Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Gone Lke a Knock on the Door

Having a Holly Jolly Christmas, not so in the period between Christmas and New Year’s was this '68 season. I confronted Lois with the letters in the drawer and she admitted to her affair with Dave. It wasn’t exactly the “Seven-Year Itch”, but 1969 would be the seventh anniversary of our marriage. It was still 1968, though, when the affair took place. The upshot of the confrontation was a decision to separate and consider divorce. She would remain at her father’s and I would move back to Bucktown.
On New Year’s Day I was at my parents along with Joe Rubio. Joe had become my closest friend, both at work and socially. We went everyplace together, we bowled together on a team called the Raiders and we did some co-writing. The photo at the top is Joe arriving to work on an article together. Lois is standing in the background. Now Joe was helping with my move back home.
I moved back into my old bedroom lock , stock and books. And boy, I mean books and books and books. Most of my personal possessions were books. Joe and I carried carton after carton of them from Drexel Hill to Bucktown taking most of the month of January 1969 to manage it. I had a good many record,s too. I didn't own much  but everything I did own was heavy. Besides the records and books I only possessed a few other things. I took the record player. I mean, most of the vinyl was mine and you needed something to play it on. I remember sitting with Lois, barely speaking to each other, sorting out whose album was whose. Other than the tons of books and records, I had little. I had my typewriter, my manuscripts and a few articles of clothing. Frankly, things haven’t changed much. Those are the things I have today that I consider mine, only now the records are all recorded on iTunes, a technology not even through of back then.

My marriage problems were not the only thing occupying me as the new year began. Another was the constantly growing war in Vietnam. There was a draft going on. I had escaped because of my psoriasis, but the government still needed more and more cannon fodder and was beginning to suck up every guy I knew. Joe and John Rubio were included in the harvest of that fodder. John was less upset by his Greetings from Uncle Sam, taking it is stride, but Joe really didn’t want to go into the service. I joined with him in trying to find a loophole. His family, too, they had appealed to their Congressman. They argued it wasn’t right to draft both sons at the same time, since they were the only boys in the family. This plea fell on deat ears.
Joe was trying to find a legal way out, not dodge the draft. He had no plans to skip to Canada, as others were doing. Nor did he burn his draft card. Many were publicly doing just that as a popular chant went up at protests, “Hell no, we won’t go!” Joe wasn’t interested in such extremes. He and I tried to find a legal way out.

We even made a trip to what were called the Marine Docks (pictured right) in a futile attempt to enlist in the Marine Reserves. I know it sounds convoluted, joining the Military to escape the Draft into the military,  but being in the Marine Reserves was a way to avoid going to Vietnam. He was refused entry, however, and unlike certain well-off people with influence, such as Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, he couldn’t get a deferral. Joe was just the son of a working stiff, and a Cuban immigrant at that. People like Joe, John and myself were just blue-color losers in the view of the government, expendable ne’er do wells. He had no money, we had no escape. We weren't no fortunate sons, no.

Sometime in early February a farewell party was thrown by the Accounts Receivable group to wish Joe and John luck. The gathering was held at Palumbo’s, at the time a well-known nightclub near the Italian Market in South Philadelphia. Sometimes accused of Mafia connections, it was a hangout for Frank Sinatra when he was in town. Sinatra was a regular performer as were Louis Prima and Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante, and Betty and Rosemary Clooney. (George Clooney is the nephew of both sisters, his father being their brother Nick.)
An arsonist burned the place down in 1994.

Girard Neville opened the proceedings with a prayer he wrote (Besides being one of our writers, Jerry had once studied at a seminary for the Priesthood):

“In the name of the Father and of The Son and of the Holy Spirit…amen.
“Bless each one of us at this table tonight, dear God, and most especially Joe and John Rubio.
“There is no one at this table who is so rich in knowledge that they have not leaned on these two young men at one time or another. There is no one at this table so continuously poor in retaining procedures to whom Joe and John have not extended warmth, manners and a solution to their problems. Each one here this evening, dear God, is sincerely and genuinely indebted to these two fine young men.”

“For these reasons, we ask You tonight, to increase in their personalities some virtues that they already adequately possess. Grant them a great deal of patience during the discipline and regimentation of basic training.  Guide their superior officers in selecting the advanced training befitting their attitudes and their attributes. Inspire John and Joe with a spirit or prudence in choosing their companions, many of whom will come from a lower cultural level than their former environment.
“No one at this table fully understands why these young men are being taken from our presence at the beginning of their promising careers. We therefore ask in closing that you return them to us both safely and as richly experienced young adults.
“Dear God, we hope you will not object that these will be the last serious words this evening, that everyone will erase their momentary solemn expression and put on a happy face. Thank you, Lord, merely for listening; amen.”
The whole department turned out to attend Joe and John’s dinner. Both of them were well respected.
Let me say a word about the group in the photo. John is behind the table in a gray suit, but he still kind of sticks out. Sitting next to his right is my good friend Jane Waiters. She is the only Black person at our table, so she is easy to spot and John is next to her. Joe is seated near the front closest to the camera. He is between his girlfriend at that time and my old flame, Pat Gormley. Across from Joe, and acting badly actually, is John Golden holding one of the young ladies on his lap. This was bad behavior because he was the boss, having replaced Donald Jones as manager. I understand that the girl went home with him after this event.

I admit I was no fan of Golden. He had a chip on his shoulder and I considered him a poor manager. I had him as a boss twice. The first time was when I worked in Addressograph. John Murphy, who was a great guy, moved on up the line and Golden replaced him as mailroom manager. Golden got on me about leaving ten minutes early in order to catch my train, something that Murphy had given me permission to do. I explained that I had permission and I also pointed out that I was starting work a half hour early every morning and pointed to my record of excellence. He told me there was nothing he could do about it, I had to conform to the time period stated. If he made an exception for me he would have to do it for everyone.  Balderdash, just tell anyone who requests it to come in ten minutes earlier. As long as the job gets done what does it matter? Besides, if doing so should improve everyone’s productivity up to my level, then it is a win-win. Nope, he insisted, a rule is a rule. This is the type of stupid management thinking I hate. Frankly, he was just slinging his power around.
I am seated near the back of the forward row. The light-haired man next to me is Girard “Jerry” Neville, but perhaps more of interest is the girl seated to my left. Her name was Mary Ann DiPipi and I was dating her at the time.
Of course, Lois and I had agreed we could see others during this separation. She could continue whatever with Dave if she wished and I was free to look around. I looked around and decided I wanted to go with Mary Ann. I even wrote a poem about this dalliance called “Secret Girl”.

Shallow gal, deep-down girl,
MAD eyes so tricky light.
Doors shut, windows up,
Secret day, open night.

Secret girl with morning
Frown; twilight laugh. Cute. Chic.
Be with me a secret;
Be indiscreet.

Secret girl whispering,
Philadelphia Street.
Dance, prance the barroom floor.
Yell and shout when we’re fleet.

Secret girl, deep-down girl,
Mystique. What other name?
Who are you? Blue? Purple?
Or are you both the same?

Stay cloaked; hid away.
Come out into my world.
Hide and seek. Be insane,
Sane girl, M A D girl.

Published: Poetry Vortex
Wilmington, Delaware
Dallas Kirk Gantt, Editor

The M A D were her initial.
Two days later Joe was heading for book camp. Despite Girard’s prayer Joe did not get what suited his attitude and attributes. His brother John, who had never protested his drafting was sent to Clerical Training and ended up in a camp in Kansas. Joe was assigned to infantry and sent to Vietnam.

I had moved in with my parents, but I was generally absent from their home. I would have supper some nights, sleep over on others, but more often disappear and be gone until sometime the next day. Some days I didn’t even come home at all.
On February 6, I awoke and packed a suitcase that I carried to work that morning. I left, straight from work, along with Mary Ann and a couple others, on a bus to the Catskills. We were off for a weekend ski trip at Big Vanilla Resort.
To be honest I don’t remember the other couples name.
I was not a skier and had never
had a pair on my feet. I didn’t this trip either. I wasn’t going to risk my legs in those things nor was I going to ride sitting up high in an open ski lift. I would watch Mary Ann and I would cozy up with her in the lodge, but beyond throwing some snowballs, I was more content by the fire drinking cocoa that risking the drifts outside.

We were supposed to leave around noon on Sunday, but that morning a Nor’easter roared in and buried everything in sight, including the roads home. It looked as if we would be stranded there for another night, but at 6:00 PM our buses rolled in and it was decided to risk the trip south. This was probably not the wised idea.
We headed down the mountain, but then it started snowing again. There would be a total of 14 inches and a lot of roads were closed, including the main interstate through New York. What should have taken 2 hours was going to become a 13-hour nightmare through the dark of a winter’s night.
Across from me was a truly frightened woman. She was even crying and sometimes she would begin to scream. I can’t blame her. This was one harrowing journey. We were strangely forced off the main route because of accidents or avalanches or some sort of blockage ahead. Thus we had to plow our way through several miles of drifted, curving, narrow back road until we could get back on the heavier traveled highways; except there wasn’t much in the way of traffic this night. Our bus kept moving, and you got to give a lot of credit to the driver, while all along the shoulders sat stranded and abandoned cars. I moved over across the aisle and put an arm around the now screaming lady, calming her, talking to her softly until she quieted and lay back against me. I held her the rest of the way.

Thirteen hours after we left Big Vanilla we pulled into a terminal in Philadelphia. The sun was rising in the sky. The air was cold, but the snow had stopped. It was 7:00 AM on Monday morning, just in time for me to go to work. I grabbed my suitcase and walked several blocks to the ARCo Building. I washed as best I could and changed clothes in a men’s room and then did my usual work for the day.

I was dating another girl during this separation period besides Mary Ann. I had met Mary Ann at work and we had shared several common interests, and we had talked at lunch even before the split. I met Janice Griffin (left) at a party.
I remember the party well, how could I not. It was a farewell party held at the Rubio’s before the boys left for the service. Joe was very somber. He didn’t mingle much during the evening, preferring to sit off to the side and drink whatever he was having that night. John was more into partying, but I had never been as close with John as with Joe, so I found myself wandering about from room to room.
There were three floors in the house and there were people crowding every level. Mr. and Mrs. Rubio held court in the living room while the rest of the family fanned out through the house. I was up on the second floor and asked someone where Dawn was. Dawn was one of Joe’s seven sisters. Someone pointed to a stairway and said she was up in the attic bedroom with some others. I went up the steps, but the attic door was shut and apparently locked. I could hear voices inside. Someone touched my arm.
“You can’t go in yet,” he said. “They’re playing a game. They’ll open the door in a minute.”
The door opened and I walked in with a couple others. There were several people already in the room, all smiling and several giggling like they knew a secret. I quickly learned the secret. The attic door was shut and bolted and the game began. Evidently this game has been around quite a while, but I had never heard of it before. It was called “Under the Sheet.” It seemed innocent enough.
They bid you lay down upon the floor. (There was a bed, which would have been a lot more comfortable.) A sheet was thrown completely over you, head and all. This would not be a sport for the claustrophobic. Someone said, “You are wearing something we want. Take it off, hand it out and if this is what we want we’ll let you out.”
Even though you kind of know shoes are too mundane for the game, you remove a shoe and pass it out beneath the sheet’s edge.
“No, this is not what we want.’ Of course it isn’t. “Try again.”
So out goes another shoe, then the socks and none of these are the key. Come on, let’s cut to the chase. The pants come off and get passed out.
“This isn’t it. try again.”
Really. Are they joking. Do they really want your underwear? Do you really want to give them your underwear? Oh, what the heck, so the briefs are pulled off and out go the tighty-whitys.
“This is not the item. Try again.”
You gotta be kidding. Off comes the shirt and out it goes and it isn’t the item either.
“Hey, that has to be it. I’m not wearing anything else.”
“Yes you are. You’re wearing our sheet and we want it back,” and with that the sheet is yanked away leaving you naked on the floor, trying to roll into a ball that will hide as much as possible.
They didn’t extend the agony of exposure, but quickly threw back one’s clothes and let you scramble to dress. Those around all had this silly grin on their faces as someone opened the attic door and allowed the next victim to enter. I was quite surprised the girls would play such a game in their home with their parents right downstairs.

I alternated dates between Mary Ann and Janice. Mary Ann was the more reserved of the two. Janice was always out for a good time. We went clubbing a lot. There were some bars in Delaware County that had dance floors. These were usually crowded and noisy. One of the better known ones was Mr. T's along Rt. 202 south of West Chester. After it closed a restaurant occupied the spot and was called Barnaby's. This moved and took over Timothy's and an Italian Eatery named Pescatoras now is open there.

Thus things went on through March. I touched base at my parents, but most nights I disappeared into the city and didn’t come home. In between work and my two girlfriends I was bowling in a league on a team called, The Raiders. We bowled in South Philadelphia, I swear on Oregon Avenue, but I can’t find out what the lanes were at the time. Whatever, I’m sure they followed so many bowling alleys and closed their doors years ago. We were a pretty good team. Of course, we lost both Joe and John and they were two of our best. The team began to fall apart after they left.

It was like everything was gone, gone gone. Well, not everything. There was still my job at ARCo and that’s when I decided to quit.


Ron said...

Fascinating Lar! By the way, did Joe come back from Viet Nam?

Larry Meredith said...


Did Joe come back? We'll find out eventually.


Ron said...

A cliffhanger! You're a real writer Lar! (smile)