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Except for my mother and father, no one has known me longer than my cousin Arnie. We're practically twins from the same womb ... we're first cousins,our mothers were sisters. Arnie always reminded me of Opie. Not because he had red hair, but because he was really cute ... like Opie.  Arnie and I lived next door to each other almost our entire lives. When we were little, little kids, before we were in school, we lived in a little duplex in East L.A. As close as we were, we would also get into these terrific fights where we would try to beat the crap outta each other. Our mothers' had a very strange way of separating us ... they would move the trash cans across the little cement back yard to separate us and keep us from killing each other,  then they'd peel us off each other.  I have no idea how they came up with this method but we have laughed about it ever since.  

On 4th Street we had a little neighbor girl named Lorraine.  Lorraine was evil. Really and truly. She had a cute little, white puppy and I still remember to this day how she would break his little nails off his paws and the little puppy would yelp and cry.  Is that fucken sick or what!  Arnie and I didn't like Lorraine. She scared us and gave us the heebie jeebies. I guess you can recognize twisted psychosis even at the age of four. 

We also used to play with a brother and sister ... Rita and Pelon ... Pelon was appropriately named because he had a little shaved head due to head lice.  My mother and my Tia Chata did not like Arnie and I playing with Rita and Pelon.  I couldn't figure out why until I got head lice from Rita.  My mother was MORTIFIED.  She washed my hair for hours on end with vinegar and then Tia Martha and Tia Chata helped pull the dead bugs outta my hair.  OMG I remember them pulling those dead creatures outta my hair for hours!  It was torture.  Arnie and I used to get in fights with Rita and Pelon all the time and then we'd race home down Woods Avenue on our big ol red tricycle, Arnie pedaling furiously as I would stand on the back yelling "COME ON ARNIE!!! WE CAN MAKE IT!!! FASTER FASTER!"

When I was in the second grade we moved to Manzanar and if you're familiar with my blog you will know that I grew up with all of my cousins on the same block. We lived right next door and across the street from each other. Arnie, Eddie and I were the same age and started school at the same time and every other year or so I'd have one of my cousins in class. Arnie and I were in second grade together and what I remember about that was that our teacher couldn't say Arnie's name correctly. She would call him Army.  I used to think to myself ... ARMY?  Get it right you stupid teacher!  

When Arnie was little he had a lot of allergies and I always felt very protective of him. I remember watching him one day as he sat across the desk from me while we were cutting circles out of construction paper.  Because they give you safe, useless, funky scissors in kindergarden, it was almost impossible to cut a clean circle.  Arnie's circle was all funky and as I watched him working away with his little, crusty allergy eyes I felt a huge burst of love for him. I just wanted to throw my arms around him and give him a big ol hug. 
Arnie was always making up games and songs. He had one little jingle we used to chant when we saw the bus coming: the bus, the bus, the B-U-S, the bus, the bus, the B-U-S. He also made up a game we used to call "jump the shadow" ... in the morning we used to wait for the school bus on a big main boulevard and when the big semi-trucks passed by (we used to call them suckin' mama's) they would make a gigantic moving shadow that we would jump over. This, of course, was in the olden days way before computer games and Ipods and all the other crap that turn a kid's brain into oatmeal.

Arnie and I were always competitive. He was a really good student and a big ol show off and he would irritate the hell outta me by bragging about this ad nauseum and say things to me like ..."I got straight A's on my report card ... do you think I'll pass?" which would make me wanna punch him in the face. He also beat me at everything. He was a better student than I was and ALWAYS, ALWAYS won at board games. This was until I caught him stealing money from the bank when we were playing Monopoly. All this time I thought he was just super lucky and he'd been cheating and winning under false pretenses! He'll never know how this effected my self-esteem! When I finally busted him and called him out "YOU CHEATER!!!!" he just laughed and laughed ... I never could figure out how he could enjoy winning by cheating, but he did. I guess he figured who's gonna know?

In the 4th grade my cousin Eddie and I were in the same class. To me, Eddie always reminded me of Tweetie Bird because they both had the same dimples. Our 4th grade teacher was Mrs. Faraca ... I HATED HER. I used to spin myself round and round in the morning before school so I could make myself throw up I hated her that much. I made up my own little song about her ... MS. FARACA THE CACA, MS. FARACA THE CACA ... She had these big old bulging blue eyes and when she got mad they would literally pop out ... she was one of those teachers who would yell in class and freak everybody out. These days I probably could have sued her for causing me emotional distress in the form of stomach aches and nightmares! One afternoon after recess, we were all lined up to go back into class. Boys on one side, girls on the other. Eddie and I were both at the very end of the line when Eddie decided to bend his knees into the knees of the boy in front of him and I swear to God the entire line went down like a stack of dominoes!

It was hilarious ... That was the year that Arnie was in Miss McGonigal's class. She was from Texas and had a Texas drawl. She had very strict rules when spelling out loud. The rule was, if you weren't sure how to spell something and you said, for instance: "Barn, B - A - R - ...N? She'd say in her Texas drawl ... "DON'T END IN A QUESTION MARK!" Of course, as always, Arnie got straight A's again ... and Eddie and I didn't ... cause we were just NORMAL ... and traumatized by MRS. FARACA THE CACA ...


  1. Debbie,
    Great childhood story. I wonder whatever happened to Lorraine? The little girl who "was evil. Really and Truly" (had me laughing) who used to break the nails off her puppy's toes (stopped laughing instantly: holy friggin cow!).

    You have a gift for writing.



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An Ode to Viggo
Who knows where or when my love for you began it took me by surprise and filled up my whole life
Some laughed and called me mad but I knew that was sad for love cannot be mocked and Viggo, my world rocked
I've seen his every film, his songs, his poems and still I love him more each day and that's how it will stay  for in my dreams he lives
Each step through ether's door we meet forever more and so shall it remain until my life should wane
- Signed Debbie Nunez Mortensen :) (yes, I know I'm weird)