San Diego Cinderella

On our Italian tour last year, we took trains from La Spezia to Genoa to Milan to Venice, passing Verona on the way. This week for our anniversary, we followed our hearts back. Longing for piazzas, basilicas, and doumos, we decided to revel in the balconies and tombs of Verona and, consequently, the passion, the pageantry, the drama, and the death that is Romeo and Juliet.

I may have mentioned: Italy feels just like home.

I’ve never been to Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theater. Like a star-crossed lover, I always passed by offering terms of endearment and wistful looks but never stopped to embrace it. It was easy to be seduced by Shakespeare. I painted my toenails in anticipation.

I wore the same dress – strictly for the memory – that I wore to the opera in Sorrento. Remember that night? So does my dress. But alas, the pink stilettos from that adventure are no more for this world. I wore the understudy for tonight’s trip to Verona.

Our first stop of the evening was a romantic restaurant on the harbor. I sipped sangria, nibbled chicken salad, and watched the pretty boats sail by on the late summer breeze. In case this was not enough to set the stage, a fat pale moon rose slowly over the San Diego skyline as the sun began its descent in the west. Our waitress presented creme brûlée, a delicately crisped, creamy concoction that curled my toes. A lot. More than average, apparently.

Hand in hand, Hubby and I sauntered from the restaurant, admiring the tiki torches, admiring each other.

“Clomp, clomp, flop,” went something on the sidewalk.

“Flip, flap, flop,” went the next three steps.

And then, without provocation, one of my shoes decided to throw a fit. “I bite my thumb in your general direction sir!” cried my right shoe.

And in the very next step, the entire bottom of my shoe flew off. Off. The valets and restaurant patrons might not have noticed, had I not burst into hysterical laughter. I had to decide: stop in the middle of the sidewalk and retrieve the errant brick or continue to the car walking like I was on a carousel ride.

I guess I did both. Safely tucked into the car, with no time to spare, we drove to the theater weighing our options. Now, I’ve heard rumors that some ladies keep spare shoes in their cars. They probably keep spare feet in their cars. I am not that lady. Neither do I keep crazy glue nor pliers in my glove compartment. Um, or gloves, now that I think about it.

“What should I do? Can I sneak in barefoot?”

The light turned red. A train went by. Another sigh for Italy escaped me, and we kept driving.

“There’s nowhere to park,” said Hubby, “It starts in ten minutes and we haven’t gotten tickets yet!”

I was bent over what was left of the shoes, still attached to my feet, “Go for it,” I grunted, “we’re doing this!”

Looking neither to the right nor to the left, heads high, we hustled from the parking lot to the ticket stand to the entry to some nice seats…and only then did I take a breath and look down.

These were the ugliest flats on the face of the earth. I traced my finger over one thin strap muttering in Italian. The bright moon rose overhead, lending its glow to the outdoor theater lights, illuminating the stage of Verona. The stage comprised of…a sandbox? I flipped through the program.

Apparently, this year’s director envisioned Shakespeare’s tragedy in sand.

All of the actors were costumed to their ankles, and…barefoot. The beautifully talented Juliet sang a rousing rendition of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. Teenagers brawled in the alleys. Adults marched around telling everyone what to do. Romeo slumped along with his guitar declaring that without his true love, life – hallelujah – wasn’t worth anything at all.

The main characters get married whilst still children.

Nobody really relaxes until they’re dead.

And nobody can figure out what all the fighting was about.

Like I said, Italy feels just like home.

As we gave them a standing round of applause, I recalled my wobbly circumstances. What was a pair of shoes measured against an amorous tryst under an enchanted moon? An embrace on the balconies of Europe with Prince Charming?

Prince C hazarded a quick look at my feet and grimaced as a very unromantic thought escaped.

This dazzling night was going to end where all good affairs end: a serious flirtation with a new pair of glass slippers.

Tiki

San Diego at the harbor

Spreckles organ pavilion

Museum of Art

Old Globe Theater

Romeo and Juliet

Sandbox?

Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

The Break-Up

It’s not you. It’s me. That’s what I’m supposed to say, right?

I’m supposed to be tense and feel guilty, find some public, neutral place to break this news to you and then slink away.

*sigh*

Look, we’ve been together for years, but it’s just not the same anymore.

We used to have so much fun together. We tried new things, rearranged the furniture for no reason at all, went dancing. You have always been there for me. Anytime I needed you, you were there, even if I just wanted to watch TV for a while. You never cared if my hair was a mess or my stinky socks landed in a corner.

You taught me so many things about myself. You reflected my insecurities and strengths and without saying anything about them, you gave me room to grow and adjust. Not everyone is so completely accepted.

I admit now, there were some parts of you that I wasn’t interested in, but that’s not a deal-breaker for me. I’m not criticizing you, everyone is an individual and no one is perfect. I loved you for you.

And let’s be honest. There were only specific parts of me that interested you, as well. I know that. I get it. Between us, we had an abundance of material to maintain our relationship. We both gave to it. And we both let each other down once in a while. But we always hung in there during the tough times and made it work. I want to thank you for that.

I’ve heard people say, “You’ll know when it’s time to go.”

And that’s true, but hard to understand until you’ve arrived there.

This year, everything between us was an emotional rollercoaster.  There were times we blew hot or cold and weeks where we just weren’t on speaking terms. Relationships go through that and it’s normal and I wouldn’t have thought much of it in the big picture, except that deep down in my bones, for a long time, I knew that we weren’t going to make it.

I can’t really explain why.

But over time, a numbness crept in and I stopped fretting over us so much because it hurt and I didn’t want to live like that indefinitely.  I looked for other ways that would make me feel happy. Just to see if there really was another way to move and think and breathe.

There always is.

It’s not that you changed dramatically, but time marches on. This isn’t so much about “you changed” as much as it’s that I don’t smile when I see you anymore. Even if you changed dramatically (and I would never ask you to be something you’re not), I wouldn’t be interested.

But the change is inside me. Perhaps I am finally learning what makes me smile?

And that I really want to smile over this big, beautiful life.

This thought is why it all circles around to land on my doorstep.

I isn’t you after all. It is me.

As soon as I release the idea that I have to blame someone or something, there is only truth and peace. This is actually the way it is and it is okay and I made choices and I can keep making choices.

Yes, if you must know, here at the end of all things, I have been cheating on you a little. The guilt doesn’t hurt like it should. I’m just tired of waiting for you to be attractive again.

The fact that I feel no emotion when I say that is very telling. It sounds heartless.  But that’s the point. My heart is no longer in the game. 

And that is how I know for sure.

The emotional rollercoaster has been disabled and dismantled.

There is no longer a game in me for you.

For a while, we were exactly right for each other, and we will always have that.

You don’t need me, either, though it may take you a while to believe that truth.

I’ve already cleared out my stuff.

Thank you for everything. I wish you well.

Good bye.

This piece is about me quitting the gym after a dozen years. But…I mean, I could have been writing about gluten.

School Jitters

“What if they don’t like me?”

She shifted around on the plastic blue booth seat, then fidgeted with her fork.

“I bought a really cute skirt for tomorrow. It’s cheerful.”

“Great idea. You will brighten up the room when you walk in.”

She slumped a little. But we weren’t here to discuss posture.

“I got so much stuff. I spent a lot of money. What if I forgot the one super important thing that I don’t know I needed?”

“You’ll be fine.” I scooped up bean dip with a fat tortilla chip and managed to get the whole thing into my mouth at once, rendering it useless but happy. “You were at this school last year,” I mumbled, “‘t’s not your first rodeo.”

“There’s gonna be a weird kid in the class, I know it. That one kid that waits until we’re all doing silent reading and then tips over his chair or starts tapping the desk or needs to go the bathroom a million times. Last year, kids kept moving things from my desk and it made me crazy.”

“Oh come on, it won’t be that bad. You will all get along great once you show up.”

“I can never sleep the night before the first day of school. I’ll have a headache. What if the alarm clock doesn’t go off and I’m late?”

“This happens every year. It’s just the jitters. You’ll love your class.”

Plates of fajitas, tacos, and a beautiful margarita arrived. Busy silence ensued because we have our priorities straight.

Then she took a long drink of lemon water and looked me in the eyes.

“Remember math?”

“Girl, you’re bringing up Common Core? I graduated as I recall. But I told you so. Well. I told America so. Or something like that, because if we would just stop doing a “new math” every five years and agree on one, single way of learning long division, we would all be rocket scientists by now.”

“I’m not sure anyone is learning anything. Every year there’s a new thing waiting for us and it’s nothing but tests and rushing and watching the clock until I get to go home.”

“You don’t have to tell me; you’ll be tested every five minutes! No crying.”

I looked at her for a beat, “And no cussing.”

“Seriously?”

“Okay fine, what about PE? Lunch? Do they even attempt music or art?”

“We might. I don’t suppose you want to come in and volunteer to teach it?”

We both got a little crazy in the eyes for a minute.

“Nope. Nopity nope. Like I said, I graduated. Everybody graduates sooner or later and there’s no going back.”

“Rub it in,” she frowned, “I only have…” She thought for a minute. I hoped she wasn’t using Common Core to figure it out. “…about a million more years to go.”

Stupid math. I took a drink.

She was shredding her napkin into tiny little confetti bits. “Even lunch is dumb. We used to always line up at the door in two lines. Boys and Girls. Last year we lined up in colors. Red and Blue. This year we’ll probably line up by attitudes: Good Kids and Tornadoes.”

“Take a few deep breaths. Smile. Introduce yourself. All the teachers and kids will love you.”

The bill was paid and we gathered our things to leave. I gave her a reassuring hug.

“You are the most organized, energetic, friendly person I know. You’re going to rock tomorrow. You are the Teacher. And you are changing the world.”

Meteors, Grunion, and Other Unicorns

I’m lying on my back on the new outdoor deck we built this year (by “we”, I mean “Hubby”), staring real hard at the night sky. The Perseid Meteor Showers are on this weekend because my recurring calendar says so, and after years of trying to locate it, I have to say, “Bah, humbug.”

They don’t exist.

Not in the Star Wars fantasy that I’m imagining it to be. I’m expecting a version of lightspeed proportions and the stars are just sitting up there, laughing at me. And that’s okay. The air is cool for August and the little chorus of frogs in the creek have gone to bed, replaced by the occasional screech from an invisible owl. The kids, knowing full well that they can’t control the heavens via remote control, went to bed and I feel a little disgruntled only because these are the same guys who insisted that grunion are worth staying awake for.

And grunion aren’t real, either.

A grunion run by the light of a full moon, traced by following Instagram commentary at 1am on a warm summer night, is a fun way to entertain guests. These elusive little silvery fish swarm random beaches to spawn and if you have a fishing permit, you can catch the buggers by hand and put them in a bucket. What you are supposed to do with them next is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t matter, because no one buys a permit because no one is ever going to find a grunion, let alone touch one, and you spend the wee hours of the morning running from beach to beach with a flashlight and end up at an IHOP getting coffee because it’s the only thing open.

Is that a meteor? No. It’s an airplane. It must be lost. Could be a satellite, maybe.

When I was a kid, I sat up one Christmas Eve, staring out the window, desperately trying to convince myself Santa was real and knowing full well he wasn’t. But, presents. So when a plane went by, red light blinking, I said, “Well, there you go, he’s on the job.” And that would’ve been that, except for after another couple of minutes, an actual UFO went by, defying categorization, and years later, I wonder if it was a Stealth Bomber. I mean, we’re in San Diego.

It’s as possible as the owl that just crossed overhead, a deep black shadow beneath a paler black sky. Massive, silent, beautiful.

Not Santa, so much.

I had a conversation with my kid in the car the other day, and mermaids came up, purely in a scientific way. I mentioned that it was more possible that unicorns were real than mermaids and proceeded to explain the whole lung vs gills issue, followed up with what I thought was an obvious flaw in the system: they must be a fish and only mammals have hair. A real mermaid would have gills, no hair, no nose, and bugging out eyes on the sides of a flatter head. Maybe we’d driven past a Starbucks. The image wasn’t pretty.

This is why my kids don’t hang out with me.

There. That had to be a meteor. It went by fast, over there, in the corner of the sky where I wasn’t really watching. But something moved. Or I blinked. It could have been a shooting star. Oh, whatever.

But a unicorn, that works for me, because my daughter does the tours up at the Safari Park and everyone knows that the scimitar oryx has the body and horns of a unicorn, when it turns sideways, just so, or maybe loses one horn in combat. I’m pretty comfortable with a unicorn myth.

Well, it’s so far past my bedtime that I should start my morning laundry. My back and neck are getting tired.

Wait. What was that? Over there? Oooooooooohhhhhh………

See?

Symbiosis

laughter sprinkles from the kitchen
kettle hissing, cups of steam
honey, lemon, or milk?

curled on couches
cushioned conversations
whispered confessions
giggles

you just never know
well that’s what I heard
we’re here for you

me too

trace the pattern on a napkin
over and around, over and around
and sigh in response to conundrum

pillars under clay roof tiles
bedrock settles
windows thrown wide to the weather

friendships steeping
symbiosis
mosaics in a teacup

If Your Kids Are Full of Feels

Earlier this year I wrote an article for a personality blog and I included advice for “Thinking” parents of “Feeling” kids.

I “think” my kids didn’t “feel” like reading it, which is fine, because the last thing we need to do is tip them off to our parenting techniques.

Including Big Five Personality and DISC Behavior Assessments,  Holland Code Career Testing, and Meyers-Briggs Personality Typing, this website includes fun tests and a lot of information about how to make the most of our own characteristics and understand those of others.

This is how I found out that child care, bartending, acting, and public relation specialist are “incompatible” careers for me. However, I can be a correctional officer, pharmacist, umpire, or labor union specialist. I dunno. “Feels” like the same list.

Better late than never, to know yourself. Had I known that my ISTJ personality types “rarely dote upon their children”, I wouldn’t have felt so guilty about forgetting their birthdays. You know. Sometimes.

And just perhaps I wouldn’t have tried so hard to think my way out of their heartfelt trepidations.

So, here’s my article for all you hard-working, reasonable parents just trying to get through a day without running out of kleenex or whine-wine-in-a-box. Cheers.

Dump It to Crumpet

There was a time when driving to the dump was high entertainment. It was a multi-media event. You could sell tickets. They did.

When I was a little girl, my dad let me ride along on trips to the city dump. That was back when they did dumps right. He drove his giant pickup truck up the dirt slopes to the area where backhoes and tractors were creating a lovely series of canyons to fill. You paid your five bucks and backed up to the smelly pile of refuse and added your own trash to it. I would sit in the cab, head hanging out the window, and watch in fascination as people lined up and started throwing items into the growing heap. Sometimes my dad would empty his load and then toss in someone else’s donations.

“Look at this,” he’d say, “they just threw out a perfectly good chair.” Now it was ours.

The smell at a dump is unique and tangy. It fills your sinuses with something between compost and dead cat. The tractors keep things percolating so it doesn’t get out of hand. The sounds of diesel engines and seagulls fill the air. Seagulls will scavenge anywhere and eat almost anything. While you would be hard pressed to find rats in the constantly shifting landmass, the birds thrive.

When it was time to go home, I sat on dad’s lap and steered the truck while he worked the pedals. Six-year-olds are welcome to drive at the dump. Everything’s already destroyed.

They just don’t make dumps like they used to.

Excuse me. “Disposal facilities”.

Trash is now sorted inside of three-story concrete bunkers where the seagulls can’t see it, and while you must still remove items from your truck yourself, you are encouraged to dump and run. No time to linger and enjoy the show. To get a nice deep whiff of that wonderful pungent tart and sour air.

I looked over to the hazardous waste area. Workers in gloves and coveralls tossed giant TVs, computer keyboards, empty propane cylinders, and…hey! that’s the exact same bread machine I have! The one that makes your loaves square instead of round. Someone tossed it? What a waste.

I mean…I guess waste is the idea here. Waste disposal. Got it. Don’t have to like it though.

Watching them work was like watching the Three Stooges pack for a move. They were doing something I have always wanted to do: take that machine that just broke on me in the middle of something super important and THROW IT ACROSS THE PAVEMENT WATCHING IT BURST INTO TINY SHATTERED BITS OF SORRY.

And these guys are getting paid to do it. Awesome.

They are the only thing standing between us and the Dark Ages.

The recycling facility next to trash collection sorted plastics from metals from paper. Conveyor belts carted them into the air and spit out bundles at the other end, five feet cubed. Some cubes were crushed milk jugs, abstract art; white with bits of random color. Soda cans came out impossibly interlinked, a cube of shiny aluminum brilliance. It was fascinating.

Management shooed me away from their art gallery and for all I know, saved my life in the process.

I came away with some favorite thoughts:

  1. I am re-confirmed in my opinion that, in this large living America, less is still more. So much of our trappings are disposable. Simply outdated, unused, or unloved. Less things. Try not to have so much in the first place.
  2. The recycle idea is wonderful. Re-gift. Re-purpose. Don’t toss it, see if someone else can use your bread machine. Shop at thrift stores. Donate freely. Circulate your stuff. Sharing is caring.
  3. It is deeply satisfying to watch old homework, random junk mail, and nasty utility bills get thrown across the room one. more. time.

 

Shaken Awake

Has anyone seen the 90s?  The 1990s…end of the century…any of this ringing a bell?

I recall the hubbub about Y2K and laughing it off but sort of curious whether, if it went and knocked out technology, we would be able to live off my fabulous garden and three hens.

Answer: yes.

The year 2000 came and went. I  looked up for a minute and marked the occasion with a shrug, but the 1980s were so fabulous, it sort of made up for skipping the decade between.

I spent the 1990s raising zippy little kids and we lived in a little feisty bubble that extended only as far as our little red wagon could carry us: elementary school around the corner and preschool around the other corner. We didn’t have TV by choice, but rented VHS movies from the library (also around the corner, or “river bend” as Pocahontas explained), watching Disney movies, science videos, musicals.

I have a lot of video footage (that’s when video came on film, people, you could measure it in actual feet) of my kids singing  their “ABC”s and learning how to somersault (you bend over until your head touches the ground, then your sibling runs up behind you and gives a mighty push) but nothing on the rest of the planet.

I can’t tell you who was president then. I have no idea what the fashions were. If a food craze or fad diet swept by, it must have bounced off our bubble and landed elsewhere, because we were focussed on not choking on a Lego.

But on September 11, 2001, I was shaken awake (alive?). On my birthday no less. Not that turning 34 was such a deal. We had an alarm clock radio that woke us up at 6am every day with the news, (that explains so much…if you whack the snooze button, mission accomplished and you still have no idea what’s happening on the planet) but this time the sounds coming from that little box were absolutely foreign.

So much so that we flew out of bed and into the living room, turned on the TV and adjusted its crooked antenna. On the east coast, in New York City, one of the twin towers had been hit by an airplane. Just as the shock of what we were seeing hit, another airplane flew across the screen and into a second building. Right in front of us.

It couldn’t be real. We stood there, frozen, not breathing, as black smoke billowed into the Manhattan sky.

Minutes dragged by. I never changed out of my ratty lavender bathrobe. The kids wandered the house. I changed the baby’s diaper on auto-pilot. The TV announced that a plane had smashed into the Pentagon. I looked through the window at our clear – deserted – morning sky.

These weren’t accidents. I cannot think of a more surreal moment. It might as well have been a zombie apocalypse. Eventually, Hubby had to tear himself away and go to work. Just to feel normal. A voice in your head says, “If we go through the motions of a regular day, this will turn into a regular day”.

The kids foraged for Cheerios. A large truck pulled up in front of our house, and I stumbled out and signed papers for a delivery of gray blocks. The driver and I had no words. We exchanged looks that said, “Did you hear what they just said? Can they have possibly gotten this wrong? What’s happening?”

Or maybe it was just, “Lady, drag a comb through your hair already.” And he left. My phone rang. The baby cried.

After yet another plane crashed in the middle of a field, I have to wonder how, or even why, I got the kids to school that day. Perhaps the 1990s routine was that strong. Can you still tie your shoelaces if the world is blowing up?

The answer is yes. My world has blown up a couple of times, and all I can think is that the human heart is supple and tenacious, and if there’s a breath in my body, I’m going to tie my shoes and stand up. If only because – suddenly – so many others could not.

It felt like a physical punch to the stomach, and it was years before I could cry over the magnitude of such loss. Loss of life. Loss of innocence. Loss of a decade.

I can’t remember the 90s. I’ve misplaced that bubble. But I remember the day I was forced to pay attention to the planet again. And I think I learned how to somersault.

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband

To every other little bride
Who has a “Bob” to please,
And says she’s tried and tried and tried
To cook with skill and ease,
And can’t! – we offer here as guide
Bettina’s recipes!

To her whose “Bob” is prone to wear
A sad and hungry look,
Because the bride he thought so fair
Is – well – she just can’t cook!
To her we say: do not despair;
Just try Bettina’s Book!

It’s been 100 years, ladies. And I want to know. Can you cook yet?

This little gem, circa 1917, is on my bookshelf, a wedding present from Hubby’s younger brother who stole it, I am sure, from a distant great-aunt’s box of cookbooks, gifted partly in jest and partly in fear that I would try to cook a chicken without looking inside of it first…again.

Written in chapters with roman numerals, the book follows the first year of Bettina and Bob’s wedded bliss as they keep house in a bungalow during the roaring ’20s, somewhere in America. Through dialogue with friends and family, we discover that “new fashioned breakfast foods are for feeding the stock, not human beings!” We learn what Bettina keeps on her “emergency shelf”: cans of pimentos and tuna, jars of dried beef, marshmallows and macaroni, a one-pound box of salted codfish. With a thousand ways to please a husband and three of them are “Jellied Beef”, “Radishes”, and “Peanut Butter Sandwiches”, I’m confused.

But what can you expect? When an engagement is announced, it’s toasted with…grape juice. Like. Until 1933. And, fresh out of World War I, “dainty, delicious, and simple” are the words of the day. This can be interpreted as: tiny little portions. Her flower arrangements are bigger. Good thing dessert is included almost every night. Bettina meets Bob on the porch as he returns from work each day, she in her apron, he in his spats. Recipes for “Tuna Loaf”, “Prune Souffle”, and “Ham Timbales” support their complete happiness.

Bettina is quite accomplished in economy (“I always try to use the oven for more than one dish if I am using it at all”), so you won’t find her spending all her allowance on the gas bill (“open fires are so nice”), and full of advice on how to use up those leftovers in the icebox (croquettes, salads, molded, or en casserole). She can remove ink stains with sour milk, heal burned fingers with olive oil, and cleans her steel bread knife by dipping it into the dirt in a flowerpot. I laughed at her newfangled “fireless cooker”, then pondered her jars of jellies and pickles, but when I read her conversation about how to get rid of ants…I got in line. Talk to me, Betty.

“Mrs Dixon was dressed in a trim street costume, but under her veil Bettina could see that her eyes were red, and her lips quivered as she answered, “Forgive me for coming so early, but I just had to. I know you’ll think me silly to talk to you confidentially when I met you only yesterday, but I do want your advice about something.”

“Why my dear, of course. I like economizing; it gives me an opportunity to use all the ingenuity I have.”

“Frank and I’ve lived in a hotel but – lately he’s been so different. Why – he hasn’t been at home with me two evenings a week – ”

“You must be dreadfully unhappy,” interrupted Bettina, “Why, Bob doesn’t like to be away from home any evenings at all.”

“But you’ve just been married!” said Mrs Dixon tactlessly. “Wait and see how he’ll be after a few years! Why, I can’t cook a thing – I can’t even make coffee! Frank says if he could only have one breakfast that was fit to eat – ” and she buried her face in her handkerchief.

“Why Mrs Dixon!” cried Bettina, cheerfully, although her heart was beating furiously. “Your trouble is the easiest one in the world to remedy! Your husband is just hungry – that’s all! You do just as I tell you for one month and I’ll guarantee that Frank will be home every single minute that he can!”

Coffee

7 T-coffee
3 T-cold water
1/2 T-egg white
4 1/2 C-boiling water

  1. Scald the coffee pot
  2. Add the coffee, cold water and egg-white
  3. Mix thoroughly, add the boiling water
  4. Boil two minutes
  5. Allow to stand in the pot one minute
  6. Serve
  7. Brace yourself

San Diego, August 28, 1965

She wore a hot pink and black granny dress chosen specially for the event, and white go go boots zipped up the back of her calfs. The boots she had begged for and received last Christmas. Her straight-as-a-pin strawberry blonde hair swirled around her shoulders as she hopped into the car, her freckled face rosy with excitement.

A sophomore at Castle Park High School, she barely knew the three senior girls who were giving her a ride to the concert that night. But it didn’t matter. This wasn’t a concert you take your boyfriend to. Her parents weren’t interested. And she needed to get there.

The girls parked in the lot of the Balboa Stadium, a horseshoe shaped AFL venue, home of the newly acquired Los Angeles Chargers. A pack of cigarettes was passed around, but after two coughing fits, her attempt at senior-level coolness was abandoned. The ride was enough.

With hard-earned nickels, she had purchased an advance ticket for a front row seat, the very best in the house for $5.50: on the field, with only a rail between the bleachers and an elevated stage. The girls pushed toward their seats, surrounded by over 17,000 fans.

The opening acts began. King Curtis Band, Sounds Incorporated,Discotheque Dancers, Brenda Holloway, and Cannibal & The Headhunters. Each new band raised the anticipation level for what was to come as the sun set in the west and stadium lights flickered on. In the open air that warm August night it was a challenge to not overheat from singing, dancing, or simply leaping over the benches with impatience.

150 San Diego police roamed the area, keeping fans in place. The chanting thousands stood up, searching for any sign of impending phenomenon. Her hand kept straying up to the commemorative pin given out by the sponsoring local radio station, KCBQ, the station who knew her by name, she called in so regularly with song requests.

And now they were bringing her the music in person. She could hardly stand the wait.

Just after 9pm, the British Invaded.

The screams reached octaves that only dogs can hear, it’s likely ships in the harbor began evasive action. The Beatles ran on stage and began a one and only, last minute concert in San Diego. There was mass gyration, a flailing of female forms, as devoted fans completely lost their minds. Our sophomore, only sweet 16, watched John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr performing only a few feet away, their perfect mouths singing into microphones…and couldn’t hear a single note.

With no intermission, they played a dozen hits: their truncated version of Twist And Shout, followed by She’s A WomanI Feel FineDizzy Miss LizzyTicket To RideEverybody’s Trying To Be My BabyCan’t Buy Me LoveBaby’s In BlackI Wanna Be Your ManA Hard Day’s NightHelp! and I’m Down.

There were Charger-worthy football tackles as each song brought more fans over the rails. Police held back the tide of sobbing humanity while the Beatles worked off their pre-show dinner of sodas, sandwiches, and KFC.

We know now that this August would mark the last of their commercial concerts, at the end of a frantic four year touring schedule. They could not compete with the fanbase wall of sound, realizing that live performances no longer had anything to do with their music. The next step in their musical journey would be the creation of Sergeant Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band.

So I’m glad our sophomore – when she realized The Beatles were done, when she watched them abandon their instruments on the stage and flee for their lives across the field to a waiting helicopter – hiked up her granny dress and hopped the rail. Racing ahead of the surge, she and everyone else ripped up the turf that the musicians had run their rhythmic shoes over. She held onto that contraband fistful of sod for the next 25 years. In a baggie. Like weed. Until it turned into dust.

She kept it next to every album The Beatles ever made, heaps of memorabilia, and of course, her KCBQ pin.

Fast forward to June 6, 2019. I’m at the Fair, standing right in front of the stage, singing at the top of my lungs with the band: The Fab Four. I’m delighted that my childhood training was so thorough: I know all the lyrics. I know all the dance moves. I hitched a ride with girlfriends. I’m only missing the go go boots.

I’m happy to report that mom never did take up smoking, although The Beatles were all heavy smokers and worse. KFC, however, remains a family delicacy.