Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving Up on the Central West End

About a year before my dad drowned I was living with my girlfriend Jill in the Central West End. This was the apartment on Parkview I talked about previously.

We had been forced to move from our place on West Pine. Washington University bought the property. Several of my friends lost their places too. A lot of people didn’t want to move but you can’t stop progress, especially when it’s already been paid for.

I don’t know what Jill and I were thinking. Our apartment on Parkview was in the shadow of a looming Barnes Hospital complex.

Sure enough, after our couple of years of domestic bliss, our landlady Effie told us they were forcing us all out.

Effie had two small 4-family flats right next to each other. She lived in the other one. Except for Jill and me, the other tenants came and went. Life was always changing.

The walls and floors were so thin it felt like we were all living in the same apartment. There was a couple upstairs that were always fighting. He’d beat the crap out of her and just as things got quiet, as she sat on the floor sobbing, she’d say something that would provoke him to start beating her again. We called the cops several times but that sick relationship stayed together even after they moved.

A couple of years later my girlfriend Pam and I lived with Fojammi and his girlfriend Josie in the Fox Park neighborhood. Josie and I did laundry together at the local laundry. Josie was never too shy to go up to battered women there and ask, “Why do you let him treat you like this?” I was always amazed at the answer, “Because I love him!”

Effie was never the same after she got the news. She bought the apartments with her husband after WWII. Her husband died several years before and the apartments became her entire social life. She didn’t want to leave. Her son took Barnes to court and they battled it out for a long time.

During this time Effie’s mental state began to deteriorate. She rented the place next to us to two hard assed guys whose faces were pulp from constant fighting. I wasn’t entirely sure it wasn’t the same guys that rolled Marge and me up in carpets when we were robbed on West Pine.

We got to be friends with them. They told us creepy stories about partying with Effie. Apparently Effie would get very drunk and dance throwing her dress up to reveal the absence of underwear. She was in her nineties.

While we were living there I made it out to a spot on the Big River where I’d learned to swim as a child. There was a channel between a sand bar and a dock where I first swam without my life vest. The river was deep and the current was swift. I yelled to my dad to watch. He jumped in, pulled me out and spanked me. (It still hurts).

I was swimming at the same place.

I was wearing shoes and the water got very deep. I couldn’t seem to get my breath or keep my head above the water. I went down. Panic set in as I kicked violently. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I remembered my dad getting his head under a waterfall out here. If a friend hadn’t pulled him out he would have drowned. He told me he’d passed the point of pain. I had read drowning was the least painful way to die.

The panic passed and I guess my lungs were full of water. I reached an acceptance of the inevitable.

I opened my eyes to see an enormous cat’s ass moving away from me in the dark. I was in bed and Jill was lying next to me. The cat had been lying on my face.

Jill and I split, I spent some time alone, and Tracy moved in before they actually kicked us out.

Barnes hired movers for us and we beat it to Soulard. Man, movers really makes a difference. I never looked back.

They bought Effie a small bungalow in South St. Louis. She died lonely and heart broken a few months later. A collateral necessity as far as Barnes was concerned.

Pics show Jill's murderous cat plotting behind my dad's back, my brother Patrick and me admiring an object d’art when I was living on Parkview (pic by Matt O'Shea), I wish I had a pic of Effie, my dog Sinbad finally about to get his lizard, Patrick and me at the Big River in our cumbersome life vests.

When I took my son Dylan on his first camping trip, he was 5 I think, we floated in a canoe down the Meramec. The river was high from spring rains, we hit white water and the canoe capsized. Dylan washed downstream. I love those cumbersome orange life vests!


Tony Patti said...

I love seeing photos of your dad's mysterious face.

Anonymous said...

That picture of your dad always looks like he's hitting on a houka or somethin'...

Anonymous said...

I love how the eyes of the "murderous" cat are glowing lol.