I have often sat, pondered, and wondered where do my steps lead me from here. Leading my way into self-defeat is not a path I have chosen although it has chosen me. Alone in the darkest of the loneliest nights, I tiptoe across the floor hoping to find that trail I am supposed to walk down that will take me to who knows where. In a faraway land where all the dreams of dreams are kept there lies my defining moments of truth whereupon I must choose to know or never be in the know. My legs in their final moments of functionality lead me to rest off the road and onto a grassy field where others with the same last name as mine restfully reside. Let me now reside by their side forever more.
These legs in their younger days trotted over the Golden Gate Bridge from one end to the other. My legs ceased to be in motion mid-span on the bridge to watch the sun burn through the morning fog. I could not help but notice Alcatraz Island in the distance. Once in motion again the seagulls would escort me the rest of the way on my downward descent into San Francisco. My legs held steadfastly to their decision only to stop all motion or forward thrust when the sights and sounds of The San Francisco Bay provided all the impetus they needed to hold me in place so as to allow me to see what I had never seen or felt what I never felt before.
Not many a fence did I ever climb. Nor did I ever have the necessary bravado to hang upside down on the monkey bars leaving my sneakers in sole charge of the task to prevent a sudden plummet to the black rubber matted ground that awaited those who could not keep a grip or maintain the proper balance necessary to keep you swinging but not taking the plunge. My legs did allow me to obtain sufficient elevation to give me a clear look at the top barrel that I was aiming to shoot my basketball in.
Playing soccer with a basketball (yes, it was a Spalding) led to multi grimaces of pain throughout the game as the rock-hard rubber basketball was rocketed directly at the lower parts of my legs in hopes that the force of the kick in conjunction with the pain would surely lead to a goal. My legs and I are not too proud to boast about the fact I could not be beaten. In those times when the ball introduced itself to my forehead while branding the word Spalding onto it, the kick would be repelled.
The same legs with barking shins powered my red and white five-speed bicycle with the white gear shift cleverly mounted in a manner so that I would have to lean forward if I wanted to change gears through driving rainstorms.
These were the heydays of my Bronx (New York City Borough north of Manhattan) athletic days. The same legs with barking shins powered my red and white five-speed bicycle with the white gear shift cleverly mounted in a manner so that I would have to lean forward if I wanted to change gears through driving rainstorms. Down Boston Post Road I would pick up speed as would race past the parked pimp cars that I had doused with milkshakes.
Along the way these legs with shins so stiff that I could barely move from one side of Highway 101 all the way to another side of the highway challenging the rushing oncoming cars. Despite no shortages of near misses I forged on with my daily mission to get to RGE (Real Gas & Electic Company) where I sold Solar Energy in the middle of Northern California’s rainy season. The thrill of the chase accompanied by the handsomely designed check with all those delectable numbers on it. The boy from the Bronx with the achy legs and stiff shins became a hot commodity amongst Solar Energy Equipment Companies practically all of whom wanted me. Heck, I had my “California Accent” down pat so well that all the natives thought I grew up there. What a bunch of stupid hicks I would heartedly laugh to nobody in particular. I proved to my roommate that a Bronx Boy that moved to scenic Northern California via Brooklyn could make it in the land that Happy Days was born in. She loved my money and I loved sleeping in her bed alongside her minus clothing of any sort.
Nowadays I forlornly look at my legs wondering where all the court and spark has gone to. There is still the old quick first step to outrun a car on a busy Brooklyn Street with little left after that. The image of my hauntingly thin father slowing down (yet he still managed to tackle a would be mugger on the train that would take him to the other train and then home) to the point where his shoes scraped the ground grinding down the soles that somehow would always get ensnared with the cuffs of his pants as his brown leather belts could not keep his pants high enough. I am horrified by the sight of numerous pairs of my pants with ragged, frayed and tattered cuffs from failing black leather belts that have become worn from stretching them to the last hole and then some.
Deep from within I see those signs I had seen before. The heart still beats strongly while my soul burns and yearns for the thrill of making deals in the middle of the night. How can I now accept that physically I cannot keep up that harried frenzied pace that was my hallmarks? Am I of any use to anybody? Has my train pulled into its terminal to power off perhaps for the very last time? My legs bend and buckle beneath me taking balance away from me. At times I am the pool ball that is ricocheted off the bumpers before falling into a pocket.
How long, how long, how long before I must fold up or curl up in a fetal position while being fed through clear polyvinyl tubes that have been jammed into me. Is it time to tally up the number of steps my steps have taken or does the meter continue to run? Each bird that flies down from the trees in the adjacent yard look at me with tilted heads trying to determine where the bread that I throw out to them will land. In between pecks of the bread or pre-flight loading, they serenade me with a song moments before they ascend to the sky. What is there above the low lying puffy white clouds they seem to know so well?
At last look, my legs looked good showing no telltale signs of aging. Not even the slightest wrinkle could be found or skin dried from age that would hang lifelessly. But yet these legs will not carry me as they used to. Why can’t they? Why can’t they lift me aloft again? Why all of a sudden now is crossing at the corners when there is a green light something I have to consider as opposed to dashing down Seventh Avenue to purposely arrive at Penn Stations Track 17 where the 7:33 pm train to Long Beach would pull in fresh out of the storage yard.
What am I to make of where I’ve been what I’ve done or where I think I can still go minus the use of the long-winged flying machine that deftly defies gravity. Sometimes I would peek a look into dad’s sad brown eyes with bags below each eyelid trying to unlock the secrets only he knew but could not yet tell me. It pained him when I went away but for me, this was not the place to stay. Today I gander at roads I may never navigate again. Perhaps someday soon I will travel up that road in a long square back limousine resting in the rear inside a hand-carved wooden container followed in line by other cars with headlights shining brightly en route out east. Ironically I was once amongst the throngs who were headed out east on the Southern State Parkway except then we were bearing down on the Town of Wantagh to grab a cherished spot closet to the sea. I like them never took notice of the parade passing by.
My ride today will have us whizzing past the State Trooper Cars hiding behind the bushes and the weeping willow trees waiting for a passing car to bring their speed guns to life. In an instant, they would be riding upon an unsuspecting speeder until the authoritative command to pull over is heard. Our route to Wellwood Avenue in Farmingdale New York will continue unimpeded. When the motors go silent as I have reached the destination that was sketched out long ago my carrying case is unloaded and carried to the open dirt pit that I would soon be lowered into. Who will be there to weep or simply say goodbye to Joel his jokes his occasional rivalry with the world and his precious unplayed guitar that was going to spur his foray into the territory once held by Bob Dylan?
That ride may have to wait awhile as my eyes are still clear and my kidneys fully functioning. The energy level is diminished but the dreams and perhaps far-flung fantasies remain steadfastly in their place. I have time in the days but no times in the night to prophesize about last breaths being taken. My ability to take care of me all by my lonesome is not in question. My razor sharp mind still pens words as if they have fallen into my head by magic which is exactly the nature of the process.
Through my cold steely looking blue eyes I do not project warmth of heart but the look is not indicative of what lies beneath the surface. There is a gentleness in me forged out of love for children and animals. While my knees will cry and complain I let it all fall on ears that are in any event less than fully functional but will not still me from petting a dog, saying hello to a cat tossing a stray ball that was gutter bound back to the child whose boundless energy sent it afloat. The fiery furnace that burns within me borne out of the circular design of my life sends signals that if you cross over my parallel lines by espousing half-baked theories about how it is best to “let go” of the past, my wrath will be upon you. Death hates those who live life with fire as that is contradictory to what death is in need for which is a person with bags packed and ready to move on and move out.No that is not me.
What I am is who I am that is which switch put me on the track to brimstone and fire one moment while wallowing in the despair of the deep silence. Will my legs lead the way as they always have or will the call go out for a leader to fashion my course? The rocks I kick in disgust from not being my own drill sergeant arise my anger. “And miles to go before I sleep” –William F. Nolan The pieces to my life’s puzzle in the physical form may no longer fit perfectly in place but none the less the pieces on the board although warped by time still come together even there is the noticeable absence of the sound signifying the seal has been certified.
So where after the words the vowels, the consonants, the verbs, the adverbs, pronouns, and such am I left to draw from to transmit to you. I leave you dear friends to slumber and snore but not before you read these words that exemplify what me or my or I have been about. “As I wander through the notions of my mind encapsulated by the time I furiously pound my frame from within in a winner takes all last-ditch effort to free my self from my cracked cocoon. There are more Brooklyn Bridge Anniversary Partys on the ramps and the walkways for me. “I’ve got this problem with my aging I no longer can ignore. A tame and toothless tabby can’t produce a lions roar. And I can’t help being frightened on these midnight afternoons
When I ask the loaded questions — Why does winter come so soon?
And where are all the golden girls that I was singing for
The daybreak chorus of my dreams serenades no more” Harry Chapin-There Only Was One Choice.