Friday, April 7, 2023

I Remember

I like accidents, ephemeral events, things you catch out of the corner of your eye. Melancholy moods, dark streets, the rain. Redemption. Seeing the old order brought down and chaos reign. Reluctant heroes. Magic and the supernatural. Women who work retail.

Everything is memory, even those recent memories we think of as the present. If you can’t buy that, nothing I say will make sense. My recollections of my own life are exactly like my memories of films. And of my dreams.

A long time ago, I had a recurring dream that lasted for months, the kind of dream you can wake up from, go back to sleep and pick up where you left off. I was a prince in exile on another planet. There was not a trace of the modern world. Everything was medieval, 10th Century maybe. We fought with swords, spears and bows and arrows. With axes. Mostly in the dark. I had a wife and a couple of kids and a band of loyal followers. Sometimes I feel like I just fell to earth.

I was a kid who could read words he couldn't pronounce. And I misunderstood and mixed up half of the things I heard. I thought Pound said "hang it all, Robert Browning, there can be but one bordello" and Dylan Thomas said "in my craft of celluloid."

I was born in a Texas Gulf Coast town during the Depression, right before the war. My grandmother was Italian and my grandfather was an Irish cop. My father was a tall bohunk from Pittsburg who was in the Army when he met my mother. He got out of the Army, cut grass and delivered ice until my grandfather got him a job on the police force. He went back into the Army after Pearl Harbor and ended up occupying Japan. My mother had a half-brother, my uncle Bill, who was in the Army Air Corps when the war started. He was the toughest man I ever knew.

My mother and I lived with my grandparents in their house down by the docks. During the Depression, my mother said, my grandfather used to bring home groceries and meat he got from the grocers and butchers on his beat. We'd share the food with my grandmother's sisters and brothers and their families sometimes. My mother emptied bed pans at the hospital down the street until she got a job with the Corps of Engineers.

I don't remember any of that. I remember card games in the dining room, listening to people talking and laughing while I fell asleep, a paper jack-o-lantern that caught fire, and falling off the back porch. Later, I remember the lights were off at night along the beach because of the German submarines in the Gulf. When my dad came home from Japan, he brought me a sword.

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