Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
That evening on the balcony, Hope looked up at me, trying her best to pronounce a word I had used when telling her about my mother. It’s in my custody court records, when my dad’s lawyer accused Wendy of being intemperate, though not drinking alcohol, which was unusual at the time because, in legal jargon, intemperate meant, “inability to act with moderation or restraint, especially with alcohol.”
Hope concentrated, and said, “So ‘intemp…pret’ means to not stay calm?”
“Yes, sort of,” I said. “But more than that.” I paused and looked at her, and choose my words as best I could.
In 1983, Hollwood producers were advertising a movie about Big Daddy and Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy. By then, everyone pronounced my name like his, Partin, but with a southern accent that sounded like Dolly Parton. Everyone knew about Edward Partin, and a lot of kids called me Dolly. Also in 1983, Spider Man was a popular comic book character, and he had his own television skit on PBS during The Electric Company. Most kids knew about that, too.
At the same time, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and more than a few national Teamsters members hadn’t appreciated Big Daddy testifying against Hoffa, and even fewer wanted union dues going tto his salary while he was in prison. It was made nationally known that Big Daddy would stop receiving his salary from the Teamsters, and that his little brother, Doug Partin, his huge and perpetually cheerful apprentice, a cherub of a big man who looked remarkably like what you’d imagine Big Daddy’s little brother would, would stop taking orders from his big brother and begin leading Local #5 according to relatively new union oversight laws. Doug adored the spotlight, and he was on local TV or in the newspaper daily, saying how he’d clean up the Baton Rouge Teamsters. He even included my uncle, Kieth, a man even bigger than Doug by then. Like Doug, Kieth had Big Daddy’s charming smile, sometimes, and local news showcased Kieth as an up and coming apprentice to the Partin family business. And Edwin Edwards was running for governor again, apologizing for anything he may have said offensively last time, and, to Doug, he apologized for not accepting Big Daddy’s endorsement, and he begged for Doug’s; that’s power, and an interesting perspective on democracy.
I don’t recall what Doug said to Edwards, and it’s not in his memoir, but all of the 1983 news coverage about the Partins led to me being somewhat well known in my elementary school, White Oaks Elementary, where I was in the 5th grade. In the film Blood Feud, Brian Dennehy portrayed Big Daddy, which made sense because they looked and sounded so much alike and had a similar, subtle smile. It was was a good choice by the producers, who had spared no expense in producing and advertising the four hour movie. Robert Blake portrayed Hoffa well, and he would win an academy award for “channeling Hoffa’s rage.” I can’t recall who played Bobby, or if he won an award. Regardless, Ed Partin was in the news and on television and was famous, and that made me famous at White Hills Elementary School.
My fifth grade teacher, a cheerful African American lady coincidentally named Mrs. White, adored Big Daddy. Her husband was one of the Teamsters who had voted to keep paying him a union salary in prison and she said her teaching job was thanks to his support of the teacher’s union. The principal, whose name I don’t recall, spoke of the famous strikes when he had been a teacher in the picket line, and recalled Big Daddy walking among them and handing them bundles of cash from his pocket, perhaps money from Local #5’s safe used to pay picketing teamsters during long strikes, and ensuring that teachers could pay rent and bills while waiting out the strike. She even taped a somewhat famous photo of Big Daddy helping the Baton Rouge teachers that was printed in Time magazine, along with a bunch of photos of Big Daddy and Aunt Janice and Uncle Kieth and my dad and the other aunts I didn’t know very well, and of Big Daddy taking a lie detector test and presidents and FBI directors and everyone saying what an All American Hero he was. And every Monday, Mrs. White posted news clippings about Big Daddy from the Sunday paper, and the principal announced over the intercom that a movie would be playing soon and stared the father of one of White Oaks own students, Jason Partin! He was mistaken, of course, but that’s understandable because my dad and Big Daddy had the same name, Mrs. White said when she corrected him to our class after the intercom went silent.
Everyone in school knew me, and I was an unpopular kid. I was friendless and bullied, partially because living with my dad during summer and winter breaks had left me underdeveloped academically, and retarded socially. Emotionally, I felt fine, but I dind’t fit in with kids who had running water and electricity and books all summer, and I mimmicked my dad’s unsanitary hygiene habits and parroted things he had said that sounded crazy to my peers.
I stank and I was weird and I was unwelcomed in school; even the kids’s parents said so after I brought lice from Arkansas into school and caused hundreds of kids to undergo scalp inspections. More than a few parents felt that I should be banned or punished. And I had to wear a big badge that told everyone I was poor, that I was on free or reduced lunch, and it hung like a scarlet letter around my neck. Back then, the Reagan administration had shifted funds from the Mental Healthcare Act to fund the War on Drugs, and the Big Gipper had started a policy of shaming welfare mothers into working harder. My dad hadn’t paid Wendy child support, a fact she reminded me of almost every week when she had to fill out another form explaining why the government should pay for my $1.25 lunch when she could just work harder at her minimum wage job. I don’t know if she felt shame by my big badge, but I sure did. I resented all the other kids in the middle class White Hills subdivision who made fun of me, and every now and then I’d hide the badge and skip meals to avoid them.
To make matters worse, I was the smallest kid in 5th grade because of a quirk about my October 5th birthday. If had I been born a few days later, Louisiana law would have said I was too young to begin kindergarten, and I would have had to wait another year to begin school and would have began as the oldest and biggest kid in class. Though laws would change, by 1983 I was in 5th grade and always the youngest and smallest kid in school, a fact that would frustrate me in college, when I was researching statistics and read a Canadian research study and learned that almost all of the best performing hockey players shared the same birthday month, and that some university team realized that those adults had began life as the oldest and biggest kids in school, giving them a physical advantage. A year from four to five is a huge difference at that age, it’s probably 20 or 30% more. That’s an advantage that persists and paves ways for physical advancement, or to allways be the biggest bullies, or other things that we don’t understand. And mentally and academicly, too. We never know the cause and effect of being the youngest kid in class.
Nature and nurture; in 1983 I had both working against me.
My situation was compounded even more than other small, smelly, kids on welfare who spread lice in school, because I was considered odd, strange, or weird by most kids, not unlike kids a decade later could be labeled as disruptive or ADHD or autistic. But, I didn’t think I was any of those things. I knew I was weird and smelly and had atypical bathroom habits, like peeing in the bushes instead of the bathroom and getting up and leaving class when I had to poop, just like my dad told me I should. But, I looked up to my dad, and felt he knew what was best.
Most of all, though, I was known throughout school because I was Jason Partin, Edward Partin’s son or grandson – people always confused the two names, junior or senior – and no matter how badly I wanted the super hero power of invisibility, I was unable to hide from the spotlight of teachers who looked up to Big Daddy or parents who remembered my dad, for whatever reason, or the kids who all knew my name sounded like Dolly Parton’s and they called me Dolly or Bigfoot; or, after a few flatulence incidents, Fartin’ Partin.
At my dad’s cabin in the woods, fartin’ had been funny, in a cheerful way, and to both of us; but, apparently my fifth grade peers found if funny in a different way, and for a few weeks my moniker alternated between Dolly, Feet, and Fartin’ Partin. And then there was the Blood Feud, a movie everyone watched with their parents that year, and from then on I was simply Dolly.
The day after FBI agent Walter slapped Big Daddy on television – something that never happened, and according to Walter’s 1972 book it’s likely he would have never risked upsetting Big Daddy, but not all movie scenes are real, I assumed – a group of larger boys cornered me in the gymnasium during physical education class and held me by my outstretched arms behind the bleachers where the Coach Simpson couldn’t see us. A few joked with each other and recounted the embarrassing flatulance incident in class, when I farted three times loudly and malodorously, and, misunderstanding their laughter as acceptance, I had exaggerated my facial expressions and squeezed out another fart. My dad would have been proud, but the teacher repremanded me and told the class to stop laughing, that it wasn’t funny.
They mimicked the face I had made and laughed; apparently it was funny to them. The pushed me around. The biggest bully and I had already fought, after my dad had given me the advice to act like a man and stand up for myself, so he had already beaten me badly and now just toyed with me, laughing all the time.
His minions held me and he climbed onto the fourth bleacher and made a gesture like the World Wide Wrestling heroes most of us watched on television Saturday afternoons, wrestlers with names like Hulk Hogan and The Junkyard Dog and Andre the Giant who knew how to put on a show for crowds of people paying to see men fight or at least pretend to fight. The big bully who was a year older than I was stood atop the fourth bleacher and pounded his chest like the wrestlers on television and said he’d defeat Dolly Partin, and he beckoned the few onlookers to cheer him on and by reaching towards them with outstretched hands and pumping his hands up to raise the roof, and when they cheered for him he jumped off the bleacher and brought his elbow down onto my chest, stomping the ground with his foot as he landed and grunting loudly to imply he had brought the full force into my chest. I cried out loud in shame and frustration and buckled so hard that the other boys released my arms and allowed me to collapse onto the floor, and cradled my stomach and gasped and claimed my crying was because he had hit me so hard in the stomach. To me, that somehow felt more brave than crying simply because I was the smallest weirdest kid in school. I was letting everyone know I had been hurt badly, and perhaps they’d be impressed that I would be able to stand up and stop crying eventually. I must have been a good actor, because my tears were so convincing that even the bullies stood back, temporarily embarrassed that their game of wrestling had to a serious injury. Sensing a moment of pity, I cried louder and hoped for more sympathy, and I must have cried so loudly that Simpson heard and walked over, perhaps because he couldn’t ignore what was happening now that a crowd had gathered.
Simpson was a young coach, about the age of my dad but somehow still soft and not intimidating, even to kids. He was of average height and had a paunch belly packed into a tight physical education teachers shirt that fit his shoulders perfectly, the type of tight fight that implied it fit him when first issued a few years before. His nickname was either “chubs” or “Sid,” depending who was speaking to him, and he seemed to laugh and joke with everyone in school except me. I was scared of him. He had pushed me against a wall twice before, when no one was looking, and had called me a little punk; I never learned why.
“Hmph,” he said, watching me cry. “Not as tough as your dad, are you, you little punk.” He turned around and walked away and left us there. After that, the group of aspiring professional wrestlers felt validation in what they were doing and would become my daily tormenters in the 5th grade.
Simpson never said anything, and all that week he even made more derogatory comments about my dad, though I believe he mistook Big Daddy as my father. Both were named Edward Grady Partin, and Simpson could have been one of the boys my dad had intimidated in high school. Or, he could have been one of the two kids Big Daddy and Sydney Simpson kidnapped in 1962, when they were locked up for 48 hours until the charges were dropped, and he could have harbored resentment . That part in the story is also illuminated by Chief Justice Warren in Hoffa vs. The United States, expounding on how Big Daddy had been facing federal prison helping a fellow Teamster, Sydney Simpson, kidnap his children after loosing custody of them in the same East Baton Rouge Parish courthouse that has my custody records. They had been arrested together, and were in the same cell in 1962, but only Big Daddy was released. Warren had this to say about that:
One Sydney Simpson, who was Partin’s cellmate at the time the latter first contacted federal agents to discuss Hoffa, has testified by affidavit as follows:
“Sometime in September, 1962, I was transferred from the Donaldsonville Parish Jail to the Baton Rouge Parish Jail. I was placed in a cell with Partin. For the first few days, Partin acted sort of brave. Then, when it was clear that he was not going to get out in a hurry, he became more excited and nervous. After I had been in the same cell with Partin for about three days, Partin said, ‘I know a way to get out of here. They want Hoffa more than they want me.’ Partin told me that he was going to get one of the deputies to get Bill Daniels. Bill Daniels is an officer in the State of Louisiana. Partin said he wanted to talk to Daniels about Hoffa. Partin said that he was going to talk to Captain Edwards and ask him to get Daniels. A deputy, whose name is not known to me, came and took Partin from the cell. Partin remained away for several hours.”
“A few days later, Partin was released from the jail. From the day when I first saw the deputy until the date when Partin was released, Partin was out of the cell most of the day and sometimes part of the night. On one occasion, Partin returned to the cell and said, ‘It will take a few more days and we will have things straightened out, but don’t worry.’ Partin was taken in and out of the cell frequently each day. Partin told me during this time that he was working with Daniels and the FBI to frame Hoffa. On one occasion, I asked Partin if he knew enough about Hoffa to be of any help to Daniels and the FBI, and Partin said, ‘It doesn’t make any difference. If I don’t know it, I can fix it up.'”
“While we were in the cell, I asked Partin why he was doing this to Hoffa. Partin replied: ‘What difference does it make? I ‘m thinking about myself. Aren’t you thinking about yourself? I don’t give a damn about Hoffa. . . .'”
None of that was in Blood Feud, which emphasized the charm of the Bobby and the steadfast determination of Walter, and helped propogate the myth that my grandfather was a patriotic hero who risked his life to help the FBI and Kennedy’s stop Hoffa’s corruption. For a while, his moniker was All American Hero.
After Simpson practically provided bullies with unrestricted permission to punish all Partins, I had a brief repose from gym class after the second half of The Blood Feud aired that weekend, thankfully. It would be a bitter sweet repose, but a repose none the less.
Wendy had never stopped being reticent in public, though instead of fearing school desks she feared her office cubicle and the questions from coworkers. Like Granny, she was uneducated single mother and found the highest paying possible for her at Exxon plastics, a chemical plant up the road from CoPolymer, where Granny still worked. For the two weeks The Blood Feud was broadcast, she attracted as much attention at Exxon Plastics as I did at White Oaks Elementary, not because she was weird, but because she had kept the Partin name and probably because she was an attractive young lady and an office assistant who was surrounded by mostly college educated and prideful male engineers who had grown up fascinated by Hoffa and Kennedy and Big Daddy. They questioned her daily and made jokes they may have thought were benign or inoculant, ranging from her getting her job because of Big Daddy and she was unable to be fired to she looked like Dolly Parton; she was a beautiful young woman, and though not as voluptuous as Dolly she was what most people considered curvy and athletic. Mostly though, whether male or female, her coworkers simply asked questions and assumed, like most of America, that Big Daddy really was an All American Hero for risking his life to help the Kennedys, and they wanted to know more about him from her. She had been mortified, and resented going to what she said was her shitty job with a bunch of assholes every day, just so she could earn enough money to not loose our home again.
The night of the second half of Blood Feud, I had been playing with the gears and pulleys on her new 10 speed bicycle. They looked like the ones Brian the one armed drug dealer, but the pulleys on Wendy’s bicycle must have been more delicate than the prototypes on Brian’s motorcycle, and I accidentally derailed the chain. I was trying to fix it when she came in and thought it was broken instead of merely derailed, and she screamed that she had been saving money for a year to buy it and I ruined it just like I ruined her life; not the bike, which was an interesting way to phrase things.
She began to slap me and I cried as loudly as I had when the boys jumped on me behind the bleachers, but that seemed to make her angrier. She screamed at me to stop crying and slapped me, and I began crying louder and more earnestly, and for some reason I cried out for PawPaw. She screamed so loudly that my voice was dwarfed, and she began shouting that he didn’t want me, that no one wanted me, that I ruined everyone’s life, and that’s why Mr. White didn’t want to see me and she didn’t blame him. I cried louder and demanded to see PawPaw, and she, still screaming, she ran to her bedroom and came out with her fathers thick leather belt folded in half, the one she had showed me before and was the only thing she had to remember him by, and she grabbed my left arm with her left hand and began hitting my buttocks and thighs with the belt in her right hand, screaming that she’d get me to stop crying, just like her father had taught her.
After a while, I collapsed like I had behind the bleachers. I began screaming loudly, hoping she would stop like the bullies had stopped because someone could hear, but she clung to my arm and held my tiny body up and hit me again and again, until she became tired and her grip loosened and I scrambled into my closet and tucked my head down and tried to hide with my butt up in the air. She had followed me the whole way, telling me to come back, and when I was cornered in the closet I think I recall seeing her in my peripheal vision with her father’s belt held in both of her hands, and I felt her hit me again and again until she began to pant and try to catch her breath and finally stopped. She dropped the belt and ran out of my room, crying softly, and sobbed in her room for a while. I stayed in the closet and cried so hard and long that I passed out.
I woke up some time later, after dark, and the light was on in my bedroom and the door was shut and Wendy’s father’s belt was draped over the doorknob. Beside it, on the wall, were momentos of other people in my life. There was a framed painting by Debbie of two deer walking in the woods that said, “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk beside me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Below it was a photograph of the stately oak tree outside of the convenience store by PawPaw’s house, blown up to fit inside an 8X10 frame. Below that was Aunt Janice’s shadow art that she had framed for me a few Christmas’s before, the one before I learned Santa Claus and Jesus weren’t real; it was comprised of my name written in tiny letters again and again to form the image of a boy flying a kite, and she had told me again and again to always remember my name, that I was a Partin and an important part in her family; I’ll never forget those words, because they sounded she kept reinforcing that I was named Jason Ian Partin and a part in this and a part in that. Those three framed pieces of art made me smile, and had been on my wall as long as I could remember. But, that evening, I didn’t see them and could only see he belt beside them.
I changed my pants because they were bloodied and I laid on my side and wished I were in Arkansas with Anne, and that made me sad. I eventually cried myself to sleep.
The next morning I put on clean clothes and Wendy acted as if nothing happened and I walked outside and caught the school bus and made it to school in time for Monday’s show-and-tell. When I got home that afternoon, the belt was gone and my bloody clothes had been washed and folded and placed back in my dresser. Later that week, Wendy took me to get my favorite snow ball at the neighborhood snowball stand. A few days later, after her new boyfriend, an cheerful but quiet engineer from Exxon named Mike, fixed her 10 speed bicycle and she was happy again and she bought me a bicycle so that I could ride with her to the 7-11 near Zachary’s public park and we could buy Coke slushies. It was a good park, near the school where my uncle, Joe Partin, was a coach and my younger cousin, coincidentally also named Jason Partin, went to school. Interestingly, no one ever recognized Wendy and me there, and no one every asked us questions at the playground, and both of us felt that was a good thing.
I stood on the playground by the swing, near where she and Debbie and I used to throw a Frisbee after delivering the Yellow Pages, and Wendy told me how hard it had been for her at work lately, and how my “asshole father” wasn’t paying alimony, whatever that was. She told me she loved me, and asked if I wanted another Coke Slushie, and of course I exclaimed yes!
We got another slushie and a bag of Raisnetttes at the 7-11 and took them to Parkland Mental Hospital to visit Debbie. She asked how I was doing and I answered good, like you’re supposed to in polite company, some people say, and life continued.
Kieth used to pick me up from Wendy’s and take me on adventures, and one day he took me to meet Spider Man and I learned who Spidy really was. I thought it would be a wonderful secret to share, one so wonderful that even the kids in Mrs. White’s class would be impressed and begin to see what a special kid I was, and how I knew famous people, like Spider Man.
I stood up and walked to the little stage Mrs. White used for show-and-tell to get us used to public speaking, and I proudly told everyone that I knew SpiderMan’s secret identity.
“Spider Man is a funny nigger,” I said, matter of factly. I had a picture in my pocket to prove it, but hadn’t pulled it out yet. I was saving it as a climax, like a comedian setting up a joke or magican setting up a final production.
All the kids laughed, but Mrs. White didn’t think it was funny, and she pulled me off the stage and drug me to the principals office, and he called Wendy and made her take more time off work to drive from Exxon tall the way to White Hills and pick me up and, hopefully, teach me some manners at home before I returned to school after my two day suspension; I’m unsure how Wendy afforded the babysitter she had to hire to look after me for those two days, and we never talked about my fifth grade year again. But, I had been right about Spider Man, if anyone had bothered to listen to the whole story, or to wait and see the photo I had of my Uncle Kieth and Spider Man that Kieth had given me earlier that week.
At the time, most of my classmates would have watched public television after school, and The Electric Company had a daily skit with an actor in a Spiderman suit solving neighborhood crimes, like the episode where someone was steeling all the snowball cups, and Spiderman trapped him by placing ice cream cones in a line leading up to his web. Of course none of us knew that was an actor and we assumed it was real, just like wrestling. It was such a popular show that all of us could sing the theme song:
Where are you comin’ from?
No one knows who you are…
I thought they’d be happy to learn who Spiderman was, but I never go to show them the photograph because everyone started laughing and Mrs. White grunted with exasperation and grabbed me be the arm and drug me to the principals office, and I was banned from show-and-tell for the rest of the 5th grade, just like I had been banned from gym class, I felt.
Doug Partin had taken over the Teamsters and their contracts with Hollywood films being filmed in Baton Rouge, and Kieth was working for the Local #5, too. In 1982, a famous comedy was filmed in Baton Rouge, The Toy, and it would be released the summer of 1983, after I left fifth grade and returned to Arkansas, which is probably why Mrs. White didn’t suspect that I was telling the truth.
The Toy stared Jackie Gleason as a rich southern man living in a Baton Rouge plantation home and paying a poor black man to be his son’s toy. They made another great choice by having the famous comedian Richard Pryor portray The Toy, especially because Richard was well known for racially charged comedy that brought words like “nigger” into mainstream discussions. When Kieth took me to the set and knocked on Richard’s trailer, he had been preparing for the scene in which Jackie Gleason makes Richard dress up as Spiderman and act like a life-sized toy for the rich kid in the mansion. When he opened the door, Richard took off his mask – perhaps he had been wearing it for me as a favor to Kieth, who knew him well by then – and someone took a photo of Spider Man with his mask off, standing next to Kieth; it’s a funny photo, because Kieth was as big as Big Daddy and had draped his massive arm over poor Richard’s shoulders, and he was looking up at Kieth with bright, wide open eyes from either awe or fear or cocaine or a combination of all three; Richard Pryor was known to do a lot of cocaine in the 70’s and 80’s.
On the drive home after introducing me to Spider man, Kieth chuckled and said, “Man, that Richard’s a funny nigger!”
As I mentioned, I was a weird kid who parrotted things he heard without knowing what those words meant to other people.
By the time The Toy came out in theaters in the summer of 1983, no one remembered my show and tell, they just remembered that I was a weird kid who said weird things. I doubt anyone made the connection. And I had left White Oaks Elementary moved to Westdale middle school for sixth grade, and suddenly instead of one classroom with bullies I had many different classes, each with its own set of new and creative bullies, and I had many new nick names over the years; though Dolly and Feet seemed to persist, for obvious reasons. But, I had learned my lesson from Mrs. White’s fifth grade show and tell, and I never told anyone any secrets to anyone ever again. Instead, I practiced the art projects and magic tricks Debbie had shown me, and I kept to myself.
On a funnier note, one day I overheard that Governor Edwards was seeking an endorsement from Doug and the Teamster’s for his 1983 election campaign. He must have learned his lesson in 1980, when he refused Big Daddy’s endorsement, because even though he wasn’t caught with a dead hooker or a live boy in his bed he still lost the 1980. Pundits said he lost because he didn’t get the Teamsters’s votes, the opposite of how Richard Nixon won the presidential bid in 1971 because of Hoffa’s endorsement. I’m sure Edwin Edwards read the news, and knew enough by 1983 to seek the Teamster’s help in getting enough votes to become governor and have all the hookers he wanted. I never learned if he got all the boys he wanted, too; but he would be elected again in 1987, for the fourth time, so I assume that whatever he did, the voters who elected him approved of whomever he took to bed, dead or alive.
“It’s doing something when you’re not calm,” I said. “Feeling upset is okay. We all feel upset. Intemperet means speaking or doing something when you’re upset. Intemperate means not saying or doing hurtful things just because you’re upset, and nicely.”
I didn’t sense that she saw it, and I said, “Do you remember when you broke your guitar?”
She nodded, and said, “The Marlin? The one you fixed?”
“Yes, that one,” I said It was a small lie, though, because a Marlin was a big fish she had seen from a boat not too far off the San Diego coast; and around that time she had broken a Martin guitar that my dad had left me, a rare home kit version he had assembled, but I didn’t think it was the best time to correct her pronunciation of an brand name that was relatively unimportant at that moment, so I lied just a bit and said yes, that one. I continued the thought, almost like using a semicolon but not quite, and I said, “Do you remember how it broke?”
II was proud when she said, without shame or hesitation, not yes or no, but confirming that she did. She simply said, “I got mad and then broke it because I…” Her countenance changed and she smiled and said, “Oh. I get it now.”
When she had broken her Martin guitar, it had been out of tune; but, she was too inexperienced to know that at the time, and she became frustrated kept kept trying, like I had encouraged her to before without realizing that she would continue when too frustrated to enjoy the process, and she became more and more frustrated at the guitar not sounding good and she called it a stupid guitar and hit it against the sofa, breaking the neck from the body. It had broken in a slightly unsuspecting place, probably because an old repair can be stronger when the glue used to mend it was applied correctly.
I glued her guitar back together, just like my dad had once done once when I was her age and had broken it for the same reason. I tried to be like him when it came to helping kids when they’re intemperate. He was often intemperate himself, but only with practically everyone else and never with me, probably because he acted from a place of love when he tried to teach me, and he didn’t love many people or things, except perhaps me and that Martin. He was patient with both of us, and seemed to understand that I got angry quickly. Perhaps that was the empathy easiest for hime. But, he could tune by ear, and I couldn’t and he didn’t know how to teach me, and I used to get frustrated when I tried to play the guitar but it sounded bad because it was out of tune. I broke it once, and he fixed it and gave it to me, and told me I’d be fine one day.
I told Hope that he always fixed my broken things and taught me how to use natural medicine, like I showed her in Balboa Parks medicinal medicine garden. I told her that’s how I knew you could use spider webs to heal cuts, just like he had learned from his Native American friends; and that’s true, because synthetic spider collagen is now an FDA allowed wound care product for sale by very profitable companies, and it turns out that my dad was often right about many things. I told her about spider webs and collogen, and showed her the scar on my forefinger, next to the broken and healed finger from wrestling, and I told her it was a scar from when I slipped while using one my dad’s machetes to trim his medicinal plant garden, similar to the one in Balboa Park where we picked bay leaves and rosemary.
My finger had healed okay, I said, and it could have been worse if I hadn’t had someone who loved me and shared stories with me. I reminded her that I, too, had broken that guitar once, and that it had healed and would heal again, and that’s what practice was for, and that she could do no wrong in my eyes.
We chatted a bit more, and I think she began to understand that even the sweetest little girls can sometimes become intemperate, if only for a brief moment, and break something. We weren’t sure if that was always okay or not, and I’m sure we’d talk about it again one day. But not that day, because it was mother’s day; I wanted to focus on what was important with someone I loved.
Though not very important to anyone but me, I checked Wikipedia before going to bed. Interestingly, the Toy only has a 3% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, saying it wasn’t funny. Personally, I always thought Richard Pryor was funny, and I smiled at the photo of him in his Spidy suit staring up at Kieth with a terrified, cocaine-riddled expression on his face, and I laughed out loud. It really is a funny story, to me, in 2020 hindsight.