Between the ages of about eleven and fourteen, I made annual trips down to Yorba Linda, in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, to visit my cousins, the Herberts. Several times I rode the Greyhound bus down there by myself, and remember the dusty heat of Bakersfield, the redolent smell of the cows in Coalinga, and the hours and hours riding down Highway 5 in the summer sun.
Uncle Paul and Aunt Faith lived in what I thought was the most exotic of places, this Shangri-La with grass and swimming pools everywhere. The best part was that Disneyland was perhaps a dozen miles away. My cousin John was a year or two older than me, and he would take the lead on our forays to Disneyland. I recall one summer evening, sitting by the rocketship rides, listening to a rock band called El Chicano. I was very impressed at him for talking to this girl, I think her name was Vera Viss, or Vicki Voss, or something exotic like that. He said she was “a bitchin-ass chick.” I do not think the relationship developed much farther, though.
We had some fun at the family reunions as well, John and I. I am not sure what year it was — maybe I was 14 years old. A bunch of the girls were sleeping in Martha’s room, on the second floor of the house on Fulton Street. There was a sort of trellis structure next to her bedroom. Early in the afternoon, when everyone was outside or elsewhere, John and I climbed up on the trellis and reached in the window. We tied a string to the pull down shade, and dangled it out the window. Then we waited. After dinner, after dark, we waited outside, our ears cocked to hear what was happening within that boudoir. When we thought the time was ripe we seized that string and began yanking on it, causing the shade to shake and rattle and rise up. The screams that came from within that room were strangely satisfying.