This is part one of a multi-part series of writings chronicling a remarkable stretch of days From January 3, through January 12, 2015 in which what could go wrong did yet, though it. a family perseveres and a man finds his creative voice he thought was lost with the death of his father one year ago.
The Twelve Days Of New Year – By Bill Essex
With an audible sigh of relief, the first two weeks of the year fade into the mystique and legend of everything human. Only three days after the New Year, 2015 was so enthusiastically themed; “It’s Gonna Be Our Year!!!!”, things went a tad wobbly. That day, among a few dozen friends and family, my wife, Ronda, a classy, statuesque and vivacious beauty (yes, I did marry way above my pay grade), had, what can best be described by the Berenstain Bears as; “Too Much Birthday.”
Ronda and I have been married for nearly 25 years, which is forever in dog years and, according to her, forever can be a very long time. We are denizens of Modesto, California, a dusty yet, vibrant city of nearly a quarter million in the heart of the Great Valley, the San Joaquin. Modesto is best known for American Graffiti, Scott and Lacy Peterson, big ag like Gallo Wine, Foster Farms and Blue Diamond, a felonious mayor…allegedly… and being one of 4 or 5 Valley towns claiming the title, ”Gateway to Yosemite”. Modesto’s motto, “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health”, emblazoned on our famous arch that spans I Street on the corner of 9th, is as subjective as it gets in light of the near decade long depression here. It’s truly the people who make any town. Here in The Mo, we have had an abundance of great ones, except that Peterson jerk-off.
La Morenita or La Mo as it’s known by the locals and regulars, of whom we qualify, not to be confused with The Mo, is the best Mexican restaurant on earth. There, the first threads of our New Year began to unravel. La Mo is known for the freshest family recipes, great, friendly service and margaritas. Oh, the margaritas. Let’s focus on those for a moment. They come in three sizes, small, medium and “You’re Fucking Kidding Me!”, also known as the Bill and Ronda special. The Y.F.K.M! is a weapon of mass destruction to the uninitiated or the distracted. Powerful and plentiful(think fish bowl), one will hard buzz you, two will have you waking up in compromising situations and three…three is a vision quest. No-one has ever gone there until Ronda on her birthday.
Love can hurt you in ways you wouldn’t expect. Ronda is loved by everyone. She collects friends like the strange lady down the street collects cats. Non-judgmental, open armed, warts and all, if you are nice to her, she will love you. No one is better than her and no-one is beneath her, it’s simply beautiful. After well over a decade as regulars at La Mo, she is greeted like a benevolent queen by everyone from the owners, servers, bartenders, tortilla girls and cooks. Some have naturally become personal friends. For her birthday dinner, the entire crew set out to honor her passing into the twilight of her forties in a big way. Not a chip basket emptied, appetizer and dinner service was impeccable and fast, the drinks never got more than two thirds drained before being backed up by another. The party slowed and the deafening laughter quieted as our guests slowly left, yet the Y.F.K.M!’s still flowed to us, the hard core. It wasn’t long after, her vision quest begun, Ronda’s eyes began whirling like so many cherries and limes on a slot machine
We had escaped La Mo incident free other than a slightly unsteady, but not obviously so, Ronda. The Cavalry rode in taking the form of our 18 year old daughter, Lauren, the designated driver. She expertly guided us drunks on the 3 minute drive home. The moment we arrived, Ronda needed to use the bathroom and after refusing help from a guy who’s seen every nook and cranny of her anatomy, me, in case you are wondering, she locked the door behind her. At some point, with-in the first few minutes of solitude, she lost her horizon and went into an unrecoverable spin, nose down into the sink, toilet or floor…or, possibly bouncing off of each on the way to the deck. Everyone heard the crash. Eventually, after responding positively to every inquiry as to her safety, she emerged, her vision quest complete, adorned with a lump on her forehead, a swollen beak and two rapidly swelling eyes that were poised to slowly evolve into the most spectacular orbs of purple, blue, black and green in the history of such insults. Her first words rallied we, the immediately horrified; “It’s gonna be our year!!!”. Thus began an unlikely series of events that would end in a cancelled cruise, a solitary road trip, a dying dog, a sick daughter, another busted face and wonderment of how a year could begin with such promise then, trip on its own feet not two weeks out of the gate.