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Category Archives: San Francisco
McArthur Street: Episode Three
It wasn’t long before my younger brother, Samuel, became friends with Jimmy’s two younger brothers, Donnie and Ronnie. My younger brother, Samuel, is about three years younger than I. Jimmy’s two younger brothers were two years apart. They were close to the same age as Samuel and considerably smaller in stature than Jimmy.
One day I remember going along with Jimmy and his mom and little brothers to shop in the morning during the three month summer vacation time that we had from school. In Tucson in the sixties during the hot days of summer we, boys, wore cut-off jeans to look cool. It was at the beginning of summer vacation and before nine in the morning there was still a little coolness in the air. We were going to a large, discount department store in a new complex recently built in the desert. The modern four lane, divided road had an exit that looked like a freeway exit but this was Tucson so this was not a freeway at all.
We arrived in the old, station wagon that Jimmy’s mother drove. We were there at the doors of the new, modern looking department store in the desert where no greenery of landscaping had started to grow yet. It was before the store was open. The day was growing hotter in the Arizona sun as I noticed all the other housewives, most of them middle aged, who were waiting for the doors to open. It was the day of a sale that had been advertised. I had no previous experience or knowledge of these types of events at all.
I remember a tall, young man in a light grey suit unlocking the glass doors and then I was witnessing a site that I had never heard of. Everyone was pushing up toward the doors as they opened and then there was an insane, mad rush of women running to a certain department. I found myself caught up in the ebullience of the moment and rushing with all of the others to see what the excitement was all about.
Soon I came to a scene in which there was already a crowd of women gathered in a certain area and others were fighting their way to get in. I decided to become one of them to see what was going on. When I was able to push through the women and get close enough to the front I was amazed by what I saw. There were tables piled with women’s clothing that had been neatly folded and women were practically fighting over the clothing! It was a garish spectacle! After watching for awhile I turned and walked away.
One thing that really stands out in my mind is the way Jimmy’s mom placated her two youngest children by giving them candy. At a certain point in this shopping experience Jimmy and his mom left me alone in the old station wagon with Donnie and Ronnie. I sat in the back seat and Ronnie and Donnie turned to face me from the middle seat of the station wagon. I tried to talk to them as I would with my own younger brother and sisters but they seemed more keen on trying to impress me with the fact that they had candy. I found myself in a state of disgust looking at their dirty, little faces with candy coating around their mouths. Already their teeth were small and brown with gaps between them. They smiled at me triumphantly as if the mere state of constantly having candy showed superiority.
I sat in the back seat of the station wagon looking at the dirty, little faces smiling at me. Inside the station wagon was a feeling of dirtiness and smelliness. There was a gritty feeling. I just felt a sense of disgust. Needless to say I never went along with Jimmy and his mother when they went shopping again. When he asked me if I wanted to go along he seemed not to understand why I would say no.
I actually liked Jimmy’s mom. She was younger than my own mother. She had bouncy, blonde hair down to her shoulders. Often she wore shorts. She seemed pretty. She always acted nice. She seemed rather child like herself. She often talked to me as if I were an equal. There was an air of excitement about being in their home. It was something different, something new.
Jimmy’s father was a dark, shadowy figure who made his appearance rarely. It was a long time before I ever saw him. He was a burly, Mexican man with black hair, a dark complexion and a small moustache. He seemed unpleasant and never smiled. He was not like my own Mexican-American father. My father was known for smiling and joking. Jimmy’s father was a glazier and apparently made good money. His glass truck would sometimes be parked in the driveway of their home. Jimmy said that he often worked on Saturdays which was why he was rarely at home.
It seemed as if marriage for him was his wife only and not his children. He seemed to leave the raising of his sons to his wife. This may have had to do with the fact that all three of his boys turned out to have blonde hair like their mother and fair complexions. When he was at home he usually retreated to the bedroom.
I remember on a few occasions during this time in my life I found myself alone in the living room of my family home on a hot, Tucson afternoon. It was cool in the living room from the air of the cooler as I looked peacefully at the drapery. I became impressed with the sense of order and calmness in my mother’s neat and nice living room. There was the couch decorated with the Mexican zarape, the fireplace mantel with the clock ticking and the family photos. There were the paintings and old fashioned carpet with its oval shape, the coffee table, end tables and lamps. I was sitting in my mother’s comfortable upholstered rocking chair. There were the drapes gently swaying because of the one window that was slightly ajar from which the heat of the Sonoran desert and fresh air from outside radiated. From the front porch would be the sound of the wind chimes that were barely moving.
The peace and tranquility impressed me with the orderliness of the living room in its own afternoon twilight. Everything neat and simple. Everything dusted by my little sisters or my mother. When my sisters were babies I had helped my mother with the dusting. I had a feeling of transcendence and peace of mind. This was my pristine world, so different, I thought in contrast to Jimmy’s world.
Although there was an air of excitement in Jimmy’s home with his young, energetic mother I always felt a sense of uncleanness and lack of order and peace. There was never the clean, pristine smell of my family home. Often the living room was in need of picking up with loose articles here and there. Both of Jimmy’s parents smoked cigarettes which contributed to the general feeling of dirtiness. Often Jimmy’s mother would be sitting on the couch, laundry to fold at her side, with a cigarette in her hand, smoke going up to the ceiling. The ceiling was stained yellow and brown from the cigarette smoke.
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