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THE BLOCK ... a little jaunt down memory lane

As most little girls, I had a very best friend. Denise Rivera and her family moved to Manzanar Avenue when I was 9 years old. The Rivera family had what seemed to me like a hundred and fifty kids, but in actuality it was ten (like that's not a lot). This was back in the 1960's when having 3 kids was considered pathetically small. Anyway, the day they moved in was big news because NO ONE NEW had ever moved to our block. This was very exciting to me. New people! New kids! (The picture above is of the Duggars. Just pretend they're Mexican and call them the Riveras).

Being a nosy little kid I rode my bike to the corner and watched them move in and I'm sure I pestered the shit outta everybody as I asked a billion questions and ... there she was, sitting on the porch with her head in her hands looking very sad and forlorn. She was a pretty little girl with big brown eyes and light brown hair. I walked right up to her and said "what's your name?" ... she barely looked up as she quietly said ... "Denise." From that moment on we were best friends.

As we grew from girlhood into young teenagers our bond became very close and like most girls we were squirrely and weird and no one, NO ONE, could make me laugh like Denise. She took great pride in her ability to make me laugh until I peed in my pants and would torture me as I would plead with her "Noooooo, Denise, stooooooooop". But, just as she had the power to make me laugh until I peed, I was not without powers of my own. I could get Denise to do ANYTHING, and I mean anything.  She trusted me implicitly.  

I once came up with this cockamamie game involving my bike ... I told Denise, "I KNOW, lets you and me ride the bike and I'll tell you where to go but you gotta CLOSE YOUR EYES! ... and she went for this!  And I gotta tell you, Denise was really good at this. She followed my instructions to the tee, turning when I told her to, slowing down when I told her to, she was freaking amazing at this and we only crashed once ... right in front of Bobby Valencia's house ... but that's another story. After a while I thought to myself ... this is getting boring ... let's make it more interesting ... so I told Denise, "I know ... I'll sit on the bike facing backward and when I tell you where to go it will be in reverse! So when I say turn left, it really means right, and when I say turn right, it really means left!!!! OKAY?!?!  I still cannot believe I got her to do this shit. 

Once, after we were grown up I begged her to tell me the truth ..."come oooooon, you looked didn't you?! She swore to me that she never did. We did have some close calls though.  Once, riding the bike through the alley doing our reverse instruction thing, I happened to twist around to see where we were headed ... and I saw a metal pole and a brick wall rapidly advancing ... try to picture this ... the handlebars on the bike were either going to clear that pole and the brick wall or we were going to kill ourselves ... I figured hell, if I say anything now we'll crash for sure so I turned around, closed my eyes and waited for the inevitable ... but it never happened! When I opened my eyes we were passing cleanly between the pole and the wall ... we cleared that space with no room to spare!!! It's a freaking miracle with didn't end up with broken bones. To this day she still doesn't believe me when I tell her we passed between that pole and the wall, but it's true, I swear it. 

I then invented another game I called "Wonderland."  The premise of this game was that we were to ride our bikes all over town for hours and hours and then we had to trace our way back home by the exact same route ... or we would be lost forever ... in Wonderland.  
I loved the chaos and disorder at Denise's house and she loved the order and efficiency of my mine.  Denise LOVED to spend the night at my house because she said when she woke up in the morning the birds were singing and the bacon was a-crackling. Nothing like her house ... complete chaos, babies crying, people yelling and kids everywhere.  Whenever I wanted to play with Denise I would stand in front of her house and yell out "DENEEEEEEEEESE!" Once in a while I'd knock on the door but the Rivera's were really weird about certain things ... if you knocked on the door they would answer by barely cracking the door open ... just enough for you to see an eyeball ... "yeah?" me: "can Denise play?" "hold on." BAM! DOOR CLOSED. The Rivera's were weird like that.

Our block had a ton of kids and really was the best neighborhood in the world to grow up in. We all played together and fought together and grew up together. When Denise and I first started noticing boys we both developed a big ol crush on Steve. Steve lived on the corner and had big brown eyes with long, straight eyelashes like a cow's. We would come out of Denise's house and when we reached the sidewalk our heads would automatically turn to the left to look toward his house. One summer she and I decided to get a tan by lying on the sidewalk in front of her house. We got our towels, laid them on the sidewalk and layed down. Why we decided to do this in the front yard I have no idea ... but there we were in our little bikini's lying on our towels when along came Steve on his 10 speed. Instead of stopping or breaking when he saw the two of us he just kept going and ran over the entire left side of my body leaving a big ol black tire mark. "STEEEEEEEEEVE!!! YOU STUPID!!!" All I remember was his cackling laughter as he continued down the block. JERK.

The Castaneda's were another big family that lived on the block right across the street from Denise. In the summer the entire block would congregate in the Castaneda's garage. They had a pool table and all summer long we would hang out, play pool and listen to music.  The Castaneda's had a bird bath and a pair of plastic pink flamingos in their front yard and when I was little, being the huge pain in the ass I was, Ernie (the dad), would constantly yell at me for sitting on those stupid flamingos and try to ride them.  Terry was the only only girl in the family and was really, really nice to me. I'd come over and hang out in her room and she would set my hair with her electric rollers and then style my hair into a Gypsy Flip which I thought was the coolest thing on earth.  I LOVED Terry, but when she got her first boyfriend I annoyed the crap outta her too. Whenever I would see her and her boyfriend sitting on her front porch I would mosey on over to visit and basically annoy the shit outta her. Terry was probably 16 to my 12 and I'm sure whenever she saw me headed towards her house she probably thought, awwwww crap .... here comes little Debbie. Once, when she was sitting on the porch with her boyfriend John, I decided to go over and talk to them.  And, after studying her nylons for quite some time I told her that they didn't didn't match. She said to me ... "Debbie, how can they not match ... THEY'RE PANTYHOSE." (see ... pain in the ass ... that was me).


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