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The Quarry in Louisville

When I was a boy, my friend Niles and I spent a lot of time on Saturdays exploring the new houses under construction in our neighborhood. The workmen took Saturdays off, so we had the houses to ourselves.

We’d search for the metal slugs that punched out of the electrical boxes, hoping to pass them off as nickels in Coke machines. We’d feed discarded lunches to Muffin until she threw up. We’d pee on the blueprints. We’d climb around the giant mounds of dirt from the basement excavations, and throw clods at each other.

Once we climbed a long ladder to the half-shingled roof of a new house. I went second at the top, I somehow managed to kick backwards against the ladder. It teetered and toppled to the ground. Niles and I were stranded and the sun was going down.

A neighborhood kid we called Danny Dogbutt chanced past.

“Push up the ladder, Dogbutt,” called Niles. “We’re stuck.”

Danny offered no response whatsoever. He stared at us as if he were deaf, the sun glinting off his thick glasses.

A little later my father appeared, walking down the road in his shirtsleeves. Dogbutt ha squealed to him. But Pop thought our predicament was amusing. He pushed up the ladder, gently admonished us not to climb on roofs again, and led me home.

We were glad it wasn’t Niles’s father whom Danny had fetched. He was a little stricter than my dad.


[My friend Jon Pearce.]

Once Niles’s father got quite worked up when he found Niles looking at picture of naked women in his attic. He burned the pictures in the furnace, even though it was summertime. I’d loved one of those pictures in particular, of a long-haired naked woman holding a violin.

Niles and I had found the pictures at a quarry that was a couple of miles from our house. This was a fascinating place, with sheer limestone walls over a hundred feet tall. It wasn’t much in use, so we could poke around there as much as we liked, particularly on weekends. There was a good path to the quarry along a stream that ran through the Keiths’ pasture.

When we were at the quarry, Niles loved to sit on the bulldozers and cranes and pretend he was driving them. He’d slam around the gearshift levers and make motor noises with his mouth.

The dirty magazines on the site had been left there by the workers, it may have been that they were tearing out pages for toilet paper. Niles and I salvaged a few dozen good photos. I was scared to bring any of the pictures home, as my Mom knew every square inch of our house at all times. But Niles, whose mother was equally observant, had taken the reckless chance of keeping the precious documents in his attic.

One day, coming back from the quarry, Niles and I made our way up one of the cliffs and found a new way home. We passed through an amazing, spooky zone that we never managed to revisit again—as it was so difficult to get there.

In this curious region, the limestone had been irregularly eroded so that we were walking as if in a labyrinth, the smoothly worn walls reaching up to our chests or even over our heads, the passageways branching and merging.

“This is so cool,” I told Niles. “It’s like science fiction.”

7 Responses to “The Quarry in Louisville”

  1. rs Says:

    Growing up in Orange County, CA I had many experiences wandering through construction sites. That was on of the many cool things that kids don’t get to do any more.

    You seem to have a lot of friends with cool hats.

    Sometime recently I had a thought about your current writing assignment, that it would be most interesting if it were presented in a very non-linear fashion. It may have been done before, I don’t read many biographies, but it seems to me that rememberance is a very non-linear activity.

  2. Rudy Says:

    RS, r.e. nonlinearity in a memoir…well, my memories already ARE highly nonlinear…networked in all kinds of gnarly ways. The hard part is writing it up so its NOT nonlinear, that is, so that its a row of words in a text file.

    My feeling is that its usually more of a pain than not to read experimental writing, that is, writing structured in a nonstandard way. This said, you can add nonlinear subtle links by reusing words or harking back to things you mentioned before.

    Years ago I read a kind of memoir called WRINKLES by Charles Simmons, in which each chapter is his whole life’s worth of experiences with one particlar topic. Like there’d be a chapter each on cars or on vaginas or on dogs or on sandwiches. Simmons is perhaps better known for his first book POWDERED EGGS, which is also something of a memoir, but in a more traditional transreal form.

    I never forgotten the WRINKLES approach and considered using it for my own memoir, but the memory swamp is such a frikkin’ jungle, it seems easier for the writer and for the readers to bulldoze through an access road of a linear temporal narrative. Just get it over with, is what I’m thinking, write it straight through as fast as I can.

    But with, yes, plenty of inner links forward and back.

  3. Justin Says:

    Hi Rudy,

    This recent post by autobiographical comics master Eddie Campbell might be of interest to you: http://eddiecampbell.blogspot.com/2008/10/j-ohn-cale-was-founding-member-of-band.html

    Apparently John Cale and Dave McKean teamed up to do a visually heavy autobiography of Cale at some point, and it looks pretty cool… like something I might even read! Given your interest in the visual arts, and your current memoir project (assuming you haven’t heard of the Cale/McKean book before), maybe you’ll find it inspirational.

  4. HAL-1701 Says:

    this museum is in kentucky, virtually:

    there’s even a new exhibit on gnomes.

    http://www.unicornmuseum.org/

  5. Steve H Says:

    What a future. Robots leave comments and we aren’t even excited.

  6. Steve H Says:

    I grew up in a really rural area, so I walked alone through miles of forest, explored junkyards of rusting tractors and combines, caught frogs and snakes and tadpoles, climbed trees and had lots of fun. But South Georgia is flat and sandy and there aren’t any good quarries until you go north past the Gnat Line around Macon(that’s where gnats stop getting up your nose). The ones in the South are just big sinkholes.

  7. Rudy Says:

    It is odd, Steve, that we take attacks from semi-sentient spambots as a matter of course. I’ve also noticed that if one particular post picks up spam comments, then more of the spambots come there to post. When possible I disable comments on that post. The immune defense system…


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