The Outline of my Life
17 years old.
I continued going to school on my bicycle and working nights at Balabans. The kitchen world opened my eyes to many of the adult pleasures of life: Gourmet cooking, French bread, oysters (Herbie himself taught me how to open them), and how to kill a five pound lobster with my bare hands and a big French blade (you grab the claws just above the abdomen and rip them off as quickly as possible, which starts the tail snapping dramatically, then you grab the tail and place it, backside down, on a chopping block and slice through the chest and tail right down the middle)
My grandmother Ina suffered a severe stroke that put her in the hospital this year. She seemed to take a long time to die; but maybe it was just the pain of seeing my beloved grandma, the smartest and most sophisticated woman in my life, talking like a deranged drunkard through her half-paralyzed mouth. Her funeral was a very sad affair for me.
Then I had a terrible bicycle accident going from school to work, and went home to my Mom's house to recuperate for a few days. I found it too hard to commute from school to work without the bike so I ended up dropping out of high school, one of the great tragedies of my life.
A few months later I was mugged and assaulted by some crazy black guy walking home from work late at night, and I ended up losing my job at Balaban's after a few days off recovering from my fear.
Luckily I knew a fellow through the Holy Order of MANS who had a position for me living with this crazy family on Washington Terrace, baby-sitting their kids and roofing their garage in change for rent. This only lasted a few months before they threw me out, and I ended up moving in with my friend Annie O'Conner a few doors down the street.
Hitch hiked to New Orleans with George Crider July 4th.
The creepy headlights that never quite got close enough to figure out. We were stuck on some totally pitch black stretch of road on Interstate 55, watching these headlights inch towards us for hours, waiting for someone to pick us up. We couldn't figure out what was up with those headlights. Cops? Somebody pushing their car? Creeps and weirdoes looking for hitchhikers to molest? We were about ready to jump into the bushes at the side of the road from sheer fear when we got our next ride.
We were picked up by a very cheerful military guy in a huge Cadillac car. In the back seat, next to me, were two silent middle-eastern-looking guys who George and I nicknamed "Iraq" and "Iran". Sometime in the hallucinatory depths of the black Southern night we picked up a black woman who sat next to the military guy, who made George drive while he got serviced. George had a hard time with that, of course, so we dumped them in Baton Rouge.
Shitting in a shack on the wrong side of the tracks. "Man, we've sunk just about as low as we can go now!" The tattooed hotel guy and the suffocating nightmare room on the stairwell. Hanging out the window looking down on Bourbon street in the next room they gave us.
On our way back from New Orleans we got picked up by a really scary couple of guys in an old van who tried to talk us into burglarizing a house with them. We nervously refused, and asked to be let out at the next truck stop.
Move to 18th Street with my new friends Patrick and David Udell.
We need to buy a space heater to get through the winter. I couldn't believe that there was such a thing as an apartment with no furnace in it. How did I forget that my grandparents always had a space heater in their apartment on Oakland? Once I saw the blue-orange flames I remembered.
I nearly electrocute myself screwing in a light bulb while standing in a bathtub full of water
Watched old movies on David Udell's tiny B&W TV
Patrick and I started to jam together. He played the violin and I played the acoustic guitar. He was a complete wild man on the violin, skittering up an down the twisted scales in all-out beatnik abandon, the Charlie Parker of the violin, I called him.
Rare photo of me as a teenager
Back to the Home Page | Email me! [email protected]