Five of us were loaded into GG’s baby blue Ford Pinto. Link’s mother rode passenger, and Cousins-L and B, and myself sat under the hatchback glass, eschewing seatbelts in favor of the better view. I had finished a can of diet soda and was absentmindedly pinging the tab. Cousin-L asked me if I could pull the tab off with the mounting ring still attached. I asked her why, as I’d never even thought about doing that before. Evidently the kids at her school were collecting them. So, I thought about how I might approach the problem, and went about pulling the tab off. Presently, it popped right off, and while I’m not sure exactly how it happened, my thumb slid into the can. I could feel immediately that I had injured myself. Nervously investigating my thumb, I saw that I had somehow scooped a chunk of flesh right out of the softest part of the digit. The pain was distressingly intense, and the sight of the deeper layers of my skin sent me into a minor panic. GG asked what had happened and Cousin-L informed her that I had cut myself. No one seemed as upset about it as I felt they should be. Blood started to gush from the wound, so I wrapped it tightly in my shirt. The pressure of my ersatz tourniquet did much to relieve the pain and stop the bleeding. I thought for sure I was going to lose my thumb. When we arrived at our destination in La Mesa, I hurried into the bathroom to run some water over the cut. As soon as I unwrapped it from my shirt the intense pain returned, and so I wrapped it again and did my best to put on a brave face. When I was back home, Mother asked me what had happened. I told her about the can and she asked “Why did you do that?” and so I did my best to explain Cousin-L’s desire for the intact tab. Mother just looked at me and said “Dummy.”
Cousin’s L and B spent most of the week at the bottom of the canyon with their mother and her new husband. Aunt-T owned a hair salon which she operated out of a tiny building situated across the street from the bar which Uncle-E had made his second home. One of her neighbors was hosting swimming lessons for children. After the class, we shared snacks and some free swimming time. The teacher said I was a natural and that she’d never seen anyone take to the water with such ease.
S2, Cousin-L, and I were playing in the creek, where it ran through Old Ironside’s park. Mother watched from the single picnic table as Sister and Brother ran circles around the steep, metal slide. As we waded through the cool water, scores of tiny frogs fled from the disturbance created. Cousin-L skipped from rock to rock, weaving some fantastic tale I don’t recall. S2 held a yellow plastic bucket and directed me to the straggling frogs, which I scooped up and dumped into her custody. Later, we took them to my house and put them into a terrarium I had carefully prepared with soil, water, and greens. Three survived the transition, but I don’t remember their names.
One of the endcaps in Mr. A’s store was set up as a magazine rack. Most of the books displayed there were of little interest, but the rack nearest the floor was the one I wasn’t supposed to look at. These were the adult magazines. I was assured they were quite shameful, but often those covers contained the only interesting colors in the dimly lit shop. One of those pictures especially grabbed my attention. The two blond women were obviously twins. They had bright eyes and wide smiles, but it was the composition of the photo that I found so intriguing. The girls wore a matching yellow babydoll set, one the top, the other the bottom, but posed in such a way as to sidestep any obscenity laws. I was fascinated by the energy and artistry of the shot, and mentioned this to R2. Somehow his older sister caught wind of this and teased me about it relentlessly, which was more confusing than hurtful to me.
From our earliest adventures, Cousin-L and I knew that we were destined to fame. I would carry a portable tape deck and we danced around as she would lip sync the lyrics. However, Cyndi Lauper songs were too good to simply pretend sing, and so we would belt out such classics as “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Money Changes Everything.” Mysteriously, the dissonant racket was tolerated by our parents. The real quantum leap forward in our performance careers came when Cousin-L introduced me to Weird Al Yankovic. I realized then, that I could change longstanding lyrics into whatever I so chose for any available melody. Together, Cousin-L and I penned such personal highlights such as “The Eater of the Snack” and “Livin’ on a Butt Hair.” I learned how to operate a dual tape deck for recording, and soon we cut our demo tape of original lyrics to popular songs. Mother would often drive Link’s mother into town, and they would patiently listen to the album. When the entire band was present, we would turn the drive to El Cajon into an impromptu live performance. We spent any time not taken up by song writing and recording discussing what we should call ourselves. A decision was never reached.
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.
Just about the entire neighborhood had been playing at my house that afternoon, and we must have driven Mother to the edge of madness, because without much fanfare, my great grandmother had me, Sister, and Cousin-L loaded into her baby blue Pinto and on our way up to Alpine. The winding road was enough to make anyone queasy, so we all sat still and kept our eyes on the curving yellow and white lines. Despite my rather severe stomach pains, I had to work especially hard at giving myself motion sickness, but since we had been promised ice cream, we were careful to not take any chances at make ourselves ill. Near the edge of the township proper, there was a bakery and attached ice cream parlor. Sister was interested in the bubble gum variety, just as I had been at first, but I warned her that it wasn’t nearly as good as it sounded. She didn’t trust my judgment, and was consequently disappointed. Cousin-L, as I recall went for a more standard chocolate chip, and I chose a brightly colored orange sherbet. I tried to enjoy my dessert while Cousin-L, despite half her hands being full of ice cream cone, attempted to explain to me the more delicate aspects of cartwheel theory. GG consoled Sister, who was making sounds of dissatisfaction. After our treats were finished, we loaded back into the car and headed home. As we neared the more twisty part of the road, I felt my stomach start to churn. Even though I seemed immune to motion sickness, I was immediately afraid that I had fallen victim to it’s nauseating sway. By the time we were turning off the highway and headed up the street toward home, my mouth was salivating, and I knew that I was in trouble. GG had let Sister out of the back seat, but I was waiting for Cousin-L to release me, and she was still rambling on about cartwheels. My body however, was not waiting any longer. I heaved, and emptied my stomach onto the floor of GG’s car. I felt dizzy and for a moment I felt I might black out entirely. The following moments were a blur, but when I was able, I apologized to my great grandmother and promised her I would clean up the mess. She assured me though, that it had already been taken care of. Inside my home, I laid on the floor, my breathing belabored. When I awoke, I felt better save for the shame that lingered yet.