Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

My First Wife and Only Child “Epilog”

December 1, 2010

It’s been almost three years since I’ve decided to write this next installment.  A lot has happened but thats another story.  So lets close this chapter up so we can move on.

I discovered that being married was not much different from living together. We both did our thing and at the end of the day we were together at home.  It worked out to be a really nice groove.  Carol worked at the restaurant and I did odd jobs and surfed.  Then one day Carol told me she was pregnant.  Yep pregnant.  I was stunned.  I had been living in the bliss of ignorance for a long time.  I’d never gotten a girl pregnant in my life until then. I thought I was shootin blanks.  “Yeah thats it blanks.”  Well you idiot you’re not shooting blanks  she’s a very fertile catholic girl.

Carol was elated by her new-found condition.  I on the other hand had to let it all sink in for a while before I could decide what I was feeling and I don’t think Carol liked that. It took me a week of soul-searching to come to grips with the whole situation.  So out of necessity I warmed up to the idea that “I” was going to be a father.  We told our friends about the blessed event including my in-laws which were “kinda” cool with it.  So here we were 6 months into the marriage and with child.  Things were changing faster than I could even imagine!

Having a new baby on the way meant it was time for me to really step up to the plate and get a good responsible job and maybe even a career.  I never really knew what I wanted to be except when I was around seven years old.  I wanted to be a jet fighter pilot flying F-86 Sabre Jets just like Steve Canyon.  Well I was along way from that dream.  So a meat cutter was my next option.  At that time there was  a large meat-packing facility just up the 101 freeway in Carpenteria about two miles from where we were living.  I decided I was going to put in an application and try my hardest to land a job as a union working apprentice meat cutter.  So I  went in and filled out the long application and turned it in to the receptionist. “We’ll call you as soon as there is an opening.” She said to me.  “OK thanks!”  As I left the building I really thought I was on my way to a new career.  So I went surfing.  For about a month.  I kept checking back with the meat-packing house calling on the phone, showing up personally but I just kept getting the same answer. “We’ll call you as soon as there is an opening.

Then one day I was looking through the want ads in the Santa Barbara News Press. “MEAT CUTTER WANTED WILL TRAIN RIGHT PERSON”  I called immediately.  “Hello?”  “Yes I’m calling about the position you posted in the paper for a meat cutter.  Is the position still available?  Great I’ll come by today to fill out an application.”  I spruced up and jumped into my Rambler  wagon and sped off to Percals Meats on Milpas Street in Santa Barbara.  I met Jim the owner. Jim was a big thick meat cutter of a man wearing a blood stained apron.  Percals was a retail and wholesale butcher shop supplying meats to the public as well as many restaurants in the area.  Jim took me to the back office and we talked.  I told him about my wanting to get into the packing house in Carpinteria and how much I wanted to break into being a butcher.  He liked my dedication not to mention I was a 21-year-old man-child with a new baby coming.  I got the job without filling out an app.

I had been working at Percals for 6 months learning the ropes. I mostly learned to chop up chickens on the band saw.  Then I learned how to de-bone chickens with a boning knife.  Then I learned how to make ground beef with different percentages of fat content.  Then I learned how to make sausages.  I also drove the delivery van to the restaurants with their orders.  I really liked my job and felt like this was what I wanted to do.  Then one day the swell got really, really good.  I hadn’t missed a day from work in six months and I was never late.  So I decided to take a day off to surf.  I called in and told Jim that my car had sprung a leak in one of the freeze plugs so I was going to stay home and fix it myself. He said “OK”  So I jumped into my car and headed down the coast to my old stomping grounds the pier at Mussle Shoals.

The surf that day was soooo good!  I surfed with some of my buddies that lived at the Rincon Cliff House Johnny, Dave, and Chuck.  We surfed all day till dusk.  I got home exhausted.  Carol asked me how the surf was “Awesome!” I said.  Then she handed me the note that had been stuck on our front door earlier that day.  “Came down from the shop to take you to work.  Didn’t see you or your car.  Must be running OK.  Surf looks really good too!”  Mike was another surfer that worked at Percals.  He knew what I was doing and he was jealous.  “I hope it was good enough to lose your job over.”  Carol said.  “I’m not going to lose my job.  Shit I haven’t missed a day since I started working there.  Fuck! all I did was go surfing!”  The next day I was fired.

Carol was getting pretty big with that baby in the oven and I was pretty pissed off at the world after that SOB Jim fired me.  I had to find another job pronto.  I looked, and looked, and looked. Nothing.  We were just getting by week to week.  Carols parents helped us out with some cash to live on.  Then I found another job in the paper.  WANTED LIQUOR STORE CLERK  Oh yeah!  I jumped on it!  My interview went very well and I got the job.  In retrospect I think people kinda feel sorry for you when your young and have a baby coming so sometimes getting a job is easier.  Anyway I was now working in retail as a liquor clerk and I was also in the Retail Clerks Union. I was making $8.50 to start which was pretty good in 1976.  I really loved working at Miratti’s Liquors.  They had several stores throughout Santa Barbara and I worked at the main store on the corner of Mission and De la Vina streets.  The clientele were awesome, my boss was cool, and the hours were great 3pm till 11:30pm friday through thursday.  I was to be employed there for 5 years

Life was getting pretty darn good going into Carols final trimester of pregnancy.  I was holden down the fort with my income from Miratti’s  I was surfing in the mornings and on my days off.  Everything was flowing.  Then it got really, really sad

It was mid February and I had the day off from work so I walked down the road from the house to surf Rincon.  It was late afternoon and I was starting to get a little edgy about leaving Carol alone this close to her due date.  Then one of my water buddies told me that my wife was on the beach calling me.  I looked back down the point and saw Carol in the cove wearing her Hawaiian moo moo waiving her arms and calling for me.  “uh oh looks like it’s on.”  Right away I caught a wave and rode it to shore.  Carol had a really bad look on her face.  “Are you OK ? Do we need to go to the hospital?  Did your water break?”  Carol looked at me I could see tears welling up in her eyes.  “Whats goin on honey?”  “Your sister is up at the house.”  “Yeah so whats up?”  Carol started crying.  “your brother Guy has been in an accident.” “Now what?” I said.  “Did he get into another dirt bike crash?”  “No”  “Did he do something surfing?” “He was hit head on by a drunk driver.” she could hardly get it out.  I could not believe what I was hearing.  Instead I thought “Oh boy he’s gonna be really banged up for a while.”  We walked back to the house where my sister Gail was.  When I walked into the living room and looked at her she looked like she’d been through the ringer. She gave me a hug and started crying really hard shaking in my arms.  Thats when I started to grasp the reality of the situation.  “How bad is he?”  “He’s really bad we need to go to the hospital.”  So we all got in the car and headed down the coast to Thousand Oaks crying the whole way.  As I was drivng I asked Gail what happened.  “Guy and Joe were coming back from a high school basketball game when a drunk driver in a four wheel drive truck hit them head on.”  “Hows Joe” I asked. “Hanging on by a thread” Gail said. “Then hows Guy?” no answer.  I knew then how bad it really was.  I went into the emergency room where my brother was being kept alive with machines.  I held his hand and told him how good the waves were that day.  Then I kissed his forehead and told him how much I loved him.  We buried Guy Leslie Miller a few days later with a stone that read. “May the Wind Always Blow Offshore”

Four weeks later Carol gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Olivia.  In 18 months I had got married, lost my brother, and had a child.  I was only 22 years old.  Then Carols parents decided we needed a bigger place so they put down a down payment on a house in Ventura CA. five whole blocks from the water.  All we had to do was pay the mortgage.  I left Carol and Olivia after two years to march to the beat of a different drummer.  Or so I thought.

A lady stands before an open window

Staring so far away

She can almost feel the southern wind blow

Almost touching her restless day

She turns from her window to me

Sad smile her apology

Sad eyes reaching to the door

Daylight loses to another evening

And still she spares me the word goodbye

And sits alone beside me fighting her feelings

Struggles to speak but in the end can only cry

Suddenly it’s so hard to find

The sound of the words to speak her troubled mind

So I’m offering these to her as if to be kind:

There’s a train everyday leaving either way

There’s a world you know

There’s a way to go

And you’ll soon be gone — that’s just as well

This is my opening farewell

A child’s drawing left there on the table

And a womens silk lying on the floor

And I would keep them if I were able

Lock her safe behind this open door

But suddenly it’s so clear to me

That I asked her to see what she may never see

And now my kind words find their way back to me

There’s a train everyday leaving either way

There’s a world you know

You got a way’s to go

And I’ll soon believe — it’s just as well

This is my opening farewell.

“Jackson Brown”  This is My Opening Farewell

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“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.

“The End of the World 1962”

November 8, 2007

end-of-the-world.jpgGood morning. Did you get a cup of coffee? It’s made. Or are you going to Starbucks? I’m sittin here with the old guy on the floor next to me. 14 years old and he’s still gettin around.

I remember when I was in second grade and noticing that my step father had been in a serious dark mood at home for about a week. I didn’t know what it was but my dad was watching alot more news than usual. He also wasn’t talking very much at dinner. Very uncharacteristic of him.

Then one day in the same dark mood, my father went into the kitchen to talk to my mother about something. He was talking for awhile in a very somber and serious tone. I was in the bathroom cleaning up for supper. As I entered the kitchen I got the tail end of their conversation as my father said to my mom, “All they have to do is push that button and the whole world blows up.”

Hearing my father say that and the mood he had been in for days freaked me out! I took what he said literally. I actually thought there was a button somewhere that if pushed would blow up the world. I thought about someone bumping it or dropping something on it or leaning against it. Why is there a button to blow up the world?

I never asked my father or anyone else about that button. It was as if knowing about it was wrong, or bringing it up at all was out of the question. My father even kept it to himself, which just re-enforced my feelings to shut up. Besides if we all pretended real hard maybe no one would touch it.

But for years I would occasionally worry about that button. I learned early to appreciate each day one at a time. “Well we made it through this one.” “I hope that button doesn’t get pushed today I’m going to Disneyland.