Thurman P. Woodfork


A covey of USAF Radar Operators “Scope-Dopes” on Mt. Pani, Spain
A covey of USAF Radar Operators “Scope-Dopes”
on Mt. Pani, Spain: Photo © by TP Woodfork
Somehow, I’m standing in the midst of misty memories, some happy, some risqué and ribald, others a little sad. Laughing voices calling me back to streets I had danced along eons ago, light-footed with youth, full of passion and ambition, searching for something, maybe truth?

New York’s Finger Lakes, Barcelona, Mississippi, Michigan, Montana, Vietnam, and Spain wax and wane. Shorty and Rat, Didi and ‘Death Valley’, Climon and Leo, marching merrily along through Basic or raising hell on the Ramblas, faces unchanged by time… jaw lines and cheeks still faintly molded in the gentle curves of the last vestiges of lingering adolescence.

Mr. D (Devaughan), Berv, Wes, Beavers, and Cask 59, a cheap wine that congeals to a varnish-like hardness when neglected spills are left to dry. What does it do to our stomachs?

Berv’s ‘52 Packard’s engine whispering quietly like “the sound of money” as the car glides over Detroit’s bumpy, neglected streets on the way to the Twenty Grand or “The Projects” in search of whiskey, women and song.

My gleaming black ‘57 Fairlane 500, its glass-packs making muted thunder on that same journey: “I’ll drink to the girls who do, I’ll drink to the girls who don’t, but not the girls who say they will and later decide they won’t. But I’ll drink from the break of day to the wee hours of the night, to the girl who says I never have, but just for you, I might.”

Singing and dancing in Mamma Bea’s Bar in tiny New Haven. Mamma Bea presiding from behind the bar, singing in her gravel voice, echoing the show girl she had been years before.

Making sweet love to Betty in the back seat of the Ford on the little hill overlooking New Haven. Weeping like a little kid because I have orders to leave Michigan for Spain. Looking in the rear view mirror at Betty pleading, ‘come back’ as I drive away headed for home, then Spain.

Ten years later, I do come back, driving a ‘69 GTO now, having stopped off in Vietnam, among other places, on my long journey back from Spain. Shouldn’t have come; neither New Haven nor I are the same. We’ve both grown up. New Haven is no longer a sleepy little town, and that soft hint of lingering youthful naiveté has vanished from my cheeks without a trace, forever erased by experience.

Mamma Bea is entertaining the angels with her gravel voice and Betty is long gone. It occurs to me that I don’t remember her last name. I drive away to Minnesota with a sigh. I don’t look back, this time.

The mist clears, the memories fade away, and I see my fingers hunting and pecking over the computer keyboard. It’s midnight, the football game between the Giants and the Browns is over, and I don’t know who won.

But that’s okay… I preferred the memories, anyway.