The Fine Print
My little sister, Laura, just celebrated her and Doug’s 25th wedding anniversary in Redding, an event that Annie and I were unable to attend. In contemplating the event, it took me back to 1970, and the celebration of my own parents’ 25th. Some of 1970’s top events included:
|My student body card, junior year|
* Richard Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia.
* Four students died at Kent State, protesting the Cambodian invasion.
* The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings to win Super Bowl III.
* Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died of drug-related causes.
* The Baltimore Orioles ripped the Big Red Machine in the World Series.
* The Beatles broke up.
* I graduated from high school.
When you are a kid (I would have been 18) 25 years doesn’t just seem like a lifetime, it is seven years beyond that, so Mama and Papa’s 25th wedding anniversary was a huge production. First and foremost, it was exclusively a kid production. My older brothers handled most of the the logistics, with my role being the groundskeeper of our magnificent estate.
|While in the Big Green Machine|
I was still fifteen months away from being inducted into the army, an event that I would later look back on, as my entry into adulthood. Up until that point, the most serious endeavor I had ever attempted was college, and I had messed that up by neglecting to attend to the fine print.
In this case the fine print dictated that all students attending California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, get a chest x-ray, a logistical detail that I chose to ignore. I’m not going to suggest that all of those games of hearts in the student cafeteria, in lieu of classes, had anything to do with this travesty.
That would be too simplistic. I might suggest that it was indicative of my frame of mind, that playing cards instead of attending classes, would fit into the same category as ignoring what was obviously a nuisance. Unfortunately, it cost me my school deferment, and I was reclassified as the dreaded 1-A, eligible for the U. S. military draft.
Had I only delayed this military entanglement for one more year, I would have escaped, because the draft “went away,” on January 17th, 1973, but I blew it, and changed the course of my life forever, a stiff price to pay for being neglectful.
Eric and Brian would have done the heavy lifting for the big party logistics, with Noel away attending college at Calabasas, out in Malibu Canyon, until the actual day. This would have included planning the meal and contacting friends and relatives, with the invitation to come out to La Puente, and celebrate the grand occasion.
|My first wife, Nancy, and youngest brother, Kevin|
We had an extensive back yard at our home on Fellowship Street, all beautifully coifed with a verdant lawn of St. Augustine grass, an extravaganza orchestrated by none other than myself. I had transformed the ravaged back half of the property into a city park, over the course of one summer, an event which included the stipulation that I also mow said park grass, every week.
I was up for the challenge, because I wanted to have an inviting venue, if any of my friends should “happen” to stop by. I was ensconced in the original “Radio Shack,” a renovated shed which now served as bachelor quarters for me and any of my brothers, as they proceeded through adolescence, and into adulthood.
It earned its name because Eric and Noel had Citizen Band licenses (WB6-RVL and WB6-PVI, respectively) and routinely communicated with other ham-radio operators on the other side of the globe. This, mind you, forty or so years before the internet.
Postcards from those with whom the boys exchanged pleasantries, marking the occasion, peppered the east wall of the Radio Shack. I wonder where those cards are today, or if they still exist. We had gone as far as to install a 65-foot-tall-tower, to help transmit the signal, a task tended to by the entire family.
The Radio Shack was located about 75 feet back behind the main house, affording us all the privacy we could ever have wanted. I mean, Mama could pop out there at any time, and she did-once in a Blue Moon to deliver a message or make a request-but she generally chose to ignore it, probably for fear of finding exactly what she did find: underage drinking and the smoking of both cigarettes and cannabis.
I know. I was already degenerate all the way back then.
Our back yard was divided in half by a copse of trees, including two huge avocado trees, and an inordinately tall apricot tree, one that produced copious amounts of fruit every year, right around the Fourth of July. We spent the first six hours one [infamous] Fourth, processing more than enough apricots to last us for [a lifetime] the upcoming year. “Apricots! Morning, noon and night!” went the lament, as Mama found numerous ways to incorporate apricots into the household menu.
We got to practice being adults by keeping the refrigerator well-stocked with tall Oly’s, 16 ounce Olympia beer. Don’t ask me why this was our choice-I haven’t got a clue. All I knew was that obtaining beer, by 18-year-olds, was as easy as getting an In-N-Out burger, something that inevitably followed drinking tall Oly’s.
I had to work at Sunrize (sic) Market for the first half of that famous first Saturday in October, which happened to fall right on October 3rd, so I was late for the start of the shindig. The barbecue was in full swing, the day was beautiful, and the back yard was filled with guests.
Family lore has it that oldest brother Eric loaded up his plate, including hamburger bun with all the works, with only one minor problem. After taking an undetermined number of bites, he discovered he had neglected to put the actual burger into the arrangement.
My two sisters, JT (360 days younger than I) and Laura (10 years old) would have served as the hostesses, seeing to the needs of the guests and helping with the cleanup. There were seven boys and these two girls.
The struggle was still real for the two girls, even with Papa’s recognition that they deserved much respect. He instilled in his sons, respect and reverence for women. He did this through his example.
|My friend, John, and I|
Of course, there was a contingent of my friends on hand, always welcome because they had the good sense to practice excellent manners around my folks. Respect to adults by young men in their first year of college, was still a given way back in 1970.
We may have expanded boundaries within the confines of that Radio Shack, but around the ‘rents, we were model citizens. It was to our advantage to get along because we were still living at home. Mama didn’t raise no fools.
If we were to go whole hog, and I’m sure that’s what we were intending, we would have had some Cold Duck on hand, Andre’s sparkling California wine, as it was called, and some Matus, a Portuguese wine that had found its way into the house via Noel.
Noel introduced many new and quite innovative concepts into our house, but that is a post for another day, it being kind of a fiery topic and all. Whereas I was the clown, Noel was the prankster.
As the party wound down, we would most likely have ended up at the baby blue kitchen table, a fixture made by Papa when the “new” kitchen was built in 1959. Conversation might have gone like this:
“Vastly surpassing excellent,” Brian might have opined. “That probably wasn’t the best party in the history of the universe!”
“Would you believe…even Dave said it was outasight?” Noel said, “And that’s saying something.” Dave and Dale, both fellow Sunrize Market employees, either at that moment or at some point in time, had been in attendance. Dale was older than us, which probably explained why he hung out with us.
He was a twisted f**k if ever there were one. He used to go around at the beach, hiding big shards of glass just beneath the surface of the sand, ready to impale the next person who hit that spot.
“These are nothing but Vietnam booby traps,” he would say.
“Earth to Dale-This isn’t Vietnam.” I was the kid going around behind him, removing the shards of glass, and cussing Dale under my breath. Peer pressure. What a bitch.
“Yeah, but it’s good to get in some practice,” said the guy who drew number 365 in the draft lottery, the same one that provided me with lucky thirty-three.
On the bright side, Dale WAS over 21.
He used to regale us with his tales of his sexual prowess, anecdotes that had I been the protagonist, I would have never mentioned, had my very life depended on it. Dale had no such compunctions. It did serve the purpose of clarifying to me, how boorish his behavior was. I fear the Tale of Dale did not end well.
Dale always had his white (yellow/blue) dress shirt on, with tie, the uniform of Sunrize Market, so he always came across differently than he was in real life-anything but classy. Both Dale (lime green) and Dave (black) drove Mustangs.
|My first car|
I drove a Chevy Nova, a hand-me-down from Noel, via Mama, who extracted a thousand dollars from me for the privilege. I’d have paid double.
This was the same Nova that Noel was driving earlier that summer, when Dave and he were pulled over by the West Covina Police Department. As the cop got out of his vehicle, but before he could record license plate numbers, Dave split.
Just up and pealed out, leaving the cop to decide whether to stick with what he had-Noel-or to go after Dave. No cop worth his salt is going to stand around and be content with one in hand, when the other has just taken flown the coop.
Off blasted the cop-the game was afoot!
Later, the cop was to track Noel down, and tell him that got lucky, but that didn’t mean he, the cop, would not be watching for HIS Nova, every minute of every day he was on-shift. Every light bulb, every turn signal, every stop sign, “I’ll be watching you.”
The Nova that only a few weeks earlier, HAD BECOME MINE. If nothing else, this albatross hanging over my head, kept me sane and sober behind the wheel, for the most part.
I was unquestionably not sober by the end of the parents’ 25th anniversary celebration, but at least I did not have far to stagger, the Radio Shack being right on hand.
Among my collection of favorites at the time, that might have graced the party with their presence, were the following:
Bridge Over Troubled Waters- Simon and Garfunkel
American Woman-Guess Who
Get Ready-Rare Earth
Let It Be-Beatles
Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) Melanie
Come and Get it-Badfinger
25 or 6 to 4-Chicago
Fire and Rain-James Taylor
Who’ll Stop the Rain? Creedence ClearwaterWoodstock-Crosby Stills Nash and Young
|Robert, a couple years after the event, down in Baja, California.|