ssǝɹddns ɹou ɹɐǝɟ ɹǝɥʇıǝu plnoʍ ʎʇǝıɔos ǝǝɹɟ ʎlnɹʇ ɐ ʇɐɥʇ ƃuıʇnɔolɯnɔɹıɔ suıɐʇuoɔ ǝʇıs sıɥʇ

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Day 2004

Turns out, thanks to a heads-up from a family member, I do have a Thanksgiving scribbling to share (or re-share) with all of you unsuspecting victims.

From Wilkes-Barre Online, November 25, 2004:

Road trip!

My brother and I took a ride to Connecticut yesterday. Well, for the purposes of this exercise, let's identify him as being my step-brother. Us step-siblings have never used that "step" word. We grew up together and suffered through all sorts of struggles together, so we never thought of each other as "step" anything.

Anywhooey, my step-dad is getting on in years and can no longer handle his pick-up truck that he described as being "very, very high." He told my brother he'd sign it over to him for one dollar if we'd make the trip to Ansonia, where he now resides. So we loaded up the car, and we headed to Ansonia.

Step-dad, Leo, and my mom separated so many times, I could navigate the trip from Connecticut to Wilkes-Barre, or vice versa, around the time I was eight years-old. And that was before Route 84 was anywhere near being completed. My job was to get us from Thompson Street to Woodlawn Street, and point out the nifty landmarks of historical importance that had anything to do with our family way back when. It was a fun trip for the both of us.

It was a straight shot other than one bathroom/gasoline stop in Newburgh, New York. I stopped there on purpose so that Ray could take a gander at Stewart Air Force base. He was amazed. He had never seen a C-130 before, or a fighter jet screaming overhead, for that matter. We hit some miniatured "gas 'n' go" type mini-mart so popular in that neck of the woods. Ray pumped the gas, and I headed inside to visit the inattentive Pakistani f**k behind the counter. I quickly realized that TastyKakes were not on these shelves and grabbed two boxes of "Mike 'n' Ikes" for Gage Andrew. I approached the counter and it started. I remember this circle-jerk, foreigner bullspit all too well from my trucking days.

F**k: "You pay for gaz."
MC: "No, he's (pointing outside) paying for the gas."
F**k: "Gaz hass be paid."
MC: (Pointing again) "He's paying for the gas. I'm paying for the candy."
F**k: "Gaz. Who pay gaz?"
MC: "HE IS!"
F**k: "Gaz separit?"
MC: "Yeah. Gas separate. He's got the gas."
F**k: "He pay gaz?"
MC: "He's paying for the f**king gas, you f**king idiot!!! Do you see how f**king big he is? Do you want me to tell him you don't f**king trust him? Do you? You f**kin' f**k?"
F**k: "Tree dollah plez."

And with that, the guy waiting patiently behind me started laughing.

And the moral of this very brief story? Sometimes you just gotta go "Serpico" on these immigrant numbnuts. Sez me.

Ray paid for the gas and we bid numbnuts adieu. We motored across the Newburgh Bridge, and before you know it, we were being welcomed to Connecticut by a sign. I did notice that the weigh station at Danbury was closed. Where in the hell was that when I was truckin' through here every week? You'll never run across a more overzealous bunch that the Connecticut DOT. Whatever, man.

Traffic in the Danbury area was slowed to a crawl, but we eventually came across our exit and shot down Route 34 towards the old stomping grounds. With each passing mile, another near forgotten memory came eeking back into my mind from somewhere. We passed Zoar Beach, which was the site of my first ever serious injury requiring immediate medical attention. And we rolled past Indian Wells State Park on the opposite shore where my sister learned to swim one sunny afternoon circa 1968, or so.

This is a very weird story.

She was deathly afraid of large bodies of water, and no matter how they tried; Leo and my mom could not teach her to swim. At the time, this kinda twerked me off. I remember all too well when I first learned how to swim. Leo took me to the farthest point of the dock at Sandy Beach and tossed me into Harveys Lake. Swim or drown, boy! Step-dad's tend to go much easier on their "real" kids. Trust me on this.

So we were swimming and cooking out at Indian Wells some 35 years ago, and my sister would not even get her foot wet without carrying on like she had been repeatedly stabbed. Out of nowhere came this twenty-something guy, he somehow befriended her, and then took her in his arms and headed out into the river. Both Leo and my mom looked on intently, but they were not concerned in the least. Back in the sixties, pedophilia hadn't been invented just yet. It took the muscle-bound guy a couple of hours, but he stuck to it and had my sister swimming on her own. Her proud parents were more than appreciative and buried the guy in gooey verbal niceties. As dusk neared, we packed up the car, waved goodbye to the kind stranger and headed home.

Two days later, or thereabouts, I wandered into the house looking for a drink of water and found my mom crying while staring at a copy of the local newspaper, The Evening Sentinel. In a weird twist of fate, the kindest of strangers that finally taught Suzie to swim that day had drowned in those very same waters after we had gone home. That's not the kind of thing one ever forgets.

Finally, we arrived in downtown Derby. Ya'll remember going to a thriving downtown Wilkes-Barre with mom, or grandma, and so do I. But being that my boyhood years were split between two cities, I also remember what a bustling place downtown Derby was years ago. To say that it is a shell of it's former self would be giving it way too much credit. It's devastated. It's delapidated. It is beyond any possible repair. It's depressing. It's depressing to pass all of those crumbling buildings and remember all of the good times we had there so many years ago. Downtown Derby needs to be bulldozed, while the Home Depots and the Wal-Marts of the world have sprung up within spitting distance.

If you think downtown Wilkes-Barre has problems, you really need to see what has happened to Derby's downtown. Is anybody up for a road trip? I'll be your navigator. Well, for a nominal fee. Seriously. We didn't stop for pics, but to put things in perspective, consider the difference between a burned-out Yugo and a brand new Hummer. That's what we're talking about here. It's awful. And after seeing that wreckage, trust me, Wilkes-Barre's downtown offers much to build upon. We're in better shape than we knew.

I just had to drop by the old homestead and take a picture. While my mom was doing battle with Leo for years on end, we moved all over the place. But there was one adobe where we settled in for a few years, and during that relative time of tranquility, I was never happier as a boy. Whenever I harken back to my days at 124 Direnzio Heights, I remember how great that feeling of normality felt like. And it was good to know that Godzilla had spared the place after I escaped to Pennsylvania under the cover of darkness.

So we made this trip to Ansonia to pick up my brother's free truck. But the one thing Ray has learned over the years is that his dad is a bit goofy at times. I knew as much long before Ray was even born. And I've got the scars to prove it. Ray's biggest fear was that we'd drive all the way to Ansonia only to learn that the truck was in need of being crushed. And soon. His dad promised him that this truck was a keeper, but Ray had his doubts.

And as we pulled up in front of the senior high-rise where Leo now resides, we were confronted by a thoroughly beaten pick-up truck that looked as if Iraqi insurgents wouldn't waste an IED on it. It was a bondo-bomb for sure and it was leaning to one side.

Ray gave me that look that I know all too well that signals that someone was about to get hurt. And as always, when he is just about ready to explode and end someone's life, his neck begins to twitch. I reassured him. I told him that couldn't possibly be the truck Leo was talking about, and I crossed my fingers. If it was the truck in question, there was no doubt in my mind we were only minutes away from meeting most of the Ansonia police department.

Ray parked the car, we crossed the street and Leo appeared at the front door. I swallowed hard as I climbed the steps. As we neared the front door, Leo swung it open, pointed to a monster truck down the street a ways, and said, "What do you think?" Whew! No skirmishes with the cops on this monsoon of a day. Whew!

Turns out, the truck is a gem. A 1982 Ford F-250 with a four-barrel carburetor, and a newly rebuilt engine. It's got tires bigger than John Goodman, gigantic orange springs and metal steps leading up to the nosebleed seats in the cab. It's got a new cap, a Radio Shack CB and a narly car stereo. Leo had the keys in hand and gave us a quick tour. Ray looked as much relieved as he did happy.

 I, of course, was really happy for Ray, but equally happy for Leo. I didn't travel back to Connecticut (back in time if you will) just to live through yet another ugly family incident after all of these years had passed. Ray more than approved of the monster truck and we headed indoors for a bit of paperwork.

And believe it or not, Leo pissed me off as soon as we entered the building. We encountered a rowdy bunch of senior chickies and Leo set about introducing us to them. He referred to Ray as being his son, and he referred to me as his step-son. I really didn't understand the need to make that distinction at this late stage of the game.

Wouldn't it have been much cooler on his part to just refer to the both of us as being his sons? Nah, many years ago, he made it crystal clear to me by the way he treated me that I was not his son. I guess some people can't turn it off no matter how much they are mellowed out by the aging process. Always the idiot, bastard step-kid. No matter what.

The strange thing is, I lived with the guy for a decade, and his son never did. I was thirteen years-old when they finally divorced, and his son was a newborn baby. The closest thing he ever had to an actual son was me. Yet, he pretends that the son he never knew at all is his proudest accomplishment in life.

He never watched this kid open a single Christmas present. He never sang "Happy Birthday" to him. He never accompanied him to the emergency room when he scraped himself up. Early on, he contested the obvious fact that this kid was even his. This is my son? Spare me. A free truck doesn't make up for a kid having to grow up without a father.

Luckily, with the onslaught of old age comes the ability to bite one's normally flapping lips. They took care of their paperwork exchange and I spied the scene from afar. Right where Leo always made me feel I belonged.

It was abject stupidity on my part to even think that seeing the rapidly aging step-dad again would be neat. I don't know what I was thinking, but it doesn't matter in the least. I see this weary old man, the man that used to terrorize me and my mom, as a failed man. He wasn't there for his "real" two children much younger than me when they needed him the most, and now, years later, he tries to make things right by passing out a few goodies.

But way back when, forty years ago, he had the chance to do right by someone who called him "Dad," and he failed miserably.

We eventually said our goodbyes and we rolled that bitchin' monster truck all the way back to Pennsylvania.

And today just happens to be Thanksgiving '04. This is not a holiday I normally get too excited about. I don't eat turkey, and I could do with a little less Dallas Cowboys, thank you very much.

But I am feeling pretty good about myself this year after visiting the old homestead for the very last time. Wifey's got all sorts of tantalizing foodstuffs in and on top of the stove. She's got the pumpkin pies ready to roll. Cheesecake up the wazoo. And the makings of a lot of mixed drinks to boot. I've got wifey here at the adobe. I've got the kids on the way to the adobe. And I've got the grandkids on the way to the adobe.

And Leo?

He'll spend Thanksgiving alone with his Lucky Strikes.

He has no idea how bad he screwed up.

Have a good one.



Somebody objected to my brief recounting of the 1980 Thanksgiving day beating I inflicted upon my brother-in-law.

First of all, know that it was pretty savage. Real ugly. I had one knee on his chest, one knee on the turf and I was flailing away on his head. I had to be dragged off of him.

But also know that after what I went through as a kid, I saw myself as my equally orphaned little brother's one and only protector. And being 5' 11' when I blew out 14 candles certainly didn't work to temper my auto-hostility issues.

When Ray was small, if you messed with him in any way, you then had to deal with me. And after he grew to be abnormally large as well as physically gifted and then some, if you messed with me, you then had to deal with Ray.

I was not going to see history repeated on my troubled watch, and Ray grew to be loyal to a fault. I think that's what it used to mean to be brothers...having each other's backs no matter what.

These days, the two of us would likely be shipped off to the hoosegow for being so violently heterosexual, or some such convoluted metrosexual, new-age gibberish. So be it. Screw it. If you haven't noticed, the new, more progressive ways of doing things are rushing us to the proverbial precipice. And fast.

But back in the black-and-white day, if you wanted a piece of Ray, you had to deal with Mark. And if you wanted a piece of Mark, Ray came a stompin'.

And for any or all of that, neither of us would ever offer any apologies.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mark, Happy Thanksgiving!!! J.J.