Passage of time

The House of Horrors. Well, not really. There were good times … I think.

Saturday dawned in a lovely mood which inspired me to get off my lazy keister and do yard chores I’d been noticing and ignoring for weeks. While out there, I began to think about how long I’ve lived here at the Hacienda, 18 years. This is not how my vagabond life played out in the past. I rarely lived anywhere for long.

My previous record was in my youth when I lived in the house just below from ages 9 to 17 when I graduated from high school and headed off to Vanderbilt University where I lasted just a few short weeks before dropping out and enlisting in the Air Force.

The Jacksonville suburb of Arlington.

My parents were the first buyers of this house, into which we moved in 1953. The window on the right was the living room. The one in the middle was my bedroom, and the one on the left was my parents’. My sister’s bedroom was on the other side of the house.

This photo was shot about 10 years ago, I think, by my daughter who was passing through Jacksonville, Florida, which is where this is. What strikes me most about this photo is the front yard. My father worked at night and enjoyed gardening in the daytime. We had a lovely yard, and now there is nothing.

Those huge trees were not there in the 1950s. Neither was the sidewalk.

In 1953, this area was a brand-new subdivision of the postwar, growing middle class — Levittown in the Florida sunshine. Now it appears to be a working-class neighborhood. The owner (or renter?) probably drives a delivery truck, or he works at Auto Zone.

I lived there with my parents and sister almost a decade, and it was my longest home stay before constructing the Hacienda 40 years later. Taking third place in the longevity list would be the house at the top where I lived nine years with my second ex-wife before she tossed me unceremoniously onto the cold, dank pavement.

She lives there to this day, thanks to me. She’s done a lot with the place. When we bought it, the kitchen cabinets were the original knotty pine from 1955, which is when the house was constructed. I really liked that knotty pine, but she had it all torn out after I departed, and now it’s modern. I’ve seen photos. She also constructed an enclosed “sun room” out back. If I’m ever in Houston again, I’m gonna request a tour.

But I doubt I’ll ever be in Houston again.

As Thomas Wolfe said, well, you know …*


* Likely the first literary reference that’s ever appeared in The Unseen Moon. Tip of the sombrero to Steve Cotton, a maestro at it.


Update: Here’s a more recent photo that I grabbed off Google Street View.

And in 2020.

The New York City adventure

I WALKED OUT the front gate of Castle Air Force Base in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California a free, young man. It was the mid-1960s.

Taking a taxi the few miles into Merced, I got on a Greyhound down to the City of Angels where I boarded another bus headed to New York City, 2,451 miles away as the buzzard flies. It was a four-and-a-half-day ride.

I thought I was in love, and maybe I was. The object of my desires, my high school sweetheart, lived just outside New York City in White Plains. She was staying with her psychologist — or perhaps psychiatrist; I don’t recall — and his family, sent there from Jacksonville, Florida, by wealthy, worried parents.

Her name was Jane, a beautiful, teenaged Jewish Princess and only child.

Aside from one breakdown near Pittsburgh, Pa., in the middle of the night, and the fact that I had stupidly put all my clothes and toothbrush in my suitcase locked in the belly of the bus, the trip was uneventful.

I walked out of the Greyhound station in Manhattan and spotted a hotel across the street. I checked in, showered, brushed my teeth and combed my hair. Ah, that’s more like it. And I phoned Jane.

It was either that afternoon or the following day — it was over half a century ago — that she came into town to see me. We got naked in the hotel, just the second time in my life, and then we went out. The first had been with her too, a couple of years before.

I recall neither where we went nor what we did, but I do remember she was distant, which saddened me.

Over the next three days I found a studio apartment in Greenwich Village and got a job as a painter’s helper via an employment agency. The memories are quite vague now. I saw Jane one more time, and I walked her one evening to a subway station that would return her to Grand Central and on to White Plains.

I spent just one night in the apartment and never reported to my first day of work as a painter’s helper. Instead I returned to the Greyhound station and boarded a bus to Nashville, Tennessee, where my parents lived.

I did not say goodbye to Jane, and I never saw her again.

* * * *

(Tomorrow: The City of Angels Adventure, back to California.)

The in-between time

CHRISTMAS, FESTIVUS and Kwanzaa are all behind us, and we’re careening toward the New Year. It’s an appropriate time for memories.

I went to the photo album, found these shots and, being a sharing sort of fellow, I’m putting them here for you … and me.

jax

This is the house I grew up in, the Arlington area of Jacksonville, Florida. The house looked far better back then. This photo was taken by my daughter about five years ago. There was no sidewalk in my time, and the yard was well-tended by my father. There was a mimosa tree to the left. There were flowers everywhere.

The house was painted aquamarine.

My parents purchased this place brand new in 1952. I lived there from the Third Grade until I graduated from high school. The window on the left was my parents’ bedroom. The one in the middle was my bedroom. My sister’s room was in the rear. Due to my father’s drinking, this place does not hold fond memories for me.

houstonhouse

This small apartment is in a high-rise called the Houston House or, as it was known locally, the Heartbreak Hotel due to the number of divorced guys in residence. It was where I moved when my last wife decided to take up with an illegal alien yard boy half her age in 1995. Like the home above, it too holds no fond memories.

But it had a spectacular view. I was on the 22nd floor.

fly

I’m including this shot just for the heck of it. It was taken in rural Texas, as the time stamp clearly indicates, on July 30, 1994. That was about a year before my second wife developed goo-goo eyes for the yard boy.

That’s me on the right, and we’re about to take off in an ultralight. I already had a private pilot’s license, but I didn’t know how to fly ultralights. The guy on the left was the pilot. I never got around to learning ultralights. Life intervened, and not in a good way.

patio

The photo shows a happy time, my Mexican wedding in 2002. Well, for the two on the left, me and my child bride. I was 57 at the time, and she was 41. The not-so-happy folks are the other two, my wife’s sister who spent the evening glowering with jealousy. Yes, that’s a double-dip ice cream cone over her head. Irony.

The guy at the right was her husband. Long-time readers here may remember him as The Eggman. They later split up, and a couple of years after, in a cry for sympathy, he shot himself with a .22-caliber pistol. He did not intend for it to be fatal, but it was. He now lies beneath the floor of the Basilica here on the mountaintop.

Forevermore. Like the Raven.

Sweeping the roof

roof
Top of the Hacienda. Two chimneys, solar water heater, water tank.

NOBODY SWEPT the roof when I was a child in Jacksonville, Florida, certainly not my father who never showed any interest in home maintenance.

He focused on just three things: whisky, poetry and my mother, not necessarily in that order, but maybe.

It’s a good thing the Florida roof required no maintenance from my father. He likely would have stumbled off anyway. The flat roof was asphalt and gravel.

You don’t put a man focused on whisky and poetry atop a roof with no railings.

Years later, I bought my first house. That was 1986 in Houston, Texas. My second ex-wife still lives there, but let us not digress toward matrimonial horror. The roof was a gritty, sheet material that resembled glorified tar paper.

For mostly the same reasons that my father ignored his roof, I ignored mine, though I never paid attention to poetry.

And now I’m in just the third home of my life that isn’t a rental. The roof is concrete, and it has a gentle incline so it doesn’t collect water in the rainy season.

The only maintenance I give it is a yearly sweep, and I did that today, which inspired this information going your way.

While up there, via the circular staircase, I also wiped down the glass rods on the solar water heater. And I admired the view, which is spectacular, and I took this photo.

The roof is on its own until next year.