by G. Sax
One: Listening to my Sony Walkman cassette player while I delivered newspapers, particularly one sunny day on the front stairs of 1054 Norton Street while flipping to Side 2 of the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures.
Two: Crossing University Avenue at Victoria in St. Paul at the age of 6 when I missed my school bus home from Maxfield Elementary but missed it with some other kids who were older than me. Mind you, Maxfield was K–3. Whoever these mystery kids were, they were just babies themselves. But I still remember how exhilarating it was to cross that busy street without an adult present.
Three: Ditching Murray Jr. High on a snowy winter day with Cameron Blackmore. I rarely ditched school, but that day sticks out as a singularly great event of junior high. It was probably one of the only times I did anything alone with Cam. We went to the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus Student Union and ate vending machine food. We walked all the way to Bandana Square, which was still a viable mall at the time. Then we went back to his house near Como Lake. I eventually made it the extra couple of miles home, all on foot. Cam’s dead now and has been since high school. But I have that day as the one memory of me and him when it was just me and him.
Four: Singing “It’s just another one of those boring days…Dragon Snake, Dragon Snake.” This lyric will make sense to only one person in my life. He is Jon Lewis, and I spent the most formative moments of my youth with this kid. And then 30 years later, I took his wife to the Minnesota State Fair and we judged horse-and-carriage shows rather well for a couple of admission fee cheats.
Five: Mr. Muller, my uncle-bad-touch 6th-grade teacher, took me and Anthony Dent and Cory Cox and Roger Lynch to the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Omni Theatre to see “Genesis” on a school night. We ate dinner at his house, and the entire proceedings felt semi-formal. The other three boys were black and I was still white, and I got the distinct feeling that this weird man took pity on us as “underclass” although I already knew that I possessed superior intellect, that Anthony and Roger had superior talent, and Cory had superior cuteness. We would all be fine in life. At least until death. Roger is gone as of 2003. I just found this out a few months back, and it really fucking bummed me out. Roger was my yang for a few years in elementary school, and I will always miss him, even if we hadn’t spoken in 20+ years and will never speak again.
Six: Watching “The Benny Hill Show” with my great-grandfather. Watching “The Love Boat” with my great-grandfather. Watching “Fantasy Island” with my great-grandfather. Listening to an Angels-Twins exhibition game on the radio with my great-grandfather. Playing frisbee on the side of the house on Charles Avenue with my great-grandfather. Putting random bits of metal in the vise in the workshop of the basement of my great-grandfather. Playing Rummy 500 in the kitchen of my great-grandfather. Being mesmerized by the compass bobbling around on the dash of the vehicle of my great-grandfather. Quietly watching the thermostat from the hide-a-bed in the living room that would inevitably be changed in the middle of the night to a different temperature by my great-grandfather.
Seven: Enjoying rainy, dreary days in Milwaukee. Bike rides and car drives with Hunter S. Sax to parks on the East Side, playgrounds on Lake Michigan, cheap food places on North Street and Oakland Avenue, zoos in Racine, and wherever else our adventures would take me and my 3-year-old son.
Eight: Working “The Night Shift” at the snow fort on Mackubin Street, which I romanticized as far more than the snow-plowed pile across from a second-tier frozen lake and third-tier apartment complex. Oh, the way the light hit the shining snow at 9:30 p.m. on those rare, quiet nights as I sat sentry prior to the inevitable vandalism.
Nine: Getting ready before my TRUE night shift at Clean Power, a janitorial service company in Madison, Wisconsin. I generally worked three jobs at a time throughout my college experience (in bare feet, uphill both ways!), and for a time I would pump myself up for the night job with one of two polar opposites: Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” or Public Enemy’s “Brothers Gonna Work It Out.” Either way, I’d play that shit loud and sing it louder, and then I’d vacuum and trash like a fucking demon.
Ten: Driving on I-95 in Baltimore while listening to a lyric in Q-Tip’s “Vivrant Thing” that mentions I-95. Feeling like I had it all. Feeling like I was starting a brand new day. Hearing Sting’s “Brand New Day” while driving the same stretch of I-95 and thinking Sting and I could be pals in optimism. Thinking I could write an award-winning screenplay at the Royal Farms on Key Hwy long before some chick named Diablo Cody did it in a Target in Crystal, MN.
I got memories, yo. They’re all up in here (pointing at left temple). And if I did my job, you love the way I wrote about them, even if you don’t know them. But maybe they pinch something similar in you and you stop and think and remember a piece of your life the way it should be remembered – not in crisis but in private, otherworldly elation.