I, Barry, took three rides and a long walk to make it from Rochester to Canandaigua. I was told by my cousin’s husband, a noted child psychologist and researcher who developed the tests needed to diagnose mental disorders in blind, deaf or both adolescents, to just leave his office and go to where I wanted to be. It’s hard to believe he didn’t realize how distressed I was, but I felt a type of freedom I never would have allowed myself at the time.
So I caught a ride down Elmwood Avenue from John’s office (appropriately 118 steps from Canon’s, John’s favorite watering hole, a place that also served a divine Welsh rarebit and steaks). The couple who picked me up was young.
“Where you headed young man?” he asked as the car made it through intersections heading east-south-east past the “State Hospital” which is a catch-all for the mentally ill, eternally homeless or basket cases, known as “lifers.”
“If you’re going all the way to Clover Street, that would be super. I live near the corner of Clover and East Avenue,” I boldly announced at circus barker volume.
“Oh we can swing that way right honey?” she said, with a look that acted like a nudge. Leaned back and imagined I looked relaxed, even if running on 14-year-old testosterone. Ten minutes later, maybe less, there we were, in the very green and well manicured neighborhood.
“Thank,” I said, closing the door of their white 19to AMC Ambassador. Funny door handles, kind of square, that pulled open like the latch to an old freezer, only sideways.
Thoughts, a mile-a-minute came into my head, as I had been given official license to do whatever I wanted. I didn’t notice the walk home, past “Catholic row” where children outnumbered parents by an average of five to one. I didn’t stop by to see Derek, Jim, John or David as I swung down Georgian Court, a road Mom called “The Gaza Strip.” She being resolutely ethnocentric and “World War II conservative.”
I hung a walking left onto Trevor Court, in a neighborhood (The Barnard Tract)n recently made famous in a book showing just how closed off one rich family was from the others, but this was never true for the kids, back in the 70s. No. There were pick-up sports games in all three academic seasons. Summer found us at Canandaigua Lake, visited by cousins, and many others. The Martins next door got a summer spot near us at the lake also, but were not always at my parents big blow-out parties. Then, in an act of coincidental synchronicity, the McQuaids bought the ranch house my dad had built by himself (minus plumbing and electricity) 25 years earlier. It was south of us and on the east die of the lake, near Bare Hill, the Iroquois meeting place.
So, while two hockey rinks kept us skating in the winter (both the McQuaid and Baume kids built rinks every winter), hot-box baseball, soccer, lacrosse, touch football, and basketball kept us moving in the non-snowy months. It was a type of heaven, but how could we guess that playing outside everyday would become a luxury, and often overlooked in favor of PC games, cellular phones and 2500 “friends” on Facebook? I was in no way a jock like everyone else, but I still had a great time playing every day.
One the corner of Trevor Court and Georgian court Sandy lived, and he lived to play lacrosse, so he had a goal set up in his back yard. Even well into his 30s when he was home visiting he’d take a jog around the neighborhood with stick, ball and trusty golden retriever. The guy could run forever, cradling, playing catch with his dog, or trying to set new records for the bounciness of a ball…distances measured in kilometers if the throw was straight enough.
Once in a while he’d miss a shot and a lacrosse ball would lodge in a place where he couldn’t find it in our back yard. Who knows how many months or years later a free lacrosse ball would be found. I’d throw it into his yard, inevitably screwing up his lawn mowing. He was about 8 years older so I didn’t know him very well. He was not the champion jock though. One guy, who almost never joined us in the neighborhood sport because he was at the far end of Georgian Court ended up on the Olympic team and had a few great write ups. But no write up was as famous as the McQuaids, who had six boys, an exact hockey lineup. Back when there were two papers in town, the Times Union, the evening paper, did a full color shot (rare then)and it turned out at least three of the McQuaids ended up great players.
I blew by my own house, and, taking Doc’s instructions a tad to literally, marched next door and found the Martin’s door unlocked. I was in love with the older daughter, who was exactly my age, but plenty attracted to her younger sister as well. In 1972 unlocked houses were fairly common, as the robust 60s lowered the crime rate considerably.
So, using the “follow your heart” command I took my semi-psychotic self up to the attic, where parties with Mark and his older friends introduced all of us to better music, alcohol, marijuana and kissing. There were drinking, smoking and kissing games, with variations that inevitably led to the older attendees laughing at the younger ones.
I don’t remember taking my clothes off, or how I ended up lifting a dropping the barbells that mad enough noise for Mr. Martin, who was home form work to pick up his youngest daughter, Cathy, who had come into the house without me hearing it, two stories up. But he heard it and came up two flights with Cathy close behind.
“I wonder what that was,” she said, and I recognized the voice without realizing I was buck naked.
“Put your clothes on Barry, what’s going on” Mr. Martin asked, somewhere between furious and humored.
So I put my clothes on while Cathy stared right at my groin.
“Do you need a ride to the lake, we’re heading down now,” he said. Now Mr. Martin was a second Dad. He knew all about the emotional fights that emitted loud noises toward his kitchen door. He hadn’t fully gotten over the times I had chased Ann all over the two yards and beyond trying to get a kiss. “Kiss Tag” in my mind…terror in hers, I’m sure.
I refused the 45-mile ride out of embarrassment. Canandaigua didn’t seem like a long way to hitch hike that day. My mind was split between going to Canandaigua and the idea that I was free to do anything that day, having been sprung from both parental and super-ego barriers, I was, by any measure, out of my mind.
Thus I didn’t remember how I walked a mile down east avenue to get to the I-490 Linden road on ramp. And still don’t remember much about the man who got me as far as Victor, the philosophical, if not geographic halfway point to Canandaigua. From there, another universally-sent ride got me to the northwest corner of the city of Canandaigua, located at the north end of the westernmost of the picaresque Finger lakes. It was probably anything but a beautiful drive for the 50s couple who picked me up in Victor. They would have left me by the cornfield on the far side of Boughton Hill if it was up to the driver. But, the second happy-to-help lady in a row saved the day. She managed to get me calmed down enough so I could tell her I lived on West Lake Road, and it was at the beginning of this 20-mile road that I was dropped off. I got out and started walking, but my outstretched thumb wasn’t working anymore.
A four mile walk is not bad for a 14-year-old, though I had been over 200 pounds since I was 10. Between 19 and 29 I never felt fat, though hit 330 at one point. At 29 a member of the International Peace Walk (we were trekking through Russia for peace) told me it was nice to “have a person of size” on the walk, and right then (15 years later) I felt fat; but no one noticed my size again for another 20 years (girlfriends and wives included) until I moved to Korea, where lookism and the horrible looks one gets if chubby are augmented by comments like this one: I was sitting with a retired opera singer and her photographer husband in his restaurant “museum” in Damyang. She was about 70 years old. The very first thing she said to me was not “hello” or “Anyon Haseo, but, “when are you going to lose your weight?” I informed her that I had lost over 23 kilos (that’s over 50 pounds) in the last five years (taking me down to near 240 pounds) and at that point I thought she was going to faint.
But I progress.
I was distracted by a variety of colorful yet confusing items as diverse as a potato bug and an F-150 pick up whose driver missed me by inches while honking his horn. Where was I the middle of the road? His truck was white but appeared to change colors over and over after the near-hit.
So in a flat between rises, just before the Canandaigua Yacht Club, I switched to the left side of the road. It was close to my beloved lake, and maybe I could see cars coming better. The sun was also different in 1972, and the heat not so pervasive. You could easily sail, and I did, all day bare-chested with numbered SPF sun goop on (since it hadn’t been invented). In fact we put on baby oil or Coppertone to ATTRACT more sun.
The yacht club had the largest fleet of wooden-keeled catamarans in existence, as they made fantastic racing boats on a lake where the wind changed directions all the time due to the surrounding hills.