Nonny’s House

When you’re ten years old you go where you’re told. You report for duty to places not of your choosing. Sure, you can have a little positive input, “C’mon Dad can we can we can we?!” But the rule of thumb is to keep negative feedback to yourself; at least it was like that for me.

There may not have been a lot of choice, but that was usually OK, you didn’t have to plan, or buy gas, or take time off from work or rearrange things in your schedule. Just grab a few things (some fortunate days it was my Big Wheel) and get in the car with the big people and go.   Time moves so slowly for a kid who has no decision-making worries that he just deals with it and truly lives in the moment.

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The Speedway News

Some of my clearest memories are of waiting on the front porch of my house at 126 S. 43rd West Avenue in Tulsa. It was 1978 and I was 10 years old going on 11.  I was a reflective (some might say brooding) kid given to flights of fantasy and whimsy.

I sat there, while other kids rode their bikes back and forth, and waited for the mailman.  I’d come to expect our mailman on Saturdays around a certain time, I waited for him avidly every fourth Saturday.  If that delivery time was close I couldn’t be tempted by either the Toss Across or the Slip –N- Slide.  Not even by an offer to pitch our throwing knives into the tree in the front yard.

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Jingles and Ditties

Last month my six year old niece turned to me, out of the blue, smiled and said,

“Na-tion-wide is on your side!”

She sang it, actually, with the perfect little melody that they use in the commercial.  Since then (actually since I was about 10 years old), I’ve had commercial jingles and TV show theme songs running through my head.  Some things I remember perfectly, in totality; some things are only snippets, half remembered like in a dream.

Like my niece, Grace, I was once very young and could play back ad jingles, but also like her, I exhibited no desire to buy insurance, or a used car, or bottled water.


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The Trails

The trails ran out behind West 1st Street in West Tulsa, Oklahoma.  To get to them on foot or bike you had to wiggle in between the fence separating the Parrish and Ogle houses.  Invariably the Parrish’s dog would bark up a storm, day or night, when threading through, which made the trip (short though it was) more of an adventure than it had to be.  The Trails, as neighborhood kids referred to them, consisted of a southwest to northeast gash in the earth running alongside the barely used, by the summer of 1978, Kansas-Texas railroad tracks.  Running through and down and back up again were well-worn bike and motorcycles paths, under a thoroughly concealing canopy of trees.

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Some people are born and grow up in one place, sometimes even one house.  Then there are others who move a couple of times, maybe even to different cities.  Then there’s my family.  We moved around like neurotic nomads from place to place within cities; and then from coast to coast, ricocheting back and forth in ever widening caroms.

Probably the only thing that kept us in the same country is that we never had passports or much money.

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The Cold War

Mary had been with me everywhere.  The ups, the downs, the countless moves to different cities and states.  I couldn’t shake her.  My sibling barnacle knew all my moves and how to push all my buttons.  She was my rival, always nearby, a sentient shadow.  And one day when we were coming back from Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors I just, well, snapped.  A moment later when I realized where I was, all I saw was my little sister (not even one whole year younger than me – clinging stubbornly close even in age) lying there on Gower Street with a scoop of vanilla rolling slowly to the gutter.  It lost its glint as it picked up debris and quickly started to melt.

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A Hard-Chargin’ Hero

My first introduction to the world of heroes and villains (and their differences) happened when I was about ten years old.  Before the era of California and all those movies.  Well…. there was one movie that helped me kind of crystallize everything.  It was a movie I didn’t even like very much until I thought about how the characters were kind of like the people I had been watching every Saturday night in the Spring and Summer, when the weather was warm and muggy.

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Five for Fright

The Amityville Horror movie image

Anybody who makes a list like this has to ask themselves one question (no, not ‘Do you feel lucky punk?’).  The question is this:

“What really scares me?”

The opportunity to analyze this question, given to me by hundreds of terror-filled sleepless nights, has yielded this insight:

(Along with realizing an apparent insomnia) I fear the things that go on in a room that I can’t see.  In other words, I don’t really care if something’s happening in my room; I never feared the boogie man or needed to look under the bed.  Really, I didn’t. But what’s going on in my sister’s room?  My parent’s room?  What was that weird sound from down the hall I just heard?

Is it coming to get me when it’s “finished with them?”

This fear is my criterion, and by its very definition, it eliminates any SciFi movie, like, for example, the otherwise outstanding “Aliens.”  Because it has to be able to happen to YOU, alone and in an unfamiliar house, just out of sight, out of reach.  This, of course, eliminates spaceships and such.

So here we go, five movies in no particular order that you may have already seen on various lists.  But to me, they all have to have the same theme:  they have to be movies that because of unseen activity stoke the fires of your worst imaginings and leave you cringing.

For the top five list and the remainder of this post please go to my sister’s site at: