Monday, August 24, 2009
This is something I wrote while under the influence of drugs.
One night, following one of my not-infrequent dental procedures, I was gulping down Percocets while drinking several mugs of coffee. The combination of opiate and caffeine lent itself to a hazy sort of insomnia, somewhat pleasant and especially productive in bringing to the forefront of my mind a raft of nostalgic memories. What follows is my scribbling from that evening.
(It actually WAS scribbling. I usually type anything of considerable length, sitting at our ancient computer sans internet hookup, but I filled four pages of a loose-leaf notebook with this stuff, tightly spaced, while sitting up in bed drinking more coffee, popping more pills, and chain smoking. Considering the circumstances, it was reasonably legible.)
I truly doubt that any one of you will share all of these memories with me. And, no denigration of your mental faculties intended, but I rather doubt you’ll even be able to understand all of them, so don’t sweat it if one line or another is as incomprehensible to you as Sanskrit. Just go on to the next one and the one after that. I’d have the same trouble comprehending your four pages of scribbles. I’m fairly certain, however, that you’ll find at least a few things with which you’ll be able to identify. If I jog a few memories of your own, I’d love it if you’d share them in the comments section.
One final note: These are, as the title says, things. They have little to do with people, at least directly. They are the objects, and the experiences with those objects, which I miss. Had I been in the state of mind mentioned, sitting up and thinking about the people whom I miss, I’d still be scribbling. Memories of things, while inductive to a sort of benign melancholia, reach a point where one has to say ‘enough is enough’ and then you let it go. Memories of actual persons who loved you, but are no longer around, don’t allow such facile closure at 3am.
The big old Admiral TV.
(Jackie Gleason on Saturday night, Ed Sullivan on Sunday night, The Three Stooges many mornings, and getting channel 10 or 12 from Providence when there was a good show on one of those and not being carried on one of the Boston stations. When we got a converter box, and hooked it up to get UHF for the first time, it was damn near magical.)
World Series games played during the day.
The fan-forced heat coming on, while I lay on the rug reading by the vent.
The knick-knack shelves and their odd contents.
The Welbilt stove & refrigerator.
(The spelling was weird, but damned if they weren't well built. From my childhood, until I left that house at age 37, they worked beautifully and had never had a single repair.)
(I got the photo from here.)
Milkmen, Cushman’s bakery delivery, "Any old rags?", Doctors who came to you, and Pete the ice cream man.
Simple comic books.
Sunday funnies that were actually funny, and not misplaced editorial cartoons.
Sports that knew their season.
Advertisements that weren’t embarrassing.
The pure joy of the last day of school.
The Sports Huddle. God bless you Eddie, Mark, and Jim!
The little trolley, especially on a hot summer Sunday when no other traffic was making noise and you could hear it coming from two stops away. And the days when the trolley had real leather seats, lusciously padded, and you could open the windows for the breeze.
Sundays that were Sundays.
Here’s one for us bald guys: Going to the barber and getting a real full haircut, not a 5-minute trim.
Catholic mass when my faith was that of a child.
The elevated from Forest Hills to Dover, and then again from North Station to Everett.
The smell of Starlite Cleaners on River Street.
(I still get a vision of childhood anytime I pass by a dry cleaner and get a whiff.)
Ice-cold Coca-Cola in a green bottle.
So many candlepin bowling alleys where I sweated and had fun - Lucky Strike in Dorchester, Sammy White’s in Brighton, Kenmore Bowladrome, Wollaston Bowladrome, The Superbowl in Quincy, The Symphony Hall 55, others in Weymouth, Milton, Braintree, whose names escape me now.
Saturday morning television when it was nothing but cartoons.
For that matter, I miss test patterns, sign-ons, sign-offs, morning and evening prayers, the national anthem, and even farm & market reports.
Huge bowls of Quake.
Insight, The Living Word, Lamp Unto My Feet, Davey & Goliath, and similar Sunday morning television offerings.
Saturday matinees at The Oriental (and a "businessman’s special" at The Cathay Village afterward.)
The towers at Baker’s Chocolate.
Being absolutely mesmerized and delighted in the toy aisles of department stores.
The library in Lower Mills – odd little rooms, great children’s section, friendly and helpful librarians.
When the Neponset River Bridge was made of wood, leaning against the railing and just watching the river go by.
Snow at night and going to bed hoping for no school in the morning.
Listening to the "no school" announcements on the radio and hearing "Boston – no school, all schools."
Sitting in the subway at Park Street Under, smoking, people watching, and letting the trains go by.
Friday afternoon educational movies in the third-floor auditorium of the Gilbert Stuart.
(Getting to the third floor was a bit scary for me, being afraid of heights as I was. There was a huge window to pass by on the landing between the second and third floors. If I was unlucky enough to be on that side of the stairs in our double-file march up, I would shut my eyes and hold my breath as we passed it. Looking back, this probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do to increase my chances of not falling through it. But, once we reached the auditorium, it was all good. The films themselves were usually interesting, and, if was something boring, then Stephen Murphy and I would exchange jokes and giggle in the dark.)
Getting a slice of the hideous pizza sold at Park Street station.
(This was on the way home from Boston Latin. Since I hated going to that school, the pizza was the highlight of my school day. How times have changed over such a short span! Pizza was not ubiquitously available then as it is now, so having a chance to get a slice of horrible pizza – and this was easily the worst pizza in the entire city – was still a rush and well worth the quarter spent. Oh, was that pizza bad! You’d sometimes take the first bite and burn the roof of your mouth, concurrently burning your chin when the entire slab of cheese would slide off the hard dough and slap onto your chin. Then, to save your face and palate, you had to spit out the cheese onto the passenger platform. This left you with a piece of doughy cardboard slathered with cheap tomato sauce. Since it cost you a quarter, you still ate it. Hell, if nobody else had been around I would have retrieved the cheese from the floor of the subway. A quarter was a big deal to me then.)
In Concert, Friday nights at 11:30 on ABC.
(The best televised rock music show of my youth. Others preferred The Midnight Special, on NBC – which actually aired at 1am on the east coast –, but In Concert had more metal acts. Also, In Concert was filmed at varying locales, giving it the feel of a true concert experience, whereas Midnight Special had the groups come in and play on a soundstage, introduced by the barely-tolerable Wolfman Jack. There was the syndicated Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, but the performances on that show were often lip-synched, something I despised.)
(This was a religious radio program, airing at 11pm on Sunday as I recall. They played some excellent current metal songs interspersed with a bit of evangelism. Odd, but somehow comforting, listening.)
Exploring my parent’s bedroom closet, as well as the downstairs coat closet.
(There was something entirely comforting about those two spaces in our house. They were enclosed, warm, dark, and full of interesting things. I used to like to sit in them sometimes and just forget about the outside world. One of the major problems with growing up is that you can’t fit inside closets and under tables. Or, even if you can, people look at you oddly when they see you coming out from one of them.)
I suppose that’s enough pointless nostalgia for one sitting. I’ve got another three pages worth of this stuff in my notebook, but it will wait.
Soon, with more better stuff.