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.