By Sean Dietrich
I have here an email from a woman named Ella who lives in New York City. Ella writes:
“I turn 76 years old in two days… I’m trying not to lose my mind, but being trapped inside this little apartment and self-quarantining with my daughter and her roommate, I’m starting to go stir crazy!
“It’s been a long two years for me, I have survived breast cancer, and an autoimmune disease, please write something upbeat just for me that doesn’t even mention COVID-19 and take my mind off of it.”
Ella, since we don’t know each other, and since I don’t have your personal details, I guess I’ll just start writing something based on what I DO know about you.
For starters, you’re turning 76. This means that, if we do some basic math… Subtract the six… Carry the two… Divide the coefficient… Take the remainder and shove it up the cosine’s exponent… Made a mistake and kissed a snake, how many doctors did it take…?
You were born in 23 BC.
No wait. That can’t be right. I’m sorry, Ella. Math has never been my strong suit. Let me try that again. You were born in 1944.
Before I wrote this, I was doing some research on your birth year and found out that ‘44 was a pivotal year. The war was still on, Navy ships were still being attacked, Roosevelt was president, America’s most edgy pop-star was Bing Crosby. There were also several historical figures born that year, such as Diana Ross, Jerry Springer, and of course Boz Scaggs.
Boz Scaggs. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in ages. Do you remember him? Of course you do, who doesn’t? He was a singer-songwriter who had a big hit from the movie soundtrack “Urban Cowboy,” starring John Travolta. The song was titled “Look What You’ve Done to Me.”
This song was majorly depressing. My friend’s older sister, Sandy, had this cassette tape and played this song roughly 53,202 times every single day. Whenever we would walk by Sandy’s bedroom door, there would be lots of estrogen coming from her room. Sometimes you could see it seeping from beneath the door.
And Sandy’s little brother would always say in a serious voice, “Stay away from Sandy today, my mom said she’s got the hormones.”
This was bad news. We boys had never known anyone who actually came down with a case of the hormones. We’d only heard about things like this happening in Third World countries where they didn’t have clean drinking water.
You didn’t want to catch the hormones. Teenage girls who caught the hormones, according to my pal Johnny Randall, wound up so bad off that for the rest of their adult lives they had to visit bathrooms together in groups.
So we steered clear of Sandy. But I still remember her listening to that music. Sometimes she would be crying in her bedroom, mostly because of various boys. Her boyfriend, H.J., was always doing something to tick her off.
Sandy once got so upset with H.J. that she offered to pay me and my buddy, Todd, three bucks to slash H.J.’s bicycle tires. Todd and I were about to cut the tires when we came up with this brilliant plan.
Our plan involved waiting beside H.J.’s bicycle until we saw him, whereupon we would announce, “Hey, H.J.! Sandy’s paying us three bucks to slash your tires, how much will you pay us NOT to slash your tires?”
It was a great plan. And it worked, too. H.J. was very generous. He gave us two broken ribs and a few atomic wedgies from hell.
What was I talking about again?
Oh, yes. Boz Scaggs. Well if there’s one thing old Boz taught us, it’s that girls can hurt you. My cousin Lydia, for instance, was always crying at romance movies when she was a teenager. All those tears made you sort of think she was soft and tender inside. But she was not tender, especially when it came to people messing with her Stuff. Lydia took her Stuff very seriously.
If we boys ever broke into her room and stole her Leif Garret poster, or God forbid, her Donny Osmond picture book, she turned into the Bionic Woman. Suddenly she could bench press Buicks, and turn her head 360 degrees.
She would chase us for seven miles without even breaking a sweat, then use our faces to scrub oil stains off the driveway. To this day, I’m missing a molar because I was once an accessory to stealing Lydia’s “Teen Beat” magazine with Scott Baio on the cover.
Well, darn it. I’ve come to the end of this special column that I wrote for Ella. I didn’t say half the things I wanted to say. I’ve never been very good under pressure.
Still, if you’re reading this, I want you to know something, all kidding aside. You deserve to have a happy birthday, Ella. Lord knows, you’ve been through enough this year.
I know this probably doesn’t mean much coming from someone like me, but when you blow out your candles, I hope you remember that some guy in Podunk, Florida, is sincerely wishing you the best year of your life.
May you make it through this self-quarantine with your sanity and your health. And when it’s over, maybe one day we’ll meet, and I can hug you in person.
Just as long as you can guarantee that I won’t catch a case of the hormones.