Archive for the ‘ odd childhood ’ Category

A history of smoking

Scan 8My cousin dropped off a bunch of photos of my family I don’t think I’d ever seen. This is my dad and I, it’s not dated but I think it’s from 1963 and I’m one and a half. I think he’s smoking a Parliment, he smoked them for awhile. He smoked 3 packs a day. He tried a pipe when I was young, which I think coincided with either mutton-chops or an English Sgt. Major’s mustache (the kind that need mustache wax), I guess he was going thru a phase. He later smoked Benson and Hedges, then Merit, Merit Ultra Lights and then inexplicably wound up smoking Vantage Ultra Light Menthol’s. When my brother and I asked him what he wanted for Christmas or his birthday he would say “A 1928 MG or a carton of cigarettes”. He never got the MG.

Basketball (childhood)

When I was kid I loved basketball, almost as much as baseball and I played a lot. I was gangly and awkward but I could shoot ok. My school (St. Ann’s, Keansburg) had an intramural basketball “league”. League is pushing it a bit, there might have been four teams, that I’m pretty sure consisted of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. The games took place in the gym and it was mainly a lot of running around and missed shots. One saturday our team (who’s name I have forgotten) played another team that had a guy who’s mother had just died. His name was John and he was a big quiet kid. I think the prevailing thought was, maybe basketball will take his mind off his mom. We started playing and I wanted to win. I was a kid, this was years before I started getting fucked up and sports were still pure. In my head I was on the Knicks (Dave DeBusschere), the game meant something to me. So I saw an opportunity and stole the ball from John and headed all by myself to the basket. An easy two points, and a heads up play by me. The next thing I know I’m lying two rows in on the sidelines in a pile of metal folding chairs. I had no idea what happened. The ref who helped me up told me that right after I stole the ball, John ran up behind me and punched me in the back of the head and sent me into the chairs. I asked him if I was going to get a foul shot and he told me that no, there wasn’t any foul and I shouldn’t have stolen the ball from John as his mother had just died.

No pictures exist of me playing basketball but here’s one from around the same time in my soccer garb

28 Chicken Street (odd childhood 3)

My aunt sends my brother and I a box of pears every year for Christmas. I’m not really a pear guy. They have an odd texture and they taste weird. Actually they taste and feel like pears which is fine but I always look at them as weird apples and am disappointed when they don’t taste like apples. I eat them but… Anyhow, when my brother came over around New Years he left an unwanted pear here and I wanted to get back at him so I smooshed it up a little bit and mailed it back to him. The return address on the giant box I put it in was “28 Chicken Street”. Now that address has some history to us. When we were little kids, we moved to West Keansburg from Bayonne. Our parents wanted us to memorize our address in case we got lost, 130 Essex Avenue, West Keansburg. My brother who’s a wise ass refused to say the correct address and instead insisted that he lived at 28 Chicken Street. My parents were pissed and my brother kept it up, 28 Chicken Street, 28 Chicken Street. They sat him at the kitchen table and in what was reminiscent of a police interrogation, “Where do you live?, Where do you Live?!”. By this time I think my brother actually forgot where we lived and just knew 28 Chicken Street. It was a long night. I’m expecting a rotten pear in an elaborate package for my birthday.


Childhood 3

I was reading a very old Rolling Stone and I saw an ad for an old “hippie” watch. It had some nogoodnik on it who’s hands were the watch hands and it was giving the finger with the words “Up the Establishment!” on it and it reminded me when I was a little kid and at my grandparents house in St. Albans, Queens, I think it was 1968/69. Their neighbor was a cop. To a little kid (I was about six) he was a giant, one day he called me over and sat me down on his front porch, he was deadly serious and said something along the lines of, “You know that bad people call policemen pigs…well look at this,” He showed me his watch that had an angry pig in a police uniform on it, and the words Pride Integrity Guts. “This’ll show ‘em!…right?” I panicked and ran back to my grandparents house.

Traffic Watching (odd childhood 2)

My father was a bit eccentric. He claimed his favorite music was “Cuban Opera” and bagpipe music, for a time he sported an elaborate “British Sgt. Majors” mustache, he wanted me to name one of my bands “The Haggis Heads” and one of his favorite activities was traffic watching. Now I don’t know if “traffic watching” is a legit activity but my dad raised it to an art. Summer on the Jersey Shore meant sunday afternoon traffic jams on the north bound side of the Garden State Parkway. Every sunday afternoon the parkway looked like a parking lot. So in the late afternoon on most sundays the four of us would pile into the car (’74 green Ford Torino station wagon) and head over to a quiet road that ran next to the parkway north. We’d pull over on to the dirt shoulder and parked. We’d sit there and watch the backed up traffic, we’d be there for a while, sometimes we’d bring a light picnic. My brother and I would read comics and my mom usually had a book with her. My dad would laugh softly and occasionally point out a particularly vexed driver. Then when he’d had enough we’d head home, with dad in a markedly better mood.

me with the Torino

Dad with his fabled radish crop

Tree-napping (odd childhood 1)

It’s strange that things you take for normal when your a little kid don’t seem that normal when you get older and compare your experiences with others, a good example of this is “tree-napping”.  Tree-napping was a euphemism my mom used for digging up trees along the side of the road and replanting them in our yard. It happened a few times, there would be a need for some sort of shrub or tree in the yard and instead of going to the local shrubberers we would pack a few shovels and buckets into our ’74 green Ford Torino station wagon and head out. We would drive the quiet county roads of Monmouth County and when we’d see a likely candidate we’d pull over. Mom and dad, with military precision would dig up the shrub or small tree (making sure to leave a lot of roots intact) and put it in a bucket and we’d make our escape. According to my parents it was all above board, nobody owned those trees and nobody would miss those trees and besides we were going to give them a good home. I’m almost fifty now and I’ve never met anyone whose family did this.

In Praise of Partch

When I was a little kid my parents had a lot of cartoon books around. There was a big book of New Yorker cartoons, a book of cartoons from Punch (an English magazine whose humor was lost on an American child), Bill Mauldin’s Army (WW2 humor) and bunch of books by a guy who we called Vip, whose real name was Virgil Franklin Partch. He was a “drinking” cartoonist, a pro-drinking cartoonist. It was a time of non-ironic humor and his stuff celebrated getting drunk and chastised teetotalers  with a zeal that borders on drunken surrealism. As a kid I dug him because he reminded me of Mad’s Don Martin. Now, as an adult who enjoys a drink now and again I dig it on a completely different level, some of it even approaches genius.  This stuff is from a book called Bottle Fatigue (1950/ Duell, Sloan and Pearce)

A brief reminiscence

When I was a kid growing up around Keansburg, the only adults I ever remember riding bikes were people who had their licenses pulled for drunk driving. These guys made an art of it. For the most part they all kind of appeared the same, like they belonged to some drunk biking club. They looked like hell and were usually shoeless, riding beat up ten speed bikes with the sharp metal pedals and riding with no hands because they were carrying two six packs. They would ride really fast and steer by nudging the handle bars with their knees. It was pretty fucking amazing