After another astonishingly lengthy bedtime struggle (because it is summer and there’s freedom, and one is now a full-grown teen). But, there’s still bedtime. I’m your father: Go to bed.
Isabella (She’s 10. Teeth brushed. Dentist on Thursday. So, we’ll see if her story holds true): Daddy, come snuggle with me.
I straighten her sheets and adjust the mattress. She climbs in.
Julianna (the 13-year-old, in a bed in the same room): Why do you always fix her mattress? Why don’t I have as many covers? Why do the dogs always want to sleep with her?
Me: I’d fix your disaster of a bed, if you’d let me.
Iz: Because, they don’t like you. You’re too rough.
J: Yeah, but that’s because they sleep in your bed. With all the covers!
Blah, blah. The fight continues.
At this point…
Me: Ok, girls. Cut it out! Stop! Goodnight. I will probably love you more tomorrow.
Semi-closing the door.
J: Yeah… What do you mean?
Me: Because, right now, I’ve reached a plateau. With the yelling and the fighting. We’ll see about tomorrow… Let’s see what tomorrow brings.
5 minutes later, I hear slight snores from both beds. So, yeah, an uptick in the love.
That’s what tomorrow brings.
I’ve thought about forming a new religion. Nothing concrete, yet. But, I’m bouncing balls against the wall. I’m sketching things in…
Things we should all believe in:
– Gravity, until someone falls on their face.
– Facts, until my argument is disproved.
– Gender Equality, until she earns more.
– Time, until I am late.
– Peanuts, until someone has an allergy.
– Temperature, not the Heat Index. Bullshit.
– Brazilians, not the wax, but the people. Also: yeah. Ok, the waxing.
– There is no ‘Up’ in space. Except for the DVD on the Space Station.
– I mentioned Boobs, right? And, Bacon. Yeah… Bacon. Also, boobs.
– Puppies. (Still considering kittens.)
– Earth is slightly more than 6,000 years old. By a few billion years.
– I am a dashing young man.
– Avoid the 405. (LA friends know what I mean.)
– Don’t trust atoms. They make up everything.
– Trickle down economics doesn’t work in space. See above. Or on earth.
– Jumping Jack Flash… It’s not a Gas. No, not a Gas Gas. Hang on, no: It’s a Gas Gas… Gas.
Dropping my daughters off at their special “summer intensive” (don’t call it summer school) school this morning, I finally had control of the radio (because both of them are sulking, and hate the world and boys and blah blah blah.)
“Won’t Get Fooled Again.” I turn it up a bit.
Julianna (she’s days away from turning 13): Daaad! Please turn it down!
Me: Honey. You need to know this song. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. Whatever they teach you in school today, this is the most important thing you’ll hear all day.
J: Yeah, but can you turn it down when we open the doors?
Old man music stink.
Me: Yes, Sweetie.
Kids are discharged. Someone else’s problem until 3:00. And, then, after Roger Daltrey does his last Yeah! Springsteen. Born to Run.
My poor Prius. The volume goes up to 10. We are at maximum capacity.
And, then, Boom-Boom-Chick. Boom-Boom-Chick Crap. Because it is not just one song, but two: We are the champions. Who tapped into my brain. Russians?
Let me find the longest way to get home.
Announcer guy: We’re commercial free for 90 minutes. Fuck.
Let me park somewhere. In the Target parking lot.
And, then, Bowie’s “Suffragette City.” Wham Bam, thank you sir.
I manage to find an 11.
Security starts circling. Was there an Amber Alert on this Prius?
And, then… How could I move?
Crap. I have to tell the guy. I’m just leaving.
Sometimes, radio doesn’t suck.
So, I’m down 19 pounds in 6 weeks this morning (Doctor’s orders.) And, then my daughter couldn’t finish her waffles, smothered in butter and syrup. On the kitchen island. On a plate, all alone. Encouraging me. No one would know. Seducing me. Enticing me. Wanting me.
I get enough of that from women on a daily basis.
I had a carrot.
It’s 104º degrees.
Air Conditioner: Damn, it’s hot!
Me: Well, that’s why you’re here.
AC: Hell no, you don’t pay me for this.
Me: Well, actually… Yes, I do. This is the San Fernando Valley, you knew what you were signing on for.
AC: Nuh uh. I’ve been on your roof for 15 years. Keeping you cool. Keeping you warm. Cleaning your air from LA smog…. When’s the last time you changed my filters?
Me: Uhhhhh. You have filters?
AC: See! No respect.
Me: But… But… Hot.
AC: So, you want me to keep you cool today? I’m busting my ass on your roof. It’s even hotter up here, by the way. Fact.
Me: Well, I didn’t… I mean… But… I thank you for your service…?
AC: So, no. Not today. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. I’m out. Have a good day, dear sir.
So, yeah. Our air conditioner is out. But look! It’s only going to be 93º today. But the Heat Index says it’ll feel like 92º. A cooling trend. So, yay, I guess.
(I am ever the optimist with silver linings around every cloud.)
Also, we have a pool.
Check in with me later, and let’s see if my mood has changed. I just bought a new thing of deodorant, so that will help.
Isabella’s (she’s 10) USAIGC/IAGC World Championship gymnastics competition tournament takes us this year to Reno, Nevada.
Reno. Exotic (enough). Beautiful. Legendary.
Isabella is something of an odds-on favorite. No pressure, though.
For my Los Angeles friends, if you are going to make the drive to Reno, please do yourself the absolute favor and go the Inland route (LA speak: the 5 to the E-14 to the N-395 forever to the N-580) instead of the Central Valley (I-5 to Sacramento, then E-80) route. Your eyes and heart will thank you. (Because, who needs to drive through another Stockton? No offense intended, Stockton.) 20 minutes longer to drive, but absolutely worth it. The drive is part of the show.
Make sure you have enough gas though. Don’t do the Mojave with a 1/4 tank.
The total drive to Reno is 8-ish hours, either way. Gas-fills, bathrooms, McDonalds…
On the 395 tour, you will drive through an ancient river bed for a hundred miles with 5.000 foot mountains on either side. [Site-see at Fossil Falls.] Then, once you get through the town of Bishop, the road turns left, ominously, to the west.
And you will drive toward 13,000 foot mountain peaks (2 miles high). Black rock. Sheer cliffs. Unbelievable. Gorgeous. Towering. Snow capped even at the end on June.
The Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
Then, eventually, you will start to climb those mountains. Gradually. But even a Prius can easily handle it. (I think we made it up to 8,036 feet.) Ears popping, jaws gaping. 43 MPG. Summer conditions, mind you. And it takes a couple of hours.
And, then you skirt Yosemite and go through Toiyabe National Forest. You’ll race the raging river down the mountains. [For my East Coasts friends, a West Coast forest is not just a symphony of deep green; there’s no kudzu here. You can actually see each tree trunk. Millions and millions and millions.]
Hopefully you will get stuck behind a slow-moving pickup truck, on a two-lane stretch down the incline. Because, it’s not about getting there, it’s about the getting there.
These are things my daughters will remember about this even without photos. Even though we had a camera handy, I wanted them to see it through their own eyes.
And, we haven’t even gotten to Reno yet.
Just like any other “get-ready-for-bed” evening, around 9:30. DDFT’s mother is out working hard, harder than you think, on behalf of Hollywood’s composers and songwriters.
I’ve already made tonight’s last call to Julianna (12) and Isabella (10) for brush your teeth, now! Now!
Then, the neighbors’ dogs start barking. And, that causes a chain reaction. Soon, our fierce chihuahuas join in the cause.
We hear a thud outside, nothing huge. Like a big wind knocked something over. I don’t think anything of it.
But, the wind is calm tonight. Too calm.
Me: Shush dogs! Knock it off! Bed time, girls! I’ve got work to do.
Isabella: Daddy, if that was wind, then I’m afraid that the umbrellas will fall into the pool.
Me: Honey, don’t worry. It’s not a windy tonight.
Iz: If it’s not a windy night, then what was that noise?
Julianna (rushed): I’m going to get the flower I left outside so it doesn’t blow over.
Me: Girls, it’s not windy. Nothing is getting blown over. Stop! Bedtime!
Julianna flips on the outside light, heads outside and grabs her flower off of the patio. The umbrellas are fine.
There’s another, lesser thump. She heads back in.
Iz: But, Daddy… There’s no wind, didn’t you heard another thump?
Me: I don’t know, honey. Maybe, I’m busy.
I keep typing away at my computer.
Then, Julianna sits down, turns her head, looks out the Family Room window, and says in the most possibly, chilling horror-voice way possible:
“Daddy… There’s someone in the backyard.”
Hairs stand on end.
Multiple adrenaline boosts.
Me: Honey? What?
Julianna: A guy is looking at me.
Me: What?! No. What? We have a fence! A gate! Really?
I run to the window, and sure as hell. There’s a guy there. In the backyard. Standing there. Eye contact.
Adrenaline. Fucking boosting. Boosting.
He’s a police officer. In my backyard. Acknowledging me. Pointing to his badge. Hand on holster. Letting me know he’s on Patrol.
He motions me to come out. Hand on holster. Yes, I see that. In my yard.
Since he is in the backyard, I opt to go out the front door and wrap around.
On my trek, I check my mental filing cabinet for Unconstitutional Police Intrusions. “Exigent Circumstances” allow the police to ignore search warrants in an emergency. I must be “exigent.” I’m guessing: Serial Killer.
Me (approaching two officers) inside my gate: Please, tell me what is going on?
Officer (male): We’re in pursuit of a male suspect, jumping fences between yards. Have you seen anything?
Me: No, but the dogs have been barking like Hell for the last few minutes.
Officer: Ok, sir, may we check your yard? (For the axe murderer.)
Me: Oh, God, yes.
I race back in through the front door to make sure the girls are Ok, Scared little girls… Just as the police helicopters basically land on my roof with their Night Sun technology.
Then, I realize….
I open the sliding door to the patio and approach the Officer (female) with my hands up. I try to tell her to check the garage.
She can’t hear me because the chopper is giving us a haircut.
I take a few steps closer, knowing her hand is on her holster. She motions for me to back off. Her hand is on her goddamn holster!
Me (yelling): The back garage door is unlocked!
Officer (female): Ok!! Thank you!
LAPD, always, so polite.
I high-tail it back to the patio, then inside to relative safety. The girls are, of course, freaking out.
Screams of “I’m Scared…” “Daddy!!!”
I play it cool with the girls. Dial it back. Rico Suave. Billy D. Williams.
Me: I’m sure it’s nothing. The police are here. They’ve got their flashlights. Did you see the helicopter? I’m sure there’s a SWAT team around the corner. We are the safest people in the world. Yeah,… It’s all cool…
They check out the garage. They look through the Aloe bush. They check behind the pool filter.
Officer (male) says something into his microphone.
The helicopter flies away, the officers depart (kindly closing the gate), and life returns to what the fuck just happened?
And, within 30 seconds, DDFT’s resident Mommy pulls into the driveway. Isabella can’t wait to tell her what happened.
But, the next door neighbor had already intervened.
Mommy: Jessica says there was a guy who jumped on the roof!
Isabella: The Thud!
Julianna: Who could jump on the roof?
Me: There were police searching in the backyard. A Helicopter almost landed in the pool.
Mommy: Where did he go? Over the fence?
Me: We don’t know. But, the helicopter was so low it nearly took out the chimney. There is no bad guy here.
Mommy: And how do we sleep tonight?
Me: Safely. But, with one eye open.
Darren Otero ©®
I introduced myself to someone last night. “Darren,” I said. He said, “Like from that Bewitched TV show. Ha!” For the record, my mother had a TV Guide and easily could have named me Mannix, Jethro, or (my favorite): Ironside.
(Also, Bewitched ‘Darrin’ spelled it wrong.) Don’t mock peoples’ names. It’s not their fault. Please Endora me:
[Editor’s note: It has been pointed out that Mannix and Ironside premiered after my birth certificate was certified with the certain-to-be mocked “Darren” name. These people are party-poopers. My parents could have gone with Star Trek’s James Tiberius. I’m just saying. I hold no grudges, Mom.]
As difficult as it is to get the children into the shower, it is almost impossible to get them out when we are on a deadline.
Me (banging on the bathroom door): Honey, you’ve been in there for 45 minutes. Give someone else a chance! Tick-tock, Sweetie.
Julianna (she’s 12): Dad! You know I don’t know how long time takes to happen!
Time keeps on ticking into the future.