Society’s Child

It was scary starting a new school although I’d done it since changing first grades six times. My 8th grade class in Hoboken, Georgia consisted of 30 kids. We had different teachers for history, English and PE but we girls all moved down the hallways together, as did the boys. We played together at recess, swinging on the big truck tire, spinning around, boys tossing chestnuts at us girls.

Langley High was gigantic! It was built one year before I entered, so it was brand-new and filled with the shuffle of teenaged boys’ big shoes, girls’ laughter, bells ringing, teachers shouting “get to class!”

Dad dropped me off for my first day at LHS on his way to D.C. He had begun his new desk job with the USGS only a month before.

He let me choose the radio station on the way from Great Falls to McLean, a long distance down winding roads. I twisted the knob until a familiar song came on; one our Georgia PE teacher played while we girls did calisthenics :
“I Was Born to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder. As Dad drove down the windy highway, more soul songs played. Good station. I took out my new Saxon notebook & wrote down the call letters.

“You’ll do great!” my father shouted as a I slumped up the stairs toward Langley’s main doors.

My parents had taken me to meet the principal and get a tour around the new school back in August. He gave me the syllabus for World Civilization I (AP classes). He handed my parents a list of students’ names and phone numbers. These were kids whose parents agreed that they could be available to meet new students. In August, I’d met two nice girls, who had transferred from Catholic school to Langley. I hoped to see them in World Civ’.

I consulted my class schedule for the 40th time since getting it in the mail two weeks prior. My first class, hooray, was Art. I loved drawing, painting and making collages. My sister was a much better artist than I was but drawing relaxed me.

The map of LHS was confusing until a friendly boy who looked like one of the Kinks saw me fumbling around with it. He took the map out of my hands and said:

“Going to Art? So am I.” He reached out his hand to shake with me. I gave him the firm handshake Dad had taught me to do, so I’d seem confident, although I was shaking in my black flats.

“Mike Powell.”

“Dixie Elder.”

“Um, Dixie.” “What? Did you say Dixie!”

Eager to be seen as cute, I used the Southern accent perfected by my sister, brother & me when we lived in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida for years while Dad did topo for the USGS. It was fake but my accent sounded more interesting in that slow drawl.

“I love it! I’m Irish. I have a brother, he’s on the football team.”

Golly.” Now I sounded like Gomer Pyle. Red-faced, I looked down at the floor as we rushed through the crowds, toward Art. We got to the huge art room and a kind-faced woman teacher greeted us at the door.

“Hi there! I’m Miss Lintner, find a table. You’re going to enjoy my class this year.”

Langley Art Teachers

Mike and I sat down at a metal and linoleum table. We’d each brought sketch pads and art pencils and began arranging them in front of us.

Other students ambled in, most well acquainted with each other. Miss Lintner asked everyone to say his or her name & a few sentences about us. I said I’d just moved to the area from Georgia. All my classmates laughed with amused affection at my accent. Art class was great from Day One.

Toward Spring, we all began sketching, painting & making linoleum prints for the school-wide competition. Everyone, Freshmen to Seniors would have art examined by Miss Lintner, Mr. Tidwell and others on the Review Board. I was in a fever pitch, trying to come up with an interesting subject for my painting. I sketched & sketched for weeks. Then I showed Kathi my drawings.

“This one!” She pointed to the rough draft for “Society’s Child.” It was based on Janis Ian’s song “Society’s Child,” about a white girl lamenting her doomed romance with a black guy.

Langley only had two black students that year. At Hoboken High, we’d had No black students. In fact, one of my favorite teachers announced one hot day in 1965, “If they integrate this school, I will personally take each of them out back & scrub them in a washtub.”

When an Air Force “brat” girl & I gasped in shock, our teacher snapped,
“You think they smell nice? Ain’t none of ‘em got runnin’ water around here.”

My friend bravely stated, “that is because of prejudice!” I raised my hand in the air, made a fist & shouted, “Yeah!”

Of course, we were sent to the principal’s office. Our parents argued that we were using The First Amendment & that the time had come for equal rights. But we were in trouble with Mr. Gass & ridiculed by some of the boys. We girls stuck together. Girlfriends came up to us during recess & said things like:
“I agree with ya’ll but I was chicken to fuss at Mr. Gass.”

So here it was, Spring in Great Falls, Virginia. 1967! Time was a’wastin’!!

I went to the basement where Dad had set up a mini-art area for me. Light shone in through a slanting, pull-out window. There was a naked light bulb over my wooden easel. Like Dad, I never liked bright light. My father wore dark, reflecting sunglasses whenever he was outdoors. He said our Cherokee blood made us prefer night-time, when white men were afraid to go out into the woods. I just accepted his comments as Gospel Truth.

I set up a canvas Dad had kindly bought me for the competition. Usually, he said art supplies were “Too God-damned expensive.” He made me paint on slabs of wood or drywall. Even Mylar left over from one of his topo projects! How embarrassing!

Shakily, I began sketching the figures. I was horrible at drawing people but this idea had my brain on fire. It took me two hours to get the young man looking like he wasn’t floating in the air. He was supposed to be perched on a park bench.

Then I started drawing the girl, on his lap, facing him, staring into his big, brown eyes. Well, they would be brown once I mixed ebony black with burnt sienna. I scrabbled along happily until Mom called everyone to supper.

I worked on my painting for weeks before finally bringing it to Art class for Miss Lintner’s critique. We students set our paintings, drawings & linoleum prints up on easels but covered. As our teacher walked around the room, she complimented everyone’s work. “Wonderful use of color.” “Lovely neck on that horse.” “Strong lines in your linoleum print.”

She came to me. I was shivering & shaking, sweat streaming down my ribs. I hugged my skinny chest with bony arms to keep from running out of the room.

“Oh! My God!” shouted some of the students as our teacher pulled the cloth off my painting.

Society's Child sketch

this is the sketch I did for my painting. Ultra-Primitive/Amaturish

“Dixie—I don’t know what to say.” Miss Lintner stammered.

Mike stood up for me, “It’s ‘Society’s Child’.”

He got it! Without me even telling him about my project.

Kids crammed toward my easel. “You did Not paint that!!” Some laughed, others gasped, still others whispered “This is Crazy!”

“It’s crummy,” I said. “My idea looks better in my head.”

Pretty soon, students from out in the hallway crushed in through the doorway to Miss Lintner’s art class.

“That’s a Statement,” said a senior I admired. She nodded to me, as if to say “Right on, little sister.”

Miss Lintner clapped her hands together. “OK, everyone. It’s time to settle down. Dixie, if I could speak with you for a few minutes?” She led me into Mr. Tidwell’s supply area, an adjoining room with her art classroom.

“We need to figure something else for the competition. I want you to know that I agree with your sentiments. But this painting would cause a riot or a scandal or something. You are talented & have a real heart for what’s right. Perhaps you could come up with a lino’ print that has the same message but not quite as provocative? Linos are easier than acrylic paintings. It wouldn’t take you much time to finish one. The last one you did was excellent.”
My teacher was talking a mile a minute, trying to get her words in before the bell rang.

Face burning hot as my brain, I stared at the floor.

“OK, sorry.” Tears were in my eyes but Elders never cry. The bell rang. World Civ’ English next. Brother! I was so far behind in that class, it wasn’t even funny. I rushed out of the door, into the bustling hallway.

Mike rushed to catch up with me. “Dixie! What did she say?”

“I can’t enter that painting in the competition.”

“What? Not cool. I love it.”  

“Yours is only eight billions times better.”

Mike’s painting was a gloriously beautiful ocean sunset, done in difficult oils. He was gifted. It looked just like Ocean City in August, orange sun melting through transparent blue waves.

For a week, I sweated over a lino’ print. Sketch first. Scratch that one. Start over. Consult with Kathi. Then get to work in class. Finally, it was done. Miss Lintner took one look & said, “Oh, Dixie. That is absolutely wonderful.”

It was a print of two boys fishing on a pier. On was dark, the other tan due to carved lines flat & in relief. I’d pulled the prints onto ochre paper.

The card beneath that print in Langley’s lobby said:
“Sittin’ on th’ Dock O’ th’ Bay by Dixie Elder.” Another great song. It won 3rd prize in my category, Freshman Lino’ Print. I was ecstatic!

My sister clapped her hands, spun around & exclaimed, “You’re a genius! It doesn’t matter if you didn’t get First. That is such a cool print. Can I have it?”

I gave it to her on the spot. She kept it with her through many years & moves. Along with a copy of Andrew Wyeth’s “The Weed” which I painted in 10th grade, and art works she did in college, it was burned to ash in the Black Forest fire of 2013.

Kathi had passed away by then. But her husband, his new wife Pati & Kathi’s daughter Kerra lost many beautiful things in that fire, including priceless photo albums, classic books, a portrait of Pete done by his mother. Melted was Pete’s family silver which he’d inherited from his great-great-great Massachusetts grandmother. Pete’s sister later went hiking on the three acres of burnt out property. She found a huge pyroclastic remnant: family sterling had become an abstract art piece.

Neatnik Gypsies

Moving all over America (& into Mexico & Canada), we often stopped to camp for a day or two along the way. There weren’t always motels or boarding houses where Dad did his cartography for the USGS.

Mom & Dad were “neat freaks.” Dad taught us kids to wash dishes as soon as we could toddle. Camp washing was different than rental/boarding house or trailer sink washing. We kids knew cleaning was crucial.

Dad kept a microscope from University of Wyoming Biology class. He’d let us collect pond water, swabs from inside our mouths & spit (Bob’s, ew!) We got to help put the slides together & then took turns looking at all the bustling germs, magnified as huge as the monsters we’d seen at drive-in movies!

OK, pay attention now.” Dad had a temper but he was a great teacher, always going slowly, step-by-step and demonstrating each step.

Step one, get your containers—pot, pan or metal bucket. You need two: one for washing in, one for rinsing.

Step two, go to a source of clear water. You always want to camp near clear water.

Step three, fill your container.

Step four, set the container down in the coals left over from cooking your meal.

Step five, make sure that water boils. You can kill germs with boiling water.

Step six, put the bar of soap in & swish it around with a big spoon. The water is too hot to touch!

Step seven, dump in your utensils & cups, plates—everything. Let it sit about five minutes. Everything will be germ-free & the water will cool down enough to touch.

Step eight, get your dishrag. Rub some soap onto it. Scrub the silverware first, then dishes. Last, pots & pans. Drop each cleaned item into the second pot of boiling water. This will double kill germs. After that water cools, take everything out, one-by-one & dry it all. Put utensils in the silverware box dishes in the dish box & pots & pans in their box.

Mom kept wooden crates for everything. Labeled neatly with permanent marker on masking tape. Super organized gypsies!

Dad Dixie Dance bed
Dad teaches Dixie to dance on Miz Bonnie’s bed.
I wasn’t quite old enough to do dishes at campsites!

Counting Obsessively

1st day of school

Me, happy to be headed to the 2nd grade. Bob not sure about Kindergarten. He did well.

In the third grade, I began counting manically. I was eight years old and had attended eleven schools. There was no kindergarten when I was four years old. We lived on “the eastern shore” as Mom called it. Dad told me it was Chinquoteague Island, where the horse Misty lived. I loved that book and it wasn’t until I was twenty that Dad admitted we hadn’t lived on the island.

However, we’d taken ferry boats from the shore in North Carolina to an island for picnics. I could read pretty well, due to Mom reading stories to my brother and me. At one point, she demanded, “You learn to read! I don’t have time to sit and tell you stories over and over again.”

So before I started the first grade, I could read simple sentences like “cows eat grass.” Mom went to the principal of the tiny local school and convinced him that I’d do well in first grade. I was given a chance and excelled in the little school-house with small class populations.

We moved soon after that, to Florida. There, my mother and father argued that since I’d already begun the first grade, it would demolish my joy to be put back into kindergarten. The principal relented and I did very well, as I continued to do through until the second third grade in Ohio.

The first was in Indiana, my birth state. I loved the teacher and everything about school there. I was good at math (!!) and composition, deportment and my report card said “gets along well with others.” I got all “Es” for Excellent at that school.

So it was a shock to do poorly at my second third grade. The teacher was snappish. On every assignment, she wrote things like “failure to follow directions.” When required to sign one of my reports cards, Dad wrote “I do not think Dixie understood the assignments.”

Now I understand why I began my obsessive counting. It was a way to cope with failure in school, formerly a happy place for me.

I’d add up the numbers in a street address. 247 Meadow Lane was 2+4+7= 13. That was bad luck. But 434 Acorn Street was 11 which ended up as 1+1= 2. A good number. It meant that you had a friend. Two people.

I’d sit in class, counting how many steps the teacher took from her desk to the blackboard. As she was writing instructions in chalk, I’d figure out the calculations. Why six steps in the morning but four in the afternoon? Did that mean she was tired in the early hours but eager to get the day over nearer to three o’clock?

She’d call on me and I’d be lost in math.

Dixie! Did you even pay attention to what I asked?”

I’d look on the blackboard. Something in cursive about “use each kind of punctuation in a short story.” Quickly, I wrote in cursive “The good dog, a brown one; was chased by a fox. But Oh! Can foxes swim? No—I do not think so.”

The teach strode over, fourteen steps to my desk, and read my story for the entire class. She accentuated the punctuation marks. Laughter.

As I walked to the school each day, my head swam with numbers, laughter, strange instructions from the teacher. I was lost.

Decades later, I told my mother that I had clear memories of all my schools except for the third grade in Ohio.

That’s because of that asinine principal and your mean teacher.”

What do you mean?”

You were six years old, we’d moved to Ohio from Indiana. You’d done so well. All excellents on your report cards from all your schools. Six first grades. Three second grades and another third. I took you in, like always, to meet the principal. Your other principals had been so friendly. This one said ‘she’s going to have a lot of trouble keeping her grades up in My school. I hold students to the highest possible standards.’ You were so scared, you were shaking walking to your classroom.

You came home crying because the teacher had reprimanded you for holding your hand up too often. Two weeks later, the principal called me on the phone and said ‘I guess I should apologize. Your daughter is doing quite well here.’ I said ‘Apologize to Dixie!’”

I don’t recall an apology from either the principal or my teacher. But I have blocked out that entire school experience.

I was born to super OCD parents, both of them cleaning all the time and keeping everything ship-shape. Books arranged squarely. The entire house or trailer or motel room dusted, floors mopped every day, bathrooms so clean you could eat off the toilet (ew!) and all of us kids taught how to shine shoes and scrub counter-tops hygienically.

So of course, there is a familial tendancy toward OCD. Also, I’ve read the literature on the brain disorder, including this one.  “Hyperactivity in certain subcortical and cortical regions occurs in the brains of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. On the basis of imaging studies, Insel proposed that inappropriately increased activity in the head of the caudate nucleus inhibits globus pallidus fibers that ordinarily dampen thalamic activity. The resulting increase in thalamic activity produces increased activity in orbitofrontal cortex, which, via the cingulate gyrus, completes the circuit to the caudate and produces increased activity in the head of the caudate.” (Stanford Medicine Journal online)

But it was that scary, frowning principal that made me start counting as if my life depended it.

Married to the Mob/My Detectives

IBM Selectric II! YAY! I was the only typist for 12 detectives & the Lt. But the Head Secretary was sure I could excel.

She was a tall, beautiful, ebony-haired woman named Rose. She’d been the country’s first female race car driver. I admired her so much. We became work buddies & then off-hour pals.

All the detectives, Rose & I worked like fiends & partied like maniacs. 5 shots of tequila was de rigueur  for after-hours. At one point, after about 2 months of working at the PD, Rose clocked my typing. 120 wpm. Still not up to her 135 wpm!!

There were many intense hours spent at that place. Rapes, homicides–including a horrific child murder–robberies were daily events. I was in charge of typing up detectives’ reports, filing them, checking pawn shop receipts against theft reports, answering the phone non-stop. During one intense case, Rose clocked me at 52 calls per hour, while typing!

The strangest event was when Robert Redford’s daughter’s fiance was shot & killed. It was horrifying. The evidence all pointed to his room-mate, drug dealer Thayne Smika. He & Sid Wells were room-mates. Sid was an intern at a Denver news station. He was well-liked, eager to please. So (it was surmised by the cops) he took some of Thayne’s  cocaine to present at an after-hours news party. Not OK. Thayne was known for being erratic. He never got up, according to neighbors, before Noon. But on the day of the murder, people saw him up at dawn, throwing out trash.

The Lt. & his right-hand man, Dan, went to interview Thayne’s mother. She produced a gun. She told the officers, “he came home to do laundry. He spent an hour cleaning this gun.” But Smika disappeared.

During the fracas, reporters swarmed around the PD. I fielded calls from press, Sid’s family members, Shuana Redford & many witnesses. I forwarded calls to the Lt., the Sheriff’s Office, to the DA’s. Others, I put on hold & took messages.

One day, a caller said “It’s Robert Redford…” I took a deep breath. The guys were fond of playing tricks on me.

“Bullshit, is this Dan? I have too much to do to be bothering with your stupid jokes.” Silence. Then: “This IS Robert Redford & I demand to speak with whoever is in charge of the Sid Wells case.”

The Lt. was at my desk, “Hand that phone to me, Miss Elder.”
He spoke for 3 minutes, then tore me a new one.
I’ve never blushed that badly in my life.

“Am I fired?”

“Hell, no. We need your speed. Get typing!”

The next time Mr. Redford called, I apologized profusely.
“Well, we’re all upset. We just need to get this solved.”

Rose came upstairs one day & announced “Redford is going to be here next week. No one is to bother him. She shot me a harsh look. So when the Sheriff’s secretary called me to say, “Redford is in the house!” I sat at my typewriter, 120 wpm. Everyone else got a look at the harried actor.

He met with Sheriff Joe Pelle, the Lt., the Chief of Police & detectives on the case. Shauna dropped out of CU. The press hounded her at every turn. It was horrific. I hated paparazzi already but felt intense animosity toward them after that case.

My 30th birthday fell during that case. A beautiful bouquet of red roses was delivered to my desk. The card said “Thank you. R.” I never knew if the guys were kidding, wanting me to think Robert Redford had sent me roses. I didn’t ask, just savored the beautiful scent of the flowers as I speed typed away. One night, catching 3 or 4 hours’ sleep, I woke up & my hands were held up above my face. I was typing in my sleep!

After working sometimes 38 hours straight at the Detective Unit, I’d go dancing with John & other friends. We often went to the Hilton Harvest House. The 80s were great for music. We loved The Clash, The Pointer Sisters & I especially fell in love with Diana Ross’s “Upside Down.”

I had fallen upside down in love with a gorgeous, tall Irish detective. He had wavy, dark brown hair, Levi-blue eyes, long dark eyelashes. He was shy & hard-working. Dan was the Lt’s right-hand man. He never insisted on his reports being done first, as so many of the other detectives did. He’d just ask, in his soft voice:
“So, Dixie–do you think you could get time to do my report by tomorrow?”
Of course I would! My heart beating 200 mph, I’d say, “10-4!”

Dan & the Lt. were best friends on & off the job. My pal Rose had a wild crush on the Lt. He was married but everyone (except him) knew his wife was seeing a co-worker. We should have told him but no one wanted to see his feelings hurt. He was a super guy, hard-working as hell. He never asked the detectives to do anything he wouldn’t do, including get into really dangerous situations with seriously bad criminals.

He was 6’5″ & bought his clothing at the Big & Tall Men’s Shop. He’d grown up on a farm & was strong. Since I had filed for divorce from the Evil Ex, that horrible guy began stalking me. The Lt. made me feel protected.

The Ex came to the PD one night, stuck a shotgun barrel through the speaking hole in the bullet-proof glass & yelled: “Whore! You divorced me!”

Two detectives came running out, guns drawn.
“It’s OK, he’s my husband.”
I was so used to K. threatening me with guns, it didn’t phase me.

One detective went out into the lobby, grabbed K’s hands behind his back & took the shotgun from him. The other told me, “No it is Not OK, Dixie. I cannot believe you are still typing!!”

They asked if I wanted K arrested. I said no. I knew if I had him locked up, it would be worse for me.

For years, he had followed me everywhere I went. I moved 4 times in Boulder, trying to escape him. At first, I lived with JD & his room-mates. But K showed up (he’d stolen my address book from my sister’s house) & banged on the door. When John & two of his male room-mates insisted K get out, he squatted on the lawn & yelled “I am not leaving without Dixie!!”

One day, when he was nowhere in sight, I took my Mustang & went looking for another place to live. I found a beautiful townhouse in Nederland. With my good salary at the PD, it was easy to pay first & last month’s rent. As I was signing the rental forms, I took out a photo of K.
Please never let this guy into my place. He is dangerous.”

The landlord glanced at the photo & agreed. I got all moved in & was happy in my job & new home. But one night when I got home from work, John called. He talked a mile a minute, in his North Carolina accent.

“Dixie, honey. I am SO sorry. K would Not leave. We tried Everything. He said ‘I am going to live in the tool shed & bake potatoes in a hole in the ground.’ And he got a shovel & started diggin’ a hole!”

That cracked us both up, even though we knew how violent K was. I’d told John everything when we worked together at Blackstone Jr. High. He’d seen first-hand K punching holes in walls, bellowing like a wounded bullock.

I told John I’d run off to a motel after K put a gun to my head one night. He’d found my white Mustang, after searching all over the county. Kicked the door down to my motel room, grabbed me by the hair. The motel owner rushed over, telling me “You make nice with hubby. I can’t have my motel torn apart like this! Now ya’ll go on home.”

I’d told John about the abuse when we moved to Connecticut. It never ended. I’d go stay with church friends for a night & K would ramble around Wilton, searching until he spotting my white Mustang. Threaten to kill me & anyone who gave me shelter. I should have sold the Mustang & bought a dull looking car. That might have thrown K off for an extra few days.

One day, I was visiting K’s sister & their mother at Cary’s & Lars’ home. They had a beautiful swimming pool. Cary said, “C’mon. Let’s go for a swim.” K had punched me in the stomach the night before. Neighbors had called the cops. K drove away before the arrived. The big Sioux officer told me, “Guys like him always end up killing their wives. You must get away from him.” I had huge bruises all over my belly. He never hit me where anyone could see marks.

I told Cary, “I don’t feel like swimming today.”

“Are you kidding? You always love to swim.”

“I don’t have a bathing suit with me & I could never fit into your tiny bikinis!”

Cary pulled up my shirt, saying “Just go in your underwear.” Then she saw the horrible bruises. “He did this! That bastard! I’ll kill him.” Her first husband had beat her bloody. She was enraged.

“An animal!” cried Mrs. G. “I gave birth to an animal!”

K showed up 20 minutes later & Cary leaped on his back. She was tiny but tough. She smacked him in the face.

“Mooom!” he yelled, “Get her off me!!”

“You deserve it.” Mrs. G sat at the kitchen table & smoked a Camel non-filtered cigarette. I got into my Mustang & drove to New York City. Parked & wandered around, feeling awfully trapped. 

K’s parents thought living near them in Connecticut would make him calmer. Obviously, it didn’t.

In Westport, I worked for my brother-in-law, Lars-Eric Lindblad. I was a gopher, doing odd jobs at Lindblad Travel. No special treatment. Later, Lars paid for me to go to computer school so I could learn to use the equipment necessary for me to type up his autobiography. I loved that job!

It was “ghost written” by the authors of “The Ghost of Flight 401,” John & Liz’ Fuller. John, Liz, Lars & his wife Cary (K’s sister) & I would get together at the Fuller’s house. We’d spend hours, telling stories, drinking wine & discussing wild topics like UFOs, ghosts, deep sea diving & Lars’s adventure travel.

K began driving limo for his Uncle Joe. He’d get calls late in the night, take his guns out of the closet & carry them down to the limo. He would never tell me what was going on, no matter how urgently I asked.

So at 3:00 a.m. one dark night, I snuck out to my Mustang & followed him. I stayed well behind the limo’ so he wouldn’t realize I was following. He went all the way to New Jersey, to a dock. I let him park & watched him walk down the pier toward a shack. I quietly tailed him.

There was Uncle Joe! What the heck? When Uncle Joe saw me, he said in his raspy, cigar smoking vocce, “Dixie, wives don’t need to be involved in the business. Go on home now. We’ll see you for dinner at our place Sunday.”

Uncle Joe was K’s mother’s brother. My mother-in-law was the only one of 13 children born in America. The others were born just outside of Florence in beautiful Northern Italy. Joe’s living room furniture was covered in plastic. His wife was a fantastic Italian cook, like K’s mother & all his aunts. We stuffed ourselves on meatballs, spaghetti, lasagna, big salads & cheesecake every Sunday, going from one relative’s home to the next.

When Cary’s husband Lars took us out, it was to Ships restaurant in Westport or another fancy spot. Cary & I hated cooking, so we were great restaurant hostesses.

The day after that weird night at the pier, I went riding around with K’s younger brother & his fiancee. His fiancee’s father had just gotten out of prison where he’d served time for shooting up a cafe in New York City. Something about the mafia.

I said “K was at this New Jersey pier with Uncle Joe. It was 3:00 in the morning.  It’s like he’s in the Mob.”

G laughed & pulled the van over, tears streaming down his face.
“Dixie, K’s in the mob, I’m in the mob, she’s in the mob!! We’re all mobbed up.”

“What!? Since when?!”

“Since before The Flood.”

I was in shock. I’d read The Godfather. Everyone but me had seen the movies. Was I Kay Corleone? Clueless wife?

Lots of people mistook me for Diane Keaton back then in Connecticut & when I went into New York City. I’d been wearing Annie Hall type clothes since I was 19. Baggy trousers, a shirt under a vest, necktie, hat. My voice was like hers, too. I stuttered, stammered, started a sentence then switched gears. My hair was the same style she had in the early 80s. So people would stop me on the street & say, “I hate bothering you but wanted to say I Loved your last movie.”

The first few times, I said “Oh–uh, um I’m not her, who you think I am. Diane. No, gosh! Geeze, wish I was. haha But no, sorry.”

Well, that way of talking Convinced everyone I was really her but that she didn’t want to be annoyed by fans. So after a few folks walked away, unhappy with Ms. Keaton’s rejection, I began signing autographs & being super friendly. I apologize now for those fake autographs!!

So I was Married to the Mob! And now in Colorado, trying to escape K yet again. One night after a hard day’s work at the PD, I unlocked the door to my Nederland townhouse. In the dark livingroom sat K. His shotgun was laid across his crossed legs. “There you are, baby. Didn’t think I could find ya, did ya! I’m too smart for you!” He cackled like a maniac.

I ran upstairs to the bedroom & locked the door. He banged on it, cursing away. Neighbors rang the doorbell. I opened my window & yelled,
“It’s OK. Just my Ex acting crazy.”
I didn’t want him to shoot them for trying to help me.

I called the landlord. “Why did you give him a key?”

“He seemed OK. Said you two’d had a lover’s spat but he was back from a business trip. He had flowers & candy for you.”

“NO! I told you he was dangerous!”

I called the Lt. He phoned Sgt. Smith, who lived not far away in the mountains. Smith came right over & ousted the Ex. I had to move from that lovely townhouse. Luckily, my new cop friends helped. I moved from one cop’s home to another, sleeping on fold-out sofas & in guest rooms.

It took 6 months but the divorce was finally stamped & decreed. By then, I was seeing the Lt. He was kind & strong. I felt safe with him. When he first asked me out, I said “But you are married. And I’m in love with Dan.”

“Yes, but Dan is dating Anna & my marriage is on the rocks.”

So we’d go for drives in his pick-up, stop for burgers, fries & cokes at The LA Diner. Sit & talk about cases, life on the farm, my evil Ex, his sons, travel. We did not have sex during the many dates.

But after we’d known each other for 10 months, he invited me for a weekend at Copper Mountain, a ski resort. I knew that meant sex. Well, he’d be divorced soon, I reasoned. And he was nice, a great guy. Dan wasn’t anywhere near to falling in love with me, as much as I’d tried.

So I called my younger sister for advice. Her divorce had been made final one month after mine. We were like twins, even tho’ she was 5 years younger than me. We talked on the phone 3 or 4 times a day. The Lt. & I had gone down to her house in Manitou on his big motorcycle. She & her little daughter Kerra loved him.

Kathi Best Photo

my sister Kathi lying in sunshine at her & her husband Pete’s home in Black Forest, CO. She died the year this photograph was taken. I miss her every day.

“The Lt. is a great guy. You are divorced & free. Have fun!”

Next, I called John. “Girl, that man is a Hunk & a Half.”

“But I’m in love with Dan.”

“I’ll take him.” John chortled. John had come out the year prior to family & friends. We already knew but never outed him. He’d struggled with being gay all his life. He was a devout Christian, like me. We both had 200 Commandments emblazoned in our brains. John is now happily married to a great guy. He deserves the best!

So with the advice of my cohorts, I rode up to Copper Mountain in October of 1983. It was a gorgeous day. Our hotel room had a TV set in it. The Lt. flipped it on & there was David Byrne singing “Once in a Lifetime.” I’d never seen MTV. Or any music videos. Byrne was slicing one hand up the other arm. “That is so anthropological.” I said.
“Not sure what you mean by that but it’s good music.”

I won’t go into detail about the sex.
Let’s just say his boots were size 14. Holy Cats!

My 2 Detectives

page from an 80s photo album. At the Chief’s insistence, the Lt., Dan & I took 2 weeks off after working hellbent on a child murder case, racking up OT.
So the Lt., Dan & I took a train trip from Denver to all over the West.

We got off the train in Utah for 2 hours.Walked around. Dan kept taking notes in his policeman’s flip-book. “What are you writing?” I asked.
“Just keeping in practice.” I snatched the booklet from him. He’d drawn sketches of people at the train station & made notes on their clothing, hair styles, etc. Not a moment’s rest for him!

After Utah, we rode to Seattle. Stayed there 2 days/nights. Wandered around the college district in a downpour. It was beautiful. Ate dinner in The Needle. Rode a ferry up to Vancouver, gorgeous flowers blazing on a sunny afternoon. I love the Pacific NW.

Back on the train & down to San Francisco. Stunning city. Loved it! The Lt. asked an Asian woman as we were strolling down the Wharves, “what is that scent you are wearing?” It was Opium. He bought me a bottle of that perfume for my b-day & Valentine’s Day from then out.

We stopped in Reno for a day & a night on that train trip. I hate gambling so did Not enjoy that town. We stayed in the Cheapest motel of all time! One room. I said,
“I will sleep on the floor. I’m not getting into bed with either of you!” But after 10 minutes on that filthy, thin carpet, I crawled into bed with Dan. “Hands to yourself,” he insisted. Always thinking of his Lady Love back home.

We’d had a sleeping car on the train & huge hotel rooms in the other cities, with big King sized beds. So there had been tons of room for all 3 of us on 2 giant hotel beds.

Dan won $300 in a slot machine at one casino. The Lt. & I begged him to cash in his chips & keep the money. But he lost it all at craps.

The guys wouldn’t let me photograph them on the trip, since it was not OK to “fraternize.” But that is Dan’s arm feeding a seagull on ferry from Seattle to Vancouver. Car was the Lt’s.

When we got home from the trip, Rose cornered me at work, “Are you screwing the Lt.?” I knew she would kill me if she found out so I said, “We go out for cokes & we hug a lot. But that’s it.”
“Bitch.” She muttered.

From then on, she’d smack into me whenever we passed each other in the hallways. She began over-monitoring my work, marking in red imagined mistakes. The Chief & Lt. told her to settle down. But after a few months of that treatment, I’d had enough. I found a job with a law firm.

The cops gave me a huge going away party. The sketch artist, a gifted man, drew a big card that said “We wish Dixie would stay!” It featured a Confederate flag with my name on it. I will never escape The Old South. Detective Zado said, “I wouldn’t let anyone push me out of my job.” Dan signed the card “Clint.” I’d always thought he looked like a young Clint Eastwood. He, the Lt. & I stayed close. I dated them both back & forth. My 30s were my wildest years.

Re: Lt’s note about “snake” in the scrapbook When Lt. found out Dan & I were “seeing” each other, he called Dan “snake.” But we 3 remained great pals. Dynamic Triangle.

Then I met Peter, the actor. Broke up with both detectives. Both said, “An Actor! Bullshit! You belong with Cops!” They were great guys but Peter swept me off my dancing feet!

Peter Reads

Peter reading his poem at an event in Denver, CO. Not long after we met.