For about a minute of my life, in the 5th grade, my best gal pal was named Patrice. I don’t recall now what her last name was. She wanted to be called ‘Trice, but her mom always called her by her full name. She was a girl raised by parents who were older, and I realize now they were probably alcoholics and they were certainly heavy smokers. But for me, Patrice was fun. We were both awkward socially and so, we bonded on that point. She had a cute fluffy little white dog that might have been a poodle or a cockapoo. I used to walk or ride my skate board to her house, which was a little over a mile from mine. She must have been smart because I think she was in the advanced class with me. I didn’t have many other close friends at that school, so I can’t think of any other way I could have met her.
Being smart did not preclude a questionable childhood surrounded by weird friends of her parents and did not necessarily include a financially stable life. Patrice lived in an unincorporated part of Santa Ana, just behind a fronting of little houses built in the 40s or 50s. Back there, they could still have horses though, and it was like stepping into a rural retreat once you rounded the corner to her street. It’s hard to imagine today there being stables in the middle of a Santa Ana neighborhood, even lots with a house and a stable, with actual horses and chickens, but it’s true. It was a quiet, dark and shady place with large trees, that smelled like soil and horses, manure and car oil. There’s a garish church that was built where a little home with a white board fence once had been. It had acted as a sort of gateway or mile marker into that forgotten little corner of town. The church is hideous, in my opinion, but the little home was a ramshackle abandoned wreck by the time it was torn down, so it’s likely the better of the two abodes.
To help out the family, Patrice wandered around town collecting bottles. Eventually they turned them in at the liquor store for cash, or maybe liquor. I don’t know. Looking back I don’t know really what drew me to her. I found a picture of her recently and it reminded me she was boy crazy and wanted to grow up fast and get out of her house. She was the type of girl I’m sure my parents dreaded I would turn into.
One thing she did teach me about during our brief friendship was that bottles were worth money – maybe it was 5 cents per bottle. I had never even considered this type of a transaction before knowing this girl. Some hot days, if we didn’t have much to do, and Patrice had already collected “enough” bottles for her family, we would go scrounge bottles until we came up with enough for two cones of ice cream from Thrifty Drug Store over on Harbor Blvd. It was near the Zody’s – a store I never went in for some reason. Anyway, to this day, I can remember collecting those bottles…the smell of the warm day on a part of town that was not shiney and clean, the sun on my neck, the weight of the bag with the bottles in it, and the stink of the icky guy at the liquor store who changed them out for us…but even more, the taste of that mint chip ice cream. Sigh…… Pure heaven!