Late Spring Cleanin’: Or, ‘Fishin’ by the creek’, Your Choice

I am cleaning out some old posts and kickin’ ’em to the curb

Please bare with me. (Bear? Is that a word? Or just an animal?)

Anyhow…

Read if you will. (And if not, well, thanks for the auto-likes)

Cheers!

***

‘Three-Nine-Six-One-Three Bruning Street Fremont California: 1964-1968’

Funny how I still remember the street address when I cannot remember my mother’s birthday, or what I had for Sunday Supper last week, or my second wife’s maiden name, or who won the World Series last year.

All the houses on Bruning Street were brand new. And they were all alike. But their alikeness did not dampen my spirits, especially since mom and I had left the moldy old garage apartment across town. I had finally escaped that place and the Ghost of that Murdered Turkey.

Seems the entire neighborhood moved in on the same summer weekend: Floodgates opened—lots of activity—trucks coming and going, grown-ups schlepping boxes, kids (potential buddies?) playing and yellin’ and runnin’ wild, dogs untethered, barking, yipping, yapping, chasing. Just general mayhem all around: very excited we all were to be living the American Dream. Norman Rockwell should have been there.

A House on Bruning Street Today

A House on Bruning Street

All the houses had small front yards, slightly larger back yards, but no fences. In fact not really proper yards yet. No lawns, just California clay, hard-packed and untenable.

This would soon be remedied. By today’s standards for suburbia the dwellings were quite modest. No McMansions these. Each house had three small bedrooms, one bathroom, smallish kitchen, tiny dining area, and small living room. That was it, but compared to our garage apartment, Mom and I had moved into the Taj Mahal. Everything smelled gloriously of fresh paint, fresh earth, and promise. I immediately picked a spot in the back yard for my garden. As a kid, I was never happier than when I was digging in the dirt, much to the chagrin of my much harried mother and my blatant hatred of regular bathing.

Mom and I settled in quickly. For a few days, I shyly & longingly watched some of the other kids playing around up the street. My shyness prevented me from going up and introducing myself, but I had a secret weapon: some small incendiary devices. Actually they were just marble-sized balls that when slammed into the pavement would explode like firecrackers. Cannot recall where I had procured them, but they suited my purpose rather elegantly. Nonchalantly I walked over to the sidewalk one day and commenced to fling them down, one at a time. The ensuing explosions captured the attention of the group of kids up the street and they all came stampeding over to investigate.

Attention Getter

Attention Getter

This was how I broke the ice and made my first friends on Bruning Street. Call it an old magician’s trick, if you will.

“Wow! Those are so neat! Where’d ya get ‘em?”

“Just got ‘em,” I said, ever so cool.

“Can I try one?”

“Well… Yeah, but be careful; they’re not for kids, ya know.”

“What’s your name?”

“Lance. What’s yours?”

Thus the beginning of some of my beautiful friendships.

As summer turned to fall and the lawns and juvenile trees and fences and dog shit sprouted up on Bruning Street, I had cemented many friendships. Most of the kids were very close to my age. We never extended our circle beyond the confines of our street. Later I would break that unwritten code by becoming best friends with the kid who lived in the house bordering mine in the back. His name was Ricky Martinez. His people came from Puerto Rico, but he didn’t speak Spanish. He was a few years older and a bit of a gangster and we hit it off from the start. Right then I began my propensity of always living double lives. When I really wanted mischief I sought Ricky. Other times when it was baseball or playing army or watching Saturday morning cartoons I was after, I kept to my Bruning Street buddies.

Once school started (fourth grade for me), I made even more friends who could never mix with my Bruning Street friends or my Gangster friend Ricky. So now I had three lives to juggle.

Of course we all had bicycles and would fearlessly ride them all over town: Sometimes to the public swimming pool about four miles away and sometimes to the mall and the movie theater also about four miles distant. No one worried after our safety because we were never in any danger. We also had skateboards as second ‘cars’ and Ricky convinced me to paint mine silver. His reasoning was that when we eventually were confronted with rival gangs (Ricky and I were the only ones in our ‘gang’, but we did attempt some recruiting) we could turn the silver side of the skateboard toward the rival gang and blind them into submission with the sunlight reflected off our boards. We never encountered any menacing ‘rival gangs’, but we were ever vigilant and ready for them, should they appear.

My ‘Bruning Street Gang’ was so very much like the kids from South Park that it amazes me when I watch that TV show today. We cussed blue streaks amongst ourselves and had very strong and learned opinions about everything going on in the world. There was Randy Francin and his little brother Paul who lived right across the street. There were the DuBords who lived down the block. Craig the elder, Tommy the young ‘un and their older sister Kim, who looked a lot like Julie Andrews.

There was ‘Steve-Our-Hero’, a lanky sixteen year old blond-haired kid who looked like someone right out of a surfer movie. He lived about four doors down from me and was worshipped by us all. He had a grown-up job delivering newspapers and it was high honor to be ordered by him to bike down to the Seven-Eleven and pick him up a sixteen-ounce Pepsi. (I kept the bottle caps from my missions as souvenirs, almost like saintly relics in fact, and I kept them displayed in my bedroom) Our undying ambition was to grow up to be Steve.

A few doors down in the opposite direction lived another sixteen year old: A GIRL. Her name was Linda. She was also blond and I was madly in love with her. She once showed me her Janis Joplin album cover: Cheap Thrills Big Brother and the Holding Company and she was the coolest girl I had ever known.

Cheap Thrills

My Baptism

(actually the only girl I had ever known) I wanted to marry her, but all I was allowed to do was worship, which I did shamelessly. One day, she actually let me listen to the album. We sat on her bed silent through the entire record. My life changed that day. It reads corny, but sometimes corny is the best read. She was my first unrequited love and my first elusive butterfly.

Why she and Steve never hooked up, I have no idea. They were our royalty and it just didn’t seem right to me that they were not a couple. If I could not have her, surely Steve could. The two coolest people I knew and they were each too busy for the other. I don’t think they even knew of each other. Shakespeare could not have written it better.

Linda had her nemesis who lived at the far end of the street. Her name escapes me, but she was the same age as Linda and a brunette. Linda confided in me one day that she had gone over to her house and caught her sitting on the toilet picking at her pussy hairs. Oh my god! I had never heard a woman say ‘pussy’ before. I was certain that she had never said that to anyone but me and I fell even more in love with her. It was my little secret: Linda had talked dirty to me.

OK. You had to know I just could not resist. For all you Musical Fans out there, my apologies to Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, George Bernard Shaw, et al.

This one is for you Linda, wherever you are:

We had our pecking order. Hell, we even had our South Park ‘Kenny’, a young Hispanic kid who lived next door to me and always wanted to hang out with us ‘older kids.’ He never died, by the way, but we did torment him mercilessly, once almost conning him into drinking piss out of a Pepsi bottle. Would have worked too, if we had had the presence of mind to let it cool down before offering it to him. I cannot recall whose piss it was. Might have been a group effort.

Occasionally we would get into fights within our group, invariably causing us to split into two factions. Loyalties were often divided. These little insurrections could go on for weeks at a time, but eventually there would be a truce and a general détente. For fighting we had strict protocol. If one kid desired fisticuffs, he was required to proclaim in a loud and clear voice:

“I choose you out!”

The opponent had two choices: He could say, “I accept,” and get it on, or he could walk away, but no one ever walked away. The shame of not accepting such a challenge would have been career ending and would mean certain banishment forever.

The fights were furious but generally brief with not much harm done to anything but the pride of the loser. I won some of these encounters and I lost some. I guess on this front I was generally batting about five hundred.

One day I was forced too young into manhood. Ricky was a kleptomaniac. I knew he had this failing, but I kept overlooking it, denying it actually. He kept stealing stuff from me. Nothing important but it hurt me deep inside. We were best friends. One day he was ‘pumping me’ (which means I was riding on the back of his bicycle) over to his house. My bike had a flat.

Anyway, I was seated behind him and I saw a toy top of mine bulging out of his pocket. I could not feign denial any longer. When we got to his house, I mustered all the character I had and I broached this subject,

“Rick,” I said, “You know you are my best friend, right?”

“Yeah of course.”

“Well, it hurts me to tell you this, but I know you have been stealing stuff from my house.”

“Whaaat?! Bullshit!” he said.

“Ricky, I saw my top in your pocket on the way over here.”

Top of The Day

Top of The Day

“Oh… Yeah… Well here. Take it back,” he said, digging it out of his pocket.

“Ricky,” I said, “It ain’t about the top. It’s about friendship. And trust. I don’t care about the fuckin’ top. I care about our friendship.”

He gave me his best ‘I’m sorry look.’ And then I insisted he keep the top, but I think that was the beginning of the end of our friendship. That was up until then, the most painful conversation I had ever had to initiate in my young life, but it had to be; I just could not let him slide. Or me either. I would have hated him if I had not confronted him. The hate would have just festered and poisoned me. Somehow I instinctively knew this.

I loved all my friends good and bad and I was loyal to a fault.

These happy times rolled on along for a couple of years; then I was overtaken by events and my life would never be the same.

I had to go, you see, but I did miss the Saturday Cartoons.

To Be Continued. Here

Throw Back: Continuation of ‘On The Street Where I Lived’

This is essentially Part Two of an earlier post:

On The Street Where I Lived

****

Ricky Martinez and I were pyromaniacs.

Okay, that may be an overstatement, but we did love burning shit and building fires, albeit small ones. During the Sixties on Bruning Street every back yard had a ‘burning barrel’ (Can you imagine? Today? In California? Actually burning trash in town? Oh how times change.)

Fire

There was only one rule: The fire in the burning barrel had to be out by noon. No problem. I always volunteered for Burn Barrel Duty. Mom was happy to oblige.

Fire fascinated me, but what I really craved was camping out and with a ‘proper’ camp fire: just a little rustic thing with rocks all about and something to cook, preferably some dead animal, but a potato would do in a pinch. Ricky shared my fire obsession, but was none too keen on the culinary part of the exercise. He just liked breaking the rules. And building fires. And burning shit.

So for about three weeks running, every day after school we would meet in my side-yard, where there would be less chance of prying eyes busting us, and build a small camp fire. I would steal potatoes, or carrots, or bologna, or spam, and using an old coffee can, we would cook away. As I recall we never ate any of this food, but that wasn’t really the point was it?

The Old Broad who lived next door hated all the kids in the neighborhood–with a purple-fluorescent passion. Her daughter had managed to escape her conscience by purchasing the house and dumping her off there to fend, checking in every six years (OK: weeks).

She had a beautiful pristine grassy front yard, golf-green-like, never feeling the wet kiss of a Ked’s sneaker, a bicycle tread, or even a bare foot. She had drawn a line on her border:

Abandon All Hope:

KIDS Who Set Foot On My Lawn

My buddies and I were rowdy kids (Read: Normal) But when we played in my front yard we were cognizant of The Witch’s Yard, and did our best not to inadvertently step on it. Because we all knew That Bitch was watching from her window; I mean, what the hell else did she have to do with her time?

One afternoon, just about the whole neighborhood was playing ‘Batman & Robin’ vs The ‘Green Hornet’ vs ‘The Man from Uncle’ vs ‘James Bond’ in my yard.

Call it a ‘Super Hero Smack Down’ if you like.

Things got out of hand and I took multiple bullets from Kato and then method-acted my death, falling prostrate onto The Bitch’s yard. Seeing my over-acting (and my trespass), my gang scattered like dew in West Texas on a hot summer day. I lay there for a moment, not unlike Laurence Olivier in the death scene from ‘Lear’, waiting for the applause.

What I heard instead was the screeching of what should have been an owl.

Wasn’t.

Was The Witch/Bitch. She was screeching and running toward me, (Shades of Mr. Peabody) I got up, jumped back onto ‘safe ground’ (mine) and prepared myself for the royal chastising. I did not have to wait long.

This old broad proceeded to lay in to me with the most vitriolic rage I had ever heard up until that day.

Not knowing what to say, I just stood there, head half-bowed and took it. My gang slowly made their way back in what I mistakenly thought to be a show of Solidarity. They gathered around on either side of me, but not too close. The Old Bat, now with a perfect opportunity to lecture the entire population of juvenile delinquents on Bruning Street, took her stage and launched her soliloquy,

“You kids have no respect! You know you are ruining my yard! Look at all of you! You-should-be-ashamed! You have no respect!” Then she leveled her eyes, laser-like at me,

“And this kid,” she said, pointing a bony finger in my face. “This kid! Look at him! He is laughing at me! Laughing!”

(Clarification: it was a smirk, involuntary, but certainly to the uninitiated a smirk nonetheless. You see, my entire life I have had no control over my ‘smirk’ and this has gotten me into much trouble and has indeed cost me some relationships, but I just cannot help it. When something strikes me funny or ludicrous, the muscles in my face take over, and… well, I guess ‘smirk’ works well enough for the description.

Alas. Tis a curse.

Growing exasperated, and then feigning great ‘Old Helpless Lady’ sorrow, she said,

“Look how he laughs at me! Look how he mocks me! Me! Just a poor old woman who only wants to have a nice yard. Is this too much to ask from my old age?”

And with that performance thus ended, she turned and slowly (for full effect) sauntered off and made her sorrowful, broken old lady exit, stage left. (Mind you: this was the same lady that, OJ Simpson-Like-in an Airport, had burst upon the scene five minutes previous, flaying talons and rage.)

My best buddy, Randy, came up to me and asked oh so solemnly, “Lance, do you… laugh?”

“Not anymore,” I said brusquely, and walked toward the front door of my house. Everyone else slowly dispersed, all heart-sick and remorseful.

“And thanks for having my back” I said under my breath, to no one in particular, as I entered my house.

So I was pissed at my Bruning Street Gang for some weeks and fell in with Ricky full-time. Fine with me. We were having great times every afternoon building our campfire, roasting and boiling whatever I could filch from Mom’s fridge or upon occasion, the odd hapless toad or lizard, or mouse.

One Friday afternoon, I scored two potatoes and a couple of carrots from Mom’s fridge and went to my side yard to wait for Ricky. Presently he showed up with a half package of hot dogs and a few slices of five-day-old Wonder Bread and a bottle of Ketchup.

Now we had a problem

“Ricky, gonna take us hours to cook all this shit,” I said.

“Aw shit! Well, we can just build a bigger fire, yeah?”

“I dunno. Too much smoke and we gonna get caught,” I protested.

“Bullshit! Ain’t nobody around. Who gonna see it?”

So we went to work digging out our fire pit to accommodate a much larger fire. I had some bricks I stole from the pile my stepfather had brought for the construction of the patio he had started. I placed them around the perimeter of the fire pit. Ricky scrounged about and found some pieces of four by fours my step-father had been using to lay out the pattern of the patio. I went into the house and found a fresh McCall’s Magazine belonging to my Mom and brought it out for kindling.

We proceeded to build a proper ‘camp fire’. Actually, it was more of a bonfire to tell the truth, but we weren’t worried. The McCall’s magazine smoke was a little overwhelming though.

As we were preparing the vegetables and the hot dogs for cooking I heard the sliding door slide open. Not good. Mom was not supposed to be home for another hour. I ran to intercept her before she could get to the side yard.

“Hi Mom,” I said. “Hey Mom. I’m hungry. Can I have a sandwich?” I was actually trying to push her with my chest as I said this and she was having none of it.

She pushed by me and turned the corner to the side yard.

“Lance! Ricky! Put out that fire! What is wrong with you?!”

“OK! OK! Mom! We will!”

Then I heard the sirens.

Three fire trucks pulled up in front of my house and firemen jumped out frantically, dragging hoses and shouting like crazy. They knocked the little fence down which separated my side yard from the street. The lead fireman, looking left, looking right, shouted, “Where’s the fire! Where’s the fire!”

Then he saw it: A fire about the size of a ‘Smokey Joe’ BBQ grill, and he fell down laughing, dropping his nozzle.

He recovered, picked up his fire hose, then doused the fire, me, mom, and Ricky (I think out of spite, or frustration), then turned to his fellows and said, trying to regain his composure,

“Fire’s out Boys. Somebody call it in.”

Of course now I was in deep shit. The Fireman summoned me out to the front yard (which was embarrassing as everyone, and I do mean everyone in the neighborhood were assembled all about) and  had a little talk with me before they left;

“Son, do you realize you could have burned that house down? Did you see how close that fire was to your house?”

(‘Yeah’, I remember thinking; ‘about six feet, no wind, and me with a garden hose at the ready’. But wisely, I said nothing and opted for remorseful—the one time my built-in smirk did not betray me.)

He continued, “If we are ever called out here again, we are gonna take you down to juvenile hall. You understand?”

“Uh Yeah, I mean, Yes Sir.”

After the smoke cleared, literally and metaphorically, I discovered it was the Old Witch Next Door who had copped us out and called the fire department.

She would get hers, I vowed.

Yep. She would.

By an’ by…

More Here

On The Street Where I Lived: School Days

Part Three in a Continuing Series

Part One & Part Two

****

The school I attended from Fourth through Sixth Grade segregated the kids into three classes: High Aptitude, Medium Aptitude, Low Aptitude. Of course my buddies and I had our own names for these three ‘Classes’: “Smart Kids” (us), “Dumb Kids”, and “Really Dumb Kids.” There was absolutely no socialization between the three classes. None. Ever. I cannot imagine California (or any other state school board) using this practice now.

Once initially ‘placed’ into your category, there was virtually no way to make a move (in either direction). But during the second half of my Fifth Grade year, I took a real running stab at getting ‘demoted’ from ‘Smart’ to ‘Dumb’ Classification. I have always been easily distracted. One day during Mathematics Class, the teacher showed us a trick I found fascinating. He taught us we could make a curved line out of a bunch of straight lines. This was a revelation to me.

Curved Lines

For the next several weeks, I spent all my time in classrooms experimenting with this new found ‘miracle’. I created countless drawings, some very colorful, some just black on white. The possibilities seemed endless. Of course my school work suffered in direct proportion to my budding creative talent. I quit doing my homework or even participating in class. I attribute this to my addictive personality. I was addicted to making curved lines out of straight. Nothing else was as much fun, especially while in class. Strangely enough, it really wasn’t fun at all as soon as I got home from school in the afternoons.

Continue reading

Continuation of ‘On The Street Where I Lived’

This is essentially Part Two of an earlier post:

On The Street Where I Lived

****

Ricky Martinez and I were pyromaniacs.

Okay, that may be an overstatement, but we did love burning shit and building fires, albeit small ones. During the Sixties on Bruning Street every back yard had a ‘burning barrel’ (Can you imagine? Today? In California? Actually burning trash in town? Oh how times change.)

Fire

There was only one rule: The fire in the burning barrel had to be out by noon. No problem. I always volunteered for Burn Barrel Duty. Mom was happy to oblige.

Fire fascinated me, but what I really craved was camping out and with a ‘proper’ camp fire: just a little rustic thing with rocks all about and something to cook, preferably some dead animal, but a potato would do in a pinch. Ricky shared my fire obsession, but was none too keen on the culinary part of the exercise. He just liked breaking the rules. And building fires. And burning shit.

So for about three weeks running, every day after school we would meet in my side-yard, where there would be less chance of prying eyes busting us, and build a small camp fire. I would steal potatoes, or carrots, or bologna, or spam, and using an old coffee can, we would cook away. As I recall we never ate any of this food, but that wasn’t really the point was it?

The Old Broad who lived next door hated all the kids in the neighborhood–with a purple-fluorescent passion. Her daughter had managed to escape her conscience by purchasing the house and dumping her off there to fend, checking in every six years (OK: weeks).

She had a beautiful pristine grassy front yard, golf-green-like, never feeling the wet kiss of a Ked’s sneaker, a bicycle tread, or even a bare foot. She had drawn a line on her border:

Abandon All Hope:

KIDS Who Set Foot On My Lawn

My buddies and I were rowdy kids (Read: Normal) But when we played in my front yard we were cognizant of The Witch’s Yard, and did our best not to inadvertently step on it. Because we all knew That Bitch was watching from her window; I mean, what the hell else did she have to do with her time?

One afternoon, just about the whole neighborhood was playing ‘Batman & Robin’ vs The ‘Green Hornet’ vs ‘The Man from Uncle’ vs ‘James Bond’ in my yard.

Call it a ‘Super Hero Smack Down’ if you like.

Things got out of hand and I took multiple bullets from Kato and then method-acted my death, falling prostrate onto The Bitch’s yard. Seeing my over-acting (and my trespass), my gang scattered like dew in West Texas on a hot summer day. I lay there for a moment, not unlike Laurence Olivier in the death scene from ‘Lear’, waiting for the applause.

What I heard instead was the screeching of what should have been an owl.

Wasn’t.

Was The Witch/Bitch. She was screeching and running toward me, (Shades of Mr. Peabody) I got up, jumped back onto ‘safe ground’ (mine) and prepared myself for the royal chastising. I did not have to wait long.

This old broad proceeded to lay in to me with the most vitriolic rage I had ever heard up until that day.

Not knowing what to say, I just stood there, head half-bowed and took it. My gang slowly made their way back in what I mistakenly thought to be a show of Solidarity. They gathered around on either side of me, but not too close. The Old Bat, now with a perfect opportunity to lecture the entire population of juvenile delinquents on Bruning Street, took her stage and launched her soliloquy,

“You kids have no respect! You know you are ruining my yard! Look at all of you! You-should-be-ashamed! You have no respect!” Then she leveled her eyes, laser-like at me,

“And this kid,” she said, pointing a bony finger in my face. “This kid! Look at him! He is laughing at me! Laughing!”

(Clarification: it was a smirk, involuntary, but certainly to the uninitiated a smirk nonetheless. You see, my entire life I have had no control over my ‘smirk’ and this has gotten me into much trouble and has indeed cost me some relationships, but I just cannot help it. When something strikes me funny or ludicrous, the muscles in my face take over, and… well, I guess ‘smirk’ works well enough for the description.

Alas. Tis a curse.

Growing exasperated, and then feigning great ‘Old Helpless Lady’ sorrow, she said,

“Look how he laughs at me! Look how he mocks me! Me! Just a poor old woman who only wants to have a nice yard. Is this too much to ask from my old age?”

And with that performance thus ended, she turned and slowly (for full effect) sauntered off and made her sorrowful, broken old lady exit, stage left. (Mind you: this was the same lady that, OJ Simpson-Like-in an Airport, had burst upon the scene five minutes previous, flaying talons and rage.)

My best buddy, Randy, came up to me and asked oh so solemnly, “Lance, do you… laugh?”

“Not anymore,” I said brusquely, and walked toward the front door of my house. Everyone else slowly dispersed, all heart-sick and remorseful.

“And thanks for having my back” I said under my breath, to no one in particular, as I entered my house.

So I was pissed at my Bruning Street Gang for some weeks and fell in with Ricky full-time. Fine with me. We were having great times every afternoon building our campfire, roasting and boiling whatever I could filch from Mom’s fridge or upon occasion, the odd hapless toad or lizard, or mouse.

One Friday afternoon, I scored two potatoes and a couple of carrots from Mom’s fridge and went to my side yard to wait for Ricky. Presently he showed up with a half package of hot dogs and a few slices of five-day-old Wonder Bread and a bottle of Ketchup.

Now we had a problem

“Ricky, gonna take us hours to cook all this shit,” I said.

“Aw shit! Well, we can just build a bigger fire, yeah?”

“I dunno. Too much smoke and we gonna get caught,” I protested.

“Bullshit! Ain’t nobody around. Who gonna see it?”

So we went to work digging out our fire pit to accommodate a much larger fire. I had some bricks I stole from the pile my stepfather had brought for the construction of the patio he had started. I placed them around the perimeter of the fire pit. Ricky scrounged about and found some pieces of four by fours my step-father had been using to lay out the pattern of the patio. I went into the house and found a fresh McCall’s Magazine belonging to my Mom and brought it out for kindling.

We proceeded to build a proper ‘camp fire’. Actually, it was more of a bonfire to tell the truth, but we weren’t worried. The McCall’s magazine smoke was a little overwhelming though.

As we were preparing the vegetables and the hot dogs for cooking I heard the sliding door slide open. Not good. Mom was not supposed to be home for another hour. I ran to intercept her before she could get to the side yard.

“Hi Mom,” I said. “Hey Mom. I’m hungry. Can I have a sandwich?” I was actually trying to push her with my chest as I said this and she was having none of it.

She pushed by me and turned the corner to the side yard.

“Lance! Ricky! Put out that fire! What is wrong with you?!”

“OK! OK! Mom! We will!”

Then I heard the sirens.

Three fire trucks pulled up in front of my house and firemen jumped out frantically, dragging hoses and shouting like crazy. They knocked the little fence down which separated my side yard from the street. The lead fireman, looking left, looking right, shouted, “Where’s the fire! Where’s the fire!”

Then he saw it: A fire about the size of a ‘Smokey Joe’ BBQ grill, and he fell down laughing, dropping his nozzle.

He recovered, picked up his fire hose, then doused the fire, me, mom, and Ricky (I think out of spite, or frustration), then turned to his fellows and said, trying to regain his composure,

“Fire’s out Boys. Somebody call it in.”

Of course now I was in deep shit. The Fireman summoned me out to the front yard (which was embarrassing as everyone, and I do mean everyone in the neighborhood were assembled all about) and  had a little talk with me before they left;

“Son, do you realize you could have burned that house down? Did you see how close that fire was to your house?”

(‘Yeah’, I remember thinking; ‘about six feet, no wind, and me with a garden hose at the ready’. But wisely, I said nothing and opted for remorseful—the one time my built-in smirk did not betray me.)

He continued, “If we are ever called out here again, we are gonna take you down to juvenile hall. You understand?”

“Uh Yeah, I mean, Yes Sir.”

After the smoke cleared, literally and metaphorically, I discovered it was the Old Witch Next Door who had copped us out and called the fire department.

She would get hers, I vowed.

Yep. She would.

By an’ by…

Part Three: School Days

 

On The Street Where I Lived

‘Three-Nine-Six-One-Three Bruning Street Fremont California: 1966-1968’

Funny how I still remember the street address when I cannot remember my mother’s birthday, or what I had for Sunday Supper last week, or my second wife’s maiden name, or who won the World Series last year.

All the houses on Bruning Street were brand new. And they were all alike. But their alikeness did not dampen my spirits, especially since mom and I had left the moldy old garage apartment across town. I had finally escaped that place and the Ghost of that Murdered Turkey.

Seems the entire neighborhood moved in on the same summer weekend: Floodgates opened—lots of activity—trucks coming and going, grown-ups schlepping boxes, kids (potential buddies?) playing and yellin’ and runnin’ wild, dogs untethered, barking, yipping, yapping, chasing. Just general mayhem all around: very excited we all were to be living the American Dream. Norman Rockwell should have been there.

A House on Bruning Street Today

A House on Bruning Street

All the houses had small front yards, slightly larger back yards, but no fences. In fact not really proper yards yet. No lawns, just California clay, hard-packed and untenable.

This would soon be remedied. By today’s standards for suburbia the dwellings were quite modest. No McMansions these. Each house had three small bedrooms, one bathroom, smallish kitchen, tiny dining area, and small living room. That was it, but compared to our garage apartment, Mom and I had moved into the Taj Mahal. Everything smelled gloriously of fresh paint, fresh earth, and promise. I immediately picked a spot in the back yard for my garden. As a kid, I was never happier than when I was digging in the dirt, much to the chagrin of my much harried mother and my blatant hatred of regular bathing.

Continue reading

‘The Time Has Come,’ The Walrus Said, ‘To Talk of Many Things: Of Murdered Birds, Of Turtles Green, and Hippies Sellin’ Rings.’ -With Apologies to Lewis Carroll

peobody

“Nap time!”

That hated time.

That dreaded time.

That feared time.

Why?

Because I did not know my left foot from my right foot.

You see, during “Nap Time” I had to remove my shoes and I could never figure out which shoe went on which foot.

Made no difference to me if I woke up and put the left shoe into the right mouth, but it did seem to matter a great deal to my kindergarten teacher. She would grow livid if one of her charges got the whole shoe business wrong. Well, good for her and bless her heart.

“Your shoes are on the wrong foot. Doesn’t that look funny to you? Doesn’t it feel uncomfortable? Don’t you feel like a fool?”

No. No. And, No.

I cared not.

However, being eager to please and wont to have no drama hurled in my direction, I made an honest effort to figure out the ‘whole shoe business’ just to make my life easier and less complicated.

Since I, until this day, cannot discern right from left, (or find my wayward way about my home town—pop: 1800) I came up with what I thought was a semi-brilliant plan: When nap-time came about, I would remove my shoes and carefully place them on the floor and slide them underneath my cot in exactly the same configuration that they had whilst my feet were wearing them. I surmised that once awakened, I could roll over, sit up, and by placing my feet just the same way as before I had retired, find the shoes exactly as they had been. Good theory, but I was never quite certain if or not, some Evil Shoe Satan had trifled with my shoes whist I was sleeping and therefore, did not know (with absolute certainty) if my shoes were still in the same configuration where I had left them and hence, if they would go back on in that same same configuration I needed.

I hated nap time.

Or, more accurately: the waking up from nap time.

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