Friday, May 22, 2015

Growing UP: Hell's Angels and Slurpees. (yes, you read that right)

I have mentioned several times, that the intention of this blog is to get down a few old family stories before everyone has on to greener pastures, or no longer able to remember the stories with any amount of accuracy. Now, keep in mind that my family has natural tendencies toward hyperbole as it is, old age and memory loss can only intensify this proclivity. I assure you, however, that the story I am about to relate is told with complete veracity. I am of course, the only one in my entire family without that tendency toward hyperbole.

Northern California in the 1970's was a magical place for me and my siblings and cousins. We spent many years living all together in our little neighborhood. Our family business was construction, and so there were always any number of homes under construction in the hood. We spent a lot of time on the home sites. We would roller-skate on the newly poured slabs the minute they were dry. Oh how smooth they were compared to the sidewalks! We collected the discarded nails that were still straight into little piles, cleared wood and trash from the job sites and helped keep the crew well hydrated. This is where this story begins...

The crew. 

Now of course, guys came and went, but there were some who were always on the job. Buffalo, Bitter, Coyote and Carl to name a few. All their real names, except Carl. All hard workers and fond of the seven of us Cowperthwaite kids. (That is the family name, yes. No, I am not kidding. Really. Thirteen. Sound it out.) We called ourselves the 7C's. During the summers, we were not really allowed to be indoors, so we spent a great deal of our time hounding entertaining the crew. They were good-natured and appeased us with conversation when they had time. I should mention here, that all of these good-natured framers, roofers and concrete guys were full-fledged members of the Hell's Angels. A little rough around the edges is putting it as nicely as I can. No one would want to meet any of them in the proverbial dark alley. But they were good to us. When the Friday afternoon whistle finally blew, all of us kids would climb, barefooted and fairly filthy from the day of playing in the dirt,  into the back of one of the pickup trucks and Carl and the gang would drive us to 7-Eleven for refreshments. Slurpees for the kids...alternative hydration for the adults. The sight of five, six or seven windblown, sunburnt, blue-lipped kids with smiles as wide as their faces was likely something to behold. The joy we felt from freedom mixed with blue icy refreshment was matched only by the horror felt by our school chums' moms who had happened to witness the outing. Their horror did not go unexpressed. At least one of our moms would be on the phone with an outraged concerned neighbor every time we arrived back home, Slurpees in hand, lips still blue and smiles still wide.

Quote of the Day: "Stupid is as stupid does." --Mrs. Gump

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Get It DOWN: The Artful Practice of Avoidance

I have been somewhat willfully practicing the art of avoidance. I have it nearly down to a science but the flair and showmanship with which I practice, keeps it in the realm of art, I believe. I have been avoiding writing. You see, my editor voice is powerful, so powerful that it eclipses my creative know, the one that actually puts pen to paper and well, writes stuff. The editor is constantly talking, "That stinks. Who told you to write? Your grammar is atrocious and you have quite a limited vocabulary. No one wants to read this have nothing to say." She is a little obnoxious but I have grown so accustomed to her nearly constant bullying that we are now BFF's. Of course, nothing gets done when she is around, but whatever. Except, Little Brother is also a rather strong voice in my head, and also my phone. He is constantly sending me texts and quotes reminding me to just do it. In an attempt to actually finish something...anything, I decided to write the world's shortest short story, just to have a beginning, middle and end. I am the queen of starting stuff that I never finish. In my defense, Little Sister and Little Brother are the prince and princess of this kingdom. We will get group therapy as soon as we can afford it.

Daily Standoff

Sally Buckley was nobody’s mother. She was nobody’s wife either. She had been once, but that was over. She was nobody’s anything. Sally Buckley simply was. And today, as usual, she was walking up Highland Street. She walked up Highland Street because down Highland Street was a dead end.

“Good marnin’ Ms. Buckley.”
“And to you, Alfred.”
“Shall I be gettin’ yer usual, Ma’am?”
“Aye. And I’ll be needin’ a roll of Polos as well.”
“Here you are, Ms. Buckley.”
“Obliged, Sir.”

She tucked the Daily Inquisitor under her arm and the mints into her brassiere.

Rube, he thought.
Dullard, she thought

Each smiled at the other. With that, Sally Buckley walked away from Alfred Buckley’s newsstand and down Highland Street. She walked down Highland Street because her flat was one block shy of the dead end.

Quote of the Day: "When it is your time to write, write." Natalie Goldberg writer

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Growing UP: The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of

I am really not sure I can do this story justice. I do not think that I have the vocabulary or skill necessary to relate the sheer terror and absolute horror that my cousins, siblings and I experienced the summer of 1979. We were living in that quaint northern California town in our little family commune as I have previously described. We were free and happy. Life was idyllic in nearly every way that our young bodies and minds cared about. We played in the dirt, ran and skated in the streets with reckless abandon day after day. That is, until they came.

Crickets. Lots of them. So many that even extreme use of forced hyperbole will not make you see the extent to which we suffered. They loved dusk. It was their time. You need to understand something. To outsiders, California seems like a lovely place where the weather is a perfect 80 degrees all the time and everyone spends their time at the beach. Ok, let's get one thing straight. That is SoCal. The valley of NoCal is hot. Blisteringly, menacingly, uncomfortably hot. So, we children were often forced indoors during the worst part of the heat and let out again at dusk when it started to cool down to a nice manageable 95. But, they loved dusk too. As far as we could see, nothing but crickets. The sidewalks and driveways were relatively cool compared to the asphalt, so they congregated there like some evil assembly of devoted worshipers waiting for their master to arrive. Waiting for their master. Waiting for the children.

I can still hear the crunch of cricket bodies, large and small, give way under the weight of even the tiniest feet. We were not accustomed to shoes. I do not remember if we even owned any. Usually shoes were outgrown by the end of the school year and our folks just waited until fall to buy new ones. Crunch, crunch, crack. Those that did not immediately meet their demise jumped frantically in what I am sure was an attempt at attack in retaliation of their fallen. Smack, smack, sting. We could feel their tiny sharp bodies hitting our bare legs, some clinging to our clothes and skin in an endeavor to avoid the onslaught of children running for safer ground. Little Brother, the youngest and smallest of our gang, often received the worst of the pelting as the creatures jumped high enough to pepper his bare belly, chest and back. Sometimes one of the older kids would go back in a valiant attempt at heroism and carry the little man to safety. It was by sheer grit that we made it through that summer alive. We were Cowperthwaites and we were determined. Not even an invasion of the most menacing kind could keep us from a good pile of dirt.

Of course, if any of them read this, I am very sure they will not be sleeping tonight!

Quote of the Day: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. And also crickets." --Me

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

UPdog: Keep Calm and Follow Through

In an attempt to follow through with yesterday's post, I have made a step forward. A tiny step, but a step. I am hoping to challenge myself a little bit with a new project. It is nothing fancy...kinda like me, but I hope that it will keep that evolution going and that it will keep my creative juices flowing. I am an expert daydreamer but not much of a followthrough-er. Hopefully, this will help me overcoming a few shortcomings in that department.

Anyway, if you have any interest in learning more about yoga, find my new endeavor here on Facebook.

Quote of the Day: "I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering."
--Steven Wright comedian