puro indio, he worked for l.a. parks and recreation driving tractors and mowers and we sat on the front porch drinking beer, somebody’s birthday party going on loud in the back—he described setting up folding chairs on the tarmac at ventura county airport to watching the “blue angels” fly by in formation their navy jet fighter planes, telling how he rose from his seat to cheer as the jets screamed overhead with a power shook you, he said, “so you could feel it through your whole body, man, I mean you could feel it inside, even in your brain and your eyes! And I thought to myself right there and then, THIS IS AMERICA! That was AMERICA flying by!” —they told me he drank himself to death a couple years later.
two cop cars at the neighbors’ again; two cops talking up the driveway and a police woman with hand on firearm covering from below—then i remembered i’d seen that the father of the little boy had returned after being away (he had tried to keep out of sight, but I’d seen him working on a car, though the black Toyota truck he and his woman had driven had been gone for years); I’d found the boy once in the street at age three and returned him to the house to find the father passed out in the doorway from the house to the garage—he’d snatched the boy from me, gone back in the house and shut the door; after more screaming from the woman and more police actions, there was an intervening two or 3 years of quiet, when the screaming woman apparently picked up a new guy, without the chiseled jailbird looks of her son’s dad— chunkier, paler, with the same shaved head and same oversize white T-shirt, the new dad was quiet, and after the cops left (the beautiful five old boy watching them from the porch, he looked a lot like his dad), the new family went for a walk, the new dad with a baby I had not noticed before, the loud woman in foul mood as she often was, bitching and screaming about something, the new dad replying to her shrieks calmly and pushing the baby carriage, the boy following behind on his scooter
I went into the estate sale on Fremont Avenue not because I was interested in the drill presses, ventilators, fans, motors, cement mixers, assorted machinery, generators, lawn mowers, edgers, rototillers and an acre of junk machines they had for sale, though that was all interesting, but for over twenty years the two century old clapboard formerly white houses literally gone black as the paint stripped with age as they were clearly a work site of mysterious abandon, 2 side by side residences on the main north-south thoroughfare of town turned over to machining something unknown, the elements having their way with them for decades while some man or men went about their machine-oiled business. I went through the driveway gate as middle-aged stout journeymen or contractors joshed about paying for their items with one of the guys I surmised was in charge, a tall graying (50s, 60s) white guy in gray overalls. They were talking loud as they could talk, like people do in some parts. The sign said, EVERYTHING FOR SALE BOTH HOUSES. The garage was dark and musty, stench of lubricant oil of course, with six foot steel shelves full of industrial items from the 1960s that had meanwhile turned to detritus and debris. Strange file boxes of obsolete binders of cellophane sleeved requisition forms. A torpedo shaped electric motor with a flywheel on one end a short electric cord on the other, the whole thing covered with dense sticky fuzz and dust. I was looking at the “trash heap of history” and thought I might turn up who knows what, something from the atomic age of moon shots or the USSR. It had all been picked over repeatedly, at the same time, while ignored for decades, if not lifetimes. The house was more familiar I found out, entering through the back door. It had largely been emptied out, but clearly, also, it had not been touched for forty or fifty years or more. These were the California houses of my childhood that I never saw anymore. Postwar houses, with the water heater newly attached by the back door (near to the kitchen). I stood in the kitchen feeling the happiness and pride of that older generation now gone. Sunlight blew in through the window above the sink through the dead curtains or the curtains of memory. There had been a couple in this kitchen at one time, young and hopeful in a new place. These postwar houses had everything. It had a big boxy refrigerator inside the house, inside the kitchen, hot and cold running water and a gas stove—maybe even a gas heater in the living room (an old brown leather lazy chair still fossilized there forever under a floor lamp); two bedrooms laid out, unrenovated, unrepaired and largely abandoned for a half century. The bathtub had been taken, but when the original couple first moved in, they must’ve loved it. Everything was a bit wrecked now like the half excavated bathroom with a chair in it. But it was a beautiful snapshot of all those houses of my childhood, like my grandparents’ houses, that I walked through when I was a small child (when we were on the road, when we were traveling)—when I was a child and entered these ‘big houses’ (I thought) I felt the pride of the white people like my grandparents who owned them. With their doilies and their cut glass crystal, their magazines and their ideologies edited for them by the Reader’s Digest, their little pieces of furniture and the woman of house’s eyes on you. They owned these houses, those white people, they owned this country and their own lives. They had it on paper and here it was (this house embodied it) in front of their own eyes. So what if their own children had looked on this old clapboard house where they were raised and seen nothing worth saving or even worth using (their parents had raised the boys here how? —apparently with no love for grass or gardens, trees or flowers or fresh paint); the generation that did not even bother to live or reside in these houses had not even bothered to replace the old linoleum, so patches revealed the floorboards, dried enough to separate, allowing black spaces to emit dank air of the crawlspace below. On the wall, a faded seascape worse than a modern motel picture. The sun broiling hot through the front window shade (they don’t make those spring-loaded pull shades anymore) 3/4 down. Postwar America went on a half-century upswing as singular global superpower, feeling Elvis good, John Wayne good, Ronald Reagan good pumping out gas guzzling cars, Cadillacs and Corvettes, war in Korea and Vietnam, secret war in Guatemala and Iran, a universe of toasters, curling irons, electric toothbrushes, battery powered transistor radios, stereo hi-fi cabinets, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, arcane white peoples’ culture like Lawrence Welk, Andy Williams or Liberace, all those names unknown now (probably some on cardboard flaps of vinyl records ruined and trashed in boxes around here, or shreds of Look and Life magazines in a corner), millions of consumer items pumped out of America across the world first and then, in a larger returning tide, ever more ever cheaper items pumped back to the U.S. in millions of units from Japan and Europe and then China, Mexico, Korea, Haiti, El Salvador and etc. Decades of tsunami capitalist consumerism that bypassed this modest little residence (now only the poor consent to live in houses such as this, still extant in rural agricultural counties of Calif. like the Salinas valley). Once this house was an American standard, with everything. Now such a place is seen as totally deficient and abandoned. I stand in this house that resembles a fixed point on that rising wave of history—amidst associations rising from all surfaces in one brief moment like glints in a ray of sunlight—this little house a moment when a generation could feel they had in hand a promise they’d hand down their children, and did. Forgotten small pride of my white grandparents, carried through Great Depression past world wars to this. Parents long gone, their children abandoned it a generation ago, used it as only offices adjacent to the improvised machine shop in the yard—where they sell everything off as junk, no use any longer. I turn the faucet on in the broad white kitchen sink and the water runs glinting onto the stained porcelain. The drain with a little gunk in it. Late afternoon sun pours through the bright kitchen. Outside the traffic is rushing, people are still buying, the vast sky flying the last golden light of day.