Meadowbrook I

I have a long list of snippets and phrases that have grabbed or stuck with me over the years that I save, thinking that someday I’ll get around to needing them for song titles or poems or lines of other pieces or what have you. By the time I get around to writing something with or about them, I usually can’t remember why I wrote them down in the first place. It’s a decent system for forced creativity.

For instance, years ago I had written “Wisconsin” on the list of titles. Dunno why, but there it was, and when I did a “close my eyes/stick my finger in the notebook” selection several years later, there it was, so I forced myself to write a song with that title. Here’s what came out:

WISCONSIN (1997)

He’s moving to Wisconsin

And building himself a new life

He’s buying himself a farmhouse

And getting himself a blonde wife

He’s going to be a Lutheran

He’s making his own cheese curds

He’s moving to Wisconsin

To be a man of fewer words

He’s going to see the Packers

He’ll vacation at the Dells

He’ll have to buy a new tractor

The best one that John Deere sells

He’s going to Wisconsin

He’s leaving New York behind

He’ll stay a night in Chicago

With a friend, if he don’t mind

He’s buying himself a parka

He’ll surely be needing a plow

To put on the front of his tractor

Or yoke to the back of his cow

He’ll probably be quite happy

With family and cattle and such

He’s moving to Wisconsin

We hate him so very much

Why’d I write that? I didn’t know, since I really didn’t have anything against Wisconsin, or people who move there. But since I’d written it, I figured there needed to be a back story, and so a character was created for my book, and this character moved to Wisconsin, and was hated by those he left behind. Tied that up nicely, and shows how a single word can blossom extravagantly if you let it.

Also shows I can be side-tracked easily while writing, since I didn’t really intend to write about “Wisconsin” (the word, the state or the song) tonight.

Here’s what I meant to write about. I pulled out the list of titles the other day, when I felt like writing something to see what grabbed me. Here’s a fairly random sampling of the things that fill my titles list (and it’s much, much, much longer than this):

“The Entire Animal Population Remains Undisturbed”

“The Microscope Show”

“Arch”

“Sepia Tint”

“Concrete Cutter”

“Tajik”

“Improv to Die To”

“Meadowbrook”

“Raised to Die”

“Brown Flag”

“Hell is Hungry”

“Why Don’t You Want Me?”

“There But For”

“Kiss Kill”

“Trance Rant”

“Beryl”

“In a Dirty Land”

“Tapeworm”

“Suffer Me”

“Irons”

“My Garish Life”

“Kill Thing”

etc. etc. etc.

I decided to tackle “Meadowbrook.” It’s the name of a Parkway on Long Island near where I used to live in the ’70s, but it has a more specific connotation for me. An exact spot, right here, the little blue body of water that sits (now) between Perimeter Road and Korean War Veterans Memorial Drive.

Back when I lived there, though, Perimeter Road was a semi-abandoned gravel road and the big four lane Charles Lindbergh Boulevard didn’t exist. They were in the process of building the campus of Nassau Community College, and that little body of water was behind the construction site, very isolated, very wild and overgrown and lush and verdant, even though it was basically just a glorified drainage ditch running alongside the Meadowbrook Parkway. (Who knows, perhaps it was the brook in the meadow that gave the parkway its name?).

All of us who lived there on Mitchel Field (the semi-abandoned military base on which Nassau Community College, the Nassau Coliseum and the Cradle of Aviation Museum now stand) roamed freely among the abandoned hangars and runways that had pretty much been deteriorating in place since the end of World War II. We were generally fearless, and climbed into old buildings and walked down isolated trails and paths without a thought. It was an amazing place to be a teenager, like living in something out of Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome. We loved roaming the grounds there.

The only place that creeped us out, though, for no good reason that we could explain, was that little isolated creek bed beside the parkway, the spot on the map. There was a pack of wild dogs that stalked that area (including a frighteningly pale Weimeraner that we called The Ghost Dog), so we (publicly) attributed it to that, but there was just something wrong about the spot in general, something that made us feel like something bad was going to happen if we stayed there very long. We’d periodically ride our bikes over there to show our bravura, but usually found reasons to go elsewhere pretty quickly. It was our dead zone, our no man’s land, our haunted house (minus the house).

So that’s what “Meadowbrook” called to mind for me. It became something (slightly) different when I started to write.

MEADOWBROOK (2003)

Never talked about it,

Never made a sound,

Never knew the story of

The body that we found.

The body that we found.

Meadowbrook is dewy,

Meadowbrook by dawn.

Underneath the rising sun

The body on the lawn.

The body on the lawn.

Silent in the sunshine.

Silence in our minds.

Silently we walked away,

The body left behind.

The body left behind.

Time can tell a story.

Time can change a face.

Someday will our memory of

The body be erased?

The body we erased?

The body be erased.

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