Monday, December 28, 2009

Games, Dancing, Ocean, Internet, Essence



I remember when video games first came out and were all the rage. Game rooms (and sordid stories about the backrooms of game rooms) sprung up in malls all over, including ours. Although I was grown and perhaps one of the oldest people in the game rooms, there was a certain joy to pumping quarters into Tempest (r) or Pac-Man (r). Kids began to gather outside of our game room to practice the latest break-dancing moves. I wasn't ever any good at break-dancing but I could moonwalk and also held my own on various dance floors. When I went to visit Philly Dave, part of the treat was going to the game room in his local mall. That game room is still there. Ours dwindled and died. Sigh. Philly Dave and I never went to dances together but we did go to his local pool and visited pools in various hotels across Pennsylvania.

I got the first computer after Philly Dave came into my life, and after that my first laptop. I discovered software that would allow for a game of chess or Q-bert (r) or Scrabble (r). I found Bookworm (r) on-line along with a ton of brain games after my t.b.i. happened. I became aware of multi-player online games but never got into W.O.W. (r) or any of those things. Then I found blogging and moved onto Second Life (r) which is described as a "game" but which I suspect more and more of being a social network of sorts.

As a kid, I played the usual collection of board games-- Candyland, Chutes n Ladders, Sorry, Operation, Monopoly (r, r, r, r, r). There must have been puzzles too although here I must confess that I don't remember them. And there was cards. My step-uncle taught me magic tricks using playing cards, my gram's Gypsy Fortune-Telling Book -- r-- (along with my gram and my aunt) taught me how to give primitive readings using playing cards, my dad and I played War and then Rummy 500 as I got older (I remember playing by the poolside on Cleveland Street in the summers), another step-uncle taught me how to be cutthroat at Gin Rummy, folks in a group home that I worked at taught me the finer points of Pinocle (r?).

I remember Skeeball (r) in a game room on the mall at Seaside Heights. One time after doing up some T.H.C. (or whatever substance it was that was pretending to be T.H.C.) with my hippy friend B.B. (hey dude, I still think about you even though I got clean since the last time I seen ya) in that game room I hallucinated a large wall of glass panes and a door along the open side of that game room facing the ocean. That particular game room existed long before "internet" became a household word. There were pinball machines but they were not digitized. And yeah, there were those tickets one could collect and exchange for cheap "prizes."

The boardwalk (Seaside Heights, and Asbury Park before it) was attractive because of the noise, the rides, the cold custard cones, and the smell of the ocean. The ocean was my other mother. I swam like a fish, danced with the sunlight on the waves, can still float for hours on end. The game rooms of my adulthood recall a certain ambiance, a certain je ne sais quoi that existed then-- the bathing of my senses, the stimulation, the feeling of utter aliveness. Drugs were a cheap way to another reality but the game rooms and the internet and the ocean and dancing did not hurt me when seeking my pleasure. The drugs stole my soul and almost my life. I still like turning the sound down on the television and blasting some good rock music on the stereo. I love dancing even though I have lost much of the fluidity that I used to have. All of these things-- game rooms, ocean, dancing, internet-- capture an essence for me. It is not quite as precious as being in the woods alone with my dog away from the hustle and bustle of daily living. But it is almost equally necessary.


sapphoq on life

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Three Cousins, an Aunt, and Two Uncles

Dad's been up a coupla times in the past few weeks. Dad's youngest brother died in Nam. My uncle lost his life by throwing himself over a fellow ranger. My uncle was a Green Beret and a Master Sargent.

Uncle Freddy lived in South Carolina. One summer vacation, we went to visit him and his family. My aunt was a tall willowy southern pregnant woman. She gave me a rosary out of deference to my own religious upbringing but allowed me to attend a service at the Southern Baptist church that the family belonged to. My two cousins had been trained to respond to their mom with choruses of "Yes Ma'am" and "No Ma'am."

My cousins were loads of fun. I remember sitting in their bunk beds talking and laughing when we should have been sleeping. My youngest cousin who was then around five years old taught me a very risque ditty involving little black kids (the N-word was used) and a bed. With apologies to all to find this offensive:

Three little [black kids] sitting in a bed.
One fell out and the other two said,
"Boom-boom. I see your hiny.
Boom-boom. All black and shiny.
And if you don't hide it,
Then we shall bite it."

I had grown up in an openly prejudiced home but this little rhyme was far beyond anything I'd been exposed to. We were also taken to the Army-Navy pool across the border in North Carolina where I learned how to swim. We kids sang along to "They're coming to take you away ha ha..." on the transistor radio.

The base was large and there were houses and trees. The pool seemed to be in the middle of a hub. It was huge. There was also a kiddie pool but it was the gargantuan adult pool that attracted me. It was in that pool where I learned how to swim. I took to swimming like a fish to water. I loved the feeling of gliding through the water and I also did cannonballs off the diving board.

I can still see the layout of my aunt and uncle's house alongside a hill. There were also trees there and a yard. My dad and my uncle snuck out at midnight one night and rode down the hill in my cousins' two red wagons. Over breakfast the next morning, both were banged up but laughing about their escapade.

The time passed too quickly. One day we got into the car and drove back home. Several months later my third cousin had been born while my uncle was back in Nam. Then Uncle Freddie died.

The summer after my Uncle Freddie died, my dad and wife #2 took me and my then six year old girl cousin to Host Farms in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was there that we also swam in a pool, laughed and carried on like the two little girls that we were, and went on rides at an amusement park. We met another girl named Brook (no, not Brooke Shields). I ate six halves of grapefruit one morning for breakfast. Dad came out of a farmer's field with some stolen ears of corn. (Upon cooking them up at home, he discovered they were cow corn and not intended for human consumption. That was one of two times I saw my dad take something that wasn't his).

Sometime after that, my aunt married my oldest uncle. She and the three kids made the trek up north to another house-- a bulky colonial-- on a tree-lined street. My now middle girl cousin was sharing a bedroom unhappily with her younger sister by then. We went to visit one Christmas (dad was on wife #3 by that time) and my aunt had said something very rude to #3-- my aunt called her "a Jewess." We retreated hastily.

One summer day we went to visit. My middle cousin was a teen by that time and she had run away to Florida. She was back, having been picked up by a cousin from a different family and persuaded to return home. Middle cousin and I went for a walk in the neighborhood. She was smoking cigarettes by that time. My aunt was having fits over that. While middle cousin and I were out walking, my dad was back at the house listening to my aunt's distress.

All three cousins have grown up now. First and middle cousin have grown apart but still living up north. Aunt and oldest Uncle are divorced after having moved back down south. They are living in Florida. I got to see my oldest uncle recently at my half-sister's wedding. My middle cousin and her sister were also there. We got to sit together at a table during the reception. Middle cousin has two kids and is divorced. Little cousin has grown up with kids of her own by a preacher husband. They are living in Georgia. Middle cousin and I send each other e-mails once in awhile and Christmas cards every year. Kids grow up and parents fall apart and die. Memories are the thin thread that hold us together.

sapphoq on life

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

While Living with Dad

While living with Dad, I acquired a couple of short-lived babysitting jobs in our apartment building. One parent expected me to discern which food her baby wanted to eat. Another parent startled me one night by entering her apartment via the ground floor level window. I can still see in my head a picture of her leg entering through the window while I was in the living room.

sapphoq on life

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Danny


When I was first endeavoring to get free of my active addiction to drugs including the drug known as alcohol, I had a buddy named Danny. We met at the stained glass factory where we both worked. I spent my days in the finishing room downstairs. Danny was an expert welder. But Danny was in trouble emotionally. Due to his mental symptoms, he wound up in the state hospital for a stay of several months. He was fortunate. He got out. Not everyone does but he did.


One day shortly after Danny's return, he was telling a few of us about his time away. He said, "They fed us dog food and made us crawl around in order to get some of it." A co-worker said, "Did they really do that Danny?" Danny said, "No, but the food was bad."

Danny and I went to see the movie Ordinary People which delved into a family's disintegration after a sailboat accident in which the older son Buck died and number two son Conrad landed in a psychiatric hospital for several months. Upon his return, Conrad sees a shrink for awhile, his father sees the shrink once or twice, and his mother splits town. Perhaps it was the "wrong" movie to go see with Danny. Neither one of us was prepared for the subject matter. After the movie, I apologized to Danny for bringing him to see such a heavy movie but he said it was cool. And it was.

I hadn't thought about Danny in years. This memory was triggered by happening to drive by his family's house recently in my travels.

sapphoq on life

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Glory Days: Ode to Sue



Yesterday I took the Queen of Colitis to the vet. She was finally well enough from her bout to get her rabies shot. She remembers having to stay at the vet's for a day for intravenous fluids I guess. The Queen of Colitis whined and whimpered, crawled up into my lap, tried to open the door to get out.

Afterwards, I decided to drive out to Hagaman. Hagaman is a very small town where I used to live. I had gotten clean there. It was in Hagaman that I first learned about the joys of having a dog, courtesy of Huey the old man who lived upstairs. Together we and our dogs roamed all over the woods within a 200-mile radius. Huey knew the woods intricately. He had traveled by foot through many forests. I remember going to Tenant Creek Falls, Woods Lake, Jockey Bush Pond, Murphy Lake, Kibbe Pond. We had to climb up Kibbe fecking Mountain to get to Kibbe Pond though. Huey forgot to mention that in our plans. We also ate at every diner in every small hamlet around every trail we walked.

After I got clean-- immediately after-- I discovered that the dog loved to go for walks daily. And he wanted me to go with him. The dog quickly learned that I would not stow him back in the flat in the mornings until after he crapped. So he took forty-five minutes every morning to do so. Herbie used to twirl himself around and around like a whirling dervish once he located the perfect spot. His unknown ancestors must have used the same technique to flatten out tall stands of grass before relieving themselves. Herbie (that dog) came to a bad end. Turned out he was a fear biter. I knew what had to be done in fairness to Herbie and to all people everywhere. My heart was broken. It was Huey who took me to the shelter when I was ready to get another dog. I came home with Berry, the flat-coated retriever who later saved my life (by waking me up) in a house fire.

Berry and I continued our strolls in the woods with Huey and his dog as well as our walks around the neighborhood. Berry hadn't known me when I was drunk or high. Berry did not want strangers to touch him. He tolerated their petting him. Those people who were attached to their own dogs crossed the boundary of wariness into friendship. One of those lucky people was Sue.

Sue lived down the road from me in a large white house built in the dutch style with a porch and tufts of flowers springing from various places in the lawn. Tall pine trees marked the property lines between her and neighbors. Sue had a basset hound. Berry and I would stop to visit with Sue. We shared glasses of homemade lemonade while watching Berry attempting to get Sue's basset hound to play.

The Queen of Colitis and I walked past Sue's old house yesterday. The pine trees were still there. And the flowers. But the house wasn't as grand as I remember it. The paint was peeling and the roof was in need of replacing. Sue herself has been dead a long time now.

"Breast cancer," Huey had told me a few years after I'd moved away. "Sue had breast cancer-- the kind that makes the boobs dimple like the skin of oranges-- but she never told anyone. By the time folks realized she was sick, she was dieing." I had grieved for Sue. But I thought I understood her decision to allow the cancer to take her.

Sue had schizophrenia. She did not live alone. She lived with an older sister. It was her sister's house. Sue was unable to work due to her mental condition. Her symptoms yielded somewhat to management by medication but did not go away totally. Sue spend several days a week in a day program for chronic schizophrenics. It was a way for the mental hell agency to keep an eye on those who lived in the community in a cost-effective manner. But the m.h.p.s [mental hell professionals] did not notice that Sue was committing medical suicide right in front of them. Sue died, mostly unsung.

As the Queen of Colitis and I went walking yesterday, the memories came rushing back. We had connected, Sue and I. We were two lost people within the fabric of something much larger than either of us. The mental hell system is alienating at best, soul-numbing at worst. I got out alive, although it took me many years to escape. Sue got out too, but not with her life.



sapphoq on life

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Redneck Daze

1978 was the year that Baton Rouge Louisiana survived my presence along with the hurricane that touched down at Blue Bayou. In November of 1977, it dawned on my drug-fogged brain that it would really be a good idea to look for a job since school would be finished in December. I was babysitting a little red-headed autistic kid named Brett when I grabbed the family's newspaper and turned to the want ads. I promptly discovered that VISTA wanted me. I signed up and a couple months later off I went.

After a whirlwind trip-- through Connecticut (ate a meatball bomber), Boston Massachusetts (stayed at the Little Copley; saw Marshall Tucker in concert, and the movie "The Sting"; went up to the revolving bar; ate crepes downtown and listened to a bagpipe player from Alaska; called Johnathan Kozol up on the telephone and got to meet him and his sheepdog), up on through Salem (toured the House of the Seven Gables), into Maine (Route One), turned left at Bangor, went skiing in Jackson, New Hampshire (Wildcat Mountain; a stoned New Year's Eve at a local's log cabin in Concord; ate dinner with an old lady local at a restaurant who liked to chat with travelers), on through Vermont (more skiing perhaps, memory falls now), and home again-- I packed up the car with pretty near everything I could cram into it plus one cat and headed off for San Antonio, Texas.

I snuck the cat into every motel I slept in, caught a tour of Tuskeegee Institute, and got drunk in Freeport, Texas. My friend Madelin had arranged for me to stay at her two aunties' house there. In return for washing dishes at their Mexican Restaurant, I was given as much as I wanted to eat and plenty of beer to wash the food down with. I (and the cat) slept on their very pleasant screened in porch. The two aunties were actually one aunt and her lover. They were my first exposure to a non-heterosexual couple in which I was able to put aside my xenophobia long enough to discover that prejudice was a prison that kept me from enjoying people.

In San Antonio, I met some other VISTA volunteers and our trainer who was a proud drunken Chicano. I went on a tour of The Alamo, walked the river walk, ate at a cool Mexican restaurant, and got drunk too. I was there for three inches of snow. In amazement I watched the city shut down over it.

After a return stop to Freeport and the two aunties (I believe they must have agreed to watch the cat during my training), I was off to Baton Rouge. Johnnie Oliver was our VISTA supervisor there. I quickly established myself as a party animal and was off to the first of five apartments and my job assignments. I worked in a nursery school mornings (hello Robert Brazeale if you are reading this) and at a literacy center afternoons. I found the bar across from the literacy center and my custom quickly became to drink three frozen strawberry margaritas for my half-hour lunch break. I found that working was not to my liking so in early summer I ditched both assignments, having talked my way into working part-time as a literacy tutor at L.C.I.W. (women's state pen) in St. Gabriel, Louisiana.

I was always high. I got high before reporting to the prison and I left joints visible in the ashtray for my return trip home at the end of the days that I did work. One woman from Connecticut by her self-report was in prison for three years for having been found with three joints while passing through Lake Charles, Louisiana. Perhaps there was more to that story but it didn't occur to me then that there might be.

Besides being high, I was not really suited for prison work. (N.B. and still not). I did not have a commanding voice, I was shy, I had the appearance of one who was gullible and easily manipulated. Fortunately for me, the woman who taught upholstery determined that I needed watching. It was through her direct intercession that my "office" where I tutored women in reading and math was moved from the chaplain's office to a trailer directly in view of where she held her classes. It was the upholstery teacher who told me that if a prisoner asked me to bring her anything from the outside to say NO. Thus when I was approached by two prisoners who asked me to get them a National Enquirer or some other yellow sheet from a Piggly-Wiggly supermarket, I was able to tell them I didn't know what a Piggly-Wiggly was (I didn't, it's a supermarket chain). They gave up quickly, saying to each other "Come on. We will go ask [one of the guards]. She'll get it for us."

Baton Rouge was a university town and a cesspool of drugs. My last apartment was a small loft among other lofts in what was known as "drug alley." There were bars up the street and bars down the street. There were bars all over town then, along with the dirty movie house called the Regina which the locals changed to rhyme with the word vagina. And yes, I had my obligatory trek to the Regina-Vagina where I saw "Seven Into Snowy" as well as the perennial favorite "Deep Throat." The gas station was up the street from Drug Alley. Having quit VISTA and rendered virtually unemployable by my inability to show up anywhere sober, I and some other hippie freaks spent our nights at the gas station. The gas station held the distinction of never having been held up. My guess was that it was because of the ever-present stoners there at night, all night, every night.

During my time in Baton Rouge, I drank, smoked dope, smoked hash, smoked opium once (and I wanted to immediately crawl into a cave in Southeast Asia somewhere with the other opium users and never come out), did shrooms (they grew in the cow shit of the Bramen cows present along the levee of the Mississippi which was rented out to farmers, did a bunch of pills, did mescaline, and participated in the rush of Mr. Natural blotter acid for a couple of weeks which was my undoing.

Baton Rouge was a city which had redneck pride. Yeah there was a gay bar (karate whites were "in" that year) and a definite presence of students from far off places (notably Iran-- I had lunch with several of them in their apartment and went to a meeting of Students for a Democratic Society which was showing the Joe Hill film that night) and certainly it was not a "whites only" kind of city. Interracial couples-- no big deal on the eastern seaboard-- were just allowing themselves to be out in public. The Ku Klux Klan had an office on Florida Avenue and a listing in the phone book. New Orleans was an hour and a half away (and requires its' own entry to do it justice).

I was hanging out with The Shitdogs, a local punk rock group whose music showed a definite influence by the band Devo. I was a foul-mouthed drugged up drunk. When I called home, I told my dad that I wanted to get a pistol for my own protection and he started to really worry. I told people lies about how I was doing and myself even bigger ones but the Bad Acid Trip stopped most of that. There was a rush of Mr. Natural blotter acid and I tripped every night for a couple of weeks. I had stored them in the freezer and the hippies at the gas station said that made it "stronger" but I don't know if that was true or not. At any rate, my last acid trip found me laying on my loft listening to Jefferson Airplane sing "Go Ask Alice" [White Rabbit] over and over again because the stereo for some reason refused to play through the whole album. Instead the stereo tortured me by having its' needle play through the song and then return to the beginning again. After several hours, my brain determined that I needed to get the hell out of there. So I walked to the gas station where several hippies saw my condition and took me out to get me drunk. After a stop for Italian food at the only Italian restaurant in town, we went to the pool-players bar. I promptly began loudly proclaiming that the pool players were "all a bunch of rednecks." The hippies got me out of there quickly and took me to a quieter bar where they plied me with enough beer so that the Bad Acid Trip was no longer so Bad.

The next day I called all the relations in search for A Way Out, and as luck would have it, my grandfather upstate New York on the farm just had a heart attack. I promptly volunteered to relocate "in order to help my grandmother with the cows," once again packed up everything I owned (minus the cat Dylan who turned up with four kittens one day but plus Herbie the puppy who I snuck into motel rooms stoned out on anti-carsickness pills obtained from the five dollar vet in Baton Rouge), and was off again.

Upstate New York was a whole different living experience. I had left acid behind but after a few weeks found the bar. My grandmother never did let me help her with the cows. I was assigned to watering the calves. Cows are expensive.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Spiderwebs

Don't know if this is a repeat memory or not.

When my grandparents had their dairy farm, I used to go up by bus and stay for a couple of weeks every summer. I took the bus to New York City and then the Trailways bus up to Fonda New York. My grands would meet me in their red pick-up truck. One time on the bus, I sat with a teen from Germany named Theda Oh Ling who was visiting relatives. We did correspond by mail for awhile and that was pretty cool. My mother would pack up veal cutlet parmesan sandwiches on hard rolls for me and a variety of snacks. When I wasn't engaged in chattering with the grown-ups on the bus, I ate.

In high school the biology nun (who had been told by the math teacher perhaps?) had gotten upset with me because I was talking to some of the other train riders on my way home from school. One of them was a cool guy with a mandolin. I had my guitar with me and we made some music together. I knew all the regulars on the train (as well as on the buses that I was supposed to be taking back and forth to school). I enjoyed many conversations and didn't see what the big deal was.

Ah, but I digress.

It was at the farm one Sunday morning that I was greeting by the sight of a rooster and a hen doing it in the driveway right outside my window. It was also at the farm that I helped yank a calf out of a mother cow who was having difficulties. And there that I also learned about the breeder. The breeder came whenever a cow freshened. First he would shove one long-gloved hand up her rectum and pull out all of the shit. No one explained why to me so I can only guess it was so his tube of made-up serum would have the best shot at connecting with her ready egg.

Then he would take the serum in a tube and shove it into the cow (not into the rectum). Then he would clean himself up and leave. My grandparents never went for having a bull (or if they did he was short-lived. Bulls are troublesome and ornery for young farmers and these two were in their sixties when they got the farm). There was also a chart on the wall of the barn that I found fascinating. On the chart was a picture of a cow and arrows pointing to all of the things that could be bred for in a calf-- things like strong hocks and milking speed. Yes, milking speed is genetically determined in a cow.

There were two German Shepard Dogs that came with the farm-- Teddy who was a small male, and Spooky who was regular-sized but white and afraid of thunderstorms. Both would round up the cows to bring back to the barn daily. Later on when my own dog Herbie joined the fray briefly, Herbie would run past the stantions and each cow would lick his coat as he went by. Herbie also bit the milkman (milk truck guy who came to pick up the milk-- in earlier years my grandfather and I would take the milk to the dairy in old fashioned milk cans on the back of his red truck) several times. Herbie was a fear biter I found out later so he had a bad end. But he did like his time on the farm. Spooky was notable for paying the most attention to me as a child and also he would come running whenever my grandfather opened a roll of peppermint (registered to) Lifesavers (no infringement intended). Spooky loved those things.

My grandmother had a huge garden and her tomatoes and other vegetables grew quite famously. Mornings would often find her out and about collecting spider webs still dewey. She would send them off in an envelope to some hospital in the midwest who used them for stitches or research or something. The hospital would send her a dollar for each web, which in those days was quite a bit of money.

Recently, I found a friend who also remembers relatives doing the same thing with the spider webs. Sometime perhaps I will do more research as the sending of spider webs for cash is rather intriguing to me.

sapphoq on life

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Streets



I wanted to be tough. I wanted to be right on, down with that, running in the streets with my new friends from the gang. I wanted people to live for and to die with. I wanted zip guns and fighting and colors.

I was not tough. There was no gang. I had never been in a schoolyard fight, never mind a gang war.

I wanted to be part of the Woodstock Generation. I wanted to be a dirty hippy. I wanted bare feet and free love. I wanted groovy music and dancing and drugs.

I was born ten years too late. The head shop would not tell me how to find drugs to get high with. Walking barefoot hurt my feet. I was afraid of sex, I liked elevator music, I was quiet and clumsy.

I arrived in the seventies. For one summer I walked around in a raincoat with a hole in the pocket, furiously clutching my seven dollar bag of oregano. I smoked it on a footpath in Branch Brook Park, the one that led to a view of a factory. I smoked my oregano joints and the factory workers on their break would wave to me. Rock music gave me a headache but I was good at pretending.

I listened to enough rock music to begin to like it. A high school buddy turned me on to the real thing and I liked getting high. I got blasted as much as I could as often as I could. In spite of the paranoia which was a side effect of marijuana highs for many years, I persisted. I got high before school every day and after school too. I got drunk at high school dances.

I wanted to be one of the cool people. I wanted to be flamboyant, a character, a starving writer. I was none of those things. I was just another stumble bum in the bars, just another sub-adult trying to re-capture a youth I had never experienced. I wasn't even a leftover hippy. I was a garbage head. I took whatever drugs you had. Through it all -- throwing up in toilet bowls and on walls of various bars, blacking out while driving home, passing out -- I never found what I'd been looking for.

I gave up. I gave up the alcohol first. And the acid which had produced a bad trip. And the cocaine which had only given me a post-nasal drip. I'd been immune to cocaine. Got more rise out of a chocolate bar. I gave up the pills, the hash, bloody marys with peppermint liquor chasers. I kept my pseudo-street attitude. And finally, grudgingly, I gave up smoking marijuana. That hurt badly. I lived through the pain.

Fast-forward. Almost twenty nine years later. Much has happened. I've gotten jobs, lost jobs, had great jobs, terrible jobs, mediocre jobs. Some people have had the nerve to die. Others have the nerve to keep on living. I survived a house fire and a serious motor vehicle accident. And I survived and continue to survive my own attitudes. I lived through a prolonged rape, a kangaroo court, injustice. I have laughed and cried. I got some of my stuff published. I got a few close friends and many acquaintances.

There is something about not having to get high, not having to yield to my addiction on a daily basis that is freeing. I don't surrender to my addiction today. I surrender to health. Today, I remain free from the bondage of active addiction.
The streets I walk today are not the streets of my adolescent fantasies. I have risen above the lie, truly free to pursue new and terrible dreams.

sapphoq on life

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Peggy

My first year of high school was miserable even by my standards. I wasn't exactly the most social kid in the universe and that continued for me during freshman year. In sophomore year of high school there were a couple of new girls-- one of them was Peggy and she became my closest friend. We had lots of excellent adventures.

One of my favorite things to do was to take the train from Newark (no mother, we didn't take the bus as we had told you) into the City. Once there we would sneak down the stairs and under the turnstiles onto the subways. The best knishes were at one station and the best pretzels at another. We also got off the subways and had our own walking tours. One time (during my Jesus people stage) Peggy and I went to the first Teen Challenge in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. Another we walked over the bodies of drunks in the Bowery. And of course we went down to the village.

Peggy was a math whiz and I wasn't. We spent most of one semester in math class playing cards in the back. My mother and step-father hired a tutor to help me catch up on what I was not paying attention to in class. But I do not regret it.

There was the French class trip to Quebec City on the bus. Peggy was my motel roomie. She hid Canadian bacon down the toilet tank and then smuggled it home on the bus. We also had an ice cube fight with some kids from a high school in Connecticut. Frenchie (the nun in charge of the expedition and the nun who taught us French) was in a room in another part of the motel. Good thing too.

And a talent show for which Peggy had penned the famous words, "I'm a bird. That's what Frenchie said to me. I'm a bird. She said that obviously. I don't do my French. I don't study hard. Big, fat, and lazy. Fits me to a T...Yes I'm a bird. That's what Frenchie said to me."

Other good times were also had by us. Although the statue of limitations has run out, I decline to mention them here.

sapphoq on life

Sailing

When I was a kid, I think the summer between fourth and fifth grade, my mother and step-father rented a sailboat and we went sailing on the ocean. It was a happy day.

sapphoq on life

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Not Exactly Grown'd Up in the Mob

When I was in sixth grade, a relative of mine who shall go nameless was sentenced to some time in a fed pen on RICO charges. The teacher (also of Italian descent) shut me up rather quickly during current events. "You watch too much television," she told me. "There is no Mafia." But I knew better.

The relative had taught me how to keep his books. His "books" was actually a ledger with pages of names of who owed him money and how much they had paid off. His friends (the people who owed him money) all had funny one word nicknames. I was a quiet child. And yeah, it felt good to be taught how to do something as grown up as "keeping the books."

Relative had also showed me his money press. I was suitable impressed. Somehow he must have sensed that I would keep quiet about it. I did. I told no one. Not even my parents.

After his stint in prison, relative relocated. Later on, someone else claimed to me that he was dead. Thus started hours of research. I found his name in some of the popular press mob books. I found no record of his death.

I don't believe he is dead. I believe he is in the Witness Protection Program, probably living on a ranch in Wyoming or Montana with a bunch of horses, forced to wear ten gallon hats and flannel shirts, and cursing every event that led him there.

If you are reading this my unnamed relative, know that I remember you with affection and that I love you.

sapphoq on life