Sunday, April 17, 2016


I used to always think there'd
be a way for me to find a real
meaning in life and end up doing
just that one meaningful task, to
my own liking, all the time. It 
never turned out that way, no. My
life mostly has been spent  -  or
had been spent up until a two years
or so back  -  doing the bidding 
of others. The way you have to, for
money, as a job, to stay alive and
remain in place. I've never had a
knack for anything -  some guys 
I've known, they could spin a 
dime instantly from a thought 
or a dream. Some women could
do that too. Whether it was a sense
of power, a forceful personality, 
or an ease and a complacency 
about being glib, they'd never
look back, and were usually on
their way to the bank. Anything
I ever got from them was the 
shavings of what they'd leave 
behind. Wages. Boring, old, 
deadening work. I hated it but 
always just stayed with it. I even
reached the point where I got to 
telling other people to 'stick with 
it.' I'd go on about how what 
counts, over time, is the longevity
of what they were doing; no matter
how miserable it seemed, it would
be better for them to not be jumping
around from job to job and instead
show themselves as steady and 
dependable. I have no idea what I
was thinking  -  reflecting my own
stupidities, I guess. My average job
time was maybe 12 years, maybe 
15, on a job. I once knew a girl,
she's in Tucson now for many years,
who held strictly to the 'seven-years
and out' rule. Mary Kay would leave
a job in the seventh year, no matter
what  -  she said past that point it 
was all tiresome, and there was 
nothing more to invigorate her 
or keep her there, money included. 
She stuck to her guns on that too.
Mary Kay lived in Elmira with us, 
on the other end of town. Having 
grown up there  -  her father was 
a tool and die maker, had been, 
in Elmira's postwar industrial 
heydays  -  she stayed. She
was a cool kid, my age, very 
opinionated, militaristic 
'feminist' in those 1971 early 
days of the women's movement.
She lived with a girl she called 
'Kiki'. Every so often Mary 
would get hooked up again 
with some guy or another, 
short periods of time, and 
then it would crumble and 
she'd be back. More militant 
than ever. I remember being 
glad it was never me on the
receiving end of her venom  -
though, to be frank, I would 
have never minded that one. I
always was gainfully enough
attracted to her. One time she 
moved to Syracuse, taking up 
with some surprisingly boring,
divorced guy with two kids. That
didn't work, maybe two months,
and she was back again. Her and
Kiki than moved to Corning, for 
a while, a nice apartment in  a big 
old house that had been broken up
into apartments. She had a new 1972
Datsun B210, I think it was called -  
the original Datsun import car, the
one that made their name here (now 
they are no longer 'Datsun', and use
'Nissan' instead). She drove that car
 to death and she drove it forever. 
Over their bed, in Corning, or her 
bed, or whatever, she kept a calorie 
chart. I guess it was some sort of 
woman's movement, or MS Magazine 
joke  - a large poster that illustrated 
about 20 varied sexual positions, 
and the calorie count for calorie 
burn-off, of each sexual position. 
Then, the rest were listed, with 
numbers, instead of being illustrated. 
Big whoop. Every time we'd visit 
there, she had Elton John blaring
on the stereo, the album 'Tumbleweed
Connection,' I think it was, and 
the cut 'Burn Down the Mission', 
because she said it always reminded 
her of me. Big whoop #2, I guess. 
(0 calories).
Living in Elmira was like living in a 
grim, sad, mining town, after the 
mines had closed, the seams had been
exhausted, and people walked around
thinking they had memories about 
something that once was good times, 
but they can't quite fully recall. It
always seemed to get dark early 
there; I guess the little hills around 
it shut the sun out early. Maybe. 
Even when it was light though, it 
was lonely, like you knew you were 
far away from anything useful or
that mattered or was 'alive.' A dot 
on Rt. 17 somewhere, that's where 
you were. Funny thing was, we 
were always told  -  as if it had 
some real self-importance  -  that 
because of the big IBM plant over
in Waverly, about 12 miles east, 
the entire area was on the list of 
first places the Soviets would send  
their nuclear-tipped missiles to take 
out  (IBM had  some defense and 
tracking systems headquartered there 
in Waverly). No one ever really found 
out what was true and what wasn't, 
but I wouldn't put it past anyone  -  
the dumb corporate and defense 
bastards would not have cared 
less about what places or people 
they'd get obliterated. 'Collateral 
Damage' that's called today. A
guy I worked with, Rod Reynolds,
of Waverly, his father worked at 
that IBM location, in some mid-level
capacity, and it was Rod who first
told me about it. Rod was a real quiet,
sedate guy, always praying. I mean
that literally. We worked at Whitehall 
Printing, on e.1st Street, downtown
Elmira, and whenever we were on
break, or at lunch, or whatever, he'd 
start praying. Saying grace, reciting
prayers, the whole bit. I never knew
what that was about, but I just always
kept away from it, and no one else
ever said anything  -  just made fun
of him when he wasn't around. One 
day, he left at lunch, and came back 
about 2 hours later saying his wife 
had just had a baby, his 2nd or 3rd, 
I forget, at home, at lunchtime. She'd 
called, and he'd gone home to assist 
at the birth. And then he just came 
back. Didn't talk much. I guess he
had midwifery and all that, almost
like Amish stuff. We went to visit 
him one evening when he'd invited 
us to a quick cook-out. It was his 
father's big house, and they all lived 
there too. It was OK, we ate some, 
and then the 'boys' (Rod's two younger 
brothers and Rod and myself) had to 
go out on the adjoining field, and play 
catch for like a half-hour, baseball-stuff, 
just throwing back and forth, before 
we could leave. Pretty weird Summer
night. Rod drove a pretty nice, V-8 '67
Chevelle. Not hot-rodded or anything,
just a nicely kept, large engined, probably
fast and furious, car. I wasn't even ever
sure if he knew what he had.
I never much judged  -  I mean others 
or people and their ways. It never much 
mattered to me the fabric of the lives of 
others. Anyway, I'd had enough of all
that living with my father in his house
all those years. I kind of knew what I 
was and wanted, and how greatly it 
differed from other people's wants 
and desires, so I just kept quiet. My
wife was enough like that too. We
knew each other's general themes. 
Other people would start talking 
about money or trips or vacations 
or their fancy dining and stuff and 
we  -  used enough as we were to 
poverty-line stuff and none of that  -
just pretended to listen well, feign
interest, or show concern. None of
that was ever for us. Their dollars 
were our dimes. But we got on. I
always figured to be dedicated to
my work and my craft, and the rest be
damned, as it were  -  I know I had no 
time for niceties, and, besides, I was
always ready for the big changes to 
come. That never came, but whatever.
I guess, when you came right down to
it, Mary Kay Hickey (her full name) had
me pegged rightly  -  a real 'Burn Down
the Mission' kind of guy.

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