Another long day at 20 Prospect is coming to an end. All up and down the street people are sitting out on their porches, talking in subdued voices amidst the flicker of the citronella candles. The light from the streetlight is shining through the awning casting zebra stripes across the glider. Pull up a chair, and sit for a while.
Tomorrow we’re leaving for Batavia to celebrate Mom’s 75th birthday. The entirety of the 20 Prospect clan will be gathered together in one place for the first time in… ever. Seriously, since the kids came along we have never all been in the same place at the same time, due mostly to the selling off of the 20 Prospect homestead after Dad died, and the scattering of the siblings and grand kids to the 4 winds. This will prove to be quite an experience.
In one of those strange quirks of small town fate my Big Bruddah is now renting an apartment in the house directly across the street from 20 Prospect. Like so many of the great old houses in Batavia, it had become rundown and split up rental apartments back in the 60’s. It’s been fixed up since then, but remains apartments. Since Big Bruddah is the only one in town with a yard, the birthday party will be held in a tent out back. It will be a very strange emotional experience to be back on the street I grew up on with my entire family in attendance. Dear Batavia, please let me apologize in advance for the disturbance that we are sure to create. Also you might want to pick up some Labatt’s Blue from the store before my clan gets to town and drinks it dry.
So in honor of my return to the ancestral homestead, here’s an old story from the first days of my blog. It concerns the very house we will be partying at on Saturday. But this is not the story of the 20 Prospect clan, it is the story of the motorcycle man and the summer of 1974…
The motorcycle man lived in one of the apartments in the house across the street, a rundown old white house, yellowing around the soffits from years of neglect. It was divided up into 3 apartments, and owned by one of the town judges. He didn’t spend a dime on the place, and was pretty lax about who he rented to. The place was always the site of domestic disturbances, and in the days before cable TV came to town my Dad enjoyed many entertaining nights out on the front porch watching the comings and goings of its inhabitants. The cops paid regular visits to the place, and had the landlord not been a judge, the neighbors would have probably had more luck getting the city to force him to clean up the place.
That summer of 74′ the front apartment was occupied by the motorcycle man, and his squeeze. We never knew their names. They were notable only for the screaming fights that usually ended with motorcycle man climbing on his chopper, and spraying gravel as he tore off out of the driveway. To us 6 year old’s he was the subject of fascination; a long haired bearded chopper riding easy rider straight from a Hollywood B movie. Remember, this was back in the days before Harley riders were CPA’s, so anyone riding a motorcycle was assumed to be an outlaw. We used to run to the curb when we heard him coming down the street to watch him pass, and flash him the peace sign. Whenever he flashed it back at us we felt naughty and dangerous.
At night laying in bed, you could hear him coming home from a block away as he accelerated up the street. He’d turn into the gravel drive, and ride straight back into the barn behind the house, his red tail-light disappearing into the darkness within. The roar of that bike at 2 am drove my Father crazy. Until the night he crashed.
Dad loved to tell the story for years afterward. That summer night he was laying in bed as he heard the chopper coming home from the bar well past midnight. Motorcycle man must have had a few too many long necks that night, because coming down the hill and turning into the driveway he mis-judged his speed. Dad heard the sound of the brakes locking up, and gravel spraying as he slid into the dark recesses of the barn, followed by a loud bang. The next morning Dad savored his coffee on the front porch watching motorcycle man load the remains of his chopper into the back of a friends pickup truck.
Summer ended before the chopper ever made it back. Sometime during the winter, the chopper man moved out, and his squeeze stayed behind. Things got a little quieter around the neighborhood, at least until the Puerto Rican’s moved in next door and started raising fighting cocks in the attic. But that’s a story for another night. It’s time to blow out the citronella candle and go to bed. Peace.