Like a Bundle of Dirty Laundry


ONE AFTERNOON, WHEN I was buying a pair of shoes, I flirted with a cute shoe salesman. Slight of build, with blond hair and deep dimples, he seemed funny and engaging.  After he insisted that I try on nearly every pair of shoes in the store, I finally left with a pair of shoes I could afford and a date that very evening. We both loved to jitterbug and there was a great band that night at a local nightclub.  He was to pick me up, and dancing we would go.

My date rang the doorbell promptly at eight. He was a perfect gentleman in opening the car door for me and being attentive throughout the evening. We had such fun as we danced the night away. Both a little drunk, we left one club and decided that we would drop into a similar dance club nearby. First, he wanted to stop by his apartment to pick up his sport jacket. Fortified with alcohol, and without a care in the world, I followed him up to his apartment when he insisted I see the new and unusual fish he had just purchased. I wasn’t into fish, but what the hell? I giggled a little sloppily as I stepped into his apartment.

Once inside, the fear I felt was instant and surprising—almost sobering—when I heard the locks click shut on his door. I heard three loud clicks, which immediately registered in my brain as odd since we were supposed to leave after fish-gazing and jacket-fetching.

Before I knew what was happening, I was body slammed against the wall. My head snapped back against the wall, then bounced forward into his face, which made him angry.

“You filthy slut!”


Finding Out What “Real” Women Know

OK, JOEY,  YOU  want whoring, I’ll learn whoring. Determined to become a “real” woman like he wanted, I moved into a new phase, one in which  angry, indiscriminate sex abounded.  My daily protocol included alcohol. Blackouts were scary, but permitted the depersonalization of every Tom, Dick, and Harry.  I would definitely  show my prince that I knew about whoring.


“With a Name Like DiMaggio”

dorothy arnold 3 dorotha arnold bookThumbnail for version as of 15:54, 3 August 2012

During this time, I tried to confide in Dorothy, my mother-in-law, about our troubles. In my naiveté, I thought that she and I had developed a close relationship

“Dorothy, I’ve heard about something called counseling where people can go when they’re having troubles with their relationship or their families. I thought that would be a really good thing to help Joey and me.”

To my disappointment and surprise, she replied, “With a name like DiMaggio, you cannot even think about such a thing. If any of this got out, it would be the end of all of us. Plus, his father would be furious.” I kept asking myself why. I didn’t know a thing about psychology, but I did wonder, after the bath incident, if she was afraid something would surface about her relationship with her son.


Dorothy Arnold, My Mother-in-law

Dorothy Joey's Mother (2)

I didn’t meet my mother-in-law, Dorothy Arnold, until Joey and I re-united after our first separation. For reasons that remained a mystery to me, he wanted nothing to do with his mother. As widely reported Joey went some fifteen years without seeing her. There was something really odd about their relationship.  The only consistent relationship that he seemed willing to maintain was with his stepmother, Marilyn. So many things about his life were unknown to me, or would have been incomprehensible even if I had known then. Being immature and idealistic, I begged him to reconcile with his mother. Looking at me with amusement and resignation he said, “Deliver  me from people who mean well.” In retrospect, I should have left well enough alone.

I adored Dorothy. Shortly after we met, she began to call me “Baby Ducks.” I loved the nickname, but then, I would have loved any name she chose. She mesmerized me. She was beautiful, eccentric, and—I’m sad to say—alcoholic. When she drank, which was most of the time, she could be loud and obnoxious. Other times she could charm your socks off with her showgirl-style seduction. She had been a showgirl and called herself an actress. According to her, she couldn’t get any roles because the great Joe DiMaggio blackballed her in the movie industry.


Chickens to Mice (The Faces We Live)

 THE WHOLE FAMILY seemed excited to sell the house that had become the chicken refuge. Mother and Don were opening a new dry-cleaning store in Ramona, California. Their spirits were high; they looked forward to a new adventure. I was grateful to escape the noisy, smelly, poop-ridden chickens and the neighbors’ disgust.

Our family of six and our lovely collie, Zany, moved into a small, two-bedroom house in Ramona. We all seemed to adjust fairly well until Don met Richard at a local bar while Don was “just having a few beers,” one of his newly discovered favorite pastimes.

Our lives would be changed forever by Richard, a charming but devious man who completely took over our lives.

Richard had four children under the age of ten and a very sick wife. They were without money or a place to live, and we took them in. Being a grown up thirteen-year-old, I stayed home from school for six weeks to take care of the four children while Richard’s wife, Maria, was hospitalized.

The little house was so crowded that my brother, now seventeen, and I were relegated to sleeping on cots in the half-finished garage. What I most remember about that period, however, was the sound of the mice running around. Petrified, every night I asked my brother if the mice could climb up in our cots. He always replied, “No way, Honey, now you just go to sleep.”


“Trailer Trash” & Mashed Potatoes

bigstock-camper-van-42841687At the same time, I felt her kindness and desire to please me. Vi lovingly made my favorite food, mashed potatoes with mounds of butter on top. The mixed feelings I experienced toward her added to my confusion toward adults in general. It seemed impossible to make sense out of their behavior. I overwhelmingly preferred solitude, a trait deeply embedded in me to this day and only overcome with effort.

For a while, Howard co-habitated contentedly with his new wife and her near-adult, parasitic sons. I hated my new stepbrothers, who were in their late teens. Their lives centered on continuous beer consumption. The dilapidated trailer, with its taped up windows, reeked like a sleazy tavern, forever forming a mental image of what “trailer trash” would be.


Saved by solitude and the old horse Dolly DOWN FROM the rugged granite mountain ridges some twenty miles north of the Mexican border and seventeen miles east of the Pacific Ocean, one can only guess at the breathlessness of the early mission padres seeing the basin below. They named the valley El Cajon. The name means “the big box” because that is how the flat valley floor seemed. The eventual agrarian heartland would prove a perfect support for citrus, avocados, grapes and barley. It was near these foothills that I learned to love solitude and an old horse named Dolly, and to devour mounds of mashed potatoes. It was also where I learned to hate tumbleweeds, tarantulas, and the effects of alcohol.

The family composition shifted when I turned seven and my big brother was eleven. Mother, hospitalized for several weeks with complications from jaundice, followed by months of bed rest, presented the opportunity for Howard to find himself a new woman. Even before the divorce papers were filed, he was gone.


Trash Bin Scavenging (from Ragdoll Redeemed)


Silver and Turquoise from Ragdoll Redeemed

UFOMY MOTHER BEGAN dating Doc right after she separated from Howard, the dad with the choking hands. Doc had once been a practicing medical doctor in the San Diego area, but he hadn’t worked since he surrendered to his daily drinking. Now living a subsistence life at the bottom of the economic scale, his home was an old, small trailer in a broken-down mobile home park.

Doc was an avid rock hound who loved going out in the desert areas in eastern Southern California. Next to smoking and drinking, he enjoyed collecting unusual rocks, mineral specimens, and, when lucky, gemstones.


A Transition

Perhaps by now my book will be published. Actually, it was published and on the market for five days, when it was brought to my attention that there were grammatical and punctuation errors in the book (so like me) that far exceeded any acceptable mistakes, I took it off the market for additional editing. But before that happened, my plan was to write blogs that paralleled the stories, events, and people in my book.