Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Being the continuance of Jas and Sull's excellent adventure

When I left off the other day Jas and I were pretty much finished with our exploration of the big new Wegmans, so we drove over to the new Best Buy. We had to drive because the Best Buy is a pretty long way from the Wegmans. That shopping center is big; it has more length of commercial streeds than Norristown did in the 1950's when Al Martino was still a young pup of a crooner and Mom and Pop used to take us down to see the Christmas lights on Main Street.

We would go into Chatlin's Department Store and marvel at the toys, which were up on the fourth floor as I recall. Days of Wonder! Erector Sets and cap guns and bows and arrows and Daisy Air Rifles; and a Lionel Train display with working trains going around and around the tracks. Chatlin's display of trains was almost as big as the one Uncle Froggy used to set up in the combination living room and dining room of Grandmom and Grandpop's row house up on Walnut Street.

All four floors of that old Chatlin's would be lost within one corner of the Best Buy. The place is as big as an aircraft hangar. And it's positively crammed with toys for boys that would have been beyond our wildest imaginings back in the 1950's. The TV in our old house on Penn Street had about an 8 inch screen on which little cowboys and indians may have ridden; but I can't remember ever seeing that TV on. That was no terrible hardship because Uncle Chick and Aunt Mary had a big screen TV next door. Their TV was the most amazing thing I ever spent much time with until Uncle Froggy got the first color set any of us had seen in the 1960's.

I watched Hopalong Cassidy with Uncle Chick on many and many a Saturday morning, both of us lying on the floor with our noses a few inches from the twelve inch screen. Uncle Chick was a big kid on those Saturday mornings. He was also a Slovak, the only Slovak I knew. So I thought for quite a while that all Slovaks were big kids, just as I thought all South Philly Italians were big kids because Uncle Froggy was a big kid.

Uncle Froggy lived in Norristown, but he had grown up in Philly and you could tell. He acted like a kid much more than my other uncles. First off, he was a fireman, and when the fire siren sounded he went running. Plus, he drove a big dump truck around as his regular job. But he seemed to go where he wanted pretty much as he pleased with that dump truck. He was sort of like a foster son of the guy who owned the mill where the dump truck was supposed to be; so I guess nobody was keeping real close tabs on him. He also did unusual things when he worked the counter down at Babe's luncheonette. If me or Matty or Sonny went in there and gave him a quarter for a lemonade he would give us a big lemonade, and he would also give us three or four dimes and a nickel back as change. I was pretty little when we still lived in Norristown; but even when I was little I knew that getting four dimes and a nickel back as change for a quarter was unusual.

But I need to stop dwelling on my first childhood and get back to the present one. . .

The Best Buy has a wall of big screen TVs that's about a hundred yards long. Jas and I started off at the left end looking at the little 40 inch sets and then strolled up the marching line of sets until we got to the end of the selection of 55 inchers that cap off the display. In the cavern of the Best Buy those 55 inchers are suprisingly small looking even though any one of them is probably as big as the table in Aunt Mary R's kitchen that would hold enough meat ravioli to feed the 20 or so of us who would eat around it in shifts on Christmas Day because the dining room was, of course, filled with Uncle Froggy's train layout. Matty used to crawl under the train table and pop up through the hole in the middle of it to run the display.

After spending a good bit of time with the TVs we moved along to the laptop computers, the very smallest of which has a screen about the size of Uncle Froggy's first color TV set. The people on those laptop screens don't have green faces and the grass on them is not blue.

But enough of the Best Buy. We left there after spending some time with the young pup salesman near the laptops and learning that he had to go ask somebody else what the difference is between 3G network and a 4G network, or whatever, which Jas wanted to know for some reason. As if either of us would have understood the answer even assuming the salesman had come back with a coherent answer. I just looked up the matter on Wikipedia and I still don't think I understand it even though Wiki probably does have a coherent answer.

I made coffee when we got back to our house, and Jas and I discussed the usual things that we've been gnawing at like bones for thirty years over coffee. Then he suggested that we go for a walk becaue he wanted to see Dave's little camping compound in the woods. So we strolled out the driveway and over to the right of way on our neighbor's property that leads past the water company's little chlorine gas danger building and then past the little strongly fenced enclosure that I think has something to do with the sewer interceptor. That right of way took us back onto our property and put us on the path I keep mowed along the sewer line right of way.

Incidently, our neighbor may not know that the right of way on his three quarter acre suburban lot is not necessarily intended for use by private guys with tractors like me who are too lazy to make a ford across the big creek to allow easier direct access to the other side of their property, so if you see him don't say anything.

Anyway, Jas and I shortly came to where the side path leads to Dave's kraal, for that's what it's become, in the woods. Dave has been more or less been living back there in our woods, happy as a clam or a Masai, for a few years, but the kraal is new this year. Formerly Dave moved around between three or four little campsites where he would simply stretch his hammock between trees but he became more ambitious this year as the cold has started to come on. He now has a little low cabin made of cast off lumber, surrounded by a brush stockade which is quite impressive. Dave doesn't have any livestock in his kraal; but he does have a little semicircular seating area aound the firepit in front of his cabin for visitors.

By a miracle Dave was home at about noon when Jas and I stopped by. I say a miracle because the other day was the very first time I've ever come upon Dave sleeping in any of his campsites in all the times I've walked or driven my tractor over there. A bit inconvenient - I will no longer be able to say to the neighbors or the police that I don't actually know for a fact that Dave sleeps in the woods. Dave has always been elusive. I usually see him coming or going from his dad's house up in the neighborhood on the other side, or I see him on the paths, seldom more than once every couple weeks.

Jas and I spent a few minutes talking with Dave, learning that he's making a longbow, inspired no doubt by Chris the bowhunter who just got his first deer with a longbow a few weeks ago. Dave also told us that it was Chris who made the deer that died of natural causes a couple of weeks ago right near the pond disappear from the place where I dragged it with the tractor. Dave said Chris dragged the deer to a low spot in a gully where it will decompose faster. A mystey solved!

When we were done talking with Dave, Jas and I continued up the paths toward the old house on Route 29. And who should we encounter but Dan who was fueling his chainsaw. I gave Dan permission to cut wood on the property earlier in the fall because I want the field behind the Route 29 house to become a pasture. And Dan needs the money he's been earning by selling firewood since he's out of work. So far he's cleared about an acre of our land, doing a very nice job of it. The stumps are cut low enough so I'll be able to keep it mown without trouble.

It was at that point that Jas suggested lunch at the new Ray's across 29, his treat. Dan commented that he had found the hamburgers at Ray's very good, but considered the french fries a bit greasy. We found him to be right about the french fries, but thought them greasy in a good way, like Boardwalk Fries in Atlantic City. Route 29 isn't Park Place quite yet; but it's come a very long way from the two lane road with no shoulders that it was back in 1978 when we bought this property. It's now three lanes wide in front of the our old house there, and four lanes wide just up the way where the commercial office buildings are across from the big new Wawa.

I doubt that a single one of the pharmaceutical company yuppies who endlessly zip back and forth along that road are aware that Dan is patiently clearcutting in the woods behind a screen of trees and brush that I suggested he leave standing for the moment, piling up dozens of cords of firewood, about seventy yards away. I'm practically certain that not a one of them is aware that Dave is happily living in his kraal, making a longbow and practicing with his sling, generally living a bit of the life of a solitary pre-industrial Masai or Navajo, less than three hundred yards away from their bustle.

For God's sake don't tell them any of this. The new world those yuppies are making is an excellent, a fantastic, world, containing many new wonders; but I like being able to come across older style wonders as well.

Postscript: It would be wrong of me to close this out without mentioning that I just saw that Al Martino died yesterday at 82. Al got his start as a crooner in South Philly back in 1952, the year that Sam was born, and the year before Jas was born, when I was four and just becoming aware of the wonders in the world.

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