Tuesday, January 23, 2007
My dad was a pretty good golfer I guess. I don't think he was a member of a country club and I don't know who he played with. I just know he did.
As a kid, I liked to play "Putt-Putt" at the miniature golf course by the same name in Lavallette N.J. during the two weeks I spent there most summers with my mother, step-father, and later on a half-sister. My dad also took me to play miniature golf. Once, he took me to the real golf course. We walked it, we must have. I remember the green grass and seriousness that every golfer had when aiming.
Dad introduced me to range practice too. We'd each have our own bucket. That I liked much more than waiting for a bunch of people to tee off on the big course. I outgrew any serious enjoyment of mini-golf. Nowadays, I am more interested in the tadpoles and frogs in the fake ponds than I am in aiming for the flag. The buckets though-- I still love them.
Assigning each ball a name of whoever I am angry at and then whaling on it as far as I can! Great fun that is. Surely even the Summerlands cannot be any finer.
sapphoq on life
Friday, January 19, 2007
In New York City, Dad also took me to the Museum of Natural History as I was even at that age something of a nature freak and also once to an Italian restaurant where they made their own pasta, to the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty [we went there on a school trip too but the tour guides never could answer my questions and my dad did], the tip of the Stock Market Exchange where one could see Ellis Island, and to the Car Show at the World Trade Center.
The Car Show was also cool. I liked cars back then and I still do. To see the new models was exciting and even more so the proto-cars-- stuff that was very futuristic at that time but hadn't been built yet. My dad got me and a friend passes when I was old enough to drive in but we climbed up some stairs and got lost and went through some door and landed in the middle of it all so we didn't need them after all.
sapphoq on life
"But theological change happens though selective quoting. Every religious person does it: You quote those verses that resonate with your own religious insights and ignore or reinterpret those that undermine your certainties. Selective quoting isn't just legitimate, but essential: Religions evolve through shifts in selective quoting."
Yossi Klein Halevi
When I was a kid, I went to church on Sundays. The church was six blocks away from home and mostly I walked. Once in awhile, I took the bus if I wanted to. When I got older tho, church got to be boring. So I would walk a couple of extra blocks to the Italian bakery and then if I felt like it kept walking west up Bloomfield Avenue. At least one time I made it to a long cement bench shaped at a 45 degree angle from itself which said in tiles, "Come ye apart, and rest awhile." That bench was real cool.
[My mother caught on that I wasn't going to church so I used to run in to get a Sunday bulletin to take home. I went to an episcopal church and a spanish-speaking church too at least once but I just didn't tell her. Once I got wheels, I was off and running. I got through my last three years of high school doing either Jesus or drugs but never both at the same time. My mother seemed to like me stoned better than on Jesus. She never went to any church but she wanted me to. And it had to be her church-- a roman catholic church. I paid for my choice to defect from the catholics later on with getting dragged across a rug on my knees, thrown down some steps, and a severe beating. That was how I got to move out to my dad's. Dad was mentally stable, non-alcoholic, non-abusive, and easier to live with.]
Bloomfield Center was a place sometimes friends and I would go on Saturdays tho to there we did take the bus. There was The Last Straw there [a head shop; not a gay juice bar like The Last Straw in Albany NY] and a Woolworth's where once I tried on a black hair wig and a movie theatre and a bank and some other stuff. My friend Joann F. in high school lived bout a mile down from Woolworths on top of the store her parents owned.
Further up Bloomfield Avenue and Bloomfield was Montclair where my mother and step-father and half-sister lived in an apartment building for a couple of years. The Unitarian Church was also there. I went there sometimes after moving to my dad's with the folks I kiddy-sat for. More stores too. The Montclair stores were classier and thus didn't hold the appeal that the ones in Bloomfield or downtown Newark did. Once tho, Joann F. and I bought a blouse for someone at the Bambergers in Montclair as a Christmas present.
Further West from Montclair was Caldwell with its' collection of small shops and West Caldwell where my dad worked. There was an office supply store in West Caldwell and I used to like to go there too. To this day, I love office supply shops. I worked in the office for my dad during the summer of 1973. My mother didn't know as she would have forbade me so I just didn't tell her. Working there gave me a paycheck and that helped very much.
South of Bloomfield and a tad west of where my mother lived in Newark was Orange. That was where my dad lived and where I wound up living with him. I also spent six months in a wild rooming house in South Orange with a bunch of young folk. In February of 1978, I moved to Baton Rouge Louisiana. Baton Rouge continued to be the one continuous high that South Orange had become. I moved Upstate New Yak to my grands farm in November of 78. Most all of 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, I was a full-blown partyhead and remained that way until September of 1980 when I sobered up and cleaned up.
sapphoq on life
Thursday, January 11, 2007
In the nursing home I worked at, there was a frail short old lady who had a screaming voice and could curse like a trooper. She scratched, bit, and kicked which didn't help to alleviate her infamy any. We all said to each other that she was "possessed."
In the first case, the only "possession" was the possession of feeling stuck [even if the lady at the botanica didn't want to be a jesus freak, it was clear she wanted out and could not find her way out]. In the second the "possession" was whatever was going on in that poor old woman's brain.
We don't go 'round talking bout heavenly possession tho I spose some of the more ecstatic religious adherents would beg to differ-- practitioners of Santaria "riding the head," the "fire in the head" of some shamans,"channeling" of various entities [whether internal or from incarnate spirits flying around dieing to speak to seekers in seances], those who jibber-jabber in the nonsense syllables we know as "tongues."
Thus, "possession" can be viewed as the experience of specially being singled out by alien energies in order to be the recipient of culturally determined symptoms or perhaps the victimization of those who gave up their choices in life or those being slew by neurological [I throw psychiatric into the neuro-category also] processes.
Life-changing? I thought my life was changed cuz I was jesus-tripping, though I was a rather unhappy jesus freak. Tongues, church, and reading the christian book didn't translate into any real changes for me-- other than perhaps having some oddball friends, and fighting with churchfolk over the idea that I was not going to give up dancing, playing cards, or rocknroll.
sapphoq on life
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
I used to catch fireflies back there, and in the corner field which later became an apartment building where Billy and his little dog later came to live. When it was a field, Maria from across the street and I used to go sit in the tallness of the weeds and tell each other spooky stories. She moved and my family was angry cuz her family sold their house to a black family. I wasn't allowed to get to know my new neighbors tho I had wanted to. I think I used to wave to them when no one in my family was looking. My family was very prejudiced. My mother even became an italian by injection and professed to hate folks from the countries where her parents came from. My little half-sister could barely talk when she was taught to call black kids in strollers "chocolate babies." But only from the safety of our living room window which looked out onto the sidewalks of Fourth Avenue.
Behind the shed was the backyard of the cat woman. She had a bunch of kids and a bunch of cats. I knew one kid that was hers-- a blonde haired freckled kid named Maureen. Never got to play with her much though. That house too was later torn down and replaced with an apartment building. The large beech tree in front remained.
A couple of doors down was a family with a bunch of kids and Dori and her older brother Jeff next door to them on Roosevelt Avenue. Dori's father was a doctor. I think their parents named their kids after themselves. Dori and I played a lot in her room. She wasn't much for hanging outside. Her bedroom was upstairs. In the laundry room was a little plaque with dogs. Each dog had the name of a family member on it. Sometimes one family member got moved to the doghouse. I swam in her backyard pool once. I remember her backyard had a brown wooden stockade fence around it with trees growing over the top of it.
Around the corner on Springdale Avenue lived Gracie with her two brothers. The middle brother was Ronald. The oldest-- Greg perhaps. Her mother Jill. Her father Sal or Salvatore. The tenant lived downstairs. Sal worked for Sandoz Pharmaceuticals and had a tavern and then he died. Jill took over the tavern. It was several blocks down Springdale Avenue. We used to get free quarters for the jukebox and the ski-doo table. Pool was free. My mother didn't like me hanging there. Something about becoming a barfly and the old men who sat there drinking. The old men never bothered us though.
Gracie had a cousin Patti. Gracie had big extravagant birthday parties too. [I had one birthday party but no one came. My mother's rep as a drunk and rager was widespread. After that one, I stuck to the parties presented to me in which all the relatives came]. No one ever came to my house to hang out except for the poor girl living down the street on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street. She came once for dinner. It was spaghetti. She didn't like it. She was afraid of getting yelled at. My mother told her she didn't have to eat it. The poor girl ran off to home and never came over again. That poor girl lived in a brick house which had seen better days with no backyard.
Gracie and I spent many hours playing in her yard. Gracie's yard looked onto the yard of some other kids we hung with-- Patti and Debbie [and their little brother Kevin]. They liked to play the board game "Sorry." I played cuz they played but didn't much see the point of it. I threw up at Patti and Debbie's house once, on the kitchen floor.
Across from Patti and Debbie's was Diane and Cathy. Cathy had a canopy bed. I wanted one too but my mother was full of stories about kids burning up in their canopy beds. Diane's mother-- I don't remember her name-- helped her earn her girl scout badges since the troop at St. Rose of Lima wasn't into it. My troop at St. Francis Xavier was. Their father was Ernie. He hung out at home a lot being a musician. He gave me piano lessons later on, once a week. Diane and I had potato chip fights. We would chew them up and spit them all over each other for fun.
Up the street from Gracie was Gor-Jean. We all played kickball in the street and Bonnie-and- Clyde. I knew the song by heart. My mother thought Gor-Jean shouldn't like my mother more than her own. Across the street was Richard whose mother thought I was "too old" for her son. I liked Richard though.
Richard was willing to walk the twenty or so blocks with me to the library on some Saturdays. And he was fun, not annoying like most small children. We dropped ice cream cones [the packaged kind with the funny brown cones] off the bridge over Branch Brook Park. My aim was true. I managed to cream a few windshields of the passing cars underneath and one ice cream flew inside a window of a patrolling police car. We ran furiously after that.
Branch Brook Park had ponds. My school pal Christina and I caught some goldfish from one of them down the street from her house. She fried the goldfish on her stove. I watched, fascinated. Her mother wasn't home as she was busy running the paint store business that her dead husband had left her to run. Christina had a younger brother Joseph who never told on us and a dog Laddie Boy who couldn't. I didn't understand why she wanted to fry them fish but it was oddly stimulating all the same.
The part of Branch Brook Park that lay at the top of Park Avenue bordered on the back of a factory. There were cherry blossoms and little informal "trails." I spend a summer smoking oregano in my tan raincoat on one of those trails. The factory workers used to wave to me on their breaks. I guess some of them must have enjoyed the smell of burning oregano.
My mother used spices infrequently. Oregano was permitted on tomatoes and in meatballs. Salt was okay. Black pepper was off-limits. She said it was "ground up rocks" and refused to serve it to us. We did not even have a pepper shaker, just a salt shaker. She still does not use black pepper to this day.
I do remember eating stuffed peppers. My mother made them with tomato sauce, rice, and hamburger. I remember eating veal and peppers at home too. And sausage and peppers sandwiches but not where. And veal cutlet parmajan sandwiches on the Trailways bus out of the city to go see my grands on the farm they bought upstate New Yak in their retirement years.
My grandmother grew tomatoes in her farm garden. Miles of tomatoes it seemed to me at the time. She used the smaller of the two farm tractors to till her garden. She had other veggies too. And yellow tea roses. I don't remember them but I do remember the rhubarb by the back porch. She planted by the moon. Her stuff always grew. My grandfather left the gardening up to her. He would walk around muttering things between his pipe like, "Don't ever buy a farm when you grow up, Spike. It's hard work." He would make me promise him in his despair. I did.
Now I wonder if it is okay to break that promise. He is dead now. Gram is too. And my grands on my dad's side and my step-grands on my step dad Tony's side. So is Tony. I surmise that my mother must have met Tony when she hired his mother to babysit me. Or left me there at any rate when they went on dates. My first memory is of walking around the upstairs living room with my future step-grandfather encouraging me to let go of the furniture. I did. When my mother came back to get me, I remember walking to her without holding on to anything. I was just over a year old then I guess. I remembered being there before when my mother and I moved to the downstairs of Fourth Avenue when I was in Fourth Grade.
My step-grandfather had a jar of long skinny green hot peppers that he liked. Sucking the juice out made them burn a bit more. He also put red pepper flakes on his spaghetti from time to time. I liked that too. He got rectal cancer and he died when I was in high school on Thanksgiving Day in the hospital. When we came home after, we found that my step-uncle Joey's dog Kingy had devoured the Thanksgiving bird left in a platter steaming on the table in our haste.
Kingy was not much of a dog. A german shepard he was, slept in the hallway upstairs on the second floor of my step-grands' flat. Slept right through the robbery with the burgular having to walk over his prone form to enter any of the rooms upstairs to steal the money he stole. I always wondered about that. Dude took money but nothing else. In my family, one kept the wonderings to oneself. My step-uncle Joey taught me to keep the books of money people with funny sounding nicknames like "Parkway South" owed him. My dad didn't much care for that when I told him but oh well. Joey later went to prison at Rahway State and then moved to Florida where he ran an exotic petshop and got shot in the spleen. After getting shot, he drove himself to the hospital. But he didn't die that night. He died several years later of older age and left his long-time girlfriend Alice and her two kids enough money to count themselves as fairly well off.
When I was moving out, my mother told me, "You can't ever come home again." It was supposed to be a threat. After getting beaten, I just wanted to get out of there alive. A harrowing three days of sneaking stuff out. My step-grandmother didn't want me to leave but she understood. I had to lie to her when she asked. I was afraid she would tell my mother. She never did tell her I don't think. She is dead now my step-grandmother is. Her name was Pasqualina. I can still hear my step-grandfather Joseph calling her. When I eat peppers, I remember him.
sapphoq on life
Monday, January 01, 2007
Last night-- well, this morning really-- some woman whose name I didn't quite get, called to wish her "neighbors a Happy New Year." It was 1:15 a.m. I heard the phone ringing and I thought someone had died.
One time, my dad was out. It was late at night and someone called. I was annoyed so I hung up the phone without answering. That someone called back several times and I continued to hang up with increasing intensity. Come morning, I found out that someone was calling to tell my dad that someone else had died. What they thought my dad was gonna do at that ungodly hour of the morning I never did get.
I always figured that if someone dies, I really don't want to know about it until morning unless I am expected to immediately fling on some clothing and show up somewhere in order to prevent another death. Some people figures the way I do and some don't. I guess the President got awoke with the news that Saddam had hung but then the President got to go back to sleep. A few relateds have succeeded in annoying me in the past by not telling me that someone was dead until some time later. My mother not telling me about my step-father's death until ten days after he was dead and buried really took the cake. I found his on-line obituary and signed there, noting my regret that I was unable to attend any of the services.
sapphoq on life