"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Thursday, October 19, 2006

one of Them....


When my mother was young, when they moved from Colorado to California, and picked cotton along the way, she saved enough money to buy a piano. Not a Grand piano, not a Steinway, but a player piano, with wide, flat pedals you pumped like you were riding a bicycle uphill. There was a window in the front, with sliding doors, that opened onto a roller, where you could load punched paper rolls that would play songs of your choice. You pumped the pedals like a hiker climbing Everest, and piano music poured out without your having to touch a finger to the keys. The keys jumped all by themselves, as if played by a ghost. Oh! You Beautiful Doll, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey Hold Me Tight and my favorite, that went: Where do you work, a-John? I push, I push I push! Where do you push, a-John? On the Delaware-Lackawan-awan-awan-awan, the Delaware-Lackawan.

By the time I was big enough to pump, one of the pedals had broken, and you had to tie your foot to it with a piece of rope, and pull your right foot up before pushing it down again. It was good exercize. I loved the music. Mama gave me piano lessons from age five or six until I was eleven, and got an attitude and refused to practice any more. That was a big mistake.

My attitude had a lot to do with my braces, my bad self-image. I felt fat and ugly. Sometimes I hated myself, my hair, my nose, and made ugly faces in the mirror and threw things. I escaped into books. I rocketed away to far planets. I went to the movies, where it was always cool and dark, and I could fade out of my mediocre existence and be any of those film characters I chose to be. And I was beautiful and funny and smart and rich....

At the movies you could see a double feature, a newsreel, a cartoon(usually Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, or Daffy Duck, or Porky Pig), and previews
of coming attractions, all for a dime. Sometimes, during the intermission, they would give away prizes. On Saturdays, there were serials, to-be-continued cliff-hangers that carried over to the next Saturday. Our heros were Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I changed my name to "Cheyenne," and sang I Come from Montana, I wear a bandana, my spurs are silver, my pony is gray... and I Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle, as I go ridin' merrily along....I sang, Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above, Don't Fence Me In! We were surrounded by real Indians, hired to help build the railroad that came through town, also the new Naval Ordinance Test Station at China Lake, a Navy Base just east of town, where they made and tested real rockets.

I discovered comic books, and Science Fiction. I devoured Weird Science Fantasy, and Superman,and Wonder Woman. I loved Tales from the Crypt. Science Fiction became my life, and this was while such greats as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov were writing for the comic books. I idolized Ray Bradbury. I went from reading The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and Mr. Popper's Penguins to The Martian Chronicles and I, Robot overnight.

Ray Bradbury wrote of himself: "I was one of Them: the Strange Ones. The Funny People. The Ones who waited through long days and nights, who used other peoples dreams for their lives."

I was one of Them, too. The Strange Ones.

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3 comments:

slickdpdx said...

At the movies you could what?

BTW the transitions on your most recent (and excellent) slide shows get in the way of viewing the slides they way they randomly pop in.

pepektheassassin said...

I was having troubles/w my keyboard. Seems to have fixed itself, so I can finish this....

transitions randomly pop in? Hmmm. (?) I'll have a look--but I'm probably too dumb to do anything about it....

slickdpdx said...

Worth wating for!

About Me

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1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.