Born. I was born on December 16, 1951 in the Baptist Hospital on the banks of the Red River in Alexandria Louisiana. We pronounced it LOO-zee-anna. Loo-EE-zee-anna is the Cajun pronunciation. Sounded affected to us, well lah di dah. Kinda like pronouncing praline PRAH-leen. Say whut? Everyone I knew said PRAY-leen. My mother was Nina Fay Vermillion Cassady (always went by Fay) and my father was John Tom (not Thomas) Cassady. God bless 'em.
Crushes. It was a Sunday afternoon birth. What a considerate baby I was, for maybe the last time. They named me Jeffrey Scott Cassady, after no one in particular. Take that, genealogy. I was Scottie or Scotty at first, then Scott or occasionally J Scott. I never liked my birth names. I did not inherit my dad's flame red hair. Mom's brunette genes prevailed there. But I did inherit his freckled fair skin that burned easily. Mom always said I was thin-skinned. All through childhood I idolized my dad; he was my first crush. That left me with a persistent tendency to crush on redheads. What's your excuse?
Alexander. When I chose my current name in 2004 (I have a history of changing names and accents), I chose my GGGG grandfather's first name. That's the furthest back I ever got with genealogy. Zachariah Cassady flourished in the Cheraw District of South Carolina circa 1736. I also chose a new middle name for reasons I didn't understand at the time. Dense.
Pineville. We didn't live in Alexandria. We lived across the river in Pineville, home of Central Louisiana State Hospital, the Louisiana nuthouse, still in operation. We didn't actually live in Pineville either, though that was our RFD address. We lived a ways out on the Old Marksville Highway on a hobby farm my dad bought instead of a house in town when the US Forest Service moved the family from Ft Collins to Louisiana. Here's an example of his work in Louisiana.
Stevie. I was, as my mom delicately put it, an unexpected blessing. Steven Michael (they called him Stevie), died at age two a year or so before I was born. They had no intention of having another child, but my mom got pregnant anyway. She was 38. They thought that was too old to give birth in those days, but after medical consultation she went ahead with it. Or rather with me. Thanks Mom!
Spoiled brat. The circumstances of my birth had a lasting effect: I got babied and made allowances for far more than any of my siblings. I was a spoiled brat. This didn't bug my sisters Gail or Peggy; they were the ones babying me. But it bugged my brother Tim, and he would point it out: See, you got a power mower for him and I had to mow with a push mower; I knew it would happen. You bought him a motorcycle?! I'm grateful to all my siblings, especially Stevie. They broke my parents in for me; gentled them. Their oldest grandchild was only 6 years younger than me. I had something approaching grandchild status with them. They spoiled me rotten. And they got what they deserved. I was rotten to them, especially to my mom at times. Following on from that formative relationship I was rotten to my girlfriends for much of my life. I was clueless and self-absorbed. But the self I was absorbed in was also Leela, aka wisdom. Especially in Asheville before booze and pot got to me. But also ever after at certain moments. And since 2006 more and more to where now wisdom calls every shot. I live however Leela wants me to, and I do whatever she says. I was spoiled rotten to a very good end.
Chin me! When I was small Mom and I had a game we played. She would swoop in to kiss my belly, but instead put her chin on me and move her jaw as she made a funny sound, nananana. I would dissolve in helpless laughter at her tickling. I would beg her, "Chin me, chin me!" But one time I knocked her glasses off with my flailing limbs, so we had to stop. That game left me extremely ticklish, which later was a thorn in my side when it came to intimacy. My sweetheart would caress me lovingly and I would jump like I'd been poked with a red-hot poker. Thankfully I've outgrown that.
Trike. An old rusty tricycle triggered the earliest spontaneous meditation I can remember, at least so far. There was a small pond near our house, probably a remnant of the meandering Red River. The river ran about three crow miles southeast of us in modern times, but the territory between the river and our hobby farm was marshy, with scattered oxbow and finger lakes. The pond was surrounded by a thicket except for a tiny beach, just big enough for me and the grownup who had kid detail that day. I loved going to the pond. I would look for tadpoles and watch the minnows and damselflies flit about, each in their medium. On the far bank of the pond lay the rusty wreck of an ancient tricycle, half submerged in mud and pond water. Some kid like me, in ancient days, had ridden that now long defuct tricycle. Looking at it jolted me with my first recognition of time, aging, and death. I was no older than two. I can still taste that moment.
Inheritance. I don't know the size of our farm, but I suspect it was around 40 acres. We had chickens, two horses (Star and Blue), and a black dog named Midnite. And a big vegetable garden, of course. One of my treats was getting to feed the chickens cracked corn. They loved cracked corn; it was their treat. When I delicately hurled it at them they raised a huge ruckus, exploding into the air and pecking madly at the dirt. Our inheritances were all in the form of real property. Tim got the 45 acres he and I planted pines on in the 1960s. I got 40 acres Dad planted to pines in the 1970s. Gail got Riverhaven. Peggy hit the jackpot: 4 lots on Captiva Island. She sold way too early, but still made out like a bandit. After my parents died I took over managing my plot. I was a good absentee tree farmer, shelling out thousands over the years for local contractors to come in and do all the chores involved in tree farming. By the time I was ready to buy a house in Seattle those trees were big enough to be graded chip-n-saw rather than just pulp. I got a check in the mail that paid for the house with some cash left over, tax free as inheritance. Thanks Dad!
Horses. I was also a fearless horseman in those days: someone would occasionally put me bareback on Blue, the gentle mare who was not blue, and lead her around the paddock while I waved my arms intrepidly. I never rode Star, who had a star-shaped forehead blaze. He was too feisty.
Stump water. Most of our farm was wooded, but there was a cleared area near the house, our pasture, to me a vast prairie that went on forever. I could see trees off in the distance, on the far side of it where everything merged into borrowed scenery, a thing I learned about while studying to be a docent at the Seattle Japanese Garden. I've taken the idea of borrowed scenery even further now. All of nature comes to me in the cool breeze that washes my face at night. There was an enormous stump in the middle of that pasture, much taller than I was. I was transfixed to find dark rainwater the color of black coffee in a little cavity in it one day. I stood for a long time looking at that dark brown water, and the rest of the world went away. To me it felt like a tiny pond fed by a magic spring that was there all the time. The dark brown color of the water seemed magic to me. For a long time I considered stump water a magic potion. This was one of my two earliest experiences of spontaneous meditation. I was about three. Decades later I discovered the practical magic of dark brown water.
Bark rings. My pasture stump was big but not that big. Much later on my brother told me about coming across bark rings way back up in the woods of north Florida: the disappearing remnant of an old-growth pine felled decades ago. He said he found some 12 ft across, maybe more. There were giants in the earth in those days. At least in north Florida.
Boyfriend. There was an old upright piano in the living room. I used to hide behind it when Peggy was in the living room on a properly supervised 1950s date with her boyfriend. He was a redhead like my dad. Only her boyfriend had a flame-red flattop. I was fascinated by his razor-sharp butchwaxed hairdo, and I would come up behind them as they sat properly side by side on the couch so I could get a better look. Little brothers, jeez. Peggy was good-natured about it. It's not like they could make out. I had some kind of kid's record in red vinyl, maybe Christmas music. One time I brought my record and put it on top of his flattop. It sat there securely. He was good-natured too. He just said I prolly shouldn't do that cuz I'd gum up my record with hair wax.
Reincarnation. Mom played that old upright piano, and that was possibly my favorite treat of all. I'd sit beside her on the bench as she played her old favorites. My favorite was Red Sails in the Sunset.
I still remember that sheet music illustration he's using as background. I learned a simpler arrangement of Red Sails later on, after I took piano lessons in Asheville. I could have started piano lessons right then by asking my mother to show me how to play something more interesting to than Chopsticks or Blue Moon. After that they would have found me piano teachers. But I didn't have the focus or discipline required to become a real musician, an artist. Next time for sure.