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Fifty

50 Greenwood Road was our address in Asheville, North Carolina; it looks much the same.

The dahlia farm is to the right, downhill. The side yards slope down to the north. The house has a daylight basement. When we moved in the basement was unfinished. Just a concrete slab with uninsulated cinder block walls. It had no opening to the back yard. One of Dad's first improvements was to have a door cut so the power mower my brother didn't get could move from the carport into the basement, right by where Dad built the tumbler.

My bedroom was in the middle of the front of the house at first. The picture window shows where that transcendent Xmas tree once gleamed. The window on the far left was my mom's sewing room. Not long after we moved in my father framed in a big room down in the basement under my room and the sewing room. That became an interesting combo room: my room and the TV room. No divider, just one big room. One year I got a transistor radio for Christmas. It picked up all kinds of distant stations at night, including some in foreign languages. I used to hide under the covers with it on Sunday night and listen to the AT40: America's top 40 on the clear channel broadcast from WOWO 1190 in Ft Wayne; I can still hear that jingle. That's where I first heard Nowhere Man

and As Tears Go By

and BJ Thomas's cover of Hank's So Lonesome I Could Cry

That was the first music that was all mine, not my dad's.

Racy. Dad's favorite TV shows were Dr. Kildare, Gunsmoke, and Bonanza. I watched those with him, but my favorites were the slightly racy Burke's Law and the racier The Avengers; I was head over heels in love with Diana Rigg. Who wouldn't be? But my racy secret was the James Bond novels, just then coming out in paperback editions I could afford. I eagerly awaited each one. They were contraband; I had to keep them hidden. I was mildly disappointed by the movies at first, though I did like Sean Connery. Even in Zardoz.

Cravat. I kept up with the styles that washed through Oakley Elementary as best I could. I finally wore chucks. I combed my hair down over my forehead in imitation of the Beatles, prompting Mom to call me a mop-top. Paisley shirts were the first clothing craze I remember. Those got bumped by big bright polka dots; I had a shirt with dime size blue dots on black. But wearing a cravat was my idiosyncrasy. At the time it seemed very cool; now it looks like badge of a creep. O tempora, o mores, as Alice Miles, my 9th grade Latin teacher might've said. She gave me an A+ on my report card, the only one I got in that school. I thought things French were cool; thus the cravat. A friend and I created an imaginary musical group, Antoine & Illya. I was the French Antoine with my cravat, he was Illya Kuryakin from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; Antione was my variation on Napoleon Solo. Damn. David McCallum is so much cooler. Live and learn.

Smoking. I had my first drug experiences living at 50 Greenwood Road: smoking stuff. No pot, that was Kenya. The native grape vine in the woods had visible channels running through it when you found an old dead vine; they were everywhere. Smoking grape vine segments was my first experiment. I don't remember if I came up with it or someone showed me. They were hard to draw; you couldn't get much smoke. But what you got tasted better than any other smoke I ever tasted. Should have stuck with grape vines. My mom smoked Salems. My dad didn't smoke. When we first moved to Asheville Dad allowed smoking in the house. After a dinner party I could find ashtrays full of cigarette butts. I collected a bunch of butts and tried smoking the tobacco in a little briar pipe I bought at a pawn shop. Dreadful tasting. Sometimes a friend would get hold of pipe tobacco, like Prince Albert. Still pretty bad. But it wasn't hard to score cigarettes. They were 25¢ a pack. I didn't like smoking, but it was cool so I kept trying. I'd gotten pretty used to it by the time I made it to the Y in Nairobi. News was beginning to leak out that smoking caused lung cancer, and my dad laid down the law: smokers were banished outside, including Mom. Several years later when Mom and I were living together without Dad in Indialantic we bonded over that. She knew I was smoking down at Sam and Gail's, and she offered to buy me my Benson & Hedges at the grocery store to save money. Made it feel kinda like we were friends. The kinship of users is a bond like no other.