Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the last book I ever read (Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, excerpt two)

from Life on the Run by Bill Bradley:

Walt Frazier is the oldest of ten children. His grandparents on his father’s side come from farm country near Augusta. Since slavery ended, people in his mother’s family have continuously done subsistence farming on a plot of land near Sandersville. During most summers of his first ten years, Walt, along with his sisters, mother, and grandmother, visited their country relatives. From those days, he remembers the taste of freshly picked corn and newly plucked chicken, fried Southern style. He recalls the near impossibility of catching a baby pig on the run, however quick your hands. Then, at night, conversations about snakes filtered into the kids’ bedroom from the living room where relatives spoke in cautious tones. Finally, the midnight train with its shrill whistle passed so close to the house that Clyde and his sisters feared it might come crashing through the bedroom door one night.

In Atlanta, Walt lived with his mother, father, brother, and sisters. His father’s parents lived next door. His grandfather worked from dawn to sundown. “You’re not a man until you have credit,” he said. He worked on an assembly line at the Atlanta Paper Company for thirty years, until he was forced to retire at age sixty-five. He got a good pension, but he still insisted on doing work such as lawn and building maintenance at homes where his wife was employed as a domestic.

From his grandfather, Walt heard the familiar Puritan litany about hard work and frugality. From his father, he saw the rewards of the fast life. Walter, Sr., was a hustler in the Summerhill section of Atlanta and provided his family with a comfortable lifestyle. “As a kid,” Clyde remembers, “whatever I wanted my father got me, from spending money to tickets for the Globetrotters. We went shopping every Saturday.” Whenever someone in his family wanted to go somewhere, Walter, Sr., sent one of his employees in a Cadillac to drive him. A maid came once a week to cook and to clean and there was always plenty of food and clothing. “I can remember trying on my father’s clothes alone in front of the mirror,” Clyde says, “wishing I was big enough to wear the bright two-button sport shirts that opened in front, or the brown and white Stacey Adams shoes. I liked the way they looked on him and I wanted to look the same.”

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