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Thread: Fifty Year Reunion

  1. #1
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    Fifty Year Reunion

    Fifty Year Reunion
    by
    Steven Hunley

    If you're traveling in the north country fair
    Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
    Remember me to the one who lives there
    She was once a true love of mine
    If you're goin' when the snowflakes storm
    When the rivers freeze and summer ends
    Please see for me she has a coat so warm
    To keep her from the howling winds
    See for me that her hair's hanging long
    That it rolls and flows all down her breasts
    Please see for me that her hair's hanging long
    'Cause that's the way I remember her best
    I'm a-wondering if she remembers me at all
    Many times I've often prayed
    In the darkness of my night
    In the brightness of my day
    So if you're traveling in the north country fair
    Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
    Remember me to the one who lives there
    'Cause she was once, a true love of mine.
    –Bob Dylan


    You’ve heard of the reality show Survivor. It isn’t so real. But this is, and it’s the real deal about survivors, not about survivors of television ratings, but about survivors of tragedies and love and life itself, and a road-trip to boot. It takes us from sunny southern California to the Midwest, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and then Ironwood Michigan for a class reunion and then Hurley where Dillinger hid out, secreted away in the North Woods.

    In San Diego I get a copy of a magazine about Frank Sinatra and promptly lose in mid-flight to Phoenix when I tuck in the back of the seat in front of me to pull down the tray to balance my Coke and chips on. I regret it immensely to this day, it had pictures of the Rat Pack and Frank and just looking at the cover made me want to watch reruns of From Here to Eternity. I made my daughter Nichole watch it once the same as I did Street Car named Desire. That’s what dads who are ex-film students do, force their children to watch old movies. God bless us all for that.

    We take off, swing out over the Pacific, hang a U-turn, and head east for Phoenix.

    Phoenix airport was a drag race and a blur. In order to make our connection on time we were counseled to order a cart. A guy pulled up to where we got off and we hopped on and then hung on for dear life. While all the normal folk were heading one way, walking at a hurried pace and rushing by on long moving sidewalks, we were rocketing in the other direction, against their stream of humanity, like salmon swimming madly upstream on a mission to procreate our own species. He tooted and blasted a horn and shouted out "cart moving!" and they had better give way and stand clear if they valued their lives. And I thought the 747 was fast. Southwestern had nothing on this guy who ought to be a jet pilot, because he earned his wings flying us through the airport.

    We land in Minneapolis and hang out at the Sheraton and it’s so tall it gives me a nose bleed just looking out the window. I can’t see much because it’s two o’clock in the morning, but when I wake up I can see the Double Tree from our window and plenty of trees and I conclude that wherever the hell I am it isn’t California because there isn’t a palm tree in sight. The restaurant downstairs is a French themed restaurant named Colette. I wonder if anyone here knows it’s a French writer, the first woman to earn the Legion of Honor. I doubt it.

    We meet the Manns. Stephen and Penny and Pam took us to dinner and we met Alicia, Stephen's fashionable wife, a holistic horse-healer who had once been a people nurse. Alicia was quiet but bold, bold enough to eat anchovies on her salad. Stephen was one of the few people I’ve ever met who understood the nature of street photography. And why not? He has cinema down pat, it’s his business to know all about film. Showed us his offices, and the original Deuce Coupe used in American Graffiti. But what impressed me most was how he talked tenderly to Barbara on the way back to the hotel. Before I met him I expected him to be a ruthless business man, a scion of theaters and all, but I was dead wrong. He’s sharp as a tack, never abrasive, soft spoken and amiable. One of those guys you feel comfortable with right off the bat.

    Pam owns a spa, displays business savvy, and has tons of rings on her fingers and Penny is funny as all get out and although I’d met her before right after Edythe’s funeral, she looks much younger today, like a California surfer girl, which I mention, and she most likely doesn’t believe, but I know was perfectly true. It was good to see both of them again, as when I first met them, under dread circumstances, and with them both living so far away, thought I’d never see them again.

    That night I read Memories and Manuscripts to Barbara, where the last line is, “All was good in Trieste.”

    The next day we meet the other side of the family, the Marks- Honey Bee and Arnie and Cookie, their daughter, and Rollie and Margie. Honey Bee made fabulous Butterscotch cookies. Arnie is an oldster, even older than me, and served in WW2 and Korea but didn’t fight, but rather played clarinet in an army band.

    “You were in the army of occupation in Europe. Where at? Berlin?”

    “Trieste.”

    It was just another instance of synchronicity. Jung would have laughed. Carl, go right ahead.

    I figured Arnie was just a few years older, but no, he was several years older. When it came down to it, he was an inspiration. He was fit and active and involved in several service organizations. In April he was named to the Lion’s club hall of fame and for over twenty-five years hosted youth exchanges.

    As we were leaving I had to tell him.

    “You know, Arnie, I just have to tell you. I have days when I feel like I’m getting old. There are moments I dread it. And when I saw you I guessed you were a bit older but had no idea you were eighty-four. When I see how fit you are, how active, and how you’ve dedicated yourself to doing good for mankind, I’m changing my mind.”

    He just smiled and shook my hand. Nothing else needed to be said.

    Margie gave us a ride back to the hotel.

    The Sheraton Bloomingdale is really posh but a mystery. The view is terrific. The room is comfortable, the most comfortable room I’ve ever been in as a matter of fact, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s the luxurious room or Barbara’s company that makes it that way. Maybe it’s really no mystery at all.

    Barbara and I complement each other, fit together like pieces of a wonderful complicated puzzle that when religiously mated, form a celestial picture. And it’s one of those pictures you want to stare at forever. It’s unique, it’s for real, and I’ll do anything to maintain it. To paraphrase Eric Clapton, I will do anything, anything you can dream of. I’ll do anything, anything…for her love.

    Then we rented a car across the street at the Doubletree and headed north east for Ironwood. At this point I was wound tight as a coil spring. The reason is because I’m a man and men are hunter gatherers and I’m not sure of my directions. I’m a stranger in a strange land! Let’s see, it’s on accounta I have at least five sets of directions. I have Mapquest, which tells me one way and Pam’s directions which tell me another and Arnie’s actual road map marked with a high-lighter and two or three variations of Mapquest I obtained because I looked it up a number of times.

    Oh my goodness, what to do, what to do? Me, lost in the North Woods, surrounded by trees and all, and Sargent Preston and Yukon King nowhere in sight. Finally I give up and use Arnie’s map because I’m an oldster and don’t trust technology when a paper road map will do the trick. That’s me, the oldster who is suspicious of technology.

    GPS, take a hike, I’m not pushing buttons this time. Technology, I got news for you too…get over it. On this trip you’re taking a back seat.

    ©Steven Hunley2014

    To be continued…

    http://youtu.be/IZaOvDRUsCg I’ll do anything for your Love-Eric Clapton

    http://youtu.be/dyN-ya3rCPw Girl from the North Country Fair-Bob Dylan
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 07-11-2014 at 05:12 PM.

  2. #2
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    Not sure how long this is supposed to be or what the eventual point is, but it reads well. Feels very professional. Its a nice start to something.

  3. #3
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    This has the vibrant narrative voice and cultural references which are trademarks of your writing, but you might want to make your verb tenses more consistent -- either all present or all past (preferably the latter.)

    Auntie

  4. #4
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    With our hopes rising high as Paul Bunyan, we head northeast. In the process, we cross innumerable rivers and the Mississippi was one, the St. Croix was another. Never crossed so many rivers in my life. After the cement is left far behind, I notice the green. All shades, all tints, all qualities of green, are displayed in their splendor, seducing my eyes with their rapturous beauty. That’s what I think. It’s deep romantic stuff- a bit overwritten. So then I overcompensate, get all observant and scientific and say,

    “Look, Honey. In Cali if it’s green it’s been watered, if it’s not it brown or yellow. Not here.”

    Barbara nods her head in agreement because she knows simple minds make simple observations. I’m San Diego’s Edition of Rumi, the old Sufi mystic. And being dry isn’t the only difference. Although it’s sunny, it’s still cool, and I mention it. She looks out the window past the hood somewhere I can’t see.
    “I remember riding in Uncle Ted’s car. In the winter he’d roll the windows down. Told me it was good for me, good for my complexion. It would be below zero.

    “It’s good for your constitution,” he’d say. “You’re too pale.”

    “Whoa!”

    At the junction of the 94 and 63 we find an A&W Root Beer and take a picture of a sign that says Cheese Curds. I tell Barb, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Curds and whey always remind me of spiders so I demure and eat a chili-dog instead while she sips a diet Root Beer in an old-fashioned frosty mug. When we leave I tell the cashier, a big-boned freckled-faced girl with short red hair,

    “You know, we’re from California, and just love your accent.”

    “Oh noooo,” she says, and the no is said somewhere else in the nose, a very long vowel sound. “It’s youuuu that’s got the accent.”

    “And, Honey?” I say to Barb, “Does it snow all over here?”

    She tells me the story of the car-crash with her parents when she was a little girl.

    I imagine it in Technicolor and five-channel sound.

    “The snow swirling like a tornado in the headlights. Dad quickly putting his hand on the top of my three year old head and pushing me down. The sound of the crash and the crumple of sheet metal. Mom’s head slammed into the glove compartment three inches. The violent contrast of the wet red blood swath across my dad’s forehead against the pure white snow cast an indelible memory.

    Hematoma was the word they used for my dad. I remember the blizzard and cold and the snow and how sweet the ambulance drivers were and them telling me I had the choice of which ambulance to go in.

    I chose my mother and remember her moaning all the way there. Then they took me to Uncle Ted’s house. I was up on their bed eating chocolate-covered Graham crackers and drinking a glass of milk. Visiting Dad, dressed in a robe and sitting in a wheel chair, week after week, while Mom remained in a coma.”

    I shiver at these images, even though it’s summer.

    The surface of the highway is cast in sections here and tarred in between. It feels rough in the same way an old train track feels rough, but not regular enough to establish a rhythm. That irritates me. Then it turns smooth.

    Green fields of corn roll by. Tall stands of stately trees provide shelter. A family home has a dog house planted outside nearby in the shade. Two kids ride four wheelers to pick up the mail from the box on a post, next to five others propped at different angles.

    A rusted tractor stands alone.

    A bright red Camaro, American gas-guzzling muscle car supreme, sits for sale on a clean green lawn. Fat white grain silos pierce the blue sky. Then trees, trees, and more trees, standing so close there’s nothing but shadow beneath and between. Birch trunks as white as chalk remind me of birch-bark canoes in Last of the Mohicans. And that reminds me of Chingachgook. The French refer to Chingachgook as "Le Gros Serpent," the Great Snake, because he understands the twisted ways of men's nature and one who can strike a sudden, deadly blow. And that reminds me of the highway of my mind and the direction I’m going. And that reminds me we’re heading towards Lake Superior.

    Barbara turns on the radio, and there isn’t good reception, so she searches for a station and gives the knob a twist so expert it would make Chubby Checker jealous.

    And what do we get? I don’t make these up, fellas, I just record them.

    It was Fool for the City by Foghat.

    Suddenly, if not sooner, we weren’t Barbara and Steven any more. We were fools for the city who felt better off out here. What’s up with that? I think Barbara intended to prove Thomas Wolf wrong. You COULD go home. She had that kind of attitude and knew attitude can shape events.

    So what happened then? I’ll tell ya’.

    We rocked, the hills rolled northward, and all was right in Minnesota. Ironwood Michigan, here we come. We motor up through Clayton and Turtle Lake, Cumberland and Spooner. At Ashland were officially on the 2 east. Here I get my first glimpse at Lake Superior. There are plenty of islands, and you can’t see the other side, it’s so enormously gigantic and awesome, and then it’s a cruise through the Bad River Indian’s with a Casino and Selling Fireworks instead of Firewater Reservation.

    “They have multi-generational high levels of addiction and suicide,” Barb tells me.

    “You rob a people of their homeland and their heritage. Washington somehow makes it legal. The conquerors write the history and set the rules. The losers get multi-generational problems in return. It’s steel meets stone age, then we rip apart the environment, take the best parts for ourselves, and determine the limits of their wasteland. It’s a travesty.”

    Up ahead a woman is standing near her car and looking at the pavement. Her fists are clutched in horror as if something horrible is about to happen and drawn up tightly under her chin. Her mouth is wide open, ready to scream. I look to see what she’s gaping at. It’s a turtle about the size of a size 10 Reebok tennis shoe, stranded in the middle of the highway.

    I glide by him carefully and zoom past.

    Here he was, born to be a medium sized turtle in a very, very, very large lake. But he takes his chances crossing a highway to make it to a small pond on the other side. He wants to be a big turtle in a little pond. It looked like the journey was a little traumatic. What grit. What gusto. What risk! I wonder if it will be worth the trip.

    But what it clues me into, is even more dramatic. It’s Barbara’s story about how her dad packed a car full of auto parts ‘til the car bent down to the springs, and headed west with her and her mom when she was 14. A cheer-leader and all, well known and recognized, surrounded by friends and family, moves to LA, where the kids were fast and smoked and drank and cursed like a west-coast Devil who just missed a beautiful Pacific sunset.

    It must have been as bad for her as it was for the poor turtle.

    Then Hurley. Oh my goodness, it’s Infamous Hurley, the place where Dillinger hid out. Right over the bridge is Michigan and Ironwood. One is a city of churches and the other is a city of bars and strip clubs. Good meets the Bad over the river, and we oldsters return to settle some scores. For her, it’s filled with sweet memories and renewed friendships. For me, it’s a chance to learn more about the woman I’ve fallen in love with, and see where she’s come from and better understand her ingredients.

    Oh my goodness gracious sakes alive, this personal history stuff is so dramatic. It’s reflecting on your life and searching for meaning using a personal flashlight. It just gets to you some times.

    The final frontier isn’t Star Trek. The Final Frontier is when you’re getting old. We are all travelers of time and space,on the same journey Led Zeppelin referred to in Kashmir, and made of the ‘star-stuff’ mentioned by Carl Sagan. We’re walking miracles clothed in precious flesh, happily striding towards the ultimate finish line, and praying to God Heaven is real.

    ©Steven Hunley 2014

    To be continued…

    http://youtu.be/Cbdptuf9-yU Fool for the City-Fog Hat

    http://youtu.be/PD-MdiUm1_Y Kashmir- Led Zepplin
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 07-26-2014 at 06:04 PM.

  5. #5
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    Here I am again to gush about the quality of your writing. It captures little aspects of humanity exactly right, for instance the comment about the regional accents. The closing sentence is a gem. Above all, your style is so individualistic --you don't write like anybody else! Some of our fellow NitLetters should read your "stuff" and learn something.

    Like the song says, "For all your faults, I love it still!"

    Your biggest fan,
    Auntie

  6. #6
    The Wolf of Larsen WolfLarsen's Avatar
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    This writing was too traditional for me and I could not finish it.

    However, it was very good writing. Unfortunately, your writing is just too good for you to become a best-selling airport novelist. What a shame for your bank account and your prestige.

    But anyway, good solid writing. Just too conservative for my taste.
    "...the ramblings of a narcissistic, self-obsessed, deranged mind."
    My poetry & other stuff on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr...or=Wolf Larsen

  7. #7
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    We motor up and down hills and the trees become thicker the farther north we go. Pines and birches are so closely mustered you wonder about their competition to seek light. Do vegetables fight it out with vegetables? I wonder. In patches there are so many trees close together you get the impression that if one fell, they would all fall, like tall stacks of green organic dominoes. In there somewhere, between the birches and pines, is the deep dark forest one hears about in fairy tales, the one Hansel and Gretel got lost in, I just knew it.

    And the water, they have plenty of water. We pass through Cumberland and it’s surrounded by water on all sides. They call it The Island City. SoCal is sadly lacking in island cities.

    The Colorado River, the closest we’ve got to real raging water, is crossed in a few seconds at Needles between California and Arizona. I lost a suitcase and pair of black Cape-buffalo hide gloves on that bridge when a suitcase flew off the top of the car. Forty years later and I still remember the black leather gloves. Something is wrong with me. A tough guy shouldn’t oughta care.

    I got ‘em in nineteen sixty-five for Christmas from my parents in National City. They’re long-gone now, the parents and the gloves.

    “Sorry, Parents, if I didn’t tell you I loved them. I did. When I wore them I thought I was James Bond or Inspector Clouseau or somethin’.”

    Even at the Grand Canyon, when you peer over the rim, the Colorado is so far down it appears as a narrow silver ribbon winding its way through the desert. It’s over a mile down, I admit, but it’s been sucked dry by swimming pools and the thirsty luckless souls of Las Vegas, the fame-seeking souls of Los Angeles, and six more dry-as-a-popcorn fart western states. There isn’t enough water to go around. Seriously, we live in a desert. Not so here. When they call Minnesota the Land of ten-thousand lakes, they ain’t kiddin’.

    Next we turn right at Dairy Queen and proceed down Silver Street past Liberty Bell Pizza.

    “This,” said Barb, making a sweeping motion with her hand, “Is Hurley.”

    There are bars on both sides of the street, and juke joints and strip clubs. And I don’t mean a couple; I mean side by side taking up the entire first block this side of the bridge. I could see the church steeples of Ironwood in the distance between the neon lights.

    Sixty-four bars, and that’s not counting strip clubs. Population of Hurley: 1, 543. Go figure.

    “When Dad had to come here early in the morning he’d cover my eyes up. Later I held my own hands up but peeked between my fingers. It would be early in the morning and the painted ladies that worked at night would be coming home from the bars. They looked exhausted, and I remember two girls were Siamese twins.”

    “Honey, your stories just get better and better. They’re slices of apple-pie Americana.”

    We arrive at the motel and settle in with barely enough time to check out the place, and make it to The Olde Suffolk Ale House for drinks with the graduating class, a bunch of old geezers for sure. Makes me think of Walker Evans and Dorthea Lang and black and white pictures of people on porches.

    Jed Clampet, Jethro, and the rest of the back-woodsers. I’m getting a little mixed up here with Hillbillies and North woodsmen but give me a break, I’m a stranger in a strange land, and while I’m on a physical journey to the Upper Peninsula, Barb is on a time-trip back in her personal history that would make Herbert George Well jealous. No offence, Herb.

    Dillinger, Jethro, Jed, Ellie May, Grandma, Amos McCoy, Walter Brennon, Davy Crocket, Hiawatha, my exotic Barb; Pirate Girl in her silk Pajamas, I love them all.

    Well, here we are. The Olde Suffolk Ale House is stuffed with people and not a coon-skin hat in sight. Barb is immediately meeting and greeting folks she hasn’t seen in a coon’s age.

    I’m introduced to so many faces and names I can’t remember what name goes with what face within ten minutes. My supreme accomplishment is when I athletically scoot and slide between bodies, balancing two Rieslings without spilling a drop. Like Jean Claude Killy on the downhill, I avoid the barriers; deftly slip between them, crossing the finish line of our table and relishing the triumph. Within minutes some girl kidnaps Barbara and spirits her away. My God it’s getting loud in here! Their voices rise in a symphonic crescendo, like they did in the cafeteria during lunch back in high school. Finally Barb resurfaces and takes me outside to sit on a bench.

    We talk and talk amid copious introductions, and an impression is generated in my foolish city-boy brain. It’s something I noticed as far back as Minnesota, at the A&W cheese curds place, and all the various places we stopped to ask directions. People here are genuinely friendly. They are eager to help strangers. They go out of their way! What’s up with that? What brings it about? How can that be?

    It’s not that way with people in Los Angles, or San Diego either, though I once noticed, just after moving back to San Diego, a barely-perceptible difference. I was riding a bus to the 99Cent Store. When people got off, they usually said ‘thank you’ to the driver. In LA this was a very rare occurrence. In San Diego it was standard operational procedure. Is it, that like energy, we have only so many emotions stored up, and if we have to distribute them too often, they run out, and each person we deal with from that point gets less than they deserve?

    People from small towns see less people, they interact less. Does this mean they have more of themselves to give? While reading I got the impression people from small towns could be suspicious of strangers, of outsiders, like in Medieval Europe. I’d like to think it may not apply in America the Beautiful, on accounta most of us are here from somewhere else anyway. And besides…E Pluribus Unum.

    But what do I know? Sociologists are like cops, there’s never one around when you need one.

    It occurred to me, like Kurtz’s and Conrad’s pure crystalline bullet, like I was shot in my bloody forehead, Brando and Hemingway-style, that I wasn’t so much A Fool for the City as A Fool from the City.

    Could that be?

    Me, Mister City Slicker, having an enormous, gigantic, gnarly, epiphany about provincialism and my own snobby prejudicial self? Is this some kind of lesson? Does that make sense?

    A life-lesson learned in Michigan and Minnesota, of all places, not in Katmandu or Shangri-La?

    The Horror!

    Well, maybe the unexamined life is really the horror. Maybe Socrates was right. Maybe it isn’t worth living.

    During a lull in the drinking proceeding outside the Olde Suffolk Ale house I notice the full moon rising right up the street. Under the moonlight and streetlights, the passionate glow of red. I saw the sign, a neon sign of the Oakie Bar, fashioned into the shape of an Indian Chief wearing a war bonnet. The Oakie touts itself as the oldest bar in Ironwood. A telephone wire is strung across the street and the moon is almost touching it, like a glowing round acrobat doing a balancing trick.

    I have my trusty camera and decide to pursue it. While Barb is engaged with the deeper more meaningful stuff, renewing acquaintances, making sense of her history, I’m striding up the street with camera in hand, trying to catch the ephemeral and preserve it. Barb preserves and nourishes the inner while I take care to preserve the outer. At times our roles overlap and for seconds we exchange places. It’s Michigan’s version of the cosmic dance and Barb is my partner. What could be better than that?

    Tomorrow night is the big bash, the graduating class dinner, the official class picture, and copious drinks for all. It would be the Yooper's last meeting, and ultimate pow-wow.

    Will everyone be as straight as tin soldiers? Or will they go wild and prove to be Vandals wreaking havoc and carnage? I couldn’t wait to find out.

    ©Steven Hunley2014

    http://youtu.be/HSWtc01BlqM The Horror- Apocalypse Now

    http://youtu.be/yWFkZueFOC4 Tin Soldier Small Faces

    To be continued...
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 08-01-2014 at 01:49 AM.

  8. #8
    Registered User 108 fountains's Avatar
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    I’m waiting to find out, too. This whole piece so far is extraordinarily well-written. There is a lot going on, various themes – the relationship between the narrator and his wife, the “adventures” of an urban Californian discovering the rural/small ton Midwest (in both natural and social settings), the theme of growing old and looking back, and the snippets of biography attached to that theme. The writing weaves back and forth through the themes, spinning them into a nostalgic whole.

    You have a talent for using understatement, simple images, and subtle observations to convey meaning. “Alicia was quiet but bold, bold enough to eat anchovies on her salad.” – that one sentence paints an entire portrait in just 13 words.

    “I lost a suitcase and pair of black Cape-buffalo hide gloves on that bridge when a suitcase flew off the top of the car. Forty years later and I still remember the black leather gloves. Something is wrong with me. A tough guy shouldn’t oughta care.

    "I got ‘em in nineteen sixty-five for Christmas from my parents in National City. They’re long-gone now, the parents and the gloves.”
    -- I just love these two short paragraphs because they say so much.

    “The final frontier isn’t Star Trek. The Final Frontier is when you’re getting old... We’re walking miracles clothed in precious flesh, happily striding towards the ultimate finish line, and praying to God Heaven is real.” -- It’s risky to make sweeping philosophical observations in any kind of prose, but if it’s done just right, it can be moving. This observation, in the context of the paragraphs that preceded it, was done just right.

    Looking forward to more.
    A just conception of life is too large a thing to grasp during the short interval of passing through it.
    Thomas Hardy

  9. #9
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    We crash in the motel among scattered and half-open suitcases wrecked in the same carnage as fat old rusty treasure chests on beaches only M.C. Wyeth could illustrate. Wow, that was a mouthful. All our cords for all our “devices” are either tangled or misplaced, and Pirate Girl upon awakening is requesting her bath be drawn. On bended knee I submit to the request and repair to the bathroom. I turn on the water but can’t find the Aveeno positively nourishing calming body scrub so what to do, what to do? I squeeze a teeny-weeny tube of free hotel shampoo in the water and give it a swirl with my finger.

    No Can Do. It’s called The Comfort Inn… but No Can Do! Like Hall and Oates, I can’t go for that.

    Then, outa nowhere, like lighting, and with just the right timing, I notice the bathtub is a Jacuzzi! There are all kinds of knobs and nozzles all over the place. I’m a man. I am privy to secret man-knowledge that reveals the inner working of all machines! I know what I’m doing!

    “There’s a bright shiny chrome button right there. I’ll push it.”

    Then with a rumble and a whoosh and a groan, I guess it was water, water and bubbles and air and something, came squirting into the tub. It shakes me, it quakes me, like it did Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch. And boy, did it begin to boil and bubble and toil and trouble like in Macbeth. It was Shakespeare meets Hollywood in Ironwood Michigan, don’ t cha know.

    Barb laughed and decided it was time.

    There were oodles and oodles of bubbles. I mean three feet worth of bubbles in which Barb put first her toe, then her foot, then her ankle, and submerged.

    “This is sooo very great,” I gushed. “It’s like a 30’s movie, where women on the dole wanted glamor, so Hollywood gave it to them with elegant, lavish, bathroom scenes with decadent gold-plated faucets, Carrera marble and mountains of opulent suds.”

    “Oh, it’s wonderful,” Barb coos.

    One of her shoulders, I’m talking sensuous shoulders, carved by Nature the Flawless Designer, so dangerous they can only be safely-negotiated-with-kisses shoulders. Her dark hair so black it’s blue, and the perfectly formed ringlets hanging over her neck dance in dark spirals against her porcelain skin. The overhead heat lamp is reflecting on the suds, transforming the bathtub to cloud-like status, like on Mount Olympus. And something about that brings to mind Robert Graves, but I don’t know what, so like C. B. De Mille, I shout, “Let’s make a picture!”

    What’s she going to do, spring out of a pile of suds as tall as Everest and try and stop me? Just the opposite, she orders,

    “Bring me my sunglasses, I don’t have make-up.”

    Since there wasn’t a grip I ran for her sunglasses. I shoot while the suds are in just the right places, all soft and demure-like.

    It turns out perfect. I love the results. I wanna go nation-wide with the results.

    But the first thing she says right after the snap is, “Don’t you dare ever post this on Facebook.”

    “Yes, Ma’am.”

    She knows I’ll obey. She knows I adore her.

    Then I remembered the Robert Graves reference my mind conjured up, it was his novel, White Goddess. Somewhere back in my brain I once made an important note, on accounta Graves gave Sillitoe the best advice he ever had, “Write what you know.”

    Looks like the old Stream of Consciousness isn’t dried up yet.

    It’s late afternoon by the time we show up at Tacconelli’s. The official picture will be here, the official speeches, the official class CD, will be viewed. The first thing they do is give you a card to pin on, showing your picture and name. At the fifty year reunion, very few old codgers with their own teeth resemble the fresh young things that once chewed Bazooka Joe Bubblegum in their teens.

    First thing I notice is that my name isn’t Barbara, so we switch cards. Once inside far enough, in the “I’m close enough to see your face and read your card Zone”, various people recognize Barb, so again I’m introduced to all concerned. That’s not to say I’m the only one who isn’t recognized. There are others, and we are everyone’s objects of suspicion, even our own.

    “This is Joanna Austerlitz,” says Barb, my favorite mistress of ceremonies.

    I give this woman a look, and pardon me and all that, but something is amiss. As neat-uniformed Gestapo officers like Conrad Veidt used to say in the World War Two movies,

    “Her papers are not in order.”

    This ranks right up there with the old cliché, “We have ways to make you talk.”

    I gave Joanna the same suspicious look.

    With the Nazis your papers were never in order. And now I remember why, on accouta Barb told me on the way up here. She says she’s Joanna but her name tag says John. She used to be John Austerlitz. When we shake hands I feel like Jerry Seinfeld. Joanna has huge man-hands.

    “Joanna” man-handled me! Oh my goodness, I’ve been man-handled by a woman! Oh, by Yahweh, Buddha, God, and Allah, what will come next? That takes care of the four great religions, doesn’t it?

    I mean, what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to think? I dunno. Here I am, having a moral crisis in front of a person who’s having a sexual identity crisis. Life is like baseball, it throws you a curve ball when it thinks you’re not looking, but never mind the psychological bull sh*t, and on with the game.

    We walk into the banquet hall and he puts his purse down in the chair beside mine, oh Jeez.



    ©Steven Hunley2014

    to be continued....
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 08-16-2014 at 12:27 PM.

  10. #10
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    There’s banquet tables and a food line and glasses tinkling with toasts right and left and gurgling wine bottles everywhere else. A man has just put his purse on my honey’s seat, and I’m out on a limb with nervousness and surrounded by a room full of strangers. It’s time to get food so the big guy and I sidle over to the grub line. I have it down now, he’s a girl. I’m getting relaxed about it all and free to be my helpful self, so when we get near the end of the line and some unknown dude asks us if we need any more Ranch dressing on our salad, because he’s about to polish the last ladle-full off, I say,

    “Oh, it’s OK, he’s already got his,” and quick as a bunny, man-woman corrects me.

    “You mean hers.”

    All right, so I’m not doing so well. I need a hole to crawl into right now. The Black Hole of Calcutta will do.

    I might mention that with all the clinking of glasses, rattling of tableware, speeches and applause, there was something else going on at the same time. I should have picked up on it from the start.

    You know how it is with life. There are things that are obvious, readily apparent, items that lie on the surface. But they’re not the entire picture. It’s like you’re on a boat seeing only the surface of the water, and never consider the depths below, or the monsters they hold. In the same manner I realized this event was more than a simple Day of Wine and Roses.

    Beneath its festive surface lurked Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Hardy’s uncaring universe. There were two sides to every face. When these men and women greeted, they quickly scanned each other up and down. They were reading every clue possible between the lines on the faces, between the nail polish and glitter, or the pregnant pauses in light conversation.

    Mental notes were being taken, comparisons were measured, conclusions were drawn. It was all about how age had marked them or left them alone.
    How had this one remained so youthful? Was it genes or diet or what? What kind of life has this other one lived that lead to that result? Which ones had claimed a few youthful years with the help of a knife in the hands of a skillful surgeon? Which ones claimed it with the help of a magic elixir? Where can I get some, and where the hell is Ponce Deleon when you need him?

    We were walking down a corridor to take the class picture. Barb leaned near and whispered,

    “In the first few reunions it was all about the great job they landed, or the new wife and kids. Later it was “When are you going to retire?” Now it’s all stories of survival from the terrors of stroke, colonoscopies, and various other sundry health issues.”

    A toxic amount of ‘hail fellow well met’ was going on. The big-wig from the department of Justice who was out of shape was evaluating the retired Marine Colonel who was fit as a fiddle. Women were scanning other women like TSA inspectors at the airport. The camaraderie was artificially inflated.

    None of them were gazing into the face of a childhood friend any more. Each one was staring into a face that reflected their personal mortality.

    “You know,” said Barbara, “Some never left Ironwood. They were born here sixty-seven years ago. Some that are returning are staying gold."

    “You mean “Staying Gold” like in Hinton's Outsiders?"

    “It was originally from Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

    Nature’s first green is gold,

    Her hardest hue to hold.

    Her early leaf’s a flower;

    But only so an hour.

    Then leaf subsides to leaf,

    So Eden sank to grief,

    So dawn goes down to day.

    Nothing gold can stay.

    “They’ve been away, yet they’re staying gold, by renewing friendships, making new connections, and re-connecting the threads of their earlier lives.”

    ©2014Steven Hunley

    to be continued...

  11. #11
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    That’s not to say there wasn’t real emotional reunions going on. Many of the encounters were heartfelt and genuine, just the opposite of these. A rope of true friendship between two people was extended and taken again at the reunion. Some picked up just where they left off years ago, a rope that hadn’t shown aging or deterioration over all these passing years.

    This rope was still strong and vital. Against the odds of passing years and distant miles, it retained the resilience to regenerate after long periods of dormancy. It was a living thing.

    When we left a short time after drinks and dinner, the moon was later in its orbit, hanging lower in the night sky, at the end of Suffolk Street. The moon, fresh and full, was too many degrees from the old neon Indian wearing warrior’s bonnet, sitting on a rusty piece of tin marking the Olkie bar. It was said to be the oldest bar in Ironwood, whereupon we were among its oldest inhabitants. There was no way I could get a picture of them together and so we went home. One of the few last men and women standing went home.

    The next day we depart for Minneapolis. It’s the same drive we took here but it’s “*ss-backwards,” as my dear departed mother used to say. But this time we stop in Ashland on Lake Superior and eat ice cream cones at Dairy Queen. Superior is soo big I can’t quite fathom it. The wind is picking up and clouds are rolling in from the direction we have to go.

    “Sure,” I tell myself. “We were just this way, but going the other direction. We can do this.”

    Barb looks up from her I pad and turns to me.

    “Do you think it’s gonna rain?”

    “I don’t think so. It doesn’t look like rain to me, “ I reply.

    “But what I’m thinking is, “It does kinda look like rain.”

    But I don’t wanna get her worried. I can’t stand it when she worries. I get sick when she worries. I don’t want her to start crying.

    “Let’s go,” I say with as much confidence as Custer at the Little Big-Horn.

    We hop in the car and by the time we’re out of town the wind picks up and when I look to the right I see white caps on the waves on Superior, a gigantic, enormous, humungous, lake, the most immense, gnarly, gargantuan, lake I’ve ever seen. Then I remember why everyone had basements in Ironwood and everywhere up here.

    Tornados.

    “I say, Pamela, I believe there are white caps upon the lake. Have you seen them, Darling? Do look, won’t you?”

    Barb turns and gives me a look. She understands that often when I’m being funny and talking with a 'voice' it’s because I’m nervous as all get-out.

    “Yes, Darling, sometimes they do.”

    As a trained therapist, she knows to stay calm. The situation will go ballistic if she looks even a hint alarmed. Even a snif.

    “It’s that common? On the ocean. I’ve seen them on the Pacific Ocean. You know why they call it Pacific? Because it was calm. But when I saw it that one time, it wasn’t that calm.”
    Now we hit the turn southward and Lake Superior falls behind us. The birch and pine trees are swaying in the wind and I see the land obscured ahead like a curtain has been drawn between us.

    Still, nearby patches of well-tended fields nearby remain sunny, and only patches of cloud shadows race across the landscape. We stop and take pictures reminiscent of Bonny and Clyde.

    The radio blast out a tornado warning between distorted songs that are breaking up piece-meal.

    “I’m getting a little concerned,” I mention with an upper lip as stiff as Bogart’s. “If we know what’s good for us we’ll go now.” Thunder crashes like a million shotguns going off at once.

    We make a mad dash for the car.

    Just then enormous drops of rain pellet the windshield. I struggle to turn on the wipers. The wipers are as rhythmic as all get-out in a reggae sort of way. After we take off with a screech, the rain decides to come down in serious measure. It’s pelting the top and hood and fenders with bam here and a bam there, everywhere a bam, bam, bam. It’s like the violent ending of Bonny and Clyde. Again the menace of Bonny and Clyde. This northern weather is getting way out of hand.

    And just when we’ve had enough… it stops.

    Three hours later we’re crossing so many rivers I lose count and before we know it, the sky line of Minneapolis appears in the distance. It’s late, but the sun isn’t all the way down and the sky is golden. There are so many white puffy clouds and moisture in the air that twenty-four carat light illuminates in the same manner as monks painting gold-leaf on manuscripts of precious velum, falling in diagonal beams across medieval landscapes dotted with emerald trees and silver rivers.

    “What’s that demonstrate?” I ask Barb, who for once isn’t looking down at her I pad.

    “I dunno. What?”

    “The same thing that our lucid dreams with our fathers demonstrated. That there is a heaven.”

    And the two Blefarites prayed to God it was true.

    ©Steven Hunley2014

    To be continue….

    http://youtu.be/5qeWqYNrS8U Apache Indian - The Israelites Official Video
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 09-28-2014 at 09:34 PM.

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