Thursday, November 4, 2010
My friend Christine and her husband Meat (short for Miedema) lived in the woods. I don’t know why but they preferred outdoor plumbing, candlelight, and being off the grid. In order to visit you had to park two miles away and walk in, snowshoe in, ATV in, snowmobile in…………you get the picture. When Christine turned 62 she started considering the possibility that at some point they were going to have to give up the good life and perhaps move to an easier life close to her son and granddaughter in Utah. Hard to imagine Christine and all those Latter Day Saints, but hey. When her sister passed away, Christine gave in to her inner yuppie and got a Blackberry, new teeth, a flat screen TV and even managed to drag the Direct TV installer into the woods. All of a sudden the woods came complete with a composting toilet and looked more like easy street. This sand came from one of Christine’s many trips to Utah to visit Chris and Kiley. R.I.P. Christine Miedema.
Alan Walsh worked with my dad at Blue Cross/Blue Shield for as long as I can remember. He was the only one of my dad’s friends or associates that could put up with him for very long in good cheer and I always loved him for that. He and his big happy family had bought their beach house as an investment to sell when the kids went to college. The problem with the plan was that everyone loved the house and didn’t want to let it go. I don’t know who had to take one for the team and go to community college but they still have the house.
Every weekend I used to take a Greyhound bus from Danvers, to Boston, change buses in the old bus station on St. James and take a P&B bus from there to Hanover. I can’t remember exactly when these trips started; I’m thinking around 8 or 9. In the early 70’s there were no Homeland Security color coded warnings, only announcements over the bus station loudspeaker every ten minutes warning of pickpockets, pervs and prostitutes. I thought I was a bicoastal celebrity.
We had a crazy neighbor with 15 kids who was a religious nut. It didn’t take much in the way of stress for her to feel the need to pack a bunch of us into the Lincoln Continental, shower us in holy water and drive down by Wingersheek to see crackpot religious films. Our favorite was the 3 girls in Fatima falling to their knees with visions of the Virgin Mary. When we had nothing else to do, Marianne, Paula and I would practice falling violently to our knees to see if we could whip up a religious fervor.
My sister Tracy used to have a big old beach house on Brant Rock in Marshfield, Massachusetts. It was magical. When my sister and her husband were expecting their first child, they sold the house and moved inland, away from the threat of storms. Pussies.
My dad was an MP in the Service before I was born. He had casually mentioned serving in North Africa after the Korean War. I wasn’t paying attention. My dad is gone now, as is most of that side of the family. Plenty of hair and big Kennedy teeth, but not a longevity gene in sight. Years after his death, my cousin Scott, (also gone), sent me some pictures of my Dad during his tour of service. Apparently at one point in my father’s life he was sporting a unibrow and he and his unibrow got around. There are pictures of Dad with a unibrow in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, The Sinai, etc. etc. etc. and my favorite, Petra Jordan. Famous for its rock cut architecture and described as the ‘rose-red city half as old as time, it is the place I would most like to bring a sleeping bag and sleep under the stars.
There used to be an amusement park on the north shore called Pleasure Island, the Disneyland of the Northeast. It closed in 1969, but for a short time when I was young my stepfather was the Sherriff at Pleasure Island. I know, I know, this sounds kinda ‘Exit to Eden’ skeevy. But Pleasure Island was good, clean, above the waist fun, and he really was the Sherriff with a cowboy outfit and a horse named Wildfire. During his gig at the amusement park he developed the innocent but disturbing habit of saying to timid children, ‘Don’t be afraid, your Sheriff loves you.'
Brian Cabral and I went to school together, all the way from kindergarten through senior year. While we were in elementary school, Brian’s dad was overseas serving in the Vietnam War. Every week at show and tell we followed Mr. Cabral’s progress while contributing to the war effort by looking sadly at our MIA bracelets. While her husband was away, Mrs. Cabral drove the Proctor Elementary school bus to make ends meet. The morning after Richard Nixon’s landslide victory against McGovern, she wouldn’t let us on the bus until you promised that your parents had voted for Nixon. Unfortunately, everyone got on the bus.
I grew up along the North River. Very J.D. Huck Finn. Our lives revolved around the river and the abandoned boat we used as a club house. The boy/girl division of labor would go roughly like this: The guys would steal lumber, we would make-out with the boys, and we would all get high and build whatever we could make float.
Crane’s Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches ever. I grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts and have spent a lot of time dodging the greenheads, baking away at Crane’s. When I was a kid my mother and stepfather would trailer the horses over in the winter to ride the beach, a very Julie Christie, Dr. Zhivago, wide screen panorama.
My stepfather grew up poor in an Italian section of Brooklyn, (Bruculinu) New York. He used to say that they were so broke that he didn’t know celery stood up until he was in the Navy. Sick of poverty, at 14 he gets on the dog (boards a Greyhound bus,) and heads out to L.A. to be a star.
Scram it’s the man………….My stepfather had barely got off the bus in L.A. when he was picked up by a Los Angles truant officer. After a call back to Brooklyn, the State of California threw his ass back on the dog to Bruculinu.
At 16 it was time for my stepfather to get on the dog again, stardom awaited. This trip he was living in L.A. for a while before it was ‘Scram, it’s the Man’ time again. When the truant officer called home to Brooklyn his father told the State of California that they could keep him.
World War II interrupts my stepfather’s search for stardom. He joins the Navy, becoming a gunner fighting in the Pacific Theatre. Near Okinawa his ship is attacked by a Kamikaze plane. The plane takes out the whole back of the ship, stepfather included. Things aren’t looking good. A medic sees that his bladder has been punctured, safety pins a note to his chest to that effect, and he is sent in a basket over to the medical ship. In my stepfather’s version of the story, he was combing his hair, prepared to charm the nurses when he was pulled out of the basket.
This was the first V.A. Hospital for my stepfather. The doctors take a good look at his leg and tell him he is completely fucked. He ignores them. This is where a shitty childhood really comes into service. No crybaby pussies in that gene pool.
Back on his feet my stepfather was available to be a star. He’s been told he can sing, but what Italian from Brooklyn can’t? Before you can spell Sy Milano, he is headlining at Ciros, but still, he has bigger plans. In short shrift he signs with Warner Brothers as a contract player. After making a few movies he makes the mistake of going on a Bob Hope T.V. Special (I think Eddie Cantor too). Too bad he didn’t read the fine print of his contract with Warner Brothers, No T.V. They slap his television loving ass back on the dog to the Northeast.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Nell Hannah nearly got strip searched bringing this sand through customs from the Dominican Republic to commemorate Jody’s Dominican Divorce.
Monday, November 1, 2010
If you asked him, my father in law Stanley Rotman would tell you he came back from WWII relatively unscathed. His war stories would most likely involve women and seemingly trivial events. But I always thought the following story spoke volumes;
After the war, when Stanley was finally going to be back in Providence, safe and sound, he decided to give his family the wrong day for his arrival, making it one day later. He said he just wanted to go to the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, to sit anonymous and alone in that beautiful old hotel, smoke a cigarette, drink a cold martini and not speak to anyone for the whole evening.
My friend Sue and I met when she put together a kid’s play group in our old condo development in Weymouth. Isabella was one, Marina and Ali, two and newborn. We became fast friends and through the years have raised our girls together like family. Marina and Ali’s grandfather passed away in 2004, everyone was devastated at the loss. After the funeral we all went back to the Country Club, Mr. Swietek’s home away from home. The girls and I had been collecting sand for quite a few years and we thought it a fitting tribute to sneak onto the golf course and swipe some sand in memory of Mr. Swietek. R.I.P. Fred Swietek
When Sue’s dad was very ill with esophageal cancer, the family, which is scattered between Maine, New York, and Melbourne, Florida, managed to take a number of family trips. This sand is from a Thanksgiving cruise that would be Mr. Marino’s last major trip.
A couple years’ later Marina and Ali lost another grandfather to cancer. At the cemetery there was a myriad of sand and palm trees. When it was time to leave the girls and I made sure to scoop up some sand. R.I.P. Tom Marino
My mom and I used to live with my grandparents when I was young and considering they were finally at the age to be having a moment to themselves, they seemed to enjoy my childhood more than the three they had just survived. They doted on me and took me everywhere they went.
I was lucky to work on a project with Jordan Kelley, a veteran of the Iraq war. Jordan was very open about his experience with war and what it was like to have all those experiences in his head. For the better part of a year, every Wednesday afternoon after work, Jordan wove some achingly sad and beautiful stories of his Dickensian childhood, the desert, and the redemption of real bravery. I still carry with me the mental visage of Jordan, now a short timer, lying in his COMV, mapping out his journey home. Not ready to fit back into his old life, Jordan chose to drive to Alaska, getting a 6 month gig as a Park Ranger.
Paragon Park was to the south shore of Massachusetts what Revere Beach was to the north shore in the 60’s and 70’s, a white trash beach with an amusement park attached. My sister Marianne loved Paragon Park and insisted on going there every year for her birthday. One year, I think I was around 7, we were getting ready to head out and I stepped on a tooth pick that was standing straight up out of the carpet. I don’t know how far it went into my foot but it was far enough that no one could pull it out. In my neighborhood it was a point of pride to have toughened your feet up to the point of leather as soon as school let out in early June, and that clearly wasn’t helping the situation. Marianne was screaming bloody murder that I better get the damn toothpick out of my foot or I would be sporting it on the Cyclone. We were going either way! That was our Marianne, long on empathy. Marylou makes an executive decision that included a trip to the emergency room. The toothpick was quickly dispensed with, my sister Paula passing out in the corner, and we were good to go.
When I was in 6th grade at Proctor Elementary my favorite teacher was Miss Ford. Doomed to forever serve as my impossible visual archetype, Miss Ford was very glamorous in an uglygirl/sophisticated/Diana Vreeland sort of way. Roman nosed, reed thin and oddly well dressed, she drove a mustang convertible to school, Isadora Duncan scarves and perfume trailing behind her. She looked like the type of woman who chain smoked for sport. The poor woman probably went home to her cats, but in the midst of our girl crushes we only saw impossible glamour.
Miss Ford was passionate for travel and wanted her 6th graders to think about their lives as world citizens. Not a commonly held view at the time. She was over the top crazy about her trips to Egypt and took us to the Museum of Fine Arts to see the Egyptian collection. I don’t know about the boys in the class but the girls all wanted to be Miss Ford floating down the Nile in her Mustang convertible.
Along the same ‘I want to be Miss Ford’ vein of thought we have Abu Simbel. Abu Simbel was the final resting place of Pharaoh Ramses II. Miss Ford told the class how in the 1960’s with the building of the Aswan High Dam the cultural leaders of the world got together and disassembled both temples. Abu Simbel was reconstructed on a cliff 200 feet above the original site. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to be more, Miss Ford, Pharaoh Ramses II, who warranted his own a big ass temple, or a cultural leader who literally got to move mountains.