We watched a grim gangster movie last night, “Road To Perdition”, set in 1931. I think I was backing away from its desperation killer mentality because I suddenly remembered a scene from, I think, possibly, that very year 1931 – eleven years before I was born.
I saw a faded image etched on the wall at the very back of my memory mind. Beyond it I could not go without emerging into my before-life. Black and white and cracked it was. The memory light flickered dreadfully. I could just see the vision glimpsed and gone and them glimpsed again, but never a clearlight picture.
I saw a hillside and a balloon-tired bicycle and a kid about to or beginning to ride it down a little sandy foot path through the weeds. But there was an alien strangeness about the scene. What is this doing in my mind? It’s not my memory. Somebody else, maybe my older brother Gary was watching this but I am seeing it too. This image, when I first saw it on the back of my memory mind when I was one or two, was already indescribably old, from a place that no longer existed. Like maybe the hill where they built George Washington High School in San Francisco’s sand duned Richmond District back in the 1930s.
The association jogged another scene from my baby or toddler memory mind: now I saw the rusted hulk frame of an abandoned, square-bodied Ford (probably) on a hillside, orangy-red with rusted door still attached and decrepit, broken-dial dashboard seen through ancient window holes. Brilliant technicolor I see it still tonight in bright rust colors surrounded by vivid, lush green weeds. Hiding and forgotten on a hillside we come upon it. Am I in my Dad’s arms or walking holding someone’s hand? A car from long before thrown out for mice to play in amidst wild radishes and lupine and wild fennel in profusion.
Surpassing strange and even eerie it impressed itself into my memory – 1943, 1944 – a remnant of another ancient time before that – 1913? 1914? The smell of warm, wafting, sweet weed flowers on the hillside and the alien rusting hulk still with holey leather seats and broken window holes to look out of.
Again: Lying in my little bed on 47th Avenue I’m supposed to be going to sleep. I like to look out from my darkened room to the cheerful lighted hallway beyond and the stairs leading down to the warm living regions of our house. But tonight, superimposed over the hall-lighted doorway I see a screen of jewels — molecules, blood rushing through capillaries – and there in the midst are riders approaching down the foggy beach towards me. They rein up and I see they are knights – not in armor but wearing tunics or cassocks and head things. Armed men. Unknown to me – brave and possibly scary men. Coming to greet me. But I’m not afraid of them because I am awake. It’s a vision, I know. They are far away on a beach a thousand years before.
I pass on this memory data from one babyhood in San Francisco as it was. We come into the world trailing clouds of complete otherness.