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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Yeah, it's THAT date again. I wasn't thinking too much about it, but here it is, and so tonight's entry will feature a few pieces from the ongoing archaeology concerning Pete. Or "Petie" as we called him back in those days. These are really the first things I grabbed today; I could fill a million entries with pics and stories, but it wouldn't convey enough. So: glimpses of a shared childhood.
Below is part of a diary entry from when I was 13 or so. The point of interest is the tiny doodle in the upper left corner, depicting Pete, Frank Fulco and me unsuccessfully warding off sleep as we all bunked together in front of the tube. One of our rituals was a Saturday night pyjama hang, where we'd try to stay up all night in order to watch the first shows on Sunday Morning, when the tv stations signed back on the air. The shows we craved were both on channel 5, WNEW: "Reverend Cleophus Robinson" and "Wonder Window." "Rev. Cleo" - as we called him - was a classic southern preacher of enormous vocal power; we'd goof on the sermons and enjoy the singing. Wonder Window was a piss-poor religious kid's show... kind of a "Wonderama for Jesus" thing. Mind you, part of the idea with our stay-up was to achieve a giddiness that enhanced appreciation of these shows.
Soon we applied the same theory to the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon, to which, as you know, I remain devoted. There is always a time during my Jerry-thon endurance ritual when I catch a sweet whiff of those ancient Saturday/Sunday no-sleep-overs. Any man who fell asleep was subject to vile torments and humiliations, as is only right, but evidently on this occasion we all dropped out as one... a blot on our collective escutcheon worthy of commemoration in this diary. The real danger zone for dozing was the brief period when there was NOTHING on the tv (not to be confused with today, when there is a very loud nothing on, every channel, all the time). CBS 2 Signed off around 4:30 or so, give or take, and WNEW came on maybe 5. So figure at least 30 minutes of very bleary attempts to remain up and stoked.
It's a goddamn shame that tv stations don't sign off anymore - don't even get me started on infomercials - and I collect old examples of sign-offs and sign-ons from equally rabid weirdos on YouTube. So far nobody's posted a WNEW 5 Sat-to-Sun sequence for my nostalgic wallowing, but fortunately I found a recording we'd made one of those halcyon overnights, which includes the sound of Rev Cleo preaching and the opening theme from Wonder Window, all with our giddy kiddy chatter in the background. Man, do I treasure those recordings.
Making tape recordings was our passion. We worked that Panasonic cassette machine to death in those years, doing the usual puerile parodys, silly tunes and audio-verite. I still have things ranging from entire pillow fights, vacation travel reports and tv-commentary shenanigans (the reason I never dug MST3K is that I always thought this was a fab party game and still can't understand why anyone would want someone else to supply the wiseassery for them) to audio experiments and original music. Below left is an illustration for a now-lost game show parody I did with Pete, "Manslaughter!" We filled notebooks with visual complements to our audio oeuvre. Who needed blogs and laptops? Pete's specialty was impersonating Nipsey Russell and Muhammed Ali, mainly because of their penchant for rhymes. As Frank did his Evel Kneivel or Bob Eubanks and I'd do my Joey Heatherton or Richard Nixon, Pete would intrude with an inane, improvised couplet that would stop the proceedings cold with a good few minutes of uncontrolled giggling. One of those very crack-ups concludes the "Uncle" album.
Regarding the "original music" - most of the tunes we did were credited to our "band," Hot Turd. Here are some bits of H.T. ephemera:
I assume the illo with the spear was a beginning attempt at an "album cover" The other one, with portraits of Me, Frank and Pete (with our nicknames Sport, Ace and Projie, respectively) includes an inset (see, I'm sparing you full-page scans, so think of how excruciating this entry could have been) of "us" "performing." Properly, Ace's guitar should be a neck-sprung acoustic or a toy banjo, Projie's drums should be a series of toy drums and pots and pans. Me, I'm at the OPTIGAN. Which is also still there, mouldering, at the old homestead. Our sound was sonically adventurous, like, say, chimpanzees covering the Shaggs.
Our work boldly dealt with issues like farts, the other retards at school, boogersnots, the assholes who taught us at school, and of course, turds.
Hot Turd began its fabled career as the "glee club" component of the Viking Club, formed by me and best chum Mike "Woody" Woodworth back in the single-digit days of kidhood. Woody. I smile at the thought of that guy. Not long before Pete's death, he told me he'd run into Woody on the street. Woody gave him his phone number and asked him if he could pass it on to me. I called once, got a machine and hung up. I keep meaning to call. Dunno if I should or not, but I love Woody like a brother, and that's exactly why I hesitate.
You know, I still periodically check to see if the number is active under "Woodworth."
That's the three of us there, in the hallway of my family's Brooklyn apartment on 55th street. Pete's mugging in the front, Woody's posing like a tart and I'm trying to be Marc Bolan.
This was about the time we were all glomming on rock music for the first time... buying albums and Circus and Creem mags, practicing how to be elitist tastemakers, arguing the relative merits of Slade, Bowie, and inherited favorites like the Beatles and Stones. Pete really liked "Starman" from Ziggy Stardust. Soon teenhood would arrive with its lusts, anxieties and divergent pursuits, and Toyland's doors would close.
But for now it was still childhood and how.
Here's one of the endless lists and charts that defined our boyhood alliances. This was a Viking club roster ...again with an inset obscuring other names, some of which had insulting comments appended to indicate that week's heirarchy of Klub Koolness (not that any of the others gave a shit, being occasional playmates who probably saw us as egocentric losers, a status I still proudly occupy in the view of many/most/all acquaintances and relatives).
I was surprised to discover this and learn that Pete was such a powerful member of the club; I'm certain that, earlier on, Woody and I would have granted him "junior"status, along with (latterday fellow fireman) Paul, who obviously decided he preferred "Stretch" to his previous nickname "EarthQuirke". By this point, Pete was my veep, so I guess I kind of loved the little fucker. Note the GI Joe "Action Team" Logo up top, a design adapted at the left margin for "Hot Turd." We loved them GI Joes, mon ami.
Our world was small, of course, and in the dubious work of cartography below, I attempted to lay it all out.
For anyone patient/bored enough to learn, I will list some of the significant points illustrated herein.
55th St House: was where the family moved after our landlord screwed us out of our home on 17th Street. The move there was the first catastrophic rupture. Pete and Maureen stayed in the old neighborhood, where "Dog Day Afternoon" was shot soon afterwards, with Pete, Paul Q and brother Bob as extras. Later, Paul Auster's "Smoke" and "Blue in the Face" were also shot right there on 9th. I spoke with Auster about all this just a few weeks ago... I'd rather reminisce about it with Pete, though.
St Michael's: was the catholic school I went to after they threw me out of Holy Name. Catastrophic rupture number two. But I met Frankie there, another cuss I love and miss.
Holy Name: Pete completed his primary education there, and right next to it you'll see...
Ray's and Otto's: a candystore down the block from school, where we'd buy essentials like Ugly Stickers, Mod Generation stickers, little rubber jiggler monsters and the great, great, fucking great Colorforms Aliens figures. Just "south" (by this map, anyhoo) of 17th Street you'll find...
Bohack, Vacant Lot, Bridge: a supermarket where Brian worked, a site for massive war games and mayhem, and a hideout/meeting place, respectively. The vacant lot eventually became a row of houses where Pete's pal Paul LaGrutta came to live. But once, during a terrible incident wherein a gang of older kids chased me, Pete, et al from the lot, we gathered under the bridge and decided to take refuge at Bohack, where Brian and his coworkers chased off our pursuers. Then Pete and I were treated to a ride down the Bohack conveyer belt to the Bohack basement, a stygian pit full of rotting Bohack produce.
Jesus, there's too much to tell: The Viginia cliff was where Pete nearly fell to his death during a holiday roadtrip with Mom and Dad. I HAVE IT ON FUCKING TAPE! We were wandering thru the woods, recording our progress, when WHOOPS! Down he went, clutching a root on the cliffside. I helped him up and immediately checked to make sure it was captured. "Cool... you almost died! Listen!"
Stony Brook: where Pete and Woody and me would sneak over the wall to slide down the grist mill's water chute into a creek right out of Tom Sawyer. This is the stuff of blissful memory.
Green-Wood Cemetery: where me and Pete would film 8mm vampire movies amid the Victorian crypts. Where Pete and Brian are now buried.
It all leads there nowadays, eh? Fuck. I'll maybe tell a few of these stories in detail another day. Not now.
Petie playing on his little vehicle at the house on 17th street, with a Captain Action figure along for the ride. The encyclopedias on the rear shelf... I just packed them up last week. Look at the joy on that kid's face. Christ.
What can I add? It's getting very late. I miss him. I loved him more than I can ever convey. And I don't give a shit about the date, really, because every day's just another unless you share it with people you love, doing things that make you laugh. Looking forward as Pete did. And for all the laughing days we were cheated out of, we had so many like these. A considerable blessing.
So on to the future and the laughs that'll follow tonight's tears.
O.K. Here I am again. I have spent a lot of time immersed in the grueling task of clearing out the old family home. It's tiring, depressing, sometimes sweet and mostly interminable. The images I've combined (and retexted) to the left are among the heaps of old artwork I unearthed during this effort.
What follows will be a series of entries involving various drawings, scrawls, photos, clippings etc. that I've come across. The art mostly spans my life from about 10 years old to 19, and I guess you can generally guess the vintage by the relative "quality" of my drawing - not that I think much of any of it, but the older shit, of course, holds more personal charm. I assume you know that clicking on any image will increase its size, as usual. Tonight I'm on a random sort of tangent, but I suppose some future entries will be more thematic.
a savior during my miserable teens. We met thru a mutual love of the Bonzo Dog Band and the good graces of WSHU (connecticut) DJ Marc Gunther. Haven't heard from Jody for a long time, maybe 15 years now.
Thanks to her, I will always feel a Pavlovian erotic shiver any time I listen to Brian Eno's Another Green World.
Last time we spoke, she had kids and was obsessed with pro wrestling, which I do not mention with any sense of disdain, as future entries will indicate.
Never could or will have anything but fond thoughts for Jody, and I hope we meet again someday.
And the same goes for LUCY.My mad romantic obsession right at the end of high school and for a ridiculously long time thereafter. Though I was generally the smitten jerk in this relationship, the roles occasionally shifted. There was a time, however, when it was good for both of us, but finally we just decided that we really liked each other as friends. From which point we never saw each other again. Not for any dark reasons; she moved to Florida, where friendships go to die. Wrote some songs for her. Note to other exes: if I ever told you I wrote such-and-such for you, I was lying; it was probably for Lucy. Far as I know, she's happily married. Hope so, anyway.
I don't think I'll get all detailed about any other old flames, though. But you'll meet a few more, I reckon. Here's some school notebook shit...
Death Cheez Snax / Portly Grad Girl
Yeah, nothing grand, I admit. But that's just it. This is not an art exhibit, it's a biography. Just ad hoc exhumations, and if there are any interesting stories, I'll include them. Skoal, friends.