Tales From the End of the Bus Line is a long-distance collaboration between daughter/father Megan and Bill Broughton to collect the many adventures of Bill’s young adulthood in Van Nuys, California. Installments (and photos that should or shouldn’t see the light of day, if we’re lucky) will be penned by the two of them.
Steve was another pressman at Delta who worked with Bob and me. He was a character of sorts, smaller than the two us by six inches or so, but making up for it with tremendous chutzpah. He once took ten dollars off both of us on a bet over a bindery girl. Karina was a six feet tall, very cute blonde surfer type from Manhattan Beach who for God knows what reason wound up working at Delta in Van Nuys (no one could ever figure that one out). She was only eighteen, but no one realized it and honest to God you wouldn’t have either. Steve, on a dare, bet he could lick the back of her neck, even though he was about 5’6”. Bob and I, like idiots, agreed to the bet, figuring there was no way he would do it. We shook on it, and he just turned around and walked right up behind her (she always wore her hair tied up to keep it out of the machinery), stood on his tiptoes and licked the back of her neck. For the record she was not working on any machine at the time, just standing there talking to the other bindery girls. She let out a shriek and whirled around, then stared at him, dumbfounded. He smiled disarmingly, he was very good at that, walked back to us and collected the money.
According to the other Bindery girls Karina was very upset about the fact we had placed a bet on this, but Bob explained to them we were, after all, not betting on her, we were betting on Steve. This smoothed things over, a little anyway. After a few days she was able to laugh about it, but made sure she was facing us when she did. She managed to get us back by bringing her sister into work one night. Everyone thought they were twins, because they were the same height and looked so much alike. After half the guys in the shop hit on her sister, (I was in the half that didn’t) Karina explained this was not her twin but actually her baby sister who was only twelve years old (again, I swear you would not have known). Karina laughed when all those guys scattered like so many cockroaches when you hit the light switch.
Steve lived up above Sherman Way near me in Van Nuys, on the other side of the 405, in a converted garage. Sometimes when garages get made over into living spaces they look really nice. Doors and windows are added, little niches are put in, maybe a Murphy bed and a pull out dinette area that doubles as God knows what else, making the whole damn thing look like the three bears cottage from Goldilocks or something. This was not the case here; this was just someone’s garage, on a dead end street that backed up to the embankment of the 405 Freeway. It was about as basic a space as it gets. Still, and I don’t know why, it had some kind of appeal. This was thirty-five years before all this “less is more” tiny house stuff started, and maybe he was just way ahead of the curve, but he made it work for him. It was his own space and he was comfortable in it – what more does a guy need? Well, OK sure, meat and potatoes and beer, but he would cash his check on Thursday and get that, buying a Sirloin every payday at the Hughes like clockwork, saying that one day of the week at least he would eat healthy. He didn’t even come out for a drink those days (we were all still working nights at the time).
This probably would’ve continued a good long time, but he met someone. Not just anyone, but that special someone you’re supposed to meet, only you may not know it at the time. In Steve’s case this was Suni, and he knew it pretty much instantly. It would not be exaggerating to say you would not think of them as the perfect match. They came from different backgrounds, and did not have much in common that I was aware of. Her dad was a Serviceman, in the Air Force, I think, but anyway Suni had grown up living pretty much all over the world and seen lots of things. Steve had grown up in the San Fernando Valley and gotten into printing straight out of High School.
She was African American, about five foot ten, tall and willowy, with a model’s grace and beautiful smile, well educated and self-assured. He’s the nice guy in the middle of the photo above, and that pretty much is the whole picture. Bob is the guy on the left by the way.
I have had lots of people ask me over the years what brings and holds two people together. My standard answer today is the same one that my Mother told me long ago: “Well, who knows? Anyway, it’s none of my business.” But she also used to say that no one can tell what another person sees in someone. If you could see in them what their partner sees in them, then you would probably be with that person. Anyway, Steve and Suni saw that specialness in each other, and both had the sense to acknowledge it.
Not that she didn’t make some changes… She took the garage in hand, laid out her plans for it, and put him to work. One weekend it looked like it always had, disaster central. The next Sunday I rode over to find planks on sawhorses being planed, sanded and painted, a tiny kitchenette framed in with a window cut out over the sink, and a trellis over the side door for climbing roses. Paint cans were everywhere. In the middle of all this chaos stood Suni in shorts and tank top, paint roller in hand, finishing off a new ceiling. I looked about at the transformation, and said to her “You made all this happen?” She just nodded. “Then he really needs to hold onto you” I continued, “I think you’re good for him.” She just grinned and finished painting a corner.
He did hang onto her, and she to him. Half the pressroom was at the wedding. They made some beautiful children together, (who probably have made them grandparents by now) and later moved away, to Arizona I think.
I’m not quite sure what to say, other than that this photo made calculated appearances throughout my childhood. Each instance was fairly similar. Mom would whip it out, Georgia and I would delightedly shriek at the disgusting chest hair, dad would cringe and avert his eyes, crying, “there’s no need!,” then hold it tenderly and offer new stories about Bob Sawicki, who quickly became my model for a best friend: certifiably insane but reportedly only with you.
Having heard this week’s story, it’s a funny turn of events to now associate the photo with something other than youthful shenanigans – to see in it also the age at which the people in your life begin venturing forward into the next stage. The first few times friends get engaged or have babies, you feel pretty thrown off, maybe even put off, and it’s exciting and thrilling but also bizarre and nonsensical, and you wonder how it could possibly already be the time. There’s a middle phase where you wish everyone would just stop already and calm down, and I have a feeling there’s a time beyond that where it may feel nothing but heartwarming and joyful. Or at least I hope that’s out there, because this is starting to feel like an endless stream of announcements designed expressly for inciting vague panic.
In any case, when Dad agreed to this series, I announced, “Oh by the way, you’ll need a photo every week. And that one is being featured.” Then quickly left the room.