Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I Do And Do Not Remember

Well, it feels stupid cold to me and it's only forty-eight degrees or something and it's going to get at least ten degrees colder tonight. It's been drizzly and gray as concrete all day long, the temperature making a slow slide towards the bottom side.
Not pleasant but a good day to stay in and sew.
Which is what I've mostly done although I did go to Publix.
I'm hoping like hell that it doesn't get down below freezing because I haven't so much as covered a porch plant. It's not supposed to but who knows?
Not me.

So I've been thinking all day, on and off, about that apartment I lived in when I moved out of Paula's house. What did I use for heat? I wonder. And I can't remember. I can't even remember the details of moving in. I know that Paula was graduating and so was our roommate, Bruce and I had to find another place to live. I was working at Jerry's Restaurant as a hostess, ruling my little world behind the cash register, wiping down menus, pouring coffee for the counter customers, showing people to their tables, wrapping silverware. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. I came to dislike my manager immensely though. Let us just say that these days, he couldn't have gotten away with how he treated me. He hit on me all the time and made me uncomfortable, to say the least, but I was nineteen and had not yet formed a backbone and had not yet figured out that no man had the right to make uninvited passes that made me uncomfortable even if he was my boss.
I'd started seeing the guy who became my first husband. He was from Winter Haven and again, I cannot remember how we managed to find ourselves in any sort of relationship. I do remember the night we first got together. I was home for a holiday and a group of us had gone to see Cabaret and well, one thing led to another.
But how we hooked up again so much later is not something I've stored in my memory banks. At the time, he was living in a big old wreck of a house on the outskirts of Winter Haven with some other guys, some of them whom he played in a band with. I'd go visit him on stealth trips, staying under the radar because I had no desire for my parents to know I was in town. And he'd drive his little red VW bug up to Tallahassee to visit me. We were hot and heavy and I took him to meet Bill Wharton because I took everyone to meet the Whartons and they played some music together. They were at opposite ends of the musical spectrum. Jerry played covers, rock and roll, while Bill played what I can only describe as space music. But I think they must have been intrigued with each other.
And then I had to find a place to live. Right next door to where the Whartons lived in an old house on Park Avenue with their two daughters where all sorts of musicians gathered to play music and get stoned, there was another old house that had been made into three apartments. Two downstairs, one up. It was smack dab on the railroad tracks down in a gully, set back from the road underneath some oak trees and it was funky but when an apartment came available for rent, I must have seen it as a gift from the heavens. It came "furnished" which meant that there was a bed and a kitchen table and two chairs and a sofa which for decency's sake required an Indian print bedspread to be thrown across it. It was a true shotgun apartment- you walked in the front door from the porch into the living room, through the kitchen, into the bedroom and it ended in the bathroom. All in a line. It had big windows on the east side of the house, none on the west side because that side had been closed in to make the apartment.
The landlord was another pig of a man who used any excuse whatsoever to come over and harass me.
But the Whartons were right next door and the woman who lived in the apartment next to me was someone I knew although she was, um, well, quite strange. She was one of those hippie women who would go into states of orgasmic ecstasy over the adding of honey to her chamomile tea. But I got along okay with her. And eventually, another woman I knew from The Violinist who also hung out at the Wharton's nightly music circles moved in upstairs with her sweet boyfriend, Tommy. She was a flautist, another FSU music student, and she was blunt and funny and I liked her fine although her cat did climb through my bathroom window and shit in my shower.

So that was my own little place. Far from perfect but I did love it. As I said, I can't remember what I used for heat and there was no air conditioning but a fan in one of the big windows beside my bed made it bearable.

It wasn't that long before I quit my job as the hostess for Jerry's. I think my manager offered to give me a quarter an hour raise but I politely turned him down. And then my Winter Haven boyfriend moved up to Tallahassee. He was burning with desire, not for me especially, but to get the fuck out of Winter Haven. He and Bill had decided that they could form a band together and make some money. That never exactly panned out but they did try.
And that was the end of my time alone.
It's so odd how I really cannot remember much about that time. I do remember that my boyfriend did not always behave well. He had issues. He was twenty-one years old and was a guitar player. Connect the dots.
But we both got jobs at a new restaurant near FSU's campus. I was a waitress and sometimes a sandwich-maker and often times a cashier and he was a delivery guy. I'll never forget how when he was interviewed for the job they asked him if he knew Tallahassee well and he said, "Like the back of my hand."
He'd probably lived here two weeks. But he figured it out.

I have no idea how long we continued to live in that tiny apartment on Park Avenue. Eventually we found a little Jim Walters house to move into on what was then way outside of town. I have a lot more memories of that place.

But for a little while I did live by myself. I can remember cooking for myself and making bread in that tiny kitchen with the tile counter. I had a cat who would claw open the bread bag and eat all of the Roman Meal loaf she could eat. Remember Roman Meal bread? I had a telephone there which we all shared because even a land line in those days was a ridiculous luxury. I remember that when the train went by the entire building shook. I remember the Saturday morning I woke up and found a snake curled up on my stove. I remember my friend Chloe coming by with her newborn baby son, sitting at my kitchen table and nursing him. I remember Bill and his daughters coming over the day Nixon resigned and we listened to the Beach Boys on my shitty stereo.
Those are things I do remember.

Long after I moved out of that apartment it burned down and a new building was built in its place. I look at it sometimes when I drive by. The Wharton's old house is now some sort of business office. It looks fine and I wonder if the ghosts of some of the people who played music there on those nights when it all became more astral than terrestrial and who are now possibly dancing on an astral plane ever visit. I think of the two little girls who lived in that house and who witnessed such odd and beautiful times and who are now living in California and New York City living interesting lives and who work in the arts. I think of Bill, still making his living playing music, bringing joy and funk and gumbo to audiences everywhere. I think of the timid girl I was, craving love with all of my timid crazy heart.
I think of what it must have been like to live there. I wish I remembered more but perhaps it's good I don't.

Well, another memory post.
I guess I should go make my supper.

My heater is still working and I just truly hope it continues to do so.

Be well, sweeties. Be well.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. Sweet little rememberings. And every word there carries as much weight as every other word.

    1. Some sweet- some less so but most of them good from that particular time and place.

  2. I just love these stories...Thank you.

  3. Another lovely blogpost. It makes me think of the places where I once lived and the few visual details that remain in my memory...and of the things that happened there - like pages from someone else's book.

    1. I hear now that when we have memories we are really remembering...memories of the event we are thinking of. I believe that's probably true. But some things do seem immediately retrievable while others are deep down somewhere. It's odd how the brain works.

  4. I like these posts you are doing every so often with long ago memories. They remind me to remember my own past.

    1. I think most of us probably have a lot in common when it comes to our pasts. Shared experiences, in a way. Very different in others, I'm sure.

  5. I wonder if Bill and the other musicians in his circle in Winter Haven knew Gram Parsons, who was also from Haven? I mean, it's not a big town, and I'm guessing those who traveled in musical circles in those years probably crossed paths.

    I love all your memories and somehow I have quite a vivid mental picture of what that apartment must have been like.

    Oh, and Jim Walters -- his brother used to live down the street from us! The rumor was that the brother was a drunk and there was quite a bit of family drama there, some of it very sad. But I'm still Facebook friends with the brother's daughter.

    1. Bill was from Orlando and I don't know if he ever met Gram or not. Gram was eight years older than me so seven years older than Jerry. He may have met him.
      I'm glad you like the memories.
      Jim Walters homes. Boy oh boy. Not the greatest but they sure did get a lot of people into their own homes. Did you know that they originally started out saying that if you had land and a dollar they could build you a house?
      Some family member of the Walters built a house on Dog Island a few houses down from ours. It was not what you'd call a typical Jim Walters house.
      As one might expect.

  6. my memory of past times isn't that great. but my first year away at college in a different city 4 hours away I would come to Houston sometimes to hang out with my friends because I made a poor choice for college and didn't really make any friends while I was there without telling my parents but one weekend someone's mom saw my mother somewhere and mentioned my being at her house and boy was I in trouble.

    1. I bet you were! My mother would have cried and died if she'd known I was hanging out in a slummy band house with a bunch of rock musicians just a few miles from her house.

  7. fancy getting all orgasmic over honey in tea! I would be drinking tea all the day long !I sure wish you had photos of all of this story! Would love to see you in your waitress suit! Would love to see the shot gun house/apartment. Loved reading this, Mary!

    1. This woman belonged to the "everything is so far-out" belief of hippieness. I did not.
      My waitress uniform was polyester pants and a polyester tunic thing. Very flattering, I'm sure. I don't think I have one picture from those days.

  8. For me, those years seem almost to have happened to a different person, and yet I can draw a straight line from the person I was then to now. It seems that way for you too, when I read your memory posts. What would we have whispered to those twentysomething girls I wonder. And would they have believed us?


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.