Monthly Archives: March 2010

Growing Up Juju (part 3 in a series)

Juju and her best friend Kelli were supposed to be running laps around the school yard. The rest of the girl’s volleyball team was far ahead, jogging in a group. The two girls slowed to walk, even though it was September, Fall had not yet come to Texas…it was miserable hot and humid. “Move your butts!!” yelled their coach from her perch at the door to the gym.

Juju and Kelli looked toward the coach and laughed, they waved at her and pretended they couldn’t hear what she was saying. What? What are you saying? Juju knew they were going to get into trouble, it was so unlike her and Kelli to disobey the coach they liked so much. “She is going to kill us,” Kelli said. As they turned the corner and headed for the home stretch, they picked up their pace, but both of them knew it was too late. The coach would have her retribution. They looked ahead and saw the rest of the team entering the gym with the coach…the door slamming behind her.

As Juju and Kelli approached the gym, Juju caught site of a peculiar scene. Her sister Janice’s car was parked in the gym parking lot and there she stood beside it, crying. Janice was 15 years older than Juju and the two had never been particularly close, she would never come to school unless something tragic had happened. Juju trotted up to her crying sister and stated, “Daddy is dead, isn’t he?” Janice nodded her head, Juju got into the back seat of the car and layed down…her head was spinning.

Juju’s other sister, Joan lived two houses down from her, with her husband and their baby girl. Another sister Joyce, lived across the street with her husband and three children. The other neighbors had conceded the street to Juju’s family long ago, they had to, they were overrun. Janice pulled her Chevy into Joan’s driveway and Juju looked two houses down to her home. A black hearse was at her house, she ran into her sister’s house quickly to avoid a sight she did not want to witness.

Juju’s family were seated all in the living room, her mother on the couch. Everyone was crying, her mother kept saying one thing over and over, “I can’t believe this is happening.” Juju sat down in an old wooden rocking chair and rocked back and forth. No tears were coming, shouldn’t I be crying she thought? Fifteen minutes ago Juju was laughing and tormenting her coach…now she had a surreal scene playing out in front of her. How quickly life changes. Juju looked down at her outfit, sweaty t-shirt, gym shorts, and some socks she had to borrow from a teammate having forgotten hers that morning. Juju hunched over and looked down at her socks…her Daffy Duck socks.

For three days friends and relatives filled Juju’s house…and they brought food. Why is it at the time you absolutely don’t feel like eating, people bring it? Juju’s mother told her it was really for the other people who showed up to express their condolences. Can’t they have this party someplace else Juju thought? Can’t they eat before they pay a visit? Juju retreated to her orange shag carpeted room for solace. The carpet still smelled like cleaning fluid from the “mod flowers” incident. Her friends had always thought her father was her grandfather because he had been 49 when Juju was born. She didn’t think he would die on her like grandfathers do though…not when she was just 14. Juju knew that he had a bad heart, she had guessed correctly when she found Janice standing before her in tears. But this was just something that happened in the movies, not in real life. Juju was with her mother on one thing, was this really happening?

On the day of the funeral Juju sat there on the front row beside her mother. She wore a tan blouse with brown embroidery, more frilly than she would usually wear, but it matched the brown slacks. Her mother had not even tried to get Juju to wear a dress, by that time that battle was long over. Juju sat through the service and thought about what her father meant to her. She had refused to go to the visitation the previous day, she didn’t want to see her father laying in a casket. How creepy was that she thought? Why would the adults want a kid to see that? She also thought he should have been buried in his Chef uniform, all starched and nice. Not the leisure suit that he only wore when he was forced to go somewhere fancy…he would hate that.

Juju stared at her mother the evening after the funeral. Jewel looked pretty young, but kids often thought she was Juju’s grandmother too. What would happen if she died too?
As if Jewel was reading her mind, she told her daughter, “don’t worry, I am going to be around a while.” Promise? “Yes, I am promise.” Juju went to bed and thought to herself that she now knew what the term “bone tired” meant…she could feel every bone in her body…she had never been so tired. As she drifted off to sleep she remembered Easter with her father.

Her father, Jim, was always in charge of hiding the Easter eggs at their house. Juju was a smart child and the bunny story stopped at the age of four, after that she preferred her Daddy playing the part. As the years went on, Juju and her sister Junene, didn’t want the egg hunt to end because they saw how much he enjoyed it. They would get up early and peer out their bedroom window, watching him take careful attention in placing the hard-boiled eggs all over the back-yard. After that he would just scatter the multi-colored sugar confection eggs about the grass and garden.

By the time the last egg hunt came along when Juju was in fifth grade, she had to become a little actress. She walked from location to location…acting surprised at her finds in the usual locations. Never letting on to her Daddy that he had hidden an egg in a certain spot for the past 5 years running….or that she had cheated a peek and saw him hide the egg! Daddy would sit on a folding lawn chair on the back porch, watching the hunt, smiling broadly. After the eggs were all secured, Daddy would call her over and tell her he had one more surprise. He would pull out a big chocolate bunny out of a five and dime sack and wish her Happy Easter. Followed shortly thereafter by, “hey, give your old man a bite of that rabbit!” There was always a time around July or August when Juju would find one of those cellophane wrapped sugar eggs in her mother’s garden. She would run and tell her Dad about her find…the response was always the same. “Well, that must have been a good one. I will have to remember that spot for next year.” Juju drifted off to sleep with that vision of her father in her head…the hunts had stopped a few years ago, but the memories would remain. The holidays would still come she thought, the years would pass….she was going to finish growing up without her Daddy.

The years did pass, Juju started to forget what her father’s voice sounded like, but every once in a while she remembered a small moment. A short conversation would pop in her head, with 100% clarity, that she had enjoyed with him, or she would hear him whistle a tune. Those moments Juju equated with those three-month old eggs found long ago in the garden. “That must have been a good one,” she heard her Daddy say.


Edith Ann, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Neil Diamond?

Every once in a while Linda and I have a “theme” weekend. The themes tend to be whatever bullshit idea is running through my head on a Friday afternoon at about quitting time. Sometimes the idea comes forth during happy hour and is somewhat influenced by the consumption of the chosen liquid.

About a month ago, I decided we would do “back-ass-ward weekend.” Meaning Linda and I did the exact opposite of what we would normally do. It was my homage to George Costanza regarding the Seinfeld episode where he did everything the opposite in dealing with dating women. It was quite successful for him. Let me give you an idea of what went down. We usually go somewhere in Dallas that is pretty high-end for brunch on a Saturday or Sunday. On that weekend we did the opposite, we found a dive down on Industrial Blvd., 3 blocks down from the Dallas County jail. We sat at our booth and watched the prostitutes walk by as we waited on our eggs. The place was called, “My Mother’s Daughter’s Diner.” It was fantastic and I highly recommend the place….just don’t wear heavy make-up and spandex and you should be fine.

When my mother was alive I did the same thing with her. Every once in a while I would tell her to pencil me in for her entire weekend. I would take her anywhere in the state of Texas that she wanted to go…and sometimes we played the theme game too. I did the “back-ass-ward” theme with her one Saturday in Dallas. Now normally with Jewel, I would take her to the Dallas Arboretum, or the parks to look at flowers, or the women’s museum. But that was all out on this particular day….she had to agree to do things she had never done before.

We started the day at the Majestic Theater for a special concert with Lilly Tomlin. She was doing her one woman show called “The Search for Signs of Intelligent LIfe in the Universe.” Jewel had never been to a comic show where someone just stood in the middle of the stage and talked. She remembered Tomlin from the TV show Laugh-In, but this was a definite stretch for her….a true opposite thing for her to do. At one point in the show Jewel turned to me and said, “I guess she doesn’t appeal much to men?” I broke out laughing….I was out, but Lilly was still in the closet, for all of those that couldn’t see the forest for the trees! “She must be a feminist,” mother said.

From the Majestic, we ventured to the south-side of Dallas and ate a nice dinner of true soul-food. Fried chicken, collard greens, grits, corn bread….we had a feast. And we met some wonderful people at a little shack that never in a million years did we believe we would ever have stopped….save for back-ass-ward Saturday.

It was about 7:45pm and we were going to head westbound back to Fort Worth, when we passed the State of Texas Fairgrounds. On the flashing marquee for the outside amphi-theatre it read, “LIVE TONIGHT: CROSBY, STILLS, AND NASH.” I had wanted to see them my whole life and did not know they were playing Dallas that night. I looked over at Jewel, who had NEVER been to a rock concert before and said, “How serious are you about being back-ass-wards?” Jewel’s reply, “Let’s do it!!!”

We parked the car and I illegally (opposite) bought two tickets from a scalper after walking down a side road two blocks. I was a police officer at the time and had a duty weapon strapped to the inside of my right ankle. (before you start thinking I had lost my mind) I jogged back to find Jewel standing at the entrance ready to rock on back to the 60s! We found our seats, about 16 rows back from the stage and took our places….we were just in time for the start of the show. The usual haze of smoke was hanging above us, as was the unmistakable smell of weed. Jewel asked what songs they sang, so I gave her my best effort of a short medley: Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Woodstock, Ohio.…oh, oh, okay…I know those guys she said, “I am going to get a drink.” My back-ass-wards trick of the day was surely bringing my 70-year-old mother to a rock concert.

As she stood to go get a drink, a guy seated behind me, with his two friends, also got up. He looked at me and asked if I could watch their stuff while they went for a beer run. Jewel took it upon herself to shout to the young men above the crowd noise, “you can trust my daughter watching your stuff, SHE IS A COP!” And with that she turned and walked away. What she didn’t see was a mad frantic rush ALL around me…five rows in every direction, hiding, stuffing, eating….”things” were moving and disappearing. I sat there alone and all I could do was just laugh.

Jewel returned with two drinks and some popcorn. She was alarmed when she saw the rest of our row now vacant and the guys behind us gone with their stuff. What happened she said, “did they cancel the show?” No Jewel, they just decided to try to go closer to the stage for a better view. Jewel and I sat on an empty row of an otherwise packed amphitheater and enjoyed a killer show, without smoke nearby to choke us.

I encourage you to have a theme weekend for you and your significant other. It can be back-ass-wards, or have an ethnic theme, sports theme, whatever you like. They sure can create fun and some great memories…and they get you outside of your box. We can all stand to venture out of our routines from time to time. IF you find your weekends are looking similar, then take my advice and go for it.

That was a good day. That was the day I drove back home to Fort Worth with a senior citizen loudly singing Marrakesh Express in my right ear and wishing I hadn’t eaten the greasy fried-chicken. As I dropped my mother off at her house, she turned and told me, “How stupid do you think I am Julie, I knew my comment would make those kids scatter. I wanted more elbow room for the show!” About a month later she made me take her to see Neil Diamond….she leaned over to me and said, “now THAT’S a singer!” As we got up to go, we were walking up the steps of the old Reunion Arena in Dallas…I yelled, “make way senior citizen coming through!” All the people in front of us parted like the Red Sea… as in my mother’s face. Jewel punched me in the back as I turned to tell her, “now we are even.”

Growing Up Juju (part 2 in a series)

Juju sat at her table, no longer called a school desk, and stared across at the two giggling girls. It was the beginning of fifth grade and the year Harrison Lane tried a new concept in teaching…big open rooms with small tables for each kid all arranged together in a big L shape. Two teachers commanded the group of kids for two general periods a day, then the big split occurred. The students were shepherded off to math, english, and science classes according to aptitude scores and their skill level.

In fourth grade the groups had been called: High, Medium, and Low. Juju was in High, but even then she knew it was pretty demoralizing when the teacher yelled, “Low kids, get in the hall!” The “new concept” teaching of her fifth year changed the names of the groups to: 1, 2, and 3. Even the 3s figured out they were the old Lows…look around, yeah there is the kid that sits in the corner and picks his nose for sport…same group.

Susan and Terry sat there and giggled and pointed across the table at Juju most every day….she was tired of it. She didn’t like to tattle-tale, so she was going to have to take matters in her own hands. Terry was a 3, but Susan was a 1 with Juju in every class of the day….she should know better than to pick on people. Juju told them she knew they were talking about her..they didn’t try to hide it, they even pointed at her, said her name loud enough for her to hear.

Juju could have just walloped them, she was taller than every kid in her class, except Louis. Louis was a kid that would grow on to over 6’8″ and play college basketball…Juju liked the fact he was in her class. She would not be the tallest kid in the class picture this year. Juju decided that physically going after them was not the right tact, people would deem that unfair of her anyway. She decided to use the same weapon they were using, a verbal attack.

Every day for the next week, Juju would walk up behind the two girls in the crowded hall of Harrison Lane Elementary….she would bend down and whisper one word in their ear. She did this for five days in a row, Monday thru Friday….she noticed the taunting had stopped by the second day…but she threw in three more days just for good measure. Her plan, it seemed, had worked…she was feeling pretty good that Friday afternoon in math class for the 1s. Susan looked at her from across the room and had a funny smile on her face…a Cheshire cat kind of smile. Juju wondered what that was about?

The 3:05 bell sounded and math class was over, time to go and enjoy the weekend! Juju’s mother was waiting in the front drive of the school, she was especially excited because they were going sneaker shopping today…it was a good day! Mrs. Threadgill, the math teacher called out to Juju as she hit the door. She told her to go back to her homeroom to see Mrs. Dennard about something. Juju trotted off, not knowing what she was about to walk into…not knowing it had to do with that one single word she had been uttering into the ears of her two tormenting adversaries.

She walked into the large expanse of the homeroom and saw a strange site. There stood Mrs. Dennard, Terry, Susan, and their two mothers!! She walked over to the desk and Mrs. Dennard said they were all talking and concerned about something the two girls were saying that Juju had called them in the hall. Mrs. Dennard asked if Juju had said the word and she responded yes. She was admonished and made to apologize to the girls. When asked why she had said such a word, Juju related that the girls had been mocking her for being different…laughing at her daily. Susan and Terry denied the allegation and tearfully looked up at their respective mothers. Juju felt as if she were about to explode in tears….tears of anger. She loved Mrs. Dennard and couldn’t believe that she was siding with them! Juju was dismissed and walked with head held low to her mother’s car.

Juju sat down in the front seat and started to bawl. What is wrong, her mother asked?
Juju related the story…the ENTIRE story, it came flowing out of her in pace with the tears. Jewel became incensed and jumped out of the car and headed to the classroom. Juju’s mother entered the homeroom to find the teacher and two mothers still chatting. She went into a rage, berating the teacher for having this obviously planned meeting without filling her in…without having her present. Jewel was furious that she had been left sitting in the car while 3 adults ganged up on Juju. She left the three women standing there aghast as she exited the room and yelled back one parting shot. “And MY daughter has a right to use that word any damn time she wants to…it is her right!!”

Jewel came back to the car looking like she had flames sticking out the top of her head. Juju was thinking the anger was directed at her….for saying the word. Jewel looked at Juju and asked her if she wanted to go to Sears or the shoe store on Pipeline Road? Juju knew she was a “1” but she was having trouble processing all that had happened. Why was her mother looking at her with that weird look on her face….tears in her eyes and a smile. Juju had never seen that combination on a face before, it befuddled her.

As they pulled into the parking lot of Sears, Jewel asked her daughter if she knew what the word actually meant? The irony was that Juju did not know what it meant. She just knew it had been thrown in her direction before and the general consensus at the school was that it was the lowest thing you could call another kid. Her mother told Juju that it meant different from normal, not the usual.

They walked into the store to buy a new pair of black and white Keds “track” shoes..the ones that had the narrow heel and pointed up at the toe…just like Juju had seen on the Olympics. Juju reached for her mother’s hand and gave it a squeeze. A moment of thanks passed from daughter to mother. Juju laughed aloud and said, “that was a QUEER afternoon, wasn’t it?” She liked making her mother laugh…and deep down Juju was feeling pretty darn good. She was getting the greatest track shoes ever and she now had a new word that described herself perfectly.

Growing Up Juju (part 1 in a series)

The boy named David socked her in the stomach so hard it took her breath away. She fell on her back on his driveway and gasped for a breath, what a brat she thought…he had sucker punched her! After about a minute or two she was on her feet again dusting off her blue jeans and thinking about kicking him…right at the place where her mother told her counted the most. She thought about it but instead gave him the best “go to hell” look an eleven year old can give, turned in her Keds and carted off to her own yard. It wasn’t worth it. That David kid was as queer as a three dollar bill and he didn’t even know it. At least she knew…she was as odd as he was and just trying to be his friend.

She had always known she was different, but she had really got to thinking about it in the last month. Every since that day at Harrison Lane Elementary when the teacher divided up the girls and the boys for “the talk.” The girls were sent to the cafeteria and the boys were hustled to the gym. The P.E. teacher, Miss Pam, who looked like Paul McCartney, stood up to speak. She was “different” too, she just knew it. She wore track suits to school every day and had a pair of sneakers to match each suit. Miss Pam bit her fingernails down to the quick and wore no make-up like the other teachers….and no exaggeration, she looked like the Beatle in his mop-top heyday.

Miss Pam doubled as the health teacher and when she stood up that day she started talking about the differences in boys and girls. The girls watched a film on just how different they were and what would be happening to their bodies in the next year or two. Juju sat there kind of disgusted. She couldn’t believe that was going to happen to her…and all to have babies!?! If you knew you weren’t going to have kids why did this have to happen??

The film had prompted a discussion that night with Juju’s mother. At the end of the talk, Juju knew what her mother had done to have seven babies, she would never do. She got the nerve up to tell her mother she day-dreamed quite a lot, but wouldn’t tell her mother about what. She was told that day-dreaming was perfectly normal and to not be worried. Juju wondered if she were somehow broken. She knew the day-dreams were not the normal thing for an eleven year old girl to think about…she was worried. That day however had yielded too much information, her worries would have to wait for another day. Until then, Juju went about her daily activities, hoping one day she would have all the answers to the questions swirling in her mind.

Juju knew why the neighborhood boys wouldn’t let David play with them. He was called a sissy-boy most times..or told to go play school with the other “girls.” But the thing she didn’t get is why they let her, an actual girl, play tackle football with them? Her best buddy, Rod, had looked at her and said, “I don’t know, you can just play, but don’t spit, girls don’t spit.” Okay, note to self, stop buying the gum that came in a package that looked like chewing tobacco…and stop spitting like the boys did. Juju had it, David’s differences excluded him, her’s kept her in the clique. The boys thought it was odd if she jumped rope or played school with the girls, but they always reminded her there were certain lines she just could not cross.

This being different thing was hard to deal with and issues came up just about every day. Juju had been thinking weird thoughts since she was five years old and now she was beginning to think that they had something to do with the film at school and the talk she had with her mother. Those thoughts, her day-dreams, were going to remain hers for a while, she needed to figure this out for herself first, then tell somebody. Juju had learned some valuable lessons that week. The most valuable one she had learned was to be careful with whom she reached out to…David had not liked her inquiry that preceded the punch. By his reaction Juju knew he had day-dreams too and she had secretly smiled as she walked back to her house that day holding her stomach. Wow, she thought, mother was right, the truth does hurt.

You Wanna Have a Catch?

Softball dominated the ten summers of my life between the ages of 8 and 18, it was my number one priority. I lived for the practices and was over the moon with happiness on game days. Organized sports for girls in the seventies was lacking, but my hometown had a very good girls slow-pitch softball league.

The camaraderie that a young woman gets in team sports is unmatched in other school activities. I made friends on a dirt field in Hurst, Texas in 1971 that I still have to this day. If you were on a team, you instantly had twelve new girlfriends that had your back on and off the field.

Sports were another interest that connected my mother and I. Every game day we would warm up in our backyard about thirty minutes before we had to leave for the field. I would get my uniform on, grab the gloves and invite her to the yard with the words,”you wanna have a catch?” The answer was never no…even though she was 40 years my senior, she was always ready.

My mother would get into her catcher position and I would throw about 50 pitches until it was time to hit the car. She was older than I am as I write this blog and I truly don’t know how she did it! She just loved sports so much and was willing to do anything she could to help me excel and love them too.

It was also a time when we would just talk…a mother and her daughter…in the traditional roles of a boy and his father, but not noticing or caring. We played catch and discussed our day, current events, sports, whatever came to our minds. She related how she was sorry she had missed out on girls organized sports…how women and sports had changed so in her lifetime.

My mother never missed a game. I could always hear her shouts high above the roar of the crowd…which most of the time consisted of about 20 parents. Even though her words were sometimes embarrassing, I grew to rely on them…to use them as a calming influence when I approached the batter’s box. “Knock the leather off that ball Julie!” “outta the park Julie!” Okay Jewel, I thought,…this one is for you! Ten years of sitting in the Texas sun watching slow-pitch softball, I let her say whatever she wanted to…we needed the fans.

I have never been a fan of Kevin Costner except for one movie, Field of Dreams. The emotional and climatic scene where he is on the field and sees the youthful version of his father didn’t leave a dry eye in the theater. Having left the relationship unresolved prior to his father’s death..on the field of dreams, Costner’s character gets to reconnect and heal old wounds. His father, the viewer is led to believe, has come from heaven to play ball. Costner looks at his father and utters the words, “you wanna have a catch?”

What a simple thing it is really. Tossing a ball back and forth…yet it is so much more. It is the combination of a love of the game…shared with a loving parent. A truly unbeatable combination that thousands share across this country. That is why the Costner film touched a chord in so many people. I can still smell the fresh cut grass of our backyard…as well as the smell of my leather glove. I can vividly remember the peddle pushers my mother wore and the groan she would let out as she got into her catcher’s stance.

To tell you the truth I don’t believe in heaven, but if I did my version would be a beautiful, freshly cut, green ball field…lined perfectly with white chalk. There would be an endless supply of new bright white softballs, piled about the place. It would be a place where you could drink all the Coke and eat all the hot dogs you wanted and never gain a pound. I would forever have the physical attributes that I did as a 15 year old…and the intellect that I possess today. My coach Tom would be barking orders from the dug-out with a smile on his face. No sickness would exist, no pain would be felt. My teammates and the opposing team would be made up of every kid that I ever played sports with in my life.

After eating six hot dogs and maybe even a dozen donuts…I know ball parks don’t have donuts, but this is MY heaven people….I would take my turn at bat. The crowd noise would swell and the pitcher would let the ball fly…as it hit the downside of its arch…a voice would pierce the air….”you are going to puke after eating that much Julie!” (it would be my mother’s version of heaven too)

After the nightly game ended, the field would magically turn into my old backyard on Oak Street, the field of my youth…the field of my dreams. I would pull my glove to my face and take a deep breath…that lovely smell of leather would take me back to 1972…and I would be ten years old again. “So you wanna have a catch?” I would ask my mother. Yes, she would respond, but you are catching today, I am pitching a double-header tomorrow.

Rolling Through the Years

So I am sitting in the hallway of the courthouse, on floor number 5. I have my client seated beside me and we are going over the terms of the plea bargain we are about to sign. The courtroom door is slammed open down at the other end of the hall…smashing up against the wall. I turn to my right to see a black male running down the hall, towards me in an orange jump suit….a bailiff running in chase behind him!

I sat there motionless as the orange blur ran right past me. He was gang tackled by other bailiffs before he could get to the stairwell. I sat there motionless??? I chuckled a little and my client asked me what I was laughing about. I told her…my 28-year-old self would have body checked the fleeing prisoner into the wall and I would have had my knee on his head and his wrist in a lock before the bailiff got to us!! My 48-year-old self had become a spectator…no impulse had rushed through my body whatsoever, no trained reaction …reacted. That was the day I knew I was a middle-aged attorney…I was surely not a cop any longer.

The screen fades to black.

In the next scene we see Julya standing beside a gurney in the ER at about 10pm one night. A 21-year-old is handcuffed to said gurney. Laying there he looks quite stupid in bare feet, jeans, Black Sabbath T-shirt, and with gold paint all over his face. Oh yeah, this kid had killed some brain cells, some that he did not have to spare. After running his truck into a fire hydrant he had been amazed when I had guessed that he had been “huffing” paint for cheap thrills. I told him to look in his rear-view mirror and he had chuckled upon seeing his clownish face.

He was cooperative enough and not giving me any trouble, so I took the handcuffs off. He was a local kid and he started telling me how he and his friends “huffed” or inhaled anything they could to get high…all right off of the shelf of the local drug or hardware store. For some reason it was very popular to use the metallic gold or silver paint, that was the “good stuff.” I had taken him to the hospital to have him checked out before escorting him to jail. I was charging him with DUI and he had traffic warrants out of four different agencies.

The nurse approached us with a hypodermic needle to take a sample of his blood. He screamed, “no needles!” The kid elevated off of the gurney, screaming in sheer terror…”I hate needles!!” He tried to bolt for the door and the fight was on! He was about 6 feet tall and real skinny….he tried to punch me and missed. I grabbed him by his long hair and pulled him to the floor where the fight became more of a wrestling match….the two of us rolling all over the ER floor! I clearly had my hands full, what else was this kid on I thought, he seemed to have the power of two men…I was trying to get his hands behind his back to put the darn cuffs on him again! As we rolled into trays and instruments fell about the place….two doctors and three nurses were seemingly enjoying the show. An episode of Cops right before their eyes!

This ER had a 911 red hotline phone that went right to my dispatcher. One of the doctors was leaning against the wall right by the hotline!! In between exchanging punches with the kid, I looked up and said to the Doc, “do you think you can pick up that phone and get me some back-up?” The kid wiggled away from my grip and made a dash to swinging, double doors that led into the main lobby of the hospital. Our audience was about to get much bigger…he was headed to the ER exit. I knew once he got to the exit of the hospital, he would be gone…the skinny kid was going to be able to out run me easily.

I “horse-collared” him in front of about 12 people in the lobby…grabbing the back collar of his T-shirt…just barely getting it with my fingertips. We both went to the floor again…this time mopping up the dusty lobby and smashing into the Coke machine. We just kept rolling, exchanging punches, kicks, he was even trying to bite me. The automatic doors opened to the ambulance bay and we rolled right out onto the driveway…that’s when I heard the tires screeching!! The kid and I both turned to see a patrol car sliding towards us as we layed on the ground, looking at this point like we were embracing each other. We both let out a scream as the front left tire of my back-up’s unit came withing inches of the kid’s head!

The officer jumped out of his unit, along with his rookie ride-a-long, it took three of us to cuff the hopped up kid and get him back on the gurney in the ER. The people in the lobby, that had enjoyed the show, politely applauded as I walked past them in my now filthy uniform. Lesson learned rookie….don’t un-cuff someone who is high on sniffing paint and whatever else that kid was on…lesson learned.

The training officer laughed so hard at me that night….he told me that I was really lucky that he didn’t run right over the both of us. The lighting at the back of the hospital was lacking and we both had on dark shirts. I asked him when did he notice us laying on the black top? He responded, “I saw the flicker of metallic gold paint!”

I write this blog trying to show the reader little snippets of my life. The cop stories are me in my twenties. Even I don’t agree with the way I handled some calls, but I have tried to be honest here…brutally honest at times. Readers have remarked for the most part positively, but one or two have called me a smart-ass, pig, and even a sadist…among other things. That is fine, that is their opinion and their right to not like how the twenty something me handled different problems. It is truly a “walk a mile” type scenario though…until you have been a police officer, you don’t know how you would handle certain calls. The perfect combination would be my smarter and mature self with the physical abilities of my younger self….but reality won’t abide. Reality today has me sitting in the hallway as the kid in the orange jumpsuit sprints by me.

I walked back into the courtroom and apologized to the bailiffs. For what they asked? Look guys, I used to be a cop…I should have tackled the guy, or at least stuck out a foot and tripped him!! I repeated my apology….there was an awkward moment, then the 3 officers filled the courtroom with laughter. My younger self was apologizing and they were laughing at my reality. Time to let the years roll on past me…I am fine with that…time to let them roll just like I did that prisoner, but hopefully not as fast.

Growing Up Juju (part 12 in a series)

You know how hard it is to make the first move? Remember when you were a teenager and you desperately wanted to tell someone you liked them? Rejection has a powerful sting…verbalizing something, reaching out to touch a hand…that is some bold stuff and the consequences could be really awful. But we did it…most of the time in the 70s it was a boy asking a girl out….asking her to go to the movies…leaning in for a kiss. I applaud them, it took guts and it was really, really different from it is today.

I am sure everyone that is reading this remembers those awkward moments. I am sure the gay people reading this can break into a cold sweat just remembering those first moments when they acted on their true being…..when they realized their true self. You want to talk nerve? Two gay kids rarely look at each other and come right out and say it.
There are long periods of time when absolutely nothing happens, unrequited feelings abound. Sometimes the silence never ends…but eventually you have your first encounter where someone makes an incredibly brave move.

I was eighteen years old and about hyper-ventilated every time I was around her. Her name was Annie and my teenage dream was that she shared the same feelings that I had.
By looking at her you would have never guessed she was queer…but there was something about the way she looked at me…I was beginning to think just maybe. She was dating a football player and she used to hang out at the gym waiting on him after practice…it was my senior year. I was a gym rat, always around because I had friends in every sport…the gym was our social club.

Gay kids back then were pretty late bloomers, for obvious reasons. I had already applied for and been accepted at Texas Woman’s University. I knew that school would be a haven for queer girls and I would probably fit in…I would most likely meet my first girlfriend there…I was so hoping that would come to pass. But for now I was watching Annie run and jump into her boyfriend’s arms…longing to trade places with him. She liked me, I could tell…she even laughed at all of my corn-ball jokes. And what about the flirtatious looks she gave me, what was that about? I lived off of those looks for about 2 months until one day she asked me if I wanted to go to a movie one night? Why yes, that would be nice! (thinking inside that I was having a coronary)

I picked Annie up and off we went to a theater at the local mall. The movie was “Private Benjamin” with Goldie Hawn. It is a very funny movie, but to tell you the truth, I had to go see it again later with other friends. The night with Annie I was all in a nervous flumox…years of waiting….years of queer thoughts were racing through my mind. What if I make a move and she actually doesn’t recoil in disgust? What if she does?? What if I am NOT the big queer I think I am? Eighteen years of being an outsider will go by the way-side and I will have to start thinking about guys? Oh gawd, her right forearm just brushed against mine…okay, slash that last thought!

The movie ended and we set off for the parking lot towards my Mercury Bobcat. We were seated in the car, listening to the radio…not quite ready to go home, not knowing what to do next. Tom Petty was our background music…Annie began to talk about dating the football player. Her complimentary description of him ended with the word I was waiting for ….BUT, she said, “something is wrong, I have been thinking of someone else.” Annie looked at me and…….and…..I couldn’t find the breath to make words. This was it….this was THE moment….say it damn-it!! Say it Julya!!!!! SAY IT!!!!!!!

Have you been thinking about me? Did that just come out of my mouth? I am sure I had sheer panic on my face. I thought I had just ruined the last remaining months of my time in high school. She would surely run screaming from the car…show up at class on Monday and tell everyone she could that I was a big old queer and had hit on her! My life was about to be over!! Wait! She just said something..what? Can you say that again? “Yes, she said…I have been thinking about kissing you.”

It was just like in the movies, the radio changed to a love song as if on cue, I leaned in and our lips met. I AM gay!! I am sooooooooooo gay!!! I am gleefully queer!!! You can think it and feel it your entire life, but until a moment like this happens, you really aren’t IT, are you? Don’t you have to ACT on something to truly be it? I was dizzy and really relived…..and so freaking happy!!

So, I don’t think Annie will read this, but if she does….thanks. There always has to be a first and I am thankful for you dear, beautiful Annie. She went out-of-state for college and last I heard she was very happy with a long-term partner. We had lasted until graduation and knew life was taking us in different directions. It hurt, but I knew I had met her for a reason…I knew we were parting for a reason.

We all have an “Annie” in our background…we all have those memories. I know some of you, gay and straight, were perhaps re-buffed in your encounters. I imagine some of my queer readers might have some ugly stories to tell…some of your tales very well might have ended with the girl running away and “outing” you. I am sorry if that happened to you…but the moments have defined us as the people we are today, right?

Every once in a while I am driving down the road and Tom Petty comes on singing Refugee…and my heart starts to beat like an eighteen year old after wind-sprints. I will always remember that night and the first time I figured out being queer was, for me…not really strange at all.

Growing Up Juju (part 13 in a series)

The edge of the creek was lined with Maclura Pomifera trees, most people know them as “Horse Apple” trees. The rough and spherical fruits were lying about…as an attorney, I now would call them an “attractive nuisance,” back then at age 7, they looked like green softballs.

My little neighbor friend, Robbie, was riding his bicycle back and forth in front of me, about 3 feet off the edge…in and out of the tree trunks, like a make-shift obstacle course. Let’s make this course a little more difficult, I thought to myself, as I began rolling the apples towards the creek….and directly in the path of the quickly moving Schwinn.

About six weeks earlier a neighbor kid had beaned me on the forehead with a croquet ball, sending me to the ER for 3 stitches. You would have thought that would have been on my mind, but when you are seven…you don’t think about consequences. I actually wanted him to bite the dirt, not get hurt, just fall in a very dramatic crash. We crashed bikes all the time…when both parties were in on the joke…unfortunately, this time I didn’t let poor Robbie in on the caper.

I timed it just right and my last toss connected with the front tire of Robbie’s bike, getting caught up in the spokes, stalling his progress, and sending him over the handle-bars…in a very dramatic fashion. Robbie stood up quickly and I could see blood gushing out of a cut just over his left eye. OH MY GAWD! What have I done?? I grabbed him by the arm and we went running up to the front door of his house.

I rang the bell and his mother, Rita, answered. I quickly told her Robbie had “fallen” while riding his bike. Rita grabbed him up and off they went to the ER. Robbie’s dad wasn’t home, he was a Fort Worth police detective…I remember thinking that he would be hot on my trail! I felt like I was going to throw up as I raced back across the street to my house.

My mother had run to the store and left my older siblings in charge. I didn’t bother to relate the details about what had just happened to my sister Joyce, as I hurried to my room and slammed the door. Well, news traveled fast in a 1960s neighborhood, not as fast as a Google search, but pretty darn fast.

As my mother was getting out of her car, one of the neighbor boys approached her and spilled the beans on what I had done. Rita’s car was not in her drive-way, I am sure my mother either gave a heavy sigh or rolled her eyes….she was heading towards me!

Overcome with guilt and grief…I was crouched and hiding behind the large desk I had in the corner of my room. The door creaked open and my mother stood there for a few seconds, scoping the empty room. “Julie, are you in here?” Silence.

She waited a full sixty seconds before saying,”You did it on purpose,didn’t you?” The desk spoke the truth….yes, was the answer from the dark corner. “Stay in your room until they get back from the hospital, then you and I are going over to apologize.”

Believe it or not, seven was about the age when I started having conversations with my mother about being “different.” At seven you can’t articulate the feelings or thoughts you have streaming through your head…but I knew I was not like the other girls in my first grade class.

At P.E. every day at Harrison Lane Elementary the same division of the sexes occurred without any adult interference, whatsoever. Mrs. Brown marched us down the first grade hall to the back exit door in a single file line. The first kid hit the door, slammed it open and the bisection occurred…created by societal influence, genetics, I don’t know…make your own argument.

The girls ran to the left towards the concrete pad where the rope jumping began immediately….single and even attempts at double-dutch. The boys ran, whooping and hollering towards the ball-field for a lively game of kickball. I stood at the edge of the concrete, refusing to jump rope….longing to join in on the game across the field.

I don’t want to be a boy I remember telling my mother…I just want to do everything they do. She thought she had a budding feminist…but what she had was a baby dyke. Looking back now it was great of her to engage in the conversation, to embrace a kid that was clearly different. She told me I didn’t have to play with the girls, but I should see what the teacher said about joining the boys. My mother told me all girls were different and that comparing me to the other girls was like comparing “apples to oranges.” I didn’t get that then…so she said it another way….she said, “Julie, different doesn’t mean wrong.”

That idiom is often criticized by “scholars” because both apples and oranges are fruits (insert joke), but it actually is spot on. We were all just little girls, but there were far more differences with me and the jumpers than similarities.

I was crying, overcome with remorse, as my mother and I stood in Robbie’s bedroom. The poor kid had four stitches over his eye, was laying in his bed, sucking on a popsicle. I confessed my sin to Rita and asked her if big Rob, the detective was going to take me to jail? The moms laughed and that made me feel a little better. My penance was raking the leaves in Robbie’s backyard that afternoon,…a job he had been scheduled to do..a job I gladly took over.

You just don’t think about cause and effect when you are a kid…but you do when you become an adult reflecting on childhood memories. The horse apple, or the cause, sure did have an effect on little Robbie. And that “apples and oranges” comment left a lasting mark on me as well. My mother isn’t around to give her input here, but I doubt she would recall saying it to me. I think it would surprise her to know how many times I thought of the comment throughout my “growing up queer” years.

I knew I wasn’t meant to be a cookie-cutter, a girly-girl jumping rope after that, and it was okay. It didn’t solve all my problems or future heartaches, but it was just okay after that. I was like any other kid…I could be rotten as hell one day and cause another kid a trip to the hospital, but I could also become the only girl on Mrs. Brown’s 1st grade, kickball team. Soon thereafter, a classmate, Susan mocked me one day in recess and yelled out, “Julya is a boy!” I pretended the ball was her head the next time it was my turn at the plate…”apples to oranges” I thought….as I rounded the bases smiling.