Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This Old Heart of Mine

Tears streamed down his cheeks wending their way through a quarter inch scrub of salt and pepper stubble. Unlike the flood tears of a fifteen year old girl, who finds out her crush boy likes another, they're more salty, more clouded and thicker. Old lacrimal glands, yeah they still work, but not so well. The drips fall from the lower angle of his chin onto his faded green tee shirt, a shirt advertising a now defunct Pontiac dealership. Both Pontiac Motor Car and the dealer, Cathcart Motors, are dead. The green shirt evidences a few dark blotches where the eye dew has landed. It is a pitiful site. Big boys don't cry. Right.

Emotions are a funny things. They exist somewhere in the netherworld, sometimes evident and mostly not. Indeed people are taught early on to control emotions, not to show them, not to express them. To be emotional is a sign of weakness, of vulnerability. So it is. Be cool. Chill. Yeah, just look at President Obama, that's cool. Well, at least until this morning when he used the words, "whose ass to kick", while he was talking about the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. He seemingly lost control. Reynolds thinks the Obama gaffe was contrived. The "ass kick" was a response to critics Maureen Dowd and Spike Lee. They, among others, think Obama's been too detached in his handling of the oil fiasco, so it appears he's getting angry. Frank Reynolds knows Obama too well. No way he lost contol of anything. Whack.

Frank Reynolds' life is coming to a close. Maybe not tomorrow, but he is well on the downside of the mountain of his time allotment. Good days are ones when nothing bad happens. His funeral to wedding ratio is at least ten to one. Thirty years ago that ratio was reversed. Thirty years ago he was building a life, now he is slowly dismantling. He has aches, arthritis, pyorrhea and a prostate gland the size of a softball. He has ear hair. He longs to have some pimples, some acne. Funny thing, he would love to go and buy Clearasil right now. Too bad.

As with most people, Frank is pretty much out of good options. Too tired and too unenthusiastic to take on anything new, he lives in the ennui only a state pension can provide. He put in thirty years and seventeen days at the maximum security, New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. He worked as a guard in the general population. He saw some weird stuff and some bad actors, but he also met lots of decent men. Frank always says that your average criminal is just an average joe with a twist. Yeah, just like a lemon.

Frank Reynolds married once, although he didn't marry the love of his life. His deceased wife, Audrey, was what you might call a good, clean woman. Good and clean were the best things you could say about her. Audrey, who liked to be called Betty, did her best, but she was no crackerjack. Frank and Betty never argued, not once during their twenty-nine year sentence. While most people would think that a record like that would be laudable, it bespoke the lack of passion that Frank and Betty dis-enjoyed. A marriage without passion is like a sundae without whipped cream, without a maraschino. No kids came of their union. Frank blamed Betty and Betty blamed Frank. Interestingly, neither ever spoke about it. Yeah, twenty-nine years of vanilla ice cream with alternating seasons of snow shoveling, planting geraniums, mowing the weeds and raking the leaves. Ho-hum. Betty died one year ago. A stroke took her. Fast. She lived only three days after it hit.

As was his custom, Frank Reynolds began this day brewing coffee in his 5 cup Mr. Coffee maker.

He has had a Mr. Coffee coffee maker since 1973. That's the year when Joe DiMaggio began his endorsement of this product. #5, for his part, drank only Sanka. Joe avoided caffeine. He had to be careful because he suffered from peptic ulcers. Back then nobody knew ulcers were caused by the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori. Geez, if Joe were alive today he could be cured of ulcers with antibiotics. Frank drinks all five cups of high octane coffee, every morning. He reads the tabloid Trentonian. He loves this paper. General News on the front page and on the back page, Sports. And the Page Six girl. Perfect.

The Trentonian on this Tuesday morning is the cause of Frank's waterworks. To begin with, the Page Six girl so resembled Kathy Mullen that when Frank looked at the photograph he dropped his coffee cup into his lap. Luckily it was warm and not hot. Brittany Smithson, the girl in the picture, is described as being twenty-two and fun loving. She adores the beach and she works for the Pellitieri law firm. She likes biking, hiking and skiing...

None of that mattered, it was the way she looked. Brittany was a dead ringer for Kathy. Frank and Kathy were two peas in a pod back in the day. When Frank was twenty-two, he met Kathy and it was love at first sight. They dated for three years. Kathy had beautiful dark, brunette hair and eyes that made you see God. Frank wanted to marry, but Kathy, who was three years younger than Frank, wanted to see the world before settling down. As Frank looked at the picture, he could again feel his queasy stomach the day he dropped Kathy at Newark airport. She had taken a job in San Francisco. Although she promised to keep Frank in her heart, she broke that promise within two days of leaving. Frank should have known better, after all, it was California. Frank has never gotten over Kathy. As for Kathy, well...?

Page twenty-four, below the fold, "Marvin Isley Dies".

"Marvin Isley, a bassist who provided the foundation for his family’s hit-making R&B band, the Isley Brothers, died on Sunday at a hospice near his home in Chicago. He was 56."

The Isley brothers hailed from Cincinnati, Ohio. There were six bothers, Marvin was the youngest. Frank loved the Isley Brothers, but only their early stuff, from the sixties. In particular, he liked them because of the song, This Old Heart of Mine (is Weak for You). This song was a hit for them in 1966, when they recorded it for Motown on the Tamla label.

It was written by the legendary Motown trio of Edward Holland Jr., Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland. They were splendid writers, geniuses really. The wrote twenty-five #1 singles and scores and scores of other hits. Frank had other H-D-H favorites including, I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) by the Four Tops, Baby Love by The Supremes, Nowhere to Run by Martha and the Vandellas, and You're a Wonderful One by Marvin Gaye.

Marvin Isley was not part of the group in the early years. His obituary, however, triggered the whole Isley memory. The three older bothers; O'Kelley Jr., Ronald and Reginald sang This Old Heart of Mine. Frank listened to this tune at least a thousand times in the years following Kathy's move to California. Betty sometimes would watch him smoke a cigarette and listen to the song late at night in the dark living room. The Isleys sang...

Ooh, this old heart of mine been broke a thousand times
Each time you break away I think you're gone to stay
Lonely nights that come, memories that flow
Bringing you back again, hurting me more and more

Maybe it's my mistake to show this love I feel inside
'Cause each day that passes by,
You've got me never knowin' if I'm comin' or goin' but I

I love you-ou-ou, yes I do
This old heart (ooh) darlin' is weak for you
I love you-ou-ou, yes I do

These old arms of mine miss having you around
Make these tears inside start falling down
Always with half a kiss, you remind me of what I miss
Though I try to control myself
Like a fool I start grinnin' 'cause my head starts spinnin' 'cause I

I love you-ou-ou, yes I do
This old heart (ooh) darlin' is weak for you
I love you-ou-ou, yes I do

I try hard to hide my hurt inside
This old heart of mine always keeps me cryin'
The way you're treatin' me leaves me incomplete
You're here for the day, gone for the week

But if you leave me a hundred times
A hundred times I'll take you back
I'm yours whenever you want me
I'm not too proud to shout it, tell the world about it 'cause I

I love you-ou-ou
This old heart (this old heart) is weak for you
I love you-ou-ou
This old heart (this old heart) is weak for you
I love you-ou-ou
This old heart (this old heart) is weak for you

A perfect emotional storm took Frank Reynolds. A picture of a girl who looked like a another girl and an obituary of a brother of a trio of singers did it. The emotions of unrequited love erupted out of a sixty-five year old man. It took a long time. Once the tears dry, Frank will sit gulping the fifth cup of Joe's joe. The realization of it all will become clear. He has lived an empty life, he has held on to an empty dream, he is an empty man. He has two choices. Play out the emptiness or make something out of what he has left. He gets up to rummage through his old records. He finds his old 45 and he carefully places it on an antique, but venerable player. Ronald Isley sings...Ooh, this old heart of mine been broke a thousand times...

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