Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!
And thank you for your loyal following.
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.
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.
Something you must know about people who swim or play water polo.
We tend to get naked a lot.
Because when you spend a life time running around in a bathing suit… changing behind towels at meets, at the beach, somewhere in public… you stop caring who sees you.
And… back in the day when we were all swimming, playing water polo or whatever…. our bodies had no wobbly bits… no bouncing blobs of fat… just nice sleek tan taught muscle.
It was lovely.
Ryan Ballance and Erik Prosser two of my high school friends, were both polo players at Wilson… I of course was a Millikan girl…. you weren’t SUPPOSED to like the Wilson boys…. but we often did…. maybe because it was “forbidden” fruit… going against school spirit to want to make out with the “red and the gold.” How extremely unsportsmanlike.
It didn’t matter to me… I adored them both.
Erik and I had a friendship that went back and forth from friends to boyfriend and girlfriend for years… and I still miss him today… I hate that he is gone from this Earth… a fluke accident.. leaving all of us to miss the beauty of his spirit…
Ryan… was always my buddy… maybe a casual flirtation here and there… maybe a moment of sexual “wit”… but nothing more than that… and today… I take great joy in seeing photos of him in love and happy in Florida where I imagine he still runs around in speedos, mostly naked, with his girlfriend probably shaking her head as she says to herself: “Christ, everyone must think I’m dating a European.”
Anyways… it was the year of Wilson’s 10 year high school reunion, and Ryan and Erik invited me to a night before “pre-party” at Ryan’s parent’s place down on the Peninsula.
Now… I remember that Ryan was dating someone at the time…. but I cannot for the life of me remember who… but… if you are reading this… I’m sorry we were such complete idiots that night. You must have been mortified and by the way… “Well done you!” for taking the high road and not smacking the shit out of all of us drunkards.
I don’t drink often… I really don’t… but with Ryan and Erik… I don’t remember much of that evening except that we thought it would be a really good idea to strip down to our skivvies and go for a swim in the Bay sometime around 2am.
Okay everyone… listen up….
1. Don’t swim drunk. It is probably one of the stupidest things you can EVER do…
2. If your last name is Wood… don’t swim drunk… do you really want me to bring up the whole Natalie Wood incident? I don’t need people running around Long Beach using me as the butt of their driftwood jokes… I’m sure I’m already the butt of so many Long Beach jokes that we don’t need to add another. And Tim Grobaty… if you are reading this… DON’T get ANY ideas.
3. As you are stripping down to your skivvies don’t prance around and prattle on about your body… and how you STILL have it… you just sound like a COMPLETE AND TOTAL conceited MORON and… nobody likes a show off.
Don’t go out in the Bay at 2am.
People will come.
And not in the cool Field of Dreams sort of way…
They will not pay money to watch you play and frolic in the water… as they sit satisfied… content in nostalgic memories of their own high school reunions… no… they won’t…
They will call the cops.
They will have you arrested.
You will be cited for Disturbing the Peace…
Drunk and Disorderly…
YOU NAME IT…. their ON IT at 2 am when a bunch of yahoos wake up the Peninsula.
The ENTIRE Peninsula.
Now, I do remember Erik went in first and he was half way to the buoy before I shot in after him… we were always competitive so I busted my ass… or what I believed was busting my ass… who knows what I was really doing… probably floundering around in circles believing that I was somehow moving forward and catching up to him.
I looked for Ryan… who started to follow but then seemed to pause and disappear… either he stopped because he had a moment of clarity and thought better of it or his girlfriend grabbed him and forced him to the ground….. either way…. he never made it into the water which ended up being a really good thing for him.
Erik and I frolicked about from buoy to buoy laughing and screwing around up and down the tow line, spitting water at each other, slap fighting waves, until someone turned on their porch light and stared us down…it was a BIG SOMEONE… a hulking MAD MAN SHADOW of a SOMEONE… ready to call the cops… we reverted back to high school…. hid behind a buoy whispering God knows what, until he went back inside and turned off the light, leaving us to giggled as we backstroked our way over to the beach grabbed our towels and headed back up to the house.
We were about to enter the gate when I grabbed the pull string… realized the latch was stuck… pulled harder and watched as the string broke, and the metal washer that had been weighting the end flew straight at me and cut a half moon slash right between my eyes.
Erik didn’t even flinch… he just started laughing at me which of course led Ryan’s father to become involved.
He wiped off the cut, told me I would live and then insisted on me spending the night… and rightfully so… here is another thing you NEVER do after a 10 year high school reunion pre-party:
YOU NEVER… EVER… DRIVE HOME DRUNK.
Do you hear me children?
I slept on the couch until about 5 am, when I woke up in a Homer Simpson moment and shouted “DOH!” before I rushed home in a plain white over-sized man’s t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans.
I knew I had more clothes somewhere… but I couldn’t figure out what had happened to them.
I drove home at an alarming pace, all windows down, blowing the stink off, praying to GOD that my husband didn’t see me and think the absolute worst because… if he would have seen me… no matter how innocent that evening had been… I would have paid for it over the course of a lifetime.
I looked like I was heading home from a “walk of shame” and you don’t want your wife showing up at home… 5 am… no shoes… another man’s t-shirt on her back and a crescent moon shaped bloody cut in the middle of her forehead… EVER at 5 am… trust me people… it looks bad.
Now, I learned a lot by being sneaky in my youth and I knew that if I cut the engine as I crossed the Cohn’s house… I could coast up to the front of my childhood home (where we all still lived) in complete silence…
I cut the engine at the appropriate time, and let the car roll easily to the front walk.
I jumped out, quietly shut the door before I crept up the steps, into the house and lay down on the couch to wait and see if the coast was clear.
After about fifteen minutes… of shallow breathing and twitching at every little noise… I knew I was safe… no one was awake.
I tip-toed into the back of the house and found my husband asleep with our son…
I went into the bathroom, washed my face, brushed my teeth, cleaned the wound on my head and covered it with make-up before putting on my nighty, that was hanging on the back of the bathroom door.
I was going to have a hell of a hangover day and I had to get some time alone to recover.
I knew what I had to do… I had to find a way to get my husband out of the house and his love for surfing was my ticket.
I went back into the bedroom and shook my husband gently…
“Babe,” I said in my sweetest voice. “Babe?” I whispered again.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“The surf is supposed to be really good today,” I said. “It’s 5:30. Why don’t you get up and go catch some waves… I’ll watch the kids.”
“Okay,” he said as I climbed into the bed and he exited out the other side, grabbed his car keys and flip flops, before heading out for the day.
I’m surprised he couldn’t hear my sigh of relief from the driveway. In fact… I’m surprised he couldn’t hear it from the Huntington Cliffs for that matter.
I slept my stupor off for several hours before heading off to load up my system with a lot of greasy junk food and coca-cola and was right as rain by the time my husband was back home.
I returned to the Peninsula later that afternoon in search of the rest of my clothing… and that is when Ryan’s father informed me that my cowboy boots, my black t-shirt, my jacket and my belt had been strewn in a long path across the bay in front of a block of his neighbor’s houses… and that he had to gather them up, apologizing for our behavior, before he placed them in a brown paper bag which… he was now handing to me… as if it were a bag of something dirty… secret porn… and I took it with my eyes cast down, embarrassed and ashamed, as I rolled the top of the bag over and hurried towards the door.
“Oh,” he said. “By the way D.D….”
I turned back to look at him.
“You and Erik might like to know that the Bay was closed yesterday due to bacteria contamination. So… you were basically swimming in shit. Probably wasn’t such a good idea to go for a swim last night… right?”
I suddenly felt like I was seventeen again.
My face flushed red and my mind flashed back to Erik and I swigging mouthfuls of dirty Bay water and spitting it at each other…
I was sure for a moment… that I was going to vomit… but I didn’t… I just nodded my head slowly and said, “Yes Mr. Ballance. I completely understand Mr. Ballance. It will never happen again Mr. Ballance.”
As he looked at me…. fatherly sternness radiating like laser beams from his eyes… Ryan standing behind him…. laughing his ass off.
Erik and I didn’t get sick from our late night misadventure…it’s amazing really that we didn’t… and I’m just glad that neither one of us drowned that night.
I don’t regret it though… I really don’t… it’s a good story… contaminated… or not and it is one of many great memories I have of Erik and of Ryan…. most of which involve some type of inappropriate activity.