Happy Wednesday to you all!
Been a bit since I’ve been able to post, so thought I’d give a quick update on a new venue I was privileged enough to place the book for sale, and share with you a few representative photos of people and places described in Chapter 9.
First, I’m excited to announce that “The Last Ride in to Readville,” is now available at a great new consignment store at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, New Hampshire, called “Hand Made in….” The proprietors, Mindy and Steve, have a similar store in Wilton, New Hampshire, and will be opening up a third location in Portland, Maine, very soon. The stores are full of incredibly unique arts, crafts, products, books, etc., all produced by local artists. Go check them out if you can! Here’s a pic of the cool book display they put together for me, and the store itself.
The events in Chapter 9 occur during our short but impactful time living in the Mission Hill Projects in Roxbury, MA, in the late 1960’s. In one scene in the narrative, I take a ride with my father as he heads out to take care of some errands or, rather, conduct some “Georgie business” as we used to describe it.
“Wanna take a ride when you’re done?” Georgie said to me one Saturday morning.
It was April 1968, and I was just finishing up a bowl of soggy puffed wheat. Puffed wheat was always in abundance, courtesy of the United States government as part of that regular pallet of surplus food they’d provide to us each month or so. It came in giant clear plastic bags and was pretty ghastly stuff. It looked more like packing material than something as edible as cereal. We’d put off eating it as the very last option when the pantry became bare of what we used to call “real food.” That was our euphemism for anything name-brand and not identified by generic bold black letters on a plain white label with words such as “flour,” “cornmeal,” or “raisins.” The puffed wheat was made even more off-putting by the watered-down powdered milk we poured over it that was sponged up so completely it was like balancing a spoonful of cotton balls when you tried to eat it.
This was back at that bleak apartment in the Mission Hill projects at 33 Plant Court. All in the Family and the Eddie Jones show were my parents’ and the nation’s prime-time favorites, and James Brown and the Beatles dominated the AM radio. As I sat eating at the table in the cramped roach-infested kitchen, I could hear a familiar voice coming from the black-and-white television in the living room bellowing “I have a dream!” It had been a few days since his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words were being replayed all over the television and radio stations. At eleven years old, I found myself both incredibly sad and now fearful following that tragedy.
We’d lived in that apartment in Roxbury since our most recent eviction from the first floor of a triple-decker on Poplar Street in Roslindale. I had especially loved that place because it was just down the street from the new library in Roslindale Square, from where I borrowed books like Johnny Tremain and The Red Badge of Courage and spent countless hours reading on my top bunk at night with a flashlight or listening to the Bruins play hockey through the earphone of my old nine-volt transistor radio that was hidden under my pillow when I was supposed to be sleeping. I continued that practice once we’d moved to the projects in Roxbury….”
Here’s me at the time of the infamous ride at about 10 or 11 years old…
…Dad eased the Chevy out of the parking lot and onto the side road leading to Huntington Avenue. Even though he was only forty years old, he drove like a nervous old man and always used the old-fashioned hand signals to indicate his turns, sticking his arm straight out to indicate a left turn or positioning his arm at a ninety-degree angle to indicate a right. He took a right just opposite Spar’s Drugstore, spinning the steering wheel smartly in that direction while bracing the heel of his right hand, fingers spread, against the center top of the wheel, then let it go, causing the steering wheel to spin back on its own to the left and the wheels to straighten. It was one of his patented moves. We were headed north up Huntington Street toward Copley Square, so I knew he wasn’t going to check the mail, since the post office was in the opposite direction.
Here’s a picture of Spars Drug Store, much as it looked in 1968 when we took this ride.
In an upbeat mood that night, Georgie stacked up the “Victrola” with a thick pile of scratchy 33 RPM albums by the likes of Dean Martin, Theresa Brewer, Eddy Arnold, and my mother’s favorite, Tammy Wynette, and we made Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove and drank real Coke that my father stopped and bought on the way home, and we all sat around the living room listening as my father crooned along from his recliner.
He had a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder with a small microphone, and we’d take turns theatrically performing into it, then play it back to listen to ourselves, giggling with hysterics as we ridiculed each other. As much as my mother tried to model herself after Tammy Wynette, my father seemed to do the same with Dean Martin. He even worked on combing his hair to look as much as he could like the famous Italian singer, although he denied it when Ma would tease him. Actually, he didn’t sound too bad when he didn’t try too hard to sound exactly the same as the original. Maybe a martini would have helped.”
Here are my parents, looking very much the part in their role as Tammy Wynette and Dean Martin (notice the cigarette), respectively, as I describe them… Enjoy!