Tag Archives: La Jolla

Mom vs. The Water Beetle

From two rooms away, Bart and I heard my mom scream at the top of her lungs. We jumped up and looked out the door only to see her running from the bathroom, ripping all of her clothes off, and yelling, “don’t look! Don’t look!”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I grew up in the Bird Rock area of La Jolla. We don’t have alleys in La Jolla. We have “ways” and “lanes”–and though they look like alleys, they are named. I’m quite sure that we don’t have rats. But there are lots of really huge mice around. We also don’t have cockroaches. No. They may look, act, and be genetically identical to cockroaches, but in La Jolla they’re called water beetles. At least that’s what my mom tried to call them. She would slip up now and then, and the word “cockroach” would be used. But for the most part, “water beetle” was the preferred term. She was terrified of all bugs, but cockroaches held a special place of fear in her. Most likely from a story her mother used to tell her about the time she lived in China in a place where if you went into the kitchen at night and turned on the light, “the whole wall moved.” Covered in cockroaches.

Um, I mean water beetles.

For a while, my mom was prone to wearing long, flowy garments that brushed the ground. Even when out in the yard doing light gardening or simply watering. She would do this, and her mind would wander as she sprayed water around the back yard, her thoughts in far off lands (her childhood in India and what is now Pakistan, for instance) or simply in areas inconceivable to most of us.

On one such evening, after a pleasant half-hour in the back yard while the air cooled and the glowing sunset faded toward night, my mom was in the bathroom down the hall while Bart and I sat in my room, talking about and listening to music. She was combing her hair and began to think to herself how wonderful it would be if you could think of something and it would simply appear. A delicious dinner, perhaps. Or an object you needed. How amazing and useful that would be! You simply think, and it’s there. (I don’t know if she ever saw the “Shore Leave” episode of Star Trek, but it’s pretty much along the lines of where her mental wanderings were headed.) She stopped herself short, though: What if you thought of a cockroach? That would be terrible!

At that very moment a cockroach walked up onto her shoulder.

Which is where I started. My mom had one of the biggest freak-outs that you could ever imagine. She screamed at the top of her lungs and ran out of the bathroom–tearing off all her clothes as she went, yelling “don’t look! Don’t look!” to Bart and I as we hurried out of the bedroom to see what was wrong.

She ran and grabbed something to put on, while Bart and I simply stood there, utterly baffled. When she managed to calm down to a point where she could speak in a somewhat rational manner she finally conveyed the reason for her distress. Bart and I went in search of the, ah, water beetle. At first, we were looking at each other and wondering if she’d just totally flipped her lid. But after several minutes, yes, we did find the nasty thing. In retrospect, it’s obvious that the water beetle had managed hitch a ride on my mom’s long, flowing clothing. But for a while there, she was absolutely convinced she had conjured it out of thin air. I wish she’d conjure up the winning lotto numbers. Now that would be useful.

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An Impromptu Jam

Just before the weekend, my long-time friend Greg asked if I was going to be at “Birdstock”, the street fair in Bird Rock. I hadn’t even known about it, but it looked like fun. So, Sunday afternoon I cruised into my old neighborhood. Met up with Greg (who is an excellent guitar and keyboard player), his kids, and another long-time friend, Jeff. Jeff was actually the very first drummer I knew. We–Bart, Jeff, and I–had a few jams in our early teens.

It turns out they had some sort of performance lined up around the time the street fair was scheduled to close down, and they asked me to come over and play a few songs. Years ago, Jeff had bought me a really thoughtful gift: a Union Jack pickguard . . . for a guitar I no longer owned. Naturally, I insisted he keep it. On Sunday I got to play the guitar he put it on. It felt, played, and sounded great as I cranked Smoke On The Water through his Marshall JCM800 half-stack. No mic was set up yet, so I just sang at the top of my lungs. It’s such a fun song to belt out.

I had a great time, whether it was playing, singing, or simply hanging out listening to the other musicians having fun.

Turns out Greg is putting something together band-wise for next week’s high school reunion. I’ll be playing and singing a song or three there, now, too.

Time to get the lungs going for a little Who, methinks.

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Mom vs. Benneton

Several years back, there used to be a Benetton store in La Jolla. I don’t even know if the chain is still in business anymore, but while there were some here in the US at that time, they were damn near ubiquitous in London. I think there was one every 200 feet going down Oxford Street between Regent’s Road and Charing Cross Road. At least it felt that way. Back then, my mom and her husband used to go to London almost every year for 2-3 weeks. She’d visit her sister now and then, but mostly it was to re-absorb the culture of their youth. I mean, let’s admit it, SoCal has a lot of things to offer. Centuries of culture ain’t one of ’em.

On one particular sojourn, they took a side trip west of the London area to a place called Marlborough. It’s a bit south of Oxford, about the same distance west. It’s a relatively small town, or so my mom tells me. Close as it seems to London on the map, the accent is very different there. To the point where my mom sometimes had a hard time understanding what the locals were saying. But I digress.

Now, a very long time ago, my mom got the photography bug. I don’t know if my dad had anything to do with it, but they actually had a full darkroom setup in the garage for many years. Plus silkscreening equipment, etc.. So my mom always used to bring her trusty Nikon. This was before digital cameras became terribly popular, so she was using film. When she returned home and had the shots developed, she was so happy to show me a photo she took in Marlborough of . . . a Benetton store. “But Mom,” I said, “they have them all over in London.”

“I know that, but this one was way out in the country–in Marlborough! I was just so amazed to see one all the way out there.”

“Oh. Um. Okay.”

A few days later we were walking down Prospect in La Jolla, just passing the Benetton store, when my mom said, “Oh! I have that photo with me. Let’s go into the store and show them!”

Call it, oh, a son’s intuition, but I just felt I should not be part of this. “I don’t feel like going in right now, mom. You go ahead. I’ll wait out here.” And so I did a little window shopping at the jewelry store next door.

It wasn’t more than a minute before she walked briskly out of Benetton. “Let’s go,” she said, with a tight expression on her face.

“What happened, mom?”

“Nothing.”

“No, really, mom, what happened?”

“Nothing. Let’s go.”

“Mom, I can tell something happened. What was it?”

“Well, I walked into Benetton, and went up to the man in there and said, ‘You won’t believe this! I was in England in a little town called Marlborough, way out in the country, and there was a Benetton store there!’

“He didn’t seem very interested. All he said was, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’

“‘But don’t you see,’ I said, ‘there’s the Benetton here, and thousands of miles away in this tiny town in England, there’s another one!’ He still didn’t seem to be interested, so I told him I took a picture of it, and then showed him the photograph.

“He looked a bit confused, but I handed it to him and told him I had this print done for him so he could have it for the store.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Maam, I’m a customer. I don’t work here.'”

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