Dance Battle

The day you were born seemed, at first, like any ordinary day. I dropped my car off for service then stopped to pick up a few gifts for the brother and sister you would soon meet. Then, it was off to St. Johns for a three-in-the-afternoon scheduled C-section. Thinking of it now, it sounds so strong and brave and unlike me. But on that day, I was prepared and matter-of-fact about it all.

Just nine days before, on Halloween, I wore my pants low and a shirt cropped high to show off my hugely pregnant stomach. It was your first costume. I drew eyes and a mouth; my big belly button was your nose. We caused quite a stir as I told random kids who stared that they too could get their stomach as big by connecting a bicycle pump to their belly button. We were so unforgettable that night, that people still remind me how outrageous it was.

pregnant with Barnaby

Within hours of arriving at the hospital, there you were!!!! And, you were a boy, not a girl or you would be named Holiday, after a childhood cat. You dodged that bullet.

Barnaby. With your great new name and a red dot on your forehead. I asked the doctor about the dot, it sort of concerned me. He gave some sure-of-himself answer saying it would go away in the next few weeks. Well, I grew to adore that red dot that never disappeared, distinguishing you in childhood photos from your brother.

You rocked your name. Always announcing loudly and proudly when asked, “Barnaby, like Barnaby Jones,” to new teachers or coaches. It always got a big laugh if they were old enough to understand the reference. Thank you, by the way, for being so mainstream as to play sports at all. We didn’t understand it, since your older brother was an artist and not the athletic type. We made jokes that you were really from the Winter family, our close family friends whose boys played competitive sports.

One of your first friends was a “little person” who you fearlessly defended against all cruelties slung at him by nasty kids in the park. You were three years old. On Saturdays, you went off with Domy, our Spanish-speaking babysitter, your “second mother,” to hunt for treasures at yard sales. Domy called them yardas. You haggled for her, translating her Spanish, often cutting the price from ten dollars to two. You were maybe four years old.

At your grammar school, handball became the game to play. At first, you weren’t all that good at it. So during recess, lunch and after school, you spent hours perfecting your game until you were the top player. You learned that putting in those long hours was the way to success. You became fiercely competitive. You stayed after school each day until they locked the gates and you were black from playground dirt.

In the first grade, you found some friends that you were deeply loyal to. Each weekend you would invite them to sleep over, with one kid bringing his older brother along. About a year later, this group turned on you, as they would on other kids, and suddenly they were making your life miserable. When their parents and the school’s principal made it clear no one would be held accountable, I picked you up one day and announced that you were done at this school. Finished. You would never have to walk into one of those classrooms again. I had your back.

We found another school, not easy since it was March. And from 4th through 8th grade, we made it up as we went along. After a year at the first school, they changed principals, so we found yet another, then another. At one point, you were home-schooled and we joked that “classes” were interfering with your skateboarding. By the time high school rolled around, you decided to head back into the local system.

I worried about you returning to where those same bullies were still making threats. But within a few days of starting 9th grade, you came home and announced that I needn’t worry because you had plenty of “gang back-up.” Gee, thanks for putting my mind to rest! By the end of the second week, there was a lunchtime dance battle and you decided to be bold and jump into the competition. As a white kid, you were a minority — and there were some seriously talented black kids dancing. It came down to two finalists, you and an African-American girl, and you won. Suddenly, the whole school knows who Barnaby is — the new white kid who won the dance battle.

when we realized you could dance, at your Bar-Mitzvah

On Tuesday and Thursday nights you put in your time at the church. We’re Jews. Did you know that? I know you know, because you went to Hebrew school and had a Bar Mitzvah. But it was church that you sparked to. Not the praying part; when that began, you would back off and announce you were Jewish. But you loved the social life there and you did such amazing community service work. Each year, off to Mexico to build houses for the poor. And on your own, nothing organized or required, you would collect baseball equipment and walk into local villages to distribute balls, gloves & bats to grateful kids. Again, you were the translator. You always came home from these excursions so rewarded, and I was very proud of all your hard work.

On acting. And drumming.
You are one extremely talented person Barnaby. When you were younger, you took up the drums, which of course I loved since I had been a percussionist. But, never did I have your natural talent. You have what it takes — natural rhythm. Well, I have that, I just wasn’t a great drummer.

One day your godmother Kimberly asked if you would like to act in a TV pilot. Rob Minkoff was the producer and Billy McAdams the director. We sent you there with the director’s stunning wife, Jessica, as your chaperone. By the time I picked you up after a day of rehearsing with all these hot chicks and talented actors, you were a changed person. You had the acting bug. I received the most complimentary letters from Rob and Billy about what a truly talented actor you are.

A couple of years ago, you did a video in which you danced the new dance craze — The Jerk — and suddenly you were BB the Jerk, internet sensation with over 4 million hits on YouTube!!! Since then you have been in dozens of music videos, your own and those of some famous performers. The group you formed, Wild Thingz, have written & recorded brilliant songs.

Barnaby, I want you to know something. In Bruno Mars’ own words…
I’d catch a grenade for ya
Throw my head on a blade for ya
I’d jump in front of a train for ya
You know I’d do anything for ya
I would go through all this pain,
Take a bullet straight through my brain,
Yes, I would die for you baby

You get the idea. With a mother like me, I’m all the back-up you will ever need. Happy Birthday!

wearing Grandpa’s (your idol) hat

Domy’s Happy Birthday to Barnaby Pupusa recipe
Or least let me try and give you the recipe for the special meal Domy (Barnaby’s second mother) likes to make for him.
Buy Masa. I go all the way to a tortilleria on Santa Monica Blvd. near Van Ness but I’m sure you could try Gallegos Mexican Deli in Mar Vista. You want to make your own tortillas forming them with your hands but they should be thicker than just a corn or flour tortilla. Put a touch of oil in a pan and cook them on both sides. I would put some butter and salt on that and call it a day but okay, go ahead and do what I “think” Domy does.
Cook hamburger meat the way you like to make tacos. Or you could cook some fish. Or, you might like a vegetarian Pupusa. Domy shreds cabbage, makes her own fresh salsa and no, I do not have this recipe. But, I do have the guacammole recipe in this blog if you put in a search. Shred some jack and cheddar cheese to put on top. Now, layer the tortilla you made from masa but just do this open face. Other pupusa recipe’s say it’s folded but this is not what we do. First add your meat, or fish, then cabbage, then cheese and add as much salsa and guacamole as you like and I sometimes eat it with a fork and knife but don’t try to be that civilized, it’s fine to use just your hands.

Barnaby, AKA BB the jerk in a video

click on song below and enjoy this song that I love by Wildthingz called Rumors

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Watch Barnaby’s Got Milk commercial below!

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8 Responses to “Dance Battle”

  1. augie duke says:

    ahhhhhhhhhhhh i am balling right now. I love my family, we will always have eachothers backs. Happy 21st bday barnaby i love you…

  2. Renee Sherman says:

    Boy, Fredde, you sure know how to put words down. I salute you and wish Barnaby a wonderful birthday.

  3. robin says:

    wow. do you really make tortillas by hand? impressive!
    highest compliment is that nurse julie signed up to get notifications of new entries. happy birthday to both of you! xxx

  4. DBoos says:

    Amazing story and an amazing kid Fred!! Talented just like his mom and I hope that Barnaby had a wonderful birthday! Great video!! Loved this piece!

  5. jennifer green says:

    Happy Birthday BB…..thanks for jerkin at the BH Hotel when your Mom and I met for lunch, I could see what a talent you were right away…
    Fredde…good job!

  6. gari smith says:

    fredde this is amazing~what a beautiful love letter to your son~i have never heard love articulated so well~what a great son and mother relationship you have~thank you again for sharing this~happy birthday to barnaby!!

  7. Fredde, your son is adorable. With a colorful character as yourself for a mother how could Barnaby do anything but succeed? You have such a way with words and to be able to communicate your feelings about your love for your son this beautifully is truly a gift.

  8. Laura Plotkin says:

    Another wonderful story of family love. So sweet. Happy Birthday, Barnaby!

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