first posted 12 Nov 2013
I may have mentioned that I grew up on the nort’ side of a small Midwestern town, and my neighborhood was mainly composed of Italians.
A lot of the people who lived there were known by nicknames such as–Cub, Butts, Fluff, Kiki, Scaramouche and Torpedo. With those monikers floating around you can imagine life was a bit unpredictable on our end of town, but that’s the way we liked it.
Most of the Nort’ Siders were keen gardeners and many items such as tomatoes, jams, herbs, eggs, honey and even grapes were grown/raised and traded back and forth between friends and neighbors. You pretty much got what you needed without having to slap down good money for picked over leavings at the market.
As well, a few enterprising souls dabbled in the fine art of wine-making, or at least they thought they had it down to an art form–having sampled a few in my day, I could’ve downed a bottle of vinegar for my troubles and it would have been a more delightful experience. After experimenting with various flavors, I came to the conclusion homemade wine was an acquired taste–and by that I mean either your taste buds would have to be paralyzed to enjoy such offerings, or, you were my brother—and here’s why.
It really wasn’t my job to pack Reno’s school lunch, but it fell to me one day when Mumsie was running late for the school car pool, otherwise known as, parent-sanctioned oppression. To say I absolutely loathed the two boys I rode to school with is a big, fat, friggin’ understatement! Anyway, I slapped together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, scrounged a rubbery carrot or two and whatever cookies were lying around and dumped it in his lunchbox—there, made with love. I brought the knife to the sink and in the drying rack I noticed Reno’s thermos. Crap. I’d forgotten to pack his drink—the magic elixir called apple juice that kept my little brother’s bowels in good working order. Now ticked off and in an even bigger rush, I ripped open the refrigerator door, grabbed the juice and filled his thermos. If twelve ounces of apple juice didn’t keep him regular then he was a mutant and nothing would help.
When we pulled up to the curb (a block away from the school since my sister refused to be seen climbing out of our blue station wagon), I headed for my first class of the day–Algebra. Personally, I’d rather have been beaten with a bag of oranges than try to find out what X equaled. Still, by the time I was ready for lunch my day had gone nominally better than my brother, who had fallen asleep in the back of the classroom and could not be roused. The school nurse was called in to assess the situation. Fortunately for Reno, he wasn’t sick—unfortunate for the nurse though when she was almost incapacitated by the alcohol on my brother’s breath. Seems the Graham Cracker Kid was drunk!
An aside here–fast forward this scenario present day and my parents would have been hauled in for child neglect and the brother bundled off to a foster home.
Anyway, once home, Mumsie was in a tizz, and quite right, too, wanting to know who in the hell fed her baby alcohol–and once Reno awoke from his refreshing noonday nap, he handed over his thermos and the blame landed squarely on me. In my defense, the apple cider, water and homemade wine were all grouped in a clump, all sitting in reusable Paul Mason glass carafes–very easy to mistake. After a tongue-lashing from both parents, I skulked off to find my brother and get answers. I found him in his room doing homework and asked when did he realize he wasn’t drinking apple cider? “Right away,” was his answer. Taken aback, I then asked why had he continued to drain the thermos, and he said, “cuz it was good.”
First, I want to thank those of you who have followed me through the years, making my first blog a success, and also for finding and following me again! I also want to say hello, welcome, and thank you, to all the new people who clicked that follow button too–I truly appreciate you all!
Now having said that, I’ve received email over the past weeks requesting my older posts–specifically the stories about my family. I thought I might create a page/archive with the posts–but then, decided it would be more fun to post them intermittently under the title, ‘Throwback Thursday‘ so, keep your eyes peeled.
So, I really hate monkeys—chimps in particular—to a point that it’s a well known phobia amongst family and close friends. I really can’t pin-point when it started, but it may have been on a trip to the Milwaukee Zoo when I was a small child. My sister wanted to see the “cute” monkeys—I preferred the elephant exhibit, but I had been staring long enough and it was time to move on. As we neared the monkey enclosure they started to get all emotive in their creepy-hyper-intensive way. Some people think it’s cute; personally not a fan especially when they started whipping their poop at us. Apparently I found this all highly disturbing. Watching the Wizard of Oz not long after seemed to have cemented my abhorrence of monkeys and I’ve never gotten over it. Apes are fine, but from Chimps on down? Forget it.
Anyway, when we moved to Japan, I kept hearing about the Snow Monkey Park (a.k.a Japanese Macaques) that live in the Nagano (Nah-GAH-no) Prefecture located in the Yokoyu (Yo-KOH-you) River valley, which flows down from the Shiga Kogen (She-gah Koh-gen) Ski Resort. The park is located at an elevation of 2,700 feet, so our four hour bus ride from Fussa City (Foo-sah) morphed into a 45 minute trek up a winding mountain ledge (not more than 5 feet wide with no guard rails or safety measures included—you fall it’s straight down to the bottom baby), taking us through Jigokudani (Gee-go-KOO-dah-nee) or, Hell’s Valley, so called due to the steep cliffs and hot water streaming from the natural hot springs. It’s quite something to hike.
As I said, not a fan of monkeys, but I wanted to overcome this irrational fear and decided what better way to do this than to visit the park. So, I put my trepidation aside and set out to face my fears. And aside from the Macaques penchant to stalk you all over the mountain for the contents of your backpack, or their ability to snatch a bag from your hand and take off for parts unknown, it was a truly fascinating experience!
photo and movie credits: Kevin F Campbell
I spy a bowl of candy,
It lures me up the stairs,
I feel the goosebumps dot my skin,
as I near the witches’ lair.
What secrets do they harbor?
What evil brews inside?
Should I grab the candy,
or should I run and hide?
My arms feel like cannon balls,
my feet feel like lead,
If I take the candy,
will I end up dead?
I take a step backwards,
the door opens wide,
and a gnarled, claw-like hand
beckons me inside!
Before I know what’s happening,
I’m running down the street,
‘Cuz, the last thing I plan to be,
is the witch’s treat!
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