Wednesday, April 01, 2015

TBT one day early and one day late

I live a long way away from Benton Harbor (recently named fourth most dangerous city in the nation) where I grew up, about 1200 miles, and I've lived here in Florida almost twice as long as I ever lived there. Still, the place has a hold on me, at least in terms of some pretty strong memories. Sometimes, I like to go back and visit. Not by taking an actual trip where I physically travel from here to there, but via the magic of Google Maps, which allows you to look at still photos of virtually anywhere on Earth. It's pretty amazing but when it comes to old memories, it can be kind of jarring. The sizes of things, their appearance and their proximity to each other can become skewed, due to the passage of time, either as it pertains to your memory or the actual physical effects time has on objects. It's like asking someone to draw a picture based on what you tell them to draw and it doesn't look right when they're done, even though, of course it's totally, almost up-to-the-minute accurate.
Anyway, I took one of these virtual nostalgia trips recently and I screen-capped some places...
This is the house we lived in when I was born, on Smith Court in Benton Harbor. We lived there long enough for me to remember it and playing outside there but we had moved by the time my sister was born, so that means before I was four years old. It still looks basically the same, at least as far as the color of the house.

That building on the left is an old funeral home. To the immediate right of that used to be a multi-car garage where they parked the hearses and above that were two apartments, one of which my grandparents lived in. This was where my parents would dump us on weekends so they could have lives. It's also where I first learned about racism...
  I was spending a weekend being babysat by my grandparents. I went out to play and met two black kids, Petey and Andre, on the block behind my grandparents' apartment. We tore through Andre's house for hours like the maniacs that we were until Andre's mom understandably reached her breaking point and kicked all three of us out of her home. No problem, I thought, and invited the boys back to my grandparents' apartment to play. My grandmother was less than accommodating. She wouldn't let us in and at one point screeched, "They would never let me in their house, why should I let them in mine?". I remember thinking, "Well, no, not now..."
One of these two white houses (I don't remember which one) is Andre's house. The red brick on the right is the back of the funeral home.

This is the Baptist church right across the street from the grandparents' apartment. The building in the back is where they held the Sunday School where I was dropped off every Sunday and yet, failed to attend a stunning amount of times. I don't know about statutes of limitations so I may or may not have direct knowledge of a big box of donuts that disappeared from a banquet room one Sunday and was re-distributed among homeless people at a nearby soup kitchen.

We lived here for a while. I spent a lot of time playing in the huge willow tree in the back yard.

Oh look. It's the house where I was babysat after school for a couple of years and where I was sexually molested several times by an old man in a wheelchair during that time. That garage is "new" but that's definitely the place. I don't know if the same family lives there (I don't recognize the fella headed from the garage to the house) but that ramp at the front door makes me wonder. Wow, that warpo piece of shit would be in his 90's if he is still alive. An online real estate site says I could buy it for $50 grand, and set it on fire, which is kind of tempting. A pretty pointless gesture if the family, specifically the gnarled old pervert himself, isn't inside at the time, though.

We lived in these shitty apartments for a few years. The complex was called Napier Manor at the time. Now I guess it's called the Fairplain Village. I'm guessing it's as much a village now as it was a manor then. Suzie Wooster's mom, whom we called "The Bald Eagle" because of her short, white hair, called late one night when my parents weren't home and accused me of stealing Suzie's bike, me and my "nigger friend" Stefan, who lived next door. We didn't do it and I gave it right back to her on the phone, defending myself loudly and profanely. We never stole bikes. When dad got home, I told him the whole story and he called her back and gave her another earful. Stupid Bald Eagle.

Then we moved here, for some reason. I don't remember much about it. We didn't stay there very long.

The house where I lived throughout high school used to be here. You can't even tell there was ever anything here at all, can you? The house and the one that was right next door are just gone. I would guess that the community college next door bought the property but it's kind of weird that they just tore down the houses and didn't build anything.

I got pulled over on that little side road to the right by multiple police cars, after having been stopped on the drawbridge where we took the opportunity to blast the car next to us...with a squirtgun. Yep. As soon as the bridge went down, we (me and my friend Scott)  took off and veered off to the right and saw flashing lights behind us. We pulled over, a cop approached, told us to get out of our car and that's when we saw the seven police cars. Incredible! They frisked us and everything. I knew that we weren't in real trouble, that they were trying to scare us and that in Scott's case, it was working. He was freaking out. They told us to go sit back in the car and I decided to mess with him. "Man, let's just go." "What?!? No!" "Screw those guys. What are they gonna do? Chase us? Good luck!", I said, and I bumped the key a little, just enough to make the starter make a noise. We were eventually released with a lecture but Scott got busted because neighbors heard the whole thing on a police scanner and called his parents.

Here's the North Pier which extends out into Lake Michigan I don't even know how far. This is where we would go during stormy weather, with waves breaking across the pier, turning every surface into a slimy, slippery mess. The object was to go from stanchion to stanchion of the catwalk you see here, trying to get all the way to the lighthouse at the end and back, at the same time, trying to keep your friend from getting there first, or at all, by tripping him or hitting his hands as he held on for dear life, I guess with the hope that he would get swept right off and drown. Oh, ha ha ha! The folly of youth. I should probably be dead.

Hey, this post kind of took a little out of me so I'm taking Friday off, okay? Cool. Thanks.


Michael Noble said...

Loved it ...

Anonymous said...

Interesting blast from the past, thanks for sharing. I like your writings, Clark. Keep up the good work. ~nux

PS: I saw the Google Earth car in Bradenton around May, '14 and made sure Mom, Lucas (boston terrier-pug mix) and myself got into the street view! :)