Verbal Remedy AKA Denise

Verbal Remedy AKA Denise
Del Mar, California, The One That's In A State Of Steep Decline
January 18
Much preferred to the alternative.
Born. Grew up. Kept growing up. Started growing older. Still at both the growing up and growing older. Stay tuned.


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FEBRUARY 28, 2009 7:07PM


Rate: 92 Flag


Photo: (by permission)

Susie and I walked the tracks. A lot. Usually without an end in mind.

In the summer, we breathed piney pitch fumes rising from the railroad ties and struggled not to gag from the smell. In cooler weather, we filled endless paper shopping bags with broken pieces of glass--violet, cobalt, ruby, amber, turquoise--fragments spilled from open-top shipping cars over the decades.

Dying it may have been, but during those summers, the town still had a few jewels left over for us to find from its heyday as a coal town, a clay pipe town, a brick town, a glass town. It even had giant, inexplicable mountain of broken glass, which was beautiful in a strange and puzzling way.

The Glass MountainI wish the photo weren't so blurry. Those pieces of broken glass sparkled.

Most of those industries folded up and died during the years Susie and I grew up. What we were left with was a railroad town--and a pass-through at that. A train town that even Amtrak circumvented.

Susie moved a lot, from one rental house to another. When we met in first grade, she was growing up with a long-divorced mom who didn't work, a brother and two sisters (at least for a while), government cheese, food stamps, 7 dogs, 12 cats, and a rat named Rat. 

Susie was everything I wanted to be, and wasn't.  Small, thin, strong. A muscular little powerhouse with long, thick, wavy chestnut hair so healthy you could've braided it into a rope and used it to tow a wagon behind your bicycle. (I was taller and ganglier, and terminally uncoordinated. My tragic Cousin Oliver haircut combined the color of a mudpuddle with the texture and sheen of overcooked spaghetti. I was, in short, a mess.)

But Susie was also many of the things I was. We both loved to draw and write and paint and read. We traded books constantly. We were both smart, critical thinkers, even as youngsters. Both a little too sassy for our own good ("sassy" defined as "a minor questioning something said by an adult which made no sense whatsoever.").

Mostly, though, it was Susie's physicality I envied. Even in third grade, she could (and did) bruise me with unexpected punches, or wrestle me to the floor, forcing me to scream, "Stop! Stop! I give, I give." (Truth be told, after the first smackdown--having already been trained by a younger brother who was also stronger than me--I didn't try to fight back. It was easier just to take the hit, to lie down and surrender. This early life lesson and reflexive passivity doubtless did me harm later in life, but at the time, it made perfect sense.)

In short, I wanted to be Susie.

Suzie's first house's back yard abutted one of the town's many sets of train tracks.

Those tracks, heading southeast, were a shortcut to the city girls' softball field (5 minutes), which had a relatively nice set of swings, and then my neighborhood (10 minutes) next to the boys' baseball field (swings, a merry-go-round, a slide), then the slag hills (15 minutes).

  Image source:

(Not My Slag Hill...Just An Example)

Slag hills were always a good destination, whether on foot or on bicycles. The big one was a good climb. The little ones all around it made for great bike jumping, foot chases, and hide-and-seeking.

In seventh grade, our Social Studies teacher (borrowed from the sixth-grade classroom next door) assigned us a craft project  to illustrate a period in world history.

Susie and I had at least three grocery bags filled with broken glass by this point. So we decided to use the glass to create a mosaic of sorts. I don't remember what the mosaic was supposed to be--something Byzantine?--but I seem to remember we got an "A." All those hours, all those years, all those weeks of walking the tracks and picking up worthless broken glass had added up to something. 

Susie's second house was a half-block away from two other sets of tracks. One freight track ran beside the school where I'd gone to Kindergarten, and the backed up against the gas station her Uncle Walter owned. Between the two were a few acres of woods, a creek, some improvised bike trails, and open fields full of birds and mice and the occasional stray dog.

I have only cloudy memories of Uncle Walter. He'd give us each a bottle of RC when we stopped in to say "hi" on our walk home from school. Sometimes he'd also flip us a quarter for the pinball machine. His gas station was where we parted ways on that walk--me heading East to my house, she heading West to hers.

One early morning when we were in 4th (5th? 6th? 7th?) grade, somebody gunned Uncle Walter down outside the station. The local authorities never arrested anybody for his murder, as far as I know; my Dad hinted when I was a bit older that organized crime wasn't just way up there in Chicago, and that just maybe, Uncle Walter had owed somebody money or something.

Dad used to take me out for rides on country roads on his red Honda 350 when I was small; 5, 6, 7 years old, just a girl and her dad, my long blonde child-hair flying in the wind. In the beginning I rode in front of him, sitting on the gas tank, holding the handle bars just inside of his hands. When I got too big to do that, I graduated to the back of the motorcycle. Then dad got too big to ride the motorcycle.

One evening during this timeframe, we were in the car, stopped at a gas station near the High School when a thin guy with black hair rode up on the exact same motorcycle. Dad and I were excited to see it. How cool! A cycle twin! The guy rode off a few minutes before we did.

Dad topped off the tank of the Pontiac and we headed south to Grandma's house, three miles away. On the way, we were shocked to see the red cycle twin mangled on the same road. Dad dropped me off at Grandma's, went back to the site of the wreck to find out what had happened. (He was like that, my Dad. He knew everybody. One of the local cops--a friend of his--was on the scene and shocked to see Dad alive. He'd figured the dead body that had just been transported from the scene had to be Dad's, since nobody else in town rode that bike.)   

The summer between 6th and 7th grade, Susie's older sister was thrown from the back of her boyfriend's motorcycle and killed.

Susie took it as well as any kid might.

And she got even tougher.


  Me and Suzie, circa 1981

Me and Susie, probably in 8th grade

The creek and woods between Uncle Walter's gas station tracks and the Kindergarten tracks were one of our favorite places to waste a summer day. Susie and I loved those woods. We planned our lives--or at least what we could conceive of as "our lives"--in those woods. 

We'd developed crushes on the Bad Cousins in our class and fought constantly over which Bad Cousin we'd date (never mind the fact that the objects of our budding affection hadn't quite gotten to the "Maybe Girls Aren't Entirely Yucky" stage yet.)

An old abandoned well sat beside the creek, long since covered up with a heavy iron lid. During long, humid days, we'd settle down on that well in the shade of the woods, lulled by the babbling creek, and talk. How much we loved the Bad Cousins. How much we hated the sadistic nuns and teachers. How much we hated our parents. How much we hated the town.

How we were going to get out.

We started a giant looseleaf binder one year, planning a horse farm we'd buy and run together. She would of course be our jockey--she was built for it. Tiny and strong. I'd be the general manager, or a trainer, or something. It didn't matter. Anyway, we filled up pages and pages with names of and drawings of our Someday Horses and our Eventual Silks. We drew up a map of the farm--the barns, the pastures, the training track.

The summer between 7th and 8th grade, local authorities found a body decomposing under the well's heavy iron lid, where Susie and I had spent so many hours planning our lives.

I don't think it was ever identified.

The transition from Catholic elementary school to public High School was a welcome one, but awkward. For eight years, 36 of us had lost teeth together, fought on the playground together, gotten chicken pox together, experienced emotional and physical abuse together, spent the day in the same classroom together. Of those 36, I was "friends" with only three or four. Now there were 820 other students to meet, to find a place among, to emulate, to avoid, to fear, to admire. 

Even in a town of 15,000 people, that's a lot of strangers. 

On the last day of 8th grade, Susie and I had signed up for the same High School foreign language. And so we saw each other every day for German class.

Had it not been for that, I'm sure I'd have lost her sooner.

In High School, Susie continued to harden. She was still a beauty-- a rough, savage one. She held her own more or less effortlessly against the loosely formed gang of smokers and pot-heads who lined the school's narrowest hallway, vaguely threatening the rest of us.

She took shit from nobody.

Meanwhile, I was trying to be girly, pretty much for the first time, without much in the way of guidance. I read Teen magazine and taught myself to put on makeup (Mom wasn't much into that kind of thing, and besides, I'd chosen to live with Dad.) I tried to grow out and glamorize my recalcitrant hair, first with permanents and then with bleach. I started wearing a lot of pink.

I signed up again for classes in the College Prep Track.

Susie didn't.

The first time Susie told me she'd signed up for Study Hall (read: naptime) I was dumbstruck.



Cuz why?

I don't wanna.

Why not?

Waste of time.

But you need other classes for college.

I'm not going to go to college.


 No money.

Much as I'd have liked to argue with her longer, the lunch bell was ringing and another grade school friend was there to whisk her away with a crowd I didn't like much.

Susie and The Other Friend and I had a sleepover at her third house, late in our Sophomore year. This house was farther off the tracks than any of them.

That evening, around 9:00 pm, her oldest sister (it was the middle sister who'd died) came home from one of the dozens of bars in town, bringing along a couple of guys. I seem to remember one of them kept emphasizing, drunkenly, that he was 27 years old.

The long and the short of it is, The Other Friend and Susie wanted to go out riding with the guys in their Pontiac, and I couldn't think of a good enough reason not to ride along. So we all bundled in--two men, three fifteen-year-olds, a couple of twelve packs, and endless stretches of dark, flat, mostly straight country road.

I didn't say much for the next few hours (after my first and second "Can we go back now?" were ignored, I stopped trying). I didn't drink. I didn't make out with the guys. I didn't do anything. I sat in the back seat on the passenger's side, watching, horrified and fascinated, wanting to disappear.

When the car got back to Susie's house just at dawn, and I saw my father's car there, I knew I was in deep trouble. I hadn't chosen any of the evening's many idiocies, but I'd gone along for the ride. When Dad yanked me by the arm out of the guys' car and threw me into his, I was surprised to realize that while I was afraid of his rage, mostly I was just relieved to have made it back alive and unviolated.


Dad, just before his death in 1985. You'd have been afraid, too.

Susie and I were clearly now on two very different tracks.

The Other Friend had and kept a baby at 17 and dropped out of school.

Susie had her baby at 17. She did come back half-days to finish High School--an act which made me very, very proud of her.

I walked the tracks to visit her in the hospital right after the delivery.

I think I recall hearing that the baby's father died a few years later.  I don't even remember what had supposedly happened to him. Was gunfire  involved? It's hazy.

That baby, assuming that things worked out for the best, is now 27 years old himself.

Me...I got out of town.

I took the binder full of names for our Someday Horses with me. 

I visited Susie (and her mother, and the baby) just once, on a visit brief trip back to my hometown during the first year of college. By that time, almost everybody else I'd known back there had cleared out.

Susie and her family were living as they always had, with a menagerie of pets, in yet another house. A fourth house. Just a few steps away from the Kindergarten tracks.


Image: Our very own generous bbd:


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Believe it or not, this started out as a very short post. Really.

I really wish Suzie would join Facebook already.

Because no matter where our different tracks took us, I still miss the hell out of my childhood best friend.
Evocative, sensitively's funny how this mirrors what's been going through my mind lately thinking about a long-ago girlhood friend. I doubt that I could write it to this standard however, but I may give it my best shot. And I know what you mean about Facebook.
Write it, Emma--I want to read it.
My childhood chums were little thugs, just like me. But I miss them sometimes, too. Rated for evoking another time, another place ... and absent friends.
This is a gem, Verbal. Childhood memories may be my favorite genre in fiction (Ray Bradbury leaps to mind) and knowing that this is a memoir makes this story all the more touching. Thanks.
So interesting how lives turn out.. I remember a girl in 8th grade, beautiful, all the boys loved her. Like you, I wanted to be her. She used to sit and draw martini glasses and I had no idea at the time what the heck a martini was. I am sure you have guessed by now, I found out years later her father was a total alcoholic and she also married an alcoholic.... I don't want to be her anymore..
btw... great writing... great pictures...

rated for memories.... like the corner of our minds..
Thanks, Rob. That means a lot coming from you.

Today, with a completely re-calibrated sense of "normal" I am astounded to look back on childhood and "see" the abnormal amount of death and violence and poverty that surrounded me then.

I suppose it's no wonder I grew up to be a fatalist...
Boanerges and MAWB, thanks for reading. When I hit "post," I couldn't believe how damned LONG this thing turned out to be. :-S
O. M. G. This is just spectacular. Riveting. I'm "all over chills," as some old aunt used to say. (good expression, don't you think?) I couldn't stop reading. I was there. And btw, look at you in that photo: long legs up to there, lean, sleek, great rack, perky hair, what fools we are when we compare our orange selves to apples.

I hope you find her. I'm worried you'll find her. Thomas Wolfe was right, sadly. Gad, woman, you can write! So glad you kept going instead of a short post. We would have missed such an adventure!
Absolutely didn't feel long to read. And. . . it remind me of a friend who got out, but her brothers didn't. Well written.
This was a great peek into the past. Tracks. Perfect title. Funny how we knew so much back then about what we would do or grow up to be. Even funnier to look back over the years and see how different those tracks are compared to what we thought they would be. I didn't grow up in a dying town.
My town was and is still dead. I'm not sure it ever really had a pulse. But we had tracks and woods and many of the things you mention in your past as I'm sure most rural kids did. I remember back then how confused and fascinated about girls I was way back then.
Great story VR. Rated before read as usual for you.
I really enjoyed and related to this post, Verbal. And when I began to write a comment, I was in line to be the first to do so and the post was yet unrated; and then my own memories started flooding in... They all start out as short posts. Really. And I'm so fortunate that despite leaving town just after HS graduation and going back only three or four times, my best childhood friend is still there, and we are still in touch. Thank you for reminding me of things that had gotten a little buried by the years. It's a lovely reminiscence, and I wouldn't doubt that it may induce a few more childhood tales from the vault from some of the others, including myself.
To all our childhood memories and to all our childhood friends, I think this is one of the best posts I've ever read here.
Oh, I so get this. Thank you, thank you.

I love Facebook for just these sorts of important things.

(any chance she is on

Your usual great writing, good luck finding Suzie.
I got lost in this story, Verbal. I'm so glad that your short post evolved into a complete story. It's painful to remember best friends and to wonder where they are.
Verbal, this wasn't too long, it was just the right length for the story you had to tell and told so evocatively

rated for bittersweetness
Wow. Very evocative and powerful writing. I hope you find your friend someday. It's amazing how many long-lost people pop up on FB. It is weird how our lives take different tracks and some people's tracks in life grow weeds like long abandoned railroads. Thanks for the great post.
Loved this, just loved this, Verbal. Absolutely riveting and transporting, on a day when I needed it. The thing about friends like that is, I am sure she misses you in the very same way. You captured that town, and that time, so pitch-perfectly well. And um, yeah, I'd do whatever your dad said too ;) Thanks for this great post.
Sally--awww, that may be the greatest compliment anybody's ever aimed at something I wrote. :-) And you're right, of course--that was my thinnest post-adolescent moment, and everything just kept growing, but at that moment the kid in the picture isn't nearly as ugly and awkward as she thought she was. I'm worried/hoping as well. I've heard unsubstantiated rumors that she got out (well, a fewmiles north, which makes all the difference--trust me) and became a nurse, but I'd love to hear it from her own mouth/fingers.

Mrs. Michaels, I'd like to read your story, too.

Michael R., I was trying to be generous when I said "dying." :-S Yeah, it was already dead. Forgive me the poetic license? Would love to read your story, too.

Everybody's story.

Thanks, Screamin Mama.

Seattle, I've just added my first boyfriend--you know, the one who broke the heart for the very first time--and with the emotional experience of 25 years piled up between then and now, it's astonishing how all the emotion I have leftover for him is warm affection. Shit, we were just children.

Roy, Ben, and Scruffus--thanks and may all your Facebook encounteres be pleasant.
Outstanding, skillful, evocative, sad. And although you take no credit for getting out and moving on, I hope you're proud of yourself for that accomplishment as well as for this - what? The beginning of a memoir (I hope)?
What an outstanding, moving narrative you’ve written about these precious years with your best friend.

You need not apologize for the length - in some ways it is not nearly long enough.

The feelings experienced reading your piece reminded me of the emotions churned up by Joni Mitchell’s song “Cherokee Louise.”

The ability to make others feel and see and sense what took place during a period of life is a gift - and you’ve used that gift beautifully here. Thank you for the heart you put into this wonderful essay.

Rated and appreciated.
Thank you for sharing an honest and poignant memoir. I too was struck with how much death happened in your fairly short narrative.

The car ride with older, drunk, many of us female OSers probably can identify with your feelings there. Me, I was not in a crowd with any tough friends so I never had to make a choice to go along or not, but if I had, I would have been as terrified as you describe. Really evocative writing, V.R.
I really like this post. Just beautiful, with the right ratio of joy to loss.
Good lord, Verbal, this reads like Wisconsin Death Trip. And I mean that in the best possible way!
Thanks for sharing what obviously came from your heart.
I loved your writing here as much as any at any time.
A spectacular reminiscence that transported me to your childhood world. Thank you for this well written little journey.
This is really good, Verbal. Easy to read.
I had this open for the longest time Verbal. I read every word, more slowly than I normally read things. It brought back some bad memories of my own Catholic elementary school, it's amazing how we survive sometimes to turn out ok. But some don't. I don't know why I turned out to be what my bride calls the pick of the litter, the path could have turned out to be a hundred other, bad things. I think too, your life shines now. As mine has done.

A beautiful portrait of your time, your friendship, and ultimately who you are. I didn't want to read the other comments to taint what I'd say, sorry if it seems silly in duplicating the others...just wanted my thoughts to be my own and fresh. Beautifully written, hard to take in and think about. Well done.

I'll go back and read the other comments now. Thanks
Denise - fantastic. Really fantastic. I love how the metaphor of the tracks (traveling distances; that they have a 'right' and a 'wrong' side) worked throughout the story of your friendship. I had a friend that was similar to your Suzie - mine was Vicky. You've stirred up a lot of memories. I particularly like the way your dad's presence casts a big shadow throughout the story - you did that well, it mimicked the bigness of the shadow he must have *actually* cast (yes, based on that pic, I would have been scared, no doubt).

That picture of you and Suzy is a real heartbreaker, isn't it?
At first I thought that you sure had an eventful childhood,
but it then triggered my own memories, which weren't all that
dissimilar. And three fifteen year olds getting into a car with
2 men and beer. Yikes! Glad you got out of that relatively
unscathed. All in all, the story and photos were very poignant.
Rated and thank you.
I'll just echo the rest - I didn't mind the length because it was so wonderfully written. There's nothing extra there. Just looking through the comments you can see how many others are thinking back to their own childhood friendships. Thanks for writing this one.
Wonderful. Wonderful. You cover a lot of ground here, but move through it so fluidly. Evocative and bittersweet. Nice.

And I agree w/others – it’s not too long; I had no sense of time passing while reading...
Absolutely stunning writing. So beautifully worded, and with the pictures to go along with the narration. A really great post.
This is not "movie of the week" shit, Verbal, this is "movie of the year" worthy. How you have evolved and written about this in such incredible detail (have I mentioned the incredible writing?) just makes me wish the post had been longer, not shorter. Damn, you are so gifted in so many ways. I have missed your voice. Glad I found it tonight. Just gorgeous. Like you. I hate to use this phrase, but in this case, I really mean it. I'm so glad you ended up on the right side of the tracks and that I found and friended you. Rated.
Oh. This sort of made me stop breathing while I was reading. Well done.
I'll echo the others and say, as always... awesome.
I have a friend with a similar tale. I flew to Maine once to pull her out of her failed marriage. That final roadtrip seven years ago was the last time I saw her.

Here's to FaceBook hope.

(thumbified for pulling me along for the ride)
Verb, this was really good - there were even moving pictures in my head along with your photos...
Your writing, as always, is vivid and crystal clear. You always say just enough about a scene before moving on to the next. Thanks for a wonderful story.
You made it so simple to ease into your story, feel engaged and be drawn along. Beautifully done.
I feel like I know your town. We had different industries here, but we grew up much the same. And middle school or high school can really separate people if they'd been to a small school before. (I had fair warning because in late elementary I read Stand By Me.)Suddenly, economic class gets thrown into the muddle, more than before, and people take different levels of classes and some friends disappear.
I have been in those teenage situations where I shouldn't have gone along. If I knew how to rate more than once, I would. Very well-told.
Beautiful, honest, evocative writing. Thank you for letting us into your world a bit more.
Excellent, excellent post. You had me holding my breath as I waited for what I suspected might be a wretched end to Suzie's life---

I grew up in this town. I had this friend. Hell, I was this friend---albeit, I always swore I would not stay in the this town and made my choices accordingly---as I suspect you did.

Really, D, brilliantly told. I loved it.
I loved the length. It was wonderful to meander with you along the tracks in that unhurried, childhood way. Thanks.
Really great read, VR. I was sucked in.

I hope she joins FB too - variety is the spice of life. Of course, you knew that :)

- es
What a journey! Any words I have somehow feel inadequate - thank you for this evocative piece.

Recently, I have been thinking about my best friend from childhood and trying to find her. Every story I tell about my youth has her in it and I sincerely miss her.
Wow. I could feel and smell everything. You did such a good job of writing something that seems fairly safe on the surface, but with so much dark underneath.

I fucking hate childhood.
this is why i read OS. So that once in a while i can read such beauty as this, profound explorations of the ordinary and lovely world around me.

Everything about this is memorable and engrossing and real. I was expecting a tragedy for her at the end. I am so glad she lives with a menagerie and that you still know her.

I know this world, this story. At 11, I was the kid without a family or home, snubbed and pitied by other kids in school. You write with such heart, such unflinching regard, without sentiment or wrong flourishes. Excellent, Verbal. Excellent.
I enjoyed reading about your best friend. It reminded me so much of my best friend in high school, not the pregnancy part. but the diverging paths she and I took right after high school. I don't know if you are compiling your posts for a book but I think it would make a good one.
Sincere and humble thanks to everybody who's dropped by since last evening. Will come back and answer specifics in an hour or so, but wow, you guys are generous.
Came back to read it again. I really loved this essay/story. It so perfectly captured those strange transition days between grade school and high school. You foreshadowed it so well with the body in the well. You put all elements of the story to perfect use. Really, bravura performance.
This is perfectly beautiful -- the writing, the story, even the photos! It's your story, but it's also the story of any one of us growing up in a small rural town -- the kind where the wrong side of the tracks is LITERALLY the wrong side of the tracks. The car with the boys where everyone else is making out, the sister killed on the motorcycle -- the broken homes, the dreams, and then the different paths. This is great writing because it's honest and vivid and makes no judgments. Sometimes trying to get through all of the posts, I'll find myself skimming words, but I read every word of this piece. It was like going back in time.
Hawley, the thing is, getting out was not really my doing. It was coincidence, luck, a whole lot of things. Maybe someday I'll blog about that confluence of events in full, but if it hadn't been for my parents' divorce, my mother moving to California, my father's death, and a bunch of other things that happened in just the right sequence, at just the right time, I don't know that I'd have been able to escape. I can see an "alternate universe" in which I'm still there--clearly.

Dennis, I've never heard the song. Will go search it out.

FeatheredThing--yeah, I suspect many of us have had that experience. I wonder about today. Kids are so micromanaged and so much more constantly "in touch" via texting, etc.--do you think maybe they aren't doing things like crawling into the back seat of a car driven by strangers nearly twice their age today?

Chronica, I've Amazoned the book. How did I never know it existed!?

Barry, thank you and sorry about the bad memories--can you put them to good use and write YOUR story from then too? (And thanks for the offer of your photo--I'm going to go back and edit it in as the closing image, because it's just PERFECT for that.)

Sandra, yes, a very, very big shadow. 6'1", 365 lbs when he died. At 45. Good lord, that's young.

Dakini, exactly. We were all a little bit crazy back then, weren't we?

Cartouche, I'm rather of the opinion that it'd be a straight-to-DVD Indie. :-) Ellen Page would be perfect to play Suzie. We'll talk soon.

Delia, that's exactly what I was trying to meditate on. Thanks for summing up.

m. a.h., sorry I made you nervous about the ending...I really hope to find out it's all good.

Julie, tell us more stories about your best friend, OK?

Pesephone, I fucking hate childhood too. Obviously. The powerlessness, mostly. Being at the mercy of people who may or may not have your best interests--hell, ANY of your interests--in mind. There's a reason I didn't have kids. I knew I wasn't really up to the task of placing another person's needs above my own, forever. I honor everybody who's able to make that commitment work, but I know for damned sure I couldn't.

Greg, I actually blushed when I read your comment. Will you write about you at 11? I want to meet that kid.

Sandra--the body in the well was so damned creepy. I wish I could say it was poetic license, but no.

Suzie--yes, yes, yes. Look. You even have the same name.
Your title is perfect. I think we all have friends who took a different track, and you've done a great job describing this relationship.
I'm struck dumb. What they all said.
I think of a Dylan line: "Seems like every time you turn around, there's another hard luck story that you're gonna hear, and there's really nothing anyone can say, but I never did plan to go anyway to ...." fill in the blank with the name of this violent, slag heap place, which sounds almost like the ideal place to escape from if only for the clarity of looking back at it. Good job.
I was So dumb and oblivious, I didn't even know we were dirt poor and from the wrong side of the tracks -- even tho we had no tracks -- until I started junior high. It's pretty much been downhill ever since, and that's a mighty long hill.
And then there's the line from the Mac Davis song "Heaven was Lubbock, Texas, in the rearview mirror"
Oh crap...I'm almost speechless. Marvelous. The juxtaposition of the death, grief and warm green summer play is almost Bradbury-esque--without being cute. Best Ever~
Verbal, very evocative story. What stands out to me is the juxtipostion of childhood freedom and violence. Natural beauty and industrial waste. Train track as a metaphor for getting the hell out, and the emptiness of poverty.
I'm glad you got out of there, Verbal. Strange how you found so much beauty in a place which also held so much fear. But maybe the beauty was more a product of childhood, and once events such as the car ride occurred, the beauty was harder and harder to find. What I'm wondering is, once you got out, did you go back much to see your own family, or did they drop off the map too?
This has been a joy to read! Deep, melancholic, harsh, sweet, excellently written. Thank you for sharing your art and your memories so generously.
If you ever get the chance, there is a wonderful novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (Nobel Prize of English literature, look WHO you reminded me of with your writing!) called Never Let Me Go, edited in 2005. I´ve just finished reading it and it has something of the same magic, best friends, memories, love, childhood.
Fantastic girl, awsome work! Super rated.
Beautiful wandering story. Great photos too - especially the one of your dad. Thank you.
Joe, my younger brother and I got out literally days after I graduated high school, escaping to San Diego, where my mom had moved (an uncle started the westward migration and we just kept on following).

At that point, we had no family left back in that town.

However, in the cruelest of ironies, he went back to visit his friends a year later and was killed in a one-car accident on one of those country roads on his first night back--on the way to a "Welcome Back David" party.

I really, really hate that place.
Marcella, what an incredible compliment--I very much enjoyed "Never Let Me Go." Wow.
Beautifully told! And a beautiful story...if you haven't yet...get started on that novel...Harper Lee could not have written more evocatively about childhood's sense of wonder and tragedy than you've done in this posting...Each day I marvel at the tenuous threads that hold us to this world and to each other...I'm glad to have 'discovered' you...I'll be watching and waiting for more...
This was such a good, interesting, sweet story. I liked it long. Life is such a strange thing. Hope she does join Facebook.
VR -- this was a time travel trip through part of your life. The photos brought the words and people to life. I hope you speak to your friend again. Rated.
Wow, this is a great and very poignant story. Your friendship is so genuine the reader can just feel it. I hope you find her someday.
Really, truly amazing writing (didn't you write something about the riding around with the manboys awhile ago? I seem to remember that part). I know exactly what you mean. And you can't go home again, but sometimes, you can find... something. It's up to you whether you try or not.

Again, thank you so much. It is a wonderful, beautiful story.
Good memory, Connie. I think I wrote about riding around with the manboys in somebody else's comment thread. I lose track of where I've said what on other people's blogs. Oh, for the much-desired Comment Tracker...
I love this post. My childhood best friends name was Susie Murphy. I haven't thought about her in a long time. Thank you.
Your words = beautiful.
The pictures=perfect.
Loved it all.
I read this a couple days ago and didn't comment at the time because I had no words. What a terrible story, so very well told.
Your crystalline prose really carries the delicate, poignant feeling of nostalgia for a place and a life that you were fortunate to escape. Well done.
Wonderful. I am so touched by it.I could read more more! Too Long? I think it could be a novel!
So vivid- this is definitely Memoir material! beautiful photos- keep writing! very gifted!
I was wondering when this piece would appear on the cover! Nice.
This is an amazing piece. Just so wonderful. So many similarities to my childhood, I am being bombarded with memories. Maybe I can capture some on paper. Thank you.
beautifully written and poignant
Sad...but it ended much better than I had expected it to. So much like the small town life and people I grew up with.
This is just blisteringly powerful. You know the writer's good when you can smell what she's smelling. Add this to what I'm sure is hundreds of comments and ratings. A really fine piece of work.

(Also---I saved that picture of Barry's too--might not be the last time you see it!)
You did, you did walk the tracks! This is one of the best posts I have ever read on Open Salon!
I love it when you write anything, but I especially love it when you write from your heart. This is stunning.
I know this post is ancient in OS Dog Years. But I had to come in anyway just to say, she finally joined Facebook. And friended me. And is gorgeous as ever. And a nurse. And out of that town.