Hangin' With Simone (Growing Up in Encinitas, California - part II)

 

When I was in high school, a favorite hangout for me and my friends was the Bob’s Big Boy on Encinitas Boulevard. Encinitas didn’t have coffeehouses in the 80s and Bob’s was a place where you could go at night and spend a lot of time without spending a lot of money. There was a waitress there-I’ll call her Simone-who worked nights and who I had a crush on. She was dark-haired, curvy and sarcastic. She looked something like Natalie Wood but without the bubbliness. She had a dry sense of humor and she didn’t smile too much. When she did smile, it came on fast & full like blinds yanked open to the daylight. Then she’d shut it off again just as abruptly in a way that sometimes left you feeling rebuked for thinking that you’d actually pleased her in some way. She messed with my mind…but I liked it. I was a 17-year-old kid and she, at the worldly age of 19, was a woman. I used to go to Bob’s with the guys in my band and we’d ask to sit in her section. We were some lady-killers, I tell ya; three scrawny guys who lived at home with our parents and who were still in high school. Simone was on her own in the world and living with a roommate in downtown Encinitas. She used to tease me by saying things like, “So why don’t you wanna go out with me?” in a way that was more accusatory than it was inviting. The truth is I just didn’t know how to go out with her. My course of action instead was to leave absurdly large tips and then watch from the bushes outside as she collected the money from the table. One night, in the summer of ‘85, I was at Bob’s with a few of my friends and Simone was waiting our table. I don’t remember how it came up, but at one point she told me that she’d be getting off her shift at 2:30 in the morning and could I come by and pick her up? Huh?!!! She told me that there were these two guys she knew who always showed up after work to go drinking with her but she didn’t want to go with them tonight and she’d rather “hang out” with me instead. The invitation was vague, but it was too compelling to decline. For the next few hours I was a hero to my friends. Don's gonna “hang out” all night with Simone! They killed time with me by going to a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show up in Carlsbad. Before the movie I found a pay phone and called home to say that I wouldn’t be in until morning. I don’t remember being given permission exactly, but neither do I remember being told that I couldn’t. After the movie, I drove us back to Bob’s to let my friends off at the other car we’d left there. To my unpleasant surprise, the two guys that Simone had told me about were already there, standing next to a Mustang in the parking lot and waiting for her. These guys weren’t like me. They were older and harder. And they had beer. They stated their intentions: “We’re gonna party with Simone.” I was feeling pretty committed at this point and I figured that Simone was just going to have to explain to them when she came out that there’d been a little change of plans. (I wasn’t gonna tell ‘em that myself!) I bid my friends farewell and they drove away. When Simone finally came out she wasn’t firm about her intention to spend the night with me instead of them. After some awkward negotiations, we all agreed that we’d go to the new park up on the hill by Vulcan Ave & D Street and “party” there. I took my car, a ’74 Javelin, and Simone rode with them. Following their Mustang down Encinitas Boulevard, I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw that my friends in the other car were following me. They hadn’t gone home after all but instead had stuck around to make sure I didn’t “get thrashed,” as they would later explain. Good to know that if these two dudes tried to dispose of me at least my loyal friends were willing to die for the cause as well. We parked our cars and walked up a hill to a little semi-circle of cement benches in the park overlooking downtown Encinitas. Still in her brown polyester Big Boy uniform, Simone took a pack of unfiltered Marlboros from her purse while the guys broke out the beer. I didn’t like the taste of beer back then and I wasn’t a smoker, so I declined both. The tension eased as it soon became clear that these guys were pretty harmless. My defenders-in-hiding must have determined that as well because after a while I stopped seeing their car circle by on D Street. We stayed up there in the dark for quite a while but I don’t remember any of the conversation at all. I probably just listened, mostly, as they drank, smoked and shot the s#!t. In the end, nothing much happened. Bottom line was I didn’t get any time alone with Simone after all. While it was still dark, we went down to Alberto’s for some Mexican food. Simone’s roommate Judy had joined us somewhere along the way, and when the sky finally started to get light, we all headed down to the beach at D Street. It was there at the beach that a vivid memory was formed out of a seemingly insignificant act. It’s like this little film in my mind of just a few seconds in time: A Bob’s Big Boy uniform discarded on the sand next to me, and this 19-year-old woman in a T-shirt plunging into the ocean alone at dawn. While it was happening, this moment of watching Simone in the surf while I sat on the sand next to her clothes seemed to fall way short of the great conquest that I’d hoped for that night. Little did I suspect that this scene would stick with me over so many years, not only as one of my favorite memories of growing up in Encinitas, but also as a perfect portrait of Simone; in the moment, on her own, and out of reach. Postscript That Bob’s Big Boy is now a Coco’s. Alberto’s is now Filiberto’s…and may have even been Roberto’s at the time. I have no idea where Simone is now.

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