Monday, February 20, 2012

Children of the storms...

From the Preface:

"I was born in 1951.  Cold War, Korea -- no cable TV.  Really, no TV at all unless you considered our neighbor down the street.  He had the the only one on the block and mostly it was like staring at a washing machine on spin cycle.  He'd fiddle with the rabbit ears for hours, never realizing that the attention span of an eight-year old boy is under ten seconds.  I guess if they'd had Ritalin in those days I might have caught a couple of good Westerns.  Instead, we'd wander down to the swamp (our favorite hang-out), and have a rock fight or something.

I lived in a north Seattle neighborhood called Ridgecrest.  It was a grimy, working-class suburb of another suburb.  The houses were all two-bedroom ramblers of no distinction.  Our house sat on a corner, with two intersecting streets that lacked a stop sign.  So every few days a couple of cars would make a bad assumption about the right-of-way law and end up all smashed to pieces in our side yard.  Sometimes it was a little gory, but a lot more entertaining than opening a Kool-Aid stand.

As neighborhoods go, it was probably okay for a kid that spent most of his free time in the woods or the big swamp.  A few blocks away we had an old movie theater that seemed to go broke a lot and an ice cream parlor that tolerated us on those frequent days when real customers were in short supply.  Probably the biggest event in those early days was the construction of Interstate 5 -- they ran it right through our swamp.  I'm sure we protested loudly -- mostly to each other, but nobody seemed to be listening anyway.  Looking back, it seemed that the only thing the neighborhood really needed was a higher divorce rate and maybe a few more stop signs.  Might have made the place a little less prone to a whole assortment of accidents and misunderstandings.

Most of the adult men on the block participated in the second big war -- World War II.  Those that didn't weren't likely to talk to those that did, and us kids always knew who was who by the tattoos.  Or by the loud voices, the smell of alcohol or the arrival of the police.  It didn't seem that anybody ever went to jail and that was probably because most of the cops had the same tattoos.  So like old war buddies seem to do, they'd just stand around outside next to the patrol car, drinking beer and smoking a lot of cigarettes.  I would just watch carefully through a crack in my bedroom curtains.  When you're scared, it's a good idea to keep your eye on the source of all the excitement.

In school, we had nuclear war drills.  They were a bit like earthquake drills, but much stupider.  It was like, "Right, crawling under my desk is going to stop an A-bomb."  Only later, alone with a friend or two, did we talk about getting killed in a nuclear war.  We'd seen dead animals on the road, but that seemed to be a different kind of dead.  Ours needed to be more like television.  When somebody died on television, it was always at the end of the show, or off-camera in another room.  And if it was re-run season, then they were alive again right after the commercial.  Death was always an assumption unless it was lying in the street.  Television made the whole thing seem pretty painless and a lot more appealing than the truth.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, a bunch of us (we called ourselves the Rat Gang), crawled into a large sewer pipe near the swamp.  We figured we were toast.  Typically, we brought the necessary supplies:  model airplane collections, favorite yo-yo's, baseball mitts.  One kid brought his dog, but it ran off anyway.  I guess the dog hadn't read a newspaper lately.  We were well-trained:  don't look at the flash, get ready for the shock wave, figure out where you are in relation to the twelve-mile radius, that silly piece of geographical nonsense that was supposed to separate the annihilated from the merely deep-fried.  We sat in that pipe for over fifteen hours.  Finally, we got hungry and went home.  The world didn't end after all.  Too bad.  I had to go to the dentist the next day.  Khruschev or Novocain?  Tough call.  History is not always fair.  But I suppose somebody had to feed my dog.

I guess that's where it began.  A dog that needed feeding whether the world cared or not.  A world where parents espoused love but practiced something else, where political ideology, prejudice and personal agendas overwhelmed the gentle faith we held -- or tried to grasp in a world that had apparently lost its mind..."

From: "Mares, Foals & Ferraris"
Copyright, 2011  A. Allan Juell
All rights reserved, [image: AEC]