I started my sophomore year of high school the summer of 1985. Because my school was on a year round schedule, I’d spent most of May and June away from my classmates. Being brought back together that July allowed us to collectively live the end of the Night Stalker’s reign of terror.
Back then, everyone, including high schoolers, read an actual physical newspaper.
Some classmates brought in their home paper, others stole them off the neighbor’s lawn, others just stole a stack from the newstand.
The four or five papers floating around class in the morning ensured that we were all talking about the Night Stalker.
“Where’d he kill today?” some asked.
“I slept with a bat by my bed,” said another.
“I slept with the windows open,” I said in my best badass, 15-year-old, voice.
Sleeping with the windows open was the one thing the police warned against. Richard Ramirez got in through open windows and doors.
I didn’t explain it then, because tempting fate seemed much cooler. but I wasn’t as much tempting fate as dutifully obeying my mother. That summer was HOT.
And I mean, sweaty, tossing all night, rats crawling out on the wires, not even a breeze hot. And we didn’t have airconditioning.
“Si el no nos mata, este calor lo hara,” my mom reasoned. I couldn’t argue with that.
One day, class conversation was about how the Night Stalker had been spotted at a diner up the street from the high school.
This proximity so captivated one classmate that he took to clipping the L.A. Times’ headlines every morning and wrapping them a la headband around his head.
“I am the night stalker” he yelled as he ran around the classroom.
We all laughed. “Yeah right, you’re also the guy who burned off his arm hair when the meeting of hair spray and match went awry.”
Richard Ramirez’s death yesterday reminded me of what an odd summer that was, and of how I think I heard that that classmate with the headline headbands became a police officer.
It was a weird summer story to live and share with my classmates, so I guess it’s no wonder that it inhabits the “odd thing to fondly remember” space in my mind.