‘Strawberries For Sale’; a landmark sign too heavy to hold, midpoint between home and heaven. New nonnos tend to their goats, the red brick house and its crates of Italian wine, past the turn off to Camden, the donkeys are still sleeping. A detour is required, a way we never went. Pushed onto the back roads; those secret, hidden roads that sank deep into the nape of the mind, outer circumference/dreamscape where the compass has no use. Oh McCain road, I thought you were a dead end! I prayed it was a through road they’d built, that the faded pink carriage and rusted Buick would remain. And the Shetland ponies, always the tyres and the ponies. ‘The Church of the Holy Innocents’, Rossmore, even the angle of an arch will lead to a memory. And the faraway, pale blue weatherboard with the yellow plough against its side. I remember this scene, the first time I felt two colours together. The moment seized and an appetite gripped both bottom ribs that hasn’t left me since. Here’s where we drove over the old sheep dog, a small Mini sedan yet the creature went right under it. The owners came out with a rifle and my mouth filled with metal as they shot her straight in the head. We went back the next day, you know, rose bush and card for the bereaved. They pretended not to know who we were and when we got back to the car, my mother cried. Laurie and Edna’s house and their son Neil, do you remember? He was freckled too but with a stammer, something about that side so strange I’ve preferred left from right ever since. One night I did, I looked long enough that I winced. His light was so buried. Firecracker night 1982; the first time I tried to bribe God.
And here it is; ‘Adventureland’, heaven on earth, Camden Valley Way. The blue gates are locked and older but it’s still all here. The Ghost Train, The Super Duper, The Giant Slide with sacks for sleighs. I remember the rhythm of the descent, how the wonder ripped us further from our senses. Now the waterslide is filled with thistles, everything is tagged by wanting pied pipers. All the Gravitron’s lights blown out, the only ride I would never experience. And The Bear Affair; six rotating bears containing children mad with laughter. I walk forward to see only one bear left, laying on its side. No passengers, no current, no circuit to guide its path. Decades later, body arched and brimming with tears I climb through the fence towards it and stop. There is a man holding a paintbrush, he turns and looks straight through me. I want to tell him this was my Adventureland. He tilts his head as if he is blind, as if to gage what this moment is. A superior silence enters, the kind too difficult to contain. His mouth moves though I cannot hear and I shift so the silence retreats. Bewildered, disorientated, as if everything is travelling backwards, the silence retreats further, entangling itself with time. Our bodies turn to face one another and with this, a tender understanding. He puts down his paintbrush and there in the torn fabric of time a cello tunes itself behind me. ‘This was my Adventureland,’ I hear myself say. The man nods slowly and then bows twice; first towards me then to the bear on its side.
For my friend, Don Fish. 1929 – 2021.