Good Old Days


Matt flipped a switch on the portable Flintstone’s record player–the three forty fives dropped down, and Lean on Me played again.  He and his older brother Erick were teaching me, their eleven-year-old cousin, how to play poker, and Erick was dealing.  So far they had won most of the money.  I came with four quarters I had hoped to use for french fries at the pool.

Later they showed me how to smoke out of a pipe.  They asked me questions like, “did I see a purple rabbit?”  I told them, “My eyes feel funny. Could we go eat some of the donuts I saw in your kitchen?”  Everything was funny.  I laughed so hard my belly ached.  The third chocolate covered donut was so good.


Enjoy Life


Long ago I realized that I am two shots of cheap bourbon away from being happy. 

Or a bong hit of homegrown.

This has been a simple way of life for me.  I do not recommend this to anyone else.  I have been happier–the years from 1970 to 1979–but I was younger then. 

I will stop being bad when I die.

Enjoy life. Often.

The Saturday Night Crowd


The Saturday night crowd partied together for over forty years.

It was 1969: The first guest would arrive at my parents’ home around 8 pm, Hi Bob, Hi Ann!  That’s when my brother and I would go to the top step of our stairs and listen in.  Gin, Bourbon, and Scotch were consumed in large amounts, along with many cigarettes, the smoke rising up the stairway.

My uncle Bill was always telling corny jokes. He’d say that he has reservations about Indians–he calls them his Indian reservations. Mrs. Curtis and Mrs. Rice looking stunning in their newest swanky outfits. My mother the perfect host, smelling wonderful with her Chanel Number Five, she was the life of the party.  There could be as many as thirty people there, almost every Saturday for nearly forty years.  The Cold War with the Atomic bomb, pressures from working, and raising families, these cocktail parties were a welcome relief.

My generation might say to them, “Party on, dudes.”

What are you?


What are you some kind of jerk?  When I took my math homework to my Dad I would eventually be hit with this question in his loud angry voice.  My father was a chemical engineer. He went to Johns Hopkins, Princeton and MIT.  I was kicked out of the local community college.  After a long explanation of how you find the answer to a math problem, I knew he was going to ask me what the answer to the problem was.  I was wrong 100% of the time.  That’s when he would loudly question my intelligence.  This was another blow to my already fragile ego.

Fortunately I have gotten through life without ever using a mathematical formula, geometry, or algebra.  I have seldom used my brain for anything.  I am more like my mother who could not keep a checking account straight.  Deep thinking is not my forte.

Aunt City


I heard my dad yell up the stairs, “Boys, we’re going to Aunt City’s after church.”
I put on my best blue sweater. My Aunt City was a real chef–I had seen a picture of her with a chef’s hat on. She welcomed us into her kitchen with kisses on our cheeks and big hugs. She filled the kitchen table with foods like country ham and cheese spread with Ritz crackers. It was so good, cheesy and salty.
Her homemade kinklings were very special: square donuts designed to hold more powdered sugar. I ate one at the table and ate two later when I hid in the broom closet. I was sneaky like that, but Dad noticed that my sweater was covered with sugar.
She served a powerful eggnog. I drank a cup and threw up in her spotless bathroom.

Uncle Joe and Aunt City had been eating this good food all their lives, and they were both quite large. Uncle Joe’s back was three feet wide. He could really block your view of the TV. Aunt City had big ankles which carried her through a loving life of cooking and taking care of Joe, a railroad worker.

When mass ended, the priest said, “The mass has ended. Go in peace.”  My brother and I would smile and reply loudly, “Thanks be to God!”
We knew we were going to Aunt City’s.

Welcome to the Caribbean


One day, my mother announced, “Stephen, I told my friend Ginny Johnson that you’ll accompany her family to the island of Tobago.”
“You what?” I asked, incredulous. “I don’t want to go anywhere with strangers, Mom. What are you talking about? I’m not going.”
“They need a playmate for their son, Jimmy, and I agreed that you would go, so you are going.”

“I don’t even like to drive to Baltimore. I’m not going,” I said.

One week later I was on my way to Tobago, wearing a pair of bright green slacks Mom had bought me. First, we flew into Port of Spain, Trinidad. At the bottom of the airport escalator, there was a very black man beating on a steel drum. He sang, “Here comes a big boy in green. We welcome him to the Caribbean.”
I gave him a quarter.

The Johnson’s had a little house with a coconut tree in the front yard and little lizards running about. The first night, we grilled some barracuda that we’d caught in the lagoon, served with beans and rice, and fresh baked bread. We went to bed early.

Jimmy woke me up at one o’clock in the morning–he had his father’s rental car keys. He wanted to drive to the other side of the island and go diving for lobsters with flashlights and a spear gun. He also showed me a fifth of rum. I followed him silently to the car.

I felt like I was on a drunken adventure with James Bond, Jr. Everything went as planned.
We were on the way back–a lobster was on the backseat–when Jimmy ran the car off the road and tore off the muffler. The car sounded like a machine gun, and we woke up villages of Tobagans on the way home. The Johnsons were waiting outside when we got back. They told me to go to bed and screamed at Jimmy for half an hour. We snuck out again the next night, but we were on foot.

Red Sports Car


From the angle of her sunglasses I can tell the woman in front of me, in the red sports car, is looking at me.  I’ll suck in my cheeks, and give her my handsomest look.  Now she is twirling her hair with her finger.  She must like what she is seeing.  I’m pulling up beside her.  Shit, It’s a man.  He is smiling and waving.  You better behave, you ugly pervert.