Lori Colston-Noyola. She was an odd spirit that never quite fit in and always stood out. Our friendship was uniquely resilient because she would disappear for days, weeks, months, and even years on end, only to resurface briefly with extraordinary stories of her life in the fast lane. She mailed this hand-drawn card to me years ago and it was the perfect reflection of her emotional and artistic personality. Sadly, Lori passed away quietly in her sleep on April 15, 2011. Even though she fought a lifetime of demons, she never gave up hope of a happier tomorrow.
In 1993 I was employed by Anchor Coin Gaming Company (now defunct) and worked swing shift (3pm-11pm) in the money vault. I mostly worked all alone except when a service technician’s shift ended and I collected and counted their daily cash banks. It was a difficult job that required heavy lifting and tedious hours spent calculating spread sheets. I was the money guy. All cash transaction began and ended with me.
Each night, before I closed the vault, all currency had to be counted and locked away in a large safe that was located in a separate room we also used for coin storage. There were three alarms to activate: the coin room, the vault, and the main building. Once the alarms were set, I was free to leave the property. Unfortunately, Anchor Coin did not have a security guard on staff to monitor suspicious activity and that is how my nightmare began.
One night, as I walked across Anchor’s dimly lit parking lot after my shift ended, two individuals wearing American President Halloween masks and brandishing firearms approached me from behind. One of the men pointed a gun at the back of my head and demanded entry into the building. They wanted the money in the vault….ALL OF IT!
Luckily, I was not alone that night because I had offered a service technician a ride home. It was a good thing he was there because the new “emergency” alarm code for the main building, given to me that morning, was invalid and my co-worker quickly jumped in and used his code instead. The new code was supposed to notify the police of an emergency if we added a few extra numbers to our normal alarm code sequence.
From there it was a typical robbery. I was forced to deactivate two more alarms and open the cash vault. Once the thieves gained access, they forced us to lie face down on the floor while they loaded up their bags with cash. The thugs even took money right out of our wallets! After that, they tied our hands to our face with duck tape and lead us into a nearby bathroom, locked the door and fled the scene.
We were lucky to be alive. The worst moment of that night came when I was lying on the floor, gun pointed at my head, wondering if I was about to be shot and killed. It was a horrible feeling of helplessness and fear. I spent many months after that incident looking over my shoulder for suspicious strangers. The culprits were eventually caught and it turned out to be an inside job by an employee, who recruited two teenagers to carry out the robbery.
The entire incident infuriated me (including all the blame given and denied between my bosses) and I refused to return to work until they hired an armed security team to protect us. Shortly after the incident, I sketched this drawing depicting Anchor Coin as a beacon for would-be criminals. I hung it in the breakroom until the trial was over and those involved were convicted.
I love my friend Anita Kim Klipfel (aka Carlotta Cream, Bubbles, Nit-Nit, or any combination of the three.) They say birds of a feather flock together and in some ways that was true with Anita and me. We met in 1979 as shy and artistic high school kids. That created our bond and everything else fell into place as we became inseparable best friends.
Memories create themselves as we share life experiences with our friends. Those memories then become embarrassing stories that are retold at parties and reunions, year after year, until old age wipes the mental hard-drive clean. One such story that Anita and I share is the Turtle kidnapping fiasco. Well, I prefer to call it an unauthorized adoption, but in the end it was me who suffered the most for getting involved with that little reptile in the first place
I don’t remember the exact year this tale began, but I do know we were new adults and thought a road trip to the Laughlin, Nevada casinos would be a great way to spread our wings and have some fun. We were dressed in our 1980’s mod hip couple outfits, me wearing tight white pants and Anita wearing sexy black elf boots with five-inch heels. Our long hair blew all over the place as we drove with the windows open in my newly polished 1979 metallic blue Datsun 310GX. At that moment in time we were two of the coolest shy kids in the world. So we thought.
About half way through our trip the highway passed over a mountain range that transformed the road into a steep and twisty roller coaster ride. Rocky hills on one side and death-defying cliffs on the other. Suddenly we spotted a large rock in the middle of the road. I quickly maneuvered the Datson around the object using my youthful reflexes and stopped on the shoulder of the road. To our surprise it wasn’t a rock at all. It was a Desert Tortoise.
Of course we had to save it from the oncoming vehicles, so I jumped out of the car and grabbed it. Whew…not only did we save a life, we risked our own lives by rescuing it. Feeling very proud of our accomplishment we happily continued on our journey, singing, laughing, talking, or whatever young mod hip 1980’s youth did.
Once in Laughlin, ready to party, we decided to leave the turtle in the car where it could enjoy the comfort and safety of its new surroundings. As a gesture of reassurance that we’d return, I picked up our new friend and rubbed its head gently with my fingertip and in return it pissed all over my tight white pants.
Looking back, I should have just drove over it.
Little mementos mean so much more as the years and decades pass by. I met Jamie shortly after graduating High School and we hit it off instantly. I was fascinated by her English accent, which was as fake as George Michael’s straightness, but her hilarious sense of humor and warm personality kept me coming back for more.
The 1980’s were great years because we were new adults and still believed our dreams would come true. Life is exciting when every experience is a new one and Jamie and I certainly shared a few.
Like the time we drove up to Mt. Charleston at 1:00am and got scared by a drunk, bruised and bloody guy running out of the forest seeking help because he rolled his car off the road. Or the time Jamie left me for dead in the hallway of my house because we drank a bottle of tequila so fast I got sick and passed out. But mostly, the late night hours we spent sitting in my car, smoking pot, listening to music and talking were some of the finest hours of my youth.
Jamie is part of my spirit and no matter the distance or time between us, we always seem to pick up where we left off, making new memories and having new conversations that always leave me better than I was before (with the exception of the tequila incident.)
To sum up our friendship, it all comes back to this story; Once upon a time, on a sunny 1980’s afternoon while out driving around town, we stopped at a street light and a car pulled up beside us. The male driver rolled down his window and motioned to get Jamie’s attention. When she looked over at him he said, “Baby, you is QUALIFIED to get in this car!”
Memories are strange. What causes our brain to hold on to certain moments and not others? There must be a connection between our emotions and our willingness to remember or forget snippets from the past. Some memories are significant as they mark milestones and events in our lives and others are seemingly insignificant as they are nothing more than passing minutes, yet we remember them anyway.
When I was twenty-four, I worked for a gaming company in Las Vegas. My job was to collect money from slot machines that were installed in bars and grocery stores all across town. It was a hard and dangerous job and took me to many unsavory parts of town.
One afternoon, while I smoked a cigarette outside of a neighborhood bar and waited for my partner to finish the money count, a woman named Angel approached me. She smiled and asked if I liked living in Las Vegas and then proceeded to tell me the story of how and why she moved to the desert. I offered her a cigarette and we continued our interesting conversation about hopes and dreams. The cigarettes eventually burned themselves out and she thanked me for my sincere interest in her thoughts, handed me a business card and invited me to share another conversation if I was in the area again.
Angel was a prostitute, although she never came out and said so. I knew and didn’t care. She was a person trying to make her way in the world, just like me and for that she deserved respect. I’ve kept that business card for all these years and have often wondered what became of her. Statistically, her life was probably cut short due to substance abuse and lifestyle, but I’ve held onto the hope she somehow managed to escape. If she did not, at least I am one person in the world who thought enough about her to keep that stained business card and remember a moment in her life.
Way back in 1980, long before Twitter and Facebook and Email, there was something called a letter. It was a handwritten message sent across the miles in an envelope addressed to the actual home of the recipient. In this paper package you could also find a real photograph slipped in between a neatly folded piece of decorative stationary that would contain a message, penned in ink or pencil, especially for you. This is one such historic document.
What I found most interesting about this letter, aside from the sweet memory of being so young, was Jean’s mention of the famous MGM Grand Hotel fire of 1980 in Las Vegas. I remember that chilly November morning well because I was walking to school through an open patch of desert and could see the smoke and flames clearly in the distance. What a tragic start to that day. You can read more about the fire HERE.
This comic strip created quite a stir when it was first posted to social media back in 2009. (Originally it was presented in a video format with voice-over narration.) The big controversy came from a Bi-Polar woman named Jane who believed the content was highly offensive and demanded we remove the video and issue an apology. Of course we refused and that marked our first experience with internet haters. Needless to say, we’ve come a long way since this silly little strip, but due to its significance in teaching us how to survive an Internet beat down, I thought it worthy of having a permanent home on this blog.
FOOTNOTE – Before this comic strip was ever posted to social media, I ran it by my Bi-Polar sister who thought it was truthful and humorous. If anything, this strip is a warning of consequences for Bi-Polar people who do not take the medication prescribed to them by healthcare professionals.
Just another typical conversation with Gloria about hookers, horse parts and old souls. TIP OF THE DAY – Friendship is the best fuel for the soul, I recommend you keep your tank full.