We can’t afford to by anything for each other, or anyone else. We paid for her kids to come down, and I bought my kids something. And that was it. And what I got them was pretty damn cheap. Cashed in coins for gas to go get my paycheck. This is the tradition known as "Broke as all-piss."
My daughter is supposed to come over and spend the night every other weekend, but she doesn’t want to. Not even over all the people in the house. No, it’s my girlfriend. It’s still too weird for her, and she wants no part of it. She says she doesn’t like my girlfriend–I really think it’s that it’s because she’s with me, and not with her mom. So, I have to spend a part of a day here and there with her. This is the "Convoluted custody issues" portion of our traditions.
So instead of having my daughter for part of Christmas day, I have to leave my house and go to my ex’s and spend time with my kids there. This is known as the "Incredibly Awkward Part" of our tradition.
It was actually okay. My ex is . . . lucid . . . which is odd as hell. I’d like to think it’s because I "broker" her. It’s only fair; she broke me. We got along, talked, talked to the kids. I cried, like a dumbass, because the subject of my dad came up. My kids came over to me and hugged me. But she didn’t–which was good. That would have been too weird. I helped my son put together an entertainment center. It was good to–
Look, I have spent more time with Kim’s son Alex since I left my wife than I have with my own kids. I really like Alex. But I just recently decided I need to do something about that, be a better father–and so any chance to spend time with him and do something, I was going to take. It made me feel good. I was happy. I felt like I had mended some bridges; it was important. It was the "Hallmark Channel" portion of our tradition.
I happened to see it was getting dark–Holy Shit, it’s almost five! I have to go. I called Kim when I got in the car, and she was noticeably upset because I had been gone so long. Well, fuck. I can’t–
I get home and she’s making dinner, won’t speak to me. I fucked up, I guess. But I really *really* needed to spend time with my kids. I was a little jealous that hers were here to be with her, even the one I don’t like that much. I don’t have that. But thinking about my kids and my dad–I don’t want to go away from my kids like . .. like my dad did. And then knowing I upset Kim and I was sorry, but still there wasn’t–
We surf back and forth between the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime. I must have some sort of depression. Not only do I get teary at the drop of a hat, but I’ve been thinking about my dad–and mom, and everything. I felt alone and I felt like I did wrong because I was gone so long even though I had to and I felt like I couldn’t fix it and I felt like I needed my dad–
And there it was again.
We ate dinner, the stony silence portion of our tradition. Afterwards, I went out in the cold to get soda and toilet paper that we didn’t actually need. I came back, and sat in the driveway for a while, and cried some more. I came in, still getting the wall. It was more than I could take. I didn’t want to take away from her–she had a legitimate gripe with me–but I was so hurt and vulnerable already. I needed her–
And she shifted gears, and was there for me. I swear I didn’t do it to make her–forget about how mad she was or whatever; I was already so deep in my personal little tar pit of despair–
We had the rocking and crying and snot blowing tradition. Part of the reconciliation, I suppose. She really is wonderful. She put aside her hurt feelings to comfort me.
I broke out the southern comfort and coke, and she and I each had a drink. The burning-heaving in my chest began to subside as I sat at the keyboard and typed–all the while sparks flying as my tears hit the keyboard and shorted it out. Soon I could type nothing but * and t. But I persevered, to tell my story. .. .in code. This may well be the bullshit tradition. But overall it ended well, I guess. Just not what we wanted, or expected.
And Kim in her Jammies, and I in my sweatpants
About to settle down for a decent night’s sleep
The psycho was sleeping or reading or such;
The kids played video games; they liked them a bunch
We turned off the PCs and settled into the bed
The next day at work I was beginning to dread
I told her I loved her, and cuddled her tight
She said it too, and kissed me goodnight
I reflected it had been a good Christmas day
I would see more of my children now, come what may
And my love, as I held her, her slight feminine form
I hoped I would always have her, to help keep me warm
Tis the season of Tradition, this much is true
and I hope you have some, that you follow too
Be it dinner or presents or drinking and such
But I’m going to bed. . .for me it’s too much
I don’t remember the specifics of Christmas when I was a child. It was a little like A Christmas Story, I think. Maybe I just remember it that way? I remember that my parents weren’t real big on tradition; we got presents, we opened them.
When I was perhaps a preteen, and knew "What The Deal Was," but my sister was six or seven–I felt privy to one of the great secrets. Dad said he heard something on the roof, and was going to get his gun and shoot Santa. My sister cried. It was hilarious.
We often went to relatives houses, either on Mom or Dad’s side around the holidays. They would sit at the table and talk and drink and play cards while I played with my cousins. I remember the first New Year’s Eve I stayed up past midnight. It was. . ..a milestone. The magical Christmas break–almost two weeks of freedom–was often the stuff of legends. Of course, the plans I had never coincided with my parent’s plans, and so I was their captive. Usually dragged kicking and screaming to some pre-planned "fun."
We also decorated for Christmas more back then; I guess my parents had more energy. As the years went by and we grew up, they gave up all pretense entirely. My parents were. . .heathens. But good people. In the last few years they did little more than have a small table-top fake tree on the coffee table. The point, for them, was getting together with family. For most people it encompassed that, but for them, that’s all it was and didn’t need to be any more.
When we moved from the country to the city over Christmas break, it was in the middle of 4th grade for me. We still owned our house in the country, but moved to town so they could be closer to work. We would go back to visit, and most of our stuff was there. . .in June I had to take down the Christmas tree that was still up in the living room. I thought, "Why bother? We just have to put it up again in another 6 months–" but I was low on the seniority list.
Buying my mom something ranged in the area between extremely difficult to impossible. Once my dad listened to me (which was a huge mistake) and bought her a bunch of tawdry romance novels. All I knew was that she loved to read; I had no idea what she was reading. My dad really paid for that one.
Back then, for a teen, there was little to no electronics to get for Christmas, no gift cards. Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents would get me thinks like aftershave. Yay. Once I got a small transistor radio. AM and FM. A technological marvel. I was pretty cool with that thing. Of course, there was the year we got the Atari–it was the year AFTER everyone else did. But it was still the rave.
When I was about 18 I went with my friend to his Uncle’s house, and his older cousin took us out in his crappy old car for a drive late at night. We got high and played in the snow. It was perfect.
When I was living with my old girlfriend (and she is old too, ba-dum ching!) I got jack squat for Christmas–I wasn’t around much.
Then I got married. My ex and her whole family would OD on the Christmas spirit. I was slow to catch on, but eventually I did. I came to really embrace it, especially once I had kids. One of my favorite Christmas moments happened right in this house I’m in now. Probably in the early to mid-nineties, my son was five or six. My neighbor, Winston, had a son about his age and they played together. The plan is, on Christmas Eve, after you get the fuckers to go to bed, that’s when you sneak around and put the presents out. . .subcontracting for Santa. My son was getting a bike that year. Around midnight, I go outside in the cold and open the back of the car up. I hear a "Ho, ho, ho!"
I turn and look. Winston is out in his car, doing the same thing. Getting the bike for his son. It was a . . . moment.
But with my ex it was always about her family, and it was hard to accommodate both sides. But we did get over there and see my parents. One year, I made a bit of a scene by packing stuff in the car while her family was over; I was going to go see my family. The Storm was pissed. But, her family cleared out and let us go.
Usually we would visit with my mom upstairs, and eat . . ..and then the men (me and my brother and his sons) would venture down to the basement and drink with dad. I never drank much, but at Christmas, with my dad, I always did. I think my brother was the same. The Southern Comfort 100 proof black label. I always had to get him a bottle for Christmas.
When my mom died, I didn’t miss her as much. . .and I thought it was because I didn’t love her as much. But I realize now it’s because I still had Dad. I was never as close to Mom, but I still loved her. When I lived here, me and my dad were pretty close. We were friends. I kick myself in the ass for moving away; I think it hurt my dad even though he never said anything.
I’m sitting here with a glass. Southern Comfort, Amaretto, and Coke. My dad’s drink. This is the first Christmas without my daddy. I can’t even see clearly to type this. I
I really miss him.
Wait. Where was I?
Anyway, I wanted to start posting some of my comic online. I tried here, and it didn’t work so well. So, I went to plan B, and posted them on my MySpace. I haven’t abandon this blog–far from it. This is the one where I actually write about my life. My other msn is more of a comedy diary, and then the MySpace is strictly for comedy networking and so forth. But I posted the strip and it looked good. Formatted fine, and everything. So, I’m going to post one or so a week, until I run out. I have about 55 of them, which is enough for a year. Maybe by then I’ll take it up again. In the meantime, wander over to my Myspace and check it out on the blog section. Merry Christmas.
But I don’t want my world to be too magical, because I don’t want to be in Dark Crystal or Labrynth. Even Bewitched might be too much for me. Will Ferrell certainly is. Having said that, I feel my life is actually more like a cross between The Butcher’s Wife and Changing Lanes: Things happen for a reason, but usually, the reason is a secret.
Last night, Detroit and I go to the AMTRAK train station to retrieve her two sons. She was excited; I was more than the usual amount of ambivelant. I was extra ambivalent. Extra-bivalent. I have my reasons. It was a cool, foggy night. The eight inches of snow that had fallen a week ago had now dissolved into the atmosphere to obstruct visibility. We drove to the train station. We drove to the vicinity of the train station, and then drove around and looked for it, eventually finding it, oddly enough, near the train tracks. Dark and and dank and small, and poorly lit. Was I in Casablanca?
We wait for the train. There was an androgynous old lady in an Amtrak uniform standing outside, smoking and coughing. She looked alot like Bogart. She came over and talked to us, and imparted her special brand of metaphorically menopausal train knowledge.
See this train here? Well, yeah, cause . . . it’s right he–
This train coming was the freight. Typically, the people train is behind it about 15 minutes. Hear that? Clang, clang, clang?
No, I really can’t–
That’s the Amtrak. It has to sit back there and wait. But it’s out there . . .
In the distance, in the dark and in the fog like some Noir film, the Amtrak approached. Meanwhile, a cute blonde chick approached, obviously wanting me but intimidated by Detroit’s possessive nature. She made with the conversation.
Is the train coming soon, or did I miss it? Pointing in the direction of the obvious–
She said her baby sister was coming in on the train, and she hadn’t seen her in five years. As the train approached, people got out of their cars and approached, like they were extras in a LIFETIME original movie.
Or Night of the Living Dead, because they moved slowly and shuffled their feet, and made odd noises. They all had a wild, what-am-doing-here-in-the-middle-of-the-night look in their eyes. The boys came off the train, but we waited for the cute blond to be reunited with her sister. It was an Oxygen channel moment. After we left, they were mugged–making it suitable for F/X.
And so here are. The boys are at the house for two weeks. Lots of Christmas movies come to mind with that scenario, however Home Alone is not one of them. It’s not good to be alone, I suppose. I wouldn’t know, actually. Especially around Christmas. Another Steve Martin movie comes to mind, a Christmas movie called "Mixed Nuts."
I don’t want to BE alone; far from it. But Christ in wobbly sidecar, I sure would like to have some alone time. I need it because I don’t really like people. The closest I actually get to alone time is when I park between jobs and take a short nap in the car. And that’s not really–
Maybe I don’t want to be alone, because I’ll think too much. I already think hella much. All I need is more time for that. Shitpiss. I get melancholy, do I, around Christmas? That’s what the season is for now, it’n’t? Do I sound a little schizo? Maybe I need to watch Identity again. Or Girl, Interrupted. I haven’t watched that one because it seemed like an overdose of Estrogen and Prozac stack. If someone can verify for me that I get to see some Angelina Jolie naked, I’m in.
I’m not exactly sure what the point of my little rant here is. Maybe I’m just trying to spread some holiday fucking cheer. Maybe I just want people to believe me when I tell them robots from the future are trying to kill me.
I feel like I’m going through The Money Pit as well. Already I’ve been in Kramer vs Kramer; I wish it could have been more like Mrs. Doubtfire. There is nothing like geriatric cross-dressing, except perhaps European politics. One begat the other, methinks.
And so, while I wish for the bittersweet, like Secondhand Lions or Rainman, what I get is just the bitter, like Boondock Saints or Annie Hall. Ironically, with so many more cameras on us now than ever before, life is less and less like a movie. It’s documentary.
Or a rap video.
"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice–"
By resolving not to make any resolutions, you have still made one. You have defiantly decided not to change, no matter what conventional wisdom (and everyone who knows you) says.
And conventional wisdom says that, by and large, you are an ignorant, pathetic, wretched creature in dire need of a complete makeover, from the clothes you wear to the people you hang out with, to the dirty disgusting little habits you have, not to mention your disturbing personality.
Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is growth. Change is what gets you candy from the machine, both in a literal and a figurative sense.
As for myself, I’ve been through so much change in the last two years that I hardly recognize myself. Not physically; sadly, that hasn’t changed much. I mean on the inside: when I pull my soul out through my belly button, shake the lint off of it, and look at it. It’s an identity crisis of sorts. I thought I knew who I was. Turns out, that’s not me after all. So who am I? Or, who do I want to be? I figure I should start with your standard resolutions, as a starting point. These are things I want to be, or want to do, or want to be able to say, "yeah, that’s me."
So. . .this is who I want to be.
1. I want to be a better father.
I swear to God I don’t know how to do this. Despite Kim’s attempts to abate the noise in my head, I know what the truth is. I have been a shitty father. Even when I was with my ex and my kids, I wasn’t that great. Absentee in residence, I suppose. I love my kids, I do. Am I that selfish, or easily distracted, or do I have skewed sense of priority? What is important? Reminding myself that other fathers have been worse. . .is just rationalization.
The BTK Killer was a good father.
I need to communicate with them more. Talk to them, email them. Be with them. I don’t know HOW, I just know that I DO. I need to be more involved with their lives.
I need them to love me again.
And before, this resolution wasn’t even first on the list.
2. This all has to do with my creativity. I need to be more creative? No, not exactly. I need to…I need to use it. Be creative. Create. Use my talent. Work it. Work at it, work on it. Do it. Live it, breathe it. Don’t read. Write. Don’t surf the net, create a website. Sweat it out. Draw again. Focus. Finish a story. Here:
Finish a manuscript. It may need to be edited. In fact, count on it. But finish one, and start to shop it around.
Post my cartoon somewhere, for the hell of it. My other artwork, too.
Go on stage often, work my material. Try to get a 20 minute set together. Try to get some live recordings of myself.
Oh, and network. And the Radio Thing.
So here’s the list of things I can do: stand up; write novels, write short stories, write essays (articles), write songs and poems; draw comics?; uh. . .anything else? Screenplays? Scripts? Haiku?
3. Get my money and bills and shit together. Get caught up, get paid up, get shit taken care of. Get taxes paid on the house. Get some money saved up. Do what it takes. Set aside some time for dealing with money.
4. Fix the house and the cars. I believe this is self-explanatory.
5. Take care of stuff in Dad’s garage. In fact, take care of all of dad’s stuff. The Probate, and whathaveyou.
6. Ah, my health. What to do, what to do. Just start walking. Eat less. Ease up on the soda. Drink the diet lemonade. Am I going to stop smoking? That’s a good question. Next?
And you know what? Take the recorder with, or whatever when I walk. But as I walk, think and create. Use it to focus. Maybe soon I’ll get to the point where I can start Karate-ing again. Take a multi vitamin.
7. I want to be a better friend. A better boyfriend/fiance, lover, a better friend, a better…a better dog owner, cat owner. Brother. Family member. Nephew, cousin, neighbor. Grampa. I want to be better to the people who know me. This involves not being so wrapped up in myself.
I know I’m perfect, but there is still room for improvement.
8. I guess I’m more perfect than I thought, because I can only think of seven things. . .
THE SHORT LIST:
1. Be A BETTER FATHER
2. UNLEASH THE CREATIVE SPIRIT–be ambitious!
3. GET FINANCIAL SHIT TOGETHER
4. FIX THE HOUSE AND CARS
5. DAD’S PROBATE AND STUFF
6. GET 1UP ON HEALTH
7. BE A BETTER FRIEND
And I’m not bragging about my creativity, I’m just saying I have some. Most people do–they have something they do creatively. I used to think. . .
I used to think I could do anything. Anything within the realm of the mind or the arts, nothing was beyond me. Pretty egotistical, if you ask me. But I have had some flashes–just flashes, mind you–of real genius. That would lead me to think I could do just about anything. I know now that of course I can’t, but what I have discovered is a better connection to my creative flow.
You know, I think I have my friend Karl to thank for this. The Dude. My muse? Ugh, please. No, but he is at least partially responsible for alot of this that has happened in the last few years. He is the one who, as my sounding board, pushed me. "You say you’re a writer? You want to write? Well, then write, if you’re so smart." Kinda paraphrasing there.
But he was the impetus for me to start this blog, really. And because of that, I have been writing more. More important than that–because of this blog, I met the actual true love of my life, Detroit. So when my ex blamed him for changing me. . .she’s right.
But the writing, that’s what this is about. I think I’ve always wanted to be one. I remember starting a book when I was 14 or 15. Long hand, in a notebook. I think I wrote about 50 pages before I realized it was going nowhere and I lost interest. That was the beginning of a cycle. I put it aside for a long time. I did write some poetry during my angst-filled college years (the perfect time for that), but haven’t done much of that lately, thank God.
I wanted to write and draw a cartoon strip, inspired by Bill Waterson and Berke Breathed. Of course, the quality of the art was. . .I think I’ve drawn about 30 strips–enough for a month’s worth of dailies, plus some Sundays.
So I sat on that. Meanwhile I have a big binder, a folder, with alot of creative ideas and plans and information in there, that I have never done anything with. When I started writing the blog, I realized I could write. I’m not making a statement about the quality–I remember some of my essays from high school and college–I’m just saying I can put one word after the other. It’s not so easy; many people can’t. Have you read a letter to the editor?
It then caused me to gather all of my ideas for stories together in one place–separating them from the other ideas (ideas for video games, board games, inventions, animation, drawings, and miscellaneous assorted crap). So now I have all of my writing ideas in one place–actually copied in a few places–so that I can work on them. Will I ever return to them? I wish to God I would, I wish I could. Whatever they use to control ADD, I need in an IV. Instead of finishing a writing project, I start another one. This year I have started. …let’s number them:
1. A story about Jim Morrison. As in, what would happen if he came back to life.
2. A novel, using me and Detroit’s emails and so forth, about how we met.
3. A fairy tale, following those same lines (that was recent)
4. And just today, a story about my little town I used to live in. Except one of the old neighborhood guys is an alien.
That last one is supposed to be a short story. I wonder if it will be short enough for me to finish it. I’ve also written and finished some short stories this year, about four, I think. None are over 4 or 5 pages. I have a thing for short fiction. It fits my mindset. A lot of my stories come to me as ideas in dreams. Mostly they don’t entirely make sense-that is the nature of dreams–but I can take the gist of them, and edit sense into them. But in my archive of ideas I have enough already that if I wrote one full-length novel a year, it would take me the rest of my life if I live a very long time. And I intend to.
I really, really need to get cracking.
A difference which, in this enlightened age, does not matter. Although we suspect–because of his name–that he is probably of German descent and therefore most likely an anti-Semite, the fact that his nose lights up is not considered a handicap. In some sort of fairy tale way it could even be considered a positive characteristic.
I sat down by the fire in my Howdy-Doody pajamas, sipping hot Olvaltine with marshmallows, and settled in for the evening’s entertainment: Rudolf was on TV. Yessir, it’s that time of year. Our tree is up, our house is decorated, and the faint odor of jasmine and burnt chocolate chip cookies permeates the air.
We sat as a family before the big black and white console TV. GE, made in America, they tell me. Me, my beloved fiance, her disturbed sister, and the dog and the cat. It was an all-American Christmas.
Burl Ives as a snowman is the way most of America remembers him. But this little piece of Americana, this relic of a bygone era–this thing is filled with not only a subversive message, but open sexism, racism, discrimination, and the mildest hint of pedophilia, not to mention a little bestiality thrown in for good measure.
Right away the family is ashamed and tries to hide Rudolph’s handicap like he’s the Elephant Man. He goes to the tryouts, makes a friend and meets a girl, but when his deception is uncovered, everyone in Christmas Land,even Santa–who is supposed to be the most kind, caring, understanding prick in the world living in the most kind, understanding, caring town in the world –turns out to be bigots and racists.
In terms of children’s animation, it was practically a race riot, and Rudolf had to run before he got strung up from the nearest Christmas tree. Meanwhile, Hermes, the closeted gay elf gets berated and abused on the job site for his different believes. Again, because it’s a children’s show, they show him as wanting to be a dentist, but it’s an obvious metaphor for his love of "oral."
In this unenlightened elfen sweat shop they don’t believe in "Don’t ask, don’t tell," and there is no shop steward or union rep to take his problems to, so he ends up leaving–jobless, homeless, penniless, and worst of all. . . oral-less.
He hits the road and meets up with Rudolph, where the story digresses briefly into a buddy-flick. I imagine the live action version with Andy Dick as Hermes, and Frankie Muniz as Rudolph. Yukon Cornelius will be played by Will Ferrell. I hope Kevin Smith is available to direct. Plus, Jay and Silent Bob would be awesome as slacking elfs getting high behind the lead-based paint factory.
Meanwhile, back in town, the guilt overpowered Rudolph’s father. What Donner didn’t know was that Rudolph wasn’t his. . .it was Blitzen’s baby. Mrs Donner would take that secret to the grave with her….until DNA testing is invented. But it doesn’t really matter, because all these fucking deer look alike. Mel Gibson is playing Donner, because he can be forceful and manly when he says he’s going to look for Rudolph. The women (mother, Minnie Driver, Rudolph’s love interest, Claire Danes) say they want to go and Donner says, "NO. This is Man’s work." The women wait an appropriate amount of time (two seconds) before setting out on their own to look, because they know Donner couldn’t find his ass if his head was shoved up inside it.
Meanwhile, Rudolph and Hermes travel with the insane Yukon Cornelius. They find another of Christmas Town’s secrets: The seedy underbelly that is the Island of Misfit Toys. Essentially, these are the homeless and crack whores of Christmas Town. Charlie in the Box would do anything to please, and the scene with him (played by Heath Ledger) and Hermes is disturbing.
Rudolph bolts outta there, seriously wigged out. Hermes and Yukon go after him, and save him from the Abominable Bumble. Of course, in an entirely "Metaphorical" sense, Andy Dick gives the giant CGI beast oral, after which Will Ferrell wrestles comically with it in the snow. They disappear over a cliff, thankfully, but all the reindeer that were looking for Rudolph were coincidentally holed up in the same cave. Everyone is rescued.
In another remarkable display of caveman-like sexism, Donner says, "We need to get these woman back to the cave. –er, town. You know what I mean."
And by "women," that included Andy Dick.
Back in town, it was a day or two before Christmas Eve. Playing against type, Christopher Walken was cast as Santa. He is strutting around the shop wearing just pants and suspenders, creeping the elves out. There is a big storm, and he’s thinking he can weasel out of delivering this year because of the winter weather advisory.
"Besides," he said, "Most of the fuckin kids were brats this year."
There follows the fight scene between Santa and Rudolph, and it finally ends with Santa ceding the point, but not without some violence. "I’ll deliver the presents. If I have to. But you’re going with, and leading the sleigh. How’s that for funny, Rudy? Huh? You like that? Here’s a reindeer game for ya, Rudy. Hold him down, Hermes." And Santa tea-bagged Rudolph while he sing, "You better not cry, you better not shout–"
The big finale is when Yukon Cornelius returns with the Abominable Bumble, tame and obedient. Santa tests this by having it eat Mrs. Claus, played by Susan Sarandon.
The patriarchal order having been restored, Christmas went on as scheduled. And they all lived happily ever after, until the DEA busted Santa and his Cocaine smuggling ring. Finally, the terrible secret behind the reason for Rudolph’s shiny red nose is revealed, as well as the metaphorical Burl Ives.
I sat quietly, staring down at my hot cocoa. No marshmallows left, a fitting metaphor for my feelings at that point. I sighed. This sure wasn’t the way I remembered it as a child.
I recall my childhood as a magical time. Really. I grew up in the country, a small, rural town in Southern Illinois. There was a farm nearby, belonging to my friend’s family, that I spent most of my time. It was just like out of one of those textbooks from the 1940s. The goat and sheep pen, the geese that did as they pleased. The chicken pen and chicken house. The barn and hayloft, the pasture–
And the rest of the town. I know I was young, so from that angle, old people were really old. But Geez–there were some ancient monuments alive in our town. Otto Segelhorst was my friend’s grampa, and chose not to speak very good English. He and Hiram Nobe taught my dad how to make German wine. My brother now lives in Hiram’s house.
Up the street a couple of houses was John–I don’t remember his last name. His house was right by the entrance to the park. I’d sit and talk with him. On the other side of the entrance was Adolph Schuetz. He was up to the Tavern alot. Moose’s.
Down the other street was Ewalt Steinkamp, and we owned the lot next to him. Behind him, in the middle of the next block, was Mrs. Lietz. She was about 387 years old in 1970. She always had a tiny little dog, that she would walk once or twice or a dozen times a day, down past the bridge and back. Round trip, about a mile or more.
She used up alot of dogs.
The commerce center of town was the grain elevator, Doelling’s Garage, a tiny general store, and Moose’s Tavern. Doelling’s Garage had been open when I was young, but my the time I was a teen, it had been closed for a few years. Same with the Store. I swear I don’t know what people are thinking when they open a store in a town with 160 people in it–and most of those are not going to patronize your business. Wishful thinking? I remember it had been open on occasion in the summer, and always some weird hippie looking dude from out of town would be running the place. I’m sure they were nice and all–but that is not going to fly in our town.
The old grain elevator has been through some changes. The one that breaks my heart is the Mill Pond. It was only three feet deep, at the most. And about the size of a yard. Maybe a quarter acre. But it was the staging ground for my youth. Fishing–I can’t believe there were fish in it–and camping, right in town. We ice skated on it, and road our bikes on the ice. . .And I seem to recall it being frozen from Christmas Break all the way through the end of February.
In my later rebellious teen years, we (me and the half dozen or so town kids) would stage "Breakout" in the Summer. We had a name for it. After everyone went to bed, after midnight–we would all sneak out and meet up by the pond. Have a fire, sometimes a bottle of Mad Dog (the Good Stuff). We were living on the edge–as dangerous as a Scooby Cartoon.
After my friend Chaz went into the Army, and came back for Christmas break, we used his equipment to rapel from the top of the grain elevator–about 120 feet–on New Years’ Eve.
Moose’s was the heart and soul of the town. Moose–I don’t know what his name was–and his wife ran the place. This is where I came to understand the expression "bar fly." Usually on the end of the L-shaped bar, on the three stools for the regulars, would be a rotation of several people. Bill Segelhorst, my friend’s dad, or Paul Martin–who always seemed to me to be stuck up son of a bitch–or Adolph Schuetz.
There were some others in those spots, but those were the ones whose ass print was in the stool.
It was an old building, built in the 1800s like everything else in the town. A pool table that I’m not sure I ever saw anyone play. Wow. Three or four booths and four or five tables, and less than a dozen seats at the bar. A juke box. Moose had a kitchen in back, and cooked a bit. He didn’t like to, but it was part of the business. The burgers were good.
Catty-corner to the Mill was where the Tulls lived. My friends. Dad’s Friend, Charlie, was the dad, and the smartest guy I ever knew. Completely full of shit, too, so you never knew what to believe. His older sons were Lee and Chaz. Both of them alternated as my friends, staying at opposite times with their dad.
Down the street from there is the Lutheran Church. I remember when we went, some years later, to my old friend Vernon’s wedding there, I told my ex, "Yeah, this little town has a big church in it–"
We get there, and it’s the size of a house. Not a big house. Well, the last time I was in it was for the Sunday school’s Christmas production (Picture Charlie Brown’s show) when I was eight.
There is also a park, with pavilions for the town picnic and other activities. There was a stage, and below the stage, the basketball court/dance floor, for when the polka band strikes up. Back behind there is the coal mine, or what’s left of it. It closed in 1969–right before we moved there. Even at that time, they were still using mules to pull the coal cars out. Around the corner from the church was an oddly shaped house, deep and narrow. Stella–I forget her last name, an old Polish woman–used to babysit me and my sister. Mostly my sister. I was six or seven, and needed no supervision. I swear everything was in black and white back then. That’s how I remember it.
I think it’s funny how the fall, and the cold, and the smell of leaves and fireplaces. . .. makes me remember this.