Time Travel

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My brother, Woody, me, and my cousin, Sandy 1965

Time travel can be a state of mind.  Memories are alive, vivid, and fluid in our brains.    To travel back in time, we only need a trigger.   A flash of lightning, the wail of a siren, the soft mewing of a kitten,  or even a simple aroma can transport us and transcend us into the living world of memory.

Crack open the lid on a Play-Doh can, close your eyes, inhale, and you’re four years old again.  It works just like Dorothy’s ruby slippers minus the flying monkeys and the scrappy yapper dog.  Sorry, Toto.  Your mind’s eye starts watching you roll snakes and flatten pancakes.  You smile, flooded with recollection.

I spy the school supply shelves in a five and dime, look both ways, and sneak open a box of crayons.  Just because I’m tricky I can.  One whiff and magically I’m in Mrs. Greade’s  first grade class, adding the big box of 64 Crayola crayons to my Christmas wish list, careful to list the crayons under the first thing on my list, a  two wheeler.

I need the 64 count box because it has the sharpener in the back.  In the new year I’ll spend snowbound winter afternoons working with the prism blues, reds, and yellow discards–the captured, scrolled crayon shavings.   Molten artwork   masterpieces cover Mommy’s Frigidaire, created by melting and pressing these squirrley-curly scraps between two sheets of waxed paper with a warm iron and some elbow grease.  In my tween years I’ll advance to melting whole, peeled crayons, the junky ones, under a candle flame and dropping the heavy colored drops into peace-love-and-rock-and-roll designs whose sole purpose is my self expression and self pleasure.

Forget Calgon Bath Beads, lilacs take me away every time.  A mild  breeze, the buzz of a bouncing bumble, lifting my face up to absorb the first hot sun rays, all lead up to a trigger:  blooming purple lilacs.  One rush of their French perfume and I’m back in my grandma’s backyard, horsing around with my cousins and waiting for Grandpa to finish churning the crank on his bucket of vanilla bean ice cream.  My grandma is cleaning up from frying chicken legs in an electric skillet and serving up some potato salad.

Who needs a DeLorean  when there is line-dried laundry?  My mind’s eye can see strings of sun kissed bed sheets that snap, crackle and pop in the wind  stretched out beside pinned up bath towels so stiff you could sand the fur right off a dog, and blue jeans standing on their own volition.  I’m so small I can run under the sheets and smack them with arms splayed out overhead.  I hear the ch-ch-ch-ch of a rotary sprinkler head in the neighbor’s yard and then I see an enormous white belly fill the sky (and my eyes)  so close you could touch it, as an airplane zooms just above our rooftops, reaching and climbing into the clouds while window panes rattle for blocks all around and I cover my ears until it vanishes.  Midway Airport, Chicago, 63rd & Cicero, White Castles on the corner…I’m there!

Time travel is as easy when you put your mind to it…a bucket of fresh popped popcorn or being overwhelmed by the strength of a peeled orange and off I go… off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz.

Today’s Deep Thought

 Half of something is better than all of nothing. 

 

I’m “bursting” over here!

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More often than I would like to admit, I get hooked on something.  Lately, I can’t stop collecting pictures of mid-century starburst clocks.  “They have withstood the test of time,” she said with a smile.

 

 

Ah, what a tangled web we weave…

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The other night I was invited out for a night with “the girls” and I told my husband that I would be home by midnight:

 

“I promise!”  Well, the hours passed and the margaritas went down way too easily.  Around 3 a.m., a bit loaded, I headed for home (in a cab) and just as I got in the door, the cuckoo clock in the hallway started up and cuckooed 3 times.

Quickly, realizing my husband would probably wake up, I cuckooed another 9 times.  I was really proud of myself for coming up with such a quick-witted solution!  (Even when totally smashed…3 cuckoos plus 9 cuckoos totals 12 cuckoos which is MIDNIGHT).  Perfect!

The next morning my husband asked me what time I got in and I told him “MIDNIGHT”…and he bought it hook, line and sinker.  Whew, I got away with that one!

Then he said, “We need a new cuckoo clock.”  When I asked him why, he said, “Well, last night our clock cuckooed 3 times, then said, “oh shit” and cuckooed 4 more times, cleared its throat, cuckooed another 3 times, giggled, cuckooed twice more and then tripped over the coffee table and farted.

Hot Town, Summer in the City

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Chicago is one of the things that is some of all of me; it floats in my memory and lives in my bones.

I grew up on the south side and wear my growing up time like a badge of honor.  I haven’t lived there for 35 years, but when people ask me today where I come from, without hesitation, I say, “Chicago.”

I lived in the white house!

In the early 1960′s I was a five year old living at 5224 So. Albany.  We had our neighborhoods back then and we had the Chicago Democratic machine.  Everyone knew where everyone else belonged by their thick accents or their skin color.  It was normal everyday thinking to think:  the Italians are over here and the Pollocks are over there and the Spics are everywhere and the Blacks keep over where they belong, and watch out for those crazy Irish.  I’m not saying this is right; I’m saying this is how it was.  Most of the children I played with spoke English at school and a second language at home.

There was a bar on almost every corner with a bright, white and blue Hamm’s Beer sign that flickered in time to the tunes rolling out the door from the juke box.  Steady traffic.   I remember a bar called “The Ace of Clubs” and still think that if I ever owned one, that would be what I called it.  If our parents weren’t down at the corner bar (and mine weren’t) they would be sitting on the front porch steps on any given July evening, cooling off with a Tupperware glass of ice tea, Tab, or Coca-Cola which was chilled with ice freed from a metal ice cube tray.  We learned to grab those frozen metal trays from the freezer with dry hands or get a freezer burn.  Then we ran water over them to loosen the ice so the metal pull would crack the bricks free much easier. We never ran out of ice.  We kept four trays going and the house rule was that if you took the last ice cube in a tray, you had to fill the empty tray and then slide it carefully (harder than it sounds) on top of the other trays.  OR ELSE.

Summer evenings were a time when we came outside after filling up on meatloaf and mashed potatoes and canned corn and after sharing stories about our day and what Joey down the block did and what Suzy said about Mary Jo and we gawked over the new Chevy Impala with the big red fins and electric windows that the guy across the street got.  The house would be all hot inside from the cooking and the breeze outside was welcoming under the setting sun.  My dad usually wore his Dickies and a white tee shirt.  Sometimes his pack of smokes would be rolled up in the sleeve.  God, he was cool.  Mom wore capri pants and sleeveless, jewel neck cotton blouses.  We kids were all mix and match and hand me downs.

Parents would sit on painted porches, cement steps, or brick stoops talking about grown up stuff and shooing off the curious youngsters that were eavesdropping.  We learned a lot about life from hiding under the front porch steps.  It seemed to us, though, that most parents just wanted to get down to the bottom of the neighborhood troublemakers that day.  A troublemaker could be a kid who stepped on Mrs. Stikovich’s flowers, broke a window with a baseball, or got caught riding his bike in the street.  We all got in trouble for something now and again and our parents always found out.  If a neighbor caught us, we’d catch it from them first and then they would tell our parents and we would get it twice as bad when we got home.  Our butts were fair game for spankings whether we needed them or not.

Eventually one of the parents would ask if anyone wanted an impromptu snack–usually one dripping with mustard, relish and onions.  The hot dog joint was right up the street so we’d run in the house to get a scratch pad of paper and take down all the orders.  If it wasn’t hot dogs, it was hamburgers from the G.I. Grill on Central.   A couple of us kids would get assigned the mission to bring ‘em home hot and we might get a quarter out of the whole deal.

I have memory of a Dicken’s style vegetable man who would come clip-clopping down the side streets with his old wagon.  It was pulled by two big, grey draft horses.  He would sell tomatoes and onions right off of his cart and I remember it being an ancient, old and odd thing to see even back then, in 1966.  Dr. Francisco made house calls if we were really sick  and his office was up a large flight of narrow wooden stairs, above the Rexall Drug Store on Kedzie.  My mom would call him after she had run out of cotton balls and cod liver oil to heat up on a spoon and pour in my ears.   I had the mumps and the measles, there too.

The Push Up … My Favorite !!

Metal milk boxes sat on our porches, in the shade, and the Home Juice Company man would come once a week and leave two glass bottles of cold orange-pineapple juice.  He sold other kinds, but we always got that kind.  All at once folks everywhere would stop what they were doing and listen to see if  “it really was the ice cream man coming.”  Quarters, dimes and nickles fell from pockets as we lined up and elbowed our way to 35 cent  ice cream bars.  Candy bars were 25 cents and you could buy a candy cigarette that puffed “smoke” for a penny at Lottie’s corner store.  Lottie’s was where I ate my FIRST Dorito chip.

The very best thing that could happen to a kid in Chicago on a 90 degree day under a relentless sun that produced waves of visual distortion over the frying, baking, and sizzling pavement was when somebody’s big brother or uncle produced a monkey wrench.  That wrench was magic.  It could open up fire hydrants.  It only happened once or twice a summer and when it did, people came from 12 blocks square.  There would be 100 people running through the water gushes in the street and the force of the hydrant created ripples and waves that we could race our bikes through (if we were lucky and made it!)  We would run and splash and scream and laugh and push and shove and cool off until we heard the sirens.  The cops always found out.   I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think it was probably Mrs. Stikovich, avenging her petunias, who called them.

My kinda town, Chicago is!

(me, sitting, 2nd from right side)

Mushrooms

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Who knew there was so much fungus among us?

I have no idea why I’ve taken a fancy to finding these little gems throughout the forest floor.

 

They surprise me with their hiding spots, colors, sizes and shapes.   My hikes through the woods are made more magical when I spy these awkward, gilled wonders.

 

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