Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Personal / Family /
@ K. 2003 11 12
It’s obvious to anyone who knew my parents as well as me that I inherit plenty from both parents: some of it stuff to be proud of. I rather startled my sister last year by remarking that I thought I was more singularly marked by Uncle Charlie (my mother’s eldest brother) than by anyone. She had just come from visiting some cousin or other and wished she had known that I felt that way so she could have mentioned it to them.
As a tike I saw plenty of my mother’s mother and plenty of my mother’s sister: and my mother’s sister’s kids. In time I realized that there were others: aunts, uncles, cousins. Eventually I discovered that there were hosts of others: hidden in closets, not mentioned: skeletons locked in closets not of their own free will. There was some sort of estrangement between my mother and her sister and their father: divorced from Grandma. Also somewhat distanced was Mother’s oldest brother Charlie. Charlie was the eldest of the Feudtner four, my mom, Norma, the youngest. But I got to meet Charlie and I adored him. I bear all sorts of marks from my childhood emulation of my adored Uncle Charlie. For example, he once told this child, struggling to keep up with him, that it would be some time, if ever, before I’d have the stride of a “real” walker. I tried so hard to lengthen my stride. I don’t doubt that I’d walk much better, run much faster, if I hadn’t. A few years ago, exercising with my old friend Inge, I was humiliated to discover that, short of running, I could not keep up with her. Sure, she’s younger; but I couldn’t keep up with her. She took many small steps: rapidly. I tried to make up the ground by doing a split: like a lunge in fencing. My foot work in tennis sucks: I believe for the same reason: I’m trying to stride: can’t stop it. Instead of crossing my foot over to change direction, I lunge sideways: far short of the ball I fail too often to volley.
Ah, but that’s trivial. Charlie’s real influence is on my mind: and on my attitudes.
Crazy pk? Radical pk? pk who doesn’t give a shit what people think of him? That’s Charlie Feudtner: all over.
I frighten people: but not like Charlie frightenend them. Stupid me, I thought it was cool. I myself am shocked, thinking back, to realize from hindsight how disagreeable, even reprehensible, many of Charlie’s attitudes were.
Charlie was big and strong. That’s not me. I’m strong for my size, very strong in my legs, but no one would ever have characterized me as “big and strong.” Charlie was unconventional. Ah, now we have it. Charlie was loud. Again: to a tee. Charlie had opinions I didn’t share then and never have since, but: what I admired about Charlie’s opinions was that they were stentorianly his! Charlie invaded: pure conquest in mind.
If only Charlie had been trying to emulate Jesus instead of Joseph Stalin.
OK: fer-another-example: Charlie was a violent anti-Semite. Now that’s not me, at all. But he was anti-Semitic with such zest, such energy: such certainty: a missionary of anti-Semitism.
Charlie, God forbid, I color in the hint, was a Communist. Worse, Charlie was a Stalinist. Charlie thought it was wonderful that Stalin had the machine guns mow down the farmers. These things I learned later: that’s not the Charlie I fell so in love with.
No. Here’s that Charlie. I should have put this first. (I should second draft the whole damn thing.) Charlie thought that it was healthful to sleep in the winter with the heat off, the window wide open, half-dozen army blankets on the bed: and wake up with six inches of snow on your nose! Wow! How come I couldn’t do that? (Well, actually, as an outdoorsman, I have.) Charlie believed that it was cruel and unnatural to keep a dog in the house. No, dogs shouldn’t be pets! Dogs should be kept outside: in all weather. Dogs should be fed only once a day: raw meat: on the bone. Dogs shouldn’t take the meat from your hand. You should throw the haunch behind the garage and let them re-kill it there: ready to attack anyone who comes near.
I may add to this: or not. I may add other Feudtner materials here: or not. Right now, the Charlie story I have to tell is about him taking me for my first horseback ride.
Aunts and Uncles
My father was an only child. My grandfather, dad’s dad, was one of eight brothers and god knows how many sisters, females were typically ignored. So all the cousins I met as a kid were on my mother’s side.
Mom’s brother Charles is introduced above. He was the eldest. His family, divorced or something, was swept under the rug. As a kid I met the other brother, Roy, and Mom’s sister, Alice.
Don’t Bruise the Whiskey
Roy lived on the crest of a hill in Saddle River NJ. The Christian combat I report in posts about my sister are relevant here. We learned that in holidays at Roy’s house. Cocktail hour would arrive. Roy was the first middle class person I ever heard of to have a finished basement, with bar. We’d all repair to the bar, our would come the shakers and mixers. Roy would make a pitcher of whiskey sours. He’d mix and measure as though he were cooking for the king with three hundred year old brandy. “Don’t bruise the whiskey”, he would intone.
When the adults were thoroughly drunk, Roy would launch his Christian offensive. He had a captive audience, in his basement, filled with his whiskey: and he’d commence converting his captives. Missionary zeal was fueled by alcohol. So years later when Roy invited everyone to his church where he was to present his most recent convert as born again, we all had to sit still and shut up as we had some oaf, 6’4″ of clumsy obedience presented first as the world’s greatest sinner, then as washed in the blood of the lamb.
But nobody in the family, nobody not counting my father, was a drunk like my Aunt Alice. Her husband was a solier, Major Tom, stayed in uniform after WWII, Korea, Army Corps of Engineers. Somewhere in the mid 1940s he built up two valuable things: his vacation cottage on Squire Pond in Hampton Bays, tidally connected to Great Peconic Bay, and his fancy liquor store in Stonybrook, specializing in quality wines. Anyway Alice drank the booze. People stumbled into her orgies, she didn’t convert them.
It was Alice’s kids who were my cousins, the Platonic Original cousins. Tommy was eldest. My sister just told me he died last year, ninety-ish. I’ve told stories of his graduation from Princeton in 1949, but haven’t resurrected them yet, 2015 12 21.
Tommy would sit at the piano. Sheer magic. I would watch fascinated as his adams apple rose and fell. Don was next in age. He had Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holliday records! wore his pants pegged. I suspect he was a drunk already.
And then came Pat. The three kids worked in the liquor store, got praised by the customers for how skillfully they wrapped the holiday liquor bottles: paper, ribbons, bows. Bows didn’t come factory-tied in the 1940s. So Alice, as she slid toward alcoholic silence, would intone, “They’re so artistic, my children are so artistic.
I took that as gospel. I was sure that the moment Don drew anything that he would be swept up by Pratt and be doing Saturday Evening Post coverts by next year.
The major died young. Tom and Don ran the liquor store, did the books, had cash on hand: they never had their power or phone cut off, not the way we did, not regularly. But it was Pat who played the artist and continued to play the artist all her life: I bet she still is, in an assisted living facility, well up in her eighties today. I got to know Pat somewhat well in the 1980s. I was writing my novels, she was still looking for a studio to paint in. Only now she’d found one! Her daughter married well, lived north of Atlanta, her husband indulged her with a thoroughbred stable where she boarded and trained thoroughbreds. The stable was palacial, swallowed a little home with a full modern kitchen. There was a big room there mother Pat could use as a studio, all she had to do was fork the hay and shovel the shit.
I camped to the side, heard mother and daughter yelling: Pat had the studio, but the shit wasn’t getting shoveled.
By now Pat’s a grandma as well as ma. Her ex-husband had oozed money (as well as drunk the booze). Pat’s been painting since her teens. She’s an action painter, huge canvases: rhythm, color, composition; but no realism, nothing depicted, no objects: no worries about accuracy, no verisimilitude. From a mile away you can see that she last looked admiringly at Rothko or Gottlieb; not at Pollock or de Kooning. She’s sold one or two over the decades, but not three, not four. So: she ought to have stables and barns and warehouses filled with paintings. She doesn’t.
OK? Got the picture? Enough for this anyway:
I see that I come very much from my Uncle Charlie: defiant, impractical: worshipped, but not loved. Her action painting was like my bebop: both were like Charlie’s Marxism. Avid, zealous, but not practical. A life of people meaning to give us practical advice and getting elbowed in the eye for their trouble.
Notice: churches, schools, universities are advertized as giving practical advice, but t’ain’t so, not for any and all who try that advice. And sometimes not taking the advice is the essence and core of the advice.
2016 04 06 A few years later it occurs to me that Charlie may have gotten a large part of his seeming self-assurance (in obnoxious opinions from radical politics: Marxists, Stalinists; but today Charlies strikes me as far more far “right” than far “left”. His willingness to offend was more Muslim, more jihadist, than Marxist. But I was just a little kid, in a fucked up “history”: what could I have known?