Most of the time, time runs slow; change is gradual. But not always. Sometimes change is Ai-yi-yi!, sudden as a heart attack, or so it seemed when I was 14.
At the Turn of the Year
Like many a 14-year-old I wasn’t big into Jesus.
It was 1967 and science rocketed toward the moon.
But I was still down with Christmas, once more driving
south with family to sleep on the floor with more family.
There was an insane amount of great food to get through,
a huge Sylvania console color TV to watch, a real pool table
in the basement and a bowling alley with pinball machines
just across the street. None of which we had back home.
Once the giant turkey dwindled down to soup bones
and we visited all of the relatives, even the one who
smelled medicinal and called my sister “Firecracker,”
we’d cram back aboard and head north for the Snow Belt.
My father had eccentric taste in vehicles and that year
sported a compact German wagon, a Borgward Isabella,
bought used off a man who saw Dad coming a mile away.
It was a brave little thing, but doomed to be short-lived.
Big American cars wore twin ruts in the foot of wet snow
that carpeted Route 81, but they ran a foot farther apart
than the Borgward’s tiny wheels. So the drive wheel spun
down in the rut and the off wheel plowed through slush.
The Christmas music on the radio couldn’t quell the terror
of that ride between the cars upside down by the snow fence
and the semis on their sides in the median. Ho. Ho. Ho.
Finally, the wheel bearings burned out from the abuse.
At midnight we limped into Watertown’s Public Square
seeking shelter in Hotel Woodruff ’til the garages opened.
We never stayed in hotels, so this was highly exciting.
While Dad checked in, we huddled with our bags, gawking.
The hotel bar right off the lobby was having a big night.
They had hired go-go dancers who enthusiastically
Frug-ed and Watusi-ed along to brain-melting acid rock:
white boots, mini-skirts, bare midriffs, long ponytails.
Ai-yi-yi! Who knew everything could change, just like that?
In the new year I got me a girlfriend and put all my money
into rock and roll records. I got a guitar and a Cossack shirt,
let my hair grow out a bit. Dad traded up for a used Corvair.