Along the road to finding George

Why we live on Colonna Lane

When we moved up to Sullivan County, the dirt side road to our place had no name and served only 4 houses – 3 down by the pond, plus our place, which lay across a little bridge and totally hidden at the top of a winding drive. Our “address” was Off Lick Creek Rd., but stuff got to us, somehow (deliveries, not mail – that we picked up in town at our PO box).

Maybe 6 years after we arrived, PA went on an organizational frenzy and insisted that every road had to have an Official Name, and every house thereon had to have a Numerical Address.

I didn’t pay much attention to all this until one day a guy in this 30s, I’d guess, knocked on our door and said he was coming through to help set up the state location system. (How the hell he even found us up here I have no idea. We are, literally, invisible from every single point in the county.)

Of the three houses down by the pond, Joe and Mimi Colonna’s was the middle one, facing across the pond to Lick Creek Rd., but as I remember it, he was still based in Philly at the time so not there on weekdays. The other two houses were “cabins” (parlance here for part-time residences owned by hunters and vacationers). So we were the only “permanent” residents on our roadlet, and thus the only ones at home that day.

Can’t remember what else the guy said, but at the end he asked me (me!) what our road should be named (there are obviously differing levels of organization in the state). Well, it would have been beyond hubris to claim Davis Blvd., and I knew Joe had set up his place  (first as a cabin) sometime in the 1960s, so I felt by rights the road should be his. “Colonna Ln.,” I said. And so it is.

An odd aside: One of my favorite online Indian grocery stores refuses to recognize my Colonna Ln. street number (32) — but they do accept Joe’s (44). So while Joe was alive, I’d tell him there would be an order dropped off for us at his place , and he’d give me a call – there was never a better neighbor on the wide green earth than Joe.

I haven’t ordered from that site since Joe died.

*    *    *    *

Why our salad dressing is called George

Our fridge is often a warren of leftovers (some may be leftunders), up to 15 round Chinese takeout containers of various sizes (hey – if you don’t already use Chinese takeout containers for leftovers, start eating Chinese takeout right now, because they are the best storage containers known to gastronomic hoarding).

This foodish melange leads, of course, to confusion as to contents. “What’s that brown semi-liquid with the slight orange tinge?” I particularly hate it when I lose track of our salad dressing. We don’t, generally, use a recipe for salad dressing; it’s a continual updating of yesterday’s attempts, encouraged by herbal additions and guesswork. So the salad dressing, sitting in clouded semi-liquid roundness, is not necessarily… obvious.

While shuffling and herding containers one day, I said to Linda, “You know, we should label this stuff, especially the salad dressing.”

One or the other of us, can’t recall which, said, “We should write the name on it.”

“What name?” replied the other.

And the first or the other exclaimed, “George!”

So now, our ever-evolving salad dressing lives in a mid-sized Chinese takeout container with the name “George” inked on its lid.

Not obvious, you say? No problem. Nothing else in our fridge is called George.

*    *    *    *

Why I am not called George

My middle brother (meaning my elder but not eldest brother) Vic roamed life with the given name of George Victor Pointz Davis. Growing up, I’d heard, either from him or (more likely) my mother, that he hated the name George; so throughout the expanding extended family he was known, always and everywhere, as Vic. 

Yet, at the memorial following his death, his co-workers at Sun Oil (where, after years as mate and ship’s captain on several oil tankers, be was elevated to Captain of the Fleet), recalled him as George. Had he made peace with the inevitability of his christening, or… or…what?

So, slipping sideways from that, two more nomenclature oddities.

First: When a Catholic close-to-adolescent child is Confirmed (Confirmation is a ridiculous “sacrament” that has no apparent purpose beyond giving the parish exercise), he, she or it is slapped with an additional name, often never again referred to, like being given a gelatinous dessert you did not ask for that you dump behind the azalea.

My mother saddled me with the Confirmation name of George. It was intoned by the priest at the altar rail while slapping something wet on my forehead. To my relief, I’ve never again heard that name applied to me.

What the hell? Why would my mother tack on to me the despised, castoff name of my elder brother? Mom was often difficult, if not impossible, to parse. I can’t believe it was random, but if not random, did it signify something to her lost or hidden?

Oddity the second: While living at the magical House on 34th St. in Philly during the mid 1960s (referred to many ruminations ago – hey, get used to it!), Danny, who, like the other House residents (except me) was Jewish, invited me to a seder with his family in the suburbs. I was genuinely touched (still am) by that gesture.

At the head of the dining table sat Danny’s grandfather, a fading but pleasant elder with poor hearing. I was properly introduced to him as Derek. He repeated but skewed the name, possibly to Eric. Danny tried to present a correction. The grandfather replied again with something else similar but not quite spot-on. Finally, he smiled, shook my hand, and intoned, “George!” I’ll never figure that one out.

Summing up, I think some amorphous spirit is intent on claiming me as “George” – whether as name, condiment or ancestral obscurity (a massacre in the Scottish highlands?).

Like Vic, I’m not comfortable with, have no time for the name George (except as a garnish).

So don’t you fucking dare call me George.

{Yeah, I’ve doomed myself with that reminder, haven’t I?)

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