Antique Parent Land

Posted: March 23, 2014 in Miscellaneous, Record reviews
Tags: , , ,

In February, Special D and her best friend spent a week on Kauai. I spent five days with my parents in southeastern Massachusetts, where the temperature never left the frozen zone and I crunched across snow like stale pie crust. You can see who got the better end of this deal.

Happy cat roommates
Irving, Gloria, Elliot

Mom and Dad are doing well for two people on the high side of 80. The main question every hour is, “Where’s Elliot?” (The answer is, “Right there.”) They watch the Red Sox in the warm months and Downton Abbey in the cold months and Animal Planet and the World War II channel the rest of the time. They have their favorite breakfast place and their favorite lunch place and at night they’re cozy in the run-down house I grew up in.

Until recently they sold hardware and housewares from two tables at an indoor flea market. Dad has at last sold the business and I no longer have to worry about him hurting himself hefting heavy boxes or of getting an emergency call from the flea market owners that my mother or my father or both have collapsed and would I please fly across the country NOW. Plus the new buyer is carrying off all of the junk that filled two units in a warehouse and most of the basement of the house.

(Consumer report: If in the past I promised you a random box of mystery crap when I inherit my share of my parents’ estate, fear not. The house is still packed full of stuff – the cat never runs out of places to hide – and I will find you a 1960s clip-on tie or something brown or orange and made from velour.)

Always 1982 in Somerset
In the house of my parents it is always 1985.

Among the things my Dad has done that I have not is live in the same place all his life. In 1939, when Dad was 12, his father took him into a new lumber yard, started by a man who had failed as a tailor. Over the decades the lumber yard became a hardware store and branched out into appliances and moved a couple of times. The founder died and his four sons took over. The baby of the bunch, Lester, is the last man standing. He’s 90. The place is run by Lester’s son, who Dad told me recently is a “very nice boy.” I realized later that this very nice boy is at least my age.

Dad has visited this temple of tooldom almost every Saturday since he came back from the war. Generations of store employees have known my father. They’ve heard him talk Yiddish with the owner and they’ve brought him coffee. Sometimes he even helps a customer. Last week, Dad went to his “third place” – his equivalent of the barber shop, the pool hall, the coffee place, the gym – and told everyone he had retired. The staff was relieved, as they all had the same worries that I did, but they had tears in their eyes too and they made Dad promise to come back. He surely will. He loves the coffee.

They don’t make life like they used to
In 1946, flush with his last Army paycheck, Dad marched in and bought his first power tool:


It takes a physical effort to use one of these metal-hulled tools. The metal is cool to the touch in the hottest weather. Drills from this era have no safety features. Modern drills have a trigger lock. That wouldn’t have been considered good sportsmanship in 1946. If the motor in a modern drill overheats, it shuts itself down. If the motor in a drill from the 1940s or ’50s overheats, it shuts itself down by burning itself up. Plus you have to buy a separate attachment to make it go in reverse. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Coming attractions
Visiting my ancestral home has stirred up old memories and unresolved issues. So for the next few days I’m going to take a look back. Starting tomorrow: Sins of the ’70s Week. Our first contestants: Fleetwood Mac!

Random Pick of the Day
Chet Atkins, Chet Atkins Picks on the Beatles (1966)
Amiable, with some interesting guitar work, but not too much interesting guitar work. The harmonica, drums, and piano all get their licks in, too. Top tracks for me are “I Feel Fine” and “A Hard Day’s Night.” “Things We Said Today” shows some easy-going bossa nova influence, and “I’ll Follow the Sun” sounds almost Hawaiian. With liner notes by George Harrison.

Random Pan of the Day
Various artists, Harpsichord Greatest Hits (1995)
Harpsichords are charming…for about 5 minutes. After that I feel as if Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy have gone outside, leaving me indoors with the more boring characters.

  1. Mr. Seaside says:

    As a promisee of ‘a random box of mystery crap’ ( I thought it was a 5-gallon bucket of really neat stuff that you had promised?,…..but oy, you never promised me a rose garden, either), I look forward to the day when it arrives at my door, but with sincere wishes that it in the far distant future…giving your dad, and you, the maximum time needed to appreciate the incredible value of his treasure.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Did I say a 5-gallon bucket? You got it (I mean, Dad has ’em). Thanks for the good wishes and I look forward to as much time as possible appreciating my parents, who are the actual treasures in that house!

  2. Krafty says:

    I always enjoy hearing about your folks, Stevie! Loved the pics – more please!

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