Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Butch's Great Adventure: PART THREE

Doesn't that beat all? Who do I think I am, George Lucas? I have gone and posted BGA IV before I posted BGA III. Oh well, in the great scheme of things, where DVR's can stop time, and you can make your television do your bidding, and watch programs whenever you want, when I fully comprehend that on the other side of the veil, time does not exist, then perhaps it is inconsequential that I screwed the pooch, and put my BGA out of sequence. Regardless, on this day, BGA III follows BGA IV, enit?


Finally, Art arrived. I saw him drive up. I heard Mother talking to him downstairs, explaining what a bad boy I had been. I heard Art come up the stairs. The door opened, he entered, he closed the door. He stood for a moment, his muscular arms folded. He stared at me, saying nothing.

I wiped the tears from my pink cheeks, and stood up like the little man thatI was. He took off his thick leather belt from his black levis; Frisco Jeans they were called. I held my breath, and held back the tears. He leaned over, smiling," Butch, I'm sure you learned a lesson today over in the train yard. Your mother has a point, but I don't think that giving you a spanking is necessary. But she is your mother, and we must make her think that you are getting the beating of your life."

I stared at him dumbfounded.

" I will hit the bed with my belt, making a hell of a slap. You yell every time I smack the bed."

I did as I was instructed. I screamed like a banshee each time Art struck the bed. After seven loud strokes, he stopped, and put his belt back on. Held his finger to his smiling lips. This was our secret. To my knowledge, Mother never did find out. This one incident for me, galvanized my relationship with Art.

Long after, when I found out that he had rapedClystie, and even though I remembered that when he was drunk he used to slap Mother around and break a lot of dishes, even after Mother died, I still kept this one nugget of a memory tucked away.

At one point, while we lived there in Georgetown, Art bought me a bicycle. I don't think it was new, but it was pretty neat. I was proud of it. But I got to riding it too fast one afternoon, and the bike slide over sideways, and I was tossed off. It was right next to a fire hydrant. I banged the side of my face on the side of the hydrant. My cheek bruised up, and after it healed, I had a new "dimple" in my right cheek. When I smile today, that dimple still winks at me.

My little sister, Clystie, a year and a half my junior, also wanted a bicycle. Butch had one, so why not her too? This was just another irritant in my young life, another reason to be pissed off at my kid sister. Bud was still a toddler. He is six years younger than I am.

Well, I guess Art couldn't afford to buy a girl's bike too, so he came up with a special solution. He hacksawed the top frame bar off, so that the shorter Clystie could ride it; changing it into a"girl's" bike. I think I quit riding it out of disgust.

A few blocks away, there was a Boy's & Girl's Club, down by a city park. I began to do more sketching and painting there. I also played a great game of checkers, having been trained to do so by Pop. He always played checkers like it was chess; three moves in advance.

1953: Lake City...we lived there too, for a few months, renting a flat-roofed house on a steep side hill. The elementary school was several blocks away, at the bottom of the hill. After school, there was one friend's house I would visit, because they had a TV setand I don't think that we did yet. I would sit with some of my friends, and we would watch the HOWDY DOODY SHOW every afternoon. I thought it was sort of dumb, but it was something on TV.

Pop visited us there, of course, and on one day, he and I had gone for a walk in the neighborhood. We walked by a large building, under a neon sign that read B.P.O.E.; an Elks Club. I asked him what that sign meant.
" That's a club for men." Pop replied.
"What do they do there?" I asked.
" They pay money to go there, called dues. They have meetings. They dress up in weird costumes, and they get drunk a lot."
" What does BPOE stand for?" I inquired.
" BPOE stands for The Biggest Pricks on Earth."
" Oh," I said, already hoping that when I grew up, my penis would be large enough that I, too, would be able to join the club. But, hey, I wondered what the minimum penis size was? Pop let me believe that for years.

1954: Ballard....we moved there for a few months too.We lived north of downtown a half mile, or so. It was a two story rental, mid-block on the north side of the street, sandwiched between two fairly busy perpendicular streets. We finally got a TV set while we lived there. It was in a heavy blond wood cabinet, and it sat in the living room. It was a Muntz brand, I think. It had a 12" perfectly round screen. It was black and white only.

Finally in our own home we, too, could watch Milton Berle, the Honeymooners, the Life of Riley with William Bendix, Ozzie and Harriet, old Hoppy movies, and the Abbott and Costello show. We had finally arrived. Before we had a TV, like when we lived in Georgetown, and Lake City, we had to listen to the radio. Even in the early '50's they still had radio drama on; stuff like Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Gunsmoke, the Whistler, the Green Hornet, and Tarzan.

The elementary school was a half mile away, east up on the side hill that led to the Greenwood district. Up there on the hill was the Grand Theatre, and theWoodland Park Zoo.

There was a plethera of kid's shows, local ones, on after school. Shows like Stan Boreson, Captain Puget, J.P.Patches, Brakeman Bill, and my favorite Sheriff Tex. They all played cartoons and had silly guests. At one point Sheriff Tex made a personal appearance at the Woodland Park Zoo. A bunch of us kids went up to see him. He was at a table, handing out hot dogs, and signing autographs. He was wearing his Sheriff Tex outfit, the basic drugstore cowboy garb.

I stood in the long line, and got my hotdog. He hardly noticed me. The hot dog was scrumptious, and I was still hungry. But we were told that we were supposed to only get one. I, though, had a plan. I took my glasses off, and put them in my pocket, and turned my jacket inside out, and I messed my hair up. By God, I would fool him. I stood in line again, and when it was my turn, as Tex handed me the hot dog, he looked at me and said, " Christ, kid, are you back again? What the hell happened to you?"

I was pretty embarressed, but I ate the second hotdog anyway.

Once, at school, during recess, some kid threw a golfball, and hit me in the forehead with it. I had quite a goose egg from it. I didn't pass out, but I had a real headache that day; probably a mild concussion, but I never said much to my parents about it. Across from the school, a friend of mine lived; so close that he could go home for lunch. His parents worked. I accompanyied him sometimes.

That was a bad year for my poor kopfnoggin. One time, in front of the house, out in the street, a group of we boys were playing street softball. The park was just too damned far away. I think I was being a combination catcher and umpire. At one point, I called a strike on a kid. The kid disagreed with me. I told him to stuff it, and play ball. The kid turned around suddenly, and hit me full in the face with thebaseball bat.

It broke my glasses, blackened both of my eyes, gave me a concussion, and knocked me unconscious. Coming to, my buddies explained that the kid was a stranger to them, and that he had run off. No one chased him, because they were all worried about me. The kid disappeared. I never bumped into him again.

I have had to wear glasses since I was five years old. I was hyperopic [far-sighted], had a lot of astigmatism, and secondary to my head trauma from the abuse Arnold Bryden had administered to me, I have a scotoma in my right eye, I had lost the peripheral fusion lock, and my right eye turned in. The eye doctors had to put a lot of prism in my lenses for many years. But by thetime I was a teenager, the lock was extant, and most of the time my eyes tracked together. When I am tired, I am told, that right eye still turns in a bit.

The glasses were not cheap for my folks to buy, I'm sure. Well, as an active kid, I used to break my zyl (plastic) frames a lot. Pop showed the folks how to take bobby pins, and household cement, and repair the frame; holding it together with rubber bands while it dried. My frames always had several bobby pins and gobs of glue holding them together.

By the time I was in junior high, and high school, I became a little self-conscious of wearing glasses. So I would take them off when I walked around, or even in gym class. I would only wear them to read with, or when later I was able to drive my car. This was absurd, of course, but I wanted to be cool.

I was cured of this affectation during boot camp in the Navy. Just before I was sent to San Diego in 1966, I broke my glasses. So I reported for duty hardly able to see squat, and hardly able to read. I begged the company commander to let me get some new glasses. Since I had no specific proof that I actually needed them, he refused me for six weeks. That was six weeks of hell, trying to take tests, trying to shoot weapons, and tie knots. Finally, the commander let me go to the Eye Clinic.They got me a couple of pairs of those great black zyl Clark Kent, G.I. Joe frames with new lenses in them. I was so overjoyed with being able to "see" again, I had a hard time taking them off to shower, or sleep. I have rarely taken them off since.

In Ballard, that two story house had the kid's bedroom in the back, on the north side of the house. The window in my room opened up onto the roof over the back porch and kitchen. A tall healthy Bartlett pear tree grew in one corner of the roof. We must have lived there in the fall, because the pears ripened on that tree. I remember sitting on that roof in the evening, and mornings, gorging myself on that tree-ripened sweetness; those perfectly ripe golden pears, with the juice running downyour chin. I still dream of those pears. I have never since encountered pears, in any store or fruit stand, that were tree ripened to such perfection.

Later that year, 1954, we moved yet again. It was still in Ballard, but further from downtown. We rented a house, two story, that was owned by a Lutherin Church. The house stood between the tall stone church, and the pastor's home. I recall that on Sundays, it got very noisy and busy, and since we did not attend church, it was always a bother to us. I walked the five blocks to Maple Leaf Elementary School, another one of those four story brick Seattle ancient schools. A lot of other kids walked too. It got fairly crowdedon the sidewalks. Once at a corner, I slipped off the edge of a curb, and fell down. As I was struggling to get up, some thoughtful tyke stepped on my thumb, spraining the hell out it.

At that school, I began to do more sketching. I would get butcher paper, and pin it up to the wall to do these six foot wide drawings for extra credit. I did a Civil War battle at one point. It took me weeks to finish it. I got a "A" on it.

There were some tall steps that ran up to the front door on that house. Art had started to take color photos, and I remember several he took of Mother on those stairs. There she was in living color, buxon, hair in curlers, in full make-up, with heavily mascared eyebrows. As a kid I never understood why she painted on her eyebrows, or why she would finish her housework hours before Art would come home from work. As dinner was cooking, she would shower, and dress up, and put on her make up, so that when King Arthur would come home from the work wars, she was there to greet him. Fresh coffee was brewing; something he demanded on a regular basis, and his dinner would be on the table soon.

My Mom was one of the last of the real Housewifes. She used to break up the week into specific task days. Most of those old houses that we rented had hardwood floors, so one day was waxing day for the floors; moving all the furniture. One day was laundry day. Our clothes were gathered in a dirty clothes barrel somewhere in the house, and on laundry day, they would appear clean and folded on our beds when we returned from school. And then one of my favorite days was Baking Day. She always baked her own bread, and cinamon rolls and cakes and cookies. Those old kitchen ranges used to have a deep fat cooker in them. Mom used to make homemade donuts in those pots of boiling grease, and homemade french fried potatoes.

On Baking Day, as we all returned to the domicile, the overpowering smell of fresh baked bread wafted out friendly to meet us. She always pulled one hot loaf out of the oven just as Art walked in. She would put out homemade jams and jellies and honey and real butter. We would descend on that loaf like crows, tearing off huge steaming hunks of it, and slathering them with butter and goodies. We would eat the whole loaf, wolfing it down, yelping and yahooing. Mother would stand back, arms folded, just smiling. It was a real family moment, and we all looked forward to it weekly.

In that Ballard neighborhood there was a lot of maple trees lining all the streets. After a windstorm and a rain, the maple leaves would cover the sidewalks. To this day when I smell wet concrete, or wet maple leaves, I am transported back to those days and to that neighborhood.


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