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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Monkey See? Or Not?

My brother used to have the most fascinating things in his room, not including himself. A hookah, which he used to smoke while pretending to be the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, much to the delight of my sister and me; impossibly thin and sharp tweezers with which he would extract the occasional splinter from my finger (he was the only one I would allow to perform this delicate and potentially painful operation); a Morse code key that clicked enticingly when he sent or received messages from friends – yes, it was connected and operable.

Perhaps not as fascinating but no less interesting was his paperweight. It was a brass or bronze sculpture of those famous monkeys, one with his paws over his eyes, one over his ears and the last over his mouth. You remember See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil. The monkeys were on a leather pad embossed with the words “Do Not Monkey With Things On This Desk”.

We understood this to mean that should we be so brazen as to enter his room uninvited or unbidden and actually touch anything on his desk, the consequences would be severe. Probably no more than a cessation of invitations to enter – but that was a grave punishment indeed!

Tony was the coolest, the best, the most awesome older brother to ever walk the earth. At least, that’s how he seemed to my sister and me. Any chance to spend time with Tony was not to be passed up. The fact that many of our friends found him to be sinister or even creepy had no impact on our affection for him. One of his favorite ploys was to come into the basement where we were playing with friends, enter dad’s workshop, flip on the power saw (wwwrrrrraaaaaaaaugh!) and remark, with a demonic grin, “Hey, come in here a minute. And bring your friend”.

Such action was practically guaranteed to send any friends (who had not left already) scurrying up the basement stairs and out the back door faster than you can saw wood! Now that I think of it, this may have been a ruse to get rid of excess neighbor kids at supper time.

No matter, Tony was and is the hero of the younger members of the family (don’t know about the older ones, we were not in the same age group and did not communicate in the same way).

I often think of his desk monkeys and wonder where he got them and what happened to them. I often wish I had a similar talisman to place on my desk, to keep away inquiring minds and hands and eyes. And I often wish I possessed his particular power to strike awe and fear into those to whom he chose.

Quotable quotes; in the category You Better Stay Out Of My Room

"Privacy is not something that I'm merely entitled to, it's an absolute prerequisite." Marlon Brando

3 comments:

Fortuna said...

You remember all the weirdest stuff and the best details. Remember the brass cobra? Was that Tony's, too? He was the spooky yet benevolent presence we always wanted to be close to. I'll never forget the smell of the airplane dope and the Testor's enamel paint in the tiny jars he would use on his model planes. I remember dad freaking out one time about him working up there without proper ventilation, worrying that he would pass out or something. I also remember doing a certain amount of passing out of my own in that same room when it became mine in high school, but it had nothing to do with model airplanes.

Remember mom's Indian doll? Who used to live in the bottom drawer of the Welsh cupboard in the dining room? The big cloth doll with the fancy sequined sari and the black hair and the red jewel (or was it a painted dot?) on her forehead and the fingers stitched into her hands hands? That doll haunts my work even now, especially her fingers. One of these days I'll do something that approaches her mysterious beauty and perfect craftsmanship. I would give anything to see that damn doll again.

madMad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madMad said...

That doll and many others were collected by Gramma on her travels, as was the geniune leather camel stuffed with Sahara desert sand. There were dolls from all over and we were allowed to LOOK at them and HOLD them but not PLAY with them and DESTROY them as we eventually did, on the sly, I am sure.


I have made a cloth doll with a detailed embroidered face and those stitched down fingers. There is something magical about those fingers that I cannot describe - I see you feel it, too. If I ever get hair on the doll (the clothes, shoes, everything else is already done) I'll let you see her. You will NOT like her face but you might like her hands. And her feet.