It’s 1967. The Hart High lunch line. I just stole 10 hamburgers to sell on the hill later. I’d lean over with my right hand inside a tear in my bomber jacket to boost food from the microwaved catered food trays. Next to me is Frank Angelostro. He has a flowing Hawaiian shirt and some sweat pants since his Levi’s were stolen in gym class. He puts his stolen burgers and cheese burritos in the front of his pants. As I start to pay for a milk and a bag of Fritos, Frank suddenly screams out in pain as he leaps around like a madman while jerking his sweat pants off. I watch in horror as my best pal starts clawing at his testicles covered in molten hot cheese from an exploded burrito cover.
ITEM: Doing Sheriff work camp during the summer Angelostro, Carl Winager and myself are shoveling and raking fire zones around large white buildings at Special Devices Systems off of Placerita Canyon. An explosion about fifty feet away scares the crap out of us. It’s over before we can jump for cover. The entire side of a sixty foot warehouse is blown away. Three men in lab coats are staggering around with blood coming out of their ears. As we drop our tools to help, the Sheriff lead flunkie tells us to pick up our tools and keep cutting weeds.
ITEM: When they shut down Bermite in Saugus, they did no clean up. They just shoved everything into a wide valley in back and covered it all with a zillion tons of dirt. We took lumber from huge stacks at the old site as soon as the security man fell asleep in his trailer. We dragged the wood to three huge oak trees near the train tracks and built a connected tree house. It was the first thing I built the County tore down. The start of a tradition. After they tore it down, they left our Playboys next to the middle oak tree under a big rock. On top was a short note on a torn lunch bag. “NICE JOB KIDS!”
ITEM: After some heavy rains the Soledad wash is careening out of control all the way to the ocean 30 miles or so away. We take a military raft for ten part of the way down it before a Fire Department helicopter is hovering over us as we’re paddling like crazy past Denny’s off Sand Canyon. We turn it over and swim for our lives across from Whites Canyon. Still raining like crazy, one of the O’neal brothers and I escape. It takes me four hours to get home. As I climb through my bedroom window, my overhead light snaps on. A Sheriff is sitting on my bed drinking a Coke. My mom screams, “JUST TAKE HIM!”, as I’m led downstairs to his car.
ITEM: Working at Ace Cains cleaning trout ponds, we find five baby great horned owls in the top of a shed we’re supposed to tear down. I take one home with me. To save time, Johnny M., a proud owner of an M. 40 military truck, drives it through the shed. A 2×6 splinters and goes through his radiator. He’s so pissed he quits. I end up hitchhiking with a baby owl in my jacket biting and clawing me. Later, my step dad comes home from a drinking bout (this was just before he rolled his Half-ton Chevy Pickup off of Placerita, getting thrown through the windshield, then having the truck roll over him- TWICE, and lived!) I had a large cage built in the garage with a perch outside. Owls are nocturnal so night time is their time. The owl, Apache by name, is out on his perch. Bill comes in the garage side door because it’s pretty late. As he take his jacket off, my owl flies to his arm like I had trained him on my own. Not good. Bill Burtis tore that garage up in the dark fighting to get that owl off of him.
ITEM: Bill Burtis was a cement man. Foundations, cantilevered slabs, swimming pools, driveway, tennis courts. All sorts of stuff. He did a park for Canyon Country up Bouquet Canyon. Angelostro and I were hired to strip all the twenty foot 2×4 framing off, pull the cement double-headed nails and clean the cement off before stacking the wood. We get bored and start up a D-6 Dozer sitting near the wash. I tell Frank I can drive it no sweat. I back over one of the new slabs. Not good. We also can’t shut it off. Bill Burtis pulls up with some burgers in sacks for our lunch. He slams them into the ground and looks to the sky with his arms out, silently begging for lighting to strike us most likely.
ITEM: We’re doing a swimming pool for Clayton Moore, the original T.V. ‘LONE RANGER’. He signed an autographed picture for me I still have of him and Tonto sitting on Silver and Scout side by side. I’m about ten years old. I say, “Where’s Tonto’s name?” Moore goes back inside his house, then comes out about five minutes later. Its now signed by Tonto with an ‘X’ under Tonto spelled out in block letters. Moore tells me Tonto was taking a nap and couldn’t come out. He then pats me on the head and asks me, “So little man, who’s your favorite cowboy?” I say a loud, “Tom Mix!” He ignores me and starts talking about a driveway with Bill.
ITEM: I have Tom Mix’s Wedgewood stove. Yep. It came from his old film cutting lab off of Franklin across the street from the Magic Castle. It will go in the new barn’s kitchen. Tom Mix ended in a sad way. Homeless and broke. No one would hire him anymore. He ended up living in his big Bentley or Rolls, whatever. Anyhow, he was driving to Vegas and hit some sand sliding him off the road. A large leather bag full of silver dollars flew from the back seat and broke his neck. Yakima Canutt, my kids Great Grandfather, told me that Mix had a mean streak and could be hard on his horses. I never liked him after that. I switched to Ben Johnson. No one could out ride Ben. Even Yakima said he was the best he ever saw. And that was from a guy who had THREE World Champ all-around saddles sitting on saddle stands in his front room in North Hollywood. I’d watch the fights on Friday nights with him on occasion and he would feed these tree squirrels right out of his hand that came in through an open kitchen window. A great guy!
ITEM: I’m at Buster Keaton’s estate near Malibu. I’m supposed to pull some extra phones out of the giant home to make the monthly bill lower. As I step inside the three-story foyer with the elderly lady of the house, I happen to look down at my white T-shirt as I take my tool pouch off to ease the weight of the belt cutting into me. My shirt is alive with tiny black dots hopping all over. FLEAS! I then smell the cat urine and spot about ten cats looking down at me from beds and perches off the stairs and from landings. OH NO! A CAT LADY! I run outside and strip naked behind my truck while putting my clothes in a large plastic bag I then filled with powdered desiccant we carried just for that purpose. She watch’s me from some rose bushes the entire time.
ITEM: I’m ten miles from a security booth at Edwards Air Force Base at a large six-story high locked building made of steel. The windows are glazed. No one is around. The wind is blowing off the vast empty tarmacs around me about sixty miles an hour in snapping gusts. Lulls, then, WHAM, the wind would howl. I’m to disconnect an old pay phone booth. A bad lunch strikes and I have to go. I mean, NOW! No one around so I drop my pants between my Pac Bell truck and the side of the big building and let nature take its course. I complete my job and drive back to security to sign out. Three big black soldiers are laughing their heads off as I sit in my van awaiting the sign out sheet. These guys are just dying they’re laughing so hard. I lean out of the sun and look inside the air conditioned booth to see what they’re laughing at. It was me, on a 24 inch screen, taking a dump while reading a Ring Magazine and picking my nose. Under the eaves of the building was a telescoping security camera recording me.
ITEM: Bob Sharber and I are at an SCC box in front of the Chevron station across from the big church on Highland and Franklin Street. A guy in a monk robe, shaved head and some white finger paint on his forehead asks us if we have any matches. I give his a small box I had from the Whisky. The guy goes out into Franklin and sets himself on fire. A man in a beer truck put him out with a small fire extinguisher.
ITEM: I’m sitting in my truck across the street from the Chinese theater. A bunch of street kids are putting on a show with their dirt bikes for the long line of people waiting to see the first STAR WARS movie. The line was all the way up to Franklin. Eight kids laid down in the street as two kids stopped traffic inching its way around the block looking for parking. A kid I nicknamed Evel bunny hopped at speed over all the kids, then, bunny hopped his bicycle over the two-foot high block wall around Grahmans side parking lot.
ITEM: I’m at Penny Marshall’s house off of Out Post road. I was replacing her master bedroom phone. She never leaves her bed. She works out of it like most do an office. Jack Lalane lived two houses up from her. The guy from WKRP lived right across the street. I mention her neighbors trying for small talk. She looks above her glasses and says, “Tell me something I don’t already know!” I think for a second then it comes to me. “Well, I was at your dad’s house about a year ago repairing a system down. Your mom has so many nick knacks it took me an hour to move one table to get the pull-down ladder to the phone equipment in the ceiling!” Penny just stares at me looking annoyed. I continue a bit faster. “Well, your dad has all of his people in a big meeting and I kept interrupting him. He finally gets ticked. Outside by my truck he says an angry, “Why are you in the ceiling wrecking my meeting?” I tell him rats have chewed his phone cables. At this he blows his stack. “I just paid thirty grand to have that roof fixed. What do you have to say about that?” I think a second then say, “Well, the rats say its nice and dry up there now!” He orders me off his property. As I pick up my orange traffic cone and chock block, he stops, walks back to me and says. “Finish your job. You really pissed me off, but, you’re pretty funny. You should write for me sometime!” Penny’s dad is Carl Reiner. She laughed and told me to shut up a second. She called her dad and told him what I said. He remembered me. COOL!
ITEM: I get a ticked off customer because I won’t run any wire in a redone bungalow off of Sunset. It says on the face of the order, “No wire runs or drilling walls. Phones go at existing jacks only.” I have to call for a supervisor. Dispatch sends O’neil. A supervisor who already doesn’t like me for a bunch of valid reasons. My super was on vacation. O’neil shows up half crocked and its only one pm. Ripping the work order out of my hand, he tells me to shut my mouth and keep it shut. Up the three steps to the front door of the nicely landscaped four plex, O’neil pounds on the door five times. Three gay guys answer. The one who called to complain about me not putting phones in their bathrooms wonders who George is through the still closed screen making George even angrier.
As the largest of them steps out onto the porch, O’neil sticks the work order in the customers face and screams, “IT’S RIGHT HERE SISSY, IN BLACK AND WHITE, NO WIRE RUNS, GOT IT?” As the big guy- nude, but for a towel- starts to stammer out a reply, O’neil ends the conversation. “ARE YOU RETARDED AND DEAF. NO WIRE RUNS!” Shoving the work order back into my hand O’neil then goes across the freshly planted lawn and kicks the little green wire protector into the street on the way to his company sedan. I look at the guys and say, “Well, there you have it from management. Happy now!”
ITEM: I’m in line at the Laurel Canyon Market waiting to pay for one of their custom deli sandwiches. A man in line just ahead of me looks familiar. Its George Harrison, the Beatle. He turns and looks at me. I say, “Hey, aren’t you one of the Beach Boys?” He nods his head and says a cockney, “Yep, surfs up dude!”
ITEM: I’m talking to the real estate man who owns the building the County store is in. He has a big office under it. As we step outside his office to see where he wants me to run some new wire from the pole for additional lines, a gigantic crash is just above us and out of our line of vision on Laurel Canyon. As we turn to the sound of the crash, two blonde haired kids are sailing through the air right into oncoming traffic. Cars are rear ending and going over the curb everywhere. I couldn’t look. Later on I find out their mom had pulled out of the market parking lot and hit an oncoming car head on. The kids were in the back seat of her Jaguar with its top down and no seat belts.
ITEM: I’m at a huge house off of Mulholland, two houses from then Governor Jerry Brown. In the days when he was dating Linda Ronstadt. I can hear some classical piano music coming from the next room as a maid lets me in for phone repair in the kitchen. I glance in the room while the maid gets the woman of the house. A tiny little girl in a white lace dress is playing a grand piano with custom foot pedals. She’s sliding back and forth on her bench to reach the keys. She sees me in a framed photo’s glass and looks over her shoulder at me. Maybe six or seven. Curls like Shirley Temple. I say a low, “Any Jerry Lee Lewis?” She immediately breaks into, ‘Come on over baby, we got chicken in the barn’, in a fast riff. Her mom storms down some stairs and shouts for her to get back to work. As the little girl went back to Bach or whatever the mom tells me off all the way to the kitchen.