# 12 Jailbait

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 badass 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, Lola and I preferred to walk the ten blocks down Arizona to Ocean where urine-soaked stairs and an overpass lead us across the Pacific Coast Highway to the wide swath 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 rarely made 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. Lola always had me howling; she had a funny name for all the guys we obsessed over. Pumpkinhead. Squishy face. Mustache man. But with our friend Quinn visiting from Canada, we had to 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, Quinn 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 Lola took over being Quinn’s best friend until she moved to California too, a couple of years later. Now that Lola and I were both living in Santa Monica, we were the ones who were best friends and it seemed important that Quinn see just how cool living here was. We needed to meet some guys pronto, and not high school boys either so that Quinn 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. Another 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 Quinn and said he’d enlisted.

“All my buddies got drafted,” he said. “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 Quinn—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 matchbook 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. 

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 Quinn, she was staying at our apartment.
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.
Lola was game but Quinn wasn’t impressed. “They look like druggies.”
“Druggies?! Come on! They’re not druggies. Don’s going to college, right Sim?” 
City College,” Quinn dismissed him with two words.
“He’s not a druggie,” Lola was insistent on my behalf.
“Do you think he’ll call?” Me, still thrilled he’d picked me.
“Not when he finds out old you are,” Lola, voicing the reality.
“Anyways, your dad will never let us go, eh? Once he knows how old he is. Once he got a look at them.” Was she going to narc me out to my dad?
“He doesn’t have to see them. They could buzz up and we could just run down.”
“No way. They have to come up.” Quinn was clearly disgusted that I didn’t understand the rules between guys and girls.
“We can say they’re double-parked?” I was almost begging. Please don’t mess this up for me. “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 at 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.” Quinn, naturally.
“No! You have to answer it before your dad does!” Lola, knowing my dad.
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,” suddenly realizing that not only could I not leave Quinn, but I also couldn’t possibly go out alone with this guy I’d just met, 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.
“I mean,” he amended, “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 twenty-three 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, Lola and Quinn 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 a hard hat and 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 waited, 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 Lola and Quinn sat in the back with Tommy and Nick while Don and I got the grown-up seats upfront.
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 money’s 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, exciting.
Don put on the soundtrack to the just-released Woodstock movie. 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 singing Freedom pounding from Don’s 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 it's 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. Tommy said Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was a trip so we rushed to Fantasyland only to find it closed. Don grabbed my hand and we all ran across the near-empty pavement to the gondola entrance to ride the Skyway to Tomorrowland. Don lit a joint, I shook my head no and Nick shook the already wobbly car for a laugh. Lola laughed her crazy cackle while I got a tighter grip as the gondola jiggled along the cable a few hundred feet above the ground, straight through the Matterhorn, passing the other cars in the darkness.

We might still catch some music at the Tomorrowland Terrace or watch the America the Beautiful movie in beautiful 360-degree circle vision. Instead, we lined up for the Tiki Room, where Don, standing behind me, 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.
Inside the attraction, the guys were 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 headlights of the van landing on my parents, illuminating 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, with her dark eyes flashing and mouth, pulled into an angry maw, 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 but this was too much. Way too much. Don didn’t bother trying to park, he stopped the van in the middle of the road, his headlamps zeroing in on my mother’s face. She started screaming before I could open the door. 

“Get out of that van,” she hissed. “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, too embarrassed to even look at Don.
“I’ve gotta go” and I scrambled out of the van and into our building, Quinn and Lola 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 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 payphones 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.

Popular posts from this blog

Baker Street Station—Sherlock Holmes was there

Brad Pitt: I knew him well. (Okay, that’s a lie. But I did know him!)

Above Ground on the London Underground—Day 46: White City