The First Wife


Now I never told you the story of how I met my first wife. It would never have happened if it hadn't been for a series of adventures and events that led her to me. In fact we never would have met hadn't it been for my good buddies, Charley Muir and Paul Scott who joined me in opening our first business in Culver City.

All of us had been well trained by the RCA Television Service Company in Hollywood, California when we decided it was time to strike out on our own and become the captains of industry that we knew we were. We were sure we would make "lots of money," learn lots of "life lessons" and meet lots of women along the way. Well, I thought I would meet lots of women anyway, because Charley was already married and Paul had a girlfriend. The only things above that did happen was, I met my first wife and we did learn lots of "life lessons." Unfortunately, not the good kind and the most important one being that partnerships, among friends, almost always fail.

Well, this is how it all began. We pulled what little money we had and rented an old building in the heart of the junk food district of Culver City. We were aware of the business term, "Location, Location, Location," but interpreted it to mean, being in close proximity to fast food restaurants. You know, we were just thinking, "lunch." And so we found a cheap old building that was once a hamburger stand that was located just down the street from the not as yet famous, Titos Tacos, which was right next to Johnny's Pastrami and right across the street from our store was a Fosters Ice Cream stand which made a great charbroiled burger and also a pretty good taquito. And for breakfast the Big Donut was just a block away, Krispy Kream, pfft!

With food thus secured and within easy reach we jack hammered out the old cement counter for more space to put our workbenches and then hung our shingle outside. Paul was living at home, I was living on my boat in Marina Del Ray but Charley had a wife and new baby to feed and was the only one who had some major rent to pay. He also had a secret agreement with the wife that he had to make X-amount of dough in X-amount of months and therein lied our undoing. Because we had no idea how to make that much money in that little time.

Well, we all had our own ideas about things, Charley wanted to spend money on some exotic, but, grant him, "fun," new electronic service equipment, I wanted to re-side the building in old cedar and make fancy signs for the roof and Paul just wanted to make money. And Paul needed to make money because he was still living at home and had the kind of girlfriend that would not be around long if he didn't, and well, she wasn't.

And so before too long my partners had parted ways with me with everything but our friendship and I had the place to myself. Now I could do things my way and my way was the artist's way. Yes that old hamburger stand had the skeleton of a fine architectural structure, I thought, just waiting for me to grab it by the scruff of it's neck, coax it out and show it off in a new light. A new covering of cedar lumber would take care of it and thus was born a TV and Car radio shop that would much more importantly support and be my first art studio. I hung some handsomely shaped hand made cedar signs around the rim of the upper roof, had a mural of a buffalo listening to a Victrola painted on one side of the upper sign and on the other side I had painted two black birds, with a thought bubble that said, "Quack." I also installed a spotlight that slowly scanned back and forth on the sign, like a searchlight.

The open and close sign was also shaped like a bird and when you pulled a lever his wings went up reveling "Open" and when down said, "Closed."

I re-named the place Frodies Place after one of my art works, "The Frodis." The Frodis was the first found object sculpture I made when I was fourteen and when you pressed a button, an oil derrick contraption moved up and down and an eyeball opened up and the piece looked out at you. So I placed him right near the front door so when you walked in he would do his maneuver every time someone arrived.

Well, the new siding on the building attracted some new people in my life, among them my very first employee, Dave Bayliss. And before long I met one of Daves, roommates, Lee Ray who became my first secretary.

Now Lee Ray was from Northern California, Willits to be exact. She had beautiful long brown hair that draped over her thin yet shapely body and a pretty face. She was a small town girl and living in the big city of Culver City did not fit her all that well. But she was really nice to be around. Like for instance, Whenever anyone had a problem she would sit down and calmly roll herself a cigarette. She had a whole procedure she went through, first opening her can of Finskaaren Perle Shag (an imported tobacco from Denmark), getting out a chocolate flavored rolling paper, gently laying the tobacco in it, rolling it on her thigh and then neatly cutting the excess off with a pair of scissors. Well by the time she was done rolling a cigarette she would have a really good solution to the problem at hand. When I first saw this I thought someone with this ability would make someone a good wife someday. My second thought was, she would make "me" a very good wife. And so she did.

We got married on the beach in Rosarita Mexico at a friends house who had a vacation home down there over looking the ocean. And on the way back home, we stopped in San Diego where we had dinner and latter that evening she got a little butterfly tattoo on her thigh. I thought, that little butterfly is going to have a lot of cigarettes rolled over it.

But the other thing I really loved about her was her sense of decorating. We moved into the back of the TV shop and with an old foot pedal sewing machine she proceeded to make curtains and turn the back of the store into a home. She had plants everywhere and people would come in just to see them. She grew a Charley plant and placed it just across from the Frodis and when people walked in they didn't notice the Frodis anymore, even though he was looking at them. I think the Frodis got a little mad. We got a puppy who got along well with her cat, the cat made sure of that, and every meal we would eat out because we didn't have a kitchen. But being in the heart of the Culver City junk food district, meals were not a problem.

Since I like trains she bought me a train set for my birthday, which we decided to install around the upper wall of the TV shop. We invited all our friends over for a train party, split up into women versus men teams and proceeded to install it. The women won, although to be fair, us men had a lot more 6-foot trestle bridges to build… at least that was our excuse. Afterwards, of course we had a fine meal at Tito's Tacos.

And it was really nice living there with her, but she wanted to go back to Willits and have babies. We agreed on turning an old Step Van into a camper to travel in and live in when we got to Willits. So I proceeded to make a camper out of an old 51 Chevy Laura Scutters potato chip truck. It was nice building that Camper; I could have built it forever. It also became a work of art. I raised the roof and installed a loft bed with stained glass windows, installed a real wood burning pot belly stove and Lee Ray made all of the curtains and hung our pots and pans on the wood wall behind the stove and held them in place with some macramé' she put together. We also made macramé' door handles for all the cupboards and covered the ceiling with a peach covered cloud like cloth. It was really quite cozy.

But as I finished it I realized I did not want to leave my art studio and go off and have babies. She never realized that my art works were my babies. And she didn't want to stay and watch me make art…baby-less either. And, well, before long she was gone. At least I got to keep the dog!

It would be the next secretary/wife who pried me out of that studio and who brought a real, live, screaming baby into my life. But, that's another story.

The Frodis lives!
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