“Amadan,” for instance. There’s a word I’ll surely never hear again. It is an old Gaelic word that translated loosely – and gently – refers to someone who is not terribly bright. More specifically, when I was a boy, an “amadan” was any careless driver (see also: “horse’s ass” who pulled into my father’s path on the highway.)
The circus comes to us from an age beyond living memory; something resembling a circus first appeared in Philadelphia in 1793 and Aron Turner took a canvas big top on the road in 1830. But the circus as we know it took shape and reached its peak of popularity in the 1890s, as did the World’s Fairs and the scientific museums – developments that not coincidentally paralleled and age of American expansion and imperialism.
Just before she quit the diner last year, Valerie handed over her shift to her friend Darlene. When she heard Darlene had been murdered by an obsessed customer, hard memories of 12 years hustling tables and working counters in all sorts of restaurant flooded back.
The kids on the hillside had it good. We had neighbors and stores and could go downtown. But we could also retreat to the forest and in the summers we did, playing war among the crumbling stone walls of long-gone farms, building forts, making death-defying climbs along the 50-foot cliffs out of sight of meddlesome parents. When we got older, we hauled sleeping bags, food and, invariably, a six-pack pilfered from someone’s parents, to the cliffs, building bonfires and settling to sleep watching the lights blink out one at a time in the hills beyond.