Songs from an Imperfect Life Outtake #1

by Jun 2, 2018

My father purchased a travel trailer when I was a sophomore in high school, thinking it would be wonderful to take a family vacation with this massive thing attached to the back of our 1966 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon. With Mexico as our destination, the hours spent in the car seemed almost unbearable. At the end of the day, we would stop at a travel park, hook up the trailer to electricity. Unfortunately, with the car attached, we would be stuck there until morning. Meals would be fixed in the tiny cramped kitchen and then later, the dinette table would fold down and become my bed. The minuscule bathroom was a combination toilet and shower and privacy was not an option. The parks did have community restrooms with showers. I’m not sure about the women’s bath facilities, but the men’s bath had an open gang shower, like my high school gym. I never showered at my high school facilities for fear of my body giving away my attraction to the other boys showering. I felt the same about the park’s showers.

We did not venture too deep into Mexico, going no further than Monterrey. Places to park the travel trailer were difficult to find and when we did, there would not be enough power to run the air conditioning. My dad chose to stop at a motel to see if they might have a space to park our trailer. The entrance had a pink stucco porte-cochere where guests could drive under the covered structure to enter the lobby. Forgetting about the attached trailer, or at least, miscalculating it’s height, my dad began to drive under the arch, struck the wall and stucco showered down on the top of the newly dented trailer. A man came running out of the motel office screaming in Spanish, causing my dad to pull out his wallet and start throwing money. Once the man was distracted, he jumped back into the car and quickly maneuvered the trailer out of there as the yelling faded in the distance.

While in Mexico we went to a bullfight, which in spite of all of the pageantry, was not pleasant to watch. However, after my father passed away and I was cleaning out our family home for an estate sale, I found a rolled up poster that I had brought back from that bullfight. I had it framed, not because of my love of the sport, but because it was a part of my childhood – July, 1968.

We visited an open air market where children swarmed around us holding out their hands. It did not take long to learn we needed to hold onto everything tightly for fear it would disappear. It was also at this market that I noticed the most amazing thing. Men of all ages were staring at me as if they were starving and I was a steak dinner. The pheromones of a 14-year-old boy must be much more powerful than I ever imagined. In fact, a couple of men, more brazen than the others, came up to me speaking in Spanish. I did not understand their words but could easily decipher their meaning. One man even let his hand graze my backside as he passed. My dad was not oblivious to this attention and kept a close eye on me as well as, the men in the market.

Once we left Mexico and started our journey home, our car broke down. We found a garage in Uvalde, Texas, and while my dad tended to the car, my mother and I wandered down the street to a drug store and picked up a couple of magazines. Boredom had quickly set in, so the repairman suggested a public swimming pool near by. My mom stayed in the air-conditioning with her magazines while I ventured off to the pool. The cool water on that hot Texas summer day made the afternoon almost bearable.

The changing room at the pool brought back memories from a few years earlier in Miami and the magnificent Venetian public swimming pool in Coral Gables. The Venetian pool was built in 1924 from an old rock quarry and is the only pool on the National Register of Historic Places. Often I would be left at the pool for the day when we visited my grandmother in Miami. It was in their changing room where I first saw a boy who was uncircumcised. It was startling and I was not quite sure what to think. However, by the time I found myself slipping into my bathing suit, at 14 years old, that day in Uvalde, Texas, the sight was no longer a surprise as I had become quite familiar from past experiences.

J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.

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