Oktav (the Story of the Harpsichord)

Stephanie’s instrument was recorder so from the outset it was evident we needed a harpsichord.  My experience with music told me that if you had the instruments, the musicians would appear, a kind of magic. So if you had a guitar, for instance, everyone with an illusion of being the next Bob Dylan or Cat Stevens would show up in your living room. Given our new interest in Baroque and Classical, best would be to dispose of the guitar. I passed it along to my daughter Gretchen. She at nineteen was visiting Spain for the first time.  She fell out with a bartender named Pedro and smashed my guitar over his head.

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Shorty (Short Story)

Kids were fascinated by the way Shorty got around East End.   In those days, the only paved road in our part of town was Highway 50, unless you count the short road up the hill to the Gospel Tabernacle.  The remainder of roads were mud tracks, sometimes covered with what they called red-dog, the rose-colored residue from the burned-out slate dumps down at Minden.  On these, cutting back and forth across what was once the Rhodes place, we regularly stubbed our toes if we went barefoot on our bikes, and new cars were turned into rattle traps in a few months.  In the winter the depressions were yellow slime pits, or frozen plates between the jagged edges of red dog.

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Mayfair Burning

It was the Great Depression, and we, like all our neighbors, were forever short of cash money.  It was pinto beans and mashed potatoes all week, and on Sunday stringy meat which made my teeth shift in my gums.  It was burnt bacon and pan biscuits for my father’s breakfast, and flour gravy over biscuits for ours.  Mother did the best she could, and our clothes were well mended but faded from many boiling washtubs.  Old Mrs. Reiner delivered the milk in quart mason jars. She wore knee-high rubber boots and pulled a child’s wagon from her farm a mile up the clay road.

 By the time I was ten, my brother seven, and our sister five, we were sent away on Saturday afternoons to see a double feature movie, a couple of cartoons, and a Batman serial.  We were given eleven cents each for the tickets, and an extra nickel for sweets. Five cents went nowhere at the concession inside the theater, whereas at one of the grocery stores along the way a penny would buy enough whip licorice in red and black to make a cat-o’-nine-tails, a roll of candy coins in all flavors, and little peppery hearts for Sue.

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Coupling

It was only after his live-in partner left and he began shopping and cooking for himself did he notice that the food packaging industry basically had only two marketing models: couples and family size. This was a little more than annoying. Either he ate a lot of creamed spinach at one sitting, to use this dish as an example, or he kept half of the thawed package in the fridge until later. Often he did not want to eat the same dish two meals running, or even two days running. This meant the risk of shoving the leftover to the back of the shelf as other dishes accumulated in front of it. More than once he forgot about the spinach, and mold spread like crabgrass over the dish.

He hated to throw food away. Nor did he like repeating a dish just because he could not saw the frozen package in half. The obvious answer, in the case of spinach, was to buy fresh spinach and make his own version. But the fresh spinach came two ways: already washed, in a plastic bag, or in a bunch bound by a rubber band. In the end it was the same problem. Either you cook it all at once or you steam half the package or bunch. This sometimes lead to black leaves and rotting, unless you use the stuff right away. Of course you can prepare all of it, then freeze half of that, if you really get down to it. But the fact remains that things are packaged for a minimum of two, or for one person who endangers himself by overeating.

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Real Kill

Here’s a long autobiographical story by Patrick about his time in Missouri. I found two versions, one from 2011 and another from 2013. I spent a couple of hours editing the latter (mostly typos and formatting) and am posting the result here.


The airlines wouldn’t let us fly, so Mari and I returned to the States from Holland on the S.S. Rotterdam.  Mari was in a stupor induced by Thorazine, little red capsules that she had to pop two or three times a day.  It seemed pretty crazy to me that she could travel by ocean liner, but not airliner.  Seven days, if I remember correctly, with nothing but sea in all directions.  She could fall or jump.  On a plane, I’m pretty sure I could have kept her in her seat for a few hours, and anyway what harm could she have done?

A friend met us at the dock in New York and took us to his apartment in Freeport until we figured out how to get to Missouri.  I had sold my car before expatriating, or so I thought, two years before. Continue reading “Real Kill”

Teaching and Detective Work

Transcript of a conversation with Patrick about teaching and being a night watchman. It was very noisy in the restaurant.

Patrick: That was in Eau Gallie. [Florida]

John: Eau Gallie? Ok.

Patrick: Yeah, after that job, my mother in Winter Park had a neighbor who was the assistant principal of a Junior High school in Orlando, Florida. So she talked to him, and he arranged for me to get a job in Orlando teaching school – that’s my last teaching job in Florida.

John: But then you taught later in New York. But then you got fired from that one because of the …

Patrick: Yeah I got fired a lot of times. I tried to make a list of all the times I’ve been fired from. Very interesting. A night detective job … Continue reading “Teaching and Detective Work”

The Whole Point of My Life Was to Meet Stephanie

Another one of those long conversations with Patrick, sharing a bottle Scotch at my dining table and talking about life, responsibility, love, and minding our own business. This one is from 7 Oct 2014 and was transcribed by Christine. The audio file is too big to post here, but if you want to hear it, I can make it available elsewhere.

Patrick: Whatever happens, happens. I did what I had to do, or what I thought I had to do, and you did what you had to do did or what you thought you had to do. And we’re still doing the same.

JP: Un-huh, yep, yep!

Patrick: And of course there’s no one to judge us except you and me.

JP Yeah. Although, I think others who, whose lives we have touched…

Patrick: They can’t judge because they too…

JP: But they will judge whether…

Patrick: Ah yeah, well…

JP: … it’s appropriate. Again, we can’t control their actions.

Patrick: I judge myself more harshly I think than other people, even more harshly than my own kids, I think.

Patrick: On the other hand, I think I have to say, the whole point of my life was to meet Stephanie.

Patrick: And I’m sorry, but all the other stuff was an issue that was just on the way.

JP: Un-huh

Patrick: Because I wanted what I found, and I thought I found it with your mother, and then I thought I found it with, with Mari and I thought I found it with Lois … and I found it… with Stephanie. At this point, Jennifer says, “I’m so jealous of Stephanie.” [laughter]

Patrick: What can you say?

JP: Yeah, yeah. I…

Patrick: But, I was a human being who was also looking for love… Just like you guys.

JP: Un-huh, yep!

Patrick: And my family is just as fucked up as your family. [laughter]

JP: Yep!

Patrick: It’s just I was innocent, escaping that family, but I’m not innocent in escaping this family. I was guilty. On the other hand, I don’t believe I had a choice at that moment. Every time I think about it, I get to the point where I drive out of that schoolyard and I have just lost my job, and my car breaks down, and I lose my job at the newspaper that night, and I’m going then to a little money in Melbourne at the Satellite lounge playing bass, and I still have to wash the diapers.

JP: Yeah.

Patrick: And then I find a job in Chicago and go.

JP: Yep.

Patrick: At that point everything goes like it’s a quantum leap, and it’s a sense of freedom (long pause), and adventure, and love, and still, back there: JP, Jennifer. Oh God, you can’t imagine what it was like. I came back to visit you in the garage apartment in Melbourne, and you fell over the…

JP: Construction set.

Patrick: [laughs]

JP: I thought that was in New York.

Patrick: No no.

JP: Okay.

Patrick: Nah, I came to stay and was in the bed with Donna and you came in excited about what you’d made and you fell over it and broke it. [laughter]

JP: Yep

Patrick: Nothing’s changed!

JP: No [laughs]

JP: I tend to destroy the things I build.

Patrick: Ohh God.

JP: [laughs] …in some ways. I’m much better now at …

Patrick: That was just before I left for Europe. It’s been a long, a long trip.

JP: Yeah, a strange and wondrous journey.

Patrick: Yeah. I’m glad you’re ok.

JP: Yeah, yeah. {pause}. I’m glad you’re still a part of my life.

Patrick: Yeah {pause}. I hope you are able to eh {long pause}, make eh {heavy sigh}… find the other half of yourself … which is always, I think, by naturaleta, by nature, a man and a woman. I think it’s really, in my opinion, it has to be. I hope that you can do that.

JP: un-huh

Patrick: Because life would be so much more beautiful, that’s all. On the other hand, it’s not my business… [JP and Patrick laughs], it’s your business. I have to say eh, life with a woman is twice as valuable as a life without a woman because there are four eyes and the world is multiplied. Anyway, it’s not my business.

JP: [laughs]

Patrick: Wow! [Looking at the bottle of Scotch we’re drinking]

JP: [laughs] Yeah…I noticed the quantity there too…

Patrick: You are James’ son! [Jameson]

JP: Yes!

[laughter]

JP: Ahhh. Well hopefully you will sleep tonight.

Patrick: Well if I don’t,

JP: You’ll sleep tomorrow on the drive up!

Patrick: [laughs] Yeah, that’s right

JP: [laughs]

Patrick: If I fall asleep at the wheel—I’ve done it before—I did it twice, so I’ve… third time’s the charm.

JP: Don’t fall asleep.

Patrick: No, right.

JP: No, let me rephrase that, stay awake.

Patrick: Umm, yep

JP: And I’ll inject a penny into the [negativity] jar. [laughs] I don’t know when I started thinking about…

Patrick: Not using negatives?

JP: … trying to … You know I, there was, there was something or some… I don’t think it’s been that many years but I must have read something or considered something, I don’t know how it was, but maybe I was just thinking about verbs and I have been very negative about a lot of things and I need to stop that.

Patrick: But you don’t need to eh cram it down other peoples’ …

JP: Noooo, I know.

Patrick: I think it kind of becomes a little bit of a headache.

JP: It is, it is.

Patrick: I do the same, And Stephanie used to do it, but very gently. There’s a way of doing it…

JP: I’ve tried to start adopting a more positive outlook. I know I do it a lot with Christine and I think it’s partly because I have … for as long as we’ve know each other we’ve enjoyed each other’s company but it has always struck me as so… I guess I just wanted to share with my feeling that we need to make more positive things, just subconsciously.

Patrick: Yep.

JP: Maybe it’s something I picked up from Toastmasters too, I don’t know.

Patrick: Yeah, could be. But anyway, if you’re saying “Make it positive,” this is already a negative statement for Christine… what you’re doing is not fair… So, be careful.

JP: That’s true

Patrick: Yeah, anyway, it’s not my business, as I say. Did I tell you “It’s not myyyyyy business?” [laughter]

Patrick: I always say to my friends in Spain, Olvidé mi cremallera, “I forgot my zipper!”

[laughter]

Patrick: So, whenever you have the feeling of saying “I know more than you do by eh because you just said something you shouldn’t have said,” I always say “don’t.” It doesn’t contribute, but never mind, it’s not my business. [laughs] It is not my business. How do you say that positively? … “It’s only your business.”

JP: Yeah, that it. That’s right, this is your business. [laughs]

Patrick: This is your business [laughs].

Patrick: It’s been a good life.

King Leer

You do what you have to do to make a living….. Not one of Patrick’s proudest moments, but something more to add to the long list of things he did to get by. He wrote this in 2004.

I remember Deià when the village was a haven for pornographers.  A burgeoning nest of bohemian writers and painters soon becomes a honeycomb for dope dealers, Don Juans, and other hangers-on. Such was the case by the late sixties and seventies.

To cite a few examples: Michael was a pint-sized Manson type who used his sexual charisma to send his women off to Morocco to smuggle hash and kif into Mallorca; when one of these was busted and jailed, he fled his house down the Clot road, leaving quite a few ruffled birds in his wake.  Another dealer new to the village showed up one Sunday afternoon with a suitcase packed with slabs of dark brown hashish, but his buyer didn’t show, and he had to sell a key for a pittance to get back to Palma and off the island.  And more than one trafficker in acid had graced the village with their dreams; they shall remain nameless, though all residents know who they were. Continue reading “King Leer”