Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Blog The Man Cave
‘A Kid in Cumberland’
Memories of Childhood

Straight up, my mom told me I was a mistake.

Not an accident, but a mistake—there is a big difference.

I was born with one leg shorter than the other and cerebral palsy.

My first memory, being in Cumberland, was on Kentucky Avenue, falling down the steps and into a coffee table and my mother getting rid of our cat named Tiger because he was a little hellion.

Happier stuff, I would say hangin’ out with my mom’s dad when I was about four or five and him showing me his garden and telling me stories, reading prince Valiant comics, which he used to read all the time, and going to Saint Peter and Paul’s a catholic church with these crazy, super-grotesque Stations of the Cross, which I really enjoyed.

I had friends in my grandma’s neighborhood. Her house was on a really steep hill in this residential block that used to be an amusement park and what was left of a band stand and tennis courts at the top of the hill. Across the street was the side of a mountain, woods and more woods. I remember being out there playing with kids in the neighborhood, sliding down a rope from a tree house—just dumb kid shit.

I basically lived with my grandma on and off until I was elementary school age and then in the summers and at other points I’d end up there for longer periods of time. I would also stay with my stepdad’s parents, in a small unincorporated town outside of Cumberland up toward the Pennsylvania border. That stuff was pretty cool, because my cousins had four-wheelers, the trains always went by. On your trip west you will pass my stepmom’s house on the way to Pittsburgh, it will be on your left side.

I spent most of the school years in Baltimore County and I was really attached to Cumberland, to living there and always had a hard time—a weird time—leaving there. I think, even as a little guy, I knew I was leaving sane people for something else. Even as a little guy I always wanted to hang out with adults.

My grandma’s neighbor was Mister Bud, a Marine who was in Okinawa, would never drive a Japanese car, would drive a Volkswagon bug until the day he died. Even as a kid I sensed coming to Baltimore was not right and I didn’t enjoy it. Baltimore was a very alienating place and Cumberland wasn’t. You could go outside and play in the woods, shoot beebee guns, twenty-twos. If you are a kid who is not attracted to team sports, buy doing those things you weren’t as much of an outcast. The kids were more mature and friendlier than in Baltimore. Basically, kids in Cumberland were like adults in Baltimore. There was no concern with people stealing us, with people stealing our stuff.

On the less happy end I was always the black sheep, because nobody was happy about my mother and father being together. My grandmother hated my father. There was always an underlying thing that since my dad was so damaged I was the oddball, like in a litter of kittens. Even as a kid, you know what’s up, and having a fucked up leg it’s pretty alienating—not that people were cruel but that their pity was palpable. It’s just one of those deals, you knew you were the oddball. There was no way I wasn’t going to be that dude.

There had been a couple repeated attempts for my mom to live in Arizona, then she knew somebody in Baltimore that worked in a greenhouse—there was no work in Western Maryland in the mid-eighties. She met my stepdad in Baltimore. He was bartending when I was first born and then ended up welding in some factory in Green Castle Pennsylvania, moved back to Cumberland. By the mid-eighties my dad was doing construction in D.C., a three hour one way trip, to do brick and block work, because there was nothing up there. [Western Maryland] With Kelly Tire being done by 84-85 that was all she wrote.

It seemed like it was an eternity when my mom was down there. I didn’t think she was coming back for me. Didn’t know where my dead was. But my mom came and took me and we ended up moving into a basement apartment in the city side of Parkville. She was working, she had a job.

At some point, within that year or two, my dad moved down into Baltimore to work as a gardener and apartment maintenance guy for disgusting slum lords.

On Bitches

Your Trojan Whorse

Add Comment