Memory Lane

The in-between time

CHRISTMAS, FESTIVUS and Kwanzaa are all behind us, and we’re careening toward the New Year. It’s an appropriate time for memories.

I went to the photo album, found these shots and, being a sharing sort of fellow, I’m putting them here for you … and me.

jax

This is the house I grew up in, the Arlington area of Jacksonville, Florida. The house looked far better back then. This photo was taken by my daughter about five years ago. There was no sidewalk in my time, and the yard was well-tended by my father. There was a mimosa tree to the left. There were flowers everywhere.

The house was painted aquamarine.

My parents purchased this place brand new in 1952. I lived there from the Third Grade until I graduated from high school. The window on the left was my parents’ bedroom. The one in the middle was my bedroom. My sister’s room was in the rear. Due to my father’s drinking, this place does not hold fond memories for me.

houstonhouse

This small apartment is in a high-rise called the Houston House or, as it was known locally, the Heartbreak Hotel due to the number of divorced guys in residence. It was where I moved when my last wife decided to take up with an illegal alien yard boy half her age in 1995. Like the home above, it too holds no fond memories.

But it had a spectacular view. I was on the 22nd floor.

fly

I’m including this shot just for the heck of it. It was taken in rural Texas, as the time stamp clearly indicates, on July 30, 1994. That was about a year before my second wife developed goo-goo eyes for the yard boy.

That’s me on the right, and we’re about to take off in an ultralight. I already had a private pilot’s license, but I didn’t know how to fly ultralights. The guy on the left was the pilot. I never got around to learning ultralights. Life intervened, and not in a good way.

patio

The photo shows a happy time, my Mexican wedding in 2002. Well, for the two on the left, me and my child bride. I was 57 at the time, and she was 41. The not-so-happy folks are the other two, my wife’s sister who spent the evening glowering with jealousy. Yes, that’s a double-dip ice cream cone over her head. Irony.

The guy at the right was her husband. Long-time readers here may remember him as The Eggman. They later split up, and a couple of years after, in a cry for sympathy, he shot himself with a .22-caliber pistol. He did not intend for it to be fatal, but it was. He now lies beneath the floor of the Basilica here on the mountaintop.

Forevermore. Like the Raven.

The Odd Pot

New and improved

typewriter

LOTS OF related websites are connected here. There are links in the right-side column. History has shown me that few folks pay them any mind in spite of their often being more fascinating than what you see here in the middle space.

I’ve not been happy with one of those related pages for quite some time. Newspaper Days. Recently, a nice woman clicked “like” on it, and that brought the page to my attention.

Still didn’t like it, so I zapped it.

In its place is a new and improved version of my Newspaper Days. More info, more photos, better written. Think of it as a Prius instead of a Ford Fairlane.

For folks who’ve been passing by the Moon for more than a short spell, you already know that I am a retired newspaperman. Not a journalist, a newspaperman. Having never taken a journalism course in my life, how could I be a journalist? I did work for newspapers for 30 years, however. Newspaperman.

I never had delusions of grandeur.

When I got into that now-discredited occupation, having studied journalism frequently was not a requirement. Being fairly sober and being able to stand up straight and construct a reasonably coherent sentence often was enough.

And being male. Getting hired in newsrooms if you weren’t a guy was pretty much impossible with one exception: society pages. Lots of ladies in the Society Department.

It’s called Lifestyle now. Or simply Style.

In Newspaper Days, I follow my checkered career from New Orleans to San Juan, back to New Orleans and then to Houston, Texas, where I spent the entire second half of my newspapering life. It was a good gig, so I stayed 15 years.

The best was San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was the briefest even though I worked there on two separate occasions in the early to mid-1970s for a bit under two years total.

This is a photo of where I lived the second stay:

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My penthouse was just off to the left, one or two buildings. Sweet, huh?

You can see the news business was good to me. The pay was okay too. I did not get rich, but I did retire debt-free to Mexico when I was just 55 years old. Wife-free too.

Take a look at the longer version, which gets into booze, suicides, mangy bars, mangy dogs, Cuban coffee, the effects of political correctness, the effects of Watergate. And there are my mugshots on all my press passes save one. Cute!

Mexican life

Separate summers

Datura outside our bedroom window yesterday. There’s also aloe vera.

MY FATHER DIED a quarter century ago when he was just three years older than I am right now.

He was a sad man, but he loved summer. He worked evenings, which gave him days free to labor in the yard where we lived in Northern Florida in a ranch house.

He loved the Atlantic beach, sand and saltwater, and he loved tending the yard. Neither interfered with his drinking, however. Heat stirs well with highballs.

I don’t drink — well, not anymore — and maybe that’s why I don’t like gardening, and I don’t live near the beach though we can get there in three hours down the autopista.

And I loathe heat, the lack of which makes my mountaintop home wonderful in summertime. But things really grow here, much better than they did in my father’s yard.

Gotta be the latitude.

Every winter I blaze through the yard like a machete-wielding madman even though I actually use a small saw and branch trimmer. The golden datura is slashed back to basics, leaving the trunk and some nubs. It’s soft wood.

It booms back in June once it feels a touch of rain.

My father had a pink-flowered mimosa of similar size in our Florida yard. It was the only thing of any height. The rest were pansies, petunias, such stuff, all planted in rows.

Here I have a Willy-Nilly Zone where things grow, hemmed in by rock and concrete, in any direction they desire.

And for things of size, there’s monster bougainvillea, the towering nopal, a gigantic fan palm.

I was pressed, as a boy, into yard-mowing duties, and I received a small sum. I forget how much. And I once cut the Hacienda lawn too, years ago, but not anymore.

That’s why the Goddess invented pesos for me to pay Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

About a decade back, after I moved to Mexico, I drove a rented car slowly by the Florida house. The mimosa was gone. Everything was bleak. The grass was spotty due to cars being parked on it, just like a rack of rednecks would do.

There were no flowers at all. Nothing.

In the 1950s, the area was the middle class moving up. Now it’s the working class barely holding on.

Summers separated by half a century of time.

The Odd Pot

Southern Roots

beach
Florida, 1961. Father on left, me in middle, friend on right.*

MY FATHER was born in North Georgia on the edge of Atlanta during the First World War.

I was born in Atlanta during the Second World War. My father’s parents were born around 1890, which means I am just two family generations south of the Victorian Age.

My father’s parents’ parents were born shortly after the end of the Civil War. I’m not sure where, probably North Georgia. If they were not born there, they moved there.

My father was an arrowhead collector, a newspaperman, an excellent writer and poet, a boozer who shunned coffee and tobacco, and he wasn’t much of a father either.

For a while, he was a chicken farmer. He was drafted into the U.S. Army late in the Second World War and sent to Korea on a troop ship. He didn’t like that one little bit.

Yes, he was in Korea during the Second World War, not the Korean War, which came later. He never fired a shot at anyone, and nobody ever shot at him. He was a typist.

pop
1987

The war ended, and Uncle Sam shipped him back to Georgia. He never traveled anywhere again if he had anything to say about it.

He was not an adventurer.

As I said, he wasn’t much of a father. He had no interest, and it showed. About the only things that interested him were my mother, booze, writing and arrowheads.

He died in Atlanta of a heart attack in 1991. Coincidentally, he was lying in a hospital bed due to some unrelated issue, and was on the verge of being discharged.

He died just moments after brusquely hanging up the phone. He was talking to me. I had called.

He had not called me, of course. He never wrote me a letter in his entire life. He never wrote my sister either.

Those were pre-email days.

Minutes later, my sister phoned to say he was dead.  Age 75, three years older than I am now.

It was Mother’s Day.

I didn’t much like him, but I am just like him. I look like him. I think like him. I sound like him. I think I was a better father, but my daughter might tell you otherwise.

I did make an effort. He never made an effort.

He and I both stopped drinking in our early 50s, but for both of us the damage had already been done, irreparably.

My father was a lifelong leftist. He had witnessed Pinkertons shooting at strikers during the 1930s. For most of my life, I was a leftist too, as was all our family.

Unlike him and the others, I wised up late in life.

Will our many similarities include dying at 75? I hope not because I’m having way too much fun.

* * * *

(Note:  The inimitable Jennifer Rose recently noted the 20th anniversary of her mother’s death. This got me to thinking about my father, which led to the above. I wrote about my mother after she died at 90 in 2009.)

* The lad on the right in the photo is John Zimmerman. We were good friends. He went on to become a pilot in the Vietnam War and later a captain for a major airline. He sent me this photo a few years ago when we reconnected on Facebook.