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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Sneaker Graveyard


SWIMMING UP FROM SEVEN FATHOMS UNDER Candleberry Lake* at a speed so fast he would leave Michael Phelps far behind and probably get the bends, a young diver, trembling with excitement, breaks the surface and sputters to his mates, "Hey, there must have been a sneaker factory here at one time; I found hundreds of sneakers in one spot." When I hear him say that, I breathe a sigh of relief. No one knows the truth–the real truth. The diver's assumption is plausible, but it is wrong.

It is plausible because Candleberry Lake was not always a body of water. It used to be farmland at the base of Candleberry Mountain. In 1926 Connecticut Light and Power Co., in order to create hydroelectric power from the Histrionic River, dammed the river, flooding the surrounding farmland. In doing this, the utility created the extremely deep, 18-mile long Candleberry Lake. Local legend has it that if you dive down to the bottom of the lake you will find old roads and farm houses with families preserved as they were at the time the land was flooded. Some say there are entire preserved families sitting at the dinner table with their food-laden forks poised halfway up to their mouths. Other unfortunates still sit in their easy chairs knitting. This is why our young diver thought he had found (and indeed might have found, had there been one located in the vicinity in 1926) a sneaker factory.

But that is not the case. No, there never was a sneaker factory there. What the diver found is much more sinister. It is the sneaker graveyard. I might add that this final resting place for sneakers was not there when the land was flooded. I am one of an elite group of five people in the entire world who know how that sneaker graveyard came to be. And only three of this select circle are alive today. I feel I must share what I know of the events leading to the creation of the sneaker graveyard before this knowledge is lost forever. Therefore, I have decided to reveal what I have been concealing for so many years right here on this blog. Depingo's readers deserve to know.

Although I cannot reveal his name, I can tell you that some years ago a good doctor and his family lived on the lake. He was a surgeon, scholar and gentlemen, loved by all who knew him. He worked hard in New York City healing patients 11 months out of every year. He saved many lives and made many patients whole again. But when he was on vacation for the month of August... well, that is a different story.

The good doctor, escaping civilization, would drive up to his manse on Candleberry in full doctor drag, including an F. Tripler suit, cashmere socks, pinstriped shirt punctuated with gold cufflinks and a Countess Mara tie, and highly polished Bass Weejuns. Upon arrival, though, he would divest himself of this costume with haste, as if wearing it were the final human indignity. He shed it faster than a snake sheds its skin. However, while snakes shed in order to grow and advance their form, the good doctor would shed his last remnants of domestication in order to return to a wild state. Upon doing so, he immediately became feral.

This formerly manicured doctor quickly donned his summer wardrobe, which he had designed and manufactured himself. It consisted of three items: cut-off, shredded khakis (not much better than a loin cloth really); a rope which he tied around his waist, belt-style, to hold up the cut-off khakis; and a pair of tennis shoes. He wore these items for the entire month while he toiled at landscaping, building stone walls, making furniture and various other projects. He also swam, ate and slept in these three items for all of August. (OK, some nights he took the sneakers off for sleeping,)

Quite frankly, the doctor's wife was beside herself. She didn't know what to do with her severely devolved husband. She knew, though, that she wouldn't allow his shorts to go into the wash with the rest of the family's clothing. This did not present a problem for the good doctor. The one time he felt his garment needed washing, this brilliant inventor of surgical implements and procedures designed an operation for cleaning shorts. He tied one end of his rope/belt to his khakis and the other end to the stone dock and let Candleberry do the work. The lake swirled them around in its waters and its whitecaps beat them up against the stone dock. When the doctor felt they were clean (which was not very long), he put them on wet. The morning sun dried them in conformity with his body and at least they were somewhat cleaner. They didn't look so great, but he didn't care.

One of the neighbors was a kindly grandmother from an extended Italian family that summered on the peninsula. She had a hammertoe that bothered her and asked the world-famous trauma doctor if he would take a look at it. He needed an office, so he set two canvas-covered folding chairs on the dock, washed his hands in the lake and examined her while dressed in his summer outfit. It was comical to see patient and doctor sitting on the dock, she with her hammertoed foot resting in his lap on top of the torn shorts. She didn't seem to mind; in fact she seemed very grateful. When she asked how much she owed for the visit, the doctor replied, "Do you make clams casino?" She did indeed; in fact the dish was her specialty. The following day she delivered a tray of homemade clams casino, hot from her oven, for the doctor's lunch. Good thing, for by this time, his wife had decreed that he was not to come to lunch without a shirt on. Because a shirt was not part of his summer wardrobe, he enjoyed his clams casino while sitting on his favorite tree stump, accompanied by Peter, and Taffy, his cocker spaniels.

Word spread throughout the Italian summer community and he saw many more patients on the dock. He never had to don a shirt because he had a steady stream of clams casino, lasagna and pasta fagioli coming in daily.

There came a day when the doctor's daughter, who was coming of age, requested that her father put on proper clothes (perhaps at least a shirt) to meet her date when he came to pick her up. The doctor said, "I'm not putting on clothes– just tell him I'm the handyman." She was quite concerned about this antisocial turn her father had taken. She hoped his behavior was within normal limits for vacationing surgeons. Maybe this is how surgeons relaxed ... or was it? Maybe ... it was something else ... something far worse! Then, on their last night at Candleberry before the family returned to New York for school and work, she followed him and saw what he was doing. She actually witnessed it with her own eyes!

Before the ceremony started, her father sat quietly on a willow twig bench he had made himself and stared across the lake. Then, he slowly rose and moved toward the end of the dock. Was he carrying something in his arms? No ... it couldn't be. Yes! She could see them clearly now, for unsuspecting that he was being watched, he had moved into the moonlight. There were two of them and they were both badly decayed. You could almost discern the souls separating from them. The odor was unbearable even in the fresh, pine-scented night air. With a hint of hesitation and what looked like regret, the doctor raised both hands high over his head and heaved his decomposing, moonlit burdens to their watery doom. They sunk promptly because he had filled their orifices with rocks and bound them with their own laces. Then he waved goodbye, went up the stone steps to the house, took a long, hot shower and carefully laid out his full doctor's drag for the next morning's ride back to New York. Through careful observation, the doctor's daughter learned that her father repeated this morbid ceremony annually.

In retrospect, she believed that the doctor actually was very fond of all of them. After all, they were his sneakers.

*About Candleberry Lake, Candleberry Mountain and the Histrionic River: I changed their names so as not to get my father ... er ... um ... that is, the unnamed doctor, into any trouble.

PS. I wonder if anybody has discovered the cigarette "factory" adjacent to the sneaker graveyard yet?

Paint on,
Depingo

15 comments:

  1. Love your story about Candleberry Lake......I can visualize it now......... You have such a wonderful gift of writing...thank you for the memories and the laughs.

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  2. Loved it! Thanks for sharing! Monica

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  3. I am loving reading your blog ... it is kind of like seeing into a part of family history. Can not wait for the book!

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  4. So that is the truth ....

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  5. Heart in the ValleyOctober 27, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    I feel that I know your father very well after reading this post!

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  6. Pat loves this. That is exactly the way she remembers your father.

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  7. Very deep. As deep as Candleberry Lake!

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  8. You are always = so funny + delightful ! And you always ... make us all laugh!

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  9. This is one of your best. I can still see him sitting there in his shorts and sneakers.

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  10. Reading it I was in sneaker heaven!

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  11. Too scary for me to read!

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