Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Can Fly!

My adventure began before I was born. My parents are West Indian, born and raised in Trinidad of the famous, or maybe not so famous, Trinidad and Tobago, or Tabasco as I used to say. They emigrated to Canada where my mother became pregnant with me, and where I was born and raised until I was 9 in 1966.

My father said I was born with club feet and had to wear steel braces. He said he couldn't stand me crying and decided that walking on the sand would cure my knocked kneed gait.  Other than back problems and walking on the sides of my feet, I see no problem with his theory.
  
Movies, when videos were shot with film reels, picture me jumping and dancing and moving inas if the pictures were accelerated, like a Charlie Chaplin movie. My mother called me "Our Lady of Perpetual Motion."  She animatedly discussed, with her friends, theories of the causes, such as drinking Kool-Aid, and treatment methods such as the use of amphetamines to counter hyperintensity.  Hmmm...
 
I used to be able to dream of flying at will.  I spoke to God and He heard.  I had an uncanny knack of finding lost things, but I was willful and stubborn at a very young age.  At four or five years old, I'm told, I took a dime and went for a walk to find an ice cream store my father had taken me to visit. I was brought home by the police; the first of many encounters with authorities.

When I was around eight, I was dropped off late at a new school. I never walked in.  The only memory I have of that event is looking down a long wide stretch of road leading home.  Again, I was brought home by whom I assume were the police, and punished accordingly, which usually involved a frustrated, angry parent and a belt.  That's how they did it back in the day.   
 
 We moved a lot. People occasionally asked me if my dad was in the military. Nope, we just moved a lot.
When I was nine we spent a summer in Missisquoi Bay, where the Missisquoi River flows into the bay in Northern Vermont near Lake Champlain. Missisquoi means "lots of waterfowl," in Native American.   Today, it means, the water is foul.  In August, 2012, thousands of fish died in Missisquoi Bay. Blue/Green algae, low water levels and high temperature were suspected as the cause. Probably smelled bad too, but in 1966, it was a bright and beautiful summer. My sister and I picked blueberries and blackberries the entire summer with the two Swedish girls who lived on a hill. I learned to swim to a raft tethered away from shore, and reluctantly learned to skewer a worm upon a hook. 
 
 After the summer in Missisquoi Bay, we moved to Temple City, California.  I can still picture Mount Wilson from the street. 

The first Christmas in California, Santa surprised us all with a black labrador puppy.  The puppy not yet been named, lapped up everything his little mouth lap from each plate to every cup left laying around from the party the night before. My father named the puppy Nero, after the great Roman emporer.  Nero, the emporer, really wasn't so nice a guy.  The rumor is that he burned Christians as a source of light for his garden, but Nero, the dog was a great dog.  Whenever Nero abandoned his kingdom, and he did so often, we sought and usually found him at the nearest McDonalds.  But we didn't get to grow up with Nero, because when he was two, we moved again.  This time to my parents' homeland, Trinidad.

A tropical island!  How exciting!  Eventually memories of Nero faded into the blackdrop of my mind making room for new memories to come; relatives I didn't remember, friends I hadn't met yet, dogs that would not grow old with us, yet again. 

I spent a lot of time with my brother and sister on the white sandy beaches looking into crystal blue oceans, digging into the sand for tiny living clam-like creatures that entertained us by trying to dig their way back down into the sand before we gathered them up, cooked and ate them.  Food should be entertaining, don't you think?  
Trinidad, in my child-like memory, was a fascinating place; giant lizards called Iguanas, calmly and deliberately wandering down the middle of a road less traveled, dolphins jumping besides the boat on trips to island beach houses, fish nibbling submerged bodies, ooohing and awing at island lore, sleeping in nets at night because the mosquitoes were geniuses in strategy and attack but still waking up with miserable itchy welts all over.
At first, we lived in a large house surrounded by a high cement fence with Uncle Elliot and Aunt Kathleen and my cousins, Vickie, Barbara and Julia . They had a doberman pinscher named, "Max," who had to be put down for escaping and tearing apart an innocent bicyclist. I can still hear my cousin, Vickie's, wails when a giant box truck drove into the yard and Max was loaded into it.

School was very different in Trinidad.  I had to have extra tutoring before I enrolled in my first class.   I got terrible headaches that summer. When school started, it was segregated, not by race, but by sex. Some one's aunt named Sister Girly ran the convent school. My cousins and I ate with her at lunch. In the afternoon, class consisted of standing in a circle reciting spelling words and answering riddles such as a bunch of beauties is a bevy. I await the opportunity to inform someone, anyone, that a bunch of geese is called a gaggle.  Brain training, my ass. All you need is a ruler and a nun for  memory enhancement.
 
When I was 12, I had my tonsils removed in Trinidad.  I think they ripped them out with pliars and then branded my throat with an X.  I saw the X when I looked at the back of my throat.  I was a very sick kid, always had a cough or strep throat.  especially when we lived in Canada.  I am grateful that my tonsils are gone because that was hell. 

We finally got another dog, a black lab mix female called Beauty, and she was.   When I had my tonsils out, we had just got a puppy.  Beauty and the puppy were eating out of the same bowl and I heard this growling and the puppy yelping. Beauty had bitten the eye of the puppy and it was hanging by stringy threads.  I screamed and screamed.  I had just had my tonsils out a few days before.  I remember my throat burning.  Both dogs were soon gone. That's how it was when I was young.  Animals, people and things just disappeared.
 
We had a maid named Thelma that lived downstairs who let me hang out in her room, smoke cigarrettes which I stole from my parents or bummed from her, and read detective stories,  MAD magazine, the Enquirer, and if I was really lucky, Tales from the Crypt.  It was a fascinating time to be a kid.  Thelma left for a job in the United States.  Damn, there went my cigarrettes.

One day, we were out on an outing to one of the surrounding islands.  We had a new Indian maid, dot on forehead and all, who my father terrified by yelling, "SOOOOKEEEAA!" while we were walking across a plank crossing the water, from a house built on the edge of the water, on an island.  Only phonetically correct, a Sookeya is a demon ball of fire that shoots out of nowhere through the air, strikes its victim who explodes in writhing agony in a pyre of flames. She quit immediately, if not sooner.  I inherited that mischievous mean spirit. I really should have it exorcised.
The beautiful island of Trinidad was the place I earned the nickname, Horse, because of my thick legs.  These legs, thank you very much, are strong and have served me well. , It was also the place a boy was bet a nickel that he could kiss me. He did.
 
Teenagers had parties called Fetes on the island.  We would play our vinyl LP records and slow dance.  I remember Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amor, Elvis' In the Ghetto, Suspicious Minds and the Beatles, My Michelle.  Not good dancing music but nobody was really dancing anyway.  I didn't seem to be island fare for the boys of the island and the seed of lonelines already planted, began to grow and a chasm deepen.  Two years later, I don't remember how I felt about moving again.

I was 14 when we arrived in St. Petersburg.  America didn't recognize the schooling I received in Trinidad and I was placed back a grade. That was upsetting after all the trouble I had gone through to get it.

In less than two years, I would be withdrawn from school and thrown be out of my parents house with a black yard trash bag.  My parents kept not a school yearbook, not a passport, not a thing.

It was America and the post-hippie era in the early 70s and I had arrived late.  My parents kept a stronghold on my activities, but I had begun hanging around hoodlums and I liked it. My mother's favorite saying became, "Birds of a feather, flock together," which didn't make sense because all birds have feathers.  I began buying small amounts of pot and walking around my neighborhood smoking it.  I met friends of a feather and we would walk around the neighborhood, Todd Soul, Mike Rudlow(ski) and I.  Thank God I had a firm grip on my bladder because Todd and Mike would imitate Cheech and Chong routines until I was bent over with belly cramps from laughing so hard.  I wish that was as far as it would go, but it had to go much further than that. 

Mike died about 10 years ago.  I saw his obituary by happenchance one day.  I met Todd for a cup of coffee about the same time, but the magic of our youth was gone.  He wasn't the same guy I knew when we were kids.  As a matter of fact, I didn't know him at all anymore.  His older brother, Jack Soul, is a Sherriff or something, his younger brother, Jeff, is dead. 

When I was 19, I briefly dated Chris, Todd's other older brother. I had my first child by then.  He was a handsome, popular man.  Chris and a group of friends, were riding around shooting a gun stolen from the father of one of the girls.  I remember seeing the guns before I left for Daytona Beach after Chris and I broke up.  One of them was a sawed off shotgun.  Chris accidently shot someone and thought he killed him.  In fact, the person was shot in the butt, but Chris sat under a tree in a yard, put a gun up to his head and blew the back of it off.  They did a good job at the funeral home.  He looked good, albeit like a mannequin. I put my hand against his skin, at the encouragement of someone at the funeral, and it was hard like granite.

I have tried work as an auto mechanic for one afternoon, at Taco Bell for two weeks, a waitress for a week or two, a call center representative for three months, an inventory taker for a few months, a hooker for 10 minutes, a telephone soliciter for one hour, the person who holds the sign when there is construction for a few weeks, a newspaper deliverer, a babysitter, a housecleaner, a secretary, a journalist and even did two open mike stand up bits at a comedy club, among many jobs which I am sure I have forgotten.

I've hitchhiked from Florida to Boston and from Florida to California and back again. My eldest child lived in a commune in Tennessee for the first year of her life. Then there was a failed marriage, three hurt children, and countless victims, which are, too sadly, is neither extraordinary nor rare. I'm sure I was almost killed on a stairwell in Daytona Beach when a man tried to talk me into letting him draw me nude. I was raped in Daytona also when I was 17. But for divine intervention, I would have committed suicide on Daytona Beach when I was 19.

It's been a long road of recovery; a journey of many adventures.  I am on one now and I've been through way too much to give up now.  I can fly.  My wings are not clipped.  I've just been trapped so long in my own mental prison that I forgot that I could soar. 

I've been talking to God for a long while, but maybe it's time for Him to speak and for me to listen, and then maybe, just maybe, I can finally find whatever it is I am seeking.