Saturday, January 16, 2021

My Vanished Childhood Life Autobiographical Magnum Opus Blog Entry as Told Through the Shifting Visages of 368 Kirby Ave, Long Branch, N.J., and Scanned Photos Taken Long Ago of Immediate and Many Deceased Extended Family

Yours truly with one of the two human-sized sphnix on the steps to historic Wilson Hall ("Shadow Lawn") at Monmouth Universtiy, West Long Branch, N.J., 2:14 p.m., January 24, 2015

*******

Entry upfront explantion ...

This entry was sparked by the 33rd anniversary on Jan 11th, 2021 of the pass of my paternal grandmother. The purpose was to discuss how psychologically and emotionally shitty is my present-day life here in Washington, D.C., in this border-line Kafkaesque dystopian time.

A wall and rocky outcropping along the shore, Long Branch, N.J., 3:15 p.m., January 24, 2015

Instead, it morphed into this massive autobiographical magnum opus of an entry focused on as many aspects of my lost childhood and summer teenage years life in New Jersey, in particular, discussion of immediate and extended familiy members.

Seawall, jetty (OK, "groin"), and Atlantic surf, Long Branch, N.J., 3:10 p.m., January 24, 2015

This entry was sparked by the 33rd anniversary on Jan 11th, 2021 of the pass of my paternal grandmother. The purpose was to discuss how psychologically and emotionally shitty is my present-day life here in Washington, D.C., in this border-line Kafkaesque dystopian time.

Instead, it morphed into this massive autobiographical magnum opus of an entry focused on as many aspects of my lost childhood and summer teenage years life in New Jersey, in particular, discussion of immediate and extended familiy members.

Yours truly on the beach at tranquil, winter dusk, Sea Bright, N.J., 4:55 p.m., January 27, 2013

Above: Looking due north (behind me) in that picture, you can make out the 20-miles-as-the-crow-flies distant skyline of Manhattan and other parts of New York City (mostly around Coney Island area). My childhood best friend from my Trade Winds Beach Club days, Jonathan, took this picture. Alas, my attempt at keeping a friendship with him going sorta disintegrated. Born and raised in Rumson, N.J., Jonathan now lives in Neptune, N.J., the town in which I was born.

Jonathan silhouetted on a sunset sky, Sea Bright, N.J., 5:00 p.m., January 27, 2013

We haven't talked in at least two years now -- and probably won't again. The only contact I ever had with him was I initiated it. And he flat-out refused to visit me here in D.C. for fear of traveling. To be clear, this is a guy who was (a drummer) in a stoner / heavy metal rock band for 12+ years and traveled all over the world.

I will note, though, that the night before Aunt Babe's funeral, we had a lot of fun at Ron's West End Pub in Long Branch. (I was nearly late to the funeral the next day.) I also realized that was the place my dad tried to take me into when I was about 5 and got into a screaming match with the then-old man owner over that. I also realized I was confusing with the nearby Inkwell Coffeehouse because the West End Pub has a decorative well-like structure in its front yard.

*******

The subject matter of this entry uses as its focal point the house at 368 Kirby Avenue in Long Branch where I spent my childhood until age 11. It does so by featuring images of the house that I have taken over the years during intermittent visits for various occasions (high school reunions, 100th birthday parties, funerals, and just random visits), with all the autobiographical and related information that follows. And with that, let's get started ...

My paternal grandmother and myself on the occasion of my 4th birthday, November 26, 1973, in the kitchen of our then-home at 368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J.

Above: obviously, this is a image of a scanned hardcopy photograph in worn condition. I've posted this image before including in an entry linked below marking the 25th anniversary of her passing.


As for the kitchen in which the Nov 1973 photo was taken, above is picture of that same kitchen taken in 2010 -- long after (30 years) after we had moved out and 37 years after my 4th birthday picture in the kitchen. It is a picture that I found at this Realtor.com link with the images from May 2010.

The door on the right led to the garage -- and was the entrance we always used rather than the front door. The door on the left simply went to a small food pantry. There was a passage way just out of view of this photo that led to the formal dining room.


Above and below: Two pictures of the formal dining room as it appeared in 2010 on that Realtor.com site. This room probably looked the most unchanged in 2010 from what I remember it. You'll note that there are two passageways on either side of the dining room -- and how often I would run in circles and complicated dodging actions when my grandfather would chase me.


We seldom used the dining room except on occasions of formal dinners -- typically, on Christmas Eve. It was also the one room where my dad's big female bullmastiff dog, Borky, was not allowed, although in the picture below taken in that room, she was there.

It was the room where my dad would sometimes place under a sofa right in the spot of this sofa his old tape recorder cassette when he was recording the often frickin' hilarious screaming fights that my grandparents (i.e., his parents) often had. (To clarify, we had two sofas in that room, one of which is visible in the image below.)

I've no idea whether and to what extent the kitchen, living room, and other first floor rooms were altered in the major renovation / alteration that added an entire second story to the house what occurred at some point between Jan 2015 and Aug 2018.

My dad and myself with our bullmastiff dog, Borky, in our house at 368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., 1977

My dad was active in Shotokan karate at the time, and he had injured his hand in a tournament. I was 7 years old in that picture and my dad was 36. Next week, he turns 80. Yeah, clothes were weird and wildly colorful back then.

My dad holding me when I was about 1 year old outside our Middlebrook Apartments, Ocean Twp, N.J., Jan 1971

As I recall -- or maybe this is one of those false memories -- my dad got into karate after being in a weird fight with my stepfather, Ray, at the time my mom divorced my dad and got together with Ray. To be clear, my dad wasn't really keen on being married to my mom, but then he decided to fight for her, so to speak, when they divorced after a four-year separation.

I actually remember the night of the fight -- it was very dramatic and I remember being carried (presumably by my mom) up a flight of stairs. I recall looking at a light fixture, or maybe it was just a bulb, turned on. I was 4 at the time.

A group photo inlcuding my mom and dad and my late stepfather, Ray, and a childhood friend, Chris, taken at Harborside Grill, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., Jan 26, 2013

I was up in New Jersey for my late great Aunt Babe's 100th birthday and visited Chris at his sister's restaurant. Alas, my reunion with Chris after about 30 years didn't last too long. Babe was the younger sister of my paternal grandmother.

*******

An unusual photo in that it features both my parents together, Holiday Inn Express, West Long Branch, N.J., Jan 26, 2013

My parents actually only lived together as husband and wife for for either six months (spring/summer 1970) or a year and half (springs/summer 1971) of my life. That is, I was either 6 months or 18 months old when my dad moved out. Either way, from my earliest memories, my dad had already moved out of Middlebrook Apartments (today, "Middlebrook at Monmouth") in Ocean Township, New Jersey.

*******

Believe it or not, all of the above content is just intro to this entry. As for this entry, it's one I had intended to post on January 11th -- for reasons explained below -- but, well, it just didn't happen for a variety of reasons including the fact the posting massively expanded in scope.


But here is what I wanted to write:

Monday, January 11th, 2021, marked the 33rd anniversary of the death of my beloved paternal grandmother and quasi-mother for many years, Florence Marie Acerra Todaro.

This entry is not intended to be a retrospective of her life or my relationship with her. I've written about these matters on this blog on multiple occasions over it's nearly 13-year history -- including exactly 8 years ago on the 25th anniversary of her death.

My paternal grandparents, Lewis and Florence Todaro, circa 1985, Long Branch, N.J.

*******

My paternal grandmother ("Grandma Florence") died at age 79 on January 11th, 1988 -- and, coincidentally, also a Monday as January 11th was this year of 2021. (Yes, the days of 1988 and 2021 line up -- at least until Feb 28th, but then 1988 featured a leap day.)

My paternal grandparents, my (1970s wild-looking) dad, and my two-year old self, July 2, 1972, in or near Long Branch, N.J.

I only know the date because my grandma wrote it on the back of the photograph. My grandpa always had a drink in his hand. My grandma simply did not drink alcohol.

*******

My grandma was in the role of my mom for a number of years during my childhood when I lived in our house on Kirby Avenue in Long Branch, New Jersey. That was during the time -- Jan 1976 to Dec 1979 -- that my mother was living in SHAPE, Belgium with my late stepfather, Ray, who was stationed there during that period.

Ray and my mom on the occasion of their 41st anniversary at the Rusty Scupper restaurant, Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Md.,
1:16 p.m., December 28, 2015

Ray passed away on Jan 5, 2017 just about two years after this picture was taken. As for the Rusty Scupper, I like the place but it is in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, and Baltimore is in such bad shape that it just isn't safe to go there anymore.

*******

Ray was a life-long military guy whose career started in it when he signed up to go to Vietnam in 1968 immediately upon graduating high school. He did so because he was about to be drafted anyway. He met my mom in early 1974 while he was stationed at the old Fort Monmouth in New Jersey.


Ray was from the proletariat section of south Baltimore and his sort were Hoovered up and off en masse to the historical tragedy and obscene mistake of Vietnam (a mistake brought to you by an earlier incarnation of the garbage, always-wrong Washington Establishment). But by the end of his life, Ray could not have been more proud of his service in Vietnam. And if he were still around, he'd probably marvel at my political conversion in the past 9 months.

Ray's dress blues uniform in which he was buried.

*******

In Ray's case, after Vietnam, he made the Army his career -- hence the stints at Fort Monmount, New Jersey, at SHAPE, Belgium, and Fort Frickin' Hood, Texas before semi-exiting the service (staying in the Army Reserves back in Maryland) until bumped him out during the early Clinton era. Anyway, Ray's Baltimore origin and return to Maryland in late 1981 is why I ended up in Anne Arundel County as a teenager and, ultimately, here in D.C.

Ray at the Double T Diner in Pasadena, Md., 2016 (exact date?)

*******

My Baltimore boundary tour with Chester and subsequent entry in October 2012 contains a useful section about Ray's neighborhood, not to mention his family that my maternal grandmother (i.e., Ray's mother-in-law) aptly described as "the tribe":



Above and below: Chester and myself at one of the Baltimore City boundary markers -- the one on Rt 2 / Hanover Street -- back on October 6 2012.


My mom sent me back to New Jersey just two months into my stint at SHAPE in March 1976 at age 6 because I was having such a difficult adjustment time in Belgium. I'm a lifelong Anglophile, but GOD Almighty, British school children were (at least back then) mercilessly vicious bullies. To clarify, it was a multinational, polyglot, US Army-run "public" school.

164 Domaine de la Brisée (Broken Field??), Casteau Homes, Mons, Belgium, Google street view, July 2013

I believe behind that row of hedges is the actual dinky one-story structure in which Ray and my mom lived during their nearly 4 years at SHAPE, and where I lived for the first 2 months or so of that stay (Jan - March 1976) and during my Summer 1977 and Summer 1979 visits. For more details, refer to this entry.

*******

Plus, it needs to be admitted, it was a big relief for her just to have me back in New Jersey. It opened up a whole new life that she was able to have there. What the reasons and motivations, it was during those years that my paternal grandmother -- living in that house at 368 Kirby Avenue with her, my paternal grandfather, and my (single) dad -- was functionally my mother.

My mom holding me and maternal grandmother in my grandma's house on Henry Street in South Amboy, N.J., circa 1973

It still amazes me at how different I look in these early childhood pictures when I was with my dad and paternal grandparents versus my mom and maternal grandmother.

*******

It was also during those years (1976 - 1979) that I would spend the weekends at my maternal grandmother's house. My dad would drive me from Long Branch up the Garden State Parkway to South Amboy so that I could visit my maternal grandmother. That was a whole different reality -- and one I miss as much as my Long Branch life of that period.


Of note, My mother's brother, my uncle, still lives in that same house. But I have not been there since July 2002, nor have I been actually inside it since Feb 1987 at the time of her funeral. I've recently gotten in touch with my uncle and we sometimes talk by text.


South Amboy is so named because it is south of Perth Amboy. That name "Perth" derives from James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth and "Amboy" apparently ultimately derives from the Lenape word "Ompoge." Together, the two municipalities have the definite article-containing collective reference (familiar to so many New Jerseyans) of The Amboys.


Re. the above image, the bridge referenced in one of the signs connects Perth Amboy to Staten Island is called the Outerbridge Crossing because it is named for a guy whose name WAS, yes, Outerbridge, namely, Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge. It's not "bridge" because then it would have been the "Outerbridge Bridge."

The Outerbridge Crossing in all its Arthur Kill-spanning cantilevered glory

One last minor item: This entire part of New Jersey is so residually intractably polluted from 100+ years of petrochemicals, pigments, assorted toxins, leftover munitions, sundry heavy industrial pollution. And the occasional massive explosion was known to have occurred. Indeed, an event known as the South Amboy Port Explosion of May 19, 1950 occurred when my mom was only 17 months old and she narrowly escaped severe injury or even being killed.

Aerial view of the South Amboy Port Explosion, May 1950

This was before my uncle was born, and she and her mom (my grandma) were still living in Perth Amboy when the explosion happened. My mom remembers the massive shattering of glass including a mirror with the shards somehow fortuitously landing AROUND rather than on her. Had this gone slightly differently, I wouldn't be here to write this entry. However, I don't think it's a Schrödinger's Cat / Many-Worlds kind of thing.

Google satellite view of South Amboy, N.J., and adjacent areas

Just FYI, the very southwestern corner of Staten Island is also visible in this Google satellite image. It is separated from South Amboy by the Arthur Kill tidal strait. And as I wrote about in this entry from 9 years ago but recently updated about the geographical extremities of New York City, the southernmost and westernmost land points of New York City are in that image -- marked by the yellow and orange arrows, respectively. The two points are within a half mile of each other -- and would be coterminus if Staten Island came to a sharp point.

My maternal grandmother holding as a one-month-old infant and her son and my then-13 years old Uncle Rob, South Amboy, N.J., December 1969

*******

So, let's return to Long Branch for more details about the house at 368 Kirby Avenue in which I lived with my paternal grandparents and dad during those years. While I've not been inside it since late December 1980 or early January 1981 (we moved out during that holiday season), I've been by it many times in the intervening decades. And I'm deeply chagrined at what it has become.

For starters, below are a series images of the house from Sept 2008, Jan 2013, Jan 2015, and April 2019, respectively ...

368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., Sept 6, 2008

Here is the house as it appeared on Sept 6, 2008 -- looking pretty much s it did when I lived there in the 1970s until we moved in late December 1980 except for the giant Norway maple tree that once grew in the center of the front yard (where the flag pole is located). The small dogwood tree next to it was not there, but it did complement a dogwood we had on the right (west) side of the driveway. The "T" window in the front door (which we never used, instead using the side door from the garage) represented our last name, "Todaro."

Oh, and Sept 6th was the anniversary of Hurricane David in 1979 -- and I remember that day as a 9-year old, which was 29 years to-the-day earlier, as I had just arrived back on Sept 5th from a month in Belgium visiting my mom in what was a needlessly but terribly traumatic back-and-forth-and-back trip.

Yours truly on the foggy beach in Sea Bright, N.J., Sept 6, 2008

I was up in Long Branch with my dad on the occasion of my dad's 50th high school reunion at Long Branch High School. I didn't go it but I accompanied him up there. And the sky was cloudy because a weak tropical storm, Hanna, was approaching. Here are two relevant entries:




Above is a picture of me with my late, great Aunt Babe on that Sept 2008 trip. My dad and I stopped to see her. She was 95 in that picture. This is relevant to the next set of images below.

368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., January 26, 2013

Above is how the house appeared on Jan 26, 2013. This marked the brief period when the house was a disgusting, soulless beige color and had that denuded, barren looking front that looked alien to me.

On that occasion, I was up in New Jersey for my great Aunt Babe's 100th birthday, which you can read about in this entry:



Above: A picture I took at Aunt Babe's 100th birthday party during a group photo opp. Aunt Babe's birthday was held in West Long Branch, N.J., Jan 27, 2013. Pictured are the then-surviving Acerra children to include my great Aunt Babe (Frances) and (left to right) great Uncles Freddie, Eddie, and Bubby (Richard). The other lady leaning away is my great Aunt Tessie, wife of my great Uncle Paulie, who by then had already passed away.

Aunt Babe and I at her 100th birthday party, January 27, 2013.

Uncle Eddie and Aunt Tessie are both in this image as is a woman who was one of the multiple "lady friends" he had over the years. (As I don't know her at all, I'd rather not write out her name. Instead, see his obit link below.) Uncle Eddie was was married at least twice, which was unusual for people of his "Greatest Generation."

OK, I think this is a good point to detour in to a discussion about the entire Acerra sibling clan, of which my grandmother was one of 16, three of whom were girls (Aunt Kathleen, my grandmother, and Aunt Babe), and the rest boys. (Sorry, they didn't have 16 made-up genders back then.) There were actually 17 children, but one died as an infant during the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918 - 1920. Of the 16 who made it to adulthood, one -- the eldest, Tony -- died circa 1949 around age 45. I knew the remaining 15 Acerra children.


Above: The entire Acerra clan in descending order of age on the occasion of some event at Newark Airport in, I think, 1939, and involving a contest about New Jersey's largest family. I've marked my grandma, Aunt Babe, and Uncle Freddie. (Yes, I've previously posted this image, along with most of the ones in this entry, but this one has turned into an autobiographical magnum opus, of sorts.)

The Acerra Brothers baseball team with all 12 boys, circa 1950 (certainly post-World War II)

Most of the Acerra Brothers were sent off to World War II, and to a man, they all came back. They also had that all-brother baseball team (see image above) that achieved some fame for that reason (see book cover image below).


It's weird that I have so many second and third cousins removed once or twice, but NO first cousins since my father's brother for whom I was named died long ago and, obviously, had no children, and my Uncle Rob never married and has no children. What's more, I have no siblings nor even half-siblings, just a step-sister, Debbie living in some weird, impoverished life in Laredo, Texas.

As for Aunt Tessie, I need to note a few matters. For starters, when I was at the 100th birthday party for Aunt Babe, I simply didn't recognize her in her frail and clearly dementia-afflicted state. It was only latter that I realized who she was. When I knew her a a child back in the 1970s, Aunt Tessie was a portly lady, always regally overdressed in a certain New Jersey Italian great aunt way. Most importantly, she had a giant coif of dyed black hair.


Secondly, Aunt Tessie once unexpectedly saved me from getting badly beaten up in Van Court Park (pictured in the above image on Jan 26, 2013) in Long Branch by some wild animal girl -- surely, a future heroine addict who, after a failed life, is hopefully dead by now -- whose older brother sicced her on me. It's 100% guaranteed that brother ended up in prison for multiple violent felonies, and hopefully he's dead too.

It's a childhood story -- I was about 8 years old -- that I don't want to recount, but there were two parts to it: The initial (one-way) fight and then when I returned. Anyway, Aunt Tessie just happened to be there. Aunt Tessie died in August 2015.


Above and below: Screenshots of myself in an old family movie on a winter day in Van Court Park in, I estimate 1974. The incident to which I referred with Aunt Tessie was in 1978 or 1979.


Of note, the house in the background of that picture was next to the house at the corner of Van Court and Fairfield Avenues. I mention this because that corner house belonged once to the youngest of the Acerra clan, a.k.a., "the Baby" family. (He is the small boy in that airport airplane staircase image.) Here is a Sept 2019 Google street view showing both Uncle Louie's former house and the house behind it that is featured above in the 1974 screenshots.


Uncle Louie was too young to have served in World War II. But like all the Acerra boys, he ended up with the kind of job that back then provided well and even a pension -- in his case, the U.S. Post Office as a mailman. Actually, four of the brothers were mailmen at some point -- Tony (the oldest), Joey, Paulie, and Louie (the young).

I'm unsure when Uncle Louie died. His wife was Frances. Uncle Louie and Aunt Frances had one son, nicknamed "Butchie" (not sure his actual name), who was struck by a vehicle while riding his bicycle and was left brain damaged.

As for the three other brothers who attended Aunt Babe's 100th birthday in Jan 2013, the passed in the following order: Richard "Bubby" Acerra at age 85 on July 19, 2013; Freddie Acerra age 88 on December 23, 2013; and Eddie Acerra at age 87 exactly 7 years ago on January 15, 2014.

I actually tried to reach Uncle Eddie when he was in the hospital, but no luck. To be clear, he had no affection for me. To him, I was just one of a vast, disjointed array of great nephews and nieces, but I was also a brat.

He once showed up at our house on Kirby Avenue, and disappointed it wasn't my dad arriving home (he was always out late on Friday and Saturday nights), I slammed the door on him.

"He slammed the door in my face!" he declared to my grandmother / his older sister. She replied in a sweet voice, "I know ... He was only havin' some fun!"

Having said that, I should note that Uncle Eddie's second wife, Betty ("Eddie's Betty," as my grandma used to say), was very nice to me and we used to ride in her big-ass boat of a car from Long Branch to Trade Winds Beach Club in Sea Bright every day circa 1983 when my grandparents were living at Oceanpointe Towers on Pavillion Avenue (i.e., after the Kirby Avenue time) and I would visit.

Uncle Freddie and my dad on the Sept 2008 trip to New Jersey

Uncles Eddie and Freddie were both WWII vets and, judging by their pictures as young men, more handsome and fun-loving of the brothers. (Uncle Freddie's WWII pic at left.) While I didn't have much of a relationship with any of my great uncles, I was effectively the closest to Uncle Freddie in the adult period of my life. I stayed at his house for a couple nights Moford Avenue in Long Branch twice (in 2000 and 2002), and he was kind about that in his gruff, gravelly voiced way.

I stayed at his house for a couple nights Moford Avenue in Long Branch twice (summers 2000 and 2002). When he passed, I wrote about him here. However, one of his two grandsons, Michael -- my second cousin removed, I dunno, ten or twelve times -- did not appreciate what I wrote, although, I'm still not exactly sure why.

So, this brings me to Aunt Babe's passing ...


And let's feature another picture of 368 Kirby Avenue as it appeared during that visit and still in its beige period ...

368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., January 24, 2015

Above: The house as it appeared on Jan 24, 2015 -- two days less than two years later -- and still in that awful beige period. In this image, you can clearly see the three Yew bushes -- two framing the driveway and one near the house -- that were there the entire time of my life back to when I was born in November 1969. It's truly amazing how old are those three bushes -- about 60 years. (I always knew never to eat one of the seasonal bright red-hued poisonous berries on them.)

Aunt Babe in Honolulu, Hawaii, Christmas Eve, 2013

I was up in New Jersey in January 2015 on the occasion of Aunt Babe's funeral. She passed about two weeks shy of her 102nd birthday during one of her annual extended stays in Hawaii with one of her two daughters and son-in-law. Aunt Babe was a younger sister to my paternal grandmother. Aunt Babe lived significantly longer than the entire Acerra clan.

Since she died, I've lost touch with her daughter and my second cousin, Betty Ann. (Babe had two daughters.) However, it was during her 100th birthday that I made a connection with my second cousin, Tony, one of the children of my great Uncle Billy and his wife, Antoinette ("Aunt Tonie"). I've kept in touch with Tony and saw him at Babe's funeral and again when I went up to New Jersey in April 2019.


Before getting to that, though, Aunt Tonie is one of the two or three wives of the Acerra Brothers who are still with us. She lives in Long Branch and is presently 94 or 95. (Her birthday falls on the calendar day as my mom's birthday, Dec 16th.) I think Aunt Ann ("Bunny") is also still alive. She is the wife of my great Uncle Jimmy. Above is a picture of Aunt Bunny with my grandpa at Trade Winds Beach Club in August 1976.


Above: Cousin Tony found and scanned a picture of his parents -- my great Uncle Billy and great Aunt Tonie -- and my great Uncle Jimmy visiting my frail and elderly grandfather not long before he died. Grandpa died in July 1993, and so the picture was anytime between 1991 to spring 1993). The four of them were visiting my grandpa in a ghastly nursing home called The Manor in Freehold, N.J. (I don't mean The Manor is itself ghastly. I just mean ALL nursing homes are ghastly -- and I'm saying that not just because The Manor still exists.)

Anyway, this brings us to the final and most recent picture of 368 Kirby Avenue...

368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., April 27, 2019

This is the house looks like following a major construction / renovation project that added an entire second floor and -- based on this Zillow webpage indicating it is a NINE BEDROOM -- SEVEN frickin' more bedrooms than the two I recall it having.

Honestly, the house in its current form is almost offensive to me, although it does look better than the house during its sorrowful beige period. I discovered that this is what it looked like in that April 2019 trip to Long Branch and Asbury Park, which I wrote about here:



Above and below: Google street view of Kirby Avenues looking east and west, respectively, from just beyond the driveway of 368 Kirby Avenue, August 2018. (Regarding the west-looking view, I think it's ridiculous that people get to have their homes "smeared out" in Google street images, as if the view of the outside world itself from a public street can simply be deemed off limits.)


The current Google street view from August 2018 shows the house was already in its present renovated, enlarged state -- which means the construction had to have happened between Jan 2015 and August 2018. Below are three screen captures of the August 2018 Google street view showing 368 Kirby Avenue -- by which point it had already been massively renovated / reconstructed into its present form.


Another factoid I note with sadness is that the other Norway maple tree -- which grew on the east side of the front yard -- is gone. That tree had been planted by my grandmother with her younger son and my late uncle for whom I am named. It was had to have been planted between when they had the house built (circa 1958) and when he died at age 19 (March 1963).

That tree was not the same as the ginormous Norway maple that once grew in the middle of the yard -- right about where the flag pole is located. (Weirdly, I discovered the demise of that tree in Jan 1988 right after my paternal grandmother's funeral -- and, oddly enough, I was in the car with both my parents, which, as you should be able to tell from this entry, is a rare event to happen.

What is there is what had been a small, ornamental Japanese maple tree but which has morphed into a more feral and gnarled looking tree, certainly less of that dark burgundy color it used to have, and with much larger branches. But it's the same tree.


Other than the three yew bushes -- the two framing the driveway (let's call them left-to-right "NE" and "NW") and the one near the house -- plus that fourth just in the next yard) one next, the only physical object that is the same is the little light / lamp post with the numbers "368" on it next to the Yyw bush by the house. Oh, and I think the large tree in the back yard (east side) is the same one -- a cherry tree, I believe.

Myself as a 4-year old little boy running around in the water of a sprinkler in the backyard of our house at 368 Kirby Avenue,
Long Branch, N.J., Aug 1974

Four points: (1) It was a hot and dry August, judging by the lawn. (2) I vaguely remember this picture being taken, and it was a hot summer day. (3) I remember that old sprinkler. It was metal and I was startled when plastic sprinklers first came out because I thought they had to be made of metal. (4) You can see the big front yard Norway maple that once grew peering over the top of the house.

*******

As I write this, I am suddenly uncertain if the two shrubs framing the driveway entrance are yew. I know for certain the one near the house is a yew, as I recall its berries. In terms of the age of these three bushes, my dad reminded me that the house was built in 1958, and they were probably planted at that time.

Oh, and speaking of that "368" number -- it basically is counting up from the shoreline itself, but not on a block-by-block basis but counting 1-99, 100-199, 200-299, and 300-399 with Kirby Avenue spanning, I think, 360 to 397. I guess "0" would be the Atlantic Ocean itself ...


The dogwood on the west (right) side of the yard -- when a fence used to be -- is gone while that large shrub on the right (west) by what had been the garage was not there. I don't know what is. Instead, we had a hydrangea bush on the west and east side of the house. Here is a picture of me next to that bush in July 1974:


I ever-so-vaguely remember this picture being taken. You'll note I didn't even smile properly then. My grandmother had combed my hair as you see. And I remember that outfit -- I didn't like it, as I recall. I remember also it was a hot day. Simply put, it was another place and time, another reality.

Below are two screenshot images of some home movie that my grandfather took circa 1975 -- so about a year after the above image. (My grandfather was big on home movies all the way back to the 1930s. I have a set of CDs that my friend, Aaron, made about 20 years ago out of the old tapes, which in some of those older cases were made from the original reels.


Above: Yes, that is THE SAME (yew) bush growing on what is the northwest corner of our front yard. You can't see the other Yew bush next to it that's in the above Google image, but I THINK this is it below.

Below: You'll note that this other bush had a boxy shape, which I do recall. Now it is possible this is another bush since the present-day one does seem closer to it. But I would bet my life that ours (the in the NW corner of our front yard) is the same one even though in the intervening 45+ years, it never really grew at all. The three bushes in our yard have been there every time I've gone past that house over the intervening decades.


The above picture -- taken in the Summer of 1975, although possibly Summer of 1976 -- is one of those images that sort of haunts me. I well recall that bicycle I had -- for years. It was an ugly yellow one. No body ever stole it because it wasn't at all desirable. But it got me around. Oh, and you can also see the fence I was talking about -- a wire mesh fence with a wooden frame painted a sort of turquoise blue.

Screenshot of an old home movie showing my dad and me with a new train set, Middlebrook Apartments, Ocean Twp, N.J.,
circa 1973 (around Christmas?)

Although it's hard to see in this screenshot of a grainy home movie, the little giraffe-headed coat-holder behind me has upon it the very same red-and-black coat you see me wearing in the Van Court park images farther above in this entry.

As for the giraffe coathead, when I asked her, my mother said she had no idea what happened to it. And speaking of my mom, here is a picture of her at the boardwalk in Asbury Park, N.J., circa 1970 when I was just an infant and she was barely into her 20s...


About the house at 368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J., in its present, enlarged state, it puts into metaphysical perspective for me, I guess, all those recurring dreams of mine about being there and flying up through endless floors that were sometimes in the house and sometimes outside in a large Norway maple tree that once grew in the center of the front yard.

Screenshot of an old, color home movie showing my grandma holding my then-infant father, Summer 1941

And on that note, I think I'm just going to end this entry. As for the remainder -- a bitch session about the dystopian shittiness of my present-day D.C. life, well, I'll just hold off on that for now. Nor am I going to try to post that a "prelude" entry to this one, as I indicated I might in my previous entry.

Screenshot image of an old home movie showing my grandma and her sister, my Aunt Babe, on a car trip to Florida, circa 1950

OK, my next planned entry won't be until Tuesday or Wednesday night, as I want to keep this the lead one for several days. It will probably be the entry featuring the pair of Disculogic Post-Eternity metaphysical / cosmological videos, which seems appropriate given this entry and the current awful vortex of this time.

--Regulus

No comments: