My pre-school years
were spent at the Torino apartments,
in San Carlos, California,
which was about a full days journey outside
of San Francisco, by ocean liner.
Those years total some of my
most beloved child-hood memories,
even if, after all this time,
they are less whole memories
than they are just
unconnected fragments of things
that I am fairly certain happened to me.
I can still remember
few people from
that apartment building.
There was Josh, he was my age,
and lived in an apartment upstairs
from ours, and Josh had
more monopoly game board money
than anybody I had ever met,
before or since.
There was Mette,
who was a little younger than myself,
and my most complete memory of her
was that she always seemed to have
a couple of lego pieces handy,
and, indeed, some-times they were.
Then there was the Gargling Man …
He loved in our building, as well,
and he was the great mystery of
my early days on this planet.
“… And the Gargling Man gargles.
Gargling his life away.
How many times
did he gargle to-day?
1 … 2 … 3 … 4 …5 …“
(from a 19th century French children’s jump rope song.)
Now there two schools of thought on the who and what of the Gargling Man.
It could be that,
in the design of the apartment building,
his bathroom was close to my bedroom,
and so, it goes to say,
the only time I would have been aware of
his presence was when he was in the bathroom,
getting ready for work,
or, preparing for bed.
And this is my particular school of thought,
maybe the Gargling Man was just always gargling.
Which is correct?
No one can say.
My mom swears
I am totally exaggerating the entire thing,
in particular this next part,
which she claims I
“cut from whole cloth”.
But I know what I saw.
For this one time,
I happened to be coming out
of my apartment,
when at the exact same time,
the Gargling Man was coming out of his.
Startled, I took an immediate step back.
For there he was,
as tall as a tree,
head cocked slightly back,
mouth wide open,
I squeaked a hello.
He glanced, nodded,
and said, “Hng-gar-o”.
I swear that is true.
But then, just like that,
one day the Gargling Man was gone.
I’d lay in my bed at night and
listen for the tell-tale sounds,
but there were none.
And for our time left remaining in the building,
a part of me continued to wonder … and worry.
“What will become of the Gargling Man?”
I would ask my dad.
But he would just look at me funny and say,
“I have no idea what that boy is talking about.”
Then, I guess, I forgot all about it.
That is, until one night,
many years later.
I was much older,
having just returned home for Winter break from college.
I happened to be up late,
watching a popular late night host on TV,
and the announcer said,
“Next up, actor, Mike Lookinland.”
But I must have mis-heard him,
because for a second,
I thought the announcer had said,
the ‘Gargling Man’.
And for that one moment in time,
I was so fucking proud.
the author, at about that same time.