26 April 2019 Al & Dusty et al.
Reading the novel On the Road, I come to a page where Sal and Dean go listen to jazz in a San Francisco bar-club, and I remember two friends of my parents, a married couple named Al and Dusty. I lost track of them years ago, in fact they divorced and it was Dusty I last saw one day near fifty years ago when she and my Mom and me drove to Tijuana for a little shopping. But ten and twenty years before that, when I was a mere child and the four of them were both young couples in their thirties, I remember how Al and Dusty often took a little trip to San Francisco and would talk later about their adventures there, especially I remember they always spoke of going out at night to a nightclub called the hungry i, which I am not surprised has a wikipedia entry now on the internet.
But what I remember even more is how my mom and dad would occasionally go up to Idylwild for a weekend with their friends. Al and Dusty owned a cabin up there somewhere. I may have seen it once, when we took a short weekend up there, but I don’t remember going to the cabin. What I do remember is going to the library and reading books about dog breeding and UFO abductions.
Al worked with my dad for twenty some years at Astronautics, the builders of the Atlas rocket. An aerospace engineer, like my father. There were other friends from Dad’s work (the men) whom we often saw, George and Harriet Conroy, John and Marguerite Wickham, Dean Whitney (don’t remember his wife, they divorced early). My parents enjoyed having friends over for dinner, throughout those golden years of the 1950s and 1960s, whether at our little old house on Woodland Drive, or the newer, ranch house on Lemon Avenue, which my brother and I still own fifty years later after Mom left it to us last year.
But it was Al and Dusty who sprang to mind when I read Jack Kerouac’s words: “But one night we suddenly went mad together again; we went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco nightclub.”
The couple never had children that I knew of, and were economically free to wander and travel and buy a cabin in the mountains.
I often wonder what happened to all my dad’s old workmates and friends. My mom formed a strong bond with Marguerite Wickham, but the others drifted away, and I heard that some died. I have lost all of them in time.
A slightly different story rules with my Mom’s friends and work associates – she kept in touch with them through the years, and felt almost unspeakably upset as one by one they got old and died, leaving her alone, like the buffalo, the last of its kind. Fortunately we had the family, my stepbrothers and stepsister, my brother, their husbands and wives and children, my cousins and step-cousins (Mom’s nieces and nephews) who filled her life with love and friendship.
But I still wonder whatever happened to all those old ghosts who haunt my memories to this very day and hour. I write. I remember. I wonder where, what, when, who. How.
I know why. Because life goes on and we all get old. As my first father used to say, we either grow old or die young.