Nathaniel’s Blog January 7th, 20– “A Night At The Crypt”

At The Crypt…

 

Brian talked me into taking the night off from transcribing more letters, and going to my dance club.  It’s an older building.  One of many I purchased during the Depression.  Like many I felt the pinch of the stock market collapse, but I wasn’t destroyed by it.  I lost a fair amount mind you, but I never kept all my eggs in one basket.  For one thing gold never goes out of style, no matter how bad things get.  Nor do diamonds and other fine jewels.  Plus I had investments that did not suffer, especially those overseas.  

Not that I’ve had to worry about money for some time.  I don’t have as many needs to spend money on, and I’ve had many jobs over the years which paid nicely.  What can I say, I like to keep busy doing things and learning new trades and skills.  It also helped that my first wife also left me quite well off.  Ah Madeline, even after 110 years I still miss her.  She was a wonderful woman and we enjoyed our time together.  Benjamin Franklin was quite right in his advice to a young man about being with an older woman, I learned so much from her.  Unfortunately, it also meant our time together was not nearly as long as I would’ve liked.

These days however, I’m surrounded by younger women all the time.  Which is only natural.  It’s hard to find someone your own age when you’re a 167.  Many are in their teens, some in their twenties, with the occasional 30 or 40 year old as well.  I admire them all, but keep myself somewhat distant.  Sex is still quite enjoyable, even being what I am.  But I’ve learned to be careful about who I partner up with for the pleasure. 

But tonight, I’m just enjoying the company of the crowd itself.  Love watching excitement and pleasure they get from being in a place where everyone knows they’re safe and can and enjoy themselves.

 

I’ve just finished running the turntables and turning them over to my main DJ “The Scar Man”.  Former gang -banger I met a few years back.  He’s a great guy and helps keep an eye out on  the younger crowd for me.  I prefer things being friendly around my place, not that there aren’t the occasional upsets and punches thrown.  After all, a lot of my clientele are in their teens.  Hormones are running rampant, and status is oh so important.

They mostly patrol themselves, because they know better than to have me intercede. If a weapon comes out, then I’m all over them before they know it.  God knows I’ve been stabbed by or even shot by accident more than once.  Most of the culprits freak out because they can’t believe what they’d just done.  A rare few, don’t care and even make another attempt to get past me.  They learn the hard way.  I make sure they never pull a weapon on anyone ever again, unless their own life or someone else’s is at stake.  I try not to be stupid with my powers.   Not everyone is as long-lived or hard to kill as I am.  

Tonight, I see trouble brewing but of the lesser kind.   

Over in one corner a boy named Teddy is asking the head cheerleader for a dance.  I’ve watched Teddy for a while.  He’s not one of my nephews, but he’s friends with a few.  He’s a good kid, on the quiet side, not good at sports and certainly not a stoner.  So in short, a prime ‘bully’ target.  When he was younger, I heard he cried a lot when he got picked on which led to getting beat up.  Although others intervened on those occasions, he seemed to suffer more than one would expect from a few simple punches.  These days I think I know why.  And now I see the football’s quarterback Cory coming over with a few of his buddies.

He grabs Teddy and gives him a body check that sends him into a couple of chairs.  Teddy hits the ground hard.  I pass through the crowd without their even realizing it.  Not one gyration or step is missed as I pass between the smallest of openings.

I’m standing before Cory and his friends before they can let out their first guffaw.  Their mouths clamp shut instantly.  I glance down at Teddy who is clenching his teeth in pain.  I can tell from here there’s only going to be a bruise or two, but I know what’s really going on.  I had it when I was a kid, only we didn’t have a name for it back then.  

Cory starts telling me that he’d warned Teddy about bothering Sherry, the cheerleader.  They’re not actually dating, but he’s one of those alpha males who thinks they are destined to be a couple.  Someone’s been watching too many movies.

I nod and tell him he’s not in trouble with me.  But I also point out that I know for a fact that he’s been riding Ted since elementary school.  That’s another benefit of being around for so long, you hear a lot of things. “While I’m glad you’ve channeled your more aggressive nature into sports, it doesn’t give you free pass for tormenting those who are ill,” I tell him.

He gives me an incredulous look.  “What are you talking about?  He’s just a drama-queen who likes to have people feeling sorry for him,” he shoots back.

Turning to Ted I ask, “How bad is your Fibromyalgia acting up today?  What are the pain levels like?”

The young man stares at me in shock.  “You know?”

I nod and say, “Of course I do.  Takes one to know one.  I had it back when I was a kid.  I suspect you have too.”

“Yeah,” he tells me looking away.  “It’s been this way my whole life.  They only diagnosed me with it two years ago.  Everyone kept telling me I was a crybaby, or a wimp who needed to toughen up.  My dad kept telling me I needed to be a man.  He never believed me until the doctor’s told him what was wrong.  He still doesn’t, but Mom does.  So do my sisters.”

Behind me I hear one of Cory’s crew muttering, “Shit!  My mom’s got that.”

I reach down and help Ted up onto a chair.  He hurts more than he’s letting on, but I can sense it.  One of the other cheerleaders, comes over and sits down with us.  I remember her name is Tina.  She’s one of the back-up cheerleaders.  She starts telling Ted that she knows where he’s coming from and that she has it too.  Which is why she’s a second-stringer.  Her ability to perform is erratic some days.

I leave them all to sort things out amongst themselves.  A few friendships may arise from this, even possibly a romantic relationship.  Mostly I’m hoping to see tolerance come from this encounter.  Invisible illnesses can be quite a difficult thing to contend with.  Both for the person suffering it, as well as for others to recognize.  

My own father never fully recognized it in me, but I learned to hide it with time.  He wanted a son who was strong and able.  I did my best for years to live up to that expectation.  It was also one of the prime reasons I went to war, besides wanting to protect my friends.  I no longer feel those old pains at least not physically.  But I remember them as well as if they were still plaguing me.  I can’t do anything for the physical pain, Ted is feeling, but at least I may have lessened some of the others he’s known for so long.

I glance back once more.  Cory and most of his crew have moved on, but Tina is still with Ted.  They seem to be getting on pretty well.

Katy Perry’s “Roar” is winding down, so I head over to the keyboard.  A little slow dance music seems to be in order.

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Brian’s E-Journal January 7th, 20–

I’m beginning to think I may have made a mistake in getting Uncle Nathan to transcribe all those letters and journals.  He hasn’t been himself since he started.  I’m guessing that even after a hundred and fifty years some wounds just don’t heal enough.  Though he already told me he’s determined to finish the task.  He really laments all the journals, pictures, and personal mementos  that were lost to him over the last century and a half.  At least in cyberspace they can never be lost.  Plus he really wants those of us who know him to really be able to understand all he’s seen and done throughout his long life.
 
I still find it hard to believe that he’s been around for almost a century and a half.  I don’t mean just the fact that he’s existed all that time, but what he’s seen and done over the decades.  He didn’t just sit around brooding and despairing about outliving all the friends and family he knew.   The man keeps looking ahead, eager to see new things will come.
 
I mean think about it.  Here is a man who has witnessed the birth of movies, television, computers, and so many other inventions that have changed the world.  Plus, he’s witnessed or even been part of historic events, both good and bad.  But that’s just the start.
 
He’s attended night classes at a number college and universities.  I know for a fact that he has at least two doctorates, three masters and I don’t know how many A. A. and B. A. Degrees.  He’s learned to play several musical instruments and is a master of ballroom and modern dance styles.
 
There are photos and posters from the stage and theater.  The man was actually part of Vaudeville, for crying out loud.  He knew some of Hollywood’s biggest names before the movie industry ever even existed.  God knows he’s made so many of us laugh performing some of his old skits, recreating some performances by other legendary figures like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harry Houdini, Rudolph Valentino (before the movies when he was mostly known for ballroom dance) The Marx Brothers and Mae West to name a few.
 

  

The Marx Brothers had a huge influence on him.  He learned to play the piano from Chico and later the harp from Harpo.  Right now, we’re in ‘The Crypt’ and Uncle Nate’s tearing up the piano in Chico’s style.
 
*Author’s Note: Click here to see Chico Marx in action:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfIVnzpj1vM
 
While his teacher was well known for polka and classical, Uncle Nate likes to let loose with a mixture of Jazz, Hip-Hop, and others while still using the same finger movements and comedy.   Even the youngest of the Hip-Hop crowd love to watch him in action.  Especially when he uses some of those comedic skills up at the turntables when he sits in for the club’s DJ.
 
He never has to worry about the owner of the place being bothered by his antics, he is the owner.  He acquired the building back during the Great Depression.  “The Crypt” is in the basement and is always open most of the night.  Alcohol is never served.  That came to an end back in Prohibition and he never lifted the ban.  He just wanted a place for everyday people to enjoy themselves.
 
Right now he’s up there getting his and everyone else’s groove going.  I could go on and on about him, but I think it’s better when these things come from him.  Which I’m going to try and encourage.  Transcribing the letters and journals are still important, but so is existing in the present.  This is something he’s taught me and so many others over the years.  I guess that’s why we love him so much and help keep his secret.  At least half of the club’s visitors know and keep quiet.  They also donate regularly so there’s always a supply for him in the refrigerators.  He only takes from people directly on rare occasions.  But that’s an entry for another day.  Right now, he’s stepping over to the piano and cutting loose there, and my feet are itching to get on the dance floor with my wife and children.  Even at forty we know how bust moves with the best of them.  Uncle Nate taught us the importance of always moving with the times and living our lives to the fullest.
 

Nathaniel’s Blog – “Letter From My Father Nov. 1861”

 November 12, 1861

My Son,

     Know that we are in receipt of your letter from October 30th and were relieved to hear you remain in good health.  I am grateful, you addressed the letter to me and not your mother.  Some of the details you shared within those pages would’ve alarmed both her and your sister to no end.  I’m pleased to see that all my years of lecturing you about the wisdom of foresight were not wasted. 

      Word of illness spreading among regiments and even within forts have reached our ears, so I was very glad to hear you have been fairing better than some of your fellow soldiers, was welcome news indeed.  In sharing your letter with your mother and sister, I left out many of the details of your last encounter with the rebels.   Although I suspect, you had already not shared all that you could even with me.   

 I pause for a moment as I stare at those words.  He knew me so well.  Often people told me how much I was like him, but in this case it was my mother who taught me to hold certain facts back from him.  As proud and firm a man as he was, my father could be very sensitive.  I see this in the next paragraph when he speaks of Roger, my best friend since childhood.

Allow me to express my deepest sympathies for young Roger’s passing.  Yes, word reached us about what happened.  You may receive a letter from his family expressing their gratitude for your staying at his side, while under fire until the end.  I will never forget all the time you spent with him as children, fishing, playing, getting underfoot.  The two of you were inseparable.  Pray take heart that a part of him will always be with you, and will hopefully be watching over you in the days to come.

 See what I mean?  He didn’t always express himself so warmly, but I always knew it was there.  Perhaps, it was concern for my sister that had put him in an especially sensitive mood when he wrote me on this occasion.

The effects of your sister’s illness still plague her.  I regret not telling you sooner, but shortly after you left her condition worsened.  She had contracted the Scarlet Fever which had claimed so many children in the past two months.  Luckily, she survived, but is still very weak.  Not an uncommon thing for a child after suffering such a dangerous illness.  The doctor says there may have been damage to her heart, but time will tell.  

God how I wish the man had been wrong.

Know that she continues to ask about you and looks forward to all your letters with great anticipation.  She maintains high hopes that you will indeed be back next month in time to share Christmas.  In spite of all that I’ve been hearing, I share that hope as well.  Your mother and I pray this conflict will end as abruptly as it started and we can be a family once more.

      Until that time comes, do take care of yourself my son.  Your mother will be sending a package of food, blankets and more clothing shortly.  Do not bother sending your pay home to us, for you know very are quite well off.  Spend some of it on your fellow soldiers who are not as fortunate.  Remember the teachings of our Lord and may he bless and keep you safe.

 Write again soon.

 Your father,

D. Steward 

 Even after all these years, the mention of my sister’s bout with Scarlet Fever still hits me hard.  I remember using some of the pay I had on me at the time to buy my sister a new doll and some pretty things.  At the time of her illness, the first antibiotics were still another decade or two away.  Burning the patients clothing, blankets and any personal items they kept near them was the standard practice at the time.  Although I also knew my parents would’ve replaced a number of items for her, she favorite doll and stuffed toys that I had given her would’ve been thrown into the blaze.

I’m glad I acted so quickly.  For just two weeks later I received a letter from her…

A hand falls on my shoulder.   “Uncle Nate?  I think you’ve done enough for tonight,” Brian tells me.  “Why don’t we go to ‘The Crypt’ for a drink or two.”

I catch the tone in his voice that says ‘You need it!’

He’s right.  I do.