Tuesday, November 20, 2007


A Retrospective from two posts I did last year.

A more somber month there could not be... we are on the downhill slide. Gordon Lightfoot captures the feel of this month very well with a quite popular song from years ago that is very well known...

A lesser known song from a much lesser known artist is one of my favorites... it takes me back to a day when I was 6.
A cello and slide guitar create a hollow whining windy sound...
The deep-softness of his voice combined with the lyrics paint a picture... and though he barely even mentions JFK, we know that is what it is all about.
The song is by Greg Brown and the song is called...

Money comes out of Dad's billfold.
Hankies come out of Mom's purse.
The engine hardly makes a sound
even when you put it in reverse.
It's got a push-button transmission,
hardtop convertible, 4-door.
It's November of 1963
and the brand new Dodge is a '64.
Brand new Dodge.

And we're rolling slow down Main Street
-the asphalt and gravel crunch.
Church is finally over
and we're going to have our Sunday lunch.
And then I will play football
with my buddies down in park.
Later I'll dream about my girlfriend
as I lie alone in the dark.
As I lie alone.

She's got short red hair and blue eyes
and her swimsuit's also blue
and her little brother is retarded,
but Jesus loves him, too.
And Jesus loves our president,
even though he is a Catholic.
There's a lot for a boy to think about
as he walks along the railroad tracks.
As he walks along.

And my sister won't get carsick
'cause we're going only half a mile
and the car still has that new car smell
and dad looks like he might smile
and the world is big and full of Autumn
and I'm hungry as can be
and we're in our brand new '64 Dodge
November of '63

greg brown from "the poet game"

His song inspires me to this tale from my chldhood:
Grosse Point Park, Michigan;
3 miles north of Detroit;
3 miles north of the Maritime Sailors Cathedral located in downtown Detroit; the very same Cathedral from Lightfoots song :

"In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Louis Agnon was my best friend and lived 5 houses up on the corner of Essex and Trombley. In November of 1963 we were both 6 and in Mrs. Sherman’s (the German, we liked to say) First Grade class.
Every house in the neighborhood had a basement except for mine. Louis’ house was special as well in that he had a detached garage and even the garage had a basement. We were not allowed down there and there were locks on the doors to keep people out and the windows were soaped to keep anyone from peering in.
There was an Acorn tree, tall and slender, in my backyard and this is where Louis and I spent most of our time. We could get so far up, up in the tippy-top and we could make that tree sway back and forth creating a swath that could easily measure 15 feet. It was like riding a 50 foot high teeter-totter with him on one side of the “trunk’ now tapered to only 3 inches and I on the other.
From our perch we could see out over the rooftops and a block away to Lake St. Clair where the big ore boats took their loads to the Steel mills. They had come from Lake Superior and were relatively safe now having put some distance between themselves and “the big lake they call Gitchee-Goomie”.
From our perch we would discuss what could possibly be in the mysterious basement of his Garage. It could’nt be good, that much we knew.
Maybe it was flooded and filled with old tires, reptiles and detritus of all kinds.
Maybe the was a cache of stolen money, bags of gold coins and bundled bills.
Maybe his father knew some tough guys that used it to “squeeze” people like James Cagney did in the movies.
Probably there was some mutant monster, a terrible creature that had gone long unfed, waiting, waiting, waiting...

The ‘Summer of Love” was still 5 years away, Rob and Laura Petrie were still safe in separate beds, and Louis and I knew nothing of the mechanics of Sex ... but we did know that there was definitely SOMETHING there. We would talk about all the girls in our class and which ones were kissable and how we would go about getting them alone to do just that.It was Lori Sundburg that emerged as the 1st Grade equivalent of Marilyn Monroe.

In 1963 September turned to October and October to November. We were forced to abandon our trees for the shelter of my room to watch T.V.“Maverick” and “The Man from UNCLE” and "Wild Wild West"... We played 'mousetrap", "Monopoly" and"Life" and Mother brought milk and cookies.

Then one day in the most somber of months the news broke like a lightning flash.
“The Winds of November came Slashin'......
the Witch of November came Stealin'"
And the Steel guitar in Gordon Lightfoot's Song about the Edmund Fitzgerald along with his haunting lyrics describes the month, the day and the gloom that fell over the country.
The President was dead.
He and that ship had a lot in common.
The T.V. man said "Assassinated".

Of course Louis and I had much discussion over this event and when they caught the guy, the Assassin, we were delighted to imagine what to do with him.
Hangin’ from a Sour Apple Tree was too good for this guy.
Stabbing with a thousand little knives was too quickly done.
Chained to a bag of concrete and dumped into Lake St. Clair offered no real appreciable trauma.
First Runner up in our choices was to lock him up into the aforementioned basement to be chewed up by whatever the hell was down there.
But the worst thing we could imagine, Louis and I, was to have the slimeball’s wiener cut off.
We had no idea why but we knew he would miss that the most.


Barbara said...

Each of us who was alive in November 1963 remembers exactly where we were when the news broke. I was doing the 500-yard walk-run in the 8th grade and was happy only for an excuse to abandon it. It was a very sad time in the history of this country when some of us first realized just how bad people could be.

Mother of Invention said...

A very sombre month indeed. No wonder there's a lot of hype and excitement for American Thanksgiving...to celebrate nearing its end!

Happy Thanksgiving, Steve!