Friday, October 12, 2007

GRANITE STATE XI - The Smell of Blood

There were always many worlds in my head as I drove through these places from the past, which here in 1986 looked just as they had looked so many years ago. It would have been 1936 when I was first up here in the mountains, certain scenes still vivid though they had taken place when I was not quite two years old. It had been my second summer trip to the mountains but I did not have clear pictures from that first summer – only a family story about a black car driven by a uniformed chauffer all the way up form New Rochelle -- bug that was their story, not mine --nothing like the scene in the drawing room compartment of a Pullman car on the steam driven train that was the favored, though not only, way to come – for sometimes we would do it by car. It is night. I am on an upper berth. In memory I am happy to be o the move, leaving something that might not be right for something that might be better. But it is all falling apart. I am sitting on an upper bunk, my legs dangling. I am fixated on a button up here that I know you can press to summon help. The excitement the excitement of this new place, my pleasant anticipation of new things to come, has given way to terror.

Nearly 50 years later I came upon a crime scene in New York – someone slashed to pieces on the ground floor of my small apartment building in Chelsea just months before these trips of expiration in the aqua Mustang. There was a frantic appearing local TV reporter doing a near hysterical on-camera report from the building’s stoop (which in itself did not mean much for I knew from my own journalism days that such reports were always frantic – the flip side of TV happy talk and not necessarily connected to anything real. I did not see the body. I did not see the blood. But I smell. the blood, Fresh blood. I had seen deal bodies in many parts of the worlds, but always from a distance. I did not know till this light I found a hysterical sounding journalist on the stoop, I did not know I knew the small of blood.

I knew the victim, who was not, it was becoming clear, a pure victim. I knew him as a kindly old and unwell retired teacher who had sat in the building’s garden most days. Before he needed a walker, other tenants told me, he had been the one to keep up the garden, which now ran wild.Such a kindhearted man, it seemed.

Though now the murder was being rapidly solved. He was an important figure, the journalists learned, in Namboy, North American Man-boy Love. Old men and little boys having sex. And the murderer was a young man who before he was caught traveled down the East coast, making taunting phone calls to the New York TV stations, saying he was a long-time victim of pedophiles. Nothing had been what it appeared to be – the kindly old man in the garden.

And now in the aqua mustang in which I was traveling through the past, windows rolled up, tapes turned up loud – all those songs I had missed during my years abroad as often as not in what a journalist would cal l war zones – now having not so long ago passed 50, which I had once thought would be an unlikely ancient age to attain – feeling as if my life was starting – but with so much to clear up – here in the aqua mustang, listening to Cat Stevens as filtered through a very safe happy singer named Roger Whittaker whose world seemed as simple as America filtered through the fakery of Ronald Reagan, who was well into his second term playing president, no one sure if he was senile or not was really believed, or just and almost no one apparently caring – Roger Whittaker who would do a verse or two whistling and ask his audience to whistle, happily whistle, along with him – Listing to Cat Stevens and James Taylor and Joni Mitchell through this Roger Whittaker – or through the sweetness of Judy Collins the toughness of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen and deep singers from the past so deep that their songs now could only be attributed to an entity called Traditional – slowly connecting to who I may or may not have ever known I was, I am halfway between what feels like a time of rebirth and halfway absorbed in the set-in-place place version of the world whose center for may family had been the White Mountains – here in the Mustang, putting it all together, I am suddenly less than two years old, dangling over the upper bunk – looking at that button the way, is seems now in memory if not at the time, a child would look at a mother – my mother down below is crying so hard it seems like screaming, and so too her mother, her flabby Southern mother who I already know prefers my twin brother Peter to me, already see how she exalts him – and Peter is down there too and he is wailing as if his world too is at an end.

What happened in mystery but it seems now, inside the Mustang, I have enough information. The smell of blood is enough.

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