Saturday, April 30, 2016


That crash was
so bad that guy's
tattoos were all 
over the street.


Here is the last time I went somewhere
new. I had the entire ball team with me,
all the coaches and some kids too. We
played the Straydonfield Squirrels three
games in a row. Lost all three, but it
didn't matter; the kids just wanted to
see central Pennsylvania. So I gave 
them the trip and three scheduled 
games. Everywhere we went, 
there were pretzels. Pretzels
and old trains. The whole
time, I was calling all we
saw the 'Chattenooga


The barbershop set-up was basically
a mis-en-scene for old guys to sit
around and endlessly get updated.
About stuff, but about Pennsylvania
stuff, specifically. It was like 'who
else would give a hoot' about the
things they mentioned  -  deer head
counts, and milk-fat quotas, and if
Pingry was 'scratching' Mrs. Kobel.
Yep, 'scratchin' was the word they
used for having sex. I heard it a
hundred times if I heard it once,
and I've never heard it anywhere
else since, except in my re-telling.
Never figured that out. So, anyway,
there I was, back in Warren's '65
Ford Galaxie, which, if you've ever
seen one, was a weird year  -  just a
squared-off box of a car, really no
design finesse at all. A real
come-down from the softer-looking
and easier on the eyes, '64 Fords.
I never could figure out, also  -  all
my life, not just here, since like 1959,
why Ford used the word Galaxie for
their car and not 'Galaxy.' Or they
used both. Something about it just
always bothered me. I was in his
car and we were driving back, from
East Smithfield this was, and I'd
never really had a real, short,
regular guy's haircut since I was
like 12. All shaved now too. I see
photos of me then, working the farm,
and I look like I really AM 12 all
over again. But skinny as a runt.
All these Pennsylvania farm guys
had farming muscles, not so much
like a body-builder gets, but a
strongly formed muscle pattern
nonetheless. I, by contrast, even
doing my best Popeye, just look
like some working-worm in a tee
shirt, showing off nothing. Nobody
ever said anything, but it felt odd.
And I didn't like that haircut none
either, because you had to keep after
it. Like every three weeks or so you'd
just need another. That was a real
pain in the butt, making return trips,
and I soon just gave up on that, except
I can't remember what I did to keep
short or shorter hair. It was all against
my ethos and my principles anyway.
I wasn't growing fond or happy.
The funny thing, too, was that, every
time I sat there in this stupid dumpy
porch-fake-barber-shop, I was stewing.
And all I could ever think about was Mr.
Novak's place, back in Woodbridge, up
Hillside Avenue, on my bicycle, off
Rahway Ave., to where I'd ride myself
once or twice a week for piano lessons
in his really nice brick house up the
top of that hill. The setting was a little
bit the same. You see, all these guys
had daughters, farm daughters, young
and growing ripe. When I took piano
lessons, sometimes I'd have to be
sitting there waiting for Mr. Novak 
to be done and ready for me. I was 
like 10 or 11, and he had a really
attractive daughter, about maybe 
16 or 17. Lots of times I'd be just 
sitting there gazing out, watching 
her hanging clothes outside, in the 
yard, on one of those clothes-hanging 
things people used to have, made of 
wire and plastic cord, sort of square  
-  looking something like a weird 
and large TV antenna stuck into 
the ground. Anyway, she'd be out
there hanging clothes, and I'd just 
be gazing out, at her, but just gazing 
too. It was magical, but I was just 
a kid and so it didn't matter much. 
Well, this barber-shop guy was 
like that too  - a few daughters 
around, doing yard things, and 
I'd just be watching while I waited.
All those dead animal heads on 
the wall sort of kept a person in 
line. Know what I mean?  Just 
think, all the way to the middle 
of Pennsylvania, for this? That's 
what I'd be saying to myself.
The other funny thing  -  and this
took me some real time to realize  -
was that these  Pennsylvania country 
people, from all of what I saw, really
did live a complete and finished life
away from all intellectual considerations.
Not a book nor a paper to be found of
anything that was not about farm work,
sports, hunting, or any of the other
usual stupid pleasantries that keep 
people relegated to the plow. Maybe
a travel magazine here or there. Every
so often there'd be a family seemingly
just a notch up, above the other in 
social stature, but that too meant 
nothing, except maybe a travel 
magazine or something just a
smidgen unordinary. I could 
never figure out how a person 
could live a live with no intellectual
pursuit, of any sort, even if it was 
archaeological gems and minerals, 
or something. Warren and I, all 
we ever talked about was cars, 
farm stuff, milk and cows. Never 
even talked about women or stuff.
A very quiet, relegated to nothing,
world. I had a hard time to realize
how rural America, if this was any
indication at all, was such a no-place
in the head, just a big, empty room.
They never entertained doubts about
anything at all, or ever talked about it.
Here I'd spent my previous near ten 
years, at least, racking my brains
into every contortion I could do, 
reading, writing, trying to find things 
out, and these dumbos were just talking
me downhill with them, to a fake barber
shop no less, just to keep some sort of
ephemeral happiness. Supposed to be
anyway. It all just made me shake me
head and, once again, start reappraising.
And, man, was I tired of that.
Warren had an old father in law who 
sometimes stayed with them  -  a big,
talkative old guy, a little angry and a
little sarcastic. But nice. We'd talk, 
he'd ask a few questions about me, 
and then he'd go on, like I was saying, 
about the old days and the road crews 
and the paving and all that. The one 
thing I remember best about him  -  
he had a real thing about the TV 
being on. Just HATED it! Had a 
round-out knock-down fit every 
time. It wasn't that he ever watched 
it either, but it was the others, and
all the kids in the house, whom he'd
go at when it was on. He'd start 
ranting about the little idiot modern
people who don't know how they're 
wasting good money away on crap.
Then he'd say to "Feel it, feel the TV,
see how warm it gets, anything that
makes heat is going to cost you. 
Anything that can generate warmth 
like that just isn't worth having."
For him the relevant and relative 
factor was not content, but the HEAT
that the television produced, and the
useless cost of producing that heat.
I sometimes wanted to turn on him
and say, 'Then why'd you wire the
damned house up then, why? Why
didn't you just leave things well
enough as they were back then?'
Never did have the gumption.
Sometimes I ate with them.
They ate good, but on farm time  -  
see, the farmers' thing was the big 
meal is in the middle of the day, 
called 'Dinner', and everything 
stopped for it at about 1pm. All 
chores were down for that point, 
all the morning work over, the 
creamery truck had come and 
gone, the cows were out, and 
there was a good slot of time to
eat, about like 1 to 2pm, before 
everything started up again for the
later afternoon and evening chores.
A lot of times, too, there was a 
half-hour snooze time in there,
allotted, for a nap in a chair or
something. Afternoon TV time
went with that too. It all gave 
a whole new meaning and reason 
for junky daytime TV, but these 
folks all reveled in it.


I've got no grave to come home to,
my cattle drive is over, and these pinion'd
farthings, useless now, can maybe hold
hold their own value while my eyes
dissolve away. Oh, blues, blues, blue
is me; here is my handle, take my 
ragged coat for free. 
One thing is for certain, I claim the
ribald and the renowned, together  -
just for once, the most beautiful girl
in the world should be reading my 
mind while I hum along.

Friday, April 29, 2016


This tuition is my holster; I want
to put my tongue inside you, let you
feel me driving home. I want to clasp 
that buckle that is your mainstay and 
have it come. Is that okay?
I am savage, a licorice-face, compared
to the lily-white you live. My messages
are all complete, and I can read them 
backwards and front. Make no mistake.
What I give is what you take.
The heretofore blameless me can kill,
can willow the wallow and come home 
still. Is it any wonder then that we are
watching movies beneath the curtain of
this night? Let me see you moving; 
let me watch you fight.


One million impenetrable questions and
all the moments of a lifetime  -  the sorts
of things I'd wished I'd asked my father
before he went and died. But I never did.
Could never make that leap; lived my life
instead like a creep and a ragged runner
dogging all deaths. So, sorry now, what 
good is that? There are some things you
can't get back. I want to run and hide.


And they do, and whenever they want.
A sinecure of such good fortune, I could
only wish for : like an attitude of pure
freedom after a huge lottery win. Then
there's reality : can you spare a dime?
Better make it better than that.
Here comes the funny policeman :
He's all jaded by the routines of this
job he has to do. The subway turnstile
can't really concern him but it does because
it must. So oddball man-o-lingo don't jump.
The stupid cop is right over there.
(and dogs can sleep anywhere).


It's a bit like a bargain, this life:
'Now! Two days only! Take
advantage of these special
offers!' And then you move
a pencil, you take a step, and
it's over. I never knew much
what people were thinking,
country people I mean, when
I lived among them. They'd
look at me, drawn strangely
to them, evidently, and just
peer. Big city boy! Crazed,
wild hippie! Out there, there
seemed no original thinking
at all. It was whatever the
media drummed into their
heads  -  that's what they
went by. It was annoying, and
very quickly. I arrived there,
for instance, with a 1962
Volkswagen Beetle, the
Wolfsburg-built one, the
one with the  -  that year's
manufacture  -  the little
Wolfsburg badge built into
the chrome strip running
down the front. It made for
something different, that badge,
broke up the design line just a
little, and added a dash of color.
None of it meant anything to
these folks. It was as if they'd
never ever before seen a real
Volkswagen, the most pedestrian
and boring car there was, and
of which there were probably
a hundred thousand on any
street around where I'd lived.
Yet, all they ever referred to it
as was 'Look! A Herbie!' or,
'He's got a punch buggy.'
Something like that  -  media
names of cartoon VW-like cars
or whatever. I never really knew.
It was just pretty idiotic. Did I go
around saying, about their daughters,
'Look, a Barbie.' No. Not even 'Look,
there's a Ken!' All shamefully stupid,
but multiply that by a thousand
and you get an idea of the extended
and plain uselessness of much of
that thinking.  I'd not realized it
was so widespread  -  this was an
entire countryside of these sorts
of people, perambulating around
with all their dense opinions and
shadowy imaginings. For one, I
was nothing like the portrayal of
me they were running with. I was
never any sort of real hippie. I was
way too smart for that. And I then
figured they should have known that.
So, to placate these vicious hordes,
and to avoid a lynching perhaps, I
allowed myself to be taken under
wing by by neighboring farmer-guy,
a really goosey, loose-limbed Irish-
Dutch guy named Warren Gustin.
He took me in, I worked farm
chores for and with him  -  about
35 cows, twice a day, milking, manure-
spreading, tractors, mechanical stuff,
haying, planting corn, harvesting.
He had a family, about 5 kids, a wife,
a decent enough really old house and
a brand-new barn. His youngest kid,
Danny, about 6, had -  a little before I
arrived there, been fooling with matches
and set Warren's old, in-use barn on fire.
It burned to the ground. The locals,
from 15 miles around I'd bet, had what
was termed a 'barn bee'  -  meaning
that for any number of weekends
or days it took, they built him up
another, brand-new barn. I'd
arrived there at nearly the very
end of that, and, since they were
to be neighbors, pitched right in
with the final stages of finishing
up the new barn  -  shingles, roofing,
etc. No real clue what I was doing,
but I went to it anyway. It was a
way to break the ice, show that
myself and my own wife and kid
were real people and not just some
bizarre freaks not to be trusted or
dealt with. It allowed me to size
up the others  -  the wise-guys,
the cranks, the tough-boys, and
to see who I'd be really having to
convince or deal with over things.
It was, after all, to be my (our)
futures there to contend with.  I
soon learned who among them
was fair and who was foul.
Keeping it all to myself
then, too. Most of the men
were maybe ten or fifteen years
older than me, just hitting forty
perhaps, forty three. Or they were
the very old  -  crotchety, old and
wizened old farmer-men, tough as
nails, coarse and old-style to the
core. Some of the families, in the
big, old farmhouses, were
multi-generational, so you'd get
all the age levels together. The old
guys were the best. You have to
remember that back then, in the
years I'm talking about, these were
Depression-era guys, farmers, who
had lived through dire poverty and
the lack of most everything. The
only thing that had saved them and
their families, if you listened, was the
Government-assistance work that
tided them over. They'd go on like it
was yesterday when the WPA put
them to work "right here, running
electrification wires and some of
the poles to each house so that we'd
all have lights and power. We'd
get something like 6 bucks a
week from it and doing our own
chores, eggs and milk and such.
These roads them days was all dirt.
The Government sent trucks in, put
us all to work  -  we'd be walking
along with shovels and picks, and
two or three dump-trucks with us,
filled with pack dirt and hot tar and
we'd take the tar cans and spread the
liquid tar over the new dirt and stone.
Not so bad a job of paving as you'd
think  -  and it made the difference.
Now the milk and eggs boys could
get their trucks up off the mud and
outta' the trouble, and even the horses
and buggies went better. Why hell,
we all did." That was just the way
they talked on and the tales they
told. It was all good stuff  -  like
they really never did have any
bad experiences, leastways not to
tell about to me. I always figured
they were just as much probably
sizing me up as I was them, seeing
to what I reacted or listened to, or
said back.
My wife got on good with all the
ladies. Really simple stuff  -  church
stuff, bake sales, what they called
'Ladies Aid Society' meetings and
meals. They'd throw these big
lunches for the working-bee guys.
Having an infant kid helped too,
ladies all love that mothering stuff.
She even was presented with the
'Youngest Mother of the Year' award,
actually two years, maybe even three,
in a row. It was big stuff. She was
18, then 19, and the rest. Not that
the young kids around there weren't
fornicating  - believe you me. They
rooted around like sows and hogs,
but I guess they never got pregnant
young, or maybe the church didn't
recognize them, or ostracizing just
kept them away. Never knew, never
cared. The award was like a floral
bouquet and a sash and stuff. Really
hokey. Even funnier, no one ever
asked about the Daddy here, young
or old. Which in this case happened
to be me, but I never got no flowers.
I use to get a kick out of the wives of
this bunch  -  ladies, farm-ladies, all
bright and ripe, like butter commercials
themselves  -  bubbly, fleshy, almost
sensual to the eye. It was something,
And of course, just looking, you knew
what they were thinking sometimes
too  -  it got funny, and it got strange.
An outsider, a young-man, newcomer,
oh! Whooie! Religious or not, that
thrumming patter of sex was always
present, and everybody knew it, just
never confessed to it, I guess. There
weren't any Catholic Confessionalists
around anyway, these were raw and
simple Baptist folk, and the local
Baptist preacher was this little
pathetic guy named Wallace McKnight.
No one would be confessing anything
much to him anyway. I remember
one time, at one of the thrown
luncheon spreads (they'd come with
them right to the worksite, on
big long tables), one of the ladies  -
her last name was Guthrie, nice,
wilder type than the rest, sort of  -
she caused a ruckus that never
healed. A few of the ladies never
again spoke to her, in my time
there. Somebody had brought a
large tray of pastries, cruellers or
whatever they're called, and one
of the ladies said something about
them, that they were too large, and
too hard. Something like that  -
anyway this Guthrie lady, having
my eye the whole time, says 'Oh
Wee! Long and hard! Just the way
I like 'em best!' It was like the
whole place had just fallen off
a cliff. Ladies glared. No one
spoke. Reverend McKnight,
present as usual, always giving
benedictions about this or that. I
do swear I think he swallowed his
prayer and quite near gagged.
Warren himself told me later that
his wife, Barbara, had sworn to
him she'd never speak another
word to that Betty Guthrie woman
again in her entire life. Me? I
witnessed all this and was just
cracking up inside.
I worked for Warren, sidework,
for long more than a year, working
for 'milk and meat'. Meaning, no pay,
in money. Just whatever milk, dairy
and foodstuffs I'd need for my own
family use, he'd supply. Modestly I
mean, and within reason. It worked.
I'd be up at 5:30 am, walk out to get
the cows, set 'em all in for milking,
we'd do that, clean the chain drop,
spread manure, tractor stuff, etc.
Then, by eight or so, I'd jump in
the school bus I'd gotten a job
driving. Something like 20 bucks
a day, I really forget  -  winding
dirt roadways up jagged hills, old
dumpy trailers in the woods, end the
big-deal homes around too. Anywhere
there were kids around; they'd wait,
I'd drag by and get them and bring
'em all of to school, and then reverse
the whole process about about three
pm. Plus, for forty-two hundred bucks
a year, I'd been contracted to clean and
take care of the local schoolhouse  -  K
to 6, just another bunch of ratty, messy
farm kids. It all sucked, but it was a
One day, as I started to say, early on, 
I just let Warren convince me to let 
him take me to one of those local 
yokels around  -  there were a few 
of them  -  for a total, real guy's
haircut and clean-up. I hated it, but I
went. It was a sort of trade-off for him
letting me go, with his car, to Towanda 
for my school-bus driving license test. My
own car was pretty marginal, and we 
didn't want that to tip the scales against
me in any way, nor my appearance It
all worked, and I got the needed license.
Pennsylvania has this system where
people can be Justices of the Peace.
Like Town Clerks and stuff  -  they 
notarize things, witness wills and such,
process motor vehicle stuff, accept
tax payments. Sell insurance, marry 
people, etc. Pretty much once you 
can hang that sign out front of your 
house, all is cool. Warren's buddy 
here was one of these, way big-time, 
crazy man. He had an office built onto
the side of his house for the JP stuff 
(Justice of the Peace), and in addition, 
he sold Amway Products, nearly
shoving them down your throat, had
like a hundred dead animals heads
on his sitting-room and 'den' walls,
and was, in addition, a barber, with 
a little barber-shop thing going on
on his porch. Which is where I ended 
up  - maybe four other guys, and Warren,
and me. Just sitting around, it seemed
endlessly, waiting for haircuts. This 
guy cut and talked; snipped and talked; 
cut a little more and talked. Picked his
crotch and talked; I mean it was all
pretty horrible. Five guys worth of
horrible. And of course, they'd seen 
me coming in. Thank God Warren 
fronted for me : 'What the gangbusters
ya got there now, Warren? Does that
get a name?' Blah, blah, yet again.
'Yeah, the name's Gary, I'm am idiot 
and an asshole; you can abuse me 
and call me names, make fun of me 
all you want, because I'm here to take 
it. Oh, and by the way, your wife
thought I was great, and way better
than that guy sitting next to you.' 
No, I didn't say that, but I should 
have. They all deserved it.