There was this time…(pt. 16)

He’s wondering if Town Car = Recreational Vehicle

As I opened the throttle of my scooter to the fullest, purple fluffy cup-holder flowers fluttering in the wind, I tried to catch the 1980’s brown and tan Town Car that came drifting through the entrance gate. The gate guard said the car had “Neil Diamond” stenciled on the window. That was enough for me and I jumped on my ride and took off. 

Actually, I fumbled with the massive combination lock, yanked it away from the bike rack, hit a couple bikes on the way out, picked my scooter up and angled it towards the handicap ramp, finally remembered to turn it on… 

Then I took off. 

You’re wondering, “why the 80-year-old American icon Neil Diamond would be driving himself around in a 1980s Town Car on a Monday in an RV resort with his name stenciled on the side?” It’s because there was no way he would be. I thought that, too. I was chasing the car because there is a very talented Neil Diamond impersonator who has performed at our resort and I was hoping to make the photo of him, myself and the car a potential gift to my sister. The Campland impersonator is no Super Diamond but judging from his extensive plastic surgery, he is definitely dedicated. Good enough for me. So off I chased.

It takes 5 Super Diamonds to make one Neil

I zipped along the rows of RV sites, the place was nearly empty, but I couldn’t find the obnoxious baby-shit-brown Town Car. I checked my phone and got word that he was gone as mysteriously as he had come. 

Seconds later, I was told that it wasn’t the impersonator’s car I was looking for. It was truly the original Neil Diamond’s car. Or rather, it was his 27-year veteran chauffeur all by himself in the real Neil Diamond’s car. How the ranger at the front gate got that information out of the dude in less than 30 seconds is beyond me. 

Because there’s no way any of it is true, logically. 

However, there is no logic where I work and stranger things have happened there. Things that I’m witness to and I’ve only worked there 5 1/2 years.

Imagine the stories I’d have if I weren’t a newbie. Answer: a much more popular blog. —

So I searched for someone else to legitimize this outrageously ridiculous Diamond story.

Lo and behold, the story was backed up by other long-timey employees that Mr. Diamond would have his driver drive him through the RV resort every once in a while when he lived in La Jolla. I don’t know why. Probably because no one cares at Campland who the hell you are. -Just ask Eric Clapton.-

Ever since my exciting lunch break, I’ve tried to find Internet-proof of the car, driver, Neil Diamond being anywhere near there, Neil Diamond being able to drive, or if he ever has had possession of a baby-shit-brown Town Car…and nothing. Yet, I can’t rule the story out. I would be less surprised to find out it were true than if it weren’t. It’s an odd place full of mystery and people confident with self-deluded detachment from their amazing stories.

And it’s not the story I came to tell. It’s about my trusty electric scooter. 

I know what you’re thinking, “Wait, what?”

Exactly. Stay with me. 

Riding my ridiculous, stick-straight, white with purple-flowered cup holder that flutters in the breeze, is the most fun you can have in public. It’s so silly and so stupidly, hilariously, innocently NOT badass that you just have to give up any pretense of cool and embrace that dork label that will now follow you around for the rest of your life. And you’ll do it with a smile. A huge, dopey, goofy smile. And it’s totally worth it.  

Okay, it’s not just my goofy scooter. It is all electric, sit-down scooters that are fun. And there are a lot of electric scooters that are actually badass. Mine just happens to not be one of them. 

I actually purchased the scooter because of a strange daily ritual the Winter residents of the RV park enjoy every evening. It’s also silly and ridiculously innocently fun. And I wanted in.

Every sunset, they gather their golf carts together and convoy with each other along the beach, through the park, at around 3mph, to drink cocktails and wave at people. That’s it.

It sounds really stupid because it totally is. It’s stupid and hugely fun. It’s refreshing to laugh that hard when doing absolutely nothing.

End of one of the more epic Christmas golf cart cruises

I was allowed to join on a few cruises but I wasn’t an official member. That really burned me up.

To join the gang, I was lacking the one thing that would enable me to be considered into this elite club; a golf cart. So, as someone who frequently disregards rules, it came to me… poof, scooter!

First, this:

There are people in this world that mere mortals such as ourselves can never compare. You know what I mean. They are tougher, braver, more pioneering, simply badder than we’ll ever be. We can only be blessed to know them. No offense to those who think they’re the most awesome in the room. Compared to people like these, you pale and you know it. Accept it. There are people who are better than you. 

Three of these more awesome people I have been blessed with knowing are firefighters. They aren’t just firefighters, they are smoke jumpers, hot shots, and whatever the hell we call the scary-ass thing Mikey did. 

The first is Diane Pryce, the sweet, very feminine sister of my ex in Santa Barbara who was the first female smoke jumper in California and the second in the country. She trained in Alaska as the only woman in a cluster of angry men resentful of her biological ability for attracting grizzlies to their camp. She spent the rest of her life pioneering how women were portrayed and respected in that hugely male-dominated role. She retired into a job doing air-traffic control from a plane over forest fires. Because, of course she did.

The second is a gentle, former-neighbor of mine, Tommy, who taught trainee smoke jumpers how to parachute into wild fires. Think about that. He TAUGHT people how to parachute…INTO…forest fires. One of the people he trained to do so was Diane Pryce, though I met them separately and in different parts of the state. 

The third is Mikey. THE toughest man I’ve ever known who isn’t my father. Mikey earned his pension by –ahem, get this– extinguishing oil rig fires in the Saudi Arabian desert…in the ’80s.

What the holy fuck!?! There’s badass and then there’s that.

Well past retirement age, he can still drink us all under the table, throw a blanket over us, then go off to kill Sasquatch with his bare hands. I can barely eat rum cake without falling asleep and he’s complaining that Las Vegas goes to bed too early anymore. 

Even wearing a Santa hat and flashing made up signs, Mikey is still tougher than you.

It’s his golf cart with the Santa stuck to the dash in the other photo. And cracking me up as we circled the RV park.

So, as is fitting of someone that fucking tough, he has one of the more badass scooters ever made.

It looks mean, like a chopper of the Harley Davidson variety.

Mine does not.

Let’s just say that George Christie isn’t begging for my recruitment. Because my little stick of a scooter is as dorky as they get. Yet still as much fun and with more giggles. Because you can’t help it.

One instance that sticks so clearly in my mind is hearing my friend giggle with her husband like a couple of 6-year olds when riding my and Mikey’s scooters, trailing behind our golf cart convoy. These two have lived lives, they’ve seen things, he’s even a real life rock star, yet that happy, innocent laughter they shared when scooter-riding is still contagious when I think of them. 

One badass scooter and one badass drummer from P.O.D

Yes, Mikey’s chopper is as cool as the dude who owns it. As is the dude riding it in the photo. My little white dork scooter pictured in the upper right (being ridden by my friend) of the photo, however, does not make me, or anyone riding it, cool. It’s totally worth it, though.

And it did allow me entry into the golf cart club, too. That’s all I wanted.

So, as I sped through the empty lots of Campland searching for the babyshit-burrito-colored Town Car, determined to get a selfie with any “Neil Diamond”, I realized I had one of the biggest smiles on my face. Usually contemplative and grouchy, I was giggling and felt like I spent some time in the most valuable way. It’s curious what can make someone like me appreciate life.

Who knew it would be a white, stick straight scooter with a fluffy purple-flowered cup holder? I sure didn’t. Had I known, we’d all have a fleet by now.

-NTZ

There was this time…(pt.13)

Geoff, the Santa Barbara boyfriend of 10 years, the chick-wrangler or “Sport-fuck” as his friends used to call him in my presence, was not one to keep his pants on when he should. Seeing as it’s been more than 15 years later, he and I are good friends and I don’t begrudge him the, um, multitude of indiscretions in which he may or may not have indulged.

The indiscretions so plentiful that it was reported in the local newspaper. 

You could wonder why I would put up with something like that and I don’t blame anyone for wondering that. The answer is simple: I didn’t know at the time and how could he not? In a town with a population of only around 30,000 permanent residents, 90% of whom are female, it’d be almost rude of a man this beautiful to not indulge. 

And it has been over 15 years. I really couldn’t care less now. We’re past it, so should you be. I appreciate your righteous anger, though, dear reader. If anything, I’m impressed that anyone could have that much energy or time in their day.

I only report that previous detail because, goddamn, it was in the fucking newspaper!

But I digress. This is just a story about a time.

__________________________

There was this time when we went to a movie.

One normal night, we went to go see Golden Eye, Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond. 

As we’re walking through the doors of the Arlington Theatre, I excuse myself to make a bee-line to the ladies room. Geoff meanders towards the outside patio; doing the agreeable nod that we’d meet out there.

I find him holding a martini and grabbing stuffed mushrooms off a passed plate. It looked great, albeit odd for a random movie night, but I graciously accepted a martini off a tray held by a smartly-dressed waiter. 

We wordlessly enjoy our good luck for whatever conceivable reason this was happening; not wanting to say anything lest saying it makes it stop. I look up and notice that everyone mingling in this little quaint outside patio was far better dressed than we. We were no slouches but we weren’t dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns. I also notice that Pierce Brosnan was about 5 feet away from us. 

“Oh shit.”

“What?”

“Look!” I point with my pinky finger towards the doorman checking off names but otherwise turning away many people not on his coveted clipboard list. The doorman who let us through because our dismissive, belonging attitude–due to the fact we didn’t know we weren’t supposed to be there in the first place–gave us unquestioned credibility.

“We just walked into a movie premiere.”

Giggling at our stealth and trying to find ways to shove martinis and steaming hot mushrooms into my purse, we followed the elite crowd into the theater to watch the best James Bond ever portrayed.

–Oh knock it off. This is my story and my opinion. Get off your Connery.–

Two hours later, we stumbled out of the theater; stunned by our luck, and dazed by the many martinis…and also having hatched a plan. 

Lightbulb lit, for the next few months, there wasn’t an event we couldn’t get into. We arrogantly strutted our way into gallery openings, elite polo gatherings, exclusive Montecito galas, and one hilariously successful entrance into the world-famous Sky Bar at the Mondrian hotel in Los Angeles to meet Geoff’s “agent, Jaime Bemis” whom he had conjured out of the air. 

We had a great time. We really did. And, to this day, we both look back at it as a triumph.

It couldn’t last though. The problem with faking your way through life is that, unless you’re a psychopath, you can’t keep it up. Microexpressions, fatigue, and anxiety show through the facade.  It makes pulling this kind of thing off harder and harder. You just don’t have the energy to do it anymore anywhere.

And when you’re trying to pull this kind of thing off in a town of only 30,000 people, most of whom know one of you really well by now, eventually someone is going to write up your story in their local newspaper. 

There was this time…(pt. 10)

You may remember a while ago there was a meme circulating around about punk/hard core/metal musicians loving their cats. More specifically, Glenn Danzig.

All of that is cute. Because, of course it is. We already know that cat pictures power the Internet. Without them, the Internet would cease to be. And we would all die. So, in turn, thank Glenn Danzig for allowing you to read my blog right now and saving your lives. You’re welcome.

For those who don’t know, Glenny, as I would never call him to his face, is the founder of the Misfits and then his own namesake band later on. Fans of the movie The Hangover will recognize the sound of this lover of furry kitten friends.

However, I did not know of this feline proclivity of his when I met him around 2013. I just happened to be the main minion to the greatest cat of all time. If you were ever lucky enough to have met Mobi, you would know why it came up in conversation.

There’s nothing cuter than the sound of a this pioneer of punk’s “Awwww” upon him seeing a picture of my Mobi.

How could anyone not melt from that face?

Granted, Mobi was the greatest cat of all time, way more punk than punk, a far more dignified badass than any 5’10”, 200lb of solid-muscle, fireplug-of-angry could ever dream of being.

Listen, though. This is important. I did not offer Mobi’s picture to Danzig when I met him. He asked ME to see Mobi.

We were simply discussing how awesome kitties are and specifically, the Mobes. As I regaled him of stories of my 6 lb cat slaughtering 4 lb rats in front of me, Danzig could not help but ask to see pictures of, well, the King, may he Rest In Peace.

Mobi
Bow to the Master

And then the Awwww. It was adorable.

We giggled.

Yes, I giggled with Danzig.

About cats.

Boom! Internet saved.

The shiny one on the right is just glowing from the love of cats. The grumpy one on the left wasn’t actually grumpy, just blinking. I’m pretty sure.

Another story I’m just going to stick to. Which actually leads me to this other time…

There was this time…(pt.-1)

June 2013, the Knops and Castillos travelled to Bolivia for cousin Dina’s wedding.

During that trip, we got to visit an eco-lodge on the Amazon River. To get there, we had to float on panga boats five hours up-current. At some point, we broke from boating, landing on some sandy bank, for lunch. I had been holding it for the last two hours so, holding my knees together, I went scuttling off to try to find some hidden patch of ground that was a) wide enough that I could awkwardly squat without touching any plants because who knows what plants or bugs-on-plants are capable of killing/maiming/implanting-in me in the Amazon and b) far enough away from the other people to not put on a memorable show.

I was hiking along for quite a while because those two criteria were harder to find than I thought. Suddenly, I came across:

IMG_1678
Paw print. Very large paw print.

That’s a pretty fresh print, too; notice that the sand is still pretty wet and the print isn’t smudged or filled in with leaves, or implanting-bugs, or whatever grows in the Amazon jungle yet to terrify me. 

And big… probably about 4 inches across (accounting for its two prints-front paw/back paw). Not the hugest cat but I’m sure still very toothy.

Weighing my non-options, I opt to scurry back to the boat. I figured I’d rather wet myself (though that was sort of moot at this point) than get mauled by a jaguar. Fighting a hungry, angry jaguar with my pants around my ankles would be the funniest home video of all time but since it would be me starring in it, not funny in a ha-ha kind of way.

The air was so wet and heavy as I was sprinting back to the boat and my heart was pounding like the heavy paw-falls of a sprinting jaguar that I still don’t know if I was wet from the air or my pouring sweat. I’m sure I couldn’t have peed-and-run because I’m too much of a fucking lady for that kind of uncouth shit.

The guides casually, and far too dismissively in my opinion, said the jaguar I’ll call, “Speckle”, was probably not around anymore. Of course, they’re right but I was convinced this particular jaguar wanted to know me. Probably just to snuggle, I’m sure. They are nocturnal like all cats but that widely-known fact, along with the urge to pee, left my consciousness the second that paw print came into view.

Leopard
Speckle only wants to love

Speckle and his brethren remained mysteriously stalky and out-of-site, like fuzzy Colonel Kurtzes, for the remainder of our stay in the Amazon jungle. Thank God.

We did see other, less overtly-dangerous animals, though. Zoo-worthy animals like capybaras, the giant nerd rodents of the jungle. Capybaras aren’t scary and their most frightening defense is to poop as they run away.

He’s wondering when Dr. Who is on.

And there are plenty of wild, scrambling, horny monkeys who rain poop and AIDS from the trees that criss-cross the dark river.

You brewin’ one up? The blond isn’t wearing a hat.

Really cute AIDS-pooping monkeys and dorky Rodents-of-Unusual-Size were the most ferocious of the Amazonian wildlife we encountered and, for that, I’m grateful.

Because as cute and fuzzy as any jaguar is at the zoo, having one stare down at you while baring 3-inch fangs as you try to keep what’s left of your dignity, and trying to keep all of the throat you started out with, makes whatever a monkey can throw at you much more preferable. We survived.

The most injury we sustained on our trip was an insane amount of creepy bug bites that seemed to appear out of nowhere and itch like the air was made from attic insulation. And one incident of sun poisoning sustained by my brother-in-law who misunderstood the concept of sunscreen, as usual.

Ironically, the scars that remained on my body were on my neck from someone having tried to stab it open 15+ years prior in what was decidedly NOT the Amazon jungle. And, for a while, very questionable-looking dots all over from the bugs who treated themselves to the smorgasbord that are my legs.

It’s possible there are still some microscopic animals living in my digestive tract that will haunt me for the rest of my life. It was pretty rough nursing that part of my body back to digesting good old American bacon grease and e-coli-ridden Californian lettuces. 

Frequently having time to mull it over on my porcelain throne over the next few weeks, I thought, “that jaguar probably would’ve killed me quickly. I wonder how soon I can get one here…”

At least grappling with a huge, angry cat, as violent and scary as it could be, would’ve made for better scars and a more courageous story than being brought down by tiny intestinal livestock.

Either way, I’d still end up with my pants around my ankles.