“Well, look on the bright side Joe, at least you can get it back now.”

December 16, 2008

CANONSBURG is the kind of place where emphysema patients drag their oxygen tank behind them, making their way through the cigarette line at the grocery store and loading up on cartons with fists full of coupons. When I think back to the town of my youth, the old Canonsburg, the images appear in snippets, like recently restored color film footage – deep dark blue, cloudless skies; all consumer goods a variation of the burnt orange and avocado pallet. Rich colors in lead and oil.

The cast of creeps and characters adds color and seems to have remained a constant.

Terry ‘Jay’ Kahn, was one of the most memorable denizens of this then stale – still stale – town. He was probably at least ten years older than me but I remember the two faces of Terry. The young, regular looking boy who did insane shit, like lighting a huge recliner on fire and pushing it down South Central Avenue, a half a mile of hill that has always been a heavily traveled road to Route 19. And the flamboyant Jay. Dressed like a Vegas show girl strutting around town. The rumor was that he was in a car wreck and suffered from a severe head wound. But I suspect his family circulated these rumors to explain away the embarrassment they felt for their gay son to the gossiping under breath talking peckerwoods.

He was harassed quite a bit as he walked down the streets in full drag with huge heels. But I also remember seeing him climb into trucks and family sedans always wondering if the guy was expecting a wang in the wrapper that he would surely be opening. I remember him inserting himself into the huge Bicentennial parade of 1976. This was Canonsburg’s big moment because of its connection to the Revolution and as the planning spot for the Whiskey Rebellion. Jay made the scene decked out in a red white and blue body suit with a huge white  hat, all covered in sequins, and matching boots. He twirled his baton better than any of the high school chicks that he marched alongside of, throwing it higher and with more precision. With half the crowd laughing, got huge cheers as well ass random expletives and epitaphs hurled at him by some of the older mill types in the crowd: “Get out of the parade you faggot!”

Jay died in the late 80’s. He fell off of the 9th Street Bridge in the city of Pittsburgh while being pursued by city cops for a burglary warrant. He was fished out of the river several months later in the spring thaw. At first the fisherman that reeled him in though they had a woman. He was supposedly identified by the dick with wings tattoo on his shoulder. He never did save up for and complete the sex change operation that he wanted which is why I guess he might have been burglarizing (allegedly) businesses.

ON the other side of the spectrum was Butch, the proto-typical bull dyke. Seriously, this is what people called her and the nick name she responded to:

“Hey Butch, hows it going?”

“Great! How you doin?”

She used to broady around town in a late 60’s stock Nova. I remember the strange apprehension I felt whenever I saw her because she was a walking juxtaposition to my young mind. Her short, Vitalis slicked back hair and her three hundred pound frame draped neatly in men’s polyester dress slacks and a mans shirt tightly stretched across HUGE breasts. They were so big that I would stare at them and then look at her manly face and then back back at the boobs. Completely confused. I got the impression that she was able to squash any beef that might come her way because of the way people talked about her in hushed tones, never really making eye contact. She either moved on or died, because she disappeared at some point, her absence only realized in retrospect.

THERE were quite a few that had their own proclivities, like The Key Master. A slow dude who had about ten pounds of keys on one of those Janitor type key rings. He would sip cartoons of boxed ice team as he profiled at the Speedy Mart.

The old lady who would sashay through the streets in immaculate white shoes and pantaloons, swing her junk as she walked around.

And who could forget ‘Crazy’ Eddie.

This guy was something else. Rumor had it (small towns and their bullshit) that he was a crazed Vietnam vet. He would walk around town, chain smoking cigarettes that I don’t think he inhaled. Back and forth through town at all hours of the day and night in an Army jacket.

In high school, I had a friend name Joe, who left a jacket in his unlocked car. I think it was Guess or some other brand that he paid way too much for. I’ll never forget when he called me, completely pissed that someone stole it. As I am so understanding, I began to bust his balls, asking hi m why he left it in the car unlocked in the first place, pulling what I knew his dad was going to lay on him.

A few days later I get a call from Joe. He can’t believe it; he just drove by Eddie who was walking down the street in his stolen jacket. He starts hatch all of these never to materialize plans about how he is going to jump Eddie and fuck him up for the jacket theft. I get him more pissed by saying that Eddie served our country, and Eddie’s sacrifices are what enabled him to be able to buy that jacket. “Some gave all and you gave none – let him have the fucking jacket Joe!” That pissed him off and he hung up the phone. The next day at school he comes up to me red-faced. “You’ll never guess what the fuck is hanging in the tree at the beer distributor next to my house!” And I couldn’t. “That crazy bastard took a shit and wiped his ass with my jacket!” Of course I laugh so hard that tears begin to roll down my face.

“Well, look on the bright side Joe, at least you can get it back now.”

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2 Responses to ““Well, look on the bright side Joe, at least you can get it back now.””


  1. […] always remember in the fall of that year when Joe showed up at my house to show off his new Soviet wristwatch. This particularly burned my ass for […]

  2. Ronica Says:

    OMG…I am laughing so hard!! I love reading your blogs!


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