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.

 

 

 

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The Silence Of The Yams

 

After an ill fated attempt at minimalist living, my wife had forged ahead and dug her heels into a newfound healthy eating lifestyle. It seemed that she had gone vegan. Just like that. The announcement came as a surprise to the entire family. “She’s gone crazy.”, one of my daughters voiced at the secret meeting we held in the backyard.

“She’s not crazy.”, I told them. “Let’s just give it a try.” Desperately hoping that this too would die a quick death, we joined her in the madness of a meatless life.

Every day she would send us pictures and recipes of meals that she found on the internet, each one captioned with “What do you think about this?”, or “Doesn’t this look good?”, in an attempt to involve as many of us as possible in the meals without meat campaign she had launched. We never responded, not one of us.

“What is this?”, I asked as we sat down to dinner.

“Portobello burger.”, she answered. “It tastes exactly like beef.” She was wrong. She was very wrong. It tasted nothing like beef, and even with all of the barbecue sauce, mustard, horse radish and onions, the taste of the mushroom still jumped up and shouted “This isn’t really a burger.”

And then, after reading an article on their health benefits, my wife discovered sweet potatoes. She figured out how to incorporated them in almost every meal. There were pies, and casseroles, and pastas. There were salads, and soups, and stews. After a few days, the rest of us were growing restless, feeling helpless against the onslaught of beans and vegetables, so when she went out with friends one evening, the rest of us headed off to Napoli Vince and dined on the meat lovers platter. There was veal, and sausage, and lamb and steak, and not a bean or a yam in sight. And it was so good! “Why can’t we do this all of the time?”, a daughter asked.

I knew why, but I didn’t want to ruin the obvious joy that illuminated my children’s faces. “Why don’t you just tell her we’re not going to eat veganese any more?” my youngest daughter asked. Why not indeed!

Upon my wife’s return I was ready for the showdown. “So what did you guys do tonight?”, she asked.

“Not much, really.”, I answered.

“How was dinner?”, she continued, as she headed into the kitchen. We all started to panic. We forgot to get rid of the meal she had left for us, sweet potato and lentil stew, in our haste to return to our primal inner carnivores. “So, what did you eat?”, she stated as she returned to the living room. My daughters left, like rabbits running from the fox, leaving me alone to face the Spanish Moroccan in a one on one battle to the death. She was already wearing her battle gear, that ‘I know you did something you shouldn’t have’ face, with those dark, unblinking eyes, arms folded across her chest, and her left leg a little turned out with the foot below it repeatedly tapping on the floor in 2/4 time. I took my position directly across from here, careful not to seem too confrontational while at the same time, demonstrating a complete lack of wrong doing. My hands were in my pant pockets, and my eyes were intentionally avoiding any eye contact with her.

“Well”, she said, “what did you do?”

“Can we sit down and talk?”, I asked.

“You can sit if you want.”, she stated, “I think I’d prefer to stand.”

“No.”, I replied. “I really need you to sit down so we can talk.” When we were both seated I realized that she looked even more upset than when she was standing, but there was no way I was going to ask her to stand up again.

“We don’t want to be vegans.”, I told her. “We just can’t live on rice, and beans, and sweet potatoes.”

“Millions of people eat like that.”, she replied. “What do you mean you can’t?”

“We don’t like it.”, I answered. “We just don’t like it.”

“Well”, she answered, “I could change a few things around, and maybe use different spices.”

“No”, I told her, “its not the seasoning or the spices. Its the lack of meat. I appreciate you trying to keep us healthy, we all do, but we have to come to some sort of compromise. You can’t just dump all of this on us at once.”

“Okay”, she responded. “I guess you’re right. It is a big change to have to deal with all at once. So what did you guys eat tonight?”

“We went to Naploi Vince’s.”, I told her.

“Did you bring me anything back?”, she asked.

“Actually, no.”, I informed her. “But there is a veal on a bun that just needs to be heated up, and its all yours if you want it.” She hoped out of the chair like a jack in the box, and dashed to the kitchen, placing the sandwich in the oven, and I swear I could hear her salivating from the other room.

“We should do this a couple of times a week.”, she said.

“We can.”, I replied.

“Its so good.”, she added, with a mouth full of food, savoring every nuance of this most perfect of sandwiches. I watched her as she continued to eat, taking in all of the sounds that indicated just how much she was loving it.

“Food sex, right?”, I asked her.

“Uh huh.”, she said between bites. And while she continued to eat, I disposed of the lentil and sweet potato stew she had left for us. When she had finished her sandwich, we headed to bed and laying there, I heard her say “We have to go to St. Lawrence Market tomorrow morning and pick up some veal. Oh, and we should get some hot Italian sausages, and beef ribs. I want beef ribs.”

“Okay.”, I said.

“And on the way”, she continued, “we should drop off all of the bags of beans and legumes in the donation bin for the food bank.”

“Okay.”, I repeated. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but thinking that I had just dodged another bullet, well not just me, but my kids too. I haven’t seen a sweet potato for a few months, and everyday I am grateful for that. I do however, spend some time, usually at night when the insomnia takes over and leaves me awake and agitated, wondering about what frightening idea from the lunatic fringe she will embrace next.

 

 

 

 

Harland Chesterfield & The Magic Bullet

Shit happens. It almost always does. The year that should have been, never was. We had big plans. Plans that we were certain would change our lives forever. Plans to attend ten Yes concerts in 15 days during the band’s ‘Close To The Edge Tour’, but nobody had heard from Harland Chesterfield since the weather changed that September. The search for him took several days, but he was found in a motel room hours away from home, draped over the side of the tub with an empty six pack of Labbatt’s Blue and a crumpled pack of Players scattered on the floor.

Harland Chesterfield had always been one weird, little guy. He was usually hanging out at Wilmington Park in what seems like a lifetime ago, roaming around, struggling to find somewhere to fit in. He seemed a withdrawn, but  he was usually also pretty wasted.  Harland didn’t have many friends, and kept to himself most of the time. He lived his life through music, and that seemed to be the only bond he would, or could share with others. He knew his stuff though.

One Friday night, at a house party at the home of one of the many teenage tarts who prowled Wilmington Park in search of drugs, love, and sex, Harland had discovered that the best way for someone to take their own life was at a Yes concert during the ‘I get up, I get down’ section of  ‘Close To The Edge’. He thought it was absurdly brilliant. We just thought he was messed up. He had reason to be. When he was nine years old, his mother seemed to have lost her mind and stabbed his father to death in the kitchen, after he informed her that the soup she had served him was not hot enough. She looked at him, smiled, and inserted an eight inch blade directly into his heart. He was dead before he hit the floor. She was institutionalized, and Harland was sent to live with an aunt, a divorced woman who lived on my street and whose bedroom I had the privilege to visit on more than one occasion.

After the police had found him, Harland was taken to the hospital and released a few days later, apparently in good health. It seems that he had simply drank himself unconscious. The trip was back on, and we were set to depart for Waterloo the following afternoon. Harland didn’t want to talk about what happened in that motel room, and the only comment he ever made about it was simply that he had a great sleep. We attended the Waterloo show completely messed up on peyote, and  followed it with concerts in Toronto and Ottawa.  Montreal was to be the last Canadian date, before we were to set out for the second stage in Flint, Columbus, and Erie.

During the Montreal concert, dead smack in the middle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, amid the dry ice and flashing lights, Harland Chesterfield fell face first onto the floor. When we couldn’t get him to move, we called security who removed him from the concert floor and took him somewhere inside the bowels of the arena. We followed the security detail, and waited outside a room they had taken him to. Paramedics arrived quickly, and they seemed to be in there for hours. Finally, the door burst open, and they rushed Harland down the hallway, strapped to a stretcher, and into the back of the waiting ambulance. Harland passed away, in fact he was already gone by the time the paramedics got him into the ambulance. He was pronounced Dead On Arrival at the hospital. An autopsy identified the cause of death as suicide by poison. Traces were found in his blood and on his hands. Harland Chesterfield had administered the magic bullet that took his life at a Yes concert, with twenty thousand fans cheering, amid the spectacle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, just as he had said he would.

We didn’t finish the ten shows in fifteen days. None of us really wanted to continue. Harland’s funeral was small and short, but those who attended gave him a send off we were sure he would have appreciated. The following summer, as I dabbled around the North, neck deep in drugs and damsels in a dress, I listened to Close To The Edge every day. It continues to live on in my playlist, and everytime I hear any track by Yes, my mind drifts off to remember Harland Chesterfield.

 

 

 

 

 

The Body In The Courtyard

The view from my terrace is wonderfully tranquil. I look directly into a forested area that, in Autumn, turns into a myriad of colors that regularly takes my breath away, and a courtyard enjoyed by the 4 buildings that make up this community. But that morning, it was different. Something had happened to shatter the peace that often came with a morning on the terrace.

I stepped out onto the terrace at about 5 in the morning, coffee and cigarette in hand. The lights that illuminated the courtyard below brought the entire area into view. There was nothing out of the ordinary. At 7:30, I returned to the terrace to find 6 police cruisers parked on the courtyard. There were strands of bright yellow police tape roping off an area near one of the other buildings. And there, on the ground just beside a neighboring building, was a body. It was covered with an orange tarp, and guarded by one of the officers. Several bicycle cops, dressed in the standard issues yellow jackets, and short blue pants arrived on the scene, and were relegated to directing the public away from the area. A black sedan pulled up, and 2 men, wearing suits and sunglasses got out, and walked over to the corpse. It seemed that the detectives had arrived. This was a local CSI.

They wandered around the site, and headed into the building. From my vantage point I watched as it all unfolded. I could see the detectives step onto an 11th floor terrace of a neighboring building, and, after rummaging around, peer over the edge of the terrace. Within minutes they departed the building, spoke to a uniformed officer, and left the scene just as inauspiciously as they had arrived. “Probably suicide.”, I said to my wife.

“What if he was sleep walking and fell off.”, she remarked.

“No.”, I told her. “Either suicide, or someone was high as fuck, and thought they could fly.”

“Really?”, she questioned. “Does that even happen?”

“It does to me.”, I informed her. “Many times. But usually the gargoyles wandering around the terrace keep me inside.”

It didn’t take long for the Forensics Unit to arrive. Two Officers lugging a briefcase full of evidence gathering equipment, and a camera. Pictures of the scene were taken, and the orange tarp was lifted in order to take photos of the corpse. Once completed they headed inside the building, up to the 11th floor terrace, and began taking pictures there. They returned to the scene on the ground, and rounded up what I suspect were bone fragments, and placed them in a bag. Once they were done, the Coroner’s Office arrived, in their black van, instructing the bicycle cops to keep away, and a Sergeant on the scene dispensed the short panted cyclists to other duties off the site.

The corpse was rolled and lifted onto a series of plastic coverings, and placed on a stretcher. It was wheeled to the awaiting black van, placed inside, and driven off. I looked down at the site, and noticed an enormous pool of blood. One of the maintenance workers from the complex came to wash the blood off of the concrete slabs that creating the walkway around the courtyard itself.

“I wonder if it was a man or a woman?”, my wife inquired.

“I think it was a man.”, I said. “Pretty big corpse for a woman.”

“Well that seems a little sexist.”, she stated. “There are big women, and there are small men.”

“Indeed there are.”, I agreed. “But it took three men to lift the body onto the stretcher, so I’m going to have to go with it was a man. Secondly, I am not sure that jumping to one’s death is a method women generally make when they contemplate suicide.”

“We don’t know it was suicide.”, she reminded me. “Maybe she was thrown off the terrace.”

“Well”, I added, “The detectives were in and out in about 15 minutes. The forensics team took about 30 minutes and then left. I would suspect that if foul play was suspected, there would be an investigation going on right now. I think they found a suicide note in the unit, so, that’s it.”

The Police began to remove the yellow tape, and once this task was completed, they left, like a convoy. It was 10 o’clock, and after 2 1/2 hours, the scene was completely restored to its previous pristine condition. We all seem to react to these kind of things differently, and my youngest daughter, who had been busy taking pictures of the event, began sharing them with her sister who now lived in the suburbs, informing her that there was a vacant apartment down here that was available. My wife found it completely disrespectful. My daughters found it funny. I just found it sad.

I have seen a lot of shit go on down here. There have been multiple stabbings and shootings, drug overdoses, and a serial killer stalked his victims not too far from where I live. The intentional taking of one’s own life saddens me. We still have no idea of what transpired. There was no information in any media outlets, and no one who lives in the area has any more information than I do. I suppose that we will never know what really happened. Perhaps my wife is right. Maybe some one was sleepwalking and fell over the railing. Or perhaps someone tossed the victim over the edge. I suppose, any scenario could be possible at this time. My guess, as I informed my wife, is that the gargoyles on the terrace had left, and the dude, who was high as fuck, simply wanted to fly. It happens. In any event, I hope the poor soul finds some peace now.

Passed Over

 

The celebration of a holiday steeped in tradition and family was pre-empted this year due to several family crises. My wife suggested that we do it in a week or so. “We can do it then, right?”, she asked.

“I don’t think we can.”, I informed her.

“Why not?”, she asked.

“I think that a Passover Seder must be held on Passover.”, I answered.

“Who says?”, she queried.

“Well”, I replied, “6000 years of history and tradition, and several bus loads of Orthodox Rabbis en route to a Hassidic convention in Monsey, New York.”

“Are you sure?”, she inquired.

“Pretty sure.”, I told her.

“Well”, she said, “that sucks.”

“Indeed.”, I agreed.

So, with all of the preparation, the cooking and cleaning, the purchasing of seder specific foods, and the table being set, one of my sons, the chef, called to let his mother know that he could not attend as there was an emergency at work. I had no idea what a kitchen emergency could be, short of a fire, but he was clear that was not the case. I suspect that either the sous chef burnt the beef wellington, or some one screwed up the marinara sauce, so he had to go and rectify the problem. “Well”, my wife said, “everyone else will be here, so it will still be okay.”

We headed out to the store to pick up a few final items for my vegetarian/vegan son, and had to visit 3 different supermarkets to obtain the specific foods he would eat. With the morning gone, we began the final organization of food, seating, and Passover paraphernalia. There was another call, this time from my vegetarian son, stating that he was in the E.R. at a local hospital. It seems that he was experiences chest pains through the night, and had been transported by ambulance to the hospital. I went down to check out what was going on, being asked to bring him an orange juice and a chocolate chip muffin, and upon my arrival I found him in a room, not hooked up to any piece of equipment whatsoever. ‘What the hell is going on?”, I asked him.

“I don’t know.”, he said. “I was having chest pains, and my arm felt kind of weird, so I called 911.”

“What did the doctor say?”, I asked.

“Nothing really.”, he replied. “They took blood, and did a chest x-ray. We’re waiting for the results.” He asked if I could go to his place and pick up his boots and socks, as he arrived only with his slippers. I suggested that he get his wife to bring his stuff over, as I was not delivering his shoes.

When the doctor arrived, he was very sure that it was a cardiac event, but more than likely anxiety, or perhaps a pulled muscle. He was discharged, and I gave him money for a cab home, and I headed home myself. At home, I informed my wife that neither he, nor his wife would be attending the seder, as he was going to sleep as he had been up all night. I was told that while I was at the hospital with my son, one of my daughters called and, since neither of her brothers were attending, she didn’t think it was worthwhile coming down, and with my wife’s assistance, put a plan in place to conduct the seder within the next few weeks.

In the meantime, there was a fridge and freezer filled with food. The pantry was bursting with items to be served along side the main courses. There was chicken and brisket, roast potatoes, candied carrots, soup, fricassee and meatballs, gefilte fish, and a host of Moroccan dishes that my wife had grown up with. “What are we going to do with all of this food?”, I asked as I surveyed the abundance of food that had been systematically organized and arranged in the kitchen.

“We’re going to eat it.”, my wife said. “And what we can’t eat, we’re going to freeze.”

It was a very disappointing evening for me. At this time of year, my thoughts dive headlong into the memories of childhood Passovers spent at my parents home. Being with family, the traditions, the food, and the hockey playoff games that inevitably were on at the same time of year, and how my brothers and I, feigning a need to use the bathroom, headed downstairs to catch just a few minutes of the game and to at least check on the score. And upon returning to the table, my father would inevitably ask “What’s the score?”. That too had become our family tradition. And when the seder was done, satiated with food and the story of the emancipation from bondage, we headed to bed, taking comfort in the Leafs’ victory over the Bruins.

This year, however, there was no family. There was no tradition. And as I get older, they both seem to carry increased importance to me. “We’ll have our own seder.”, I told my wife. “There’s you and me, and the two girls. It’ll be fine.”

“The girls won’t be here.”, she informed me. “When they heard no one was coming, they made plans to go out with friends.”

“I see.”, I replied. I didn’t really. I was quite dejected, wallowing in the disappointment of childhood memories that seemed gone forever.

“We can do it together.”, she said. “Just the two of us.”

“Its okay.”, I told her. “I just don’t know why its so hard for everyone to get together twice a year. They’re always too busy. How come we’re never too busy? They’re going to forget everything we taught them. But we should eat. At least I won’t have to put pants on.”  We sat at the table, and before we could begin to eat, my wife looked over at me.

“You are a good father.”, she told me. “We’ll be fine, and they’ll be fine. No matter what they forget, they will never forget what’s important. We did a good job with those kids.”

I felt better. She always made me feel better. “I don’t think I want to do this next year.”, I told her. “I think one of the kids should hold the seder at their place. And maybe, we should have a crisis and have to cancel.”

“If that’s what you want to do”, she said, “we’ll do it. It sounds like fun. Its about time we screwed them around.” At that precise moment in time I realized that this was exactly where I was always supposed to be.

 

 

 

 

The Handyman

 

“Do you remember…”, my wife began, and I braced myself. Every time she began with that phrase, it meant we were about to set out on a review of all of the tings I had done wrong, or had forgot to do, in front of all of the kids. She thought it was cute and funny and something my kids’ partners should be made aware of.

“Do you remember the time you tried to put that barbecue together?”, she asked.

“I don’t think so.”, I answered.

“Oh, come on.” she said. “Sure you do. We were living in that big, old farm house. You were out in the back yard with your tool box. I was watching you from the kitchen window. You kept dropping screws, and were crawling round in the grass looking for them. When you were done you had all of these left over parts.”

“They always put extra screws in those things.”, I said.

“That’s exactly what you said then.”, she continued. “And when you put the burgers on the grill, the whole thing tipped over, and the food was on the ground. Remember? We had to throw it all out and order pizza.”

“Ya. Ya.” I said. “I remember. I also remember you thought it was the best pizza you’d ever tasted.

“I remember that.”, one of my sons responded.”

“For that you wake up?”, I asked him.

“It was funny.”, he said. “You were so mad.”

“And what about the time he tried to build a wall unit.”, another son stated.

“Oh ya.”, my wife said. “You put the doors on upside down. The whole thing was backwards.”

“It worked, didn’t it?”, I asked.

“Well, we couldn’t use the drawers or the cupboards.”, one of my daughters stated.

“You don’t need drawers or cupboards on a wall unit.”, I answered.

“Didn’t he try to put a crib together once?”, another daughter asked.

“Oh, that was great.”, my wife answered. “He wound up shoving a screwdriver through his hand. 5 stitches, and nerve damage in a finger.”

“The damn crib was put together, wasn’t it?”, I stated.

“Yes it was.”, my wife answered, as condescending as I had ever heard her.

“Are we done.”, I asked.

“I don’t think so.”, she said. “I’m sure there’s more.”

“And the desk.”, someone shouted.

“Right.”, my wife shrieked. “You built me a desk. Lifted it out of the box, and pulled your back out. But you just kept on trying.”

“You still use that desk, don’t you?”, I pointed out.

“I do.”, she replied, “but I rebuilt it myself, afterwards. well, the kids helped.”

“Didn’t you get hurt a lot when you were a kid?”, one of my daughters decided to join in.

“I don’t remember.”, I replied.

“Oh, sure you do.”, my wife interjected. “Your mother told me all kinds of stuff. When you were 5 or so, you got a hazel nut shell in your eye. Almost lost the eye.”

“Didn’t one of us almost poke his eye out?”, a son asked.

“Yes.”, my wife answered. “You did.”. she said looking at my eldest daughter.”You wanted him to read you a book, when he said no, you hit him in the eye with the book. What did the doctor say?”

“Detached retina.”, I answered.

“Right.”, my wife continued. “For 3 weeks he walked around with a patch on his eye. It was like living with Jack Sparrow. And, you fell off of the roof of your parent’s house at least once, right? Right. And what happened when you went through the screen door?”

“Nothing happened.”, I said. ” I was running down the hall, and pushed the door to open it so I could go outside. I missed the handle, so the door didn’t open, and I ran right through the glass.”

“And the can opener.”, my son shouted.

“Oh, yeah.”, my wife said as she laughed. “What were you trying to open, a can of tuna? Well it doesn’t matter. We had just got one of those openers that are supposed to make it safer to handle the cans. Well, not for him. He was draining the liquid, and he yelled “Oh shit”. When I went to the kitchen, I saw him with a dish towel wrapped around his hand, and blood pouring out. 7 stitches, and nerve damage in the rest of the hand.”

“Holy shit.”, one of my sons said. “You probably shouldn’t do anything.”

“What I should do”, I told him, “Is kick your scrawny ass.”

“Oh, relax.”, my wife said. “You probably just wind up pulling a muscle or something.”

“Are we done?”, I asked as I stood up. “I’m going to smoke now.”

“Almost.”, my wife continued so I sat back down. She came over and sat on my lap, putting her arms around my neck. “And yet”, she said, “he is the best man I know. He has always kept me and the kids safe, and he makes me laugh. He is always there for us, helping us fight our fights, and making the pain and fear go away.” She looked me in the eye and continued. “And just so you know, I don’t need you to put things together, or build me things. You do more for me, for us, than you even realize, and I wouldn’t change a thing. You are the best husband I could have imagined.”

“Well”, I said, “now the truth finally comes out.”

“Just one thing though.”, she said. “If you’re going to cook, please let me know. You never remember to turn the oven off.”

“Oh, I remember.”, I told her. “I just choose not to do it because I know how how happy it makes you to think you need to take care of me.”

“You 2 are so messed up.”, one of my daughters said.

“Ya.”, my wife said. “But we like it that way.”

 

 

 

 

It Was A Great Ride.

 

I was 12 years old that summer. The heat was unbearable. We spent most of our time hanging out at Mitchel Berman’s house. They had a swimming pool in the backyard, one of those above ground oval pools, that served us well that summer. I had been sitting on my front lawn, waiting for my friends. I saw Mrs. Berman standing on her driveway in one of those summer dresses and as the sun shone on it, I could see through it. I couldn’t help starring at her, hoping, maybe even praying that she would turn a little to the left and step into the sunlight. I really had no interest in girls prior to that summer. But there was a girl at summer camp, Sue Perlmutter, who introduced me to her breasts. She was abut a year or two older than me and there really wasn’t much of an introduction. But there was Mrs. Berman, a fully grown woman, now standing directly in the sunlight, which pierced through the flimsy summer dress, revealing her shapely thighs, and undergarments. I was sure she knew that I was watching her, and when she called me over, I was terrified that I had been caught doing something wrong. To make matters worse, I was now sporting an erection. I walked over to her trying to hide it by covering it with my hands, but I was certain she knew exactly what I was doing.

“Well”, she asked. “How was your summer at camp?”

“It was good.”, I informed her.

“And I see that you’ve grown up quite a bit.”, she said, glancing at my hands trying to hide my boyhood.

“Really?”, I asked.

“Oh, yes.”, She answered. “You seem taller, and older, I think. Do you think you could help me carry these bags in? Its just so hot, and they’re so heavy.”

“Sure.”, I said, realizing that I was not in trouble.

We entered the house, the house where I had spent countless hours, hanging out with her daughter and the rest of our friends. “Can I get you something cold to drink?”, she asked as she put her bags on the counter.

“Sure.”, I said. “Thank you.” I watched her as she turned toward the cupboards, and reached up to retrieve a glass. Her dress rose high up her thighs, revealing an exceptionally round bottom. She brought the glass down, and poured me a glass of lemonade.

“It is hot in here. Isn’t it?”, she exclaimed as she wiped the droplets of perspiration that had formed on her neck and chest. “Maybe I should go change.”, she stated and she left the kitchen. I stood up and put my now empty glass in the sink, just as she returned, wearing shorts and a halter top. The erection I had when I entered the house returned with a vengeance.  She had removed her bra, and her hardened nipples stared at me from beneath the fabric, as her breasts bounced lightly as she walked towards me. I tried to cover my embarrassment with my hands, but it was too late. She had noticed.

“You really have grown up.”, she said as she took a step closer.

“I have to go now.”, I said, as a wave of fear and uncertainty swept over me.

“Are you sure?”, she asked, as she undid her top and let it fall. I felt paralyzed, unable to move.  She took my hands and placed them on her perfect breasts. They were nothing like Sue Perlmutter’s. These were soft, and full. She moved my hand across her nipples, and I felt them harden under my touch. “I wish you’d stay.”, she told me as she leaned in and kissed me. I had no idea what I was doing, but I really didn’t care.

Mrs. Berman reached her hand down and touched me, causing me to jump. “it’s okay.”, she whispered. “Everything will be okay.” She led me into her bedroom, and showed me things I had only read about. She taught me how to please her, and seemed to instinctively know how to please me.  For the next several years I spent a couple of days a week visiting her, helping out around the house, while her son, and my friend, Mitchell attended Cub Scouts with his father.

I don’t know if she told any of the other neighbors or not, but shortly after our first few meetings, some of the other women in the area began talking to me and looking at me differently. Before long, I found myself providing sexual favors for three ladies who lived in my neighborhood. It was a difficult balancing act, and the time and energy involved in keeping my activities secret from my friends and family was more draining than pleasing these women. When I was fifteen years old, it came to a screeching halt. It was when I was fifteen years old that I first laid eyes on Wendy Glassman.

Mrs. Berman has long since gone, but I am forever grateful for all that she taught the 12 year old boy. I have never forgotten you, or the things you showed me.

Continue reading

Welcome To The PTA

 

“Forgive me for interrupting this pretentious discussion of the sordid affairs of your politico-religious existence,” , she said quite loudly to the small group that had gathered near the door, “but the reality is, you’re all full of shit.” The droning murmur of inane chatter that had filled the room suddenly stopped.

“Nicely done.”, I told her.

“Thank you.”, she said. “I’ve been rehearsing.”

“It shows.”, I replied.  “I think we should go now.”

“Really?”, she asked, with an air of disappointment.

“Really.”, I said. “This could get very ugly.”

And so began our ongoing battle with our children’s school. Up until then, it had been my role to challenge the powers that be, to shake the status quo at its very foundation, to deliberate, dissect, and disgrace those involved with the task of educating my children. It was quite satisfying to know that my wife was equally up to the challenge.

“That was quite impressive.”, I continued as we walked to the car.

“Thank you.”, she responded. “I had an excellent teacher.”

“Well, its nice to know you were paying attention.”, I said.

“Do you really think that after all these years of listening to you that something wouldn’t have rubbed off?”, she asked.

The phone call we received the next day came as no surprise. The school administration, including the school’s Superintendent, had requested a meeting with us to discuss several concerns related to our kids. It did not sit well with my wife.

“Concerns with our kids?”, she ranted. “Are they out of their minds?”

“They are.”, I confirmed. “But you have to try to relax. We have to go in calm and seemingly rational, no matter how pissed we are. Never let them know what we are thinking.”

“That’s good.”, she said.

“Yep.”, I replied. “Words to live by from Vito Colerone.”

The meeting was more of a lynching, with 6 school and board personnel present, armed with files, and reports. They positioned themselves at one end of the table, so that my wife and I were forced to sit at the opposite end, looking like guilty school children. “Have a seat, please.”, the principal stated.

“I think I’d prefer to stand.”, I responded., as my wife sat down in her assigned seat. “What I have to say really won’t take very long.”

“However we have a rather lengthy list of concerns regarding your children.”, the Superintendent spouted.

“I’m sure you do.”, I replied. “But I really have no interest in hearing any of them. So, I understand that the teacher who had manhandled my daughter is still teaching in the school.”

“We have finished our investigation into the matter, and we don’t believe there is any need for further disciplinary measures.”, he answered.

“Well”, I said as I put my hand on my wife’s shoulder. “I don’t believe there is any need to continue this meeting.”, I stated as my wife stood up.

“Just a minute.”, the Superintendent said. “There are issues here we need to address.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”, I replied. “Did I not make it clear that we really don’t give a shit about what you think?”.

“Well”, he continued. “Now we see why the children have so many behavioral issues.”

“Hell no.”, I corrected him. “You haven’t seen anything yet. I suggested you contact your superior, and have yourself, the principal of this school, the teacher and the Board of Education obtain legal counsel. I have secured a human rights attorney who is, as we speak, presenting a motion to bar Ms. Emmerson from teaching until a full and complete inquiry has been completed. As well, criminal charges for assault, and child abuse are being laid against this deranged woman. And the rest of you who were aware of the issues we raised, and did nothing, have been named in a civil law suit, as has the board. Papers should be served to all of you within the next 72 hours.”

“I don’t know what you think you’re going to get out of this.”, the Superintendent questioned.

“Oh.”, I reported, “I almost forgot. You may want to watch the 6 o’clock news tonight. Doesn’t matter which network. They are all airing this story. As to what I think I’m going to get out of this, well, your fucking jobs. Your careers, and your reputations.”

The silence that fell on the room was deafening. The Superintendent finally spoke. “Can I speak with you outside?”  My wife and I joined him in the hallway, just outside of the school Principal’s office. “Don’t you think this can be rectified in some other way?”

“That ship has sailed.”, I replied. “We spoke several times, and you informed me every time that there were no grounds for any disciplinary action. You blamed my daughter, and justified the teacher’s actions. And so, now, you’re all fucked. Get Ms. Emmerson out of my kid’s school, and I will consider withdrawing the legal proceedings. Can I be frank with you?”

“Of course.”, he said.

“Do yourself a favor.”, I told him. “Don’t fuck with my family. We will take you down.”

“Well, that was pretty amazing.”, my wife said to me in the car. “How did you arrange all of that stuff.”

“I didn’t.”, I told her. “My friend Jerod is a lawyer. He’s drafting some letters, but now we wait to see what they do with our offer. They can transfer her wherever we don’t have kids.”

“What about the news casts tonight?”, she asked. “If they watch and its not on, they’ll know we’re full of shit.”

“It will be on.”, I assured her. “That I was able to arrange through Jerod. All three networks will air a report on a child being assaulted by a teacher and how the school and the board swept it under the rug.”

“You’re pretty sexy when you’re devious.”, she said.

In less than 24 hours, we received an email stating that effective immediately, Ms. Emmerson had been removed from the staff at my kid’s school, and transferred to another school at the far end of the school district. A formal letter from the school board arrived several days later, with a full and complete apology from the Board.

Things changed at my kid’s school. My kids seemed happier, and we no longer received phone calls about nonsense. When we did attend planning meetings for our kid’s, our ideas and recommendations were included in the plan. We never saw Ms. Emmerson again, and a few months later, the school principal disappeared. I told my wife that I had nothing to do with it, but I’m not sure if she believed me. My wife decided to become active in the PTA, and wound up being president. Me, well, I took satisfaction in knowing that my dream of being a Mafia enforcer had come true, and that I could easily turn my wife on by behaving like a character from Goodfellas.

 

 

The Girl From Founder’s College

 

I met Lily in 1975. She was a full time art student, and part time bartender at The Cock & Bull Pub, in Founder’s College. In those days of politically fueled metaphysics and drug induced socialism, she was a wet dream some true. She was from Uruguay,  and moved with her family up here in the early 1970’s. She was beautifully South American, with an accent that could render most men speechless, and most women sick with envy.

The Cock & Bull was my pub in those days, drinking Labbatt’s and discussing Camus & Kierkegaard,  Dylan and Ginsberg, and Thompson and Kerouac. In those self absorbed moments of pseudo-poetic philosophy, her face brought me back to the essence of real beauty. She was always smiling, with a smile that illuminated the room, and dark eyes wide open, accepting of everyone, warm and welcoming. I fell in love with Lily, right there at The Cock & Bull, as I pondered life’s purpose over pints of lager and lime, from a table on the other side of the bar. We would speak occasionally, and our encounters soon included those signature smiles that so often indicate ‘I like you’, and those knowing glances from across the room.

One day, in one of our brief encounters, she informed me that our little group of liberal arts socialists, was the only one she could really tolerate. She hated the arrogant and abrasive jocks, and was bored to death by the business and science majors. We were, it seemed, the chosen ones. “We should go out sometime.”, I told her.

“Whenever you’re ready.”, she said. “All you have to do is ask.”

We dated for the rest of that school year, and she became one of the best friends I ever had. Long after we stopped our romantic tryst, we hung out together, catching movies and concerts, and just sitting in her dorm room on campus getting high. She called me once when she was sick, wanting me to bring her soup and cold medication, and I suppose to keep her company. When she found a spider in her room, I got the call to come and exterminate it. Sometime in 1976 or 1977, I was hospitalized and required surgery. When I woke in my room, I found Lily sitting there, patiently waiting for me to wake. “Hey”, I managed to blurt out.

“Hey, yourself.”, she said. “You really need to stop all of this attention seeking shit.”

“Ya.”, I said. “Thanks for being here.”

“Where else would I be?”, she responded. “Are you doing okay?”

“Ya.”, I told her.

“Good.”, she stated. “I have something for you. I hope it cheers you up.” And then Lily stood up, closed the drapes that separated my roommate’s bed from mine,  undid her trench coat, and revealed her totally naked body.

“Are you fucking crazy?”, I asked.

“Yep.”, she replied. “Now, I take it your not feeling up to tackling this right now, so I guess I’ll just have to do it myself.” And with that, she sat on the chair, legs draped over the arm rests, and proceeded to masturbate in front of me, right there in my hospital room. “You need to get your ass out of here.”, she said when she was done. “I miss having you around.” .

“I’m working on it.”, I said as she was heading out of the room. “Best hospital visit ever.”

“Wait until you see what I have planned for tomorrow’s visit.”, she remarked, as the door was closing behind her.

Lily died in 1978, the victim of a drunk driver. She was 21 years old. She was a beautiful soul, and a wonderful friend. She made me laugh, and she made me cry. It took me a very long time to get over her passing, and much longer to be able to speak about it. There have been a handful of people in my life who have touched me deeply. I hope they know who they are. There’s just some sort of connection beyond what our senses can understand. Its a love for another that is so deep, it requires a minimal amount of effort to maintain. Absence does nothing to hinder it.

I think about Lily a great deal. I never told her just how much I loved her, but I hope she knew. Its been almost 40 years, and I still miss her. I suppose I always will.

 

 

Here She Comes Again

 

As each of my children has grown, there has been a tearful goodbye, and, once the door had been closed and locked behind them, a celebration my wife and I have shared in silence, through glances that scream joy and gratitude. “Another one out.”, was never said, but my how it was celebrated.

“We have to talk.”, my wife said the other night. “What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”

“I’d prefer no news at all.”, I answered

“Well, that’s not an option.”, she said, as she sat down beside me, and turned the television off.

“The good news is”, she began, “your daughter is breaking up with Rick.”

“How is that good news?”, I asked. “I like Rick.”

“Well, there really is no good news, then.”, she replied. “It’s just bad news, and even worse news. She’s moving back home.”

“Hell, no.”, I shouted. “Don’t we have some kind of no return policy?”

“I’m afraid not.”, I was informed. “She needs you to rent a truck and help her move.”

“When does it end?”, I asked, although I didn’t really expect an answer. And yet I got one.

“She’s our daughter.”, came the reply.

I was well aware of who my children were, but I really thought that by the time I was old enough to start collecting Canada Pension, my obligations to them would have long since gone. I truly believed that life would return to that blissful, euphoria when my wife and I free of responsibility and obligation. A time when I could do whatever I wanted to. And now, the dream was over. Just like that, she was moving back home.

“They’re like a virus.”, I stated. “Just when you think you’re over it, it comes back, and starts all over again.”

“It won’t be for long.”, my wife continued, “It’s only until she gets back on her feet.”

“Right.”, I said, with an obvious hint of sarcasm. “She was already on her feet, and that took 25 years. I really can’t wait that long to wait for her to leave again.”

“It will be fine.”, I was told. “You’ll see.”

“I hope so.”, I said. “And let her know that I stopped wearing pants in the house.”

“She knows.”, my wife replied. “Everybody knows. And while we on the subject, we have to get her a bed, and some furniture for her room.”

“She doesn’t have a room.”, I replied. “Not for two and a half years.”

“Well”, my wife advised, “her old room. She will be moving back into her old room.”

“That’s my office.”, I stated.

“I know.”, came the response. “And it was very nice. But now it is being converted into a bedroom for your daughter.”

“Which I have to refurnish.”, I added.

“And by the way.”, my wife went on, “We’re going to meet with her on Sunday and talk about what’s going on with her.”

It was raining on Sunday, quite pathetically ironic I thought,  and as we found my daughter in the coffee shop, I was reminded once again to behave myself, which really meant that I was to not say a word. My wife and daughter began their conversation as I sat quietly, drinking a double cappuccino. They spoke at length about making better choices, and thinking things through, and whether she was sure that whatever was going on between her and Rick was irreparable.  Suddenly, my wife was overwhelmed by a craving for pastry, and excused herself to stand in line and purchase herself a Boston cream donut. She did not, by the way, ask if anyone else had wanted something. I took the opportunity to instruct my daughter that she should try and make it work with Rick. I told her I loved her, and she could always come home, but she needed to be sure. She got a little teary eyed and when my wife returned, she noticed. “What did you do?”, she accused me. “What did you say to her?”

“Not a thing.”, I replied. “We were just talking.”  On the drive home my wife informed me that there were problems in the bedroom between Rick and my daughter. “I don’t want to hear this.”, I stated. “We agreed that we wouldn’t share that kind of information. This is why I want them out of the house. I don’t want to know anything. Let them live their lives, and leave me to age peacefully in my naivete.”

“Well”, my wife added, “She’s decided to stay put for now. She’s going to tell Rick what’s going on, and give it 3 months to see if anything changes. She’s going to look for a job, and hope to find a place of her own.”

“What happened to her job?”, I asked.

“Oh, she quit the clinic 3 months ago.”, my wife informed me.”

“It just gets better and better.”, I stated.

“Anyway”, she continued, “you can keep your office, at least for a little while. And you may as well leave your pants off.”

“Is that an invitation?”, I asked.

“Why not.”, she answered. “You’re a lot of work and a lot of trouble, but never in the bedroom.”