Growing Up in Alameda: Who’s that drunk on the diving board?

Growing Up in Alameda: Who’s that drunk on the diving board?

Dave LeMoine

Ben had fished a 14-foot-long, 12-inch wide piece of driftwood out of the estuary and decided to secure it to the end of the pier as a homemade diving board. Depending on the tide, it could be 12 or 14 feet above the water. Too cool!

The board was much different from a normal diving board. When a 180-pound-boy hit the end of it, the spring was slower and deeper, but it would catapult us higher and farther than we expected. After the initial test flights and wipeouts, we got the hang of it, and could fly out into deep water, arms spread wide.

Some of the minor problems we learned about: low tide, mud bottom, drifting logs, the Chiquita tied to the float below, and the odd droppings from seagulls overhead.

One Sunday, Ben and Joanie had friends arrive by water in their cabin cruiser. They spent the day laughing, eating and towing us kids, as usual, behind the Chiquita. It was such a nice evening they decided to cruise the San Francisco Bay at sunset, which left maybe five or six of us starving, trustworthy boys behind stuffing ourselves with barbecue, macaroni and potato salads, chips and dip, and whatever else we could find.

Frank had a morning paper route at the time and would pick up and fold his papers at the Alameda Hotel. Somehow he had acquired a quart of Scotch whiskey.

“Hmmm,” we thought, “let’s have a chug-a-lug contest!”

Being a non-drinker, I took one taste and that was enough. The bottle was handed around and around until it was empty. With all the food and alcohol, stomachs were a little upset, but not Dean’s … he was bombed and began running around doing crazy antics.

We started chasing him for fear that he would attract the neighbors’ attention – they would surely alert “gentle but fearsome Ben” and there would be repercussions.

Red Dog finally cornered Dean on the end of the diving board, but couldn’t get him to come off. So Red, being a little drunk himself, retrieved his dad’s handsaw and threatened to cut the board. Dean just kept laughing and taunting the Dog.

After maybe ten minutes of this interchange, we were now positive that the neighbors were alerted. Dean didn’t quit, so Red followed through on his threat. He sawed clear through the board and Dean, fully clothed while still hugging the board, had to be dragged from the water.

“Now what?” we asked ourselves.

As Dean was still drunk, I volunteered to drive him home. Dripping wet, I sat him in my front seat and headed for the barn. At the time, my Chevy had no muffler, so I was avoiding cops if possible. I headed down High Street, at 10 o’clock on a Sunday evening, and had only one obstacle to get through: the stop sign at High and Encinal, where police would sometimes sit.

As I approached, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my worst fear: a black and white, and me in my well-known maroon and prime, louvered hood, and gold moon hubcapped Chevy, with straight pipes and a wet, drunk passenger.

I’m doomed.

I took off from the stop sign just sure the officer with X-ray eyes could see the sweat beading up on my forehead and hear my respiration accelerating toward hyperventilation. One block away from the stop, my car sounded like a diesel truck, but there was no sign of the police. Two blocks away, car headlights appeared in my mirror; three blocks away, my car illuminated in the most terrifying red glow. I had no breath mints and a car that smelled like a brewery.

I looked over at a dripping Dean, who now seemed to be in a stupor, staring at the floorboards with no reaction to the lights at all. I’m dead!

I pulled over to the curb and got out quickly, walking to the rear of my car. Just maybe the cop didn’t notice Dean. Yeah, right.

Officer Merritt walked up to me, checked my eyes with his flashlight and said, “Hi, Dave … kind of loud. Where are you headed?”

“Home, officer,” I replied, with a sheepish grin on my face.

“Who’s in the car?” he asked.

Car? What car? “Oh, just a friend. We’re on the way home.”

He walked over to the passenger door and shined his light in Dean’s face; Dean didn’t move. He just kept staring at his feet. The officer opened the door and said, “Please step out of the car.”

As my life flashed before me, Dean seemed to come to life but, instead of stepping out, he slid across to the driver’s side, stepped out, staggered around the car past me and tripped on the curb face-down at the feet of the cop who, at this point, seemed to be about seven feet tall. Have I mentioned, I’m dead? I must think fast.

“Officer, we were at a friend’s house and Dean showed up drunk! Being a good friend, I’m taking him home,” I said.

“Why is he wet?” Officer Merritt asked.

“Uh, he was drunk when I saw him walking down the street and, on the way home, I had to stop at my friend’s house, you know, the Randolph’s,” I said. “While there, Dean fell off the pier and we had to fish him out. What could I do but try to take him home?”

Oh, that was dumb; I just incriminated Gentle Ben and Joanie while they’re still enjoying a night on the bay.

“Honest, officer! I haven’t been drinking!” I added. “Please let me take him home. I promise you won’t see us again tonight.”

To my great surprise, he bought the story, let us go with a warning, and even forgot the loud pipe ticket, though he was probably laughing all the way back to the station. I quickly and carefully drove Dean to his house, opened the car door and watched him wobble up the driveway thinking to myself, Hope he makes it by his dad. Not likely, but maybe he will live after all. No more whiskey! S- - - happens.

Next week: The question is, could Dave be a werewolf?
Last week: Paradise on the Estuary