Tuesday, March 24, 2009

East of The Sun and West of the Moon.


Ah, in praise of an orthodox childhood! My father ran away from his redneck home after writing an essay on civil rights that got him expelled from high school. He hit the road to become a Jazz musician. He ended up playing with Miles, Dizzy and Moody. He experimented with many drugs and had many affairs.
My mother was sent to a Catholic parochial boarding school less then an hour away from home. Her parents seldom visited. She would often sneak into the storage room of the school library to read the banned books. Subsequently was the only girl they did not ask to become a nun. She became a teacher and was loving and kind to every child that came her way. Specializing in kids with special needs. She tried it all at least once and had me as surprise gift after a weekend of tequila filled fun with my Dad. They were married some months after.
I am the only child of bohemian, 60’s, beatniks. Tales of my childhood have impressed some and horrified others.
In 1965 we moved to New York City. I only saw my Dad after 3:00 until around 6:00pm, because he played all night and slept all morning. I lived on the eleventh floor, the highest button I could reach on the elevator. It was my “Uncle’s Mikes” apartment that we sublet from him while on an extended tour of Paris. My father had no actual brothers, just honorary ones. Just cats with soul patches and shades that never showed their eyes in daylight. Our building was full of other musicians and actors that held day jobs like cab drivers and waitress. They would come home dragging their feet and hurry off to nap before the night would come and their real world would come alive.
Sometimes “Uncle Mike” would fly back to town, but he never stayed at his old apartment. Instead he would stay with a woman my mother told me was very famous, named Velveteen, like the rabbit. I was told that men paid lots of money to spend time with Velveteen, but that “Uncle Mike was so charming that he got to be with her for free. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, except for my Mom. Where my mother then looked a lot like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, Velveteen had big blonde hair in giant curls. She wore silver eye shadow that sparkled and smelled like incense. She was wonderful. She would bounce me on her lap and tickle me. Then hand me off to my mother. I would wave goodnight to her over my mother’s shoulder and then be put to bed and told to try not to come out to the party. But, more often as not I would sneak back into the room and end up dancing in my pajama’s, on top of the piano. Later that night or morning my Mother would find me under the piano, or in a chair sound asleep.
I was raised to be hip, a real cool kitten. My father read me passages from the Tibetan Book of the Dead and Shelley with a little Byron thrown in. But, I was never taught multiplication, spelling, grammar or fractions. I suppose since they did not come as easily, they were set aside. Besides there were so many more important things to learn like, the phrasing of Frank Sinatra was important, that I’m OK and You’re Ok, unless you’re a square and then your not, was important. That some Mommy’s and Daddy’s don’t let there kids go to nightclubs to hear an old friend playing in town. And they don’t think it’s funny to let your kid go up to the bar and order, “a Shirley Temple, rocks back hold the cherries.” Poor fools that they were. I felt sorry for kids that were not hip to the jive. That didn’t know what a fin is or who Chet Baker was or how to make a martini for their parents.
But, I have to say that there were times, as I got older, that it was hard being an adult as a kid. But, I would not have traded it for anything. Can you dig it?

4 comments:

womaninblack71 said...

Wow! Your childhood sounds amazing, and puts mine (mother a housewife, father a teacher) somewhat in the shade - I shall away to fabricate something equally fabulous, with the slight downside that it's not actually true.
Thank you for your kind words on my blog, and do come back soon. You're a lovely writer and a lovely visitor.
WIB

EmmaK said...

I had a similarly boho childhood but always craved a very nice boring stable family environment and not to have been the kid of two whacko artists.

Peter N said...

I STILL feel like a kid...you do, too. Peter

Eva said...

I <3 U!!! Your childhood beats any other childhood, boring or hip...