Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Blood on the Cadillac Car Keys

           Outside our dining room window stood and still stands a large jacaranda tree weeping purple flowers from the height of spring to the end of summer.
It is a bright, early Sunday afternoon. A white 1963 Cadillac Sedan De Ville, the second to the last year of the tailfin craze, roars up our steep driveway. The Caddy is attractively broken in, perhaps a better word would be, “seasoned” but still, well kept up. No missing hubcaps on this land yacht.
          I can hear the satisfying “clunk- clunk” of the Turbo Hyrdro-Matic transmission being switched from “D” to “P”, frozen in my child’s vision in memory, forever.
          My mother, also attractively seasoned at forty, is behind the wheel. She is an ash blonde of a petite version of Tippy Hendren in “The Birds”.
She is at the wheel, a contraption which always transfixed me due its great big ruby glass horn that had a reassurance to it. I associated the ruby glass with the power of glamor. It looked like an “important piece of jewelry”, just a great big lovely fancy brooch of a horn. The steering wheel is a black and white and ridged for your comfort in good honest, heavy American steel and industrial grade plastic. This steering wheel reminded me of a medal one got for being or at least appearing to be, “successful”; whatever that was and with the rush of receiving a fancy trophy…I do not know what for except perhaps  either in being able to purchase this Cadillac or maybe for acquiring the skill that comes with driving such a beast.
 When I found out that my parents bought it used, though only by one year-in a primal way, I felt like I was the only the poor relation and not the crown prince- however I still loved the car.
    One note on the Caddy’s power windows, I am still enamored by those groovy stainless steel banded power heavy glass windows and their swanky switches. Up down up down, I never get tired of playing with them. Even now, I am crazy about power windows.
Strange but I do not remember what she was wearing that day. Strange because I can recall these other details sans wardrobe, which is something I usually note because wardrobe is important to me. Mom was either all June Allyson casual in a pair of powder blue pedal pushers by Tuff Skin matched with a sassy red and white candy cane striped tee shirt which always, even as kid, made me think of “Dennis the Menace”.
Her professional attire was more sedately elegant, usually in a classic chartreuse Ban Lon knit sweater set adorned with toffee and burnt umber crystal accessories and imitation alligator high heels. Two notes, on those stilettos, I was and am still mesmerized by these miniature masterpieces of design. They were so pointy and so slender and rather sinister.   No matter what her mood was though, she was never without that ever present gigantic burlap purse.  Bejeweled within an inch of its life in a floral design, this bag of tricks could easily accommodate the usual stuff women carried plus a hefty bottle of Kamchatka and a bowling ball.
        I should have channeled my instinct that day because it certainly was not the day to ask for the sixty-fifth time about the purchase of another Buddy L station wagon. A toy car so bewitching I already played one into the ground. Literally, I pounded that toy into the sand of my sandbox with a red sledgehammer. This inspiration of being fascinated by sculpting in metal was perhaps borne from my dad. It was a loose tradition he had, if he felt like it, to take my brother and I nearly every Saturday morning to get doughnuts and view “the wreck of the week” at the corner gas station. My favorite being a red 1967 Coupe Deville convertible wrapped around a lamp post, never took on or in, the consideration that people died in these crashes.What I marveled at was the twisted metal, of the exotic thrill and surge of adrenalin that I experienced from viewing these symbols of ruined finery. Later on this euphoric feeling besotted me whenever I watched anything starring Elizabeth Taylor in some of her really weird late 1960’s movies and any of Joan Crawford’s strutting diva pix of the 1950’s and 1960’s or black and white Mexican horror movies. It was just really fun to let loose and smash something not smashed up a second ago. I would trudge up to my sandbox nestled in the woodland bramble of our backyard with my favorite red metal sledgehammer in my hand. Then I would place one of my Buddy-L’s or Tonka cars squarely in the sandbox and joyously wail on them. I created some pretty satisfying sculptures but discovered after about four pounding sessions that the artfully destroyed toys were rendered unplayable. The artist in me must have been picking up signals from the culture of 1960’s unrest and maybe somewhere I channeled Warhol tapping into his car accident silk screens for this was a kind of invoking of my inner caveman inspiration. All I knew was that this act of destruction WAS creatively and intellectually…fun.
 And really, what boy doesn’t like to break or blow up stuff?

      “I don’t want to hear about that goddamn toy ANYMORE”, suddenly airborne did the Caddy keys become, shooting through the sky like “The Missiles of October”, and they did find their blood raising resting place ala “Excalibur”, in my left forearm; while she marched into the house slamming the kitchen door behind her.       I remember the scene was punctuated by extreme quiet while a warm breeze filled the air with a smear of purple jacaranda blossoms and I realized that I was quite alone. The lifelong scar that resulted is my dubious bench mark of surviving childhood.

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