Some short reflections and a few embarrassing photos of me for a Sunday afternoon:
The first movie I ever recall seeing was Disney’s ‘The Rescuers’. What made it memorable was the venue: The Robin Drive in on West State Street, near Meridian Road (now a mini-storage lot, if memory serves.) I was so excited when I learned how a drive in worked, and that I would have the whole back seat of our two-door, dark-blue, Monte Carlo to myself – complete with any snack I chose to bring to eat while the movie was playing, no less. It was almost too good to be true to a kid of my age. I think I enjoyed the experience more than the movie, but the memory has always remained vivid. It was that special to me, and one of the few that I have of my parents being happy to be in each others company.
I once sat through an entire Miss America Pageant to impress Shannon Wallenberg, a neighborhood girl, who was all wrong for me but, at a smitten thirteen, what did I know?
One afternoon, my friend Chris Zeigle* (a Zeigle grandchild and my oldest friend on the planet) and I decided it would be fun to start Annette’s* Spyder that was parked in the driveway, and ‘freak her out’ as she sat at the picnic table in the adjoining side yard, reading. (Apparently, it was a slow day in the neighborhood). What we didn’t know (and I still don’t understand, as a life-long driver of automatic transmission vehicles) was that the car was somehow in gear. So, when we started it, it lurched forward. I had about ¼ of a second left when I managed to stop it, before we went through the garage door. She was freaked out all right, but not more than Chris and, certainly, not more than I.
*Read the earlier entries for all of the necessary background on the Zeigle clan.
One day in Dave Klingenmeyer’s basement woodworking shop, I decided to see how fast a belt sander could go if it were left to its own devices. I powered it up, and soon had my answer: faster than I could react. It raced across the countertop, hit the finishing pan, and jumped into a wall. I thought I would be killed when he found out but, as luck would have it, nothing was broken and the wall – being cinder block – took the hit.
One of my neighborhood friends, Jake Kuhl, had a Mr. Microphone. It seemed like sort of a dull toy, until we hatched an idea that involved the mentally invalid, older gentleman who lived across the street from him. This gentleman would often be found walking about outside of his home. We only knew he had mental issues because he would often take his pants off, or expose himself at random. Being the young children we were, however, we didn’t understand the difference between mental illness and perverted lunatic. As such, we decided one day to hide in the substantially dense shrubbery in front of Jake’s house with the Mr. Microphone and a radio. At random intervals, we would speak into the microphone, get his attention, and then watch his dumbfounded reaction. It was hilarious to us at the time but I sort of feel bad about it, understanding what I know now. I am fairly certain, however, that it was a coping mechanism for evening out the playing field after having had to see his wiener.
For a few summers in my neighborhood, Garbage Pail Kids were essentially kid currency. To this day, I still have all of mine including the ever-elusive, complete first series.
I don’t recall this event, as I was too young but, one day, my cousin LaVaughan was over to play. As we played in the back yard, a vehicle back-fired in the street. At this point in my life, I apparently had a deathly fear of lightning and thunder, so my slightly-older cousin yelled, “That was thunder!”
I immediately made a bee-line for the house, tripping before I got there and doing a header into the natural-stone-mimicking cinder block foundation. The foundation won and I still – to this day – bear a Brahmin-like scar in the center of my forehead where I received stitches to close the wound.
For one of his very early birthdays, my brother, Nicholas, received a stuffed toy called a “Bucky Beaver”. As we all sat in the living room, one evening, we heard the toilet flush. Soon after, it went again. The third time, we realized that something was amiss, just about the time we heard the water cascading on the floor. My father ran into the bathroom and there was little Nicholas, innocent in his still-in-diapers youth, smiling. In the toilet, was the business end of Bucky, tail flapping skyward, plugging up the drainage hole.
“What are you doing?!” my panicked Father asked.
“He wanna go swimmin’,” was my brother’s smiling reply.
In my mid-teens, a joint garage sale was held in the neighborhood. Among the things for sale by my neighbor, Lori, were things that I gave her a mercilessly hard time about. Things that, I said, would not only never sell, but that had no business being in a garage sale.
Late into the first day, a woman in Daisy Duke shorts walked up the drive. Beneath their ragged demarcation point, lay the hairiest pair of legs that I had ever seen on a woman. I mean, a hirsute Italian man didn’t have this much hair – anywhere. Worse still, she was ‘dressed to be sexy’, and was a raven brunette, making the hair impossible to hide.
I watched in train-wreck-like awe as she browsed the sale. Her purchases included exactly all of the items that I said would not sell – I was stupefied. These included numerous pairs of used panties, and a large vinyl planet of the apes bank (the Roddy McDowell character, I believe.) I never doubted Lori again, and openly apologized as we laughed ourselves stupid over what we had just seen.
For a time, my Mother worked the Layaway desk at what was then the K-Mart on North Main. One day, she came home and, in a rare moment, shared a story from her day.
While working the counter, a woman had come to pay on her items laid away. As my Mother tells it, she immediately smelled an odoriferous emanation of the bodily sort, but could not figure out why it was so strong. As the woman dug in her purse, on the high counter of the layaway kiosk, the answer became clear. For there, beneath her armpits, were numerous, long, tentacle braids of hair, complete with pony beads to keep their ends in line. It was one of the rare moments when I witnessed my Mother in a state of abject disbelief.
The house we lived in had interior doors that were quite old. So old, in fact, that they had skeleton keys. Our home had come with a smattering of these, but the only one I could ever get to work was the one on the bathroom. Further, I was the only one who seemed to be able to make it work. My Dad was taking a bath one late afternoon before supper. I decided to be mischievous and lock the door as a joke. The only problem was, for whatever reason, I couldn’t get it to unlock again. More than an hour or so of finagling finally released my by then cold Father from the confines of the bathroom. Suffice it to say, he was less than pleased. Whoops.