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Monday, September 15, 2008
Yeesh. Forgive me for that one! As we continue the archaeology, a cavalcade of couch commemorations. Well, not really a cavalcade... more properly a quartet, which is sonically alliterative anyway.
Life is good on the sofa. Sofa time is time well-spent. Come see some of the sofas of my life.Here's a family group from our living room at 606 17th Street. I reckon that I'm about 4 or 5 here, proudly displaying my Marx Universal Monsters figures on the coffee table, amid the ever-present doilies and magazines. Monsters were very important in those days. These figures were likely purchased at Woolworth's, where they sat irresistably in bins alongside other Marx six-inchers like cowboys and indians, army soldiers (my favorites in these categories were always the "dying guys" ...poor fellows frozen eternally at the moment a bullet or arrow struck them. Bizarre, looking back at it), et al. Dunno if I had already begun collecting the Nutty Mads and Weird-Ohs, but I'll get to those eventually.
Now: left to right. Brother Brian, early in his "hood" phase. Painstaking hair comb (ever after, he'd jokingly comment "bad hair comb" as a way of complimenting one's coif). Tiki pendants were favored on the neck chain, and cologne was liberally applied. Au Sauvage, Old Spice, so forth. Eventually and enduringly, Brut. Next to Brian sit Uncle Freddie and Aunt Sis. "Sis" was the nickname Mom and siblings gave their eldest sister, so naturally we all called her "Aunt Sis." This is indicative of the strange range of relationships in a large, close family where many siblings were born many years apart; cousins as old as Mom who were more like aunts, and of course nephew Pete, who was more like a brother. The tradition continues, with Miles and Lily's brother Alex almost 20 years their elder!
Fred and Sis were sweet, wonderful people. A late memory of Aunt Sis was arriving at her apartment (site of countless holiday bashes in those years) as a teen, toting my freshly purchased copy of Tom Waits' "Foreign Affairs" lp. Just as the sisters momentarily left their tea and crumbcake to come see what I was listening to on the console tv/stereo, Waits barked "...Florence Nightingale stuck her fat ass out the window..." which, thankfully, inspired much laughter instead of the expected chagrin.
Then there's Grandma. Dad's Mom, who then lived at the Ronkonkoma house I'm now emptying. I still hear her Irish brogue... she died when I was nine, slipping and falling in the kitchen. My folks rushed out to the hospital on Long Island, and I was with my siblings Maureen, Brian, Bobby and Petie in this room at 606 when the call came. I recall the people on the tv (Tonight Show, I think) continuing to laugh as we all sat variously weeping and stunned silent. That was a mindfuck. The world just goes on... who suspected? I prayed to her and promised I'd talk to her every night with the day's news, and did so for many years afterward.
Then it's Aunt Ronnie. She kept a big toybox in her living room for all visiting nieces, nephews and grandkids. A complete pearl. Shelley often drove Mom in to see her in the later years, and on her deathbed she roused from near-dementia to embrace me, whisper some of the most beautiful sentiments I have ever heard and promise to watch over me. With a soul like hers, I can almost believe it's true. Wrote a chamber piece for her that was meant for the abandoned followup to "Magic Beans" ...her death sent my Mom into a spiral of depression that set in soon afterward, on Sept 11.
But there she is, Mom Immortal, beaming with Bobby and me between her and Dad. A very happy time... everyone depicted here represents absolute love to me. What a lucky little boy.
Same spot, different sofa and coffee table. Now I'm maybe 11 or 10, playing the Marvin Glass-designed "Which Witch" game with Brian. Right after Christmas, with wrapping paper and boxes still littering the place. Brian is now in his "groovy guy" phase, and Four Seasons / Shirelles records have given way to Chambers Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone. Dangling in the air above Dad, note the day-glo peace sign mobile. Dad, no doubt caught up in a football game or Efrem Zimbalist on "The F.B.I.", is only tolerating the mobile for the holiday season; I reckon it was a gift from Brian to Bobby or vice versa. Dad is doing his aimless hair-twirling bit; 'til the end he'd repeatedly wind a lock of hair through his fingers as he focused on some tv show. And if the scent of Brut brings back memories of this version of Brian, Vitalis permeates my memories of this version of Dad.
In keeping with the era, Brian and I are sporting mod vests, with fringe on mine! I am obviously proud to be garbed so, sitting beside my purple-trousered bro and wishing I could also grow my hair long so I could be a groovy guy as well. (I did, at about 13, and suffered "are you a boy or a girl" abuses for many years as a result. When I was first marooned in Long Island, a jock hit me with that hated question in the loathed homeroom of my detested high school. Nervous as hell but realizing I needed to show some chutzpah, I replied "Why dontcha suck my dick and find out?") Despite the misery their substance abuse brought into our home, I thought Brian and Bobby were the coolest motherfuckers in christendom.
Behind the sofa is the rickety stereo, before which I'd sit for hours listening to the soundtrack from "2001, A Space Odyssey," the Bee Gees' "Odessa" and other favorites of the moment. Just to the left of the stereo, a GI Joe paratrooper hangs from the wooden bars lining the staircase. These bars were perfectly spaced for getting one's head stuck in between.
Fast-forward to a gathering 'round the sofa at my room in Ronkonkoma, aeons later. Now I'm about 17. Foreground is Maryrose, a gifted gal who was later in the original cast of Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along," and was immortalized by an Al Hirschfeld caricature on the album cover! She's now a successful writer, notably of fiction for young women. I think that's Steve next to her, a guy I spent many many many hours with through the years, some of them sober. Last saw him, along with his rowdy brood, a couple of years back at a party here at the current house.
Frank is chortling next to him. Like Maryrose, he and I recently re-acquainted on MySpace. He does a sort of retro-Vegas comedy and music act around the area. Lovely Karina - current whereabouts unknown to me - is agreeably strangling me as I extinguish a butt in my beer cup. I had just begun that odious habit, which I still relish, unfortunately. And that's Carrie sitting bobsled style between my legs. I can't fathom now why I decided to break up with her; she was a great, sweet, beautiful gal. Probably still is, somewhere.
Doubtless, there was music playing. My guess is Neil Young, Beach Boys or Stackridge, whose album "Pinafore Days" was a group favorite: Tony DeCosa bought every copy he came across and gave them out like new-daddy cigars. We also had a collective fixation with actor Ted Bessell of "That Girl." Fan club buttons, the works. Long story. This sofa was a Castro Convertible... not yet as rank with beer and other drippins as it quickly became before getting deep-sixed for good.
This room became Brian's when circumstance led him to his decline. Last week a truck hauled away tons of shit that had accumulated there... it will soon be the domain of Alex and Cat, who will likely install a new sofa ...and fun will once again reign o'er all, set to Drum 'n' Bass.
That same house, downstairs, another few years along. Now I'm about 22 or so, with Charlie and Bari on the Furry Sofa. It was like cozying up on Robin Williams' back.
We seem to be inebriated on some combination of toxins. Charlie was a dear friend, dead at 33. He and his wife moved to New York City around this time, an unfortunate choice, as it turned out. Wrote a song for him called "The Mighty Sun" ...it recalled, in part, our long nights of deep deep music listening; I turned him on to Tom Waits and he got me into Alan Price. Lotsa Stevie Wonder, Leon Russell, Elvis Costello. Bari, a real salt-o-the-earth type, married a fireman a few years after this photo, and where she is I do not know, but bless her wherever she be.
I was never the Cory Hart sort, so the sunglasses can only indicate something bad afoot. Around this time I shattered my front teeth attempting to play the trombone out the window of Charlie's overloaded VW Bug. Brrrapp! CRACK! Sparks flew as the slide hit pavement at a stupidly high speed... and the brass mouthpiece smashed the ol' incisors like one of them medieval battering rams. 3,000 bucks later I could smile brightly again. No more mescaline, thanks.
Maybe I'll get around to telling you about a week spent in a woodland cabin with Charlie, Brian, and Steve from the previous snapshot. A "fishing trip." Oy fuckin Vey!! But one afternoon that sordid week - sprawled on the cabin's sofa, you betcha - Charlie somehow got the ancient tv to work, pulling in only one channel thru its rusty rabbit ears. We watched Frank Sinatra in "The Joker is Wild" and permanently adopted his toast "Post time!"
And here's a toast to all of them (water, alas), here and gone. With thanks for all the heapin' helpins of their hospitality.
Hillbilly, that is.
Set a spell.
Take your shoes off.
Y'all come back now, y'hear?
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