Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Wars

I'm at a loss as to what to say today.

Our shoot starts Tuesday, I've got to remark the 12th revision of the script, and I need to re-time it... Words swirl in my head, and sometimes, well, you have to contain them.

SO... I've dug into the vaults of Quin, and will write about Quin's Summertime as a Child.

I don't remember much of my childhood...it was fraught with not very good memories. On the surface, we were a typical family, Mom, Dad, 2.3 children. My MawMaw lived with us, because, as good Southerners, when her husband died when I was 5, she came to live with us, and raised us... my mother was *GASP* a working mother.

On occasion, my MawMaw would head back to Mississippi to check on her home there, or to visit, and take the Golden Child with her, and I would be a latch key kid for a week or so. This was in the time and in the area where kids had moms at home... I'd pull the key out of the mailbox (ohhhhhh... who ever thought of putting a key in a mailbox!), let myself in, call Mother at work on the black wall phone... in telephone company language a TELBW....then, I wasn't allowed out of the house until she arrived home. Usually, I had to dustmop and would follow written instructions to start dinner.

I was 7 or 8 at the time.

In the summers, I had my magic days in Monroe. Weekends, all through the years we would go to my Aunt A's and Uncle G's to visit my cousins over in East New Orleans. She is my Mother's sister, and the greatest woman on the face of the planet. I don't go a week and not call her.

I've not spoken to my Mother in two months, and her birthday was sometime in June.

My cousin MV is nine months younger than I am. She was, and can still be, the meanest bitch on this earth. You do NOT cross MV. In high school, she would correct the grammar on her tests and hand them back into the teachers along with her answers.

Yeah, they loved her ass.

She bought a car when she was around 18. Her own money. Thing was, she couldn't drive. So, she drove it up and down the driveway. Really, she did. We all cheered when her daughter, L, turned out to be a small version of her mother...although my Aunt A says L is a combination of MV and me... poor child. MV's siblings are a collection of personalities that I adore, along with my loved MV, and even if we squabbled as children...her Barbie was a social person, well dressed and classy, she is the closest of all my relatives... I could never live with her, however, I think of moving back home to be near her.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, she was right there, having had the same form a few years ago, and a walking encyclopedia of the disease, she answered all my questions. Any time of the day or night, I could ring... and her Yat accent was right there, laughing, crying, and nagging me on to keep going.

We shared MawMaw's upbringing, the woman who gave us a hatred for Limburger cheese. Trust me, you don't want to know.

She used to beat the hell out of me, and toughened me up considerably. I'd walk though fire for her. After I did, she'd cuss me out for doing something so stupid. I'm so fortunate to have people like her in my life... I want her to come here, New York would never be the same, trust me. After Katrina, she carried on, pissed off that the only part of her house that was really ruined was in her bedroom... a huge hole in her roof.. right over her bed.. where she'd piled all of her Mary Kay products she sells part time.

Summers were MV, Monroe, mosquitoes that ate us up and caused us to run behind the trucks spraying DDT.. which she and I are sure caused our disease, but, hell, at least we weren't bitten, and our Annual War.

I grew up in Metairie, which is on the edge of New Orleans, towards the airport. We were the new generation, the suburbs, build on swampland... 20 foot creosote soaked poles driven into the ground to keep the foundations from sinking, little boxes immortalized by Pete Seeger built on streets named by someone in the company... a job I coveted along with running the elevator at Masion Blanche... 700 square feet of domestic bliss, a carport, three bedrooms, living room, and one bathroom, heated by a gas flame set into the wall. Throw in an attic fan in the hallway, two square feet of Bermuda grass that would take over your yard (and everything else) in one summer, one tree in the front yard, and you were set.

Across the street, the houses backed onto swampland that had not yet been zoned to have homes, so, it was our playground. We curried it into perfection, creating paths and forts and treehouses under the canopy of 30 foot high treetops, under the knees of cypress trees, around pools of stagnate water. Tree trunks were piled up, affording cover in our never ending war against our mortal enemies; the Wilson Street Kids.

Behind my house were the homes of those fiends, the kids from Wilson Street. I never learned their names, even though they lived in close proximity to me for 10 years. They usually attended Green Park Elementary while those of us on Dilton Street went to St Mary Magdalene, making us vastly superior. We knew we would grow up with perfect penmanship, a hatred for any outfit that had blue bottoms and white tops, excellent spelling, a fear of rulers, and that our souls were saved, and we often wondered if the Wilson kids were some of the pagan souls we willingly gave up our silver dimes in order for the missionaries to baptise and thus keep them from Limbo. We never saw them at Mass... it was rumoured they were Baptist, just like Skipper Watson. We allowed Skipper into our group, only because he was an only child, and he had an amazing play room. Plus, he was 6 foot tall at the age of 12, making him a valuable commodity in the battlefield.

Most of the year, we confined our skirmishes with the Wilson Kids to hiding between the cars parked on both sides of our respective streets...realise, this left a space wide enough for one car to drive though.

You waited until you saw your enemy go by in a pack, their bikes with the angel handlebars and the banana seats... except for mine, which was a huge hulk of a thing, weighing more than I did, and Lynn, who had a three speed English bike. She was the anomaly on our street. Her father flew for TWA as a pilot, so, she was always ahead of her time. She wore Yardley makeup before we knew what it was, or before we even wore makeup, and her brother had Playboy, giving us access to real female bodies instead of Barbie or our mothers in their girdles. Our bikes also had baseball cards clipped to the spokes... cards that would now allow me to buy a flat in SoHo if I sold them on eBay... and you'd stick a broom handle in the spokes.

This action will immediately halt the forward motion of a bike, causing the rider to flip over the handlebars, crashing into the concrete street, and jamming up the riders behind him or her...hell, it was always him... this was pre-Women's Lib.

As they laid there stunned.. or, as you lay there stunned... a pack would leap upon you, punching and hitting and biting. New Yorkers have nothing on human bites, let me tell you. With studies showing that mercury is a cause of Alzheimer's, my generation will lead the way from all the bites from teeth that contained mercury fillings.

That occupied our school year. It was during the long, hot summer, working around the things our parents had us do, like vacations or summer school or going to the pool...walking down to the A&P to stand in front of the frozen food aisle to get cool or buying penny candy at TG&Y, that we'd take turns slinking into the forbidden area.... canteens full of water, hostess snack cakes under our tshirts, Keds and flip flops in place, brown bags packed with lunches....other kids had pb&j, my MawMaw made me take something good, so, mine held a chicken potpie. Discussing the trauma of eating a chicken potpie in a fort in the jungle of our lives would take more than one single post.

We went equipped with trusty boy scout knives at the ready. Every boy was in my dad's scouting troop, I used his old knife... and still bear the scars on my hands to prove it. There were six boys in the gang; Rusty, Danny, Larry, Pat, Skipper, Frankie, and my brother the Golden Child. They allowed the girls to join them, mostly because we were better at the scouting then they were, and we were willing to make sandwiches. LuLu, Frannie, Debbie G and I were the main group. Sometimes, Debbie H joined us, but, she was pretty much a girly girl, so, she spent her time examining her fingernails and sweeping the fort.

The primary job was to collect ammunition and place it into various caches in our sector of swampland. All around the area were sections of cane. When green, we'd cut it into 4-6' lengths, strip it, and sharpen the ends to make spears. Later, we'd return to pull out the root balls and let them harden in the sun to make the perfect throwing weapon. They would weigh a good pound or so hurt like hell when they hit you. We spent hours creating camouflaged hideouts, covered pits, and jail cells.

The weekend before school started, after family vacations when my friends went to Daytona Beach or Disneyland or Six Flags over Texas and we went to Vicksburg or Bull Run or to worship somewhere else at the altar of Jefferson Davis on our way back from Monroe, we prepared for our yearly battle that made Gettysburg look like a minor skirmish. The small attacks of broomsticks pushed into bikewheels as they rode past or bottle rockets fired with black cats attached or even roman candles fired at point blank range on the 4th of July celebrations only whetted our appetites for the main event.

Labour Day weekend.

Parents were dozing in the shade, lulled by hamburgers and far too many beers in the hot September sun. Flies buzzed over the potato salad that was reaching toxic levels. Babies slept. Women played poker and smoked. The men sipped absinthe and threw each other in the swimming pool. We loaded up on Dr. Pepper bottles, potato chips, cupcakes and the last of the bottle rockets. Spreading out as to not cause alarm, we meandered towards the pile of cured tree trunks that blocked off the forbidden land at the end of the shell dead end road. Some crawled under the chain link fence behind Lindalows.

Like ghosts, the Wilson kids could be seen filtering in behind the Tomasotas house. Once out of view from the street, everyone broke into a trot to their respective forts. We were ready. This was it. Flags raised, people in position. Old army binoculars in place, the skinny ones shimmied up trees to be ready to report movements of the enemy. We surrounded the battleground, a painstakingly cleared area in the middle of grove where the battle took place. Our plans were made, our medical supplies consisted of a few bandaids, some mericuricome and toilet paper that you could spit on, then put on the wound. The blood held it in place until you ripped it off later, causing a fresh torrent to pour forth. It kept us going, though.

The generals met, hands were shook, rules set, they returned to position.... the air stilled with the exception of gnats and the birds... and the first tree root flying though the air.

For two hours it was on... spears flying, tree roots ripping through walls woven from palm fronds, Debbie G falling out of a tree, bottle rockets setting forts that had dried in the sun all summer on fire, screams as a root slammed into a kid from Wilson Street, who was dragged off the battlefield, screaming like a ninny, we carried on, covered in dirt, blood, leaves, bites, our teeth showing through the muck, our voices cracking, only ending when real damage, the kind you couldn't explain away to a parent would occur.

This year, it was when a spear hit Danny B in the eye, ripping flesh from the corner back to his temple. He bled like mad, and was rushed back to the house, with a plausible story. The last year we had a decent battle, a boy called Bill J cut half-way into his foot with an axe trying to strip bark off a tree to make a shield. Never place your foot beneath the axe and then cut downwards. I'm not sure what was more interesting, the fact we all denied knowledge or the fact his mother wouldn't take him to the hospital until she freshened her make-up.

Yeah, those were the days, my friend. Those were the days.

5 comments:

golfwidow said...

It's All Fun and Games ...

Quin said...

and flying tree root bombs.

Todd said...

When you say "The Shoot", are you referring to the project with M.M.?

I have a man-crush on him.

Quin said...

no, this is a film.

he is performing in the festival i used to manage..working with my old crew (doing the sign here)

i can, however, connect you up.

we'll talk.

Andrea St. Clair said...

Your childhood reminds me of a cross between To Kill a Mockingbird (Scout, primarily), The Sandlot and A Christmas Story. You should expand on this - it would make for a great extended read as a novel!!!