Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Sometimes I felt like I was running
a mile a minute, to somewhere, but
I never knew fully where. Fitful
starts and stops. Hesitations and
feint. Weird things. There was a
lady in Elmira, I forget her name,
just knew her as Peggy.  She worked
in the same place I did. She was
maybe ten years older than me at
that time, maybe fifteen  -  she always
told everyone, anywhere, anytime,
that I reminded her of Omar Sharif,
swore I could be Omar Sharif. I had
no clue who the heck Omar Sharif
was. I looked him up once, in the
library, and it still didn't mean much.
Some swashbuckler Spanish guy or
Lebanese, or something. I never
bothered. But she used to drive me
nuts with that. It probably doesn't
come across as much now, but
back then it was pretty difficult
and almost annoying. Besides,
all this lady ever seemed to do
any other time, was listen to sports
commentary on the little radio next
to her, by Joe Garagiola. Strange
world  -  all those old, now dead,
baseball guys were still around then
and all these dweeby little baseball
shows were aired, along with another
maniac sports guy named Howard
Cosell, who stock-in-trade speciality
was 'Annoyance.' Omar Sharif, the
actor, be damned.
I was telling you previously about
Ithaca. Up along the Finger Lakes,
right there, my friend Nelson knew
of a couple of spots where there were
grand gorges and waterfalls and pools
of water beneath the falls, in rock
outcroppings. We'd all go there, on
many of the hottest Summer days
you'd imagine. It was great  -  they
had a son, (Ian, some big-wig now
in NBC) about the same age as
our son, and they got along fine.
Jumping from ledges into these
big pools of water, standing at
the base of the various falls,
under pealing runs of descending
and cool water. It was all very
nice. Nelson had a brand-new
AMC Pacer. When they'd first
come out he bought one
immediately. Novelty value
was high, and the kids loved
it, but there was so much
window and glass in the squat
and quite weirdly-shaped, for
the time, car, that it quickly
became, on a hot, sunny
afternoon, like a hothouse,
with all that glass just magnifying
the heat inside. The funny thing
was that Nelson and Kris didn't
share any of our 'intellectual' attitudes.
What I mean to say is that the draw
to Ithaca, for us, was the cosmopolitan,
university atmosphere, and those books
and the few bookstores and coffee spots
with earnest and intense people milling
about, reading and such. That all
meant so much to us, but to them the
only feature useful of Ithaca and
environs was the hedonistic aspect :
fun and the falls, water and the lakes
It was all worlds apart from each other,
and we just never meshed it. They
were soon gone anyway -   not that
they moved, just that we stopped
seeing them, for various reasons.
My wife had an active roll in one
of the churches in town, and one
day Nelson (who was the Elmira
High School Art teacher) crossed
names with someone else in the
school who knew Kathy by name,
etc., and pretty much that was all he
had to hear -  he never let the matter
rest, making fun of and belittling
Kathy as an 'upstanding member
of the church community' and a
regular 'community pillar'. In
his ironic sense; she tired of it,
and we soon enough just parted
ways based on that. As the art
teacher in the high school, at the
time period this was, Nelson
would occasionally end up with
local runaways, who'd eventually
end up at his house, knocking on
his door. He'd take them in, and
then the trouble began. A few days,
then a week  -  who to contact? What
to do? Parents? Police? It happened
a few times and  -  to make it worse  -
they were most usually girls. He never
lost his job over it, I don't think, but
there were a few close calls, and
some explaining needed. Kristin
died some years later, of a cancer.
They were interesting people. 
Nelson was from Tupper Lake, a
small community in the Adirondacks,
and Kristin was from Frankfurt, or maybe
Frankford, NY. Also upstate, but I forget
where. I don't know how they met or 
anything, but they seemed an OK
couple, with the usual sorts of conflicts.
I really never saw fully how they did it  -
smoking pot, liberated sexuality, harboring
runaways, boyfriends, girlfriends, on
the stereo at all times either Fairport
Convention or Steeleye Span. Each of
whose music I did eventually end up
liking. They were definitely 1960's
people, just running over into the 70's 
and, for the time, getting by  -  by 
remaining bit marooned and 
sensitized only to their own coterie of 
references, people and habits. They lived 
on Irvine Place, about three blocks from us. 
I used the name of their street for the title of 
one of the first little 'books' that I wrote.  More 
about place than about them, but it was all 
in there. Theirs was a large, old, ramshackle 
house, probably old-line Elmira from like 1910.
In the entryway, he had a large, oversized
sculpture, made from limbs and branches,
of a human body, standing straight up,
but writhing in some sort of contortion. 
You kind of just never knew what
to make of it.
All this was kind of very lonesome.
Nelson was not anything if not totally 
sure of himself. He was adamant, about
all things. I never was  -  I always left 
room for doubt or some discursive 
discovery, and  always had a religious  
side to me that was paramount. My 
religious side may have tended towards 
the 'magical', the very active and present 
aspect of religion, changing things and 
altering perception, instead of the 
doctrinaire and the credulous, but 
religious it was He had none. 
His profession was always in 
'for and of the momen't only, and 
by the enjoyment of that moment he  
lived or died. All else was irony, facile 
motivations, and being able to pick at the 
foibles of others, most especially the pious 
ones  -  like those who, he'd claim, suckered 
Kathy in. We talked, it went back and
forth. But he was always getting stoned and 
his weird gaze then would just get strange, and 
everything was funny, and the Triscuits  and
cheese were always out. It was really pretty
difficult to really get anywhere on any subject,
let alone the precipice of religious interpretation.
I just think, also, that he disliked old people.
He must himself be one now, so I do hope
he's worked it all out and found peace.
I feel I have.

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