Monday, December 26, 2005

Just Another Story

Me and Joe, taking charge in Catalina. Dig the giant hair.

It's a rare thing when my stepbrothers Jake and Joe and I are all together in the same room. If we're lucky, it happens about once every several years or so. It happened again this Christmas, and like it does every time, the conversation eventually turned to a couple of legendary trips we took to Catalina and Newport Beach in the early '90s.

My stepdad was sent down to Newport Beach on business, and it was decided that this would be a family vacation. The first year, my dad loaned us his van (sans air conditioning), we loaded it up and head out. Jake, Joe and I thought that perhaps it would be wise to stay up all night, then fall asleep in the van and sleep the entire drive, waking up in sunny Newport Beach rested and refreshed. The plan worked until we found ourselves on the stretch of I-5 known as the Grapevine, which is legendary for the number of cars that fail to complete the journey. The grade of the hill and the heat kills transmissions. Jake, Joe and I woke up just as we hit the Grapevine dripping in sweat. To make matters worse, mom was blasting Linda Ronstadt, and I voiced my dissent immediately. Eldon put on the Doors, and when the part of "The End" that goes "The blue bus is calling us" came on, Eldon took out his blue brush and sang, "The blue brush is calling us..."

After surviving the Grapevine, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. We were crabby, hot and tired. Joe and I began to squabble, he told me to "take a Midol" and I smacked him with my open hand. We laugh about it now, but mom and Eldon say he looked a little dazed. Joe says he didn't even know what "take a Midol" meant at the time. He was just repeating something he heard that sounded like it could be funny.

Eventually, Joe and I made up and the three of us became a team again. Each morning, Eldon wanted us to get lost, so he gave each of us a twenty and told us to go have fun. The three of us would agree not to spend our money on anything but the bare necessities and instead, we'd look for free ways to have fun. Our most brilliant "bargain" was to jump off a little bridge that rose about 25 feet over the water. It was a carefully thought-out plan. We saw the bridge, thought, "Hey! Let's jump off of that while we're here. No one tell mom and Eldon." We discussed it for a day or so, decided that it would be wise to go into the water below the bridge before jumping to make sure there was nothing that could impale us. After the water passed inspection, we went back to the bridge, climbed over the railing, sucked in our breath, leaned over...and only Jake went. Joe and I froze at the pivotal moment and watched in horror as Jake plummeted toward the water, all flailing arms and legs, executing a perfect belly-flop.

Jake still thinks we set him up, even though we try to reassure him that up until it came time to actually let go of the bridge, we were dead serious about making the leap.

The next year, we spent a few days in Newport before going on to Catalina. What happened there was so embarrassing that my mother feels the need to trot this out as the capper to any Newport/Catalina-related storytelling binge. I've long since given up trying to stop her from telling it.

It all started in a bar and grill where a local reggae band was playing. Since I was in my thanfully short-lived "I love reggae" phase, I insisted that we all go to the restaurant and listen. When we got there, we were told that after a certain hour, the restaurant would become a bar and all the underage patrons without adults would be kicked out. Mom and Eldon wanted to leave after we had our dinner, but I begged them to allow me to stay behind. They agreed, but about five minutes after they left, I was booted out. The band continued to play, and the music could be heard through speakers outside the restaurant. I decided that the restaurant and their stupid rules weren't going to keep me down, man, so I just danced right there outside. By myself.

It wasn't long before a group of four men eating ice cream cones came by, sat down and began to watch me. They asked why I was dancing out there, and I told them, and they continued to watch. I wasn't really interested in continuing to dance or talking to them, but didn't know how to gracefully stop and walk away. Finally, about five very uncomfortable minutes passed before I saw mom and Eldon making their way up the street. "Oh, thank God!" I waited until they got a little closer, then abruptly stopped and ran toward them. Clearly, it was the graceful exit I had been waiting for.

"What were you doing?" they asked. I explained about the pervy men with their licking of the ice cream cones and the not knowing what on earth to do about it and ohthankthesweetbabyjesus they finally showed up.

Eldon said he and mom had been walking toward me having the following exchange:

"Oh, look at the girl dancing! She looks like she's having fun."
They got a little closer.
"Wow, that looks like Nabbalicious."
A little closer.
"That is Nabbalicious!"

And now Eldon always adds, "And the men! They were just sitting there, licking their ice cream cones and just waaaatching her! Oh, it was so gross! Hahahaha."

We always tell these stories, always in the same order. The same people say the same things like we're all in a play and we know our lines by heart, yet every time, it feels like it's the first time I heard them.