Every week since forever, I write a second column. The Time Ranger tracks our Santa Clarita Valley’s illustrious history. Best as humanly possible, I attempt to quote scripture and verse over who shot whom or what blew up when. But, no one said temptation isn’t attractive. Sometimes, I’ll throw a small cream pie at my Old Newhall childhood pal, Pat Arman.
In his youth, which never ended, Arman was employed as a (three words): Hoo. Duh. Lum. I’ve never met a better man. Occasionally, the Time Ranger would investigate some unsolved felony from the 1950s. I’d ponder if Pat, at 7, had an airtight alibi after a Mystery Perp burgled a local gas station, making off with smokes, warm beer and 12 monkey wrenches, monkeys not included. Mule rustling. Girl Scout cookie robberies (at gunpoint). The rousting of sleeping nuns and hobos. We didn’t outright blame Pat.
But, we didn’t clear him, either.
The phone rang. Without “Hi” or “How’s your ex?” Arman seared my eardrums with expletives deleted, lawsuit threats and self-procreational suggestions guaranteed to stymie the most limber of Hindu augurs.
We’d laugh. I mean, bust your britches laugh. Then, ask how the hell the other was doing, followed by more blue language.
Not too many can make that profound change, from outlaw to angel. That dirty so-&-so. Every call, he offered the same greeting: “This is Pat Arman. How can I make your day better?”
This was not a rhetorical question. Arman truly wanted to know: How could he be your friend?
I’m surprised the guy survived 9th grade — which took from 1897 to 2016 to complete — without being shot, stabbed or kicked in the unmentionables.
How do you journey from being the star of your own motorcycle gang movie to successful businessman, from hopeless youth to guardian angel?
Once, butts supporting kitchen counters, Pat’s wife Arla and I listened as Arman recounted, for the 47,016th time, a big ammo-zinging attempted murder shootout. Some rival gang from San Fernando apparently hadn’t heard what an absolute peach of a guy Pat was. I’m guessing, because Arman was standing there, he wasn’t killed in the drive-by. Pause. Wife-like, Arla requested: “Haven’t heard that one in 20 minutes. Geez, Pat. Tell it again …”
I’m so grateful, so jealous, those two guys found each other, were husband and wife forever. It’s what life’s supposed to be about.
Arman taught me many things, like don’t judge by appearance. It was at the Moose Lodge, at a 1960s dance. Arman kept pestering Arla, asking her out. Not dumb, Arla noted Pat Arman possessed as much boyfriend potential as a chimpanzee kamikaze pilot. Who smokes. RIGHT AS he’s asking her out, My Hoodlum Friend gets cuffed and arrested. As he’s being dragged backward by a squadron of sheriff’s deputies, he yells back to assure Arla — don’t give up, he’s got potential.
That’s. My. Boy.
Today? A dozen close friends will swear the handcuffs were because Arman was actually a paid-for-hire male bondage prostitute.
A few skirmishes ago, Arman was livid. France wouldn’t let U.S. warplanes fly over French airspace. Arman took up personal fatwa, banning All Things French. French fries. French dressing. French biscuits and gravy. Pepé Le Pew cartoons. Mimes. Years later, one of his kids talked him into taking a genealogy test with the plastic mouth swab. Many drolly inquired: “Arman. How long did you have to study?”
Lab results came back. Big surprise? Pat? He’s 99.999999903% French.
Some of us tried to comfort. Perhaps Pat was merely Neanderthal? That answered a lot of questions.
Wherever Arman went, behind trailed 60 miles of twisted, burning asphalt. Into the body of Napoleon’s third cousin, God squeezed pirate and saint. This week, I got that impossible call. My friend, immortal, had passed.
And, truly? We don’t. Thank goodness.
If I ever grow up, I want to be like Pat Arman. Kind. Helpful. Honest. An absolute unfiltered 526-ounce moonshine jug of Put Up Your Dukes rapscallion. A protector of the weak and those down on their luck. Defender of fairness. Friend. Big-Asterisk fan of America and Santa Clarita. An actual doer — not talker — of good deeds. And, butthead.
We had so many more names to call each other, more backs to affectionately tap-tap-tap, gossip to monger, stories to exchange. Have you ever had a friend who makes you laugh so hard, your face hurts?
Pat and I’ve had conversations. God. Politics. Who was lazier? Or uglier? Or who stuttered. So many stories beginning with “…remember that time when…?” Or, who, in our circle, would win in a fistfight, spouses excluded? I’d bet good money Arman couldn’t spell “poem” with a running start, but that didn’t stop him from discussing poetry. Of all darn things, once, we chatted about “Abou Ben Adhem,” the famous 1834 prose by Leigh Hunt:
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!) / Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace, / And saw, within the moonlight in his room, / Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom, / An angel writing in a book of gold: — / Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold, / And to the presence in the room he said, / “What writest thou?” — The vision raised its head, / And with a look made of all sweet accord, / Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.” / “And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,” / Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low, / But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then, / Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night / It came again with a great wakening light, / And showed the names whom love of God had blest, / And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
Love that poem. Except, there’s that one, glaring error.
The author should have entitled it: “Pat Arman…”
John Boston is a local writer and forever pal of some no-good affected French motorcycle hoodlum…