Panorama of San Bernardino

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Soda Pop Bottles

I drove my dogs to the groomer a couple of weeks ago and passed by the condos we used to live in on "D" and Euclid.  We only lived in those condos in Upland for a year. 

I was sixteen when they asked us to leave.  My parents rushed to find another rental.  It wasn't easy.  The manager of the condos in Upland disliked our family due to our proclivity for fighting and throwing things.  It didn't help that I got cited, along with other teenagers who lived in the condos, for drinking in public. 

I was glad to leave the condos.  I had relationship drama.  My short lived crush on my seventeen year old neighbor Hovie came to a bitter end after he took up with my neighbor Cathy who went to Claremont High.  Cathy was pretty in a quirky Ally Sheedy kind of way and loved the Grateful Dead.  I winced every time they drove by in Hovie's convertible MG.

Christian was next.  He was a skateboarder with curly brown hair and freckles who smoked pot all day instead of going to school.  Christian gave me a diamond stud earring that I returned when he dumped me for a girl who was more willing and open with her affections.  

My mom stressed out about finding another rental, but she finally found a two story house in Upland.  The old house looked like a large white castle with peeling paint.  It had four bedrooms, two baths and about twenty windows.  It sat on a huge lot surrounded by old trees, just east of Euclid and north of Arrow.  

The house scared me a bit, it was always so cold.  The TV room had a sloping roof that met up in a V and the ceiling was so low that you had to bend to enter.  My friend Tracy and I used the Ouija Board in the room and the disc moved on its own.  From then on, we were convinced the TV room was haunted. 

My sisters and I were still paying my parents back for all the chaos we had endured as kids.  I ditched school whenever possible and spent my weekends drinking and carousing with my two best friends Tracy and Melinda. 

One school day, Melinda and I drove to Hollywood to visit a punk rock store.  I bought some red creepers with zebra fur detailing.  The radio in Melinda's 1964 White Covair didn't work so we drove home from Hollywood blasting the Violent Femmes in a boom box on my lap. 

Melinda dropped me off and I walked inside, creepers in hand, and shouted out, "Jackie, look what I bought in Hollywood today."  My mom came out from the kitchen and slapped me and screamed, "God dammit Jenny, you need to stop ditching."  I ran to my room, shut the door and caressed my shoes as I hummed the Violent Femmes song, "Kiss Off". 

We used to steal my dad's truck after my parents fell asleep.  We drove through the tree lined streets of south Upland, hooting and hollering at the other cars.  Sometimes, when we stopped at a red light, we waved our hands in the air and changed seats.

One night in particular, Pam and Annie walked into my bedroom at past midnight dressed like cat burglars in dark sweats with black ski hats on their heads.  Pam put her finger against her lips and whispered, "Are you ready?"  I nodded and we tip-toed into the front living room where my dad snored on the couch in his pajama pants and white t-shirt. 

I looked in on my mom.  There were peanut butter cracker crumbs all over her bedspread and her book was on the floor.  We waited for fifteen minutes to make sure she was out and then I crept into her room on all fours and pulled the keys out of my dad's Wranglers.

Pam wanted to drive.  Even though she was only fourteen, she was the best driver of all of us.  Her dad had taught her how to drive his car.  Pam jumped into the driver's seat on top of a phone book so she could reach the steering wheel.  Annie sat in the middle of the bench seat and I sat against the window.  The car smelled like stale cigarettes.  We started the truck and Pam backed it out of the driveway with the lights off.

We drove up and down Euclid Avenue for about fifteen minutes.  We blasted the radio on Power 106 and Pam and Annie got on my dad's CB intercom and cussed out cars in Spanish. 

As we turned down Ninth Street, the truck started to sputter.  Pam pulled over.  I leaned over and looked at the gas gauge.  We were out of gas.   I looked at Annie, Annie looked at Pam and Pam looked at me and said, "Come on, let's go get some gas before your parents wake up and freak out."   

We ran home as fast as we could taking the side streets and got back to the house out of breath.  My dad was still asleep.  Annie ran upstairs to her room to get money of her piggy bank.  Annie shared a room with Jackie who walked into the living room rubbing her eyes.  "What are you guys doing?" she said.

I pointed at my dad and motioned her into the kitchen.  "We took dad's truck and we ran out of gas," I told her in a low matter of fact voice.  She made a face and said, "Why didn't you wake me up?"

Pam rifled through the kitchen and held up four empty plastic 2 Liters of Diet Rite and said, "These will do."  We each grabbed one and set off to the gas station, including Jackie who had her winter coat on over her pajamas.

We ran down Arrow Highway bottles in hand and hid behind trees whenever we saw headlights.  The Upland Police Station was on Arrow and 1st Street so we turned down Campus to 9th Street and raced each other back to the gas station.

Pam handed the gas station cashier a couple of dollars.  "Put it all on number four," Pam said with a wink.  The cashier glanced at us with a skeptical look and shook her head, but punched it into the register. 

Pam stood in front of us as we placed the nozzle inside the bottles and filled them each about three quarters full.  We ran down the street just as the clerk stormed out of the gas station door and screamed, "You stupid kids, you're supposed to get a gas can. I'm calling the police."

We flipped her off and ran up Ninth Street as if the devil himself was chasing us.  We knew if the cops came we would be busted.  When we got back to the truck, we tilted the soda bottles into the tank one by one.   We jumped in the truck and Pam pumped the gas.  We all cheered as the engine roared back to life and  drove home.

My parents didn't catch us that night and we made sure the gas tank was full from then on.  After a year, the owners of the Upland house told us they were selling.  My sisters and I groaned with displeasure when we found out we had to move again. 

We were back in Ontario for my senior year of high school and it was a doozie.

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