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Ken Aven

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Ear Bush
By Ken Aven
Monday, May 05, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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One in a series of childhood stories centered on the iconic New York Mets baseball park, Shea Stadium, slated for destruction later this year.

    I look in the mirror and daily I shake my head in growing disgust. Invariably, I find myself steering up at my two ears. It does not matter much which one I look at first. Both the left and the right have a cluster of tough to remove hair on the outside upper ridges. Taking a deep breath, I pick up my handy magnifying mirror and begin to look deep within the ear canals. Actually, I do not have to go too far to see strands of hair that pop up from almost nowhere.
    Using a shaver, I can cut down the ridge hair. The problem lies within the hard to maneuver walls of the ears’ interiors. I have tried all manners of scissors to poke, pry, and cut away at these mismanaged hair strands. It is when I begin to get frustrated at my inability to root the hairs out completely, that I realize that a curse from my childhood has come upon me.
    Even when making fun of the older gentleman that my friends and myself dubbed, “Ear Bush”, I had a creeping feeling that someday the same fate would befall me - an ear full of hair. This guilt at being disrespectful to the poor soul, keeps me occupied (or should I say obsessed) with getting as much hair as possible out of the ears so that I never become an Ear Bush.
    Living on the northeastern flank of Queens, there was no direct train service to Shea (let alone anywhere else). A bus could be picked up at 260th Street (one that only came about every forty-five minutes or so) or we could walk down a few blocks to the shopping area on Union Turnpike where a more frequent bus could be boarded.
    The problem was compounded in that the Turnpike bus did not go directly to Shea. A free transfer was procured so that the trip could continue in a northerly fashion up Main Street. Once we arrived in Flushing the big decision had to be made - should we pay an extra fare and take the #7 IRT one stop to Shea or walk over the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge and pocket the change to buy more stuff at the game.
    Being in a group of thirteen and fourteen year olds, the decision was not hard. We had already wasted about an hour on the busses and knew that another twenty minutes or so on the walk would be worth it. Going to a dozen or so summer games with friends, we all knew the route, the time it would take, and so everything was planned down to the last detail. Or almost the last detail.
    Eventually, we found that there was a small park near the bus stop that would save us about five to seven minutes if we cut through it. Usually there was anywhere from four to seven of us, Met hats and those awfully cheap plastic helmets on our heads, making our way through the park. We really were innocent kids and thankfully in those perhaps safer days, we hardly ever ran across any toughies or gang kids that might make us rethink our path towards Shea.
    Knowing that we were going to eat tons of junk at the ballpark (dogs, nuts, RC colas) it was a bit ironic that a hot dog cart and an odd looking vendor would catch our fancy. But he did and he has become a part of my life ever since. Ear Bush would call out to us as we passed his cart, “Hot dogs, hot dogs. Sodas, too!” God only knows how much a young New Yorker can stomach when it comes to the city’s favorite food. Obviously, He knew that for our group we could never get enough.
    The first time passing by Ear Bush, we heard him but continued on. However, on our way back after the ball game, two or three of us decided to show some compassion for the man who stood so forlornly in the park, and bought a few dogs and sodas. Compared to what we were charged in the stadium, the food came at a great price. As Ear Bush put the mustard and slaw on the dogs, I for one took a close look at him and saw that this small, older man had a patch of hair in his ear that was growing at a healthy pace.
    On the way home, we talked about our new vendor friend and that is when we named him Ear Bush. About ten days later, we went out for another game. As much as we anticipated the baseball and the day at Shea, we really were looking forward to meeting Ear Bush. Almost all of us bought something on the way to and the way back from the ballpark. This time we stayed long enough to tell the hapless hot dog vendor that we would call him Ear Bush. One or two of us became downright rude by asking how hair could grow inside one’s ear.
    Looking back, it is that guilt that has plagued me. Sure, we became regular customers, and put a few cents in his pocket. But for the two years that we came to that Flushing park and interacted with Ear Bush, we acted like adolescent jerks. We never asked him his real name or much about who he was. All we did was buy some dogs and ridicule a man who was trying the best he could to make a living in a city where everything costs so much.
    I miss those days of going with my buddies out to Shea. The bus, the walk, the game were all a part of the experience. But for the time that Ear Bush worked the park, I look back with disgust at myself for being such an uncaring person. So when I now have reached the same age that that long forgotten man had reached back in the late 1960’s, I look at that mirror and can imagine him looking back and mocking me as the beginnings of my own ear bush begin to take root.



       Web Site: Growing Up Shea

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Reviewed by Randall Barfield 5/6/2008
All round nice write. Thanks for sharing good times and a good age.

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