By Pete Hamill
A journalist and writer of Loving ladies recreates the hard-drinking Brooklyn-Irish way of life that trained each element of his early life and early occupation and that finally destroyed his marriage.
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It was one of a number of small plots about 12ft by 8 marked out around the southern perimeter of the old kitchen garden, given to us like allotments. They were judged each summer at Speech Day. My garden was a simple affair in which annuals were sown in straight rows, to be brought to showy perfection: alyssum, ageratum, cornflowers, candy tuft, lobelia, love-in-the-mist and nemesia . . The garden formed a foil for my drawing book, and if fate had turned out different I am sure I would be a professional gardener, rather than an enthusiastic amateur.
The train could carry me to London - the bookshops, tea at Bertaux', a night in a bar; but I resist. Film had me by the tail. Once it was naively adventurous - it seemed then there were mountains to climb. So I slogged onwards and upwards, often against a gale, only to arrive exhausted, and find I had climbed a molehill from where I had a view of a few yards, not endless mountain vistas. All around the traps were set. Traps of notoriety and expectation, of collaboration and commerce, of fame and fortune.
And any tree or shrub that hindered the clean straight lines he drew across the grass was doomed. On the whole he was happiest with the axe, 45 MODERN NATURE saw and secateurs - attacking anything that became too luxuriant, hatching plots against a willow that a neighbour had planted up against the kitchen window and which blocked out the light. At dusk he would creep out and give it a strong dose of weedkiller. My mother would be intensely upset by these attacks on nature. The willow valiantly resisted all attempts at sabotage.