Ancient history

BEING A SHARING sort of fellow, I thought it would be nice to show these photos from ancient history. You may have seen one or more before because, frankly, my memory ain’t so good, and never has been.


This first shot shows me kissing my parakeet. One must kiss parakeets to keep them content. I look to be about 8 years old.

I remember that chair, and I know where the photo was shot. It had only been about a year since my mother, father, sister and I had left Granny’s farm in Georgia and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where my father got back into the newspaper business after his six-year failed attempt to make it as a pulp-magazine writer.

We moved first into an old second-floor walk-up on Osceola Street, but we didn’t stay there but a few months. Then we moved into a much nicer, two-story rental nearby on Herschel Street. It had a huge yard to play in. That photo above was taken in the living room on Herschel.


I’m licensed to fly small planes if they don’t have more than one propeller. I guess two propellers would confuse me. No matter. I do not fly anymore even though the license is still good.

But it clearly was in my genes as evidenced by the second photo, which was taken, well, I do not remember. Nary a clue. I don’t appear to be much older than I was when I kissed that parakeet.


Flash forward a few years. We had moved from Herschel Street across the St. Johns River to the bedroom community of Arlington where my parents bought a humble, one-story, three-bedroom ranch house painted aquamarine at 2030 Cesery Boulevard.

This photo was from the Senior Prom at Terry Parker High School in 1961, but I was not a senior. My date was, and I was stepping into the lurch. She lived just around the corner from us and her scheduled date had backed out at the last minute after she’d bought her prom dress.

Her mother spoke to my mother who spoke to me, and the next thing I knew I was in a white coat and black pants and posing for a photo before a paddle boat on some distant Southern river reeking of magnolias.

Her name is Johna and she is now retired from a career with the Duval County Sheriff’s Department in Florida.

The following year I was a senior, but I skipped the prom.

I thought I was a Beatnik by then.


I was 16 in the prom photo, and I am 19 here, standing with my roommate in our barracks at Castle Air Force Base outside Merced, California. The other guy was Adrian Landres who was not wrapped too tightly and later was discharged for psychiatric reasons.

He was a year older than me, and about five years ago I saw his obituary online. There was no mention of the cause of death.

Adrian and I were two of a group of three guys who were quite tight during my Air Force time in California. I lost track of Adrian in the late 1970s because he was not a communicator.

The third of the trio was Gilbert Gorodiscas who had been born in Sant Amant, France, and migrated to America at the age of 14.

Both of these guys were Jewish.


Here are the three of us sitting atop an Indian trike motorcycle in the yard of Adrian’s parents in Redondo Beach, California, in 1964. The trike belonged to Adrian. That’s me on the right and Gilbert behind striking his best French fop pose, which he did often, especially for the ladies.

Never did him much good.

Gilbert married a woman he met during a stopover in New Orleans on his way to a base in the Caribbean where they lived for a spell. She was a sultry, New Orleans, Latina “Yat,” who are the people who live in the city’s Ninth Ward. They’re famous for asking: “Where y’at?”

I was living in New Orleans by that time, going to the university, and I introduced the two of them. Her name was Joanie Ruiz.

Joanie’s daddy was a Dixie Beer truck driver, and I loved visiting her parents’ Ninth Ward shotgun because daddy kept a second fridge jam-packed with Dixie Beer which he got free, so you could drink all you wanted on sweltering summer days, or any day, for that matter.

They divorced about a decade later, proving yet again that multiculturalism usually ends badly. He was a blond European Jew, and she was a Catholic Yat, but he still lives in New Orleans, running his own chemical-supply company, something he’s done for decades.

Jews are good at business.

Joanie remarried, but he never did.

* * * *

In the late 1960s, my first wife, my daughter and I were living in New Orleans, and Adrian came to visit, riding a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle all the way from Redondo Beach.

He stayed with us for a time, but his habit of lounging around the apartment in his underwear did not sit well with my wife, understandably, so we had to ask him to leave, and he got his own place where he lived a few months, driving a Yellow Cab for cash, before returning to the West Coast.

In the mid-1970s, I was passing through Southern California, and I visited Adrian. He had married a woman whose two front teeth were missing, and they were living with his parents in Moorpark. Adrian was working as a projectionist in a movie theater, the only occupation I ever knew him to have outside the Air Force.

After that visit, we totally lost touch.


Lastly and many years later, the late 1980s, I’m standing with my father inside a Farmer’s Market in Atlanta, Georgia. This was about three years before he died in 1991 at age 75 of a heart attack. Though he failed to realize his youthful dream of being a pulp-magazine writer, he did become an excellent — famous even — haiku poet in his last years.

And with that, we’ll close the photo album for now.

13 thoughts on “Ancient history

    1. Señor Gill: I do not look at it so positively. But it has been busy, another way to view the situation. And since moving to Mexico, everything’s coming up roses.


  1. What really captivated my attention was the father and son photo. He played a very significant role in your life with your choice of occupation and your love of writing.


    1. Andrés: He was a very big influence on me, even though he really did not much care. I did not like him. He drank too much and only quit in his mid-50s, about the same age that I did, long after I had left home. He was not interested at all in being a parent. He was very distant. Strangely, I think about him every day. We are incredibly similar in personality and appearance, as you can see. As for following his occupation, it was done out of convenience and necessity.

      I do enjoy writing very much, as did he. He was far more meticulous than I am, a poetry requirement, and his meticulousness was one reason he couldn’t hack it as a pulp-magazine writer in the late 1940s. You had to churn that stuff out if you wanted to make a living wage. He could not churn.

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  2. You needn’t have bothered identifying the distinguished-looking gentleman as your father. It was almost as if I were looking at you. But, I think you have mentioned that before. Mirrors seem to capture images of our fathers for eternity — or, at least, for our existence.


    1. Señor Cotton: The fact that I did not much care for the old dog makes my being, in many respects, a carbon copy something I view none too positively. On the phone, nobody could tell us apart. I do take some joy in knowing that I am a better-looking version due to getting the best of him and my mother too. He had crooked teeth. I do not. His nose was bigger than my refined version, which my mother gave me. While I got the best of them both, my sister got just the opposite, alas for her, not good for a woman. Might have been part of what turned her into an angry militant lesbian. She disliked our father intensely.


  3. It is interesting to see which pictures you choose to tell the story of your life. You have a very good memory for details. My brother remembers every guy I ever dated and what they drove. I, however, cannot even remember their names. I used to write magazine articles for Homesteading-type magazines when we lived in the Ozarks. I would get $35/article, $50 if I included pictures. I got a big kick out of going to the bookstore, buying a copy of the magazine and pointing out to the cashier the title of my article on the cover of the magazine. Then I got a job writing grant proposals, which paid a lot more, but ruined my ability to write creatively. I “churned out” one proposal after another until I couldn’t stand it one moment longer. It is interesting how men relate to their fathers, admitting their faults while still feeling comfortable identifying with them. If I thought I was like my mother I would put heavy rocks in my pocket and walk into Lake Chapala.


    1. Bonnie: Do I detect a little ill will toward the woman who birthed you? I was quite fond of my mother for most of my life. It kind of went downhill during the last decade due to her trying so hard to make me play kissy-face, so to speak, with my sister. It backfired. She so intensely wanted a loving, “normal” family. Did she ever marry the wrong guy for that.

      My father sold lots of stories to pulp magazines in the late ’40s. Lots. But it was not enough to support a family, he discovered. He wrote mysteries, Westerns, you name it. I’ve read lots of them, and they are excellent. But he could not churn them out sufficiently.


    2. Bonnie: As for the photos I chose for this item, I was rather restricted because I do not have many. When my second wife and I parted company, I left most all photos with her because I thought the separation was going to be temporary. Hilarious in retrospect. And yet again, when I moved from Houston to Mexico, sloughing off most of my belongings, I tossed even more photos. I now have a very limited number of photos of my past. Wish I had been less cavalier now on the one hand. On the other hand, my intent on moving to Mexico was to start over, so …


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