Starting a newspaper can be an exciting enterprise. It’s even possible for the whole process to go to your head. Fortunately for me, since I spent my youth here, I get lots of chances to maintain my humility.
A couple of years ago, my mother was hosting a Fourth of July barbecue for some old family acquaintances. She asked me to stop by, say hello to her friends and maybe help out in the kitchen. When I walked out on her deck, a number of folks asked about the paper. Some were going on and on about how they love the stories about restaurants or who their favorite columnist was, etc. I, of course, was taking it all in, enjoying all of the praise and being of very little help in the kitchen.
Then one nice old gent I did not recognize chimed in. “I remember you from when you were a little boy,” he began. “We lived next to each other in the Palais Apartments.”
The Palais Apartments used to be perched on the hill on Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta between WSB-TV and The Temple, overlooking the intersection of Spring Street. With the current craze in moving back to Midtown, these old Tudor architecture, two-story residences would be a gem – had they survived. Alas, they were torn down more than 10 years ago and the vacant hill was just recently graced with yet another glass office building.
The former neighbor was continuing his story, with others beginning to listen in.
“I’ll never forget the time I was reading the paper one Sunday afternoon, sitting in our living room next to an open window. Right below the window were some bushes and, apparently, you and a little girl were hiding in there. You were about three years old and I think she was four or five. Anyway, she was telling you to pull down your pants and then she would pull down hers. You were not going along with her.”
As he’s telling this story, I’m wondering where in the world this was going. I had no recollection of this early visit to “the doctor’s office” and here I was quickly becoming the focus of this late afternoon picnic. I was also wondering, why was he sitting there listening to all of this and not doing anything about it, but I was too shocked to say anything.
“So you must have pulled down your pants, because then she said she was going to pull hers down for you to see. Then next thing I heard was you protesting that you didn’t see anything and for her to pull her pants down again. Then I heard you say, ‘Hey, tThat’s not fair, you don’t have anything to show.’”
Everyone on the deck was having a nice laugh at my expense. I vaguely remember making mud pancakes with this older chick, but I didn’t recall this early medical research. I was beginning to turn several shades of red – all for an incident for which I have no recall. My mother, upon hearing the story, remembered the girl as being the granddaughter of a nearby neighbor.
“I thought it was inappropriate for them to let that child to play with you. She was much too aggressive for you!” my mom concluded.
I’ve always tried to keep my dating life private and now my very first interaction with the opposite sex was the subject of late-afternoon gossip. Soon others came out to the porch and wanted to know what was so funny. I figured that was the perfect time for me to go help out in the kitchen.