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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Pedigree





My Pedigree

I was born into a cataclysmic world of uncertain conditions and secrets.

My mother was from Roswell, NM and when she was just a little girl,
she claimed she had seen a flying saucer fall from the evening sky and onto a hilly ranch in the distance.
She told me she viewed the wreckage and touched the velvety metal hull that had broken into pieces on top of her little girl world.
She was what they call a tall drink of water at an early age, which got her into trouble and kept the boys in check at the same time.

 In her early teens she rode an old Harley through the sand of the arroyo at night with no headlight, just the moon and the stars glowing off the desert landscape all around her. She moved to Dallas after high school, spent some time at the Chicago Art Institute, then came back to Dallas to work at one of Jack Ruby’s nightclubs.

Jack helped her move to New York City so she could be a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall, which didn’t work out well because she liked to hang out in jazz clubs all night and she had joined a witch's coven in Greenwich Village in a moment of rebellion and it was in the Village where she met my father at a jazz club he ran and she became his gumah.

My father had been born in Sicily, as had his father, and moved to America to join his father at an early age because of a vendetta back in Sicily. My grandfather would soon be murdered by Jewish gangsters dressed as policemen when my papa was just a young boy, fresh off the boat. My father would become a quiet and sullen man who owned restaurants and clubs in all the boroughs. A man of great respect, they told me.

When he met my mother I suppose they hit it off well and spent their time together for a few years as my mother worked as an A & R for a record label called Kapp Records and my papa did what he did, moving her to a brownstone in Brooklyn near a bar called the King’s Inn.
I would be conceived in this time, in this place, in this way. My mother walking around the neighborhood, everyone calling her “Tex”.

They never had seen much folk from Texas around Brooklyn, especially around Flatbush & Church, especially tall bottle blondes in fur coats, cat rimmed glasses and pill box hats.
Things began to change, as I understand it, about a month before I was born, when JFK was shot dead in Dallas.

My mother became a social pariah, a target for anger and ignorance, with her distinguished southern drawl and the nickname, “Tex.”
I was their only child, born during a blizzard in Brooklyn on a Christmas morning to a lonely woman who collapsed in the emergency room after walking some 20 blocks in the driving snow on Christmas Eve and catching severe pneumonia.

A few months later my father would be shot in his head while sitting with his back to the door of his favorite Sheepshead Bay restaurant.
My mother would flee New York and search for my grandmother, who had abandoned her back in Roswell before the UFO’s came.

My grandmother was sawed off shotgun of a woman who had left my mother when she was still young, my grandmother still being a teenager herself.
She left to follow a honky tonk man named Lefty. I heard tell my grandmother could sing and dance on top of a piano back then, one of the tunes she was most notorious for was “If You Got The Money Honey, I Got The Time.”

My mom found her mother east of LA, in a place called Redlands, CA. Granma had 7 more children since my mother was born and she was living with a man who had finally tamed her, somewhat. They lived in a humble house near an orange grove. My first memories would be of picking oranges and running if I heard someone coming.

My mother was introduced to a man who took her to a place across the valley where we were living in a clapboard shack next to a wash that ran out of the Cajon Pass and into San Bernardino, or Berdoo as it was referred to by the locals.
I thought I was a cowboy/indian hybrid living in the shadow of the San Bernardino Mountains and running wild through the desert as much as I could, day and night.
I was growing big and strong in the furnace of the summer and the treacherous flash floods of the winter.

My new grandfather, the last of my grandmother’s husbands and the father of the last two of her 9 children, who had a couple of kids of his own, was a fiddle playing Okie who made his own instruments by hand and played them on Sunday instead of going to church, so my granma, who dabbled in religion between whiskies and card games, called him a heathen quite often. He called me “skunk” and taught me how to field dress wild game and fish with just a string and a safety pin.

My new father was from Las Vegas, because the pass we lived at the mouth of led there, and I was always told about how Sammy Davis Jr. had lost his eye in that pass trying to rush back to Hollywood in order to save his white girlfriend from Frank Sinatra.

My uncle’s all rode Harleys and had their own club that had a clubhouse. I was allowed to stay at their clubhouse while my mom and stepfather worked.
I learned about engines and firearms and what the difference was between a wife and an old lady and how a 15 year old girl could be an old lady, only it was different from the old woman who kept hundreds of stray cats and shot at me with salt rock out of her old, rusty shotgun.

I wandered around the streets on my bike, exploring all the culture the area had to offer back then for little kids who wandered about.
I watched the pimps drive their Caddy’s and Lincoln’s down Mt. Vernon Ave. in front of Geri’s Velvet Lounge while the girl’s smiled their empty smiles at me as I went on my way to Shamrock Liquors or Circle K for nickel and dime candy.
I was always welcome during the day at the Monkey’s Hideout, a local bar on Highland Ave.
I could roll balls on the 25 cent pool table while chewing on a pickled pigs foot or I could go over to San-Hi Lanes where the pinball machines were still nickel & dime or five plays for a quarter.

I rarely saw paper money then and if the coins ran out, which they often did, there was an abandoned underground army installation that was inhabited by derelicts who always left half empty short dogs of port behind with used porn mags to peruse.

I would stand over the derelict artifacts and touch them with the curiosity and reverence of a junior archeologist looking over a find, nervous in the pit of my stomach that I might get caught.

That was where my drive to get coins began, my desire to spend them and my time pursuing them, rather than explore the last resort of lost men way too soon for my time. I made a decision to try and avoid this solitary life of sadness among subterranean holes of cheapened decadence for the sake of forgetting.
My moments down in the “bomb shelter”, as we kids called it, caused me to be concerned for myself. As if I knew, even then, I might end up needing to forget something so badly it would drive me to this.
I somehow knew that I would need to find an appetite for more than just a little money.

My first job in life was to clean the dog shit out of pit bull pens and to feed and water the dogs as they were important because they brought in much needed income and were a family tradition. I loved those dogs and they seemed to love me. The love made up for the pittance of coin I was given to do the chore.

I remember how I spent some of my first allowance when we took a trip to Hollywood. I spent it on an RC Cola and a Chick-O-Stick, that I devoured while I watched an arcade machine smash a penny into a medallion in front of the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd.

I was 5 years old and I was making my money shoveling shit and spending it in the big city. You couldn’t take it away from me if you tried.

I was holding on to it for dear life and I didn’t even know it yet.