What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This is one of the newer series on Dubsism, and as the title suggests, it’s about songs tied to certain recollections. The word amongst those in the know is that the nose is one of the most common triggers of memories. Today’s tale is all about an odd bouquet of swimming pool chlorine and suntan lotion, a relationship started over dog shit, and a bit of “Memory Lane” to a summer in the Cul-de-Sacs of Southern California in the early 1980s.
If you’re my age, there’s two movies which speak to your teenage years, because you were pretty much living them in the time. For the average middle-class kid in most of America, that movie was The Breakfast Club. For those in Southern California, it was Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I know this because as a child of divorced parents, I had one foot in each world.
A major component of the “Ridgemont High” part of my younger days was earning money mowing lawns and cleaning pools. It’s not the greatest work, but in California, kids couldn’t get a “real” job (the kind where you fill out an application, punch a clock, and pay taxes) until the age of 16. Besides the money was pretty good and I usually got paid in cash…which marked the beginning of my long history of not liking to pay taxes. But that’s a story for another time.
The cash is what kept me doing pools and lawns even after I could get “real jobs.” It was during one of those summers that a group of girls began appearing around a particular house where I had pool and lawn duty. They didn’t really pay much attention to me; “Pool Guy” is a title which doesn’t afford much social status. Likewise, I was just there to get a job done and get paid.
Little did I know things were about to change. The first clue was a lawn I had never known to have a dog now contained the unmistakable evidence that a canine with an obviously healthy diet was now on the premises. Right about the time I discovered the new dog’s shit, I saw an addition to the gaggle of girls.
My first impression was she had to somebody’s relative visiting for the summer. After all, that was fairly common. Whatever her story was, she was clad in a pair of electric pink terry-cloth shorts and a t-shirt stretched over two reasons indicative there was no way this girl was on this side of her high-school years. She had to be older than the girls surrounding her…and me.
But what really mattered was in her right hand; a leash at the end of which was a yappy little shit-bag “mutt.” More importantly, that dog looked to be the perfect size to be the supplier of the “Tootsie Roll”-sized turd now in the path of my Lawn Boy.
Right about the time I was about to remove the offending dog offering, the girl in the pink shorts came over to me in that weird hurried pace that’s faster than walking but isn’t quite running. My suspicion was confirmed when she apologized for the turd and said she was going to get a bag and clean it up. She did exactly that; I shrugged it off and kept mowing.
Things got curious for me when she took that poo-bag into the very house whose lawn I was mowing. The people who owned the house were deep into their 60’s, and as long as I had been cutting their grass and cleaning their pool, I’d never known them to have any children even close to my age. There even had been times I had keys to the house when they were out of town; there weren’t any family pictures on the walls to give a clue who this girl was.
To be honest, I really didn’t give it anymore thought. I was busy doing a job; I just wanted to get done pushing that mower so I could get the pool cleaned before the peak heat of the day hit. As I finished the lawn and went around back to begin pool duty, there she was again. Except this time, she had traded in the pink shorts for a blue bathing suit and a solid sheen of suntan lotion.
Don’t get me wrong, she was certainly not the classic “pretty” girl. She had sweet, soft brown eyes which matched her shoulder-length hair. But she also had a nose like a middleweight boxer and could have done with some orthodontia. Still, even flawed diamonds have a shine; to call this girl “voluptuous” would be like calling the July California sun “warm.”
Let’s be honest, I was a red-blooded American teen-age boy, and this girl had so much body she could have been continued on the next girl. She had curves in places other girls our age didn’t yet have places. Despite all that, the one thing I knew… she was definitely “off-limits.” Not only must she be older than me, she was “somebody” to people who employed me. These people were generous with what they gave me to do that job, and I wasn’t about to screw that up.
This approach had a life-span of about twenty minutes. That’s about how long it took for me to notice we were doing that teen-age thing where we were checking each other out, but immediately looked away when we got caught. Some ice-breakers have a gentle quality to them, but hers was a sledgehammer…which would prove to be a preview of coming attractions.
She started by calling me by name. Obviously, that stopped the pool cleaning, and began the initial conversation…the one during which I found out the man paying me for the yard work and pool cleaning was her grandfather. As such, he told her that I would be coming by to to do my job and he told her who I was.
As I suspected, she was a relative spending the summer in Southern California. However, in “Cindy’s” case (not her real name), she had been sent to live with her “Grans” as her parents were in the process of getting a divorce. The family house was being sold and “Cindy’s” mother wanted to get her out of state as part of an impending custody battle.
Coming from divorced parents myself, I knew exactly what she was going through, particularly the custody thing. She started laughing over the ridiculous idea of having a custody battle over a kid like her who was already in high school. This was the moment we realized had both misread each other’s ages. Like I had thought about her, she had me pegged as a college-age guy. Not only did this discussion serve as a prime bit of discovery, it also derailed my goals of getting the pool done before it got broiling hot…and of keeping “Cindy” at arm’s length.
At this point, I tell “Cindy” I’ve got to cut the conversation and get my work done. Her response was clueing me in that her “Grans” had gone to San Diego for a few days to help a friend who had been in a car accident. In other words, she made it clear the pool could wait.
Here’s where I’m going to apologize in advance for this story starting to resemble the lead-in to a porno flick…a busty girl home alone chatting up the “pool guy”…but it is what it is.
My intention was to get both my goals back on track; I was getting paid to get the pool cleaned and whatever was happening with “Cindy” could wreck all that. I deliberately returned early the next morning to finish the pool…and hopefully to be on my way before “Cindy” woke up. I had just tested the water when I heard the patio door slide open. Out strolled “Cindy” in that same blue bathing suit.
She declared the early morning was her favorite time to take a swim; she enjoyed the quietest time of the day. I told her I was done, and since I didn’t need to add any chemicals, she could use the pool at her leisure.
It wouldn’t be until some years later when I discovered bourbon that I truly understood the skewing effect certain things can slam into a memory. As God as my witness, there’s a solid hour to this day I can’t recall between “use the pool” and the seemingly unforgettable nature of this story.
I have no idea how I ended up in the house with “Cindy;” remember my goal was to get my job done and get the hell out of there. I remember the replay of the previous night’s California Angels game was on TV; we were sitting on the couch watching while I made some comment about it. What stuck in my head was Tommy John was pitching for the Angels.
First off, if you’re under the age of 50, you likely don’t remember Tommy John, the baseball player. If you’re under the age of 30, to you Tommy John is an undergarments retailer.
More importantly, if the very existence of this entire blog doesn’t clue you in as to the level of my sports fandom, the picture above probably won’t get you there either. The point is that even back in the Cul-de-Sac days, I had a moth-to-the-flame level attraction to all things sport. In other words, I was completely blinded by baseball…sweet, sweet baseball.
I didn’t get a chance to see the previous night’s game, but I having read the box score I knew the Angels beat the Chicago White Sox on the strength of a 2-run shutout by the 40-year old Tommy John. Although I knew the outcome, I was curious to see how John only gave up two runs when he allowed 11 hits and two walks. At this point, the Angels were in the heat of the pennant race, and this trip to Chicago was going to loom large down the road as the “Mighty Whiteys” were proving to be a primary adversary in the Angel’s quest for the American League West title.
Yeah…you’re reading this right. I was so engrossed in a baseball game and the progression of the Angels’ season that I wasn’t paying attention to the buxom girl in the bathing suit. That’s how I never saw the “sledgehammer” coming. “Cindy” got up off the couch, took up a stance directly between me and the television and dropped what is to this day the most direct question I’ve ever heard in my half-century plus on Earth.
“Have you ever…you know…done it?”
The next few seconds time-warped into “super slo-mo.” Somehow, I had enough time to go from the level of surprise usually reserved for a full-on “sucker-punch;” the impact of those seven words left me with the complete breathlessness as if I had taken that blow right in the gut.
As I’m trying to form a response, I’m tossed headlong into that dichotomy the topic of sex presented to high-schoolers in Southern California at the time…give Fast Times at Ridgemont High another look for a complete refresher on that subject. In other words, if I say “no,” then I run the risk of looking like the “nerdy virgin.” But on the other hand, if I say “yes,” I could be seen as some sort of AIDS-riddled “man-whore.” After all, this is the 1980s…the dawn of the “Mother of all STDs,” VCR Porn, and don’t forget…I’m a “pool guy.”
Just as I think I’ve got the perfect answer…just as I’m sucking in the air to get those words out, “Cindy” delivered sledgehammer #2. Time had slowed so much I felt like I could see the ripples in the air created by the sound waves of her words traveling toward me.
“Maybe we should try it.”
It seemed as though at precisely the same moment those words hit my ear, that blue bathing suit hit the floor. Her tone was so “matter-of-fact;” almost business-like. I hadn’t had the slightest bit of physical contact with this girl; I never held her hand, and I had certainly never kissed her…all things one would expect to have done far before she was there standing there wearing nothing but that layer of suntan lotion.
From the look she had in those sweet, soft brown eyes, I knew that “Cindy” had decided that as long as she was spending the summer joining the ranks of yet another family falling to divorce, there was another chapter she was going to start in her life.
I’m not going to get all “Penthouse Forum” with the details of what came next. Besides, I couldn’t get much past a “PG-13” rating telling this tale because the aforementioned “time-warp factor” only intensified commensurate to the activity. What I can tell you is she managed to make the combination of pool chorine and suntan lotion powerfully alluring. The “time-warp” seemed to end when I looked up afterward only to see that little shit-bag dog staring at me… clearly confused by a spectacle it had never seen before.
Now you know what became the de facto script for the better part of that summer. The time I spent with “Cindy” meant more missed morning re-plays of Angels games, which was just as well since they took on water and sank like a stone after the All-Star game in July.
By the end of August, the Angels chances of the Angels repeating as champions of the American League West were a memory…a fate that would also befall “Cindy.”
My summer with her ended as abruptly as it began. One day, I started cleaning the pool and that patio door didn’t slide open. No warning, no “good-bye;” she was just gone. She disappeared as quickly as she appeared. The story I got from her grandfather was the divorce between her parents had been settled and “Cindy” had gone back to live with her mother. To this day, part of me suspects her “Grans” shipped “Cindy” out because “our little secret” wasn’t kept as well as we may have believed.
Even after the passing of the better part of four decades, every once in a while I still wonder what that summer was all about. Literature lives on the romanticizing of “first love.” There’s no such glorification of “first lust.” To this day, I’m fairly sure it wasn’t about either. Then again, what did I know? The average high-school algebra book comes nowhere near the calculus of sex.
The sad, but simple reality was once she was gone, I didn’t miss her in the sense one would expect. I didn’t know that was outside of the pail until later on when I had my first “real” girlfriend. When that relationship ended, it came complete with that uncomfortable twinge in my gut signifying the sense of loss. But when “Cindy” returned to wherever, I kept cleaning that pool, mowing that lawn, and generally went on with my life.
It would be easy to read that and think “Cindy” didn’t mean anything to me. The very existence of this article proves that to be wrong. But how do you mourn something you can’t even define? To this day, the best answer I can muster is we gave each other the most angst and pain-free route through arguably the biggest rite of passage into adulthood. That means unlike nearly any other of my dealings with the “fairer sex,” I don’t have any unpleasant memories of “Cindy”…with the exception of a fleeting moment disdaining the discovery of that original dog-turd.
Today, there’s two things which take me back to that Southern California Cul-de-Sac. Most baseball fans associate Tommy John with the surgical procedure which bears his name. There’s a prized trinket on my desk; a baseball with signatures of all the members of the 1983 California Angels, including the afore mentioned Tommy John. To most, that name means fixing the ligaments in a pitcher’s elbow. But when I look at that ball, my mind doesn’t go to tales of the boys of summer.
Instead, I’m off to a world with a series of recollections of those days on that Cul-de-Sac. While Tommy John never appeared on MTV, a solid bit of 80s “MTV Pop” plays a role equal to his in bringing back those memories.
Because it happened one summer…
You can see all the Misty Water-Color Memories here.
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This is great, man! Thanks for sharing.
So… the suspense is killing me!
Did you lose your virginity that summer – or was it with the Paak Man on a loading dock in Minneapolis?
Gentlemen never tell.
As long as I know it was one of the two – I’m happy.
Always good to get a Matt Lawton sighting during Black History Month.