Sunday, February 12, 2017


How often does a
person normally
need to explain
themselves? I would
think not that often,
but it was always
turning out for me
that I had to. It
went way back
too. Maybe 2nd grade
I can remember this
principal guy at School
4&5 nabbing me for
throwing snowballs,
somewhere, near the
school doors, whatever.
There used to be a
passageway open (it's
long enclosed now),
between the two schools,
the old one (4) and the
new one (5). That's
where he nabbed me.
He asked, staring down,
for me to explain myself,
and I denied everything.
Except that, behind my
back, my one hand was
still holding a snowball.
Apparently this Mr.
Lund guy - who looked
just like our portrait
of President Eisenhower,
which portrait was in each
classroom, never caught
on, or if he did I guess
he just thought I was
too pathetic a case to
even bother with. On
that portrait subject,
since I'm on it, I don't
know if they still do that,
hanging portraits, but
a few years later, in
Mr. Ziccardi's 6th
grade, when he'd start
ranting about how
much better we were,
(1959, US versus
those red commies
everywhere. He
taught us that US
meant 'us'. Period),
I'd always want to
know how Eisenhower's
big portrait on all those
walls, lording over us
little jerk kids, was
any different from what
Evil he said lurked in
Soviet Russia, where they
likewise had portraits
plastered everywhere,
of Stalin. I just never
understood that one.
'Equivalency' I think
it's called now. So,
this Mr. Lund guy
never did get me to
the torture rack.
Anyway the 'wartime'
motivations for death and
combat back then revolved
around six or seven of us
Inman Avenue and Clark
Place kids coming back
from lunch and swooping
down like filthy, mad
Goths or Mongols swiping,
mashing, bashing, and
killing by snowball, any
living being in our path  -
this included first grade
kids on up, any errant
runt we'd stumble onto.
It was mad warfare, and
we caused enough
disruption that day to
warrant the principle to
post himself between the
two schools to apprehend
the zealots, which, in
this case, is what US
really stood for. At that
point, totally guilty, I
realized Mr. Lund, the
portrait look-alike guy,
was really rather a
dupe, and I was
really rather the
fool, and neither of
us were really fighting
a war of any sort.
Lesson learned.
Through the later
years, all school
included, I was
always the budding
word-clown. I knew
that, it never mattered.
I wanted, sometimes,
to just blurt stuff out,
but I didn't : To a passing
girl - 'In hindsight, you
have a really nice ass.'
That was my 'hindsight'
joke, see. Or, passing
one of those old, ancient
NY cemeteries, I'd want
their motto to be 'We
put people in their
place.' One time, I saw
a girl and wanted to say
lustfully and boldly, 'You
have legs just like Marilyn
Monroe's, except they're
closer together.' Now, I
figured that to be funny,
and a good dig about
sexual opportunity too.
It didn't take much. I
was always twirling
an easy and double gift
for words and for
humor. A 'literate'
comedian, and before
my time too. Problem
was, at that age, I was
way out of my league.
The prime point of good
comedy is to joke about
what you know. And
what your audience
knows. So there's a
common ground,
something to laugh
at together. I was
way out of my league
here on the sex angle,
like a ten-year old
girl wildly belting
out some weird and
wicked love song but
no clue what she's
singing about.
When I was a
kid, I sometimes
thought my father
was on drugs. He
was always 'going
to the junkie.'  But
meaning he did a
lot of business with
the junkyard at the
end of the street. He
didn't know from
drugs at all. There
used to be an old comic
strip, 1950's anyway,
called 'Gasoline Alley.'
The comic itself wasn't
ever much, but I really
loved the concept of
that 'gasoline alley'
thing. It was like that
where I lived  -  or I'd
say it was anyway. Down
the end of the block, past
the last of the trailer court,
the road curved hard under
Route One, (Overpass
up above) and you came
upon, suddenly, an entire
string of junkyards,
metal recyclers, used
tire guys,  car-crushers,
and the various other
sorts of mechanic things.
The fact that there weren't
really 'repair' shops right
there (they were down
towards the next roadway,
a mile or so off) disqualified
it for true 'gasoline alley'
designation, but I never
split hairs  -  it had its
grease and oil pools,
piles of cars and parts,
big, black grease
spots on the roadway
and dirt. It's actually
all still there, to this
day, and probably larger.
More efficient too, but
the fun is gone. It used
to be they'd point you
in the direction of
wherever your part
being sought was,
to a pile of cars that
fit, and you'd be let
in, on your own, to
take it apart and get
what you wished,
paying on the way
out. Plus, there were
sheds of fenders, with
door and pieces hanging,
way high up, sheds for
wheels and tires, all
that. Now everything's
all closed off, the entire
inventory, top to bottom
is on computer, they
look it up, you see the
piece, approve it on screen
at the register, pay up, and
they bring it out to you.
A whole different vibe,
like buying curtains or
clothes. Everything is
clean and accounted for,
even the parts you get;
not greased or caked
with car grime.
My father used to
often be at the junkyard
-  a furniture van and
a car or two, always
needing something,
it seemed. He had two
of those Corvan things,
in succession. In the
middle-sixties, as
oddball as the Corvans
were, they were real
workhorses. Corvair
engine'd work vans, a
little noisy, sitting on
top of the engine too,
or something like that.
It was a horizontally
opposed Corvair engine
and drivetrain. They
sold pretty well. I know
he liked his  - I used to
laugh at it, as a stupid
vehicle idea, but it
withstood even my
ridicule. He'd get
used tires for all
these things, and the
replacement parts,
whatever he needed.
My father was a
great tinkerer, with
an engine hoist he'd
made, in the yard,
at the top of the
driveway, and he'd
actually use it.
It amazed me to
see a weekend job
of the sort he'd
undertake. He'd
get a $300 dollar
rebuilt engine, and
somehow get it
home and up to
the top of the
driveway and
in about 2 or 3
days, have the
switch made; the
old engine out, the
new one in and all
hooked up. It was
often amazing, and
he did it maybe
three times. No
power tools either,
just a torque wrench
being maybe the most
complicated piece
there, and it's really
not complicated. One
time, for a while, he
had a 1953 Dodge. I
really liked it. I was
young. I remember
the car, at any speed
past 45mph, would
shake and shudder
something horrible.
If you had the ingredients
all set up, you could
make a milkshake.
He eventually took
that cool Dodge (a
dull, dark green), to
the top of the
driveway where,
in about 2 weeks
time, he had it
running perfectly
smooth, I mean
Whatever it was,
and it wasn't engine
stuff, he straightened
it out. Maybe it was
motor mounts or,
suspension stuff,
whatever, but he
got it right with
but the primitive
tools he had. A
man's job, he'd
preen over a 
beer. Two Guy's
brand, private 
label beer, made 
with pure artesian 
well water. I 
remember all
the boasts. It was 
so funny, and now,
in 'hindsight' looks 
even funnier. It
even gives 'Old 
a bad name.
So, I frittered lots 
of time goofing 
around with words 
and ideas. I never
knew why, it was 
all just there, and 
it certainly was never
approached as a
'career.' My poor
old father, slaving
away under his 
cars and couches,
working fingers to
the bone, never had 
a chance. If he was
ever thinking of making
something honorable 
out of me, he was 
sorely disappointed.
He'd have had better 
luck trying to petrify my
pet trophy, back when
we had that dog, as kids.

No comments: