I Was Five

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When we left Augusta I don’t remember the street where we moved to next. I do remember a park across the street that would play a pivotal role in my life and a girl named Kim.

The park was one of those old time-y parks you see in the movies with the all metal slides that blistered any kid dumb enough to wear shorts on a sunny California day. There was also a rocket ship. One of those big monstrosities that parents these days would protest because their kid would be too stupid to be trusted on it.

Kim was a little girl my age with strawberry blonde hair, a mean bowl cut, and freckles. I was going to marry her. In the interest of full disclosure I should let you all know she was my second choice for a bride. I was crushed to discover that the people on TV were not the age they appeared and was forced to relinquish my dream of one day calling Shirley Temple the future Mrs. Martinez.

Kim would have to do.

I once got stung by a bee while I was digging in the sand at the park. I ran home crying until I saw Kim. Then I did that thing that all boys do. I ran the other way to avoid her. I inherently understood that snot bubbles are not a sexy look.

Another time I saw a film crew blocking my access to the playground so I watched. I decided I wanted to be in whatever they were filming so I went up to someone who had been barking orders at everyone else and asked if I could be part of it. You might surprised to learn that he didn’t dismiss me as a dumb kid, or ask someone to get me off his set. Instead, he told me he would need my parents’ permission.

I walked across the street and into our apartment where my dad was watching the Dodgers game. I waited til there was a commercial – as I had been taught – and told him the story about the man in the park. Dad didn’t believe me and the commercial was over so, you know, “shut up, kid.”

But I didn’t shut up and as I was not a particularly whiney kid my dad took a look out the window and saw for himself.

“You really want me to go talk to the director for you?”


So we went. They talked and I stood around amazed at all the cameras, microphones, and lighting. I knew enough to know they were making magic.

A day, week, month later – I can’t really judge time from so long ago – I was on a Hollywood set filming a back-to-school commercial for MayCo.

It. Was. Awesome. I was going to be a star!

I did two commercials before I got sick with a nasty asthma attack. I never did another commercial and my acting career was over.

I’ve heard conflicting stories about why I never got to go back and become the big star I was sure I was destined to become. Head shots were expensive and dad didn’t have the money for them. My step-monster wouldn’t drive me to shoots because she didn’t have a license and dad had to work. I was considered an unreliable due to my asthma.

I have no idea if any of those things are true. But my step-monster didn’t get her license for several years so, who can say?

At least I still had Kim.

Our apartment sat atop a small hill. There was a wooden rail that ran the length of the walkway just outside our front door. On the other side of the rail were beautiful rose bushes.

One day my dad caught me walking on the rail, balancing myself as I walked from one beam to the next as Kim watched in sheer amazement. My dad, on the other hand, was not impressed.

“You’re going fall and break something and I am going to have to take your dumbass to the emergency room. Stay off of it!”


Do you think my dumbass stayed off of it? Not when there was a girl named Kim to impress!

I got back up on that rail and promptly fell face first into the rose bushes. Dad heard the scream and came running out, stopped mid-stride, and gave me a look that let me know the pain I was in was not the worst to come. I had a hole in my face where a rose thorn perforated my face, blood everywhere.

Dad swooped me up, took me into the apartment, grabbed a kitchen towel and pressed it hard to the hole in my face. “I need you to hold this because I have to drive.”

I don’t remember the details of what happened next. I was in the hospital. They sewed up my face. My dad said they took a piece of my ass to fill the hole and enjoyed calling me butthead for a long while after. I dunno if they really did, but I do sometimes check my ass for scars. The next morning I got the worst of it. Belt-to-ass for not listening in the first place.

Kim was pretty scarce after all that. Love is a fickle son-of-a-bitch.

I had a baby sitter who would sometimes watch me. I don’t remember much about her beyond blonde hair, short denim shorts, and that time she tried to kill herself in front of a bunch of us. She took a knife and tried to plunge it into her chest. She broke skin, but not too deep. Someone got the knife away from her. I was fascinated by the whole thing.

That was the last time she watched me.

I did see mom from time to time. Usually that involved going with her to her mom’s place in Boyle Heights, and getting dropped off while she went out and partied with friends. I have these memories that I used to judge myself as absolutely pathetic where I would grab hold of mom’s legs and beg her not to go out and leave me. She never stayed.

That changed when she got a boyfriend named Pete.

Li'l Rudy at Nana's
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