In the sixth week of our series we pick up at chapter 9: “Apologies to Mr. Jagger”
If you’re just coming across this series, you can catch up from the beginning HERE.
From the trilogy
Somewhere Between This & That: An Absurd Journey
THE MAKING OF A NATURAL DISASTER
This is a work of fiction. Although it is written in the form of an autobiography, it is not one. Clearly, no reasonable person would ever consider this absurd story to be true. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. With the exception of public figures and those with reputations of public renown, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Full of salty language – This is intended for mature audiences.
Apologies to Mr. Jagger
NEXT STOP, WOODLAND Hills. This house wasn’t nearly as cool as the one in Laguna. It did have a nice sized yard, but there wasn’t a beach. For that, we’d make about a twenty-mile trip to the Santa Monica Pier or Venice Beach, which would always make for a highly entertaining day.
A new place meant new faces. Mom and Smoke invested in a professional photography studio and Gary, the photographer, was living in our house. Gary’s portfolio was impressive. In addition to some more tasteful adult work, it included many popular TV stars of the day such as Loni Anderson, Erik Estrada, Gil Gerard, and Erin Gray, to name a few. With Gary around, I learned about some of the tricks and processes used to create beautiful and flawless images. When it came to photographing nude women, I found the wonders of makeup, tape, and body gloss most intriguing and illuminating.
Smoke got a lesson on this one day when he and Mom dropped by the studio to check out a large photo shoot for a gentleman’s magazine. After some time of watching people move about in preparation for the shoot, Smoke began checking his watch.
“When are the models getting here? It’s pretty unprofessional to be this late.” He said impatiently.
“Who do you think all these girls are running around?” Mom laughed.
“That can’t be them. I mean, I was expecting bombshells.”
He was awfully disappointed. These were not the flawless, arched back, shiny-tittied, and glossy-lipped glamazonian stunners he was hoping to see walk off the pages of a magazine. Albeit attractive, in their natural state, they were pretty much just everyday good looking girls, but far from the vixens of so many men’s fantasies.
Although I’d have my fair share of body image issues over the years, seeing the process that models and their photographs go through before the final product was a valuable lesson. I gained firsthand knowledge of how truly unrealistic the bodies presented in magazines were. When I look at a picture of a beautiful woman, with firm breasts and flawless skin, I don’t wonder why I don’t look like that. I know she doesn’t even look like that, not really.
In addition to Gary, we added a Belgian chef and an enormous Great Dane to the mix. Sparks was also back from staying with his mother up North. He’d often go back and forth over the years, for weeks or months at a time. He was with us in Woodland Hills and spent most of his time riding the dog around like a pony.
I did end up with a brand-new pair of roller skates and managed to make some friends in the neighborhood, but most of my time was consumed by my new obsession, Rick Springfield. Listening to, reading about, gazing at, and collecting all things Rick Springfield was my number one pass time. His WORKING CLASS DOG album and the single “Jessie’s Girl” were huge in the summer of 1981. He was also the devastatingly handsome Dr. Noah Drake on GENERAL HOSPITAL. Thank God, we lived within walking distance of my school. I’d sprint home each day so I could make it in time for the opening credits. I was so infatuated I didn’t speak to my mother for days after she refused to take me to an autograph signing nearby. I even proclaimed I was “saving myself” for him, a plan that went terribly awry in later years. The true ridiculousness of my obsession reared its head on my 11th birthday.
The Rolling Stones were on tour in support of their TATTOO YOU album and they’d just played in Los Angeles. Mom was on the phone with one of her music industry buddies and Mick Jagger just happened to be at their house. She asked if Mick wouldn’t mind wishing me a happy birthday and he graciously obliged her request.
“Thank you, but, um, do you know Rick Springfield?” was my response to the legendary Mick Jagger upon receiving my birthday well wishes.
“Aw, bloody hell,” was all I could hear as the phone was being snatched away from my ear.
In addition to my taking a crap outside of the hotel lobby years earlier, this became one of Mom’s favorite stories to tell EVERYONE. Obviously, the older I got, the more embarrassing this story became. My deepest apologies to Mr. Jagger.
Every Picture Tells a Story
IN ADDITION TO feeding my obsession for Rick Springfield, I continued my love of reading and would have my nose in a book nearly every night before falling asleep. One fall evening, I was taking in a new Judy Blume book when I heard yelling coming from Mom and Smoke’s room. It wasn’t all that unusual to hear them arguing. In fact, they argued so often one could easily think Mom and Smoke changed their names to “Fuck-Face” and “Mother Fucker”, respectively.
They were getting pretty loud this time, so I closed my door. As I did, I could hear the fight move into the hallway and through the house to the kitchen. Listening to the obvious sounds of violence coming from the other side of the house, I felt the tears running down my face.
A door slammed and things got quiet, but only for a moment. I heard the familiar creak of the electric garage door. My bedroom window was almost directly across the driveway from the garage and as the door was opening, I could hear them again.
“GET OFF ME, MOTHER FUCKER!” my mother screamed.
“YOU’RE GONNA GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU FUCKING BITCH!”
I ran to the window and saw Smoke choking my mother. He had her pressed against the side of the red sports car in the garage. Her arms were flailing as she tried to fight him off. I saw her feet leave the ground as he lifted her by the throat with both of his large hands. Her braids sprawled over the roof of the car and I could see his arms shaking as he continued to strangle her.
“NOOOOO,” I screamed and took off running. I ran through the house, out the front door, passed the garage, and down the steep driveway. On bare feet, I ran as fast as I could to my friend’s house. As I frantically banged on their front door, I could hear my name echoing in the distance.
“He’s beating her.” I sobbed to my friend’s parents, “Call the police. Please, he’s choking her. He’s going to kill her!”
I waited at my friend’s house until well after I saw the police lights in the distance. I’d apparently stubbed my toe at some point, so I slowly limped home. One of the police cars pulled away as I turned the corner onto our street.
“There she is, officer, we’re fine.” I heard my mother say.
What is she talking about “fine”? I hugged my mother tightly and then, much to my dismay, the police left. They’d obviously lied about what went down, but anyone could see my mother had clearly been assaulted. The police did nothing.
“You just fucked up,” said Smoke, “go to your room.”
I was confused, frightened, and exhausted. I went to my room and rather quickly cried myself to sleep feeling neither protected nor served.
“Wake up, Harmonie, wake up.” I could barely hear through the thickness of my deep slumber. Am I dreaming? I’m shaking, is it an earthquake? Then I heard the familiar sound of the beads in my mother’s braids. When she moved, it sounded as if there were tiny tap dancers in her hair.
“Baby, wake up, we’ve got to go.” My eyes popped open and it was still dark.
“What’s going on?” My eyes were burning as I sat up.
“Get dressed, grab your suitcase and pack it. Grab everything you can, we’re leaving, and hurry.”
She disappeared into the hallway. I grabbed my large suitcase out of the closet and crammed as many clothes as possible into it. I wondered if I should grab all my school stuff, but there was no room. I threw the latest issue of Tiger Beat and my Judy Blume book on top of my crumpled clothes, sat on my suitcase, and snapped it shut. I drug the heavy case down the hallway and stopped in the bathroom. I put my bubble gum lip gloss in my pocket and carried my hairbrush and toothbrush in my hand. Mom already had the car running in the driveway and helped me maneuver the heavy case into the back.
It couldn’t have been more than a few hours since the police left our house. Gary met us at the photography studio and Mom tried to figure out where we were going to go. Neither one of us could think about sleeping and Mom thought a photo shoot might cheer me up a little. I washed my face, she brushed my hair, and Gary snapped a few shots. I’d always thought it would be fun to do a shoot, but I didn’t feel much like being photographed. The resulting black and white photo is one many family members say they’ve always loved, but not me. It’s an odd thing to see a photograph you know was taken on a night that changed who you are and how you see the world. It captures a moment where I knew I’d already seen too much in my eleven years on this planet. I know what really lies behind those eyes is fear, sadness, and a great deal of pissed-offedness. Eventually, the adrenaline wore off and exhaustion set in. Mom and I slept on the floor of the photography studio that night.
The absurd journey continues in chapter 11: “I’ll Fly Away.”
If you don’t want to wait, you can purchase the paperback or eBook HERE
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