Author Archives: Richie Smith

Fair Memories of Two Fairs

I remember my father telling me about the 1939 world‘s fair.  He was only five years old back then. It was only a year or so after his father died suddenly and tragically from appendicitis. My bewildered five-year-old father with his widowed mother and aunt and uncles, made the trip from Brooklyn out to Queens for an emotional escape to a world of discovery and enchantment. Back then, a trip to Flushing must have seemed like a suburban trek to a swampland of sorts, with the new artificial reservoir gleaming alongside the Grand Central Parkway.

I see my father and his family. They enter the fair, passing the iconic Trylon, jagged and sleek, poking six hundred feet at the clouds like a displaced Washington Monument, next to the stolid Perisphere, a giant white orb summoning visitors inside, a great planetary paperweight of sorts.

They approach the Marine Amphitheater built upon Fountain Lake, home of Billy Rose’s Aquacade and wait for Eleanor Holm, the brilliant showgirl, about to partake in a water ballet with her nymph-like assistants in the “enchanting panorama,” featuring “orchestra music harmonizing,” as synchronized swimmers slither through the rays and shadows of multicolored light.

There’s my father, watching himself on television. It’s the first time he’s seen a TV. He waves and on the screen, in real time, sees a boy looking very much like himself, dressed in the same slacks and lumber jacket, a boy with the curly reddish hair waving with his right hand just as he is doing now, only it’s not a mirror image, because they’re both waving their right hands and he sees his mother and Aunt Agnes smiling and waving next to him and they look the same. There’s beautiful Aunt Agnes smiling with all the men around her smiling back.

It’s only a few minutes later in the Amusement Area that they stumble upon “Frozen Alive.” There’s an iceberg of sorts, a giant ice cube. It’s glass. No it’s ice, crystal clear and over one thousand pounds of ice with a girl inside. A young, beautiful girl in a bathing suit, smiling. She smiles and if you listen carefully you can hear her speak.

My father is haunted by the beautiful girl in ice. By her stillness, by her tranquil acceptance and he thinks about her the day after my mother dies. His wife lies in a wooden box. It’s warmer than a block of ice, though my mother feels oddly cold.

In 1939, at the amusement center, my young father spoke to the arctic girl in her tomb of ice.  And In 1964, at a similar age, at another World’s Fair located right on top of the previous one, I spoke to Goofy on a telephone.

And thirty years later, we both speak to my mother in a warm wooden box in a funeral home. The lighting seems oddly festive, not unlike the rays and shadows of Billy Rose’s Aquacade, though the air has a slight chill. There’s the stale scent of death slipping through a weaker one of drying flowers. We say our goodbyes until someone closes the lid leaving my mother in her own kind of sacred space, as if she’s the arctic girl, surviving the impossible, living alone in permanent icy sleep.
           

Eleanor Holm

References:

https://www.1939nyworldsfair.com/worlds_fair/wf_tour/zone-7/Frozen_Alive.htm
https://www.qchron.com/qboro/i_have_often_walked/the-fair-s-million-dollar-aquacade/article_185ee7eb-bb73-52f4-84a3-b537ebba079a.html

Abstraction from Zona G

In nuclei of your target cells, I saw the aldosterone man. He nodded slowly and then they blindfolded me and brought me into his lab, made me sign a consent form holding a pen in my teeth, made me wait until the transcriptional activity began. There were translocations and I was sandwiched between the lanes… Continue Reading

Many Years Later

Many years ago, at the water’s edge, I played this game with my son. Between waves, we built an ancient land. I showed my boy the people in a town on their way to schools and shops and ancient temples. We saw the fields, where they farmed and raised their animals. We watched them study… Continue Reading

Man Over Moondust

The spice and the dust Flavors my insides Silicates and curries. Footprints on the brink of my heart, memories of craters and a Smiling man on a moon over the Catskills in July, 1969, lost time with my parents and my sister and my childhood dog, in a bungalow, watching man on the moon. Too… Continue Reading

Memorial Fence

I attempt to cross the George Washington Bridge by bike with a friend on a clear Memorial Day. We get separated along the way and I find myself off of a highway near the bridge carrying my bike up stairs littered with glass and shards of clothing. It’s an outdoor den for drug addicts and… Continue Reading

Remembering Terrific Tom

I was only a boy in ’69 but I idolized every moment. Terrific Tom was everything to me on the mound. The slow walk out to the mound, silted sand, fine like lunar dust with cleat marks and the hole behind the rubber, the white pinstripe uniform and royal blue sleeves extending from his broad… Continue Reading

My Fool

What is a fool if not a spindle of spool fueled with my tools, gummy, the gristle still green as if the high road, leapt into my sole mate   or whatever might have been good enough to sustain the switch onto the right track that spindle on the plantar surface of my appendage On… Continue Reading

Thoughts Prior to Dreams

I dream in blue I see proteins and flesh and bodies. I see crazy things. People running and shooting and radiating and I’m reminded of my Crayola confessions. Why would someone kill another over a crayon? Primo Levy had his elements. I tried that. I wrote about elements. I write about crayons. I have these… Continue Reading

I Remember Them

For me they arrived with bubble gum. To others they were the world. Heroes retain their value. Heroes I flipped them. Flipped them, admiring colors and uniforms, the stiffness of the card Sharp corners Men lost with talent, passionate men lost young Sometimes I lost my cards and I cried eventually replaced them with others… Continue Reading

On My Pediatrician

From the Writer’s Journal 5/16/83 I dream of my pediatrician, Dr. King. He sees me ten years after he has last given me a checkup. I am an adult, but Dr. King still cares about my health. He cares about my health because he has watched me grow.  He has seen me from just past… Continue Reading