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

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DUCE-1

It was 1985.

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

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

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

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

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

I was withdrawn by the time we pulled into the back parking lot, trepidatious as we walked up to the Hastings Hotel, where Joe introduced me to Bernie the doorman, and down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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was trapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panic set in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

El Duce leaned in and laughed loudly in my face.

His eyes were crazy.

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

I felt like I was going to be sick.

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

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

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

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

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

I felt my skirt being lifted higher.

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

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

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

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

I wanted to kill him.

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

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

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

I thought El Duce was going to kill him.

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

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

I was furious.

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

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

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

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

But El Duce?

I’m sure El Duce went down swinging.

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

Saving the Crack Baby

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crackbaby

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

Part Three: Ms. Wood Gets a Terrible Sunburn Resulting in a Nude Incident with The Olds

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Ms Wood Gets a Sunburn

I never planned on being basically nude, face down on a mattress, in the living room with The OLDS on top of me, but nevertheless… that was where I ended up.

It had been a terribly hot weekend, and after a few too many hours of working in the yard, I had a serious sunburn on my back, the likes which I hadn’t seen, since a horrible tanning incident, circa 1977, when I was thirteen and convinced that if I baked all day long in baby oil and iodine, I would have a lush coco butter tan by the time I hit the “Skateway” to boogie down that evening.

Unfortunately for me, I did not make it to the “Skateway” or wear my beautiful butterfly sleeve top or my size one, pale butter yellow, Chemin de fer jeans or make out with my “dream date” which was all included in my evening’s fantasy… because instead… I spent the entire night crying on the bathroom floor… with my mother shouting “I told you so!” as she wiped down my severely burned skin with cool vinegar rags, as my brother stood in the doorway laughing at me.

My present burn, unlike the one so many years ago, was purely physical and did not carry the same emotional and psychological punch that my thirteen-year-old self had to endure but still… the pain was excruciating.

The first day, I used ice packs and Aloe Vera plant to soothe myself and by that evening, I believed that I was over the worst of it, really on my way to being fine.

But by midnight, I soon realized that it was going to be a sleepless night and that I had underestimated the intensity of the injury. My tender skin, so very inflamed, burned hot against the stiff cotton sheets and by morning… I was not only still in pain… but now itchy and very fussy from a night of no sleep.

I spent the morning, floating in the shade of our pool, grumpy, yet sated, by the relief the cold water provided, until the sun came over the top of the house and made it impossible to be outside without feeling the heat sear into my already tender skin.

Like Nosferatu, I hissed and crawled off into the house, where I spent the afternoon applying soothing balm to my back but each time I touched my bright pink skin, my finger tips would stimulate the already inflamed nerve-endings and cause everything to itch.

By dinner time… I was going out of my mind and that is when I made an impulse decision that would result in my ultimate psychological and physical downfall.

Unable to stand it any longer I turned the shower on full blast cold, stripped out of my clothes, and rushed to stand under the jet.

For a moment… it was beyond amazing….. the ice cold water hit my back and soothed my burned skin, the blast of the jet scratched every itch that had threatened to drive me insane… it felt better than anything I could have imagined and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this idea before.

I was ecstatic.

By the time I stepped out of the shower I felt that I had this sunburn thing licked.

Why hadn’t anyone ever told me how easy it was to stop the itching and the pain?

Why did people suffer so when relief was just a cold shower away?

I wiped my back gently with the towel and began to slather a nice aloe cream over my entire body feeling… dare I say it? Very pleased with myself.

I was about mid-way through my routine when I felt the itch kick back in with a fury that was unparalleled.

And at that moment… I realized that I had made a terrible, terrible mistake.

The shower? The jets? Had been one of the stupidest ideas of my adult life.

It had electrified every tender nerve-ending into action.

The temporary relief it provided was now gone and the itch that replaced it was escalating in waves of intensity that was driving me to complete madness.

I was in tears as I rubbed against a dry towel, raked my shoulders with a hairbrush, slapped at my back with a t-shirt all the time begging God for relief until finally I threw a light shift on and a pair of panties, slipped into my sandals, and ran bra less to the car to see the Rite Aide pharmacist.

“Where ya going?” Ernie The Old, shouted as I rushed past him sitting quietly reading on the front porch swing.

I blasted out some inaudible muddle of words as my boobs jiggled past and watched as his eyes grew large and round… not sure what the hell was going on… but obviously excited I was willing to provide a show.

“Hootchie Cootchie!” he shouted out, making fun of my “barely there” attire.

I jumped into the car, hit the ignition and rolled down the window, “You shut up OLD MAN!” I screeched and watched as Ernie made an “Ooooh” face with his mouth, giggled, tapped his forehead in a “tip of the hat” gesture and then went back to reading his stupid Clive Cussler novel.

“Fucking OLD,” I whispered to myself as I floored it.

I think I would have run over anyone that had been in my way that day.

In fact, I think I would have ran every light if they had been red.

But luck was with me as I raced into the Rite Aide parking lot.

I threw the mini-van into the stall, grabbed a handful of money from the cubby by the steering wheel, jumped out, running pell-mel to the back of the store, to the pharmacy.

I watched as my little Asian pharmacist man looked up from reading a prescription and stood there, mouth hanging agape, basically dumbfounded, as he studied me, the almost naked woman with large bouncing breasts, rushing towards him full throttle.

To this day, I will swear, that “Brick House” was the actual muzak playing over the Rite Aide speakers, creating the background ambiance to this scene, but of course, I was delusional at this point and God knows what was really going on.

I threw my chest onto the counter and reached to grab him.

He took one step back and looked at me as if I was an interesting science experiment that he preferred not to be a part of.

“Can I help you?” He said calmly.

I cried and shouted, wailed and pleaded in what seemed to me was an eternity but was really just a matter of seconds.

I thought he was oblivious to my pain… he seemed “unmoved” by my rant but then he stepped forward, reached under the counter, and held up a can of numbing spray that he told me to apply as soon as I got home.

I looked at him as if he were insane.

WHEN I GOT HOME?

I snatched the can from his hands, threw the wad of money at him, and popped the top as I ran back through the store, spraying myself the entire time as customers, former students and their parents, watched their favorite teacher, Ms. Wood, make a total burlesque jiggly-wiggly naked spectacle of herself and you know what? I could of given a fuck.

If anyone had tried to stop me or pry that can from my hands I can tell you right now they would have lost most of their teeth and maybe even a limb.

I believe everyone in that store at the time sensed this dangerousness about me and so waited for the woman, who had become a wild animal, to exit the premises, before returning to their shopping, so that they were not maimed in the incident and part of Tim Grobaty’s Press Telegram article the next day which would read:

MAN LOSES HIS LIMBS AFTER TRYING TO CALM MOSTLY NAKED BELOVED SCHOOL TEACHER WHO OBVIOUSLY LOST HER MIND WHILE MAKING A PURCHASE IN THE RITE AIDE.

Jesus.

I jumped back into the car, fired it up, and drove home still spraying my shoulders.

I was sobbing by the time I arrived.

The spray had not yet provided relief and so I raced up the porch steps, pulled my dress over my head and threw my naked self down on the dog mattress in the living room and did the only thing left to do: cry for my mom.

My mom (the other OLD in this scenario) rushed towards me and screamed, “For God’s sake child!” before she snatched the can from my hand and ordered Ernie to hold me down and spray me while she rushed off to grab the vinegar and the rags from the kitchen.

The next thing I knew I had one Old basically sitting on top of my head spraying my back with numbing cream and another Old sitting on my ass gently dabbing me down with vinegar.

It was horrific.

I couldn’t even imagine what someone would think if they walked in: bad 70’s fetish porno is what immediately came to mind.

But what could I do?

I surrendered myself to the moment… knowing that when all else fails… parents have basically seen and been through everything.

I had to accept that The Olds knew exactly what to do.

A moment later… the numbing spray kicked in and my mood calmed as I asked The Olds to “remove themselves from my person.”

That was when I realized that Ernie had basically seen me in all my glory.

I asked my mom to please hand me my shift, and prudishly put my arm over my breasts and with my other hand, placed the dress over my head.

Soon I was covered again, and a bit embarrassed about my recent state of insanity, apologized to The Olds as I took my numbing spray and went to lie down in my bedroom and rest, but not before I heard Ernie say to my mom, “Like mother like daughter.”

Something in me actually winced.

I was afraid to look around to catch the exchange but I couldn’t stop myself.

I prayed to God that he meant I was as stubborn as her… as crazy as her…. as unwilling to ask for help as her… but as I turned around to look, I saw him wink at her and raise his hands to jiggle and wiggle his “pretend” breasts.

It was horrific.

The idea of The Olds working the “hootchie coochie” was beyond my grasp.

“Not in front of the child!” I shouted, which only made them giggle as they headed off to get ice cream together.

Barnyard “Foul”: Dealing with Rupert a Purely Evil Pig wrapped in Cuteness

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This is Rupert.

Rupert is my new pet.

A mini-pot belly pig given to us by a couple who realized they had made a seriously poor impulse purchase.

They had a backyard entirely of cement.

A front yard with no fence.

Both had full-time jobs and so leaving the little three-month old piggy man in the house all day while they were gone was a recipe for disaster.

Rupert is (and this is an understatement) a handful.

But… we were willing to take him from his owners. We had a houseful of pets and I had been hoping to get a pig or a pygmy goat to be friends with my chicken Matilda, for quite awhile and so… within the first week of taking Rupert… I believed I had made the perfect choice: Matilda loved him.

They wandered around the front yard together; Rupert rooting around in the grass making big dirt holes with his snout. Matilda by his side eating all of the worms that he uncovered… a bit like a gang-of-two and we began to call them by their aliases… Ham and Eggs.

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They were inseparable.

But then… the trouble began.

Rupert became comfortable with his new environment and his Prima donna personality began to shine through.

He didn’t like to be touched when outside in fact, he squealed and jumped back each time one of us approached him.

But at night, when he came in for dinner, and to go to bed on his furry little leopard skin blanket on the cool tile floor of the bathroom, he flipped over on his side expecting a full body massage as he smiled, yawned, smacked his little piggy lips, and stretched his little cloven-hoofed legs out in front of him and batted his long piggy eyelashes.

He was adorable… but of course… he seemed to believe that he was completely entitled.

By week two, we realized there was trouble on the horizon.

The front yard had giant patches of grass entirely removed… Matilda’s chicken feed had to be hidden from him or like the pig that he was… he would gobble it all down without a second piggy thought and… being that he is a very smart little man… he seemed to know exactly when the clock struck 6:30pm and so… he would  rush to the front door, squeal and bang on it repeatedly until we let him in for dinner and bed.

The sound was terrifying.

Charlotte, our youngest, actually heard his commotion and her eyes grew big as she said, “My God! It sounds like you have a Changeling at the door!”

A White Walker

A Zombie

A Pig Nightmare.

Rupert.

Or as my good friend Warren liked to call him: a Purely Evil Pig wrapped in Cuteness.

Now… of course my children loved to post photos like this on Instagram:

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Fooling you into a false sense of pig security as you say to yourself, “Awwwwwwwwww. How sweet! That Rupert is just the cutest little thing! D.D. must be exaggerating in this story.”

But I tell you, he is the devil.

The other night, I wouldn’t let him in a half-an-hour early for dinner and as I stood in the laundry room, getting ready to turn on the dryer, I heard a loud crashing sound from the front yard.

Afraid that something serious had happened, I rushed to the front door, opened it, and there I saw Rupert, his little piggy legs spread apart in a stance of defiance, his snout held high, one of my prized ceramic gnomes now decapitated and lying severed; body on one side… head on the other… across the front walkway.

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“Rupert?” I asked. “Did you do that?”

He wiggled his little piggy nose, pushed the decapitated head with his snout, and let out a loud snort as if to say, “FUCK YES I DID IT! And guess what? There’s more where THAT came from lady!”

I stared at him… he glared back.

I was shocked at the little bastard he had become… and just as I was about to punish him for his behavior by closing the front door and making him wait and extra hour for dinner, Ringo, aka Bastard Number Two, our male teacup chihuahua, ran outside, lifted his leg and peed inside the broken innards of my gnome’s head.

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I watched as Ringo’s urine puddled inside of my gnome’s little broken red cap… dumbfounded for just a moment… before I became enraged that these assholes were actually biting the hand that feeds them.

“THAT’s IT!” I shouted. “You fuckers get the fuck away from my gnome!”

Rupert ran for the bushes.

Ringo ran for the house.

As Matilda watched from a distance, her head cocked slightly to the side, amused to see her little toadies torment and mock me.

“Keep it up,” I said. “You’ll be chicken dinner, he’ll be Christmas ham,” and here I turned to shout inside of the house, “And you Ringo will have your balls chopped off.”

There was complete silence.

No one moved.

I reached for my broken gnome, dumped the pee from his cap and placed his bisected remains into a large flower pot.

I turned on my heel and went inside to sulk in the quiet of my office but not ten minutes later… piggy brat Rupert was squealing at the front door.

“Mother fucker,” I yelled, which didn’t stop Rupert from squealing but did cause my mother to mute Two and a Half Men long enough to shout, “God, the mouth on you!”

Too worked up to even yell at the “Old” I opened the front door and watched as Rupert passed me without another sound and made a B-line to the bathroom where he expected to find his dinner in his bowl.

When he saw that it was empty, he kicked over his water dish and stomped his little feet and THAT… was IT!

I had HAD it!

I smacked his fat little pig butt, and he didn’t even care, he just threw his weight into it and then turned around and screamed at me.

I physically turned him around the other way, as he wailed bloody murder and pushed against me… but I wouldn’t have it… I made the little bastard go to his piggy bed.

“NO!” I shouted. “NO RUPERT!”

He refused to turn around then.

He faced the wall and stood there.. defiantly… ass to my face… refusing to listen.

“Do you understand I won’t tolerate this behavior?”

He begrudgingly swished his tail once, just like a spoiled child who realizes that he has lost the battle but that the war isn’t over yet, and he understood.

I swear I could hear him chanting in his little piggy mind, I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I closed the bathroom door and went to get his dinner.

By the time I came back… he was rooting about, fluffing his blanket, as if nothing ever happened.

The little shit.

I reached down and fed him, then watched as he licked the bowl clean before flopping over on his side, tired and world-weary from his little tantrum, ready for his full body massage… as if we had made up… and all that transpired was now: water under the bridge.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

He grunted.

I sighed as I sat down on the toilet and rubbed the little man down.

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It was no different than dealing with a tired toddler.

He stretched and yawned and I resigned myself to my fate.

In the morning we would try again.

In the morning we would find a way to make this right.

In the morning, I would go to Jack-in-the-Box and eat a Breakfast Jack with ham and in that way… extract my revenge on Rupert.

Yes my little man.. that’s right…. a BREAKFAST JACK WITH HAM.

Oh Rupert…

My little piggy demon.

You.

Have.

Met.

Your.

Match.

In.

Me.

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Dealing with the Olds: Or How I Barely Survived the “Panty” Incident… A Cautionary Tale in Two Acts

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BIG OLDS

I have been care-taking others my entire life:

My own children…

My school children…

Neighbors, friends, strays, and of course… “Olds.”

If you would have told me in high school… that my destiny was to be a caretaker… I wouldn’t have believed you.

I was sure that I would be the first of my friends to leave the country, and never to return, unless under extreme pressure to do so.

But it seems it is my lot in life, and like Jimmy Stewart’s iconic character, George Bailey… I guess it is my destiny, to leave my nomadic dream of independent traveling behind, and accept my fate: to take care of all the numerous jackasses that reside in my own personal “Bedford Falls.”

Don’t get me wrong… I love my people… my jackasses… but two inappropriate panty incidents with the “Olds” in one week was a bit too much for anyone.

It started with Ernie.

Ernie is one of my father’s Navy friends, circa World War II, who comes to visit us every year from New Zealand where he now lives.

I love Ernie for numerous reasons:

One, he tells me stories about my father, that make me feel like I really know the man that kept so much of his own wild life hidden from his children, as he raised us.

Two, he likes to drink a lot of beer and go out dancing and believe it or not, even at 85… he still seems to have the moves that make the ladies adore him.

And…

Three, Since my father passed away, my mom likes to lay all of her demands on me, but when Ernie is here to stay, she spends her time bossing him around which means… she isn’t bossing me about: it really takes the pressure off.

Ernie is a skinny guy, very tan, white hair, a pretty healthy old man, and he tends to favor those weird fashions of the “Oceania Region” where they are prone to wearing Birkenstock sandals and of course, you guessed it…. sassy black speedos, teeny-tiny little things, as he lays on the chaise, in the backyard by the pool reading one of his many Clive Cussler novels.

I have grown accustom to this sight, over the years, but it is still a bit unnerving at times to know that he’s out there… lurking… in his little panties.

Now, Ernie had just arrived at our house about three weeks before the incident occurred.

Everything had been going as smoothly as possible, considering I live in a house where not one, but now two, advanced elderly people lived.

I spent most of my time… making sure each morning… that they were still alive… and listening for loud thumps… each evening… hoping that it was one of the kids bouncing down the stairs and not an “Old” in the process of breaking a hip or having a stroke.

Basically, it’s like being on 24-hour alert “high watch.”

So when someone began banging heavily on the hall door at 11:30 pm on Thursday night, waking me from a “dead” sleep, chihuahuas barking, big dogs howling, pig squealing (yes we have a pig) I woke as if I were already in the early stages of a massive heart attack: dazed… confused…. unsettled…. my mind and heart racing at an alarming pace.

I jumped from my bed, sure that someone must be seriously injured or dead, ran into the hallway, and found Ernie, in his tight black speedo underwear, blood dripping down his arm, yelling my name.

I was about to totally freak out when he said, “You don’t have a band-aid do ya? I fell out of bed having a dream, about pulling my brother out of a porthole from a sinking ship, and pulled some of the skin off my arm.”

I swear, I almost throttled him to death right then and there.

I couldn’t believe that he had woke me up, by banging repeatedly on the hall door, at 11:30 at night, as if it were a LIFE OR DEATH situation for a fucking band-aid.”

But I held it together and in my kindest voice said, “Hang on Ernie, let me find you one.” And then I directed him to wait for me at the kitchen bar, because if I don’t give him specific directions, he follows me about which, is actually how he accidentally saw me completely naked the previous week, by following me into the bathroom before I realized he was doing so.

I closed the hall door and gathered my composure.

I called Dylan, my son on the phone and said, “Are you upstairs?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“Well can you come down here please. Ernie just woke me up for a band aid.”

Silence.

“Why did he wake you up for a band aid? I was awake and up here. What was he thinking?” He asked.

“I don’t know!” I screamed; unfortunately verbally kicking Dylan since I was unable to take my wrath out on Ernie. “I don’t know why OLDS do what they fucking do. Just come down and bandage the old man so I can go back to bed. I’ve got work in the morning.”

Two seconds later, Dylan was downstairs bandaging the old man and I was back in my bed, trying to calm down enough to hopefully get a few hours sleep.

But I tossed and turned until my alarm went off at 6 am and so, still twisted and tired from my “late night fiasco,” grumpy and bitter, jumped up from the bed, put on my slippers and rushed to let the pig out into the yard for the morning and let my chicken out of her coop (yes, we also have a chicken) before I would have to get to school on time. But… as I opened the front door, I was assaulted, yes once again, by an OLD.

There… out in the bright morning light for all the neighbors to see was my 85-year-old mother, bra-less in a tank top, barefoot and leaning on her cane, bent WAY over low, in her GIANT silky grandma panties, butt crack CLEARLY visible through the silky fabric as she struggled to let my chicken out of her cage.

I tell you it was a once in a lifetime sight that no one should ever have to view.

I actually backed up and gasped.

“Jesus Christ!” I screeched. “What the hell are you doing?”

She didn’t even stand up. She just looked at me from between her legs.

“Letting the chicken out.”

“Mom!” I shouted. “Do you realize that you are out in public, basically naked. The neighbors are going to call Adult Protective Services and take me away!”

“Well, now wouldn’t that be funny!” she said.

I felt myself fuming.

I wanted to grab that cane, topple that old woman, and pop her in the coop.

Now, now, now… I thought to myself… wouldn’t THAT be funny old woman?

But instead, I backed away from the scene and turned around to find Ernie waving at me from the reclining chair. Looking chipper and perky with his morning coffee and his Clive Cussler novel and his little arm all bandaged up with our spiffy pop-culture red band-aid that said “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.”

“Mother Fucker,” I whispered to myself. “Sweet Jesus for the love of God somebody help me please.”

But no help arrived.

No one there to listen.

Just a pig.

Just a chicken.

Just an old skinny man.

Just an old woman.

And me.

Sweet Jesus, obviously smart enough to stay miles away from this scenario, enjoying the view from above.

The Bad Teacher: or How I Locked Seigi in my Classroom and Left for the Weekend without a Second Thought for his Well-being

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It was a Friday.

A long Friday.

We were all worn.

Who knows what had been going on in high school that week but obviously it had been one drama too many for all of us:

A broken heart.

A poor score on the SATs.

A confiscated phone.

A confiscated blunt.

Whatever it was, 6th period was spent and so… I did what any experienced teacher would do when the entire class arrives, flops into empty chairs, and each head drops into cradled arms where they lie listless and limpsy:

I put on the Simpsons and let them watch cartoons until the end of the period.

You cannot imagine the joy I find in watching my sixteen and seventeen-year-old students revert back into grade-school babies.

They giggle at the screen.

They drool on their arms as they smile sleepily and watch Bart and Homer and Lisa and Marge.

They parrot the dialogue.

They snack on goldfish crackers and jelly bellies, as they glance at each other with conspiratory glee, pleased in knowing that our class is having a secret afternoon nap break.

I always feel like Patton in these moments… bonding with my troops… knowing that because I have given them this delicious moment of relief from the war that is high school, they will trust in my future leadership, accept my push towards greatness as we study Whitman and Dickinson and will be my loyal educational soldiers forever.

I sat behind my desk, happy in the cool calm of the dark classroom, drinking my ice tea, grading essays by the computer light, the soundtrack of the Simpsons punctuating the quiet of the room, my babes soothed and content: I tell you… it was lovely.

Seigi, my senior classroom aide, had scored the prime spot on the back couch: the back couch which was coveted by many of my students.

It was the cool place to hang… the best place to sleep if you had a sport’s meet in the afternoon and needed a bit of a break before you were required to swim a 50-meter fly, or a grueling scrimmage on the field or in the pool, or before a 5-mile roundtrip run through El Dorado park and back.

It was against the far wall, hidden by a row of old covered wooden desks, but if you laid out flat on it, and looked underneath the desktops, you had the perfect, comfortable, vantage point, for viewing the large movie screen where my LCD projected.

Nobody questioned Seigi’s dibs on the couch that day. Being that he had senority, top man of the class, no one fussed, the caste system of high school finite… the pecking order… unchallenged… and so, Seigi sauntered over, stretched out, face down on the black sofa cushions, and settled in to watch the show as he faded in-and-out of consciousness.

The ninety-minute class period seemed but a moment and when the bell rang, there was hardly a child that made a move towards the door. Happy, tired and content, they preferred to stay put as the cartoons continued to run until I said quietly, “Time to go people,” unwilling really to send them out into the world but knowing I must do so.

After a moment or two of hushed fussing and shuffling, they grabbed their gear, quietly headed out the door without even turning on a light, barely a “Bye Ms. Wood have a good weekend” before leaving me alone in the dark.

I sat for a moment longer before I forced myself to rise, shutting down my computer, making my way through the dim light towards the door, where I locked it, gave the handle a quick security shake, before walking slowly to my car and going home.

I was so glad it was the weekend.

I showered.

Put on my pajamas.

And laid down on my bed to watch mindless TV and flip through magazines until bedtime.

I was completely oblivious to my mistake.

I was completely confident that I had done everything right in my classroom that day.

However, I believe Seigi would beg to differ.

About seven that evening, Seigi woke up.

No… not from a nap at home… not from the comfort of his own bed… but from his nap in my classroom.

He woke up to a pitch black room… in fact the bungalow so dark at night that the darkness is palpable… suffocatingly close to your face.

Now imagine that just a few weeks prior to this event. Ms. Wood had taught you about the horrors of Poe… had shared the film El Orfanato with you… had scared you to death with the Poe-esque elements in this foreign film where a haunted Victorian orphanage holds mysteries of the past, and creepy little orphan ghost children run about from room-to-darkened-room scaring you repeatedly through each cinematic moment.

I tell you… it terrifies even me and this… was Seigi’s nightmare.

From what I gathered over the course of several weeks and numerous renditions of his guilt-inducing retellings to each and every child who would stop and listen… it was beyond horrific.

Seigi had woken, become completely disoriented, sat up screaming then tried to run out of the room, sure that a creepy little ghost orphan was about to grab him, but was physically assaulted by first, the old wooden block of desks, then… a row of metal and formica desks that stood strong behind the front line that held him back.

He tried to move forward but imagined tiny little creepy hands grabbing at him from every direction.

He lost his mind.

He panicked.

Screamed.

Tried to jump over the desks and somehow hurl himself to safety but caught his foot on a metal leg, fell to the floor, wreathing in mental and physical pain, where he then crawled across the back of the classroom, hands pressed firmly down on the dirty linoleum, until he bumped into the far wall, reached up for the door handle, pulled the metal latch down and rolled out onto the landing and laid panting heavily on the dirty anti-slip covering, shell-shocked and crying… stunned and out of breath.

My phone rang at exactly 7:03 pm.

I didn’t even look at it.

I ignored the call to duty believing that I had lead all of my soldiers to safety and had not lost a man that day.

I was wrong.

So very wrong.

At 7:45 my curiosity got the better of me and so, as I stood looking in the bathroom mirror, slathering my face with my favorite Vitamin C cream, my phone laying next to me. I reached down, pressed the hands-free setting and waited to hear the message that I had missed.

At first, there was a loud commotion, as if someone had dropped their phone and was rushing to pick it up. I had no idea that it was Seigi rolling around on my bungalow landing. What followed was almost an incoherent babble before a rough, bark of a harsh whisper reached out and electronically slapped me with a verbal assault across my face:

“Fuck you Ms. Wood,” the voice snapped at me. “Do you hear me?” It repeated. “I said FUCK YOU.”

There was a loud thump and then a sudden click.

“DOH!” I shouted out.

A bright flash as if a camera click illuminated my brain: the couch, the dark, the SEIGI!

OH JESUS!

I looked around as if I could somehow do something right now to immediately lead my Seigi to safety.

Of course… I couldn’t.

I had failed at my command.

I had left a man behind.

I’d like to say that I called Seigi right away but I didn’t.

I knew what I was up against.

I knew what I would hear.

I knew what I would see when I returned to my room and this is what it was:

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Yes…  the thousand yard stare.

And not just the unfocused gaze of my battle-weary soldier but behind that gaze a look of complete disgust for his commanding officer.

I knew that I would have to bear Seigi’s wrath for weeks to come but to be honest, it was hard to look remorseful each time he told the story when really the image of  him running blindly through my room, his imagination a battlefield of blockades and creepy orphans, amused me terribly with each retelling.

And today, Seigi and I share a camaraderie over this story, a joy in the shared brotherhood of our bond. Forever locked together in time… even though as a commander I failed miserably and left my man behind.

Ms. Wood has an Affair: The Lemon Lush Pie Incident

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Lemon Lush

I didn’t mean for it to happen.

I swear… I really didn’t… but then again… isn’t that what everyone says?

I couldn’t control myself?

I was overwhelmed with passion?

I was in love with a feeling?

I thought it would be just a one night stand… a fling really.

But it wasn’t….

Me sitting secluded in the dark booth…

My new lover, Lemon Lush Pie from Jongewaard’s Bake n Broil sitting seductively in front of me.

Oh… how he lured me in…

His intoxicating smell…

His handsome exterior…

He was the perfect combination: sweet, rich, complicated in his multiple layers.

Any woman would have fallen for his magnetic pull.

One bite… and I was overwhelmed.

I tried to act coy… pretend I wasn’t that interested… and so I pushed him away and waited a week before I returned.

And when I arrived… he was excited to see me.

All spruced up on his little blue plate… just waiting in anticipation for the moment when we would be together again.

I didn’t hesitate.

I jumped right in.

And by the time I was done I was spent… satisfied.

I believed that my craving for him had been quenched but I was a fool…

I had no idea what power he had over me.

Soon, I was obsessed.

I began to talk about him often.

I found numerous ways to bring him up in almost any conversation.

Any excuse to focus on my crush:

“Hey Ms. Wood, did you hear about that incident in North Korea?

“Oh yes,” I would reply. “By the way… did you know that they don’t have Lemon Lush pie in North Korea? I think we should go have some just to celebrate that fact.”

Soon… I was dragging others along with me.

They had no idea how serious it was.

They thought we were just friends.

They thought it was just casual.

And like any good addict I hid my addiction.

I kept my distance at the table.

I never licked my fingers in public or acted as if my heart raced whenever I was near him.

I made sure not to stare at him for too long or give him an overly flirty look.

I played it all off… and I was good… really good…until the real lying began.

I would come up with any excuse… any reason… to get away and be with my crush.

“Hey D.D.” Stephen my boyfriend would say, “I’ve gotta pick something up at Home Depot do you want to…”

“Oh! I’ll go for you,” I would shout, knowing that Bake n Broil was less than a mile from the hardware store.

“Are you sure?” Stephen would question… his innocent gaze completely unsuspecting.

“Sure,” I would say overly cheerful.

And when I returned… sated once again… sugar still on my lips… he had no idea of my indiscretion.

But after months of lying… I began to feel horrible.

How could I do this to my man?

Hadn’t he always been so good to me?

Extreme guilt washed over me each time I looked into Stephen’s sweet, naive face.

I watched as he stayed steadfast… his trust in me secure… while he ate his diet lunches and dinners sure in his knowledge that we were in a mutually exclusive relationship comprised of trust and love.

But it still didn’t stop me.

I had to have Lemon Lush at any cost.

Soon, I began bringing him home.

I had him in my office.

In my bathtub.

In my bed.

He was amazing.

And each time we were together… the risk seemed worth it.

Even when I heard the dogs bark…

the gate latch lift…

the front door swing open…

I rushed to finish before I was caught ecstatic that once again… I had my way.

But like any affair… the outcome always ends in tears and so… on one particular Friday when I believed Stephen to be fast at work in his office in Anaheim, I sat in my bed, fork in hand, an entire pie tin of Lemon Lush pressed close to my face, and looked up to find that Stephen had quietly come down the hallway and was now standing at my bedroom door, shocked… stunned…. expression full of pain.

“All this time?” He said, his voice breaking on the last word.

I stared at him… caught mid-act I didn’t know what to say.

Lemon Lush had no time to hide and I had no time to clean myself up.

“How could you do it?” He asked. “D.D. How could you do it?”

I sat silent.

Mute in my guilt, as Stephen slowly turned and headed off down the hallway and out the front door.

We sat there… Lemon Lush and I… unwilling to go on… ashamed of our behavior.

I gathered his things and escorted him to the trash bin.

I could see that he was hurt but I knew… it was Lemon Lush or Stephen… and Stephen was my true love.

I would have to make an amends to Stephen and give Lemon Lush up forever.

I left him at the curb and rushed to find my keys so that I could go find Stephen and apologize for my indiscretion.

I found him… sitting on his front stoop.

Sad face.

Head down.

Eating a tin of Sardines.

Glass of water by his side.

I walked up hang-dogged and sat beside him.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It won’t ever happen again.”

“Oh I know it won’t,” Stephen said. ” There’s consequences to your actions.”

He tipped his head, motioning behind him, where I saw the Weight Watchers Digital Scale looming in the background.

“Go ahead,” he said as he ate his last sardine.

I stood up, I knew what I had to do. I stepped on the scale gingerly.

“All the way,” Stephen said sternly.

I watched as the scale went up twenty pounds higher than it had read four months ago when the affair began.

I gasped in shock.

“I could have told you that guy wasn’t good for you,” Stephen said smugly as he moved on to his hard-boiled egg… a small snarky smirk on his face… knowing the painful months that lay before me.

Diet.

Exercise.

And the day-to-day painful longing for my lost love: Lemon Lush.

Stapling my Thumb Clean Through with an Industrial Strength Stapler: Or.. How I Terrified Two Young and Idealistic Student Teachers and Almost Lost my Bad-Ass Reputation Forever

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OS stapler

I’m a tough broad but… even now, as an experienced teacher… there are two tools I seriously hate: the industrial paper cutter and the industrial electric stapler.

Both can cause a chill of terror in even the most seasoned educator’s soul and we have, in our profession, become accustom to wearing our battle scars from each of these work weapons, as a right of passage: If you haven’t lost a thumb or almost lost a thumb in a paper cutter or a stapler accident… then you basically don’t know jack shit about teaching.

Now as a “scrub” in the first few years of my career, I had almost lost my thumb several times:

Of course… the paper cutter incident…

The X-acto knife fiasco…

The uncovered razor on the helium balloon tank episode.

Yeah… those were good times.

But they gave me a sort of notoriety… an O.G. quality with the more experienced teachers.

It was as if I had been jumped into a gang very early on…

You see that teacher over there?

They seemed to whisper in the staff lounge.

That’s Wood. She’s already lost that thumb almost three times. She’s got what it takes.

It was hard not to cross my arms, throw up my fingers and sign an M and a W for Ms. Wood, tip my chin up in a “What’s up?” manner and swagger my way out the door.

I had proven I was tough.

Yeah… tough.

Now, it was an unwritten code that even if you were deathly afraid of the cutter or the stapler… you acted “cool” about it… yes “cool” if you had an incident.

That even when you told the story as a cautionary tale, or a fun anecdote over a tuna sandwich in the staff lounge, you made yourself look like you knew what you were doing all along.. that it was some simple malfunction or someone else’s fuck up that caused you to be maimed: You never let on that you lost your shit:

You locked that shit down.

And why?

Because it was very important to convey your mysterious authoritative exterior to the younger, newer baby teachers so that they would always be in awe of you and therefore, your little minions for years to come.

And so the years passed… many other incidents followed… until my reputation grew into one of legendary proportions and even the newest baby teachers would whisper:

See that teacher over there? That’s Wood. I heard she almost lost a whole hand in a paper cutter. Oh… and chased down and captured those two armed robbers who ripped off the credit union, by cornering them in the alley with her mini-van. I wouldn’t even try to talk to her until you have like five years under your belt.

Yeah.

It was beautiful until the industrial stapler incident: the day I almost lost my solid reputation as a bad-ass forever.

I was feeling good that day.

The state had given us money for a workroom and we had converted a bungalow into a staff area with the best of the new teacher technology:

The poster size paper cutter that dwarfed our standard sized one: where a thumb, index, and middle finger had all been hacked off simultaneously in a violent lunch time assault.

The laminating machine: a third degree burn always waiting to happen.

The 3635MPX Xerox machine… Oh yeah… class sets of collated documents in a matter of seconds but don’t catch your tie in that feed.

And of course: the new electric industrial strength stapler, with the heavy duty Stanley staples thick one-inch length, that could handle a 200-page packet and drive that staple in so hard it would never come out.

Nice.

So I rolled on into the new workroom, to pick-up my class set of reading packets that Judy Hogan, our supply purchaser, had kindly xeroxed for me and at the break table, I saw two brand-new student teachers sitting there meekly eating their lunch and I wondered what the hell they were doing.

“Too scared to brave the staff lounge,” Judy whispered as she handed me my packets. “I took pity on them.”

I shook my head in disgust.

“These still need to be stapled,” she said before getting back to her own paperwork.

I carried the stack over to the counter and began to run the packets through the industrial stapler.

I fell into a steady rhythm: the electric staple hitting a hard THWACK each time a packet was completed.

I was moving fast… really flying.

The beat was so steady and so quick that I was actually singing “Baby Love” by the Supremes.

I was just about on my last packet, totally in the zone, happy that I would still have time for lunch, when I heard a, “What the heck is she singing” from one of the newbies at the table behind me.

I turned around to give her a snarky lecture on her lack of musical knowledge and what songs work best to keep a beat with the xerox machine and the electric stapler, so that you don’t lose your mind in monotony, when… there was a loud sickening SMACK, the stapler jammed, and my body was rocked by an excruciating pain.

Judy stopped, startled, and looked towards me.

“Oh my God,” I heard her whisper.

I was afraid to turn around.

I looked back slowly to find that I had just stapled my thumb all the way through the nail, out the other side, and that the staple: the thick one-inch industrial staple, had folded neatly on the fleshy side of my thumb and stapled it clean.

I held it up and stared at it in horror as the intense pain registered throughout my entire body.

“MOTHER FUCKER!” I screamed.

The newbies were beyond alarmed… terrified to move… they stared at me in horror.

MOTHER FUCKING SHIT! I screamed again.

Judy’s eyes grew large. She looked at the newbies: One now with her head folded down into her hands… her soup and crustless peanut butter sandwich left bare to the world. The other… her hands over her ears, her eyes focused on Judy, begging her silently to, Make that woman stop! As she winced at my use of profanity.

This infuriated me.

“FUCK!” I screamed right in her face, “FUCK!” I shrieked as I ran about the room.

Judy ran to her desk, always ready for a workroom emergency, and grabbed something from her drawer.

I stopped, looked at her with suspicion, and like a rabid animal, began to back into the corner.

“D.D.” she whispered. “Give me your hand.”

“BACK THE FUCK AWAY JUDY!” I snarled and hissed.

“D.D.” she whispered again as she crept quietly towards me. “Give me your God damn hand now.”

“No!” I shouted.

I heard one of the newbies whine.

“Shut the fuck up!” I screeched.

Judy’s mouth made a small shocked “Oooooh.”

I was breaking the cardinal rule of teaching: DON’T LOSE YOUR SHIT IN FRONT OF THE NEWBIES.

I looked at my thumb again.

I thought I was gonna be sick.

I felt the room swimming and my thumb throbbing.

“D.D.” she said sternly. “Now.”‘

I moaned as I laid my hand gingerly in Judy’s palm.

“This is gonna hurt,” she said as she held up a pair of pliers, and snatched my wrist tightly as she pried the ends of the staple to a straight up position before I had time to react.

My eyes welled up in tears.

“Judas!” I cried and then the pain registered and I howled loudly.

“Knock it off,” she said before putting the pliers back in her drawer.

I calmed down for a moment… gathered myself together… and looked at the staple with interest:

It now looked like my thumb had fangs.

I looked up again and saw Judy with a black staple remover in her hand.

She was chomping it at me… trying to be funny… like a mom trying to coerce her kid into trusting a doctor with a needle: It didn’t work.

NO! I shrieked again. “No JUDY! NO!”

I ran across the room, Judy laughing now, chasing me about with the staple remover clicking until she grew tired of the game and stopped.

“God damn it D.D.” she shouted. “Get it over with. Pull that fucker out.”

I gave her a dirty look, grabbed the staple remover from her hand, and dug it into the top of my nail fast, pushed it down, and pulled that staple out with a hard tug.

The pain was right up there with childbirth and divorce: physically excruciating while emotionally… I was ready to kill someone.

I screamed again: a guttural scream of anger, as I threw the staple remover and the offending staple hard against the counter, before picking up the electric industrial stapler, ripping it’s cord from the wall, and chucking it as hard as I could against the large purple recycling bin.

We all looked at it: lying on the ground broken and mute.

“Fucker,” I said to my electronic enemy. The newbies gasped behind me.

Judy and I both turned around and as I came to my senses, I realized I had just lost my cool points in front of these teaching neophytes.

I felt like a failure.

I felt like my O.G. status was about to be removed in a unanimous vote in the staff lounge later that afternoon.

It sucked.

But right them, Mr. Ferguson, my own junior high school teacher, now over forty years of experience in the business, walked into the room, saw all of us locked in pose, immediately assessed the situation after a glimpse of my bloody stump of a thumb, the expressions on the babies faces and the stapler lying broken on the floor.

“Jesus!” He screeched. He pointed at my thumb. “Is that from the stapler?”

“Yeah,” I said quietly.

“I knew something was wrong with that thing the other day. I knew it wasn’t working right.”

I looked at him in pleased shock. Even in my pain it was hard not to smile at his gift of camaraderie.

“Man,” He shook his head. “That must of hurt like hell. I wouldn’t have been able to lock that shit down. No way.”

He gave me a head nod of respect before turning to the newbies and saying, “You best not use that stapler. If that took Ms. Wood down, you’d never be able to handle the pain. That woman is tough.”

Judy put the tools back in her drawer and slammed it shut, went back to her paperwork and went back to ignoring the newbies.

Mr. Ferguson went about making his math packets for his Algebra class…

and I gave the student teachers a look like, That’s right… even Mr. F with forty-years in the system would have lost it to” before I grabbed my packets, in one arm, bloody stump of a thumb raised up in the air, and kicked the door open with my foot, reputation, Thank God, still intact.

My thumb?

Not so much.

Eating Dean Karlen’s Booger: Or How I Learned Eating Boogers is a Bad Thing

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nose pick

When I was very small, I loved to eat my boogers.

Kindergarten.

First grade.

Second grade.

Yep.

I didn’t stop at a normal age.

I just kept going.

I loved them.

I became a booger connoisseur.

I knew exactly the type of booger delicacy I needed to be satisfied: crispy on the outside, thick and meaty in the middle, salted just so.

They were delicious.

And I probably would have gone on eating my boogers happily until someone caught me, or until I became interested in boys, if Dean Karlen hadn’t ruined it for me.

Yep.

Ruined it.

I probably had at least one or two good booger eating years left but at seven: Dean Karlen destroyed my favorite pastime forever.

I was at the Karlen’s house one day, after a Friday night sleepover with my best friend at the time: Terri.

Terri was the oldest Karlen and their were several little Karlens besides her: Kirk, Kim, and of course, baby Dean.

Terri, Kirk and Kim were long past booger eating for all I knew… I never saw them delve into the realms of the dark cavern but then again… I was very secretive about picking myself. I often hid in the playhouse in our backyard, or a closet behind my dad’s coats. I rarely asked someone to join me unless I was absolutely sure I had seen a small finger go up a small nose. So maybe… they were secretly picking their boogers and I just didn’t know about it. But at the age of seven: I didn’t make that connection.

Somehow I just believed: that they had moved on.

But Dean… the baby… a tiny little blue eyed man…  I felt was still young enough to be down for some booger picking activities and so, I grabbed his hand, and dragged him out of the family room, past the kitchen, down the hallway to the formal sitting room, where we threw ourselves onto the nice couch and where I believed we would secretly sit and enjoy a booger eating extravaganza together: Picking away… enjoying our salty little treats… giggling conspiratorially like a couple of stupid idiots until we had to go back and join the group.

But… that didn’t happen.

Dean bounced up and down on the couch a few times, reached down and rubbed his hands on it’s edge, and then slapped me hard on the top of my head before he ran back off down the hallway to find Kirk or Kim or someone else to play with.

I sat quietly slumped on the couch… upset at first that I had lost my little playmate and would now have to eat my boogers alone but soon I settled in and began my routine.

I was deep in thought and about three boogers in, when I decided to take a pause and rest.

I placed my small hands by my side and relaxed into the couch as I kicked my feet against the edge.

“Terri!” I heard Mrs. Karlen yell. “You kids better not be in the sitting room! You better not be on my good couch!”

My eyes grew big.

I loved Mr. and Mrs. Karlen as if they were my own parents and I didn’t want to anger them in any way.

I held my breath as I silently slid off the couch, and curled up into a small ball on the floor, hoping I wouldn’t be seen and now anxious for Terri to come back from wherever she was and find me.

I lay there for a moment… praying that I wouldn’t be punished… that I wouldn’t be sent home… when I noticed a small perfect booger stuck to the side of my index finger.

It was lovely in color and shape, golden really like a perfect raisin, and I was thankful that I had one more good one to eat and enjoy as I waited in my self-imposed prison on the tri-color shag carpet.

I rolled it around on the tip of my finger: massaging it into a perfect booger ball… before I popped it into my mouth without hesitation.

I chewed that booger with glee…

I waited for the familiar taste I so loved…

The enjoyable sensation of the booger-licious flavor I had come to cherish…

But as I mulled the small but powerful bouquet of taste on the surface of my tongue I realized I had made a horrible error in judgement: this booger was foreign.

This booger was not mine.

Yes.

I had eating someone else’s booger.

The taste was odd and metallic.

The smell similar to that odd smell of new puppy breath and it piped up the back of my throat and into the back of my nose.

For a moment… I thought I was going to puke: I couldn’t get that booger out of my mouth fast enough.

I spit it onto the floor and actually wiped my tongue across the shag carpet several times trying to remove every remanant of the foreign matter from my mouth but even today… I can still taste that thing.

I lay there… trying not to gag… trying not to puke… and I probably would have laid there all day praying that I would recover, if Dean Karlen hadn’t ran back into the room at that very moment, picked his nose right in front of me, and wiped his tiny booger laden finger on the edge of the couch before running away.

I raised my head up as my mouth fell agape.

There, on the length of the couch, I could now see Dean Karlen’s booger minefield that he had been planting for God knows how many months of time.

Dried ones.

Crispy ones.

Little mummified pieces of booger clinging to each micro-fiber of the couch and of course… the newest patch full of juicy baby booger specimens where the one I just ate had obviously come from.

I jumped up and ran away from that couch as if I had just witnessed a bloody accident or a brutal murder.

I no longer cared where my best friend was, where any of the little Karlens now were, or if I would be punished.

I ran out the side door, grabbed my pink Schwinn banana seat bike… and pedaled as fast as I could for home.

I wanted Dean Karlen’s boogers far behind me.

I wanted that memory to be erased forever from my brain.

But my bad booger behavior had been broken for eternity in that one moment.

And though forty-one years of time has now passed me by… the taste and the memory of that rotten foreign baby booger sticks forever in my sensory memory and mind… like the day it stuck to the edge of that couch.