Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Sister's So Cool/Anguished Bellyaching/60s

My beautiful sister, Marva, has a great ear for music, which isn't surprising because we come from a musical family and she and I both have music careers. But what gets me right now, and the reason I wanted to do a post, is that her music selections can make me practically travel back in time to the '60s, without making it seem like that generic acid-tinged day-glo poster everyone else attempts to conjure.

This is the '60s as I remembered them, when I was a boy, aware beyond my years but with a view that was limited in scope. I didn't know what a hippie was, and though sex showed up early, drugs were still a long way off. Men drank beer, or whiskey, and the women wore sun dresses. Black people were so concerned with their image we dressed up to go to the supermarket. "Funky" was a really bad word.

Martin Luther King was alive and many men wore coveralls as a uniform of the Civil Rights Movement. The insurance man was a "very important person", warranting the dispersal of children and displays of silverware. We hid in silence from Jehovah's Witnesses. We took naps to Billy Graham.

Collard greens were grown next to rose bushes. I thought an iguana was a dinosaur. There were 13 kids in the foster home, with 5 dogs, several chickens and ducks, and a rabbit. We caught an opossum, and stared at his ugly ass all day, but he "played possum" and escaped that night. My foster mother ran down armadillos skittering from the gutters. She caught snakes with her hands and killed them with a gardening hoe.

(I'm only including this song, above, because it's co-written by my sister's good friend Jimmy (OO Soul) Holvay.)

Everyone kept plastic on Living Room furniture, and kids were forbidden to enter there except on special occasions. My Auntie Bessie's was considered extremely glamorous because she decorated it in blue. It was rare that we'd enter her home through the front door, and when we did it felt like someone had died.

One of my sisters had a crush on Elvis which seemed very weird. My cousin Ricky, who was lighter than the rest of us, owned a 45 of The Beatles that nobody would let him play. The old man had nude pinups of white women in the garage. We were forbidden to look at them and thought they were very exotic.

Everybody loved Bobby Kennedy and there was a profile of Abraham Lincoln in every house. Jesus suffered, hauntingly, on his cross at the top of the stairs. We kids ran by him as fast as we could, just to avoid his gaze. It never worked because we looked.

The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, and I Love Lucy seemed to always be on television, interrupted occasionally by I Spy (with Bill Cosby) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Lawrence Welk. I don't remember when Petticoat Junction came on, but Bonanza came on Sundays. Cartoons started at 7AM, on Saturdays, and occupied a world of their own.

A family friend, Chester Moore, thought it extremely important that all the foster kids learn how to shoot pool, so he'd take us to the billiard parlor and teach us to aim. He got our Christmas tree cheap by saying we were orphans. He said he never saw a woman as beautiful as Cher. Chester drank too much, but he was the only one.

Momma R. made an outstanding peach cobbler, and, if you were going to McDonald's she'd ask you to pick her up some "hambuggies". Taco Bell sold "Tacahs". Jack In The Box just sold Jack In The Box.

My foster mother knew one dance, The Shotgun. She'd use her fingers to make pistols and when she "shot" us we'd laugh. She once fell off a Merry-Go-Round that had started moving while she was trying to secure me to a horse. I never got over the guilt and brought her gifts until the day she died.