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Rick Parsons was somebody I hung out with during my teenage years; that is when he wasn’t in reform school, which was most of the time; however, when he was home, it was always only a matter of time before he went back. He was the adopted son of a Mormon bishop, with an adopted sister, both special needs. The first I heard of Rick was that he was a scary guy, and rumors of starting fires, but when we finally met, we got along fine. I’m not much for judging people, and Rick sensed that so we were good friends, at least as good as friends could be under the circumstances. Rick was never one to talk about his past, or his future for that matter: he was day-by-day poor impulse control. The best way to illustrate Rick’s propensities is to mention that one time when he left my room, my coin collection was missing. He would break into the houses of other church people, probably thinking they wouldn’t press charges if he was caught, which they usually didn’t; unfortunately, one, Norm Lee, the future husband of my mom, did press charges, and Rick went to Juvie for awhile. On-the-other-hand, Rick was the most handsome guy I’ve ever seen; I’m not just talking about guys I’ve known; Rick was more handsome than movie stars; well, maybe not Rob Lowe, but Rob had work done.
Though girls really, really liked Rick, in all the years I knew him, he only had one girlfriend, Valerie, by whom he had a son, Ken. I saw Ken once when he was still less than a year old; he kind of looked like Rick; had the big head anyway. Valerie was the best thing that ever happened in Rick’s live, the only positive thing really, and later, after all the time served and drug rehabilitation, she allowed him to be part of her new family; there’s no definition of “angelic,” better than that. Ken turned out to be Rick’s only child but he made up for it by having 9 grandchildren.
Here are some stories I experienced firsthand with Rick; vividly etched in my memory even now:
The Chain Incident
I had a 1971 Fiat 850 Spider I bought in 1976; it was my pride & joy. I put an 8-track player in it, and when I’d drive down the road with the convertible top up, it acted like a big speaker. Living in California, I mostly had the top down. Rick had hitchhiked into town and showed up at my house. It was a great night so we jumped in the Spider to drive around. Rick wanted to get some cigs so he had me stop at the Plaid Pantry, a 24-hour convenience market that people hung around at all hours. The Spider was lots of things but dependable wasn’t one of them: I stayed out in the parking lot letting it run because it had no starter motor; we had gotten it going by Rick pushing and me popping the clutch. I was listening to music when suddenly Rick came hauling ass out of the store yelling “Drive! Drive! Drive!” He vaulted over the door into the passenger seat and I took off. I looked in the rearview mirror and a guy was jumping into his pickup; burned rubber backing into the street before jamming it into gear to chase after us. Rick was standing up, flipping the guy the finger with both hands. Another thing the Spider wasn’t is fast; the truck was just about to ram into our rearend so I cut across oncoming traffic onto a side street. Looking back, I was alarmed to see the truck had followed us; tires screeching all around, and he was gaining on us fast so I pulled into an apartment complex; he followed us in, not far behind. In desperation, I popped my little car up on the sidewalk and drove between two of the apartment buildings where the truck couldn’t follow. I stopped the car, not knowing where to go next. Rick stood up and was again giving the double-bird salute yelling obscenities while the guy calmly got out of his truck, walking back to the bed. I was looking around for someplace to drive; there was a sidewalk ahead and a curb I could bounce off of onto the street, but just as I was heading for an open space, another car started to parallel park right in my way. I jammed on the breaks and the Fiat died. The guy in the truck had gotten a chain and he was walking toward us. “Oh shit!” Rick yelled. “He’s got a chain!” The parallel-parking car got scared off and drove away. Rick had sat back down: “Drive! Drive! Drive!” he was screaming for the second time that evening. In a panic, I threw my weight forward against the steering wheel with just enough momentum for the car to drop off the curve and pop the engine started again. I gunned it out of there but the guy started running after us and he made one big swing of the chain that slammed onto the back of my poor car, leaving a footlong chain-like dent in the sheetmetal. I kept driving, finally relieve at seeing chain-guy getting smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. Rick never told me what that was all about, and because it was Rick, it wasn’t really out of the ordinary so I didn’t ask. When I called the Insurance agent for the claim, he came out to see the chain mark and ask me what happened. I told him. “A guy ran out of a store, chased you in his truck, and chained the back of your car, and you don’t know why?” he asked incredulously. “Yes,” I replied; I didn’t mention Rick.
The Robbing Trailer Incident
Rick showed up at my house in his dad, Hammer’s, El Camino unannounced; I hadn’t seen him in months. “Hey, can you help me move?” he asked. “You drive; I’ll show you where we’re going,” Rick told me cryptically. Turned out we were going to a mobilehome park on the other side of the railroad tracks. I drove slowly in and weaved around the curvy lanes before Rick had me stop at a nondescript trailer. “Wait here,” he ordered then got out, walked over to an old car, climbed on its hood, then over to the top of the trailer. He walked to the center of the roof then bent over and pulled up on a hatch then dropped inside. I figured he’d lost his key and was used to doing this because he seemed pretty comfortable with the whole idea of breaking in. After a few minutes he came out with a microwave which he put in the back of the El Camino, then he went in again and came out with a TV. He also got a stereo setup and some cutlery and stuff, then he calmly got back in and said “drive.” By this time I was wondering what was going on but because it was Rick, it wasn’t really out of the ordinary so I didn’t ask. When we got back to my house, Rick said “Thanks,” got back into the driver’s seat and drove away. I didn’t see him again for months.
The KISS Concert Incident
In 1977, the Glam-band KISS was the biggest ticket on the planet; it was also the wildest, and the druggyist. Rick called me: “I got tickets to KISS, wanna go?” I didn’t ask where he’d gotten the tickets because it was Rick, so it wasn’t really out of the ordinary. When I picked him up he had a fifth of Southern Comfort. He didn’t ask me if I wanted any; he just drank it himself. It took a couple hours to get to the old San Francisco Candlestick Park coliseum, which has since been destroyed by an earthquake. The parking lot was huge; it had to be a mile of walking to get to the entrance among a packed crowd. Rick had finished off the bottle but he didn’t seem any different than normal: laughing and joking; everybody was his friend; all the girls hanging on him, asking if he had a girlfriend, like usual. Unfortunately, when we finally got inside and found our seats among the throngs, high on the viewing deck just below the canopy in a cloud of dope smoke, he conked out, slumping into his seat. KISS is known for their theatrics & noise and they didn’t disappoint but Rick didn’t see a minute of it. I had to wait until the entire stadium was just about empty before Security came, picked Rick up by each arm and drug him down the stairs, through the hallways, and out the exit, throwing him sprawled-eagled onto the grass. Rick then proceeded to throw-up. I trekked off to move the car closer for loading but when I got back, a pack of girls had descended on Rick. They told me because he was so cute, I could leave him with them but they reluctantly helped hoist him into the car. I didn’t see Rick for months after that. Later, I heard he had got into trouble with some people for selling phony drugs.
I aged out of those kinds of shenanigans, got married to my wife, Gwynne, who met Rick a couple times, and cried when I told her I was going out with him, so I didn’t, and never saw him again. Then we moved, and Rick went to Folsom prison. I tried several times over the years to get in contact; another mutual friend of ours from that era, Brian Burger, told me Rick had gotten all tatted up but that’s all I knew. Rick never got my messages or chose not to respond. The next time I saw a picture of Rick, it was on Facebook, and he was standing with Valerie’s large new family. I could immediately tell which boy was Rick’s because it was a big, handsome kid who looked just like him.
Rick Parsons died of respiratory failure; he was the same age as me. I’m a doctor, I know what “respiratory failure” means. Rick was one of the formative people in my life; there aren’t a lot of those, but since it was Rick, it wasn’t really out of the ordinary.
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