042603parkThe first thing I remem­ber was get­ting “hoofed” in the head by a cow in Nor­way. I was a wee lad, and I’ve always held that moment some­what respon­si­ble for the occa­sional birth­mark between my eye­brows … that, and the time my girl­friend in 6th grade, Jen­nifer Dzu­rus, tried to kick me but had clogs on and so it flew off her foot and landed squarely there, the fore­head, and oh the zing. The 2nd time I went to Nor­way was with Mor­mor and Affar, and I embar­rassed them as we boarded the KLM flight to Oslo by telling the pilot, who had just asked me if I could speak any Nor­we­gian, “Dra hjem og ligg ned,” which is roughly trans­lated as ”Go home and lie down,” which, innocu­ous as it sounds, was a lit­tle bit of a diss back there in mid-70s Scandanavia.

Affar used to walk me down to Shore Road in Bay Ridge and we’d sit on one of the benches there and have a van­tage point of the Ver­razano Nar­rows and the mouth of NY Har­bor, and he’d point to giant tankers and cargo chips with his burly Nor­we­gian fin­ger and tell me this and tell me that. He died when I was 11 or so, and I was home alone when Tante Lil­lian called and told me that “Mor­far has gone to be with the Lord.” I was aware of my lack of tears and sor­row … mostly, just con­fused, really … huh … and when my par­ents pulled up in the green Dat­sun 210, hatch­back open for some lum­ber they had lugged from wher­ever, I jumped into the back and made them stop their slow and short jour­ney back­ing up the dri­ve­way and feigned some good tears for my mother’s sake, I think. I remem­ber my skin feel­ing weird and numb, like plastic.

There was never a short­age of milk at Mormor’s. Always pour­ing me glass after glass, tall thick glasses with dia­mond shaped etch­ings in them. Nice sil­ver­ware on a cold white metal table, a small radio on a shelf above the salt and pep­per, and a Lord’s Prayer plaque beside it. I would always play with her fancy cut­glass per­fume atom­izer with the silky pump ball with fray­ing tassles, not really spray­ing per­fume around, but just check­ing it out, so strange and for­eign to me … mostly I remem­ber the ring she stopped wear­ing, lay­ing on the mir­ror counter beside the per­fumes and pow­ders … 4 square stones set in a thin gold band, dif­fer­ent col­ors, pastely … pink, green, blue, and yel­low … one for each of her chil­dren. When she died I was “liv­ing” at the Glen­wood on Broad­way and Marcy in Williams­burg, a $7 a night hotel for junkies, like myself, or for for­lorn old men to die in … my brother found me there– I think I left a phone num­ber with him once– and picked me up to go to her wake, and I made him stop at a Dunkin Donuts to use the bath­room, and I shot a good speed­ball into my neck and got back into the car and we con­tin­ued on, and just before we got to the funeral par­lor I looked at myself in the visor mir­ror and noticed the small bit of blood stain­ing the col­lar of my dirty shirt.