Before Johns Street we lived in downtown Madison in a beautiful old house on Rutledge Street across the street from a little park with a gazebo. My mom found gay porn hidden underneath it and turned it over to the police. Pink collar crime. While waiting for the cops to show up a telephone repairman saw the stash. My mother was mortified.
The house had been built in the 1890s and was lovingly restored by my parent?s right after they got married. It was meant to be a fresh start for the whole blended family. I loved that house. It set the template for the person I wanted to become. It felt significant. Permanent.
For the only time in our lives, each kid had their own bedroom until Butch was born. The nursery, my room, was right off the kitchen, which was perfect. It allowed me to monitor everything that went on in the house ? and I did. The windows were all on one wall and looked out at the neighbor?s house which was six feet away. The lot was long, but narrow.
Art's room was on the other side of the house. It was dark, the perfect cave for a teenage boy. It was lined with overflowing bookshelves. Some of those books are with me now. Susan and Emily's rooms had views of the lake. Their rooms were very feminine. I remember white padded furniture and non-stop music. Valerie?s room had a view of the lake too, which was odd, because she is blind. Was then. Is now. She had one of the bigger rooms. It was pink.
Each room had perfectly restored woodwork. My mother had worked on it for months while she was carrying me. She fell finishing the last room. I was born a day later, during a blizzard. The furnace exploded about an hour after I was brought home. We all slept by the fireplace in the living room.
My first memory is of that house. I woke up earlier than everyone one day. I was hungry so I crawled out of my crib and headed to the kitchen. I found a pot and a spatula, turned on the stove, put some butter in the pot, cracked eggs and began stirring. The eggs would have been perfect but my parents barged in and ruined breakfast. Mom saw the glowing stove and freaked out. Dad laughed, impressed with my first burst of, it's-easier-to-do-it-myself, independence. He told the story the rest of his life.
We traded down between my third and fourth birthdays, moving back to Johns Street, which my mom had bought with her first husband. It didn't feel right. The implied message was that the past had trumped the future which indeed it had. It fast became a theme.
Warren Radke, Mom's first husband was providing for the family better than my father. We were living off his Social Security benefits and moving into the house that mortgage insurance had paid off when he died. God bless him. A dead man was making sure I had eggs to throw in a pot.
Despite the money problems that forced us to move into the smaller house my folks tried to hold onto Rutledge Street. They found a series of oddballs to rent Rutledge Street. When my parent's divorced before reuniting the house was sold as part of the settlement but not before Valerie's room was rented to a monkey.
That?s right, a monkey.
My parent's were desperate to rent out the house. I am sure they were in danger of losing it so they rented their lovingly restored six bedroom house to a single man, who owned a monkey. As part of the lease they agreed to let him drive railway spikes into the woodwork and hang ropes all over the room so the monkey could climb.
I was maybe four years old but I saw the potential to stir another pot. Someone had to tell Valerie that her former room was now being used by an ape, or chimp, whatever the hell it was. I don't have to worry about him reading this. He?s gone now. The average life span of a monkey is 20 years, so if he was lucky he made it through the Reagan Administration. The memory, however, lingers.
I still like to remind Valerie that her bedroom ended up going to a monkey. God love her, she just rolls her eye and laughs.