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July 29, 2011

sometimes things explodeWe lived on Vendome Place, a street with nice homes but on the far edge of a good neighborhood.

My father and his brother had started a company together and built very similar brick homes right next to each other. Then they built 2 cottages right next to each other in the middle of 300 acres across Lake Pontchartrain, the lake that would roll over and flood New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina. Folsom, Louisiana where land was valued at $3 per acre in the middle of nowhere, misery for my city loving mom,  heaven for my cousins and, I, youngest member of the Black Widow Club that met in the hayloft to discuss all the scary things like snakes and spiders and make vaguely ominous plans of attack.

I took the bus home from school that day and two blocks from my house I could already see the fire engines and police cars. Oh god, not another bad thing.

My eyes stretched open as I saw that whatever was happening, was happening at my house. “What’s happening” I asked. “They’re burying something”. I could only think it was my pug Nicky who could be buried and was deserving of this much attention. “Who are they burying” I quietly asked? “Nitroglycerin” he answered. “Who is that?” I asked relieved that my Nicky was safe.

That same morning as I’d slipped into my brother’s souped up 1956 red/white/and chromed Chevy to drive to Isidore Newman School he’d said, “Hold this”. It was a little vial with liquid in it and he hadn’t bothered to say to be careful. Marshall lived, and died, on the edge. One day he’d cut off the gorgeous red ponytail of the girl who sat in front of him in school.

His bedroom was speckled with pretty patterns from past explosions and he had a very mutually beneficial relationship with the neighborhood cops. I got quoted on the front page of next days Times Picayune for saying “Daddy’s really gonna blow up when he gets home” and I remember clearly that I wasn’t trying to be funny. Darned exciting though.

Times Picayune September 18, 1956     →  (unfortunately there’s a pay wall between this wonderful time capsule – Dulles Seeks Peaceful Pact, Adlai Answers Questions on Hiss Verdict, Nitro Disposal Problem Found- and my post).

One Comment
  1. gene permalink

    your clarity and humor demystifies a seminal moment from my childhood ! i remember hearing of the incident, thought nitroglycerin was something made only by a mad genius, was the first time i was close and personal with anyone i knew, flirting with danger, playing chemistry class at home

    i remember being fascinated , attracted to marshall’s daring , the utter audacity to carry off such a caper. thank goodness nicky lived to see another day, and somehow i don’t believe your dad blew up. he was much too kind and mellow for such a( non- chemical) reaction.

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