Deaths? I do not dwell on them. But there have been a few lately that have given flashbacks that I can superficially riff on.
Ray Bradbury. I hope my box of paperbacks (multiple copies of the same book in different editions with different covers) that I amassed in my teens and early twenties still exists somewhere in Oregon. I still haven't claimed all of my books and records that have ostensibly been in storage with my mom as she's moved countless times in the 14 years I've been in NYC. (I still can't believe I've only lived in three apartments here when I used to move practically annually. Believe me, I'm restless, but at the mercy of boyfriend/roommate who is averse to change.)
When I 18 or so, I started compiling a synopsis of each short story I'd read in a notebook. I sat in my daybed with pen and paper, which sounds more elegant than it was. I have no idea why or for what purpose. This endeavor clearly wasn't that important to me because I have no idea where these notes and they probably got tossed a year later. This is what you did before the internet. In the old days I could've gotten my library degree and made a job of writing abstracts. I still could, but wouldn't bother.
One of the first prints I ever made, a drypoint etching, was based on The October Country. I don't have one of those anywhere either–maybe a copy will show up on the Goodwill auction site.
Ok, I just took a quick break and watched Jonathan Richman's "Summer Feeling," which isn't a song I really know (Facebook prompted me to watch the video and I do whatever it says) but it totally reminded me of an archetype past that I identify with for no reason. Like the easygoing, blue collar, single '70s mom, there is the hot and hazy small town childhood summer (which turns into October country). A Smucker's commercial. Lemonade, creeks, tall fields of shimmering grass, ruddy cheeks, frogs, creaky old houses with multiple floors and hiding places, corn on the cob, gazebos, parades, fireworks, midwestern and old-timey like you might have a cook or a maid. I never had summer's off until high school, always lived in a compact, newer ranch house and I did not have a boyhood. Innocence, though tempered with indefinable darkness just off to the side.
The October Country cover via and everything else too
Adam Yauch. I was never fanatical about the Beastie Boys. And I couldn't even get the lyrics right. Freshman year in high school, I finally got into TAG (Talented and Gifted) and we were reading Clan of the Cave Bear like that was somehow educational and I thought "You Be Illin'" was "You Be Ailin'" and sang it "You Be Ayla" like the protagonist's name in the book. Neither talented, nor gifted.
Rumor had it that a girl named Heidi, a year older than me in highschool, had given Mike D. a blow job. Who knows if that was true. I do know that Heidi had a Camaro and in 1989 drove my sister and I to a show (I seriously don't remember which one, though I want to say The Ramones) at Starry Night, and afterwards, took us to a party with college-aged guys in Northwest Portland. I don't think I even drank. There was a pool table and a guy with an Elvis tattoo. Staying out this late on a school night wasn't acceptable, by the way. (She lived in a momless household and girls who lived with their dads seemed to get away with more.) When we got home, my mom was sitting on the couch in the dark like a rabid creature waiting to pounce. She said, teeth clenched, "I hope you had a good time because you're never going out again." My sister cried because she had Mudhoney tickets for a show coming up. Internally, I didn't care because I was going to France for a month as an exchange student and she couldn't do anything about how I spent my July. In France, it turned out that teens thought "Hotel California," an inexplicable top 40 hit, was a new song.
A couple weekends ago "Sabotage" came on at Brick House Tavern + Tap as I was heading to the bathroom and I started tearing-up (and simultaneously thought of an older sister of a friend telling me in high school about how Heidi had a yeast infection–a totally foreign concept at the time–and still didn't wear underwear). I think my emotional burst was probably just the effects of a Sam Adams cherry beer and a peachy Manhattan (all that fruity alcohol can't be good for yeast prevention eitehr) because apparently my tolerance has lowered severely in the past few years. Three drinks is now my weeknight maximum when I used to be able to handle six. Four, and I now wake up exhausted, foggy and hungry and it lasts until evening.
Donna Summer. There were a few years when I was maybe nine or ten when my mom babysat a shitload of kids. That was her job, or maybe it was in addition to a night shift, I don't know. And they all had problems and it totally sounds like I'm making up stories for attention (even more so when my mom now seems to have zero recollection of any of these children and their quirks).
Quentin had big curly hair, wore nail polish and played with a Darci doll, which was like a Barbie, but brunette. Everyone thought he was a girl when we took him out in public. Jeremy had a glass eye that was always goopy and crusted up. Kevin was a crawly infant with thumbs and no fingers, just little dots where they should be on his knuckles. His mom gave me the piano sheet music for "Music Box Dancer," which along with "Nadia's Theme" was popular with girls playing the piano. There were two brothers who only came twice maybe, who were obsessed with pushing around the vacuum. It soothed them. The normal blonde kid, Ryan, broke into my room and slobbered all over my red licorice Danish pipe I'd been saving. I came home from school and it was all wet with bite marks on the soft candy exterior. To this day I don't like little kids!
Page (it could've been Paige) was maybe four. His sister Allison was more of a toddler. Their parents, Herb and Abby, were total well-educated (I want to say one was a doctor) East Coasters who moved west in search of some back-to-the-land fantasy but didn't far enough into the country. They lived in a ramshackle farmhouse, not more than a mile from our neighborhood, because at the time there were still cows and berry fields on the outskirts of these late '70s subdivisions. They were vegetarian, had no TV and had birthday parties where the cake would be all oats and honey and a dude with an acoustic guitar would play, "Froggie Went a Courtin'." Gresham was not where educated, liberal hippies moved. And yes, it's very obvious to me now that they were Jewish, but that wasn't even a concept on my radar at the time. It should not come as a surprise that I first discovered the original line-drawing, hairy people Joy of Sex at their house.
Hard-assed and cynical even then, I was weirded-out when Abby dropped the kids off one morning and got sucked into a Bugs Bunny cartoon on TV. It was a typical scene where Bugs and Elmer Fudd were having a go around, flipping a log around countless times while the hunter tried to get a shot and the rabbit kept tricking him. She was in hysterics. "I forgot how funny this was!" Clearly, the woman was television-deprived.
Page once brought a copy of Donna Summer's On the Radio over to our house to play. My mom refused because she was in the habit of not letting kids enjoy themselves. Or rather she was a born-again and thought pop music was too sexy and rock (Kiss in particular) was too scary. During this era I received a birthday gift that was a handmade coupon book where I could redeem things like a room cleaning and a 45 at the Christian Supply Center. Other kids may have been listening to "Bad Girls," but I was grooving to nursery rhyme "The Three Jovial Huntsman" set to music.
Then seemingly out of the blue Page died. He got meningitis and the whole thing happened in a matter of days. It's the kind of sudden tragedy that an Abby type would take as a teachable moment if she were not the mother of the deceased child. I don't know if I learned anything about death from it.