Package Deal

Raw unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, the biography-by-fire of the life of Dave Linane. Thank you for all your comments and for sharing your stories of your loved ones! XO M 

As the time unfolded, the year-plus in the hospital, those early days and wild nights at our parents’ house and out on the town, everyone’s lives were simultaneously naturally moving ever forward. Brian met his first wife at the hospital. She worked in or on Wing 700; however, you say that correctly. You get the idea; she worked in the part of the hospital that Dave was living in for that first year following his accident. Dave was the catalyst for Brian and her meeting. Dave was half of the real and original dumb and dumber pastel tuxedo brothers. He was half of the inseparable fraternal twins conjoined somewhere deeper than flesh. He was an understood part of the life-of-Brian-ever-after package deal contract.

Brian bought a house for them, his future family on the not too distant horizon, three and a half blocks west of my parents. If 25th were a strait street, we could have seen his house from ours less than a quarter-mile away, but it jogged south with the few cross streets in between. His career as a Fireman for the City of San Bernardino began at the Fire Station located between his house and ours, two blocks west from us, one and a half blocks east of their place. It was a pretty sweet commute for Brian and lucky as hell for Dave to have his best buddy literally minutes away at all times.  As mentioned in earlier chapters, Dave drove himself around in his electric wheelchair, everywhere. Brian’s house was not surprisingly the first place Dave wheeled himself after receiving that first electric wheelchair and the sense of limited independence that came with it.

Brian worked on any number of house maintenance or repair related projects as everyone does. He washed their cars, mowed the lawn, painted, changed his oil, played with his boys, you name it, Dave was sitting nearby in the yard. When the end of the day came, he might BBQ something in the back. It was rare that Dave went into the house because he so enjoyed being outside as much as possible. In between and along with working on his honey-do list, Brian would take breaks, sat on the porch and chatted with him, fed him, and then continued about his work while they also listened to music. On occasion, they would get the giggles when his wife got mad at him or both of them with their teasing about whatever fill in the blank. I witnessed her slam and lock the front door once, and didn’t know what to think. The tense moment was broken by those two instantaneously bursting into laughter as soon as the door locked, cracking up at how mad they made her, leaving them outside where they wanted to be anyway.

Brian’s brood grew to three boys who climbed all over Dave like a jungle-gym and had wheelchair rides up and down the street with Uncle Knuckled Head Dave either on his lap or riding on the back. Dave was the voice-over actor starring as Santa Claus on speed dial at Christmastime. The boys’ mom would use the “I am going to call Santa!” threat as a form of leverage during the holidays when Brian was at work. She would pick up the phone, call Dave, have an introductory conversation with “Santa” and hand the phone to the offending wild child of the moment. Dave would use his best radio kind Santa voice to encourage them to remember to be good so that they would get toys for Christmas.

Dave and Brian spent some part of the day together on most holidays either at our house with our big extended family or at Brian’s home, including his older brother (also named Dave) and his extended family. One of the earlier Christmases Dave found the perfect gift for their oldest and only child, who was a little over two. He was at that point of the keen childhood awareness that Christmas is mainly about a guy who gives out toys and candy by way of the chimney, somehow flying deer are involved and was unquestioningly excited as hell about it. The previous year Dave had given him a battery-operated ladder truck with an operating siren with flashing lights. Not long after, the gift wore out his parents’ patience, and the batteries were permanently removed. This second Christmas, Dave bought a bright red fireman’s helmet with a battery-operated circling red light on the top with a deafeningly piercing siren. Dave had my dad install the batteries and glue the battery door closed so the siren could not be turned off. Well, like any two-year-old hopped up on Christmas, he was thrilled with his authentic-looking Fireman gear strapped on his little head as he ran laps around the many possible circular loops in the layout of our parents’ house. Those loops included Dave’s with doors on opposite sides of his room. Dave could not stop laughing at the entirety of the moment, the joy of that cute kid getting more wound up by the minute by his very loud gift running in and out of his room contrasted with the defeated look on the faces of his young and likely exhausted parents sitting on the couch across from Dave, beat from the craziness of the holidays. They could not help but give in and laugh at the hilarity of the entire scene. Their very smart little kid also learned all about batteries, that parents put them in or take them out to make things stop making noise, so he was not to be fooled by that tactic ever again. If anyone were keeping score, Dave definitely won Christmas that year by a landslide!

Brian is one who loves driving, exploring, the open road, a road trip, camping, trips in general. He is really good at researching details of how to get somewhere and what one might see along the way. This time period was WAY before the internet. He and his wife, at the time, had created two of their three children. They left their baby with my sister Anne to care for and took their toddler along with Uncle Knucklehead on a road trip to Sequoia National Park. My parents’ friends Billie (creator of the sophisticated crowd planning math introduced in our funeral planning earlier) and Jim Daniel loaned them a motorhome for the trip. Dave could be placed in a made-up bed near the front, enjoy the scenery on the road, and be moved to his wheelchair to cruise around the paths of the forest floor during the day.

I took a road trip caravan with Brian in the lead vehicle (truck) that I followed decades after that Sequoia trip. It was just the two of us adults, and my elementary age son Sven with me in my car. Brian was escorting me to Colorado to meet my son’s father, Brian’s former fire captain, from many years ago in our theoretical backyard Station 4. He handed me a walkie-talkie, also a bit before cell phones. At least once an hour, he would tell me an interesting detail about something. Once it was about the vast desert aquafer we were driving over at that moment, the one that serves the Mojave desert. Another time he explained the composition of those mountains that way were off in the distance that looked like dinosaur turds. Each random fact sparked a bit of Q & A back and forth. It made our long day trip between Southern California and Colorado go by pret-ty fast.

Every time the walkie-talkie crackled with info, I couldn’t help but laugh at Brian’s use of ultra-professional radio etiquette on our silly road trip. When I advised him, “Hey, I need to pee!” There was radio silence until I said, “O.H.! Y.A.! OVERRR!!!” His immediate response, “Copy that.” Of course, as the drive continued, I could not resist formulating lame phrases in my own Hollywood fantasy rando radio code-mixing old T.V show call signs. I blurted out, “one-Adam-twelve…did you see that Chupacabra back there?” or “Rampart this is squad 51…” followed by telling him something Sven wanted me to say over the walkie-talkie that was also silly and ridiculous. I repeatedly forgot to add the I am done talking signal, “Over.” He would respond to my silly statements with, “uhhhhh (sounding like an airplane pilot) that’s not a thing. Over.” I knew he was rolling his eyes at me and that if I worked for a Fire Department, I would be banned from the airwaves. I could see him shaking his head at my pathetic failed attempts at humorous radio speak, watching me cracking up at myself via his rear-view mirror. Ever the professional that guy.

That entire drive, I couldn’t help but extrapolate as to what that trip to Sequoia with Dave must have been like way back then. Of course, they were all in the same vehicle, so minus the radio chatter. Brian, would have been pointing things out along the way, making sure everyone saw everything there was to see, definitely making it fun and exciting. I am sure they had good music playing on the eight-track tape player. It is an unwritten, well-known, rule-of-law that they had to have rollin’ down the road music playing.

I have no doubt that it was physically HARD work getting Dave: in and out of bed, in and out of the R.V. with its narrow door and corridor, especially considering the combined weight of Dave and his wheelchair.  Dave had the time of his life in the gorgeous setting of the Sequoia. I can only theorize about how freeing it must have felt for him to be away from his bedroom for a few days. A beautiful profile photo was taken on that trip that hung in our den. Dave was looking up, the dappled light in the green of the trees is a blurred backdrop. That photo was so revealing. With less than half his face showing, it captured the general wonder and amazement of him taking in everything of this beautiful forest.

I called Brian for the details of how in thee hell they got Dave in and out of the motorhome. I remember that the door opening was only 22. I clearly remember people in our driveway the day before they left, Dave in his wheelchair, my mom and dad, Bille and Jim Daniel, and Brian with his measuring tape open across the doorway from jamb to narrow jamb. All the men were theorizing as to how things were going to work. Dave’s wheelchair was wider than the doorway. They left early the next morning, so I didn’t see anything in action. I wondered if they picked Dave up out of his wheelchair to move him in and later out of the motorhome, placing him in his wheelchair outside the motorhome or what. Brian breathed in a long breath of remembrance, just thinking about it. “No. We put him in his chair while inside the motorhome and then had to use a pulley system wrapped around the chair to close it in on itself a few inches, making it narrow enough to fit through the door. The ropes of the pulley system went around Dave too, so he was part of the being sucked in part—and he would make that sound like ‘HUUH’ like we were squeezing the air out of him when we cinched it down tight.” We both cracked up hearing the sound we both had filed away in our separate memories collection. I breathed in a deep breath, just thinking about how hard all of it had to be, lifting him, getting him in and out of that motorhome, no wheelchair lift, more than 300 combined pounds of deadweight every day for a few days. The Dumb and Dumber Pastel Tuxedo Brothers Life Package deal in action for sure.

That maiden voyage paved the way for a series of annual overnight Las Vegas runs in that same motor home with a handful of guys who found themselves itching to gamble, go to dirt-cheap buffets, and strip-clubs, all the stuff that Las Vegas was famous for leaving. More chat about Las Vegas stories later.

When Brian was at work, if Dave was up in his wheelchair that day, he might stop by to visit him in the evenings (usually in the summertime because it was still light out) after chow time. Food is not food in a firehouse; it is chow FYI. Firefighters have training, inspections, equipment maintenance, or other duties to carry out during the day in between the priority of responding to emergency calls. Their evenings, again, in between responding to emergency calls are flexible in how they spend their time.

The guys on Brian’s or almost any fire crew ate together. Sometimes they played sports after chow time when the weather was right. They had a backboard and hoop on the back wall of the station and hybrid half-basketball-volleyball court lines painted in the parking lot back there. They also watched sports on T.V. or just did what guys do…sat around joking and shooting the shit about typical life matters du jour.

The station on E street in San B was a very busy place with nearly 20 or more calls a day on average. That is a lot for those of you who are not familiar with how active a fire station might be. Dave’s visits were not usually very long. The guys would almost always get a call, and Dave would head home. Different guys substituted into the rotation covering vacation or sick days, plus Dave knew a handful of other guys from high school, as I mentioned in an earlier chapter that he visited at different stations as they moved around any of the ten stations. The city employed just over a hundred guys, and they wanted to work the busy stations for exposure to a wide range of experiences at some point in their career, so he met a lot of guys over the years at our neighborhood station.

When Dave was out and about in the mean streets of San Bernardino world cruising in his wheelchair, if a firetruck passed him, they would almost always give him two short blasts from the air horn in recognition. Dave would give them the nod-the one part of his body he could pretty fully control, his head. When Brian was on duty and driving the rig in the earlier days of his career, he always blasted the airhorn twice when the crew happened to return from a call by way of our corner heading back to the barn. Whether anyone of us was at the kitchen window or not, we would wave. He knew Dave heard him and that the rest of us were waving from the couch.

When my mom’s house was in escrow, Brian had been retired a few years; Dave had been retired from this life more than a few years, she and I were packing up her kitchen when a fire truck rounded the corner of 25th street on it’s way back to the station. The driver gave out two quick airhorn blasts, my mom instinctively smiled and waved through her big kitchen window over her sink that faced the street. I looked up to only see a blur of headphones with curly wires hanging off them and hands waving back at her from the cab of the enormous beast of the red ladder truck as they roared past. I was surprised at the unexpected honk and pointed the direction of the now back of the truck with my thumb with questioning raised eyebrows. She said, “Oh, Edward, (Brian’s stepson) is stationed at fours.” For whatever weird reason, each fire station in S.B. is shortened to its station number, and the number is pluralized. It makes no sense grammatically or numerically, but it is a thing.

My mom, being in the know referred to it as fours instead of just Station 4 like I do based on the sign in front of it and a general understanding of grammatic and numeric rules. Maybe it’s radio lingo? It is easier than saying all those syllables Sta-Tion-FOUR. I’ll have to ask Brian. My mind went to wondering if any members of that crew that just flew by were among those who responded the day none of us could keep Dave on this planet. Then I realized it was impossible. The city, if you can believe it, is so terrible with money management that it had lost its entire fire department since Brian retired, the county had taken over. It was a complete fluke that his stepson Edward, who worked for the county, a huge organization, had ended up randomly being assigned to that station. I hugged her and said, “That’s really sweet that they still honk at you, mom.” She said, “I know, and Edward stops by on his way home if he sees my trashcans out and offers to help me bring them in.” For guys, the fire department is like a cross between a fraternity, summer camp, and a really organized military sports team that helps people. For Dave, a total man’s man, a team player through and through, he always appreciated the nature of their hard work, helping people, their brotherhood, chili, and horn blasts. Small nods of connectedness like that can mean a great deal in a mad, mad world.  Brian was the catalyst to all that connectedness.

 

The Crowd of Everyone

Raw and unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. If you are new to this blog consider clicking on the About Dave link above. Thank you for all of your kind words and shared stories of the adventures of your loved ones. XO M

The crowd of everyone… and Jake.

There were so many people in Dave’s village that the parties at our house every Friday AND Saturday were always big. I certainly had a different perspective, having lived above them upstairs for years and, of course, emptying the trashcan overloaded with empty beer bottles the next day. We, usually my parents and I loved the energy in the house from the parties and people who attended even when we had to turn the T.V. up to rise above the pulsing bass. We shut the door to the den when the singing of the imitation band down there got too loud as they belted them out one after another, plenty of Stones, but I always laughed hearing: RubberbisCUIT!! Bow wow-wow a la The Blues Brothers. Brian was on lead vocals as Jake at the pretend fixed microphone that was part of the metal trapeze bars that hung above Dave’s power-bed. It made for a perfect mic like the type that hangs from above in a recording studio. We just smiled to ourselves, hearing all those people downstairs laughing, living in the moment lifting the rafters and Dave with them all the way.

Those people downstairs were not oblivious to us upstairs, either. On occasion someone, usually, you know who… yes, Brian would sneak upstairs to try to startle us. On one such occasion, our parents were out to dinner, and Anne and I were watching The Exorcist. I was 9 or 10, and Anne was 14-15. It was showing on HBO all weekend on promotion so we could watch it upstairs which if any of you remember not all T.V.’s in a house had all the best channels in the early days of cable. This was a rare occasion; the scariest uncut rated R horror movie of probably the century was on TV, AND our parents were not home to keep us from watching it! Brian timed slamming the door to the den with THE most frightening scene of the door slamming shut and cracking from top to bottom in its jam during the building tension of the actual exorcism! Anne and I shrieked as apparently everyone in the house expected we would! Brian was laughing on the other side of the slammed door. His laughter was backed-up by more laughter coming from the chorus downstairs, including Dave’s asthmatic barking seal of a laugh. Anne had joined the laughter and could appreciate the humor at the moment much more quickly than I at that time. “You guys aren’t funny!” is the best comeback I could hurl at them in those innocent elementary school-age years before I fully adopted cursing a blue streak as my go-to reaction.

Brian was always at the forefront of Dave’s friends who were there to make the fun parts more fun but also offered whatever help possible, learning alongside and stepping up with our parents supporting Dave in the many ways he needed help, which was ALL the ways one might need help. Among common and easier things he needed help with; holding his poker cards and tossing in his chips, feeding him the edible kind of chips, holding a beer bottle just right for him to get a swig, or holding “the bucket” while he peed after having too much beer, scratching an itch.

Before Dave had an electric wheelchair, or even a wheelchair, a wheelchair ramp out of our house or a lift, my parents along with the crowd of everyone would help get Dave in and out of bed, out of the house, and in and out of his van, on a gurney. This was not a collapsible ambulance type gurney either; it was more like a very narrow crude flat padded cart with wheels. From the vantage point of those cheap folding BYO folding aluminum lawn chairs I already told you about, the guys hopped in and helped hold Dave in place in the back of that first crappy Chevy van. Again, with no safety ties in sight on Dave OR on the gurney. Big questions about this glaringly obvious oversight abound, but that was still in the days that most cars didn’t have seatbelts. No one has an answer for me, so I am theorizing an unreasonably steep learning curve; general overwhelm, and exhaustion had to be part of that oversight. The guys threw their weight across Dave’s torso, so he didn’t roll off of or tip the entire gurney over and get hurt OR land on the gross gold shag carpet in the van when they rounded corners on the way to their destination the latter probably being worse. My dad would drive and make the announcement, “Hold on to him!” as he was approaching a corner, they all worked as a team, did as instructed, and held on to him.

Being paralyzed is so completely foreign for all the rest of us able-bodied people to fathom until you witness even a brief moment in the life of someone like Dave and I don’t mean when they are lying still in bed, I mean when people are lifting, dressing, physically placing them on a device with wheels. Trying to accomplish something, anything, eating, reading, making a phone call, going to a movie, going to dinner, have something in their eye. You have no idea how many devices are needed to help a person who is paralyzed navigate safely through the world, or simply be comfortable. Dave continually laughed through all of it as one buddy or another caught him right before he either almost tipped over, nearly flew off his gurney, or rolled down a flight of stairs or when they jumped up to quickly get that “bucket” in place before he peed. The jokes about “having to tap” were never-ending. In retrospect, Dave laughed as though he was observing his life from some other perspective comfortably a bit above it. Repeating what is a pretty applicable phrase that has become my mantra that works for almost anything, “It’ll be fine!”

Brian included Dave in just about any outing he planned. Among their group of friends, someone had a speed boat, and they decided to take Dave out on Lake Perris, which is about an hour from our parents’ house. It sounded like a great idea at the time, but boats, especially speed boats, are not known for their smooth ride. The group managed to get Dave in the boat, leaving his wheelchair on the beach, a bunch of guys lifted him and walked down into the water and placed him in the low-profile boat. Brain hopped in and sat next to Dave with his arm around him to help stabilize him, hold him in place somewhat, and off they went. He laughed; they all laughed at Brian, putting his arm around him. The unforgiving, pounding, exhilarating trip was rough for Dave. Still, he was one to love being in the sun, the wind in his face from the speed, being a guy who also loved badass cars and motors and such, I am sure he loved the deep roar of the “jet” engine that was so loud you could feel it in your bones too. He could feel that sort of thing in between the ever-present intense full-body muscle spasms. He didn’t go for another ride on any speed boat, but I know he was glad to have gone because he was open to trying things like that, you know, cheating death and all.

Heavy Metal Adventures

Raw excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. I hope you are enjoying reading these chapter essays as much as I am enjoying hearing stories of the shenanigans of the lives of your loved ones. Thank you for all your comments and helping me keep laughing. XO

Brian was the first among their friends to turn 16 and get his driver’s license in December of 1971. But way, way, way before then, he started dreaming, planning for this rite of passage that feels like everything to most teens. He washed dishes after school, on the weekends, summers, for four years, from the time he was 12. I know, this detail is equal parts impressive of Brian’s laser focus and sleazy of his employer, but it was the late 60s early 70s, labor laws were obviously lax and child labor was as good as any. He managed to save enough money to buy his own 56 Chevy. He described the buzz of excitement among their group of friends that someone, anyone, had obtained the dream, the inaugural milestone, a license to drive AND a car at his personal disposal. His new-found freedom was a victorious first taste of real adult-type liberty for all of them.

That first Friday night after obtaining his new wheels, word spread by crowd fire that Brian was driving everyone to Shakey’s Pizza after the basketball game. The proverbial everyone plus their date showed up to pile in his gently-used ride for pizza, and no doubt, fun. Brian described the giddy teens clumsily crawling over each other via the two doors to load the car. They first filled the back seat, laughing at the ridiculous feat they were attempting. Next, another awkward layer of kids kneeing and elbowing their way around the tight space, sitting on the bench of the first-in kids’ laps. The more people packed themselves in the car the more they laughed, the ones inside, crushing or being crushed and those standing outside the car waiting, champing at the bit to join that first layer of kids already packed inside. The next layer resorted to diving on top of the pile, laying on one another in interspersed layers of bodies with feet and arms going every direction within the car, crossing over between back and front seat and out the windows. He then filled the trunk to the brim with as many kids as would fit. Of course, Dave was right there, probably somewhere near the bottom.

Besides sketchy child labor laws, this was also before not only federal seat belt laws but before seat belts were a standard safety feature or even a consideration among American car manufacturers, drivers, or passengers alike. It was a roomy 50s car that one might exaggeratedly be able to play racketball in the back seat, but this was an extraordinary mass of teenage humanity in his car.

After the crazy hilarity of stacking everyone in, people getting squashed, getting the doors and trunk closed, Brian started the car, proceeded to back out of his parking spot, and drive across the lot to the exit. The car was riding so low that his front bumper scraped the unavoidable speed bump near the exit. There was NO way he was going to scratch his new car or get stuck in the ever so slight slope of the driveway. Less than a couple hundred feet from where they just loaded up, he had to abruptly stop the car and have everyone unload. It was literally one and a half minutes of drive time after they got underway. One can only imagine how hilarious it would have been to pile back out of the car, wait mere seconds while the car was moved to the street, then repeat the pile in process once again. The world just opened up for everyone when Brian got his wheels.

That car was parked in front of our house at some point just about every day because those two, Brian and Dave, had places to go (school) and people to meet (cruising E Street commences), football practice and they did all things together, with the radio on.

I cannot help but laugh thinking about them going on a double-date attending one of their formal dances. The guys wore pastel colored tuxes with those ridiculous ruffled front white dress shirts with corresponding colored trim on the curly fabric that looked like it had had a VERY tight perm. Brian’s tux was baby blue with dark blue piping accents around the edges of lapels, ruffles and Dave wore pale green with darker green trim. How was this EVER a popular style that boys saved up their money to rent? Brian jokes that they were the original Dumb and Dumber brothers.

When Brian would drop Dave off at the end of the shenanigans of any whatever the occasion, it was never a drop and run situation. They would always BS a bit before Dave would get out of the car. Maybe they were listening to the end of a good song on the radio, they both loved the music of the day and you had to patiently wait for your favorite songs to come on. So when it came on, you listened to it to the end. Brian told me about the time they were cruising in the local mountains above the cloud cover, it was a really beautiful day when “You can’t always get what you want” came on the radio. It was the first time he heard the song with that angelic boys choir acapella opening, he looked around and momentarily wondered curiously if they had somehow driven to the next realm of existence until of course Mick Jagger broke into the surreal moment bringing him back to earth. Dave bought himself a car in the upcoming years but it was a very rough open dune buggy. It was a glorified street legal gokart more than a car, not exactly suitable for dates. They cruised and they listened to music and double-dated with Brian behind the wheel as the designated driver.

My mom describes her and my dad being in bed hearing the familiar sound of Brian’s car pull up around the midnight curfew, then hearing either music or most commonly the two of them laughing loudly about something. She said they could hear Dave get louder as he opened the car door and rolled out onto the grass also not an uncommon sequence of events. My parents could tell by the change in volume of Dave’s voice that he was rolling around on the ground out there, fully endorsing the hilarity of the moment. My mom, well both my mom and dad just loved hearing the boys’ laughter drifting up away from the street to their bedroom. They always found themselves at first snickering which grew into giggling, ultimately giving way to howling at the boys laughing outside. They would catch their breath and then laugh at themselves laughing at the boys having the time of their silly young lives.

After I laughed with her at her experience and description of this regular event, she joyfully added that Dave had the MOST infectious laugh she had ever heard, that she missed it after he was hurt. Remembering those nights when those two boys sat out by the curb in Brian’s car was a particularly endearing memory that has remained with her 70+ years. His diaphragm is part of the many things affected by his paralysis. Besides putting him at greater risk of choking, it caused his laugh to change, not the frequency or ease with which he laughed, that never changed, just the way he characteristically sounded-like a barking seal with asthma. Still VERY identifiably his and definitely infectious.

Future Fire Extinguishers of America

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, a toast to Dave Linane who unexpectedly woke up dead. If you are new to this blog and want to know more about Dave click the link. If this is your first read, this is about 20 something chapters into the book. Scroll down to March 13 to start at the beginning if you wish by clicking the BLOG link above. You will have to load older posts to get to the beginning. As always, I appreciate your comments, stories of your experiences with Dave or if you are new to me, stories of your loved ones who have had their own Viking Funerals. Thank you all for joining me as I recover in my grief through dark humor. XO M

***

I interviewed many people ADLB (after Dave left the building). On this occasion, my husband and I met with Brian, Steve (who rode with Dave in the Ambulance way back when), and Peggy A and Al B. All three guys retired from successful careers serving the SBFD. Peggy had been a paramedic early in her adulthood before becoming a mom. All were friends of Dave’s from High School or younger.

We spent the afternoon swapping stories over wine from Steve and Peggy’s vineyard right outside the door. One would not think great wine could come from grapes grown on a couple of really rocky acres of land in Devore, California, but it is possible! I shared way more new stories with them than I learned in trade. It was still the fun I imagined Dave would have had while he would have theoretically been reminiscing with them himself and writing his (this) book.

This was the occasion I was finally able to ask Steve, “What was the ride to the hospital with Dave like?” Steve knew what ride I meant, but he couldn’t remember anything specific. I wondered if “Dave said anything, or was he silent?” Ultimately, he thought it had been a quiet ride. Having worked in emergency response as a career, I imagine he had experienced so many traumatic events that even Dave’s really bad, terrible, day had blended in with so many thousands of others that he couldn’t remember after 40 plus years. I understood.

We laughed about Dave’s antics following their wedding, another could have ended up in the hospital adventure, but that story is for an upcoming chapter. Peggy went on to keep us laughing as she dramatically acted out her 20-year-old self’s response to her perfect wedding day, being probably ruined before the ceremony started. I had not heard this part of the story before.

The wedding was held in her parents’ backyard. The average age of their friends attending was 19 to early 20s. Tempers and hormones can run hot among young men at that age. A ruckus occurred between two male guests completely unrelated to the wedding party. Envisioning the characters involved had me laughing harder with each additional detail of the story. The scuffle was sparked by nothing more than unfounded and stupid young male jealousy over a girl. There they were, guests all dressed up for a wedding, but instead, they knocked over chairs set up for the event as the two pointlessly rolled around in a knot on the grass. It was a complete misinterpretation of facts and was quickly squashed. They brushed themselves off and sat down after righting their chairs.

As news of the brief tussle reached the darling bride Peggy, up in her childhood bedroom-her bridal dressing room, she couldn’t help but be overcome with tears from the stress of the big day combined with the unpredicted drama on what should have been her magical perfect day. She mimed a pose that conveyed that moment in time, a sulking pout, with eyes closed, head turned to the side, nose in the air, clearly…put out. Four lovely children later, grandchildren, their marriage soon approaching 50 years provided more than enough perspective needed to laugh at that day, at herself, and had us laughing with both of them.

On the heels of the laugh wearing off, Peggy and Steve were smiling with each other, I could see them remembering all of it in their collective memory, living their decades of a lifetime together in the two-second pause where we caught our breath. Keeping eye contact with Peggy, Steve added as the thought came to him probably for the first time in decades, “Dave made the reel-to-reel tape for our reception.”

I had no idea that is what WE were making that tape for, but Dave had selected all the music from his fab collection of records and had me queue each song up on the turntable to record a six-hour reel-to-reel tape of music. This was decades before DJs played at weddings. I cracked up as I realized and asked, “DAVE made the tape for your wedding? I mean, OK, he DID choose all the music but HOW funny that he didn’t tell me what it was for. (Pause as the realization struck them with the obvious-Dave was paralyzed, he could not possibly have MADE the tape without some help), I hadn’t thought about the fact that he or we never listened to it after spending all that time making it.” I saw Steve connect the dots with the flash of a micro-expression on his face, “We listened to that reel for years. It was great music.” Peggy added, “Ya until Pete (placeholder name of someone I don’t know, the name did not stick in my memory, nor did I think to write it down) spilled beer on it.” They looked at each other again and nodded once as they both recalled the demise of the tape while the rest of us laughed about this Pete guy and his destructive beer.

As I edited this section, I realized that I had to have been about 10 when I helped him make this tape. Six hours of music is a big project and this was the first big project I ever worked on. This was also the first time Dave shared interesting insights about music in general but about specific songs he chose to have me record. He wanted it to be done correctly, and he was very particular about how he wanted things in general done. He taught me how to listen to and adjust the sound as we went so there wouldn’t be jarring differences between each song. He explained how to make sure the transition was smooth from each song to the next. I learned about what quality control meant but it wasn’t given a name. He just wanted it done well, and it was. I learned more from him about how to do things carefully and thoughtfully, thinking about the end-users experience by both helping him with daily tasks of living and needing assistance and working with him on that and many other projects. No wonder I want things done a particular way, lined up in a particular order. “Babe, (addressing my husband) it’s all Dave’s fault!”

Al is a reserved guy. He was quietly smiling along with us as the stories were shared. After the laughter quieted a moment, he contributed the second story of the two stories I learned that day. He has a really nice deep, clear voice and is also great at telling a tale. He set the scene of another occasion where they, any of them could have ended up in the hospital.

The guys, Dave, Brian, Bruce, and Al, were out cruising in Dave’s van. Among the silly things they did besides stopping and leaving Dave in the van with the doors open in the middle of E street in town, they also loved, LOVED to prank people, random people, anyone, everyone. It didn’t matter. This was an equal opportunity group of pranksters.

On this occasion, they had at least one old fire extinguisher filled with water with them. They drove around looking for innocent young people to lightly spritz with water. Likely people they might spray on a night like this were people standing outside the adult book store, (apparently, there was frequently a line), people waiting to buy ice cream, lined up for the movies or the parking lot after at a game. There were many scenarios. Any crowd might get the rain out of the clear blue sky treatment. They didn’t spray people in a point-blank manner. From the inside of the van, they would spray one quick burst of water up in the air so it would broadcast down on unsuspecting people from above, making the source of water hard to determine. They would enjoy the shock in response on behalf of the now wet victim(s) and then feel sly as they casually drove away. They did this all the time.

This time they sprayed someone, a random guy in a crowd who did not take the practical joke well at all. He ran to his car, got in, and started chasing after them. Bruce was driving the van and sped around town trying to lose this guy, which they finally did. Plenty of rolling around happened in the back of the van for the untethered Dave and Al in a lawn chair. They laughed and laughed, incredulous that anyone would get so mad about a little water.

After they were sure they had lost the guy, they decided to celebrate by stopping for more beer at their favorite liquor store. Al posed the question to the group, “What was the name of that liquor store we always went to down on… what street was that, like 9th street?” Brian, Steve, and Al remembered simultaneously and laughingly said, “BLISS LIQUOR!!” They didn’t exactly confirm the location, but anywhere south of Baseline Street would have been sketchy after dark. A “sketchy part of town” in San Bernardino, is a strong statement. Al asked me, “Are you familiar with Bliss liquor?” I shrugged no as Brian laughed, “She wouldn’t know where that is!” I’ve never been much of a drinker, and I had zero reasons to be in a sketchy part of an overall pretty gritty town. Al continued, “So we went to Bliss Liquor. Bruce and Brian went in, and I stayed in the van with Dave.”

A yellow van is not exactly easy to hide. The mad, wet guy had not stopped looking for them. Unbeknownst to them, he spotted the van, pulled in next to them, and surprised the shit out of all of them when, in his rage, he “Ripped the side door of the van open to find… a guy in a wheelchair and me on a lawn chair. The guy was livid, screaming, and ready to kill us with his bare hands. Bruce and Brian came out of the store just in time to divert his attention from behind. They tried to calm him down. ‘Come on, man, it was just water. We’re just having a little fun.’ Who knows if it was their words, counting four of them against him, or the crowbar Bruce inexplicably produced from nowhere, held by his side that convinced the guy to let it go, but he did, and he left.”

I could not believe I had never heard this, another potential brush with near-death story. “Did my mom know about this?” Al and Brian in unison laughed, “HELL, NOOOO!” This was in the very early years of nights out on the town for Dave after returning home from the hospital. My mom probably would have had what we called a “conniption” if she had found out. Dave would likely never be allowed out of the house again if she knew how close the group had come to Duking it out over a silly water prank gone awry. Turns out, they did have an idea of her reaction, and they all kept their mouths shut. Dave, obviously taking it to the extreme, by taking it to the grave. I told my mom of the mad escapade the next day. She had not heard it before and shook her head with a giggly sigh of “those boys.”

As a child, I knew all too well these guys had fire extinguishers, sprayed people out in the world, and fully enjoyed every minute of laughing along the way. One of the extinguishers lived in Dave’s bedroom. I had heard about many other occasions that ended with people wet, confused, and these guys driving away laughing.

A few years after the above incident Al described, I too was pranked with water from the sky but multiplied by infinity. I was jogging a block away from home with my bestie Suzie in our neighborhood park. The park was located directly adjacent to the fire department where Brian worked, Al and maybe Steve worked there too at that time, but definitely, my decade in the future son’s father was there. He was the captain of these knuckleheads.

Suzie and I were roughly 13 and jogging an easy few laps around the park when we were sprayed by a shocking surprise of water raining down from above. Instead of a few random little unexpected water drops from a hand-held fire extinguisher, it was from a regulation size fire hose attached to a fire truck or hydrant on the other side of the wall in the fire department training area. They rained a stream, wait, more like a deluge of water down on us. It fell from probably 60 feet at its highest point in the arc of the stream and created a circular shower of water pelting us that was at least 10 feet in diameter. The stream followed us as we ran like a spotlight on a stage. I am talking about enough water to extinguish a house fire torrenting down on us.

It took me a moment after being stunned to figure out exactly what in THEE hell was happening. This was Brian’s signature water prank… on steroids…times a thousand. I have no idea why we continued jogging, but we did. Maybe we thought we could escape it, but we didn’t. The deluge just followed us. It was impossible to talk with, through, or over the inundation of water to explain to Suzie what I knew to be happening. I tried to, but all I could do was sputter out water as we laughed hysterically, trying to slog our way out of the torrent. We could have wet our pants, and no one would have known we were laughing that hard and that completely soaked.

I am sure the prankster firemen got a laugh out of raining on our parade. When we made it about a couple hundred feet away, we were finally out of the reach of the stream. We both laughed incredulously as we headed our separate ways home. Imagine me returning home after a simple run around the park looking like I washed up on shore waterlogged after being lost at sea during a storm…for about a month. We, our family, had heard about epic water fights between those guys at the fire department that sometimes spilled into the street and stopped only when people started calling 9-1-1 to tattle on them. Dispatch would effectively stop the shenanigans by contacting the station with an announcement over the public address system that they would respond to by stopping in their tracks to listen thinking a REAL call was being dispatched, “Station 4, we’re receiving numerous reports from the area of Fire Personnel chasing each other around the street with fire hoses, please grow up.” I think they probably said “Desist.” but I like substituting “grow up” in there.

My mom knew where I had been, took one look at me when I sloshed in the door, and before she could open her mouth, I said one word loudly, “BRIAN.” If there was a practical joke with water involved, Brian was behind it. She just laughed, and I went to peel off my clothes. This was a hilariously unexpected way to get cooled off on a hot summer day, a deluge in the park. No one else was home at the time, and I never mentioned it to anyone, namely Brian. Not because I didn’t want to, I loved this story I just got sidetracked with likely some other shiny object of the day and forgot about it until I remembered when Al told us his story. This is a good reason to share good stories!

I told my tale of water woe to the group, somewhat digging for a confession retroactive to the mid-70s from them. The guys looked at each other and shrugged, not saying anything but conveying a “could have been” noncommittal group eyebrow raise. They didn’t specifically deny it. I followed up with, “Did you drench that many people that you could not remember?” They look at each other again and collectively shrugged again in a very non-excited demeanor, admitted nothing. That was hilarious too. I was WAY WAY WAY more drenched in comparison to that pissed off guy. I could not help but think about his perspective when he thought he was going to beat someone up. Outloud I wondered how many times he told the story of pulling the van door open and seeing Dave in his wheelchair and Al… What in the hell must he have thought? I hope he learned how to chill the fuck out.

Still Cruising E Street 1975

Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. If you are new to me and this blog and figuring this all out, consider scrolling down to start at the beginning chapter (blogpost) March 13 or clicking here to read about Dave

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When the weather was nice, the guys would mix things up and plan a Guy’s Night Out, GNO, somewhere in town to get Dave out of the house. Usually, a drive-in movie morphed into the par-tay that followed Dave everywhere. A long caravan of cars lined up to enter the drive-in with ONE lone driver in each and a suspiciously low-riding trunk full of several unaccounted for passengers. My husband observed, “that was a flaw in planning on their part, having just ONE person in the car. Two would be the perfect cover for a low dragging trunk like that.” Regardless, this is the standard protocol all of their friends followed when they entered the drive-in. I love thinking about the perspective of the attendant taking their money, they were fooling no one. Somehow though, each car was always waived on in.

Dave had a Chevy van that was a pale yellow, early 70s vintage, somewhat like the Scooby-Doo cartoon’s Mystery Machine. My dad cut two boards that were used as ramps, they were inexplicably blue. Knowing my dad, they were likely made from scrap wood found in our garage. The guys called them “the blue loaders” and used them to get Dave in the van and up steps at a variety of places as needed. His van was not designed to have anyone sitting in a wheelchair, which I am sure is no surprise to anyone, especially since this was the mid-seventies, years before The Americans with Disabilities Act, wheelchair ramps anywhere or cool retrofits for disabled-use were conceptualized.

Dave could not sit up straight in his wheelchair in the cargo area of the van. He was 4-6 inches too tall between the height of his wheelchair, which was slightly higher than a regular chair and his own height. He was not that tall at 5’11,” but maybe he had a long torso. The guys were very careful to avoid hitting his head when getting him through the van doorway, but he also had to tilt his head to one side or the other the entire ride from point A to point B.

Someone thought of the elegantly sophisticated placement of a spare tire laid flat on its side between the two front seats, the only seats in the van, by the way, to place and elevate his front wheels. This tipped his wheelchair back enough to keep his head from hitting the roof. He couldn’t see out of the van all that well having to bend his head to the side, but with no windows in the side of the van, he really couldn’t see anything but the roof being tipped backward. Going anywhere with his friends was always worth it and usually a short duration, so not a big deal.

The guys brought folding lawn chairs to sit on, and they rolled around with Dave as you would expect not being formally fastened to the vehicle before the federally mandated seatbelt law. Having spent untethered miles in the back of that van myself, I can picture them in their aluminum lawn chairs, more than likely a bit tipsy, rounding a corner, arms, and legs flailing as they bashed into the walls or for balance, well, not Dave’s arms or legs, Dave just had to go with the flow. Everyone would be shouting in escalating pitch to no one in particular, “Whooo-ooo-oo-aaaaaaa, Buuuddy!!!” In time all the guys learned how to drive quite gently with smooth starts and stops, considerate rounding of corners, going over speed bumps or rough roads extra slow to give Dave the smoothest ride possible under very, very crude passage conditions.

They unfolded themselves from the trunks of all the cars, spread themselves out at the movies with their ice chests, food, illegal beer, chairs, their favorite people. They always had a great time laughing at their uncanny ability to sneak in. That was before they were old enough to discern that the attendant at the gate was the same age as they were and didn’t give a shit about allowing a bunch of people to smuggle their way in.

After the movie-par-TAY, even after the consequences of arrests, court dates, fines, and probation, they would still cruise E Street. This is apparently how young people connected when they were too young for bars and obviously decades before social media. I feel like I have to outline that last part for those who are young and cannot fathom a time when one had to leave the house to socialize.

Kids of driving age from all the surrounding towns arrived to cruise E street, and the convergence of so many cars with no real intention of going anywhere fast always turned into an enormous traffic jam. People purposely abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the street, doors left open, to mingle about as if at a traditional house party but in the middle of a four-lane wide street with a suicide turning lane in the middle. After a few years of this popular phenomenon, local law enforcement figured out a way to stop this from happening altogether, but not tonight. For the time being, it was the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night. I can’t say there is much more for young people 16-21 years of age to do in most cities to this day other than the movies, so I’m glad the internet is an option.

It may not be surprising to learn that on this occasion, we are way past the statute of limitations on drinking and driving, so I will assert that the guys were a bit beyond tipsy. They, I know three of the they at this point, no one can remember and I didn’t stop to ask who was in the van back when I first heard this story so we know Brian and Dave were in the van. I know Dennis B was driving. I think Paul K and Bruce R were in the van too. Anyway, THEY were in the middle of the cruise traffic jam of abandoned cars. They decided to abandon the van to join the crowd and more efficiently cruise on foot. Dennis put the van in Park, and they all hopped out. They went to find ladies with whom to mingle in the dead stopped traffic social scene.

The threat of getting some sort of ticket from local law enforcement was ever hanging in the balance, so they had to remain vigilant and always be prepared to dive back in the van to make a fast getaway. I do not understand whatever it is about the potential of getting caught doing something we’re not supposed to be doing that adds to the thrill of doing that thing. I can only assume they were but moths to this particular cruising (girls, girls, girls) flame and could not help themselves.

They like everyone else left the doors open, the two front and the double-doors on the side of the van open for the getaway. Dave stayed in the van because it took way too long to get him out or back in to have been plausible. He was perfectly happy to be with them in the middle of any adventure, enjoying their hilarious selves. People always stopped and poked their heads or jumped in the van to chat with him, so a bit of the cruise came to him. It was all fun and games.

The guys milled about the forbidden social scene. An unfounded murmur filtered across, and through the crowd, the mere thought of a cop was headed the general direction, and everyone bolted back to their cars to speed off, the guys included. All the doors in the general vicinity slammed, cars split. Dennis floored it.

The sudden jarring momentum caused Dave to fly over backward, toes upward, his legs always straight out in front of him in his wheelchair, stopping abruptly when his feet (protected by the boots of his braces) hit the roof of the van, thankfully lodging him in place and protecting his head from hitting the floor of the van behind him. As Dennis floored it, everyone else in the van realized and shouted that Brian was not in the van. He was running toward the front passenger door yelling for them to “WAAAAIT!!” Dennis reacted by stomping on the brakes causing Dave to slam forward into his original traveling position with his front wheels crashing down on the spare tire. The guys were busting up laughing at Dave jerking back and forth with Dennis’ subtle, concrete-heavy foot on the gas and brakes.

Brian had reached the van, but instead of getting in, he was banging on the passenger door, yelling, “My fooooot! My FOOOOOOOOT!! You are ON MY FUUUUUCKING FOOOOOOT!!!” Dennis overreacted by flooring it again to move the van the mere inches necessary to get off Brian’s fucking foot. The van instead lurched several feet forward and caused Dave to repeat his flight over backward, boots bashing into the headliner. Dennis slammed on the brakes again to fully stop the van’s forward momentum so Brian could get in, Dave thudded back down on the tire. Brian hobbled into the van quickly and slammed the door. Dennis floored it for the real getaway this time. Dave flew backward again and remained there in suspension, his head a foot above the van floor as they proceeded home. The guys were already out of breath, laughing at Dave flying around in the back of the van after the first false start. Brian’s fucking foot thing took them all over the edge with convulsive pants-pissing laughter.

The next day Brian called Dave and mentioned, “Man, I don’t know what I did, but my foot HURTS LIKE HELL.” After Dave caught his breath from laughing his loud barking seal of a laugh heard anywhere in the house, he reviewed the sequence of events that led up to Brian’s foot hurting like hell, “You don’t remember Dennis running over your foot? STOPPING on your foot? You shouted, ‘YOU’RE ON MY FUUUUUCKING FOOOOT?’” Brief pause. Brian remembered with a drawn-out sigh of, “Oooooooh, yeeaaah.”