Archive for December, 2007

“View From My Kitchen”

December 28, 2007

The Pier Even as a restorer of some men’s souls, the seashore has less magic than it held until a few short years ago. Seldom nowadays can one seek and find solace and refreshment from a seaside wilderness — that desert of water, sand, and sky where the only sounds are the lazy pounding of a summer surf, the faint rustle of the wind in the dune grasses, and the occasional cry of a tern. No section of our shore is now free from the jeep and the airplane. It is difficult to become attuned to the ancient rhythm of the sea while assailed by rock-and-roll from a portable radio.

Taken from The National Park Service “Pacific Coast Recreation Survey” 1960.

I had been living with my grandmother for about six months and working at Northrup as a fiberglass fabrication technician. I still didn’t have a car and Thelma was my only way to get around and getting around meant going to work and back. Sometimes I would go to the grocery store with her just to break things up a bit. My life was very boring. Sometimes my old surfing friends from the Rock “Antman” and Marcos would come by on the weekend and take me surfing. How I loved those days when I could get out and hang and surf with my buddies. Not to mention the chance to smoke a little weed and drink some Mead Wine from a botta bag.

Then one day we went to Mussel Shoals to surf the pier. Our friend Arby had moved to the coast about a year earlier and was renting a duplex there right on the water. We parked in front of his house and went surfing. The surf was really good and we surfed for about six hours straight. Later that afternoon we were all kicking back on Arbys sun deck watching the other locals getting their wave quota in for the day. Really great surfers like Dan Riley, Mike Reese, and Ross Cave were tearing it up in the late afternoon emerald green waves coming through the pier.

It was then that I thought to myself “I wanna live here, not San Diego, not Huntington Beach, not San Luis, but right here!” Then Arby said something that blew my mind. “Hey if anyone is interested the place down below is going up for rent at the end of the month.” “Really!” I said “Yeah April 1st” “How much?” I asked “$450” said Arby. “It’s got two bedrooms but one is pretty small it has a nice living room and a really cool kitchen with a big picture window looking out at the pier”. I started thinkin.”I have some money saved up but If I moved I would need a car so I could get to work. Plus $450 would be a little tight for one person to swing. If I could split it that would be just fine. Plus I would need to give a first, last and a damage deposit.” Basically I needed a car and a roommate. I told Arby that I was very interested but I had to work some things out. He said “If you want it I need to know within a week and I’ll refer you to the owner.” “Cool, thats fine” I said.

On the way back to grandmas house I was determined to get that house on the beach. The money to pull it all off would completely tap my savings. Especially the car. I would have to buy a cheap transportation vehicle that would get me through the 40 mile round trip to work everyday. Then a few days later when Thelma and I had come home from work, Thelma was going through the mail and said “Looks like you got something, it looks important” “Shit not another legal surprise” I thought. I took the envelope and opened it. It was a check made out to me for $5000. It was a life insurance policy that was from my mother. I felt a tear come to my eye then I started to cry really hard. “What’s wrong Keith?” Thelma asked. I couldn’t speak I handed her the papers and check. It took seven months for my mothers death to finally hit me. “I’ll be darned” she said “What?” I said “I didn’t think they would pay on this because it was a suicide” “Well they did” I said.

I put the check in my bank account with the rest of my savings. I had enough money to move to the beach, buy a nice car and have plenty left over. All I needed was a roommate. I called Antman back on the Rock. “Hey bro whats happening” “nothing how about you?” “Well dude I called to ask you something” What is it?” “Remember when Arby said the unit down below him was going to be available next month?” “Yeah” “How would you like to move in with me and spilt the rent?” “Really” “Yeah really” “Man I’d be stoked to move in there dude, but I don’t have enough dough for the deposit.” “Tell ya what I’ll do. I’ll pay the deposit and you get the smaller bedroom. Deal?” “Fuck yeah bro that sounds great!”

I now had a roommate. The next weekend Antman and I went to Arby’s house to meet the landlord and look at the duplex. It was such a hip California beach pad. I gave them a check for everything and signed a year lease. As we were walking back upstairs to Arby’s place I mentioned that I needed to buy a car. “You looking for a ride bro?” Arby said. “Yeah” I said. Well there’s a guy right around the corner selling a really nice 1969 VW panel bus. You should go over and take a look at it.” I walked around the corner and saw the bus in the guys driveway. It was a very clean yellow VW panel van. I talked to the owner and drove it. I gave him a deposit to hold it for me for one week. I now had a car. Not just a car but a VW van to go to work in and keep my surfboard and gear in. In two weeks I would be living on the beach in Southern California. At age 18 the real “Surfing Lifestyle” was truly just starting.

Now all I had to do was tell my grandmother.

“Grandma Drove a Porsche” conclusion

December 26, 2007

grandmas-porsche.jpgI fought the law and the law won…

Well that holiday is over and New Years is no big deal with me. I’ve always thought of my birthday as a new year of life to plow through.

After I hung up the phone with “The Man” Thelma asked me who it was because a call for me at her house was extremely rare because nobody knew where I was. Except “The Man” “UUuhhh it was just an agent with the Federal Secret Service Department” I tried to make it sound nonchalant but thats hard to do with the words agent, federal and secret. “What! are you in some kinda trouble?” Thelma asked. “Yeah I think I am” “What do you mean you think you are? That was the Federal Secret Service your damn right your in some kind of trouble! So what is it?” “Uuhhhh I think it might have something to due with forgery” I said. “Forgery! what the hell did you do?” When my grandmother said “hell” I knew she was pissed off. “Well about a year ago I received an income tax check in my mailbox for a friend of mine that was fighting in Viet Nam. I held on to it for awhile then one day a buddy came over to my house and we managed to get it cashed at my bank.” OK I spilled the beans to granny. “Why did you do a stupid, idiotic thing like that?” she asked. “Because I was broke and hungry. I think those are two pretty good reasons.” I didn’t tell her about all the beer and weed we bought.”

So what are they going to do come over here and arrest you?” “No they gave me the option of going down to L.A. tomorrow on my own accord” I said. “Well it looks like we are both taking tomorrow off from work then” she said.” I’m sorry grandma but I’m trying to turn my life around” “Well your life might get turned around sooner than you think!” she said to me. “What do you mean by that? “There’s a good chance that you might be going to prison for a stay.” “Fuck! I hadn’t even thought about that yet.

“I didn’t sleep well at all that night. Early the next morning Thelma and I got up early to get ready for my big day in Los Angeles at The Federal Building. It was a beautiful sunny day as we made our way through the morning traffic. I had been thinking about going to prison all night long and I was getting to the where I had resigned myself to the point of accepting my fate. I had imagined how I would deal and cope with prison life with a thousand made up senereos going through my head over and over. I’ll just shut up, lift weights and kick ass if I have to.

We arrived at the Federal Building at 7:40am for my 8 O’clock appointment. Thelma waited in the lobby of the Secret Service Office as I went in to see “The Man” I sat alone in an office not unlike one you would see at a police department. There were men in suits and ties as well as a few uniformed officers around. Then a gentleman in a black suit came out to the room and said “Mr. Keith Miller” “Yes sir” I formally replied. “Come with me.” We went into a stark room used for questioning where another “agent” sat waiting for me at a table. The scene was just like in the movies where they beat the shit out of you. I sat down at the table while the man who brought me in stood behind me. The man at the table started his questioning with “Why don’t you tell me why your here today Mr. Miller” I told him why I thought I was there and I was right. “Do you know you could go to prison for up to five years for this kind of offense?” the agent said “Shit five years!” I thought to myself. “No I didn’t sir””Well Mr. Miller we are going to have to arrest you and put you in the holding cell until later today when we can put your case before a judge” Then they handcuffed me and a uniformed officer took me to my cell. As I was being escorted I said to anyone that was listening. “Hey can somebody tell my grandmother in the lobby what’s going on so she knows.” “We’ll tell your granny” the rookie cop escorting me said with a smart ass attitude.

About an hour later a man that I hadn’t met entered the room where my holding cell was. He said he was a public defender and he told me exactly what to say when I met the judge that afternoon. “When the judge asks you how do you plead say guilty.” he said “But if I say guilty I could go to prison” I said “So you think lying is going to get you out of this? Listen kid you screwed up and they know it. That was a federal income tax check that you forged. Your in the big leagues now.” Fuck I’m up the creek for sure” I thought to myself.

Around 1:30pm I was finally sent to the courtroom to see the judge about my case. I was led into the chambers through a door that came out in the front of the courtroom off to the side. I was in handcuffs and my grandmother was in the courtroom seating. I felt so ashamed for her to see me like that. The judge announced my name and crime then he asked for my plea. “Guilty your honor” I said. “Mr. Miller this is a serious offense I don’t know what you were thinking but I think you know now it was wrong. Because you have no prior criminal record and you are employed and have a place to live I am going to sentence you to three years probation as well as a $1000 dollar fine and you are to pay back James Colton $500 for his income tax refund” he slammed his gavel down.

I was immediately lead back to my holding cell to be released. It’s a very strange feeling when a huge chunk of stress suddenly comes off of you, but I was feeling it then. All I knew was I was not going to prison. I could be good for three years and I had the money for the fines in my bank account. No problem.

I sat in my cell and waited for my release. I waited and I waited and I waited. First an hour then two then three.” What the fuck is going on” I thought. There was no one around to ask and no one was coming back to my area. Finally an officer came back in and I asked him what was going on “Officer I’ve been in here since 2:00p.m. waiting to be released can you find out what the problem is?” I asked “Since 2:00p.m.” he said “Yeah!” “What’s your name? he asked “Keith Miller” “Hold on I’ll go find out.” “Thanks man.” About another half an hour later he came back to my holding cell with the news. “Mr. Miller!” “Yes sir” “Your still under arrest” he said “What! for what!” I yelled. “Apparently you have a traffic ticket that you haven’t payed and it’s gone to warrant.” “FUCK!” I yelled. The officer turned and walked out the door. “WAIT!” I screamed but he didn’t come back. I thought of my poor grandmother out there waiting for me. “She’s out there wondering why I’m not released yet.” Then about another hour later the same officer came back to my cell and said “Mr. Miller your free to go now” as he unlocked my cell. I walked out into the same office that I started this fucked up day in and saw Thelma standing there. “Are you alright?” She asked “Kinda” I said. “Lets go home” “Thats the best thing I’ve heard all day grandma.”

“As we both rode back to Newbury Park in the Camaro I asked Thelma what was going on with her while I was stuck inside the jail. “Well I waited for about two hours and then I asked someone what was going on with your release. They got back to me about an hour later and told me about that ticket you didn’t pay. I asked how much is the bail and they told me $1000 dollars. So I decided to call your Uncle Tom at the District Attorney’s office, he pulled some strings to get you out free and clear.” “Oh yeah uncle Tom” I thought to myself. He had worked his way up through LAPD to an assistant to the District Attorney.

“Thanks grandma” I said with deepest sincerity. “Your welcome. Now do you have anymore surprises?” “UUuuhhhhhh not that I’m aware of.” I half jokingly said. We stopped at Dupars Restaurant in Thousand Oaks on the way home and had dinner. It had been a long day and we both had work tomorrow.

“Grandma Drove a Porsche” part one

December 23, 2007

Grandmas PorscheWe come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow… “Led Zeppelin, Immigrant Song”

So according to my calendar today is the first day of winter or the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. Once a very celebrated and mystical day in ancient cultures.

I walked home on that wet and rainy night on New Years Eve thinking about the state of affairs my life was in and I knew I had to do something about it. I was just heading down a dead end road with no direction home, a complete unknown, like a rolling stone. I needed help from someone but who? Who really cared about me? Who would say “come stay with me till you get up on your feet” Then it hit me! But staying with her meant no drugs, no drinking and no weed. Weed is not a drug. Pills and needles are drugs. I would have to be clean and sober if I wanted her help. The more I thought about it the more excited I became, as soon as I got back to my little house on Hillrose I called my grandmother even though it was 12:50a.m.

My Grandmother on my moms side was named Thelma Louise Iddings she was the mother of three children Joyce, Lois, and Dale. My mother was Lois. So my grandmother buried a daughter and I buried a mother just three weeks earlier. My grandmother was a very attractive women of Spanish descent her maiden name being Belardez. She was single but had a regular suitor for several years, a handsome gentleman named George. The two of them traveled and played golf regularly. She lived in Newbury Park California next to Thousand Oaks.

I called information and was able to get my grandmothers phone number and gave her a call. She answered the phone with a groggy “Hello?” “Hi grandma it’s me Keith” I said. “Oh hi Keith how are you is everything OK?” her voice snapped right back into alertness. “Yeah well sorta.” I replied. “What is it?” she said. “Grandma I need to get out of this place. I need to get away from here. It’s not a good place to be. I was wondering if I could stay with you awhile?” “Absolutely. I would love to have you come and stay. I have that extra bedroom, it’s small but you can use it. When do you want to come out?” she said. “Tomorrow?” I said hoping it wasn’t to sudden. “Thats fine I’ll come out and pick you up.” she said. “No I’ll drive out myself” “In what? she said. “In my truck” I replied. “What kind of truck?” “My 48 Ford” “You won’t need it” she said “OK I’ll just leave it here.

“The next morning my grandmother showed up at my place I was packed with just my clothes, some sundries, my surfboard and of course that Indian rug. Now one thing my grandmother loved was nice cars not big luxury cars but sports cars. Cars that were fast. When I was little she had a Porsche SC that I would love to ride in with her. I remember once going somewhere with her on the freeway and she said “This is a very well made car Keith you can tell buy just holding on to the steering wheel and turning it just a little bit” She very lightly turned the wheel from right to left and back again and the car responded to every nudge. “Here you try it” she said. I reached over put my seven year old hand on the wheel and turned it just a little as her Porsche swerved suddenly. “She what I mean?” she said. But now she was driving a 1968 Chevy Camaro SS with a 327 V8 and a factory 4 speed. Instead of European finesse it was American muscle. I put my bags in the back seat and slid my surfboard and the rug into the small trunk and tied them down with some rope. Then with the tail of my surfboard and the rug hanging out the back of my grandmothers Camaro I left Sunland/Tujunga California never ever to return again.

We drove through the valley and got on the Hollywood Freeway to the 101 Freeway westbound all the way out to Newbury park which is just before the Conejo grade drops down into Camarrillo and the Oxnard plain. I was now living only 24 miles away from the ocean less than 30 minutes by car. But I didn’t have a car I left my truck back on “The Rock” which was how I would refer to my old hometown from now on as “The Rock.

“Life at Granny’s was pretty boring the first couple weeks. She went to work I watched daytime TV. Then one day she came home from work and told me she had scheduled a job interview for me. “Really!” I said “Yes really, I’m taking you with me tomorrow morning for an interview.” she said. “Thats great, thanks grandma!” I was really excited about the opportunity to work for Northrup Aviation. A good company with great pay! I went to bed early and got a good nights sleep. I awoke fresh and ready to interview. That morning I rode to work in the Camaro with grandma at the wheel. She dropped me off in front of the Corporate Office, a big concrete and glass building with three very tall flag poles flying three giant flags, the State of California, the United States and one Northrup Corporate flag. The people entering the building were all dressed in suits and ties and the women were wearing dress suits and heals. It was all very formal, conservative and a little intimidating. From the outside it was one of those places that made you think, “I wonder how you get a job in there?” So I walked in wearing my grey corduroy pants and my best button down shirt. I approached the receptionist and gave the name of the person I was to talk to.

One week later I was an employee of Northrup Aviation. I was working in the fiberglass fabrication area. I sanded the excess fiberglass and resin off of parts to be used as air ducts in aircraft. I would stand at a work station in a white suit that covered me from head to toe. I wore a respirator over my nose and mouth with safety glasses covering my eyes and latex gloves on my hands. The sleeves of my suit were also taped around my wrists to keep the fiberglass dust out. For eight hours a day I would sand parts with a hand held rotary electric sander. Despite the protective gear the fiberglass dust still managed to get into any little crack in your armor that it could find. I was itching all the time. But the pay was good and I didn’t have anything else to do so I worked and worked and worked. I offered my grandmother rent but she refused. “You just save your money” she said. So thats what I did I put every dime I made into the bank and pretty soon I had a pretty good lump of money saved up. I was clean, sober, employed and rich.

Then one day after work my grandmother and I were having supper when the phone rang. I answered it and the voice on the other end said in a stern authoritative voice “Am I speaking to Mr. Keith Miller?” “Speaking” I replied. “This is the Federal Secret Service Office in Los Angeles and we would like you to come down to our office for some questioning as soon as possible.” I couldn’t speak for awhile, I was thinking real fast through the rolodex in my head. “What have I done lately that I might be caught for? the voice on the other end of the phone came back, “Do you have any idea what this might be about Mr. Miller?” “Ahhhh, Ahh” and then it hit me like a ton of bricks and the man on the other end new it. “Mr. Miller you can come down tomorrow on your own accord or we can send a car out tonight to bring you in which would you prefer?” “I’ll be down tomorrow morning” I said. “Fine” the man said and he hung up. Now all I had to do was tell my grandmother about some baggage that I had forgotten about.