A Walk on Robinson Street, 1959
Shown above is a photo of my father and me walking down Robinson Street (in the Silverlake District of Los Angeles), in 1959. It was undoubtedly taken by my mother. I am three. Our rented house is where the white picket fence is, 620 N. Robinson. We lived there from about 1958 to February, 1965, when we moved into Burbank. The house is no longer there; it was removed in the Sixties to make way for a moving company parking lot. I understand that, in general, Silverlake has become quite chic. Back then, it was a decidedly working-class area.
Normally one might look at this photo and say, "Awww... how cute!" And it is; it's a wonderful father and son photograph and I'm glad I have it. But for me there are other associations with this particular shot.
I was told by my parents that, once, Dad was attacked by a Doberman Pinscher owned by one of the folks living up the street, in one of the houses on the right. Dad was walking down the street - I was with him - when the dog attacked. I was about the age I am in this photo, or perhaps a year older. I do not remember this incident at all, but my parents assured me that I became quite upset and started screaming and crying, fearing that my father would be killed. It took them quite some time to calm me down. I do not remember how badly Dad was injured. I half remember some bandages on his leg, which must have healed just fine because I do not recall seeing any scars.
As an adult I am somewhat fearful of large dogs and am, in general, uncomfortable around large animals (like horses). Perhaps the doberman incident is the root of this. We have some friends who have several large dogs, who are allowed to roam around the house while we visit. I generally avoid touching them despite the fact that they are somewhat friendly, and am somewhat anxious whenever we visit. In the back of my mind is a feeling that large animals cannot be trusted!
By the way, I also do not like to visit zoos.
Some time after the doberman incident, perhaps when I was four or five, I dreamed up the Dangle Man.
The Dangle Man occurred to me one evening when I was standing in front of my house at night, looking up the sidewalk past a pool of light emitted from the streetlamp you can see hanging off a telephone pole. I thought of a faceless man who was hung, or dangled, by a rope - not necessarily a noose around the neck - who was being jerked spasmodically up and down, arms flopping about. He was passing in and out of the pools of street light, now you'd see him, now you wouldn't, and was moving down towards me. The odd thing was that he was not necessarily being tortured or being dangled unwillingly - that it was simply a part of his nature. This aspect was, to me, the most frightening thing about him. Totally freaked out, I ran back inside the house.
I should mention that I was pretty good at scaring myself with all sorts of odd mental images and imaginative creations... Anyway, the Dangle Man became a sort of occasional totem in my childish artwork. In fact, here he is from a drawing I did when I was twelve. (The complete drawing - you can see another Dangle Man on the other side.) And when my daughters became Brownie Girl Scouts and wore those cute little brown beanie caps, lo and behold, there was the Dangle Man on a patch on the front!
A conversation with somebody, I forget who, led to the idea that the Dangle Man could be interpreted as being at the end of a leash, straining to get off. (Dogs are on leashes - or SHOULD be.) Perhaps I made the connection with the location up the street as being a dangerous and fearful place.
I told an artist friend about the Dangle Man, once, and he loved the idea. It later appeared in a Civil War newsletter (!) he did: "Th' Dangle Man! Weird, gibberin' creature ob' de night! Believe!"
I believe henceforth I'll focus on my dad and me in this shot, and not on the area up the street...