Joy Riley, My Sister of Another Mother

Posted by Michael Zahara on Mar 20, 2016

I was on my game that morning not knowing that I would need to be as my day started on one of my visits here on the defunct National Airlines which I loved, miss very much, and used often.  ‘On my game’ meaning my being funny as all hell spontaneously, a great gift some believe I possess along with a completely full head of thick hair, both which I inherited from my Dad who is near to 80 years and there would be two very recent events threw me a one two gut punch which had caused me to pause, recollect, recall, and reflect, one being that Sheriff Lombardo’s father, Mr Joseph Lombardo Sr, passed away last week and his services are this week and who I’ll write about a little more next up, but today is about someone else who exited this life who played an unexpected and welcomed role within my own life here.

My grandparents would move out here in 1983 settling very near to Angel Park to join my aunt and uncle who came out in the 1960s and their enjoying ten great years together before Grandma passed and my Grandpa who popped up in campaigns and my written works here often, lived another healthy and productive 21 more years passing in 2014 at 101 years old, slower than shit, but good and self-reliant up until a few days before he died and he refused to live with any of us but this new person who breezed into our lives had already established a relationship and bond with Grandpa before I came into the picture on one of my regular visits out here and she wanted to live with at least one of us…and she wanted to be a part of all of us too!

Seriously, I know, isn’t that some crazy shit, she wanted to be a part of the Zaharas?

But in the ending chapters, she didn’t come to his wake or funeral, or to his 100th Birthday Bash Mayor Goodman attended in 2013 either.  It had been taxing my memory trying to recall why she did not come to either event but it likely being its hosted hours and her job as at Williams-Sonoma’s call center here servicing customers like Oprah and the On-Line Ordering Addicted of their high-end brands.  I truly missed her being there just the same and so did my grandfather, but while meditating and contemplating the news of her passing, she wasn’t there because didn’t want to see another loved one, even in centennial celebration and at the twilight of his life, leave her.

Of course she could not attend his wake or funeral either, her mother’s passing had a profound effect and turns out, lifelong impact on the rest of her life.  I knew this and just needed to recall it and today disappointed with myself knowing that though I was the one in pain as he left us and recovering from health issues myself, she was the one who needed me and the rest of us to reach out to her when he passed.

Damn, I hate mistakes like that when I make them; she being as fragile inside as the finest hand-blown crystal despite her BIG exterior presentation.  It didn’t come back to me until after Toni Washington Facebook messaged me last Sunday morning with the shocking news of her passing being bad enough, but then learning she had died alone, an agonizing, avoidable Cross I am bearing for my not remembering to not forget what she needed from us and from me in return for the gifts she had given to us.

I need to speak with her brothers who I have never even met and can’t even remember their names and will attempt to do this week, and I need them to know what their sister meant to us.


The morning we had met, she had breezed into the kitchen from the bedroom’s hallway of my mother’s first home here and it was a rather big, plump, voluptuous breeze as I recalled this past week.

I loved that first home of hers here and it smelling of new kitchen cabinetry mill-working and North Carolina woven deep-pile mint green carpeting, Broyhill furniture, and custom draperies.  She had spent 31 years of marriage having my father paint and wallpaper our house and having most rooms on a two-year staggered schedule.  I like my Ma’s decorating taste, it’s under-stated, traditional and elegant, her color palate is in the Autumn colors though we were the only family in my old neighborhood back home which did not have the avocado-colored kitchen appliances and carpeting of 1970’s Sears Roebuck/Brady Bunch set-decorated American living, though I believe my mother still has the identical also Sears provided avocado formal dining room tablecloth and napkins plus the clear vinyl snap bags they rested in until needed and each napkin having its own bag.  This graced our table each major holiday and despite her boiling everything she has ever put into a washing machine, simply would not tatter or wear down…ever!

Any episode where the Bradys are at their formal dinner table being served by Alice, that’s the exact same table dressings we had too.  Those damn Bradys fuqd up a lot of American families with their Sears Chic Shit in that company’s last gasps at Americana greatness and perhaps its no coincidence that I live very near to the Sears Grand concept store here and which each member of my family here were at its Grand Opening weekend at different times and we each made purchases from TVs to bed linens and socks.

That morning in an equally voluptuous, very thick, thirsty high-end designer terrycloth bathrobe and clutching a very large cup of coffee and wearing her fuzzy slippers was the visually pleasant opening scene producing an ear-to-ear grin on me.  Breezy entrance, big bathrobe, and big coffee cup were three HUGE pluses for me with perhaps nothing more than a brush through her hair and across her teeth was all she’d done so far that morning and there is something amazingly attractive about a woman who feels comfortable enough within her own skin to present herself to the world as her day was beginning, she while knowing who I was and that I was arriving via my mother, but my not having any idea who she was; she would be putting on no airs that morning, no pretensions, no contrivances at all and for all of the time I’ve known her since that morning, and she never did.

I would learn that her coffee was a very important component of her daily routines; separate her from her brew and someone was going to get hurt was all conveyed to me in her manner and how she held herself in perhaps these first 5 or 6 seconds of seeing her. Her grip of this cup was resolute and open-palmed supporting the cup’s bottom with her left and and clutching its handle with her right hand to bring to her mouth

This was 1996, twenty years ago this year if I’m remembering this correctly which I’m not confident I’m doing because of the whole of this story and the entirety of this woman in my life; in our lives.

‘You must be Michael, welcome to Vegas honey, my name is Joy!’, she said as she came forward, embraced me and hugged the shit out of me while not dripping a single drop of coffee sloshing around in her cup. She was big and her hugs were even bigger too and moments later after cracking the following joke thread directly to her, I heard for the very first time her very big, very joyous ability to laugh boldly and loudly when she was tickled to laugh, something she very much enjoyed doing though I don’t recall my ever having gone into ‘performance-mode Mikey’ deliberately for her, but she would soon come to know when I did that with others to make them feel more comfortable, relaxed, and at home if necessary.

‘Who are you and why are you sleeping with my mother?, I shot right back to her after our hug embrace concluded.  She roared with approving laughter but I wasn’t entirely joking. ‘I want every filthy stinkin’ detail and be as detailed, lurid, and vulgar as possible; go ahead and use the BIG words too, I can take it!’, I continued.  Ma’s then cat Mariah I found in one of my company’s trucks as a kitten. shot like a bat outta hell out of the kitchen at the uproarious laughter following that second statement from me to this Joy person.

‘Oh your Moms told me that you’re a god-damn pain-in-the-ass since the day you were born, but she didn’t tell me you’re a very funny, spot-on man Mr Michael, Ha!!, oh, what were you like 11 or 12 pounds with a big fat head?’, she said through giggles and gulps of coffee.

Well, I’ve known her for 35 years and for the record lady, she’s no picnic in the park herself ya’ know’, I said

Then I said, ‘Do you love her or is this just a filthy female-on-female fornicating thing cuz you have a Granny Fetish; she’s 59 years old you know?

‘Oh hush, you are too much was followed by more laughter as she sat at the table and went straight for the coffee cake on it and invited me to sit down at my own mother’s kitchen table convincing me this was more than just a Geriatric Porn one-night-stand roll in the hay for this Joy woman who I would soon learn was called by everyone she knew here: Joy Girl.

‘You are aware she’s not a lesbian and this is just youthful experimentation which I can relay that all of my siblings and myself want her to experiment with everything and everyone, for you to stick everything you have anywhere you wish, and even blow up the god-damn Chemistry Lab if that’s what’s required for membership in your little Lesbian Club.  Is she your Sugar-Granny or something? My Sis’s going to need to be briefed about latex products and devices used and me and the boys do not wish to know about any of that shit–ever–thank you very much!

‘…am I clear on this and are we on the same page going forward?’, I concluded.

More laughs and giggles, then seconds later, complete silence between us and the cat figured it was safe to return to the kitchen.

‘I assume you’ve gotten the memo…and are at least somewhat aware that you’re a Black woman and my Ma is not? I said as I was drinking straight out of the coffee pot bypassing the cup as I sat down.

This little tidbit fact being quite the reason for my bemused reaction to a Black women in a bathrobe exiting from the boudoir areas of my Ma’s house because even after being legally married in the eyes of God, and with a signed permission slip from the Pope, no sex was ever allowed to occur in our house much less with a Black woman.. and between our Ma and a Black woman!

‘My brotha, you are a very funny guy, your Momma is called ‘Momma’ by all of us at work even the bosses and supervisors hon, and we black girls adopted and made her our very own!’

Oh, it’s cuz she has ‘bad hair’, right?

‘Ooooh you bad, that’s too funny, she really do have bad hair and how do you know ’bout bad hair?’

‘I’ve done some covert work as an undercover Black woman for Science and for shits and giggles too…plus the Sistas at my work made me an Honorary Black Woman after I took care of Sherelda for them by sending her fat fuqn constantly farting ass to another location as her manager!’  Joy Girl had quite a high level of junk in her big trunk of a badunka and joked well about it too.

Then entering the kitchen through the same hallway came my Ma and we hugged and kissed–but no tongue, of course‘Ma, I like your new Lesbian lover so far; but does she know about you and all your shit or you guys just fall into bed together for the first time last night?’  ‘This whole thing don’t really fit too well with all your churchy-Jesus bullshit either Ma, and I really think this chick may think you’re just a really, really light-skinned Black granny with Tupperware issues…..soooooo, what the hell is going on here Ma!, I joked.

‘Oh, knock it off, this is my friend, new house-mate and co-worker Joy Riley and she’s not a Lesbian, she’s a Nebraskan!, said my Ma.

‘Oh mother, how could you be so cruel?  Calling her a Nebraskan is way worse than calling her a Lesbian; I’m sorry Miss Riley, she’s Catlick with Berwyn Brain Disorder!

She ‘aint lying Michael, I am from Nebraska, Omaha, and my late father was the Chief of Police there!, retorted Joy Girl!

With that statement the Heavens had opened and Choirs of Angels had descended into the kitchen and in an instant, a very close relationship would develop between she and I in addition to those she was growing already within our family and she was included in everything we did here. My late Grandpa, who she called ‘Pops’, simply adored her and she always respectful and very protective and doting, loving him as her own too. 

I joked to Grandpa, ‘Gramps, I think Joy is madly in love with you and if she ever says she gonna ‘Fix you a Plate’, know that that is Black-woman speak for ‘Get your nasty ass claws away from my man bitch’ said to scare all the other females away, and then if she ever calls you My nigga‘, sorry, but its over old man, cuz that means she’s gonna drag your little ass to the Preacher just as soon as she finds a dress and picks up a new pair of pantyhose from Walgreens!

Breakfast with VeShaun serving at the Outside Inn (now Pint) at Hualapai & Charleston most Sundays, I know Boney James and all the fellas in that band from their Arizona Charlie’s shows we attended often and who she was a Groupie of sorts with those guys. She was a long time part of my visiting here and a weekly regular thing when I came over in 2003 full-time with she living in the same complex we did too.  She needed my mother to help salve the void within her gigantic heart missing since her mother passed with me suggesting to Joy that my father was better suited to ‘mother her up’, and though he couldn’t bake anything for her, neither could my Ma, but he could Ace bandage anything including that void she felt.  My Ma is great for coffee and a cigarette or two, but she was coming off of the longest divorce march within the entire family to Ace Boy, Joy needed to understand the dynamics within our family and that both of my parents were in the most self-indulgent phases of their lives after they split up doing things which they had never done before and which we’re still moping up in one way or another as I write this.  If Joy wished to achieve Platinum Membership status of being my Blood Sister of the Great Plains, she was going to have to know all about the flaming, burning, smoldering wreckage of a Norman Rockwell painting we were living through and dealing with as any family would.

She reached into her purse and freely and willingly signed-up with her own Parker pen; this woman was raise right seeing that pen, I thought to myself then.  This is the Black America I know deeply and intimately via my own interpersonal relationships with so many people I’ve met along the way on my own journey.

She was an open-minded Black straight women who actually had a big sassy, brassy lesbian relationship with another woman named Toni Washington who I believe still today, is the best woman to ever come out of Compton California and helping me to understand that place better in recent years just being who and what she is; she is an old school Lady CRIP now living in Sacramento today who has been a ‘Joy’ to watch and be part of her life now through Facebook and two marriages to the late Vera and today to Arlene, and whose late mother and I got along very well with at their company functions and Toni also calls my mother ‘Momma’. 

The current phase of Toni’s journey is drenched in the love and challenge of being a Foster Mom pouring from her own big heart and intuitive intellect, the nourishment necessary to guide her older adopted children to transition into becoming good, thoughtful young people with all the tools they’ll need to build their own lives as adults.  I couldn’t be more proud of their efforts, truly grateful to know them all and lay witness to what she may not have known was within her at another time in her earlier life.

Yes indeed Ms Washington, God is indeed Great and He is doing great things through you and your dear wife Arlene.  Who is anyone to stand or sit in judgement of you because of your heart and whom it is that you love since He freely gave to you that love overflowing your cup today!

Joy Girl also became very fond of LVMPD Lt Ron Williams and when I introduced them was the first time I saw and heard that she was fluent in ‘Cop’ and well-versed in matters she knew well from her father’s barrier-busting rise to Chief in Omaha and she did chit-chat with Ron like a Cop Wife.   She being like almost everyone within this story myself included, having spent major portions of our adult lives alone, but not lonely though I wondered this morning if that was really true for Joy.

None of us yet knowing what was going on in her life during those finals days.  No husband or wife or kids, no partner, no neighbor there to assist her when she needed assistance it appears today and what I need to discover what had happened and then reconcile how it was that she died alone in the parking lot of the hospital and my failure to be there for her is wearing on me like a concrete suit despite our sharing an unusual but very good and healthy relationship not of disabling enabling, but of empathetic empowering and gratefulness to know and to love one another warts and all, for more than two decades via martinis and football games on big screen TVs over the bar at some of our favorite stops.  Her intellect was sharp and bright, her heart and her compassion were deep and evident to all who knew her here.

Few knew we were doing this very regularly; I just wanted time with her without my family stuff monopolizing our time, and she was good with not discussing all the relationship dysfunction of all of our mutual friends and all their bullshit too.  It was us talking, drinking, playing and hanging together but we never talked about racial issues or politics our views were near to identical on both most times and didn’t need to be validated between us though she got the primo Obama swag after my 2008 trips to headquarters in Chicago though she coming from one of the most GOP states in the union, I never asked her affiliation and and very rarely do ask because I want that to register to people that my interest in them is not an operational function of my public self and life here or anywhere else.

She starred in Ron’s 2006 media I designed for his campaign as the only daughter of the late Chief of Police of the largest city in Nebraska which is also home-base to the Union Pacific Railroad, which is why I’ve been a frequent visitor there too.  Ms Riley was my Special Guest for the 2006 Jefferson/Jackson Dinner ClarkDems hosted at the Rio with President Carter bringing actress Shirley Mac Clain as his date and him ‘lusting in his heart’ again my joking to our 2,000+ guests, and his hitting on Joy Girl and my Ma and me from the podium that evening reminding my seated somewhere out there mother that:

‘The President is a married man Ma, regardless, my ever calling my friend Jimmy, ‘Daddy’, is out of the question!’

Holding my fingers to my ear like I had a USSS earpiece getting info passed to me on the stage from them while looking off into the wings and into the crowd too,

‘Ma, get back to your seat now, and stop passing notes to Jimmy bcuz the Secret Service informs me that Miss Mac Clain is now  forbidding your notes and she’s pitching a huge bitch down there to them…

‘…Uh oh, and now she wants them to ‘off you’ for moving in on her man down there!’…

‘Ladies and Gentleman, free of charge to you and apparently a part of our evening’s programming, a new episode of the Jerry Springer Show is being born tonight between Carol Zahara & Shirley Mac Clain with wigs flyin’ and their bitch fightin’ over Jimmy Carter..’

‘…and we’ll know in a minute or two where the Line is going to open up at down in the Sportsbook for you folks wishing to wager and should any dry-cleaning be necessary after these women are done and the food & wigs stop flying, send that over the the NVGOP please!’

‘I think I speak for all of the fellas here this evening Mr President, we’d like to know what is that you’re doing to these females to get this kind of response from them sir, cuz frankly from up here, you don’t look like much sir!’

Though I had a number of fine cocktail products working their way through me up there, that was some pretty funny shit outta me too and getting very big laughs that evening!

These were the Women of Yucca Mountain on Bechtel SAIC’s very generous payroll here at Town Center and Covington Cross in Summerlim.   In 2003, 1,100 highly-paid Engineers in Project Management efforts worked there and most of the group I knew were within the firm’s Support Staff of those Engineers.

This was also a Moment in Time for all of us whose lives intersected with Bechtel SAIC being the common denominator we all shared but I never worked there, but I almost accepted a position at another time in my life. Yucca’s alleged ‘cancellation’ and the enormous  brain drain Harry Reid’s meddling caused the local wage rates which plummeted when Bechtel SAIC left, other employers no longer having to compete for ‘Worker Bees’ with Yucca’s enormous reach across the entire local economy, and their cherry-picking off the very best of the office workforce here, and ending with a great big thud.

Trying to track down these people I know is proving challenging, Connie and Carl who I’d like to speak with the most, I think I found her on FB and she back in Chicago and am awaiting her reply, another woman via LinkedIn I know, I’ll contacted tomorrow too.  I will find out what was happening in Joy’s life and who was there within it and I suspect no foul play at all; she was born the only daughter of a cop, and she died the only daughter of the Chief of Police within a very good family of people with values, principles, mores, high-standards and expectations of their children and with lots of love and attention given to them too!  I have pictures on different media and I’ll run those when I get it together and let you all know because I’m writing about this today–forcing myself to share this private life stuff with you–because a number of readers have impressions of me created in your own minds which is very entertaining to me, but not true:  I’m not a know-it-all, what I do know has taken me a lot of effort and work to know and I try to use that knowledge to benefit others, I have fuqd a few things up in my day too, and though I think of myself as a good man, I am in no way, shape, or form, a perfect manI also love to Sin and love the Art of Sinning itself and have proven quite good at it really, but keep that in check at the Sin Bank & Loan down the street.

Ms Riley dying alone at 59 in her car is my failure though and I am one angry sonofabitch at myself for a week now after learning about this sad news.  This took me by such surprise I’ve been asking myself ‘am I fuqn Vegas now?’, after fighting the urges internally since coming here not to ever become like what it is that I don’t like at all about some folks here and never did...and to maintain myself and what I think is important.

And to the late Chief & Mrs Riley of Omaha NE, I’d like to apologize to you both for not taking care to take care of that which is most important in this life and your daughter Joy was certainly that to many of us and to me and I truly regret my inattention which is hurting my heavy heart like hell today and will for quite some time to come!

Despite my many gifts and too many to count blessings, I can’t fix this, and that’s what’s hurting me most of all and I’m sorry.


Mike Zahara Siganture

Michael Zahara

A National Treasure


Michael Z in Michael Kors McCarran 2 27 2016