Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
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We moved from Wappingers Falls, New York to California in 1978. My mom and her third husband, John, worked for IBM in Poughkeepsie and were transferred to the San Jose IBM. Of all the wonderful communities in Northern California, some realtor talked them into purchasing a home in the town of Gilroy. Not the Gilroy of today, that bustling suburb of San Jose, full of retail and things to do. This was the Gilroy of yesteryear, maybe 20,000 strong, a pure small town disaster waiting to happen. Not the armpit of California, but the crotch. Future Farmers of America, low-rider clubs like “The Royal Emperors”, and kids in home-made hot-rods stoned out of their minds, just waiting for a family like us to move in. Imagine four teenage girls and one poor unfortunate step-brother much younger than us being taken from New York and dumped into this nightmare of a small town. We assimilated quickly, at first being called whores and sluts by the jealous local girls and then being fully embraced by same said girls when they found out we smoked pot and were willing to try cocaine. The local boys discovered us as well, and we became very popular in our new environment. We had little choice. Desperate for friends, our former sophistication fast on the wane, we lapped up the attention like starving kittens.
One of my first friends was a girl named Esther. Her nickname was “Esther the Molester”. This should have been my first (and only necessary) warning, but Esther intrigued me. Dark brown hair, green eyes, tight Dittos and tighter Hang Ten t-shirt, Esther was beautiful, athletic, popular and slutty. This girl was single-handedly able to obtain the keys from any guy’s car with only so much as a wink and a smile. I found out much later that she would put out too, but it was just for fun, not for the use of the car. My awe of her gift reached pure astonishment when she was handed the keys to a mint condition orange 1965 GTO four speed from her “boyfriend” Tony. We spent our freshman and sophomore years driving these cars around, screaming at every cute boy we saw, cutting school, and persuading unsuspecting males to hand over to us the keys to their prides and joys. I should probably mention that we were fifteen, neither of us in possession of so much as a driver’s permit.
Esther and I could not have come from less similar backgrounds, but it seemed we each wanted a piece of the others. She lived out in the more rural area of Gilroy, past the enormous fields of garlic and tomatoes. Her family was of Mexican/Italian descent, and Esther's father ran a large farm. Her mother was a housewife. In her home, on the stove, always a pile of fresh tortillas, a pot of homemade beans. I loved them. Esther loathed them. My house was a classic Arcadia tract home, smack in the middle of town, near the high school. My stepfather was a mid-level manager, my mother, the same. In the freezer, a collection of Swanson pot pies, frozen dinners. I couldn't stand them. Esther loved them. We spent nights at each others houses and shared the secrets that only best friends do.
This all came to an unfortunate end when I finally learned first hand how she earned the title of “Esther the Molester”. One of my neighbors had a brother who was barely fourteen, but he had a great dirt bike and she wanted to ride it. She deflowered the poor child and took the keys to his bike, which he handed over without a whimper. He was in love. We took the bike and drove all over the residential streets of Gilroy, laughing and having a fabulous time.
Well, this young fellow had a mother, and upon finding out that two older girls took advantage of her darling boy by “stealing” his motorcycle, she proceeded to call the police on us. She did not, and hopefully to this day still does not know of the deflowering, as I am sure she would have had us arrested. The police found us and pulled us over, the mother pulling up in her car right behind them. This happened exactly ten feet away from my house. We were given tickets by the police for driving without a license and a complete and thorough lecture from the mother on the consequences of our evil ways. The mother had one crossed eye, and while I was scared to death, Esther was turning bright red trying not to laugh. She did not succeed, and proceeded to burst out in hysterical laughter, angering the police officers, who threatened to take us in, and the mother, who was ready to commit justifiable homicide. To make matters worse, my parents chose this exact time to pull up from work and see this high school horror taking place in front of their house, involving their daughter and the police.
I was grounded for months, had to go to court, and was strictly forbidden from hanging out with Esther. On the other hand, I don’t think Esther’s parents ever even found out about it, which was always the case. Having little adult supervision, she was one of those friends that got away with everything while I always seemed to get caught. I used to be envious of this, until I realized she must have hoped someone, anyone, cared enough to catch her.