Padres:

Dah managed the cafeteria for one of the local high schools. In this position, she did regular business with soda companies. Each year, the Coca-Cola representative would give her a stack of tickets to a ball game, and she and Papa would take all the grandkids. The Padres would celebrate their founder’s birthday every year, and that just happened to be close to mine and Cousin-B’s birthdays. I had never been very interested in professional sports, but since I started collecting baseball cards with my friends, I at least knew the player’s names. Somewhere in the back of my mind was a dim hope that they would give out special cards to ticket holders, but such was never to be the case. The Padre’s mascot was a chicken who would run around pranking the other team’s players. Every year, we had a wonderful time, but the memories have blurred together so as that I can’t remember which memory was from which game. The only thing that really stands out for me is that they lost every game we attended… the Pirates, the Orioles, and the Yankees all had their turn beating out home team, but we loved out Padres anyway.

Baseball Cards 01:

During the fifth grade, most of my friends started collecting baseball cards. At first I had little interest, but as their excitement grew to a low frenzy, I became sympathetically involved, and in due course became invested in the hobby as well. Of course, we all wanted to collect cards for the players from our local team, the San Diego Padres, but some of the boys had books which valued the cards, and we were always thrilled to draw a highly prized card from a pack. The bubblegum was awful, and it ruined the card it shipped next to, but we chewed it anyway. Mother sometimes sent me down to the little grocery and liquor store known as “The Canyon Store” and if I had to carry something heavy up the hill, she would reward me with coin to buy a pack of baseball cards. I would stand on the porch of Mr. A’s tiny shop and excitedly flip through the short stack of new cards, shove them in my back pocket, and start the short walk back up the hill. Sometimes I smiled more than other times, it just depended on how jealous my friends would be of the cards I got.

The Talk:

We were on another one of our long motorcycle rides down to the far side of Corral Canyon, Father and I. One of the wider trails terminated under a grove of large oak trees, creating a fine place to rest before following one of the more challenging trails which split off in several directions. Father stopped and shut his bike off. Much to my surprise, he removed his helmet, signaling to me that he meant to rest for longer than I would have expected. We walked over and sat under one of the great oaks. He then proceeded to explain to me some few details about the nature of the human reproductive system. More than anything, I was mystified at his clear discomfort with the subject, but I found the information every bit as interesting as any other new thing. Something though, about the whole explanation left me feeling distant and a little dirty inside, as if I had done something I knew was wrong. I couldn’t place my finger on it then, but hearing Father talk about the differences between male and female bodies felt alien to me. As we rode the long, winding trail home, my thoughts ranged even wider than the path. Something about what Father had told me seemed wrong, and at odds with my own experience. For the first time, on that ride back to the van, I experienced what I now know as disassociation, and in my mind there is a large period afterward where I have no memories.

Corral Canyon 01:

Father had taken me to the riding area up in the Laguna mountains before, but it had always been to ride up and down the dirt road skirting the north end of Lake Morena. This time, he took me all the way up to the campground at the end of the maintained road, from which all trails were designated “ORV” or, off road vehicle area. Everything that wasn’t the main road was more challenging than any of the riding I had done up to that point in the desert, and even that dirt road had its moments. Every path was cut through sagebrush and littered with blocks of granite. A vast network of trails or varying difficulty crisscrossed the mountainside. This became Father’s favored riding area as it was much closer to home than the desert areas, and offered more interesting and varied terrain. I always felt that I wasn’t good enough to be there, and the tales Father and his friends told of the dreaded Corte Madera hill filled me with fear that certain death was waiting around every corner.

RM80:

I had outgrown the little trail bike that I had learned to ride the year before. Father took me with him to buy a used motorcycle he had seen advertised in a local publication. The bike was yellow and black, and the angry screaming sound of the engine completed the imagery of a swarm of wasps. Even though the motorcycle wasn’t much bigger than the one I had been riding, the motor was almost twice the displacement. It was also a two-stoke motor, which gave it the intimidating rage of sound. I was allowed to ride the little RM-80 around a small open lot for a few minutes before Father asked if I liked it. I did, and so he paid the man, and loaded my new motorcycle into the van. As we drove home, the smell of gasoline hung heavy in the air. I was excited to have a new toy, but the sound and fury of that two-cycle engine had me nervous that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Perhaps I had, as of all the motorcycles I called my own, that RM-80 is the only one still talked about by family. Perhaps Father knew it, as soon thereafter he purchased for me a full set of ride armor and a new full-faced helmet.