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FAQ #6

Mature Theme Advisory: I have tried to keep Mr. Eha's Place an all-ages site, but a number of you persist in sending me questions that deal with so-called "mature" themes, and to silence your rather aggressive importuning and satisfy your curiosity, I am going to answer one of the milder ones at the end of this FAQ. However, even this relatively innocuous question and my answer may be inappropriate for some of you, particularly members of the under-18 crowd, those who have led exceedingly sheltered lives, or easily-outraged Republican crypto-Nazi totalitarian religionists. Indeed, parts of this FAQ may even be offensive to some, although judging from the horrid language and the salacious contents of conversations I have overheard among the young on Main Street and in the West End Plaza parking lot where they hang out, I doubt whether any material in this FAQ would bother them in the least. However, to the tender-minded readers of my site, young or old, I say, hit the back button on your browser when you reach the section of this FAQ set off by the warning message and red line. Thank you.

Question: Centerboro seems like such an all-American town. Could you describe Main Street?
Answer: Centerboro's Main Street today is a pathetic ruin. Stupid, shortsighted city administrators, a succession of poor planning boards, your typical and inevitable combination of politics, graft, and greed, and "urban renewal" all coalesced to destroy what was a lovely, tree-lined boulevard with real charm and character and turn it into a sad and ugly joke. Today there squats on the north side of Main Street (which runs east and west) a single-story, hideous gray mall, most of the tenants of which have gone out of business because shoppers go to the west end of town where there are two huge discount stores or to Rome and Syracuse and Albany where there are cheaper prices and a greater variety of goods. The mall, now home to a couple of social service agencies, an "everything for a dollar" type store, and drab little offices, sprawls over the ghosts of a number of sadly-missed enterprises.  The south side of Main, where you would have found the First National Bank and the Busy Bee, is inhabited by tawdry little businesses in the now shabby original buildings. These businesses never seem to make a go of it. For instance, there is a so-called "health food" store on the south corner of Liberty and Main which took the place of an Off Track Betting office which had taken the place a pet supplies store which had taken the place of a vacuum cleaner repair and sales operation which...and so on back to the original business, a family-owned hardware store.

  • Well, here's what downtown Centerboro used to be like in its golden days (the 1930s through the early '60s) before the late 1960s when it was virtually destroyed by imbeciles. I'll describe the "business district" along the north side of Main between Liberty Street on the east and Madison on the west. That was the "heart" of Centerboro. Someday maybe I'll wrack my brains again and give you a idea of the south side of Main. Before we get to the main part of Main Street, though, I'll just list what you'd find on it between Liberty and the next street over to the east, Richmond. On the corner of Richmond and Main there was the non-ethnic Catholic church, Our Lady of Sorrows, a steep-peaked, dark edifice constructed mainly of chocolate-brown stone. If you were Catholic, but not Irish, Italian, or Polish, that's where you went. Moving now toward the business district you come across the Oteseraga County Orphanage, the Y.W.C.A. (where my parents forced me to take dance lessons on Friday nights--which, of course, I hated then, but am now glad I took), and finally on the corner, the Centerboro Club, an exclusive establishment for the well-to-do professional class of the town. I was unfairly blacklisted from there because of my so-called police record and my Martian-related exploits. I'd better not get started on that story!
  • On the other corner of Liberty and Main "downtown" Centerboro began, and there stood Slater's Book Store where, in addition to books, you could buy everything for your business--typewriters, adding machines, and mimeographs, for example--on a great easy monthly payment plan. For the Freddyphiles who are reading this, they always stocked a full shelf of whatever Freddy titles were still in print, and I would often see Walter Brooks himself browsing Slater's bookshelves whenever he visited Centerboro. He was probably checking to make sure they were stocking his books. There were a few undistinguished little shops that came next and then Center Street.
  • Crossing Center Street, you'd next find Montgomery Ward, which claimed to be "The Friendliest Store in Centerboro," You all know what Wards carried, so I won't go into that. This is the store where my parents purchased my first accordion.
  • Wards' neighbor was the Children's & Young Misses Emporium, "The Store of Personal Service." I didn't spend any time in there, so I can't give you details, but it always had lovely and colorful hand-drawn advertisements in its windows. They were done by Gladys Pippin, the owner. Some of her paintings were exhibited in an art gallery in Syracuse once.
  • Next in line was Richenberg's Shoe Store, the "Home of Treadeasy Shoes." Richenberg's carried other brands, of course, like Mrs. Underdunk's no-longer-available favorite "Cameo Row" and "Buster Brown" shoes for the kiddies. They had a little, white-haired fellow who repaired shoes (regardless of where purchased) in a back room at a very reasonable price. They also featured an X-ray contraption that allowed you to see how well your skeletal toes could move around in that new shoe. God only knows what the long-term effects of that will turn out to be!
  • There was a little portrait studio next. It was owned by a Mr. Thredner who did weddings, portraits, oils, and commercial work. In his storefront window he had a really interesting display of antique cameras and old family photographs along with some of his more recent works. If you had just gotten married, for instance, the very next week you might see your wedding portrait in the window. (I'm sure he always asked permission.)
  • Strolling along, you'd next come upon a three-story building. On the bottom floor, was Manning Furriers. They sold "Luxurious Fur Coats, Custom Tailored to Your Individual Personality." They also had a cold storage facility and would clean, repair, and remodel your coat or jacket or whatever. On the second floor, there were three businesses. In the back was the office of an oral surgeon, Dr. Demming. There was also Ray's Barber Shop where Ray and his sidekick Tony would give you a no-nonsense haircut that included shaving the back of your neck. (That warm lather always felt so good!) After you reached a certain age, you could read Stag magazine while you waited for your cut, but until then you had to content yourself with old comic books, Outdoor Life, and Popular Mechanics. The third business on that floor was Leo ("See Leo, Your Friendly Agent") Berne's Insurance Agency. The third floor also had three businesses. One of them was mine--Anderson's Realty ("Extra Service at No Extra Cost!"). My neighbors were Mr. Sorenson, who operated a stamp and coin collecting business, and, believe it or not, an office of the U.S. Internal Revenue Department.
  • The street-level business in the next building was Dolores's Cafe, the second best place in Centerboro to congregate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and good conversation. Above Dolores's were two floors of apartments.
  • Next we had Corban's Variety Store which carried, well, a variety of goods--hosiery, footwear, underwear, drapes, dress goods, housewares, rugs, toys, etc. It was a kind of precursor of places like K-Mart and that place where I work part time. Above Corban's were the offices of Clemson Deitrich, an insurance adjuster and investigator, and my cousin Dougal, the finest attorney and counselor-at-law Centerboro ever saw.
  • Talbert's Drugs was next in line. I can remember the jar of medicinal leeches on the prescription counter. Does that take anybody back? Above Talbert's, Richard Howard, a chiropodist, and his brother Byron, a chiropractor, had their offices.
  • Talbert's was on the corner of Main and a nameless alley that ran north, joining Main with Washington Avenue, another of the many east-west streets in Centerboro. Along that alley you'd find "Miss Annette Hair Stylist," a cigar and tobacco store (which would not sell to children), a "trash and treasure" store, an automotive supply store, a couple of tenement buildings, and, at the corner of Washington, an outlet store that sold the irregulars from the knitting mill just south of town. The outlet store (and all the clothes in it) always smelled of the stale popcorn which was also sold there. An interesting denizen of Centerboro, a lost, addled soul who looked exactly like Eric von Stroheim, lived in one of the tenements. He made his living, I guess, running errands for the Main Street businessmen, myself included. No one knew his story as it was impossible to engage him in coherent conversation, but he did understand, "Hey, Harley, could you run down and get me a couple of cigars?" well enough. I wonder what ever happened to him.
  • Across the alley from Talbert's on Main was the Outdoor Store, a place where you could buy all kinds of great Army surplus stuff. If you needed a sturdy pair of boots or a gasmask, that was the place to go. I bought a heavy wool officer's coat there in 1959, and I still wear it to shovel snow on really cold days.
  • Moving along, you'd come to Stott and Brean, Inc. ("Quality Considered, Prices Lowest in Town") Mrs. U. used to like to shop there for her ready-to-wear clothes. Above Stott and Brean, there was the Centerboro Credit Bureau run by a Mr. Pritzle who did credit reports and personal investigations. I did not like Mr. Pritzle. Next to his office was the Oteseraga Finance Company ("Deal With People You Know") where you could get a quick cash loan of up to $500.00 after a brief interview.
  • Next door was Vogel's Music Store ("The Home of the Hammond Organ") where I spent many hours perusing sheet music and chatting with Mr. Vogel about his adventures as a jazz musician in New York City. Above Vogel's was Mr. Watkins's Train Hospital, where you could take your Lionel engine for a tune-up. If he was in a good mood, Mr. Watkins would throw the switch for his simply incredible train layout which must have covered 300 square feet. There was some other office up there above Vogel's that never seemed to have a long-term tenant. Over the years it was home to a fortune teller, a podiatrist, a physiotherapist, etc. Jinx Bean ran his pest extermination business out of that office for a while, although he stored all his equipment and chemicals out on some farm west of Centerboro.
  • Next was the Family Theater owned and run by Stanley Muszkiski. When I saw the wrecking ball smack into the marquee, I actually wept. That day there was no movie title in big black letters up there. Instead, Mr. Muszkiski had spelled out "Good-bye Forever, Centerboro." I think a lot of people felt the same way I did.
  • We're nearing the end of "downtown" Main Street. There were only three more buildings before Madison Street. Once you crossed Madison and walked by the post office, city hall, the sheriff's office and county jail, and Gilson's Funeral Home, Main became pretty much residential, although there were a few little shops scattered along the street among the homes. A lot of other businesses and stores lined Washington and South Main Street, both of which ran parallel to Main. There were furniture stores, small groceries, garages, dry cleaners, laundries, paint stores, the bus station, etc., etc. They're all pretty much gone, too.
  • After Muszkiski's Family Theater, my ex-wife had her hat shop. She shared the bottom floor with Rudy Murrey's, a jewelry store ("It's Always O.K. to Owe Rudy!"). Up the narrow staircase that separated Harriet's shop from Rudy's, you'd find Ben's Billiards (Ben was an astounding player!) on the west half of the second floor and Tip-Top Tailoring (Mr. Webb's long-standing business) on the east half.
  • Our last stop is the corner of Main and Madison where Siebring's Motors and Collision used to be, and where there is now a fast-food "restaurant" surrounded by a parking lot that is always littered with beverage containers, wrappers, cigarette butts, and the remnants of overpackaged, so-called "food." It's very depressing to see birds eating french fries off the ground there. I purchased my used, but mint-condition 1942 Studebaker (the one Herb has not yet returned) at Siebring's when I got back from the War. The funny thing about that business with Herb and the Studebaker is that his father was the manager of Siebring's credit and finance department. I wonder if that has anything to do with Herb's theft of my car? Maybe it's just a coincidence.

Question: I am a graduate student in English, and I plan to do my thesis on Mr. Eha's Place. Is this all right with you? Can I arrange for a personal interview?
Answer: Don't you think you'll be over-intellectualizing a perfectly straightforward, ordinary personal Web page? Can't you think of a better project, like "Smell Imagery in Paradise Lost" or "Computational Semiotics and Its Implications for a New Theory of Formal Exegesis of Representational Processes" or some some tarradiddle like that? Well, if you are determined to go ahead with your project, just make sure you cite and document my site correctly or you will be in big trouble. You should check out the relevant MLA information by clicking here: MLA Style. (By the way, when you're all done, would you send me a copy of your thesis?)  As far as a personal interview, there would naturally be a fee. If that's all right with you, contact me via e-mail and I'll get back to you with the particulars.

Question: Are you J. D. Salinger?
Answer: Are you kidding? No, I am not. I'm not Thomas Pynchon, either.

Mature Readers Only Beyond This Point! All Others Please Exit Now!  I really mean it!

 

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All right, but don't say I didn't warn you!

Question: You've skirted the topic of Martian sexuality. You must have picked up some information relating to their sex life even though you claim not to have. I'm interested in answers on this topic from a purely scientific standpoint.
Answer: Sure, you are, and so is everyone else who's been asking. Well, from a purely scientific standpoint, here's your answer. It seems that even though Martians are virtually indistinguishable from each other, they are differentiated into three sexes. Two of the members of their sexual triads, call them the "male" and "female," play active roles in their physical act of fertilization which (although I never witnessed Martians actually "doing it" ) resembles the mating between crabs or beetles. How would I know this? Of these unions, I caught vague, fragmentary telepathic images that leaked out as the Centerboro Martians daydreamed. The Martians do not court or employ display rituals. The triads are formed periodically through chemical attraction, and they last only until the female's eggs have been fertilized. During "the act," the male clutches the female tightly, squeezing out six to ten eggs one at a time into a shallow depression in the hatchery sand. After rather rudely (I think) pushing the female aside, he then fertilizes the eggs in a rather businesslike way, spraying them from small apertures (otherwise hidden in the "armpits" of his middle set of extremities) with his share of the Martian gene pool.  Not very romantic, is it? When he's done, he wanders off as though nothing has happened, and the female covers the eggs with sand. (She will guard her clutch ferociously until they hatch, at which time the brood is on its own.) Now, the third member of the triad is present during all of this. I'm not sure about its physical sexual attributes, but it does play an important role in the Martian reproductive process. Its job is to act as a kind of "cheerleader-referee." At least that's the way it looks. Whenever the male or female or both seem to be flagging in spirit or stamina, it assumes the "cheerleader" role and raises such a ruckus, jumping up and down and chirping, squeaking, and clicking to beat the band, that they resume their business with renewed energy. (I don't know if it's encouraging them or threatening them.) Now, if you remember that the Martians have a warlike character, it will not surprise you that sometimes the mating couple will get downright ornery and start to bite, push, shove, and thrash about. When this occurs, the "referee" interposes itself, calming them by stroking the antennae of the bellicose partners with its own before they damage one another. I have no idea, really, how this bizarre system of reproduction evolved, but since there is a thriving race of Martians, it obviously works quite well for them. Perhaps a system such as this would be an improvement for our species?

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