Tag Archives: Memory

Diggin’ up Bones

Way back at the end of the 1980’s decade I went to work for a company in Tennessee and the woman I reported to introduced me and my wife to this hot country singer from North Carolina named Randy Travis. At the time his song Deeper then the Holler was all the rage but as we learned more of his work I found that his earlier recording of Diggin’ Up Bones spoke of a truth many of us could relate to.

I’m diggin’ up bones, I’m diggin’ up bones
Exhuming things that’s better left alone
I’m resurrecting memories of a love that’s dead and gone
Yeah tonight I’m sittin’ alone diggin’ up bones

I did a little digging myself yesterday being home alone and feeling down while making and canning some pickle relish and mixed-pepper relish from the gifts of this year’s garden. The previous night I had an extensive dream sequence in which I had reconnected with a girl from my junior year of high school who, in the dream, was no longer seventeen but a white-haired woman of sixty-two. It was an age appropriate dream as I will be turning sixty-two myself in a month and she was, after all, eight months older then me. Well, as the relish was simmering on the stove, I sat down at my computer and typed in her name with the only results being a California birth record from Christmas Day in 1953.

I went on to type in the name of the girl who was responsible for that serious broken heart at seventeen that I wrote about on the occasion of my nephew’s seventeenth birthday. Quite unexpectedly several items appeared including her Facebook page where she had recently posted her 1973 high school graduation picture, which rekindled memories of a few good feelings that preceded the heartbreak. As the relish simmered, and my heart remembered, Diggin’ up Bones echoed through my mind only to be replaced by the words to the Eric Andersen/Lou Reed song You Can’t Relive the Past. As I scrolled down her Facebook page I was struck by how much her recent photos looked like my memory of her mother and I thought that she had grown into her mother.

At our ACIM meeting on Saturday my dear friend attempted to explain to me that I do not have to reach into the past for the pain to be able to write and that I could get all the inspiration I needed from the joy found within the here and now. I thought about her advice and after a time I told her about that high school romance that her parents did not permit to exist because she was Japanese and I was not and that I would not be willing to trade the blossoming sweetness during that first semester of my junior year for eliminating the pain of the day she told me of her parents demands. A day that drove me to my counselor’s office to tell him I hated high school and wanted to dropout. A day that he convinced me to take night and Saturday classes for the rest of that last semester of my junior year and graduate a year early.

I was taught in school that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. I do not know how well that applies to the human heart but I can attest to the fact that every one of my heartbreaks altered my life’s direction and led me to where I am today. Do I have regrets? I’d like to meet a human being that doesn’t. Will I stop digging up bones? Probably not, because between all of the pain and sorrows grew the joy and happiness that can still today ignite the spark of memory, a smile, and occasionally a tear.

Promises

I sometimes find myself getting annoyed with my fellow drivers who roll through stop signs as if they were optional. Even after I tell myself not to take it personal it’s hard to let go of the idea that they are putting people’s safety at risk.

When I was seventeen years old two friends and I planned to go camping and target shooting in the wilds north of Victorville. I had graduated from Lawndale High School when I was sixteen but my two friends were still students at Villa Park High School. The night before we were to leave on our Spring Break camping trip a group of us decided to go to the drive-in in Huntington Beach to catch a long forgotten movie in my pickup truck. My friends were all in the bed of the truck while I drove to the drive-in and where I would back into the last row of the theater where all the pickups and vans got parked. The oldest of us was twenty-one and while I was still parking he pulled a six-pack from his duffel bag and opened a beer. Even before I was out of the cab we were descended upon by two undercover Huntington Beach police officers. To make a long story short we were all arrested, placed overnight in a drunk tank, and released the following morning, that is all but the twenty-one year old who had possession of the beer and the only one drinking.

Once I paid the fifty dollars to get my pickup out of the impound my two friends and I were on our way to my favorite camping spot in a secluded canyon north of Victorville. I rolled through a stop sign and onto a lonely country highway and was immediately pursued by a Highway Patrolman who came out of nowhere.

I rolled down the window and expected the worst but instead was greeted by the saddest face on that Officer. He explained to me that what I had done was known as a California Stop. He further told the three of us that earlier that morning, at the very same stop sign, a man had rolled through but had failed to take notice of the oncoming eighteen-wheeler who was unable to stop in time. In the resulting collision the man, his wife, and their three children were all killed. We had already noticed and commented on the debris from what must have been a terrible collision and so of course we believed him without question.

In a completely unexpected turn the Highway Patrolman said that if I were to give him my word of honor that I would never do another California Stop and be vigilant with my traffic checks he would not write me a ticket. I did, and then we shook hands and went our separate ways. Forty-three years later I still keep that promise and I suppose that may have something to do with why I get annoyed.

Drive safely and live long.

Missionaries

Several years ago two young women visited me from Utah on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I had finished my morning chores, showered, and then sat down on the couch with a glass of wine to keep me company while I was reading when the doorbell rang. The spokeswoman for the pair asked if they could come in and talk to me about their Mormon faith and to present me with a copy of The Book of Mormon. As my son and daughter were in their bedrooms I acquiesced and permitted them inside.

I asked if they minded if I sipped upon my wine while we talked and they assured me that it was perfectly fine and we entered into a back-and-forth discussion of their faith and my own particular spiritual bent. Even though, I explained, that I attended church with my family, was a youth group leader, and had spent five years as the Board President, I had never considered myself a religious man although I do consider myself a spiritual one.

I listened to the young women and they listened to me and we genuinely respected each other’s beliefs and could see the value in them. There was once a time when I had trouble with three tenets of the Mormon faith but they demonstrated the value of two of those leaving me issue with only one, which is their idea that the Latter Day Saints practice the one and only true religion. I always figured if there was an infinite God then there must be an infinite number of paths that lead to Him/Her/It.

One of the two young missionaries hailed from Ogden and the other from Salt Lake City continued to visit me once a month or so for the remainder of the Southern California Mission and we spent many pleasant hours learning about each other’s beliefs. They were quite happy to learn that I had visited Palmyra while on a business trip to Rochester, toured the facility there, and was shown the spot where Joseph Smith was said to have retrieved the Golden Plates. They were also pleased to know that I had also been to Joseph Smith’s home in Salt Lake City while on a business trip there.

On their last visit to see me they said their mission was over and they were returning home and that other missionaries would visit me. It was a bittersweet farewell, as if I was seeing old friends for the very last time. I had, after all, truly enjoyed their company, our discussions, and our explorations into faith. Blame the anthropologist in me for being so interested in other’s beliefs.

We said goodbye and sometime later two young men stopped by on a Saturday afternoon. The spokesman for the two introduced them and that asked: “Are we ever going to convince you to visit our church.” When I replied in the negative they said I would not be visited again and left.

I still have The Book of Mormon the young women had presented me with a personalized inscription on the inside directing me to some passages they believed to be of particular import. I read those passages along with others and rarely I’ll pick it up and read a little bit but the truth is I may never finish it, although I should so I can better understand the faith of coworkers, neighbors, and friends although I don’ t know how much of a difference it would make. I suspect very little.

I will always treasure the memories of the two inquisitive young missionaries and of lazy Saturday afternoon discussions and of the fact that we could follow different paths and maintain a relationship that was not only pleasant but also one of mutual respect. It’s something I think our shrinking world could use a little more of.

Sweet Friendship

My wife and I went to visit the Huntington in San Marino this past weekend and I’ve been trying to remember the occasion of my first visit and what my memory has suggested is that it was on a field trip while I was in the sixth grade and attending the South Bay Junior Academy in Torrance. That would have been in 1966 and I was, to say the least, awed by the experience and fell in love with the Japanese Garden and the portraits of The Blue Boy and Pinkie, for which I envisioned a deep love between them such as what I felt for my classmate Bonnie Jean.

The Huntington remained in my mind although I did not possess the means for a revisit for several years. I turned fifteen in August of 1969 and the following month my older brother and I went halves on the purchase of a motorcycle and since he was then serving in the Coast Guard that meant the bike was mostly mine and one of the first places I rode to was the Huntington where I refreshed my memory of the two young portraits then ate lunch on the grass beside the Koi pond.

On my second motorcycle ride to the Huntington a week later a young woman who either worked or volunteered there stopped me by the gift shop and bookstore to ask about the red book I carried along with my sack lunch. I was embarrassed by her curiosity at first but explained it was a book of Romantic Era Poetry and featured such poets as Coleridge, Scott, Moore, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Hood, Landor, and Praed. I also explained that I enjoyed sitting by the Koi pond to eat my lunch and read poetry. Diana joined me that day and I read some of my favorite poems of Keats and Shelley to her and then she borrowed my book and read to me some of her favorite poems by Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron.

During my fifteenth year I was to make frequent trips to the Huntington and my new friend Diana, who was a full-time student at Pasadena City College, would join me by the Koi pond. She introduced me to a cadre of poets I hadn’t yet experienced like Charlotte Turner Smith, Mary Robinson, Ann Radcliffe, Ana Seward, Felicia Hemens, along with many others. In time we even became brave enough to read each other our own poetic creations and congratulate each other on our brilliance.

Now summers melt into fall, which ices into winter and then thaws into spring and with that last change of seasons into the following summer my Huntington friend went off to University and I set about on the path of finding myself and transitioning into manhood. In that year of sweet friendship the two of us never went beyond first names, nor did we ever exchange phone numbers or addresses, and we never met anywhere other than at the Huntington. What we did exchange was a love of the Japanese Garden, of the Romantic Era Poetry, and the gift of each other’s voice.

As I think back to those days when I normally disguised and hid myself behind different personas and pseudonyms I recall, that to Diana, I was Sam, not Steven or Nick, but just me unmasked and to her I bared my innermost feelings through my own Lyric Poetry with all its angst and pain as she in turn did with me, without judgment, without condemnation, without obligation, and given the human condition for what it is, that was a rare experience.

Now, forty-five years later, I still possess that 1934 printing of Romantic Poetry and, the truth be told, it is one of only a handful of artifacts I retain from my adolescence. While the memories of Diana’s face and voice have dissolved into blurred reflections with the passage of time, the memory of that sweet friendship fortunately lingers and I am grateful for how it helped to shape the character of the man I became.

Time Travel

Last night I went time traveling and I didn’t even need a Tardis. I awakened in August of 1971 inside that old familiar roller skating rink in Santa Ana. Mozart was playing, the lights were low and strobing, I was skating backwards, and sweet blue-eyed Jennie was smiling at me as we sashayed around the rink holding tight to one another. Round and around we danced on white rented roller skates, content to glide slowly and evenly, disdaining speed, and allowing ourselves to be immersed within the simple symphony of youth.

When I was young and love apart
I drove into the night
I stopped to skate with old Mozart
And stepped into her light
She touched my hand and then my heart
And held my fingers tight

And then Jennie kissed me
She took me by the hand
She gave me love I’d never known
She helped me be a man

We rode our ponies through the hills
And out along the shore
Rolled in the sand and had some thrills
Enjoying native lore
Bounced off breakers and took some spills
While learning to explore

And then Jennie kissed me
She took me by the hand
She gave me love I’d never known
She helped me be a man

While empty seashells tumbled
And the winter slowly stumbled
I watched her footprints wash away
And smiled through the salty spray

And remembered
Back when Jennie kissed me
And took me by the hand
She’d given love I’d never known
She helped me be a man

Umm, I remember
I will always remember
When Jennie kissed me

May all your time travels be as sweet.

The Undertaker

I sat on a wooden box in the shadow of the sales counter and watched The Undertaker as he paced restlessly in front of Mr. Witt’s Liquor Store and as he paused now and again to peer inside the open storefront before he resumed his march. The Undertaker continued the monotony for several more minutes while a number of customers entered the Liquor Store and Market. Many were buying cigarettes and cigars as was fashionable in the 1960’s. Brooklyn Joe, the snooker player, had walked over from the Pool Hall next door to pick up a racing form and a pack of White Owl Cigars. He, and old man Witt, discussed their favorites running at Hollywood Park and were soon joined by three other men. As always, Brooklyn Joe was by far the loudest participant, with every other word taken from the largest storehouse of swear words known to man.

The Undertaker stopped pacing the sidewalk and watched intently at the five men who, engrossed in their conversation, seemed oblivious to everything else. The Undertaker casually strolled through the 15 foot wide opening at the front of the store. He was a tall thin man. I believe he was about the thinnest man I had ever seen and at over six feet likely weighed little more than myself. As always he was attired in black leather wingtip shoes with holes in the bottom, which I knew, from previous observations, he kept patched with cardboard. He always wore the same threadbare black pants (that were several inches too short) with a matching black-tailed coat, which was only buttoned on the colder days, and a black top hat. Today he wore socks that covered the often-bare spot between his shoes and the bottom of his pants. The socks were gray-white and matched his shirt.

The Undertaker walked slowly through the front market portion of the store and stopped occasionally to pick up an item for careful inspection. Always after he turned it over in his hands he would place it back from exactly where he had taken it. He continued these careful inspections for several minutes and slowly worked his way back to the rear of the store where Mr. Witt kept the fine wine and spirits walled off by display cases from the rest of the market.

At the very entrance to the fine liquor area was an old barrel that Mr. Witt had turned into a display table by placing it upside down and adding a smaller wooden bucket in the center. He had several bottles of Thunderbird wine circling the bucket, which bore a hand-drawn sign advertising a price of “50 Cents.”

I watched The Undertaker as he picked up one of the bottles of Thunderbird and turned it over in his hands. He stroked the bottle gently and with his body positioned between the barrel and the men at the front of the store he pretended to place the bottle back on the barrel as he carefully slipped it under his tailcoat.

I continued to watch as he turned and resumed his routine of inspecting various market items as he made his way to the front of the store where he exited even as he still clutched the bottle of wine under his coat.

After he left I stood and walked over to the cash register and interrupted the men’s talk of thoroughbreds.

“Mr. Witt”, I said, “Did you know that that man just stole a bottle of Thunderbird?”

The four customers all laughed.

Mr. Witt smiled and said; “Sammy, I keep those bottles of Thunderbird in the store for him alone. When he has a need he comes in for one. Sometimes, he will actually have a half-dollar or a bag full of pop bottles to give me, but most of the time he is broke. As long as I keep those bottles in stock he never tries to take anything more expensive.”

I was still barely a Cub Scout then and I thought about that incident for a very long time. We are all told that it is wrong to steal and somebody is supposed to be punished. That day I learned a little more about charity, compassion, and what loving one’s brother is really all about – even if it was one of those that many people in our society would seemingly just throw away.

Mr. Witt taught me a lesson that day, nearly fifty years ago, that I soon began to practice along with my new Boy Scout slogan: “Do a good turn daily.” As Taco Bell was across the street from where I grew up it was not uncustomary for me to stop for a Taco, Bell Burger – or similarly inexpensive item, purchase an extra, and leave it on the rail of the dumpster out back. It brought tears to my eyes when I learned that my friends and neighbors had begun doing the same.

And, during this Christmas season, I pray you all experience the joy of doing a good turn daily and blessing your own, as well as, another’s day.

ChristmasDivider

Epilogue:

The Undertaker was a real human being that haunted the streets where I grew up for many years. He was a homeless man, who was always attired in the same threadbare clothes, and whose only variation I can remember in his dress, was that on some days he lacked socks. I never once heard him speak, from the first days he arrived when I was still in elementary school, on through his last days, which saw me through high school and into young adulthood.

It was the children of our town that called him The Undertaker, along with other names like The Spook, and The Scarecrow. I don’t believe anyone ever knew what his given name was, where he hailed from, or what the set of circumstances was that took him from a life where he would have dressed like Fred Astaire, to the one where he pulled his meals from the dumpster behind a Taco Bell that was located some sixteen miles due south of Hollywood.

I have a faint memory of a long ago Sunday morning when The Undertaker stood in the entrance of our Pentecostal Holiness Church and listened to the sermon with his top hat in his hand and then, when it was over, fled when invited all the way inside by an usher.

Nobody really knew where he lived but I discovered it by accident one night. As a boy I would often sneak out of my house in the middle of the night and go to where the railroad tracks cut our town askew. On one of those nights, as I sat and watched the trains and constellations, I saw The Undertaker exit a thick growth of shrubbery along side the fences that separated the homes from the tracks, relieve himself on the rails in the moonlight, and then get down upon his hands and knees, and crawl back inside.

When I was young man working full-time and going to college in the evenings I realized that I had not seen him about for a while. I asked around and was told that he had died while asleep in his shrubbery home. One of the neighbors apparently found his body after he missed seeing him for a few days.

The Undertaker became an integral part of my life on that August morning in 1965 when he became the vehicle for an important lesson that I needed to learn and he, like so many others who have come and gone through the years, never truly left me.

Fragments

This past Saturday morning I was driving westbound on Interstate 10 heading for the monthly Creative Writers Club meeting when a billboard turned my thoughts to a sixth grade classmate of mine – from that single school year when I attended the South Bay Junior Academy, which was (and still is) a Seventh Day Adventist School. Well, I thought about Bonnie Jean, and the love poems this shy eleven-year-old wrote for her, and the fact that I never gave her any of them, although I encoded a few that I presented to her but never revealed how to decode them.

From that memory I segued five years ahead in time to when I wrote poetry and essays on almost a daily basis. One of those circa 1970 poems I wrote was in the vein of Lord Byron’s: “She Walks in Beauty.” Now I wasn’t really writing the poem about anyone in particular but I was quite inspired by the English Romantic poets, which besides Byron, included Keats, Shelly, and of course the penultimate William Blake. Back in those halcyon days it was quite common for some of us to get together and share our poetic attempts with one another and tell each other how good we were. I showed my attempt to emulate Byron to my friend Shelly, which happened to be on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday, and she liked it so much she asked if I’d dedicate it her, which I did. Now since that time I’ve moved a number of times, been through a failed marriage, a house fire, lost floppy disks, and crashed hard drives with misplaced backups and, as a result, only 42 poems and 1 short story (out of the many hundreds) survived from the period of 1960 to 1983, and this one was not one of the lucky ones.

I had liked that poem so much that I’d memorized it and later showed it to my Creative Writing professor at El Camino Junior College who called it trite and clichéish. Well, so much for taste. After I discovered the poem was lost to time I tore through my memory but all I could recall was:

For Shelly Dawson on the occasion of her 16th birthday.

The beauty of my true love
Is far beyond compare
Radiant beams from high above
Accent her body bare.

The grandeur of the mystic moon

Only a fragment of the original.

West Bound I10

By the time I entered the city of Upland on that west bound freeway my thoughts turned to the first poem I remember writing. It was late 1960 and I was in the first grade at William Green Elementary School. The previous fall I had been expelled from kindergarten for kicking the principal in the shin and on the first day of the first grade, September 6, 1960, I was told by him that I had to sit at the back of the classroom, turned away from the teacher and students, and was not permitted to turn or participate in class. What I was allowed to do was read any of the books that were shelved across the back of the classroom, draw, or write. Well, you can imagine that it’s quite difficult for a six-year-old not to turn and look when his classmates we’re laughing or giggling and so I was sent across the median to the principal’s office rather frequently for a tearful swat from his carved wooden paddle.

It’s a harsh, broken, memory, but I do recall soon finishing all of the books of even the slightest interest and thus began my writing career with an epic poem about a spy that I’m sure was inspired by one of the books I read while sitting alone at the back of the classroom. It too did not survive the wrath of time but this is how it began:

The Spy

There once was a spy
The size of a fly
Who went to war
Riding a boar

Well, if you’re thinking it’s a good thing this epic didn’t survive, that’s really okay, because what did survive was the creative spirit born of the necessity for a young boy to entertain himself while seated alone at the back of a classroom.

Like the bits and pieces of the poems my memories survive in much the same way. A little bit from here, a little piece from there, sometimes even an entire scene, and sometimes only a static image of an old friend who is no longer with us, or who simply went on a path that diverged from my own.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my sixth decade I’ve decided to treasure all of my little bits and pieces, be they joyous or painful, because, after all, these fragments are my life.

Always Their Best

We follow a path that we often wish was not quite so strewn with rubble and pocked with hidden adversity.  Sometimes we look back from where we started out and are amazed that we made it as far as we have without suffering the ultimate calamity and wonder why so many we loved along the way did.

 When I was thirteen I greatly admired the daughter of one of my father’s friends.  She was several years older than me, sixteen at the time, and I thought she had everything going for her.  She was not only one of the more popular girls at her high school but was intelligent, beautiful, felicitous, and sophisticated.  In other words, she was a role model for this confused and angry boy who was trying to make sense out of the painful world he was born into.  With the myriad of questions boiling out of my heart some might have seen me as a pest but Marsha never treated me as a nuisance and answered my questions about the years to come the best she could.

 We continued on our different paths and occasionally shared the same lane for a few moments now and again when our families came together.  On one of her forks she stumbled into a deep pit when her family fell into hard times and I watched a once happy friend, mentor, and teacher grow sadder and more despondent with each passing day and, I thought at the time, it was to be expected.  The family lost their income and their house. She lost her identity along with the material and continued to fall deeper into despair.  I remember going for a walk with her one day and about all she would do was stare at the sidewalk.  I had no questions for her that day and she had no answers.  That Sunday afternoon walk of silence was to be the last time I saw her alive because the very next week, on her walk to the high school, she stepped off the curb and into the path of a bobtail truck.

 I did not understand her desperation at the time and here, nearly a half-century later; I still don’t fully grasp it.   I’ve heard people say that suicide is that ultimate measure of cowardice but I don’t believe it for a moment.  Being one who has contemplated it, but unable to follow through, it seems so much more the opposite.

 Some years ago a very wise man told me: ‘If you accept the fact that everyone you meet is doing the absolute best that they can with what they know and have at the time then their actions won’t seem so disagreeable.’

 That one bit of advice has served me well over the years.  No, it doesn’t stop the tears that come along with the memory, or the image, of an old friend no longer here, but it helps me to understand that she, like the rest of us, was doing her very best at the time.  It also doesn’t keep me from wishing that someone could have seen through her pain and offered her that little extra to keep her going on – but then, all the others were doing their best at the time with what they had.

 Sometimes our best is not good enough and sometimes we look back upon the past with perhaps a little guilt, a little shame, and maybe even a little what if.  Well guilt, shame, and what ifs do not change the past but can hamper our progress and cloud all of our right now’s where everyone is always doing their best, everyone is always giving their best, and everyone is always their best.

Time Travel

I returned abruptly to the present at 6:08 am. It was painful to say the least. In fact, I continued to lie in my bed until 7:30 hoping to reclaim just a small piece of the wonder that I had been enjoying.

I was way back in the yesterdays with my first best friend, the first person I remember loving, and that one person that once asked me for something that I did not possess at the time. In last night’s escape we journeyed on the back of my time machine from the southern Arizona desert, where a praying monk once blessed us while bats gathered nectar from the night blooming flowers of the saguaros, to the Canadian Rockies where Alberta and British Columbia are divided by some of the most spectacular scenery on our little planet. What a Joy it was to pilot my Magna through the mountains with her once again holding tight about my waist, combating the wind by shouting into my ear on the Trans-Canadian Highway; Yoho, Golden, Kimbasket Lake, and her long hair blowing in the wind. Freedom, as it was meant to be.

I once read an article by a physicist who claimed that time travel was theoretically possible but it would require more energy to pull off than was contained within our visible universe. That is probably a very good thing as I loathe imagining how much more we could screw up with our simian brains. I for one have never really been able to wrap my mind around this dimension of time because, from my perspective, there is only the eternal Now and this human construct of time is simply a yardstick by which we measure the distance between events.

But, I’m thankful for my little time travels when I’m fortunate to be blessed by them. To be able to once again enjoy the company of those whose corporal experiences were cut way too short is nothing short of a miracle. Carol took her own life on Monday, December 13, 1976 and there is not a day goes by that I don’t have a thought and a prayer for my first best friend.

Escape

Concealed from life in dreary black linen
Abject love lies in endless decay.
Robbed of life by that curious demon,
On shadowy wings of Cimmerian gray.

Legended by ancestral states, to usher
Journeys to unfamiliar lands, where helpless
On the shores of your Stygian master,
You yearn for love you cannot possess.

Haunted by a silent phantom, my vague
Apparition of virgin splendor
Resurrects anew our relative plague
Released forever from social dolor.

In suicide a life is squandered,
Surrendered, but, forever remembered.

Samuel Thomas Nichols
January 31, 1979

MIA Memory

What a busy time of the year. School will be out in a few short weeks and Saturday was my daughter’s Senior Prom. Several of her friends gathered at our house decked in their dresses and tuxedos and, of course, mom was busy taking pictures to upload onto Facebook for family and friends. Eventually the three couples left for the canyon park to meet up with the other five couples, with whom they conspired in the rental of a limousine, and another round of picture taking. Their presence put smiles on our faces and on those of our neighbors, one in particular who happened to be out spraying herbicide on the access road.

Our neighbor stopped me and we talked for a short while about how the memories they were creating would last a lifetime. After a while he continued with his attack upon the weeds growing from within the cracked asphalt and I went back into the house to practice my guitar, then start dinner for the three of us who would be dining at home, and try to remember an afternoon when I was seventeen so many years ago.

At the time I was driving a 1953 Ford Pickup that had the power train from a 1957 Corvette installed where once there had been a Straight 8. It was a small block 283, which had been bored out to a 302 when I had the engine rebuilt, with a 2-speed PowerGlide transmission. But, the most distinctive thing about it was the phlegm green Earl Scheib paintjob that inspired my friends to christen my truck The Green Slime. Not too flattering but somewhat apropos.

What I do remember of that late May Saturday afternoon was that I arrived at my date’s house in that ugly pickup dressed in a sky blue tuxedo, white shirt, bow tie, and rented patent leather shoes. I remember my date was wearing a full-length white dress, white shoes, and her brown hair was done up in an appropriate style for this pre-disco era. Of course, I had the requisite orchid and she had a boutonnière for my lapel. I opened the door of my pickup for her in true cavalier style, slid behind the steering wheel, and that’s pretty much where the memory ends. Did we go to the dance? Did something prevent us from creating a memory to last a lifetime that afternoon?

I like to think we went to her prom, had a great time, and someday perhaps I’ll recover that evening from wherever it got lost in the dark gray recesses of my past. Sometimes I do like to joke that I’ve reached that point in my life where I’ve earned the right to manufacture memories as needed and, If something happened to prevent our going out that evening, maybe this would be a good time to fill in the gaps with a little realistic fiction. After all, isn’t that what most memories are anyway?