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Mom and music and cigarettes


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Remembering mom.

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Mom and music and cigarettes

  1. 1. Mom and Music and Cigarettes A Remembrance by Tim Carroll
  2. 2. When I was six the family moved from San Francisco to a town 30 miles away. Dad got a job in the county administration building. It was the only tall building in town. Right after we moved a Rice-A-Roni commercial made me cry. Mom asked what was wrong and I said, “Rice-A-Roni is the San Francisco treat, not the Martinez treat.” At first I wasn’t happy to live in Martinez.
  3. 3. Martinez was in a beautiful California valley surrounded by golden hills. John Muir lived there until he died. Then they ruined the place by building a giant oil refinery there. It was a working town; all the dads worked for Shell Oil or for county administration. One hot summer day in 1966 mom took me and my two brothers for a drive. She took us to this new suburban town they were building, a place called Hercules. Weird name for a town, right?
  4. 4. Mom thought like a kid. She really knew what boys liked. Hercules was full of full of tractors and earth movers and concrete culvert pipes and stacks of two-by-fours and huge piles of dirt The perfect playground!
  5. 5. While we fooled around in the construction site, mom sat in the two- toned ‘56 Ford and listened to her station, KSFO 560 AM. She loved music. Once she took us to the studio in the Fairmont Hotel “High atop Nob Hill” to watch the DJ spin records and talk. Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins was behind a big glass window, looking like exotic animal in a zoo.
  6. 6. Wherever she went mom smoked. The Ford had a dashboard lighter that glowed orange. Curious about how it worked, I once touched it. A puff of smoke went up and the lighter burnt circles onto my fingertip that looked like a target.
  7. 7. When mom smoked I liked to watch the fire travel down the white paper tube, with grey ashes bringing up the rear. It looked cool, but it stunk bad. I was never tempted to smoke cigarettes, just on account of the smell.
  8. 8. While mom sat in the car we played army. We armed ourselves with lumber scraps and fought hard to conquer the Matterhorn. Nazis were always conducting sneak attacks on whoever the J.I. Joe was at the top.
  9. 9. Getting killed wasn’t losing. It was fun to show off how good you were at dying. We’d die as dramatically as possible, doing it in slow motion, and drawing out the agony.
  10. 10. After an especially dramatic death scene, rolling all the way down the face of the Matterhorn, I ran to the Ford to ask mom for her review of my performance.
  11. 11. I asked mom, “Did you see that? Pretty boss, right?”
  12. 12. Mom was distracted. She sat there smoking a Salem Menthol and listening really hard to a song on the radio.
  13. 13. When the song was over she sighed. Then mom said, “Do you know what’s going to happen when that man dies? Do you, Timmy?” I was confused by what she was talking about, but I knew it was important. “When Louis Armstrong dies the whole world will be sad,” she said.
  14. 14. Years after that day playing at the construction site, sometime around the time dad ran off with his dental hygienist and moved to Sacramento, mom switched from Salem Menthols to Virginia Slims. This made sense. Her name was Virginia. And, cigarettes made her slim.
  15. 15. Mom got a job at a pie shop where the waitresses wore sexed-up outfits. We'd hang out with her for an hour before she went off to work at 3:30. Until she got home, around midnight, we were on our own. We smoked pot, listened to Led Zeppelin, rode bikes, and went on long hikes in the hills. We were hippy Huck Finn kids in the seventies. Huck Finns who got to eat pie every day.
  16. 16. One day in 1971 there was this big funeral on TV.
  17. 17. Watching TV with mom she suddenly socked me real hard on the arm, and yelled, "Didn't I tell you the whole world would be sad?! Didn't I?!"
  18. 18. At first I didn’t know what she was talking about. She was crying a little, and Louis Armstrong was dead. Then I remembered what she said to me that day in 1966 at the construction site. Mom had a photographic memory for some things.
  19. 19. Together, we watched the Louis Armstrong stuff on TV. Mom was right, the whole world was sad. Except for Noah – our cocker spaniel with dreadlocks got to eat lemon meringue pie on the floor that day.