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Archive for the ‘The 70’s’ Category

Grasshole. 5/5/15

In PRINTED, The 70's, Writing on May 2, 2014 at 8:41 pm

It was 1972, and I was almost  done with the fifth grade. It was a week until the last day of school, and I had just finished serving a detention I’d gotten for passing a note to my friend Toni during a social studies reel-to-reel about the Great Depression.

The gist of the note was that I wouldn’t be able to go to the movies with her this weekend because I was dying of boredom and would be dead by the end of the film. I also said I hoped those weren’t Mrs. Leary’s pubic hairs trapped in the corners of the screen. Writing the note had been the only thing between me and a desk nap.

Mrs. Leary seized my note and read it aloud with a ‘tsk, tsk’ The class loved it,and there was wave after wave of laughter, which incensed the teacher- it took a few minutes to restore order, but I hadn’t intended my note to become public. I did receive many high fives in the hallway after the dismissal bell, and Chad Weed called it a ‘masterpiece’ But I had to pay the piper, as school children often do.

I was firmly relegated to stay an hour in detention, which I chose to serve that day (to get it over with) trudging back into the ‘cell’ after watching all of my lucky comrades leave for the day. I was all by myself in the very room I’d been held hostage in in the first place, where I sat tapping a pencil on the desk. I couldn’t even apply my signature graffiti to the desk, as I had broken the tip off the pencil with all the tapping. I tried sharpening it by picking at it with my nails which had little, if any, effect other than breaking off several nails, which I  flicked off the desk like paper footballs. Lastly, I resorted to inspecting the strands of my long hair for split ends, and wondered what the point of the detention really was. The only thing it really taught me was that I needed to use better creme rinse.

Upon release (with yet another teacher’s lecture about my ‘potential’ *big sigh*) I walked through the Wolfpit school parking lot, which was practically empty. I headed up the hilly driveway to Dorset Drive. The sun beat down on my faded jean jacket, and a sense of almost unbearable boredom permeated the day-the cloudless blue sky, the faint buzz of electrical wires my only companion. I didn’t even see any cars pass by.

When I got to the end of Dorset, I crossed over the far left side of the Wilson’s yard. From there I could hop the stone wall, and get home faster than if went around. My house was behind the Wilson’s, on the other side of the stone wall. I was dying of thirst, and hoped my brothers hadn’t jacked the last of the Kool-Aid. About three quarters of the way to the wall, I heard a shrill voice.

“HEY! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”

It was Priscilla-‘Prissy’ Wilson- the older sister of Gary Wilson, who was in my grade, but not my class, at Wolfpit. I looked over and saw her standing by her dark blue Volkswagen Bug, keys in hand. Prissy was a witchy looking thing- bony, with the posture of a question mark, a hook nose and the body of Olive Oyl. Even her voice grated.

“What??” I asked, unsure of what was going on. I looked behind me just to be sure she was addressing me.

“STAY OFFA OUR LAWN!” she shrieked. “GO AROUND!” She pointed towards the end of the street, indicating the route she thought I should have taken.

What a freakin’ bitch! Like she really cared whether or not someone walked on her raggedy-ass lawn. Obviously, she was channeling the cranky senior citizen she would no doubt become.  I could easily picture her an old, hunched backed woman, a few decades down the line. She’d peer out of her dusty bay window, waiting for the big moment when some kid cut across her grass, then she’d bang on the window with her bony fists and scream ‘Offa The Lawn!’ until she was hoarse. Or until the kitchen timer rang and she could go check on the children cooking in her oven.

I wanted to say  ‘What’s the big whiff anyway, dumb-ass?!’ but being a fifth grader while she was in high school put me at a great disadvantage, should anything go down. Meanwhile, the Wilson’s lawn was half  dandelions, half crabgrass, and wasn’t going to win any awards anytime soon. It may have been news to Prissy, but Jack Nicklaus wasn’t going to show up and practice his swing, mistaking it for a golf course. Disney World wasn’t going to display any world-class topiary animals on this lawn. It was mediocre, at best. Certainly,  a fifth grader cutting through the yard wasn’t going to make any difference.

Still, Prissy was wound up. She pointed a car key in my direction, holding it like a switchblade, stabbing at the air. She looked ridiculous with her strange halting jabs, and I couldn’t help but smirk.

“Oh- ya think it’s funny?” she cawed. Yup! You should come over here and look at yourself. It’s hilarious.

“I’ll beat your ass!” she croaked. Yeah? I’d beat yours too, if ya had one!

Even though I was somewhat intimidated- after all Prissy was old enough to drive, practically a grown-up, I couldn’t resist: I held my middle finger up, proudly, like Billy Jack held up his fist at the end of a movie. I knew I’d be burning a bridge for this particular shortcut, but I didn’t give a damn.

Prissy gasped audibly, took one, maybe two, steps forward, but went no further. I was twice her size, but few people over the age of ten weren’t. She began yelling: “YOU STUPID B**CH!”, and on and on, her shrill voice cutting through the afternoon lull like a weed-whacker. Her eyes became goldfish like with rage, furtive and bulging. I pictured her and her in a twenty-gallon tank,  shrieking in a garbled, bubble filled rant to the ceramic skin-diver ‘Get offa my gravel!’ Gurgle. Gurgle.  I imagined I could see the vein in her neck pulsating. She was crazed. One thing about this skank: she sure loved grass!

When she  finally blew out her vocal chords, she stood with her hand on her hip, breathing heavily, her crooked stance doing nothing for her already unfortunate looks. She had run out of steam, and I suddenly became certain that she wouldn’t have the guts to come any closer. I turned around casually, walked the six feet to the stone wall, hiked myself up and over , and landed in my own shady backyard. Of course, Prissy began shouting again, now that I was on the other side of the stone wall barrier, so I gave her a bonus middle finger salute, my hand wiggling back and forth like crazy this time, from my side of the wall. I was weirdly energized, excited even! I couldn’t wait to get inside the house and call Toni. She hated Prissy Wilson as well (was it something about Prissy almost running her over in the school parking lot while picking up Gary one day? I hadn’t really paid attention, but I would now) We could commiserate and really tear Prissy a new one, I thought as I entered the kitchen through the back door and swung open the refrigerator. Just as soon as I made a new pitcher of Kool-Aid…..

Smoke Signals

In The 70's on September 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm

   There was a snack bar in a small white shack that sold fifty-cent hot dogs, hamburgers for a dollar, and french fries in red-and-white checked cardboard sleeves. Glass bottles of soda were hauled up, glistening wet and freezing, from an ice-filled fishing cooler on the floor. Behind the counter, propped up on a shelf was a display of sweet fare: Hostess cupcakes with their signature white swirl, pink, coconut flecked Sno-Balls, Cracker Jacks and Slim Jims. There were scooter Pies, Devil Dogs, and big, mushy oatmeal cookies that no one ever bought unless  under the thumb of a parent who thought because they LOOKED like oatmeal cookies, they were healthy. The candy section was a sweet-tooth lover’s dream: Candy Necklaces, Pixie Stix, Razzles, Bubblegum Cigars, Sweet Tarts and Necco Wafers. If that wasn’t enough to cause the Surgeon General to catch  a heart attack, there were cartons of cigarettes piled high, ripped open hastily, their jagged cardboard edges hanging forward like tongues, the Marlboros, Newports and Virginia Slims sold at a hefty mark-up. (One dollar, as opposed to fifty-five cents. Scandalous!)

A large gray box- fan oscillated from its precarious perch on a bar stool off to the right, as a matching one blew from the opposite direction. This caused the teenagers on duty to look like were diving for dollars in a wind machine (which they often were, as the wind ripped unsecured dollar bills around like kites) There was no cash register, so the line would be longer or shorter depending on the math skills of said teens handling the money. A long line screamed ‘Fundamental Math’ at best, while a short one bode well for future accountants. I could never figure out why the shack didn’t spring for a ribbon calculator (I’d seen some on sale for under a hundred bucks in the Sears catalog), something I thought passionately about while my feet burned in the scorching sand, standing in a line twelve deep.

The cheap food was a myriad of bad nutritional decisions trumped by good advertising and pretty colors, having all the depth and seriousness of a day at the beach. Treats that were an elbow to the ribs of  common sense were somehow acceptable when imbibed on a stretch of sand by a body of water. (This rule was also in effect at Carnivals, Fairs, Car Races and Amusement Parks) Many of the sun worshiping small children were charged up, running in circles like tops, screeching at the top of their lungs, chasing the tail  of a sugar rush comet, burning through mood swings like fresh kindle as their guardians wished to be anywhere but here.

A cigarette was redundant to most in this kind of heat, it’s orange ember an added burning hotspot, but  it didn’t stop us in the least from smoking them, as they were a very important prop in our quest for cool.. And so we stood there like fools, taking long, bored drags off our illegally procured Newports or Salems, the smoke burning the back of our throats, the taste a leaden, musty mix of arsenic and damp ash. Inhaling was a most unpleasant sensation, like  breathing underwater, our lungs under a heavy, wet blanket after each draw.  

We were fourteen, and out from under the watchful eyes of adults, standing in the concession stand line, wearing day-glow bathing suit tops, faded and ripped denim cutoffs, pukka shell necklaces and brown suede ropes, wrapped twice around our ankles like the girls in low budget Surfer movies. We were desperately trying to conjure up a natural ease we did not possess by mimicking the older teens (as we perceived them, not as they actually were)–lots of exposed, sun-drenched chestnut brown skin and disheveled sun-streaked hair. But we were posers still, counterfeits, three-dollar bills- smoking our brains out-and making a big show of it, in hopes of attracting adventure, something risky but not too- a story we could tell that someone might actually want to hear. Sending out literal smoke signals to the boys with long hair who wore black leather jackets in the Fall, and girls with fake id’s and Tango in their fringed purses- an elusive but often represented group in public, often found in parking lots, the back of the bus, behind buildings. We longed for vague, outlaw places and people who were wide awake and rife with exciting possibilities-an escape from the yawn-inducing, linear patterns of suburbia. 

And so we stood, stiffly, the uncoordinated, jerky motions of newbie smokers giving us away, happy to have something to do with our hands, rather than just stand there as another wave of awkwardness washed over us like the waves on the beach. Secretly abhorring the bitter taste of nicotine, pretending to be something we were not. ‘Look at us’ our shaky smoke rings said, as the foul smoke rushed out of our mouths and nostrils, lungs burning on the inside. ‘ Let us in’ we begged the cool kids, hoping to smoke them out.

Riding Around

In The 70's on July 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm
Let's Ride

Let’s Ride

One thing we did a lot in those days was ride around aimlessly. You could argue that this was a waste of time (as many of our parents did), but we loved it.  Our  cars served as  moving ‘think-tanks’ of sorts, as well as a means to escape boredom and our only chance for adventure.  Taking a cruise with good friends- sometimes smoking a joint, sometimes not- but always moving from place to place, listening to music and having deep conversations was quality time. We pondered philosophy, science, world news, emotions, books, ideas and relationships on these wonderful rides. And naturally- we also discussed the painstaking minutia of our latest crushes and the merits of Robert Plant’s tight jeans as well. And we  often laughed until we cried. 

We had basic destinations in and around our town. These were  places  we drove to ‘on purpose’- albeit in very, very roundabout ways.  The Big Three: The Beach, The Other Beach, and Gallaher’s Estate. The Beach included both Calf-Pasture and Shady- one strip of beach divided by a fence into two, hosting baseball fields, miniature golf, a marina, and an over-sized parking lot, which was the hub. We never played baseball (surprise! surprise!), rarely played miniature golf, didn’t use the marina (other than maybe to pee behind a yacht at night after the restrooms were locked) but we used the heck out of the parking lot: it was our rec center, meeting place and ground zero on weekend nights.

The ‘Other’ Beach was  in the snooty, upscale town to the north of us, where celebrities lived, and big money resided (or people who got in before the real estate boom) While they did everything in their power to keep us from littering up the landscape with our more-than-five-year-old American made (gasp!) cars and non-designer clothes, we didn’t care, or abide.( I think we were mistakenly still under the impression that it was a free country!) 

Besides, we thought it would do Buffy and Biff some good to see that their lily-white, upper class existence didn’t entitle them to erasing the rest of us, stray dogs to their pedigree. And, trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Ritchie Rich scrunch his face up, while adjusting the yellow sweater he’s tied over the shoulder of his pink Izod shirt at the mere sight of a ten year old American made car. Priceless! 

We’d drive around on the quirky winding roads and lanes for hours, being careful to follow the speed limit to the letter so as not to get pulled over and banished. We’d  look at the mansions, trying to figure out which celebs lived where: Paul Newman over here, Martha Stewart over there, that famous musician over here.  Often, all we could see were towering locked gates and stone-walls, but still! We knew they were in there! (This was before the word ‘celebrity’ made me sick, and TMZ  eradicated all the mystery and glamour of celebrity via over saturation) We took it as a personal compliment that movie stars-who could live anywhere- had picked a place so close to us, and never once considered the decision was made in spite of us.

  

Gallaher’s Estate, was a town park, a place we referred to as ‘Galla-GERS with a hard ‘g’ – never realizing, until decades later there was no second ‘G’ at all.  ( Our ignorance was partly due to the whittling down of the name to ‘Lers’)   An English field stone manor, it was built in 1930 by some rich guy, and was inherited by the town and turned into a park. The main-house- a giant stone mansion, sat on 220 acres, which was locked to the public most of the time. But we weren’t there for the mansion, we were there for the grounds. The property was covered in trees, woods and trails, and stretched for miles. There was an oversize circular driveway and small parking area, where we’d all meet up. It looked just like the Playboy Mansion, (though there was  no Grotto, or-thank christ!- Pauly Shore) It attracted a  high rate of rowdy teenage hooligans (according to disapproving adults), but as you well know, those were my people. Not all of them, of course. Like everywhere else, there were different cliques with which to align or not.

The Grateful Deadheads- with their tie-dye clothes, suede moccasins (if any shoes at all) and floppy sunhats, were laid back, peace loving, 70’s  hippies who would often play hacky-sack (‘stoner soccer’) behind the grand estate, braid flowers into each other’s hair and flash fluttery peace signs to one and all.  They listened to bootleg recordings of Grateful Dead songs-none of which, from what I could tell, had a beginning or end. It always sounded like you were plopped down in the middle of an endless jam.  A single song could last an hour. Rumor had it, that in person, onstage, band members could leave the stage, go out for dinner and return, while the same song would still be going.

The music was mellow, but strangely- it didn’t seem to matter what the Grateful Dead played- just as long as it was them playing it. Because I wasn’t a fan, I often felt like Jerry Garcia and Co. were getting away with something, because no matter how far out the jams wandered (and trust me- they went to space!) a deadhead would give it a glowing stamp of approval. Some fans I knew  packed up and followed the Dead on tour.  You wouldn’t notice they were missing until they re-appeared in  little circles on the grass, playing acoustic guitars and making the beaded bracelets they sold outside tour venues, reminding you of their presence and of the 60’s. (By the way- even though we didn’t mesh musically-these were the kindest people in the park) 

Deadheads hanging out before a show. Peace and Love.

Deadheads hanging out before a show. Peace and Love. Peace and Love.

 

There was also another group,  mostly  guys, who drove  hand-me-down  Saabs, Volvos and Subaru’s, wore brown sandals, smoked incessant (hydroponic) reefer and played Frisbee in the main lot. They often brought dogs-Retrievers and Labs wearing bandanas around their furry necks, who played canine frisbee at pro-level. These dogs would be flipping through the air, catching the frisbee backwards, catching it with their tails. This crowd listened to  Neil Young, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Allman Brothers and Jethro Tull (who I hated- even though they’d been my first concert. They lost me at gross lyrics about snot and the incessant flute playing sealed the deal. Plus, they weren’t cute. Shame!)

Ah, man- Rover bit my Frisbee!....('Needle and the Spoon' plays in background..)

Ah, man- Rover bit a hole my Frisbee!….(‘Needle and the Spoon’ plays in background..)

Then there was us: mostly high school kids, wearing faded jeans and jean jackets with band patches and concert t-shirts, thinking we were so cool, but often embarrassing ourselves by cheering for the idiot doing burn-outs in the parking lot in the jacked-up Charger, or puking in the woods after three beers.  Blasting Zeppelin and throwing up the devil horns, the guys had long hair and pukka shell necklaces-the girls often rocked the ‘Farrah’ hairdo (guilty), along with Maybelline blue-eye-shadow applied with a heavy hand. We loved Black Sabbath and Van Halen, and though we didn’t attend Ridgemont High, we were no doubt the Jeff Spicoli’s and Stacy Hamilton’s of Gallahers. Aimless and shameless. We should have been embarrassed, but instead we had the times of of our lives.

The hairstyle that launched a million hot rollers

The hairstyle that launched a million hot rollers

 

Florida 1973 Part 1

In The 70's on July 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

The annual trek down to Casselberry, Florida became a fixed part of our summer schedule for almost a decade. My brothers and I would fly out of New York City’s Kennedy Airport at the end of each June,  after school let out for summer vacation.  Sitting together in roomy blue airplane seats,  we would anticipate the delightful tray of airline food (scrambled eggs, silver dollar sized pancakes, orange juice, small carton of milk and a golden dinner roll with fancy foil wrapped squares of butter) by meticulously uniformed, friendly stewardesses. (Of course, David only ate the pancakes plain- he would have much preferred his go-to summer breakfast of dry Rice Krispies and Tang, a habit my grandmother would nix so quick he’d get whiplash) The kind stewardesses  would then gift us with metal wings to pin onto our shirts, insisting we were all co-captains, which thank Christ wasn’t actually true. (The way my brothers commandeered their Huffy sting-rays and mini-bikes, we’d have all been goners)

Remember the tarmac?

Nan and Pop-pop would excitedly greet us, as we entered the airport from the tarmac, beads of sweat instantly forming on our brows as we walked from the plane down steep metal stairs and across the asphalt runway.

Once we entered the lavishly air-conditioned terminal, Nan and Pop formed a dual octopus of flailing arms, kisses and boisterous greetings. (This must be how the Beatles felt in 1963!) Nan was dressed in her ‘special occasion’ duds- a short sleeved, polyester double knit dress (in a half size) two strands of pearls (graduated lengths) support hose and white, cushioned easy steppers. Clip-on costume pearl earrings, and rose red lipstick meant she’d gone all out. She was barely 5’1, so I had to crouch to greet her- the familiar smell of L’Air Du Temps and Sen-Sens transporting me back to my childhood.

After happily mauling the three of us and marveling at our growth  (“You’ve grown like weeds!”) Nan would snap open her cream colored purse by the costume jeweled clasp and pull out a plastic baggie containing three packets of mini-Chiclets, a handful of sour balls (“I get the red!” called Rob, beating David and I to the punch while we scowled) and several cellophane wrapped butterscotch  discs especially for me-( the boys hated the flavor and referred to it as ‘buttercrotch’ Such class!) This seemingly small candy-bag ritual signaled the official beginning of our summer in Florida. My grandparents would be in charge of us for six chaos-filled weeks. It’s a wonder they were so into it.

My grandfather was as excited as a Labrador at a frisbee match- a big grin on his deeply tanned face, his dark brown comb-over slicked neatly across his reddened forehead, which he tended to with a cloth hankie. He wore a light, short sleeve button down shirt, dove-gray sansabelt slacks and white leather loafers as required by law for all men over 65 in Florida. He hugged me and guffawed: ‘Ahhh, yessirree- we sure missed you, Young Lady! Ahhhh….look at the three of you!’, hugging my brothers, ruffling the tops of their hair, the whole time exclaiming ‘Ahhh haha” “That’s right!” and ‘you…betcha!”

With the greeting ceremony over, it was time to walk to baggage claim, hopefully stopping first at the orange juice kiosk that sold freshly squeezed juice in plastic novelty containers shaped liked authentic Florida Oranges- a green plastic leaf and straw sprouting from its lid. My brothers weren’t interested in this item, and sighed heavily when I insisted we stop.

“She only wants it coz of the container! And she had orange juice on the plane!” Rob huffed, like there was a legal limit, then  cawed in a sing song voice “it’s so cuuute!”

“Shut-up, Hot-Wheel Head!” I retorted- the implication that at ten, Rob still played with Hot Wheels. Which he did.

“Be quiet before I sell you both to the gypsies!” threatened Nan, with David adding an enthusiastic ‘Yeah!” into the mix as if he had any authority.

After Nan bought me my juice ,which I took a long, purposeful sip of, shooting dagger eyes at both bros. I’d drink the whole thing just to prove I was actually thirsty, though I was not. Maybe I did just want it for the container. (Who wouldn’t? They were adorable!)  We made our way through the airport in order to retrieve our bags. We each had a separate suitcase, hefty blue vinyl Samsonites with silver buckles. We watched with eagle eyes as the conveyor belt spit out the luggage from our flight. My suitcase took the longest, because, according to Rob, it was filled with ‘stupid stuff she doesn’t even need’ to which I replied with a noisy bottom of the cup slurp, followed by a heartfelt, citrus scented burp. 

“Why don’t we all act act our age instead of our shoe size?” suggested Nan. I looked down at my white clogs, and realized my grandmother was accusing me of being seven and a half. We’d only just gotten here, and her job as referee was already in full swing. She happily took the wheel our mom was no doubt tired of white-knuckling.

As soon as we exited the airport doors, a wall of sauna-like heat hit us square on. My grandmother, who wasn’t a big heat fan to say the least, rolled her eyes dramatically and began to fan her face with her free hand. Meanwhile, my grandfather took in a hearty breath and insisted “Now this is living!’ ‘You betcha, Florida sunshine!” as a counter strike.

“Sheesh! You and your Florida! I’m melting into the sidewalk and you’re over the moon!” she marveled, and then added “If you ask me, it’s all a bunch of malarkey, Mister!” My grandfather just chuckled and shook his head in disbelief that Nan could see anything negative in his idea of paradise.

We were with Pop-pop on this one- the heat didn’t bother us all that much (it was a novelty) and we were jacked up for this vacation. We had bikes to ride, games to play (baseball, kickball, Nerf football, clackers, super balls, frisbees) people to see (all of the neighborhood kids we’d hung out with last year) and more touristy places to visit than you could shake a stick at.

Anything within a three hour distance was on our radar, and our grandfather was beyond game. We went to Disney World, Busch Gardens. Gatorland and Lion Country Safari (where we observed animals in deep slumber-all but the looney ostrich at the entrance gate who pranced around the car, pecked at the windows and put on a big show, gearing us up for the eventual letdown) We hit pools, ponds, lakes and oceans-I’m certain Pops would have driven us to a puddle, were it in a brochure. 

 Even the local stores were exotic to the three of us: Zayre, Jordan Marsh, Burdines, The Altamonte Mall, The Winter Park Mall.  The convenience stores (7-11, Speedy’s) were a source of endless fascination, with their risque vacation postcards depicting alligators about to take bites out of bikini-clad, tan-lined buttocks, bronzed and oiled hunks drinking out of coconuts in neon colored bathing suits, the whole Snow vs. Sun debate that mocked their recipients. There were wacky straw hats, shelves flooding with Coppertone and Solarcaine, cheap t-shirts with iron on stencils: Flip Wilson: The Devil made me Do It! ,’Keep On Truckin’ and monstrous 70’s muscle cars, their engines and wheels exploding out from underneath them.

There were ‘Arrive Stoned’ license plates-(scary to us still in its blatant defiance to the law! Ridiculously coveted by us a couple of years later) and key-chains with dangling shells and freeze-dried seahorses.  They sold cheap, scratchy towels touting beach  scenes, orange sunsets and state maps dotted in endless tourist attractions. And treats: Yellow Scooter pies (my god, so exotic!) pixie sticks, Fruit stripe gum, and an endless array of novelty candy. And the mother of all cash cows: cigarettes and beer. All this, plus  major blasts of ice-cold air-conditioning. We could spend hours in these stores, a dollar bill burning a hole in our pockets.

 'Wish You Were Here!'

 

 

Florida 1973: Part 2

In The 70's on July 1, 2013 at 7:28 pm

We  dragged our suitcases, ball-and-chain style across the pick-up lane, dodging yellow taxis and elderly drivers who could barely see over the wheel. Pops pointed across the way to his car, a new big, green 1970 Plymouth Fury, a car that lived up to its name with him behind the wheel. He was very excited about the prime spot he was able to secure directly in front of the airport’s entrance. He puffed his chest out and beamed. 

We listened as he described how it had all come about-how he’d driven by at the exact moment that a brown Cadillac was pulling away and he’d slammed on the brakes just in time.

Nan said, “And I have the neckbrace to prove it!”

Pops crinkled up his face and shook his head, obviously contesting her side of the story. Then he shrugged and continued:

“Yessirree! I pulled right in, I did!” he said proudly.  I got the feeling that if it were up to him, we’d stay longer and gaze at his parking job so he could bask in the rush of holding such a miracle spot. In the end though, all he could do was sigh, as my grandmother rolled her eyes and fanned her face at an even more  rapid pace, waiting for her door to be unlocked.

Jingling the keys in his hand, he switched gears, noting Nan’s discomfort out of the corner of his eye. Suddenly he was anxious to ‘get this show on the road.’ He unlocked the Plymouth’s giant trunk and we lifted our heavy suitcases up and over, where they landed inside the cavernous trunk, with three heavy thuds, while Pop-pop wiped down his sweating brow with his embroidered hankie.

“There you go! Atta boy!” he guffawed, proud that we could lift the behemoth Samsonites, before he  slammed down the massive trunk lid, and scurried to open Nan’s door with the key before she fainted from heat stroke.

“Woo, boy!” she sighed, seeing the lock pop up like a turkey timer, as she thrust open the front passenger door and began frantically rolling down her window with the gusto of a pilgrim churning butter. While fanning her face, and blowing air up from her bottom lip, which lifted her curls, she hissed,

“It’s as hot as Hades I tell ya! And you can put that in your pipe and smoke it, Buster!” It was as if she was speaking to everyone and no one simultaneously.

Florida International's prime parking spots.

Florida International’s prime parking spots circa the 70s.

Pops scurried around the car, methodically unlocking the back doors. I quickly called ‘Window!’ as did Rob, leaving David stuck in the middle. He dragged his butt slowly across the scorching seat like a cat with a dingleberry, sighing into the sizzling-hot vehicle dejectedly, while we kindly urged ‘hurry up, stupid!’ We couldn’t unroll the windows fast enough.

 Pops started up the car, warning us that in a few minutes we’d be required to roll-up all of the windows again- as soon as his new Chrysler Air-Temp System  kicked in. We needed this warning because rolling up windows manually takes a bit of bicep power, and is harder if you’re suffering from mild heat stroke, your back and legs sticking to the leather seat, tongues out, panting.

Finally, he pulled the trigger on the forty minute journey back to 391 Marigold Road, our home base for the summer.  He took a quick peek at the road behind him, jerked the wheel to the left, then gunned it out of the parallel parking spot- all of us instantly pinned to our seats with the sudden ‘G-Force’ (grandpa force) a blaring horn from a passerby (and finger in the air) welcoming us onto the airport road. 

Yachts of the 1-4, circa 1970s

Yachts of the I-4, circa 1970s

Every year we forgot about Pop’s driving style, and every year we were reminded in an  instant as his unique driving skills reared back up in a frightful how-do-you-do.

First off, Pops is a brake rider. If you are behind him (bless your heart) chances are you will be blinded and/or confused by the flashing red brake lights he applies every three seconds or so, regardless of speed or terrain. But this isn’t his only trick: Pop-pop is also a pedal to the metal kind of guy, stomping the gas like a bank robber in a getaway car. So you are virtually going 40-brake!-50-brake! 60-brake, until such time as you suspect you have actual whiplash. (Need I point out that no one is wearing  a seat-belt, it is 1973)

And here’s another fun fact: Pop-pop is hard of hearing.  He wears a hearing aid the size and shape of a circus peanut, the color of silly putty. The deluxe model. But even mic’d-up, Pop rarely hears any commotion around him, much of it the result of his curious driving decisions. In fact, if someone shoots him the bird he just gives them a friendly wave back as his eyesight isn’t so hot either. 

‘Yeah, yeah! You betcha’ he says in their general direction, behind a tight-lipped smile.

Even Frank Bullitt took heed when Pop-pop hit the streets!

Even Frank Bullitt pulls off to the side when Pop’s Plymouth Fury hits the streets!  

Over the years, Pops had three different cars-each one bigger than the next, all of them 4 door sedans. They were boats- ships even-sturdy war wagons, rolling on wheels of steel (okay-fiberglass belted tires) capable of parting the traffic seas in a single brazen clip. He backed out of his driveway without looking, he jumped lanes like the needle on a polygraph test, and he called it ridiculously close when coming up on a red light in a six-lane intersection. (Ironically, the one time he didn’t ride the brakes) Believe me when I tell you- Space Mountain had nothing on a ride to Pantry Pride with my grandfather!

‘The Woods’ Part One

In The 70's on August 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm

…and to a Castle I will take you….

“The Woods’, (with a capital ‘W’) were diagonally across the street from my house. There were three or four acres of woods, and if you walked straight through them, you’d come out to a stream, and after a minute, you’d be behind Carroll’s Restaurant, and the Car Wash. Next to that was the Sunoco Gas station on the main drag, where we could sometimes cop cigarettes for fifty-five cents a pack.

But we rarely walked all the way through, because the jewel of “The Woods’ was smack dab in the middle, where we had collectively ‘built’ a sweet little hangout, a place we went to drink beer and smoke cigarettes, and if we were lucky, smoke pot. It was in a small dirt clearing,  created by dragging pieces of fallen trees and logs over, placing them in a wide circle, then adding a little fire-pit in the dirt, with round rocks to form a circle, and over the years, it really came into its own as a cool little place to gather, away from the prying eyes of parents and siblings and, of course, ‘The Man’. It was understood to be a privilege to spend time there, something you earned. There was no littering,  you had to leave with everything  you came in with, and it was a secret: not everybody was welcomed in. There were about ten of us who claimed the land, like a 1970’s version of stoner pilgrims, but we didn’t even have to throw a ‘fake-nice’ holiday to thank the people we’d stolen it from, because we had no idea who actually owned the place, and just assumed it to be part of the town’s stash of land. We had no real power to keep people out, and yet we did….we figured that since we lived the closest to it physically- that it was ours to rule.

But there were ways around the rules. You could bring a joint- or even better, a nickel bag along, and invitations ensued. Ditto a six-pack or extra cigarettes. In desperate times a lighter might gain you entry. You could be super-cute and  get a carte- blanche, all access pass, which would only be objected to by those of the ‘fox’s same sex, who would be immune to it. You might have a nice car, or know someone who knew someone who’s ‘in’- so it wasn’t that hard to be a part of it, but it wasn’t just ‘out there’ and all public either, like a park, or behind a school. The best part was: no kids on swings or security guards.

I was thirteen when I started hanging out in The Woods. Not surprisingly, Lance was one of the ‘woods guys’, as well as Michael and his brothers, who lived across the street from me-and a crowd of guys who were a little older who lived in the neighborhood. Most of them had long hair, wore pukka shell necklaces with T-Rex or Zeppelin band shirts , faded jeans and tan with red-laces work boots. They had bone-stones and wooden pipes with abalone inlays and carried boom-boxes with the best tunes blasting out of them. “Cities On Flame With Rock’n’Roll’ by Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’, and  ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ all howled out of those woods-just to name a few. I was so drawn to this music, and to the people who also loved this music, I felt I was finding my place somehow. The middle of the woods often felt more like home than my house.

Sometimes, I was the only girl at the hang-out, surrounded by rocker boys, but I always felt completely safe -in fact, I never considered safety at all, it was just (rightly) assumed. Had my Dad known I was in there and with who- he would have thought the worst. (and smoking marijuana wasn’t even the ‘worst’ he’d be thinking) But these guys, with their long hair and their loud music  had certain lines they didn’t cross and laws they didn’t break despite their bad reputations.  A big one was most definitely the jail-bait law. And though, like everyone else in my world, they hemmed and hawed and ‘no way’d their way around believing I was only 13- they also knew I wasn’t a liar, because who would lie they were younger in these days when we all wished we were older? They also knew what grade I was in, and could see how ‘green’ I was.  Not that I’m implying I was so god-damned irresistible, or anything of the sort, but we all know what people think (and say) about one girl in the woods with six boys!  These guys had their eyes on older, hipper, more awesome girls anyway.  I had my little crushes, but would have been mortified to be found out, and it was based on an admiration for someone’s style or musical taste anyway.  I was more like their ‘cool’ younger sister.

There wasn’t always pot and beer involved….we weren’t privy to endless supplies or much money. Oftentimes we’d just sit around and rap to each other about everything under the sun.  I remember what my Dad used to say to me when I was young and bored out of my mind, hovering around him like a hummingbird while he tried to relax and read the paper. “Oh, for God’s sake Annie, go do something!” to which I’d say, ‘there’s nothing to do!”– and exasperated, he’d huff “Oh, for Chrissakes – go sit on a log!”-and here I was, all these years later, in the woods, sitting on a log.

One of my favorite guys was Michael. The oldest in his family of five boys, he was the big brother I didn’t have. He was always around after school- working on his car, which he couldn’t even yet drive at fifteen- or hanging out at the end of his dirt driveway (the corner) with me and whoever else meandered by. We’d stand around, shooting the breeze as the cars zoomed by, flying down the hill on Wolfpit Avenue, horns honking, motorcycles rumbling, muscle cars wailing, leaving behind bits and pieces of  songs like instant snapshots as they sped away.  We either loved or hated the tunes, and many a sweet hot rod was rendered less than, as a crappy pop song slapped us in the face, while an occasional piece of junk was elevated to the sought-after thumbs up status from all of us should we hear ‘Houses of The Holy’ banging out it’s thudding speakers. We could spend hours at the corner, especially in the summer, doing nothing, and everything all at once, heading indoors after dark, happy and spent.

Michael was a nice looking guy, tall, and blonde headed, from an Irish family who moved to Connecticut from the Bronx. He had a cool New York accent, and a ‘cut-the-bullshit’ New York attitude I loved and respected. His opinions were cut and dry- but he was never mean, or arrogant-and if we disagreed on something- a book, a tv show, an eight-track purchase- he’d just gently tease me about it, or attribute it to me ‘being a girl’, to which I’d shoot back that his bad taste was on account of his ‘being a guy’. I’m sure it was in part because of his looking after me that I had a position of respect in the neighborhood.

One day, a group of us were sitting around, shooting the shit and taking tokes of good Columbian weed from a small glass pipe Lance had brought along. The woods were quiet, as we were sans boom-box and tunes, and  the pot so strong it clubbed me over the head. I sat on my log, twisting my Mood Ring around on my finger (my ring was always black- with an occasional muddy brown) or stroking my feather earrings. It was an overcast summer day in late June, summer vacation. The woods were still damp from the morning rain, and the smell of wet dirt hung heavy. I began focusing in on a bright green leaf, sprouting from a nearby bush (isn’t nature amazing? look at those water drops! What a cool pattern! I should draw that!) when all of a sudden a deep, booming voice shouted: “Hands Up! POLICE!”

There were seven of us in the circle, and we froze. We heard footsteps crushing twigs and  leaves along the path, foliage ruffling and then more shouting: ‘I  SAID “POLICE!” HANDS UP!!!” Suddenly, Lance jumped up, and high tailed it towards the back of the woods. A thousandth of a second later we all jumped up, and began scrambling after him. I ran as fast as I could, but it wasn’t easy, as I was wearing cheap, gold ,Caldor issued, jewel encrusted sandals, so Michael grabbed me by the wrist, and pulled me at his much faster pace. We were hurdling over tree stumps, logs, boulders, and avoiding the  giant trees in our path at the very last second. When we hit the clearing alongside the creek, we were impeded by a cluster of wet, moss covered logs, several feet high, from a big felled tree. Once we scaled those, we’d be ‘home free’, and able to run the rest of the dirt corridor unobstructed. The other guys were so far ahead of us, they looked to be an inch tall, running and leaping like gazelles.

Michael let go of my wrist, and shouted ‘C’mon! Jump’ as he flew over the first log, using his hands as a springboard,  like he was part frog, or something. I followed behind, panting and giving it my all, but the stump was higher than I thought, and slippery with the moss. The 6 Million Dollar Man music began to play- then the sound of a record abruptly scratching. I made it most of the way over, but my left foot caught on the stump. I felt a sickening crunch, and a lightning bolt of pain as my big toe smashed into the wood. I stumbled forward and crumpled to the ground, between two of the monstrous logs.

T-Rex and -wait!- is that Michael?!

Michael glanced back, and seeing me go down, he immediately veered off into the woods to his left. He tracked back, staying out of sight, and emerged right where I lay.  I was flat on my back on the dirty ground, which meant the the cops couldn’t see me from a distance, but if they pursued us, I was a dead duck. There was no way I could run, or possibly even walk. My toe throbbed, and I writhed in pain. 

Looking up and down the path, and determining the coast was clear, Michael hunched down, hopped over (again, frog-like!) and crept over to me. He peered over the top of the log, scanning the whole while for the cops, and then pulled me up into a sitting position. I could feel damp dirt, twigs and pebbles embedded in my back. Since I was wearing -as usual- a halter top.  Michael pulled some dead leaves and stems out of my hair. I had tears in my eyes from the pain in my foot. 

“Are you okay?’ he asked.

“My toe!” I moaned. I still hadn’t looked at it. Michael picked my foot up by the ankle, to peer below my denim bell-bottom cuffs and told me later he almost dropped it from the shock of what he saw. To his credit, he managed to put my leg down gently, then wiped his hands on his own jeans. 

“Oh, Geez!” he said, sounding alarmed, his face going pale. “Fuck!!!… You need to get to a Doctor!” He sounded panicked. Which panicked me. 

I shook my head, and bit the bullet. I pulled up my pant leg and I looked down at my toe, now undulating with unbearable pain. My big toenail looked as though it had cracked all the way down the middle, vertically- and then had exploded. The nail was spread open like a double-door closet, presenting utter gore as it’s contents. Blood gushed out, pulsating in rivulets down my foot, and around my ankle, where it then dripped into the dirt. My golden, bejeweled sandal, dripping with shockingly red blood, as well as with caked blackish stains suggested some sort of bizarre royal massacre, the red and blue gems tainted and fouled (“My God! They’ve killed the Queen!”) I got woozy from the sight of it. So did Michael.

I wore the Caldor version of these…

 

“We gotta get you home!” said Micheal “Is someone there to take you to the Emergency Room?”

Right then we jumped as someone yelled “FREEZE!”  above our heads. We both gasped and looked up to see- Dack! standing above us on the other side of the log.  We were confused. 

Michael immediately asked: “Are the cops still back there? Did you see them?”

Dack started laughing. “COPS? YOU DUMMIES! I’M THE COPS!”….

Ha Ha f**ckin Ha!” went Dack….

There was a stunned silence as we put it all together. Dack had been fooling around, and knowing we were gathered together in the woods he had decided to trick us. There had been NO cops!! Nothing! Dack was just being a dick! If I had been able to stand I would’ve punched him in the gut with all of my strength.

“Really funny, Dack!” said Michael “Come and see what happened to Lisa coz of your little joke!”

Dack, still smiling, stepped around the log. I saw the color drain from his face as he looked at my mangled toe and bloody foot. “Oh, shit!!” he said, then “Oh My God!” Now I was getting really scared. I was completely straight as well. It was as if my high had taken off with the rest of the guys.

“Help me get her up, Dick!” hissed Michael. Tears were actually streaming out of my eyes at this point, and the pain was getting even worse. The guys lifted me to a standing position, and I draped my arms around each of them. I purposely leaned towards Michael, but there’s no easy way to accept someones’ help to walk, without getting up close and personal. I hated Dack at this moment, but needed him.

It took us awhile to get through the woods and across Wolfpit, then up my driveway. I was hopping, and trying to walk by using my heel. No one was home at my house- my parents were at work, and my brothers probably off with friends. As soon as we got to my front door, I told Dack to take off. He tried apologizing, but I wasn’t in the mood to hash it out. “Just GO!” I shouted.

Michael helped me up the stairs, and went into the hall bathroom to run some warm water in the tub. He grabbed a towel and a washcloth out of the cabinet, and started looking through the medicine chest for some antibiotic ointment. 

 

“Put your foot in the water, Lis…” he told me. Just looking at the heavy flow spilling into the tub made my toe ache even harder.

“I can’t” I sniffed.

“Yes you CAN! You gotta!…I think” Michael insisted.

I leaned against the wall by the tub and lifted up my injured foot. 

“Turn off the thingy!” I whined. There was no way I was going near that water.

“Okay, Okaaay!” Michael said, twisting the water off. Neither Michael nor I had any first aid smarts.

“Just help me to my room!!” I cried, angrily. He held me by the waist while I hopped across the hall. I got to my rose print covered canopy bed, and sat, holding my damaged foot up. Michael handed me a wet washcloth, and I cleaned off as much blood as possible without actually touching anything.. The toenail was no longer bleeding out, but it was a clotty mess. Michael went to the kitchen and brought me a glass of water and two aspirins. It made me laugh. After I took them I said- “What now? Do I call you in the morning?”  

“Har, har!” Michael answered. “Lisa- for real! – have your Mom bring you to the hospital when she gets home. That looks bad!”

“I will-a!” I insisted, tired of hearing it.

We spent a few minutes talking about Dack, and how he was a major jack-ass. He also commented on how my room was so ‘girlie’ and that he knew it would be. I gave him the finger, and he laughed. Michael said he was calling me tonight to check on my progress. I thanked him, and he positioned the towel across the  lower half of my bedspread, so I could place my blood-stained foot up there. It struck me that the red roses on my bedspread and canopy looked exactly  like what I imagined the bloody toe print from my injury might be, if I would ever have the nerve to make contact.  But, at least it would coordinate. I shivered at the thought.

Mine was white with red roses, but it was very ‘girlie’ for sure!

After Michael left, I lay back and tried to figure out how to explain this whole thing to my parents. Obviously, the entire story had to be tweaked. “Well, Mom and Dad- I was smoking a bowl in the woods with a bunch of guys, and heard someone yell ‘cops!’, so what else could I do but run?” wasn’t gonna fly. It was an infraction factory! I racked my brain so hard for something believable, that I fell asleep, and didn’t come to until an hour later when I was awakened by my mother, keys jangling and pocketbook in hand- hovering above my face with her Jackie O sunglasses, demanding “Lee lee?! MY GOD! What did YOU DO?”

 

 

The Woods: Part 2

In The 70's on August 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm

While I had nodded off, the toe bled out a little more, depositing even more gruesome stains on the baby blue towel Michael had put over the bedspread.  It looked like the drop-cloth from a crime scene,   My mother, of course, was freaking out. Before I was fully awake, she reached over to try and touch my foot, and I jumped sky high, scaring me and her equally.

DON’T TOUCH IT!” I screamed. Halfway  across the room at this point, she put her hand over her heart, her mouth open in a little ‘o’. 

“Well, for crying out loud! How am I supposed to help you if I can’t see what’s going on?” she said, offended.

“What’s going on is that my toenail is cracked in half, and I don’t even think I can walk!” I retorted.

“How did it happen?” she asked. She squinted her eyes down, and looked at me in what I felt was a suspicious manner.

“I was running and I fell” I answered.

“Running?” she asked, incredulously “Since when are you running?”

“I RUN!” I said, “I run a lot!” 

I can run!

“Oh, pssht!” she said, nodding her head back and forth, and throwing her hand as though swatting a fly “Walk: Yes! Ride your bike? Yes! Get in cars you’re not supposed to? Yes. But run?”

I felt defensive and insulted. Because she was right. Running was not on my agenda, and I wouldn’t do it in public except when required. Like in gym, or if the house was on fire, or if Joe Perry was at the end of the street. Oh-and also if I thought the cops were  invading our secret hang-out while pot was being smoked. 

“Well!…..I guess I won’t be running anymore, anyway- now that I’m ruined!” I said, dejectedly.

My mom rolled her eyes, shook her head and said unsteadily- “Oh, for heaven’s sake- you’re not ruined!” but when she looked in the general direction of my foot she added, “I don’t think!”

I gasped. She sighed.

“Let me go get my glasses!” she said, sounding put out and I understood she meant her regular reading glasses, not the Jackie O’s she was now grasping in her hand. I also knew she was more worried than she was letting on.

“OK… I guess” I said, dejectedly. Now that mom was here I could be as pathetic as I wanted to, and use the sympathy I was going to get to my own advantage. Even so, looking down at my battered toe, I knew I’d  be paying a disproportionately high price for a little extra attention.

“Can you flick  my stereo on, please?” I asked, pouting. She pushed the power button, and my Realistic’s dash lit up in green and gold. ‘Fooled around and Fell In Love’ was playing. It struck me that I’d fooled around and fell on a log. My mom left to find her glasses.

When she came back into my room, she began adjusting her readers forcefully, really jamming them up against her eyes.

“Ok, now!” she said, approaching the bed “Hold still and let me look. I won’t touch it.” She slowly leaned over, hovering above my foot. She cleared her throat, glanced at me, then  bent further down. I was wide eyed and ready to spring at the slightest touch. Within a split second (and as predicted) things went haywire. My mother’s reading glasses skied down her nose, then swooped down dead man’s drop, heading straight for my toe. Luckily, because of my inborn mistrust of people in general, I had expected some sort of disaster, and was poised to abort the mission. My leg snapped back with the velocity of a mousetrap. The reading glasses landed with a thud, where my toe had just been.

“That’s it! Nope! Not doing this!” I yelled, my leg pressed up against my wall, jazz hands flailing, blocking my mother’s access.

She knew she was wrong, but after she swept up her glasses and tsk, tsked, she folded her arms across her chest, rolling her tongue against her cheek, and tapping her foot against the floor. Like had committed the dangerous faux-pas!

My Mom really needed to work on her game face!

“This isn’t very funny, young lady!’ she admonished “You’re making me a nervous wreck! Now let me look at the damn thing!”

“Funny? Who the heck’s laughing? You almost killed me” I screeched “Please just leave me alone! Do it later!”

“Let me look without my glasses. Then I’ll leave”

The ‘thinking cap’ music from jeopardy played, while I squinted my eyes down and considered the risk. I knew I’d be nagged to death until I showed her. That would almost be as brutal as the injury.

 ” ALRIGHT. But hurry uuuuup?!” I moaned. 

I offered up my leg gingerly. She got up close and personal. Her hand went up over her mouth, and the color drained from her face. She looked away quickly. 

“Come on. Get in the car. We’re going to the Emergency Room” she said, and I hated how serious she sounded. Maybe I really was going to become disabled, or lose my toe! I actually felt scared.

The Woods: Part 3

In The 70's on August 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm

My mother digs a pair of  flip-flops out from the back of my closet floor,  hands one to me and says ‘Here, put this on”  Meanwhile, she calls Jo-Ellen to come and watch my brothers, and when she arrives, gives her money with which to order pizza. I put in a request for mushroom, knowing it will be unanimously vetoed in my absence, just as it usually is in my presence. Jo-Ellen, looking cute in a pink tube top, denim bell-bottoms with butterfly appliques, and cork-soled platform shoes, looks at my foot and gasps “Oh! Gross!” and I just shrug. I’m already used to the reaction. I carefully get into mom’s Gold Duster and we drive across town to the hospital. My toe feels so exposed and vulnerable out in public that when we’re walking into the Emergency Room it seems as though everyone has it out for my foot- you’d be surprised how intimate people’s normal  proximity feels when you’ve got a land mine at the end of your toe. 

A free roof? Jackpot!

At the hospital, my mother explains the situation to the woman at the front desk, a no-nonsense type with short salt and pepper hair, who stares quizzically at her, one eyebrow lifted, like maybe she’s speaking in another language until I finally hoist my leg up and show her my toe. She inhales loudly, and winces. And this is a woman who I assume, has seen it all. We take seats in the waiting room, my mother filling out paper work, and me on sentry duty, making sure no one crosses into my personal space. The worst are the little kids, buzzing about like house-flies, erratic and unpredictable, the adults exhausted from trying to keep them in check. A little boy of about five, wearing an H.R. Pufnstuf tee, airplanes by, sees my toe and yelps ‘Ewww!’ speeding  away. Same to you, buddyboy!

We’re summoned quickly into the examining room, where I struggle to get up onto the metal table, with it’s awkward white crinkly paper down the centerline. While we’re alone, I ask my mom if I can get a vanilla milk-shake from Dairy Queen on the way home, and she says okay so quickly that I also ask for 16 magazine and some Chicklets, to which she replies, ‘Just hold your horses, young lady! Let’s take things one at a time’. Still- it was worth a shot.

A nice looking doctor- maybe mid-thirties or so (unlike Dr. Boone, my 93 year old family practitioner, who sometimes -I’m sorry to say- seems filled with dust, a husk of his former self) walks in with a nurse, a clipboard in his hands. He is tall, with brown Ken-doll hair, and a dark tan, nicely offset by the blue-green scrubs he’s wearing. He’s kind of cute for an old guy. He smiles, teeth gleaming, and introduces himself (“Dr. Makolroy”) while consulting my chart.

It says here you have a toe ‘situation?’

“It says here, you have a situation with your toe” he says, and I nod, holding my leg up and out.

“Oooooh!” he says, a note of concern in his voice. He grasps my foot at the ankle and I flinch.

“Don’t worry!” he assures me, “I’ll be careful” Yeah- you and everyone before you! 

After his close-up examination he tells the nurse to bring him various items with different numbers that sound like hospital codes. She leaves and the doctor turns to my mother. He explains that I will need a tetanus shot and that the toe will have to be flushed, which sounds like we’re cutting it off, throwing it away, and not looking back. My mother nods enthusiastically, like this is a great idea- and why not? It’s not her toe. I will also need the nail removed, and he will refer us to a specialist close by to do the job. I had no idea someone out there specialized in toenail removal, and wondered what life events led them to such a career. My mother doesn’t ask any questions, though I sure have some.

“You mean, I won’t have a freakin’ toe-nail anymore?” I ask, eyebrows furrowed.

“Oh, Lisa- don’t worry about it!” my mother says. “The doctor knows what’s best!” Don’t worry? Are you nuts? I don’t see her walking around town with a missing toe-nail! Believe me- with all of the patent leather sandals she wears and nail polish she owns, she’d freak! 

The Dr. smiles and pats my knee. “Don’t worry, honey. The nail will grow back” My mother jumps right in “Yes! That’s correct! It’ll grow back!” she says, all excited- like she knew that all along. Pa-leeze! I have a feeling this doctor could suggest that ‘putting me down might be in order,’ and my mother would go along…

The nurse returns, and I realize it’s time to ‘endure’ whatever is next. The shot isn’t pleasant, but it’s nothing compared to the moment when the antiseptic is poured over my open wound. It feels like I am being stung by a hive of wasps, though as is my style, I say nothing, grimacing but holding it in-while inside my head I am hysterical. In fact, for a moment I almost black out. I fantasize about what it would be like to sock Dack in the jaw with a sock full of pennies. I picture a strong swing of my arm, a thwack, and a rainstorm of golden pennies swirling to the ground onto his unconscious body. Then I decide quarters would be better: heavier.

Before we leave, the Dr. asks to speak with my Mom in the hallway, using the excuse that he needs to give her the specialist’s card-but you’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me! He’s probably going to tell her about some worst case scenarios that might befall my foot- infections, possible amputation, etc. Things I might not be able to handle. I know all about this-I’ve seen my share of Marcus Welby, MD. I hear them murmuring, but can’t make out what they are saying. Several other doctors  wander in, and look at the toe. I get the feeling they have nothing to do with the case, but that the word got out among the doctors in the Triage like juicy medical gossip: ‘You’ve gotta see this toe! It’s whack!’ It’s after the fourth or fifth curiosity seeker that I realize that the inappropriate laughing I keep hearing in the distance is my mother’s!

I’m glad Mom and ‘McDreamy’ were in such good spirits. But I’m dyin’ over here!

My mom comes waltzing back into the examining room with the doctor, her eyes sparkling. You’d almost think she was having a good time. The two of them are chattering away, talking not about me- but rather, Mystic Seaport and lobster!  I can see my mother is blushing and flashing her pearly whites. Please tell me she is not flirting with the ER Doctor, while her daughter is being treated for a serious injury!

The toe will not be covered with band aids or gauze, but I have to keep it elevated and sanitized. We are to ask for a rush appointment with the specialist, and tell him who we were referred by. Maybe we can get in tomorrow. If he gets a chance, the doctor says he’ll  call the guy himself and give him a heads up. When we leave, my mother says “Ok, Millard. Thanks for the help!” Millard? What is that-a first name or a wooden duck? How does she even know his first name? He replies with a wink, and the smiles on both sides are 100 watts. I’m glad everyone is taking my plight so seriously.

On the way home, I get my milkshake, and since my mother is in such a chipper mood, she stops at Jet Variety and gets me 16 and Seventeen, a pack of Chicklets and a red Charms lollipop. She tells me that all of these things are being gifted with the stipulation that I stay home tomorrow- in bed -with my leg elevated, while she’s at work and trying to get me an appointment with the podiatrist.

“Be a good girl like me, then go marry Keith Richards!”

“Millard says, he’s going to call him and-” she chirps, but I interrupt.

“You mean DOCTOR Malarkey – or whatever?” I ask, accusingly. “Stop saying Millard! That’s such a stupid name anyway! God!!”

My mother sighs, and turns up the radio, a hint of a smile still on her face. Radar Love by Golden Earring blares out of the am radio. I can’t wait for this whole ordeal to be over! But somehow- I gotta keep cool now, gotta take care….

 

The Woods: Part 5

In The 70's on August 20, 2012 at 10:59 am

As soon as my mother left (and even way before!) I knew I was at the mercy of whatever this doctor had up his giant sleeve. He asked me how I got hurt  and I told him ‘running through the woods and tripping on a log’ to which he gave me a quizzical look, tilted his head-and asked: ‘Who were you running from?” and I got strangely nervous, imagining he knew the whole pot story (but how?)-and I went straight into my ridiculous split second theories: he knew Dack, or the story was circulating around town-which of course didn’t make any sense but when it came to a guilty conscience, I was willing to believe anything-if only for a split second.  When I lied, I felt like my head was made of glass and everyone could see the truth inside, flashing like a neon sign. Because of all of the Catholic guilt that had been installed in me as a child, I knew unequivocally that I deserved to be caught for lying. (Though technically- this was more a situation of ‘leaving things out’- than lying) So, when the doctor started laughing hysterically-indicating he’d been kidding- I felt a wave of relief. Also, I was glad I hadn’t spilled the beans, as I was about to do.

He continued smiling as he reached up and pulled his long hair back, securing it sloppily with a hair tie he pulled from his white lab coat(I spent the next few minutes imagining myself brushing his hair, pulling it back tight, and securing it properly. How much better it would look brushed!) He grabbed a pair of thick glasses off of the counter and put them on, low on the nose, then sat on a (presumably) sturdy stool, which had wheels on it’s bottom and rolled himself clumsily over to my mangled toe.

What EXACTLY were you doing in those woods, Mister?

“Let’s see what we’ve got here!” he said, clearing his throat and getting up close to my foot, now under the spotlight like a star. He leaned his head back, adjusted the lights, looking down his nose through the lenses of the glasses, his face twisting up for a moment- which I noticed, and which confirmed this wasn’t the kind of thing he saw every day- or maybe ever. He said ‘hmmm’ in a way that was the opposite of comforting, then stared for a solid minute before he rolled himself with some force away from my foot and let out a long, slow whistle.

“That’s quite a beut, you’ve got there!” he said. Up till then, I thought only my Dad used the word beut. He used it to describe big bluefish, an amazing NFL catch, or someone’s epic injury. My Dad hadn’t seen my toe, as he was presently in the Florida Keys at an insurance seminar, something my mom told me, holding both hands up in quotation marks around the words ‘insurance seminar’.  Now that they were divorced, lots of stuff went under the bridge, and it no longer seemed odd that there were important things- both good and bad, happening without my Dad around.  I knew there was supposed to be something deeply sad about that, but the actual feeling of hurt was still way out at sea- like a sad note in a bottle that would someday wash ashore without warning, its words breaking my heart, mostly for the girl I used be, and the ‘original’ family I once had.

The doctor stood up with a groan, and began re-adjusting lights and rifling through trays of instruments. He talked to me, matter -of- fact style- describing what was going to happen next: “I’m going to have to remove the nail completely. I’ll numb your foot with a shot first, so you won’t feel anything. Afterwards you’ll be in a bandage for two weeks. You can’t get it wet, and this is important: you can’t play sports, either” Oh no!, I thought wryly- please don’t take sports playing away! Other than being forced to throw spirals to my brothers with the family football, sports was something I watched, not played. Even then, it was strictly NFL football, absent in the summer. I wondered if the next time my brother turned on channel 11 to watch a Mets game, I could say-on a technicality- “Doctor said no sports‘ and make him watch something better. The doctor continued: “The nail should grow back…… eventually” he added, not sounding at all sure of it. He then stood up and  put on latex gloves, while the nurse walked in with a hypodermic needle.

“Okay” I murmured- I mean, what choice did I have? I was about to become a freak with no toenail! Could I just paint a fake one on with nail polish, or would I be forever self conscious in sandals, at the beach, in the shower? I didn’t even want to have to look at it- and it was my toe! The doctor came at me with the needle at this point, and I quickly clenched my butt in the seat, sitting up straighter, bracing myself for the shot. I looked up at the white pockmarked ceiling, and held my breath. The needle shot through the thin skin of my foot, which stung like a wasp, but I said nothing, flinching almost imperceptibly.  In less than a minute, it felt like my foot had disappeared from the ankle down. I decided not to look at what was going on, and closed my eyes as the doctor and nurse huddled around my toe. I could feel the weight of my leg being shifted as my foot was being worked on, but eerily, nothing from the foot or toe itself. I wondered if this was how it felt to be partially paralyzed. About five minutes in, I heard the doctor huffing, and telling the nurse impatiently to get another tool. I briefly glanced down, and was shocked to see that there was enough spilled blood to write ‘Helter Skelter’ on the walls- not just the title- the book! I felt sick to my stomach. The site of blood is so alarming …perhaps even more so when it’s spilling out of you! The nurse scurried out of the door, and for a second the doctor met my frightened eyes with his own.

“It’s okay!…..Really….it is!” he said, but he looked pale and unsure of himself. He walked away from my foot, one of his latex gloves completely red, glistening with blood. I heard him shuffling stuff around behind me. My toe looked like stomped red grapes. He walked back over and set a white cloth screen in front of my foot, completely blocking my view. It was like a temporary fence built around a construction site, and my curiosity piqued because of it. Obviously, much like the Mafia, he did not want me to see what was going on in his ‘construction business’, and this ratcheted up my nerves. The nurse scuttled back and forth, handing the doctor a new metal tool-something that looked like it would be used to ‘cleave’. I closed my eyes again, my heart skipping beats and tried to silently force myself to recite the lyrics to favorite songs in my mind….unable to stop thinking of ‘Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath’, Trey’s black-light Jaguar poster and that hipster doofus, Bingy. Inevitably, I opened my eyes for a split second, and to this day I can recall what I saw: A giant man, his face twisted into a grimace, his hairline beaded with sweat, long strands of wet brown hair sticking to his shoulders and neck, pulling with all of his weight and every ounce of strength he had, on my busted toenail…which obviously preferred to be left where it was. It was gory, it was disgusting, and I decided that I was really (not kidding!) going to punch Dack right in his stomach with all of my might the next time I saw him. 

THE WOODS: Part 4

In The 70's on August 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I certainly had a lot of other things going on-or hoped to. It was the beginning of summer, and now my foot injury was taking precedence over everything else. At first, the random change of plans had seemed kind of exciting- like when a big storm is heading your way-until it actually gets there, and the power goes off, the food goes bad, and you realize the magnitude of things we take for granted (electricity, fresh food, water, manners, civility) and that we are  (pathetically) ill-equipped to deal with life in ‘survival-mode’. That’s when it hits you, this isn’t ‘fun’ at all. The same could be said about my the ability to freely walk without thinking about it.

“This is going to be so fun!’

This was my summer, so far: Kicking back in my canopy bed, propped up on pillows, flipping through Sixteen ,reading Jacqueline Susann’s “Once Is Not Enough’ (written, by the way, on her deathbed), listening to “Smoke On The Water’ and ‘Angie’ ad nauseum on the FM radio-because getting up to change an 8 track after it ran its course was a pain, and there was almost always a song I didn’t like creeping up. At least the radio might surprise me. I was occasionally making complicated forays into the living room as well to watch daytime t.v.,  desperately trying to avoid the boring Watergate hearings. My new ‘routine’  got old quick. 

My doctor’s appointment was three days after my Emergency room visit, but felt like weeks. Of course, I talked on the phone for seven or eight hours a day, which kept me busy, and up-to-date on all of my friend’s comings and goings. It was mostly routine stuff: Trey fighting, or wanting to fight, or having fought someone, Toni in love with, thinking of breaking up with, or planning to marry John, and Cheryl’s updates on what the crew in her neck of the woods (technically four streets over, but another country as far as neighborhoods went) was up to. Compelling stuff. But at least I could enjoy this form of socializing from my bed. Because moving about was no easy deal.

“I’m not a crook! Yet I’ve stolen every channel for coverage!”

But it was trying to sleep that was the worst! I was a side-sleeper, and though I propped my foot up on several pillows, letting it dangle off, clear of obstruction, I would twist and turn in my sleep and be startled awake- shrieking in pain as my toe touched down on the mattress, feeling as though I’d been struck by the Hammer of the Gods. 

Keeping clean was a major problem as well. There was no way I could submerge my foot into a bathtub full of water, and the thought of a shower-with the water pelting down onto my open toe, was unbearable. So I had to take bird baths, and wash my long hair in the kitchen sink, which took forever. It brought a whole new meaning to my least favorite description of my hair color as well: dishwater blonde.

As I leaned into the sink, and clumsily tried to wet my hair under the faucet, I couldn’t shake the vision of my long locks being pulled down deep into the drain, where god knows what black-hole, skeeviness lived. I couldn’t use the stopper either, as my hair would immediately become entangled in it, like an octopus about to spray ink. In fact on day one, with my Mom safely at work, I spent several minutes lurching about the kitchen, head soaking wet and upside down, searching for my towel, the captive metal strainer swaying to and fro like a pendulum. I dealt with all of this while trying to avoid hitting my wounded toe on any hard surface, such as the kitchen cabinets, against which I had to stand to reach the sink in the first place. It was a long, exhausting production. And I had to do it three whole times. It was murder on my thirteen year old psyche. (Not washing my hair was out of the question. What if someone saw me?)

Birdbaths: A barrel of fun….like to see you try it, peckerneck!

 ‘D’ (-as in ‘doctor’) Day eventually came, and after I went through my bird bath/ shampoo drama, which proved especially heart-stopping with my mother- who was off from work to take me to my appointment, continually  cutting it way too close to my exposed foot, fetching her coffee and flitting about unpredictably, as if we were all sporting ‘regular’ toes. I was becoming very resentful of the ‘foot freedom’ everyone else took for granted. A commercial or print ad for shoes, socks, nail polish, even corn remover, left a bitter taste in my mouth. I wanted to, once again, walk amongst the healthy and not have to think about my every move.

It occurred to me that I would never be one of those inspiring handicapped people, who never let their physical limitations hold them back. Like the legless man who won marathons, or the paralyzed woman who climbed the highest mountains. Instead, I would be overflowing with self-pity and complaints, and probably drive everyone close to me away, if this minor foot injury was in any way an indication. Chances are, it would end when I was mysteriously served arsenic in my tea.  There would be no investigation. 

I got dressed in a denim halter top and bell bottom jeans (one bell rolled up past my knee to prevent contact) and one hot pink Bradlees brand rubber thong for my foot. We drove  downtown, parked behind the movie theater, and proceeded to walk ( and hobble, respectively) to my foot doctor’s office, which was located above a barber shop, and ironically, required navigating a steep staircase to get to. Like a doctor having bad handwriting, this could be thought of as funny, but really wasn’t at all. By the time we made it to the waiting room, I felt as if I’d climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and I was less than pleased.

My mother filled out the paperwork given to her by the perky, red-headed medical assistant at the front desk, while I stared at the wall, occasionally glancing around. There was only one other person in the waiting room, a man with a cast, crutches leaning up against the wall near where he sat, reading Field and Stream. He must have had a ball walking up the steps! I wondered if I would end up with crutches and/or a cast. I liked the idea of a cast because it would protect my wound like a shell, plus: cool autographs. But I really hoped that somehow I could just be back to my normal, sock and shoe-wearing self by the time I left the office. 

I hoped my foot would look like this, by the time I left the Doctor’s office…..

After a good 20 minute wait, a nurse holding a clipboard finally opened the door to the waiting room and called my name. My mother escorted me into the back to meet the doctor, and discuss the treatment plan. If I could have left my body like a ghost, floated away and returned when it was over, I would have been thrilled. The thought of anybody anywhere near my foot made me cringe!

Before we got into the examining room, a huge man, sweating profusely, came barreling down  the hallway, his girth spanning it’s entire width. He was heading towards us at a fast clip, and I moved as best I could towards the right side, hoping to use my mother as a shield should we collide. I’d never played ‘chicken’ on foot, but like the car-version, I wasn’t enjoying it in the least. Luckily, the nurse led us into a room off to the right, before our paths crossed.

I was eased into a brown leather chair that looked similar to a dentist’s. I climbed in, and the nurse then began hitting buttons for different lights and gadgets- one of which raised my leg up vertically, until my mangled toenail was framed in fluorescent light, in a dramatic, circle- of- life, lion-cub- over-a-cliff kind of way, center stage. It looked especially disgusting at this point, like a pool of blood with glass shards jutting out.

The larger-than-life guy then entered the room, smiling and shaking my mom’s hand, while I focused in on the nurse, who was gathering up dangerous looking picks and scalpels that I assumed would be used on me. It made me sick to my stomach, and I had the urge to somehow call the whole thing off, but it was too late. I was jarred out of my trance by the big man himself- who extended his hand for me to shake (back in the seventies, you could shake hands in a medical setting without fear of a medical plague, or a bottle of anti- bacterial gel) and it suddenly hit me: this was not an orderly, or an office assistant, this was my actual doctor!

He was a giant man- six-three, or so, and I estimated his weight at about 350. He had long brown, somewhat stringy hair, reaching  halfway to his elbows. It wasn’t even tied back. He had a pleasant face, green eyes and a friendly smile, but certainly did not fit the image of any doctor, anywhere, ever. (The singer, Meatloaf, maybe) As soon as he was done introducing himself (“Dr. Granger, but you can call me Dr. Rick”) I began urgently trying to communicate telepathically with my mother, to convey to her silently “What in God’s name is this?” along with the much more important: ” Help! Get me out of here!!” She steadfastly refused to meet my glare, and yet I could tell she was just as freaked out as I was. The guy looked crazy. It was shocking to realize she wasn’t going to abort the plan, and I knew that’s why she couldn’t look me in the eye! I promised myself that later on I would go off on her- if of course, I survived, after going under the knife with this-this person- at the helm.

The next thing I knew, my mother was blowing me an air- kiss, though still not meeting my gaze- and saying “Lee-lee- I’ll be back in an hour or so, I’m going to just run a few errands while the doctor treats you”…and off she went, yapping to deflect concern, my imaginary hands gripped around her neck. Perhaps she was heading off to the five-and-ten (as she still called any store with a counter) for a slice of custard pie and some coffee, maybe to peruse some magazines, have a smoke, pick up some doo-dads. How nice for her. 

I imagined a scenario wherein I would actually die while she was gone. Would she look back at these last moments and wish she’d called the whole thing off? ‘I should have gone with my instincts’ she’d say. Or: ‘I knew something was off, and poor LeeLee- trying to signal me with those puppy-dog eyes! Why, oh why!-didn’t I listen?’ Or, would she be so guilt filled that her brain would block it all out as she went forward with a substantial lawsuit that would afford her an early retirement and a chance to travel the world in style?

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