A cupla days a month I volunteer at the library used book store.
One of my regulars is a short, pregnant looking retired navy guy who marches in as if on a tight schedule, looking for VHS movies for himself and the wife.
Something invariably distracts him mid-search, a movie title, an interesting item on Fox News last night, and he stays to rant about, “The Damn Commies... The ones here. Ruining America, the country so many fought and died for.”
He gets rather spitty during the peak which is all facts and figures and proofs about the card carrying commies in our midst.
I nod and smile.
By Commies in our midst I assume he meant my Great Auntie Rosie and Uncle Jack. She with the line of cleavage that started at her neck. He, a ringer for Popeye but with a fierce little rodent stance.
They used to come stay with us in Detroit for a month every summer when I was a kid. Or perhaps it just seemed like a month. The only good part about their visit was that they treated my parents like kids.
I remember one night when my parents got home Auntie Rosie met them at the front door with her fists on her hips.
“Vere vas you so late?” she demanded, making my utterly adult parents stammer excuses and squirm.
I’d never heard anyone speak to my parents like that. It was thrilling and horrifying. It put them on semi-equal footing with my brother and I, as Rosie criticized my mom’s house work and kitchen skills and Uncle Jack, a carpenter bossed my father around and dissed his work on household projects.
Years later Mitch and I moved to California and visited Jack and Rosie in their tiny, upstairs apartment in the Fairfax district. Jack was already ga-ga by then.
He told us about how he and Lenin fought side by side in the old country.
“Bah! Jackie! You vaz seven years old!” my aunt corrected.
He jumped to his rickety old feet, dentures clicking wildly. “Shut up Rosie! You know nothing!”
Around that time I sold a piece about spring cleaning to the LA Times. I was over-the-moon excited and called to tell them to read it.
My Auntie called back. “You have a chance to be in news pepper and you talk about cleaning? This is vat you have to say? Mit all the problems in the vorld? This is vat’s important to you?”
It was the early eighties. And since my Aunt didn’t drive, she caught the bus on Santa Monica Boulevard, which pre-and-early-AIDS was a hopping meat market of young male hookers.
“There’s no jobs!” she said. “All da boys stand around mit no vork! You don’t write about dis? About Regan and the mess he’s making?”
I was shamed by my commie aunt.
Sometimes I still cringe about the fluff I produce for a living. And when kooks like my library ranter damn the commies, I get nostalgic.