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Thread: Memoirs of a Solitary Man

  1. #1

    Memoirs of a Solitary Man

    Part 1 - From Hurdy Gurdy to Helter Skelter

    “… when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
    Came singing songs of love”

    ~ Hurdy Gurdy Man, Donovan

    It was 1961 and I was sitting beside my little sister on a bench at the piano. Beside us spun a red record on a portable record player. The music came to us as anemic baritone and tinny soprano; a Celtic folk song accompanied by a contemporary version of a medieval hurdy gurdy. She would listen to a few bars. I would lift the needle and then she would imitate what she had heard. We would enter into a sort of innocent rapture, our voices punctuated by her piano playing. It was a simple time of simple pleasures, and the music elevated us; bonded us in shared harmony. She was six and I was eight. It was the beginning of a profound journey, an adoration of music that would remain with us for the rest of our lives.

    One day in 1963, my father - a complicated and troubled a man - entered the living room and asked us if we had heard the Beatles. We hadn’t, and he knew full well. Our mother had sheltered us from anything with a devil beat, as she would tell it, to keep us pure in the Glory of the Lord. But my father - a man who once played trombone in one of Lawrence Welk's early orchestras - had other ideas in mind. He'd lost his teeth, having had them all pulled out and replaced with dentures, and could no longer play his trombone without crying. It was heartbreaking to hear him as he worked at it in the basement. To him, music was the soul of what had been stolen from him, and he meant to fill the house with youthful song and beats performed by his children.

    He showed us the square envelope that he'd held behind his back, slid the black 45rpm disk from its sleeve, and placed it on the living room record player. What we heard changed us forever. There was no going back after hearing 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' and 'I Saw Her Standing There' for the first time. We played them over and over until my mother came home and threw a fit. My father argued that it was "their music. Their generation. We have no right to interfere." He was often our bridge over troubled water, but on that day he was our knight in shining armor, the king of Camelot, the man who pulled Excalibur from the stone.

    The Beatles… they were our gateway drug into an entirely new universe of music, and a new perception of the world. We began tuning our tiny transistor radios to new stations and suddenly discovered that there was a universe of beat and exciting music. It was intoxicating. It was an obsession. It was the very core and purpose of life.

    Within a year, my parents had separated and divorced. I remember that day clearly; my mother’s long black dress, her red lips and fingernails, her strong perfume, and the pop of chewing gum in her mouth. Elvis Presley was performing 'Suspicion' on the radio - an indelible bookmark in my life. By that time I long hair and wore what were called 'Beatle boots' - another gift from my father. He had been given custody of us; my older brother, my sister and me. Thus began our journey from the simple life and its music to a world of chaos and rebellion.

    Even though he had won custody of his children, my father soon found that it interfered with his new playboy lifestyle. Soon we were placed into the Masonic Home for Children, where we rotted for more than a year. They separated us - my brother to the senior boy's house and my sister to the junior girl’s house. I was stranded in the junior boy's house. It was Dickens to me, a poor boy in the hands of zealots who meted out punishment at every turn. I felt abandoned by my father, forgotten by my mother, and hustled off to a concentration camp where duty, obligation and hymns were my only music.

    Then, as in a dream, my mother arrived like a winged angel with deep sorrowful eyes, to take us away. We were saved. The army had arrived and we would be delivered from our servitude. It seemed that the lord had parted the ocean, and I saw my brother and sister for the first time in a year. We were together again.

    But it was false hope. Less than an hour passed before my father and a sheriff arrived and hustled us back to our respective cell blocks. For a reason I could not understand, my father held a pistol in his hand as he came toward us, and pointed it at my mother's new husband. The sheriff took it from him after a session of insane screaming. Somehow I managed to feel safer inside The Home, as we called it. Instead of rescuing us, all my father did was assure us that he would return for us soon, and then drove away. I remember the tail lights of his black Ford Fairlane station wagon as they faded into the trees that lined the road. In that moment, and at such a young age, the music drained from me and left hopelessness in its wake.

    The roller coaster ride destroyed my belief in god, angels and the goodness of humanity. My innocence had been shattered. It would be months before my father returned again to rescue us - but it was too late. I had learned distrust, disillusionment, deep insecurity, and the belly-eating disease of anger and hate. That trauma, in one form or another, has never left me; no matter how hard I’ve tried to escape it.

    “When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
    Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
    Till I get to the bottom and I see you again.”

    ~ Helter Skelter, The Beatles.
    P E R F E C T L Y . D A M A G E D

    I am an interpretation of my experiences. Had I been born in a different time, a different place, I would be a different person.

  2. #2
    Wow! Tough childhood. It's always a shame when parents use their children to punish each other, because the children suffer far more than either parent.

    This was captivating enough that I forgot to look for SPaG errors. I think this was told well, and look forward to more.

  3. #3
    HorseDragon, very compelling and brave. This was well written and I couldn't detect any problems. I only saw this one word missing.

    By that time I had long hair and wore what were called 'Beatle boots' - another gift from my father.
    There were still sweet times in the early sixties, and I can relate to what you describe. Children still had a chance to be children then. The trauma you experienced in the latter sixties, I think, is particularly captured in the music of that time, and when I speak of it, I like to reference "Go Ask Alice," as the template of those days, although there are many others that reflect the loss of the simple life left behind. I can imagine your disillusionment with your parents, your trust issues, your heartache, which I'm sure was more than a little impacted by the changing mores of those times as well.

    In the fifties and sixties, however, there lurked behind the walls of civility and respect that it was known for, a definite dark side. I'm not really sure what it stemmed from, (WWII?) but whatever it was, the pain of those memories can last a life time. I count myself as a member of that group, and can well relate to your comment, "That trauma, in one form or another, has never left me; no matter how hard I’ve tried to escape it." Super job, HorseDragon!
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  4. #4
    Forum Moderator Plasticweld's Avatar
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    Very well written. You do a great job of tying in the music of the time with your story, that lets the reader really identify with you. Music tends to trigger our memories and our feelings for a time and place. It can be good and it can be bad.

    A tough childhood means you have an appreciation for the simple things, and probably take very little for granted. I would love to hear the story of of how it affected you as an adult and the vows you made to yourself to make sure it was never repeated.

    I am a firm believer that adversity creates character, something tells me you have some to spare. Welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing an important part of who you are with us...Bob
    God hates a coward Revelation 21:8

    “Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.”

    Ken Kesey,

    To encourage and facilitate "me"

  5. #5
    I generally try not to reply directly to critiques because I believe they all stand with their own sovereignty - each representing a peephole into the person and the mind that is behind them. Well, other than thanking or expressly saying 'thank you'. Usually there is not much else to say.

    But in this case, and because this is a rather personal narrative of a part of my life, I want to especially thank each of you for reading and taking the time to express you reaction to it, and your pearls of experience and wisdom.

    Thank you all very much.
    P E R F E C T L Y . D A M A G E D

    I am an interpretation of my experiences. Had I been born in a different time, a different place, I would be a different person.

  6. #6
    Now, I'm going to start this off by saying...wow dude...that's really rough.

    I am also not good with talking about that stuff soo.....

    Anyways, it was written very well. Thanks for sharing your story with us
    You know, if you think about it, there are 7-8 billion people in the world. Think of the odds. The fact that we're all here with each other kinda makes you believe in that whole destiny thing.

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