Saturday, January 13, 2018

Where was I going with this?

Now posted on my new website

Call it H3N2, the grippe, walking pneumonia, consumption, or just the fucking flu – but it's ugly – and it seems to like it here, I say, waving my hands in front of my body like a touchless car wash. But, I am looking on the bright side, and this mucus madness has given me an excuse for curling up with Jerry Seinfeld and his cough-syrupy delightful, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

My child got me going on early episodes of this brilliant little show a few years ago, before it hit Netflix. It was like being unrestrained in the backseat – no seat belt – arms flopped over the front bench seat, eavesdropping on Jerry and Don Rickles, Jerry and Larry David, or Jerry and Louis C.K. before he, sadly, became just another creepy guy in a bathrobe. Jerry's coffee with Kramer, the actor, Michael Richards, was so raw and honest – I felt like rolling down the window and hanging my head out like the family dog, with hope the wind would blow away Kramer's hurt. 

Remember rolling down the windows? Much like the lost satisfaction of slamming down the phone – memories of movement have been replaced with a little button and a flick of the finger. No wonder my car-sick puke usually ended up on the inside of the glass. Cranking down the window took time, muscle and heart. 

Where was I going with this? So, last night when I was hitting the 'Next episode in 4 seconds' button over and over, I was happy to end with Sarah Jessica Parker and Jerry, giggling in the way, way back seat of the 1976 Ford Ltd Country Squire as it cruised through the memory lanes of suburbia. I grew up in the back seat of similar Ford, and last winter, when I started to paint, my second painting was of a little person  – me? I can't paint faces – peering out the back window of a similar, wood-panelled living room on wheels. Who knew SJP and I would have anything in common other than a fictional love of the elusive Mr. Big, or any man in a well-tailored suit?

Keep it on the road, Cindy.

My 'happy' childhood memories are few, or repressed, or under the motel bed with our old schnoodle, Pierre – who was puking up the stringy onions I fed him from the submarine sandwich my parents made me eat in the way, way, back seat of our Ford station wagon on the way to Florida. While I did inherit my father's love of a good road trip, I was prone to car sickness and hated onions and cigarette smoke. The resulting nausea (add to that, an allergic reaction to the chlorine in motel pool) is a childhood memory I will cherish for a lifetime – or as long as I can remember. Hey... it's a start.

I do remember my father's Saturday morning routine. An early round of golf, followed by the ritual of washing and waxing our cars – his chamois leather cloth, smooth with polish in one hand – a rum and coke in the other. While I wheeled my green Schwinn around our suburban New Jersey neighbourhood, my father went about his weekend oblivious to any form of 'parenting' – perhaps a bit lost as to what to do with the rest of his ill-fitting domestic time. If I know him (because maybe I am him) he was longing for the Old Spice cloud of Monday morning – when he would hop on the first Erie Lackawanna commuter train that would place him safely back in the arms of Manhattan.

Decades later, I imagine my Dad cursing as he picked up the week's worth of Bazooka and Zotz wrappers, and cleared the Ford's ashtray of lipstick-stained cigarette butts.

Kents. King Size.

He would be rushing through the ritual cleansing of the station wagon, so he could get to his 'Baby' – a 1966 butter yellow Mustang convertible.

My Dad loved that Mustang more than he loved life itself. He would take his time stroking and detailing every inch of body and chrome – bumper to bumper – like the mistress he had tucked in his Wall Street office closet. 

When my Dad left us, the Mustang fell into the same state of ill repair that we did. I taught my 13 year old, unsupervised self to drive in that car before rust and neglect burned holes in upholstery, and the floor, and as a final act of attrition – a hole in my Dad's heart – when my Mother sold his 'Baby' for $500.

For the years that followed – and up until my Dad's untimely death at 64 – my Mom would receive envelopes from him in the mail. They came from Cleveland, St. Louis, or New York – never stuffed with cheques, but with clippings from Car and Driver, or Motor Trend. Articles neatly cut from the page falling to the kitchen table like large strips of confetti – the present-day value of a vintage, 1966 Mustang convertible circled in red pen.

I don't think he ever forgave my Mom. I know he never forgave himself.
Last night, when the flu tapped on my shoulder telling me to go to bed, instead of out for margaritas, I curled up in the backseat with Jerry and Sarah Jessica Parker. I laughed at her recalling the large box of Kleenex her Mom would have perched, ever-ready on the dashboard – and the faint smell of gasoline on the naugahyde. I loved her memories of constant yelling, and their combined silly laughter as they drove away in the way, way back seat of the Ford. 

I do remember being in the way, way back seat of our Ford – with Pierre – but I was probably wondering when my real family was going to come and get me. Which is why my second painting is called "It's a Beautiful Day, But I'm Stuck in the Back Seat with These People."

Hey, it's a memory! And I hang it on my bedroom wall because, for some reason – happiness maybe? – it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

And that is where I am going with this.


PS. I am going to send this to Garry Sowerby because he has a shiny red Mustang convertible and he knows I want it.