Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Let He Who..."

These simple sketches reference a particular two years in my young life when we lived in a very small oceanside community where I knew every single kid my age.  It was a peninsular cut off from the world by a mile wide salt marsh, a river wide enough for a high drawbridge and hemmed in by a four lane highway.  The residential area was one block deep, squeezed between the ocean and the highway, and six or seven short blocks wide.  It had  been a summer cottage settlement once but urban pressures and proximity to a nearby war production plant made it a bedroom community.

We kids knew of the war by the air raid drills, the huge carbon-arc search lights around the sand-bagged anti-aircrft gun emplacements on the salt flats near the bridge. We visited soldiers who lived in large tents there and saw armed coastguard patrols on our sandy beaches at night.

This military atmosphere must have seeped into the local kids' collective psyche because moving there from my more genteel home town we found this small "village" divided into two gangs of belligerent kids , - my street the border between the two.  Those in my close neighborhood usually supported the south side believing the north was much more numerous and aggressive.  I say that but I remember chasing a "tough" kid right into his own home where I blackened his eye in front of his mother and her coffee club!  I was a small nine year old but he'd run for a reason!

We fought over everything: Beach space in the summer,  flotsam after nor'east storms, "stuff" like K-rations washed up from (we thought) torpedoed ships. A rumor had a small German submarine grounded not far from our own local beach. Our most contentious fights were over the numerous oak trees around town that yielded huge sacks of green acorns, the ammunition for bigger battles when they were in season each year.

What seemed like almost daily dustups were mostly fought through alleys and backyards but one time an "enemy" and I were trading missiles across an empty lot when,  ducking away from "incoming" I caught a fist sized stone on the back of my head .  It knocked me senseless for a minute but I managed to stagger home with a gashed scalp and ringing ears.  My mother immediately dragged me the two blocks to my attacker's home where my blood soaked hair and clothing were exhibit "A".  Not long later his mother dragged him crying and swollen eyed to my house - exhibit "B", witness to the serious beating she'd given him.  I remember that war in the works above -  some from an illustrated "Minor Disaster" series  still in the making.

"My paintings come with a message of pain."   Frida Kahlo

"Affection is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it."   John Donne

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