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.

Papacito Day

jetSUNDAY WAS Father’s Day, of course. Unlike Mother’s Day, which falls on different days in Mexico and the United States, Father’s Day is on the same day. One wonders why.

I am a father, but my daughter has gone entirely, it seems, to her mother’s side (my first of three wives), and her mother long ago remarried, providing my daughter with a substitute, and he is a very good guy.

That leaves me, apparently, not a father anymore. I have been deleted.

That means, for me at least, yesterday was not Papa Day. It was Papacito Day, which is another matter altogether. Being a Mexican woman’s Papacito is a romantic thing. And being a Mexican man’s Mamacita is too. I am married to my Mamacita, and she is married to her Papacito.

It is not always that way. You can have a Mamacita or Papacito on the side. Even though you can get into trouble doing that, it is fairly common.

We celebrated Papacito Day by dining in a nice restaurant just outside a village near here. The restaurant has an unpronounceable name that comes from our local indigenous people. I think it’s sort of silly to put an unpronounceable name to a business, but it seems to be doing well.

eat2And here is the restaurant. It’s a humble place. The ceiling and the roof are one and the same. Beams and artificial clay tiles. A major storm erupted while we were both digging into plates of breaded fish and guacamole, and a few raindrops fell on my gray-haired head.

* * * *

So you may be asking, What’s with the airliner?

I snapped that shot on Sunday too, as we were driving to the restaurant. Our hardscrabble neighborhood on the upside of town is where you’ll find our airport. It’s a dirt strip, and walking distance from the Hacienda.

A few years back, someone started an ultralight business there for tourists to see the area from on high. In the early days, we often had two-seater ultralights over the Hacienda. But that’s kind of petered out. And we’ve had hot-air balloon festivals at that airport too. But not recently.

A couple of years ago, someone decided to buy an old Aeromexico DC-9 airliner and install it at our dirt strip, you know, just for show. Getting the airliner here was fun. Here’s what happened:

It was trucked here. The wings were removed and the tail too, leaving just the cylindrical body, which was lowered onto some monster trailer and pulled by a semi. It came from the direction of the state capital, and everything was going fine until it arrived at the turn here in our neighborhood. A DC-9 corners poorly.

At the right turn from the main highway onto the secondary road, there is a gentle incline downward, and there is a carnitas stand right on that corner, directly by the highway, and it was the eating hour.

As the airliner entered the turn, it began to roll off its trailer. It landed on the highway with a considerable thump, one imagines, I was not there, wish I had been, and began to roll toward the carnitas stand.

You can imagine the eyeballs of the fellow slicing carnitas as the DC-9 rolled toward him. It stopped just a few feet away. I happened to drive by minutes later and saw the airliner resting on the highway, which is not something you see very often, especially without blood, body parts, mangled luggage and flame-retarding foam.

To make a long story shorter, they got it off the highway somehow, and later installed it on a concrete stand at the nearby airport, and put the wings back on, plus the jet housings.

Months later, I drove to the airport, and the owner was there, the same guy with the ultralight business, and he gave me a tour inside the jet. The seats were missing, but it’s fun to stand inside a bit of aviation history.

I took this shot Sunday, and we continued on to the restaurant with the unpronounceable name, breaded fish and terrific rainstorm.

All told, it was a good Papacito Day.

And I hope I have lots more.