Encouraged by the DogFather's miraculous recovery, Big Dog took up on his friends' offer to go out for the night. After preparing some creamy potato soup and an oriental steak salad for the D-Father, we drove into the afternoon sun to CVM's house.
I have learned a lot from Big Dog about the value of friendships and how much effort it really takes to keep them alive. Growing up on the move makes you see friends as something temporary. Until our family moved to Japan, we were in one place for less than three years. In each city, I had friends, but they were attached to the location and when we moved on, I moved on from those connections. Big Dog, having grown up in Lancaster, has friends from before kindergarten! Still! Friends that last through his whole boyhood, young adulthood and beyond. I can't imagine what that is like! But he also puts a lot of energy into keeping these connections alive. Since he was away from the States for decades, he was the one who wrote, the one who phoned to say he was in town so let's get together.
CVM is not one of his friends from early childhood, but from the turbulent 60's. I couldn't possibly write about all of their misadventures without getting into serious trouble, but CVM, his buddy D who owned the pottery shop with him, and Big Dog were every parent's nightmare back then, I am sure. With time comes change, and now CVM and D are both Married, Responsible Dads with jobs, mortgages, teenage kids of their own.
CVM (the V is Von -- he is from German aristocracy) and his family live out in Antelope Acres, past the edge of town, close to the California Poppy Reserve that glows orange each spring with miles of poppies. I tell my friends in Japan that being in the Antelope Valley is like being inside a Little Feat song, but out in Antelope Acres, it really IS a Little Feat song. It's all open sky and yuccas, dusty and windy, with tumbleweeds rolling down the street like wayward dogies. Lovely!
"If I had to live in Antelope Valley, I'd live in a place like this," I commented. John French, drummer for the Beefheart Band and also a friend of Big Dog's, also lives in Antelope Valley but also out of town, away from the strip malls and everything suburbia.
CVM's place is large and sprawly. His wife of 30 years, S, is a landscape architect and has done up their yard with all sorts of gorgeous plants. I had been here before, but always at night, so this was the first time I was seeing their yard.
"Oh, let me show you around," S said and took me on a garden tour (the red house in the photo is SVM's "ICU" for sickly plants) while The Boys went to inspect CVM's latest creations in his barn/garage. (A very talented artist, CVM creates fantastic pyrotechnic helmets, among other things.)
We could easily have stayed there all night, but they had other plans. Well, S had other plans.
"Do you still want to go?" CVM asked.
"Yeah, we should!" SVM answered. "I'll be so bummed out if I miss their performance!"
As we learned later, SVM picked up a young man at a tanning salon a few years ago.
"I was suffering from depression after H left for college. It was that Empty Nest thing. I needed another boy to nurture and there was this beautiful boy who needed nurturing, so I brought him home and nurtured him!" Since then, he became a budding musician and was having a gig at The Rock Inn
with his friends and SVM, being the nurturer, had to be there to give him moral support.
The Rock Inn is a stone structure near Lake Hughes. Today it's a biker bar but it had its incarnations as an inn, a grocery store, a restaurant…during the 100 plus years it's been here.
We arrived a little late and the musicians, all in their late teens or early twenties, had already been performing on the tiny stage for a while, but SVM needn't have worried. They had plenty of moral support. The place was packed with friends and family. All of their parents were there.
"What is this with kids and their parents these days?" Big Dog wondered aloud, later.
"I don't get it either. I would be horrified if my mom came to see me perform! Even today. In my teens or twenties, I think I would have died."
Time changes much, and more for some people than others. Who we are, how we behave, our relationships, our wants and needs. Even if on the outside, like the Rock Inn, we look pretty much the same.