# 12 Jailbait [memoir]

Originally published Oct 2014:

We were living on Tenth Street in Santa Monica, California when I turned seventeen in 1970, my friend Trixie was visiting from Canada, and boys were on our minds. It's #12 of the On the Street Where I Live stories. I was a 17 year old high school senior, he was a 23 year old Vietnam Vet.

Delaney & Bonnie (and Friends) via Delaney & Bonnie Tumblr


We were sitting on the sand watching the water when they walked by the first time; three long-haired guys who could just as easily be rockers, roadies or bad ass bikers, smiling up at us from the shoreline. The one in the middle - I'd already decided he was mine -  looked like Cat Stevens or the guy from Delaney and Bonnie or really, any of those musicians who had a beard, mustache and dark wavy hair skimming their shoulders. From behind my sunglasses I followed his faded green baggies as they disappeared in the shadows under the pier. Just before they faded to black completely he turned and blew a kiss in our direction. Busted! We cracked up, the three of us girls sitting on the sand, laughing in spite of ourselves. 
It wasn't our usual spot. Too many tourists and families with kids all hopped up from inhaling cotton candy on the pier, running around chasing the seagulls, spraying sand in their wake and squealing at a crazy high decibel level to match the squawking of the birds swooping down to steal their potato chips. Usually Laura and I preferred to walk the ten blocks or so down Arizona to Ocean where urine-soaked stairs and an overpass lead us across the Pacific Coast Highway to the wide swathe of sand that made up our quiet bit of beach. We'd plonk our blanket and towels about halfway across the sand, not too far from Perry's Pizza and the restrooms, out of earshot of the families gathered closer to the ocean. We'd barely make it into the water which was always freezing anyway, instead we spent the day going over our week, talking about the boys we thought were hot. Laura always had me howling; she had a funny name for all the guys we obsessed over. Pumpkin head. Squishy face. Mustache man. Hot stuff. But with our friend Trixie visiting from Canada, we had stop talking and do something. We had to dig up some action like NOW. That's why we'd eased closer to the pier where we had to compete with crowds of tourists for sand space but at least there were more bodies, and some of those bodies were male.
Tall and pretty, Trixie had killer dimples and long, voluptuous legs and I spent most of my adolescence wishing I was her. We were best friends from fifth grade until we moved away at the beginning of ninth, then Laura took over being Trixie's best friend until she moved to California too, a couple of years later. Now that Laura and I were both living in Santa Monica, we were the ones who were best friends and it seemed important that Trixie see just how cool living here was. We needed to meet some guys pronto, and not high school boys either, so that Trixie could see for herself that life here in California was so much cooler than the little town ways we'd left behind in Canada, wasn't it? 
About fifteen minutes later when three silhouettes emerged from under the pier the sunlight on their faces revealing they were grinning in our direction, I was beginning to believe it myself.
"They're back."
"I think they're coming over."
"Shhhh. They are coming over. Come on, you guys, be cool."
We leaned back on our elbows, posed our brown legs to best advantage - one knee up, the other leg extended, toe slightly pointed, you know the drill - and watched them come, their heels digging into the hot sand, pretending it wasn't burning the shit out of their feet as they made their way from the cool of the shoreline up to our blanket, a ridiculous ratty old bedspread of my parents. 
One of the guys, Tommy, was speed freak skinny, the other one, Nick, was the goofball.  Don, the cute one with the dark hair and the beard, was twenty three and had been to Nam. He sat down between me and Trixie and said he'd enlisted.
"All my buddies got drafted," he told me. "I had to sign up."
I just didn't get it. He looked more like a hippie or a draft dodger than a guy who joined the war effort, who volunteered to go to Viet Nam. 
Don said we shouldn't be there at all, the United States shouldn't, then Trixie - the Canadian - said it was important to fight communism which got Don started on a whole defending communism-in-its-ideal-form rant. 
He had one slightly discolored tooth, a small grayish tinge that his tongue couldn't leave alone. And I couldn't stop staring at his mouth.
As if I had an actual clue what I was really talking about I heard myself jumping in and defending him. I was just strutting my stuff, pulling out all the stops to impress him any way I could. 
It must have worked.  
"Can I call you, sometime?" He handed me a match book and asked me to write my phone number down. I didn't have a pen, none of us did so Don went down to the water where the moms and kids were and borrowed a pen off one of them. It was probably the first time I'd written my number on anything other than a piece of lined school notebook paper in my entire life. I'd just turned 17 in May. 
Don and his friends packed up early, saying they wanted to beat the traffic to Highland Park. While I hardly ever went east of Sepulveda I had a vague sense of Highland Park being way out beyond LA, somewhere far to the east. 
"It's near Eagle Rock, straight out the ten? It's about 45 minutes, maybe an hour." Don said.
"That's without traffic dude." One of the friends chimed in dully. Tommy? Nick?
"Can I call you later? Maybe we can do something tonight?"
"All of us?" I couldn't ditch Trixie. 
He pushed his fingers through his mustache, grabbed on to his bottom lip. I couldn't see him coming all the way back to Santa Monica in the traffic.
Laura was game but Trixie wasn't impressed. "They look like druggies."
"Druggies?! Come on! They're not druggies. Don's going to college."
"City college."
"He's not a druggie."
"Do you think he'll call?"
"Not when he finds out old you are."
"Anyways, he's too old! Your dad will never let us go, eh? Once he got a look at them-"
"He wouldn't have to see them. They could buzz up and we could just run down."
"No way. They have to come up."
"We can say they're double parked. It's really hard to find a spot after six." 
"Anyways he's not going to call. You're jailbait."
"Right. Jailbait." 
We were in my room when the phone rang about five. I was ironing a string top I'd made the day before, hoping to wear it that night with jeans and a pair of corkys.
"It's him!"
"Let it ring a couple of times so he doesn't think you're just sitting around waiting for him to call."
"No! You have to answer it before your dad does!"
Oh no! Not my dad!
"Hi" said this faraway voice that sounded like it was smiling.
"Hi" I said back. Very original.
"So can I take you out tonight?"
"Um" As I was realizing I couldn't possibly go out alone with this guy I'd just met, that not only could I not leave Trixie, I also couldn't go out with a stranger who picked me up at the beach and who could just as easily be a rapist or a murderer as a nice guy, he said "I mean can we, my friends and I, can we take you lovely ladies out tonight?"
The plan was they'd pick us up at eight, but what to do about my dad. My father was ten years older than my mother. He was thirty and she was twenty when they met during World War II; there was only so much they could say about the age difference between Don and me. But still, my father would think 23 was too old for his little girl.  He'd hit the roof.
"How old is this 'Don' person?"
"Oh I don't know, a little older maybe? He's in college."
"College? College boys are too old for you Simone."
"Dad! I'm seventeen. Give me a little credit."
"You just turned seventeen. You better look after yourself, young lady."
My father had made it clear what boys and men wanted from me boiled down to one thing.
"I will daddy. Don't worry, Laura and Trixie will be there too."
"Bloody hell, Simone," he rolled his eyes. "Is that supposed to make me feel better? Girls, you watch yourselves too, you hear?"
I didn't tell him Don was also some sort of engineer at the railroad yard downtown; I wasn't sure what my father would do with the mental image of a guy in hard hat and possibly an orange vest taking his daughter out. I was just glad my mother was working a split. 
It was well after eight when the buzzer rang. My poor dad didn't know what hit him. He was in the bedroom working at his desk when I called out "Okay dad, they're here, we're going now. Bye, Love you," as we blasted out the front door, skipped the elevator and sped down the stairs to where our dates were waiting three flights down. 
Turning the corner, seeing Don standing in the lobby all showered and scrubbed in a burgundy henley and a perfectly fitted pair of tan gabardine flares, I was dazzled. And relieved. Druggie? No way. This guy was a rock star. 
A rock star with a van and a madras covered mattress in the back. 
That madras covered mattress terrified me, luckily Laura and Trixie sat in the back with Tommy and Nick while Don and I got the grown up seats. 
We decided to go to Disneyland which was always a full day affair in my experience. You had to get there by opening and stay until closing to get your moneys worth, that's how it was in my family anyway. I couldn't believe they were taking us to Disneyland for a couple of hours; the extravagance felt lavish and exciting.  
On the way, Don put on the soundtrack to Woodstock. It was just released in May and I wished I'd asked for it for my birthday: Crosby, Stills & Nash singing in front of an audience for the second time in their careers, Stephen Stills telling the crowd they were 'scared shitless', and Richie Havens Freedom pounding from his 8 track player. We spent the hour long drive singing along to CSN, Joan Baez and Country Joe McDonald and the Fish and for once I felt like I hadn't missed out on the revolution after all. I felt like I was there.
And it's one two three, what are we fighting for?                                                                 Don't ask me I don't give a damn. Next stop is Viet Nam.                                                      And its five six seven, open up the pearly gates.                                                               Ain't no time to wonder why. Whoopee! We're all gonna die.' 
By the time we got to Anaheim it was after ten and the park closed at midnight. Time to go into overdrive, racing to get on every ride we could before closing. We rushed to Fantasyland because Tommy said Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a trip but it was already closed. Don grabbed my hand and suddenly we were all running across the near empty pavement to the gondola entrance, we rode the Skyway to Tomorrowland. Don lit a joint, I shook my head no and Nick shook the already wobbly car just to be funny. Laura laughed and I got a tighter grip as it jiggled fairly terrifyingly along the cable a few hundred feet above the ground, straight through the Matterhorn, passing the other cars in the darkness. 
There might still be music at the Tomorrowland Terrace or we could watch the America the Beautiful movie in beautiful 360 degree circle vision. We only had to stand in line once and that was waiting for the Tiki Room, when Don standing behind me in line, slipped his arms around my waist and held me to him. It didn't feel like we were in waiting to take in a cheesy theme park attraction; the balmy, starlit night of deep lapis, the feel of his skin, his warm arms - made warmer still by a day at the beach - wrapped around me, cradling me; his breath on my neck; melted me completely, it felt like we were in paradise. 
Once we got inside, the guys were all smart asses, mocking the singing parrots and their stupid accents but digging it too, singing along, knowing all the words, echoing the birds, parroting the parrots.
"Allo  Pierre!" "Que paso Jose?"-
"Let's all sing like the birdies sing
Tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet" 
Of course Nick had to make exaggerated kissing noises into the air.
"All the birdies sing words - "
"And the flowers croon - "
Don slung an arm around my shoulders.
"In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room."
I didn't take a hit of weed and I didn't have a thing to drink but I felt intoxicated. 
The drive home was a blur, more Woodstock, side two again for a more subdued sing along to Feel-Like-I'm-Fixing-to-Die Rag and Stephen Stills' Suite Judy Blue Eyes, wondering what it was like to be her.
It was close to two thirty when we pulled onto my street, the lights of the van landing on my parents, lighting them up as they stood guard in the middle of the road in their robes. My heart fell right to the floorboards of Don's Dodge van. My mother was a terrifying sight with her dark eyes flashing and mouth pulled into an angry maw. She looked like a crazy lady straight out of Bedlam, hair flying everywhere. I looked around half-expecting to see ambulances and police cruisers. Shit! This was awful, awful. Yes! I should have called; it was really late but this was too much. Don didn't bother trying to park, he just stopped the van in the middle of the road, the light from his headlamps zeroing in on my mother's face. She started screaming at me before I could get out of the van. I caught a quick look at the expression on Don's face; 'stunned' describes it as well as anything.
"Get out of that van. Do you have any idea what time it is? It's TWO THIRTY IN THE MORNING! You're only 17 years of age."
I was a little terrified of my suddenly maniacal mother but mostly I was mortified. I was too embarrassed look at him.
"I've gotta go" and I scrambled out of the van and into our building, Trixie and Laura trailing after me.
Oh my God. Now my dad was at the driver's side of the van. He was probably reading Don the riot act, telling him I was a nice girl blah blah. It was awful, the worst end to a date in the history of dates. 
"Simmy, you naughty girl, you scared me to death!" My mother had calmed down a bit. "You can't stay out this late without letting us know."
"We were at Disneyland, Mom. I couldn't find a phone. What was I supposed to do? " 
"Please. There are pay phones at Disneyland. Next time you have to call and let us know you're alright."
Next time? Who was she kidding? There would be no next time. You didn't have to be a genius to know Don would never want to call me again.