Words and Numbers 125/ Frank Zappa and juvies,McGovern and Specter, odd bits
Posted on October 17, 2012
Played Cruisin’ With Reuben and the Jets Monday night. It was doo-wop and knowing Uncle Frank I was waiting for the subversive message. I strained my ears to hear the tune but it didn’t come. The CD was on the suface an homage to the Fifties. That was until Seal the Cracks. I expected maybe a little teen lust but no. What did I hear? Turn on the gas? Yep he said it. I felt relieved. The waiting was over. It’s an album you can listen to even if you have no memories of the Fifties. Hell, I was in my impressionable years and I listened to rock and roll. Look how I turned out. The album did another thing it jarred my memory. So sit back I want to tell you a story.
When I was young I lived with my parents in a first floor apartment on 36 Horace St. My Uncle Stanley and my aunt and cousins lived at 112 Beaver St. across from one of the liquor stores he owned with my father. At some time they got together and decided to build a house in what was then the suburbs. They bought a two acre lot and hired contractors to put it up. I remember running around the framing while they put some sweat equity into the project. It took forever. When we finally moved in the local kids had pillaged the site for wood and other building materials. There was a standoff, throwing clods of dirt at kids I didn’t know and them returning fire. I tossed a rock. It hit one of them on the side of his head. They ran off. I didn’t tell my parents. I waited for the kid’s parents to show up but they didn’t. After the piles of topsoil were leveled and the lawn put in I was able to see what was next door. The power company had a right of way that was overgrown with trees and beyond was a big barn. Farther into the lot there was a house right out of horror movies. I found out it was inhabited by the Chaney family. There was a mother and father, three sons; Sonny, Teddy and Steve and invalid grandfather spent time in his bed next to a window on the first floor. I never saw him but had a picture of a skeletal frame, languishing, waiting to die and capable of putting a hex on any kid who approached his domain. It was the barn that facinated me. Sonny, Teddy and friends apprentice juvenile delinquints hung out there doing Lord knows what. Steve was approachable. He was five years younger than Teddy and they pummeled him when he tried to follow them. He introduced me to spear throwing. His brothers had stolen a pair of garden shears, broke off the pointed ends and fastened them to broom handles also possibly stolen. Steve took me into his back yard, pasture actually, and we spent the afternoon throwing dangerous weapons at targets, that when hit, were likely to collapse on you if you had to pull a spear out. We got run off by Steve’s brothers. On the way back to the front he stopped me. “Wanna smoke?” I said “Sure” even thought he only experience I had with cigarettes was watching my relatives smoke them. Steve pulled out a crumpled pack of Luck Strikes out of his jeans pocket and pulled one out for himself and one for me. We lit up on a kitchen match. I waited to stop coughing so I could see if my lungs had fallen out. I got the hang of it but mimicked everybody I’d seen smoke. I settled on the cupped hand and furtive drag, not unlike detectives I saw on television. My mother called and I panicked. I crushed out the smoke and headed home hoping the hundred foot walk to the back door would erase any traces of cigarette smoke. It didn’t. Inside my mother asked me if I had been smoking. Being the good Catholic boy I lied. “No Steve’s brothers were smoking, the smell must have got on me.” She said “Okay” and sent me to wash up and put clean clothes on. My father had been home since two o’clock. My aunt Ann was watching the store. He’d know if I was smoking. I couldn’t lie to him, yet. My mother remained ignorant of my afternoons with Steve and infrequently asked if I’d bring him by so she could talk to him. I didn’t want that. Steve was a little rough around the edges and could expand upon the truth. Something I learned early. We hung out. His brothers used the barn as a trysting spot with girls they’d met at school. I had ideas about what went on but later experience showed I was way off. I got to know the kids in the neighborhood. There was one who lived across the street and a few who lived farther down the street. The kid I’d hit with the rock was Eddy. He forgot about the rock and we played war in the pine forest. One summer my parents got a chance to stay at a cottage at the lake we’d stayed at before. It was a luxourious cottage. It had a TV and toilets, no an outhouse. We stayed all summer swimming, fishing, putting up relatives for two or three days each week. I forgot where I lived. I remembered when summer was over and I was going to get handed back to the nuns. When we pulled in the driveway something had changed. The barn was covered with grafitti. Green Pine Boys was emblazoned on the wall facing the street. There were threats to anyone who invaded their turf. The back of the barn unseen by most was devoted to more earthy painting interspersed with graphic drawings. Sonny and Teddy had changed. They were dressed out in jeans, cuffed, white tee shirts with a pack of Luckies in the left sleeve and engineer boots. Big, black clodhoppers that had straps around the ankles. The spears were gone replaced by zip guns, a nifty way to deliver a .22 round. My bb gun was trumped. All I could do was take a shot at something and hope for a hit. These things fired a real bullet. All I needed was a car aerial, block of wood cut to the proper shape, a door latch and a piece of rubber band, the kind we used for slingshots. Put them together and you had a weapon. I fired Teddy’s zip and asked him if he’d make one for me. Fortunately for me he turned me down because he’d seen me react to stressful situations. I was a bit hot headed. I enjoyed hanging around with Steve. It stopped one day. We were walking by his back porch. There was a small tub near the back wall of the porch. I looked in. There were six kittens floating in water. Steve told me the cat had a litter and his mother drowned them. I told him he could give them to the milkman. He’d b ring them to a farm. Steve looked over the land surrounding his house and barn and said, “What do you think they do?”. I started hanging around with Barry, the kid across the street. My mother approved of him. My family moved away. I guess too much family too close isn’t such a great idea. We moved to a new house. There were new kids to get in trouble and hang out with. In ’75 I read Sonny had died, his real mame was Joseph. Teddy died in ’81. They had families and ran small businesses. I ran into Steve at a neighborhood bar. We drank together and he talked about his daughter. He died in 2007. They took up a collection for his headstone.
George McGovern is in hospice care. His heatlh is declining. He’s ninety.
Arlen Specter died, a moderate Republican who when he could no longer abide his party’s actions became a Democrat. He lost the next election.
I’m listening to transcripts of the Fred Allen Show. Most of the programs were made during WWII. The announcer came on and told the listners if they had more than five tires they should bring them to Railway Express and they’d ship them to the proper authorities to be evaluated. Their monetary worth would be returned as war bonds or ration stamps. This explains why some old guys I knew had a garage full of tires. It was a reaction to rationing.
Hillary Clinton fell on her sword and took the blame for the attack at Benghazi. She’s a party politician. Spare the boss. Do it for the greater good.
Listen to what’s going on around you. Mostly the quiet parts. If you can find them.
Support your local food bank. Read to a kid. Be nice to somebody you don’t like. Adopt a shelter pet. No, I didn’t watch the debate. Watched the Yankees lose.
See you on Friday.