Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Having the last name 'Luchessi'
must have been tough, for
Donna, not for me I mean. Or
maybe it helped her along the
way somehow too. No matter,
all that was ever heard in that
time period, of Mafia news,
was the 'Luchessi' and the
'Genovese' crime families. I
forget if they fought it out or
whatever. But Donna Grow,
nee Luchessi, disappeared.
What happens when a teacher
disappears, I never knew. Legally,
I guess, there's some contractual
violation, or penalty, and money
withheld, but I guess if it's the Mob
on the other end of that phone call,
you just go with the flow. Teachers
can be a dime a dozen you know.
I realized only later that most
people back home, if they heard
or knew anything about what I
was doing or where I was, they
got it all wrong. To most people,
somehow, Pennsylvania simply
meant the pleasure of the Poconos;
all that hunting, fishing, camping
and hiking. That was the farthest
thing from what I was undergoing.
They'd have to have known of
Poverty, with that capital P, yes.
In the early 60's, with LBJ and his
War On Poverty (yes, America
once held wars for noble aims), the
real, dire poverty of the Appalachian
Mountains, referred to as 'Appalachia',
in those days was pretty well known
-  magazine articles and the  usual
local and liberal feel-gooders were
always going on about it.  It was
as poor as that, living in the hills
hand to foot, or hand to mouth  -
whatever that phrase is about being
really poor. Yet, there is something
to be said about when you're poor
among the poor around you , you
almost kind of don't notice. When
your house gets done over in black
tar-paper, to stop some holes and
leaks, you know you're poor. When
you have to go out and hopefully
trap or shoot dinner, you know
you're poor, and yet, if everyone
else is doing the same thing, you just
figure you're living ruggedly, and in
good company. Pioneer-spirit and
all that crud. For me, it was all an
eye-opener. But more than that, for
people who may have heard of me,
what was up with me, from my own
parents or siblings, it was like 'Oh, my!
Gary's living a permanent vacation!'
Yeah, right, was all that could be said
back  -  and anyone really in the know
wouldn't even bother answering. This
whole thing was like a first-aider EMT
on constant disaster-scene detail. Or a
cop in a week-long riot. It never stopped,
and it was an all-consuming scene.
Somethings things get lessened, smoothed
out some because of that kind of thing,
everyone being alike, at the same grim
level. Other times they get compounded :
petty jealousies and arguments over crap.
All nothing about nothing, people just
running off, babbling on. A good portion
of the mad people I'd see railing around
Elmira  -  there were a number of them,
haunting the bus station in the AM, taunting
and talking at people, or just muttering, in
their glum 1970's way, they all had weird,
local, 'rural' initiations and/or roots. Dire
places where they'd lost their mind. About
60 miles away, maybe, there was a place
called Clarks Summit. It was just another
oddball rural place, up on  a hill, but all
clinical and clean. It housed the unfit, the
mentally broken, the insane, the lost. It
was a huge, nut house for the Bradford
County, Wyoming County, Carbon County,
and more people who had lost it. They'd
come and go, or sometimes they'd just
never leave, to not be heard from again.
There are no postcards for that - 'Hi, Ma!
Having a great time; be home soon!'
My friend Jim Watkins, when he was my
friend, he had just come out of there. He
had eyes that were evil, I always thought;
just something so country-wrong with
him that I figured it could never be taken
out. Some sort of psychic lobotomy was
needed, of a sort that had never been
developed yet. I think he got shock
treatment, or electro-shock therapy, or
something, but it only drove whatever
seething craziness that was within
him deeper inside. I held him up to
myself  as a good example of what to
watch out for : marginal alcoholism
for which just one drink would tip
the scales of everything into some
weird form of violence. He liked to
wreck things  - rip up furniture, punch
holes in walls, turn things upside down
and over, and break glass. The real
unpredictable stuff, the kind that
you can never get insurance for. He
always bore watching. Even his own
wife detested him, and they lived apart.
Having guns at my house, I was
always pretty leery of having Jim
come around. He'd get blasted
pretty good, and I was just always
not confident I'd keep him away
from my gun or two around. Even
if he was going to turn it on himself, it
would be hard to make an exception.
There was one time when he really
did trash my own house, having
gotten inside (my own fault), but
that was about the last time I saw
him. After that, it just never worked
and we both knew it. If I was
going to die, it wasn't going to
be my his hand. It was Jim, you
may recall, who helped me along
with that Ford Pick-up truck flywheel
project, and I provided beer for that.
But he mostly stayed under control
except for once or twice.

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