It’s been a quiet summer here on the blog. I needed to take a break because of carpal tunnel symptoms, so I took a blog vacay through July. I geared up to start again in August, and life slapped me in the face. Instead of working on my blog editorial calendar, I ended up dealing with some sad and serious family events, and traveling across three states alone to do it. So I’ll be devoting my next 10+ Write Anywheres to my strange adventure. I hope you’ll come along and discover like I did, that you can find the fuel for creativity anywhere, in any situation, if you choose to keep your heart open and make room for it.
That Saturday morning started out great. I attended a local writing workshop and learned some great tips on writing, publishing in both traditional and self-publishing formats, and enjoyed hanging out with fellow writers. I even earned second place in a first page contest. I walked out of the workshop and into the hot afternoon feeling somewhat accomplished, so I decided to treat myself to a cool reward that took me back in time.
Write Anywhere #66: Snow Cone Shack
I drove over to the local snow cone shack for some icy refreshment. The shacks pop up around the area throughout the summer, but there are one or two that take their snow cones very seriously, and because of that they have a strong customer following. The offerings range from traditional to weird, but people stand in line every hot Friday and Saturday night for their favorites. When I showed up on a Saturday at 3 pm, the sun baked the sidewalks and not a soul stood in line. I ordered a simple cherry limeade ice, and made my way to a picnic table under the shade of a lone tree.
Ahhh… snow cone, post-modern style
Spooning the sweet ice from a modern styrofoam cup got me thinking about the Snow Cone Man who used to drive around my childhood neighborhood in South St. Louis so many summers ago. Playing in the heat, ignoring the sweat dripping down our necks, we’d take off toward the sound of his musical truck. We’d happily fork over our quarters for a scoop of ice in a paper cone, watching in fascination as the bright white globe took on color from the flavor sprays. The flavors back then were pretty straight forward: cherry, 7-up, and berry, which didn’t really taste like anything but made your lips a deadly blue. If you had the extra coin, you could get a bomb pop-inspired cone and have all three. Then we’d try to slurp the melting concoction down before the majority of it ended up on our hands and legs.
We always tried to catch the Snow Cone Man on Neosho Street, or Nottingham Avenue, but if he got as far as Murdoch Avenue, we didn’t get a snow cone that day. We didn’t go on Murdock Avenue. That’s where the gangsters lived. Yes, real live gangsters that were part of a well-known crime family in the city. I accidentally became friends with the daughter of a gangster. Tina was in my second grade class. We played together at recess and one day she asked me to come to her house to play after school. I asked my mom and she said sure (parents were much more trusting back in the day).
We walked home from school together on Brannon Avenue. When we got to Murdoch Tina said “We turn here for my house.” My heart started racing because I knew the street was filled with gangsters. There was a row of houses no one went near, and that’s directly where we headed. Because I was taught to always be polite, even if being led to a gangster’s house, I said nothing.
With knees knocking, I walked up the steps and went inside, maybe to never see the light of day again. Who knew what happened in gangsters’ houses?
Well, I lived to tell about it. Turns out gangster’s kids play Barbies, have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and watch Tennessee Tuxedo on television. No gun battles, tough guys, or fights. Tina was a nice girl. Her older brother was a little creepy, though.
After I told my mom what happened, I never got to play at Tina’s house again, but we still remained friends through the second and third grade. As for the gangsters, Tina’s uncle, who lived next door to her on Murdoch Avenue, was arrested and convicted for a car bombing that killed another gangster. Real live gangsters.
As I finished up my shaved ice, I got out my notebook and wrote down a few of the memories the refreshment had brought back to my mind. With a little research, it might make a pretty good short story. Then my cell phone rang.
I slurped up the last of the snow cone, and the sad news on the other end erased all thoughts of snow cones and musical trucks and Murdock Avenue, and started me on a journey full of grief, joy, discovery, hard work, and traveling mercies.
Where did you write this week?
Do you have any interesting memories of the neighborhood where you grew up?
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