A few days back on Almond Avenue, right outside the tomb that is Toohey’s Auto, a pile of clothes, that would accumulate in size over the weekend, from a clump of articles to a full wardrobe, appeared, dumped by a telephone pole and left to get pounded, day after day by this strange, sick inducing, January weather. Driving pass, this wet mess, of pink and powder blue garments, entangled with black slacks and sprinkled with little iridescent green socks, twice a day for the next 96 hours opened a sort of slipstream in my memory, churning up thoughts of the fluorescent, ransacked bedrooms of the teenage siblings of my elementary school friends. The off-limits, turn-back-before-it’s-too-late, pentagram-protected blast zones, occupied in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, by too cool for school adolescents. That waterbed-coveting, poodle-metal worshipping, rory-tory epoch, boiling over with arcades, gooey gore films, dangerous slap-wrap bracelets and Little Hug juice barrels, drained of their sugary delights and converted into tobacco stained spittoons. It was all Oliver North, then Desert Storm, the Fat Boys battling Bocephus, Princess Diana and Freddy Krueger; back when potato was spelled potatoe and eight bits was all the world needed to blow young brains apart.
My friend Zartan, nicknamed such for his massive action figure collection, had two older siblings, a sister who was 17 and a brother who was 15. The sister, Gretchen, resided on the second floor, and her bedroom was a colorful confection of chaos and highly flammable hair products. Her vanity was completely overwhelmed with cans of Aqua Net and Bold Hold hair spray, every inch of floor smothered by dirty clothes, dried up vials of makeup and crumbled homework, the walls swathed in posters, flags and pages torn from dreamy teen magazines, representing the likes of Skid Row, Dokken, and the hunk-meister collective that was the Chippendale dancers. Punishment, if caught, for invading her boudoir was a sharp clap in the face with the backside of a brush!
The brother, Skippy, who called himself “Pete,” was a different type of monster, like a drum of toxic waste stashed in the basement of some government lab, Pete’s existence was subterranean, and his disposition was that of a final boss from “Ninja Gaiden 2.” On the outside of his bedroom door hung a poster of a skateboarder jumping through a mushroom cloud, face encased by a gas mask, his arms crossed, Seagal-style, shooting duel pistols; a quaint introduction, you could say, to what lay behind it, a situation that could only be described as a dire health hazard, a literal blizzard of filth! On entering the eye immediately caught sight of a greasy go-kart engine that had dripped hot sludge down the front of his chest of drawers, a million and one splinters from shattered decks shared the oil stained carpet with broken guitar strings, bloody wads of toilet paper and every conceivable type of junk food wrapper and soda container ever devised by man. The festive side of Pete had smashed open a VHS tape, it’s 800 feet of oxide-coated mylar festooned about the place giving the room just the right dingy aura. Pete’s cache of homemade weapons included such items as a rusty circular saw blade tied to a broken broom stick, a fire extinguisher fastened to the end of a chain, a big rock, painted black and a can of mace with a funnel taped to the nozzle. Once, at a birthday party for Zartan, Pete sensed a disturbance among his clutter — I can’t remember what he thought had been taken, but I remember the retaliation. As we kids played throughout the house, Pete filled a pillow case with several G.I. Joe vehicles, then strolled into the living room. From the kitchen, where I was stuffing my face I heard Pete yell “Nice fuckin model, honk-honk!” Then a crash, then another, then sobs and wailing. Before I could put the pieces of what was happening together, Pete was in the kitchen, doling out the Lord’s work and sending kids scrambling! As my buddy Fats caught the bad end of Pete’s weighted bed linen, I sprang into action by hitting my knees and sliding under the kitchen table, and then I was up and running and out the back door, moving at a speed I’ve never hit again as I high tailed my ass home, leaving my fallen comrades behind.