Thursday, August 23, 2007

Westminster Place

Sometimes a lapse in memory might not be such a bad thing. I’ve found myself asking permission to use names and being turned down. I want to give credit where credit is due but I don’t want to embarrass anyone.

When I was in 8th grade I lived in the attic of a mansion on Westminster Place near Boyle, the heart of Gaslight Square.

By then there was nothing left but abandoned buildings, a few antique dealers, KDNA radio, and O’Connell’s pub. Come to think of it, Jack Parker, the owner of O’Connell’s became an antique dealer. I grew up with his kids in Laclede Town. I’ll get around to Laclede Town one of these days.

“The Stroll”, St. Louis’ hooker strip was just beginning to get crowded along Washington Avenue. Years later there was a big bust and most of the girls relocated to Cherokee Street. Which reminds me, my brother once bragged that after sex one of the girls told him, “Honey, you’re so fine this one is on the house”. He was always full of shit, but I love his stories.

We rented our attic apartment from a man named Hirschfeld. He was proprietor of one of the antique stores. He was Al Hirschfeld’s brother, the famous caricaturist.

This was before the West End became fashionable and our mansion was quite run down. I remember a bloated, bald, water logged rat floating in our pool. The water had been black for years.

There was a guy named Bob who lived downstairs that turned my mom onto the apartment. Bob was a peace activist who spent time in jail as a result.

Rumor had it that Bob had been sodomized with a fire hose in jail. The implication seemed to be that it might not have been by fellow inmates. He spent the rest of his life on meds and had absolutely no sense of humor. We finally lost the apartment because his tolerance for noisy, obnoxious kids came to an end.

By 8th grade I was already hitchhiking. I had spent the previous 2 years living between Webster Groves and Kirkwood and my social life was still out there. Sometimes I even took the bus.

My friends were learning how to play guitar or drums. I was taken to Mel Bay Music one day and found the bargain bin. It was a cardboard box filled with guitars that were priced from $15.00 to $35.00! I fell in love with a green sunburst Fender Mustang knockoff that had a giant round knob, 3 toggle switches, and 4 pickups. I had no idea what the knob did and it reeked of cheap head shop incense.

Around this time we lived off and on with Suzy Gray and her kids Mark and Kent. She and my mother were both single and it was a good financial arrangement. I would call here Aunt Suzy and I still consider her sons my brothers. Suzy gained some notoriety as “Suzy Q” on KDHX. She also had a show in New Orleans on a Spanish station.

Suzy was a good friend of my dad. One morning we were all hanging out in kitchen and I started ranting about this guitar I had fallen in love with. They were selling it for $25.00. Suzy bullied my dad into coming up with $10.00 if she would come up with $15.00. I’ve never told her how much I loved her for this.

When the weekend came I tried to hitchhike out there. No one would pick me up and I ended up walking rail road tracks most of the way. I was sore but elated to get there before they closed. Then the whole world changed.

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