Sunday, August 29, 2004
Thursday, August 26, 2004
The Working Class On Campus
You may have reason to know, as I do, that the working class at a university ostensibly concerned with higher learning and the finer things of our culture are still just the working class. The University treats them no betterin fact, not even as well, for the private sector generally pays better. The State is always trying to squeeze by on a stingy little budget. In TV ads, the University romps and stomps about being a Fine Place to send your children, but they don't do many of the things that they teach.
The University's a business, just like any other, except that they never make a profit. So the heads of this paralyzed corporation do the obvious and pay as little as possible to the regular salaried employees. In addition, they are always scouring the jailbird work programs and the various halfway house residents for possible manual laborers and other workers. I don't know why, but it has always shocked me that an institution of higher learning was not any better than the kind of local businesses who would have been happy to have bribed the jailers so they could get that "free" prison labor for their own use. But State agencies don't usually have to bribe other State agencies.
Chain Gang Crews
What the University usually got was a cleanup crew consisting of men who still owed a little bit of time to the County Jail. Not hardened criminals, it was rationalized by University administrators. I never could decide if it was a good sign or a bad one that one or two armed deputies always accompanied the workers. Just being cautious, I guess. I wonder how many daddies knew they were spending a fortune to send their daughters to a jailhouse university that imports its own criminal element?
Halfway House Blues
The other main category of cheap labor was the halfway house residents. They were not paid less, but it was easier to fill those low-paying positions from a labor pool under duress not to be sent back to an institution. They were often men who had suffered some major disturbances in their lives. There was Clarence Cadberry. In 1980, he was a man in his fifties, very mild-mannered, hardly ever speaking to anyone unless spoken to. He was reputed to have killed his wife 10 years prior to his release to the halfway house. (Reputed, I say, because I wasn't going to go up to him and ask him about it.) We were getting him fresh out of the funny farm, I guess. He admitted that he was heavily medicated all the time. He was thus employed with us for 3 or 4 years, then one day disappeared. He'd never misbehaved at work. I heard once or twice that he'd failed to show up on schedule at the halfway house, so maybe they sent him back to the mental institution "for his own good".
The Boogie Man
Maybe he had some unpleasant incident at the Home, similar to that of Howard, a strong young man who worked in the welding shop, mostly fixing the lawn mowers and other small motors. Howard came to us from the same halfway house after Mr. Cadberry had come and gone. Howard seemed like he could have been very likeable, except that his demeanor was just a tad on the Norman Bates side. He had that unemotional stare down pat, except when he was fixing somethingthen he looked furious. If it was HIS job, he was going to get it done NOW! He approached each fixit job in a hurry, as if it was an enemy that he was determined to push, pull, or pound into submission. Because we liked him, we just dismissed all that Norman Bates business from our minds. I guess we pretended he was more of a Boo Radley type of Boogie Man (the timid recluse in the book and movie, "To Kill A Mockingbird").
Once, standing in the paved work yard during a slow period, he calmly recounted an incident in which he was shot at in the woods when he was younger. He'd hit the dirt quickly, but was able to shoot back at the movement he'd detected in some tall grass. I was amazed to hear him talk so much about anything, but this was a creepy story, too, not just an unexpected one. He knew he was a good shot, he told us without much expression, and he never heard any further sound. He hid for a long time, stretched out silently in a ditch and listening, then carefully slunk away. He left that area of the state the next day and never heard or tried to hear whether anyone had been wounded or killed. He didn't want to know. He believed he'd killed whoever had fired the shot at him, though. He was very calm telling the story, perhaps because he was always on heavy tranquilizers (I had once heard him mention Thorazine as one of his medications.) He was therefore generally calm. I think if he'd cut off a finger, he would not have been overly emotivehe would have just gripped it to slow the bleeding until somebody came to help.
But then one day Howard picked up a hammer and beat the utter crap out of a coworker. Howard got mad when the other guy started yelling at him and crowding him into a corner. I was told that Howard used the wooden end of the hammer to smack him with, but still gave the guy quite a beating. Howard was a very strong young man.
Greenson, the irritating coworker, was just that type, I thought at the time. A troublemaker. He always had bad judgment. But he drank a good bit and I'd guess that he didn't even have any interest in good judgment most days. If he hadn't been a bad-tempered fool, he and Howard might have both kept their jobs. But the University had a policy against fighting, no matter how it started, and both workers were fired.
I think Greenson would have eventually been fired anyway, if only for chronic absenteeism. On the other hand, Howard might not have lasted long, eitherhe might have hammered somebody's head that wasn't as hard as Greenson's and killed him. (Not me, I thought. It may not have been true, but I thought I knew how to smile and kiss up to a madman with muscles!) Not caring much for drunks, it was my fantasy that maybe he'd have killed one of the many drunks that the University kept off the streets by hiring them at low wages to operate equipment and dangerous power tools on campus. When sober, some of the higher-functioning drunks were quite skilled carpenters, mechanics, and so forth. But that's another story.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Do I feel stupid! I finally remembered that the Ironing Lady's name was Josephine. What makes it stupid that I couldn't remember it, that's my grandmother's name as well. You'd think I could recall childhood things with such a strong association to serve as a reminder, but I'm losing brain cells every day.
Monday, August 23, 2004
Decades ago in Austin, Texas I was working at an outdoor fundraiser. Some friends of mine at The One Knite, the bar sometimes known as "The Joint That Won't Go Out", were throwing a fundraiser for themselves. Admittance was cheap and nobody objected to the boys throwing themselves a party as long as all were invited. I worked the ticket gate from noon until evening, then somebody sent a message for us to forget about the tickets and come listen to some of the bands.
When I got to the scene of the crime, having only experienced the show as a distant bam-bam thud-thud all day long, it was exceedingly noisy, confusing, and energizing. My head rattled, for the only pay for the day's volunteer duties had been free beer, and I was therefore as drunk as anybody else.
Out Of My Element Without A Paddle
Before long I was out of my element and trying to stop two drunks from fighting. The crowd was loony and they stopped me instead, just grabbed me and threw me aside. Someone sat on my chest and others held my arms down while yet others yelled that they wanted to see this fight! I decided, Fine, let 'em fight, and I nodded at the crowd. I wasn't even mad. I figured I'd wait until one of the bar-owners showed up and then I'd back him up, if possible. Then a girl I knew named Stuart came along and she must have known them for she got so mad that she tried to stop it, but the crowd grabbed her and tossed her out of the way. I got mad this time-I think because I was a sick-puppy secret-admirer of Stuart's and couldn't stand to see her mistreated.
Somebody knocked me down with a heavy shoulder-nudge, then someone sat on my chest. For the first time in more than a decade, I hit at least one person in the face with my left hand (I am left-handed). Then everything got complicated and I ineffectually smacked a bunch of somebodies with my right and left hand. That weight was back on my chest and a lot of people had hold of me. Someone argued that I was outnumbered, why didn't I hold still! At least part of the crowd was getting a little ashamed, I deduced. But I saw something then and I agreed with the crowd and they let me up. As the dust settled and I got to my feet, I told them they didn't have to keep an eye on me anymore.
Roger To The Rescue
"Look, Roger's got it under control now," I told them.
As they looked where I was pointing, they saw that Roger (known by many as Roger One-Knite), the most flamboyant and least cautious of the bar-owners, was striding through the crowd from the other side and people were rapidly moving aside for him. He was forcefully swinging his long black metal flashlight left and right and nobody thought of throwing him aside. Accustomed to ejecting people out of his bar and to outyelling everyone in the place, this was his kind of work. The crowd knew he wasn't fooling around or out of his water. Roger was the right man for the job, not me. I just wish he'd shown up a little earlier.
My Just Rewards
When I woke up the next morning, both hands ached miserably. With fingers numb, I almost couldn't get my pants hooked and zipped and buckled. You never know how much is involved until your hands feel like you're wearing boxing gloves. I ended up with an injured left fist that stayed sore for about six weeks. You can't do much without the use of your "good" hand. I haven't much wanted to hit anybody since then. If I did, I'd use a big black 3-cell Maglite, not my little sissy fists. I'd use a baseball bat or a hammer or I'd take off my boot and crown you. I would not use my puny fists, Sam-I-am!
Oh, one last thing-both hands had hurt so much at first that I didn't notice for a while that I'd broken the little finger of my right hand. By the time I did realize it, my hands didn't hurt, so I never did anything about it. To this day, you can tell which one was broken, for it's nowhere near as straight as the other one. Yeah, big street-brawler, that's me.
I had forgotten this small piece of my history until I mentioned some of it to Peter at "Changes In The Glass". I was just giving him a small example of how to make a big miscalculation. Since 2 or 3 of my readers don't read Peter's blog or comments, I "remembered" a little more detail for this account.
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Friday, August 20, 2004
Thursday, August 19, 2004
May Auld Acquaintance Be Forgotten
I knew a guy in high school who was one of the worst assholes you could imagine, yet he had some undeniable demonic charm and was likeable, nonetheless. Bart Burden thought that Hank Williams was God and that the real God, whatever his function in the real world might be, was the exclusive property of Caucasian Americans, no matter how badly he or any other white American acted. He wasn't stupid; I guess he was sort of an intelligent redneck. Maybe his people had never owned slaves, but he was a member of one of those last generations to swagger around publicly announcing that it was no big deal to treat people badly. Maybe if I were better versed in psychology, I could find the right terminology for him. He was on the football team; maybe that was what was wrong with him. I knew him from various classes we attended, including journalism.
You're probably wondering how much of a redneck he could be, if he was so intelligent. Well, there's thishe liked to tell you how sometimes he'd go "nigger-knocking" on weekends with some of his more uncouth friends. For those of you with no conception of what this atrocity consists of, it involved spotting a young black man and driving past him slowly enough that someone in the car could use a baseball bat on the pedestrian as if he was nothing more than a mailbox. He insisted they never really damaged anyone, "just gave 'em little love taps". I never much believed you could have that much control over velocity and impact, not under those circumstances.
Of course, I have no proof that his stories were even true; it's not as if I ever accompanied him to see for myself. Maybe he just liked to tell vile and crude stories and make himself seem rougher and tougher than he was. Yet I tended to believe him then and I still do. Though striking someone from behind is obviously a cowardly act, 40 years ago you could claim that it "took balls" because you had to be driving through "colored town" to so easily find a black man that unwary. Black males didn't walk through white sections of town back then unless they were workers accompanied by a white boss.
What I Know About Negroes (Not Much)
I knew a little about "colored town"though obviously in a shallow way and only from the outsidefor I'd lived next to it all my life. Because of that proximity and desire for peace, I generally adhered to that euphemism when I was at home or near home and tried not to call it Nigger Town. The white boys I knew at school did call it that, but they didn't live right smack on the corner, only 2 narrow lanes away from the black people. It's hard to say now whether my liberalism or my practical nature came first. The street in front of my house terminated at the street that divided my white section from the black section. You could turn left or right, but you couldn't drive through. The ghetto, like most ghettos in the world, didn't have many roads leading in or out.
There was a house where the street would have continued through, if such a thing had been possible. That house was occupied by an old Negro man named Charley and his son John. John himself seemed old to me, too, when I was 10 and 12, though he was probably about 50. I can hardly remember ever speaking to Old Man Charley. He seemed a little scary to me back then, though I realize now that he was probably just profoundly deaf. I walked over to his house and spoke often with John, though he stayed on one side of his weathered picket fence, me on the other.
John was no rocket scientist, but he was a gentle and kindly man and a kid like I was couldn't help but enjoy speaking to him now and then. His thick speech made him a little hard to understand sometimes, but also exotic. I can't recall that we ever talked about anything more intimate than the weather or traffic or other light conversation. He may have been much smarter than I imagined then. At least, I can imagine now what didn't occur to me then, that he knew he had to be wary about speaking to white people, even children. I know I never saw the inside of his house, never even stood inside his yard. I knew better than to attempt that sign of intimacy, and John knew better, too. In that time and place, his low picket fence was an almost inviolable barricade.
My family had a similarly polite but limited contact with the rest of the black community along that street. There was an older black lady across the street who was my babysitter from time to time. She didn't pay more mind to me that she had to, just set me up somewhere to color or draw, and went on with her work. She took in some laundry and a lot of ironing for her livelihood and as a child I thought her house had a very peculiar odor. It was, I suppose now, the accumulated musty smell of her very old wooden house blended with years of detergent, bleach, starch, and most of all the fumes of the heated iron. To this day the smell of a room where someone just finished a lot of ironing can elicit the smell of her old house, the look of her furniture, the neat stacks of folded ironing everywhere. I was lucky if I could find a chair to sit in sometimes, there was so much ironing! Whatever other smells were in her house, the hot iron always predominated.
The Black Children
I don't remember “getting into it” with any of the neighborhood black children except once. I slightly remember a black child who threw a rock or something at me and hit me in the side of the head. It was nothing serious, just the kind of thing that makes you really mad. I'm not sure if the child even lived on my streetthough I kept an eye out for him, I never saw him again. After a couple of weeks I didn't think about it anymore. At any rate, I didn't think about it any more than I thought about the pushes, shoves, swats, and conks on the head that I exchanged with the boys who lived on the White side of my house.
By the time my parents sold out and moved away, I had already moved away from home. That section of town, including my old street, is predominantly black now. I passed that way a couple of months ago, but a friend was driving. The street that once died out at Avenue B now goes through into that unfamiliar tangle of streets I never saw in the old days. My friend didn't drive straight ahead, so I've still never seen those hidden streets.
Old Man Charley's son John or some other inheritor must have sold the place long ago or maybe the city just took it for taxes and eventually paved that street. Considering how Americans of all colors love to drive and hate to go the long way around, it was probably considered a good thing at the time.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
GARY GILMORE BLUES
JUDY GARLAND BLUES,
my neuropathy-stricken blog for new & used poems
Here’s another SURPRISE NATURE PHOTO. It's a nice one from a site that, as far as I know, is not related to the Nobius of White Rabbit-Black Hole fame.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
My comments about comments usually appear in my Comments section and are therefore expressed “in a dark alley”. That’s how I think of it, for quite a few people on the Internet never hit an extra button, never see the available hyper references (Links) or the comments left in response to a blog post.
Now and then, a comment is left on my blog that I can’t decipher. Usually it’s a brief comment, and I can’t tell if it’s negative, friendly, or neutral. Usually it’s not an anonymous comment. Sometimes I even know the commenter (in the Internet sense of “know”) and sometimes I don’t, but either way, I don’t know what they mean.
Some of the elliptical commenters, when queried, either answer that they no longer know what they meant or else do not respond to my query at all. Of course, I myself often only ask them about it in the comments, saying no more than, “What?” So maybe they think I’m being as cute as they were and that I don’t really desire an answer that makes sense, that I’m too hip for that, that I’m in on the deal and too cool to be curious.
Sometimes I don’t mind this sort of thing and sometimes I do. I’m quirky and quixotic—it won’t hurt you to know that. So if you look back some day and see that you left a comment but now it has disappeared without salutation from me, maybe it fell into that undeciphered category that I call The Elliptical Remarks. Had your remark been hateful enough, it might have been more interesting and remained. Full-blown hatefulness is often interesting, however ugly. If your remark had been kissy-kiss enough, surely I would have had no question about your intent. One way or the other, I might have offered you more to kiss!
Poor Misunderstood Internet Monkeys
Of course, I have been misunderstood or misinterpreted myself out here in cyberspace. I wrote to one blogger lately and tried to express a liking for her blog in a manner that was too teasing for her. She seemed to conclude that I was a stalker and a liar and a creep of the first water. I wanted to write Miss Prissy and inform her that at the most I was a damn fool for teasing someone I didn’t know, though I’d found that a great many bloggers could dish it out and take it, too. But it seemed to me that this was a case where someone really Internet-stupid has misinterpreted the words of a stranger and has made retaliatory statements with such strong language that all possibility of clarification had been removed. There is no going back. I could talk more, but as a stranger I could never be heard. I feel just as insulted as she does, but Strangers can’t be reconciled—there is no connection there to begin with. It’s just another small detail of how things go wrong on the Internet.
So I don’t know what’s “right” for anyone to say to anyone. I just know what I do about certain things. Sometimes I wade toe-high into the mêlée. Other times I scurry into the cracks like a cockroach and hide.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
I thought this morning that I saw a dead squirrel in the road, right in front of my driveway. "Good," I thought, "another one bites the dust!"
But it wasn’t a squirrel, it was a young cat. Though ordinarily not very queasy about dead animals because of my past experiences in pest control, I didn’t want to deal with it right then because of an upset stomach. I could turn Your stomach with a professional story or two, but why should I? So, anyway, I waited an hour or more until I felt better, then went out to shovel it up and toss it in the burning barrel. Barbeque kitty—that’s what I did with the last one. But the cat was gone.
The last gooshy dead cat had been in front of my neighbor’s driveway, so it dawned on me that my neighbor might have returned the favor. Mr. B. was working in a flowerbed nearby and I kidded him about it.
"You know, things are in a terrible shape these days," I told him.
"That’s true," he agreed amiably.
"Yeah, it’s getting to where a fella can’t even leave a dead cat laying around for an hour or two without somebody walking off with it!"
Mr. B. grinned, agreed, and offered to give the cat back.
"It’s wrapped up tight like a mummy in a couple of plastic bags over there!" he offered, pointing toward his garbage can.
Needless to say, I hemmed and hawed and agreed that maybe that was, after all, the best place for it.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Perverts, Misfits and Oddballs
I can't remember the real name of that flophouse or even if it ever had a name. Surely it was called something, but my brain draws a blank. Let's just call it The Flophouse. All sorts of transients and impoverished UT students lived there, though there was never a full house. There were a couple of older-than-average college fellows who carried out the duties of management, but who they worked for was never known to me. I probably only had a marginal interest in it. It cost about $35 a month, had a communal bathroom and shower room like at a school gymnasium or a Federal prison. Whether any perverts lived there, I couldn't say because we all had such different schedules that I can barely recall ever seeing anyone in the bathing facilities when I was there. In fact, I seldom saw such a gang of misfits and oddballs give one another such a wide berth. All but the newest residents joined in the silent agreement that we wouldn't make trouble or otherwise shit where we lived.
Communists, Lawyers, and Woebegone Types
There were a few student communists and socialists, some failed lawyers, various near-vagrants, down-and-out intellectual/artistic types, and at least one Scientologist who lived there. The Scientologist was likeable, though he seemed unduly self-satisfied about his religion, and that's how I've thought of Scientologists ever since, since I've never met another one. My friend Bernie (whom I talked about in a previous post) lived there briefly, but he decided it was too expensive for him. People came and went all the time I was there. It was a wonder there wasn't more instability and crime in the building, but maybe it was just that so few of us had anything to covet or that would be valuable in a pawnshop.
There was a giant "study room" in which each man had a cubicle, though some had appropriated two or more extra ones, since there were more cubicles than there ever were residents. Some Apeman in this tolerant and anti-authoritarian environment was allowed to keep a spider monkey there. Fortunately, neither of these primates lived on my wing. The monkey ordinarily wore a diaper and was kept on a leash, but sometimes the monkey would get loose from the dithering Apeman, shed the diaper, and swing from the rafters with fecal pellets dropping down on the desks. Instantly a chorus of voices from people studying began hollering to the Apeman what things they were going to do to him with telephone poles and razor blades and enemas. They were a crude bunch. The complication about the liberated monkey was that the Apeman, when he finally showed up, was barely any more talented than the rest of us at catching the excited excreting spider monkey. Take my advice, never live with any animal that can shit on you from above!
The other accommodations for the 30 to 40 occupants (strung out over three sleeping wings, one wing per floor level) included one giant wooden closet for all your worldly possessions plus a bunk bed, high or low. The bunks were separated into wholly isolated compartments, except on the side where you get into bed. Mine was a top bunk. Most people, for purposes of whatever kind of sex they had in there, had tacked up bed sheets or other materials to provide themselves a modicum of privacy. A modicum, indeed.
Now For The Sex Scene
This leads, I suppose, to the incident of most interest. I was awakened one night by the plaintive sounds of a child or a small dog in pain. For some reason, it sounded like it was coming from the outdoor courtyard one flight down. Though the small covered window in my bunk would only crank open to a small degree, I opened it that small bit and peeked out. There was no sign of anyone there. I closed the window and studied the notion for a while. It was very disconcerting to think someone was being cruel to a child or animal. It finally dawned on me, though, that I'd been listening to one of the lowest-volume, yet not at all inaudible, female orgasms I'd ever encountered, I hurried stuck my head out of bed and looked both ways down the barely-lit corridor. Who knows? I figured, if she were moaning to that degree, maybe I'd see a pair of feet doing something like going through the motions of riding a bicycle or something. But I didn't see anything.
I was mainly curious to identify by motion or sound which bunk all this sex was coming from so that I could identify the happy fellow the next day. Maybe I'd even figure out who the joyful moaner was! But no such luck. I never did find out who was doing all that cryptic moaning and furtive fucking that night. I never heard it a second time. I never heard anyone mention the blissful fuckers. Maybe he moved out to live with her in some less crowded and oppressive abode. I'm fairly certain that I would have. I'd have moved in with her in a New York minute, and I'm only judging by the sounds she made. At that time, in my twenties, I became fascinated with and can recall to this day the faces (or even just the gorgeous view of a woman walking away) of various women, seen only once and who were complete strangers to mebut I never became so transfixed by a woman whom I never saw at all. Whew!
Excuse me while I go pant a little for old time's sake.
Monday, August 09, 2004
I said in a recent post that I don't go near the water. I should have also said that I don't go near the watermelon. It's much the same. Everyone I know loves it to the point of ridiculousness, almost madness. This is the South, after all. On top of that, it's Southeast Texas, so near to Louisiana where they brag endlessly about the quality of their watermelons. The people around here make it sound nearly sensual when they allude to it. Most of the ones who become so rapturous about it are the same ones who would never talk aloud like that about either straightforward or kinky sex. And it gives me the creeps.
Too Much Love Talk
I have long found this misplaced talk of "loving" watermelon to be repellent. I don't want to hear large segments of otherwise respectable society rave with slobber dripping off their lips about the red ripe juicy flesh of fruit. I don't want to hear about big gooey hunks of barbeque ribs, either. Nor do I want to hear how aroused they can get about eating big hunks of chocolateI'm partial to chocolate myself, but I don't want to walk around exulting about it! How can these otherwise repressed Southern Baptists around here gush without restraint like this, I always wonder. Can't we ever keep food separate from sex?
Hey, you, quit making those noises! And get your silly face out of that melon! What would your mother think?!
Everything about watermelon is a further complication of my life. I used to like it as much as anyone and it's not as if I can't stand it even now. I always liked to eat it when it was very cold, yet to refrigerate a big one requires every bit of spare space in the refrigerator! It takes over the house! Watermelon is the guest who comes to dinner early and leaves late. Until it's completely gone, it completely owns you.
If I eat watermelon, it tastes all right, but I find the rewards limited because it's such a messy endeavor. And, God, those demonic seeds! It's a lot of trouble, I find, trying to wield a clever fork and eat my way around the seeds before they enter my mouth. And it's even more work if I try to do the same after the seeds are in my mouth, to separate them from the edible parts and spit them out without dribbling down my shirt front or putting out anybody's eye.
At the same time there's such a large percentage of it that you cannot eat! There's pounds of what's inedible left after you've eaten your few ounces of what's delicious! Then you have this big drippy mass of rind to get rid of while trying not to slosh it on the floor and every other horizontal surface between the dining table and the garbage can. When time comes to dispose of the garbage, one often finds that someone has continued to fill the bag with all that it'll hold, regardless that it now weighs as much as a load of bricks and the bag's on the verge of splitting and leaking a juicy slime trail all the way out of the house.
Eat That Thing And Get It Outta Here!
Some of you outdoor eaters may think that's the solution, but if you just chunk the rinds somewhere in the high weeds without taking further action, you must truly live in the open country. My back yard is a good size, but it isn't the Grand Canyon. Wherever it falls, it will draw flies, start to stink, and if you leave it long enough, will eventually uglify to the point of resembling what some bigfoot monster puked up. You may like it like that, but I don't.
The Perpetual Challenge
Watermelon is, to say the least, a perpetual tactical and strategic challenge for me. The trick, I guess, is whether you love it that much. I don't, and those who do seem entirely wacky to me. I'll take some other challenge, if you don't mindsomething that's not sticky and icky and full of seeds! Something that's not heavy as a corpse and just as sweet-smelling once it's really ripe! I'm not going near the watermelon, period, and I don't care what you say!
Sunday, August 08, 2004
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
What You Can't See
Back to the tombstone. No, I didn't say back to the future; that's another story entirely. Anyway, nobody ever looks down at their feet and recognizes the tombstone shape they're standing on. They step on it, they step off it. It isn't really there. My grave marker has been in its current location for about 14 years, its inscription face down. If it faced up, perhaps Mr. Schultz would give some people the creeps. What you don't know can't hurt you, I guess.
Get A Grip On Things
During this 14 years, it had been sinking little by little into the ground and lately I'd noticed that it had sunk in about 2.5 to 3 inches and now creates a longer step from ground to doorsill than it used to. So, yesterday I unearthed it from the compacted dirt and the ensnaring tree rootsit's peculiar how tiny tree roots can get a grip on surfaces that we think are smooth! Then I pried it loose from the hole it was in with a huge crowbar. Hooking onto the back corners with the crowbar, I pulled it toward me in stages until it made a clear space to work. I placed a layer of dirt in the hole that was left behind and then added four concrete blockseach one an inch-thick and 12 inches longover that. I moved the tombstone on top of that by heaving it left, right, forward, back, a little at a time. It's times like these I wish were as strong as I am large.
All's Well That Doesn't Make You Fall Down
It seems nice, secure, and level at present, but the first couple of rains may alter all that. It's no longer such a long step up or down any more out there at the door to my study. I just have to get used to the idea that it's easy, not hard any more. My leading foot and leg keep encountering the step sooner than anticipated and so my step seems a bit awkward, though the fact is that it's easier. In a few weeks I'll have adjusted to it, I guess, and I won't have to think of it so much.
Where Did I Get A Tombstone?
The usual place, of course. No, not the graveyard! When I began to do a great deal of leatherwork in Austin, I needed something heavy to act as a foundation for all the hammering. I went to a local monument works and asked the workmen if they had any smooth junk pieces in their back yard I could buy. I bought a much thinner piece, about 1-inch thick, of polished granite, very pink, very pretty, very hard and smooth. Perfect as a shock absorber when using steel stamps for decorations or for attaching medium rivets and snaps on the belts. It looked like a piece of marble to me; but I was no expert and it was just artful imitation, I was told. Thirty years later it's not so smooth as it used to be but it's still almost as polished as it was. I think I gave the workmen about $3 for it. They probably bought a bottle or two of cheap wine with which to while away the rest of the afternoon.
The Nutcracker Part!
As I was leaving I saw the 4" block and asked about it; they said I could just have that old tombstone for free if they didn't have to help load it in my car. I nodded and grinned, getting the impression that day's drinking had begun before I got there. It resisted the heavy hammering I gave it when punching the long slots for the belt buckle prongs in belts. Being young and poor and greedy, I couldn't resist the Free offer and I drove my Ford Falcon right up to it in the high weeds, folded the front seat forward, and tilted the tombstone upward onto the edge of the rear floorboard. When I tilted it forward one more time and let it fall forward CLUNK! all the way into the car, it was as if two guys had just simultaneously jumped into the car. I had saved my cojones by turning loose in a timely manner, but I wondered for a second or two if I'd sprung the car springs. A few times in the past 30 years, two men (usually including me!) have moved it short distances, but no one ever enjoyed it. I remember when Red Fred helped me with it and panted something to the effect that he now owed me no favors Of Any Kind. I didn't blame him.
Buddy, Can You Spare A…Uh…
You're probably wondering why there was a spare tombstone lying around like that. It had not been vandalized. It wasn't scratched. I could detect no misspelled words. It wasn't discolored. There was nothing that indicated it might have been a discard. And nothing to indicate that someone had made it recently as some sort of practice. I figured it was either a display model or else one that was soon replaced by a more expensive onemaybe one that spelled out all the words. It read
Hosp. Corps. Sp. Am. War
It had no dates, no year of birth or year of death. Other explanations are still possible, but this description is the thing that makes me guess that it was a display model. If you knew enough to be marking a fellow's last resting place, it seems like you'd know his dates of birth and death. Oh, well, you can conjecture about it yourself and probably produce and reject quite a number of possibilities. My conjectures and convictions about how it came to me tend to guard me against feelings of guilt. I have never felt either disrespectful or creepy about possessing it. It's just a moderately interesting story.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Oh, well, fine! I'd probably make it too long and boring, anyway. That's what I usually do. Everyone's running away now, I can hear their feet pattering down the path outside immediately after their shoes slide noisily on the waxed floor and the resounding impact of their knees smacking into the kitchen door is heard. I'll get you, my little pretties--you and your little dog, too!
Here's a photo of Trini Lopez, four other guys, and Your Girl on a Surprise Family Photo she didn't know about.
Sunday, August 01, 2004
Twinkle, Twinkle, Movie Star!
Are there no Story of Discovery entries out there, Mr. Pooh?
When the weekend's over and the truth is found
(To be lies) and you've come back to town
Without having managed to have sex
With either your suddenly attractive Ex
Or anyone with the improbable name of Tex
Or whoever the hecks your favorite movie star may be,
Don't you see? Don't you get it? I'm here,
And it's time to think only of me!
Gimme a story, gimme a tickle,
I might not quite have Elephant Pickle sex with you
On a brazen TV reality show originating from Brazil,
But I'd be glad to dinkle that hapless hole in your mind
Or goose you till you twinkle!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. Now I'm beginning to believe it.Clarence Darrow