In the 13th and final week of this summer sampler series we will pick up at chapter 20: “Summer in the Harbor”. The full book can be purchased HERE
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.
Summer in the Harbor
WHEN YOU LIVE in Palm Springs, summer becomes a verb because you’ll definitely want to “summer” in someplace other than this hot ass joint. If you’re thinking “oh, but it’s a dry heat”, you’ve obviously not been to the desert in August. At 120 degrees, everything, everywhere, is just too fucking hot! When you step outside that dry heat will promptly suck the moisture right out of your lungs. Inside, you’ll be lucky if your air conditioner can keep your house a cool 90. For a little more than the outrageous electric bill you’ll have, you could rent a small place on the coast and “summer” in far more pleasurable conditions. That’s what we did. We summered in Oceanside.
In northern San Diego County, Oceanside was close to the food truck operations. We’d stay on the north side of Oceanside Harbor, which bordered the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Apart from the rest of Oceanside, it was like an entire world in itself, with its own beach sandwiched between two jetties.
If I wasn’t working on the food trucks, I pretty much lived in my bathing suit. I had a few guy friends in the harbor whose families vacationed there as well. It was all very platonic between the four of us. They were cute, but they were more like brothers for the summer to me. The boys and I had an agreement that if you paid for the weed, the other three paid for your munchies. I always had weed. There was a maid where we were staying who would sell me joints for a dollar a piece. Ten bucks went a long way back then.
Most days we’d slap some U2 or Van Halen in the boombox and take the long walk around the harbor to the beach, stopping for a Monte Cristo sandwich on the way back. If we wanted to make a quick day of it, we’d leave everything behind and swim across the entrance channel of the harbor, then climb the north jetty. It was by no means the safest way to Harbor Beach, but it was certainly the quickest.
Smoke and I also spent a good bit of time together during our summers in Oceanside. We’d crack open a couple of beers, light a joint, and go fishing off the rocks right outside of our sliding glass door. Those days always made for long conversations about life and something tasty to throw on the grill. Mom would whip up something delicious to go along with our catch, but wouldn’t join us for fishing or trips to the beach. If it didn’t involve a restaurant or shopping, she wasn’t into it.
My relationship with my mother became more contentious in the summer of ’84. I was a full-blown teenager, teeming with hormones, and lacking in patience for my mother’s little taunts. I may have been mouthy in school, but I didn’t talk back to my mother the way I’d heard other kids do. I pretty much just stuck with sucking my teeth and gasping. However, like most teenagers, I could sport a look on my face that would evoke a near murderous rage from my mother.
“Don’t you look at me like that you little fucking bitch! I said get your fat ass in the kitchen and do the fucking dishes!”
My mother loved to get in people’s faces. She was still nearly a head taller than me, but she insisted on getting a half inch from my face. If I looked down or tried to turn away, she’d be right there, digging her nails into the back of my neck or pulling my hair to make me look at her. Her lips would disappear as she’d tell me all the ways in which she was going to make my life miserable. There might even be a slap in the face as she accused me of things I hadn’t even thought of yet, but she’d never really beat the shit out of me until the summer of ’84.
“SHUT UP!” I screamed in her face after her tirade of name calling went on for what seemed like half an hour. I’d never said those words to my mother before and trust me, it would be years before I said them again. I hit the floor after the first couple of punches.
“You think you can talk to me like that and live? I never even wanted fucking kids. I’ll fucking kill you, you little bitch!” She raged as she repeatedly kicked me. “Why do you think I had my tubes tied before I even left the hospital with your fat fucking ass?”
“What the fuck is going on?” Smoke yelled as he came through the door and grabbed her.
“This little bitch is going to get the fuck out of my house is what the fuck is going on!”
Sparks and I were both sent away in the fall of 1984. During that summer, Sparks had thrown several kittens off a balcony “to see if they would bounce.” That, coupled with his penchant for pyromania, earned him a trip to military school for the first grade. I was sent to an all-girls Catholic boarding school in Los Angeles County.
Smoke tried to present the prospect of going to this college preparatory academy as an opportunity to obtain a good education. Mom, however, took immense joy in making it abundantly clear it was a punishment.
There were some other upsides to sending us away for Mom. Saying your kids were away at school sounded good when you were trying to climb your way into the social registry of who’s who in Palm Springs. It also meant all little eyes, ears, and mouths, were away from any shenanigans that might be going on.
A Bunch of Malcontents
I’D LIKE TO know who the fucking sadist was to first conceive the all-girls boarding school. A place full of bitchy teenage girls, all having their periods at the same time. I wasn’t even Catholic, and the only opportunity for individual expression was to cover my cardigan in English Beat and Duran Duran buttons.
This fine institution exposed me to female contemporaries with all manner of dysfunctions including anorexia, bulimia, and self-mutilation. One night, a girl dramatically announced to everyone in the freshman cottage she was going to kill herself by chopping up and snorting the horse pills she stole from her mom’s medicine cabinet. After recognizing these large, bright pink pills as the antibiotic erythromycin, I took my ass back to bed. Fortunately, I had aversions to pain, puking, and snorting absolutely anything. These displays had little effect on me, other than to cement my abhorrence of the sheer mechanics of these particular dysfunctions. Other experiences did have an impact, however.
The freshmen hazing by our senior “mentors” was a shared torment, but I experienced most others in solitude, feeling singled out. I imagine it was due, in no small part, to my perfected bitchy resting face. My posters were vandalized and my shampoo was spiked with hair remover. Fortunately, that stuff stinks to high heaven so I kept my locks intact, but I developed a slight paranoia about leaving my food or drinks unattended. Personally, I think pouring salt in someone’s coffee first thing in the morning should be grounds for justifiable homicide. I really only managed to have one friend at a time. Each one of them would eventually stop talking to me. Only one of them ever had the seeds to tell me it was because the other girls were threatening them. One by one, they caved under the peer pressure and shunned me for their own social survival.
Although I was put through more than my fair share of hell at school, I was certainly no angel. I got into a good amount of trouble. It was mostly for fighting and I got popped for smoking cigarettes more times than I could count. It didn’t take long for the nuns to place me on academic and social probation.
The first couple months of only being home on weekends did relax some of the mother-daughter tensions around the house. Mom even made the weekend of my 14th birthday a girl’s weekend. Shopping, lunch, and bar-hopping. Yes, bar-hopping.
I’d been passing for 18 and buying cigarettes for quite a while, but I was concerned about passing for 21. Luckily, sporting double D-cups in the low-cut form-fitting number Mom dressed me in meant I didn’t get carded anywhere. From the nightclubs downtown on Palm Canyon, all the way to Pompeii in Cat City, doormen took one look at my cleavage and waved me in. One cocktail waitress looked at me a little sideways and didn’t want to serve me, but Mom hooked it up. As it turns out, 10 bucks still went a long way.
It was a long and mostly fun-filled night, but I didn’t feel like myself. The make-up Mom piled on my face felt weird and damn, my feet hurt! I also didn’t care for the creepy men who were licking their chops at me all night. Mom batted them away every once and a while, but not as much as I would’ve liked. I awoke the next day with my first truly miserable hangover.
As the new year rolled in, things started getting worse at home. Smoke would spend most of the week down in Oceanside on business. Meanwhile, Mom was carrying on a scandalous affair with the nephew of a prominent local restaurateur. This young Italian was cute, funny, and an amazing cook. I even had a little bit of a crush on him myself. When I finally realized they were having an affair, my mother’s tirades about us “being in competition” suddenly made sense. Up to that point, I couldn’t understand what in the world a barely teenaged girl would be in competition with her married 32-year-old mother for. I hadn’t imagined it was for the attention of a 21-year-old blue-eyed Italian. I knew he was too old for me and didn’t have any illusions about my crush, but the inappropriateness of their relationship didn’t appear to dawn on either one of them.
When Smoke was home, tensions ran high and the fighting increased. He suspected Mom was up to something, but he took it out on all of us. He treated everyone with suspicion and talked to us like dogs. I once answered the phone in a tone he didn’t like and he punched me in the chest, with both fists, sending me across the room. There was also a fight with my mother that ended in a three-way standoff. He knocked my mother to the floor and I ran to the kitchen for the biggest knife I could find. When I returned with the knife, Mom was armed with the poker from the fireplace. We must’ve really looked like we meant business because he picked up a long barbell, then called for a truce. We all set our weapons down and, as usual, acted like nothing ever happened.
There’s A LOT MORE to this story! You can purchase the full paperback or eBook HERE
Be on the lookout for the rest of the trilogy!
Book 2: The Wander Years
Book 3: Walking in the Sun
Copyright © 2017 – 2018 Harmonie A. Hillwest
All Rights Reserved