RUDIMENTS, pt. 21
In a book by Graham Green, entitled 'The
Power and the Glory,' there's an opening
that goes, 'There is always one moment
in childhood when the door opens and
lets the future in.' That always caught me
up, real good, and I often thought about it,
but I could never really find just ONE
moment to which to advance claim. Each
time I thought I had it, two or three others
would pop up. Of course, getting creamed
by a train supersedes all that anyway - after
all, coming back to this life after being figured
for dead is surely one massive way of 'letting
the future in.' On the whole, it's all fairly funny,
the things that crop up, for me anyway. It isn't
as though I was some farm boy, watching lettuce
grow and knowing all about both bugs and cattle.
Nor was I a city kid, all wise and up on the ways
and manners of coarse and powerful tactics for
survival. I was just some bumbling fool-headed
ratty suburban kid, and on the way-low-end of
all that too. Even John List (weird, mass family-
murderer) lived in Westfield; but it was still
Westfield. By contrast, I lived in some malarial
swamp near the prison, called 'Avenel.' When
the carnival rides came through this town, no
one was thrilled at all; the heck with the chintzy
truck roller-coasters and whips. We'd been riding
giant-ass-sized mosquitoes our entire lives.
Of course, first off of these incidents of childhood's
end, and probably the most cliched, is the overhead
1958 or whenever it was, Sputnik thing, the Soviet
space craft of the day whipping high, high, above
in the deep night sky, blinking, in its Twilight Zone
way over a doomed Inman Avenue with all those
sad and perplexed parental necks craning to see.
And all those terrified kids too - of course we'd
probably just come home earlier from a school-day
where they were still teaching how to 'duck and
cover' and hide under our desks (?) from the
nuclear annihilation those Reds were going to
give us anyway. We were told that would protect
us from the flying glass. Flying glass? I think they
left out the part about being vaporized, irradiated,
torched and burned, for starters. Fools, every one
of them. In addition to that, my pet dog out in the
backyard used to make me fearful of the Reds too
- they being prone to sending dogs up as the
test-passengers in these ungodly space capsules,
from which they'd return dead. Where was
PETA then? I don't think Graham Green
quite had a clue.
I remember my aunt, and even my mother
and others, going on about a 1957, maybe it
was, Elvis Presley appearance, all swivel-hipped
and sexy for that day, on the Ed Sullivan Show or
somesuch, with the camera blocking out his hip
gyrations, etc., as if they themselves couldn't
even admit to having ever had sex or that 'sexuality'
in whatever form there suggested, even existed.
Of course, except for us twaddling kids running
around - living sperm concoctions that must
have somehow just happened. Yeah, the 50's
sure were weird. The front grille of an Edsel
looked like a vaginal opening. I never got any
of that stuff - Elvis always looked to me like
some girl-guy trying to be a slick dancer. I
know none of our fathers ever carried on in
such a fleet-female way. Dancing and singing?
My father would rather have eaten a wrench.
So, none of that stuff ever signified for me.
I think, maybe, one that did, and really did,
and stayed with me a long time was - whenever
it was, and I don't even know - this startling
radio song I heard once by someone named
Ben E. King. That might have been, maybe, the
first thing that took me somewhere - mysterious
and much darker and more serious than childhood.
It was called 'A Rose in Spanish Harlem' and in
was the most devastatingly curious thing I'd ever
heard - not the music, which was simple; not the
way the guy sang it, which was plain and mostly
un-embellished. The music and the arrangements,
all that crap only came later and as a kid I never
much gave thought to it - even though those
weird bells or cling-clonk things in the song
were odd, I admit. What grabbed me - and
took me away - was the story line, the picture
painted. A rose, growing up through the concrete,
in a place called Spanish Harlem? A flower?
A person? In spite of all the odds, a life-force
breaking through, sustaining, growing, and
and living in spite of all? Where was this?
What such a place? Where? I simply wanted
to, right then, at that moment, go, leave, find
the small personal kid-impulse to go, instead
of the crud of this small school-town, to a place
where such possibilities and such reality really
existed. I said my prayers, daily: ...daily bread,
and deliver me from evil, amen.