Volume 1, Issue 1. Winter 2013
Kelly Grey Carlisle
Managing Editor Spenser Stevens
Design Mallory Conder Matt Stieb
Assistant Editors Paul Cuclis Michael Garatoni
All staff participate in the reading and selection of work and the production of the magazine. 1966 is published with the support of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and its English Department. http://www.trinity.edu The copyright of all work contained in this magazine belongs to its author. Photography provided by Ben Carlisle, Paul Cuclis, and Spenser Stevens.
Kelly Grey Carlisle
From the Editor Spook
Introduction to Film An Aristocratic Murder
What We Didnâ€™t Do
South Jersey Confidential
Returned to the Earth Hummingbird
Volume 1, Issue 1. Winter 2013
FROM THE EDITOR
Creative nonfiction’s current popularity seems strange and not-so-strange to
me. Strange because our culture seems generally uninterested in facts and truth. In our public discourse, “truthiness” seems good enough. Opinions are presented as fact and facts discounted as opinions. Television shows purporting to be “reality” are often no more than badly acted fictions. Thanks to the Internet, we live in a hurricane of information whose winds are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”—for how often in all of that information are truth and meaning found? Not-so-strange because literary nonfiction is an antidote to the storm surge of data, spin, and half-truths. It makes order out of facts, examines them, weaves them into narrative, makes them into art. It arranges facts into meaningful constructions. It finds (creates) truth in the flotsam and jetsam of information. Which isn’t to say that all literary nonfiction is 100% factually accurate. Names are changed; characters composited; events elided. Sensory details are fudged to create setting or develop theme. But when it’s done right, no where else in our culture are fact, accuracy, and truth more carefully considered and curated. The literary nonfiction writer takes great pains to get the story right: questioning memory and researching facts and weighing conflicting versions of an event and judging between alternate visions of truth. The nonfiction writer also considers his or her own relationship to the ‘true’ story—her motivations for writing the story, the way his prejudices might color even the most well-intentioned telling, the way objectivity can be clouded (or enhanced) by emotion. With each project, a nonfiction writer must always rediscover
the gray, slippery nature of truth and embrace it. It is a herculean task to distill the infinite complexities and depth of the real world into true words on a page. And perhaps, that, too, is why we love to read it. When we founded 1966, we sought to publish creative nonfiction that included some sort of research element—interview, reading, travel, investigation, or immersion. We weren’t sure how many submissions we’d get or what form they’d take. We were surprised by the quality and variety of submissions, which ranged from immersion writing to highly metaphorical writing on historical events to nature writing to memoir informed by research. Our editorial decisions were difficult. As I read through the essays in this first issue, I am struck most by the guiding presence of a first-person narrator in all of them, who makes sense of facts for the reader and imbues them with meaning—meanings which are both personal and universal. I am also struck by the subtlety of the presence of the research in all of the pieces. One could easily categorize them all as memoir or personal essay. Exclusively publishing personal writing was certainly not our intent when we began the process of selecting work for the magazine. In the end, we simply picked the pieces that most captured our attention and imagination. I don’t think this says anything about the magazine’s aesthetic—one issue isn’t enough to establish an aesthetic—but I wonder if it says something about craft. That in this form of writing, research must serve a higher purpose such as narrative or theme, and that the narrative presence of the author is often necessary to the success of a piece. Even as I write that last sentence, I find myself bristling against such a pompous editorial pronouncement from someone like me in a magazine this new. So, please, go ahead and prove me wrong: submissions for Issue Two are now open. —Kelly Grey Carlisle
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“He wasn’t worth the effort. He was a spook. For the most part, we didn’t notice him, and, of course, that was the cruelest thing we could have done.”
Spook Lee Martin
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Mine was Dickie Nevers. Fourth grade. Scarlet Oak Elementary. Oak Forest, Illinois. He sat at the desk behind me, a quiet kid who would have barely registered with me if not for the fact that he sometimes smelled like he’d made a mess in his pants, and sometimes he picked his nose and, yes, he ate the boogers. I don’t know why. On Monday mornings, our teacher, Mrs. Malley, began our day by allowing one or two of us to tell what we’d done over the weekend. The boys’ hands always shot up with the most urgency—“Me, me, me”—because, of course, we boys saw this storytelling as a chance to boast. “My dad took us sailing on Lake Michigan, and I had to jump in to save some kid who was drowning.” Tall tales were not only permitted, they were expected. “We went to our cabin in :LVFRQVLQ,VKRWDEHDUZLWKP\GDG·VULÁHµ Dads appeared prominently in these stories, and they were always hale and hardy and courageous and strong. I had nothing to tell about my father. He was, as everyone knew, different from the other kids’ fathers because he had no hands. He’d lost them in a farming accident when I was so young I have no memory of the accident happening. This was when we lived on our farm downstate. This was before my mother lost her job teaching grade school there and then took a position at Scarlet Oak. I have no reason or inclination to say anything more about that accident or my father’s prosthetic hands—his hooks, he called them—because I’ve written about all that before and you can JRORRNLWXSLI \RX·UHDPLQGWR6XIÀFHLWWRVD\WKDWVRPHWLPHVZH·GEHRXW in public, and I’d catch someone staring at those hooks, or worse yet, nudging a companion with an elbow and nodding for him or her to look because that was one thing people didn’t see every day, a man with curved steel pincers for hands. Once, when he didn’t know I was within earshot, I heard a boy at school refer to my father as “Captain Hook,” and that was a hurtful thing to me, that ridicule. Because of his accident he couldn’t do a number of things other fathers could. He couldn’t play catch with me or teach me how to throw a football. He couldn’t have taken me sailing on Lake Michigan, not even if he’d been
so inclined, which he wouldnâ€™t have been, even with hands, because we were downstate country people and we didnâ€™t know anything about sailing. He had QRULĂ HZLWKZKLFK,FRXOGKDYHVKRWDEHDULQWKHGHHSZRRGVRI :LVFRQVLQ At Scarlet Oak, the school year ended early in June, and, as soon as it did, we SDFNHGRXUFDUDQGKLJKWDLOHGLWIRUWKHĂ DWSODLQVRI VRXWKHDVWHUQ,OOLQRLVWR spend the rest of the summer on our farm. We came back to Oak Forest after Labor Day, just in time for the start of another school year, and in that way we were transients, never quite staking enough of a claim in either place to truly belong. What did we do those weekends in Oak Forest? How did we spend our Saturdays and Sundays? I remember going to a Robert Hall Menâ€™s Store one Sunday so my parents could buy me a new suit. Sometimes we drove out to Mokena, where my parents had friends, and we ate a big dinner of roast beef and noodles and mashed potatoes and gravy, and then sat around their living room with the television on. In the winter, I played in the Biddy Basketball League on Saturdays. In the autumn, I watched the Bears games on Sundays. Come spring, my father often picked my mother and me up from school on )ULGD\VXLWFDVHVDOUHDG\SDFNHGDQGORDGHGLQWKHFDUDQGZHPDGHWKHĂ€YHKRXU drive to the farm. Only a handful of times do I recall anything extraordinary happening on the weekends. Once my father and mother and I went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Another year for my birthday, my parents took me and a couple of friends to a theatre in Evergreen Park, so we could see the Beatlesâ€™ movie, Help! Our adventures were small in ambition, and once they were done, it was always amazing to me that weâ€™d found a way to pull them off. To this day, coming home from a trip to New York City, Chicago, or Washington D.C., Iâ€™m stunned that I was able to make my way there and back. Such expeditions were always the domain of other people, people like the boys in Mrs. Malleyâ€™s fourth JUDGHFODVVDW6FDUOHW2DN(OHPHQWDU\%R\VZKRWROGVWRULHVRI QHDUGURZQLQJV and bear shootings. Stories I envied. Sure, I knew they werenâ€™t true, but I didnâ€™t care. I had a friend named Larry, and he was a straight arrow. We were the
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forthright, upstanding boys mothers would one day wish their daughters would marry. Our scrubbed faces gleam under the photographerâ€™s lights in our class portrait. Look at us with our hair oiled and combed into neat rabbit ridges in the front. Look at our chinos and cardigan sweaters and dickies. There we are, clean and decent and dependable. Then thereâ€™s Dickie Nevers: buzz cut so close the clippers have left VFDEEHGRYHUVFDUVRQKLVVFDOS+HÂˇVZHDULQJGXQJDUHHVDVKRUWVOHHYHFRWWRQ SULQW VKLUW ZLWK WKH WDLO KDQJLQJ RXW EODFN KLJKWRS .HGV VQHDNHUV D VPLUN instead of a smile like he knows somehow that one day we, his classmates, will look at him in that photo and feel, like I do now, a pang of regret that we never made his life easier. Itâ€™s not that we were particularly cruel. We didnâ€™t shove him down on the playground, didnâ€™t give him Dutch rubs or Indian burns. Those we saved for the boys we felt chummy with, the boys we were trying to impress. We had no need to impress Dickie Nevers. He wasnâ€™t worth the effort. He was a spook. For the most part, we didnâ€™t notice him, and, of course, that was the cruelest thing we could have doneâ€”to go on with our games and our posturings and RXUEXGG\EXGG\KDUGHKDUKDUZKLOHKHDWHKLVOXQFKDORQHVDWDWKLVGHVN with his head down and his shoulders hunched up around his face, stood by himself on the playground or next to Mrs. Malley, who took pity on him. On the rare occasions we did take note, we were dismissive. When he told stories about what he did on the weekend, outlandish stories, we barely listened. We were disdainful of his lies in a way we werenâ€™t with one anotherâ€™s because he was Dickie Nevers, and weâ€™d decided he wasnâ€™t one of us. One day, Larry, who sat across the aisle from me, raised his hand. â€œMrs. Malley?â€? He wrinkled his nose. â€œIt smells like someone pooped their pants.â€? No one had any doubt that Larry was talking about Dickie, and, of course, all eyes came to rest on him. He met the stares with a squint and a set to his jaw as if he were chewing a pencil. â€œChildren.â€? Mrs. Malley stood up from her desk where she was grading our themes while we took a math test. She clapped her hands. â€œThatâ€™s enough.
Itâ€™s quite enough.â€? We went back to our math problems, Dickie Nevers included. Had he really crapped his pants? Surely, if he had, Mrs. Malley would have made certain he got the assistance he would have required, but she sat back down and took up her red marking pencil. For a while, there was only the sound of the clock clacking off the minutes and the scratch of our pencils over our tablet pages. Then Dickie Nevers farted. Not a particularly loud or messy fart, but a fart all the same. All along the rows of desks, our heads went up. Had we really heard what we thought we had? Then in a very quiet, polite voice, Dickie said, â€œExcuse me,â€? and we all broke into laughter. Thatâ€™s the sort of idiots we were. Not a shred of respect for a man who could own up to what heâ€™d done, no matter how much it embarrassed him. The dignity it took didnâ€™t even register with us at the time, but now I think how easy it would have been for him to have sat there, silent, to have glanced around, VQLIĂ€QJDWWKHDLUWKHZD\PDQ\RI XVZHUHGRLQJZRQGHULQJH[DFWO\ZKRDV my Uncle Marvin would have said, had â€œlost his grip.â€? Instead, Dickie squared up and came clean. As I think back on that moment now, I hope it was a sign of how he would go gently through his days for years and years to come. What did we really know about him? Very little. What he chose to tell us was obviously a lie, and had we been wiser, more understanding, we would have known he was willing to tell us anything he believed would make us accept him. His father, he said, worked for the government, inventing things to help spies and the like. Iâ€™m talking about 1965, when the Cold War and our mistrust of Russia had spawned Get Smart, that sitcom that starred Don Adams as the EXPEOLQJVHFUHWDJHQW0D[ZHOO6PDUWGRLQJEDWWOHZLWKWKHVSLHVIURP.$26 Gadgets like telephones in shoes and guns in cigarette lighters, andâ€”would you believe?â€”microphones in ice cubes, had captured all our attention. We should have been fascinated with what Dickie had to tell us. His father invented such things. He worked in a laboratory in the family home, and the house was guarded by sentries so foreign agents wouldnâ€™t get a sniff of what the next great
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spy gadget was going to be. We werenâ€™t fascinated at all. We were, instead, dubious. We werenâ€™t dopes. We knew when something stank of a lie. 6RPHKRZ/DUU\DQG,Ă€JXUHGRXWZKHUH'LFNLHOLYHGDQGRQH6DWXUGD\ ZHURGHRXUELNHVRYHUWKHUHMXVWWRKDYHDORRNVHH The house was a modest frame house in need of paint, the clapboards weathered gray in spots. The lawn had dirt patches where nothing grew but tree roots, snaking along the top of the ground, and there was no sign that anything like Dickie claimed was going on in that house at all. We went up to the front door and knocked, but no one answered. â€œSentries,â€? Larry said with a smirk, and we went back out to the sidewalk and pushed our bikes from the curb and pedaled away. Come Monday morning, when Mrs. Malley invited weekend stories, my hand shot up, and lo and behold, she called on me. â€œLarry and me,â€? I began, and then Mrs. Malley corrected my grammar. â€œLarry and I,â€? she said. I took a breath and started over. â€œLarry and I,â€? I said. â€œHim and I went over to Dickieâ€™s house.â€? Mrs. Malley smiled, so caught up in the thought that weâ€™d done Dickie a good turn that she was willing to overlook my further confusion of the nominative and the objective case. â€œWell, wasnâ€™t that nice?â€? she said. â€œAnd what did you boys do for fun?â€? â€œNothing,â€? Larry said. â€œYeah,â€? I said. â€œNothing. Dickie wasnâ€™t home. And you know what else? There werenâ€™t any sentries there. Not like he always says. It was just a crummy ROGKRXVHÂľ+HUH,JRWYHU\VHULRXVDVLI ,ZHUHĂ€OLQJWKHĂ€QDOZRUGRQWKH PDWWHUÂ´,I \RXDVNPHWKHUHÂˇVQRVS\JDGJHWLQYHQWLQJJRLQJRQLQWKDWKRXVHÂľ I stopped there, short of using the word, â€œliar.â€? Thatâ€™s when Dickie spoke up. His voice was low and even, and he talked slowly as if he were explaining something to a dummy. â€œOur sentries were inside with me. I saw you. I saw both of you. I was watching out the window.â€?
Which brings me to Allen Davis, age forty, on the night of August 22, 2006, a night not easily forgotten in Worthington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He was an eccentric and tormented child, who became a reclusive man, wanting little more than to be left alone. But the teenagers of Worthington couldnâ€™t stay away from that spooky house on Sharon Springs Drive next to the Walnut Grove Cemetery because OHJHQGKDGLWWKDWDZLWFKOLYHGWKHUHDQGWKHKRXVHZDVKDXQWHG.LGVGDUHG one another to go to that house, to get close enough to touch the front door, to look in the windows. â€œGoing ghosting,â€? they called it. You know, just for a thrill. /LIHFDQJHWSUHWW\EODKEODKEODKRXWKHUHLQWKHVXEXUEV/DWHVXPPHU the dog days, too hot to want to do much of anything in the daylight. And, really, what was there to do? Already a summer overdone with trips to Wyandot Lake and concerts at Germain Amphitheater, and maybe a trip downtown with your parents to the Ohio Theatre to see some corny old movie that you pretend to hate, not wanting to admit how much the grand theatre with its ornate ceiling and the pump organ that comes up from beneath the stage before the movie and at intermission, a man in a tuxedo pressing the keys, please you. Youâ€™ve been to Schiller Park to drink wine coolers and hang out on the fringe of the crowd on their blankets and lawn chairs watching something by Shakespeare performed on the outdoor stage. Youâ€™ve been to the zoo. Youâ€™ve caught Watershed, that band that started right here in Worthington, at the Newport on High Street, RUWKH/LIHVW\OHV3DYLOLRQLQWKH$UHQD'LVWULFW<RXÂˇYHKDG\RXUĂ€OORI 3RODULV Mall or Easton Town Center. Maybe youâ€™ve been to Cooper Stadium to see the Clippers play baseball. Youâ€™ve been to party after party and are sick to death of getting beer spilled on you and drinking too much and waking up hung over. Youâ€™ve eaten enough Graeterâ€™s ice cream to last you the rest of your life. Late summerâ€”the dead timeâ€”when youâ€™re just trying to get through the days until school starts, and itâ€™s football season, and, if youâ€™re Rachel Barezinsky,
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youâ€™re a cheerleader and youâ€™re a senior, and maybe, if youâ€™re lucky, youâ€™ll be homecoming queen, and your life will be perfect. August 22, and someone says, â€œI dare you to go to the spooky house.â€? So you do because youâ€™ve never backed down from anything, and besides youâ€™re bored, and you could use a little kick to give the night some jazz. You and your friends, four other girls. You play rock, paper, scissors to see whoâ€™ll drive, and Tessa loses, so you all pile into her gold Saturn, and there you go. Up High Street to Stanton and then left on Sharon Springs Drive, curling along the HDVWHGJHRI :DOQXW*URYH&HPHWHU\WRWKHĂ€YHURRPFRWWDJHQHDUO\KLGGHQ behind a tangle of bushes, trees, and weeds. A black cauldron in the front yard WKDWXVHGWREHDSODQWHUIRUĂ RZHUVEXWQRZLVMXVWZKDWLWLVDEODFNFDXOGURQ the kind you associate with witches and bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. You donâ€™t give a thought to Allen Davis who is asleep in his bedroom. You donâ€™t know anything about him or his mother, who, rumor has it, is a witch. You just know the stories about this house. You just know the dare. You donâ€™t know that, when Allen Davis was a boy, his grandmother lived in the cottage with him and his mother, and when sheâ€”the grandmotherâ€”died, it was two days before Allenâ€™s mother could bring herself to let the body be taken away because she was afraid her mother would wake up and bang on the refrigerated locker at the funeral home and not be able to get out. You donâ€™t know the history of mental illness in that house: the grandmother, who was schizophrenic and had a habit of screaming out her bedroom window for hours;Íž the mother, who couldnâ€™t accept that dead was dead;Íž and Allen, who never had friends when he was a boy, who stood on the playground by himself, WKHH[DFWVSRWHYHU\GD\ORRNLQJRGGZLWKKLVERZOFXWKDLUDQGKLVKLJKZDWHU SDQWV$IDPLO\ZLWKDKLVWRU\RI HFFHQWULFLW\$IDPLO\ZKRQHYHUĂ€WLQZKR wanted their privacy, but there were always these kids coming in the night, sometimes pounding on the door, sometimes calling for the witch to come out, getting more brazen from time to time and trying to force open the door. Letâ€™s say youâ€™re that boy, the one tormented and taunted all the way through school, the one who learns to go through his life with his head down,
hoping no one will notice him, and then youâ€™re a man and your life is spent LQWKDWĂ€YHURRPFRWWDJHZDWFKLQJWHOHYLVLRQUHDGLQJERRNVZULWLQJRXWOLWWOH stories you make up in your head, and thatâ€™s all right with you. Thatâ€™s what you NQRZ7KDWĂ€YHURRPFRWWDJHWKLVOLIHZLWK\RXUPRWKHUZKRKDVEHHQDQGZLOO continue to be, your only friend. What would you do if the kids kept coming in the night, kept calling out names, kept pounding on the front door, kept peering in the windows, until you couldnâ€™t help but be afraid, and angry, too, because youâ€™re a man now, and shouldnâ€™t a man have the right to live his life outside the reach of bullies? Grade school, junior high, high school. That was enough. Now you donâ€™t have to take it, so you go to a gun shop and you purchase a .22 caliber 0DUOLQULĂ HIROORZLQJDOOWKHSURFHGXUHVWKDWPDNHLWDOHJDOWUDQVDFWLRQDQG\RX ORDGXSDQHLJKWURXQGPDJD]LQHDQG\RXNHHSWKDWULĂ HE\\RXUEHGZLWKLQ easy reach, in case the night ever comes that you need it. The girls donâ€™t know any of that. They just know summerâ€™s almost done, and soon theyâ€™ll be back in school, trying to keep up with homework and cheerleading and this club and that, and itâ€™ll be their senior year and theyâ€™ll want it to pass in a hurry so theyâ€™ll be out, away from it, on the verge of their adult lives. One trip to the spooky house. One last thrill before summer ends. Rachel and the other Rachel B.â€”Rachel Breenâ€”get out of the car, and Tessa joins them. The other girls, Margaret and Una, stay in the Saturn. A white picket fence runs along the front of the property, but itâ€™s not the sort that says, welcome to this happy home. Itâ€™s sagging, and more than one of the pickets is knocked loose and leaning cockeyed against its neighbor. Itâ€™s the sort of fence that says, stay out, only thereâ€™s an opening in the center of the fence where a gate would be if the property were better maintained. The branches of a tree arch over that opening, darkening it with shadows. Shrubs have grown wild and tall along the walkway, and the girls canâ€™t see through the dark tangle to the house they know is there. The two Rachels stop just beyond the stone pillars that mark the entry into the yard, hesitant to go further, but Tessa, always the bold one, pushes on a few feet more. Itâ€™s pitch black, the phase of the new moon, that time when the
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dark side faces the Earth. No streetlight penetrates the bramble of trees and shrubs. No light on in the house. The girls hold out their cell phones for light, and they see the open window. Then, in the Saturn, Una honks the horn. Just to spook them. Just to make them jump. The girls squeal with frightened delight. This is what theyâ€™ve come for, this manufactured thrill. They turn now and run back to the car. $QGWKHQWKH\ÂˇUHGULYLQJIDVWXSWKHVWUHHWDOOJLJJO\DQGRKP\*RG DQGWKH\KHDUZKDWWKH\WKLQNDUHĂ€UHFUDFNHUVSRSSLQJDQGWKDWJLYHVWKHP another rush. They donâ€™t know that inside the house, Allen Davis has leaned out the window with his .22 Marlin and squeezed off three shots. Just to make it clear to whoeverâ€™s in that car, the red taillights shrinking as it speeds away, that they arenâ€™t to come back. Three shots to say, leave us alone. Tessa turns the Saturn around at the end of the street and drives past the VSRRN\KRXVHDJDLQ7KLVWLPH'DYLVĂ€UHVIRXUPRUHVKRWVDQGWKHQWKHQLJKW is still. In the Saturn, Rachel Barezinsky slumps over onto Tessaâ€™s lap, and the girls think, well, thatâ€™s just like her, playing the jokester. Then Una sees the blood in Rachelâ€™s long, blonde hair, and the blood coming from her shoulder, and the girls can hear her gasping for air, choking on blood, and then everyoneâ€™s screaming and crying, and Unaâ€™s using her cell phone to call 911, and despite the dispatcher urging them to stay where they are to wait for the paramedics, 7HVVDÂˇVGULYLQJIRU+LJK6WUHHWPHDQLQJWRJRWRWKHĂ€UHVWDWLRQDW+LJKDQG :RUWKLQJWRQ*DOHQD5RDGKRSLQJWRVHHDSROLFHFDUDORQJWKHZD\KRQNLQJ her horn again and again to announce that everything has gone wrong.
Now try to tell the storyâ€”these girls, that man, a late summer night in the dark of a new moon;Íž a lark, a thrill, a torment, a threat, and, when youâ€™re done, tell me whoâ€™s to blame.
Despite receiving the last rites from a priest that night at the Ohio State University Medical Centerâ€”despite being that close to death, one of the bullets crossing both sides of her brainâ€”Rachel Barezinsky survives, but the damage LVVLJQLĂ€FDQWDQGWKHURDGWKURXJKUHKDELOLWDWLRQLVORQJ6KHKDVWRUHOHDUQKRZ WRXVHKHUOHIWDUPDQGOHJ6KHKDVQRVKRUWWHUPPHPRU\FDQÂˇWHYHQUHFDOO WKDWQLJKWDQGWKHVKRWVIURP$OOHQ'DYLVÂˇVULĂ H7KHFRXUWVFRQYLFWKLPRI felonious assault and sentence him to nineteen years in prison. 7KDWÂˇVWKHĂ€QDORXWFRPHRI WKLVVHULHVRI HYHQWVEXWWKDWGRHVQÂˇWPHDQWKH story is over;Íž a story as complicated as this never is. I keep playing it over in my head, and, when I do, itâ€™s rarely separate from the story of Dickie Nevers, and the story of my father and his hooks, or the way we split our time between Oak )RUHVWDQGRXUIDUP1RPDWWHUZKHUHZHZHQWZHZHUHVXVSHFWWRRFLWLĂ€HG for the folks in that downstate farm community, too hickish for a suburban life in Chicagoland. I canâ€™t claim that I was like Dickie Nevers or Allen Davis, only that no matter the friends I had or the activities I participated in, I always sensed that I teetered between rural and city, north and south, belonging and not, that I wasnâ€™t, in the language of the day, â€œsolid,â€? no matter where I happened to be at the time. Still, I found someone to look down on, someone whose tenuous KROGRQKLVRZQH[LVWHQFHFRXOGPDNHPHIHHOPRUHFRQĂ€GHQWDERXWP\RZQ Maybe you have a Dickie Nevers, or an Allen Davis, those spooks who didnâ€™t matter until you needed them to, or now, when you read a story like this RQHDQGVXGGHQO\\RXFDQÂˇWJHWWKHPRXWRI \RXUKHDG7KH\PD\EHĂ€QHÂł, ZRXOGQÂˇWNQRZKRZWRĂ€QGRXWDERXW'LFNLH,ÂˇPIRUW\WKUHH\HDUVJRQHIURP him. I donâ€™t know a single person from those days. I hope he has a life of splendor, a life in which he gives me nary a thought. Itâ€™s impossible, though, for me to forget him. He comes to me again and again, with a vengeance, and, when he does, he isnâ€™t kind, and thatâ€™s what I deserve, this haunting. You do what you want with the story of Allen Davis and Rachel Barezinsky. See if you can tell it so it goes away. Make it simple, so I can forget it. So Iâ€™m QRWRXWVLGHWKDWZLQGRZZKHQWKHEXOOHWVFRPH1RWLQWKHOLQHRI Ă€UHZLWK nowhereâ€”and nothingâ€”to hide.
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O O D
Itâ€™s a hazy summer morning, hot and humid already. Iâ€™m standing outside the Childrenâ€™s Cottage, contemplating its sad face, and then Iâ€™m walking up the steps and into the front room, where the light is dim, where the shades are drawn and the air is cooler. From the back room, six or seven children come out to greet me. Itâ€™s my job to see to it that these children are dressed and lined up for their morning walk, down the path to the main Childrenâ€™s Hospital and into the dining room for breakfast. Itâ€™s also my job to see to it that one of these children, a girl close to my own age, has packed her suitcase, because someone is coming today to take her home. I cannot recall the face of this girl, or of any of the children who live in the Cottage. In fact, these few details are all that I have of the summer I worked as a nurseâ€™s aideâ€”when I was still in high school, before I enrolled in nursing schoolâ€”at Eudowood, the Tuberculosis Hospital of Baltimore. And yet the sad face of the Childrenâ€™s Cottage appears in my idle moments, as though waiting for attention. )RUZHHNV,ZDQGHUOLNHDFKLOGLQDGUHDPZRRGWKHFUXPEVRI DORVW story disappearing behind me, much as Eudowood itself disappeared, decades DJR , VWXG\ ROG SKRWRJUDSKV RI (XGRZRRG LQ WKH OLEUDU\ÂłURRĂ LQHV IRXU pillars, a row of tall windows beyond vaguely familiar trees, and the picture that appeared in the Baltimore News American in 1967: â€œThe burning down of vacant hospital buildings to make way for the Courthouse Square Apartments.â€? 7KHĂ DPHVDUHGUDPDWLF7KHUHÂˇVDSLOHRI OXPEHULQWKHIRUHJURXQG7KRVH same vaguely familiar trees are in the background. In 1967, my family lived just down the road from Eudowood, and yet I donâ€™t remember witnessing or even hearing about the demolition. Sometimes, going home from work, I take the longer route, past the Courthouse Square Apartments. I slow down to stare between the buildings, into the space where the Eudowood Childrenâ€™s Hospital once stood. I picture
the building in the photograph. I grasp for the memory: the pillared entrance, the sun porch, the tubular escape, down which the nurses could slide infants DQGFKLOGUHQLQFDVHRI Ă€UH At holiday gatherings my sister entertains us with the family stories. My brother and I sometimes accuse her of â€œcreative recall,â€? but while we sit around the table, laughing at her tales, thereâ€™s almost always some detail that works like DĂ LQWVWULNHLQP\PLQGVRWKDWVXGGHQO\,UHPHPEHUWRRWKRXJKQHYHUZLWK the color and animation my sister enjoys. I ask my sister if she remembers my working at Eudowood one summer. â€œReally? You worked there?â€? she says. â€œI donâ€™t remember that.â€? And then, veering from tuberculosis to polio, she begins to reminisce about our walks to school when we lived in the cityâ€”down Eugene Avenue and past the house where it was rumored a child had been crippled by polioâ€”and about our motherâ€™s strict warning that we were never, ever to accept a glass of water from anyone who lived in that house, no matter how parched we might be. â€œIsnâ€™t that funny?â€? my sister says. â€œWe didnâ€™t even know those people. Why would we stop there for water?â€? As for our mother, she comes from a long line of accomplished southern storytellers, and is blessed with the strong memory it takes to narrate her way â€œaround Robin Hoodâ€™s barnâ€? and back to the start. But when I ask if she remembers my working at Eudowood, she has no story to tell. â€œI donâ€™t remember that,â€? she says, frowning, â€œbut it makes sense that you did. Probably your Aunt Jeannette got you the job.â€? My motherâ€™s sister, my Aunt Jeannette, was a registered nurse who worked at Eudowood for years. From the mention of her sisterâ€™s connection with Eudowood, my mother veers into a story about my grandmother, who apparently objected to her daughter Jeannette working in â€œa place like that.â€? Itâ€™s a story about a crippling worry, a mother convinced that her daughter had been exposed to a contagious
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disease and was therefore doomed to the life of a consumptiveâ€”and to the stigma attached to it. Surely my Aunt Jeannette could have made sense of this memory that keeps returning to me, but sheâ€™s gone now. She lived to be old, and though she suffered numerous physical ailments in the end, she never did contract tuberculosis, and thus proved her mother wrong. My mother declares she doesnâ€™t remember telling us never, ever to drink the water on Eugene Avenue. She says that sounds like creative recall to her. %XWVKHWKLQNVVKHUHPHPEHUVDFKLOGLQWKHQHLJKERUKRRGEHLQJDIĂ LFWHGZLWK SROLRÂ´2Q%LGGLVRQ/DQHÂľVKHVD\VÂ´,QWKHĂ€UVWEORFNÂľ
I now live near Eudowood, or rather near the shopping center that was built on the spot where Eudowood once stood. The other day I found myself standing on the parking lot of that shopping center, clutching my grocery bags and gazing across the road toward the Courthouse Square Apartments. I had RULHQWHGP\VHOI WRWKHVSRWZKHUH,Ă€JXUHGWKH(XGRZRRG&KLOGUHQÂˇV+RVSLWDO once stood. I was looking in the direction of the path to the Cottageâ€”the path I would have walked, as I led my charges to the dining room for breakfast, that summer morning when I was just a girl. The Cottage would have been to the northwest, and so I put the groceries in the car, drove to farthest point west on the lot, and let the car idle. I pictured WKHIRXQGDWLRQRI WKH&RWWDJHEXULHGEHQHDWKWKHDVSKDOW,SLFWXUHGWKHĂ€HOGV that lay behind it, and the playground with the sliding board, all of which I couldnâ€™t actually remember, but rather had seen in a photograph in the library.
From my writing room, I look over the rooftops of the houses going GRZQ WKH KLOO 2Q WKH KLOO RSSRVLWH VSDUNOLQJ ZLWK D Ă RFN RI ELUGV LQ WKH morning light, are the buildings of Towson University, and beyond them St.
Joseph Hospital with its smokestack and heliport. In the other direction—out of view for the trees, but only a few blocks away—is Joppa Road, the “Indian Road” that once ran from the Gunpowder River to the Patapsco River, which some say is the oldest road in Baltimore County. Near this road, in 1697, Tobias Stansbury forged into the backwoods and built a home for himself on the grand piece of land where two centuries later Eudowood would be established. The hill on which my own house sits was probably familiar to Tobias Stansbury. If I imagine the landscape outside my window erased of houses and the entire university campus, I can picture him riding a horse out of the gully toward me, pausing to survey his woods, then heading on for Joppa Road, the old trail beaten into that ridge long before he was born. What sort of man was Tobias Stansbury, to have claimed his 185 acres in a backwoods where the Seneca Indians were still known to raid the plantations spreading over land they considered theirs? Perhaps there is a hint of his character in the name he chose for his property: Strife. Perhaps by strife he meant not contention or bitter quarrel, but rather the strong effort—the act of striving. In the seventeenth century the word strife was sometimes used that way. Shakespeare used it that way at least once, in All’s Well. When Tobias Stansbury died, the property went to his son Daniel, who immediately gave 43 acres to his brother, Thomas. That portion was thereafter named “Daniel’s Gift” and later it grew to include 127 acres and the original house, which was still called “Strife” by some and “Stansbury House” by others. All the property was passed down to a Stansbury grandson, who in 1843 married a woman named Eudocia. And here is where the name Eudowood originated. Mrs. Eudocia Stansbury lived in the old Stansbury House long after her husband died, and was living there in 1882, when the Baltimore and Delta Railroad UHTXHVWHGDULJKWRIZD\WKURXJKWKHQRUWKHUQSRUWLRQRI KHUODQG7KHUDLOURDG station required a name, and so someone—Mrs. Stansbury herself ?—took the Greek root of Eudocia, connoting contentment and happiness, and tacked it to the wooded plot of land—once called “Strife” and then called “Gift”—and
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came up with a pleasing name: Eudowood. The name Eudowood has survived. It designates a neighborhood in Towson. And to this day, The Johns Hopkins Childrenâ€™s Center still receives generous support, particularly in the area of pulmonary research, from The Eudowood Endowment. Thus the name spans a hundred years in charity, beginning at the end of the nineteenth century, when a group of women in Baltimore raised the money to purchase the old Stansbury estateâ€”called Eudowood by thenâ€” and moved the Hospital for Consumptives there. Eudowood suited the new KRVSLWDOZLWKLWVSOHDVDQWVWDQGVRI WUHHVLWVJDUGHQVDQGĂ€HOGVDOOWKDWRSHQ air and sunshine thought to be healing for victims of tuberculosis. As a girl, I PXVWKDYHZDONHGDSDWKWKDWVNLUWHGWKRVHYHU\Ă€HOGVRUZKDWOLWWOHZDVOHIWRI them in the early 60â€™s. (XGRZRRG6DQLWRULXPDGPLWWHGLWVĂ€UVWDGXOWSDWLHQWVLQ%XWLWZDV not until 1928, with the opening of the brand new building donated by Mary Frick Jacobs, that Eudowood pushed forward in the treatment of children. 7KH &KLOGUHQÂˇV +RVSLWDO ZLWK LWV IRXU JUDQG SLOODUV DQG LWV WDOO PXOWLSDQHG windows lined up east to west, is the building I remember seeing from Burke Avenue as a child. Of the photographs of the Eudowood Childrenâ€™s Hospital, the most striking is the one taken in 1928, when the building was so spanking new that the construction materialsâ€”conspicuous in the foregroundâ€”hadnâ€™t been cleared away. By juxtaposing that photograph with the last photograph, taken LQ ÂłOXPEHU LQ WKH IRUHJURXQG DJDLQ EXW EHKLQG LW WKH FRQĂ DJUDWLRQ of the vacant hospital going downâ€”one can appreciate how dramatically WKHWUHDWPHQWRI WXEHUFXORVLVFKDQJHGLQDVKRUWSHULRGRI WLPH7KLUW\QLQH years after opening its doors, Mary Frick Jacobsâ€™ beautiful childrenâ€™s hospital, ZLWK LWV DLU\ EHG ZDUGV WKDW PXVW KDYH EHHQ Ă RRGHG ZLWK OLJKW E\ WKRVH tall windows, was obsolete: New medications had been discovered for the treatment of tuberculosis, and most victims of the disease could be treated
safely as outpatients. In 1964, Eudowood merged with Johns Hopkins, and the few remaining inpatients were transferred away. Three years later, all the buildings on the Eudowood estateâ€”Eudocia Stansburyâ€™s house, The Childrenâ€™s Hospital, The Marie Bloede Memorial Pavilion, The Nelson Perrin Memorial Cottageâ€”were gone. In 1970â€”three years after Eudowood had been demolishedâ€”the Baltimore Sun MagazineUDQDQHVVD\E\0DU\%XUNLQVWKHQXUVHZKRÂ´WRRNLQWKHĂ€UVWWZR patients, brothers aged 8 and 10,â€? when the new Childrenâ€™s Division at Eudowood opened its doors in 1928. Miss Burkins, formerly a schoolteacher, â€œmostly LQ RQHURRP HOHPHQWDU\ VFKRROVÂľ KDG KHUVHOI EHHQ WDNHQ LQWR (XGRZRRG D number of years earlier, when she contracted tuberculosis. After she recovered, she stayed on at Eudowood as a nurse trainee, and later as charge nurse. Thus, her career spanned the entire 38 years of the Childrenâ€™s Division. â€œMany other ORQJWLPHHPSOR\HHVDW(XGRZRRGFDPHDVSDWLHQWVÂľ0LVV%XUNLQVZURWHÂ´DQG stayed on as nurses.â€? It occurs to me that an employee at Eudowood who did not come up through the ranksâ€”from patient to nurseâ€”might have been something of an outsider at Eudowood. I wonder if my Aunt Jeannette was such an outsider. I ask my cousinsâ€”the children of my Aunt Jeannetteâ€”what they remember. They say that on Sundays, when their mother was on duty, they would be dressed up and delivered by their father to the dining room at Eudowood, where they would all be treated as family. They remember their mother encouraging them to be kind to the patients, and at the same time cautioning them from playing with the children. Apparently our grandmotherâ€™s fear of contagion was alive and well, carried on in her daughter Jeanette, the otherwise brave nurse. Miss Burkins writes about this fear of contagion, about the people who lived close to Eudowood objecting to â€œpatients walking on nearby streets.â€? She remarks that the distrust in the greater community only strengthened the esprit de corps of the patients, and heightened their sense of â€œbelongingâ€? to Eudowood.
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My cousins say they do remember Miss Burkins, or at least they remember their mother speaking of her. Here is the story my cousins tell: One Easter Sunday, a young patient received a package from homeâ€”a big chocolate bunny. Miss Burkins took the bunny, melted it down in the kitchen, and gave a small portion of chocolate to every child in her domain. I love this story about the chocolate bunny. I study the photograph of the elderly Miss Burkins that accompanies her 1970 essay in the Baltimore Sun Magazine. Youâ€™d think Iâ€™d remember her, if I worked at Eudowood during the 60â€™s when she was charge nurse. But I donâ€™t remember Miss Burkins. And youâ€™d think my two cousins would remember my working one summer at Eudowood. But they donâ€™t. Iâ€™m standing outside the Childrenâ€™s Cottage, contemplating its sad face. Why sad? Sad isnâ€™t the same as sorrowful, a word attached to a particular loss. Sad has its root in satis (fullness, a physical sensation), and in this way is akin to grief, with its root in gravis (heaviness). Sad: exactly how I feel when I look at the photograph I found in the libraryâ€”heaviness in the region of the heart, not unlike homesickness. In The Poetics of Space, the philosopher Gaston Bachelard examines the quest for the important spaces we remember from childhood, a quest impossible to realize through description. When we try to write about these spaces, Bachelard says, â€œAll we communicate to others is an orientation towards what is secret without ever being able to tell the secret objectively.â€? Orientation. Peculiarly, in the memory of Eudowood I stand in a space FRQĂ€JXUHG H[DFWO\ OLNH WKH URRPV RI P\ JUDQGPRWKHUÂˇV VPDOO KRXVH ZKLFK stood on a lot about a mile from Eudowood. In the memory, the children come toward me from a small back bedroom that is angled off the kitchen, just like my grandmotherâ€™s bedroom was. My grandmother never got over her fear of being alone after my grandfather died, and so I would often be sent to stay overnight with her. I would sleep with her in that little bedroom off the
kitchen, in the old mahogany bed. In the memory of Eudowood, there was a girl—close to my age—and it was my responsibility to see that she’d packed her things before our walk down the path to breakfast in the main hospital. Is the sadness attached to that girl? Is it attached to the other children, whose homes and mothers are in the city, EH\RQGWKHWKHUDSHXWLFDOO\VXQQ\ÀHOGVDQGIDUDZD\" Maybe the sadness is mine alone. I carry it forward into the light, like a small, heavy suitcase I found in the shadows. But when I open it, there is nothing to see. Nothing but this view, this orientation: Eudowood, The Children’s Cottage, that summer morning when I was just a girl.
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Kate Â Flaherty
What We Didnâ€™t Do:SumMer, 1982
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7KHVXPPHU,Ă€QLVKHGHLJKWKJUDGH,VKXFNHGP\ROGOLIHDQGVWDUWHGRYHU Iâ€™d lost my job making beds with Uncle Joe at the Riverbank Boardinghouse ZKHQKHJRWDEHWWHUMREDWWKHZRRGWXUQLQJSODQWi, and Iâ€™d quit everything HOVHÂłWRZQEDQGDQGVOHHSDZD\FDPSVRIWEDOOEDE\VLWWLQJDQGĂ€HOGKRFNH\ I kept my boyfriend Jeff, but I had no idea what might replace everything else Iâ€™d left behind. Then Sarah called me about the job cleaning units at Lake Winnipesaukee Time Share Villas*, a collection of condos that recently had been thrown up near Weirs Beach, a few miles from where we lived in Gilford, New Hampshire. Sarah and I werenâ€™t close friends, but my need for money remained the one constant in my life, so I immediately said yes. Sarah lived with her dad and brother in her grandmotherâ€™s old house at the top of Schoolhouse Hill Road, and all I knew of her until then was weâ€™d both worn homemade dresses in elementary school. Sarahâ€™s had been corduroy jumpers her grandmother accessorized with appliquĂŠs of Snoopy or colorful collections of oversized mushrooms, and mine were precursors WR-HVVLFD0F&OLQWRFNDOOĂ RZHUHGSDVWHOVDQGHPSLUHZDLVWVWKDWPDGHVWXSLG boys poke me in the stomach and ask if I was having a baby. Iâ€™m sure we spent most of our elementary school days in sneakers and Toughskins, but I remember empathizing with Sarah on the days I saw her LQWKRVHGUHVVHVÂł,NQHZKRZLWIHOWWRZDONRXWRQWRWKHNLFNEDOOĂ€HOGDQG VXGGHQO\UHDOL]HWKHRXWĂ€WKDGEHHQDPXFKEHWWHULGHDEDFNKRPHLQIURQWRI the mirror. 6DUDKDQG,KDGORQJDJRWUDGHGGUHVVHVIRU7VKLUWVDQG/HYLÂˇVDQGLQ the summer of 1982 we immediately became great friends. Sarah had seemed quiet at school, but at work she was loud and bold, talking about boys and sex in ways that, at thirteen, I found shocking, thrilling, hilariousâ€”she was like no other girl I knew. Together we goofed around and gossiped, but we still did a good job as the work was surprisingly easy. Youâ€™d think a timeshare would JHWWUDVKHGDIWHUDRQHRUWZRZHHNVWD\EXWPRUHRIWHQZHKDUGO\FRXOGWHOO people had been there at all. :HGXVWHGWKHOLYLQJURRPVZKLOHZDWFKLQJĂ€YHPLQXWHVRI ZKDWHYHUORXV\ i 7KHZRRGWXUQLQJSODQW-RHZRUNHGDWZDVWKH$OOHQ5RJHUV&RPSDQ\LQ/DFRQLD2QHRI WKHLU claims to fame was manufacturing commemorative painted wooden eggs for the annual White House Easter egg hunt. They produced eggs every year up through the Clinton administration;Íž the plant closed in 1998.
movie was on Sunday Afternoon Cinema, and in the bedrooms we removed sheets in a blind rush, Sarah entertaining me with astonishing presumptions of what might have gone on under the covers. Luckily we avoided the nightmare of bathrooms, leaving them for Donny, a boy from our high school who volunteered for that duty because he liked the tiled roomâ€™s acoustics. Every Sunday he dragged his tape player from one bathroom to another and sang along in full voice to Three Dog Night and The Guess Who, apparently the only cassettes he owned. Whenever he laid into â€œJoy to the World,â€? Sarah would grab me by the shoulders, bug out her eyes, and mouth, â€œOh. My. God.â€? For the chorus to â€œAmerican Woman,â€? sheâ€™d whisper, â€œDonâ€™t worry Donnyâ€”we ZLOOGHĂ€QLWHO\stay away.â€? We did our best not to crack up, because Donny was touchyâ€”if he heard us he might refuse bathroom duty at the next condo we had to cleanii. We didnâ€™t crack up in front of our boss Nicole* either, but we were just as ruthless out of her earshot. For us, Nicoleâ€™s shortcomings were endless: she ZRUHVZHDWVKLUWVZLWK0LFNH\0RXVHKDQJLQJRII &LQGHUHOODÂˇVFDVWOH.LQJ.RQJ VW\OHVKHLQVLVWHGZHFDOOKHUE\KHUĂ€UVWQDPHOLNHVKHZDVRXUSDODQGVKH lectured us on paper towel and Windex conservation. Every Sunday sheâ€™d pop in on us at random for a surprise inspection, complete with a checklist and a pair of white gloves she put on before wiping her hands across counters and WDEOHVZLJJOLQJKHUĂ€QJHUVWRVKRZXVDOOWKHGXVWZHKDGPLVVHG We hated Nicoleâ€™s phony cheerfulness, her distrust, and her condescending smile. And we really hated her car, a Bicentennial Edition Gremlin, white with blue and red pinstriping, decorated with a spinning crystal hanging from the rearview mirror and a hideous bumper sticker on the glove compartment that read â€œQuitcherbitchinâ€™.â€? Much later I discovered Nicoleâ€™s family was totally loadedâ€”rich up the wazoo. They owned one of the largest resorts on Lake Winnipesaukeeâ€”just down the street from the Villas where Sarah and I workedâ€”plus a souvenir shop, a restaurant, and a boutique. I think now the Quitcherbitchinâ€™ bumper sticker may have been her own form of motivation, along with the white gloves ii 'RQQ\LVQRWKLVUHDOQDPH+HKDGDWHUULĂ€FYRLFHÂłDGHHSDQGULFKEDVVÂłEXWLWVHHPHGZURQJ to out him as a bathroom virtuoso. With the chutzpah he showed, singing at the top of his lungs in the SUHVHQFHRI WZRWKLUWHHQ\HDUROGJLUOVWRGD\KHÂˇGSUREDEO\EHĂ€UVWLQOLQHWRDXGLWLRQIRUAmerican Idol. I bet heâ€™d do okay. Volume 1, Issue 1. Winter 2013
and Disney sweatshirtsâ€”there to remind her she was in her Cinderella phase, just awaiting her happy ending. All I knew then was when Sarah whispered to me one Sunday after Nicole dropped us off in that hated Gremlin, â€œPromise youâ€™ll shoot me if I end up like her,â€? I understood exactly what she meant. The job became more attractive after Memorial Day because Weirs Beach was a tourist mecca, with one storefront after another open from the end of May on through Labor Day weekend. Instead of just going to the Weirs 9LOODJH6WRUHIRU6X]\4ÂˇVDQG7DEVGXULQJRXUOXQFKEUHDNV6DUDKDQG,FRXOG walk down the hill to Lakeside Avenue for French fries and Coke and watch the crowds roaming along the boardwalk. It wasnâ€™t much, but Iâ€™d never been to Weirs Beach on my own until then. Gilford, New Hampshire had its own beach on Lake Winnipesaukee open only to townies, so the Weirsâ€”with its parking fees, arcades, and tacky little shopsâ€”was really more for tourists. The closest Iâ€™d been was with my parents DQGP\EURWKHU.HYLQIRUDQRFFDVLRQDOGLQQHUDW+RZDUG-RKQVRQÂˇVRQ:HLUV %RXOHYDUGDQGPD\EHDJDPHRI PLQLJROI DIWHUZDUGÂłZHQHYHUSOD\HGSLQEDOO RU WUDZOHG WKH VRXYHQLU VKRSV ZH QHYHU KDG RXU SLFWXUHV WDNHQ LQ WKH RQH minute photo booths at the arcades. Either way, that was Weirs Beach for families, the Weirs of day and early HYHQLQJ IXOO RI VNHHEDOO DQG VZLPPLQJ DQG *UDWHG PRYLHV DW WKH GULYH in theater;Íž like the memories of going there with my own family, that world seemed like ancient historyiii. The Weirs did have an ancient history, but one beginning long before the arrival of tourists. The name itselfâ€”the Weirsâ€” ZDVKXQGUHGVRI \HDUVROGDQGLWZDVVLPSO\DZRUGGHVFULELQJWKHEDVNHWOLNH FRQWUDSWLRQV1DWLYH$PHULFDQVKDGXVHGWRFDWFKĂ€VKEDFNZKHQWKH\ZHUHWKH only ones who lived here. Right near where the huge blue and orange neon WEIRS BEACH sign stands, across a channel that originally led directly to the Winnipesaukee River, the Abenaki Indians constructed stone walls in the water roughly in the shape RI DQXSVLGHGRZQÂ´:ÂľEXWZLWKRSHQLQJVDWHDFKRI WKHWLSV%\SXWWLQJWKHLU Ă€VKLQJEDVNHWVÂłWKHLUZHLUVÂłLQDWWKRVHRSHQWLSVWKH$EHQDNLFRXOGFDWFK iii
VKDGDVDOWZDWHUĂ€VKWKDWKHDGVXSULYHUWRVSDZQiv. The shad stopped coming so far north once the Merrimack and Winnipesaukee rivers were dammed up, but schools of tourists replaced them. Tourists came by the tens of thousands to the lake, and Weirs Beach was a draw for motorcyclists as well, thanks to Bike Week, which occurred every year in PLG-XQH 7KH H[FXVH IRU WKLV ELNHU LQYDVLRQ LV DQ DQQXDO PRWRUF\FOH UDFH LQ nearby Loudon, New Hampshire, but as Hunter Thompson describes in his 1967 book, Hellâ€™s Angels, most bikers never go near the racetrack. Instead the QHDUFRQVWDQWVWUHDPFRQWLQXHVQRUWKLQDVWHDG\Ă RZRI URDULQJHQJLQHVDQG Ă DVKLQJ FKURPH D VHOIGHVFULEHG Â´*\SV\ 7RXUÂľ RI ELNHUV WKDW HQGV RQO\ DW Weirs Boulevard and Lakeside Avenue, where they stop to show off their bikes, rev their engines, and look for action along the boardwalk. Iâ€™d read Hellâ€™s Angels that spring, buying a copy at the Laconia Spa, a convenience store across the street from the Riverbank Boardinghouse. My JUDPFDOOHGWKH6SDWKHÂ´'LUW\%RRN6WRUHÂľIRULWVZLGHYDULHW\RI EURZQSDSHU wrapped pornography, but I went to the Spa because it had a huge selection RI QRYHOVDQGQRQĂ€FWLRQÂłPRVWRI ZKLFKZHUHDWOHDVWWHQRUWZHQW\\HDUVROG ZLWKYLQWDJHSULFHVWRPDWFK,ERXJKWP\QLQHW\Ă€YHFHQWSDSHUEDFNRI Hellâ€™s Angels after my boyfriend Jeff, whose reading tastes were more often limited WRWHOODOOURFNEDQGELRJUDSKLHVRUWKHDune trilogy, told me Thompson had iv $WWKLUWHHQ,NQHZQRWKLQJDERXWĂ€VKRWKHUWKDQWKHIDFWWKDWDWWKH%XUJHU.LQJGRFNVRQ8QLRQ Avenue they were easier to catch with a bite of cheeseburger on your hook than a nightcrawler;Íž I credit www.weirsbeach.com for the description of the stone â€œWâ€? in the Weirs Channel;Íž thereâ€™s a wealth of Weirs history on their site. I also knew little ancient history of the Weirs, despite an archeological dig occurring a few years earlier WKDW,UHPHPEHUEULHĂ \VWXG\LQJLQJUDGHVFKRRO,Q8QLYHUVLW\RI 1HZ+DPSVKLUH$QWKURSRORJ\ SURIHVVRU&KDUOHV%ROLDQFRQGXFWHGDVXPPHUORQJH[FDYDWLRQDWWKHVKRUHOLQHXQFRYHULQJDZLGHUDQJH RI DUWLIDFWVLQFOXGLQJWRROVZHDSRQVVHHGVDQGHYLGHQFHRI VKRUWWHUPVKHOWHUV%ROLDQWKHRUL]HGWKDW WKH:HLUVKDGEHHQDVHDVRQDOKXQWLQJDQGĂ€VKLQJFDPSIRUQHDUO\\HDUV<RXFDQĂ€QGKLVHQWLUH report at www.lakewinnipesaukee.net. As for learning about shad migration and life cycle, I credit John McPheeâ€™s The Founding Fish, a terrif ic account of shadâ€™s importance in Colonial America. Particularly fascinating is the story of the Valley Forge encampment during the Revolution. George Washingtonâ€”who was not only a farmer, a general, DQGDFKRSSHURI FKHUU\WUHHVEXWDOVRDFRPPHUFLDOVKDGĂ€VKHUPDQÂłNQHZMXVWZKHUHWRVHWXSFDPS on the river. The Continental Army suffered through a long winter to be sure, but the shad run in the VSULQJZDVVLJQLĂ€FDQWLQVDYLQJWKHPIURPVWDUYDWLRQDQGIRUWLI\LQJWKHPIRUYLFWRU\RYHUWKH%ULWLVK Finally, I will add that the distance shad had to travel from the mouth of the Merrimack in Newbury port, Massachusetts up to the Winnipesaukee in Weirs Beach was easily a hundred milesâ€”about two KRXUVE\FDUJRLQJPLOHVDQKRXURQ, Volume 1, Issue 1. Winter 2013
written about Hellâ€™s Angels coming to the Weirs for Bike Week. Iâ€™d never been to Bike Week, so I hoped for a detailed description, but Hellâ€™s Angels disappointed. First, the book was older even than me;Íž everything that had happenedâ€”in New Hampshire and beyondâ€”happened a lifetime ago and seemed as prehistoric as the Abenakis sticking those baskets in the FKDQQHOWRFDWFKĂ€VK6HFRQGZKLOHWKHUHKDGEHHQDULRWLQWKH:HLUVGXULQJ Motorcycle Weekend in the Sixtiesâ€”complete with a burning car, the National Guard, and guys getting billyclubbed and hauled off to jailâ€”Jeff remembered it wrong. According to Thompsonâ€™s account, which ran for nine pages total in the book, the Hellâ€™s Angels had been blamed for the riot but none of them had even been therev. Aside from the odd sensation of reading about my homeâ€”thinking to myself, â€œThat riot happened where I liveâ€? as if where I lived didnâ€™t matter until ,UHDGQLQHSDJHVLQDĂ€IWHHQ\HDUROGERRN,ERXJKWIRUQLQHW\Ă€YHFHQWVDW the Spaâ€”I didnâ€™t much care for the Hellâ€™s Angels saga. The Angels might be misunderstoodâ€”blamed for events like the Weirs Beach riot theyâ€™d had absolutely no part inâ€”but the nasty stuff they had done (including beating the crap out of Thompson himself), left me with no fascination for them. Instead I was intrigued with the way Thompson had disappeared into another worldâ€”spending so much time with the Hellâ€™s Angels he bought his own Harley Davidson and traveled with them up and down the California coastâ€” and then stepped away to write it all downvi. v Thompsonâ€™s account reads a little differently to me some thirty years later. Itâ€™s an amazing piece of LQYHVWLJDWLYHMRXUQDOLVPÂłKHJRHVRYHUORFDODQGQDWLRQDOFRYHUDJHZLWKDĂ€QHWRRWKFRPEDQGFRQ ducts interviews with locals who were there, Hellâ€™s Angels who werenâ€™t, as well as the mayor of Laco nia. The quotes Thompson includes are just downright wacky at times: Â´7KHPD\RURI WKHVWULFNHQKDPOHWDWKLUW\Ă€YH\HDUROGSDWULRWQDPHG3HWHU/HVVDUGEODPHGWKH whole thing on the Hellâ€™s Angels. He said they had â€˜planned it in advanceâ€™ and â€˜trained in Mexico for the riot.â€™ On Monday, two days after the melee, Laconiaâ€™s leading citizens gathered in the Tavern Hotel to hear their mayor explain what had happened. According to Lessard and Safety Commissioner Rob ert Rhodes, the Hellâ€™s Angels threw a ring around the whole area. â€˜They wouldnâ€™t let anybody get away. The thing blew up in our faces in minutes. There was some marijuana around too. Are the Communists EHKLQGLW"ÂˇÂľ,ÂˇOOVD\QRZZLWKRXWUHVHUYDWLRQLWÂˇVDWHUULĂ€FQLQHSDJHV vi Because Hunter Thompson is better known by his gonzo Fear and Loathing writing, as well as by Johnny Deppâ€™s cartoonish portrayals of him on screen, Iâ€™m compelled to add that Hellâ€™s Angels was +XQWHU7KRPSVRQÂˇVĂ€UVWERRNSXEOLVKHGLQ DQGLWUHPDLQVDUHPDUNDEOHSLHFHRI LPPHUVLRQ journalism. I respect the originality and brilliance of his later writing, but I far prefer Hellâ€™s Angels, com posed before the drugs and paranoia took over.
But Thompsonâ€™s achievement seemed impossible to me, even though I lived in a state whose motto was â€œLive Free or Die,â€? and even though I, too, ZDVDMRXUQDOLVWKDYLQJEHHQWKHĂ€UVWHLJKWKJUDGHULQYLWHGWRFRYHUWKHQHZO\ established â€œmiddle school beatâ€? for the high school newspaper that spring. At thirteen, I believed life happened elsewhere to people nothing like me. 7ROLYHLQ1HZ+DPSVKLUHZDVWROLYHRQWKHHGJHRI DFRXQWU\ZKHUHÂ´FRDVWWR coastâ€? meant â€œCalifornia to New York,â€? a country where New Hampshire only rated nine condescending pages in a book that was really about something else. ,ZDVUHVWOHVVWRĂ€QGWKDWVRPHWKLQJHOVHEXWWKHERXQGDULHVRI P\OLIHVHHPHG as solid as the old stone walls that surrounded my house and the woods that hemmed me in. I wasnâ€™t going anywhere, so if I wanted to do what Thompson had done it would have to happen at home. Despite my reservations about ELNHUV,GHFLGHGP\Ă€UVWFKDQFHDW7KRPSVRQLDQDGYHQWXUHZRXOGEHLQ-XQH when the Gypsy Tour came my way. I had it all planned outâ€”on the Thursday of Bike Week I told my parents Iâ€™d be working on a class project with a girl who lived a quarter mile down the road. Once Iâ€™d walked far enough out of sight of my house, my boyfriend Jeff pulled alongside me on his friend Glenâ€™s moped;Íž I climbed on the back and we headed for the Weirs. Jeff tried to talk me out of this planâ€”despite being three years older than me and a junior in high school obsessed with the music and excess of â€˜70s rock, his own life seemed more ruled by anxiety and caution. But his life was also ruled by me every now and then, so I nagged him until he agreed to take me. I was disappointed in the mopedâ€”it seemed smaller than when Iâ€™d seen Glen riding it away from schoolâ€”but once I got on the back it was easy to imagine I was on a motorcycle despite how slow we went. It was also uncomfortable at Ă€UVWEHFDXVH,GLGQÂˇWNQRZZKHUHWRSXWP\KDQGVQRWWKDWWKLVZDVDQ\WKLQJ QHZ-HII ZDVP\Ă€UVWUHDOER\IULHQGDQG,GLGQÂˇWNQRZZKDWWRGRPRVWRI WKH timeâ€”how close I should sit to him, how much I should touch him, whether I should kiss him at allâ€”so I mainly did nothing at all. Jeff treated me about the same, because I was only thirteen and he shouldnâ€™t have been with me in the
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Ă€UVWSODFH+HZDVQÂˇWJRLQJWRWDNHDQ\FKDQFHV But the moped didnâ€™t allow for such awkwardness. The seat was so small ,KDGWRĂ€WP\VHOI VQXJO\LQEHKLQGKLPDQGDIWHUDIHZPLVĂ€UHVÂłSXWWLQJP\ hands on my thighs, then gripping the back of the seat, then holding Jeff â€™s shoulders, then thinking Okay, Iâ€™m being stupidâ€”I gave in to the obvious and clasped them around his waist. Sitting behind Jeff, I realized Iâ€™d never noticed the broadness of his shoulders before or the way his hair waved down to a point onto the darker, freckled skin at the back of his neck;Íž this was a pleasant revelation for me, and I leaned my head on the back of one of those shoulders and stared down, mesmerized, at the asphalt passing beneath my feet. :HZHUHRQO\JRLQJDERXWWZHQW\Ă€YHPLOHVDQKRXUQRWDKXQGUHGSOXV on a Harley speeding up to Big Sur on Highway 101, but I understood what Hunter Thompson meant when he wrote about being transported when you rode on a motorcycle. I didnâ€™t care if it took all night for Jeff and me to get to the Weirs;Íž this was wonderful all by itself. -HII WRRNWKHEDFNZD\WRDYRLGWUDIĂ€FVDYHWKHIHZPRWRUF\FOHVWKDW indignantly roared around us, but we couldnâ€™t escape the big hill just before 6DLQW+HOHQDÂˇV&KXUFKWKDWSUREDEO\VORZHGXVGRZQHYHQPRUHWKDQEXPSHU WREXPSHUELNHVRQ:HLUV%RXOHYDUGZRXOGKDYH-HII WROGPHWRNHHSP\OHJV ready to plant on the pavement in case we began rolling backward. â€œI donâ€™t know if sheâ€™ll make it,â€? Jeff said as we struggled uphill. â€œWe might have to get off and push.â€? Getting off and pushing was not part of my reverieâ€”I focused RQKDYLQJOLJKWDVDIHDWKHUWKRXJKWVMXVWOLNHWKHROGVOXPEHUSDUW\JDPHWKDW DOZD\VVHHPHGWRZRUNZRQGHUVÂłDQGĂ€QDOO\WKDQNIXOO\ZHFUHVWHG When we descended into the Weirs, the crowd materialized all at once. There were people on the edges of truck beds and people draped across truck cabs and car trunks and hoods. People lounged on lawn chairs and perched on coolers and stood with their arms crossed or their hands raised, holding FLJDUHWWHVRUVXVSLFLRXVORRNLQJFDQVLQIRDPKROGHUVRUKDQGOHWWHUHGVLJQV with various requests, the most popular of which was â€œShow Your Tits.â€? (For WKH SXQFWXDWLRQFKDOOHQJHG VLJQV UHDG Â´6KRZ <RXU 7LWÂˇVÂľ ZKLFK IRU VRPH
reason made me smile instead of blush, as if I couldnâ€™t feel threatened by anyone too dim to properly use an apostrophe.) All together, those people made the biggest crowd Iâ€™d ever seen right in IURQWRI PHLQVWHDGRI RQ79DQGWKH\VSLOOHGRXWRQWRWKHURDGZD\Ă€OOHGWKH street corners, and milled through the parking lots we passed byâ€”especially the ORWIRU.DUOÂˇV6WHDN+RXVHDQGLWVELJQHRQVLJQRI DEXOOLWVWDLOĂ LFNHULQJXS and down. Maybe because I had a helmet on and no one could see how young I was or how wide my eyes were opened, I was more curious than intimidated. I scanned the hundreds of people, thinking it odd none of us had come for DQ\WKLQJ VSHFLĂ€F 1R FRQFHUW QR SDUDGH QR IRRWEDOO JDPH RU VSHHFK 7KH audience itself was the entertainment, though there wasnâ€™t much to seeâ€”just WUDIĂ€FDQGSHRSOHZDWFKLQJWKHWUDIĂ€FPDQ\RI ZKRPORRNHGEOHDU\H\HGDQG sunbaked, a haze of cigarette smoke and exhaust hovering above us all like a rising, gray fog. -HII DQG,PHUJHGVOXJJLVKO\LQWRWKH%RXOHYDUGWUDIĂ€FFURVVLQJWKHFKDQQHO bridge and turning onto Lakeside Avenue, the two of us putting our legs down to walk the moped along as we slowed down. When the road narrowed thanks to the thickening crowd, Jeff turned his head and began to whisper back to me with a worried urgency. â€œHalf these guys could pick up this bike with one hand and me with the other,â€? Jeff said. â€œIâ€™m gonna get beaten up.â€? â€œJeff,â€? I said. â€œItâ€™s okay. Nothingâ€™s going to happen.â€? Â´.DWLH,ÂˇPJRQQDJHWVWRPSHGÂľ-HII VDLGÂ´:HÂˇUHRQDIULJJLQÂˇmoped.â€? I sighed and closed my eyes. â€œNothing is going to happen,â€? I said. Why couldnâ€™t Jeff remember that this was New Hampshire? Nothing ever KDSSHQHG7KDWULRWEDFNLQWKHÂśVZDVDQFLHQWKLVWRU\DQGDWRWDOĂ XNH7KH only reason Jeff even knew about it was because it was so completely out of the ordinary. Deep down I knew it was stupid for us to be at the Weirs during Bike Week on a moped, but I wanted to tell Jeff to quit his bitchinâ€™. I wanted to tell
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him not to worry so much. Most of all I didnâ€™t want to go home just yetvii. â€œJeff,â€? I said, â€œno oneâ€™s even looking at us.â€? ,W ZDV WUXH 7KH FURZG RQ /DNHVLGH ZDV GHĂ€QLWHO\ ELJJHU WKDQ LW KDG been on the Boulevard, but everyone was too wrapped up in their own antics to pay much attention to us. I suspected people only focused on riders who were louder or more obnoxious than they were, so when eyes did slide over XV,QRWLFHGMXVWĂ HHWLQJDPXVHPHQW5DWKHUWKDQVWLFNRXWEHFDXVHZHGLGQÂˇW belong, we disappeared under the radar because we were irrelevant. Jeff pulled over by the tracks in front of the train depot, turned off WKH PRSHG DQG ZH VLOHQWO\ ORRNHG DURXQG 3LOHV RI ELNHUW\SH JX\V OHDQHG over the porch railings and sat on the steps of the big, rambling Victorians that had been transformed into a VFW and the Elks Club and the Romeoâ€™s %DOFRQ\+RWHO7KH\GUDQNEHHUIURPEURZQERWWOHVDQGJROGFRORUHGFDQV and smoked cigarettes and skinny cigars. These menâ€”and the women with themâ€”seemed different than all of the people weâ€™d passed on the Boulevard sitting in lawn chairs or standing around in the parking lots. Those other crowds were watchersâ€”they looked like they could have been from Gilford or /DFRQLDRU/RXGRQÂłORFDOVRXWWRLQVSHFWWKHLQYDVLRQ,HYHQEULHĂ \ZRUULHG that one of my uncles or some of my parentsâ€™ friends might have been in the PL[DQGWKHMLJZRXOGEHXSEXWWKHQP\KDQGVĂ HZXSWRWRXFKP\KHOPHW the assurance of my anonymity. But the people we saw on the porches and the people riding their bikes along Lakeside were the watchedâ€”they were the showâ€”and they smoked and they drank and they slapped each other on the back and laughed like they knew it. And while they might not have been Hellâ€™s Angels, the whole street looked like a biker club to meâ€”all these dark and grizzled guys standing massive in their leather jackets and their heavy, worn boots, or hunched skinny and sinewy, like scorpions poised for attack. The women were tanned the color of GULHGWREDFFRWKRXJKLWZDVRQO\PLG-XQHWKHEURZQRI WKHLUVNLQFRQWUDVWHG E\EOHDFKHGKDLUDQGUHGĂ€QJHUQDLOVWKDWFOXWFKHGWKHZDLVWVRI WKHLUPHQDV they rode. They wore leather chaps with fringe and tight vests that made their vii The night after Jeff and I had our adventure at the Weirs, something actually did happen that DWWUDFWHGWKHĂ HHWLQJDWWHQWLRQRI WKHQDWLRQDOQHZV7KDW)ULGD\/LQGD.DVDELDQVWDUZLWQHVVLQWKH Manson Family murder trial and a native of New Hampshire, was arrested for indecent exposure. According to the United Press International account from June 20, 1982, â€œPolice charged she bared her chest at the streams of motorcyclists passing along Lakeside Avenue on their way to Weirs Beach.â€?
EUHDVWVVZHOOOLNHKDUGOLWWOHSLOORZVDQGWKH\ORRNHGVKDUSQRVHGDQGGDUNH\HG meaner to me than the men. I may have been hiding how young I was under that helmet, but who did I think I was kidding? If Iâ€™d worn a leather vest like that I would have looked like D\HDUROGER\ÂłDWRWDOSUHWHQGHUÂłDQGHLWKHUZD\WKHQH[WGD\,ÂˇGJREDFN to junior high as if none of this had happened. But I suspected, despite the show, that some of these motorcycle outlaws were pretenders as well. Maybe they did live on the margins, like the bikers Hunter Thompson had helped make infamous, but maybe they were no different than I wasâ€”in this life tonight, and tomorrow in anotherâ€”like those shad who moved between freshwater and salt every season until they got caught. Â´.DWLH,ÂˇPJRLQJWRJHWĂ DWWHQHGRUWKHPRSHGLVJRLQJWRJHWĂ DWWHQHG and then Glen will just kill me instead,â€? Jeff said. â€œOr your parents will kill me when they know where weâ€™ve been. Letâ€™s go.â€? â€œOkay, okay,â€? I said, and Jeff reminded me I might have to get off if he couldnâ€™t get the moped started. It was then I woke up to how iffy this trip might become. I knew from when Jeff picked me up that quarter mile from my house, and I knew from watching Glen leave the parking lot at school, that if the moped didnâ€™t start with the key Jeff would have to pedal it until the engine got going. Whether this was a crowd of legitimate outlaws or not, I suspected theyâ€™d love nothing more than the show of Jeff pedaling that little moped on Lakeside Avenue, but I hadnâ€™t considered this when Iâ€™d wanted to come. I thought Iâ€™d been the brave one, giving Jeff such a hard time, but I bit my lip nervously until the engine started up, then I didnâ€™t think twice before clasping my hands around Jeff â€™s waist and squeezing him tight as we made our way back home. *RLQJEDFNVHHPHGWRWDNHKDOI DVORQJÂłZHĂ HZWKHUHVWRI WKHZD\XQWLO we were once again just a quarter mile from my houseâ€”right where weâ€™d begun. I slid off the moped and handed Jeff the helmet with a quick goodbye, sprinting back to my house as if all the fear I hadnâ€™t felt at the Weirs, the fear I hadnâ€™t felt O\LQJWRP\SDUHQWVRUZRUU\LQJRYHU-HII VWDUWLQJWKDWĂ€FNOHPRSHGFDPHXSRQ me all in a rush. But when I walked inside my parents hardly said a wordâ€”so I
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sat down and watched television, then brushed my teeth and said goodnight. It was only after Iâ€™d gone to bed that I felt the thrill of what Jeff and I had done. Like Iâ€™d predicted, nothing had happened, but that night I laid in bed looking out the window at the black sky and all the trees and the beautiful stars shining, JULQQLQJOLNHDQLGLRWEHIRUH,ZDVĂ€QDOO\DEOHWRIDOODVOHHS
Bike Week came and went without incident, so once summer began I was again drawn to the Weirs in the dark nights from July through August, after families and little kids had taken their coolers and sand toys and gone home to bed. When Jeff could borrow his motherâ€™s car or Sarah and I could get a ride from our parents at nightâ€”usually with our other friend Robinâ€”we mostly went to Weirs Beach. Motorcycles again swarmed the Boulevard and Lakeside Avenue after VXQVHWEXWWKHUHZHUHPRUHEULJKWO\FRORUHG-DSDQHVHELNHVWKDQ+DUOH\VDQG they were ridden by younger guys in tanktops and jeans and tan workboots, MXVWOLNHWKHJX\VZKRSDUNHGDORQJWKHERDUGZDONLQWKHLU5;VDQG&DPDURV RUPXOWLFRORUHGEHDWHUFDUVDOPRVWDOOZLWK0DVVDFKXVHWWVSODWHV7KH\VDWRQ their bikes or they leaned against their car hoods, and they smoked cigarettes, RSHQO\VWDULQJDQGFDWFDOOLQJWKHJLUOVVWUROOLQJE\RQWKHERDUGZDON Most of the guys were from a collection of cities and towns scattered around Boston, and they were short and dark or short and freckled and had stomachs hard as cast iron skillets. Their shirts were tight to show off their muscles, and their tans were set off by Celtic crosses or Italian horn pendants that hung from gold chains around their necks. Sarah and I didnâ€™t see these boys in their cars and on their motorcycles during our daylight afternoon breaks, EXWZHVXUHVDZWKHPZKHQHYHUVKHDQG5RELQDQG,Ă€QDJOHGDULGHEDFNRQ 6XQGD\QLJKWVWRZDWFKWKHĂ€UHZRUNVGLVSOD\WKH&KDPEHURI &RPPHUFHSXW on every week throughout summer. I didnâ€™t have to sneak to the Weirs during the summer, but why our
SDUHQWVOHWXVJR,GRQÂˇWNQRZ7KHĂ€UHZRUNVGLGQÂˇWHYHQEHJLQXQWLOPLGQLJKW so we usually got home by one at the earliest, and it wasnâ€™t like they didnâ€™t NQRZ DERXW WKH FDUV DQG WKH ELNHUV ZLWK WKHLU EORZQXS ELFHSV DQG Ă€YH RÂˇ clock shadows that proved without a doubt they were way too old for us. And the place was hardly teeming with people from Gilfordâ€”Sarah, Robin and I UDUHO\ VDZ DQ\RQH ZH NQHZ PXFK OHVV RWKHU WKLUWHHQ DQG IRXUWHHQ\HDUROG JLUOV%XWPD\EHRXUSDUHQWVĂ€JXUHGWKHUHZDVVDIHW\LQQXPEHUVRUVDIHW\LQ depending on Jeff, whose aura of anxiety must have given them a strange sense of security. But more likely their distraction came solely from exhaustionâ€”from WKHSUHVVXUHVERWKGLVWUHVVLQJDQGPXQGDQHERWKĂ€QDQFLDODQGSHUVRQDOÂłRI their own complicated lives. My parents had recently become Amway distributors, and they took to it ZLWKWKH]HDORI WKHERUQDJDLQDWWHQGLQJVHPLQDUVDQGPHHWLQJVDOPRVWHYHU\ night and weekend, heading out the door soon after they got home. Their goal ZDVĂ€QDQFLDOIUHHGRPVRWKH\FRXOGHVFDSHWKHWDUSLWRI GHEWWKH\ÂˇGVORZO\VXQN LQWRWKDQNVWRUHFHVVLRQLQĂ DWLRQDQGDFFRUGLQJWRP\GDGWKDWSDLQLQWKHDVV Jimmy Carter whoâ€™d been responsible for it all. They spent their days and nights running like hamsters on wheels, fueled by a diet of caffeine and motivational tapes, and I felt like I never saw them. My grandmother lived with us too, but VKHZLVHO\HPSOR\HGDODLVVH]IDLUHDWWLWXGHZLWKP\EURWKHU.HYLQDQGPHRQO\ coming downstairs if the music or TV got too loud. 5RELQÂˇV PRP DQG 6DUDKÂˇV GDG VHHPHG JKRVWOLNH WKDW VXPPHU DV ZHOO Robinâ€™s mom was divorced with four girls at home to take care of;Íž when she wasnâ€™t gone at one of her multiple jobs she was asleep in her bedroom or off with Robinâ€™s little sisters. Sarah just lived with her brother and her dad who worked the unpredictable hours of real estate, and though Sarahâ€™s grandmother lived next door, sheâ€”like my grandmotherâ€”was more involved in providing us with baked goods than boundaries. But even if our parents and grandparents had been monitoring our every move, we probably wouldnâ€™t have paid attention anyway. We were happy to take rides and birthday presents and the occasional ten bucks from our parents and we sometimes returned those favors with
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bursts of conversation and unsolicited cheerfulness, but for the most part our parents had become like the adults in Peanuts television specialsâ€”peripheral DQGLQVLJQLĂ€FDQWWKHLUZRUGVJDUEOHGDQGLQGLVWLQFW As a consequence, the three of us went a little feral that summer. We jumped into cars with Massachusetts boys who hopped the fence at the town beach, or we rode around with Jeff and his best friend Marty, pretending to get drunk off the single stale beers they gave us to share in the backseat of the green Chevette. We went to the town beach after closing and rode on the VZLQJVRUWKHPHUU\JRURXQGDQGZHZDWFKHGWKHER\VVPRNHZHHG6DUDK had stolen from her brother, strangely thrilled by the acrid, foreign smell and the glow of the joints in the dark. Other nights we slept over at Robinâ€™s in her backyard playhouse so we could sneak out and walk the lonely roads late at night, looking for high school parties weâ€™d overheard Robinâ€™s older sister talking about on the phoneviii. In spite of my desire for an edgy Thompsonian summer, Robin, Sarah and I were lucky nothing of consequence ever materialized, though that luck often felt like a disappointment, because it meant our infractions were meaningless DQGPLQRU:HZHUHWRRLQVLJQLĂ€FDQWWRFDWFK When cops found us on the town beach after closing, Marty and Jeff frantically burying the joints in the sand when the cruiser pulled up, they VLPSO\VKRQHWKHLUEULJKWĂ DVKOLJKWVLQRXUVLOHQWVWXQQHGIDFHVWKHQWROGXV to go home. When high schoolers blew by us on the way to a party we were looking for off Cat Path Lane, they threw empty beer cans out their windows, VKRXWLQJÂ´*HWORVW,WÂˇVSDVW\RXUEHGWLPHÂľ:HZHUHQÂˇWGDULQJZHZHUHGXPE and the cops and the high schoolers were right. We should have been home and in bed. Instead, irritated by adventures that never were realized and preoccupied by the thought we might never be welcome in that wider world, we masked RXUIUXVWUDWLRQZLWKFRQWHPSW:HĂ LUWHGZLWKWKH0DVVDFKXVHWWVJX\VDWWKH Weirs, but we laughed at their tacky gold chains and silly sports cars after they walked away. We annoyed the hell out of Marty and Jeff for their simple sin viii Occasionally our little roving group had a fourthâ€”a girl named Petra, who lived next door to Robin in a gargantuan house and whose parents were English and worked as anesthesiologists at La conia Hospital and seemed terribly sophisticated to me. While I more often considered myself subject WRWKHEDGLQĂ XHQFHVRI RWKHUVUDWKHUWKDQDEDGLQĂ XHQFHP\VHOI5RELQDQG,UHFHQWO\VSHFXODWHGWKDW we may have been one reason why, the following year, Petra was sent away to the Ethel Walker School for Girls in Connecticut.
of being hard up enough to hang out with us. When we were jeered at by high schoolers on Cat Path Lane, we picked up the beer cans and threw them right back, though only long after their taillights had faded to black. We even made fun of the Weirs, however eager weâ€™d been to get there, KRZHYHU PXFK ZH VWLOO KDG WR EH DW WKH Ă€UHZRUNV HYHU\ 6XQGD\ QLJKW 7KH PLQLDWXUHJROI ZDVORXV\ÂłSHHOLQJSDLQWQRPRYLQJSDUWVÂłDQGWKHVRXYHQLU shops were beyond tacky. Weâ€™d storm through them just to wreak havoc, picking up the cedar salt shakers and cedar napkin holders and cedar keepsake boxes DOOFURRNHGO\VWDPSHGZLWKÂ´:HLUV%HDFK1+ÂľDQGODPHĂ€VKLQJMRNHVDQGIDUW jokes that we read out loud and laughed at hysterically until the cashierâ€™s evil glare sent us out the door. :HKHFNOHGWKHĂ€UHZRUNVWRREHFDXVHWKH\UHDOO\ZHUHSDWKHWLFWKDQNV to a shoestring budget that meant there were at least thirty seconds between each blast, intervals so drawn out you hardly could tell when they had ended for good. Sarah, Robin and I would poke each other every time there was a particularly long lull and ask, â€œIs it over? Was that all?â€? We were obnoxious, with bad hair and worse makeup we thought might PDNHXVORRNROGHUEXWWKHFXWRIIVDQG7VKLUWVDQGVWXSLGEHKDYLRUJDYHXV away as kids, imposters trying to get in. If Iâ€™d seen us stumbling along a dark, country road, Iâ€™d have thrown empty beer cans too. Regardless of our quest for excitement, 1982 was more the summer of what we didnâ€™t do. We didnâ€™t smoke weed with Marty and Jeff and we didnâ€™t drink more than one beer at a time. If we had ever found those high school parties, Iâ€™m sure we would have been too chicken to ever walk in. And the few times I was alone with Jeff, when I hadnâ€™t gone out with him carefully surrounded and insulated by friends, I completely lost my nerve. Jeff heard my teeth begin to literally chatter whenever he tried to hold me too close. Jeff was the only person who knew the truthâ€”I was a stupid little girl playing grown up. He was more careful and patient than any girl should expect, but I knew it couldnâ€™t go on forever. I didnâ€™t think Robin, Sarah and I avoided these lures because of some
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grand internal moral code or brave resistance to peer pressure, because already I sensed that giving in to temptation would be a part of the immediate future for all of us. I think it just seemed easier for us to watch and take notes with the hope that when we jumped into the fray, we wouldnâ€™t turn out to be complete failures. So we watched older boys and their antics at the Weirs and the town beach, we watched our parents disappear into an abyss of work and responsibility, and we watched and worked with Nicole, pitying the job and the clothes and the car sheâ€™d incomprehensibly chosen. And the more we watched, I think the harder it became to ignore the possibility that our anticipation about the future and what it held just might trump reality, almost every single time. Toward the end of August this life exhausted me;Íž I wanted to slow down. I broke up with Jeff, probably because he was the one person who knew that I wasnâ€™t as worldly as I tried to appear, the one person who knew who I really wasâ€”nervous and scared and clueless. Maybe I thought by starting over I could do things right the next time. And when Jeff seemed more relieved than XSVHWZKHQ,WROGKLP,Ă€JXUHGLWZDVIRUWKHEHVW I gave up on the Weirs too, going to the beach or the library with P\ JUDQGPRWKHU LQVWHDG ELGLQJ P\ WLPH XQWLO IDOO , UHDIĂ€UPHG P\ UHVROYH to experience other lives once school began, but rather than making more ineffectual attempts of Thompsonian proportions, Iâ€™d work within parameters I knew. Iâ€™d keep writing for the school paper, Iâ€™d try out for a school play, Iâ€™d stay home on Sunday nights. I was so busy with all of these activities when school started, it was easy to ignore that Robin, Sarah and I were drifting apart. Weâ€™d been brought together through circumstance because we were the only girls we knew at loose ends throughout that summer, and when those circumstances changed and our worlds opened upâ€”different activities, different classes, boyfriends all over the mapâ€”it was natural we went off in different directions. Sarah and I still worked together but our hours, like the days, were shorter;Íž soon Nicole wouldnâ€™t need us at all, at least until Christmas when ski season
began. But unlike the condos, the Weirs shuts down for good after Labor Day and it’s a lonely place at summer’s end. Big wooden panels the size of garage doors cover the cavernous arcade openings, the food stands, and those junky souvenir shops—closed up tight against the winter winds blowing off of the ODNH6RPHSDQHOVDUHSDLQWHGZLWKDFKHHUIXO´6HH\RXQH[W\HDUµLQEULJKWDQG hopeful red, while others have a simple “Closed for the Season,” sign or are left entirely plain, as if all the empty parking spaces along the boardwalk are message enough that everyone’s long since gone. Preoccupied by other friends and focused on school, I didn’t dwell too much on Robin and Sarah or think at all about that summer—time moved at a strange clip for me then and when the weather cooled those nights at the Weirs EHFDPHSDUWRI DORQJDJRIRROLVKQHVVEHVWIRUJRWWHQ%XWRFFDVLRQDOO\,·GVHH Sarah or Robin in the cafeteria break line, or Marty or Jeff in the hallways, and we’d drift past each other with a brief hello like we were only distant acquaintances. But sometimes I wanted to pull them aside and ask if they remembered our summer like I had—the summer of all we had and hadn’t done—and ask if they ever wondered, like I did now and then, “Is it over? Was that all?” *Not its actual name. *Not her real name.
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I to but The
love the I
SOU JER CONFID From points north, a trip to south Jersey, where I was raised, is easy
enough for the most addlepated traveler. One picks up the Garden State Parkway DQGVLPSO\KHDGVGXHVRXWK,WLVWKHEHQHĂ€WRI EHLQJIURPVXFKDVPDOOVWDWH2QH PDLQURDGÂłWKH3DUNZD\ÂłH[WHQGVQRUWKVRXWKFRYHULQJWKHHQWLUHVWDWHIURPWRS to bottom. While driving southward, something changes at Toms River. The shift is deceptively minor, somewhat akin to the border crossing from Detroit into Windsor, Ontario: All seems similar, but there are differences, slight and sharpâ€” travel posters for Cuba, an alphabet ending in the letter zed. 7RPV5LYHULVDQXQRIĂ€FLDOERUGHUGHOLQHDWLQJSDVVDJHIURP1HZ-HUVH\WR south Jersey;Íž the entranceway to a discrete geographic entity. New York is long gone;Íž the accent is Philadelphia, the baseball team of choice the Phillies. But unlike the
to old never
back house will Smiths
UTH SEY DENTIAL Richard Klin 0LFKLJDQ2QWDULRFURVVLQJKHUHWKHWHUUDLQDFWXDOO\FKDQJHVWRDĂ DWWHUODQGVFDSH full of pine trees, an approaching ocean. 7KLV KDV DOO WDNHQ RQ KLJK VLJQLĂ€FDQFHRZLQJWRWKHIDFWWKDWWKHKRXVH in which I was raisedâ€”the family domicile since 1969â€”is being sold. There are rites and rituals commemorating lifeâ€™s various passages: birth, marriage, death. 7KHUHLVQRFRGLĂ€HGPHFKDQLVPIRUGHDOLQJZLWKWKHORVVRI RQHÂˇVKRPH,WWRRLV a deathâ€”not a tragic death in this case, but a death nonetheless. Visits to Atlantic County have taken on a new poignancy. The clock is ticking loudly. The trip to the local Dairy Queenâ€”where, once upon a time I would regularly visit by means RI KLWFKKLNLQJÂłLVQRZLPEXHGZLWKDELWWHUVZHHWXUJHQF\DĂ RRGRI LFHFUHDP besotted memories. Meanwhile, there is the thinning out of my old bedroom, making sense of the
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nearly four decades of detritus. Packing up is more quotidian, less emotional than I had imagined. Extant issues of Creem and Circus are retrieved, old report cards, yearbooks, a crude red plastic shield I constructed in shop class, the words Rick Wakeman emblazoned in uneven lettering across the front. Sadly, P\ LURQRQ Jeff Beck in Concert 7VKLUW D SUL]H SRVVHVVLRQ IURP WKH 2FHDQ City boardwalk, circa 1977, appears to be gone for good. My collection of ÂˇVUHPDLQVLQWDFWKRXVHGLQWKHRULJLQDOJDULVKFDQG\RUDQJHFDUU\LQJFDVH singles duly catalogued, chart positions carefully notated courtesy of WMIDâ€™s ZHHNO\WRSFRXQWGRZQ:0,'$07KH-HUVH\*LDQW Todayâ€™s south Jersey bears almost not a whit of resemblance to the little provincial corner where I was raised. Bay Avenue, home to a plethora of grimy, raucous drinking establishmentsâ€”the most egregious examples of DOFRKRODEXVHDQGHDUVSOLWWLQJPXVLFÂłKDVEHHQWDPHGĂ€UHWUDSVVKXWWHUHG 7KHDYHQXHQRZLVWKHKRPHRI JHQWHHOPDULQDVDQGXSVFDOHIDPLO\IULHQGO\ HDWHULHV,WLVOLJKW\HDUVDZD\IURPVHYHQEHHUVIRUDGROODU 7UDIĂ€F KDV JURZQ E\ OHDSV DQG ERXQGV WKH YHU\ VKDSH DQG VFDOH RI WKH UHJLRQ VXSHUVL]HG 7KH IDPLOLDU FRQWRXUV KDYH YDQLVKHG WKH GLVWLQFWLYH UHJLRQDOLVPV HUDVHG 'HHÂˇV OXPEHU\DUG LV JRQH 7KH 6KRS5LWHÂłZKLFK , remember as a duck farmâ€”has been enlarged and moved to make way for a 3LHU1LQHD6WDUEXFNV7KHMRJJHUDQGELNHUIULHQGO\SDWKWKDWZLQGVLWVZD\ through town was, in its previous, rawer incarnation, known as the tracks. They were the remnants of the discontinued local rail line, chunks of metal track and clumps of wood still visible. The surrounding trees and thick foliage were deep enough for hordes of young people, engaged in an array of nefarious activities, to escape scrutiny. Today, the path is framed not by forest and bramble, but by houses and manicured lawns. 6RXWK-HUVH\ÂˇVJHRJUDSKLFGLVWLQFWLYHQHVVKDVEHHQWKHYLFWLPRI ODUJH VFDOH FRQVWUXFWLRQ PRQH\ FKDLQ VWRUHV FKDQJLQJ WLPHV 7KH Ă€VK IULHV KDYH closed shop. The Charcoal Pit restaurant is gone;Íž likewise Casa Dinoâ€™s subs and Perkins pancake house. It has become north Jersey with a Philadelphia accent.
,W LV GLIĂ€FXOW WR FRQYH\ MXVW KRZ LVRODWHG DQG GLVWLQFW VRXWK -HUVH\ KDG EHHQ3LFNXSWUXFNVDQG&RQIHGHUDWHĂ DJVZHUHQRWXQFRPPRQ8QGHYHORSHG marshlands and woods were the norm. Our dentist was a sympathizerâ€”if not a PHPEHUÂłRI WKH-RKQ%LUFK6RFLHW\5XPRUKDGLWWKDWWKHDFWXDO0DVRQ'L[RQ Line ran straight through the living room of the Atlantic City Country Club. Newly opened Stockton State College was picketed for alleged Communist leanings. It was as if a little section of Indiana or Tennessee had been chopped off and somehow transposed to the East Coast.
South Jersey was a paradox. It had distinct regional traits, but occupied
DQHLWKHUĂ€VKQRUIRZOORFXVLWVGHOLQHDWLRQVPXUN\,WREYLRXVO\ZDVQÂˇWXUEDQ Although there were ample stretches of bucolic land and farms, it couldnâ€™t be GHĂ€QHG DV SURSHUO\ UXUDO 1RU FRXOG LW DFFXUDWHO\ EH GHVFULEHG DV VXEXUEDQ 6XEXUELDFRQQRWHVDQHLJKERULQJFLW\3UHFDVLQR$WODQWLF&LW\DIDGHGVRPHZKDW WDZGU\UHVRUWGLGPHHWWKHFULWHULDDVDQXUEDQFHQWHU7KHUHJLRQGHĂ€HGHDV\ categorization.
We moved from upstate New York to Atlantic County in 1969. All
these years later, I still have vivid memories, like yesterdayâ€”hackneyed as that soundsâ€”of the infectious excitement my sister and I felt upon viewing what ZDVGHVFULEHGDVDÂ´'XWFKEDUQVW\OHÂľKRPH:HZHUHFDSWLYDWHGE\WKHZRRG Ă RRUVWKDWVHHPHGWRVWUHWFKRQDQGRQDJHQXLQHĂ€UHSODFHDQGWKHH[SDQVLYH scope of the entire house, which was buttressed by a palatial upstairs consisting of two huge bedrooms and a bathroomâ€”reserved for us. Premises were formally occupied in August of 1969. Whoever was in
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charge had somehow neglected to tend to the lawn for the entire summer. It was a childâ€™s dream come true: an entire property consisting of of massively overgrown grass, towering over me and my sister;Íž a labyrinth of secret paths and hiding places, perfect for hurtling oneself full force against the cushioning overgrowth and harmlessly bouncing back. The sky was a blue I hadnâ€™t seen in upstate New York. At this new place, there were no sidewalks, no streetlights. Bats were abundant, strange black forms whizzing through the air, framed against the glowing twilight. $OO DFURVV WKH FRXQWU\ HDUWKVKDNLQJ HYHQWV ZHUH WUDQVSLULQJ 2XU arrival and those early years were contemporaneous with campus protests, urban uprisings, Woodstock, Altamont, communes, Earth Day. The Weather Underground had embarked on a campaign of accelerated, violent militancy. The war escalated, spreading its virulence into Laos and Cambodia. South Jersey slept...in a fashion. It was the perfect example of the bifurcated Sixties legacy. The swirl of protest and change failed utterly to reach what was, in many ways, an isolated, racist backwater. But the social aspects of the counterculture made a swift, total conquest. Everyone had long hair. 3RWÂłDV,ZDVWRGLVFRYHUĂ€UVWKDQGGXULQJP\WHHQ\HDUVÂłZDVXELTXLWRXV Rock clubs dotted the south Jersey landscape;Íž bigger names headlined in Philadelphia. â€œLayla,â€? for some reason, seemed to blare constantly from the radio at the local swim club. At some point, a smuggled, tantalizingly taboo copy of Abbie Hoffmanâ€™s Steal This Book made its way to my social circle, SDVVHGKDQGWRKDQGVDPL]GDWVW\OH The region was in the last throes of suzerainty under an entrenched 5HSXEOLFDQ PDFKLQH 5DFLVP ZDV HQGHPLF $WODQWLF &LW\ÂłZKHUH Â´WKH\Âľ livedâ€”was inhabited by apocryphal welfare cheats, living the life of Riley on the taxpayersâ€™ dime. â€œColoredâ€? was what one said when being polite. On a Ă€IWKJUDGH FODVV WULS WR $WODQWLF &LW\ÂˇV IDPHG 6WHHO 3LHU D JDJJOH RI \RXQJ toughs swooped down, and to my astonishment, relieved me of some money. I reported back to my classmates, more nonplussed than frightened. â€œWere they Negroes?â€? one asked in a knowing manner.
(In the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial primary, one of the major candidates ZDV 0D\RU .HQ *LEVRQ RI IDURII 1HZDUNÂłFRPSOHWH WHUUD LQFRJQLWD 7KH $IULFDQ$PHULFDQ*LEVRQÂˇVWZRPDLQSODQNVZHUHDV,UHFDOODERUWLRQULJKWV and prison reform, two causes not exactly near and dear to the average south Jersey voter. I cast my ballot for him. When checking the voting results in the QHZVSDSHU WKH QH[W GD\ , ORFDWHG P\ WRZQ DQG VSHFLĂ€F YRWLQJ GLVWULFW .HQ Gibson had received exactly one vote: mine. Thus, I was 100 percent of the Gibson constituency.)
Atlantic &LW\ KDG D &RQH\ ,VODQG Ă DYRU ZLWK WKH ERDUGZDON HYHQ
ERDVWLQJD1DWKDQÂˇV6WLOOH[WDQWZDVDVKXWWHUHGROGIDVKLRQHGEXUOHVTXHKDOO complete with a bizarre, garish drawing of the zany house comedian. 7KHERDUGZDONZDVOLQHGZLWKFKHDSRFXWOHU\HPSRULXPV$JHQHUDODXUD of hucksterism prevailed. Atlantic City had bottomed out. Buildings burned down with clockwork regularity. Mayors were indicted, almost as a routine. My mother took us shopping to Lit Brothers, an enormous department store that had clearly seen better daysâ€”cavernous, devoid of customers, depleted stock. 7KHFDVLQRĂ€OOHGSUHVHQWGD\$WODQWLF&LW\LVLQQRZD\WKHOLQHDOGHVFHQGDQW of Atlantic City, circa 1970, save for the fact that many of the streets do indeed match the Monopoly board. Decrepitude was in the air, metaphorically akin to an older man at a racetrack, smoking a large, odorous cigar. It seemed the sort of place where Uncle Charlie from My Three Sons would vacation. The resort had been famous for grand, ornate hotels, behemoths that had hosted throngs of eager visitors over the decades. Now they, like Lit Brothers, lay empty, adding to the general woebegone atmosphere. One of the most celebrated, the Traymore, achieved additional posthumous fame when, in the early seventies, it was rigged with explosives and completely leveled in a planned, spectacular implosion. The Miss America pageantâ€”now banished to the nether regions of cableâ€”
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KHOGVZD\WRDQH[WHQWWKDWLVGLIĂ€FXOWWRFRPSUHKHQG,WZDVDIWHUDOOÂłDORQJ with saltwater taffyâ€”probably one of Atlantic Cityâ€™s only successful export crops. Accordingly, during the weeklong fete, the local paper providedâ€”in EDQQHUKHDGOLQHVÂłDGD\E\GD\WDOO\RI ZKLFK0LVVKDGZRQWKHWDOHQWFRQWHVW RUVZLPVXLWFRPSHWLWLRQ'XULQJRQHRI RXUYHU\Ă€UVWYLVLWVWRWKHERDUGZDON we came across a large outdoor display devoted to the upcoming competition. Dominating all was the smiling visage of the unctuous Bert Parks, perennial host and Miss America institution. This engendered a surprising bit of invective from my father, with the sort of vituperation usually reserved for Richard Nixon. $WODQWLF&LW\LQWHUPVRI SHUVRQDOLQWHUHVWĂ LFNHUHGRQDQGRII7KHUH wasnâ€™t a lot to hold the attention of someone my age. Thenâ€”as nowâ€”it struck me as interesting but altogether foreign.
The most jolting discovery for me, while packing up my old bedroom,
ZDV WKH UHWULHYDO RI P\ GLDU\ D FKURQLFOH RI P\ SUHWHHQ DQG WHHQ \HDUV ,W had been buried deep in one of my desk drawers and I hadnâ€™t taken a peek LQ\HDUV7KHGLDU\KDGDVVXPHGFDQRQLFDOVWDWXVDQHDUVDFUHGUHSRVLWRU\RI IDFWVHPRWLRQVOLIHVKDSLQJHYHQWVVRXUFHGRFXPHQWDWLRQRI WKDWFRPSOH[ swirling, heady state of existence that is adolescence. Yet taken out of its secret hiding place, packed up and tossed into the backseat of my car and transported to my home, a great deal of its mysterious luster faded. Exposed to the light of day, it felt somewhat plucked. Rather than the urtext of my life, it seemed more akin to...a diary. Some entries displayed an astonishing prescience, many more were utterly clueless. Much of it still, after all these years, felt embarrassing to reread. The arbitrariness of what was covered and what wasnâ€™t was incomprehensible. My paternal grandfather, for example, with whom I was not particularly close or
even that fond of, rates some mentions, while my beloved maternal grandparents are completely absent. A major family trip through the South and Mexico goes XQUHFRUGHGDVGRHVWKHKLJKKRQRURI EHLQJFKRVHQWRJLYHRQHRI WKHHLJKWK grade graduation speeches. For some reason, I took it upon myself to record for posterity the books Iâ€™d read. What follows are two whole pages of the teenage autodidactâ€™s typical jumble: lots of Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Frederick Forsyth canon, Arthur Haileyâ€™s Hotel, The Ugly American, Jaws, Candide (much of which I didnâ€™t get), and something called Capone, a book I donâ€™t have the slightest memory of ever having read, or even recollecting its existence, nor do I remember ever having a particular interest in the Chicago mob boss. 2QHRI WKHPRVWGHWDLOHGLQYROYHGÂłORQJHVWÂłHQWULHVLVDEORZE\EORZ DFFRXQWRI WKHYHU\Ă€UVWWLPH,JRWGUXQNH[DFWGDWHDQGGD\GXO\QRWHGHDFK and every pithy detail set in ink. The agent of inebriation was â€œthree glasses of pink champagne.â€? A friend, worried about my safety, gave me a piece of gum and urged me to walk around. As the night to remember stretched on, â€œwe ran into a whole bunch of girls.â€? One Trina asked me if I was drunkâ€”obviously, a satisfying experience all around. The lengthy passage concludes with â€œit really was something else, but I wouldnâ€™t like to do it every day of the weekâ€?â€”although by the next summer, when I was sixteen, I was doing precisely that. Oddly HQRXJKLQDUHYHUVDORI WKHXVXDOSURJUHVVLRQ,KDGJRWWHQKLJKĂ€UVWGXULQJWKH SUHYLRXVIDOO7KDWĂ€UVWELWRI VXEVWDQFHDEXVHZHQWFRPSOHWHO\XQUHFRUGHGQRU is there a single mention of cannabis throughout the entire diary. It must have felt so transgressive that any written record was just too fraught with potential danger. Marijuana was, for me, the gateway drug that lead to pink champagne. But the biggest shock when rereading the diaryâ€”besides how inarticulate I soundedâ€”was the vast amount of space devoted to girls. The dithering was extraordinary. Francine, whom Iâ€™d met right at the beginning of high school, loomed large. That in and of itself was no surprise;Íž all these years later I still UHPHPEHUKHUYLYLGO\7KHH\HRSHQHUZDVWKHXQEHOLHYDEOHDPRXQWRI PHQWDO energy expended on her, linked with a complete inability to actually do much RI DQ\WKLQJ (QWU\ DIWHU HQWU\ LV GHYRWHG WR DOO WKLQJV )UDQFLQH MDPSDFNHG
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ZLWK DQDO\VHV FRPPHQWDU\ UHSHDWHG GLDORJXH HYHUFKDQJLQJ VWUDWHJ\ $QG Francineâ€™s allure oscillated greatly, rising and falling very quickly, entries shifting IURPFULSSOLQJVHOIGRXEWWRKXEULV And not just Francine. A bevy of girls come under my scrutiny, akin WR D FRPSOLFDWHG Ă RZFKDUW ZLWK HYHUFKDQJLQJ GDWD 3ODQV DUH SURSRVHG implemented, sometimes dropped, sometimes resurrected. It was a complicated, ultimately fruitless reverie. All too typical is this: â€œNext entry, Iâ€™ll try to write PRUHDERXW6KHUU\DQG)UDQFLQHDERXWZKDW6KHUU\WROGPHZKDW)UDQFLQH said about me and Gina told me about Francine.â€? The next entry, in fact, is on a completely different topic and what Sherry and Gina said is lost to the ages.
Preparing to bid farewell to the house in south Jersey has, not
unexpectedly, brought about a review of my life growing up in Atlantic County, from right before third grade through high school graduation. But in reality my life there stretched further than that. Summers during college were spent at DODUJHPXOWLSXPSJDVVWDWLRQRQWKH$WODQWLF&LW\([SUHVVZD\DVRPHWLPHV Twilight ZoneOLNHH[SHULHQFHRI DOOQLJKWVKLIWVDQGFRZRUNHUVZKRZHUH9LHWQDP YHWVH[PDULQHV%\WKHQWKHFDVLQRHUDZDVLQIXOOVZLQJIRUHYHUDOWHULQJWKH regionâ€™s composition. Limousines, hitherto a rare commodity, began popping up. Occasionally some customers who had lost all at the gaming tables would plead with us for gas, offering to swap spare tires, beer. From time to time, a regional motorcycle gang, of fearsome repute, would swoop in all at once, WKLUW\RUIRUW\JUL]]OHGELNHUGXGHVRQWKHLUKRJVĂ€OOLQJXSDQGFDXVLQJPXFK (undue) consternation among the other customers. There was a patron who DEVHQWPLQGHGO\Ă LFNHGDOLWFLJDUHWWHRQWRWKHJDVV\SDYHPHQWDQRWKHUZKR accidentally dropped a baggie of cocaine. Towards the end of a long shift, in the early morning hours, there would be the occasional passing farmer, truck loaded down with produce. One kindhearted peach farmer took pity on me
and proffered some samples, which I was only too happy to accept. Other FXVWRPHUVLQFOXGHGDFRQWLQJHQWRI +DUH.ULVKQDVDIDPRXVGUXQN H[ER[HU a man in a pink halter top, and a contingent of utterly clueless travelers, en route to Ocean City, Maryland. There was the confused, drifting interregnum when I had dropped out of college for a spell. I found myself working at a record store in a new mall, shaped like an ocean liner right on the Atlantic City boardwalk. It was a far GLIIHUHQWSODFHE\WKHQP\Ă€UVWÂłDQGODVWDVLWWXUQHGRXWÂłSURORQJHGH[SRVXUH WR$WODQWLF&LW\,FRQVXPHGHQRUPRXVTXDQWLWLHVRI FRIIHHĂ€HOGHGDVXUSULVLQJ amount of requests for Steve and Eydie albums, and waited on the likes of (OD\QH%RRVOHU-HUU\9DOHDQG'DYLG&RSSHUĂ€HOG
At some point soon that telephone numberâ€”so indelibly planted in my
brain since the early years of the Nixon administrationâ€”will be discontinued or passed on to some unworthy. Here at my home in the Hudson Valley, we have ORWVRI KRQH\VXFNOHWKHVFHQWRI ZKLFKHYRNHVWKHVRXWK-HUVH\RI WKHPLGWR ODWHVHYHQWLHVVXPPHUDLUSHUPHDWHGZLWKLWVVFHQW7KHUHGRHVQÂˇWWKHVHGD\V seem much in the way of south Jersey honeysuckle. Economic expansion and SRSXODWLRQJURZWKLVQÂˇWLWDSSHDUVFRQGXFLYHWRĂ RZHUJURZWK 7KHPHPRULHVĂ \E\LQQRSDUWLFXODURUGHUOLNHDVHULHVRI SOD\LQJFDUGV VKXIĂ HGOLJKWLQJIDVW:HDWWHQGHGD0F*RYHUQUDOO\LQ$WODQWLF&LW\LQ featuring the senator himself;Íž I was convinced he had actually smiled at me. Speed Racer was on every day after school, and there was a point where I could DFWXDOO\UHFLWHPRVWRI WKHVSHFLDOIHDWXUHVRI 6SHHGÂˇVXEHUFDU7KHHLJKWKJUDGH music teacher, profoundly ignorant of current musical tastes, excitedly brought in the soundtrack to Bye Bye BirdieDQGDSSHDUHGFRPSOHWHO\PRUWLĂ€HGDVWKHHQWLUH class sat in stony silence. Iâ€™d never seen a teacher so humiliated. I remember the GULYHLQPRYLHWKHDWHUDQGVWLOOFDQUHFROOHFWVRPHRI WKHVWUHHWVIURPP\ZHHNO\
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paper route. I remember Homer and Jethro, a pair of incorrigible hound dogs from up the street who claimed each and every yard on the block as their own. I remember the carload of tourists from Quebec who shouted hello to me as ,GURYHGRZQDFURZGHGMDPSDFNHG2FHDQ&LW\VWUHHWRQDVXPPHUQLJKW, remember: playing in the snow, hitchhiking in the summer, the cold bottles of Orange Crush at Casa Dinoâ€™s, the job making cheese balls and logs at a Hickory Farms in the Shore Mall, being the delegate from Swaziland at a Model UN. A thousand inconsequential details.
The house is purchased by a couple with FKLOGUHQWZRNLGVSHUKDSVWKUHH7KHFKLOGUHQRQĂ€UVWYLHZLQJWKLVQHZKRXVH ZLOOIHHODQLQIHFWLRXVH[FLWHPHQWFDSWLYDWHGE\WKHZRRGĂ RRUVWKDWVHHPWR VWUHWFKRQDQGRQDQGWKHJHQXLQHĂ€UHSODFH7KHH[SDQVLYHVFRSHRI WKHHQWLUH house will be buttressed by the palatial upstairs. One of the kids will take what used to be my bedroom. Occasionally, he or she will gaze out the front window, looking down at the street, just as I used to do. And it all begins again.
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The tenth or twelfth time I saw Top Hat,
I noticed how restless Fred Astaire looks at the beginning of the last musical numberâ€”like a high school sophomore on a date before he can drive. Fred is seated on a park bench with Ginger, and he unconsciously moves his left hand back and forth on the top of his left leg, as if heâ€™s trying to wipe something sticky from his palm. Itâ€™s a movement unlike the rest of Astaire: without purpose, not part of some series of rhyming or contrasting motions. His smile is static and XQFRQYLQFLQJKLVSRVWXUHHUHFWDQGFRQĂ€QHG Heâ€™s uncomfortable in his own body in this scene. He looks to the side for a moment, to where weâ€™re supposed to think other couples PLJKWEHVHDWHGLQWKLVJUDQGĂ€QDOHRI WKHĂ€OP But on this viewing, I canâ€™t help but imagine a boom mike over there in his line of sight, or a key light about to blow. Or a nice looking script girl. Astaire can hardly wait to get up and dance, and WKDWÂˇVWKHSUREOHP2UKHFDQÂˇWZDLWWRĂ€QLVKWKH take and walk away, have a smoke with the boys and get to his dressing room, put his feet up and think about golf or the ponies. Or heâ€™s worrying about the next scene, shot out of sequence, where perhaps heâ€™ll dance with a priceless statue for his partner, or mow down metaphorical rivals for Gingerâ€™s hand using his gentlemenâ€™s cane for a machine gun. The problem for Fred the actor in this scene is that after ninety minutes of formula
courtship in the movie, the game is up, and Fredâ€™s won again. Itâ€™s Gingerâ€™s turn to sing. Itâ€™s the genre: Ă€UVW )UHG VLQJV DQG GDQFHV DORQH WKHQ KH VLQJV to Ginger and she coyly takes a few steps that complement his. Then they dance â€œCheek to Cheek,â€? and in the second chorus he leads her to a ballroom stage empty save the two of them. There they dip to their graceful ritard. But by the end of the third reel of Top Hat weâ€™re into the mindless repetition of â€œThe Picolino,â€? the big production number in which Irving Berlin sees how many ways he can rhyme the title: â€œgo with your bambino,â€? â€œwhere Latins sip their vino,â€? â€œand we know,â€? etc. In 1936, this extravaganza may have been the reason people ZHQWWRWKHĂ€OPÂłWKHLUHTXLYDOHQWRI WRGD\ÂˇVFDU chase, intergalactic special effects, or exploding bodies in the apocalypse before the credits. Sixty years later, the set full of dancers is fun for a minute or two, but every time the orchestra changes keys for another chorus of spins and twirls or overhead shots of couples making their Busby Berkeley kaleidoscope, I can hear the wooden seats in the auditorium creak. My students want to go home;Íž Fred is not the only one restless. Onscreen, groups of anonymous PHQDQGZRPHQGUHVVHGWREHPXOWLSOHZHGGLQJ FDNHĂ€JXUHVRI )UHGDQG*LQJHUGDQFHLQFLUFOHV The women are on a kind of sash so that the men can cast them spinning away, but then reel them EDFNLQDJDLQOLNHWLUHGĂ€VKRQKLJKWHVWOLQH7KH
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FKRUHRJUDSK\VXPPDUL]HVWKHDFWLRQRI WKHZKROHĂ€OPER\JHWVORVHVJHWV JLUODJDLQ%DFNWKHQWKHĂ€OPPDNHUVPLJKWQRWKDYHLQWHQGHGVRFOHDUO\WKH parallel with the women on a string, but sixty years later itâ€™s unavoidable. Even my C students can recognize it. After class, when Iâ€™m packing the reels back in their These studentsâ€”an metal shipping canisters, I create my own rhymes to the because of their nu â€œPicolinoâ€?: Near the Adriatic waters, Venetian sons and daughters, are slaughtered, like fodder, for corporate well be on celluloid. cows.â€? Or â€œItâ€™s the lovely Picolino, as sung by Al Martino, are merely different eat Cheetos, and we know, your teeth will turn orange.â€? same parts in the mo The rhymeâ€™s the thing;Íž it doesnâ€™t have to make sense. 6XFKDUHWKHGDQJHUVRI VHHLQJWKHVDPHĂ€OPUHJXODUO\ Grounded aviation over a period of several years: say, once a semester, until the guysâ€? loudmout I know it too well and can no longer recreate for myself WKHH[SHULHQFHRI VHHLQJLWIRUWKHĂ€UVWWLPH)RUWKLVLV worried seventeen English 114: Introduction to Film, at a provincial state about her boyfriend university as far from Hollywood as the Depression was from the Italian Riviera in Top Hatâ€™s 1936. I am the teacher before the group of 230, about 150 of whom show up on a given week. Maybe DGR]HQOHDYHPLGĂ€OPPRUHGXULQJWKHSURGXFWLRQQXPEHUDQGPRUHWKDQ KDOI RI WKHUHVWOHDYHDWWKHEUHDNEHWZHHQWKHĂ€OPDQGWKHOHFWXUH,ÂˇOOSUHVHQW on it. ,WÂˇVLQUHDOOLIHDQGWKLVĂ€OPZLOOUHPDLQRQP\V\OODEXVIRUVHYHUDO more years before I send it into retirement. Iâ€™ve shown Top Hat every term to this point, part of my unit on the musical, in which I argue to students who HLWKHUGRQÂˇWEHOLHYHPHRUGRQÂˇWFDUHWKDWĂ€OPVZKLFKZHUHSRSXODUDORQJWLPH ago can tell us about who we are today. I argue that weâ€™re the reason these genres have endured. Thereâ€™s a reason, I tell them, that people walk down the street, fall suddenly in love, and stop in their tracks to begin to sing about it. And thereâ€™s a reason other people call that entertainment. Itâ€™s the same reason that so many students watch Grease for their extra credit paperâ€”remember, itâ€™s
1996, and Moulin Rouge LVVWLOOĂ€YH\HDUVDZD\Chicago is six. About Grease, one VWXGHQWZULWHVWKDWVKHĂ€QGVWKDWÂ´FODVVLFÂľPRYLHWREHDVÂ´IUHVKWRGD\DVZKHQ LWZDVPDGHLQWKHQLQHWHHQĂ€IWLHVÂľ2WKHUVVHHPWRDJUHH I may have seen Top Hat twenty, thirty times by now. I nonymous to me VWLOOVLQJDORQJZLWKWKH%HUOLQWXQHVVHFOXGHGLQP\VRXQG umbersâ€”might as proof projection booth, happily cut off from my students. I still laugh at the minor charactersâ€”Blanche telling the boat . Almost as if there captain to haul her husband off the deck where he sleeps on a t actors playing the SLOHRI GHDGĂ€VKÂ´0\+RUDFHÂľ%ODQFKHWHOOVKLPÂ´LVWKHRQH his mouth closed,â€? and then a medium shot of Horace ovie that is my class: with dozing in his formal wear amid the catch. Iâ€™m the only one n major. â€œOne of in the present day audience who laughsâ€”too subtle for my th. Wide-eyed and VWXGHQWV ZKR DSSDUHQWO\ GRQÂˇW UHDGLO\ LGHQWLI\ GHDG Ă€VK DV lying with their mouths open. year old, thinking I laugh every time at Horaceâ€™s valet, Batesâ€™, encounter d back on the farm. with a local cop Italiano 7KLQNLQJ WKH RIĂ€FHU GRHVQÂˇW understand English, Bates enjoys piling on insult after insult, Â´<RX Ă€VK IDFHG QLQFRPSRRS \RX PLOGHZHG GRQNH\ \RX VWXOWLĂ€HGVKULPSÂľ7KHFRSDQVZHUVÂ´grazieâ€? to each thrust, and then arrests Bates in perfect unaccented Inglese and hauls him off to the calaboose. The scene is cut out of most of the prints the distributor sends to me, and most of the screenings Iâ€™ve seen on TV. Apparently contemporary audiences just donâ€™t understand the subtleties of class warfare that this scene presentsâ€”the RSSUHVVHG PDQVHUYDQW Ă€QDOO\ Ă€QGLQJ VRPHRQH ZKR KH WKLQNV LV ORZHU WKDQ KLPVHOI RQO\ WR JHW EXVWHG 2U %DWHV KDV LGHQWLĂ€HG VRPHRQH too much like those in his own caste to be treated with anything but scorn. Americans long removed from the Great Depression are too busy denying that social class exists to understand the scene, which I admit seems a bit strained to me, too. I sometimes imagine my students would argue, â€œClass warfare? Anyone can ZDONLQWRD:DO0DUWÂľ2UHYHQÂ´:KDWGR\RXPHDQclass?â€? But I canâ€™t know this for sure.
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I like to watch for the point in Top Hat when a character makes reference to Bates â€œgetting out of jailâ€? in time to be disguised as a preacher to perform the wedding ceremony upon which the plot turns. In the cut version of the Ă€OP,ÂˇPVKRZLQJWKHVWXGHQWVWKHOLQHPDNHVQRVHQVHZKDWVRHYHUVLQFHZH QHYHUVDZ%DWHVJRWRMDLOLQWKHĂ€UVWSODFH%XWWRP\VWXGHQWVPXFKRI WKH Ă€OPGRHVQÂˇWPDNHVHQVHDQ\ZD\,VXVSHFWWKH\FDQÂˇWJHWSDVWWKHWRSKDWVDQG DUWGHFRVHWVRUSHUKDSVWKH*UDWHGGLDORJXHWKHKLQWLQJDWZKDWKDVEHHQVR long shouted out to them. A few of them laugh heartily, the rest silent. Next week after the movie, to the seventy or so students who stay in class that long, Iâ€™ll argue that Dirty DancingLVUHDOO\WKHVDPHĂ€OPDVTop Hat. 6SRQWDQHRXV UHEHOOLRXV DQG IDQF\IUHH PXVLF PDQ PHHWV GRPHVWLFDWLQJ female counterpart who learns to dance ( â€œlearns to fuckâ€?â€”I tell them without phrasing it quite that way). In each case â€œDaddyâ€? doesnâ€™t like it, but music and dance heals all;Íž the unbridgeable gulf between the classes is closed. Everything is all right at the end, as we knew it would be in the beginning. And thatâ€™s Hollywood. The exams seem to indicate some of them get the gist of it. But since this is a lecture classâ€”no discussion possible in a group of 200â€”I can never know for sure. With so little interaction, everything in my class is more or less the same each semester. Iâ€™ve come to take a kind of solace in that, almost the way I feel screening North by Northwest for the thirteenth time. These studentsâ€” anonymous to me because of their numbersâ€”might as well be on celluloid. Almost as if there are merely different actors playing the same parts in the movie that is my class: Grounded aviation major. â€œOne of the guysâ€? loudmouth. :LGHH\HGDQGZRUULHGVHYHQWHHQ\HDUROGWKLQNLQJDERXWKHUER\IULHQGEDFN on the farm. Frightened Southeast Asian immigrant, not understanding the questions on the test (the frightened Somali immigrants are ten, twelve years away). They donâ€™t bother me anymore, these general education freshmen and sophomores (the weakest seem to be from the education college, for whatever thatâ€™s worth). Theyâ€™re so unlike the bright or at least earnest and polite English
majors and grad students I teach in the rest of my professional life, where I SULGHP\VHOI RQOHDGLQJDJRRGGLVFXVVLRQDQGDPFRQĂ€GHQWDERXWWKHUHVXOWV I get. Film, in contrast, is my â€œservice course,â€? and my service has been to learn to run the projector. Weâ€™re still ten years away from the state of the art projection system that allows me to pop in a DVD and sit in the front row bedazzled by color and sound, or escape to the lobby to do prep for tomorrowâ€™s writing workshop. Besides my lectures (which in a couple of years Iâ€™ll just write out and post online to avoid having to give the impression of spontaneityâ€”Iâ€™m no Fred Astaire), the skill I most rely on is a learned ability to write a decent multiple choice question: â€œAccording to the lecture, the music manâ€™s style is characterized by all of the following except which one?â€? I do a lot less work here than my colleagues do teaching their â€œserviceâ€? section of freshman comp.
What do you suggest to improve this course?
6WDUWRYHU6KRZPRYLHVWKDWDUHPRUHSRSXODU *HW%HWWHU'RFXPHQWDULHVRoshomon was stupid. The Thin Blue Line was good but too slow. 'RQÂˇWVKRZVXFKROGPRYLHV,WJHWVERULQJLVHDV\WRIDOODVOHHS 7UDVKÂ´6FRUSLR5LVLQJÂľRUDWOHDVWZDUQSHRSOHWKDWWKH\DUHJRLQJWRVHHJD\ PHQSHUIRUPLQJDFWVRQRQHDQRWKHU<XFN ,ZRXOGUHFRPPHQGDIHZGLIIHUHQWPRYLHVPD\EHDVNXVIRULQSXWRQPRYLHV (DVHXSDOLWWOHDQGPDNHWKHFRXUVHPRUHIXQ,VQÂˇWÂ´VFLHQFHĂ€FWLRQÂľStar Trek RUÂ´DFWLRQĂ€OPVÂľRambo) important too? /HDYHRXWWKHWH[WERRN7RRPXFKVWXII DWRQFH<RXWROGXVWKHLPSRUWDQW stuff anyway. 7KH+LWFKFRFNĂ€OPVZHUHERULQJ 1HYHUVKRZDays of Heaven again. Also show an old Clint Eastwood western along with Unforgiven.
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7HOO'LFNWRVKRZVRPHGHFHQWIXFNLQJĂ€OPV %HWWHU0RYLHV1HZHURQHVDWOHDVWBatman, etc.). +HVKRXOGVKRZWKHĂ€OPVWKDW:(OLNHQRWWKHRQHV+(OLNHV 7U\ZDWFKLQJPRYLHVWKDWGRQRWVXFNVKLW6RPHZHUHRNRWKHUVZHUHVR boring that I didnâ€™t want to be here (so I left). *HWDGLIIHUHQWLQVWUXFWRU /HVVÂ´FKHHV\ÂľPRYLHV ,QHYHUFDPHWRFODVVEHFDXVH,FRXOGQWVLWWKURXJKWKHPRYLHV7KH\ZHUH boreing. Mabye if you would play movies that interest my generation more people would go to class. 6SDUHXVWKHNLGG\SRUQLQMy Life as A Dog. 'RQÂˇWVKRZPulp Fiction. It was stupid, disgusting, and a waste of time. -XVWJLYHVWXGHQWVWKHIRXUFUHGLWVDQGOHWWKHPVDYHWKHPRQH\WREX\DJRRG book and a better beer the next time they go out. ,FDQÂˇWWKLQNRI DQ\WKLQJRII WKHWRSRI P\KHDG,WUHDOO\ZDVQÂˇWDVEDGDV, thought it would be.
Reel one of
Citizen KaneHQGVZLWK&KDUOHV)RVWHU.DQHVLJQLQJKLV â€œDeclaration of Principles,â€? which he will run as an editorial on the front page RI KLVQHZVSDSHUWKHĂ€UVWGD\KHÂˇVLQFKDUJH,QWKH'HFODUDWLRQWKHPLOOLRQDLUH .DQHSOHGJHVWRĂ€JKWIRUWKHZRUNLQJPDQWKDWFODVVWKDWVRIHZRI P\V students know that theyâ€™re bound to) and print the news for him straight. Jed /HODQG.DQHÂˇVSDUWQHULQFULPHIURPFROOHJHGD\VDQGVRRQWREHGUDPDFULWLF for the newspaper, says in a close up, â€œIâ€™d like to keep that particular piece of paper myself. I have a hunch it might turn out to be something pretty important... like the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution.â€? 2QHZRXOGNQRZDIWHUUHSHDWHGYLHZLQJVDV,ÂˇYHKDGWKHEHQHĂ€WRIWKDW WKLV VSHHFK IRUHWHOOV &KDUOHV )RVWHU .DQHÂˇV ODWHU IDOO DV KHÂˇV QRW WUXH WR KLV creed. 7KLV PXFK RI WKH VFHQH LV GRQH LQ D PHGLXP VKRW LQFOXGLQJ .DQHÂˇV
manager, Bernstein, right foreground, rapt in silent agreement. Then we get a close up of Leland himself, the beautiful face of the young Joseph Cotten as he DGGVÂ´DQGP\Ă€UVWUHSRUWFDUGDWVFKRROÂľ At that point Iâ€™m poised and ready. I see the white dot in the upper right hand corner of the screen, and then the second white dotâ€”my cueâ€”and I VSULQJLQWRDFWLRQ,KDYHDOUHDG\UHOHDVHGWKHFOLSVKROGLQJWKHUHHORI Ă€OPDQG WKHWDNHXSUHHORQWRWKHSURMHFWRU:KHQ/HODQGĂ€QLVKHVWKHVFKRROOLQH,WXUQ off the projector, manually spin the leaderâ€”black celluloid, then opaque redâ€” RQWRWKHWDNHXSUHHODQGZKLOHWKHIURQWUHHOWKDWKHOGWKHĂ€OPLVVWLOOVSLQQLQJ in the dimly lit space of the little projection booth, I ease the full take up reel off the back sprocket, quickly shift the empty reel to the back, and slide the new full second reel onto the front (Iâ€™ve had the reel already laid out before me on the counter for quick handling, its leader running out like a green tongue). ,WKUHDGWKHOHDGHUVQDNHOLNHWKURXJKWKHSURMHFWRURYHUDQGXQGHUWKHVHULHV of spindles and out the back. I attach the leader to the back reel, then spin it IRUZDUGE\KDQGSDVWWKHÂ´ÂľQXPEHUVZKLFK,FDQVHHEHFDXVH,KROGP\ SRFNHWĂ DVKOLJKWXSWRWKHĂ€OP7KHQ,SDVVWKHEODQNIUDPHVMXVWWRWKHSRLQW that I see the images begin. I turn the control knob to â€œproject brightâ€? and movie time begins again;Íž real time elapsed during my drill: about 15 seconds. Since Iâ€™m not a projectionist by trade, I take pride in my dexterity in FRPSOHWLQJWKLVURXWLQH,QPRYLHWKHDWHUVVLQFHORQJEHIRUHĂ€OPVKDYH come in giant boxesâ€”all three reels rolled onto oneâ€”so that projectionists FDQĂ LSDVZLWFKWKHQOHDYHWRJRVHOOSRSFRUQVDYLQJODERUFRVWV(YHQLQWKH GD\VRI PXOWLSOHUHHOVWKHDWHUVKDGDWZRSURMHFWRUV\VWHP:KHQWKHĂ€UVWZKLWH dot appeared in the corner of the frame, it was the cue for the projectionist to start the second projector. When the second white dot appeared, in this case, after Leland compared the Declaration of Independence to his report card DWVFKRROWKHSURMHFWLRQLVWZRXOGVKXWRII WKHĂ€UVWSURMHFWRUDQGWKHVHFRQG ZRXOGFRQWLQXHÂłVFUHHQWLPHĂ RZLQJVHDPOHVVO\IURPRQHPDJLFODQWHUQWRWKH next, something like passing a baton forty minutes into a two hour relay race.
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0\Ă€UVWVHPHVWHUWHDFKLQJ,QWURGXFWLRQWR)LOP,WULHGWKHWZRSURMHFWRU method, and could make the story pass from one runner to the next without dropping the baton. Sometimes the new runner had to slow down a bit to wait for the oldâ€”time would bend a little, as Einstein told us it could. Sometimes a little leader would show through. But not bad for an English teacher. 6RRQ , JDYH XS RQ WU\LQJ WR PDNH WLPH Ă RZ ULJKW EHWZHHQ WKH WZR projectors. The problem was not in my coordination as a projectionist. The problem was that I had only one good projector. It belongs to the English Department, and thus we keep it locked in a cabinet below the shelf, not to be touched by faculty from other departments who use this auditorium. There are a bunch of other projectors lined up on the counter for general use, something like the way old cars are lined up in a salvage yards, in their varying degrees of rust and faded colors, sagging springs and chipped windshields. The community projectors are institutional gray or pale greenâ€”the color of HOHPHQWDU\VFKRROWHFKQRORJ\EDFNLQP\VFKRROER\GD\VWKHĂ€IWLHVDQGHDUO\ sixties. These antique projectors are all Bell & Howellâ€”a company I identify with the home movies we used to watch in our neighborâ€™s basement during childhood. Bell & Howell stopped making movie projectors in the early 1970s. 1RZDIWHUDPHUJHUWKH\VSHFLDOL]HLQVFDQQHUVPLFURĂ€OPUHDGHUVDQGĂ€QDQFLDO services. These projectors are old. ,WHOOP\VWXGHQWVWKHĂ€UVWQLJKWDERXWWKH%HOO +RZHOOVPDGHEHIRUH WKH\ZHUHERUQDQGKRZZDWFKLQJDĂ€OPRQWKHPZRXOGEHOLNHZDWFKLQJD movie on TV wearing very dark sunglasses, with cotton in their ears. I tell them WKDWZLWKRQO\RQHJRRGSURMHFWRUDQGWKUHHUHHOVRI Ă€OPWKHUHZLOOEHWKLV space in time that theyâ€™re not used to at the Cineplex on Saturday nights, when the pictures and time stop and they awake from the narrative dream, and there LVRQO\GDUNQHVV:KHQLWKDSSHQVWKHUHLVDWĂ€UVWVLOHQFHDQGWKHQDJURDQIURP the crowd as that small light goes on in the booth. If they turn around they can see me working quickly thereâ€”one man pit crew after the two hundredth lap. I tell them that this interruption is not all bad, that it reminds them this LVDFODVVDQGQRWMXVWDĂ€OPWKH\ÂˇUHZDWFKLQJSDVVLYHO\WREHHQWHUWDLQHG7KH\
can use that moment to think about what theyâ€™ve seen. I tell them that, but I donâ€™t believe it, and neither do they. I donâ€™t blame WKHP 3HUKDSV KHUH PRUH WKDQ LQ DQ\ 'HSUHVVLRQ HUD Ă€OP , FDQ VKRZ WKH\ come to suspect that there is something wrong with a system that has them pay tuition to sit before this level of technology. Perhaps the world does not think them as important as their parents worked to convince them they are. And for that I am sorry and a little ashamed, more than a little angry. What do you mean, class? But each semester the silence between reels is the sameâ€”broken only by the collective groan of the disappointed who have gotten caught up in the story, a sign that some things are indeed getting through. A few students look back WRZDWFKPHZRUNLQWKHSURMHFWLRQERRWKDQG,IHHOOLNHIRUWKRVHĂ€IWHHQRGG seconds as much performer as prof. With Citizen Kane, after Leland has delivered his prescient lineâ€”and after WKHJDSLQZKLFK,HDUQP\WHDFKHUÂˇVSD\ÂłZHJHW.DQHÂˇVUHDFWLRQWR/HODQGÂˇV pronouncement. And what a strange response it is. The shooting script describes LWDVÂ´.DQHVPLOLQJFROODUXQGRQHEOLQNVH\HVQRGGLQJÂłPXVLFSOD\VÂľ%XWHYHQ KDYLQJWDXJKWWKHĂ€OPDGR]HQWLPHVRUPRUH,GRQÂˇWUHDOO\XQGHUVWDQGZKDWWKLV reaction means. Orson Welles looks clownish, mugging for a camera in a close up reaction shot. Welles looks like heâ€™s swallowed a bug, has been caught with KLVĂ \GRZQ:KDWLVWKLVPRPHQWVXSSRVHGWRPHDQ" $IWHUĂ€IWHHQLQH[SOLFDEOHVHFRQGVLQWKHGDUNLWÂˇVHYHQKDUGHUWRWHOO ,ÂˇYHIRXQGWKDWRWKHUUHHOVLQRWKHUĂ€OPVHQGDWLQRSSRUWXQHWLPHV7KHUH is the break between reel two and reel three of Spike Leeâ€™s Do the Right Thing that comes right in the middle of the riot sequence, after Mookie has thrown the garbage can through the window of the pizzeria, but before Ruby Dee VFUHDPVÂ´1RRR1RRRÂľDVVKHZDWFKHVWKHĂ€UHVEXUQIRUQRWWKHĂ€UVWWLPHLQ her characterâ€™s life. Hitchcockâ€™s North By Northwest runs well over two hours, so WKHUHÂˇVDIRXUWKUHHOWRWKHĂ€OP0\VWXGHQWVKDYHEHHQFRQGLWLRQHGWRVLWWKURXJK only three reels, and that third gap of silent darkness and the continuation of the chase sceneâ€”on Mt. Rushmore, in the darkâ€”onto the fourth reel I sense
Volume 1, Issue 1. Winter 2013
WKH\Ă€QGGHPRUDOL]LQJ%XWKanePD\EHWKHZRUVWEHFDXVH,VKRZWKHĂ€OP HDUO\LQWKHWHUPDQGXQOLNHVRPHĂ€OPVRQWKHV\OODEXVWKHVWXGHQWVKDWHLW,Q a bad class, Iâ€™ll count twenty or thirty who get up and leave while Iâ€™m changing WKHUHHOEHWZHHQ/HODQGÂˇVVSHHFKDQG.DQHÂˇVJRRI\UHVSRQVH(YHQPRUHZLOO walk out between the second and last reel, eighty story minutes into the night.
The auditorium holds creaky wooden seats that test the severity of
angles young backs can assume. When students sit into these chairs their knees rise above their waist, and their torsos look small and low from my podium. Through my lecture I watch the students boost themselves up on their elbows then slide back inevitably into the low seatsâ€”here and there, here and there, WKHZD\\RXVHHWKHUDQGRPĂ LFNHURI FLJDUHWWHOLJKWHUVLQDFURZGDWDIRRWEDOO game. 7KHVRXQGV\VWHPLQWKHDXGLWRULXP\LHOGVPXIĂ HGGLDORJXHDQGPXVLF of wavering pitch. On older prints with ragged soundtracks, the sound lacks GHSWK OLNH WKH YRLFHV WKDW DQQRXQFH Ă LJKW WLPHV LQ DLUSRUWV :KHQ , VKRZ Cabaret each term, I have a choice between blasting the dance production numbers at earsplitting levels, and asking the students to read lips during the intimate scenes between Liza Minnelli and her beau. When I show Life is Sweet, a British working class comedy, Iâ€™ve taken to projecting a video cassette and avoiding the sound problem altogether. Originating from the ancient projector, WKHĂ€OPÂˇVFRFNQH\DFFHQWVZRXOGUHTXLUHVXEWLWOHV ,GXPSHGDZKROHXQLWRQĂ€OPQRLUEHFDXVHPRVWRI WKHDFWLRQRI WKH Ă€OPVVKRWLQKLJKFRQWUDVWGHHSVKDGRZDVWKHJHQUHGLFWDWHVZDVLQP\FODVV taking place in total darkness. 2WKHU SUREOHPV FRH[LVW $ KDQGOHWWHUHG VLJQ SRVWHG RQ HDFK GRRU of the room reads: WARNING: THIS AUDITORIUM IS NOT AIR CONDITIONED. No shit, I think. And when the room is packed with bodies as it is every Tuesday night, especially if itâ€™s August or May, the temperature can
reach 80 degrees on waves of sweat and youthful fatigue that radiate upward into the movie dark. During one September heat wave I recorded the roomâ€™s all time high: 88 degrees. Surely this is against the law, but the law doesnâ€™t care much about students at public universities. There can be 200, 250 of them in the roomâ€”this not because I am so popular a teacher, but because among the classes that satisfy one general education requirement, Introduction to Film is the only one for which students think they wonâ€™t have to read books and write papers. And theyâ€™re right. )RUDOOWKHVHUHDVRQVIRUĂ€YHRUVL[\HDUV,EHJRII IURPWHDFKLQJ,QWURWR Film, resign myself to doing the extra work that another writing or reading class requires of me instead. Itâ€™s a tough schedule, for all of us who still try as hard as we once did. For this school is what they call in the business a â€œteachingâ€? university, which means no extra credit for publishing or research or going to conferences. And the emphasis on teaching indicates an emphasis on the quantity of it rather than the quality. After this six year break, I decide to give Intro to Film another try, and the English Department scheduling committee consents. The auditorium has been refurbished with a new projection system and the modern equivalent of sensurround that makes me feel like Iâ€™m in the best seats at a concert hall. Weâ€™ve got plush seats for the students, a podium of high tech toys for me that someone my age must relearn each semester that theyâ€™re upgraded. DVDs have made it cheap to show anything, and Blue Ray has made it beautiful. I feel like &DSWDLQ.LUNRQWKHEULGJHSUHVVDEXWWRQDQGWKHFOLS,ÂˇYHERRNPDUNHGRUWKH interview with the director or the eminent critic, appears magically onscreen. ,ÂˇPDVPXFKWKHFRQMXUHUDV*HRUJH0HOLHVWKDWVLOHQWĂ€OPSLRQHHU,VKRZLQ week one, who made moon men disappear with a puff of dry ice smoke, simply by stopping the camera, removing one actor, freezing the rest of the cast in place, and then cranking the camera once again. And further miracles: Air conditioning so effective that students are chilled DZDNHWKURXJKHYHQWKHERULQJHVWVXFNLHVWPRVWGLVJXVWLQJPRYLHV,FDQĂ€QG DQGLQWKLVEUDYHQHZYLGHRZRUOG,FDQĂ€QGDJUHDWPDQ\RI WKHPLQGHHG,W
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VHHPV WKH XQLYHUVLW\ KDV Ă€JXUHG RXW WKDW PRUH Â´WHDFKLQJÂľ FDQ EH GRQH WKH more students they can induce to enroll in a class taught in a comfortable room. But the greatest gift of all: ironically, the class is now half the size it was, because the weakest students, most freshmen who wonâ€™t last in college past IDOOVHPHVWHUFDQQRZIXOĂ€OOWKHLU*HQ(GUHTXLUHPHQWZLWKDQHZFODVVLQWKH music department: the History of Rock and Roll. The students who are left to me, though still most interested in their grades and getting out to their bars DQGSDUWLHVDIWHUFODVVDUHDWOHDVWDOLWWOHLQWHUHVWHGLQJRRGĂ€OPV6RPHDUHYHU\ interested. My evaluations skyrocket, and I pretend in reports to the Dean that this is due to my advanced age and experience. Maybe it is. I still pay the wages of guilt with a few students. One twenty year old, QRW XQSUHWW\ JLUO IURP D 6RXWKHUQ 0LQQHVRWD IDUP WRZQ WHOOV PH KHU JRDO after graduation is to work for Jerry Bruckheimer. I donâ€™t tell her the odds. 0DQ\VWXGHQWVQRZDVNPHLI ,FDQKHOSWKHPPDNHWKHLURZQĂ€OPVDQG, FRQIHVVWREHLQJWKHGLOHWWDQWHWKDW,DPDZULWLQJWHDFKHUZLWKĂ€OPFRXUVHV and a doctoral exam on my graduate transcript, more than twenty years ago QRZ,KDYHQÂˇWNHSWXSLQWKHĂ€HOGEH\RQGUHQWLQJYLGHRVDWKRPHDQGWDNLQJ that as a tax deduction. But I donâ€™t tell the kids that. I tell them instead about the time that Jeff Daniels visited my Film Theory class back in Ann Arbor. So charming, so beautiful that he held all of us in the palm of this hand for a ninety minute talk. Even the guys. I can agree with them that movies are magic. I surely donâ€™t miss the early, sweaty days of the antique projectors and WLQQ\ VSHDNHUV DQG WKH GLVJUXQWOHG LOOSUHSDUHG VWXGHQWV ZKR ZRXOG OHDYH class and let the door slam shut, or who in the auditorium lobby would mutter VRPHWKLQJWRDIULHQGOLNHRQHGLGDIWHUKLVĂ€UVWYLHZLQJP\VHYHQWHHQWK RI Cabaret: â€œWhat the fuck was that about?â€? It might as well have been in German. To him, I realized, it was, and what I had contributed to his visual literacy only took hold on the part of the brain beneath the conscious, the part of memory that forgets all but general reaction, the part of his education that never rose above confusion. But in â€™96, in those scenes from my class as I remember them, the students
donâ€™t bother me. Just as, at least for those who pass the class, I probably donâ€™t bother them much. They can get a B without having to give up too many of their LGHDVDERXWZKDWĂ€OPVKRXOGEHDVXFFHVVLRQRI FDUFKDVHVVSHFLDOHIIHFWVIDUW jokes, and sex scenes, all transcribed into the language of the day. I remember telling a class in 1995 that critics thought Citizen KaneWKHEHVWĂ€OPRI DOOWLPH, SROOHGWKHPRQZKDWĂ€OPWKH\ZRXOGJLYHWKDWKRQRUForrest Gump, still playing in town that week. And then eight or ten years later I repeated the exercise for another generation of students (for generations go by that quickly nowadaysâ€” HLJKW\HDUVPD\EHĂ€YHÂ´7KH\JRE\LQ one year,â€? an undergrad once insisted. â€œMy little brother, a year behind me in high school, is into whole different things.â€?) ,WROGWKLVFODVVLQWKHQHZPLOOHQQLXPWKDW.DQHZDVVWLOOFRQVHQVXVWRSĂ€OPRI DOOWLPHEXWWKDWVWXGHQWVHLJKW\HDUVDJRVDLGWKHJUHDWHVWĂ€OPWKH\ÂˇGHYHUVHHQ was Forrest Gump. A show of hands: most now had never seen Forrest Gump, many had not heard of it. Their choice for best movie ever: Lord of the Rings.
each term are more real than the live audience of students for whom I screen them. Iâ€™m not proud of this, but itâ€™s true. Who were all those farm kids in those creaky wooden seats in that large and airless room? What are they doing KHUHQRZDQGZKDWGRWKH\ZDQWIURPPH"7KHĂ€OPVWRPHVWXFNLQOHFWXUHU SURMHFWLRQLVWPDJLF PDQ PRGH DUH IDU PRUH QXDQFHG IDU PRUH KXPDQ WKDQ WKRVHUHDOSHRSOHVLPSO\EHFDXVH,NQRZWKHPVRPXFKEHWWHU7KHĂ€OPVKDYH ceased to be narratives at all. Theyâ€™ve become only the successionâ€”and the repetitionâ€”of their constituent lines and images. The images follow one another in the dark;Íž the weeks follow one another in two full dimensions on the screen I lowered at the start of class, one full wall of the giant room. If itâ€™s â€™96, Iâ€™m in my projection booth, reading lips on the screen, doing the dialogue myself between bites of microwaved dinner. Some lines I can deliver with perfect pace DQG LQĂ HFWLRQ 1LFKROVRQ WR 3RODQVNL LQ Chinatown: â€œI like my noseâ€Ś I like breathing through it.â€? Dietrich to Welles in Touch of Evil: â€œI didnâ€™t recognize
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you. You need to lay off those candy bars.â€? John Wayneâ€™s Ethan Edwards in The SearchersÂ´:HÂˇOOĂ€QGÂśHPDOOULJKWÂŤDVVXUHDVWKHÂŤWXUQLQÂˇRI WKHHDUWKÂľ $QGP\LQWHUSUHWDWLRQRI WKHĂ€OPVKDVJURZQWXUQVEDFNXSRQLWVHOI, XVHGWRWKLQNWKDW-HG/HODQGÂˇVSLFWXUHRI &KDUOHV)RVWHU.DQHÂłÂ´&KDUOLHQHYHU gave anybody anything,â€? â€œGo to Africa and lord it over the monkeys.â€?â€”was FOHDUO\WKHFRUUHFWRQH6HHLQJWKHĂ€OPIRUWKHWHQWKRUWZHOIWKWLPH,EHJDQWR see what I think Orson Welles wanted me to see from the start: that Lelandâ€™s YLHZRI .DQHZDVDVĂ DZHGDVDQ\RQHÂˇV-HG/HODQGUHDOO\ZDVDÂ´VWXIIHGVKLUWÂľ DÂ´1HZ(QJODQGVFKRROPDUPÂľDV.DQHWKRXJKWKLP,KDGPHUHO\XQGHUVWRRG /HODQGÂˇVYLHZRI .DQHWKHPRVWFOHDUO\EHFDXVH,ZDVQHDUO\DVF\QLFDODPDQ as Leland. Or maybe because Joseph Cottenâ€™s performance is so attractive. If the former was the reason, itâ€™s less so now. 1XDQFHDQGVXESORWLQWKHĂ€OPVKDYHEHFRPHSDLQIXOO\FOHDUWKHLPSOLHG love affair between Ethan and his brotherâ€™s wife in some distant past of The Searchers becomes as obvious as if it were printed in a subtitle, the way operas in German and Italian are titled in English above the stage. There are the gaffs I catch in repeated screenings: the power lines in the distance in that last crane shot of High Noon. In Stagecoach, how the shadow of the camera is visible as the horses pull the rig into a swollen river. And thereâ€™s perhaps my favorite line of all, which I remember the way I can never remember the poetry Iâ€™m teaching the rest of the week. Itâ€™s in the )UHQFKH[SHULPHQWDOĂ€OPLa JetteLQZKLFKDPDQLVVHQWIURPWKHSRVWQXFOHDU future back to the past, our present day, in order to change history, which he does by witnessing his own assassination on an airport jetty. The line, actually, has nothing to do with that ironic ending. It describes the Paris rebuilt after the bomb, devoid of its beauty and everything that made LWZKDWLWZDV,WÂˇVEHFRPHVLPSO\WRVRPHXQLGHQWLĂ€HGQDUUDWRUÂ´$PLOOLRQ incomprehensible avenues.â€? I like that. It says something about the folly of human progress, about the blindness of choice those Frenchmen thought we were condemned to in 1962 when La Jette was made. It says something about the fear the future
should hold for us, which is why, perhaps, weâ€™ve been made to live one day, one life at a time. A million incomprehensibleâ€Śsomethings. %XWWKDWÂˇVMXVWZKDWWKHOLQHPHDQVRQO\WRPH,ÂˇYHVHHQWKHĂ€OPQHDUO\ twenty times, and as of this writing, itâ€™s still not available on DVD except in a dubbed version that wrecks the lyric beauty of the grainy subtitles I once read projected in a too hot room, in a class many people needed to graduate. ,QWKDWFODVVEDFNLQÂśWKHQH[WUHHOPLJKWKDYHĂ XWWHUHGDWLWVELWWHUHQG I might have had to turn the projector off and on more than once to get the sound ironed into recognizable speech. But then I could walk out of the booth to check the volume, maybe bump it up a notch. Sharpen the focus. Then put out the little light in the booth and sit back in my chair insulated and isolated from the real world. A master of miracles and these machines. I made time stop and started it again, with only a minor jolt to the galaxy. And after 120 minutes, plus lecture time, Iâ€™d go home singing â€œCheek to Cheek,â€? or reciting Jimmy 6WHZDUWÂˇVĂ€OLEXVWHUVSHHFKRQWKH6HQDWHĂ RRULQMr. Smith Goes to Washington, or feeling moved at how well Rear Window captures the angst of the peeping Tom, even on the seventh viewing. Maybe when I get home, there will be a ballgame on TV, something I donâ€™t know the outcome of. I know thereâ€™s beer in the ice box. There will be WKLVRWKHUOHDSLQWLPHEHWZHHQWKHHQGRI WKHĂ€OPDQGWKHWDNLQJXSRI P\ OLIH0\ZDONKRPHZLOOEHWKURXJKUHDOGDUNQHVVSDVWWKHER[OLNHEXLOGLQJVRI WKHFDPSXVWKHEHJLQQLQJRI WKHUHVLGHQWLDOQHLJKERUKRRGVOLJKWRI WUDIĂ€FQR one on the street. There will be the lights of my family in our three bedroom rambler, across the park and down the cul de sac, six tenths of a mile from Wiecking Auditorium. It will be as if none of this ever happened at all. But in about sixteen weeks, it will repeat again, frame by frame, reel by reel.
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Earlham Street, Covent Garden, where The Womenâ€™s Liberation
RIĂ€FHKDGPRYHGDIWHU6KDYHUÂˇV3ODFHZDVVWLOOLQWKHHDUO\VHYHQWLHVPDLQO\ a warehouse district, interspersed with a few avant garde performance spaces. I KDGEHHQFKRVHQDVRQHRI WKHIRXUZRUNHUVQRWIRUP\WHUULĂ€FVNLOOVEXWE\WKH simple method of having my name drawn out of a hat, as well as being willing to forego the meager pay when there wasnâ€™t any money, which was most of the time. We workers welcomed newcomers to feminism who wandered in looking
IRUVRPHWKLQJDV,KDGRQFHGRQH:HDOVRIXQFWLRQHGQRWYHU\HIĂ€FLHQWO\DVD clearinghouse for womenâ€™s groups all over Britain, trying to keep track of what they were up to in Warwick and Manchester and numerous small towns around the country. My worst shifts were the ones I shared with Lois, who lamented over DQGRYHUWKDWWKHZRPHQÂˇVPRYHPHQWZDVLQWKHKDQGVRI PLGGOHFODVVZKLWH womenâ€”which of course it was. Lois was working class and proud of it. On Fridays, which was newsletter day, she and I assembled all the items we had
Volume 1, Issue 1. Winter 2013
UHFHLYHGDQGRUJDQL]HGWKHPLQWRVRPHNLQGRI VHTXHQFHLWZDVRIĂ€FHSROLF\ to print everything that was submitted without editing). Then, someone had to type the whole thing onto wax â€œdittos,â€? which would be plastered on to the drum of the ancient machine, inked, and run off. The tension began around the typing: I had been sent to an expensive secretarial college, so I could type fast and accurately;Íž Lois had had no such opportunity. However much I exhorted her to type the newsletter, she always claimed to be incapable and when I offered to teach her, she asked who I thought I was. So while I typed a list of upcoming events (â€œMonday: Shrew Collective;Íž Tuesday: Lesbian Liberation;Íž Wednesday: Womenâ€™s Abortion and Contraception Campaign,â€? and so on), Lois threw out remarks like â€œthe workers are the backbone of this country.â€? Although I was working at the time, I knew she didnâ€™t mean me. The centers of all the aâ€™s, cut out by the typewriter, fell from personal ads, leaving black blobs in their place: ATTRACTIVE MALE GRADUATE JHQXLQHO\FRQFHUQHGZLWK:RPHQÂˇV/LEHUÂ‡WLRQUHTXLUHGIRUOLJKWGXWLHVURXQGÂ‡IHPLQLVWĂ Â‡W or: HELPFUL CAT WANTED : Going on holidâ€˘y? Home offered toâ€˘ good mousecâ€˘tching câ€˘t for 2 weeks. On our worst days, ink spurted out, pages appeared upside down, and Rorschach designs obliterated poems and reports from The Night Cleanersâ€™ Campaign or the Disco Collective at The Crown and Woolpack. Lois threw her hands up and moaned. The overalls she wore every day remained unsullied, while I plunged in to extract a mutilated wax page, spreading ink up P\DUPVDQGVKLUWIURQW:KHQĂ€QDOO\,JDYHLQDQGFDOOHGWKHUHSDLUPDQ/RLV glowered at both of us. It was during this time that my old roommate, Veronica, surfaced. Iâ€™d met KHUEDFNLQZKHQDWHLJKWHHQ,ÂˇGODQGHGP\Ă€UVWMREDVDVHFUHWDU\DWWKH BBC and needed somewhere to live. At that time it was common practice for young women to pack themselves into what had once been elegant Georgian DQG9LFWRULDQKRPHVQRZFRQYHUWHGLQWRĂ DWV2QHRI WKHJURXSSUREDEO\ DQH[SHULHQFHGĂ DWVKDUHUZRXOGKROGWKHOHDVHRIWHQJURZLQJLQWRVRPHWKLQJ of a tyrant as a result of her responsibility for the payment of rent and the XQSUHGLFWDEOHFRPLQJVDQGJRLQJVRI KHUVXEWHQDQWV1HHGLQJDQLPPHGLDWH
base not too far from Shepherdâ€™s Bush, I had called up â€œwant to shareâ€? ads DQGVRRQIRXQGP\VHOI ZDQGHULQJDORQJ.HQVLQJWRQ+LJK6WUHHWPDSLQKDQG searching for Melbury Road. Just past the entrance to Holland Park, I turned into the street of tall, brick houses with bay windows and narrow balconies. With a shiver of excitement, I imagined myself living thereâ€”a sophisticated Londoner setting off each morning to my job at the BBCâ€™s brand new Television Centre. The house I was looking for had once been occupied, according to its blue plaque, by the painter William Holman Hunt. The doorbell buzzed loudly when ,Ă€QJHUHGLWDQG9HURQLFD'XQFDQWKHOHDVHKROGHURSHQHGWKHGRRUFDXWLRXVO\ and peered at me. â€œIâ€™ve come about the vacancy. We talked on the phone. Iâ€™mâ€Śâ€? â€œWell, youâ€™d better come in then.â€? She turned abruptly and trotted, as only a small woman can, up the stairs. 7KHĂ DWVKHWROGPHZDVKRPHWRVL[ZRPHQÂłWKRXJKZHRQO\VSRNHRI â€œgirlsâ€? back thenâ€”and consisted of three large, square rooms, two of which were bedrooms and one the sitting room, plus the kitchen and a small, messy bathroom. â€œThis is where you would sleep,â€? she said, pointing to a single bed in the southeast corner of the room occupied by Veronica herself and a woman named Jo, who wandered in eating a banana. Her surreptitious wink was a reassuring antidote to Veronicaâ€™s vexed explanation of how things worked. She pointed to the carved wardrobe next to what might become my bed and said, over her shoulder, â€œYou can keep your food in there.â€? Dubiously, I eyed the Victorian cupboard with its excess of curlicues, before we marched on to the next stop of the tour. In the kitchen, where I PLJKWKDYHH[SHFWHGWKHIRRGWROLYHOLWWOHZDVLQHYLGHQFH.LWFKHQIRRG,ZDV to discover, was fair gameâ€”even when labeled: Do NOT Eat This Jamâ€”It Belongs To Lydia. Chocolate digestive biscuits, instant coffee, and tins of baked beans (all that any of us consumed) were stashed away under sweaters in drawers or in suitcases under beds. 6KDULQJDĂ DWZLWK9HURQLFDZDVQRWHDV\6KHZDVDZDONLQJEXQGOHRI
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LUULWDWLRQVDQGDPELWLRQV7KHLUULWDWLRQVZHUHXVXDOO\GLUHFWHGDWKHUĂ€YHĂ DW mates (rent late, food rotting, bath dirty);Íž the ambitions were focused fair and VTXDUHRQWKHDULVWRFUDF\9HURQLFDZDQWHGDQXSSHUFUXVWKXVEDQGÂłRQHVKH would meet at Ascot or the powerboat races frequented by playboy earls and viscounts. Accordingly, she was gone all day, working hard for a paycheck to cover the expensive suits and demure twin sets that made her look like the kind of girl those menâ€™s mothers wanted them to marry. Often, she had no money left for food. We were all afraid of her temper, which would rise to spectacular heights when things got out of hand. Once, someone had an Australian friend camping out in the sitting room. Veronica, tormented by the mess, told him several times that he needed to move on until one Saturday morning she picked up armloads RI WKHKLVSRVVHVVLRQVDQGĂ XQJWKHPRYHUWKHEDOFRQ\RQWRWKHVWUHHWEHORZ 7KH ODVW LWHP D UHG VOHHSLQJ EDJ Ă RDWHG GRZQ JUDFHIXOO\ D IHDWKHU RU WZR wafting away on the breeze, as Veronica turned to the astonished guest: â€œNow perhaps you can get it through your thick head what leaving means,â€? she snapped, turning on her heel to stalk into the bathroom, which was the only place you could slam a door with any hope of its staying slammed. 3UHWW\VRRQ,PRYHGRQWRDVPDOOHUĂ DWZLWK-RDQG/\GLDQHYHUH[SHFWLQJ to see Veronica again. It didnâ€™t occur to me that she might succeed in her SXUVXLWRI DEOXHEORRGHGKXVEDQGVR,ZDVVWXQQHGZKHQ,GLVFRYHUHGWKDWVKH had, indeed, snared one: Lord Lucan, known to his friends as â€œLucky Lucanâ€? EHFDXVHRI KLVJDPEOLQJ,FRXOGKDUGO\UHFRQFLOHWKDWKDUULHGWDQWUXPSURQH woman with the glittering Lady Lucan who started appearing on society pages. The lackluster skin I had seen coated with creams and face packs glowed in WKHUHĂ HFWLRQRI GD]]OLQJQHFNODFHVWKHRQFHVWULQJ\EORQGKDLUĂ HZRXWLQD cloud as she rode in what might have been an Aston Martin. Now my job at the workshop guaranteed that I heard about virtually everything in feminist London, especially the more bizarre eventsâ€”and 9HURQLFDÂˇV VKRZLQJ XS DW D VRFLDOLVWIHPLQLVW PHHWLQJ ZDV RQH RI WKH PRVW bizarre. When the women at that meeting discovered she was Lady Lucan,
the grapevine reported that she’d been subjected to a barrage of interrogation about the class system as if she herself had invented it. (When I later moved to the United States, it took me a while to grasp that the ease with which we Brits recognized class backgrounds, as well as the assumptions we made based on them, were not shared by Americans, for whom class was much more negotiable and hardly something to take pride in if you were at the bottom of the ladder.) Veronica had told them that she was powerless. Her title meant nothing. She had no bank account. No way of escaping. Although she wanted to divorce Lord Lucan, who she claimed was violent, she was afraid his family would get FXVWRG\RI WKHLUFKLOGUHQ7KH\KDGDOOWKHLQÁXHQFHVKHKDGQRQH%XWVKHGLG still have a lovely house in Belgravia where her husband no longer lived. She offered to let the feminists use it for meetings. This story rapidly made the rounds;; women passed it along to others in the bookshop or on the stairs to the meeting room;; phone calls lobbed it from Hammersmith to Hackney. But Veronica’s appearance in my world made me uneasy. What kind of idiot would admit to having had a connection with the aristocracy, no matter how long ago—no matter that it was before the lady in question got herself ennobled. Even if I made it clear that I’d never particularly liked her, mightn’t I inadvertently reveal some remnant of the snobbery that KDGEHHQLQVWLOOHGLQPH³LQDOORI XVPLGGOHFODVVJLUOV,GDUHVD\³DVKDELWVRI FODVVZHUHDVGLIÀFXOWWRXSURRWDVEODFNEHUU\EXVKHV,NHSWP\KHDGGRZQDQG hoped the topic would run out of steam. Penny wandered in as she often did after her day as an accountant at D QHDUE\ RIÀFH 8QOLNH WKH XQHPSOR\HG ZRPHQ ZKR KXQJ DURXQG DOO GD\ DW the workshop—the political watchdogs, trend setters, and youthful leaders of popular, though not always intelligent, opinion—Penny was a grown up. She didn’t mind appearing in her decent clothes or disagreeing with the latest outrageous mandate. Nor was she afraid to let her round face relax into genuine friendliness when she liked a person or an idea, even if all those around her were KHGJLQJWKHLUEHWVEHKLQGQHXWUDOLW\RUSUHHPSWLYHGLVDSSURYDO6KHFRXOGEH relied on, too, for the practical approach, especially when ambitious plans were
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EHLQJĂ RDWHGIRUQDWLRQZLGHFDPSDLJQVRULQWHUQDWLRQDOFRQIHUHQFHV3HQQ\ was invariably the one to count the cost, to weigh up the pluses and minuses. 2YHUDFRXSOHRI SLQWVDWWKHSXEDURXQGWKHFRUQHU,FRQĂ€GHGLQKHU DERXWWKH0HOEXU\5RDGĂ DWHPSKDVL]LQJKRZTXLFNO\,KDGPRYHGRQZLWK the only two girls who had become my friends. Penny nodded, apparently unsurprised. We should get in touch and commiserate with Veronicaâ€™s situation, she said;Íž at the very least we The room was me should thank her, on behalf of the movement, for the offer of her house. almost familiar, y Considering this, I drained my tankard and stood underneath the clut XSWREX\DQRWKHUURXQG%XW3HQQ\KDGQÂˇWĂ€QLVKHG, would be the perfect person since I was a movement the untidiness at my worker and had also once known her. the slippers, newspa â€œOh, she wonâ€™t remember me,â€? I said quickly. â€œYeah, right,â€œ she said, giving me a look. dirty plates and pizz
Weak sunshine broke through as Penny and
the surfaces and m revealed not a life t up but one taken ov
I pulled up and plugged the parking meter. When I rapped there was a long wait. Finally, Veronica appeared and hustled us in. A partly open door, a glimpse of a formal dining room wallpapered in dark red, and then we were shooed into a large drawing room furnished ZLWKZLQJDUPFKDLUVDQGVOHQGHUOHJJHGDQWLTXHVLGHWDEOHV6XQEHDPVVODQWHG through motes of dust, which hovered expectantly in the air. A portrait of an HDUOLHU(DUORI /XFDQDEDE\IDFHGPDQLQDUHGMDFNHWKXQJRYHUWKHĂ€UHSODFH The room was messy enough to be almost familiar, yet the bleakness underneath the clutter was nothing like the untidiness at my shared house. Here, the slippers, newspapers, piles of mail, dirty plates and pizza boxes that OLWWHUHGWKHVXUIDFHVDQGPXFKRI WKHĂ RRUUHYHDOHGQRWDOLIHWRREXV\IRU tidying up but one taken over by hopelessness. For a moment, I recalled the
FKDRVRI WKH0HOEXU\5RDGĂ DWZKHUH9HURQLFDKDGRIWHQUHIHUUHGWRWKHUHVWRI XVDVÂ´DEXQFKRI Ă€OWK\SLJVÂľWKRXJKWKDWIHOWLQDSSURSULDWHWRWKLQNDERXWQRZ as I took in the full extent of her deterioration. Emaciated, she looked as if she weighed perhaps ninety pounds. Her hair hung in clumps and needed washing. Her trouser suit was stained with coffee and, judging from the jumbled blankets on the couch, sheâ€™d been sleeping in this room. Penny and I sat on the window seat while essy enough to be Veronica talked. She spoke compulsively, frantically, as if her life depended on saying everything. yet the bleakness â€œHeâ€™s mad you knowâ€”completely mad. He tter was nothing like wants to get the childrenâ€”thinks Iâ€™m not good HQRXJKWREULQJWKHPXSSURSHUO\ÂŤĂ€QDOO\,VDLGZH shared house. Here, had to separate and he moved into the mews around apers, piles of mail, the corner. He went over the edge, you knowâ€”not that he wanted to stay with meâ€”heâ€™s always furious za boxes that littered when I try to go to the club with himâ€”but he just much of the floor, hates to let me stay here alone...â€? , IHOW P\VHOI JURZ QXPE Ă RDWLQJ VRPHZKHUH too busy for tidying distant even while I noted the classic symptoms that ver by hopelessness. feminists had so recently put a name to: Veronicaâ€”a battered wife? I was jolted out of these thoughts when Veronica began to describe Lucanâ€™s physical violenceâ€”beatings and sexual attacks that she said he had perpetrated to the accompaniment of Nazi marching songs. It all struck me as utterly over the top but her agitation and pain were such that I leaned forward and gripped my knees. Veronica took a gulp of air, forcing herself into the present moment, and looked around, dazed. â€œOh, Iâ€™m so sorry,â€? she said in an incongruously high hostess voice. â€œI donâ€™t have anything to offer you. Thereâ€™s no food and I have no money.â€? â€œNo money?â€? said Penny, astonished. â€œOh, I donâ€™t need to eat much,â€? Veronica said vaguely. â€œI canâ€™t get any
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money out of the bank because heâ€™s put some kind of a stop on it. And I donâ€™t have any money of my own.â€? When feminists had described womenâ€™s economic dependence on men, Iâ€™d never pictured a milieu like this. We deferred to the agitated woman and allowed her to do the only thing she could: she telephoned Harrods, where apparently the Earl had forgotten to cancel her account, and ordered a large pizza. As the delivery boy sped away towards Victoria Station, Veronica grabbed a slice and bit off a chunk. Then she put it down on the arm of her chair and forgot it, all the while telling us about Lucanâ€™s dreadful gambling losses and how his friends had ganged up against her. Every once in a while she would pick up another slice from the box and take a bite until the tables and chairs around her were strewn with KDOIHDWHQSLHFHV2QFH,VWUHWFKHGDFURVVDQGWRRNDSLHFHP\VHOIEXWZKHQ 9HURQLFDĂ RSSHGRQWRWKHEODQNHWVZLWKDVWLĂ HGVRE,SXWLWGRZQZLWKKHU leftovers. Penny and I stood up. I wondered if I should go over to Veronica. But what would I do? She would hardly allow me to hug her or even hold her hand. I recognized her acute need of comfort and I knew, too, that it existed alongside a horror of being pitied. Probably someone braver and more spontaneous than I could have gathered her up with loving arms, but I told myself that it would only embarrass her if she had to show us the face she had buried in WKHFXVKLRQV+HUPXIĂ HGZKLPSHULQJGLHGDZD\DQGVKHUHPDLQHGVSUDZOHG FRUSVHOLNHRQWKHVRID â€œDo call if we can do anything,â€? Penny said on her way out of the room. â€œYes,â€? I echoed weakly, â€œDo call.â€?
Close to a year had passed when one evening, ambling through the late
shift at the workshop, I picked up a paper someone had left lying around. At Ă€UVWWKHKHDGOLQHPLJKWKDYHEHHQMXVWWKHQRUPDO(YHQLQJ6WDQGDUGK\SHUEROH Bloody Murder! Escape in the Night! â€”that sort of thing. Then I noticed Lord
Lucanâ€™s name. The police were hunting for the Earl of Lucan who had not been seen since his childrenâ€™s nanny was found the previous night, battered to death at the familyâ€™s home. Lady Lucan had also been viciously attacked and, although beaten bloody, she had escaped and run to the nearby Plumberâ€™s Arms for help. Â´%OLPH\Âľ,JDVSHGVWDULQJDWDSLFWXUHGXJXSIURPQHZVSDSHUĂ€OHV I called Penny, continuing to read the article as I dialed. She had already seen it. â€œSheâ€™s in hospital,â€? she said. â€œHer children were upstairs all the time,â€? I said, â€œand heâ€Śâ€? â€œYes, yes, I know. Stop rabbiting on.â€? We must once again reach out to Veronica, Penny said. But if Iâ€™d been reluctant to get mixed up with Veronica when she was merely an embarrassing relic of my past, now I felt frightened. Â´/LVWHQÂľ,VDLGÂ´PLJKWQÂˇWLWEHDJRRGLGHDWRĂ€QGRXWZKHUHWKHUDELG Lucan has gone to earth before we jump in?â€? It would be mighty unpleasant, I pointed out, to encounter the lead pipe, which had killed the nanny and bloodied Veronica. Penny thought for a moment then agreed that we should wait. That night my mattress felt lumpier than usual and the November air was chilly. Throwing blankets off and pulling them on again, I remembered the big bedroom where Veronica used to curl up in her corner. She never moved and hardly even breathed;Íž certainly no snores ever came from her direction although Jo, in the other corner, sometimes grunted and let out a snort. Had Veronica UHDOO\EHHQXQFRQVFLRXVRUZDVVKHSHUKDSVUHKHDUVLQJWKHUHĂ€QHGVOHHSWKDW might be required when she moved up in the world? I saw Veronicaâ€™s bare legs and her small, white feet;Íž I watched her kick away her slippers and run in a blur of speed;Íž there was terror in those feet as drops of blood from her head spattered across the buttery sandstone of a Belgravia pavement. For a couple of days the papers were full of revelations. On the night of the murder Lucan had visited a friend, talked to his mother, and then gone out gambling. Although it was supposed to have been the nannyâ€™s night off, she had stayed home. Attacked in the dark, Sandra Rivett, who was small and thin
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like Veronica, had most likely been mistaken for her;Íž when Veronica had gone to see what all the noise was about, she too had been assaulted. If he were caught, since he could only be tried by a jury of his peers, there would be a rare and sensational trial in the House of Lords. Then the car he had borrowed that day was found ZLWK D SLHFH RI EORRGVRDNHG OHDG SLSH LQ WKH boot, near the port of Newhaven: presumably heâ€™d escaped to France. The police alerted Interpol with the message: â€œWanted for murder and attempted murder: Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan. Please arrest. Extradition will follow.â€? A few nights later, I had a dream about Veronica: A ship crowded with upper class twits was steaming straight towards a rocky reef with Lady Lucan looking desperately back from the stern . I knew when I saw her face that I too had EULHĂ \ZDQWHGWREHRQERDUGWKDWVKLSGDQFLQJ under the stars. Gambling clubs;Íž racing cars;Íž diamonds. But instead of heading for disaster I was relatively safe on solid rock. It didnâ€™t occur to me then that I had anything at all in common with Veronica but eleven years earlier, when the FUXLVHVKLSP\SDUHQWVZHUHRQKDGFDXJKWĂ€UH and an international rescue effort was under way I, like her, had had to watch my story unfold on TV and on the front page of newspapers along with everyone else in Britain. Almost every day Penny dropped in,
Letter from the author to Victo
oria Duncan, 13 November 1974
speculating about Veronica, who reportedly had left St. Georgeâ€™s Hospital and was in hiding with a detective keeping watch. She wouldnâ€™t give up bugging me about writing to Veronica DQG,EHJDQWRZLVKVKHÂˇGĂ€QGVRPHWKLQJHOVH to do, but Penny had the gift of getting her way through quiet persistence. So I agreed to compose another note. â€œDo you think she really gets her letters?â€? I wondered as we jotted down a few sympathetic sentences. â€œProbably the detectives read everything in caseâ€Śâ€? She trailed away, but I knew the rest: in case the lunatic tried to lure her to some UHPRWH SODFH ZKHUH KH FRXOG Ă€QLVK KHU RII They most certainly ought to be monitoring her mail. Since sending a letter would invite police attention to our political circles, we decided to go to the house and deliver it directlyâ€”though why this seemed preferable escapes me now. We didnâ€™t even know if Veronica was there, but we included both our home phone numbers and sealed the note in an envelope. Then, six days after the murder, we drove through a heavy downpour to 46, Lower Belgrave Street where the door was opened immediately by a man in a shiny suit, whom I took to be a detective. Rain was plastering my hair to my face. â€œIâ€™d like to see Lady Lucan,â€? I said, trying WR DSSHDU FRQĂ€GHQW VXSHULRU DQG HQWLWOHG
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WR ZKDWHYHU , ZDQWHG , Ă€JXUHG WKDWÂˇV ZKDW KH ZRXOG H[SHFW RI D IULHQG RI Veronicaâ€™s. â€œSheâ€™s not available,â€? he said curtly. â€œAnd Iâ€™d like your name, pleaseâ€”and that letter for Lady Lucan too.â€? &ORVHWRIRUW\\HDUVODWHUDUHSRUWHUIRUWKH%%&HPDLOHGPHWRDVN if I was the Judy Barrington who had written a letter to Lady Lucan after the PXUGHU+HKDGIRXQGLWLQWKHSROLFHĂ€OHDQGDIHZGD\VODWHUKHVHQWPHD copy.) The murder became the cause cĂŠlĂ¨bre it would remain for years. Public RSLQLRQKDGVHWWOHGRQWKHWKHRU\FRQĂ€UPHGDWDQLQTXHVWWKDW/XFDQNLOOHG Sandra Rivett by mistake, intending Veronica as his victim. There was a warrant RXWIRUKLVDUUHVWDQGVDOHVRI Â´,ÂˇYHVHHQ/RUG/XFDQÂľ7VKLUWVZHUHEULVNDV sightings popped up all over the world, especially in South Africa and the West Indies. At the inquest, a lone woman walked up and down outside the Coronerâ€™s Court holding up her sign: â€œIt affects us all, rich and poor.â€? There was a steady stream of articles about Lucanâ€™s â€œdistinguishedâ€? EDFNJURXQG LQYDULDEO\ PHQWLRQLQJ WKH JUHDWJUHDW JUDQGIDWKHU ZKR KDG RUGHUHGWKH&KDUJHRI WKH/LJKW%ULJDGHDQGWKHJUHDWJUDQGIDWKHUZKRKDG DVVLVWHGDWWKH&RURQDWLRQRI .LQJ(GZDUG9,,7KHUHZHUHDOVRH[SRVpVRI KLVIXOOWLPHSURIHVVLRQDOJDPEOLQJDWWKH&OHUPRQW&OXEZKHUHKHKXQJRXW with friends who grumbled about the state of England, deploring the fact that white skin no longer held sway. Many of these friends proposed hanging or Ă RJJLQJIRUHLJQHUVDQGVRPHKDGMRLQHGSULYDWHDUPLHVDGYRFDWLQJDPLOLWDU\ coup, or so it was reported later. Over time it came out that Lucan had been on the verge of bankruptcy DQGZDVPDNLQJSODQVWRVHOOWKHIDPLO\VLOYHU$VDER\KHÂˇGĂ€QDJOHGWKHPRQH\ to pay for Eton when his parents, who were among that rare breed, upper class socialists, would have sent him to a grammar school. In one of his many efforts to hit the big time, heâ€™d taken a screen test to become the new James Bond EXWKHWXUQHGRXWWREHPRUHVXLWHGWRUHDOOLIHGLVVLSDWLRQWKDQ+ROO\ZRRG GHUULQJGR7RZDUGVWKHHQGZLWKKLVOHJHQGDU\OXFNUXQQLQJRXWKHÂˇGVHWRII
grimly, day after day, to Berkeley Square where he ate salmon and lamb cutlets for lunch and threw away the last of his fortune at chemin de fer. After delivering the note, we heard nothing from Veronica but Penny and I continued to send notes, gifts of food, and suggestions. As I compiled lists of counselors, shelters, discussion groups, my neck tightened and a headache took root. I knew there wasnâ€™t anything we could offer Veronica;Íž her title, and the manner she had acquired with it, pushed far too many buttons in our circles. Once, I reached her on the phone and she said, â€œOh, good Lord, Judy, ,FRXOGQÂˇWSRVVLEO\VHQGP\FKLOGUHQWRDVWDWHVFKRRO,KDYHWRHQVXUHDSURSHU upbringing for them,â€? which I knew meant schoolsâ€”very expensive schoolsâ€” where her kids would play with the royals. Although she was, in fact, destitute, she didnâ€™t act poor;Íž her status was the one thing she had left to hold on to, and she wasnâ€™t about to relinquish it. Neither Penny nor I could be sure she would be treated well by any other feminist groupâ€”or that she, in turn, would treat them decently. In another phone conversation, I asked about that womenâ€™s meeting sheâ€™d gone to. â€œThey were dreadfully scruffy,â€? she complained. â€œSome of them were even lesbians.â€? I was acutely aware of her exaggerated, plummy accent and my own which now had become something closer to that of a London dockhand than of a Sussex girl educated at a private school. Upper and middle class accents were rapidly disappearing from my community;Íž even the Americans among us were perfecting glottal stops. â€œGoâ€™ a copy of the newsleâ€™a?â€? they would ask, with a faint remnant of Boston or New York under the staccato. I wasnâ€™t sorry to drop her. Penny called two or three more times, but when she got no answer she, too, lapsed and Veronica faded from view. Every now DQGWKHQWKRXJK/RLVSXIĂ€QJXSWKHVWDLUVWRMRLQPHRQWKHPRUQLQJVKLIW would bring up the scandal. It was a scab she couldnâ€™t resist scratching. Â´$Q\WKLQJQHZDERXWWKDW/XFDQZRPDQ"ÂľVKHZRXOGDVNĂ€OOLQJWKHNHWWOH and trying to sound casual. I knew she was poised to strike, no matter what I said. In Loisâ€™s view, poverty was more than an absence of money: it was a
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lifestyle, an attitude, a working class culture—one where I didn’t belong. No matter how rough my accent, how small my shrinking bank account, Lois and ,ZRXOGQHYHU³DWOHDVWQRWLQ%ULWDLQDQGQRWLQWKH·V³ÀQGDZD\LQWR each other’s worlds. “I can’t believe she refused your ‘elp,” Lois grumbled in a rare moment of solidarity with me. “Her Ladyship’s just too good for the likes of us.”
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Returned to the Earth Angela Glover
Cancer: Anything that frets, corrodes, corrupts, or consumes slowly and secretly. ~ The Oxford English Dictionary
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â€œReal or acrylic?â€? the stylist asked. As we sat in Loriâ€™s hair salon, complete ZLWKSRVWHUVL]HGKHDGVRI IDVKLRQDEOHKDLUGRVIUDPHGLQEODFNVKLQ\PHWDO Mom scanned me with a look that was forlorn, willing me to know the answer WRWKHVW\OLVWÂˇVTXHVWLRQ7KHVWHQFKRI URWWHQHJJVĂ€OOHGWKHVSDFHOLNHKHOLXP in a balloon. Not even the tropical sweet smell of hairspray could hold its own DJDLQVWWKHVPHOORI SHUPVLQWKLV3HSWR%LVPROSLQNVSDFHRI SRVVLELOLWLHV She searched my face for a sign of understanding. I shot her back my best â€œbeats the hell out of meâ€? look and proceeded to inform the stylist, Lori, that we were there to try on wigs and that we knew nothing about wigs, except for the Bozo the clown or Elvira kind you could purchase for Halloween. 0RPÂˇVPRXV\EURZQKDLUQRUPDOO\FXUOHGDURXQGKHUKHDGLQWKLFNFKLQ length layers, depending upon when sheâ€™d received her latest permanent. Since she had not grayed prematurely and avoided bikinis, her trips to the salon were for perms, trims, and an occasional pedicure. Her features were angular, and KHUVOHQGHUWDOOIUDPHZDVDOZD\VZHOOGUHVVHGIURPSHUPHGKHDGWRSDLQWHG toe. Today, I secretly wished we were both enduring perms, even if the smell was nauseating. $IWHU VHYHUDO KDLUFXWV 0RPÂˇV VWUDLJKWDVDSLQ KDLU ZDV Ă€QDOO\ SL[LH length. Before this appointment, weâ€™d visited two other establishments that specialized in alternative hair sources, but Loriâ€™s shop was covered by my PRWKHUÂˇV %OXH &URVV%OXH 6KLHOG SROLF\ DQG FRQVHUYLQJ UHVRXUFHV OLNH FDVK was more important than usual, especially since we never knew when they were going to cancel the coverage. As time wore on, the messages from the insurance company seemed to correspond with chemo treatment days, which were reserved for vomiting and itching. There was no time to wait while on KROG DIWHU SUHVVLQJ SRXQG LQ RUGHU WR VSHDN WR D FXVWRPHUVHUYLFH RSHUDWRU in billing. According to her policy, the maximum allowance for prosthetics, including wigs, was two hundred dollars.
0RP KDG HQWHUHG WKH RIĂ€FH RI 'U 0DUWLQ KHU J\QHFRORJLVW RQ D Thursday afternoon. That evening she met me at Jamâ€™s, her favorite restaurant, IRU WKH Ă€UVW RI PDQ\ ODVW VXSSHUV %\ WKH WLPH ZH VDW GRZQ WR GLQH VKHÂˇG already scheduled her surgery and was informing me of the contents of the VDIHGHSRVLWER[DQGWKHK\PQVIURPWKH0HWKRGLVW+\PQDOVKHÂˇGOLNHVXQJ at her funeral: 235 â€œOld Rugged Cross,â€? 363 â€œOn Eagleâ€™s Wings,â€? and 341 â€œAmazing Graceâ€? on the bagpipes, if possible. During her check up, sheâ€™d shared with him the fact that sheâ€™d experienced abdominal bloating and fatigue. Sheâ€™d done some preliminary research on the ZHEVLWHÂ´7DNH&RQWURORI <RXU+HDOWKÂľDQGIRXQGWKDWWKHVHV\PSWRPVĂ€WWKH diagnosis of both cancer and indigestion. The following Thursday, after blood work and a CAT scan, she underwent a complete hysterectomy. She had no need for a second opinion. She wasnâ€™t blessed with a startup case of cancerâ€” KHUVZDVIXOOEORZQVWDJHIRXU&DQFHU7UHDWPHQW&HQWHURI $PHULFDGHSLFWV VWDJHIRXUFDQFHUDVFDQFHUFHOOVWKDWKDYHVSUHDGLQWRRWKHURUJDQVVXFKDVWKH OLYHUOXQJRULQWHVWLQHVDQGSRVVLEO\RWKHUO\PSKQRGHV7KHĂ€YH\HDUVXUYLYDO UDWHDWVWDJHIRXULVSHUFHQW0RPKDGĂ RDWHUVLQWKHDEGRPLQDOFDYLW\DQG spots that had metastasized onto the liver and the lungs. Cancerâ€”anything that frets, corrodes, corrupts, or consumes slowly and secretly. The big â€œCâ€? had silently moved in. As I sat alone with her surgeon after the operation in the small chapel DGRUQHGZLWKEULJKWVWDLQHGJODVVDQGUHGOHDWKHUFKDLUV,WULHGWRFRXQWKRZ many times he used the word cancer: â€œYour mother has cancer. She has ovarian cancer. The cancer will slowly consume her lungs and liver.â€?
Counting is one of my coping strategies. I started using it as a kid. My PRPWKHSURDFWLYHWKLUGJUDGHWHDFKHULQWURGXFHGPHWRLWDVDZD\WRFXUE anxiety: â€œCount to 10 and then breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth for sixty seconds.â€? Little did she know that I rarely stopped at 10
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DQGWKDWWKHUHZHUHRWKHUFXUHVIRUREVHVVLYHFRPSXOVLYHGLVRUGHU2IWHQWLPHV ,ÂˇG Ă€QG P\VHOI KLWWLQJ EHIRUH ,ÂˇG EUHDWKH LQ MXVW WR EH VXUH , ZDV UHDOO\ calm. As I aged, not only did I add the challenge of counting by threes, I began to count thingsâ€”rows in an auditorium, chairs in the rows, ears on the people sitting in the rows, and so on. According to â€œTake Control of Your Health,â€? the website that told my mom she either had cancer or indigestion, I could have been taking any number of medications for this disorder, but counting became a way to disengage, a way to disassociate, a way to regroup, and I was thankful for it. Counting came in handy as I was sitting in the chapel, but it wasnâ€™t stopping the room from spinning. So I engaged the second coping strategy sheâ€™d introduced me to, which was word association. Cancer has six letters, two vowels, two â€œcâ€? and an â€œerâ€? ending. The words â€œcanâ€? â€œanâ€? â€œraceâ€? â€œaceâ€? and â€œearâ€? can be made out of its letters. :KHQVKHDZRNHLQKHUSULYDWHURRPSRVWVXUJHU\JURJJ\DQGQDXVHRXV IURP DQHVWKHVLD WKH Ă€UVW RI PDQ\ EHVHHFKLQJ ORRNV SDOHG KHU IDFH Â´,V \RXU brother here, and am I okay?â€? spilled from her lips as she gripped my hands with weakened strength. Two strikes, and I wasnâ€™t sure which one to hit her with Ă€UVWÂ´1RW\HWDQGQRÂľ0\PLQGUDFHGZLWKSRVVLEOHUHVSRQVHVÂ´+H\0RP JXHVVZKDW"<RXDUHDĂ€QHFDQGLGDWHIRUFKHPRWKHUDS\DQG\RXZLOOQRORQJHU need to visit the salon on a regular basis for perms.â€? Or â€œjust think how much money you will save by being bald. Perhaps it will be enough to pay for your prescriptions when your insurance and savings account are depleted after the six months they have given you to live.â€? No amount of sarcastic or tasteless humor would allow me to pull this one off. We sat still and silent as the suffocating $MD[OLNHRGRURI WKHVWHULOHKRVSLWDOURRPSHUPHDWHGRXUSRUHV
Once Mom arrived home to recuperate, we settled her into her makeshift EHGURRPORFDWHGLQWKHOLYLQJURRPRQWKHĂ€UVWĂ RRURI KHUWZRVWRU\WRZQKRXVH After assembling a makeshift nightstand out of a TV tray, so sheâ€™d have a place
to hold her various meds and a mirror for proper wig placement, my brother Leeâ€”visiting from Texasâ€”and I offered to shave our heads in solidarity. Iâ€™d always been intrigued with the sleek shiny skulls of the super models who GDUHGVXFKUHEHOOLNHIDVKLRQVWDWHPHQWV%XW0RPLQIRUPHGERWKRI XVWKDW sheâ€™d seen our lumpy bumpy heads as babies and that it would not be a wise decision. Later that day, in the privacy of my own bathroom, I pulled the leg of a pair of pantyhose onto my head just to see what the effect would be;Íž as usual, she was right: still lumpy even with hair.
+HUĂ€UVWKDLUFXWSUHFKHPRRFFXUUHGLQKHUNLWFKHQ7ULQLP\KDLUGUHVVHU PDGHDKRXVHFDOODQGWULPPHGWKHWKLQQLQJOD\HUVQRZVWLFNVWUDLJKWLQWRD fetching shag. Mom nervously pushed and patted her locks, trying to get them WRĂ XII XSEXWLQVWHDGWKH\MXVWKXJJHGWKHVLGHVRI KHUKHDGOLNHDPDJQHW sticking to a refrigerator. After she started chemo, showers produced handfuls of hair and soon we were calling her Patch. She received hats, turbans, and scarves in every color from friends and students. Her favorite was a pink baseball cap sporting the phrase â€œbad hair day.â€? But soon even the hat could QRW EH DGMXVWHG WLJKW HQRXJK WR Ă€W KHU EDOGLQJ VFDOS :LQWHU ZDV VHWWLQJ LQ and she needed to retain as much body heat as possible. Hence, after multiple SKRQH FDOOV WR 3DPÂłRXU QHZ IULHQG DW %OXH&URVV%OXH6KLHOG ZKR TXLFNO\ helped reinstate the insurance policy that seemed to be getting canceled every RWKHUPRQWKGXHWRGHGXFWLEOHVEHLQJH[FHHGHGÂłZHĂ€OOHGRXWWKHSUHDSSURYDO paperwork for prosthetics, secured the physicianâ€™s signature, and scheduled the appointment at Loriâ€™s salon. For a brief period, the headache of dealing with insurance became less than the cold ache of a baldhead.
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Back at Loriâ€™s salon I replied, â€œReal?â€? with a questioning tone. â€œGoodâ€? she answered, â€œThe head doesnâ€™t sweat as much when the wig is made out of real hair. Youâ€™ll want Eastern European hair as opposed to Asian, it lasts longer and feels softer to the touch. It is able to breath. But they are more expensive.â€? ([SHQVLYHZDVDQXQGHUVWDWHPHQWVL[KXQGUHGEXFNVSUHFDQFHUZRXOG have covered at least a yearâ€™s worth of perms, trims, and probably a couple of pedicures. Lori informed us that acrylic wigs can be awfully hot, but are far more affordable if your policy doesnâ€™t cover prosthetics. Mom sat still and stiff in the chair. Lori brought out box after box of wigs. Long hair, short hair, red, blonde, brunette, gray, and black. Mom hated them all. As I tried one on attempting to joke her back to her jovial self, she turned into Niagara Falls. Seeing the tears streaming down her face, I too began to leak like a broken damn. Oddly enough, WKHĂ€UVWWHDUV,VDZP\PRWKHUFU\DIWHUEHLQJGLDJQRVHGZLWKFDQFHUZHUHRYHU the loss of her hair. As we wept together, the sulfuric smell of the shop enveloped us. It was DOPRVWDVVWLĂ LQJDVWKHKRVSLWDOEXWWKHQDZKLII RI VRPHWKLQJFDOPLQJĂ€OOHG the air. Lori brought out a wig that looked likeâ€”wellâ€” some sort of rodent and smelled like fresh earth. She was holding an item that ought to be crawling out RI DVHZHULQVWHDGRI DGRUQLQJD6W\URIRDPKHDG,WUHVHPEOHG0RPÂˇVPRXV\ EURZQKDLUSUHFKHPRH[FHSWLWORRNHGOLNHWKHFRDWRI DUDW6DPHFRORULQJ VDPH WH[WXUH 6KH SODFHG LW XSRQ 0RPÂˇV KHDG WXJJLQJ SXOOLQJ DQG Ă XIĂ€QJ She trimmed a little off the sides, curled the bangs, ratted the back, and to each of our wonder Mom looked like Momâ€”well maybe not a mirror imageâ€”but GDPQFORVH7KH5DWEURXJKWDSX]]OHGORRNWRKHUIDFHEHIRUHVKHĂ DVKHGD genuine smile. The walls of the salon seemed less glaring. The Pepto pink had paled to that of a peony in the spring. Lori instructed us on how to wash and style the real hair wig. It required quality product, so the days of purchasing Suave at the .PDUWEOXHOLJKWVSHFLDOZHUHRYHU5HPRYLQJWKHZDUP5DWIURP0RPÂˇVKHDG
/RULGHPRQVWUDWHGKRZWRĂ€WLWRQWRWKH6W\URIRDPPDQLNLQKHDGZLWKZLJ SLQV$IWHUĂ€OOLQJRXWWKHĂ€QDOLQVXUDQFHIRUP,FDXJKWP\VHOI VWDULQJDWWKH Rat on top of Momâ€™s head, which had suddenly taken on a life of its own. Its presence conjured in me optimism and trepidationâ€”feelings of both hope for recovery and dread of what was more likely yet to come. Stopping for lunch at -DPÂˇV0RPVHOIFRQVFLRXVO\Ă€GGOLQJZLWKWKH5DWDWRSKHUKHDGRUGHUHGWKH usualâ€”fried chicken coconut salad. It was the one thing that still tasted good to her. $WKRPHWKHGLOLJHQWWKLUGJUDGHWHDFKHUSUDFWLFHGDSSO\LQJWKH5DWWR KHUYDFDQWVFDOS,WULHGLWRQPRGHOLQJLW&LQG\&UDZIRUGVW\OHGRZQWKHVWDLUV and onto the runway of the living room, carefully dodging the nightstand that held rows of prescription bottles, lemon drops, Saltines, and Curel lotion. 7KHĂ€UVWGD\VKHZRUHWKH5DWWRZRUNVKHUHFHLYHGVWDUHVWKDWDSSHDUHG WRRIIHUV\PSDWK\HPSDWK\RUVRPHWKLQJHOVH7KHVHZHUHWKHĂ€UVWRI PDQ\ encounters shared with those who had never dealt with cancer, survived cancer, or lost someone to cancer. The looks either connected with or repelled the human spirit. Those who had never dealt with it looked on with fear, denial, or, worse yet, unrealistic optimism. â€œYouâ€™ll be back to your old self in no time.â€? Even though this was meant to be positive, these folks had no fucking idea the old self was dead, never to be embodied again. 2QFHWKHZRUGVÂ´\RXKDYHFDQFHUÂľDUHXWWHUHGWKHIHDURI DUHGLDJQRVLV LVHYHUSUHVHQWÂ´$IWHU'LDJQRVLV$*XLGHIRU3DWLHQWVDQG)DPLOLHVÂľSXEOLVKHG by the American Cancer Society, claims the second diagnosis is the hardest;Íž it FRQĂ€UPVWKHGLVHDVHLVQÂˇWJRLQJDZD\DQGWKDWFDQFHULVWKHQHZVHOI DQGWKH new way of life. â€œWhat can I do to help?â€? is another repeated refrain. The response I gave to these people was simple: â€œRemember she has cancer six months from now.â€? Explaining to the eager hospital visitor that she was resting and that a visit at home in a couple weeks might be a better way to â€œhelpâ€? brought about irritation and frustration with many folks, especially those who ZHUHWKHUHWREHVHHQZKLFKRIWHQWLPHVLQFOXGHGWKHLQGLYLGXDOVZKRĂ€OOHGWKH pews at momâ€™s Presbyterian church on Sunday morning.
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The survivors looked on with knowing glances peppered with inspiration and fear. These glances were shared during fundraisers, award ceremonies, and support groups. They projected an understanding, but usually were far too consumed with staying alive themselves to reach out to us. Those who had lost someone to cancer either looked down, looked away, or looked directly into the soul while nonverbally unveiling what was yet to come. When Mom was safely back in her classroom, she began to tell her students of the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day sheâ€™d encountered, which was much worse than Alexanderâ€™s bad day in Judith Viorstâ€™s childrenâ€™s book by the same name. When she got to the part about chemotherapy, she removed her wig and showed them her bald head, one of the few times the Rat came off in public. They gently touched her bare scalp. They petted the Rat. They asked her if she was going to die.
$VKHUKDLUVORZO\JUHZEDFNĂ€QDOO\JUD\LQJLQKHUHDUO\VVKHNHSWWKH Rat around just in case she needed its protective forces. The next ten versions of chemo she received over the following six years surprisingly did not cause hair loss. Although, it did cause the skin on her hands and feet to burn and peel, her mouth to dry up like dirt, and her mood to dip into depression from time to time, which according to â€œTaking Control of Your Healthâ€? could also be symptoms of eczema. :LWKWKHĂ€UVWGLDJQRVLVFRPHVWKHKRSHRI UHFRYHU\ With the second comes the disappointment of accepting the nagging fear of loss. No amount of insurance or help from friends can penetrate this sense of impending doom. Not even the security provided by the Rat held the promise of hope anymore. My mom, the poster child for faith and healing through humor, attempted to give new meaning to the word survival until Tuesday, October 8, when, in the midst of liver and lung failure, she uttered her last words to me in DVLQJVRQJLVKYRLFHÂ´/RYH\RXEXQFKHVÂľ
$V,FRQWLQXHGWRXQSDFNER[HVLQP\JDUDJHQLQH\HDUVDIWHUWKHĂ€UVW visit to the salon, I stumbled upon a box labeled â€œMomâ€™s meds.â€? In it I found stool softener, Visine, and tubes of Curel, brown prescription bottles from the Millard Pharmacy full of Oxycontin, Zoloft, and Xanax, and tucked deep down in the corner under a golden hospital bedpan, the Rat. This time I cried alone. I yearned to touch my Momâ€™s bald head one more time. To tie a scarf at the nape of her neck, or position a ball cap above her ears. To stick the Rat on her head. Of all the things she left me, the Rat is the one item I had to part with. ,FRQVLGHUHGUHF\FOLQJLWWKURXJKRQHRI WKHPDQ\FDQFHUVXSSRUWSURJUDPV EXWGHFLGHGLQVWHDGWRUHER[LWSURSHUO\VHFXULQJLWWRLWV6W\URIRDPKHDG Placing it next to the trashcan on Thursday morning, it stood bravely by the curb, ready to face its own return to the earth.
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Benjamin Â Vogt Â
/DVWVXPPHURQDVHFRQGVPDOOHUĂ XVKRI Ă RZHUVRQP\Âś5HG5RFNVÂˇ penstemon, a hummingbird was jumping from bloom to bloom. It was late evening, just before dusk. In that faint light it looked completely brown with no visible colors one would expect on a hummingbirdâ€”no silvery reds or greens, not even in pockets. I was astounded, though, to have it in my little porch garden. 0RQDUFKVDQGDVVRUWHGEXWWHUĂ LHVEXPEOHEHHVKRQH\EHHVVSLGHUVRI DOOVL]HV lightning bugs, these were all well and good but were now so commonplace Iâ€™d expected them. I hadnâ€™t expected a hummingbird. As I stopped my deadheading to watch it, I knew that this would be brief. A hummingbird has to visit hundreds RI Ă RZHUVLQDGD\WRNHHSLWVHQHUJ\XSZLWKLWVSHQFLOKHDGRI DKHDUWEHDWLQJ at ten times per second. It darted, it weaved, it was preciseâ€”like some sort of pneumatic piston pulling and pushing out of its shaft. It was this aligned to its business. :KDWÂˇVUHDOO\DPD]LQJLI \RXVWRSWRWKLQNDERXWLWLVWKDWLWĂ HZEDFNZDUGV 7KLQNDERXWWKDW:KDWĂ LHVEDFNZDUGV"$QGZKHQDFUHDWXUHIRUH[DPSOHD mammal, moves backwards, itâ€™s a sign of fear, or apprehension, or
submissionâ€”this was anything but;Íž it was singular purpose. Hummingbirds FDQÂˇW RQO\ Ă \ EDFNZDUGV WKH\ FDQ DOVR Ă \ XSVLGH GRZQ SHUKDSV WR JHW DW GDQJOLQJ WUXPSHW Ă RZHUV ,Q DQ\ FDVH IRU WKH IHZ PLQXWHV WKDW WKLV ELUG RYHUJURZQ LQVHFW ZDV DW P\ Ă RZHUVÂłRU RXU Ă RZHUVÂł, NQHZ QRWKLQJ HOVH but this one creature and act. Time seemed to stand still. But how ironic that while for me time was moving so slowly, for this hummingbird the record was spinning at a thousand rpm. Iâ€™ve read that the frantic metabolism of hummingbirds is such that at night, when they rest, their heart rate plummets to keep up their energy stores, EXWDOVRGXHWRWKHH[KDXVWLRQRI WKHLUWULSVWRDOOWKRVHĂ RZHUV7KRXJKWKH\ are highly territorial on only, say, a quarter acre of land, at night their biggest enemy is themselves. Many hummingbirds die in their sleep as their hearts thump to an inaudible stop. While they dream, if they dreamâ€”and how couldnâ€™t theyâ€”the world slows to an almost imperceptible pace. The sky, the garden, the bed, the penstemon, the stamen, the moment. 0\Ă€UVWH[SHULHQFHVZLWKJDUGHQVZHUHZLWKP\JUDQGPRWKHULQZHVWHUQ Oklahoma. Sheâ€™d lived there most of her life, granddaughter of German LPPLJUDQWV LQ WKH ÂˇV ZKR VHWWOHG Ă€UVW LQ .DQVDV DORQJ WKH UDLOURDG lines, then when Oklahoma opened to homesteaders (at the expense of the Cheyenne), they landed on inexpensive virgin farmland, the last of the prairie. My grandmaâ€™s house, nestled in the middle of a town of around 7,500 people, didnâ€™t have a garden per se;Íž it did have an apple tree, a peach tree, and a line of honeysuckle bushes along the garage. She showed me how to carefully lift the VWDPHQRXWRI WKHĂ RZHUÂˇVFRQHDQGWKHQWDVWHZKDWWKHPDQ\KXPPLQJELUGV did. I actually donâ€™t remember seeing any hummingbirds there, at least not outside, though she insisted they came frequently to the honeysuckle and her many red feeders. Pretty much all of them could be found inside my grandmaâ€™s house: on drinking glasses, dinner plates, fridge magnets, decorative plates on
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magazine pages slipped into books and drawers and photo albums, in placemats DQGFDOHQGDUVDQGIX]]\KDOIUHDOORRNLQJPRGHOVLQDSHQWKDWLI LQYHUWHGZRXOG KDYHDVLOKRXHWWHĂ RDWWRWKHWRSLQEDWKWRZHOVLQ a pinwheel with spinning wings ready to be placed I have to imagine that on outsideâ€”oh, grandma liked hummingbirds. No some deep, metaphorical, one knows why, which makes it all the more philosophical, Freudian interesting to venture a calculated guess or two. I have to imagine that on some deep, level, the hummingbird metaphorical, philosophical, Freudian level, the was my grandmother: its hummingbird was my grandmother: its frantic frantic work and seemingly work and seemingly stagnate or limited mobility, stagnate or limited its pace to just break even, its thirst that canâ€™t quite be quenched. Maybe grandma, in her good mobility, its pace to just Mennonite German way, saw in this one slice break even, its thirst that RI QDWXUHÂłDPRQJWKHYDVWĂ€HOGVRI 2NODKRPD canâ€™t quite be quenched. DQG WKH Ă DW KRUL]RQÂłD SRVVLELOLW\ D VLVWHU 6KH couldnâ€™t very well take up and leave her three sons and husband, she couldnâ€™t not milk cows, clean chickens, cook three meals a day, clean the house, mend clothes, and all those other chores most of us donâ€™t have to worry about. Her movement each day was constant and frantic, and yet she didnâ€™t go too far from KRPH0D\EHVKHYHQWXUHGRXWLQWRWKHĂ€HOGVZKHUHKHUIDPLO\ZRUNHGRURQFH took a tour of the slaughterhouse where her young husband was employed right after they were married. Maybe a few trips â€œto townâ€? for Sunday lunch and to buy some small new thing, but the work of life was clearly centered on one VPDOOSODFHRI WKHSODQHWDQGKXPPLQJELUGVWKRXJKWKH\YLVLWPDQ\Ă RZHUVLQ DVLQJOHGD\NHHSWRDVSHFLĂ€FDUHDDQGWKHQIRFXVLQWHQWO\RQRQHEORRPDWD time. Perhaps grandma saw, too, something unique. The colors and the speed and size of a hummingbird is pretty much the antithesis of plains living: wide open spaces, â€œslowerâ€? pace of life, greens and browns year round depending on the season and rain fronts. Life was muted, perhaps, and the hummingbird
is anything but. When she was older, and she and her family of teenage boys moved into town, she must have been happier with the shade of suburban trees and abundant water supply for colorful plants. Like I said, she had honeysuckle, a peach tree, and a few other things, but there was color and depth to the darkness of greens and the shade of oaks. Even later, with her body slowing down, perhaps the mobility of the KXPPLQJELUGZDVVRPHWKLQJWRHQY\0D\EHLWVIRUPZDVKHUPLQGĂ XWWHULQJ DQGERRPLQJDQGGDUWLQJVWLOOEXVLQHVVZRPDQVKDUSIURPKHUUHDOW\DQGODQG development days. More likely, I suppose, it was an old lady eccentricity along the lines of souvenir spoons and belt buckles or a hundred other thingsâ€”just something to keep her occupied. These speculations can go on all day, but each has to have some truth to it. When we cleaned out my grandmotherâ€™s house for her move into the nursing home, I came across thousands of black and white pictures dating back to the 1880s, and that drab stillness was deep and haunting like the landscape. When she passed away a few months ago we hit the nursing home room and found boxes of potential gifts in mail order boxesâ€”dried Ă RZHUVLQJODVVSDSHUZHLJKWVWHDVHWVDQGKXPPLQJELUGPDJQHWV6KHNHSW going, buying things sheâ€™d never give and, truth be told, weâ€™d never want. But now I do. Iâ€™ll miss my family in Minnesota turning off the video camera at Christmas while we opened her gifts, thinking she might see this some day. I GRQÂˇWUHPHPEHUKRZPDQ\YDULRXVELUGĂ€JXULQHVWKHJUDQGFKLOGUHQUHFHLYHG over the course of our childhood, but on my fridge is a hummingbird magnet she had in the nursing home (saved from the trash), and on my bookshelf, a Ă€YHLQFKWDOOĂ€JXUHRI DJUHHQDQGUHGKXPPLQJELUGZLQJVVSUHDGLQDÂ´9Âľ DQGEDODQFHGDERYHDUHGĂ RZHU,WVEHDNLVDOPRVWWRXFKLQJDODUJHRUDQJH VWDPHQSURWUXGLQJIURPWKHĂ RZHUÂˇVFHQWHUWKHQHFWDUMXVWRXWRI UHDFKWKLV hopeful hopelessness frozen like a memory we can never go back to, but try frantically to regardless.
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Although the whimsical graffito (captured by Managing Editor Spenser Stevens in Florence) might suggest otherwise, we are grateful to the following writers who were willing to take a chance on a new journal and share their work with you:
JUDITH BARRINGTON is the author of three volumes of poetry including
Horses and the Human Soul, and two chapbooks including Postcard from the Bottom of the Sea. Her Lifesaving: A Memoir won the Lambda Book Award and her Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art is a bestseller in the USA, Germany, and Australia. She is on the faculty of the University of Alaska’s MFA program.
KATE FLAHERTY has worked as associate editor at Ploughshares magazine and
screener for Best American Short Stories. She has published stories and essays in literary magazines across the country, and chapters of her memoir, What I Didn’t Do (currently in circulation), have appeared or are forthcoming in &UHDWLYH1RQÀFWLRQ, Louisville Review, You Must Be This Tall To Ride, and Prairie Schooner.
ANGELA GLOVERâ€™s writing has appeared in The Mochilla Review, The Sequel, and Eureka
Studies Teaching Short Fiction. Her manuscript, All Skate, Now Reverse, a collection of fourteen essays and images, is about growing up in the Midwest. As a collective work, it seeks to convey a greater truth about how family and place inform identity while exploring the crevices of liminal space. A Nebraska native, Glover was selected by the Willa Cather Foundation to be their writer in residence, where she lead a series of prairie workshops while staying in the Harling house, made famous in Catherâ€™s My Antonia. Glover is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Center Director at Midland University.
RICHARD KLINâ€™s writing has been featured on NPRâ€™s All Things Considered and has
appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, the Forward, Parabola, Moment, The Bloomsbury Review, online at January and Jewcy, and others. His book, Something to Say, is available from Leapfrog Press. He lives in New York Stateâ€™s Hudson Valley.
LEE MARTIN has published three memoirs, most recently, Such a Life. He is also the
author of four novels, including Break the Skin and The Bright ForeverDĂ€QDOLVWIRUWKH Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. He teaches in the MFA program at The Ohio State University.
MADELEINE MYSKOâ€™s work, both poetry and prose, has been published in such
journals as The Hudson Review, Shenandoah, and Bellevue Literary Review. Her novel, Bringing Vincent Home, is based on her experiences as an Army nurse on the burn ward during the 9LHWQDP :DU 6KH VHUYHV DV FRRUGLQDWLQJ HGLWRU IRU WKH Â´5HĂ HFWLRQVÂľ FROXPQ RI American Journal of Nursing.
RICHARD TERRILL is the author of two collections of poems, Almost Dark
and Coming Late to Rachmaninoff, winner of the Minnesota Book Award;Íž as well as two ERRNVRI FUHDWLYHQRQĂ€FWLRQFakebook: Improvisations on a Journey Back to Jazz and Saturday Night in Baoding: A China Memoir, winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award IRU1RQĂ€FWLRQ+HKDVEHHQDZDUGHGIHOORZVKLSVIURPWKH1DWLRQDO(QGRZPHQWIRU the Arts, the Wisconsin and Minnesota State Arts Boards, the Jerome Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Bread Loaf Writersâ€™ Conference. He has taught as a Fulbright SURIHVVRULQ&KLQD.RUHDDQG3RODQGDQGFXUUHQWO\WHDFKHVFUHDWLYHQRQĂ€FWLRQDQG poetry writing in the MFA program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he is a Distinguished Faculty Scholar.
BENJAMIN VOGT is the author of the poetry collection Afterimage (SFA University
Press,2012), as well as two chapbooks: Without Such Absence (Finishing Line Press) and Indelible Marks (Pudding House). He has two unpublished memoirs â€”Morning Glory: A Story of Family & Culture in the Garden, and Sleep, Creep, Leap: The First Three Years of a Nebraska Garden (self published). He is also at work on Turkey Red: Memoirs of Oklahoma. Volume 1, Issue 1. Winter 2013
An online journal that celebrates research-driven creative nonfiction -- prose and poetry that make facts into art and information into stor...