Posts filed under ‘memoir’

MEMOIR: LIVING ON BORROWED TIME

I’m old enough, and my memory good enough to recall a great deal of detail growing up in Newark, NJ during the 1950s and 60s. With these memories in mind, I study the world around me and have to chuckle. At times, it’s as if our society is rediscovering the wheel, then again, at times I’m amazed that my wheel still turns.

One observation which I find interesting is the current nutritional trends, and what information they provide – if any. Consider all the studies you’ve heard concerning the benefits or harmful effects of coffee consumption. I don’t know about you, but it boggles my mind. Some of the current nutritional mindsets are to cut down on processed food and eat local. When I was young, we adhered to these principles as a way of life. Processed food was in its infancy. And unlike today, for better or for worse, the mom of the family stayed home. Most did not know how to drive, and that didn’t matter because most families could only afford one car. Few moms worked outside the home. Their lives were taken up with raising the kids, maintaining the home and cooking. We are warned away from processed and junk food, yet grocery store shelves grow heavier and heavier with these items. Is there a bottom line at work here?

Another ‘new’ trend encouraged is to eat locally. While I was growing up that was the only option. Fruit and vegetables – veggies had not been invented yet – were not transported from all over the globe as they are now. In my neighborhood, fresh produce was available during the summer months sold from a horse-drawn wagon. During the winter the stores carried a minimal selection.

Those are the positives of my past which are far outweighed by the negatives, hence to purpose of this article.

During my youth, the fear of cholesterol was unknown. Of course it existed, but knowledge of its hazards was unknown and its effect, insidious. Food was consumed without a thought to sodium or fat content. Taste was all that mattered. It was a time long before the existence of ‘best by date’. The rule of thumb was: If the can wasn’t swollen the contents were fine to consume.

But all this is secondary to the primary reason I am living on borrowed time, although my food consumption has left its effects in the form of bypass surgery. The health concern most abused in my past was sun exposure. Today we have sunblock able to protect you from any damage the sun may try to deliver. When I was a kid we also had a means of protection and it was homemade. This was long before billboards began displaying that cute little girl having her bathing suit bottom pulled down by that delightful dog to expose her pale butt and tan line.

The means I used to shield myself from the sun’s harmful rays was a concoction of a few drops of iodine dispersed in baby oil. Where that was invented I have no idea. Did it work? No way! Every summer’s journey to the shore resulted in a bright red burn resulting in a mass of oozing blisters. Back then we were of the mindset that when you spent a day at the shore you had to get your money’s worth and we always paid the price. When we went as a family unit, on the way home I and my siblings would sit in the backseat of the old Chevy shivering from the intense sunburn. To this day we fondly refer to those sun-induced chills as suffering from ‘the disease’.

Once home, my mom would apply vinegar to our burned bodies. This remedy is actually documented as working, usually in vinegar ads. At night, after a day at the beach, slathered in oil and vinegar we were human salads suffering the pain of a summer outing.

 

July 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment

MEMOIR: PRESERVING YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY

 

While thinking about and writing my memoir, I have come to the realization it is to share our history with our families, to put down the words of our lives. Our lives, to varying degrees, help form the world around us be that world distant or immediate.

As a youth of perhaps ten, I recall sitting in our backyard one summer day when our neighbor came out. The couple living next door was an elderly Polish couple. The husband rarely left the flat, so seeing him outside was a rarity. While he stood there, much to my surprise, he began talking about World War I, how he recalled airplanes flying overhead. With my love for aircraft, I was immediately enthralled. If I had been thinking, I should have sought every memory he had of the war. I never knew if he served during the conflict, and if he did, on which side he fought. I asked no questions, but 50 years later I still can recall that conversation. That fact is testament to my lost opportunity.

The same is true with my parents. My dad was in the army in 1941, with his service almost completed. He told me that when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, he cried, for he knew then he would probably be in for the duration and he was right.

While my wife and I were living in Los Angeles, he came for a visit. Long Beach, CA was the home of the Queen Mary and we took him to tour the vessel. I wanted to make the pilgrimage for I knew he traveled from the U.S. to England on that ship. I’m sure he never expected to walk its decks again. During World War II he served in a supply unit and travel through Africa and then Italy. He did not see action and was strafed once while on a train by a P-51, one of our fighters – oops.

He didn’t talk about the war much and I didn’t ask; my loss.

The greatest regret I have about missing a personal glimpse into the past was talking to my mom about her life when she was young. She lived through the Great Depression and observed conditions on the home front during World War II and I never asked was life was like during those times.

For those of you who read this blog, do not make the mistake I did.  Ask your senior citizens about their past.  They have a more vivid experience with history than a book can provide.

July 25, 2014 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

MEMOIR: LIFE ON A SHOESTRING

Once, while listening to NPR, I heard a report on credit cards. The report stated that the average person has thirteen credit cards and carries about eight thousand dollars in debt. This was some time ago; I hope the numbers have improved. I must admit, that there are times when I have trouble getting my wallet in my back pocket because of all the potential debt lingering in there, but try to keep it under control. On hearing this broadcast, my mind wandered back to my youth, a time when people had the mindset that it was not so much that you lived without but you lived with what they could afford. It was a time less of envy and more of survival.

For most of my youth, credit cards did not exist. They started flourishing in the 60’s, so when I was young, they were not even an option. For paying bills, my parents didn’t have a checking account. When there was a bill that needed to be paid I was sent to the drugstore to buy a money order. It was the only way my family sent money through the mail.

In my neighborhood, credit was not as much a way of life as it is today. People lived on what they could afford. With the exception of houses and cars, you bought what you could pay for then and there. I must admit just writing about life without credit seems so foreign and unreal. Buying just what you can afford at the time of purchase seems like such and odd concept, yet that is the way it once was.

The way a person received their pay was also different in my youth.   Friday afternoons, my dad was home from working at the tannery for hours, but he had to return Friday afternoons to get his pay. I would sometimes take a ride with him. You could smell his place of employment long before you could see it – Ocean Leather – gaining this name due to the fact that it was the only tannery at that time that could tan shark skins. We would drive around to the loading dock where drums of chemicals stood, the soil, stained shades of purple and green, was soil of an OSHA nightmare. Into the building we would go, past large rooms where various stages of tanning was taking place, and into the office. Here my dad was handed a brown envelope with bills and change and that was his pay. That’s the way people were paid back then, you actually held your pay in your hand. It was not electronically sent to your bank from which you electronically paid your bills. You were able to hold what you earned, actually see it.

Friday was also allowance day for me.   For completing my choirs, I received fifty cents a week, and when I could really control my spending – not wanting another airplane model or book – I turned those quarters into a dollar bill, real folding money, which I would immediately take to the cellar and hide – I don’t know why. To this day I can still recall the feeling that, with a quarter, I had money. With a quarter in my pocket, I’m okay. How things have changed, and how I remain the same. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

During my younger days I remember my dad saying, “Always keep two dollars in my wallet or else I could be arrested for vagrancy. If the police only knew how often I walk around with an empty wallet these days I could easily wind up behind bars, aha, but there is the MAC card and all my other credit cards with their lines of credit that keep me out of jail but could lead to the poorhouse.

 

 

July 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

MEMOIR: HIKING SOJOURN

In the scouts for years, I journeyed from Cub Scout to Boy Scout to Explorer earning the Eagle Scout award along the way, learned and explored many things a city boy would not normally encounter. One of the activities I enjoyed the most was the opportunity to go camping.
An hour’s drive northwest of Newark, New Jersey near Boonton was a Boy Scout campground. My troop would camp there several times a year, mostly in the winter. Cabins of various sizes dotted the campground. The only source of heat was a fireplace at one end of the cabin and cooking was done on a wood-burning stove. One winter, we had to melt ice for water. The weather had been so cold that the pipes to the old hand pump had burst. It seemed the harsher the conditions; the more we enjoyed the outing. City boys were facing nature head on.
On my first experience camping at the campground, we boys were going to cook a spaghetti dinner for Saturday night. The scout master wasn’t there, and none of us had ever cooked spaghetti before, but that didn’t stop us. We filled a large pot with water, put in the pasta and set it on the wood-burning stove to cook. A couple hours later we had one large noodle. That’s how I learned you needed boiling water to cook pasta.
The camping trips were formal outings organized by the troop. The less formal day hikes to the local Boy Scout area located in the South Orange Mountain Reservation, would be organized spontaneously, when a group of us were just hanging around with nothing to do. For a group of boys ranging from maybe eleven to thirteen, these trips were a real adventure. The beauty of these outings was that the city bus could take us to the base of the mountains. No adult input was required, once permission to go was obtained.
We usually caught the bus fairly early in the morning because once we arrived at the base of the mountain; it was at least an hour walk to the Boy Scout area. Sitting amongst commuters going to work or out to do some shopping, laden with packs and canteens and any other camping paraphernalia we thought we might need, we proudly displayed our badge of ruggedness. We rode through the Newark downtown area, then north through some of the blighted areas of the city, and then on to the more affluent suburbs. The bus would leave us in the shopping district of South Orange, where we would start to trudge up the hill to what us city boys considered wilderness. We hiked past stately homes with manicured lawns, a far cry from our homes in Newark. Finally, the houses were replaced with trees and the sidewalks with a dirt shoulder – we were almost there.
Our destination lay down a dirt road branching from the main highway. The area was large and open, set aside for day-tripping scouts to build fires and cook their meals. Across a stream bordering the area and up into the trees stood a few cabins for weekend outings. The cooking area was supplied with a generous amount of wood provided by work crews maintaining the reserve. For a bunch of boys who thought starting a charcoal fire was an adventure – this was nirvana.
Lunch was usually hot dogs and foil-wrapped potatoes and onions. The fire built to prepare these meager meals was immense to say the least. On hot summer days, we built fires large enough to heat the whole area during the dead of winter. Once everyone tired of throwing on wood, we had a fire too hot to approach to do any cooking. Either you waited for the flames to die down or had to find a very long stick to cook your hot dogs.
After our meals were consumed and the fire extinguished (I won’t go into how we boys would sometime extinguish fires), we set off on our hike. The mountain reservation was extensive with a variety of trails we could wander. Some were relatively flat, along a streambed, while others were more strenuous. One hike we often took was up a steep hill with the final climb to the summit a rock face. A spectacular view awaited, a view city boys could appreciate. When we later returned to the Boy Scout area, we usually built another fire whether on not we had anything to cook. With everyone rested, we began our trek down the hill to catch the bus home. Somehow the walk down always seemed longer than the walk up. By now we were all grungy and reeked with the smell of smoke, but we always enjoyed each other’s company and the time we had in the woods. After once again walking through affluence, we boarded the bus and made our way past the slums of Newark and finally to our homes. I treasured these outings with friends and took comfort in the fact that the solitude of a forest was only a bus ride away.

July 7, 2014 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment

MEMOIR: NIGHTS WITH JEAN SHEPARD AND CRIPPLED JOE

It was a time before cell phones, before computers and instant messaging. It was a time before people felt obligated to be at the beck and call of anyone who has anything to communicate no matter how insignificant the information might be. To many today, the ability to communicate – to use the technology – is more important than the content of what they have to say. It was a time of relative freedom, when you could truly be alone without getting away, when people did not feel uncomfortable to be out of the loop, for the loop for most did not yet exist. We were individuals, not part of a grid. It was a time when people were allowed to live their lives without the constant intrusions that today we consider to be normal – no telemarketers, no beepers no SPAM – the only SPAM being that fantastic pink brick. You could answer the phone at dinnertime and be fairly sure it was someone you wanted to talk to instead of someone trying to sell you something.
Growing up, my family did not have a phone. We lived in a four family house and only one family had a phone, a family on the second floor of our two-story house and you only asked to use it if a there was a real emergency. I’m talking seizure or some other life-threatening event. About the time I entered my teenage years we did get a phone, but in those days it was on a party line and, with our plan, you were limited to thirty calls a month, then you paid extra for every call over thirty. Imagine those limitations today in a family of six that included two girls.
But don’t get me wrong, when I was young the exchange of information was important – but there was just so much less of it. Or maybe it is that today, what we call information is not information at all, only considered so by those who generate it. What was communicated had importance, not the latest Hollywood starlet’s drug problem, not the public following the antics of an individual acting like a fool and wanting to be the first to know what outrageous or sick thing they do next. Long gone are the days when social media was comprised primarily of face-to-face conversations.
I watched my share of TV while growing up, maybe more than my kids do now, but I would never admit that to them. I listened to the radio, there always seemed to be a radio on in the house. That is why now, when I hear just the first few bars of a song from the late 50’s or 60’s I can usually share the song’s title and the artist singing with my children although they could care less about this information. I would listen to talk shows. These days I still listen to quite a bit of radio, usually National Public Radio when I’m not listening to an oldies station.
I would listen to Jean Shepard during the final hour of my shift working in a newsstand at the corner of Broad and Market streets, the heart of Newark, New Jersey. I was addicted to his show broadcasted on WOR weekday nights from 10:15 to 11. What a fantastic storyteller. For those not familiar with Jean Shepard, if you have ever watched A Christmas Story you have heard his voice and watched his work. We have a local station here in Pennsylvania that shows the movie nonstop for 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve. When he died at the age of seventy-eight, his obituary read, “A Twain of the radio.” He would start each show and off he would go on a forty-five minute monologue about what it was like when he was growing up in Indiana or his observations of life around him, and you never knew where he would end up by the end of his show. He was genuine, one of life’s observers, and listening to him relate his memories and thoughts was a true treasure. He would conjure up stories of his childhood, remembering things that happened to us all but take a slightly different slant in his observations and in doing this create those wonderful views of his youth.
I would be counting up the papers and magazines and get the place ready for my relief as I listened to the radio. I worked at this newsstand for most of my high school and college years and came to know quite a collection of characters, old men haunting the nights on Newark’s streets. Talking to one another, carrying newspapers days old and talking to me for I was a regular of Newark’s night too. One individual, who could have been a character in a novel, was the man who would relieve me, a man with the most unpolitically correct name I have ever had the honor to hear – his name was Crippled Joe.
Now Crippled Joe must have been in his 50’s and walked with the use of a cane. His deformity was one leg that had an almost ninety degree bend in the top before it entered the hip. Crippled Joe had worked for my boss, the owner of the newsstand, for years and years, working the 11 PM to 6 AM shift and he was my relief of the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that I worked. And every night all papers and magazines would have to be counted and the money counted and locked up for Crippled Joe would try to steal whatever wasn’t accounted for, and my boss knew this and that was the relationship they had, Crippled Joe could be trusted as long as he was not given an opportunity not to be trusted.
Joe also had a little side business going. He used to run a numbers racket at the newsstand. Everyone knew about it, my boss, the other workers – everyone, yet every night Joe would complete these transactions secretly, and I suppose he really thought they were secret. Men would come up while I was changing over with Joe, whisper something in his ear and handed him some bills but would never take a newspaper or magazine. Being just fifteen or sixteen when I started to work, and quite naïve. It took a while for me to figure out what was going on and used to think it funny that, after all the years I worked there, every night he would still try to hide.
I worked year round while in high school and summers while in college. The newsstand was a good-sized booth with the front open to about waist level. We sold all the Newark and New York City papers. Back then Newark had two daily papers and New York at least six or more. We sold comics and magazines and some kind of dream cards that told you which numbers you should play according to the dreams you were having. Working at the newsstand during the winter was a real challenge. The wind would whip around into the booth and all the papers had to be held down with heavy metal weights. The change was kept in a metal change holder, a series of metal cups nailed in front of where you stood in the booth. When it was cold, I mean really cold, the change would freeze to your bare fingertips. You kept gloves on when no one was buying anything, but when the time to make a sale came, off came the gloves and those warm fingers would freeze right to the coins. Snowstorms were a real challenge. I had what some might determine to be a twisted sense of duty. During one particular storm, the snow was drifting against the door on the inside of the booth. We had electric heaters but unless you were right on top of them, you froze. I kept the stand open even though no one in his or her right mind was out on a night like this. Finally I got the word to close down. It was the first time I ever saw the newsstand closed.
During the summers of my high school and early college years I worked days and ran the newsstand for my boss who would drop by once a week to pick up the deposit slips and see how things were going. It was about this time that my well-established hormones began to really kick in and along with fantasies about some of my customers. I can recall one shorthaired blond girl, who must have been a secretary, and every day would pick up a paper – perhaps for her boss. I was in college at this time and she was about my age, probably working right out of high school. By the time I would sell her a paper I was dirty with newsprint from the early morning rush hour. I would see her every day and she would never say a word. Thinking back it was probably good that she hadn’t for I probably would have answered with some garbled response. So I would have my fantasies of meeting for a soda after work, maybe a movie but all I did was keep folding her papers and taking her money.
There was another girl I remember but she haunted the nights. I first noticed her while I was still in high school. She was about my age, maybe seventeen, not pretty but not unattractive either. She was very slim with long red hair and would hang out on the corner where I worked. She usually had other kids with her but she was the oldest. I never knew if the other kids were siblings or just friends. She was not well dressed and just looking at her you could tell she had very little money. I just wondered what she was doing night after night on that corner. Even now, when I think of her, I can hear Frankie Vallie singing ‘Rag Doll’. I wonder what became of the ‘rag doll’ as I wonder about other people that crossed my path during those night and days I spent selling papers.
On Mondays and Wednesdays my shifts were from 6-11PM, but on Fridays I went to work straight from school starting at 3PM and working until 11. I got quite a few stares and have to do some explaining after gym in high school as I was putting on my long johns in preparation for a winter’s night work.
Fridays, I would get home about 11:30 have some dinner and go to bed. My bed by now was a single pull-out bed in the parlor next to the kerosene stove which, during the winter, you could almost sit on and have no fear of injury. But my radio listening for the day was not yet over, or just beginning, depending on which way you wanted to approach the time of day, for another of my favorite radio shows was about to begin – Long John Nebal whose talk show on WOR radio ran from midnight to about five in the morning. The topics would vary but the subject often discussed that stirred my interest was flying saucers. Nebal would sometimes have on his show the editor of Saucer News, a local magazine-type publication although calling it a magazine was quite a stretch, and of course I immediately sent away for a subscription. It was just a few pages long and would be filled with pictures of flying saucers along with local sightings and editorial comments. The funny thing was that most of the editorial comments were about the editor’s ongoing divorce. For some reason I’ve always been drawn to slightly wacko subjects, here’s where my kids could provide an editorial.
Anyway, I would listen to these shows as late into the night as I could. Now I wouldn’t use my newsstand radio for that would be a waste of batteries, I used my crystal radio. Let me explain what this is, although my theoretical knowledge may be a little rough. The radio actually contained a crystal and onto it pressed a thin piece of wire called a ‘cat’s whisker’. The pressure generated electricity and it was also the way you tuned in a station, by moving the ‘cat’s whisker’ around the crystal. My radio was in the shape of a rocket and about six inches long, a black and red beauty. Coming out the rocket were three wires. One wire ended in and alligator clip for the ground, one wire was an earpiece and the last wire was the antenna. The antenna was rather long, somewhere between twenty and thirty feet and I would stretch it through the whole house before climbing into bed. I tend to toss and turn in my sleep so I would always wake up all wrapped up in the earphone and antenna wire, but no electricity was wasted although every night I listened to my crystal radio I risked death by strangulation.
Looking back, they were rough days, hard days but good days. I was easily entertained. I worked hard, and ever so slowly I matured.

June 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm 1 comment

REVISITING MY MEMOIR

Around the year 2000, I began writing my first prose in the form of a memoir. Sections of that effort have appeared in this blog and now I thought I’d post a few more. You may have to hunt if you want to read past entries. My blog needs better organization, but I guess I’m limited by the ability of the organizer.
The title of my memoir, if it ever sees the light of day as a published work, will be You Had Hot Water? This title is derived from the fact that the house where I lived until the later part of my undergraduate college education which I pursued far from Newark, New Jersey where the house was located, did not. Come to think of it, our kitchen sink was the only sink I can ever recall seeing which sported just one faucet.
Our family resided in the Ironbound section of Newark, given that name because of all the industry located in the neighborhood. It was also referred to as ‘Down Neck’ by the locals and is still to this day although I don’t know and I’m sure the vast majority of its residents don’t know the origin of that name.
I began writing my memoir after making observations of the world around me as an adult and seeing what people had and the lives they lived and how the conditions and attitudes were so different from those I experienced growing up. People live in conditions far better than I could ever imagine growing up in Newark, yet bemoan a life I would have given anything for while growing up in Newark during the 1950s and 60s. And I bet they all have hot water.
I realize that these are ‘blanket statements’ and there are many living lives in this country which are miserable existences, but there are more safety nets available now than there were back in the 50s and 60s. Back then, it was a time when you appreciated what you had rather than what the other person had. In reality, no one had a great deal, but we lived life as best we could.
With this introduction, I shall begin posting more memoir pieces offering a glimpse of live in Down Neck Newark when I was a boy.

June 27, 2014 at 2:14 am Leave a comment

UPDATE, HURRICANE SANDY

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone,
But its scars and memories still linger on.

We survived the storm with only a short power loss on Monday and internet and cable on Tuesday.
The winds howled and we had quite a bit of rain, but our community fared well with only some minor flooding and loss of power.
What I found interesting was our animals’ reaction to this historic event. We have two cats and a lab mix, Millie. As the storm intensified one of our cats, Sammy, who is slightly insane, climbed onto my lap and watched the trees sway with the wind. I could see fear in her eyes. Millie also watched the storm from her favorite chair and her eyes showed concern. My wife thinks I read too much in the animals’ behavior, but I’m a stay at home writer and spend a great deal of time with them. Perhaps I imagine more than is real, but that’s my job.
Our property is surrounded by mature trees, and I realize now that as long as they don’t fall on the house, they protect us from the wind.
What I have a hard time imagining is the destruction caused by this storm. So many coastal communities devastated. As I watch the coverage of the aftermath, I wonder how and where you begin to recover.
My heart goes out to the small seaside community of Union Beach, west of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. My sister, Judy, and her husband had a small house there. It is a blue-collar community. This isn’t a resort community of summer homes but a town where people settled to raise their families or spend their retirement years. My sister died three weeks ago at the age of 62. Yesterday I found out that their house was destroyed. How much sorrow can people endure? Take that sorrow and multiply if by thousands, tens of thousands. I cannot wrap my mind around the extent of the loss experienced by the coastal communities that have suffered through this storm. Even might New York City bowed to the storm’s might and its flood and fires.
I was raised in Newark and spent vacations ‘down the shore’. I remember the anticipation of leaving the confines of the city and going to Seaside Heights for a week or a few days, the thrill of the first taste of salt air. I would stare at the vastness of the ocean and its limitless freedom. Seaside Heights was all but destroyed. The boardwalk and piers with their amusements, gone. I have my memories but it may be generations until such memories can again be made.

October 31, 2012 at 6:47 pm 2 comments

NEIL ARMSTRONG

NEIL ARMSTRONG

I am tardy in acknowledging the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
Most of us can recall where we were and what we were doing when truly historical events occurred. Unfortunately, most of the events that come under this category are tragic in nature. For example, those of us that are old enough remember the day Kennedy was assassinated. I’ve written about my own memories of that day (see memoir section). The day of the Challenger disaster carries for me another vivid memory. And of course 9/11 leaves a scar in all our memories.
The first time man walked on the moon, however, is a totally different type of memory. It is one of achievement and national pride. To see the first man set foot on the moon created a wonderful global moment.
My personal remembrance of this event is quite vivid. I was in pilot training stationed at Craig AFB in Selma, Alabama. The night of the first moonwalk I went to the base theater to see 2001, A Space Odyssey, one of my favorite movies. After the movie I went to the officers’ quarters and there on the television was Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the lunar surface. It was a combination of fiction and reality that I will never forget.
A few months later I washed out of pilot training. The little jet we were fly was just too much for me to handle. I was then allowed to choose my next assignment and chose to be a Titan II crew member. It was while I was on a missile crew that I had a chance to see the Apollo program up close.
As a junior office I visited Cape Kennedy, as it was called at that time, and had an extensive tour of the complex. We went inside the vertical assembly building, the building where the Saturn rockets going to the moon were assembled. I found one of the facts about this enormous structure was that it was so large and tall that, if the temperature wasn’t carefully controlled, it could rain inside the building.
Sometime later I had another opportunity to visit the area. I was now a crew commander and my crew did well on an inspection so we, along with other crews, flown to Cape Kennedy to witness the Apollo 17 launch. The launch was scheduled to be at night. My crew arrived at a beach some miles distant from the launch pad. We kept the radio in the rental car on for updates. There were a series of short delays which gave the sand fleas a chance to have their feast. Finally Apollo 17 was launched into space.
The night was illuminated by the mighty rocket as it set off on its journey. We could easily see the rocket stage and followed its course until it was a speck in the night sky. This was to be the last of the Apollo launches and I felt privileged to have a chance to witness the event.
Next stop for the crew, Disney World.

September 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm Leave a comment

MEMOIR

It’s been some time since I wrote this piece.
I came across a contest for ‘late bloomers’ asking for an article to be published in an anthology.
As most of you writers well know, you submit and never hear from the publisher, even after repeated queries about the status of your piece.
I now share this unpublished work with you, my consistent readers.

NEVER TOO LATE
By
Walt Trizna

I have been a late-bloomer all my life. The following article will prove that to be true. If you also fall into this category, or have yet to bloom, read my story and know there is always hope as long as you persevere.
Spending thirty-four years as a scientist, I never felt totally comfortable. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the work; I did. I found it difficult to share the enthusiasm of those working around me. However, I do feel a great sense of accomplishment for what those years produced. Now that segment of my early life is over.
I was a late-bloomer in marriage. At the age of thirty-six, when I married, most of my contemporaries were well into their first or perhaps second marriage. Now twenty-eight years later I find the wait was worth it for I found the perfect woman to share my life.
The primary focus of this article, however, is my current career as a writer. Looking back, I had the stirrings early in my life to follow that dream. But my environment and need for security won out and the yearning diminished but never died.
My first attempt at writing was in high school. A poem of mine was published in an anthology of high school writers and I knew I was on the road to becoming the next Robert Frost, whose poetry I adored. I continued writing poetry for approximately twenty-five years while in college, in the military and pursing my career in science. The result of my efforts was more than twenty-five poems published in anthologies and newspapers. During this phase of my writing addiction I made one dollar, a token of gratitude from a woman who enjoyed one of my poems. I am not known as a big spender, but even I would have a struggle living on four cents a year.
Toward the end of my twenty-five year poetry endeavor, I married and had two daughters. Actually, I continue writing poetry to this day. Each of my daughters gets a poem on her birthday recapping that year in their life. That tradition began when they were two and will continue until my writing career comes to a close.
Now as I approach my sixty-fourth year, I am a fulltime writer. Eleven years ago I began to write short stories of horror and science fiction. In this career I think of myself more as a bud than a bloom. I shall only bloom with the nourishment of the public.
I have published over twenty horror and science fiction short stories. When I write science fiction I try to use as much science fact as I can in order to make the story chilling with an air of possibility. I have also written three novels, one was published by Mélange Books when I was in my early sixties, one is now seeking a home and one still needs to grow some.
I have made little money, but at this stage of my career, that is of little importance. What warms my heart is when people read my words and find momentary escape from this confusion we call life.
Do I enjoy writing? That is a question I constantly ponder. I have a vivid imagination, ideas race through my mind. When it comes to sitting down before a blank tablet with pencil in hand, the enjoyment I experienced with imagery is tinged with a hint of anxiety in the effort of putting those images into words. Only when the piece is finished can I relax and savor a sense of accomplishment.
Now comes the effort to try and get the story published. Once again euphoria slams against the brick wall of reality. There are times when recognition comes quickly, but more often it takes years for a publisher to find value in my words. I have stories that have yet to see the light of publication, but I keep trying.
Have I reached to stage to refer to myself as a late-bloomer? I feel more like a ripening bud that will hopefully bloom before it shrinks and dies.

April 28, 2012 at 8:37 pm Leave a comment

REPRISE OF ST. PATRICK’S DAY

I thought I’d revisit this memoir entry.

MEMOIR
As a kid growing up in Newark, the only significant occurrence associated with that holiday was the local parade.
Here is my remembrance.

DOWNNECK ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE

The section of Newark, New Jersey I called home was referred to as the ‘Downneck Section’, why, no one could ever explain. And on the Sunday afternoon, on or before St. Patrick’s Day, the residents of my street were treated to what had to have been the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country.
Our local Catholic Church sponsored the parade. I could see the church’s steeple from my parlor window. It was that close. The parade had to be held on Sunday for between my house and the church stood Balentine Brewery. Weekdays were filled with the rumble of trucks quenching the thirst of a parched city. Sunday was a day of rest for the trucks, making the parade possible.
Magically, sometime before the parade, a green line appeared down the center of our street, the first harbinger of a gala event. I never witnessed this lines creation, but every year it materialized. Around one-thirty the residents began to gather on the sidewalk. We all walked out our front doors with anxious anticipation. The brewery and Catholic school took up one side of the street, multiple family houses stood opposite. Of course, there were always the annoying boys riding their bikes down the center of the blocked-off street before the parade began. I was proud to add to their number.
I assumed the parade began at the church. I never did discover where it finished.
There was always a band, not a school band, but one made up of adult men most of whom had almost mastered the instruments they were assigned. Before the band came a few ruddy-faced Irish men, decked out in their top hats, waving to the minuscule crowd. At the front of this procession were the parish priests. The parade took thirty seconds to pass. The procession turned the corner on to Ferry Street and marched on, melting into the Downneck neighborhood.

March 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm 2 comments

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