Dear Michael and Caroline,
Over here lay Radburn, the section you knew best. It was closest, with its tall trees fit for climbing and its amphitheater for summer productions and the sloping hill where, at 20 or so, you lay on the grass on a blustery November night, half drunk on Chivas Regal or Johnny Walker Black, just admiring the dynamics of the El Greco night sky. Here, too, you climbed those tall trees, clambering as far as your prowess and daring would take you, branch by precarious branch, higher and higher, until finally you ran out of either branches or nerve.
Over there is High Street, leading you to what you called town, where you could get a comic book and a drink with cherry or lemon or lime in a conical paper cup at the soda fountain. You went up High Street in Fall, under the tall trees with a canopy of leaves, and you would hear little cracking, popping sounds all around: the acorns dropping off the trees, a few beaning you.
Town meant only one place: Gorlen’s, where you stuck your gum under the soda fountain counter and read Superman or Archie and Jughead back behind the magazine rack until the owner came along after an hour or so to kick you out.
High Street featured structures you saw as almost strange in Fair Lawn: apartment buildings. Most of the residents of the town lived in single-family homes with two or three or maybe four bedrooms – none, come to think of it, really much bigger or smaller than any other. Apartments, with common entrances and shared driveways and surrounding grounds, seemed to you then such an alien concept. Almost everyone you knew lived in a house, and so anyone who lived in an apartment struck you as somehow down on his luck and deserving of sympathy.
It’s all mapped out in your head, your hometown, preserved in amber, its DNA now your DNA.
P.S. – See part 3 tomorrow.