Saturday, May 29, 2010


When I was eleven, we moved into an apartment on Washington Avenue, right where 19th Street intersects it. Across from us was a small store, Frohman's Kosher Market, where we wound up doing a lot of our shopping; the foods, especially the meats, were wonderful, and not expensive.

Mister Frohman was a nice, kind man, always with a smile...I remember him telling me to tell my mother that, if she needed to run a tab with him, that was fine...he trusted her. We had one the whole three years we lived there, settling up the first of every month.
Behind the store was an old garage, where Mr. Frohman kept his empty pop bottles. My brother Mike discovered that he could squeeze under the chain on the garage door, and hand out the bottles to me, which we'd take to Mr. Frohman to cash in...I found out years later that he knew what we were doing, but he never told my mother on us.
One day, when I'd gone into the store with the money for our bill, I noticed a line of numbers tattooed on Mr. Frohman's forearm, something I'd never seen before. I asked him what they were, and with a sigh, he set down his boning knife, and proceeded to tell me.
When he was in his teens, Mr. Frohman, his parents, brothers and sisters, and other relatives were rounded up by the Nazis, and placed in the death camp, Auchwitz; of all that family, only he and a cousin survived.
He didn't go into details...he didn't need to. I remembered the grainy pictures of people , stacked like wood, that I'd seen in a magazine, and tried to comprehend how people could treat other people like that. I knew the Nazis were bad guys, from the movies and shows like "Combat", but this was mind-boggling. I went home, and Mr. Frohman never said another word about it.
I miss him....with all that, not to mention the Jew-baiters of then and later, and the ones who said that this man, and his tattoo, were liars, Mr. Frohman always had a smile...for everyone.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I can't find any pictures of the hospital on Google; they're all of the "Community Center", which is like no help. I want St. Joseph's Hospital, that place that cured my ills, stiched up my wounds, and kept my head screwed on in later years. The ER, Pediatrics, the Emergency Stabilization Program, they all took care of me when I needed it.

I was athsmatic as a child, and prone to pneumonia, which meant I spent at least a week as an inpatient every year, from the time I was three until I was eleven. Dr. Mattey took great care of me, and the nurses spoiled me rotten...the stack of comic books didn't hurt, either.

Like most kids, we got our share of cuts, scrapes, and the like, so my brothers and I were regular guests of the ER-the aftermath of the Imfamous Rock Fight of '64 comes to mind, with five of us neighborhood kids getting stitches in our heads from rocks (or, in my case, a big stick) inflicted during the melee. WE were cool, but our mothers didn't speak to each other for weeks!

I spent two weeks in after a drug overdose in '78, and was in and out of the ESP for depression. Even so, it was comforting to see the faces of those who'd cared for me from childhood.

To Drs Mattey, Myers, Lee, etc, to Kay, Mrs. Paine, Nurses Sextella and Moon, I raise a glass...of slightly warm 7-Up, of course.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Back in the summer of '68, things were hard. Ma was struggling to take care of us three boys, and I have to admit I wasn't helping, already in trouble at school and with the Juvenile Court at twelve.

Perhaps it wasn't the smartest of ideas, all things considered, but Mike and I decided we needed to do something to help, so we found ourselves an old shoeshine box, begged, borrowed, and stole supplies for it, and took up shining shoes in the bars downtown.

We'd start with the B&B Grill, which was two blocks north of us on Washington Avenue, walk down 17th Street from there to Bonk's, at 17th and Long, from Bonk's to the B&M, on 14th, and from there, north on Broadway, visiting every bar that would let us in. We charged a quarter a shine, and often got tips from the patrons. There were other shoeshine boys out there, the Palos brothers, two of them, our friend Gerald, and another guy we knew, named Donald, who wasn't out every night, as we were.

Sometimes, the cops would send us home for being out so late...we'd generally get home around midnight, which is late for a twelve year old and his ten year old brother. The thing was, those few dollars we earned shining shoes often went right on the dinner table the next day. My ma hated us going out, but she couldn't stop us, and she eventually stopped trying.

To this day, the scent of shoe polish is pleasant to me, although I generally wear cross trainers; it reminds me of a strange, exciting time in my life, when I first learned how to earn my way.

Whenever I've seen a shoeshine boy, and had it to spare, I've given him ten or twenty, and asked him to go home, to that mother who's waiting up,l wondering.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Over the years, I've owned a bunch of ten-speed bikes, generally beat-up old wrecks that would hold together for a year or so, then wind up being replaced. I went everywhere on them, shopping, to work and classes, but the best times on them were when I ran the fountains.
Picture a warm summer night, when one just can't get to sleep, and there's nothing on tv, and staying indoors is suffocating...I'd find myself racing down the back stairs, to where Aragorn, or Kato, or whatever bike I had at the time was chained, unlocking my steed, and pedaling into the night.
My first stop might be Library Park, on 10th Street, for a sip or two from their ancient bubbler. From there, down a darkened Washington Avenue I'd fly, northward, to Veteran's Park-their fountain was new, sheathed in stone, and ice cold. Farthest north was Muni Pier, or Hot Waters as it's called, for another drink and a view of the lake at night.
I'd turn westward, for a visit to Lakeview Park, coasting slowly as I waved at the cruiser patrolling, then up to Leavitt Road, turning south, to Columbus Park, stopping for a rest on the bleachers, and more water.
I'd crisscross the sleeping city that way, visiting Central, Oakwood, Pawlak, Subway, all the parks and their drinking fountains until, like a vampire on two wheels, I'd race the sunrise home.
I own a mountain bike now; I ride it to church, or the library sometimes...I'm a wee bit out of practice, as I haven't ridden in twenty years. Still, that 25 year old in my head still climbs on his bike some nights, and goes riding off after the fountains of memory.

Monday, May 24, 2010


It took me a while, but I finally figured out why the river's called that; black is the only color the river hasen't been over the years, what with the pollution from the steel mill.
Even so, A lot of my time was spent near the river, as it was the closest body of water to my home. We hunted for snakes on its banks, hiked through the woods past the railroad tracks within sight of its waters, and even enjoyed its waterfalls at Cascade Park in Elyria.

Personally, I never fished or boated along its length... as I got older,my usual contact with the Black was looking down upon it from either the 21st Street or Bascule bridges in town. Still, I always felt a certain affection for the river, one that I never had for the Cuyahoga, Missouri, Mississippi or Brazos rivers, fine bodies of water though they are. Ther Black River was the first river I ever saw, ever explored, ever tried to make my own.

Friday, May 21, 2010


When we were little, my mother had a cool way of getting us out of the way on Saturday; she'd give us each a dollar. We lived about a block from Broadway, the main drag in Lorain, and, if you were a kid, there was so much you could do with a buck.

There was Scott's 5&10Cent Store, with all kinds of candy, and toys, and a soda fountain.

Lanza's Candy Store sold the same, and comic books, as did Eliott's Drugs, all this within one block. Of course, the best part was yet to come, and all we needed was a quarter apiece....

About a half block north of the 20th Street intersection was the Dreamland Theater, my favorite place to spend time. They always had a double feature, cartoons, and you could "sit through" the feature if you came late. With my dollar, I could buy two or three ten cent comics, maybe a toy for a dime, a pop, and still have enough to go to the show, and have popcorn.

The features started at one, and ran until the theater closed, around ten. While my brothers and I sat through the movies, my ma would do her shopping, some cleaning, and get dinner started, without us underfoot. Then, she'd call the Dreamland, and ask the manager to send us home, where supper would be waiting. By then, we would've seen both movies twice( or at least 1.5 times), enjoyed the cartoons, the trailers, and be starving, despite all the candy, popcorn, and such we'd eaten.

The Dreamland, Scotts, Eliott's, Lanza's, and my ma are long gone, as is my, no parent would send three children out to the movies alone....more's the pity.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I just finished reading the previous blog's post about pizza, and it got me thinking about my personal love affair with this darn-near perfect food. In particular, I remembered the first time I ever tasted pizza...

It was 1961, and my family and I were at the old Lorain Drive-In Theater, watching I don't recall what. Back then, they often ran contests at the drive-in, giving away snack items or free admissions to future showings. They gave tickets to each car that entered, and the winning ticket was drawn at intermission, with the number given over the speakers.
Well, that night, we won, and my ma went to the concession stand, returning in a few minutes with a flat, white box, from which exuded a heavenly aroma. At five, I'd never smelled anything like that, but I KNEW I wanted some of whatever it was.
Ma handed me a wedge-shaped slice, laying hot on a small stack of napkins, redolent with cheese and pepperoni. I bit into it, uncaring that the cheese was scorching my mouth-where had this BEEN all my life? I scarfed that slice down like nothing, and had two more, savoring this new delight.
I've had many a pizza since that summer night in '61, but none has tasted better, or been as memorable...may the next slice you raise be as good.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I met Mike in first grade...already he was tall, and spindly, and able to make people laugh with words. He lived across town, but attended Boone Elementary for the Sight Savers program; his eyesight was really bad. I was small, a year younger that everyone else, having been put up from Kindergarten, and Mike kinda took me under his wing-a great place to be, all things considered.

His family knew mine, and when I could, I spent a lot of time at Mike's house. His dad was one of those men who treated every child in his home as one of his own, his ma was kind, and a great cook. Mike had three older sisters living at home, they were fun to be around, and could cook like their ma.

By high school, I was living just a few blocks away from Mike and his family, spending almost every day there. Mike's ma passed in '71, and Mike joined a band around the same time, as a drummer. We spent hours down in the basement, Mike playing, or listening to music. He introduced me to all kinds of great music beyond the AM pop that I generally listened to, and he also introduced me to pot, which kinda went with the music and the times.

The years went by, we all of us got older. I'd met other friends through Mike, through the music, and we had many, many good (and bad) times through the 70's and 80's.

Mike had a weak heart, and he had an aneurysm that put him in a wheelchair, but really didn't slow him down. I didn't see him as much as I had, but I tried to keep up with him as we lived our lives.

The fourteenth of April, 1988... I'd gone to the library, just to browse, when a guy I knew walked up to me, and solemnly shook my hand, which was odd, to say the least.

Eddie said to me, "It's a shame about Mike, ain't it?" I said, "What're you talking about, man?" "Didn't you hear? Mike died two days ago...the funeral's tomorrow."

Thirty-two years old...I wish I had  the words to express how it felt to grab that brass handle, and help carry him to his final rest, but I don't. Mike will pop up in this blog from time to time, but he deserved this space all his own. I still ponder, when I hear a new piece of music, or just encounter something (or someone) really trippy, what Mike would have to say.

(this added 18 Jun 10)

I remember a night, about a year after Micheal's death, when Dave and I were out bombin' around in his Ranger, doing much a' nothin'....for a split instant, we both felt a familiar presence, sitting there between us...then it was gone.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Actually, I'd never heard of this place until I was about 21 or so; I didn't grow up in that neighborhood. Still, everyone's had such a place in their childhoods, and when a couple of younger friends asked me if I wanted to see the Witches' House, I figured, why not?

We drove west on Ninth Street, 'til we got to the intersection with Osborn Avenue. Tex pointed out the driver's side window, and said, "That's it!" I looked, and saw a small, dark brick house, almost obscured by a willow tree that kept the place in shadow, day and night. There was an old garage next to the house, and what looked like a birdbath-the grass was tended, but the place still looked almost forgotten.

As we drove slowly past, Lisa told me the seemed there were three old women, sisters, who lived in the house, with a servant who functioned as butler, gardener, and chauffeur. They were supposedly wealthy, but eccentric to the point of madness. If you drove by their house at night, and honked your horn, she said, the "witches" and their chauffeur would come tearing out of their house, pile into the old black Packard they kept garaged there, and chase the offending car. I asked Lisa if she'd ever seen them do this...with a toss of her 17 year-old head, she said that she hadn't but her brother swore it was true.

Later, a lady friend of mine told me the whole story. The sisters were the Elkes, who had grown up in the house. They owned a gift shop downtown, kept cats, and kept pretty much to themselves.

Thirty-some years later, a thousand miles from there, I still picture those tired pairs of eyes, looking out through shuttered blinds, wishing that all those unthinking children would just go away, and leave them alone.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I wonder how many kids today have a fruit tree or two in their yard? When I was little, every house on our street had at least one. We had an apple tree and a grape arbor; the apples were okay, the grapes small, hard, and good only for throwing at each other. Our neighbors had a pear tree, the fruits of which were also small and hard. The doctor's office a half block west of us had really great pears growing behind it, big, sweet yellow ones that I still sought out into my adulthood.

There were wild strawberries growing along the tracks behind our house, peach and plum trees in several yards, and cherry trees, as well. We didn't concern ourselves with issues of private property and ownership; if no one yelled at us, we figured the stuff was there for us, anyway.

Somewhere, some kid is halfway up some old lady's peach tree, preparing himself for a free, God- given feast least, I hope so.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


From the time that I was twelve, until they finally welded the swivel shut, I used to make sure that the cannon at Veteran's Park was pointed at City Hall. I felt, in my counter-cultural way, that it was my civic duty, and made a statement of sorts.

It's been nearly twenty years since I moved from Lorain, but a lot of it remains in me...that, I guess, is what this blog is about, the Lorain that once was, some of the people, events, facts, and even fictions.

Todd Rundgren spoke of every man having a "home in his head"...Lorain, c.1960-1990 is mine, I guess.

Meet me at my office, the second pay-phone outside the Lorain Telephone Company, and let's talk stuff.