This page is about me. For the curious and the brave it’s all the same. The old song comes to mind, “Fools Rush in Where Angeles Fear to Tread”. Jumping into this cave maybe more than either one of us bargained for.
I was born a Metal Tiger in the State of Iowa. My parents were graduate students at the University of Iowa at the time. The Iowa University hospital in Iowa City is a good medical institution, I visited the place years later just to check it out. My parents were native Iowan’s themselves; my grandparents on both side of the family grew up in Iowa too. So I guess you could say that we are Mid-Western folk at heart. Somewhere in the family folk lore is a story about the land rush during the 1860’s that my mother’s family participated in. Who knows?
The Rogers family had a nice farm in the North Western part of Iowa 5 miles out of Sioux City. I loved my grandpa Roy very much. Some of the fondest memories of my childhood are riding his tractor, cutting corn. There just isn’t anything better for a small boy than chewing on a stick of wild wheat and mowing corn in the summer sitting next to your grandpa. I remember my grandma Rogers too; she lived the longest of any of my grandparents. We would boil a pot of water on the stove and carry it into the field, pick a few young ears of corn and plop them into the pot. By the time we got back to the kitchen the corn was done and dinner was a treat with the sweet juicy fresh corn. It still makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
My dad’s folks were city dwellers and pretty nutty. Grandfather Godden was a stone mason, grave head stones and others. He owned masonry in Ames Iowa. He died when I was very young and my memories of him are dim. I do remember him as being sort of ill tempered. Perhaps that’s where my dad got his ire. Grandfather Godden died of liver failure, perhaps he drank too much. The whole family was women except for the one son; a very devout Catholic family I recall. My dad suffered under the rule of all those sisters and an absent father so I guess he has some excuse after all.
Unfortunately, shortly after I was born, my folks moved away from the Mid-West to the Big Apple to seek their fortunes, write poetry and generally jumping into the Beat scene of the 50’s in New York. Growing up in the City was interesting. I have few memories of the place and most of them a little jaded. My young childhood was not a happy one really. My parents did not get along well; it must have been the combination of too much corn and not enough common sense. New York has a way of doing that to people. They were divorced when I was 9 or 10; it was about that. I remember my brother was still too young to know what was going on. He was around 6 or so. John and I have never really have talked about those years much if at all. I held a grudge against my father for leaving us for years, decades really. It was only later in life after I had children of my own that I could think about forgiving him. I swore as a young boy that I would never do to my family what he did to us. Well, I guess it wasn’t his fault really; he was a product of his times and family. In the end he just wanted to get away from everything.
As a young boy of around 5 or so I remember sitting under the tables of a Tavern on the lower West Side called the White Horse Inn. This place became famous later I think. What I remember was the Friday nights when Dylan Thomas would recite his poetry while standing on top of one of the tables. I used to crawl around and play on the floor while the old folks, they were in their twenties or so, would listen attentively to his oratory. He was pretty good; I remember that even with his Irish brogue. I have a couple of Dylan Thomas’s poetry books and look through them every once and awhile. He died young, around 35 or so of chronic alcoholism. That’s a noble end to genius.
I just reread the forgoing and almost deleted the whole thing – it is just so how to say – too real for me to read. Well that’s the way my life has been or at least the way it’s felt to me growing up. Life is really wonderful and full of surprises but at the time with of all the changes it can be just crazy and difficult.
My mother, God bless her soul, met a guy and moved with her two children, John and I, to Del Mar when I was 13 years old. We ended up living one house from the sand. Now I want to tell you about culture shock. In New York back in 1962 a year previous we had been practicing jumping under our school desks because of the Cuban Missile crisis. Nikita Khrushchev was pounding on the UN table with his shoe shouting, “We will bury you” while us kids just worried about the dam missile strike threat from Cuba. I could never have imagined what this move proved to be like going from the lower West Side of New York to the beaches of Southern California in the height of the Surfer Generation. They make movies out of things like this. From knives in boots and constant fear of the Ruskies to sandals and surfboards – God it’s good to be alive when you are thirteen and living on the beach. Viet Nam was only a distant rumble for us, John F. Kennedy was president and life was good. Besides, the West Coast was far from Cuba and there wasn’t any jumping under tables here in Del Mar.
Later that year Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald while I was at school in the 7th grade. I will never forget that day. So the story begins.