Mom never failed to amaze me. Once, when I was about thirteen and attending Luther Burbank Junior High School, she was going on and on about drug use in the schools and assured me that my schoolmates were taking drugs - which wasn't exactly news to me.

What did surprise me, however, was her identification of a certain alley as "Hotsy Alley," supposedly named after the drug of choice among us kids. One of Burbank's truly countless alleys, it is seen at left in 1994. I used to walk by Hotsy Alley on the way home from school. True, suspicious-looking teens used to congregate there after school. (If stared at the girls would loudly demand, "Are you HASSLING me? Ya wanna HASSLE?") Whether they were ever downing something called a "hotsy," I strongly doubt. After all, what self-respecting teen in the late Sixties would ever call a drug a "hotsy?"

The fact is, I got through growing up in the Sixties and Seventies without ever experimenting with drugs. I was a nerd, fairly immune to peer pressure and sufficiently interested in the usual stuff of life that I didn't feel like I needed hallucinogenic experiences. It probably was also the case that I believed adults when they told me it was a bad idea.

But Mom, fearful of the social changes wrought during the era, was never entirely sure about any of this, and apparently harbored suspicions. Once, when I was in the Marines and at home for the weekend, Mom wanted to call me and dialed a number she thought belonged to my friend Mike McDaniel. She asked, "Is Wes there?" "No," the voice on the phone said. Mom asked, "Is this Mike?" A pause followed, and the voice said, "Yes, but I might as well tell you: Wes was here and offered me drugs. I told him I don't want to see him again." The fellow on the line then hung up.

When I pulled up in front of the house, having driven back from Mike's, Mom came out of the front door, walked slowly towards me with an upset look on her face, muttered my name a couple of times and passed out on the front lawn! Dad ran out chastising me ("Look what you've done!") and both of us slowly hauled Mom to her feet and helped her through the front door and onto the living room sofa. After a tall glass of water Mom was able to explain the phone conversation she had had, and demanded to know when I had gotten into drugs.

Thunderstruck, I asked what number she called and discovered she was one digit off from Mike's phone number. I even called Mike at home to talk to Mom, to convince her that he had said no such thing. Then, with Mom on the other line, I called the number she dialed and gave a chewing-out to that idiot, explaining what he had done. I'm pretty sure I used some choice four-letter words and made some threats about using my skills with telephone systems to find his residence and pay him a visit, but the tone of the fellow on the line indicated he was pretty much chastened.

Then we three went to dinner and I wondered what I had ever done to suggest to Mom and Dad that I would mess around with drugs.

It certainly wasn't coming home stoned from Camp Pendleton. Everyone else was doing drugs but me, it seemed, and this observation was brought home to me in another incident.

One time I was the Corporal of the Guard, and, dressed in the cartridge belt, holster and 45 automatic that came with the duty, I had to pay a visit to the barracks to retrieve something. While there I stopped at a friend's room and knocked on the door. An unknown face in the window took a look at me, dressed officially. I then heard frantic scampering around and toilet flushing. After some time my friend's face appeared at the door; he smiled, said, "It's only Wes," and then said, "You cost us some money, you know." I merely laughed. He knew that I wasn't interested in using drugs or busting those who smoked pot in the barracks - as long as it wasn't in my room.

I guess you could say, after my nerdish teenage years, I had achieved a type of coolness.

Hotsy Alley, by the way, is on West Jeffries Avenue between North Pepper Street and North Hollywood Way in Burbank. If you go there, don't hassle anyone.


hotsy-totsy (HOT-see TOT-see) adjective, also hotsie-totsie

Just right; perfect.

[Coined by Billy De Beck, cartoonist (1892-1942), famed for his comic strip "Barney Google and Snuffy Smith". Another of his coinage that has found a place in the English language dictionaries is heebie-jeebies meaning jitters or creeps.]

"(Billy Bob) Thornton has played unfathomable, soulful characters before. He was the ace air traffic controller in Pushing Tin, who baffles his colleagues by getting the hotsy-totsy girl." Stuart Jeffries, A Movie About a Barber Who Wants to Be a Dry Cleaner? The Guardian (London), May 14, 2001.

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