This is my home.
Well, it used to be my home, some eighteen years ago.
1073 Bedford St: where the magic happened.
And I don't just mean that it's where I used to practice my cup and ball trick, or my disappearing quarter trick, or any of the illusions that any budding magician who is worth their salt has in tow.
I just mean it's where I learned how to grow.
The front gate was a good barometer for the different height-stages I went through.
There was a simple U-shaped latch that kept it closed. Sometimes I would wrap the chain around the fence, holding it open to carry in the giant paper bags of groceries my mom bought, more often than not letting the dogs out, much to both their unfettered ecstasy and confusion in equal measure.
I can distinctly remember the progression of being able to lift that latch from different perspectives: when it was shoulder high using an over-handed approach; when it was elbow level; when I could lift it with my knee; and finally, when I was tall enough to open it with my extended Guess jean clad leg, pulling it towards me with the tip of my Doc Marten, with my car keys in one hand and a guitar case in the other.
And then I kind of don't remember doing it anymore.
The new owners (as of 1995) changed the look of the house quite a bit.
The fence I refer to used to run along the front of the house where the black tar meets the sidewalk, past the stairs on the left and to the edge of the neighboring house on the right.
Where there is now a driveway used to be a small but effective yard. In the front and along the right side stood a row of beautiful forsythia bushes, always the first sign of spring--always a much mentioned observation in my house. In the back stood a giant pussy-willow tree, and along the back wall grew massive rose bushes.
Bedford St. was and is a busy street. There are always people walking by. There was an even smaller yard in the back of the house. That part I used as my sort of backstage area where I would put on costumes, or adjust myself on a pair of skates, skateboard, pogo stick, kick-n-go, or any number of wheeled apparatus'. Then I would come bounding down the walkway, into the front yard, and onto my equivalent of front and center, Carnegie Hall, Fall River, Mass.
I was, and will always be a ham--a big, juicy, pink, Polska ham.
The dirt in the front yard only went down a foot or so but it was enough for my childhood needs.
It was enough to contain and nurture more than a few night-crawlers, with which I would form small armies with and concoct brilliant schemes of world domination (complete with torture chamber) and other plans to obtain free, unlimited chocolate chip ice cream. It was enough space for me to play with my toys: Tonka trucks, G.I. Joes, Smash'em Up Derby, Evel Kneivel, Stretch Armstrong, and Steve Austin action figures, and anything else that the seventies could produce; it was a golden time for toys.
I had a lot of fun in that yard climbing the fence, climbing the fire escape on the house next door, and generally getting dirt all over me, which mixed nicely with the many cuts, scrapes, and bruises I accrued over the days, weeks, and years that a person is a child.
And you have fun, as much as you can, while you can still get away with crying because you broke your own toy.
You sit on a milk-crate turned into a swing on the front porch and you let people push you and fawn over you as you ignore them in favor of the parade twenty feet away.
And then you grow up.
And often times your parents sell the house you grew up in.
And you stay away for a long, long time.
Then, one day, you come back to see if it's still there; to see if it still brings those same memories back of running down to meet the mailman because the dogs were in the yard, or waiting to get picked up by your friend in his parents car who just got his learners permit the week before and they were suckers enough to let him take it out on his own.
And you see that it's a little of what you expected, a little of what you feared, and a little of what you can't even describe--you just stand there with your mouth open and say, "I can't believe they would do that."
So, the new owners have made some distinct changes to 1073 Bedford.
They covered it in vinyl siding, complete with faux shutters--totally reasonable.
They closed off a doorway on the bottom porch and built a doorway facing the street--not expected, but not out of the ordinary.
They took down the old fence, paved over the front yard to provide off street parking, and put up a new, obtrusive looking fence in its place--exactly what I had feared.
They did all of theses home improvements--none of which are cheap by a long shot--but they left something alone that is so freakishly crying out for replacement, or at the very least, a bit of regular maintenance, that I just stood there with my jaw hanging down ...
They haven't painted the porch stairs since I did it over twenty years ago.
These five wooden and one granite stairs are a grand reminder that, regardless of how much you hear people whining that they want or deserve change for the better--to trade up as it were--that a lot of times you'll find that they will ignore what's directly under their feet and inexplicably settle with improving what they think only the public can see.
These stairs are so covered with memories and history that it's a wonder they still provide a useful service at all.
These are the stairs I was carried up when my mother returned with me from Los Angeles, a few months into my life.
These are the stairs that I sat on and watched parades go by from (Bedford St., thankfully, was the parade route for any and all occasions).
These are the stairs I sat on when I filled my water pistols.
These are the stairs I sat on when I loaded my bang-caps into my cap-gun.
These are the stairs I carried bag upon bag of groceries from Almacs Supermarket. Oh, how I hated carrying them up, but oh, how I loved to devour the results.
These are the stairs that I got into fights with my mom over if I was indeed being stood up, and whether or not I should come back upstairs and have a can of Pepsi.
I was, and I did.
She was always right.
These are the stairs that I sat on waiting to get picked up for band practice after having my first taste of vodka in 1985 (from a bottle kept in plain view in the hallway) and noticing the warm tickling sensation it causes throughout one's whole being, both mental and physical.
And in 1989, after being given a choice of staying living at home but giving up drugs and alcohol, or moving out, living with my girlfriend, and embarking on my new life of caprice and impulse, these are the stairs I walked down, one by one, on my way to my car, crying, tired, hungover, and mad at the world.
These are the stairs.
And as I stood there today, just staring at them--uneven, worn almost through in the middle, peeling with the same paint that I, myself, had brushed on over twenty years ago--I just had to shake my head.
If I didn't know better I'd say I can still see my footprints there, from where I was too impatient to walk around the other side of the house a few hours after I painted them, sure as ever that that was plenty of time for paint to dry.
And when I looked back from the doorway in 1988, all eighteen years of me had to admit that she was right. My mom had told me it would take all day and night for it to dry and to just use the other stairway to get the mail.
Once again, I thought I knew better.
And the black footprints stayed right where I left them.
I never did go back and touch up that paint job.
I suppose it didn't matter much in the end.
Then again, I could be wrong.
Thanks for reading,