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Monday, December 8, 2014

Entry 26: Random Memories on Turning 50

December 8, 2014

Dear Friends

Re:         Entry 26

Dodge Trucks with their squashed front ends, almost like they were squinting at you.  My neighbors who could build or fix anything, and who I thought were cool because they wanted to end the war in Vietnam, and they played Led Zeppelin and John Sebastian and all other kinds of wonderful and weird stuff.  I didn’t realize how close they were to going to Vietnam, or for that matter, my own brother.  I used to tell my dad I was going to Canada—I was like 7 or 8.  He would always say “don’t join the army”.  Hearing the John Denver song “Country Roads” in the summer of 1971, before I started first grade.  My brother Mike came out on the front porch and said “Hey, A.D., there’s a guy on the radio singing a song about West Virginia!”   And it was one that did not make fun of us.  The wonder when Channel 4 in Pittsburgh, or better yet, ABC or NBC, said the name of the state on the national news.  It wasn’t until later that I realized most of the world didn’t know this was the center of the universe.  The slate pile burning in the winter, the snow never staying on it.  Red dog roads.  The smell of coal burning.  Train horns, the slack-slack sound of the locomotive starting and pulling the cars, you could hear it jump from one car to another all the way up the valley.  Going to Fairview for the Homecoming parade.  And the bonfire they would build on the side of the football field.  Every once in a while, I will hear a combination of sounds, especially in the fall, or smell dried leaves and for some reason it takes me back to the Fairview High School Homecoming Parade, around 1972.  USA-1 plates on the Chevy Camaro in the garage showroom.  Underwood Deviled Ham sandwiches on Kettering’s bread while watching Sesame Street sitting with Anna, my neighbor, in her house the year before first grade.  I didn’t realize until later her teenage son had died from leukemia.  Maybe I helped by being there. I hope. She was such a nice lady.  She could bake bread, any kind, and would always bring us some.  Agnes, who every two days or so would send me to Junior’s for a box of barley and a can of corn beef hash (I did this for her until the day before I got married). My dad never let me take her money, at least when he knew.  When I got older, I wouldn’t take it on my own accord.  Mary Kitchen Corn Beef Hash.  It’s like 50% fat.  She lived to be 99.  Charley, her son, would say “Hey boy, go down to Junior’s and buy me a pack of Luckies.”  I think I was six.  Myrtle would say “these aren’t for you now are they?”  He had a tattoo; I think it was an eagle, with dates on it.  I asked him when I got older why he got it.  He said he got drunk on leave in Paris after Bastogne.  He later got called back up for Korea.  I always thought that if you were going to have a tattoo, you really needed a story like Charley’s.  Not anymore, someday, somewhere, I imagine some 75 year old explaining the little duck tattoo on her calf. I bet it won’t be about being surrounded by the Germans.  When my other neighbor’s house burned down, the night they both died, I ran outside and it was 2 a.m., the house was fully on fire.  Charley picked up a section of a wall that was like four concrete blocks and threw them through the front door to save them but the fire exploded out.  He couldn’t have weighed more than 150 pounds.   He taught me how to sweat copper fittings. I think about him a lot, I wish I could talk to him now.  My grandfather used to bring me home a 5 cent candy bar called a “Chunky”.  Sometimes the one with nuts or raisins.  I saw one a few years ago, it was like twice the size, and I didn’t try it as I liked the memory better.  Walking down to the Esso station to get a Coke in the summer, hoping it would be frozen.  Six ounce glass bottles.  My Uncle Sam getting a stereo and playing records on it.  My cousin Junior who was deaf, but you could always hear him coming because he would play the radio very loudly and put his hand on the dashboard speaker to feel the vibration.  I can’t imagine not knowing what it’s like to hear music and only to feel it.  Meline who was crazy and lived across the street, who would go down to the railroad tracks and fill up a coal scuttle from cars sitting on the siding.  My dad said that he was in the war and lost his girlfriend and he was never the same.  Sometimes he would talk to me, and he seemed normal.  Later I realized this was probably mental illness, but no one said that then.  Ziggy who had a German shepherd, a very nice pleasant dog even though he looked scary.   And my dog, Johantz, who was the opposite.  Once he ran away for four days and I thought he was dead.  Then I saw him coming up the street all alone, his ear tore a little, thinner. He acted as if he hadn’t been gone.  Anne the cook at the school and the biscuits she would make. Winter plays before Christmas and the smell of the curtains in the auditorium.  The smell of the oiled floors in the schoolhouse.  Mrs. Davies playing the piano in the third grade. Tony, my neighbor, had a Willys Truck with knobby tires.  Once paid me two dollars to climb his pine trees and tie a rope to the top so he could cut them down without them falling over the hill. I can’t write about my dad without crying, I have at least one dream a week when I get to talk to him.  I can remember it all like it was yesterday.  It was.
I remain,