Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Past Creeps In

1599 York Ave @2016
Over the last three months, I've spent too much time indoors inside a hot run down railroad apartment that is one block away from where both my grandparents lived. It's crooked floors from the sunken wood beams and cracked walls from the building's hundred years of settling, brings back mixed memories. Here's an early draft from a scene in my memoir, "I Hate The Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood."

Being with my parents together meant entering a war zone. The space was negotiated rather than shared. Rory and I played an assortment of survival games. It was always better to spend time with them separate and alone. We prayed for it. Dad was more interesting but impossible to please. He left his best on the walls and shelves of our apartment. He was an artist. Beautiful ink sketches and perfect miniature furniture that filled the dollhouses he sold out of the antique stores along Lexington Avenue. I never understood how he did focused exacting work, but had slim tolerance or patience with most other things. His nerves were shot. My nerves were shot. We were alike. This drove us crazy and apart. He loved me deeply but always approached my activities with a morbid expectation that something was going to go wrong. I attributed his sense of dread about my brother and me to his finding his father dead with his head in the kitchen’s oven when he was 11 years old in 1941. Dad was a multi-talented, interesting, time bomb.
1616 York Ave. @1961

Mom was a trip to Rye Beach. If we could have fun - why not? Dad was out every Friday night and that was our time. I was Mom’s Cow-Cow Boogie, and she was my Uncle Mommy, the best uncle I ever had, and younger Rory would be in bed by nine. Then heaven. The Twilight Zone and Hitchcock. Bliss. Our apartment was small, our couch tiny. Mom and I barely fit on it together but some how we always settled in. Nothing ever replaced it.

When I was sick and home from school I'd lay on the couch. Real bored I developed a torture/tickle sequence for Mom. For torture I’d move the art. If Mom was in the kitchen or doing anything I felt left me enough time, I’d move the art. Leaving the couch quietly I’d carefully skew every frame holding Dad’s art on the wall, moving them just enough to confuse anyone that cared they were no longer perfectly straight. My art was to intuitively know when enough was enough because many times my opportunity was fragile. When Mom left the room, it was critical that I return to the couch and resume my Camille death scene before Mom came back. The tower’s light in my head took only so many seconds to circle the prisoners' courtyard. When she returned I measured my success by the number of face twitches I counted on Mom’s face as her eyes rolled around and around the room. She never wanted to give in, and acknowledge I did it, because it drove her crazy. She’d give me a pathetic look that said,

Please don’t do this to me?
Did you do this to me?”
Why do you do this to me?
Don’t you know what this does to me?

And when she could no longer bear it she’d chase me and beg me to never do it again. I’d promise to stop but never meant it.

The tickle mommy part happened deep in the day I was home sick. Mom would be exhausted, and I was bored stiff. We’d reversed places. She took to the couch and I started going through my drawers looking for something new to do. Or at least repeat something worth repeating. I'd wait till Mom was either in a foggy coma or out like a light. In my room I'd put a sock over each of my ears snug. Then I'd work a 45 record single onto each ear pulling the sock through the record’s center hole, bend my ear over like a taco and also pull it through the record’s hole. Now the socks were proper puppy ears. Crawling through my room I’d work my way to the back of the couch. Continuing on my belly, I'd round the couch coming face to face with sleeping Mom. In a whisper I’d slowly build a doggy bark, “woof, woof, woof,” never to frighten her just slowly bring Mom to. She’d start laughing, lean over and pull my head up to hers’ kissing my crew cut and nuzzling me good. We’d rock together. It was our perfect moment.

Dad and I never had such moments.  His ride was the Coney Island variety. Loose bolts, broken safety belts and people getting sick in front and the back of you. We loved each other, shared major interests but approached these interests from different points of view that usually led to multi-car accidents. Dad had an uncanny skill. We'd be having a conversation, and I knew it was a conversation and without knowing when or how that conversation became an argument… What did I miss?
 Did someone get the license plate number? Frantically I'd search for the point we flipped over but rarely could I even come close to guessing when and why we switched streams. Always felt like we were going through Hell Gate in a canoe with a wino at the oar. I'd love to give you an example but I swear I can't. How this happened still eludes me.

Lake @1963

If you like my work check out my memoir, "I Hate the Dallas Cowboys - tales of a scrappy New York boyhood." Available at Logos Book Store.

The book has 121 Amazon five star reviews out of 121 total reviews posted. We're pitching a perfect game. My old world echoes TV's "The Wonder Years" ~ just add taverns, subways and Checker cabs.


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