Prom Date's Name Was Bubba
But Funny is the genre I call home. I would prefer to live in the neighborhood
of Funny Ha Ha, but life's realtor assures me Depressing But Funny is
the place for me.
I grew up in Austin, Texas, and as you might expect, I went to the prom
with a guy named Bubba. His real name was Alfred Paul Curcoe the Fourth,
which, believe me, is just as Texan a name as Bubba. Saying and hearing
the name Bubba makes people smile. One believes that a Bubba is someone
you already know: a simple person who might laugh at fart jokes or racist
humor. But my Bubba, as if you can own one, didn't make racist jokes.
His humor was more John Belushi meets Monty Python, and he had a smile
that rivaled Dennis Quaid's. He and his sidekick, Matt Belew, alternated
from speaking in mock country accents to high falutin ones. They liked
to show up at parties with cans of generic beer and parody the Coors commercials
that were popular at the time. "It ain't city beer. Heck it's not
even country beer. It's just beer."
Bubba was handsome, charming and athletic. He was the kind of guy who
didn't study but did well on tests anyway. He could also on occasion be
brooding and intense. His father Alfred Paul Curcoe the Third, died of
a brain aneurism when Bubba was eleven. Complaining to him about the behavior
of my living, breathing parents never lasted long.
He had a loving mom, a sweet sister, and a step-dad who taught him how
to rebuild classic cars. Bubba's first vehicle was more an elaborate model
car kit than a mode of transportation. He worked on it for years before
he ever drove it. It was a vintage 1960 Jaguar XJS sedan, silver with
red leather interior, with a push button ignition. The kind of car you'd
want to stop in traffic and ask, "Pardon me. Do ya'll have any Grey
Poupon?" If I recall correctly, Bubba kept a jar of mustard in the
car for just such occasions, because I gave him one.
Bubba Curcoe was not only my prom date, but he was the only person besides
my husband with whom I was ever in love. Not that Bubba was ever in love
with me. He liked me a lot. We bonded in junior high over pinball at our
friendly neighborhood 7-Eleven. We made each other laugh, and he loved
that I grew up in a house with a pool, a hot tub, and beer on tap. To
be fair, he didn't hang out with me for just those things. There was also
unlimited food and a big screen TV.
By the time my brother Leon and I, the youngest of our family of six kids,
had become teens, my parents had pretty much retired from parenting. They
just wanted to be "friends," and thought giving us cool stuff
they bought on credit made up for the fact they didn't attend school functions,
or go to our sporting events. It worked on certain levels.
In junior high and high school, I toured the classrooms at Back to School
Nights with my friends and their parents. Bubba's mom Lynda and his step-dad
Del always gave me extra attention, seeing I toured alone. Lynda and Del
never seemed to miss any school-related event for Bubba or his sister,
It didn't bother Bubba in the least my family couldn't afford the six-bedroom
house we lived in. In a way, that made it cooler. Enron didn't invent
the idea of pretending to have money that wasn't there. Texan families
like mine had been doing it for generations. My alone time with my dad
was often spent going to the manager's station at the Safeway Grocery
Store on late Friday afternoons, where he wrote checks to Cash. I would
squirm with embarrassment knowing our mission was to rush the money to
the bank to float the next set of bills. If we timed it just right, the
check he'd given to Safeway wouldn't go to the bank 'til Monday and wouldn't
be processed until late the next week, when we could go back to Safeway
and cash another check. That Del, Bubba's step-dad, was the manager at
Safeway, it seemed to me the whole world knew my family lived on the edge.
For Bubba's sixteenth birthday, I sprung for a kid's birthday party for
our crowd of friends at the McDonald's on the corner of Barton Springs
Road and South Lamar. A Ronald McDonald impersonator in white make-up,
clown nose and giant red shoes led a small brigade of smart-ass teenagers,
as we held hands and did the kitchen tour where we Oohed and Aahed as
we saw the fries, burgers and shakes being made. We tossed beanbags shaped
like burgers into the mouth/hole of a cardboard HamBurgler and laughed
like we were so brilliant for being teenagers having a children's party.
pay for things like the McDonald's party and to have money of my own,
I worked an after school job. Bubba occasionally picked me up on his motorcycle.
More than once we skidded on wet pavement. Sliding underneath the back
of a car and staring up at its exhaust pipe with Bubba on top of me, my
life flashed before my eyes. It was as close to sex as we ever got.
Bubba was in love with another girl. That didn't stop him from coming
to my house and drinking beer and, occasionally, making out with me, as
if it was a "mistake" each time. (It was the Natural Light talking.)
His obsession was (someone I'll call) Ann Nameless. She was two grades
older than Bubba, and one grade older than me. His birthday was September
23rd and mine was June 7th. I was only 109 days older than he was. Ann
was 473 days older. Not that I cared that much. Helping Bubba pick out
jewelry for Ann and listening to the poem he wrote for her on Valentine's
Day were really only small blips in my adolescent angst. Being the designated
driver in my father's van, while the two of them made out in the back
on the way home from a party at the Lake, listening to them moan, whisper
and laugh, is hardly worth remembering.
After Ann Nameless went off to college, Bubba and I would swim, drink
too much beer and sit on my parents' screened-in porch off the house that
bill collectors built. He would often say such romantic things to me as,
"Why don't you take your top off?"
I'd reply, "Why do you want me to take my top off?"
"Because I love you."
Bubba would offer up, "Somethin' to do."
I was raised Catholic. Plus, my oldest sister Zeta got pregnant when I
was in the 8th grade. I had been changing diapers and babysitting for
free for far too long to fall for "Somethin' to do."
Bubba and I went to the Austin High Class of '82 Prom together. Ever the
feminist, I invited him. My mother managed an expensive dress shop, which
loaned me a $5,000 sequined gown. Del lent us an emerald green Jaguar
that looked amazing with my dress. We got food to go from an Italian restaurant
and set up a table and chairs on the grassy median where Austin's First
Street Bridge meets up with Cesar Chavez. Everyone going to the prom passed
us on the way to the Hyatt. The only photo I have from Prom night was
of Bubba and me, with a homeless guy, who came out from under the First
Street Bridge to drink beer with us.
was class president and helped run the prom. I was dealing with school
business when the room I rented with friends at the Hyatt was taken over
by Bubba and the rest of the football team. They managed to get us kicked
out of the rooms I had helped pay for. With no place to go for the night,
I dropped off the immaculate $5,000 dress at home. I changed into jeans
and drove an hour and a half away (sans Bubba) to eat breakfast in historic
San Antonio with close friends from my graduating class.
I was an
awkward third wheel to the prom couples who still wore their formal wear
while eating Huevos Rancheros and Migas.
Bubba and I drifted apart when I moved on to the University of Texas and
started doing stand up. I wanted him to meet my comedy friends and, most
specifically, my husband Pete, but he stopped returning calls. I missed
the transition when my friend crossed over from being a fun-loving party
guy to someone with major drug and alcohol problems. I hadn't heard that
drug and alcohol abuse were ways to cope with symptoms of schizophrenia,
and that Bubba had been diagnosed with it and was in a really bad way.
I didn't know how bad things were until years later I learned he'd killed
himself. After I heard, I called his mother and told her how sad I was,
and that Bubba had been one of my favorite people in life. We laughed
and cried about a lot of things and promised to keep in touch. I have
made it a habit to call Lynda every year on September 23rd, because I
know Bubba's birthday must be so hard for her.
Just a few days ago, I called. Bubba's stepfather Del answered and said
he and Lynda had me on their minds a lot lately. They'd adopted "a
sweet little girl who's part German Shepherd and somethin' else with big
feet," and they named her Romie. They hoped I wouldn't be offended,
and I'm not. I was like a puppy dog following their son. Naming one after
me is right up there with the way the name Bubba makes people smile.
I live at the corner of Depressing But Funny, right down the street from
"Somethin' To Do".
mom Lynda with the puppy named Romie
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