Bully Boys – Part IV: How Long Has This Been Going On?

Remembrance and Reflections by L.E. Taylor

Fourth Hour was the first class after lunch and the post meridian routine in Mr. T’s shop class always began at 1:01 with Roddy Floutz pulling shut the faded green wooden door and the young teacher calling roll. The shop was in the basement of the old junior high, with steel cyclone insets covering half-windows that allowed in light, and a clear view of only the foot-part of passing foot traffic outside.

The minute-hand clicked. Mr. T loosened his brown knit tie and opened his class book. “Close the door, Roddy,” he said to… no one. The class of 12-year-old boys was unusually restive, peering over their shoulders here and there in a muffled commotion.

Robby and another kid burst through the open doorway. “Mr. T!  Some ninth grade boys have got Danny in the furnace room and are taking his money!”

The ‘furnace room’ was a dark passageway with a wall of lockers, just off the hallway across from the seventh grade shop. It led to a back stairwell.

Still in his natty tweed blazer, Mr. T arrived at about 1:01, point-five. Four sullen mid-pubescent punks pulled aside revealing the little tow-headed Danny. His face was tear streaked and a red welt shone on a pale freckled forehead. Continue reading

First Trip to the Museum, 1943.

There were no parking spots in the small unpaved lot behind the museum, so Daddy parked the Plymouth on a neighborhood street nearby. The eight year-old gripped the big gloved hand while the man’s other hand held on his fedora against the February wind. The little boy’s eyes stung as his dad led the way through a gust of flurries and they rounded the front of the great building. They mounted the cascade of steps and entered the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The boy’s heart leapt.

Just inside, the Sunday crowd was quietly festive, still milling about in their bulky mackinaws and long winter coats. Daddy removed his topcoat and hat and collected the boy’s wraps for deposit in the cloakroom to the right of the entrance.

The crowd thinned out for a second and the sight of a great marble entry hall, elaborately domed, and lined by suits of gleaming armor as far as he could see struck an image that the child would carry with him for a lifetime. This would be only the appetizer of a visual banquet about to be served. Continue reading

In Your Face

Observation: By L.E. Taylor

A hippie hottie once told me, “You have a very old soul.” She said it soulfully of course.

I knew the Seventies argot, so I took it as a compliment. She was saying I was not superficial. Or something. I don’t recall a clever reposte. In fact I don’t remember anything except how it added to another languid day at the Art Fair. I think.

The remark came back to me last week as I riffled through my archive of family photographs. Many of them go back to the nineteenth century (18 hunnerds, y’all). There’s my wonderfully tough-minded maternal Grandma, Helena, ramrod straight in her impossibly starched Victorian getup and penz-nez specs. And that’s her husband Fred (my mother’s Papa), in Sunday finery and a handlebar moustache, looking nothing like the circa 1915 Detroit shop mechanic who’d been taught to read by Grandma. Advancing through the folders and envelopes, I mused over the changes in my own mother and father over the years, years that I’d been witness to. Decades of hard work and risk and success… of losses, too, and of searing pain. Still, the images were benign, reassuring.

My own photos are more jarring. Not merely the usual transformation from plump undistinguished babyhood to early teen goofiness and then to another character altogether. In those maturing years, something else showed up. I’m not going to tell you what I saw, except to say it was unsettling. I may write a book on it. (No, not the Dorian Grey thing.)

But for now I suggest to you, fellow blogger – as we grow to know each other, that on some rainy afternoon, when you have nothing to do but watch idiocy on The Box, you take out your old photos, all of them. Take your time. Try to hear your Mom speak to you again. Jostle again, in the byways of your mind, with your kid brother or big sister. Be small again peering upward to a tall world. Listen to your young thoughts. Smell the fragrances of the kitchen, of the fresh mown lawn, of the lilac or musk scent you first slapped on when you were thirteen. Relive that instant with the family all together by the Christmas tree… or be surprised by a long-lens grab-shot a lifetime ago at the Art Fair.

Then behold that photograph of yourself. The young one. Not a class portrait, but a snapshot of an instant of gaiety, of innocent, dumb, existential mindlessness. I did. I was way more handsome than I remember. And am probably way more ugly now than I think.

What happened? Life.

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To be continued… next time.