Poetic Memories of Growing Up in Newark , from birth to age 10

by Andrew Malekoff


(excerpted from Groan Up from Newark to Nebraska, 2007, Xlibris, in press) 

("Groan Up: From Newark to Nebraska", a true story (sort of)...it was originally to be published by a small poetry publisher and then the principals of the company were called up to serve in the war...so the project fell apart...I am publishing it through Xlibris and it will be available within the next few months. The PON photo will be the cover of the book. It covers my years in Newark, my migration to Maplewood, college years in New Brunswick and then post college in Nebraska. It is written in a poetic format.)
itís time to break the sigh-lence. 
i was four or five at the time. 
i am fairly certain b-cause it was some time after Brooklyn won the world series: finally in 1955. 
but then again the yearz have a way of blending 2gether when ur small. 
there was a blue dodger champion-ship pennant above my bed. 
one evening after thanks-giving I was looking outside my bed room window which faced east. 
in those daze we lived in a flat in the middle of wainwright street between chancellor and lyons, nearby where whitney houston and philip roth grew up. On the northwest corner of wainwright street was an ortho-dox synagogue that people referred to as the shul (pronounced shool, as in school).  
lots of old guyz with beardz hung out on the corner by the shul. 
on the southwest corner of wainwright was hoffmans bakery; 
i liked jew-ish rye bread filled with little striped crescents 
called caraway seeds
i liked to pick the seeds out and eat them one by one  
directly across from the bakery on the opposite corner was a 5 & 10 called kristloffs. 
i got payday-candy-bars there: 
you know, the ones with nuts and nougat: the gooey stuff for a nickel. 
a couple of times I got glitter and white glue 4 school projects. 
sometimes mom sent me down 2 kristloffs 2 buy camel cigar-ettes for a quart-er a pack; 
those were the daze b-4 joe camel. 
payday, glitter, glue and camels, those were the daze. 
on the front of the camel pack was a camel and three palm trees and two pyramids. 
dad also smoked camels: no filters, mom neither. 
one time he asked me where I would like to go to cool off if it were real hot outside: 
would you go inside a pyraimd? 
beneath a palm tree?
or under the c a M e l to cool off ?

after i made my choice dad flipped the pack of camels over and said:
- I’d go around the corner to the new H O T E L.

there was a palace on the back of the pack of camels.

i thought it was a fun-ee joke.

the palace looked like the taj majal, although I’ve never been there.

once I dreamed that dad asked me the same question and I answered:

i’d go around the corner to the new H O T E L.

except in the dream when I flipped the pack of cigarettes over instead of the taj majal there was a night club of some kind.

In the dream dadz head turned into a camelz head with hornz and hiz camel body had a tranzlucent hump with a baby inside.

the camel was smiling and the baby was sleeping.

inside the night club there were seats arranged in rows: auditorium style.

in the seats were men wearing green feZZZes.

they appeared to be impatient and were stomping and whistling.

on a stage in front of them was a dark-haired woman with red lipstick riding the camel:

it was mom.

the men quieted down when: she sang a patsy cline song called: craZZZy.
i fell asleep in the dream during the song.

when I woke up I didn’t know if I was still in the dream or in real life:

whatever that is.

another trick of dadz was to remove tobacco from some of his camel cigarettes by rubbing them in-between his palms and then he’d roll up bills of various de-nominations:
and insert them into the hollowed paper encasings.

they fit perfectly in length and width.

and then he would put these counter-feet smokes back into the cigarette pack.

at the time dad owned a bar and grill known as the P. O. N. which stood for the

P ride
O f
N ewark.

i didn’t know what was meant by bar and grill since i didn’t see any grill in there just a bar;

i didn’t know what they meant by pride of newark either;
especially since newark seemed to me to be
at the

the bar used to be owned by grandpa-with-the-wooden-leg.
old photos of the P O N showed a grill of some kind.

grandpa walked with a cane.

i don’t recall 2 much about him.
i think he liked me.
i was named after his wife, grandma anna,
whom i never met.
mom told me that
she was kind.

anyway, dad would have his cigarettes loaded with bills and he’d wait 4 a particiular customer and then he would point to the cigarette machine and say:

you see that machine: it has magic cigarettes.

dad would then walk over to the machine and by a pack and he would go back

back behind the bar and secretly switch the packs.

he’d take one of the money loaded cigarettes and dip it into
a glass of water

and then rub it in-between his palms, directing the customer to blow on his hands.

in time the water and friction from his palms would de-solve the

t h i n paper and all that would be left would be a

single one dollar bill.

then he’d work his way up to the $20.

in no time at all the customer was buying multiple packs of cigarettes:
dipping them in water one by one and rolling them into his palms building a hill of tobacco on top of the bar.

sometimes dad came home with bruises and cuts on his face when he got into fights with unruly customers at the bar. at least i don’t think it was from shaving accidents like he told me. after all how do
you cut your forehead shaving? I don’t even think the wolfman could do that. dad had a cigar box full of assorted knives that he took from customers. i liked the switchblade best.

as I looked out of my bedroom window I could swear I could smell French fries cooking.

a few doors down from the 5 & 10 on chancellor avenue was hot dog haven where I ate greasy French fries that came in small brown bags.

so saturated were the fries that the grease sweated through the bag forming transparent blotches on the surface.

i had to rest the bag on my palm or else the fries would break through the bottom.

i always squirted ketchup from red nozzled dispensers into the bag.

then I’d close up the top of the bag and shake it up good so that the ketchup was evently distributed among the French fries.

i learned this from the big kids wearing leather jackets who played pinball machines in the corner of hot dog haven.

when I finished a bag my fingers were always drenched in salt and grease and ketchup.

i liked putting each finger into my mouth and sucking and licking off
the salt and ketchup and grease.

sometimes if no groan ups were around I’d rip open the empty bag and lick it and suck on it to get the final remnants of flavor.

a few doors down from hot dog haven was a luncheonette called halems where I bought my first superman comic book.

It was a bout a little guy from another dimension who caused mischief for superman.

in order to foil him and send him back to the time dimension where he came from superman had to trick him in2 saying his name backwardz.

werdna is my name spelled backwardz. sometimes i’d try this on myself. some times i’d try it on other people - to make
them disappear. it didn’t work on mom and dad. they never disappeared. i thought it was because they were spelled the same both ways-frontwardz and backwardz. pop also. that’s what i called my-grandpa-with-the-glass-eye. but i never tried to make him disappear.

I had onne grandpa with a glass-eye and another other grandpa with a wooden leg.

in daze gone by,

when i was 2 years old i had a bow-wow:

not a real-live dog but a cloth one.

one summer day while coming home from the beach, i threw my bow-wow out the car win-dough.

i started to laugh.

then i cried.

but my grandpas convinced my daddy to stop the car, turn around, and
retrieve my bow-wow.

my grandpas were cool guys.

one of them had a WOOD-en leg.

the other one had a g-l-a-s-s e-y-e.

no-body would tell me how they got them.

growing UP i often wondered what fake parts i'd have when i got to be an old man.

i imagined that i'd have a rubber hand that would screw into a bone in my wrist.

maybe sometimes i wouldn't screw it in so good so that when people shook hands with me IT would fall off my arm and on to the ground.

i wondered if they’d be as surprised as i was the first time grandpa j.
took out his fake e-y-e and put it in a shot glass.

i remember asking grandpa if he could still see me through his eye after he took it out of his head.

anyway, after i threw my bow-wow out of the win-dough for the third time my daddy re-fused to turn the car a-round to fetch him.

my grandpas tried to convince him one last time but he wouldn’t listen.

i fell asleep in the car and dreamt that buZZZards swooped down and ripped my bow-wow's ears off his head. in the dream my grandpas came to the res-cue.

they gently picked-up my bow-wow and rushed him to a toy store.

in the toy store they opened a mister potato-head box, reached inside, and pulled out a set of plastic ears. then they connected mister potato-head’s ears to the holes that the buZZZards left in my bow-wow’s head.

like i said, my grandpas were cool guys

as far as i can re-member.

anyway, as I was saying: I was looking out of my bedroom window at the full moon.

my brother was standing at the gate of his crib with a bottle hanging from his mouth.

his name didn’t work either. bob is bob backwards and forwards. i wonder why only my name worked in my family?

he was pointing out the window towards the moon and mumbling some gibberish:
sookie sookie sookie

directly underneath the moon were layers of telephone wires and then the garage roof:

on the roof were two giant cats, one black and one gold.

there were always giant cats on the roof.

i always wondered what made them so big
(big rats??)

one saturday morning I asked my next door neighbor about this.

i asked him if he knew why the cats on the roof were so big?

he told me that the cats were so big because they ate little jewish children who asked too many questions.

i told mom what he said and asked her if it was true.

she ran out of the door and down the stairs without taking off her housecoat.

she was barefoot. when she got outside i could hear her banging on the neighbor’s door and screaming.

she got real crazy when she was mad.

i wasn’t sure why she was so mad this time.

and i knew if i asked she’d tell me what she always did:

- i’ll tell you when you’re older.

he didn’t open the door.

i never found out about the cats but my next door neighbor killed himself yearz later. he shot a bullet into his brain.

i remember asking mom where the ambulance took his body.

she said that they were taking him to the animal shelter to feed the

there were always strange things happening on my block that i didn’t understand.

if i asked the groan ups i just got more confused.

sometimes I tried to learn about things by looking at the Sunday papers.

every sunday morning dad brought home three news-papers: the newark star ledger the new york times the national enquirer.

i think he was watt u call: eclectic, even though he didn’t go to college.

but he sure could fix things.

the national enquirer was my favorite because it was much thinner than the others and it had really cool pictures.

most of the stories were about strange people and events: flying saucers and true crime and people with two heads, extra fingers, three eyes, fish gills, tails, and so forth: you name it.

in those daze i thought everyone read the national enquirer.

every so often a toothless man with a horse pulling a wagon full of fresh fruit came down wainwright street.

some-times he would give me a pear.

he knew i liked the hard brown pears.

i liked to yank out the stem with my teeth and then eat the pointy part of the pear on the top.

i’d make believe it was a hand grenade that wouldn’t explode
if i ate it all: seeds included. although they tasted different than the rye bread seeds. i made sure to mash the seeds with my teeth so a pear tree didn’t grow inside my stomach. a groan up once told me to beware of that happening. once i dreamed that i swallowed a seed whole and it took root inside of me. i knew that i could kill it if i just stopped drinking water, but the only food in the dream was pretzels. so i was always thirsty and drinking water. i felt like i was going to choke when a branch grew up my throat and directly out of my mouth. in the dream, a reporter and a photographer from the national enquirer came to see me. they printed a story with my photo. the caption under the photo referred to me as:

i woke up from the dream when i had to urinate from drinking all that water. my penis was hard which made it difficult for me to aim. my mouth was dry but i was afraid to take a drink of water from the bathroom sink. so i went into the kitchen and found a stick of juicy fruit.

as i was saying

i was looking out the window at the giant cats on the garage roof under the light of the moon.

and my nose started to bleed.

i knew the sensation because the same thing had happened b-4 in school.

i didn’t want to wake my mom and dad so i went to the bathroom and tore off a piece of toilet paper that i rolled up into a wad that i stuffed deep inside my dripping nostril.

i went back into my room, straight to the window.

and when i looked out side the moon was still there but the giant cats were gone.

i rubbed my tired eyes and turned around and headed for my bed.

i glanced over to the the crib only 2-C that my baby brother was gone.
in his crib were the two giant cats one black and one gold.

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