acted “as if” waved back and then waited for him to turn the corner before bursting into tears and sobbing in a way that I haven’t since I was a very small child.

Just then my cell phone rang. It was my good friend, Christy. I pulled over and answered the phone still blubbering. She offered to come meet me but I said I really just needed to be on my own for a bit and process everything.

“What about your paper?” she asked.

What about it, I thought but said, “I’m just going to go to the park for a bit and catch my breath and then I’ll head home and work on it.”

“You sure you don’t want me to meet you?” she asked.

I said I was sure and then hung up the cell and called my mom to let her know that I would be home a bit late.

I went to El Dorado Park and pulled my car up to the duck pond. It was a pretty day, but not a weekend, and so only a small group of people were taking advantage of the lovely weather. I climbed out of the car and sat up on the top of a picnic table, with my feet up on the bench.

I looked out over the pond and watched as a young couple walked the lake with their toddler and a stroller with what appeared to be a baby in it.

They were both reed thin and after all of my years of spending time around recovering drug addicts, I pegged them right away as a Crack couple. They were arguing with each other over everything, twitchy and a bit erratic. He was light-skinned black and she was a tow-headed white and even from my distance, I could see that her face had been picked and scratched a thousand times.

I watched as he held the stroller, shaking it back and forth, in a motion that would suggest he was trying to calm the baby but actually reflected his agitation with his wife. She made a face and rolled her eyes before grabbing their toddler’s hand and walking away from the pond towards the playground in the park.

And that was all it took.

One dirty look.

One harsh word.

One moment and everything changed.

He let go of the stroller and rushed after her to grab her arm and I watched as the stroller rolled into the duck pond, flipped, and the baby disappeared under the surface of the water.

His wife screamed.

He rushed forward and jumped in trying desperately to find the baby in the murky pond.

I felt like I was locked into a moment of time and unable to move.

It was a moment I would never want to repeat.

Then, he pulled the small, soaked, blue bundle from the pond and looked directly at me, locked his eyes directly on me… and screamed, “HELP!”

Suddenly, I  jumped forward, dialing 911 on my cell phone as I ran, rushing around the path of the pond, trying to get to the father and the little lump in his hands that still hadn’t moved in those few seconds.

I watched as he ran towards me from the other side of the pond,  then panicked… stopped for a moment… and sat the baby on a low tree branch limb and began to shake it as if the vigorous amount of energy… his extreme passion for his child… could magically revive him.

“Don’t shake the baby! ” I screamed praying that I would get to the father before he did something totally irrational. “Stop! Stop now!”

He looked at me and I saw that his face was now blank… already gone… already in the “bad place” the place that ever parent fears.

I heard, “911?” answer on my cell and as I reached him, he thrust the baby towards me as I forced him to take my phone, speak to 911, and hopefully distract him from what I was now holding in my hands: a drowned baby.

I registered so much in that moment, my motherly instincts, my animal rage at their carelessness, everything seemed to escalate inside of me.

He was so small, with beautiful black curly hair, his eyes closed… his perfect little lips, a cupid’s bow of a mouth, already turning a light shade of blue. I cradled him in the crook of my arm and rested his tiny head in the palm of my hand before I reached my finger into his mouth and cleared it before starting CPR. I put my mouth over his mouth engulfing his tiny little nose as well and released my warm breath twice into his tiny lungs.

He didn’t respond and so, I pressed my mouth to his once more. I felt fear wash over me… that moment when you know that someone’s life is in your hands and you hope that everything will work out as you planned that all of your competence, that everything you have ever believed you are, lays open in that moment.

I pressed my mouth to him again and prayed that he would come to and suddenly… he was there.

He spit up milk and dirty water and his awakening was both relieving and comical.

His tiny fists balled up tightly, his arms shook in what seemed to be anger, his eyes widened with astonishment and I swear I heard him say, “Holy Shit!!! Did you see what just happened to me? That guy tried to KILL me!”

There was a moment, when it seemed like I would forever know him, that somehow… he would forever be mine… and then his father snatched to grab him from me as I pushed him back, unwilling to give the baby up so soon. I cradled the baby gently to my chest, my ear pressed against his back, listening to his breathing become regular with a small rattle somewhere deep inside of his lungs. I held him so tightly, as if to wrap him in my heart and prayed that somehow my strength would find a way to guard him… or protect him… as he grew older in this world.

I told the father to find me a dry shirt or blanket for him as I gently removed the baby’s wet clothes and then swaddled him in an old worn out sweatshirt and gave him one last long look, before I handed him back to his father.

He held him as his wife and toddler cried next to the empty stroller now sitting on the grass.

The paramedics arrived and rushed towards them and I watched as the father presented the baby to them as if they had won a gift for showing up first to the party.

I didn’t stay… there wasn’t anything for me to say.

I took my cell phone, walked away, happy to be forgotten in the shuffle, and the first person I thought to call and tell this story to was my husband before realizing… that in the horrific excitement of the moment… I had forgotten that he wasn’t my husband anymore.

I looked at my phone, paused, and called anyways.

We talked for a few moments, my earlier anger now completely dissipated by the thought of how fast life can change, that making amends to the father of my children was more important than holding my resentment and destroying everyone with it.

“God put you there,” he said. And I thought, yes… he did.

I went home and emailed Dr. Isabel my paper. It was late, definitely past the extra hour she was kind enough to give me, and I had no idea if it would be accepted but I didn’t care. I told her about running into my husband, I told her about saving the baby, I told her if I hadn’t been distraught over what had happened in class that the baby might have never survived and I accepted my fate.

Three weeks later, when my grades arrived in the mail. I had a solid “A” and a Master’s degree. I was proud of that degree… and I still am… though it will always seem a consolation prize compared to saving a human life.

And now, I often think about where that baby is and if he might one day end up in my classroom as my student, or cross paths with me somewhere again…  and I wonder why God put him in my way… and what God has planned for me further down the road.

Saturday July 13th through Saturday July 27th: Ms Wood will be on SUMMER VACATION!

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Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!

And thank you for your loyal following.

D.D. Wood

Last Night at The Blasters

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I rarely go out.

RARELY go out.

You can ask anyone.

Over the years my aversion to shows has become so legendary that when I do appear people think that I am a figment of their imagination.

But I have recently been dipping my toes in the water again…

Feeling the need to swim back into music…

A show here… a show there….

An impromptu trip to Bakersfield to see Johnny Two-Bags and Salvation Town with X, and a walk around the Buck Owens museum and suddenly…. I’ve been feeling “all in…”

Bobby De Luna:

Bobby D.

a known musical recluse as well… must have been feeling my “itch” because he began to call and harass me about it.

“You went to Bakersfield without me fucker? Call me back.”

And so, it wasn’t surprising that he would be the one to ask me to go to The Blasters, The Knittters and X at The Observatory.

And I really wanted to go… I did.

I wanted to see the music… I wanted to watch the performances of many of the musicians I grew up with… I just didn’t want what goes a long with it: Huge crowds of people, a flood of memories related to my sketchy rock-and-roll past, and a night wedged into uncomfortable clothing.

But the drive for music was pulling me… added with Bobby’s way of forcing me out of my rat hole… the way he always does… with messages like:

“If you don’t come with me I’m going to come over and slap you in the face right in front of Nana”

or…

“I swear to God D.D. Grish, if you even think about cancelling mother fucker…”

or my personal favorite…

“I’ll let you out of dinner before the show but… if you try to cancel going with me… I will come over and make your children orphans”

Fine Bobby.

I get it.

I’ll go.

I spent hours working my way into about five pairs of spanxs and then a corset to really hold in those years of massive cupcake eating.

I knew that I had succeeded in looking pretty decent for an old lady when Dylan, my son walked into the bathroom and said, “You look really good mom. Wow… Your boobs are huge.”

I thanked him for the compliment and was pleased to see that Lexi, my daughter, had done my hair and eyelashes in such a way that for once I actually looked put together and not like the disheveled high school professor I had become; hair in a messy bun, glasses somewhat askew on my face, tell-tell coffee stain or cupcake smear down the front of my shirt.

At The Blasters

I waved goodbye to my kids, teetered off on my four-inch red heels towards the street where I wobbled at the curb and waited for Bobby to pick me up…

I watched as he drove right past me.

I called his cell phone and before I could even say anything he said, “Jesus… was that you I just passed? I thought it was some really good looking tranny.”

Fucker.

We road off to The Observatory, parked about ten miles away, and walked our pilgrimage with a multitude of others until we arrived at our musical mecca.

It had been about fifteen years since I had been to the venue.. back when it was still known as The Galaxy… and as I walked through the corridors, past the small band room to the main stage… I was overwhelmed by the packed house.

Years of being in just these types of band situations caused my instincts to kick in and I found myself immediately jockeying for a position: across from the emergency exit, tight against the rail… close behind a photographer with a very large tripod, and Bobby standing behind me to block my back.

I settled in.

The Knitters were already on stage and the sound was fantastic.

Deep and rich, each instrument blending together in a fine mix of Americana… the members at home on stage and in their own skins after so many years of being seasoned performers.

It was amazing to see so many people wedged into one place, now way too old to slam dance, fight or push… everyone bobbing to the music and having a really good time.

For a moment I actually felt comfortable and safe.

For a moment I thought “Hey… maybe I can deal with a crowd if it is as passive and happy as this one…”

For a moment it all seemed okay until the only walkway turned into a bottleneck of people, backed up from the stage door to the front entrance, and I felt panic set in.

Having almost been trampled once at a rabid ACDC concert some time circa 1986, my fear of being trapped in the crowd intensified in magnitude until I gave Bobby a quick nod… barely waiting for a response… before pushing my way towards the outside smoking area where I actually text’d my man to come and pick me up and bring me home.

“Where are you?” was not the response I was looking for but, was the response I got from Bobby De Luna who text’d me back first.

I was about to type him back when another text from him rolled through…

“You better not fucking ditch me D.D. Grish”

I looked around at the other panickers sitting in the smoking area with me, heard their own hushed whispers to spouses and lovers through a variety of smart phones… and thought, This is ridiculous, before I plastered on my best Barbara Stanwick steely face and strutted back into the club.

I made it as far as the small band room before I heard the roar of the main stage, freaked out, and detoured into the quiet sanctity of the small space, where the next band was just getting ready to take the stage and only a few of their die hard followers were waiting to hear them play.

It was there that my messiah appeared in the form of: Steve Cunningham.

Thank God for my friends who work the shows.

Steve’s face lit up and so did mine as we hugged and laughed before he gave me a backstage wrist band and told me to go get comfortable.

I almost ran outside to go around to the back where I called Stephen, my man, and told him I didn’t want to go home yet.

“I’m almost to the club,” he moaned. “What the hell?” but being the good man that he is, turned around to kill some time before we agreed he would come back and get me at 10.

I walked through the backstage gate and was greeted by the faces of many of my old friends.

Suddenly, I felt like I was 20 again… on stage in my petty coat, bullet belt, half naked except for a small leopard skin jacket and a bra:

LeopardJacket

I watched as John Doe walked past… and smiled to myself thinking that he looked like a 60’s version of my grandpa now, with his little skinny pants, funky leather vest and cowboy shirt, gray long hair parted to the side, greasy and straggly and remembered the night that I once hula danced for him at Disgraceland, Tupelo Joe on ukelele, Pleasant and the Lame Flames dancing by my side, Joe, my ex-husband, grinning from the couch as he watched in quiet admiration.

Exene was standing in the corner, looking like a cute little punk plump sugar cookie, cigarette in one hand, beer in the other, whispering conspiratorially with a girl in a green cowboy dress, yellow and black bumblebee boots, and purple hair about God knows what… but still courteous enough to hide her smoke and booze, in the photo I instagramed to my students as she smiled as innocently or as innocently as Exene ever possibly could…

Exene and Wood

I crossed through the lot and headed backstage to find Drac, my friend in charge of the event, and ran straight into Jonny Ray Bartel who plays stand up with The Knitters.

I smiled, not realizing that no one recognized the woman that was here tonight… no longer the skinny blonde in the petty coats, my long dark hair and black glasses, my twenty pounds of plump frame, hiding the girl I used to be.

“Hey Sassypants!” I said.

He walked past me, turned around and give me a dirty look, until about five minutes later when he realized who I was and came up to give me a big hug.

“Shit, D.D.” He said. “Sorry I was upset. My bass pick-up kept falling out during the set.”

It was a nice lie…not recognizing me… the way he hid it in the truth.

I told him it sounded great from the front… no one knew… and I wanted to add; Can’t do anything about it now… you’re done playing… But he rolled his eyes as if I was just appeasing him and went off in search of his brother.

My phone whistled.

“Where the fuck are you fucker?”

Bobby De Luna.

“Backstage.” I text’d back and couldn’t help but smile knowing the response I was about to get.

“Fucker. I’m gonna stand out here and be a civilian.”

I giggled to myself, I could just imagine what he was going to say later, once he found out that I was ditching him at 10.

I listened to The Blasters, caught up on the lives of all my old friends, lamented the people we had lost over the years, to drugs, disease, and alcohol, before taking one last look around, making a mental photograph of the moment, Exene now singing Jackson with Dave Alvin from the stage, Phil waiting to make a grand entrance, the new up-and-coming baby musicians huddled together in their own little group, before heading out the gate and walking to the marquee where I would wait for Stephen to come and pick me up.

Later, I would be half naked in the car, removing corset after corset, unwilling to sit in pain the entire ride home, not caring who might see Ms. Wood, their favorite high school teacher, rolling down the freeway in a state of undress…. dying for relief, and a late night Del Taco red burrito with a large coke….

But for right then, for just that moment… I sat on the curb… and listened to the last few songs of The Blasters and felt the melancholy of the evening washing over me… wishing that I had documented every moment of our young musical lives in each of my writings, in each of my songs, a photograph of everything we once were… locked in time… forever immortalized.

Joe and Dave Light the Street on Fire: A Cautionary Tale

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Joe and Dave

When I first married Joe, he was the lead singer for a well-known punk rock band and Dave Mello, was his best pal and his new bass player.

They were always together making surf boards, surfing, working on cars, having their little “bromance” and as any good wife knows… it is a joy when your husband has a best friend.

Their “boy” project at the time was a 1959 Ford Fairlane that Joe was in the process of restoring.

He had just had the engine rebuilt at a shop, and he and Dave had the block back under the hood and were in the process of priming the carburetor when all hell broke loose.

I was minding my own business, upstairs in our small apartment across from what now is the Long Beach Towne Center.

I was keeping an eye on Dylan, who was barely 18 months old, as he rode on his favorite rocking horse, which sat sideways next to the large picture window, watching his Dad and “Uncle” Dave work on the car down in the street below.

“Da,” Dylan said which he used freely for both Dave and Dad and just about every other thought he had under the sun in that little baby brain of his.

“Yes,” I cooed. “Dad and Dave are working on the car.”

He rocked on his little horse excitedly repeating, “Da! Da! Da!” as he watched the boys work.

“Yes,” I repeated. “Da. Da. Da.”

I walked into the other room for just a moment, when I heard a sound that any parent knows is trouble: the sound of complete silence.

The rocking horse had stopped.

The baby made no noise.

I paused in my housework and listened before I heard the words “Uh oh” from Dylan’s baby mouth.

Now, I had never heard Dylan say anything but “Da” so that was shocking enough. But the word that followed just about floored me.

“Shit” I heard the baby say plain as day and then the springs creaked on the horse, his feet padded a few steps, and his little hands began to bang against the plate glass window as he shouted “Da! Da! Da!” at the boys below.

I dropped the laundry I had been folding, and rushed into the living room to find the baby now quiet, head leaning against the window, his eyes large and round, his hands pressed flat against the glass, his mouth in a tiny exclamation of an “Oooooooooh” and before I could even start to comprehend my two-year-old’s first full word being “shit,” I saw a large plume of smoke hanging above the hood of the car in the air, and Dave yelling at Joe, “Try it again! But no more gas!”

To this day, I don’t know if Joe actually really didn’t hear Dave say “No more gas” or if he was just being obstinate, but… he completely ignored Dave and poured a large stream of gas from the gas can in the carb before he raised his empty hand in a big “thumb’s up.”

Dave, oblivious to Joe’s actions, hidden behind the protection of the driving wheel and the opened hood, hit the ignition and I watched as a large fireball exploded out from under the hood of the car and blasted into the air.

“JESUS CHRIST!” Dave screamed as he jumped from the car and then stopped short as he watched Joe, gas can in hand, jump backwards flailing his arms wildly as the flame shot up through the carb, ignited the stream of gas coming from the can, and left a trail of fire that blazed steadily across the sky, lighting Joe up as if he were holding a giant Roman candle on the 4th of July and using it to make fiery decorative loops.

“Throw it Joe!” Dave screamed. “Throw the fucking can!”

Joe panicked.

Mouth open.

He looked back and forth from each hand. I could see from even where I was that his rock-and-roll 90’s hair-do, his giant bushy eyebrows and hipster goatee had been singed to a crisp.

If it wasn’t so terrifying… I would have laughed at the comic farce playing out in the arena below but, I knew enough about combustion to know that if Joe didn’t throw that can within the next few seconds he was toast.

“THROW THE GAS CAN JOE!” I screamed through the glass and though he couldn’t hear me… it seemed my urgent need for him to listen had somehow broken the spell and Joe flung the gas can as far as he could.

I saw both boys rush to outrun the explosion.

For a moment it felt as if I were back in time watching two small children play soldiers at war.

They made it to the curb before the can hit the ground and exploded into a fiery bomb that was quite astounding.

Joe did some weird Chuck Norris tuck-and-roll before he leaped to his feet, leaving Dave behind him face down on the grass, as he ran into the building next to ours.

I watched Dave raise his head.

His look… one of dismay.

Joe had left his man behind.

A cardinal sin when in the midst of the heated passion of a bromance.

We all heard a loud crashing of glass followed by Joe dashing back across the street with a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze as Dave smiled, now sure in his best friend’s love for him, as Joe raced throughout the street, trying to right his wrong, putting out large patches of flame, as Dave looked on in admiration.

“Ooooooooooooh!” Baby Dylan said as he watched from the window.  “Uh oh Mama?” he pointed towards the street and then looked up at me.

I picked him up and cuddled him in my arms, glad to know that he was becoming a virtual vocabulary savant from this apocalyptic event.

“Yes baby,” I said as I kissed his cheek. “Uh oh.”

“Shit,” he said again.

I turned to look at him.

“No, baby,” I said sternly. “No!”

I thought he might actually begin to cry for a minute, but then the fire truck rounded the corner, sirens blaring, lights spinning, and Dylan became mesmerized by their brilliance as I heard the boys’ cowboy boots pound up the stairs and then bound through the door where they pulled the curtains closed, dropped to their knees on the floor, and hid low from “the man.”

They watched quietly, afraid to make a sound, afraid they might be seen, as the fire department assessed the incident.

Black 59′ Fairlane: gas trail circling the motor.

Broken glass: fire extinguisher thrown empty to the ground.

Entire street: burnt and black as if some type of car bomb had just gone off in Beirut.

Neighbors peeking from the windows but unwilling to rat anyone out to the authority: the unwritten rule of all good neighbors.

“Shit!” Joe said.

“Shit,” parroted Baby Dylan.

“He said a word!” Joe exclaimed.

“No shit Joe!” I snapped without thinking.

“Shit,” Baby Dylan said again.

“Jesus!” I snapped. “Are you happy now?”

Dave, always the peacemaker, and afraid that I actually might be angry enough to turn them in myself, snatched the baby from my arms and said calmly, “No baby, no.”

I gave Joe a hard look and mouthed the words, “Great.”

Dylan lay his head on Dave’s shoulder and curled his tiny little fingers through Dave’s long hair and said, “Da. Da. Da.”

We watched hidden for the next thirty minutes until the fire department finally went away, sure that the flames were long since extinguished, as baby Dylan slept in the crook of Dave’s arms.

“D.D. did you see that shit?” Joe whispered, teasing me, as both boys started to giggle in silent fits of laughter and tried not to wake the baby.

“Oh I saw it alright,” I said before I rolled my eyes at both of them. “Not funny!”

They sat on the couch, pretending to be forlorn until I exited the room in a over-dramatic huff.

Like any good mother… I let them believe they were in serious trouble, due for a scolding, and a complete disappointment to me.

I went back to folding laundry in the other room when I heard Joe whisper, “Did you see that shit Dave?”

And Dave, pretending to have a coughing attack just so he could get away with laughing like a naughty little boy, giggled as he held my sleeping baby in his arms happy to be in cahoots with his best friend.

Paul Brashier Drops His Drawers

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This is Paul Brashier.

Paul Brashier has been my friend since I was a very young child and he is one of a small, select group of people who can actually make me laugh so hard that I will eventually end up peeing my pants if I do not run away from him immediately.

It is a quality that I both love and hate in him.

Love? Because it really is fun to have friends that can make you laugh that hard.

Hate? Because he can make you laugh even when you don’t want to… even when you are so entirely angry with him as a human being… so much so… that you truly want to kill him… he can still make you laugh.

You could be standing behind him, with a ball ping hammer in your hand, ready to knock his block off, and he would just turn around, make a face…strike an exaggerated pose… or inhale off of his asthma intake loudly before saying something like “Hey Tappy Tapperson and the Tappets… how about you take that fucking hammer and move along” and you’d be falling out again and unable to get in a good swing.

Paul moved away from my neighborhood for many years but now is back… with his lovely wife and family… and when I recently saw this photo of him on his Facebook wall… it reminded me of a minor moment from years earlier at the neighborhood Albertson’s.

In fact… it was the first time in my life that I have ever seen Paul Brashier totally embarrassed. So much so, that he couldn’t look me in the eye for several hours after the incident.

We were riding together in my mini-van with my good friend, Christy Godfrey. Christy is a teacher and has that look and attitude about her that seems very proper and very strict. However, once you get to know her, you find out that she is actually quite a lot of fun.

Paul did not know this yet about Christy, so as we all drove towards the Albertson’s: Christy riding shotgun, Paul in the back… he was, in his opinion, loosening her up with his comedy routine and doing a pretty good job of keeping us both from breathing during the entire short ride to the store.

He was really on a roll.

When we got there…. I wanted to stay in the car with Christy and chat and so… I handed Paul some money and asked him if he wouldn’t mind going into the store for me.

He pretended to fuss… to roll his eyes and make a scene… but then he cracked a joke, jumped out of the car, pretended to jab at me through the open window, before he walked in front of the mini-van, undid his pants, and mooned me.

Now, I knew immediately that it was just his way of  teasing me… a kind of “fuck you” for making him go into the Albertson’s on his own… and that he planned to show just a bit of crack before pulling up his pants and moving along.

Unfortunately for Paul… he lost his grip on his clothing… and I watched as Mr. Skinny Ass dropped his pants completely to the ground.

One minute… he was fully clothed in the Albertson’s parking lot and the next minute… he was buck-ass naked, free-balling it and pants-less in the middle of Middle Class America.

I watched as he panicked.

Even from behind I could tell.

His head did a triple-take in all directions.

He stopped… stunned… and stared at the large middle-aged woman who was now standing in front of him. She stopped… stunned… her shopping cart a shield against the punk rock pervert she was watching.  Her eyes grew large… her knuckles grew white as she clutched the handle of the basket… unsure if she should move forward to her car, which we soon found out was parked next to us, or make a run for the light of the supermarket door and the safety of the rent-a-cop who was napping on the bench next to the magazine rack.

Paul reached down as quickly as possible to pick up his pants… without thinking about the view Christy and I were privy to from behind. He bent over completely, balls dangling, ass cheeks spread wide, and winked his brown-eye in Christy’s face.

I heard her gasp…. Paul heard it too. I watched as he froze… the realization of what Christy had just seen… hitting him full force.

I couldn’t take any more: I threw my head back and howled with glee.

When I looked up again… Paul was scurrying towards the store, not sure what to do: too embarrassed to come back to the van and obviously afraid that the woman he had accidentally flashed was about to call the police and report him.

Luckily for Paul… he had nothing to worry about.

She walked up next to the van, saw that Christy’s window was open, turned to speak to Christy… giant smile on her face… and said, “God bless the youth of America.”

She was still beaming as she emptied her cart, got into her car, and waved excitedly as she drove off: Paul Brashier’s nudity the highlight of her mundane evening and maybe even the highlight of her entire mundane life.

Christy sat quietly for a moment… head down… not sure what to think.

Having never been around a “Punk Rock” group in her life, until she had the unfortunate luck of running into me, she didn’t really know what to do.

“Should I say something when he gets back in the car?” She asked.

I was still in the throws of laughter but managed to get out the words, “If he even comes back to the car.”

We waited.

It was a really long wait.

I could only imagine what was going through Paul’s mind. It must have been agonizing for him.

I knew Paul well… and though he can come off as quite wild from time-to-time he was raised to have some semblance of middle-class manners and I knew that he was really struggling with this moment.

Finally, we saw him come out of the store… baseball hat low over his eyes… Dickie’s jacket buttoned up to the neck… pants cinched tightly… head down… grocery bag swinging… as he made for a quick clip across the lot and hurriedly got back into the car.

I tried not to look at him… I swear I tried not to laugh… but I just couldn’t do it.

Christy and I both lost all control.

I caught his face in the rear view mirror and watched as he looked out the window… first a bit angry and miffed but then… comforted by our laughter… a bit of a smirk returning to his face.

He was still too embarrassed to chime in… recap the events…. and that was alright by me.

It was actually great to finally see him the one totally caught off guard…

FINALLY the person who for once did NOT get the last laugh.