Friday, February 13, 2009

45. I heard Jimi Hendrix play in Minneapolis, one very cold December, around 1970. I remember a very steep indoor auditorium, raucous crowd. Hendrix was subdued. I think this must have been one of his last concerts. I was already coming down with something, & felt ill the whole time. Starting the next day I had a very bad case of pneumonia.

46. When I was a little boy, I was infatuated with a girl my age, blonde Heidi Johnson. Heidi lived across the street with her big family, including blonde Holly Johnson, her near-twin sister. They were future cheerleaders, homecoming queens. Her dad was a burly chicken farmer. Her mother, Blanche, one day, accidentally ran over my baby brother Bill's leg with her station wagon. (Bill was playing in their driveway. I don't know where everybody else was.) Amazingly, Bill was unhurt.

Heidi & I both took piano lessons. We could hear each other practicing across the street. I used to play while imagining she was listening.

Once Heidi came to our back door & asked if I wanted to come out & play. I came to the door, & said no. I was too shy, or nervous. My mother looked at me & said, "Oh, Henry." (Somehow this memory stayed with me 50 years.)

47. My uncles George and Edward, my father's older brothers, fought in WW 2. They parachuted into France. Uncle George had a stash of German Army trophies which he kept in a basement closet. My father enlisted as soon as he was old enough, in the Navy (my father always did things differently from his older brothers Ed & George). But before he finished training, sailing around on Lake Superior, the war was over.

48. One of my favorite activities, as a youngster - perhaps my most favorite - was playing "Army". All the boys did in those days (late 1950s). Revolutionary War, Civil War, WW 2... we roamed the neighborhood with our toy rifles, going "pching! pching!" and rolling around in the yards, the bushes. Strategy, tactics. Hide & seek (that poem by Vallejo, about his little brother, playing hide & seek & never coming back...). Make-believe does something to the landscape. When you're in the middle of an intense battle, you see your surroundings more vividly, feel them more palpably. You see what you want to see, anyway... (now all that nonsense is online).

49. The first story I wrote (I must have been around six or seven?) - nonfiction - was about a walk I had taken with my friend Jamie and his older sister Mary, through the woods. Jamie got scared & ran home. I kept going with Mary. We came over a ridge & suddenly came upon a pastoral vista - big valley with cows in the distance. I was proud of myself - & I liked Mary, too. My very first prose brag, I guess.

50. We lived in a new suburb, among the remnants of old farms. There was a layer of older, somewhat dilapidated houses in our area, a little bit raised up on hillocks over the rest of us - there were three of these houses. Each one was owned by a member of the Bye family, who used to farm the area. The Byes themselves were remnants of an earlier time - rough & ready old farm folks. Their children & grandchildren messed around with old cars & machinery most of the time. A whole genre of myth & rumor circulated among the many children in the neighborhood, about the Byes. They were mean, they were scary, they kidnapped kids... etc.etc. All of it complete bunk, I believe. Their houses were set back behind trees. They maintained extensive vegetable gardens. The elder Bye home had a very old, quite large goldfish pond, made of crumbling dark concrete, hidden in the shade, still inhabited by goldfish. If you were brave, you accepted the dare of other kids, to go & look at the Byes' pond.

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