When football season was in full swing, there was a surprise birthday party for Tony. He had just gotten back from Iraq. It was in Del Cerro, and I arrived after Tony showed up.
Tony’s cousin Raymond said, “I was taking him golfing, along with his brother from Oregon. It was a struggle at first to get him out of the house. He didn’t want to wake up early.”
Tony’s girlfriend came over and told me about all the friends and family who helped decorate while he was on the links. As she was explaining this to me, a guy named Jimmy was showing everyone the scorecard from the golf game. I assumed Jimmy’d won.
Tony’s girlfriend mentioned that they were engaged, and I asked how he proposed. “Well, we were in Hawaii, in a bar. He had asked my dad first. Then, all of the sudden, he’s moving bar stools around, looking on the floor. I asked him what he was doing. He said ‘Looking for something.’ I started to help him look, and when I found [the ring] I said, ‘This?’”
I overheard one guy yell at his friend, “I told you, don’t tell me anything that happened in the Utep game. I’m recording it.” I leaned over and said, “But that interception that was run back for a touchdown was awesome.” The guy screamed, and put his hands over his ears. I told him I was just joking. He said, “Someone always seems to ruin games for me when I record them.”
One guy came up to me and said, “You work at the Reader? Well, I’ve lived in every zip code in San Diego, and I have a question about zip codes and if there are long streets that actually have different zip codes. I asked Matthew Alice, but the question was never answered.”
I said, “It seems possible to me. When I worked at the post office, I saw that Pacific Beach had over 42 letter carriers for the various streets. And long streets like Grand and Garnet had 18 different carriers alone. I imagine if a street is long enough, it can go into a different zip code.”
Another guy suggested, “Call Caltrans, they’ll know. Of course, it’ll take five of them standing around and talking about it for four hours.”
I overheard a couple of guys I thought were soldiers talking about injuries. One of them said something about teeth being knocked out and that if you put them in milk right away you could have them put back in your mouth. Maybe I’ll ask Matthew Alice that question.
I wasn’t sure if one of them actually had this happen to them or if it was about someone they knew.
One guy was willing to tell me about his various injuries. “When I was in Iraq, a few of the injuries were stupid. I mean, one time I was blown out of a building. That sounds like the type of injury you should hear about during a war. But, one of my embarrassing injuries is when I tripped running upstairs. I got hurt pretty bad, too.” He then told me about a friend of his from Australia who was doing a documentary in Iraq. He told me the filmmaker broke his leg trying to start a motorcycle.
I told him that when I interviewed comedian Ritch Shydner years ago, he had a cast on his leg. He was reluctant to tell me what happened but finally admitted that he bought a motorcycle, against his wife’s wishes. When he went to ride it the first day, he hadn’t put the kickstand up. He described it as a motorcycle doing a pirouette before it crashed down on his leg. He said, “I might just leave all that out next time I tell the story and just say it was a motorcycle accident.”
In the back yard, there were several tables set up with food and alcohol. One guy was fixing a fajita. He was putting a little of everything in it, and when he put pineapples on the tortilla, a woman nearby said, “You’re a pro at that.” He said, “Well, at putting stuff in it. I’m just not sure what it’ll taste like.” When he got to the end of the table, the thing was about a foot thick.
I was wearing a Doors T-shirt, and a woman complimented me on it. We started talking and she said she had an old boyfriend who worked for the Doors. She told me about hanging out on the beach with keyboardist Ray Manzarek. When I mentioned a Doors relative being in a band I saw, she told me that she thought he dabbled in drugs. I said, “You think he would’ve learned something from Jim Morrison.” Someone nearby heard this and said, “Hey, maybe he did learn something from Morrison. Like how to do drugs.”
We also talked about the lawsuit between the Doors drummer and the rest of the group for rights to the band name. The drummer won, and the band changed their name to Riders on the Storm. She knew details about the case that hadn’t been reported but was reluctant to give me any info.
I went over to talk to Tony again. I told him the silver tricycle I saw in the back yard looked like it was 100 years old. “Do you want to ride it?” he slurred. “No,” I said, “I just wondered how old it was.” He said, “I don’t know. We f***ing stole it from a school. But, we take it down this huge hill once in a while.”
I went to grab a Coke and overheard some guy say that Orville Redenbacher lived on Coronado. I told the guy that a friend of mine was once in a movie theater line in Mission Valley and was standing behind him. Someone approached Redenbacher for an autograph, and he said, “I don’t give autographs, but you can have this.” He handed the guy a card, turned around to my friend, and asked, “Do you want one?” My buddy thought it would be something that would get him a free bag of popcorn. Instead, it was a business card that read, “I met Orville Redenbacher, the popcorn king.”
I said, “I wonder if you meet King Stahlman, does he give you a Monopoly-style ‘Get out of jail free’ card?”