To all of took their time to write to me…thank you! I am writing back to each of you and look forward to continuing our correspondence.
While I figure out what to do, I figured the best plan of action would be to keep on…keeping on! To work at gathering a following, so that I can demonstrate to these Publishers that myself and my book, “Been There, Done That,” are “valuable.”
With this thought in mind, I’ve decided to begin to more actively release bits and pieces of my book, hoping that YOU will like it and tell a Friend (or two. Or five. Or ten!) Apart from the stand-alone segments of my book, such as the sections called “Tall Tales,” “My Philosophy (For What It’s Worth)”, “It’s Just Part of Life” and “My Diary,” Been There, Done That revolves around 8 chapters, each which –in my mind anyways—metaphorically stands for one life already lived. (8 down 1 to go…)
The first “Chapter” in my book, beginning at age 13, is called…
My Mom Dies Suddenly and Tragically.
Causing my Dad to go to work on the road to pay the bills. Thereby leaving my Brother and I to our own devices. Thus, the Juvenile Delinquency years ensue.
(Well –as much as Two Boys growing up as Upper-Middle Class Jews in the Valley can be Delinquents anyways).
(and oh yeah, I stress out to the max, giving myself three years of “terminal” cancer hell)
Over the next couple of week, I’m going to post this Chapter in several installments. At the risk of being overly transparent, I’m hoping that you will be interested enough to read it, and if so, that you might spread the word to your Friends, Connections, Followers, etc. At this point, I’m thinking the more people I have in my Social Media Network, the better chances I’ll have of getting the corporate giants to wake up and work with me! Even if it all stops right here…I thank you again for your support.
Been There, Done That – Chapter One
My Mom Dies Suddenly and Tragically…
Damn that hurts. And it just looks all wrong. My right ball has blown up to literally 3 times the size of my left. I’m looking at it, thinking…”well, if they were both that size, then I’d be doing good.” At least, that’s how I want to remember it now. In truth, I was probably freaking out. I’m 16 years old and sitting in Doctor Leonard Goldman’s office. He’s older, rotund, affable. But I’m terrified. I’ve met the Doc 5 minutes ago, and he’s saying “this thing has gotta come out. Tonight.” Pure terror. And panic. At this point in my life, I’m not good at handling things. And I am freakin’. Dad’s at work, and my brother Ken is at school. Where I should be. Brendie, my step-mom, is here, holding my hand. I’m thankful for that still, now. Especially given our volatile relationship. And that’s being generous. My mom. How I miss my Mom. She should be here.
A typical, beautiful late Spring day in the San Fernando Valley, 1973. Back when you could still smell the orange groves. More than beautiful. It’s idyllic. Me and Ken and Dad are playing catch on Lasaine Street, outside our home. I think back on it now and wonder if my Dad could ever have been happier. How could he have been? It’s a scene straight outta “Happy Days.” With darker overtones, and undertones, than a then 12 year old and 13 year old could have imagined. Than my Dad likely, could ever have imagined. .The phone rings and Ken sprints inside to answer. Me and Dad lob the ball back and forth. The sun is hot and it feels good. Our German Sheppard, Prince, barks happily behind the ivy-covered wall that surrounds the backyard. And Ken runs back out, tears streaming down his face. And yelling, over and over again. And I hear it clearly today. “Mom’s dead.” “MOM’S DEAD!”
Driving drunk. Boom. Getting into fights. Boom. Stealing. Boom. Losing my virginity. A bunch of times. Boom.
My Mom was beautiful. High-strung. Big-time wound-up. Temperamental and at times terrifying. Creative. Experimental. Brilliant. Voracious in her tastes and in her consumption of all things material. Out-going. The life of the party. Domineering. Loving. I got all the bad parts. And –at least I like to think– some of the good.
We found out soon that she had driven my Dad into debt, and that “we” were hanging on to our 2-story, 4000 square foot home on a quarter acre lot with a pool, rose garden and paddle tennis court, by a thread. Further, shortly before her passing, she had decided that it would be a good idea to enroll me in the ultra-expensive Chaminade College Preparatory. Being one of 3 Jewish kids in a semi-conservative Catholic School –in 1975 when anti-Semitism really wasn’t yet frowned-upon in the valley– would be a good cultural and educational experience. Naturally, the buy-your-belt-as-you-go Tang So Doo Martial Arts program I was involved in would save my Kike ass. Despite the fact that I was the smallest kid at Chaminade. Not the smallest boy. The smallest kid. Period. Without my Mom there to tell him what to do, and what not to do, my Dad decided the best course of action would be for him to hit the road, and redouble his sales efforts. In retrospect, I know now that the decision and the absences pained him. But, Dad had a real sense of responsibility, and I can only surmise that as much as he wanted to be there, he felt that the more important thing to do would be to not disrupt our lives any further. And the mortgage, Catholic School –with Ken set to follow me the upcoming year– the tennis club and the Karate lessons added up.
So Dad went to work. In mourning, we threw a party. A big one. Lots of booze and tons of cute, young, tiny teens running around in their bikinis. We got hammered on Andre’s Cold Duck, Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill and made out like crazy. Honestly, a dozen girls a night. It’s what we did back then. A spirited game of Truth or Dare –and no one ever opted for “Truth”—would usually get us to second base; third on a rare, lucky occasion. It was then that I went truly girl-crazy, and never looked back. Both a blessing and a curse, that has given me more pleasure and more depth of feeling, and simultaneously has ruled my life oftentimes and given me more anguish—than I could ever express, even if I were to dedicate an entire book to it.
Anyways, despite his general blissful ignorance, Dad couldn’t ignore the errant A-cup bikini top that would show up in the oddest places, nor the empty liquor cabinet (yeah, so we got into a little Scotch as well). We was found out. The solution? Dad ran an ad at San Fernando Valley State College; free room and board to a responsible college student, in exchange for looking after his boys while he was out of town. Petite, blonde Sherri moved in, and F was she hot! The first day Dad was gone, she asks me “are you any good at taking pictures?” “Uh no, not really.” “That’s okay,” she says, handing me a camera and ordering me to follow her to the backyard. Where she strips. Naked! F, she’s hot. Not that I have any basis for comparison. Whatsoever. (Unless you count Mom. Aunt Theda. (NOT hot) And Playboy Magazine). Sherri’s standing there. (Buck naked!) With her hand on her hip giving me this look. And boy was I smooth. “I don’t think the drugstore will develop naked pictures.” I drop the camera and run into the house.
OK guys, how many of us don’t have the top 5, top 10, top whatever of those we’ve just completely, absolutely choked on. That we replay in our heads over and over, and say to ourselves, “…well, if that were to happen now…” If you say you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re either lying, or your last name is Hefner.
The next day, Sherri asks “Hey isn’t your Dad going to Flagstaff this weekend?” Are we gonna have a party. Or what!” Boom.
——– btdt ——–
“I’m on the road working my fucking ass off to support you whiny brats! Get a fuckin’ job and make your own ‘effin spending money!” my Dad screams. Well, actually, my Dad never said that. Or anything approximating that. He was a really nice guy. Very loving. And didn’t use profanity. If he had said that though, who could blame him? Shouldn’t all self-respecting 13 and 14 year-olds earn at least their own booze, pizza and pot money. Well, we thought so, at least.
The bottle cages were easy. Back in the day of glass soda pop bottles, the 16 ouncers were each worth a quarter. The neighborhood 7-11 and Sav-on stores each kept chain-link cages out back, where they stored hundreds of these bottles, prior to returning them to the distributors (I suppose). The cages were locked, but there was a gap between the fixed wall of the cage and the swinging door. Big enough to fit a small paw through. We’d stick our arm through the gap, grab all the bottles within reach, and walk them around the front of the store and to the register to collect our 25 cents per bottle. This was usually good for five to six bucks each, back when the minimum wage was less than three dollars. And when a bottle of Strawberry Hill was less than three dollars. But that wasn’t good enough for us criminal masterminds. One night, we enlisted our friend Danny, and his souped-up Chevy Nova. He parked around the corner and down the alley, out of sight of the store. Robbie Jones, –my oft-partner-in-crime, God rest his soul– and I climbed up on top of the cage, wire-cutters in hand, and cut a gaping hole in the top. Robbie dropped in, and out of sight (the cage was covered by tarp on its sides, so you couldn’t see in). Robbie than began to hand entire cases of bottles up to me. I in turn would hand them down to Ken and to another friend whose name I can’t remember. They would run the cases to Danny, our getaway driver, waiting in his car. We were keeping a running, verbal estimate of the tally, and figured we were up to a couple of hundred dollars. As Ken and our other pal were around the corner and out of sight, the clerk working the store walked around back. He looked like a refugee straight outta “Pumping Iron.” He reached up and snatched me off the top of the cage, and dragged me into the store. He never saw Robbie, nor any other member of my crew. The police showed. I was handcuffed for the first time in my life, and put in the back of their cruiser. Looking for the pity vote, I told them that my Mom was dead and my Dad out of town. Skeptical, they drove to my home and rang the bell. The door opens, and Ken, clad in flannel pajamas and hair an absolute-I-was-sound-asleep-and-have-bed-head-mess, opens the door, wiping the “sleep” from his eyes. The police remand me to his custody, but not before he promises them to keep an eye on me. Boom.
——– btdt ——–
With my ability to stretch a quarter, it seemed a natural that I’d run for Student Body Treasurer. More likely, with the wounds of my Mother’s passing still raw, I was just looking for yet something else to keep my mind occupied. At Chaminade College Preparatory, Middle School. Chatsworth Campus, there are 4 elected offices out a student body of around 350. I declare my candidacy. One of the three Jewish kids in the entire school, and I’m running for Treasurer. Perfect irony! Or cosmic joke. Somehow, I had gained a modicum of popularity, and I thought I had a chance. I didn’t mind taking chances then. And for better-or-for-worse (often worse), in the reverse of what is true for most of us as we grow older, this set a pattern for taking more and more chances as life goes on. But, back to 13… taking chances. Take Colleen, for instance. She was one of the prettiest girls in 7th grade, and many of us, myself included, had a massive crush on her. Toward the end of the school year, shortly after us candidates had declared, the final dance of the season is held in the campus auditorium. For the most part, the girls dance with the girls, and the boys stand around, watching the girls dance with the girls. All night long, I tell myself I am going to ask Colleen to dance. I do the in-my-head-countdown to walk over and pop the question, but keep giving myself excuses at the last possible moment. Finally, I get up the nerve. Just as I ask, and she says “sure,” a slow dance comes on. Our height difference is a little awkward –she’s about three inches taller—but we make the best of it. The song fades, and the DJ announces “Last song of the night “ and up comes “Crocodile Rock.” And Colleen and I continue to slow dance. And then we start to make out. In the middle of the floor, while everyone else around us gets down to Elton John, and students and teachers alike glance at us sideways. It’s exactly this type of thing that has made me popular amongst some, and has pissed off many others.
“Don’t vote for a Jew in a Catholic School.”
It’s election morning, and the banner hangs loud and proud in middle of the Quad. And there it stays, all day long, through assembly time.
The candidates are giving their speeches and now it’s my turn. “Don’t vote for a Jew in a Catholic School?” I think. “Fuck ‘em, I’m prepared. I’ll show them.” I walk to the podium, and… the podium is taller than me, and I can’t see over it. Someone starts the giggle, and it’s spreading through the crowd. With resolve, I walk around the podium to the microphone. The person who gave the speech preceding mine must have been really tall, because even with my arm fully extended, I can’t reach the microphone. The entire assemblage erupts into laughter. And I just stand there. Mercifully, a teacher walks across stage, pulls the microphone down, thrusts it into my hand, and winks at me. I blurt out my speech, and hurriedly, exit stage right.