Monday, September 19, 2011

Chinaberry Sidewalks

I'm not the biggest country music fan, but I do listen to some now and again. I happened across Rodney Crowell's book, Chinaberry Sidewalks, yesterday at Powell's, and picked it up. 

Crowell, a singer/songwriter, has had a slew of hits, and was once married to Rosanne Cash.

Man is a good writer. This book is a memoir of his growing up poor in Houston, Texas, in the 1950s and 1960s. He had a contentious relationship with his parents, who had an equally-contentious relationship with each other, and while they were a cut above trailer-trash, it wasn't a deep, nor wide cut.

Some of what he talked about I remember from my own Louisiana upbringing: Riding my bike behind the DDT fogger trucks, sent to keep the skeeters down; the hurricane parties; and one I hadn't thought about in a while, the attic fan.

For those of you who have never experienced an attic fan, a brief discourse:

The one we had was in the hall ceiling, just outside the bathroom. It ran wall-to-wall wide, and that long, and how it worked was, on a hot summer's night, you flipped it on. Slats covering the blades opened, and it sucked all the air in the house out and exhausted it through attic vents. It was loud enough to drown out the TV, and we didn't run it until we went to bed.

This created a breeze through the open, but screened windows. A hole in a fine-meshed and rusty steel screen would allow the mosquitoes to get sucked in with the humid air, so you had to keep it patched. And you had to clean the screen off frequently, because they'd get covered with dead bugs of all sorts. 

Unfortunately, when the humidity is approaching 100%, using an attic fan causes you wake up in the morning about as damp as if you had gotten caught in a thunderstorm running from the car to the house ...

I remember when we got a window AC unit for the living room, and how magic it was to feel cool air in August in our house ...

Um. Anyway, Crowell's book is a fascinating look at that time and place, and well-worth the read. 

1 comment:

Shelley said...

When's the movie coming out?? Crowell is a great story teller, descriptive and imaginative writer with a wit to match. You don't know whether to laugh or cry--sometimes both. Chinaberry Sidewalks colors in the lines of Houston Kid and other life stories along the way. I can see it on the big screen now...