Razor Sharp Memories

What a gift to grow up next to next door neighbors like the Reeds, who had 5 children who pretty much matched up with our family.   There was so much traffic between the two households that Mrs. Reed put stones along the path through the bushes so that we wouldn’t track mud everywhere.  Johnny Reed was the youngest and matched up with my two younger brothers Tony and Tim.  He was such a part of the family that we marked his height every year inside the playroom door along with everyone else’s.  The Reeds always had plenty of ice cream in their freezer, because Mr. Reed had something to do with Kraft foods.  He would frequently get gift baskets from them at holiday time, but they often seemed to be bizarre test flavors.  Our freezer was stocked with a much more predictable supply of ice cream and popsicles, and occasionally Johnny would come over, say hi, open the freezer, get what he wanted, wave good bye and go home.

Peter and my brother Andy started an egg business together with the help of my mother.  She moved the small unused red chicken coop that was in the Reed’s back yard to our backyard and stocked it with novelty hens that only laid brown eggs.  I remember answering the phone once and it was the harried postmaster who reported, “Your chickens have arrived.  Could you please come and pick them up?”  In the background I could hear a chorus of agitated peeping.  The chicks would live in our basement for a little while in a circular pen so that a single chick could not get squished into a corner by the flock’s natural herding instincts. 

Several weeks later, the chickens were ready for the outside world.  Brown Reed Fine Poultry was born, with Peter and Andy delivering fresh eggs to the neighbors.  One day I was sitting eating breakfast at the kitchen table and looked out into the front yard and saw an escaped chicken walk by that basically had no butt – something had clearly chomped it from behind and only one lone feather was left sticking up.  When I went to the back yard to investigate this odd occurrence, I was aghast to see that some animal had absolutely laid waste to the chicken yard.  There were feathers and corpses everywhere.  I then spotted the dog belonging to the other neighbors lurking across the lawn.  While the dog feigned pure innocence, his guilt was clearly signaled by the two feathers stuck to his face.  My mother was so enraged about this incident that she loaded all the dead and bloody chickens onto a wheelbarrow and dumped them on the Carton’s doorstep.  When Mrs. Carton called, sputtering for an explanation, my mother calmly told her that she thought that the Cartons might want to eat them, since they were such fine birds who had met a very untimely death.  For the next several weeks, whenever Keith Reed was in our house, he would answer the phone, “Brown Reed Dead Poultry.”  One time it was Mrs. Carton calling again.”

Helen Reed and I were in the same grade in school, and learned how to do everything together, skating, playing baseball, tennis and going to dancing school.  Keith and my older brother Ralph were somewhat the same age, and had several years of close friendship involving pyrotechnics of one sort or another.  Together with another neighbor John McCutcheon, who actually seemed to be the brains of the operation, they made all sorts of bombs that they used to blow up all the model airplanes and ships that my brother had made in a previous more constructive phase of his life.  This was right smack in the middle of the Sputnik challenge, so perhaps it was not surprising shooting off rockets in the back yard was another activity.  I remember warm summer nights when Keith and Ralph would put on a show, with all the parents gathering in the back yard holding their cocktails.  The rockets went off with a bang, soaring straight upward perhaps an impressive hundred yards.  As they plummeted down, we would all go scampering into the field to retrieve the space capsules. 

I was in awe of Ginevra Reed who was probably 5 years older and was on an accelerated pace through her teenage years.  I don’t think that I had every spoken to her directly, but one day found myself along with Helen and Peter in the Reed’s living room with Ginevra and her boyfriend Bucky.  I sat there timidly, realizing that this perhaps was the first glimpse I would get of what being a teenager was all about.  I think that we were all sipping ice tea or cokes and there was an awkward silence as Ginevra looked around and saw us kids staring at her.  Playing to her audience, she said, “Bucky, why don’t you show these kids how you can eat a razor blade.  I’ll go get one from Dad’s bathroom.”  She hopped up, and was back in less than a minute with a flat razor blade.  With an inexplicable confidence, Bucky took the razor blade and popped it into his mouth.  All of us stared in utter horror and disbelief. 

I could see Bucky’s tongue rolling around in this mouth and then heard a metallic snap.  He swallowed, gave a satisfied smack of his lips as if he had just eaten a yummy piece of roast beef.  As he opened his mouth wide open I spotted a small spot of blood on his tongue, but no sign of the razor blade.  This was at a time when I had made a few initial attempts at using a razor to shave my legs.  Even with focused concentration I routinely ended up with nicks and occasionally more drastic results.  I felt that I was in front of true greatness.  Here was a guy whose slippery but agile tongue could outperform my best efforts of hand/eye coordination.  Ginevra then said, “Bucky can eat light bulbs too,” but to our disappointment Ginevra could not find the right sized bulb. 

I was so awestruck that it just didn’t occur to me that there must be a trick involved.  I chose not to contemplate the grisly consequences of razor-sharp shards coursing through the stomach and intestines.  I was like a child distracted by all the gifts that Santa had brought, who did not consider the obvious fact that there was no way a man could pop up and down a chimney.  Somehow, I mentally distilled the episode down to two questions.  Was this what it was going to be like to be a teenager?  Would I ever have a boyfriend cool enough to eat a razor blade?

This memory resurfaced this weekend as I attended the funeral service of Mr. Reed.  I began to think that this could not have been true, how could anybody even pretend to eat a razor blade?  I had not seen Bucky again in the ensuing 45 years, but decided to call him to find out what really happened.  A little research produced the phone number, and there we were on the phone, reliving the experience.  “Oh yes,” Bucky said, “those were wild years, and I did indeed eat razor blades and the occasional light bulb, but I have been sworn to secrecy on how I did it.  But I will say that I never got hurt.”I knew enough not to press a magician on his tricks, but I did ask who taught him.  Oh, remember that famous drug dealer, Pablo Escobar.  Well I was friends with some of his children and I went to a party where this was the entertainment. I learned how to eat razor blades at this party.””

So far, Bucky has not demo’ed this unique skill for his teenage kids, though he made it sound like riding a bicycle, where it would be simple to pick up where he left off.  I suggested that since we were approaching the 50th anniversary, we should have a reunion to relive the event which had such an impact on my childhood.  But this time we would be just a bunch of paunchy oldsters who would be appalled if their children ever attempted to do such a totally stupid thing.

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, post and stop) and the number of asterisks indicate the number of letters.  One of the missing words will rhyme with either the previous or following lines.  Your job is to solve for the missing words based on the above rule and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers.

Childhood, adolescence and adulthood are three of life’s great *****.

And every one faces these transitions with anxieties and fears.

No parent ***** of worrying about how their children will grow,

And they try and prepare them with everything they’ll need to know.

But each child ***** experimenting and may not be a stranger

To drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and other kinds of danger.

But my ***** of passage were smooth because I listened to an inner voice

Who told me that eating a razor blade was an extremely poor life choice.







Tiers, tires, tries, rites

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