Times with my mother Rita Patrick (R.I.P.)
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Mar. 13th, 2014 | 02:02 am
I figured I would start writing down some of the memories I have of my mother, Rita Patrick. Just different times and stories from when I was hanging out with her. This will be an ongoing piece that I'll add to over time, as thoughts pop into my head of various occasions. Some of the accounts will be a bit hardcore and/or entertaining, other ones not so much. My mother lived a fairly extreme lifestyle, and with that comes some interesting stories.
For a brief history, Rita was born in 1964 and passed away from cancer in 2010. She was a wild one and delved into all types of situations during her time here amongst us. Rita booked "underground" bands for quite a time, as well as being an exotic dancer, jewelry slinger, thrift shop owner, bone dealer, house renovator, artist, general life hustler, and all-around memorable person to be around. (I'll add more to this section at another time.)
The stories here will be put out as they come to mind. Some of them may not hold the details or wording to properly convey the memories. The main point is to get them written down while the memory is still there. I'll eventually make it back to restructure a few paragraphs at some point. As stated before, Rita lived an exceptional existence. It wasn't necessarily about traditional methods or society's standards to her. She wasn't too worried about the law, and what was legal or not. Rita went where she wanted and did what she wanted to do. You'll see that in some of these recollections.
Now, for a few stories from the past:
When I was probably around four or five years old, so more than likely 1984/1985, I was walking down the road in Dayton with my mother and some of her "punk" friends. I want to say this was when she was living over by or off of Main Street. So, this group of guys started harassing my mom and her friends, calling them "freaks, whores, niggers, faggots, etc." Basically trying to start a fight with the "weirdos" in the neighborhood.
Anthony Bronston, or "Black" Anthony as he was called, was a good friend of my mother. He had been working on some phrases with me at the time. Probably words that I could scream as a kid on to old reel-to-reel recordings that could be used in punk songs at the time. I remember them doing that with me a few times in the '80s at the Front Street warehouses. Anyway, as this little gang of guys tried to get at us, I turned around in my little black combat boots and yelled, "Fuck you, Nazi rednecks!"
I don't recall anything about the situation after that, and barely remember that myself at all. That's just one of those stories that came up a thousand times by my mother in the years afterwards.
The date was December 24th, Christmas Eve of 1996. My mother Rita and I went to a private party at Anselmo's Restaurant with Perry McAuley of Graveyard Rodeo and Greg White. I believe it was the House of Shock awards ceremony for that year. The House of Shock is a haunted house attraction in New Orleans that started in 1992. One of the co-founders is Phil Anselmo, vocalist of Down, Pantera, Superjoint Ritual, etc. It was his father's restaurant that the awards were being given at.
This was the first and only time I was ever there, so I'm not sure if the bathroom was always unisex but it was that evening. At one point, while I was using a urinal in the restroom, a lady approached me from behind and started rubbing on my chest and stomach. She then said, "Phil." I turned and said, "Uh, nope."
Now, this was back when I had long hair. I believe Anselmo was in the process of growing his hair out and had gotten it fairly long by that point. From behind, she just assumed I was a pissing Phil. "Wow, you're young. Damn, you look like Phil." That's all she said before she left out the door.
I came back out to our table where Perry, Greg, and mom were having drinks. I told them about my experience in the bathroom. They laughed. A little later on, Phil Anselmo comes over to the table and started talking with us. Mom tells him about what happened. The first thing he says is, "Shit, you wish you were as pretty as me." Then he cocked his head at me, studying my face. He looks at Rita and says, "You and I never, uh, did we?" Mom tells him no and he has a look of relief roll across him. Phil was scared for a moment.
This next one is a bit raw. I was with my mother at the Clover Grill in New Orleans, which is a small 24/7 restaurant in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street. It was late at night, probably around 3:00 am. It had been one of those crazy nights bouncing all through the Quarter at different bars and clubs. This was around 1996 or 1997, so I was sixteen or seventeen years old.
As we were eating, a lady came walking by the window in fairly see-through panties with a matching pink lingerie top. She had a short pixie cut that was bleached a blondish-white. Tattoos adorned her body and she was very pretty with a couple facial piercings. She noticed my mom, pressed herself up against the window, and screamed, "Rita!" That's when I noticed her crotch, thighs, and lower belly covered in blood.
She made her way into Clover Grill and came over to where we were sitting. My mother asked her what was up with the blood and she began telling us about her evening. She had met some tourist dude who was into metal chicks, had him sport her up all night, went back to his hotel, and then she got him naked. While riding him, she sat all of her weight back and tore the guy's penis. That's where the blood came from. She was laughing about how she "just broke some guy's dick and killed him".
Then, she started asking who I was. My mom told her that I was her son. She began going on about how cute I was. That's when she started saying, "Rita, is it cool if I fuck your son? He's really hot. If you don't care, I'd love to break him in. Do you want to fuck my pussy, little man? Can you make me cum?" You know, nice stuff like that.
My mother being who she was, just told the bloody female that I was a big boy and I can make my own decisions. Then, Rita leaned over and whispered in my ear, "She has AIDS, boy. I know some of that is her blood. You better watch yourself." I was then left of my own accord to fend off this scary chick trying to convince me I'm old enough to pleasure her orifices. That's how my mother did a lot of times though when I got to a certain age. Made me take care of the creeps around me myself. Hardcore lessons, but valuable in the end and has served me well.
For a time in the early 1990s, my mother Rita was in a relationship with John Francis O'Connor. Johnny O. was a rare human, the most uncensored being that I had ever met. And that's saying a lot. He was an ex-junkie, journalist, photographer, cab driver, fruit stand operator, and very intense man with old school Italian scruples. One of those people that when he spoke, you could really only understand half of what he said.
Anyhow, the three of us pulled into the driveway of our little house on Elba Street in the Third Ward, which is the first place in New Orleans that I ever lived. Lots of stories to tell that happened within the walls of this building, although this particular residence no longer exists due to Hurricane Katrina.
As Johnny O. was turning off his old white truck, a guy came walking up the driveway. My mother and I exited the vehicle on her side as the man approached Johnny. "Sorry to bother you all this evening, but my daughter is in the hospital tonight and I was just hoping to get a few dollars if you could help out. I just need to catch a bus up there, and anything else you could help with would be much appreciated. I wouldn't ask, but she's really sick."
Johnny O. quickly said, "If your daughter is sick, get in the truck and I'll take you up there right now. I'll take care of all her medical bills. Anything she needs." Johnny then pulled out a knot of money, which he had from working the fruit stand all day.
"Oh, that's alright, man", the guy responded. "You don't have to do all that. I can't ask that. Maybe just let me get ten dollars and that would be plenty."
Johnny told him again that if his daughter was truly sick, he would take care of it. All the man had to do was get in the truck and let Johnny O. take him up to the hospital. They talked back and forth about it, the guy declined several times, and eventually he started walking backwards out of the driveway. "Thanks anyway", he says as he starts heading down the street.
Immediately, Johnny O. runs in the house and starts rummaging under his bed. After a moment, he pulls out a gun and a box of bullets. "Fucking mothafuck, cocksucker fucking shit fuck", he mumbles as he loads ammunition into the gun. When he's done, he races out of the door and down the street.
This is when my mother Rita grabbed me and said, "Boy, you have to go after him. Stop him, or he'll kill that guy." I was a bit bewildered at the time, as I was still fairly fresh to New Orleans from Dayton and hadn't really been exposed to many situations such as this. "Go, go, go!", she yelled.
I came out of the driveway and began running towards the right down Elba St., then made a left on Rendon Street. On the corner of these two streets, there was a laundromat. Above the laundromat, an older black lady lived there in an apartment. I came upon Johnny O. just as he was stopping in front of the guy. That guy was standing at the door of the older lady, and she was standing there with her purse open.
Johnny O. pointed his gun in the man's face, cocked back the hammer, and growled, "You motherfucker!" Looking at the lady, Johnny says, "Put your purse away. He's a fucking scammer." Looking back at the guy, Johnny started going off on him in his angry, mumbling manner.
"You lowlife fucking motherfucker. You need a goddamn bullet in your head, you piece of shit. I ought to kill you right now for trying to come into my neighborhood to rip us off! Your baby is sick in the hospital? If I ever see you on any of these streets around here again, I'll blow your fucking head off. Do you understand me, little shit? Fucking prick!"
The man tried to tell Johnny O. some more stories and Johnny pushed the metal of the gun right into the guy's face, yelling at him some more. Of course, I was standing there not knowing what to do. I recall just saying over and over, "Johnny. Don't." Eventually, the dude just took off running down the road. Johnny apologized to the older lady, and we went walking back down the street towards the house.
Johnny began telling me about how his family and him had lived in that neighborhood for pretty much his entire life, if not his entire life. I don't really remember if he had been there since birth or not. He told me about how he saw it going downhill and getting worse every year. As long as he was around, he'd do his best to protect his family and neighbors. Extreme fellow from another time.
On numerous occasions, my mother Rita's friend Perry McAuley would stop by the house when we were living on the corner of Ursulines and St. Claude outside of the French Quarter. Sometimes it was for dinner, generally it was to drink and then go out to see some bands play at a bar somewhere around the city.
This was in 1995 or 1996, or maybe a bit of both of those years. I was between fourteen to sixteen years old. As a teenager, I was into some fairly dark stuff in an attempt to better understand the many aspects of life. To an extent, I actually always have been. And of course I am still to a point. However, at that time I think I would have been down to experience the "Cities of the Dead" in a way that I wouldn't come close to touching now.
One of the things "Uncle" Perry always mentioned to me when he came over was that he wanted to take me out into the night to explore the tombs and gather skulls. For those of you who don't know, you can't really bury the dead in New Orleans. With the city being under sea level, it makes the water table very high. When digging the traditional six-foot-deep hole, it begins to fill with water. If you do happen to get a decent burial, the rising water or eventual flooding will most likely force the casket out of the ground and back to the surface.
Out of necessity, the bodies of the deceased in NOLA are kept above ground in burial vaults. Over time, a lot of these tombs begin to contain many people. To make room for others, the older remains are moved to the sides and back of the vaults. Collections of bones begin to accumulate inside the rows upon rows of what appears to be miniature houses or little concrete sheds.
As with any structures, natural damage occurs to them and parts of the tombs are sometimes cracked open. If you were curious enough to be so inclined, you could make your way inside of them. And that's what Perry wanted me to do with him. To go shifting through the bones in search of human skulls.
After months and months of suggesting it to me, I figured I would be down for a weird and unforgettable evening with Perry. I approached my mother and asked for her permission, as it should be when it involves accompanying a parent's friend somewhere. Especially to cemeteries.
"Hell no, boy," said Rita. "You aren't going to steal damned skulls with Perry." She shoots an annoyed look at Perry, who shrugs his shoulders. "You can get locked up doing that shit, ya' know. If you want to go with him when you're older to get in the coffins, you can then. Not now. You're too young," she tells me, "I said no and that's the end of it."
Being my mother though, I was actually surprised she didn't just say, "Be careful, watch out for guys that look like girls, and bring home some milk." Thankfully I didn't get the nod on that one. In my adult mind, I wouldn't invade a private area made for showing respect to those who are no longer with us. The teenage me wasn't thinking that far though. It was probably more along the lines of just being fascinated with death, and life, how it relates, and what it's all about.
In actuality, Perry might have been bullshitting me the whole time about going out for that particular excursion. Perhaps my mom was just playing along with it all. Within the same paragraph though, I've also heard stories of Rita doing that exact thing with Perry and the skulls that she forbid me to do. I do know neither of them were strangers to graveyards and death. Truth be told, I never really gave it much thought after that.
Back in elementary school, I was a fairly unhinged kid. A highly energetic child who didn't quite understand the idea of self-constraint. Always pestering the other students, being loud, doing stunts, running around, talking vulgar, bothering my teachers, partaking in occasional destructiveness, and generally making it hard for my classmates to understand what they were being taught. This got me into a lot of trouble at school, and I saw the inside of the principal's office quite a bit.
My mother Rita was living with my great-grandmother Lora Morris back in 1987 and/or 1988. So, I was in either second or third grade at this time. By this point already, my favorite things to collect and read for hours were comic books. Knowing this, Rita had a stack of comics she was going to utilize as an incentive for me to do my best to behave at school. Each day that I came home and didn't get in trouble, I could have one of those books.
Now, it was a fairly small bundle of comic books she had in this batch. Just enough to keep me entertained with the idea of not disturbing other humans for a few weeks. What those books were though was awesome. A great collection of material that I love to this day, and the first time I ever really put genuine effort into acquiring that "next one" in a series.
The first day after she told me about the comics, I came home without any problems at school. That's when she handed me The Badger #5, by Mike Baron and Bill Reinhold. The Badger is Nobert Sykes, a Vietnam war veteran who suffers from a multiple personality disorder. His main identity is "The Badger", a costumed vigilante who is a martial arts expert and can talk to animals. As the Badger, he is often arrested for punching people in the face. His other personalities include a nine-year-old girl, a homicidal maniac, a dog, a gay architect, and a black man who is unaware of the other six personalities.
Maybe not your typical reading for kids my age at that time, but I loved it. I did my best to keep my teachers happy at Grafton Kennedy Elementary School over those next couple weeks. I nailed it okay, only messing up and bringing home discipline slips a few times. The issues she had of The Badger were numbers 5 through 23, and I really wanted to read them as soon as I could. It got all bad for me though when I got halfway there.
Since I wasn't in school on the weekends, Rita didn't count those days in my quest for Badger comics. I hit a snag when I got my issue #15 on a Friday and it ended up being a two-part story that continued in #16. I couldn't believe it. I had to wait three days until I found out what happened? I couldn't wait for three whole days. That's like waiting for three months through the eyes of a person who is seven or eight years old.
That issue #16 was right there. In mom's room. Just sitting on the top of that stack in the closet. She wouldn't notice if it was gone. It's not like she's all into them like I am. Mom has left for the night. She'll be out working and partying all weekend. All I have to do is wait until grandma is in the kitchen.
Needless to say, when the time was right, I pulled up a chair so that I could reach the top shelf of that closet. I hid the book away under my shirt, slipped it into my backpack, and took it home with me that night to my grandmother Nancy's house. When I got to read The Badger #16 for the first time that evening, in my head it was the greatest thing I had ever read. I was so happy to finish the story that I had started.
A couple of days later and it's Monday. I have a good day at school. Stoked as can be to come home and get my copy of issue #17. Rita pulls the first one off the top of the pile and hands it to me. I start to run off to read it in the other room and then she tells me to wait. She grabs the book back and says, "What's this?" Turning around, she snags the whole stack out of the closet and flips through it. She then gives me the ol' Rita eye.
"Where's the other one before this?" she asked. "There was another one here." I played stupid, thumbing through the comics myself, looking at them, trying to think of something to say. "I don't know," I quietly respond. I ask her if she's sure that there is one missing. She starts to see me sweat. I'm not making eye contact. My fidgety behavior is acting up more so than usual.
"You're telling me you don't have it," Rita says, "that you didn't get in here and take it?" I tell her no, and she asks again. I say no again. She questions me again. She's staring at my face, grabbing my chin and making me look her in the eyes. This goes on until I know that she knows. And I start crying like a baby.
She adds to the tears by really grilling into me once she had me admit my guilt. The stealing of the book was one thing, but she really didn't care about that in comparison to me lying about it. As far as she was concerned, the comic book was mine. I just hadn't earned it yet. There would have been a conversation about that and a punishment, but it was nowhere near how mad I made her by telling a lie when she asked me about it.
I got tore down that day by Rita, both verbally and physically. I don't need to get into the details of all that, but she definitely made sure that I felt like a piece of shit for my actions. And of course, I didn't see a new Badger comic book anytime soon afterward. It worked out to be what it was meant to be though. I can't really think of any other time after that when I lied to Rita, for better or worse. We were always fairly straight up with each other from that point on.
My mother was a trash digger. She used to go through people's garbage and have me help her with it. We would be out cruising, she'd see a pile of someone's rubbish, and the car would stop. When I was a child in the 1980s, this was fairly embarrassing for me. I remember kids from the neighborhood going past us in their family vehicles, pointing and laughing. There would always be a good amount of teasing about it in the coming days at school.
Of course, unbeknownst to them, we didn't actually need to be shifting through trash. My mom was always a creative person and used to incorporate items that she had found into a lot of the art pieces she put together. It was really cool to see her transform something that was left to rot into artwork that she'd end up selling for decent money. Usually she would sling them at a bar, restaurant, or a metal show. Her quick way to have a bit of extra cash coming into her purse while she was out partying.
Other than stopping at those random heaps of junk on the side of the road, we also spent quite a bit of time at different trash dumps and drop-offs. The place of excavation I remember going to the most with her in my younger days was in the back area of Union Cemetery in Northridge, Ohio. Located within Dayton, this is the older cemetery that is on Wagner Ford Road across the street from the larger Willow View Cemetery.
There used to be a spot in the rear of Union Cemetery where people would drop off loads of trash. Not the nasty types of household garbage, but more so the stuff that probably should have been taken to an incinerator or an antique dealer. Just all sorts of weird things that weren't discarded elsewhere for some reason that would end up there. Rita loved to pick through it all and load the car up with the strangest items she could find.
When going into the graveyard on our trash missions, we would pass the old Beardshear Chapel that is located on the property. It always had a creepy vibe to me as a kid, reminding me of one of those grainy horror movies from the early '70s that was steep in religious terror. This went hand in hand to me in my youthful mind with the stories of the witch's grave in Union Cemetery, which generally made my experience there with mom that much more interesting.
Being herself, my mother told me that we are related to the woman in the cemetery that everyone refers to as the "witch". So, when the other kids at school tell stories about the witch, be sure to remember that she's your family. Rita would tell me, "You can hear her bones out here sometimes. Listen, boy." I would, of course, keep an ear out for the sounds of skeletal spirit as I searched the trash piles.
Another spooky element that added to this particular site was Rita leaving out of there with dead animals in plastic bags. Half of the time we showed up to the cemetery, there would be some sort of small carcasses laying around in the debris. Mom used to take the dead home, boil out the pollutants, bleach the bones, and then use the pieces to construct different articles of jewelry. She always had skulls and bone art around her various houses ever since I could remember.
She would also use bones that were from meat products bought at the store, or chicken bones from fast food joints. The ones she acquired out amongst nature and trash though are the memorable pieces for me. Shit like that kind of stuck out to me as a kid.
While on the subject of Rita and her trash, I remember when I brought it up to her again about how I was kind of embarrassed that she made me dig with her. This was in 1992 or 1993, when I was around twelve years old. We were living in the third ward of New Orleans and mom had made a habit of looking through all of our neighbor's stuff they threw out around the neighborhood. I had a little girlfriend I recently landed around the block, and I didn't want her to see my mother scrounging through garbage.
Mom said she understood and that she wouldn't do it anymore. Along comes the first time after that conversation that I'm on the porch with my new girlfriend. I was out there spitting whatever flavor a 12-year-old can come up with, trying to look smooth in front of the young lady. The front door opens and mom's head pops out. "Darrick, you need have your girlfriend go on down the road or wherever she's going."
I tried to play off what Rita said and continued chatting it up with my girl. Mom tells me again that I need to call it quits for the time being and tell my company to leave. Without really thinking about it, I ask her "Why?!" in a defiantly teenage manner.
Rita snaps back, "Because the neighbors just tossed out a load of trash and you need to go drag it across the road for me. Send that little girl's ass home. Get across the fucking street, grab those bags, and see if you can find us something in there to eat tonight too." Needless to say, I felt pretty humiliated at the time. Fairly sure that was about the end of that girl being my girlfriend as well.
Mom had a funny sense of humor like that, especially if it had to do with me questioning her ways of going about things. To be fair, I think I had done some stupid kid stuff on that day and that was part of my punishment. She knew by that point a blow to my ego was worse to me than being grounded or getting physical discipline.
As for the trash shifting really, other than classmates badgering me about it, I actually had a fun time with mom. It was cool to search around in piles of stuff and find things that my mother would like. It was always neat to see her do what she did with what we found.