Dangerspouse Rides Again

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Garage - Track

Oct. 22, 2003 - 8:07 a.m.

This writing diary entries between 3 and 9 am really exacts a price. On quality. I banged out yesterday's overblown opus as fast as I could, between mic breaks as usual. When I got home and finally read the damn thing I couldn't believe how awful the first couple of paragraphs were. Those were the 3am - 4am scribbles. Once I woke up fully and had my Ovaltine the story itself flowed a little more smoothly. But that rambling preamble! Sorry 'bout that.

Hmmmm, that was another rambling preamble there, wasn't it? Well...it's 3:45am.

A quick note here regarding character designations. Yesterday I gave in to my aching fingers and decided that "J" would be the new handle for my wife. Well, "J" was not pleased by the demotion to single letter status. She made a very convincing argument ("...and no more head until....") and so she will be referred to henceforth as "NewWifey(tm)" again in order to ensure domestic tranqility. That is, until such time as she changes her mind, or her head does not become worth it. I'll keep you updated on both.

Speaking of characters, I just found out yesterday that my Uncle Sammy died. He was a grizzled old guy with a full head of hair, and one of those faces with deeply plowed lines from working his farm every day for the last 40 years. He had some heart problems the last few months though, and that's what eventually got him. He and my Aunt Bertha came in from an afternoon walk around the lake, and he went to the bathroom to shave and shower up. A few minutes later Bertha heard him cry out. She rushed in to see what was up. Not him, it turned out. He was lying nude on the floor, not quite at the shower. She bent to help him up, but he said "Bert...I can't take it any more." and closed his eyes forever.

At least he'd finished shaving, so he didn't look too scruffy in the box. He had one of those Sicilian constant 5-o'clock shadows that I seem to have inherited. I sure hope I have a chance to run a Bic across my face in the harrowing seconds before being gunned down by a cuckolded husband. Otherwise, close casket me, baby.

So back before Uncle Sammy bought the farm (literally and figuratively) he was a missionary in Africa for several years. He returned in the 60's and settled in a little house in Wayne, NJ, across from the Municpal Building where he got a job as electrician for the town. To show you how different times were back then, he returned from Africa with a chimpanzee. No paperwork needed to bring simian ancestors into the States - just crate him up and bring him to Baggage Check. Uncle Sammy named him "Bushrod".

I grew up in Wayne, and some years after Uncle Sammy had settled into our town I met him for the first time. I was just a little kid, with two of my sisters in tow, when my mom drove us over. I remember vaguely that I was scared of Uncle Sammy; all bushy black eyebrows and booming voice. But the chimp really captivated me, and my sisters also. A little black, furry kid in a diaper! And it climbed trees! Wow!!

Apparently the chimp was equally enamored of us. Especially of my sister Patty, who had waist length jet black curls. Maybe he thought she was carrying a fellow chimp on her head. Anyway, several minutes after we were left alone(!) in the backyard to play with him, Bushrod leaped onto Patty's back and buried his hands into her locks. Patty screamed.

My mom and Uncle Sammy dropped their Pousse Cafes and ran to see what the matter was. There they saw Patty with what would be the first of many monkeys on her back. (Ok, I know chimps are apes, not monkeys. But I really wanted to use that line.) Patty was screaming and running around in circles, with Bushrod getting more and more excited by the noise. And the more excited he got, the more he dug in.

Uncle Sammy finally managed to scoop her up, but by this time the chimp's hands were so entangled in Patty's hair that he had no choice. Patty was hysterical, Bushrod was yanking for all he was worth to free himself, and my Mom was starting to lose it watching her daughter be seemingly ravished by a wild beast. Uncle Sammy grabbed a pair of pruning shears and gave Patty a Page Boy cut on the spot. Bushrod leaped to the garage roof carrying the faux she-ape with him. No doubt he used it every chance he could for some days.

A few years later we were back in the same yard for some family event. For some reason no one in the family ever thought it strange that we would have Thanksgiving Dinner or cookouts at a place where a wild chimpanzee had free reign. It's just the way it always had been. This time I think we were there for a Labor Day picnic. Bushrod loved picnics, because we always brought along fruit for him, too. Anyway, for some reason Bushrod had climbed the huuuuge Oak tree that dominated the backyard. He did this a lot of course, but not usually during picnics.

My dad, who really liked Bushrod, tried to entice him down with, yes, a banana. And you know, all kidding aside, chimps really DO love bananas. And Bushrod really liked my dad, too. So when the chimp, 50 feet up, saw both gesturing to him from the ground, he hurried down as fast as he could.

And "as fast as he could" meant letting go and dropping like a stone onto my father's head.

I remember the look on my father's face when he saw Bushrod launch himself out into space from 50 feet up and plummet straight towards him and the banana. For a split second I thought my dad was gonna bolt and leave the ape to dig a new crater. But he probably realized that a bleeding and broken monkey carcass would probably put a damper on the rest of the family outing. He steeled himself and braced for impact.

It wasn't long coming. That ape - I'm guessing 80 pounds or so - hit my dad square in the upper chest at probably 70 miles an hour. My dad, while not a huge fellow, was nonetheless incredibly tough. A boxer in his Army days (which weren't long before this event), an avid motorcycle racer, weight lifter and runner - he was in great shape. But show me anyone who can stand up under the force of 6 fur covered bowling balls being tossed off a 5 story bulding at them. He was knocked straight down onto his back, raising a cloud of dust like the Coyote when the Roadrunner tricks him into falling off a cliff again. My father lay there stunned for a minute, while the chimp just hopped off, grabbed the banana, and climbed back up the tree. My dad let him stay there this time.

Funny, I don't know whatever happened to Bushrod. I was too young to really follow plot lines like that. I just remember that every now and then we'd read in the local paper that Bushrod had to be captured and held for my Uncle when the animal would escape and end up in some store or gas station. He never bothered anyone, so people took it in stride.

Different days, huh?

A few years later Uncle Sammy bought a farm up in rural Sussex County, not far from where I live now. In my teens he taught me to ride a huge Palamino horse he had so I could help him herd his sheep. I wasn't very good at it, but he nixed the idea of letting me use my dirtbike instead. He raised pigeons too, lots and lots of pigeons. So many that one of his daughters developed some kind of serious disease that strikes peoople who spend too much time covered in pigeon shit. I'm not kidding. So then they ate pigeons, lots and lots of pigeons.

And now he's gone. I didn't keep in touch with him after my college years, even living just a few miles from him. He liked his solitude, and his farming. Oh well, I suppose he's monkeying around in a better place now.

Well, work's over. Homeward bound....eee eee eeee eeeee!!

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