My Friend Alice and How She Found Me

Though I hadn’t seen her for nearly 40 years I still remembered Alice Marquez Lashbrook as a friend. She made it easy.

One simple gesture made it true. She wrapped her arm around my shoulder and invited me in.

She was confident, gregarious, funny and down to earth. She was always ready to insert a good-natured pin into any over-inflated ego. She was practical, loved ideas, loved nature and loved people.

So Aquarius but with a passionate Scorpionic knowing.

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Yesterday, at the end of a slow day at the news factory, my right hand aching from a day occupied with mindless data entry duties (we lost a trusty intern last week), I cruised the internets looking up the names of people from my past.

I’d found a photo of Alice online last year. A woman in her 50s with short-cropped hair looked out at me from the page. She had a wry smile. She was at a school or some kid-related work place in Fallbrook where she and her hubby Bill had settled in the early 70s.

What I found Sunday as I searched once again for Alice was her obituary in her hometown paper, The Santa Paula Times.

Alice died of cancer early in 2007, a few weeks after her 55th birthday.

I entered her world when I accompanied my aunt Linda to Lake Elsinore to visit her friend’s Bobby and Jeri. LInda was married to my Uncle Pat. Their scene was pretty raunchy. Biker druggy outlaws. The women had it rough in that uber-masculine, failed-breadwinner milieu.

Lake Elsinore was a nearly deserted desert town built around a lake. It sits just over the mountains, the Cleveland National Forest and the Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park, from San Juan Capistrano.

The Ortega Highway runs 30 twisty miles up over the ridges and then down into what was then a sleepy village.

I have heard that it was a hideout for gangsters after the lake dried up in the 1930s. Nobody was going there for recreation. It must have been much as it was when I went 40 years later. Sunny little cottages sat forlorn and abandoned around the dirty lake.

There was still the charm of the early century, things built on a smaller scale blending in with the cottonwood trees, the eucalyptus. It didn’t seem that more than few dozen families occupied the entire valley at that time. It was like something from a TV western.

There was a small main street. No one was ever going in or out of the businesses. It was a welfare mom’s heaven — rent you could afford, nobody getting in your business, no lines at the county agencies, food stamps in the mail. That’s how my aunt’s friends Bobby and Jeri were living. Both had young children.

Somehow Alice had met Bobby and they became fast friends. On my first night there in Bobby’s funky little house I met Alice. She took me under her wing, instantly welcoming me.

Bobby had been married to a biker friend of my dad. I once was hired to baby sit for Bobby and her man at their little house in Orange County.

I was sixteen. It was the time when my uncle and my dad had recently returned to my grannies’ house to try to start their lives over after a hitch in the can.

 Bobby and her old man weren’t going anywhere the night I was called on to baby sit. In fact there was a whole house full of people. They needed a baby sitter because they were all going to get blitzed on downers and booze.

I guess that shows some foresight. Protecting the child from harm in a house full of f’ed up biker cons.

Bobby was a young woman at a time when women were just beginning to get serious about throwing off the shackles. She had obviously chosen an alternative lifestyle. She had an independent streak.

At the boozy biker party she was super wired on uppers. She talked and talked and was super friendly to me. She showed me everything in her closet. She pulled out the family pictures. She told me her life story. I liked her.

It was a crazy scene, and crazier still, my dad kept giving me “reds” or seconal the whole time. He’d hand me a pill and say “Here, daughter, I want to see if you can hold your mud.” I think  it was “mud.” He kind of mumbled. Maybe he said “mug.”

I was no fool. I hid the pills away and held my mud very well, thank you.

What if I had been stupid enough to take those pills? Bobby would be calling the ambulance, but wait no, that would “bring the heat.” The biker guys would have probably dumped my limp body somewhere when I o.d.ed. Though staying true to their misogynistic ethics, they’d probably have “taken advantage” of me first. They were bad asses. Ah, memories.

Bobby eventually got out of that scene and moved to Lake Elsinore. She had experienced a different kind of drug. LSD opened her mind an made it clear that she had to get away from the hard-scrabble crap in which she was mired. She went. Maybe not that far. Maybe just over the hills but Alice was there to clap an arm on her shoulder, too and offer this former biker mom a new direction.

Before it was my turn Alice took Bobby by the hand and led her to a commune where the folk partied in a far more life-affirming way. She showed Bobby a way to open herself to the positive things she got a glimpse off whilst engaged in an acid dream.

Next on my list of books to read:aciddreams

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2 Responses to “My Friend Alice and How She Found Me”

  1. Great story about Alice Marquez. I was her boyfriend for about 3 yrs. in highschool. Everything you said rings true. She was a love that I haven’t forgot. I recently heard she passed and was affected more than I thought I’d be. But after contacting her ex-husband and receiving some photos from him, I feel better. The picture you posted with her in the garden, was within months of the last time I saw her by Temecula. I always hoped I could see her before I died, but not to be. Anyway, thanks for your article, it brought back great memories. Alan Nash (Peterson) myspace.com/acpet

  2. […] We lived on a commune in the high desert. His girlfriend was the coolest person I’d ever met. He had a beautiful doggie, a chocolate Lab, and an interesting best pal from our shared home town of Santa Ana. […]

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