Sunday, September 24, 2017

9976. RUDIMENTS pt. 84

Making Cars
There are a few things that still jump
out at me as really aberrational. I was
in the middle of nowhere, working in 
an environment unknown to me, at first:
chickens to cows to pigs and sheep. We
walked around doing 'chores'  -  which
is what farmers call the constant, and
steady, routine of twice a day milling 
and everything else with it, that goes 
with dairy farming. It was never easy, 
and never anything that let a person 
just coast or skate along. The herd takes
constant attention, milk, manure, hay,
feed, drainage, cleaning, spreading the
manure onto the fields, planting those
fields later, tending to growth, turning
it into silage and feed, and then harvesting
the crop, whichever crop it was for that 
time period. And the farmer had his pick:
Spring wheat in one field would mean an
early harvest, and hopefully an early
payoff. Corn went until late September.
Some planted outside rows of potatoes,
other root vegetables, etc. A brilliant, 
green field of oats was another early-in 
crop; and it just went on. Besides that, the
machinery needed constant work  -  without
it you got nothing done. Oil changes, filters,
adjustments, replacement parts, all of that.
All work. The seed company representatives 
were always coming around 'Pioneer Company,'
and the others, pushing their brands of the
science-controlled genetic seeds they sold. 
I never saw much difference, but some did.
You wanted yield; hardiness; fast maturation;
strong stalks; good moisture. It was crazy. 
Everything seemed to count for something.
None of the 'money' ever really became 
money; it was just bank account transfers, 
bank notes and loans; but farmers had this
all figured out, and the local banks (back then)
knew the deal and money flowed. Seasonal
infusions, $16,000, maybe $20,000, which
would keep them going  -  seed, fuel, hired
hands, and the rest  -  until harvests began,
and the money started coming back in. Mostly
to the bank, but they'd get a 'draw' for the
usual paycheck kind of stuff. $200 a week
or something, for family, groceries, doctors
clothes, etc. This went on all year, season by
season, and I used to think THAT was the
real science of farming; forget the seed 
mixes. I was never a 'farmer' so I never had
to worry about it; though, as I said previous,
the bank was very liberal with me too, and
gladly floated 6-month notes for most any 
amount I asked. 6%, 7% interest on paybacks,
and they'd roll another one. It was crazy enough,
especially when you'd find yourself paying
the balance of the old one off with a part
of the new one. I never knew if these banker
guys knew any of this. They weren't the
sharpest pencils in the box sometimes. 
They were always pretty ugly, I thought, 
too, and really poor, cheap-suit, dressers.
Just another mystery. There's be barn socials
and hay-dances and fairs and all that, and sure
enough, they'd be there. It was like a bad old
Judy Garland or Mickey Rooney movie, one
of those 'hoe-down, damn, will-the -kids-make- 
it-through-their-troubles' kind of scenes.
The wives to all this, they were another scene
all together. Astounding. Wicked Witch of the
West stuff right out of Oz, sometimes. My own 
wife got mixed up  only a bit with these 'ladies'
of the church sometimes. Church Socials, or
community feeds, to feed the poor, and have
a lame dance or a tea or a party. Always
emulating something really bad  -  like an
imagined version they all kept of some prim
and proper version of royalty. Except to them
the Queen was maybe Elsie the Cow. That's
as far as it went. I've always felt (this is a
personal, parenthetical, aside) sex to be a
part of life, and Life was supposed to be what
they were always celebrating and upholding.
Only a few of these ladies were in any way
half-hot, ripe, happy 39 year-olds. I had eyes. 
I'd see it, and I knew who maybe could be
a thunderbolt in bed, back at home. But you'd
never see it from the behavior here. No one
ever got loose, there never being alcohol
around these ladies. There was one stiff,
a real drudge. She was the clerical secretary
of the local school, and her husband was
the big, crusty Minister at one of the fancy
stone churches over in Troy. About 6 or 8
miles off, down the hills and out towards 
Rt. 6. His name, get this, was Chauncey 
DePew, Reverend Chauncey Depew. She
was always just Mrs DePew. Not pleasant
to look at in any way  - short, dumpy, with 
bad bangs and horrible taste in clothes. Always
cranking about something; bad mood, a real
pain. She never much took to me at all,
nor me to her. Whatever. One year, whatever
year it was when the St. Louis Arch was
brand new (in Missouri, some 'Gateway
To The West' celebration on the banks of
the Mississippi), her and Chauncey took
a car-trip vacation out see the new arch.
You would have though she was going
to Paris, to visit the Louvre. Hell, to
buy the Louvre. She got all uppity and
high-and-mighty over the upcoming trip,
and their plans, and the 'exclusivity' of
their arrangements and travel. If you want
to count a '64 Chevy as exclusive travel,
well then, go ahead. I don't think Motel
6's existed yet, but I'm sure if they did,
these two rubes had their prayer books
with them and stayed in motel 2 and a 
half and loved it because they didn't
know the difference. 
You have to remember the era this all 
was in. Paychecks were spitting blood 
and people were being sent to Vietnam 
on a dime a dozen bus. Out there it was
considered a point of honor to have your kid
go, and if he got killed, even better. High
dudgeon, the body comes home in flags,
the church opens up, bells ring and peal,
and the poor sucker gets immortalized :
a photograph, in uniform, tacked onto a
colored construction paper in the local
lame high school glass-fronted bulletin
case. I never knew why did they that stuff.
It was a real tragedy to me. Talk about
graduating. I always told the kids to stay
back as much as they could. Nowadays,
everyone looks back on all this with the
proper music, (rock sound track, no less)
and the same talking heads who screwed
up the whole mess, and probably killed
your kid, get lauded for being reasonable 
and prescient while they fast-talk to cover
their mistakes before they die of their own 
old age. That what time does, you jerk, I 
always want to say, it passes and you die off. 
I hope you meet Corporal Wendell Jennings 
on your way to Hell, while he's waving you 
off from the other direction. Put that on 
your bulletin board.
My own war-fighting days were over then.
I had my 4F and screw 'em all. I'd fought 
my battles, left my ruins and people, met 
my own dead and dying. In the woods here, 
I was as good as disappeared, and thank you.
Those country-bumpkin kids around me, I
wanted to save them, keep them alive. But
it was a lost cause : Cambodia. Laos. Nixon.
Carpet bombing. The 'Christmas Offensive'.
These kids loved it all, they ate up all that,
and just went away. Blood is a good fertilizer.
Like a dead fish with the Indians, planted
with the corn. I guess.


Nothing has ever meant too much to me.
I veer from pole to pole:  everything hurts, 
or nothing hurts at all.

9974. ROVER

The guy on Thirteenth Street was drunk, 
and I knew that, so I figured why take
any chances. Those sorts of people really
annoy me. They get all in your face, and 
slobber about the inconsequentials you,
of course, can do nothing about. His wife
has left him stranded, and taken the keys.
Well, how's that again, birdbrain, and 
what did you expect? Then they never 
leave and start crying all over for you to 
buy them one because you're a good guy 
and they like you. Right, pal, and here's 
a bowl of cornflakes too. He's talking to 
me and trying to eat peanuts as well, 
from the little bowl along the counter : 
fingers  peeled, trying to grasp, he can't 
even find his mouth. I think if he fell off
his bar stool right now I'd stomp  him. 
Down for the count, in a land of no
numbers. Now wouldn't that be great?


Don't cry for me, Margarita. Either.
For I am not your home. Undaunted by
my civil war, I walk the straight stretch
simply. There's a lady in the closet,
where the doors are opened up. We've
got blood in the bank, and a history
lesson for sure at every bend.
I'll think I'll go outside a while and greet
the morning : larkspur and whippoorwill,
weeping willow and grinding mill.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

9972. RUDIMENTS, pt. 83

Making Cars
So, this Jennings guy, for all his
supposed bluster, turned out to
be a big nothing; just an old country
guy with a back-story worth living
down. The best thing I remember him
saying was about cars, once. I had an
'62 Plymouth Fury, big V-8 sitting in
my yard. Perfect running shape, good
enough condition, except the rear right
had been smashed in (my sister's car)
in a fender-bender she'd had. That year's
Fury, ('62), had torpedo-like tail-lights
tucked under a flat but weird fender.
That was smashed in, and the light was
gone. Jennings didn't care. The odd thing
was, my father had actually towed this
car, with a tow bar, all the way from NJ
on one of his visits. For me, he said, to
have and use (and fix)  -  and probably
just as much to conveniently get it out
of his own area. But that was good. He
got mad when, instead of using it, I handed
it over to Jennings, for some nominal bit
of money, maybe 40 bucks. At that time,
Jennings said, after seeing the car sitting
there and expressing an interest, 'Does it
run? That's all I care. If they don't run
they ain't no good to me.' Cool quote.
He drove it around a long time, all happy
about it and with the smashed rear and
missing light too. Like I said before, up
there nothing like that mattered. Dirt
roads, no law.
Two times there were when the State Police
came to my place : there were no other
policing outfits up in the hills, and I guess
the State guys covered it from a barracks
somewhere. The first time was a bummer,
while the second time was comical, and only
because, from NJ, my silly mother-in-law,
in a panic, called somehow the Pennsylvania
State Police to tell them that her daughter and
family were stranded somewhere in the high
country out there (it was a big, February
snowstorm, and we'd been snowed in, but
it was no big deal), and she was worried we'd
starve or freeze to death. So, yep, the State
Police somehow found us, and sent a guy up
in some big vehicle to make sure we were OK.
That was almost embarrassing, but funny as
all get out too. The second time, those guys
I've mentioned previously, using my spare
barn as a mechanic shop, had instead taken
the car of someone they were having
problems with because of his having had
sex with one of those guys' sisters, which
totally pissed them off, and 'stolen' his
prized Austin Haley 3000, which they
then stripped. Of course, he made claim,
reported it all, and they got nabbed, in fact
taken away on charges, for which fines
and restitution had to be made. It was a
big bungle of trouble, and I had to attest,
as the property owner, that these guys were
there with permission (yes, true) but also
that I had nothing to do with this event and
had no knowledge of what was going on
(also true, but stupid as hell on my part).
Believe me, I couldn't make this stuff up.
So I learned that the law was always
around and ready to surprise, and pounce,
even if a person didn't know about it. These
kids were stupid too, but my stupidity was
a bit more as I was their 'elder,' guide, and
should have known better. These kids, men,
whatever, were all a little screwed up in
the head  -  no fathers, wild, country kids,
unconnected to most everything except to
what fell onto me. They had managed
somehow to read into me all sorts of
ideals and things which didn't really exist.
I was no better than they were, and not
worthy, certainly, of being anyone's idol or
torchbearer. But, that's how it happened. 
That Austin-Healey 3000, by the way,
as good as it was then, would now be 
worth probably a clean hundred-grand.
Over time I reached the point of realizing
that's how it is with everything : everyone
misplaces their idol-worship or allegiance.
About the time of the '72 election, all the
Nixon-campaign stuff I ever saw was a
perfect example of this. The kind of stuff
that was going on under the guise of
'America' was a perfect example of that.
All that midwestern frippery, the cheering
throngs, the middle-America ethos, it was
all of a fake and fearsome let-on. In the
small places in that area of Pennsylvania,
no one really seemed to care, but it mostly
all went unsaid. In Elmira it was mostly a
Republican crowd, except for the college
contingent and all the 'wiser' heads who
went with the McGovern contingent, the
campaign theme of which was 'Come Home,
America'  -  which I for sure never understood.
It was a combination of college-boy plea to
get out of Vietnam (one meaning) and, as
well, a sort of parody of explaining how
far afield America had gotten from its 
origins  -  except that it was untrue and a
conscious lie. The origins of America had
never included having the Government in 
your face about everything and in your 
business at every turn   - rules, regulations, 
taxation, fees, licensing, paperwork, etc. 
Except that there wasn't any Democrat 
around who could say that stuff either, 
because they were all dependent upon 
that Government like it was a sweet-milk 
free teat and they were dying to suck it. 
I always figured that anyone in their 
right mind could see that, but I guess 
I was way wrong  -  and it's twenty-times
worse now and the same jerks who would 
have thought that way then are thinking 
that way now. It little matters in the long 
run, (as John Maynard Keynes put it, 'In
the long run, we're all dead'), and that 
was as good to say then as it is to say 
now. No one up in my set of hills would 
have cared if Nixon had killed McGovern 
or vice-versa, and they both had gone 
straight to Hell together. I couldn't figure
out where or how these people came from
who cheered and hollered for a candidate;
mis-placed idol worship or whatever.
The tiny dirt roads I lived amidst held all
the promise and hope that one person, alone
could give towards their own self and/or
to others. The kids in the schools were 
getting all mucked up with bullshit. There
was a guy there, in charge of the Board of
Ed, named Harry Glass. I'd had to talk to
him any number of times, what with my
jobs for a while both coming out of Bd. 
of Ed Payroll stuff. He was an insufferable 
kind of suit and tie guy, out of his league 
there in the country without a clue. All
he knew was the proper school stuff and
no imagination whatsoever. He was 
running the place into the ground;  a 
real socialist ethos in the schooling 
department, and there wasn't anyone 
much there to stop him. They actually,
right about his Nixon-challenge time,
built and constructed an elementary 
school of what was called 'open-schooling'
as a tryout  -  no separate walls, all the
kids together, oddball New Agey type
teachers corralling students in groups.
It lasted about two years, the walls 
went up and everything broke back 
into the more traditional format. 
And Harry Glass was gone.

Friday, September 22, 2017

9971. RUDIMENTS, pt. 82

Making Cars
They didn't really have what are called
'juvenile delinquents' in Pennsylvania.
They just had people who got locked
up. Then they'd come back out, go live
with their families again, or maybe even
get a cross-bow-trailer and live a long,
dreary, and solitary, life off in the woods
or at some crossing where the dirt lanes
met. Recidivism was in their blood, so
everything would just happen over and
over. There were no such operations, that
I knew of, such as counselors coming to
the home, or sessions with a shrink, or any
of that. It was pretty odd, mainly because
all that hands-off stuff, good as it was, it
merely left to all these worst-case guys the
chance to live fully armed : rifles, pistols,
you name it. Guns a'plenty. In my own youth,
to be a juvenile delinquent, as it was driven
home to me so often, was about the worst
thing a local boy could do. Avenel had a few.
Heck, I knew a few  -  guys who would torch
the portables because they didn't like school.
Those little fires never did much real damage,
but we'd see the burned-areas on Monday
morning on the portables' outside corner walls
and they'd be snickering about their cool deed. In
addition, I did know of two trailer-park girls
who were pregnant at age 15. What we never
knew was 'by whom'  -  so of course there
were a million 'ownership' stories for that
deed. Inman Avenue and area was like that.
There was a kid who made a practice once
or twice of being sure everyone knew that
he'd hung a cat from the underpass. Yeah
by the neck. I never saw it, no dead, hanging,
cats for me, but he always bragged on.
Sadistic guy, probably went to Vietnam and
had a good old time, but I never knew. You
get what you get when you pack it all in that
early. The point was, those kinds of Avenel
kids, and those Pennsylvania types I made
mention of, were probably pretty much the
same, except we  -  living 'civilized' I guess,
always had 'reform school' or the juvenile
delinquent rap hanging over our heads. I
was kept in stir by that fear, a lot. The
worst thing I ever did, or, hey, the worst
think I ever did that you're gonn'a ever know
about from me, was when we collected about
50 Christmas trees one year, after Christmas
time was over, piled them up high in the old
woods at the end of Inman Ave, in a cleared
out circle area we used for hanging out, etc.,
and lit them up after they'd dried out some.
You'd have thought the world was ending,
and we'd never figured for that kind of blaze.
That fire took up in about 10 seconds and I'd
bet it was visible in Linden and Elizabeth too.
100 feet of furious red-devil flames, crackling
and blazing. We were freaked  -  and that word
usage didn't even exist yet, then. Hello, juvenile
delinquent! We all figured we were doomed.
In Pennsylvania, none of that really mattered.
They had the nut-house in Clarks Summit,
and maybe you went to that if you were really 
crackers, but that was only after arrest, chains, 
and trial. Of sorts. The cool thing was (I always 
watched this with one eye), all you had to do, 
out there, to be left alone, was be really bad. 
The more vile, and the more of a nasty, 
bastardized, cantankerous reputation you 
built for yourself, the less anybody ever
would deal with you. Complete and happy
was the isolation of the horrible. Figuring 
they wanted it that way too. No one went 
near them. The one experience I had with 
all this  -  which turned out funny and 
interesting too, (and a great way, it turned
out, to gain some placement and reputation
of my own, for a sort of fearless recklessness
that apparently everyone ended up liking),
was the one year I got a local job driving
a school bus, twice a day, to pick up about
45 or so kids  -  all ages and sorts  -  along
these hilly, twisty backroads. It wasn't so
much a farm-route, those were easy, flat 
and open land. Mostly paved too. This 
was more the 'undesirables' route. Hovels.
Shacks. Weirded out trailers. Kids. I was
told beforehand that it was a treacherous,
undesirable route, and to be careful to the
utmost. A few of these homes were ancient,
family spots, on craggy hillside turns, with
rock outcroppings and a leaping pond 
down below. I was told the weather would
be my worst enemy, and my second worst
enemy would be a few of the fathers along
the way, who'd mostly be hostile to me
representing organized schooling coming 
each day to take their kids away; as they
saw it. Most of them were OK, and for
the most part the kids, if they didn't want 
to come down to a 'centralized' bus pick-up, 
allowed me, and it was permitted, to drive 
as I could right to their houses and get them. 
Or wait. Or beep. Whatever. I did all I could,
and got to be nodding OK with a few of 
the hardest cases. There was one guy  -  
and I'd been warned of him, a madman 
and a gun-toting one too  -  named Jennings, 
Jim Jennings. He had a crazy-ass five-foot 
killer wife too, named Natalie I think it 
was  -  would pull the head off a puppy just 
for fun. They were both really mean, ugly 
people and the point was 'keep off their
property, wait for the kids at the bottom 
of the hill, and it ain't even worth beeping.'
Then they threw in, as a clincher, 'don't go, 
he'll shoot.' That was a real uplift moment, 
for sure. So, anyway, a few times I waited, 
really annoying  -  other kids in the bus being 
jerks, impatient, etc. Finally one  day the kids 
came on, from Jennings' place, and I said, 
just like that  -  'Listen, starting tomorrow 
I'm going up your hill, and you're coming 
out, when I tap the horn. I can't wait here 
like this no more. And you tell your parents 
that too, and tell them I mean it.' The kids 
just nodded it off.
The next morning I did exactly that, and there
was old man Jennings (probably 50 then) just
standing there. There was a big sort of circular
turnaround dirt drive, with a large old oak tree
right in the center of it. It seemed to be just
enough for a tight, circular turnaround without
any backing up, to get down. For which I was 
glad. He looked like a cuss, but not so fearsome,
even though I was probably shaking. And I
saw no gun, but I didn't see little old Natalie
either. I opened the bus doors and said 'I'm 
here to get your kids.' He said, 'What you 
mean coming up here like this? You supposed 
to be waitin' down there for them, like ever.'
I gulped and just said, 'Can't. And the 'ever'
is why.' I don't know if he got that or not. He
said, 'I'm surprised at you for taking this up
on your own, but since you're here, you know 
it ain't easy getting out of here with a bus like
that.' I said, 'I'll manage.' And I looked out, 
and there were his kids, coming forth. After
that, the comings and goings got easy, and we
did actually become friends. He and his wife
came down to our house once or twice, and
one time we even had a real meal, fixed up
by my wife. The two ladies hit it off like 
gold, going over things, doing the dishes, 
and all. Jim and I sat around, just talking
and honking about stuff for an hour. It was
all good. Another time, I traded him a junk
car in my yard for a .22 caliber Ivers & 
Johnson pistol. Probably the one that he
was supposed to be shooting at me.


I want to go until I can slide it home
and just right here die in place. This
enormous burden, this hefty carry-on
grows wearisome to me. Yet, in the
frame of living I do, the light is too
good to darken and I wish to go on
painting forever. Two mixed feelings
in one mixed mind. I've heard of
Dahlias, but don't know what they
are, wouldn't recognize one before
me. It's like an unknown Jesus,
knocking at my door. Would I
again turn a stranger away?
Sometimes life is a fragrant
thing. Other times
it just stinks.


Got a clue on what to do?
Men holding pocket books, 
like women do? There's a
collision on that bridge, about
to happen. I can sense and I 
can feel. What do you make 
of free and easy?
Over at yesterday's Quick-Chek
they try selling tomorrow.