Blurbs' from Blackout! 2/22
Excerpt from, "Blackout Reveries: L.A. Reveries," by Russ Pouliot.
Gene's trip to L.A.!
Gene Stewart, the hero of, "Blackout Reveries: L.A. Memories," shares a small vignette of how he got to L.A., describing here his road trip across America (at age 4) from Buffalo, New York to Harbor City, California. It is touching and sweet, the way Gene got to California. Though not mentioned much, his mother plays such a dominant role in absence as will be seen throughout this tale. Gene is sick from missing his mother and pleads to go back and get her at every turn opportunity. The awesome beauty of America, her roads and land are not lost on Gene. His mind is young and vibrant and made keener by the absence of his mother. His father, Don and their share-the-gas driver, Maynard have their final argument in Los Angeles. Don, the former professional boxer, breaks Maynard's jaw in a downtown L.A. alley and leaves him in the custody of police who have discovered Maynard is A.W.O.L. from the navy. Gene mourns the loss of his two recent friends, Maynard and Joyce. They are some of the few friends he will have for most of his life. Don and Gene press on toward his aunt's house in the Palos Verdes hills.
Blerbs from Blackout!
Excerpts from, "Blackout Reveries: L.A. Reveries,"
by Russ Pouliot
"What do you want?" Dad called above the continental wind from the driver seat of our new 1959 Ford Fairlane.
"Daddy, I gotta pee!"
Joyce held my legs while I squirted out the back window at seventy miles an hour. Dad wasn't about to stop. Joyce was the young wife of Maynard. Maynard was the share-the-driving partner for Dad and me as we tried to drive nonstop from Buffalo, N.Y. to Los Angeles to my Aunt and Uncle's home.
"Look at the red rocks, Gene!" Dad yelled, still keeping his eyes on the streaming asphalt ribbon ahead. I looked with the ever-increasing excitement of our road trip. We were in the Rockies; the rocks were red in Colorado!
"Daddy, when are we going back to get Momma?" I said loudly. All the windows were open in the July afternoon and caused all four of us to have to speak loudly over the wind. Mine was a pure question from the heart of a pure and spotless four-year-old. He didn't answer; I could hear the wheels in his head. I eventually got my answer though.
My plea tore at Joyce's heart. She and Maynard had been our neighbors and knew of my Mom's leaving me alone in our Buffalo, New York apartment to go drinking at night. This while my Dad was doing his Tool Design work in Detroit. They had done nothing about it. My Dad was angry with them for remaining silent.
Speaking of me, he repeatedly asked them.
"You heard him crying and knew he was alone? You did nothing and let him go through that solitary hell?"
Joyce was afraid to say anything. Maynard looked like a Maynard. He was tall and thin; he had a few whiskers on the end of his young chin and his dark hair stuck up on his head. In hindsight, I would say he was a one of the early beatniks. He was a laid-back kind of guy.
He tried to answer my Dad's ongoing, roiling inquiry.
"Aw, Don. That's over now. You've got it under control. Gene's alright, man."
Dad was hardly a forgiving man. He stewed and bubbled, the violent and dangerous extent of which would soon be realized by both of our passengers.
Our black 59' Ford Fairlane was our tank. With the orange and white little trailer in tow, we roared over the bulge in the middle of our American continent. I stood on the seat next to Dad in the days before seat belts with my arm around his neck. I would fiddle with his glasses and feel the whisker stubble on his face. He lit one cigarette after another. He could light a cigarette at seventy per with one hand and spit out bits of tobacco from the unfiltered Camels. They landed on the gray metal dashboard just in front of the steering wheel. There they dried standing up on one end. Each of the four sides of each little bit of tobacco could be seen, all the folds and bends and wrinkles in each side of each bit in perfect definition. It looked like the gray metal dash had a brown patch of whiskers growing on it!
"Daddy there's a turn! We can go back and get Momma!" I stared intensely at the side of his face as he drove. I had faith in him then and was sincerely heartbroken as he drove on.
"Honey, we have to get to Aunt Bernice's house with uncle Charlie."
Joyce put her palms over her ears and clenched her teeth as I wretched in agony.
"Come here, Geney." She pulled me over the back of the front seat and into her arms. I screamed "Momma!", Over and over again.
"He needs his Mom, Don! He's a baby."
"Needs his Mom like he needed her the last two months?" Dad roared back from the driver's seat.
"I didn't kill her, that was more than generous of me. Joyce, you know she would leave him alone again and there could be, there would be, fatal consequences." Joyce just couldn't argue. My mother was unfit to have a child in her care.
Joyce hugged me, "We'll go and get your Momma after we get to Aunt Bernice's house." My faith in humanity carried the day and I slept in her arms in the blasting furnace of Death Valley.
The greatness of America and her land was impressed on my four-year-old mind forever in our epic road trip.
"Daddy, a rabbit!"
"Look at him go!"
"What's those funny plants?"
It was Maynard's first time seeing the immense desert.
"Whew! We breakdown here and we've had it. It must be a hunnert n twenty out there," he said, sticking his hand into the oven like stream of air just outside of the car window.
"Daddy, I'm scared we will break down and have it."
"Nobody is breaking down. This Ford is a tank, she could make the trip ten times!" Dad reassured me.
We had named the Ford Fairlane 'Momma Bear.'
I asked, "Daddy, why is Momma Bear a girl?"
"Because people can get inside her and ride in her like a baby does inside its momma."
"What's a tank?" I asked.
Don went on reassuring all of us and himself.
"Tow trucks go up and down this road all the time, besides we have plenty of water." I felt better. From a young age Dad knew and worked on cars, it was very telling in the confident tone of his voice.
"See! There's a tow truck now! We're fine." It was a powerfully built green truck with the winch boom sticking up and out over the back. It had greasy, rusted cables with big hooks on the end tangled in the boom and ornately curved, bulbous fenders.
The asphalt going out to the horizon and vanishing point in front of us was a wonder to me. How could it go on so long? Who built it? I stared in awe at the cactus and weeds on either side of the shimmering ribbon of highway endlessly winding out ahead of us. I tumbled over the back of the front, seat putting my knees in Joyce's lap to look back where we had been. The little orange and white trailer wobbled behind us. For much of the time there were no cars visible in either direction.
I stared, "Daddy, no cars."
"They made the whole road just for us."
I looked out of the corner of my eye to see Dad looking out of the corner of his eye at me.
"Nah aaaahhhhhh, Daddy."
He smiled and lit another cigarette.
The rapturous beauty of the desert did not go unnoticed by the child, me. Still to be seen were roadrunners and coyotes, hawks and snakes. Their vibrant health so evident in wild creatures given lives to survive or not, like my vibrant health, given to me to survive the absence of mother, or not.
Death Valley was blooming in July of 59'. Dad pulled over and all of us swooned at the reds and purples recessed deep in the desert. Buds on cactuses bloomed brilliantly before our eyes. It looked like there were razor edged, red coals on the sunset horizon.
"Glory," was all Dad said.
Don pulling out of downtown L.A. in the perpetual 1959 Southern California, ancient black and white memory, sunny afternoon without Maynard and Joyce woke me up. I stood on the seat next to him with my arm tight around his neck. He slapped the column shifter around and made the car jump and jerk, I wasn't interested in doing my acrobatic falls and flops over the back of the front bench seat. I was looking back at poor, broken jawed Maynard handcuffed in the back seat of one of L.A.P.D.'s batmobiles. Don had beaten him badly, his head looked like a stepped-on tomato. Apparently, Maynard had tried to stand up for Joyce believing she was being insulted when Don railed at my mother. All this while I slept. Don, who at that time had not been long from his professional boxing career had finally had enough of the whole subject and pulled the car over in an L.A. alley, opened the door and got out to beat Maynard to death and met Maynard getting out of the front passenger door ready to try to do the same to Don. It was no contest, Maynard was struck at least twelve times before he could even raise his fists. Probably the first of Don's blows broke Maynard's jaw. Maynard went down like a wet washrag only being revived by the police, whom Don had called to report Maynard being A.W.O.L. Joyce was standing next to the car looking in the open back door of the cruiser at Maynard and crying.
"Daddy--Joyce and Maynard!,
" I said with innocent care for them.
"They'll be okay," he reassured me. I believed him; I clung to him. Joyce had been my Mom for three days. I was being abandoned again. Joyce receded into the busy mass of Los Angeles downtown asphalt streets and signs and busses. I kept my eye on her as long as I could, smelling Dad's t-shirted body and cigarette residue as I clung to his neck. We turned a corner and Dad found the freeway and almost laid rubber up the onramp.
"It's okay gene! Let's go see Aunt Bernice!" He did quite a good job of taking my mind off of my already stark and lonely, abandoned existence.
"YEA!", I thought we were really doing something important. I didn't even know my Aunt Bernice.