Wednesday, May 25, 2016

MORE SMALL TOWN TALES

A birds eye view of the small California town where I went to high school



This is a continuation of my previous post, Strange Things in a Small Town.

My high school days were accentuated by the fact that I was an irredeemably hopeless nerd and mercilessly myopic.


There wasn't much I could do to counteract the nerdiness. I was two years younger than my classmates and it felt more like a dozen years. Vanity prevented me from wearing my glasses. I only utilized them when absolutely necessary. I wandered around blind during my entire high school years. I was a taller, skinnier, younger version of Mr. Magoo. I got contact lenses after I graduated and have been wearing them ever since (over 100 years, I think).



Graduation, age 16
without glasses.

The girl next door, Bonnie, was as near-sighted and vain as myself. She never wore her glasses either, and always walked around blind. We were made for each other.

We both had crushes on each other and were inseparable friends for years. I always figured I was going to marry Bonnie. I even planned our wedding: a casual affair on the beach - barefooted and in peasant attire, with renaissance music.

That was only a few short years before I went to Hollywood, lost my soul in the delightful purgatory of Babylon, and willingly got irretrievably corrupted by heathens.....(feel free to laugh - that was intended to be funny)


The small Southern California town where I went to high school was nestled in the rustic hills, but that seclusion didn't prevent it from being subjected to crime and strange happenings . It did, however, provide idyllic surroundings and yielded a generous share of good memories.

There were huge sprawling pepper trees and apathetic palm trees. Poinsettias grew wild around our house. There were fragrant roses everywhere. Our yard had apricot trees and in the spring the scent of blossoms was beyond heavenly. It always sent me into a romantic fervor.
I was cursed with romanticism at an early age.....

I walked everywhere, before I had a driver's license. To school, the library, the store, the post office, the dentist, my piano lessons. I was perpetually barefooted in the summer. 


This is the library that was my favorite haunt. It has since been torn down and a new, modern one was built.

The library was my special haunt. I spent more time there than anywhere else. I read countless books on a wide variety of subjects. I was obsessed with educating myself. I studied astronomy and navigation, history and art, elocution and etiquette, psychology - to name a few. I yearned to be polished, to metamorphose into a sort of Jay Gatsby.

One night, when the library was about to close, I noticed that a man was following me around the bookshelves. He was probably in his 40's and was wearing a bright purple shirt. Trust me, men didn't normally wear bright purple shirts in that small town when I was a kid.

When I went to the desk to check out my books, he was standing right next to me. As I exited the building, he was right behind me. He followed me to dark, creepy Ninth Street - which was my route home. I took off running, sprinting the long blocks like a hunted bunny. I didn't stop until I was safely in our front yard.

In my alarming innocence, it never occurred to me that the purple-clad man probably had sexual intentions. I thought he was a murderer.

Most of our neighbors in that small rural town were fantastic - - except the quirky ones in the rental houses. There was the Mexican murder (which I wrote about in my previous post). Then there were the Mexican prostitutes in one of the rentals. The police raided it one afternoon. Several half-clad Mexican men ran out the back door and down the alley.

Across the street from us, in yet another rental, was a woman named Margie. She had seven children and was a drug addict. She was extremely adept at mixing up potent potions. We'd hardly ever heard of drugs back then and didn't think too much of it. On summer nights, Bonnie and I used to spy on Margie's house with a pair of binoculars. Don't ask me why - - it was simply cheap entertainment. We'd mostly watch them eat dinner.

There was a small, very old Pentecostal church two blocks down the street. They'd often hold extremely enthusiastic revival meetings. Bonnie and I would walk over there, sit on the church steps, and listen to the singing, wailing, and theatrical saving of lost souls. Things would swell to a frantic crescendo and the drama was intoxicating. The entire church would shake.

My soul was annoyingly pure at that time and had yet to be in need of salvation. Later, it was beyond salvation.....

My family attended a different church. I remember the first time when vanity completely overtook me. I was sixteen and got a new Sunday outfit - - a snazzy double-breasted suit, a new shirt and tie, and new shoes. I was starting to be conscious of my looks - and I thought I looked hot.

I decided to give the suit a trial run at church. I got all dressed up, put on my new shoes, made sure my blonde hair was combed perfectly. And, of course, I didn't wear my glasses. I walked to church alone that morning, feeling more handsome than God should allow me to be.

Halfway there, I happened to walk under a large palm tree - unaware that pigeons were roosting in it, eagerly waiting for a passerby. I was rudely anointed with a liberal deposit of pigeon shit. It was all over my hair, my shoulder, and dripping down the front of my suit.

Immediately humbled and in dire need of purification, I hurried home. Washed my hair. Cleaned my suit. And cursed a lot. I had no doubt that God worked in strange ways.


The Blogger gremlins are at it again, rudely changing my font sizes and colors against my will. Excuse any visual inconsistencies....


25 comments:

  1. I would love to know what in hell is going on with blogger. After weeks, my post and those that I read are showing up on time....not hours later. I was missing post by fellow bloggers. Lovely post again."Poinsettias grew wild around our house. There were fragrant roses everywhere. Our yard had apricot trees and in the spring the scent of blossoms was beyond heavenly." You have set the scene, and I envy that scene very much. Sounds heavenly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. California was indeed heavenly in my youth. I thought it was the greatest place on earth. But it has changed drastically.....alas, so have I.....

      Blogger has recently been a pain in the ass - full of unpleasant surprises.
      As soon as one problem clears up, another one arises.

      Delete
  2. Sounds like you lived in a lovely small town. I can smell the flowers just from reading your words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Things were so different back then and California was a paradise. I can still smell the blossoms and flowers...

      Delete
  3. Jon,

    The sanctuary of the Library broken by the man in the purple shirt, setting the stage for suspense! Yeah, we didn't have men wearing purple stuff in my small town back when either. I get the Blogger font and colors shifting too.

    Lar

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear that I'm not the only one being harassed by Blogger.
      In my innocent youth, I assumed that murderers wore bright colors (*smile*)

      Delete
  4. Purple shirt chap, creepy.
    Bonnie, on the other hand, sounds like a real sweetie.

    PS - Your post's 'appearance' looks fine over here. It's said, being (bird) pooped-upon is a sign of good luck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bonnie had brown curls, brown eyes, and an incredible sense of humor.

      I must have been pooped upon by the wrong pigeons. Good luck seldom smiled upon me.

      Delete
  5. The visual inconsistencies are quite appealing, especially to a myopic woman. I hope you've grown beyond worrying about eternal damnation or glory. Neither exists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As an incurable pessimist, I believe that our entire existence is one of eternal damnation. I'm still waiting for the glory.

      Delete
    2. You're not a pessimist. Intelligence makes us into realists. I'm the poster child for the harm caused by false hope.

      Delete
  6. Excellent personal essay, Jon. 16 is a an age of discovery, need and sometimes danger, certainly an age of hilarity. We both spent those years in small towns. I remember gay men were very polite and conservatively dressed in general and your purple-shirt-chase-ya-down-the-alley guy probably really was a murderer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to have those youthful years of innocence back. Small California towns were the best place to spend them.

      At that time I didn't know gay men existed - - but I assumed murderers would probably wear purple shirts...

      Delete
    2. Well, maybe not murderers, but fashion assassins surely wear purple shirts.

      Delete
  7. I find this stuff fascinating. apricot trees, wild roses, bird shit. and a person that reads books is a winner!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If one really must be anointed, I suppose bird shit is the way to go.

      I'm glad I lived in the glorious days when real men went to real libraries and read real books. Not like the crappy ebooks that are popular today.

      Delete
  8. Refusing to wear your glasses? Does that even qualify you as a 100% nerd? LOL!
    Bonnie sounds like a good friend to have.
    Hey--purple shirt could have been a murderer!
    What timing for the bird poop--OMG!
    You could write your memoirs, for sure. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I was extremely naive, pathetically skinny, alarmingly good, painfully shy, and incredibly myopic. That's Nerd!
    Those pigeons knew a good target when they saw one.

    If I ever wrote about all of my life's adventures, nobody would believe it. My school years were very tame!

    ReplyDelete
  10. It sounds like a good kind of place to have as a background to your life. Probably beats damp smelling dark and coal fired life in a rainy cobbled town in the North of England. But of course, that's just my opinion :)
    Some of these little Californian towns do seem sort of like a paradise,even now, I suppose they wouldn't if you looked closely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have absolutely no regrets about living in that total California town. In the innocence of my youth I didn't think much about the occasional crime. In retrospect, it seems a little more alarming now.

      Delete
  11. I liked the phrase "apathetic palm trees" so much that I paused to savor it. When I got to the bottom of your post, I understood just why you called them that. :) (Bird poop DOES have the ability to instill a quick splat of humility, doesn't it?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have a sharp eye for small details and I love that. The bird crap certainly toppled me from the lofty realms of heaven...

      Delete
  12. they say SH!T happens. You experienced it first hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unexpected shit is even worse.

      Delete
  13. Jon,
    You are a fabulous story teller. You HAVE to write that book of your life. Including all the salacious items! Again we have much in common. I too loved the library but I was never followed by a strange man in a purple shirt. I didn't need glasses in school, thank goodness but was very self-conscious bout my height and skinniness and, what I thought at the time, big nose. I seem to be perpetually hung over (slouching not the "hangover"). You did live in an idyllic setting and what irony that a pigeon pooped all over your blondness right as you were about to enter church. Surely "God" does act in mysterious ways . . . . . . to make us humble.
    Good stories Jon. Thanks for sharing!
    Ron

    ReplyDelete

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