The Summer Of Crazy Eddie Appleton

Of all of the summers I have seen, the summer of 1969 remains entrenched in my memory, and I remember it with a fondness that, at times, seems a bit overwhelming. For me it was not the summer of Woodstock, or the summer of  the ‘giant leap for mankind’. It was the summer of Crazy Eddie Appleton.

That summer my family went to the cottage at Jackson’s Point. I spent my days with my summer friends Danny, Rosie, and Misha. From the moment I first met her, I was attracted to Misha. She was an insanely pretty girl, with a tight t shirt, and a pack of Du Maurier stuffed into the back pocket of her cut off denim shorts, with an attitude as contrary and sarcastic as my own. We spent our time at the beach, the arcade, and hanging out behind the old marina where I learnt how to smoke.

Across the road from Rosie’s cottage lived the Appleton’s. We knew nothing about them, but none of us were permitted to go near the place. According to everyone’s mother, Eddie Appleton was a crazy and possibly dangerous man. Other people in the Point seemed to share the same concerns, walking on the other side of the road as they passed by, looking at it as if to catch a glimpse of the crazy and possibly dangerous man in the front window. Crazy Eddie Appleton had become the Boo Radley of Jackson’s Point.

He would usually come out at night, roaming the small, summer town talking to himself, dirty and unkempt, shouting at no one in particular, dressed in an overcoat, hat and gloves despite the sweltering summer heat and an orange florescent vest that could be seen from miles away as if to warn everyone that he was on the loose. One evening, as we sat behind the marina smoking, we saw Crazy Eddie on the beach burying something in the sand. “Probably body parts of some kid he killed.”, Danny reported.

“Maybe its his mother.”, Rosie speculated.

“Why don’t we just call him over and ask him what he’s doing.”, Misha suggested.

“Oh my God. No, don’t!”, Rosie pleaded.

“Well then, why don’t we just wait until he leaves and then go dig up whatever he buried.”, Misha proposed.

“Good plan, Einstein.”, I told her. “I knew I was hanging around you for a reason.” Misha smiled at me,  lit another cigarette and gently placed it in my mouth.  “But we’ll have to come back tomorrow morning.”, I continued. “We’ll meet back here at seven.” On the way home I kept thinking about the way Misha put that cigarette in my mouth, and I was almost certain that her hand brushed my lips. I laid awake all night, wondering, wishing and hoping that she liked me too.

We all met behind the marina as planned. Danny and Rosie brought shovels, and Misha arrived carrying a large thermos which was filled with coffee that she had taken from home. None of us had ever had coffee before, but this seemed like as good a time as any to start. We sat down behind the Marina and smoked a cigarette as we took turns drinking coffee from the little cup that so conveniently came with the thermos. There were a few fisherman milling around, and an old man was roaming the beach with a metal detector. “We need to go now.”, Misha said. “Before it gets too busy.”

Once on the beach we tried to remember exactly where Crazy Eddie had buried the body parts. We dug and dug, but came up with nothing.  The old  man with the metal detector shouted “Hot damn. I found something.” We all ran over, and there in his hand, was a gold ring. “What is it?”, I asked.

“A lady’s wedding ring, I would think.”, the old man said.

“I told you he buried his mother.”, Rosie reminded us. Misha grabbed Rosie’s shovel and she began digging like a dog trying to retrieve the bone it had buried. We took turns with the shovels and dug and dug, but we found nothing except some sand crabs, fish skeletons, and some small turtles. The pier at the beach began filling up with boaters and fishermen getting ready to start another day on the water.

“We should go.”, Misha said. “We’ll have to figure something else out.” Dejected, we headed back to the marina, where we shared a cigarette. We sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, and I suppose each one of us was trying to come up with some way we could find out what Crazy Eddie had buried on the beach that night. “Come with me.”, Misha said as she took my hand and led me to the other side the marina, behind an old Maple tree. The touch of her hand sent shivers through my body, and I knew that I probably would have followed her anywhere, just to stay near her. “You’re the smartest one of us.”, she told me. “What do you think we should do?”

“Well”, I answered. “Digging up the beach isn’t going to do anything. I think we should follow Crazy Eddie. Maybe we can catch him red handed.”

“That makes sense.”, Misha said, as she leaned in and gave me a kiss on my lips. That brief kiss made me feel indestructible and I kissed her again. We must have been there for about five minutes with our lips pressed together behind that Maple tree. When we started to walk back to our friends, we held hands. “I guess I’m your girlfriend now.”, Misha stated with some certainty as she squeezed my hand.

“I suppose so.”, I answered.  I had never really had a girlfriend before, so I couldn’t be sure.  But either way, I liked it.

Danny and Rosie were too scared to join us in our mission that night, so Misha and I decided that we would do it alone. Just the two of us. Like Jonathan Steed and Emma Peel from The Avengers. We left the marina to plan our mission, but found ourselves making out in the lane way behind the Red and White Grocery Store. It was at that moment that I realized that I really didn’t give a rat’s ass about Crazy Eddie or what he buried at the beach. All I wanted was to keep doing whatever the hell I was doing with Misha. I hoped that she was feeling the same, but I was too damned scared to ask.

That night, we waited in the bushes across the road from Crazy Eddie’s place. I told my parents that I was staying at Danny’s overnight, while Misha told her family that she would be spending the night at Rosie’s. We had a plan, and now we just had to wait for the villain to take the bait.  Eddie Appleton finally came out of his cottage, and headed off towards town. He was carrying a small black bag, and a small shovel, the kind you would use in a flower garden. Visions of Lars Thorwald began playing in my head. Maybe, just maybe Rosie was right. Maybe Crazy Eddie was burying his mother in various places around Jackson’s Point. Misha and I followed him as he rummaged through every garbage can and dumpster he could find. Every now and then he would open the small, black bag and place something in it, or take something out. We couldn’t be sure. We followed him through his journey and to the beach. We watched him dig a small hole, and bury something in the sand. He dug five holes that night, and we memorized the location of each one. When he left, Misha and I went behind the marina and smoked a cigarette. “Well stay here until it gets light. Then we can dig up the holes and see what Crazy Eddie’s been up to.”, I said.

“Okay.”, Misha replied, as she put her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.

I woke her as soon as it was light, and we walked onto the beach and started digging exactly where Eddie Appleton had dug the night before. We dug up all five of the holes and each one contained the same thing. Fish bones. Numerous, assorted bones from numerous assorted fish. “This is crazy.”, Misha said.

“They don’t call him Crazy Eddie for the hell of it.”, I told her.

“I just don’t get it.”, she continued.

“Maybe you have to be crazy to get it.”, I replied. It was crazy, and I didn’t get it either. It made no sense. The early morning boaters and fishermen started arriving so Misha and I went back behind the marina. “Well”, I said, “the mystery is solved.”

“What a let down.”, Misha replied. “I thought we were onto something big.” I did too, and I was just as disappointed as she was.

That afternoon I saw Crazy Eddie and his mother on my way to Rosie’s. She said hello, and I crossed the road to talk with them. I said hi to Eddie and he merely shrugged. Mrs. Appleton apologized for him, informing me that Eddie had been out very late burying fish skeletons at the beach. I asked her why. She told me that Eddie was trying to give the fish a proper burial and he felt they should be laid to rest near the water. After all, that is where their friends and family were.

I continued to hang out with Misha that summer, hiding behind the marina smoking cigarettes and making out. When it ended we parted ways, writing the customary letters for a while and then, we just lost touch with each other. I haven’t seen Rosie since that summer, and Danny and I connected a couple of times when we were attending the same University. We had grown apart, blazing different trails for our lives. I spent some time with Eddie that summer and I learned that he was not dangerous. He was certainly fucked up,but he was completely harmless, a good soul who I suppose was totally misunderstood. He taught me how to look at the world with hope and patience and I was always amazed at his innocence and kindness. Eddie died many years ago. He was hit by a drunk driver while wandering the streets of a much busier Jackson’s Point wearing his orange fluorescent vest.  Truth be told, I enjoyed every minute we spent together.

 

 

 

It Was Tuesday, But It Wasn’t Belgium

by Solomon Tate

Sandy met me at Ben Gurion Airport. She was a family friend I had known most of my life. We grew up together, although she was a few years older, doing all of that family crap that family friends did back then. There were barbecues, picnics, and outings to an array of local attractions filled with animals, and non stop photographs that many years later were passed around, with that ‘weren’t they cute?’ precursor. There were drive ins and there were family vacations. It was on one such vacation that Sandy and I became close in the lane way behind the Red & White store in Jackson’s Point. We were young, we were foolish, and we were horny little shits. And now,  years later, I was staying in her Tel Aviv apartment, as she showed me around her adopted country. It was weeks of incredible scenery, centuries old artifacts, beaches, booze, banging and blow jobs.

I have no idea how I got there, but  that was nothing new. The mixing of Canadian whiskey and percocet usually had that kind of effect on me. Rivaled only by tequilla and peyote, there were many times that I had absolutely no idea how I got where I was. And now, I was in Tel Aviv, backpack at my side, passport in my jacket, and a pocket full of U.S. dollar traveler’s checks. There was an American weirdo in black tights and a cape who had been wandering through the airport, thinking he was some sort of super hero. I was certain that he was a paranoid schizophrenic who had been off his chlorpromazine for several days. He was apparently a regular at the airport, and as security whisked him away, he left without incident,  promising  that he would return to save us all from the evil doers hiding in the shadows.

Sandy was marginally fabulous,  with her 5 foot long legs crammed into a pair of skin tight jeans that, if I had to guess, were painted on. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. There always seemed to be testosterone saturated men gawking in amazement, with mouths opened and tongues hanging out like dogs in the summer heat, transfixed by what was not left to the imagination. She was insanely hot, usually drawing as big a crowd as nude jello wrestling. She worked for a tour company, leading visitors through the  historical and religious treasures, and once I was settled in the apartment, we began our journey.

We ventured to Bograshov Street, where she took me for what she claimed was the best falafel in town. To be fair, it was pretty damn good. We headed off to the beach, with Sandy leading the way, and me lagging behind, stopping to look at almost every bikinied body in my path. My eyes were darting back and forth, totally immersed in the tanned, beauty that lay before me like a beach blanket buffet. Sandy located a spot on the beach to lay down. She put down her towel and bag, and removed her street clothes, revealing that body that I had the pleasure of visiting years before. I had a brief conversation with my penis, asking it to keep sleeping, at least for the time being. Sandy went for a swim in the blue waters of The Mediterranean, and when she came out of the water, it was like watching Honey Ryder emerging from the sea in Dr. No. Ironically, I was silently praying that this would be a yes, as my penis had suddenly betrayed me,  having woken up and was now standing at attention. “Well, I hope that’s for me.”, Sandy said as she arrived at our spot on the beach.

“So does he.”, I told her.

“Damn, Tate”, she said. “I see you’ve still got your mind in the gutter.”

“It seems to be the only place I’m truly comfortable.”, I informed her as I watched beads of sweat roll down into her cleavage, while little kids roamed the beach selling popsicles out of boxes, and soldiers with weapons locked and loaded wandered around just about everywhere. It was often unsettling, but it was the way of life.

Sandy took me across the country, from Haifa to Eilat, from The Dead Sea to Ashkelon. We saw the Western Wall and Masada, visited Rosh HaNikra and Ein Gedi, and stood atop Mount Zion. The country was insanely beautiful, and I was particularly fond of the Old City of Jerusalem, Jaffa  and of course, Sandy’s Queen size bed, and couch, and kitchen table. I was comfortable there, and seemed to be at ease. The thought of remaining, of not returning home was bouncing around my head on a regular basis.

One night we went to see a movie, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’. Interestingly enough, the film was shown with Hebrew subtitles, while the patrons in the theatre spoke during the entire film, leaving me, with my limited Hebrew to try and make out what the hell was going on. Following the movie, Sandy and I went to meet some of her friends at a cafe in Jerusalem. It was a good night, and I am pretty sure Sandy got drunk. As she was the one driving, and I was somewhat shitfaced, we were forced to spend the night in Jerusalem. We got a room in The King David Hotel, and were woken by an explosion that seemed not so far away. In the morning, Police and soldiers were all over the streets, and barricades were up blocking passage past the blast site. It seemed that our little cafe from the night before stood no more. Gone. Just like that. In the blink of an eye, what was once a building, was now merely rubble. Luckily no one was hurt, but I was a little scared. Alright, I was quite scared. My decision was made. While I was deeply moved just being there, I didn’t think I could live like that. Sandy told me that you get used to it after a while and that it just becomes part of life there. You don’t think about it, and you don’t worry about it. You just go about your life. That was all well and good, but this Canadian guy, who had finally grown accustomed to raccoons rummaging through the garbage cans at night, and the pigeons that attacked without fear, found it just a bit too overwhelming to come home one day and find my apartment had been blown into several neighboring communities. I just couldn’t do it. Several years later My wife and I and our children, inquired about making Aliyah, but were informed by the Israeli government that due to my daughter’s physical disabilities she would not be able to receive health coverage. My wife was worried about the kids going into the army at age 18. I told her I thought it would do some of them some good, but in the end, we stayed put.

I haven’t seen Sandy since then, about 40 years ago, and I couldn’t even be certain that she was still alive and well. We corresponded for a while, but as happens with old friends and lovers, you just lose touch. Time passes, people move, and I suppose, most of all, you just don’t care enough to look for them. I do miss her, I mean, I had known forever.

While I waited at the airport for my flight out of Tel Aviv the caped crime fighter emerged from the bathroom. As he raced through the terminal looking for a crime to fight, he was chased by security who again caught him, and escorted him into a room. My thoughts were that he was taken to a plane bound for the U.S., strapped in, sedated and sent about his way. Either that, or he was admitted to a psychiatric facility for observation and assessment. Either way, he didn’t come out of that room while I was waiting for my flight. I have not returned to Israel since that time many, many years ago and to be honest, with my advancing age, I think I have become afraid to fly. Well, its not flying that scares me, but rather being blown up in mid air or crashing into the ocean is what I wish to avoid. My grandfather, in his infinite wisdom had once told me that while he was unable to ever go to Israel, he did spend his winters in Florida, and it was pretty damn close to the same thing. And now I am currently considering a slow, leisurely drive down to Fort Lauderdale.