“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, you are the one getting burned.” That’s a saying my sister taught me years ago. Annemarie, my sister is truly a wonderful being. She was the one who got me interested in music initially though there was always some sort of music playing in the house.
I remember one time she asked my opinion of this song, something called ‘Crocodile Rock’ by Elton John. She liked Elton a lot. I don’t think she was doing market research. I liked the song, not one of his best as I look back on it now, but then I liked it a lot. The fifties type of vocals from the chorus was catchy as all hell. That year I bought Annemarie an inflatable Elton John pillow from Spencer Gifts for Christmas.
Annemarie was on vacation, or perhaps not working one summer and she got me out of the house frequently. Just day trips to Darlington County Park, which was exotic for me then. It still is. The suburban myth is that Annemarie once swallowed a worm as she was looking up out the back window of the station wagon that my father was driving and a worm fell off the tree and down her gullet.
Great story, she denies it. Memory has created the imagery of her leaning back, mouth agape and the worm or perhaps caterpillar slipping off a leaf and falling into her mouth. There was no worm or caterpillar swallowing on our day trips. I would just swim or sit on the beach with her. Maybe a walk around or the pedal boats for a while. Then we’d make it home in time for dinner. I was usually just so exhausted from the sun that I more than likely passed out after dinner.
On weekends Anne and I would go bicycle riding to far off Paramus. There were no bike lanes then. A lot of it was on roads not friendly at all to cyclists. She would ride our brother Frank’s ten-speed, I would ride my no speed bike with a sissy bar and a banana seat. That might explain a lot of things….
But I digress. We would ride, just get out of the house, not tell anyone where we were going and ride ride ride. There were no cell phones or pagers then, we were totally incommunicado. These little adventures brought us closer. We had to cross Route 4 by carrying our bicycles and running across the highway. For some reason it was the safer thing to do.
I have fought with both my brothers, but I can never recall fighting with Annemarie.
Annemarie was the first person on the planet that inquired about my nascent sexuality. Like about a few months after I had discovered it myself. Of course I followed on my first instinct. Deny. She asked why didn’t I have any girlfriends. I had just started at an all boys’ high school, and that was a deterrent for meeting girls.
I did have a dalliance with Donna Rinaldi between eighth grade and freshman year of high school, but it never amounted to anything but a chaste kiss, which was fine with me. I never even got to hold her bags of sand. But the distance between me living on Riverview Avenue and Donna living on Massey Street was too great a gulf for me to cross.
I was adamant that I was straight, or at least enough to convince Annemarie. I knew I wasn’t but didn’t want anyone except for whomever I was having sex with to know. She never brought the subject up again.
Annemarie moved out of the house and eventually wound up in New Hampshire. That was great because I’d flee Lodi for a week at a time and go up there. We’d go to the movies or various stores in Brattleboro, Vermont. I bought a ton of used Beatles LP’s original label stuff, which is now lost somewhere, but oh how I cherished it then. We saw Annie, Star Trek and a few other movies.
One time we had even gone to a gay bar in Brattleboro when I was older and out. That was probably the last time I went up there. I had a lot of hash at the time and once when Annemarie and her guests went out one afternoon I would up smoking way too much and had to lie on the floor in the sun inside her house so I wouldn’t die. Oh, good times.
Almost a year to the day I met Bill, we were driving from Lodi to Frank’s house in Garfield. She asked me if I was ever going to settle down, find a nice guy, and do whatever it is gay people do when they decide to settle down. I told her my life was so complicated and if I wanted sex I knew where to go, and god help the guy I decided to settle down with. A year later I met Bill.
Annemarie is still my favorite person in the world. She’s in California now, with Rex her husband, and their son, Earl. She’s great and I love her. I love all of them out there in Arcata, and wish they were closer. I think they feel the same way.
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will.