Shots Fired, Officer Down! (Part One)

Dyke in the Heart of Texas

It was November 6, 1988 at about 12:40 a.m. and I was on patrol on the east side of the city. I checked out at a tire store because I saw a suspicious car pulled up by the back door. I gave the dispatcher the plate number of the vehicle to run on the computer and began to investigate.

I let my guard down a little when I checked the hood of the car and found the engine was cold. I started walking the perimeter, along with my handy Mag light. The dispatcher called out, “221?” Go ahead, I replied. He told me the vehicle was “clear,” meaning not stolen and no warrants attached to the registered owner. The address was local, so I checked a few doors and went back to my unit.

I had graduated the police academy just 9 months before this night.
Low seniority had bestowed…

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Almost a Christmas Story

Juju was  standing on the aqua colored, vinyl kitchen chair, on her tip-toes.  She could see the box of Pin-Wheel cookies that her mother evidently did not want her to see.  Juju’s mother was Christmas shopping with her older sisters and her father was glued to the evening news in the living room.  Juju figured she needed more height.  She was the tallest girl in third grade, but the marsh-mellow filled chocolate cookies were still just beyond her reach.

Juju’s mother had a habit of hiding the good stuff…her personal cravings.  With seven children, sweets in the house usually lasted about the time it took to rip open the bag…think a dozen donuts in a police briefing room.  Juju went to the hall and retrieved the yellow pages from the phone stand.

The phone book provided the necessary extra four inches and Juju’s fingers grabbed at the Nabisco delights.  As she grabbed the package though, another  smaller box behind it toppled to the floor with a loud, snake-like rattle. Juju jumped down and picked up the small yellow box with the word “Daisy” written  on the side.  Holy Cow!  This could only mean one thing Juju surmised!  Somewhere in her house was the Daisy BB gun she had begged her father to buy her for her birthday on Christmas eve!!

All the neighborhood kids had a BB gun and Juju was tired of begging her friends for a turn as they shot Coke cans off the creek’s edge in her north Texas neighborhood. Robbie Ray had one, Roderick Paul had one, even Donnie Gene had one and his parents didn’t have much money at all.  All kids on Juju’s street went by two names.  At dinner time you could stand in the middle of the street and  hear a cacophony of mom’s voices; standing at front doors, yelling their kids names and calling them for dinner.  “Roderick Paul, come on now!  The roast is on the table!”

Juju and her sisters did not have middle names, an anomaly in the  South for sure.  Her mother always told her that her last name was long and enough to deal with without having a middle name.  “Girls will marry and your maiden name will become your middle name,” she told Juju.  Men need middle names, so Juju’s mother gave her two sons the names of James Edward and John Garfield.

Juju carefully placed the box of BBs back up on the refrigerator and hid it with the crinkly wrapped box of cookies, one of which was now sitting on the kitchen table and the other securely in Juju’s mouth.  Her mother would blame her father for the theft, Juju thought to herself and giggled. Juju had premeditated  her crime earlier in the day, making a point to tell her mother that she didn’t like marsh-mellows at all.  Coming from a kid who had eaten fish sticks for the entire first grade, her mother had bought the story…..hook, line, and sinker.  🙂

For the next week Juju day-dreamed about her BB gun, envisioning great games of “war” and “Gunsmoke” with her buddies.  It never occurred to Juju that all the kids she played with and who had BB guns were all boys.  She had to act surprised when she opened the long box that would surely be handed to her by her father.   Juju practiced looks of surprise and awe in the bathroom mirror.

The day finally came, Juju’s eighth birthday!  With family all at the house for Christmas eve, Juju patiently waited on the sofa. There was always one special gift under the tree designated as her birthday gift.  It didn’t matter that it was always wrapped in Christmas paper…Juju was spoiled rotten and the gift always made up for the fact that she had to share her birthday with the rituals of the season.

Christmas carolers were heard at the door and Juju’s mother gave them cookies and made her annual request for a song not on their list.  Juju was called to the front porch and tapped her toes as ten strangers from a local church sang her the Happy Birthday song.  Until she was five, Juju had thought all people have strangers come to their door and sing to them on their birthday.   All the while, in her head, Juju was dreaming of strapping  the Daisy rifle over her shoulder, as she crawled on her stomach to help her friends reach the bank robber’s camp just on the other side of the creek that ran under Pipeline Road.

Once back inside the living room of the small ranch-type house her family shared, Juju’s mother motioned at a small box with red paper, under the tree.  Juju could hardly contain her merriment at the thought of opening that box of BBs.  She felt confident with her acting ability upon the opening of the package. The previous year, her older sister Junene had opened  up five of their gifts while their parents had slept.  Junene expertly re-wrapped each gift, threatening Juju to secrecy.  Versing her on the art of “cover” the next morning as their ruse went undetected

With the entire family watching, Juju ripped into the small, red box.  A Snow White watch??   Whoa Nelly, what??  Juju’s face looked like it did the time her mother told her grilled liver tasted just like sirloin…it does not.  “Well, that’s not the reaction I was looking for Juju,” her mother said.  Juju gulped, a mouthful of disappointment and quickly strapped the watch on her left wrist, a forced smile on her face.

After her older siblings had left the house for their own homes, Juju retired to her bedroom.  Her disappointment had lasted about ten minutes before she thought that the BB gun was going to be her big Christmas gift the next morning!  Juju could hear her parents engaged in a  loud conversation in the kitchen.  Did Juju’s mother just say BB??

Juju tip-toed down the hall and heard the following interaction between her parents.  Jewel said, “You spoil her, she doesn’t need everything she asks for!” Jim, “I know, but she is the last one, my baby!”  Jewel, “A girl doesn’t need a gun!! That’s why I took it back to the store.  She already plays football with all the boys on the street and have you seen her bicycle?  She and Roderick Paul dismantled the swing set and turned their bikes into choppers like on that damn hippie movie!!!”

That’s why I took it back to the store??  Juju was not getting the BB gun, she looked at her wrist…Snow White told her it was time to go to bed.

The next morning was going to be an Oscar worthy performance, just as good as the acting in Juju’s favorite movie,  Mary Poppins.  Christmas of 1969 turned out to be pretty darn good.  Juju loved the Monopoly, Twister and Operation games she received. Her big gift was a guitar, a gift that she had asked for to learn Beatles songs on…..a gift that would sit in the corner of her room for the next three years, collecting dust.

It was almost the year Juju got the weapon of her dreams.  By January Juju took on the role of a rogue Indian in the neighborhood “Gunsmoke” games.  Robbie Ray loaned her his tom-a-hawk…she rationalized it was better than a long-rifle anyway.

That Christmas is now the one Juju thinks of most often, it was  ….Almost a Christmas Story.  Having watched that ubiquitous movie about seventy times…..and every time she does tune in, her mind goes back to re-live her own memories.  It is the  favorite Christmas of her childhood….the year she learned you don’t need everything you wish for to create magic.  The year she first learned her mother was watching certain things closely and beginning to question choices.  The year she heard her father voice nostalgia and love at his last child growing up too fast.

Juju still loves Pin-Wheel cookies, when she can find them, and  still hates liver.  She still thinks it would be fun to go shoot cans with a BB gun and to play touch football in the street….and she still believes in Christmas bringing  magic to your life.

Even if it is a five-minute moment, enjoy the magic of the season.  Happy Holidays

A Hand in History

I was 23 months old on November 22, 1963 and about 30 miles away from the exact location where the thirty-fifth President of the United States was murdered that day.  Of course, I have no personal recollection of the assassination, but in a way this horrific act helped shape my childhood and life.

JFK was my childhood hero…is still my hero.  My entire life I wanted to establish a link to him….to reach out and touch something that he touched during his lifetime.  One day in 1992 I saw this picture and instantly knew what I had to do.

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William Jefferson  Clinton visited the White House on July 24, 1963 as a member of Boys Nation.  The 35th President of the United States reached out and firmly grabbed the hand of the 42nd, and a historical photograph was snapped.

Clinton was campaigning for re-election in 1996 and had a scheduled stop in downtown Fort Worth.  I went down to the appointed spot 5 hours early, got myself front row center of the stage and waited.  The President arrived with Ann Richards and other notable Democrats in Texas.  It was thrilling to see everyone and to listen to Clinton rally the fateful.  I gave my camera to the total stranger next to me and told him to snap my picture with the President because I just knew we were going to shake hands and I would have my link to JFK.

After his stump speech, Clinton made a bee-line to the front row and was walking directly to me!  I looked at the guy and he had my camera ready to go!  The President grabbed my hand with his right and draped his left hand over the top.  We had a brief conversation and I could hear the click of my camera.

It was 1996 so I had to take the film cartridge to the drug store for processing.  Two days later the prints were picked up and I nervously ripped the envelope open.  Inside the envelope I found six pictures of the side of my head??!!!  Not one photograph of the handshake between me and 42!!  What an idiot!!  How did this happen??  He was a stranger, I couldn’t even track him down to strangle him!!

How long did I have to wait before I got another chance at Clinton?  2008.  Yes, twelve years later Bill Clinton was traveling through the DFW area stumping for Hillary and her historic presidential campaign.  One of his stops was in a field in Grapevine, Texas.  Like a dozen years before I showed up about 4 hours early and stood in 35 degree weather in a dirt field behind a civic center.  Where else in America would this happen?   The motorcade pulled up on time and secret service exited with Clinton who jumped into the bed of a pick-up truck to give his speech.  His speech that day was unbelievable and the 200 or so people gathered were yelling and cheering for him…and Hillary.

During his speech, Clinton looked directly down at me several times.  Did I have a professional photographer with me you ask?  No.  Did I at least bring a friend to secure a good photograph this time? Again, no.  It was in the middle of a work day and self-employment was the only reason I was able to attend.  I once again looked to the stranger next to me and asked her to snap a photo of the President shaking my hand.  “How do you know he is going to shake your hand?” she asked.  Just trust me, I told her….he is going to finish his speech and walk right over to me. …and that, he did indeed do.

President Clinton walked up to me and I told him my name and  quickly rattled off a question about the media bias I thought was evident and favoring Barack Obama.  I couldn’t tell you a thing about his response except the first two words he uttered, “Well Julya.”  I’m sure it was a mighty fine answer, it was just that he put both his hands on my shoulders and looked directly into my eyes!  My response was not Monica-esque, but what they say about the man is correct.  The entire outside world disappears for him and it appears that you and your question are the ONLY things that matter to him.

At the end of his answer, he took his hands off my shoulders and the moment happened!  We shook hands and I heard the woman next to me say, “I got it!!”

My full circle moment was complete the next day as I printed off the picture at the camera store by my house.  I laughed out loud when I saw it and realized I had learned nothing in the past 12 years!!  At least this time I have proof that the encounter truly happened and not just a picture of my thick head of hair!  It is actually a very good shot of the secret service guy though, don’t you think?

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JFK shook Bill Clinton’s hand….and I had shaken Clinton’s hand,  now twice.  In the weird world that exists in my brain, that was my connection to my childhood hero, I was happy.  The picture doesn’t show the actual handshake, that is true, but I am hoping for another chance…maybe in 2016?

Growing Up Juju (part 20 in a series)

“There she is momma, the girl I told you about!” said Millie Bidman, Juju’s arch nemesis in third grade.  “She  NEVER wears a dress!!”  Both Momma and Millie laughed and walked past Juju into the school cafeteria to attend the PTA meeting.   Juju looked down at her faded blue jeans, her favorite pair with the peace sign patch on the left knee.

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I could wear dresses again Juju thought to herself, and I will one day when the mood hits me.  Little did Juju know that urge would not come around until fifteen years later on October 11, 1986 at a relative’s wedding.  But on that night she strutted over and took a seat next to her mother who wore denim peddle pushers and a starched white shirt.  The president of the PTA was talking about the price of chocolate milk as they both yawned in unison.

Juju’s third year at Harrison Lane Elementary was the first year that the school had lifted the rule that  girls no longer had to wear dresses everyday.  Until that day, Juju had shopped each summer’s end with her mother at Watson’s Department Store.  Five new dresses in August for weekly rotation in the Hurst, Texas school.  A pair of shorts was purchased to match each dress;  to prevent Juju’s bum from making a public appearance on the kick-ball field during recess.

After the big announcement, Juju moved on from Watson’s to the Army Navy Store that her older sister adored.  Faded blue jeans in every conceivable style, with huge bell-bottoms.  They also had a huge rack of blue jean patches to make the jeans display your personality.  (“Pieces of flair” for kids coming of age in the 1970s). The jeans had to be worn with chukka boots, Chuck
Taylors,  or huarache sandals…some sort of rule Juju heard about that came from California.  Everything weird came from California according to Juju’s father.  “Fruits and nuts” he used to say. Juju thought  California just had good crops and better shoe fashion sense.

After getting home from the PTA meeting, Juju went to her room to lay out what she was going to wear to school the next day.  T-shirt with Keith Partridge silk screened on the front?  Check!  Hip hugger jeans with the H.R. Pufnstuf patch?  Check!  Tan chukkas?  Check!  This outfit was  really going to chap Millie’s ass…as Juju’s mother had a habit of saying.  

The next day at recess Millie and her two friends skipped up to Juju as she sat on the grass behind the kickball field backstop. The trio all had colorful dresses on and knee high white go-go boots. They looked like the dancers on Laugh-In Juju thought, how can they run in those things? “You better stay away from Gary said the short red head. Gary? Juju inquired? He was a boy in her homeroom that always smelled like a cross between Old Spice and a Whataburger. He picked his nose and then skillfully placed the boogers at the back of the desk in front of him. The kid had a certain skill set. Yeah, Gary the red head snotted back. He likes you, we have proof! It seems Millie was carrying a torch for the nose picker and that revelation made Juju smile. A crumpled piece of lined notebook paper was thrown down to Juju’s chukka wearing feet. She unwadded it and read the following: Which girl do you like best in the third grade? A scratchy reply spelled out J-u-j-u. Millie screamed down at Juju, “You wear boys shoes!!!” The squeak of vinyl filled the air as the girls marched off.

Millie would never find out why Gary loved Juju, but Juju instantly knew. Gary was the only boy on his little league team that could actually throw a curve ball. He would go the rest of his life and never admit a girl in a Beatles t-shirt showed him how one day on a lonely field off Redbud Lane. Juju wasn’t bothered by Millie or her back up dancers again the rest of that year. Millie was left to ponder what the tomboy had over her, watching as Juju and Gary sat up in the bleachers talking about Brooks Robinson.

Closets can be filled with all sorts of stuff in adolescence; cleats, jeans, baseball gloves & bats, Battleship games, and plastic snakes. Juju wondered what a boy kept in his closet?

She, herself, might be in one for the better part of the 1970s, but nary a dress would ever be found.

September

Originally posted in 2009…………NEVER FORGET 9/11/01

Dyke in the Heart of Texas

Some people swore that the house was haunted. Pedestrians, heads down, felt an odd shiver as they passed it, on the way to their ordinary lives. The feeling that went up their spines was not the result of a poltergeist however, and would never have made the plot of a Hitchcock movie. The thing that repelled most people from this house, the palpable thing in the air that chilled one, was sadness.

The house had the look of a grieving soul. It’s frame looking ready to collapse, burdened by some unseen weight. She looked out her front window and longed for ordinary. She prayed for her ordinary life to come back on a daily basis. She remembered rushing to go to the grocery store after work, the kiss at the back steps every evening. The smell of his neck as they embraced…she wanted to smell him again. Drowning in grief…

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Dignity

I have been taking some time off from blogging…I hope you noticed.  It is not that I haven’t had things to say, it’s just that I have come to a conclusion.  This country remains absolutely divided on many key issues and what I have to say means very little, just another voice in the crowd.

When I go off on one of my tirades, I am basically preaching to the choir, my base.  I can feel your heads nodding in approval and love the notes you post here and the emails you send me.  On the flip side, I feel a sting.  I am not going to convert or win anyone over with this blog it seems.  It’s like my nightmare jury, hell bent on a guilty verdict and even if I tap dance  in front of them, I am not going to get an acquittal.

With the decisions by the Supreme Court on June 26th, we are so very close to getting equality under the law for me and my big, gay, American family.  I cried most of the day on the 26th, I just could not stop.  Every time I had a moment to reflect, the flood gates opened up again.  My wife (legally married in CA on October 3, 2008, been together for 13 years) and I are still legally married in California and now we are recognized by the United States federal government.  We gained over 1100 rights with the DOMA decision.   We are Texas residents however and still not recognized in my home state….that is so crazy I won’t even address it today.

What I will address is my real “family.”  The friends that stopped to call me, text me, email me, or just shout across a courtroom words of congratulations on that historic day.  To be a second-class citizen for 50 years, then to be recognized by SCOTUS and restored full dignity, well, I have to say it was in the top 3  most perfect days of my entire life.

I did not receive a single text, email, phone call, and/or hug from my biological family…and it is a large one.  Not one single syllable uttered in my direction for the righting of a wrong that has existed all my life.

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”  Justice Kennedy

Justice Kennedy actually used the word “dignity” nine times in the majority opinion.

Dignity:  The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

Wow, I am worthy of respect.  My marriage is worthy of respect.  My life is worthy of respect.  I write that facetiously, but you know that, don’t you?  Isn’t it a sad statement that a 5-4 decision gave me dignity?  That I celebrated the decision of five people deciding that I and my marriage must have DIGNITY???

I watched my step-son marry a lovely young woman this last Saturday in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Upon signing the marriage license, the union became legal.  The union was instantly acknowledged by the state of Arkansas and by the every other state in these United States of America.  The union was instantly acknowledged by the United States federal government.

Not one single time during the celebratory weekend did the word “dignity” come up in conversation…for you see, it was a given.  How sickening a populace we would be to deny this young couple and their union our respect.  How dreadful it would be to deny them full acknowledgement and the utmost of our love and encouragement.

As I sat at the reception and sipped my champagne, my inner voice kept repeating the word, “dignity.”   I get it.  I know at least half of you are nodding again…you get it.  Like my business partner coming into the office that morning of the 26th.  A simple congratulations and handshake from this heterosexual man was just not going to suffice.  He said, “Can I hug you?  I just have to hug you!”

The lawyer in me wants to wind this up addressing the other side.  The people that don’t get it, will never get it.  How can you respect or hold your own unions in esteem if you cannot see the dignity in others?  You cannot use the “Paula Deen Defense.”  You cannot blame it on the way things were in the past!

Inequality was just as wrong in the Stonewall bar in 1969 as it was in a Birmingham bus in 1962….or in the state of Texas in 2013.  Right and wrong NEVER change….people hopefully do.  But then again, at the beginning of this blog,  I wrote that I am not changing anyone it seems.

The change has to come from within and oddly depends on the same word, “dignity.”

The Ridglea Theater

My mother, Jewel, and I shared a love of movies. My childhood memories that were not played out on  the softball field or in a gym somewhere were most certainly recalled in theaters. We enjoyed the actual act of going into a theater, with a big bag of popcorn, planting our butts down and watching everything from the classics of the golden years  to what Hollywood was serving up in the mid to late-seventies.

Jewel’s favorite actress was Katherine Hepburn. She liked to tell the story of being at a big movie premiere in downtown Fort Worth in 1940.  She was at the old Worth Theater and the local newspaper had put the word out Hepburn would be  there to promote her film,  The Philadelphia Story.   Jewel recounted the story that after waiting for two hours in the lobby, she ducked into the restroom.  She was 19 at the time and recalled exiting one of the stalls to wash her hands.  A woman walked up to the sink beside her and Jewel heard the legendary voice directed at her.  “Please be a dear and hand me a towel.” said Kate.  My mother obliged, smiled and watched the only person to ever win four Academy Awards walk out of the restroom and her life, just as quickly as she had entered it.  Jewel’s favorite actor was John Garfield, so much so, that’s what she named my brother.

My mother introduced me to James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor at the old Jerry Lewis Theater in Euless, Texas in 1974.  A re-release of Giant was my first movie ever to have an intermission.  Giant’s running time was about four hours, but I can remember being mesmerized by the actors and the incredible cinematography of that film….never once tiring of the rigid seat covered in red  vinyl.

Jewel took me to see my first “R” rated movie in 1975, JAWS.  We walked up the street from my house to the Bellaire Theater in my hometown, Hurst.  I was petrified and wouldn’t even get into a swimming pool for a month after I saw Robert Shaw devoured by that huge mechanical shark.

In 1976 we saw, “A Star is Born,” with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson at the Plantation Theater off of University Drive in Fort Worth.  That theater had a reputation in the 70s at being “artsy” and “fancy.”  The seats rocked, actual rocking chairs like you were sitting on your old plantation porch.  They also had killer lemonade.  I had fallen in love with Streisand several years before when I first saw Funny Girl, but this film sent my pubescent heart into arrest.  I was madly in love with Babs after 1976 and remain so to this day.

In 1976 we also saw “The Omen” at the Ridglea Theater on Camp Bowie, also in Fort Worth.  That movie starred Lee Remick and Gregory Peck, a classic horror movie about a kid that is the son of the devil.  Remember, 666 on his head?  Jewel didn’t care for that one, but sat in the balcony with me, eating her smuggled McDonald’s cheese burger and fries.

The Ridglea Theater was bigger and better than any other theater I had seen.  It had beautiful murals and rugs in the lobby.  Fantastic snack bar and restrooms…and a sweeping staircase to my beloved balcony.  There was something about sitting on the first row of the balcony, overlooking the crowd and coming eye to eye with your favorite movie stars.

These movie house weekends were not just about the theaters mind you, they were about me and Jewel.  After my father died in 1976, we hung close on the weekends.  I still participated in sports, but I also made sure not to run too far off from the house….lest mother shouted, “Hit the Cadillac, it’s time for a movie!”  If we went to the twilight showing, the adult ticket was $2.25, and the child ticket was $1.75.  A “child” was 14 and under and I was 14 in 1976….and in 1977…..and in 1978.

I wasn’t kidding about the smuggled burgers.  If something could fit into Jewel’s purse, it was going into the Ridglea.  She drank Tab soft drink like it was  going out of style and had two cans in the side pocket.  Jewel’s purse was bigger than the suitcase I took on vacation.  She liked popcorn, but really enjoyed dinner and a movie.  Jewel was a pioneer it seems, eating full meals long before the movie taverns of today.

Jewel is gone, as are most of the classic theaters in town; long since vanishing into rubble.  The Ridglea Theater though has been beautifully remodeled by its new owner.  It doesn’t look quite like it used to look, but it is darn close.  The first floor of the theater has tables spread throughout, films and live music acts frequent the historical venue.  The balcony is very similar to the snapshots of my youth.  I went to the Ridglea after the grand re-opening to participate in a “sing-along” showing of The Sound of Music.  As I stood singing along with the Von Traps….I wished my mother was with me to see the place return in all its grandeur.  I wished my mother was eating a chicken leg in the seat beside me, looking for the salt in her coin purse.

I am a nostalgic person, if you read this blog, …well, yeah.  Nostalgia doesn’t envelop me, but it is a part of my every day life.  My partner is sick of channel 7 on my satellite radio/sounds of the 1970s.  I still dress like I did when I was an awkward 14 year old…15…..okay 16, t-shirts, shorts and sneakers.  I still enjoy films, and when I say the word “film” I mean movies prior to 1990 or so.  The crap that is released today is out on DVD the next week and on your TV the week after that.  Channing Tatum or Robert DeNiro?  Jessica Chastain or Katherine Hepburn?  Case closed.

I live in a lovely, historical townhouse, right in the center of everything here in Fort Worth.  I love that it was built in 1942 and has the hardwood floors and architectural touches and design that quite simply cannot be beat anywhere in north Texas.  I sit out on my balcony and wonder about residents and the good times that have come before my occupancy.  I think of Jewel and all the wonderful theaters that were all shining brightly when the townhouse smelled of new paint for the very first time.

I think of Jewel.  You know how it is when you heart aches so you don’t feel that you can catch your next breath?  Even after eight years I have that reaction still quite often.  But for some reason, sitting on my balcony makes me happy and fills me with peace.  I watch the trees sway side to side in the Spring air and imagine the long branches to be Jewel’s arms reaching out to hug me….or is that a cheeseburger she is handing me?  A wry smile crosses my face as I look further beyond the trees and I see it.  “Do you want the first floor or shall we go up to the balcony Julie?”  The view is perfect here Jewel.

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