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Friday, July 04, 2008

Do well to avoid ice cream headaches

By Jim Banholzer

Three hayseeds sprouted tall in the Virginia hills in the simmering summer of ’76. Each of us had appetites such that we could polish off a full 64 ounces of ice cream in one sitting. Hardly able to contain our energies, we would jump home from the school’s basketball courts, and then try to leap to tap our heads on the 8-foot bedroom ceiling adorned with nerf-ball regalia. Occasionally one would misjudge the leap and end up getting knocked out on the floor. This way of getting high was almost as dangerous as other methods being used at the time.

One warm evening, our trio thought we would play a little harmless prank on our neighbors the Wolfe’s. Their family had left in the van to celebrate our nation’s bicentennial. We snuck around to an easily jimmied rear window. Being the suitable size of the three, I became the natural volunteer to enter the house. I did not know where the light switch was, but saw in the shadows their icebox. Lickity-Split, I drew out three gallons of Red, White & Blue ice cream, and then a quicksilver spoon from the drawer. Suddenly Kirkland warbled screechingly that someone was coming as he hurriedly shook the window blind –pretending a noise in the dark. Shuddering, I slammed fast the freezer door and dashed out the back glass, with frozen confection sparkling aside.

How hard we rapscallions howled at the Wolfe’s! We shared in the frosty delight, tossing basketballs to tap against the mercury vapor streetlamps lighting our merry way, while a silver moon scooped out stars against fireworks.

Three days later the phone dinged us. We were summoned to meet in the Wolves den at six that evening for a pow-wow with Mr. Ray “Van” Wolfe. This was not his real name but that which we called him behind his back. Being not yet of age to drive, we would sit entranced, admiring his decked out van for hours –fancying how someday we would drive sporty vans like Ray’s.

Turns out a neighbor had seen us from the shadows. When slamming the freezer’s door in the fright, I had shoved it so hard that unbeknownst to us- it had rebounded open again! This had knocked frozen chickens out to the floor for their cat to swimmingly delight in, and then drag around a horrifying mess all weekend –technically enough foul spots sploshed over Ray’s prized Persian rugs to get us suspended from the team.

Our Cheshire grins quickly vaporized. We were soon served up a seven course chewing out about respect and how Mr. Wolfe had served his country. Then another general up and down cuss when Kirkland compulsively giggled in the meltingly hot chamber. For dessert, that evening there was no cherry on top, as Ray had us to call our parents. Kirkland went first, but with some slight of hand on receiver, had fake-dialed the rotary and was only pretending to be conducting a solid telephonic ice cream confessional to his mother. I, feeling much like under the spell of truth serum and had not considered any further tricks against the Wolves. My Mom somehow nimbly intercepted Kirkland’s Tele-tomfoolery to ensure the clear-cut story transported across the lines for all involved parties that sweltering July evening.

Though part of the trio says that Ray was too hard on us, my take was that he was also a cool cat. Not only had Ray allowed us to daydream in his van, he empathized with our waywardness. Though calling authorities was heatedly discussed, he knew deep down that we would long recall our lengthy discourse. After eliciting genuine face-to-face apologies –including Kirkland’s and promises to pay for damage; we were let off the hook. It took numerous wheelbarrow loads of weighty Washington Post broadsheets delivered that summer to atone for this wrong, which stayed out of the news of record for three decades.

As years leaped past, I realized that all of the involved parties ended up eventually driving vans -just as we envisioned. Even young Brian –now Officer Wolfe, beamingly steers things right, from a paddy wagon sometimes filled with trios just like ours, but who have delved into compulsions even worse than shadowy ice cream. Though all of us have tried to fancy up our vans, none have ever quite matched the integrity of Ray’s old dependable Dodge.

A few summers back, the third tall man visited Idaho. It was again 4th of July and the honored author Lawrence Ferlinghetti was highlighting the Hailey Cultural Center Ice Cream social during Ezra Pound week. I had hoped to engage Mr. Ferlinghetti in some conversation perhaps revealing to him some earnest poetry scribblings, whipping them out from magic reservoirs of secret pockets at just the right moments. Hailing from Washington D.C., our conversation might have sprung up about Mr. Pound’s time spent concentrating there, or even about Mr. Ferlinghetti’s ideas about how to get more poetry inserted into newspapers. I thought that these acts could have been augmented with help from my personable friend who is now involved in academia of the highest sorts –with his easy way of stimulating banter. Half a world ago he had even enthusiastically handed me his worn copy of Ferlinghetti’s Her, a baffling story about young men confusing Madonna’s of the flesh with those of a spiritual nature.

However, it then resonated, that whenever we see each other, the sudden mention of ice cream still makes us feel unwell, and lower than snake’s bellies wedged under wagon wheel ruts, to consider attending such a singularly illustrious event, so we went off fishing worms instead...

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Footnote: the author at the Ezra Pound house read this story aloud on June 22, 2006 as part of Ron Carlson’s writing class.

Related links:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Poetry as News

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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