Dissolving Into the Nocturnal Abyss:

Dissolving Into the Nocturnal Abyss:

Oh the Treasures to Be Found in the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning

 

Where to begin. It’s 1978. Jimmy Carter is in the White House. The disco hit Boogie Oogie Oogie has us shaking our booties till we just can’t boogie no more. Streaming services are something offered only by a urologist. And yours truly is a wide-eyed 17-year old luxuriating in the endless summer between high school graduation and the start of college.

 

Having been sprung like a jailbird from the confines of Henninger High School in Syracuse, NY, I felt the dizzying freedom an inmate must feel after serving their sentence and being released into the good graces of society. I had served my sentence – 12 long years (as opposed to the “short” ones?). And I believe I served my sentence with some distinction and even got time off for good behavior since I graduated after the 11th grade (woo-hoo!).

My name is David Hardiman and I’m not using stilts.

 

This rite of passage complete, any future schooling would be pursued on my terms. I would no longer be a burden to society. In the future, it would be a burden on me. But for now I was happy to navigate in this once in a lifetime twilight zone between high school and college. It seemed bizarre that having dearly earned the sweet release from mandatory public schooling and its free education, I would now immediately plunge voluntarily right back into it, and even pay my own way for the privilege. God works in mysterious ways, and so does higher education.

 

I mention all this by way of establishing set and setting for what was to be my 1978 Summer of Otherworldly Delights. It was a pleasantly disruptive time for me. One I looked forward to with dizzying anticipation. Up until this point in my life I’d always known what I’d be doing the next year. My GPS had come from the factory with the route of my formative years all mapped out till graduation, upon which it uttered the now commonplace phrase, “You have arrived?”

 

Really? That was it. That was the journey. Someone or something thinks I have arrived? Well OK boomer. Freed from the restraints of compulsory education, I could now plug in the GPS coordinates of my choice and travel there as I saw fit. This is the freedom everyone so dearly seeks. This is what it felt like in 1978. My choices would be limited only by my imagination and, of course, that sabotaging little voice inside that reminds you, “Oh, you couldn’t possibly aspire to that.”

 

 

Four Foremost Factors, Poorly Ranked 

Long term I didn’t know what would occupy me, but in that short term summer I had fertile little plans gestating happily in my still maturing frontal lobes. First and foremost there would be, “no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers dirty looks.” In truth school wasn’t that bad, but I was glad the compulsory part of it was over and I was ready to move on.

 

Second and not foremost, I would work. Circumstances were such that I could be productively plugged into gainful employment whenever I chose to work (which was often) at our family glass and mirror business. A business my divorced, disinterested and dithering dad ran with all the aplomb of a dust bunny. I had developed a fondness for its mom and pop retail charms as well as an appreciation of its minor commerce with major players like Carrier, Conrail and GM’s Terex heavy equipment division. Anyway, the upshot of my unexceptional work ethic was that I enjoyed my time with dad and always had a little walkin’ around money. 

 

Third and still not foremost, the “little plans” that I mentioned included one big plan. A strange and wonderful plan catalyzed by my new found freedom and a penchant for out-of-this-world experiences. I resolved to dissolve into the nocturnal abyss and share in the treasures to be found in the wee, small hours of the morning. This would be undertaken in the still of the night within the eerie confines of nearby and dear by Sunnycrest Park.

 

Fourth and kinda foremost without actually being foremost, my other plans that summer included playing pick-up basketball games, visiting with friends and moving my mother out of our top floor flat at the end of August when I was off to college and she off to a posh one bedroom apartment closer to her work in downtown Syracuse. With mommy lacking any extra rooms, and daddy sleeping on a cot and living in the back of the glass shop and unable to provide adequate shelter for anyone (not even himself), the umbilical cord was cut and I was now an emancipated child at 17.

 

It wasn’t like I was an orphaned street urchin. There were still some guardrails. This was no “me against the world battle.” In the future I would crash at my sweet older sister’s hovel on Tyson Place and in my frugal and penny-pinching life I had socked away something approaching $5K – not bad for a 17-year-old. At this juncture the world was my oyster and I was looking for all the pearls of wisdom I could find. Generally I felt I had a handle on things. I didn’t, but I thought I did and that made all the difference. There was little existential angst, no fretting to speak of and plenty of long bouts of deep teenage slumber to revel in. What is it they say? Ignorance is bliss. Well my ignorance was one part denial and three parts naivete. Maybe it still is, but you didn’t hear that from me.

 

 

Penchants, Proclivities and Predilections

 

No story can account for all the factors at play in someone’s life. The ones I mentioned were the salient ones coloring my world in 1978. Now alongside these circumstances, there was something else I had a strong affinity for, and now had the time and inclination to explore. I liked investigating the night – to seek out and commune with the night ethers. This was referred to in number 3 in Four Foremost Factors. And that exploration began at the intersection of 3 am & Sunnycrest Park. More specifically it was at the nearby intersection of Hixson and Mooney Ave where the grand stone staircase awaited my nighttime sojourn, up and into the treasures of Sunnycrest Park in the middle of the night.   

 

My collar points were registered lethal weapons.

Free as a bird. Happy as a clam.

Freedom, or at least the illusion of freedom, meant (means) a lot to me. My 17-year-old spirit was buoyed by this hard-earned boundlessness bestowed upon me for having withstood an academic life as prescribed by an unseen educational brain trust. And now, in the words of the Steve Miller Band, it was my time to,  “Fly like an eagle. To the Sea. Fly like an eagle. Let my spirit carry me.” What? C’mon, it was 1978. These were the best lyrics we had back then.

 

I understand that this feeling of youthful limitlessness certainly isn’t unique to me, and that perhaps it motivated me all out of proportion, but this is the kind of diversity you’ll find in a flock of individuals. Differences arise, and due to my psychological architecture I cherished, elevated and reveled in this rite of passage more than your average eagle. And this honorable discharge from high school was like found wind beneath my wings. Winds I would fan with certain late night excursions whose soul-uplifting encounters would produce giddy shivers of satisfaction and a richly inviolable sense of well-being.

Yup. Imagine that. All that lift generated from a routine graduation ceremony, launched at the Lemoyne College Convocation Center on Saturday, June 17th 1978.

.

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Giddy Shivers? It’s for the Birds.

In that Summer of Otherworldly Delights, the sky was the limit – literally. As mentioned, I aspired to fly like an eagle, but if that was impossible I hoped to morph into a nighthawk. A nighthawk intent on communing and merging with the night airs – to dissolve into the nocturnal abyss of the dark side, but in a nourishing and illuminating way. Like a ♫Blackbird singing in the dead of night♫?

 

If eagles or hawks weren’t available I even had a Plan C fallback bird – the classic and relatable night owl. Everyone appreciates this iconic prowler of the night who is quite at home searching for the treasures to be found in the wee, small hours of the morning. In a sense we were all birds of a feather, flocking together in tribute to the dusky spectral energies loosed into the dead of night by forces unknown. I don’t know why nighttime excursions via some kind of “bird-morphing” was a pervasive dynamic that summer, but it was, and my affinity for it knew no bounds.   

 

I could feel this transformative process calling me to the dark side (again, in a positive and generative way). I wasn’t trying to foist a manmade framework on this experience or have it fit some narrow notion of man meets the supernatural. I was just trying to meet this experience (the night airs) as it presented itself. There were no conditions placed on its nature other than for me to participate in pursuing, meeting and merging with this beguiling phantom force of the night. Now I don’t want to overstate this episode with “too many notes” or “cringe-worthy supernatural references,” I just want to tell it like I felt it that Summer of Otherworldly Delights.

 

The Gathering Perfect Storm

Events sometimes conspired to bring me closer to this distant and tantalizing world. Occasionally the tumblers would align and this Pandora’s safe of otherworldly delights would open. A typical series of events that could catalyze one of these forays into the night might include watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson till 1 am – if Steve Martin was a guest the experience would become turbocharged. This may have been followed by listening to a little Fleetwood Mac or the Beatles while I wrote stories (always an avid interest). The refrigerator would be raided till it was bare leaving me only with cereal and milk. Sometimes I’d practice juggling (hoops, pins and balls) or pee off our 2nd floor screened in patio (I didn’t think anybody else could see or hear it and that was sound enough reasoning for this 17-year-old). Often these activities proceeded apace and sometimes they began to overtake me.

 

OK, so now It’s past 2 am and I had listened-up, filled-up and emptied-out and a nocturnal stirring beckoned me into the night. I’d had my fill of corporeal earthly delights and I now cast my lusty gaze to otherworldly delights. I felt the urge to merge; and not just with females, for this feeling went well beyond the zeal of the organs. I wanted to merge with the nighttime ethers – to journey into that quiet land of verisimilitude that came in any color as long as it was dark. Prior to venturing  into the sumptuous darkness of Sunnycrest Park I prepared to meet this murky dimension on its terms by meditating, visualizing and, because I’m pragmatic if nothing else, dressing warmly.

 

As these factors were set in motion and took on a life of their own, I allowed the tidal pull to carry me away. Riding this current, a bastardized version of the lycanthropic process of fiction overcame me. That is, where a full moon begets and elicits the werewolf. In this parallel case, through a meditating and visualization process, a kind of avian lycanthropy transformed me where instead of growing fur, I grew feathers and became a night owl – figuratively of course. Maybe I wasn’t the wisest night owl, cavorting with spirits of the night in a windy park at 3 am, but you didn’t need to tell this 17-year-old to straighten-up and fly right. Nope. I prayed (or something like that) God to grant me this experience – sort of from my beak to God’s ears. Of course my more earthbound and practical side was watching me lose myself and thought this entire pursuit was simply bird-brained.

 

There were many layers to this plan. If my avian scheme of entry into the nighttime ethers was unavailable, I’d hope to be somehow electro-statically ionized into the dusky atmosphere so as to render myself indistinguishable from it. A little transcendence was all I was asking. Since I wouldn’t be using drugs, I came by this field honestly (or at least more explicably) and therefore my entry and exit would be traceable and repeatable. In other words, because I knew how I got there, I’d know how to get back. In any event that was my youthful calculus that febrile Summer of Otherworldly Delights.

 

At one level, and more prosaically, this communing with nocturnal energies was an attempt to scare the living sh*t out of myself by wandering in the eerie environs of Sunnycrest Park and challenging its wild and windy inkiness to swoop me up and share with me the treasures to be found in the still of the night. Having read about out-of-body-experiences (and having had a few) I saw every reason to stoke the spirits of the night to find myself outside my body embedded in a swirl of nocturnal majesty. I hoped to emerge, so to speak, on the other side of the mirror where, instead of being the usual reflective effect of things, I’d be privy to the first cause of things. That is, instead of things happening to me, I’d come to understand what it meant to be the cause of things happening to others. Heady stuff for a trailblazing 17-year-old unwilling to settle for conventional wisdom and yet willing to pee from a second floor patio window. Some things you just can’t reconcile.   

 

Set and Setting

Sunnycrest Park, situated in the Eastwood section of Syracuse, is a beautifully planned and lovingly curated wonderland of public space built on a grand scale. It was almost 100 acres when it opened in 1927. It now contains the aforementioned high school I had just graduated from and a host of other features. There are all the usual sports facilities and fields associated with a high school. It has a 9-hole par-3 golf course, softball fields, an ice skating rink and even a mini skiing and tobogganing area. Interestingly, Sunnycrest Park originally had an 18-hole golf course prior to its pruning down to 46 acres with the construction of the high school in 1964 – the same year Beatlemania detonated on our shores.

 

Additions and alterations to the park occurred during the height of the Depression, if you’ll forgive the contradictory allusion. That was the deal – FDR’s New Deal. His administration’s WPA (Works Progress Administration) funds were used to build the various stone steps, stone demising walls, grassy glades and interconnecting arbored walkways crisscrossing the park. These features imbued it with the delightful, otherworldly vibe I’m so drawn to. I speculate that whatever spatially-savvy group lent their talents in designing this aspect of the park, went on to contribute to Disney’s inadvertently psychedelic theatrical masterpiece Fantasia. The stellar stone stairs in the park were right out of Fantasia’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scene.  

 

Sunnycrest Park sported imposing and grand-looking stone staircases that led strangely to nowhere in particular – a golf fairway or maybe a grassy walkway covered by a canopy of oak trees. This is where I’d make late night ascents on these stairways to heaven. And having summitted them would also find myself nowhere in particular, yet right where I wanted to be. There were numerous grassy glades amid the mature trees that ended in unplanned cul-de-sacs where I imagined lived a pride of lions, or a barrel of monkeys, or, more likely, a heap of empty beer cans courtesy of Freddie Calabria’s Hell Night. I was willing to go off on speculative tangents, but I tried to stay grounded too. And sometimes an empty Black Velvet bottle or a rifled-through case of Genesee Beer spoke volumes about what really went on in these private thickets far from my flights of fancy involving merging and communing. Isn’t it like that though? – Your most sanguine and lofty thoughts dashed by intrusive reality. Well, so-called reality anyway. We’ll see about that.   

 

Another cool thing about going off into the night’s wild dark yonder (as opposed to the daylight’s wild blue yonder) is that flights of fancy are more easily conjured in such tranquil darkscapes. I could imagine a brace of birds squawking scary noises like the ones at the beginning of the Beatles’ song Tomorrow Never Knows. With all this heightened sensitivity and hushed wisdom inherent in the park, you come to see how it became my fever dream at night and how it wouldn’t take much doing to get me to break on through to the other side. To see things from the other side.

 

Just one of Sunnycrest Park’s invitingly verdant areas I prowled during my late night Magical Mystery Tour.

Again, no drugs were involved in this event. Just a sensitive body brimming with nocturnal attractivity to Sunnycrest Park’s hallowed nooks and crannies. To hopscotch around the dark park at night like an evanescent solar flare arcing from point to point warmed my heart and fueled my wanderlust. However loosely wrapped my peripatetic constitution was, it would become even more unwrapped under the canopied ministrations of the predawn mystic energies to be found in Sunnycrest Park. The secrets of the park would reveal themselves to me as I revealed myself to the park. I mean it was really nothing more than I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours. I don’t know why spirituality has to be so breathtakingly lofty. It’s just a path everyone is on whether they know it or not, or like it or not.    

 

Entering the arena where all these energies operated was an opportunity to get out of me and into it – to lose myself in the untamed energies visited on the nighttime by a slumbering world whose windy apparitions, shy sprites and shadowy embrace emerged from the inky depths of creation. As much as I focused on this, I wondered if in my attempts to animate this portal it became available to slip through, would I have the courage to let go and leap from the known to the unknown?

 

I did fear that if I went too far after a night of frolicking in the park that when I went back home and looked at myself in the mirror, I’d be some kind of Egyptian half bird, half man – “Horus with the Falcon head,” which I believe may have been the inspiration for the Frank Sinatra song, “Nancy with the Laughing Eyes.”

 

I don’t know if I ever actually achieved  the level of vibratory awareness I so longingly describe, but I sure came close and imagining it all was half the fun. I mean did I scare the sh*t out of myself? Yes sir. Did I run back from the edge when it all was offered to me? Maybe, maybe not.

 

Suffice to say, after my flight of nocturnal Parkromancy it was time to find a welcoming place for a soft landing.  

 

 

The Other Half of the Story

What I’ve neglected to tell you is that my midnight run into measured madness was not an end to itself. There was usually another part to the night’s events that lent a grounding capstone to my lofty late night excursion. I held it in abeyance so you might focus on the supernatural aspect I was describing so ardently. This other part is decidedly earthbound and altogether fitting as a balance to my more outré peregrinations.

 

As you might imagine, after a wondrously fatiguing night of psychonauting, I needed something to bring me back down to earth. The earth where I belonged, at least for now. And the perfect vehicle for that reconnection was a hearty breakfast at the ideal diner – the Tri-R Coffee Shop on Eastwood’s grand boulevard of James Street. The approaching feast would be enhanced by the friendly font of Syracuse’s morning newspaper – the Post-Standard.

 

The Tri-R Coffee Shop was about a mile from Sunnycrest Park. I stole away to this little gastronomic haven in search of bodily sustenance, usually referred to as food. I moved stealthily in the dark, like an outlaw; though not a very dangerous one. More like a member of a fictional Underground, out gathering reconnaissance for Hogan and his Heroes. Through familiar neighborhoods I slunk at 4 am. Having lived, played, been schooled and trick-or-treated in Eastwood practically my entire life, I had an uncanny sense of place. For whatever reason I was sensitive to this stuff, and perhaps doubly so having just come from my awareness-raising event at the park.

 

All those non-cookie cutter homes with their distinct shapes, colors and stories were emblazoned on my personal GPS. I was interested in these stories. Every house had at least 1 story. Some had 2 or more stories, if you count the basements. For reasons unknown to me I catalogued the zanier attributes of these homes. Some had shared driveways and aluminum siding. Some had 3rd floor usable attics and extravagant porches. Some had detached garages and detached owners who seemed to care less about the condition of their home.

 

All the homes in Eastwood had basements, but that’s another story. Many of these basements (also called cellars) housed massive boilers taking up half the usable space. These old-fashioned boilers had many muscular tentacled arms emanating from its central core that seemed to grip the bottom of the first floor like a supine spider sucking all the vital juices from the captive house above. Those scary and ancient boilers provided much needed central heating in the winter, but took-up so much space there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat.

 

The appearances of these non-tract homes appealed greatly to me and for reasons even more unknown to me, I’d developed a fascination with shed dormers. I imagined them being hinged at the top so I could seamlessly close them back into the house, flush with the roof. Then there were the gabled dormers that just sat there. You couldn’t do anything with them (mentally anyway). As I continued my stealthy late night tour, I passed the house on Hickok Ave behind whose bush I kissed my almost girlfriend and future lesbian Tricia Napoli. Who isn’t up for a little adolescent bush kissing? Still, I wonder if my inexpert technique had anything to do with her future proclivities. But that was all of 5 years ago – an eternity when you’re 17.

 

Tiptoeing by Mrs. DiFasi’s house (classmate Vito’s mom) I was reminded how just 3 weeks prior I performed a profitable side job and pocketed $25 fixing a couple of broken cellar windows – windows mere feet from the menacing tentacles of one of those upside down sucking spiders. There was school friend Barb Piraino’s house. Barb was the niece of famed PBA bowler Marty Piraino. There was the old Bradley rental house, where my 6th grade friend and future convict Jack lived, and behind whose garage I threw-up after drinking a six pack of Miller Beer at the age of 12 in 1973. The covert tour continued. Indicative of his stature in the community, there was the well-manicured lawn of County Legislator Mike DeLallo. Every house had a story and I knew many of them. And this was just Hickok. Imagine if I took Stafford Ave, Forest Hills Drive or Woodbine. Oh, the stories I could tell.

 

I was literally walking down memory lane. The muffled chirps of birds stirring in the trees heralded the night’s receding grip on darkness. As it was, the shadowy night lent a dreamy patina to the entire trek until I emerged on to Eastwood’s brightly lit thoroughfare of James Street. James Street, where once stood the city’s toniest and most attractive homes lately converted into insurance agencies, law firms and funeral homes. Happily for me it was also the location of venerable Tri-R Coffee Shop.

 

This is the cozy shape and footprint of what was once the unassuming Tri-R Coffee Shop (a former White Tower Restaurant), but it is far from the gleaming façade and homespun eatery that called to me in my youth.

The Tri-R Coffee Shop was a bastion of the dwindling number of surviving Main Street American diners. Diners being slowly supplanted by the rising tide of fast food restaurants. This joint was not a parody or a wannabee of a coffee shop. It was the genuine cup of Joe. Its play-on-words name of Tri-R Coffee Shop as in Try Our Coffee Shop, never failed to entertain me. But you knew that – right? Tell me you knew that.

 

Its name was the only clever thing about this “what you see is what you get” Eastwood eatery. If a museum was curated to present a historical facsimile of what diners looked like in the 1940’s, travel no further than Tri-R Coffee Shop. I mean why go to other coffee shops when you can Try-Our Coffee Shop. Such a pleasing turn of phrase.

 

Tri-R Coffee shop was not a very big place. There was barely enough room to swing a cat (at that time in my life, the diameter of a cat being swung was a standard, if inexact, measurement of spaciousness). This “little diner that could” looked like it had sprung straight out of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks painting. Tri-R Coffee Shop was a converted White Tower Hamburger restaurant, lately and caringly run by a laconic chief cook and bottle washer named Jim. I never knew many details about Jim (like his last name for instance), but you could tell he’d done some time in the Army and had all the earmarks of a 1950’s greaser all straightened-up and flown right. He was no Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen, but he had that cozy eatery cooking on both sideburns. The short order specialties Jim cooked weren’t so much farm to table, as they were supermarket to counter – very reliable and relatable stuff.

 

 

The ambience of Tri-R Coffee Shop (and I use the term ambience guardedly) embodied small town America values. It had a Norman Rockwell vibe as well as elements of whatever it was that John Cougar Mellencamp was always singing about. Sitting on my perch at the counter, I felt happily ensconced in this clean-lined and well-lit diner. Very well-lit diner. It was a supernova celebration of the fluorescent bulb. It was so bright you didn’t know if you should wear a baseball cap or a welders’ mask. I usually take a dim view of overly lit settings, but in Tri-R’s case it bespoke a certain Main Street USA innocence, as in “Hey look everybody, we’ve got electricity now!” 

 

After a few minutes sitting at the counter, I barely noticed the 100 decibel hum of the fluorescent lights whose fury of photons ricocheted off all the gleaming white surfaces with a luminosity that could attract a moth from 10 miles away. Just sitting in this fluoroscopic glow chamber, I couldn’t help but see through the skin and into the circulatory system of the guy sitting 2 stools down from me. So yeah, it was bright – especially at 5 am. Isn’t it always brightest just before dawn? No it’s not, but it is at the Tri-R Coffee Shop.

 

In an effort to squeeze out whatever profit was to be found in such a small scale retail venture, this endearingly elfin restaurant was easily the hardest working eatery in show business. Behind the counter, attached up on the wall facing you, were a couple of beautifully constructed chrome showcases enticingly displaying some big ticket featured items like those little boxes of Kellogg’s cereals we all loved as kids: Froot Loops, Sugar Pops and Frosted Flakes. There was an angled mirror behind them so you could see the seductive cereals and buxom pie slices from all perspectives. It was like a Gentleman’s Club for dessert. When you first walked in to the establishment there was a pay phone to the right and next to that a cigarette machine the size of a Murphy bed, sporting at least 40 different brands of the lethal stuff. So maybe Jim wasn’t the most socially conscious proprietor in the bustling hamlet of Eastwood; he did, however, serve a mean hamlet and eggs.  

 

As my hungry eminence settled into the “Great Known” of the Tri-R Coffee Shop (as opposed to the “Great Unknown” I had just experienced in wild and wooly Sunnycrest Park), an abiding sense of well-being overcame me. I was both privileged and deserving of this moment as I dined in my neighborhood eatery. Led by comforting thoughts and fed by comforting food all feelings of dread had fled – gone, zed. This was not some spit-on-the-griddle moment. No sir. This was my eggs-on-the-griddle moment.

 

And speaking of same, Jim served an unbelievably inexpensive and gourmet (to a 17-year-old) breakfast of 2 eggs, corned beef hash, home fries and toast for $1.25 in 1978. $1.25? I mean was he Mother Teresa’s brother or what? Was he dealing bootleg cigarettes out of the back? I didn’t ask. I ate. Now, you kick in another 25ȼ for a sports-drenched morning newspaper and for a buck 50 you’re the lord of all you survey. Yes. That moment that summer I was King Sh*t – with a grin to match.

 

This well-earned night was a fortifying intrapersonal experience for which I was uniquely sensitized. It made me so happy to feel secure in my environment – to not feel estranged, to know my time and my place. There I was at 17, with plenty of walkin’ around money in my pocket, sitting on my throne (OK a stool) witnessing the morning tide of commercial traffic build outside on James Street and noticing the rising of the sun as Eastwood came alive to meet the day. Maybe it “got better” than this, but on that summer day in 1978, it didn’t need to. It all fit together. I was cheerfully integrated into this level of existence, courtesy of an otherworldly-issued dose of worry-perishing surety. Funny how a late night trip to a park and an early morning visit to a coffee shop can do all that. This was my kinetic church and I moved with it synchronously.  

 

Having devoured both breakfast and the newspaper (fed and read), it was time to head home. I took the unmysterious route: James Street to Shotwell Park, then Melrose Ave to Hixson Ave – the road more traveled. I sought no more extrasensory experiences this morning. Just home Jeeves. I was a little bleary-eyed but otherwise none the worse for the wear after my pleasantly eventful evening. Climbing the stairs to our 2nd floor flat I entered into the living room and met my mom in the kitchen. She was prepping for her workday at the Civic Center downtown where she performed intakes on people trying to qualify for welfare. In a curious and non-accusatorial manner, she inquired, “David, where have you been this morning?” Since I was not in an expository mood and couldn’t possibly convey all I’d been through, I mumbled something about having “gone out for breakfast.” Shuffling to my bedroom, I sought my ever-welcoming bed whose meaning had nothing hidden.

 

The Circle of Otherworldly Delights

Punching-in at Eastwood Glass Shop (the non-ironic name of our family glass works), would be delayed today. I’d probably sleep-in and then join my dad and the crew after lunch where I’d labor till 5 and then likely finagle a dinner out on the town with my functionally depressed father. Dad was almost always up for good conversation and a square meal with his son. I knew what he liked to talk about and enjoyed punctuating his otherwise glum world with interest-piquing references. After dinner we might play a few games of pool at the Holiday Bowl on Erie Blvd (so named because the Erie Canal used to wend its way through the same space). By the time he dropped me back home, I might play the guitar, juggle, hang with my lifelong buddy DeBaise and then watch the Tonight Show. Pretty soon I’d get that tingly feeling again, and the next thing you know I’m clambering up the steps to Sunnycrest Park at 2 am where my Summer of Otherworldly Delights would begin anew.

 

Never has someone enjoyed the pleasure of transitioning the synaptic twilight from high school graduate to college freshman more than me. I may have a few regrets in my life, but this ain’t one of them. In an enduring and fortifying way I was able to explore a dimension I yearned to reacquaint myself with. I hurt no one in the process (first do no harm – right?) and I experienced some moments I still draw joy from to this day. And although I probably suffered eye damage from the searing bright lights of Tri-R Coffee Shop, I’m nonetheless better able to see my way.

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