I used to sit on the wooden, front porch with my feet up on the whitewashed rail looking over the top of, or between, my high tops, watching the world churn, left and right, right and left, every way across the sky, and up and down the sidewalk that borders my side of this boulevard.
I’d gone to Disneyland the first summer it opened. One of the rides was called ‘Tomorrow Land’, an animated diorama of what life would be like in the big city of tomorrow. On this spot, on Hawthorne Blvd. in Hawthorne, California, I believed I was watching change before my eyes. Looking back from now, it was changing every day!
I’d watch all of the different people, traveling inside of their bubbles, some large some small, some important bubbles, and some not. Most have learned not to pay attention to what is going on outside of their bubble except for those things that will harm them or get in their way! It was a kind of radar developed from years of learning and sorting that determines the size of the bubble you are comfortable in.
Me, I’m a little different. My bubble extends way out there across the pavement, past the sidewalk on the other side, right through and across six lanes of traffic, engulfing everyone else’s bubbles. Sometimes, when the tides of vehicles are a dull drone, I could let my imagination tell me the story before my eyes, feet up, my hands behind my head, observing, knowing all! Disney told me what was going to be, and there it was, the planes, the trains, the super twenty four lane highway, the people movers, shopping centers and skyscrapers. Disney told me!
Because I blended into the porch, oftimes only the soles of my shoes were visible on the street side of the porch guardrail, passersby would do things thinking they were unobserved. They’d swat their kid for whining, adjust their underwear or hose, talk to themselves, and pick their nose. I’d seen that stuff so many times I would hardly notice, because behind them and up in the sky, I was watching for my first jet airliner, soon it would be there Disney said.
This is the boulevard where I got the scar on my chin. That bike my brother built from salvaged parts only had one pedal, which worked out ok because you needed your other foot as a brake. When you needed to stop, you put your tennis shoe between the seat support tube and the rear tire, and sort of twisted and wedged it in there like a brake pad. It usually did the job fine, except one time!
That bike was too big for me in the first place. I had to run alongside of it, put one foot on the single pedal, throw my other leg up and over the seat, and center myself for balance. Once sitting on the seat, my Keds tennis shoe would lose contact with that pedal until it had started up on its journey back around. If it didn’t have enough speed to start it going up on the back side, you had to push down on the stub that didn’t have a pedal on the other side to bring the good pedal side up, timing was critical!
I remember coming out of the driveway and turning right. The boulevard was to the left. I didn’t ride that bike enough to enjoy being that high off the ground and one pedaling it beside all of that noisy traffic. The fact that there was no formal brake didn’t even enter into my fears! It wasn’t the number of cars as much as it was the roar they made when they accelerated out from the stoplights or the whoosh, silence, whoosh as each car went by.
So, I went to the right, one pedal, one pedal, one pedal, brake, turn the corner, one pedal, one pedal, one pedal to the corner, brake, one pedal, one pedal, downhill, getting up some new speed, one pedal, maybe brake, corner coming, brake, too late, corner, brake harder, boulevard, cars, green light, engines roaring behind me, brake, I ain’t gonna make it! I’m going out into the street and get smashed; the cars are roaring, a metal light pole, bang, stars, sky, screeeeeeech!
The sky was blue; the earth stood still, the sidewalk was hard.
I had managed to slow down enough so that the bike and I hit the scalloped metal light pole straight on and had bounced back onto the sidewalk, separately. I’d gone over the top of the handlebars and my chin ricocheted off of that pole. The sight of me hitting that pole must have scared the bejesus out of the closest drivers because they all hit their brakes hard.
The next thing I remember was some guy cradling me up. The sidewalk was bouncing as the man ran toward a clinic on the corner of the next block. His route took me right past my front porch. My mother came running out, grabbed me like a halfback taking a handoff and ran across the street and through the open clinic door. The nice man had run ahead of us and held the door open.
I saw a moving row of ceiling squares with holes; I looked sideways and heard my mom thank this red shirted man. I looked the other way and saw my red shirted mom looking very worried.
Everything kind of calmed down for a moment. I heard a snip, snip and got cold as my red soaked white T shirt went past my eyes. Someone had their hand on my chin and they were pressing very hard. All motion stopped and someone said something about “six stitches”! I knew what stitches were. I had some on my knee once.
I tried to sit up, “I’m ok, don’t need stitches!”
I was too late. A strong hand held me, the needle came down toward my face, and sting, sting, numb, stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch, snip, and done.
That’s all I can remember when I’m sitting there thinking back. I can rub my chin and feel the scar when I want to make sure it wasn’t something that I read. I can see where the old stoplight pole used to be. Hawthorne Blvd. is now an eight lane boulevard, so there is a bigger, newer stoplight pole on the new corner. The cars are all lower and longer and they don’t smell so much like blue smoke. Their windows are always up so I don’t hear the music as well anymore. There’s less noise when they take off from the stoplight too, but when something happens and they have to hit their brakes hard, that screech is just the same, and it gives me unpleasant visions and goose bumps up my spine, every time!
Those are the memories of our last week in that house. It was going to be torn down, because the widening of the road took up all of the space right up to the sidewalk and they want to turn that into an emergency and right turn lane.
The house was old and I know new things are coming. There’s a new ‘Supermarket’ way over on the other side. One morning, I saw Oscar Mayer’s Weiner mobile and a crowd in front of the market. I learned later it was the ‘Grand Opening’ and they were giving away free Oscar Mayer wiener whistles.
It seems like every house I’d ever lived in was torn down right after we moved. It really doesn’t matter I guess. I got to watch progress happening right in my own front yard. I have a million stories to tell about life as seen from that fantastic front porch, poop deck, stage, window to the world!
Did I ever tell you that I’d heard Roy Rogers yodeling “and the cattle are calling” on the TV inside the house? I spent years of hours, before paperbacks and beers, sitting out there when it was a four lane, yodeling while pretending to fish off of that front porch. I was really good, and I was sure everyone enjoyed it as they drove by. They must have, because I would see them several times as they cruised by on Hawthorne Boulevard, windows open, in that year 1957.
Well, time to go. Thanks for listening to my story. I have a new place that doesn’t have a front porch opened up to the world. I have a fenced in back yard that borders on a wash in Tucson. I have a beer and read my paperbacks back there, while on the other side of the fence, the world of bubbles passes by never seen by me and they never suspecting.
On a good day, when I have the Country Music Classics channel on the surround sound, ol’ Roy will start singing Cattle Call.
Ya, I still got it!