I met Rudy when I was fourteen, either right before I moved to my father’s house in Oregon, or shortly after I moved back. I can’t remember when exactly, but I do remember how.
I was in Jeff’s yard, with a bunch of the neighborhood kids, and we were all boxing with a single pair of cheap boxing gloves. Since we only had one set of gloves, each contestant only got one. The champion took the left glove, and the challenger got the right.
An Indian looking kid wandered down and watched us for a while. He laughed at us and asked if we all lived around here. We asked him if he wanted to play, but he shook his head. At some point he picked up a cat and began to stroke it while we boxed.
I remember I was boxing a kid named Chad. Chad was dating a girl named Jeanette (Neddy) at the time, and I liked her, so I’d been feeling pretty good about beating him left handed and all. Then, suddenly a cat landed on my back and clawed the hell out of me.
When I turned around, the Indian kid was laughing like it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. He’d obviously thrown the cat on me. I tore off the glove and got in his face. Rather than back down like I’d expected, (after all I was the left handed boxing champ of the afternoon) he jumped up from where he’d been crouching and shoved me in the chest. We puffed up and said some tough words, but we didn’t fight.
The next day — or later that week or month I’m not sure — I found him hanging around with my friends. We all hiked in the hills and explored caves and played war games. The US was having trouble with Libya at the time and the movie Red Dawn was still a pretty big deal, so we thought of ourselves as survivalists and potential freedom fighters in the coming war. At some point we found some baby rabbits and, working together, we caught a few of them, took them to my house, and put them in a little shelter we made on my bed. I called my mother at work and told her to look on my bed when she got home because I had an Easter surprise for her.
That’s when Rudy told us he’d stolen some pot from his older brother-in-law, Lance. The younger, not so stupid, kids in our neighborhood begged off and went home. Rudy, Jeff, and I climbed a tree somewhere in the neighborhood, and smoked the joint. I still think it was laced with something, but maybe I just had a really bad reaction to the pot. Either way, I started freaking out and seeing things, and so did Jeff. Rudy played it cool at first, but after a while, even he started to get worried. We all went to our separate homes to sleep it off.
By this time, my head was spinning, I was seeing tracers when I moved too fast, and the whole world seemed like a dream. I kept having panic attacks, (which I’d been having on a lesser scale for a few years) and I thought my heart was going to burst. I climbed into my bed and yanked the covers over my head.
Startled baby rabbits shot in every direction. I emptied an underwear drawer, crawled around the room collecting the rabbits, and stuffed them in the drawer. Back in bed, I cried while my head invented ever more awful hallucinations. My heavy metal blacklight posters leered. My little sisters poked their heads into my bedroom to check on me once or twice, and I shouted at them to leave. It was a wonder I ever tried drugs again, but no one has ever accused me of being a quitter, especially when it came to drugs.
Several hours later, my mother returned from work and peeked into my room. “Leon, honey, are you in here?”
“Mom,” I said from beneath my covers, “I’m sorry, but I can’t talk. I’m really high right now. I think maybe someone slipped me some acid or something.”
“So this is my Easter surprise?” She didn’t sound as mad as I’d expected. “My son laying in bed too stoned to talk?”
“No.” I peeked out from beneath the covers. “We got you a bunch of baby bunnies, but they were flying all around the room, so I put them with my underwear.”
She gave me a look that said she didn’t believe me, patted me on the head, and asked if I needed anything. She could be very understanding and nurturing in her own way. I think of the crap I put her through growing up, (and trust me, being zonked on laced weed and jabbering about baby rabbits in my underwear was the least of it) and I’m amazed she didn’t just abandon me in the desert when I was too young to find my way home.
My mother was barely fifteen when she had me. She and my father said they made me in the back of a van in the Sparks High School parking lot. They’d both been cashing in on the tail end of the hippie movement. My father actually believed in alternate energy, overthrowing the power structure, rethinking society, and high-minded shit like that. I’m pretty sure my mother just liked the idea of sex and drugs, though she had taken the nickname “Freedom,” so I guess that’s something.
Dad left when I was two, shortly after getting my mother pregnant with my little sister, Olivia. He moved to Oregon with another woman, who was already pregnant with my other sister, Taneea. I have no memories of my parents being together.
My mom had a lot of asshole boyfriends and husbands between my father and Norman, the old black guy we were living with out in Sun Valley. My youngest sister’s father is a pederast and killer currently serving time in prison for–you guessed it–killing his wife and raping her kid. Kenneth was a big black body builder who beat the crap out of my mom and eventually died due to pneumonia brought on by a cocaine overdose. Other guys didn’t last as long, so I don’t remember them as well. Norman wasn’t so bad. He took my mother and her three out-of-control kids into his house. He gave us a home, the first one I ever remember having. I repaid him by trashing the place and stealing from him.
End of digression.
Rudy and I were always semi-confrontational, but we always stuck up for each other too, kind of the way I picture real brothers would behave. He picked on me constantly, and I always took the bait. Wrestling matches only ended when blood got spilled. We nearly came to blows about once a month. We actually came to blows three times. (I’ll probably get to those stories later.) But, if someone else ever tried to hurt me . . . (See Helicopters Over Leon Street.)
At one point, Jeff’s mother adopted Rudy, or she assumed custody or something. Anyway, at the time of our fight with the Vatoes, he lived with Jeff, Jeff’s mother, and Jeff’s older sister. I remember being really jealous of the whole situation. I felt like Jeff stole my older brother. Then Rudy and I got into that fight on Leon Street, and things changed.
For one, the Vatoes wanted to kill us, and that was a bond all unto itself. But we also went to jail together for the first time. We called the cops on ourselves concerning the fight on Leon Street. We figured we didn’t have much to worry about. The Vatoes were a known gang. During the fight, they’d outnumbered us four or five to one. Anything we’d done, we’d done in self-defense.
Here’s a note to any would be confessors: if you admit to the police that you hit someone, even in self-defense, plan on spending the night in jail. Especially if people got stabbed during the fight.
The detective we’d talked to on the phone asked us to come down to Parr Boulevard, the brand new police facility outside Sun Valley, in order to “make a statement.” My mother came with me. A guy named Detective Cody took my statement, and then informed my mother that I’d be going to jail for assault. When he left the room, I told my mom to warn Rudy.
Rudy showed up about fifteen minutes after they put me in a locked holding cell, and my mother warned him. I guess he actually tried to run, but the idea of a fifteen-year-old kid escaping from a state of the art jail is pretty ridiculous. Within a few minutes of showing up, he joined me in the cell.
We went to Juvie together. I was released to my mother, and Jeff’s mom let Rudy stay locked up for a few days, in order to teach him a lesson. (As if either of us could be taught anything at that point in our lives.) We got court dates, but we never ended up going to court. Maybe we went to the first date. I can’t remember. Anyway, the whole thing just . . . evaporated.
Here’s what I think happened: Lorraine, my girlfriend at the time, got attacked by the Vatoes a few weeks after the fight. They pulled a knife on her and cut her sweater, leaving a little scratch on her belly. Since the cut was so small, the detective she’d been talking to advised her to say that the Vatoes had only showed her the knife when she wrote out her official statement. Lorraine’s mother and stepfather found out about the coercion concerning the wordage on the statement, and raised a little hell. The detective who had suggested she lie on the statement was Detective Cody.
I’m pretty sure this is when Detective Cody started to hate me. Regardless, he hounded me at several points later on in my life.
In the meantime, however, Rudy and I had gotten into more trouble. In order to protect ourselves from the gangbanger reprisals we figured were sure to come, we stole a bunch of guns from one of our neighbors. The story on that will be the subject of an upcoming blog, once I get permission to use the neighbors name. When we realized the trail of evidence pointed squarely at us, Rudy and I packed up and ran away.
We ended up living with my uncle, at a martial arts dojo and commune. (Lots of blogs on that later, once I figure out how not to get myself killed or disowned for writing about it.) Uncle Herb took over custody of both of us, but we didn’t slow our crime spree. We continued on with the same friends, doing the same bad shit, only now we lived in a much cooler house, complete with hot tub, cold tub, massage room, sauna, weight room, rock garden, and training room.
Rudy got along better with my uncles wife than I did, so when I ran away from the dojo, Rudy stayed behind. He eventually left the dojo. I eventually returned. He returned again. I left again. He ended up living with my mother for a while. At one point we both lived with her. Rudy called me from prison, the first time he went, and asked if I’d be at the birth of his son. I didn’t want to be at anyone’s birth, so I told him I’d joined the Army, and enlisted the next day in order to make my lie true. After my short stint with the US Army, we both went to jail together again. This time as adult guests of Parr Boulevard, the same place we’d made our statements concerning the fight on Leon Street four or five years earlier.
Aahh the memories.
Again and again throughout our lives our paths crossed and re-crossed, until about fifteen years ago, when I moved to Oregon, and Rudy went to prison for the second or third time. We’ve written letters, but not many. I attended his wedding when he got married to my cousin. Otherwise, however, our paths have finally stopped intersecting.
He’s in prison again now. Parole violation. He says he’s learned his lesson, and I really hope he’s changed — for himself, for his sons, for me, and for my cousin who is still married to him. A whole lifetime of history to the contrary, however, makes hope seem a little futile. I love him, and I still consider him my brother, but at some point, I guess you just have to cut your losses.
I’m at that loss-cutting point in my life now. Last chance, Brother. Take it, please.
Anyway, I’ve already used too many words this week. Sorry for the info dump. To make up for it, I’ll post a couple pics of Rudy below, one from prison, and another from his wedding. Next time, I promise TrueStoopidStories instead of historical ramblings.
For now, however, this is all I have. Take it or leave it. Love it or hate it. Not a story. Just a life. True, stupid, and mine.