Tony turned 40 over a year ago. I was cleaning out my car and found the notes from Tony's party under the seat. I went to my computer and discovered that I still had the photos from that rainy day in Allied Gardens. The rain didn't ruin Tony's BBQ bash because the patio was covered. They had tacos and other Mexican food. I grabbed a margarita and met some of Tony's family. His daughter was named Bailey, and I asked him where that came from. "We named her over a bottle of Bailey's." He laughed and said, "No. She was conceived on St. Patrick's Day. And I'm Irish..." I could tell by his grin that he was still pulling my leg.
I overheard a woman talking about making jewelry with birthstones. When she mentioned "inexpensive" stones, I said, "If you could only convince women that those stones are nicer than diamonds, it would save us men a lot of money." Another guy added, "No. Women will always be gold diggers." A woman replied, "Hey! You guys should give us diamonds. We give you something in return."
I talked to a lady who said she had moved to Seattle. I asked her why she'd moved there. "To make a bad marriage good," she said, "and it didn't." I nervously sipped my drink as she continued, "It rained so much, I almost ended up with webbed feet."
Out back I found tables and chairs you'd see in a living room. I heard someone talking about a vacation in Costa Rica. They said the potholes were so big that you had to swerve around them while driving.
When more margaritas were made, it drowned out the conversation. I asked why it was so loud and was told the machine was hooked up to a motorcycle engine. I laughed, but someone said, "They weren't joking. It really is."
I heard talk about a car club in TJ called the Radicals. I said I noticed a few lowriders out front. Tony explained: "I grew up in Chula Vista. Bikes and lowriders were always around." I said it looked like an expensive hobby. "It is," he told me, "even little things you need are always $100."
I asked him if cops hassled him because of his car.
"Well, I once had a cop follow me. He pulled up and looked at me suspiciously. I smiled and said 'What's up?' He just shook his head and drove off. They can tell if you're just into the cars and not a gang member."
Tony took me into the garage to look at his car, and I asked him if all the hydraulics for bouncing were in the trunk. "Yeah. Everything goes in there."
As I was leaving, someone asked me if I get to Mexico much. I told them that I didn't because the federales down there make me nervous. One guy said, "You don't have to [be nervous]. I only had a problem once. We were coming back and I forgot I had a few joints in my tackle box. They found them and then searched the entire van. I was surprised when they said, 'Okay, you guys can go.' When we drove back over the border, I remembered I had $160 in my pants pocket on the floor back there. Of course, it was gone when I checked."
"That's what I'm afraid of," I said.
"Well, as long as you don't have drugs, you don't have anything to worry about, amigo."
* * *
I went to a party last weekend that sort of involves an incident from my childhood. When I arrived, a woman introduced herself and said, "I remember the story you wrote about that girl that broke your arm and lived on your street. I lived around the corner from you."
We talked about the old neighborhood, and she asked, "Did you know that Filipino family on your street?" I said, "It was Mira Mesa. You'll have to narrow it down better than that."
She said, "They had a daughter that was our age and I used to play with her. Since the mom was always at work and the father at home, he would call me into his room. He sat me on his lap and put his hands under my shirt. He would rub my chest, and when I asked him why, he said, 'This will make your boobs grow.' I was glad because I wanted them to be big like my sisters. I didn't know any better. I was only ten."
"How many times did he do that?" I asked.
"Twice -- while his daughter was in the other room."
"Did you ever tell your parents?"
"No. It never really bothered me. It never affected me or anything. And I'm sure he wasn't molesting his own kids."
"Well, you don't know how it may have affected you," I suggested. "You were a kid. And who knows what he may have done to his kids. In my class, his son once stood up and took off all his clothes. Everyone laughed. I have no idea why he did that. Why don't you report this guy now?"
"He moved away when I was 12," she said. "I don't even know where he is."
"Do you remember his name? If you do, hell, I'll call the cops for ya. Who knows what this guy is doing."
She said, "Sure, why not. Let's put the jerk in jail if you can track him down."
The next day, I did track him down. Here in San Diego. I called the police, and after being on hold for 20 minutes, they told me there wasn't anything they could do. They gave me the number of Child Protective Services. I called C.P.S. and was transferred a few times before leaving a detailed message. I got a call back the following day. We talked for a while and then the lady told me there was no file on this guy and that there probably isn't much they could do. She asked me to contact them and pretend I wanted to reconnect with my old classmate. I was to find out if he or his sister had any kids. If they had children, they could pursue something for the safety of those kids. I made the call, and the family remembered me. We talked for a while. One child had no kids. The other had children but lived out of state.
I called C.P.S. back. They thanked me for my help but said there wasn't anything they could do. I said, "Couldn't you question the neighbors? Or his own kids...nieces and nephews?"
They told me there were privacy issues and laws involved that prevent them from doing that.
This guy got away with it. They told me they had his name on file now, which means nothing.... If he does it again, it will be too late.
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