My buddy Shane and I often reminisce about the food we ate growing up, or even as young adults. Growing up on the upper side of broke and the down side of working class, we learned early on food was something not to take for granted. I look back sometimes on a moment when I was trying to survive on ninety-four dollars a week. This would have been a challenge in itself but throw in a two-year-old child and a wife going to college, and you can easily see how broke we were. One morning, I went to make a sandwich for lunch. Grabbing a package of ham, I quickly realized it was out dated. Its slimy exterior gave a gel like quality to the touch. And the smell was less than pleasant. I was faced with the dilemma of going to work and not eating for the next nine hours or going back to the school of Hard Knocks I grew up in. So, I took the last few pieces of outdated meat over to the sink and washed them with dishwashing soap until it smelled no more. Tasteless as it was, the sandwich was a meal that day and that was just the way it was.
Although growing up with very little at times, I thought of myself as lucky. We always had something growing in the garden, and there was small game that could be hunted to add a little meat to my belly. But the staple meal was beans, rice, and potatoes. Poor folks live on starch which we all know turns to sugar; feeding the bran dopamine; making something as simple as food addictive. I read somewhere years ago this is why alcohol is such a problem with the poor; it has much the same affect going into the bloodstream quickly, making the brain feel good. The same feelings of comfort we had as kids growing up.
Anyways, Fried Bread, Cat Head Biscuits, Potted meat, and Recycled tea bags are all stuff we laugh about now but have been a reality at different times in our lives. One thing Shane and I have in common is our love for music. Creativity runs high in poor communities. It’s away of escaping the world you find yourself in. A relief from the day in and day out. When I played in bands in and out of the Gainesville Music Scene, I was always able to spot the musicians that were self taught. The creativity seemed to be dripping off them. They were very honest with their emotions and it transcended into their art.
My love for music started early on. I shared a room with my sister Teresa, who was like a mother to me, well, to all of us. She worked tirelessly to make sure we were taken care of. She loved music like we all did in the Hodges household. But some music was forbidden by my mother AKA The Penguin. If it wasn’t being sang in church or by Pat Boone, it was not being played in her house.
So, each day we patiently waited for The Penguin to make her way to the mailbox. Once she was out the door and on her way, the fun began. One brother or sister would always keep their eye on the front gate for her return. My sister Teresa would grab her record single of The Ohio Players Fire, from its hiding spot. Suddenly, the needle was on the record and it was time to get down, as we said in The Seventies. Chairs were pushed to the side of the room. Clogs moving under bellbottoms to the rhythm of a funky bass-line was a wonderful sound that still rings out in my mind. These were really some of the first memories I had growing up… Yes Disco warped my brain at a young age… Dancing like the fun would never stop, and thinking to myself why is having this much fun so bad? It seemed like the song was over before we knew it and the lookout was saying, “She’s at the gate.” The record was quickly put back in its sleeve and returned to its hiding spot. The Penguin would walk in with narrowed eyes that seemed to say, “Guilty,” when she looked upon a roomful of sweaty kids sitting quietly. We had gotten away with a little bit of bad, if only for a moment…