WORDS BY MARY LUCIA
Hal. A man so singularly unique. One in a million. Also, a dude who wasn’t bogged down by details of how old I was or whether he was aware I’d moved out of state.
A topic question I’ve frequently discussed with writers and songwriters is how much nostalgia plays into the creative process. Do you need a certain amount of sentimentality to tell an interesting story?
I grew up in a household that cherished NOTHING.
For example, there wasn’t a lick of tradition in my family when it came to Christmas. The holiday felt like a looming colonoscopy appointment. Acquiring and decorating a tree nearly always ended in a flurry of profanity and hangovers. Nobody was reaching into the sacred storage box while telling a delightful story of an ornament’s 50-year-old origin and heartfelt attachment to our dead Nana. A quickie trip to Walgreen’s to buy whatever generic red balls were left seemed more our style.
I may be exaggerating slightly, but I also seem to recall chucking fully decorated trees, with lights strung on it, in our alley on January 1.
When I was very young, I do remember Christmas cards arriving in the mail. When I asked why we didn’t send out holiday greeting cards in return, I was met with this non sequitur: “That’s their problem.” OK. Wait, what?! It makes as much sense now as it did then. Eventually, those cards whittled down to maybe one or two a year, usually sent by clueless out-of-state relatives that didn’t regard us as a pack of wild animals or perhaps one from the used-car dealership that someone had visited in the last year.
There is so little physical documentation of my growing up that perhaps it’s allowed me to create my own version of history and take some creative license. There may have been two photo albums in the house, but they stopped being supplemented sometime around 1969. There are more childhood photos of the Lindbergh baby than there are of me. We could assemble a better representation of a family photo album with mug shots and courtroom sketches than we could with actual Kodak moments. Photos with shopping mall Santas or Easter Bunnies? Negatory. No cute refrigerator drawings or book reports were saved. Keepsakes were referred to as clutter. The annual television viewing of The Wizard of Oz? Dismissed as “That fantasy crap.”
Let me illuminate my family’s level of investment in my childhood more clearly.
On show-and-tell day, when we had to bring to school a treasured item from an older family member, I watched my classmates presenting Ellis Island entry papers from great-great-grandparents. Black-and-white beehive-hairdo wedding portraits and tattered prayer cards. I brought in Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes.
One July afternoon, my pops randomly asked me if I had graduated high school.
Are you still with me?
When I was getting a passport for the first time, I asked my mom for my birth certificate. She casually explained it was probably thrown away during a move. Misplaced, I get. Tossed out in a Hefty bag? What the shit is that?
Being a lover of documentary films, I can say with confidence one could not be properly assembled about my family without either actor reenactments, added animation, or both. That said, the voiceover narration would be fire! HEY-O!
I see my adult friends, whose families kept boxes of sentimental items: silly nothing Mother’s Day cards, baby booties, home movies, locks of freaking hair?! The archeology of love. Time capsules of laughs and feeling deeply connected. I am genuinely happy for those lucky enough to have someone act as protector of their young life and memories.
So here I am today. A big honking weirdo of contradiction.
I live for vintage clothes, architecture, and furniture—absolutely obsessed with the imagined romance of something created 75 years ago, made to stand the test of time. But then there’s the side of me that doesn’t want to eat leftovers and has no interest in listening to recorded live albums. If I was there the first time it happened, I think I got the gist. I find no need to revisit.
Which I guess all makes sense, having parents busy destroying documentation of my birth record and questioning whether I was a high school graduate when I was in my first year of college.
Popular Creeps Playlist
The latest in Looch’s listens.
1. Are You Having Any Fun, Tony Bennett, Count Basie, Benny Powell, and more
2. The Rain The Park And Other Things, The Cowsills
3. Tomorrow Night, Elvis Presley
4. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Bob Dylan
5. Oklahoma USA, Ray Davies
6. I’ll Do For You Anything You Want Me To, Barry White
7. It’s All In The Game, Tommy Edwards
8. Borstal Boys, Faces
9. Garbageman, The Cramps
10. Baby Don’t Go, Sonny & Cher
11. Am I Expecting Too Much, Allen Toussaint
12. Born Fighter, Nick Lowe
See all the musical details and play Looch’s Popular Creeps playlist on Spotify at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3oRMAQntxrMjt2y6jNrwk4?si=f6cabfd563b141e1