5Blood is Thicker than Water...

...not by much.

My Brother Richard, March 9, 1946

Having a brother seven years older one would think I’d have many memories of him, yet I don’t. It feels like I should have twice or thrice as many as I do, and if I have them they are still buried beneath...some indistinct wrapping.

Testing the Limits

In later years my brother admitted there were more than a few times he wanted to kill me. The first time was when he came home from school and found that I had entered his room and played with all his model cars; the kind of cars put together with glue and plastic, and painstakingly painted. Apparently I wrecked most of them. I wonder where my Mother was during that time.

The last time was in the AM hours in Rio Del Mar; Rich was returning from a late date. He always entered the house by the front door. Before retiring the night before, I had tacked the explosive part of a dismantled party-popper about eye level across where the door opens. This did two things: 1, made sure Mom would hear him, 2, scare the ...outta him. It did, and I heard later that Mom had to restrain my brother’s fury.

Mariposa Avenue, Watsonville

My first memory of my brother takes place in Watsonville, in the house on Mariposa Avenue. I recall my dad building a wood house in the backyard, a fort if you will, for my brother. He and his best friend slept in it the first night it was finished.

The second memory was when I was five years old. The Swiss Family Robinson movie was playing at the local and only drive-in. This theatre was located at the bottom of a hill. One of my brother’s friends lived in one of the houses at the top of that hill. I recall sitting on the fence with my brother holding me steady and watching the movie. It was not summer, it was cold, and we were wrapped. Watching the movie was like watching TV on a ten-inch set.

Smattering of images of me with the kids of the neighborhood and my brother and his friends nearby.

Baltusrol Drive, Rio Del Mar

It was a saturday afternoon, we were all expecting Richard and his wife to show up and they were late according to my parents. He drives up, gets out, I was the first to see him, and he turns smiling big and hands me a pack of firecrackers. To see my brother again was always wonderful, to have fireworks was beyond comparison. I fairly leaped and shouted for joy. I had in my hand 16 wondrous experiences that all (knowing that there was going to be a dud or two but ignoring that fact) ended in some sort of bang.

He asked if he could see the pack for a second. I gingerly handed it to him, thinking that once again fate was in his hands. He opened the pack, held it out, lit the combined fuses, and tossed it aside. Shock didn’t describe my feelings as I watched the entire pack ignite and explode not five feet from me. I was instantly stunned, amazed, furious, shocked, and speechless.

He walked to the back of his car, asked me over to the trunk. I looked at him with fury in my face and he was grinning this huge grin so much so that I it made wonder what he was about after he had blown up 16 perfectly wondrous firecrackers. Sixteen firecrackers he had given to me! They were mine, because he had given them to me! I was not able to make coherent sounds.

He reached down into his suitcase and extracted a brick of firecrackers. I had never seen a brick before, I didn’t know they existed. It was opened and a few packs were missing, but the total count were it full would have been 1600 firecrackers. As it was, It was missing less than 100, so I had a brick of around 1500 firecrackers. My eyes grew wide and I really at that moment could not comprehend such wealth, so many hours of fantastic fun.

You must understand: fireworks of any kind were such a rarity, and only to be seen on the fourth of July. It never made sense to me that fireworks were only available at that time of year. I could look at a pack of firecrackers, or a bunch of “safe and sane” fireworks and imagine all the fun in an instant, then change it to more fun in another instance. My mind would race about, choosing things to blow up, ways to blow things up, ways to make even more noise, ways to adapt to some other fun.

As I said, standing at the back of his car looking down at this absurd package of firecrackers, I was lost in my mind, I couldn’t get past losing the first pack so quickly and now looking at thousands of instances. I was frozen in time, my mind churning madly but not able to comprehend these numbers of unique experiences when there was this tremendous explosion behind me. I wheeled about in stuck-brain mode as Richard handed me a box of M40s.

An M40 is slightly more powerful than a cherry bomb, and half as powerful as an M80. Rumor has it that an M80 is half a stick of dynamite. I don’t know, having never seen an M80, for obvious reasons.


Eric’s vapid VW

My Sister Denise, May 4, 1956

My VW brake cable experience

My Godson and Nephew Scott, January 3, 1974

My Niece Kaia, November 21, 1982