Yesterday I lost my friend of over 35 years, Betty Mae Turner. Betty, also known as T. J. Moscone from our days of shooting pool, was a wild and wonderful Aquarian with a quirky sense of humor and a view of life that only Betty could have.
I met Betty in 1972. True to the nature of our relationship, our meeting was somewhat unusual. I found one of the best friends of my life in the Yellow Pages! Yes, I was calling around for some information, found her ad, dialed the number and we ended up talking for an hour.
I found out she lived just a few miles down the road from me in Campbell. She was also taking classes at West Valley College and both of us were "older" students, having gone back to college after deciding to change the direction of our careers. Betty, already having studied art, was switching to psychology and art history, while I was doing just the opposite having decided that I wanted to be an artist and not a therapist! We formed an immediate and permanent bond.
As students of the "older persuasion" Betty and I became the dynamic duo of clubbing. We would go to school during the day then cruise the local hang-outs at night. We were young enough to go out on a weeknight, party and still make our classes the next morning. We made good use of that youth.
Betty and I were the Mutt and Jeff of the clubbing scene in the seventies in what would soon become Silicon Valley. Betty was tall, six foot in her bare feet, with a long, curly mane of strawberry blond hair. I was only five foot three with a shag cut of auburn hair. We couldn't have been more opposite in looks or taste in clothing. I was more classic and conservative, Betty was a vision of gypsies, tramps and thieves in her upscale hippie wardrobe.
I remember one night in particular, jump suits were popular and I had on a navy blue jump suit with a zipper down the front and the zipper had a large pull ring. Betty took one look at that and said, "Well, nothing like an outfit that zips off in two seconds!", and laughed. I took one look at her outfit, layers of lace, flowing skirts, a short vest and tangles of necklaces and said, "Betty Mae, a guy will take one look at that and figure it's too much work!" We cracked up and headed out to hunt.
I can't count the number of nights we would sit drinking coffee and listening to the famous bands that stopped in at the Bodega in Campbell. We saw Johnny Cash there, and Ricky Nelson and a score of other famous and infamous groups of the day. We even got to see her son's band play there - Matt gave Betty a proud and historic moment that night, one she talked about the rest of her life. She was also quite fond of remembering the time Matt's band played at the famous Whiskey-A-Go-Go.
We had a few run ins with bikers at the Bodega too - they loved that dank, grimy cellar of a nightclub as much as the college students and young professionals of the area. It was a fun eclectic mix and Betty and I reveled in the diversity. So many of my memories of her involve this night spot.
I remember one night Betty and I were there. We had just come in, grabbed our drinks and were roaming around when a fairly drunk guy wandered up to us and was desperately trying to hit on us. He was so blitzed we couldn't tell who he was zeroing in on! He was holding a bottle of beer in his hand and that hand had a watch on it. I don't know why but I got a little devil of "inspiration" and asked him what time it was. He looked at his watch - still holding that beer - only he was so looped he didn't see the bottle was tipped and the beer was flowing out onto the beat up wood floor. I thought Betty was going to pee her pants she was laughing so hard! Later she told me she darn near did and we cracked up all over again.
Another night we were celebrating my birthday. Before we headed over to the Bodega, Betty had me come over to her house. She had baked me a cake and this was not an ordinary cake! This cake was in the shape of a man's nether regions - bat and balls, if you get my drift - frosted entirely in pink and the candle was a "smokable substance" placed right at the tip of the "bat"! Only Betty could have come up with this, only my wild and crazy Aquarian friend.
I could go on with story after story of our adventures together. Life was never boring with Betty in it. She was intelligent, creative, funny, loving, quirky, silly, caring, my sister and my friend. Today as I watch the election results and see a new world where we have our first African American President elect, I am aware that an era has ended and a new one has begun for our country. For me today is the end of an era of a great friendship. I find myself wondering what Betty would have had to say about this historical event and I will never know, but I can guess. Betty would have loved this, and she would have found something totally irreverent and totally astute to say.
If I've discovered anything in nearly 58 years of life, I've discovered that the loss of a loved one does not end the world, though it feels like it should. Yes, my life will go on but it will go on with a huge hole in my heart.
Betty Mae, I will miss you for the rest of my life. You were my sister, my friend and I have loved you for all my adult life and will continue to love you forever.
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