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Intro To Memoir

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In the bible there is a verse that says, “young men see visions, old men dream dreams.” Well since I am now in the dreaming phase of my life I thought it may be wise to get some of these dreams on paper before I stop waking up.

Therefore, remembering the frequent question from my young daughter, “Daddy tell me a story about when you were a kid?” I am going to tell a bunch of stories, because everybody, especially if they have lived as long and crazy as I have, has lots of stories to tell.

Although the stories themselves are personal, the experiences, teachings, and hard-way learnings are universal. I am nothing special, I have done nothing, said nothing, nor probably even thought anything that hadn’t been done, said, and thought many times before me. That’s the way life is, and what makes it so damn interesting.

We all start out mostly carrying the same tool box. How we use the tools within it makes the difference. Perhaps by reading my memoirs you will give a thought to the value of your own mind, or at least get a good laugh.

Following are the funny, and sometimes not so funny, experiences I’ve had in my life while on this planet. This writing takes place in a rather haphazard form as it seems to me that form best fits my style as continuity and ambition is something you would never have seen on my resume . . .

The Projects

As a kid I was quiet, withdrawn, and mostly an observer not particularly liking what I saw taking place in my immediate family. Actually, life with mom, pop and my nasty sister was a totally dysfunctional mess. For all intent and purposes I feel I could have been raised by wolves.

I like to say that when I was grown high enough to reach the door knob of our small apartment I was out and gone, escaping into the magical kingdom of the projects, and that is pretty much what happened. 

The Mellet Homes housing project was built smack dab in the middle of Ozzie and Harriet’s middle class America by the U.S. government to house the influx of workers needed to man the local factories and steel mills gone full bore into the war effort. Each barracks type building, containing six small apartments, was packed closely together onto a thirty five or so acre tract of land.

It was a noisy place full of clothes lines, screaming kids, crying babies, and cars. A distinct perimeter existed between ‘us’ poor folks and ‘them’ rich folks. We even had our own school for awhile cause they wanted to keep us riff-raff segregated from Harriet’s little darlings.

I can only imagine how happy she was to see a slum arising in the midst of her beloved neighborhood, but what the hell, the war was on and everybody had to sacrifice a bit for the cause. Ozzie went off to kill Germans while Harriet stayed home and tended her victory garden. And when the vegetables were ripe, project kids stole and ate them.

The project was a great place to grow up. We played Cowboys and Indians with enough kids to field two armies. We played War and Kick the Can well into the night without the thought of perverts or gun slingers. We played football, baseball, basketball. We fought bare knuckled when we were mad, boxed with the gloves on when we weren’t. We wrestled in the mud in the rain. We played doctor with the girls in the woods by day and used their cover by night as a staging area for vandal raids onto Ozzie and Harriet’s turf.

We lived under a pecking order where everybody knew their place. If we messed with the older kids we got beat up. All the adults looked out for us and didn’t mind giving us a slap when we deserved it either.

There were no knives, guns, drugs or any of that stuff. The men would occasionally get drunk and get into fist fights, but no one ever got killed. The women would get into shouting matches sometimes, but all that noise just added a minor chord that made the melody all the more interesting.

Nobody got much for Christmas in the projects, so we would get up Christmas morning, see what we got and go around to all our friends places to barter and exchange until we ended up with something we wanted. ( I’m sure Tommy always kept his pair of socks) Man, we had it all and were living the dream. We were happy cause nobody ever told us how poor we were.

The projects was always a bee hive of activity. I remember when the ice man would deliver large blocks of ice by hand to feed our refrigerator.

I remember the rag man with his cart walking down the street yelling, “Rag man!…….Rag man!” and people would come to buy a clean one or drop their dirty rags in his cart.

I remember when the milk man would come and deliver milk. Us kids would steal orange drink out of the ice bin in the back of his truck while he did it. We’d also ride our bikes alongside a pop truck and help ourselves to a Coke when ever we saw it coming. He’d stop and yell, but he could never catch us.

Nobody had a TV in those days so we used to listen to movies on the radio. Amos and Andy was my favorite, and who could forget The Shadow. When TV came out there was only one family in the whole projects who could afford one. Us kids would gather quietly around their living room window after dark while old man Bear and his wife sat on the couch on the inside, and watch our favorite show Lights Out with them. Wonder if they knew we were even there? Can you imagine that happening today? We would have set off an alarm the minute we bent a blade of his fake grass in today’s world.

I think I was about nine when mom finally bought me a TV. I still remember coming home one evening from the YMCA (where I practically lived) and seeing Sgt. Preston of the Royal Canadian Police playing in my living room . . . WOW one of the happiest days in my life to that point.

In the projects the walls were so thin that if the guy next door sneezed you could hear it. We had these medicine cabinets in the bath room with a slot in them where you dropped razor blades after they were used up. Well, if you looked into the slot and the person in the other apartment had their cabinet door open you could see into their bathroom. Robyn, my girl friend, would accidentally on purpose leave her door open when she took a bath. I would turn out the light on my side and open the door to watch her. Really exciting voyeurism for a guy my age. Ha! I still remember that stuff . . .Robyn I still love you, wherever you are!

I moved from the projects one cold, windy day in the winter of 1957 with tears streaming down my cheeks. I was forced to leave Berry Davis, the love of my life, and my many friends. I was a very unhappy camper when my mom got remarried and forced me to move. The one place where I could feel at home in those days was in the projects among my friends.

The projects were in existence until 1965 or so when they were torn down to make room for a shopping center and a parking lot. The new Walmart now sits directly on top of the spot where I once lived, kinda poetic justice I suppose since I had practically made a career out of stealing from those kind of stores. In the end we all lose. I lost big time the day my mom made me leave the projects and move onto Ozzie and Harriet’s turf.

The Story

This guy is fascinating to me . . . like one day I took a walk in Central Park and discovered a long lost brother from the sixties before everybody was pigeon holed into this huge social trap of sameness. A time when free thought and weirdness was the order of the day. . . . We need more bonobo’s like him to come out of hiding and not be afraid to do it.

Whats YOUR story? . . . . . . . . .

The Coffee House

We can choose our wives
But a child is a gift
No choice – no voice in the matter
In the beginning who knows what we got?
A Mother Theresa or a Mad Hatter?

You try to love, defend, and feed
As long as life allows it
But sometimes things go wrong
And we sing a bluesy song
But ultimately . . . we carry on.

Yesterday we drove to town
To a special meet
That went incomplete
So we went for coffee instead
And after all was said . . . there was nothing left to dread.

Yesterday I realized how fortunate I am
To have been blessed (and not just stressed)
With the little ray of sunshine given me.

We can choose our wives
But a child is a gift
No choice – no voice in the matter
In the beginning who knows what we got?
A Mother Theresa or a Mad Hatter?

As for me – I was so blessed that today ( 51 years later)
I was able to walk into a coffee house with a best friend
Who I am free enough with . . . to drop the walls
And bare my heart . . . too.

That is a gift beyond measure . . . a heavenly treasure.

Poetry

I took to looking for poetry on the blogs this morning and was sorely displeased with what I found. Now I am almost (not quite) an ancient human being and I came from another era I know, but today’s poetry, forgive my saying, stinks. It is so dark and so dreary it makes even Poe’s stuff seem bright.

Back in the day, even though Vietnam was raging and the draft was on, young people wrote about hope and change (before it became bullshit, Obama)  Dylan led a large crowd and the coffee houses were filled with poets and songsters. The mikes were open to all sorts of greatness (as well as nonsense) . . . but the mood was “WOW” . . . upbeat.

It’s just my personal opinion I know, but I love Dylan and Robert Service and Robert Frost as well as many others. (including Poe!)

Maybe today’s crowd is so intent on being current and different they forgot that, no matter how great their poetry and their music and their art is . . . it is all a language and a language that cannot be understood is worthless. It’s like a preacher speaking in tongues. Who of (less than God) can even understand what the hell he is even talking about.

This poem is for you because it may be that you have not just gotten off the beaten path, but are lost in the jungle of moroseness . . . .

PS If you find what I said offensive, take a look around, read a bunch of poems and try to figure out what the writer is even talking about . . . if you can, more power to you cause this old man sure as all hell can’t . . .

 

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Knowing

Once upon a time, many years ago, I dropped a tab of acid and had my awakening. Years later I realized I’d never had my awakening at all . . . .

Then I found Jesus and the church and had my true awakening. Years later I realized I’d never had my awakening at all . . . .

Then I read and studied spiritual things and teachings until the day my head was so full of understanding that I finally realized I’d had my awakening. Years later, though I’d sat at the feet of the best and the brightest spiritual teachers, I realized I actually never had awakened at all . . . .

Today, as I sit before my fire and contemplate on all the knowledge and understandings I have acquired from my many encounters with the spiritual life, I am beginning to realize that ALL that stuff, upon my death, will remain here in my ego driven head because the only things I can take with me are the things I have given away . . . the simple acts of kindness and love, mercy and grace that I have shown upon all those I came into contact with . . . .

Because the truth is THOSE are the fruits of our spiritual labor and we cannot fake our way onto a higher plane by spouting spiritual nonsense, or name dropping our favorite savior teacher, or any other way. . . .

In that next world, on that next plateau . . . it’s not about what you KNOW . . . it’s about who you ARE.

Who you pretend to be will get you far on this planet . . . who you really are is all that counts once the veil has lifted and the fog has shifted . . . . .it’s important to know that.