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Entry date: 9-26-2022 - Polka Dot Pad part 1 - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I opened the can of worms yesterday. I have to write about the Polka Dot Pad today. It might take a couple of days and, as usual, forgive me if I get things out of order chronologically. At least one person who lived there will let me know if I am accurate or not.

I wrote about this a bit when I went through the places I have lived back in the spring so there will be a bit of redundancy in this, but not much. The tale of the Polka Dot Pad is really a life changing thing for me. It burned bright, kind of like when you burn magnesium, but didn’t last as long as its legacy has for my family of friends.

Jeff and I really met on the Labor Day 1987 trip to Rocky Point in Mexico that Mike and I took. We sort of new each other in high school but only because we had some mutual friends. We bonded, though, at the beach and the bars on that weekend and the start of a long and really important friendship for me began.

After I got home from my army stint, I initially moved in with Brian and that lasted a month. I will chronicle that episode from my life at some point, but for now, I will leave it alone. I realize this is almost exactly what I wrote in back in March or April, but I really have to wrap my brain around that one before I put it out there.

Once that episode was behind me, I began to reintegrate with other friends, true friends (not that Brian wasn’t, but we weren’t good for each other for awhile after living together). One night I ended up hanging out with my friend, Teresa, and a few other people and Jeff and I reconnected. He mentioned he was living with some friends from work over near 48th Street and McDowell and I should come hang out.

At the time, I was dating a woman named Suzi and she took up a lot of my time, but we started going over to Jeff’s apartment a night or two per week and I got to know Matt, Jeff’s roommate, and a cast of other characters that would soon be a huge part of my life. I liked those guys a lot and we had a lot of fun. There was another roommate that lived with them named Darrel, I think, and they liked tormenting him. When that fell apart, Jeff, Matt, and Andy (now Drew…you might remember him from the Pinky story), decided to get a place at Hopi Tree apartments closer to the corner of 48th and McDowell than their previous place.

By this time, I was hanging out with them four or five nights a week, it seemed. I certainly had a great time. There was a lot of drinking happening, but Jeff and I were 18 years old, Matt was 20, and Andy/Drew was 21. It’s what we did.

By the time Easter 1988 rolled around, I was living on the couch. Mom had booted me for not a whole lot from the time I moved in with her in Mid-November 1987, to April. During the five months I lived with my mother, my days mostly consisted of me hanging out with my friends, brokering deals to keep a little cash in my pocket, and playing gin with Ben. I think at one point, Ben and I had a gin game going where our scores were in the five digits.

I can understand why my mom got sick of it. Some of the people who would come over were not the best people and I was in party mode. My biggest concerns were getting beer, spending time with Suzi, and avoiding any type of responsibility. When she insisted that I get a job, I finally complied, but the Pointe had the gall to expect me to work on Easter weekend and I wanted to go to Mexico. My mom said if I went, I would need a new place to live when I got back. That was that.

I didn’t have a ton of belongings in those days. I had my clothes and couple items from my bedroom, but that stuff was allowed to stay with my mom since she was using it. I packed up what I needed, and it fit into part of the linen closet in the hallway of the Polka Dot Pad. The living room was now my bedroom, and the couch was my bed.

So much for any privacy or sleeping when people were over which was practically every night. I didn’t mind because, again, I was 18. I had a pretty good motor in those days for staying up late and such. I was also used to sleeping on a couch because that’s where I slept when I was at my mom’s if she wasn’t out for the night, which was often.

Our apartment was on the bottom floor which meant that it was set down a bit below the ground level of the parking lot. We were near the pool and there were two units above us. One of the interesting things about Hopi Tree apartments is that barely anyone lived there. It was probably a forty to fifty unit complex and maybe ten were occupied when I moved in.

I don’t know if we ever really knew why this was. I always thought maybe they were trying to sell it or something. It wasn’t old and the apartments weren’t bad at all, but it was mostly vacant. I don’t remember what my share of the rent was supposed to be, but it was super cheap and the guys helped me get a job with them at Pizza Hut’s delivery call center.

The call center was located on the northeast corner of 48th and McDowell, so it was just a couple minutes by skateboard to get there. I think I got paid something like $5/hour but it was enough to buy Milwaukee’s Best and on pay day, Jeff and I would often splurge and go to Food City for some ground beef to make burritos with or sometimes even some broccoli and cauliflower. Most of the time, we ate Ramen or got coupons for free pizza.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

See you tomorrow.

This what the place looks like now. It was definitely not these colors in 1988. Our apartment would have been about three buildings down from this vantage point. By where the parking lot ends.

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