Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Story From Dad: The Tomatoes

So dad came over a couple of nights ago and was talking with us and he started telling stories about his childhood. I love them becuase it makes me feel connected to him and it reminds me of how interesting our parent's generation can be. He said to me, "Have I told you the one about the tomatoes?"

"When I was a teenager my friends and I would walk down to the (I think he said drugstore) and we would talk to the girls there and buy them sodas, you know?We'd be standing around and talking to them thinking we were really cool." I interrupt to tell him I have a vision of him with his hair all slicked back with axel grease or pomade or whatever it was they were using back then. He laughs, and sort of nods his head and continues...

"The store was at the end of the street and we would pass this bar on the way down, I think it was called Jack's and it was where the old guys hung out. It was like a total dive, you know with the screen door at the back always propped open because of the wind blowing it and slamming it all the time. You could look in and see the old guys sitting around and smoking and playing cards and having beers and whiskeys."

I'm picturing in my mind this old VFW outpost we have in town and I describe it to him and he nods again,as if I have the right idea.

"So one day in the summer me and my buddies are headed down the street, you know, like we do and one of the guys has arm-fulls of ripe tomatoes and they're passing them out. We snuck up real quiet like and leaned in the back door and we just start firing away. It's like something out of a movie: the cards and beers go flying and everyone is taking cover. Some of the guys upend a table trying to get out of the way. It was a mess. We thought it was so great.

"I was real skinny back then, and I could run. They wanted me for the track team at the high school. I was faster than any of my buddies. This was definately a time where I needed to run fast. Those old guys, once they recovered, they were real mad- they were gonna kick our asses. So all my buddies take off you know? They were getting out of there.

"Have you ever had a moment where you couldn't run? Like you were rooted to the spot? Right then I had one of those moments, and it was bad. All I could think was 'I can't run and these guys are gonna be out here in a minute and they're going to kick my ass.' I couldn't see the other guys anywhere.

"So I looked and in the parking lot there was this old Chevy ( he named the make and I can't think of it) with four flat tires that had been there forever. It was so low to the ground you could barely slide an ashtray under it. Somehow I managed to squeeze under it.

"The men from the bar came dashing out into the parking lot yelling where did we go and we couldn't have gone that far and how they were going to find us and give us a whipping. I lay under that car and was praying they weren't going to look for me there. One of the guys said maybe one of us was under the Chevy and I got real scared for a second. Then another guy was like 'are you kidding? No one could fit under there.' They eventually gave up and went back inside to their drinks.

"When I came out I saw two of my buddies on the roof and a couple more had climbed up the trees down the road. They were telling me how they could see me. Man, they thought I was going to get it. I did too. We went down an alley and snuck back home and made some popcorn and watched TV.

"The next night we walked by the front of the bar really quiet and the guys inside came out and asked us if we knew what happened the day before. We were all innocent and 'no, what happened?' So they told us about it and asked us to keep our ears open and if we heard anything to come and tell them. They said they would know those punks when they saw them and they were going to kick their asses. If we heard anything, we should just pop our heads in the screen door in the back and tell them. They wouldn't tell our parents about us coming into a bar, since we would be helping them out.

"We swore we would tell them as soon as we heard anything and we went on down the street. As soon as we rounded the corner we about died laughing."

Honestly, as dad was telling this story, I about died laughing too. Dad is one of the kindest, most responsible people I know. It caught me off guard to hear he was such a naughty teenager. I suppose he has always had the sense of humor that I admire in him now. He's an onery adult, I don't know why he wouldn't have been a troublemaker as a teen. He has a great way of telling a story too, drawing out street diagrams with his fingers and acting out the way he looked. I know I can't translate that well in the telling, but Ifigured this was amusing all the same.

Makes my teen summers playing cards with the neighborhood boys in my parent's garage and smoking on the sly seem pretty tame, to tell you the truth.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Watching the Trains

When I was a little girl one of my favorite things was for my grandfather to take me for a drive to the train yards in my town. Its an old enough city that the train yards are massive. I huge bridge crosses over the main part of them.

We would drive over the yards, and I would stand in the front seat, face pressed to the glass, and peer down over the edge of the bridge and look at the trains coming and going. For me, it was exciting to think of the trains heaped with coal going off to some big factory where they would use them to heat furnaces and make interesting things. (For me, it was usually toys) We would circle the cross street and my grandfather would drive back over them and I would look at the other trains, the empty box cars, and wonder what had been in them and where they would go now.

I would get especially excited if we saw a train moving down the tracks. There was a side street shortly after the bridge and my grandfather would turn down that if there were any actually moving. We would drive parallel to the tracks and I would look up in wonder at the cars. They were so much bigger up close. I loved them.

One of the parks in my hometown had an old caboose to a train in the center, and I remember when we went swimming there in the summertime how I would wander up to it and stare, the sun baking my shoulders as I clutched my towel to my chest. Where had that train been before it stopped being used. Why had they stopped using it?

Last week I was in that older part of town and I saw that there is a full train there now, fenced in to keep out vandals and teenagers looking for a place to make out. I drove to that old bridge and saw that there was construction. They are rebuilding it, and I wonder if now the walls of the bridge will be so high that I can't look over the edge and see the trains anymore. Even now, when I drive over that bridge, I crane my neck to look at them. If Kitten is driving, I'll loose the thread of the converstation as I stare at the increasingly desolate looking train yard. Sometimes I wonder where the trains are going. Sometimes I wonder what they have in them. Mostly, though, I wonder how I found them so glamorous as a child and why I still love to stare at them.

It may not come as a suprise to you but I live very near a railroad track. It wasn't a concious decision, Kitten bought her home in the downtown area of my city, and surrounding it is an indistrial area. It never bothers me. At night, I can listen to the sound of the trains passing by. It helps me to sleep. Sometimes I can almost smell the leather of my grandfather's giant Lincoln and feel it bouncing beneath my feet as I close my eyes and drift away.