Wednesday, June 22, 2016


So, how it went was this:
they just let me walk out.
I had some notification of
violation, folded in my
pocket, and on it some date
and time written in the guy's
hand. The place itself,
'Whitehall Induction
Center' was an OK tall
building down towards
the middle end of
Broadway, which just
then happened to be
teeming with traffic.
I can't remember when
all that 'alternating' of
the one-way north-south
avenues took place; this
may still have been a
two-way street. No
matter, I know it was
crowded and honking.
The place was a sort-of
office slum inside; just
all pale, really bad green,
walls, like in a school
or maybe a hospital,
corridors and glass-door,
with names and titles on
the frosted glass, in gold
leaf, some. Big deal
government shit, I guess
-  it looked like maybe
three or four floors were
Selective Service offices.
Like an old police station
you see in old movies, drab,
dull, trying for a serious
efficiency. More like prison
or a dungeon. I really felt
for those lousy people inside.
You know how, the crummier
the job is, they sort of get more
and more fancy about giving
out bogus incidental titles and
category-designation; people
get all proud of being like 'Asst.
Sales Associate, NE District,
Industrial Metals', stuff like
that. It had that kind of feel.
And then, as I walked along
back uptown, I started thinking,
like 'what did I expect, some
nice, enlightened place where
angelic people went about with
grace and worked together?' No,
these were evil sons of bitches
at work every  day on killing
people  -  making sure the
numbers were met to have
enough killers, and being
sure to always remain
aware that there were
surely always enough to
be killed. And then
these bastards, besides,
got paid at the end of
the week and went
home satisfied. Drove
around. Took their wives
out to a restaurant, and
then back home where they
power-slammed the distance
out of each other and slept
it all off. 'What did you do
today, dear, at the office?'
'Me? Oh nothing; sent
about 40 kids off to their
deaths, picked on a few
more, the queers and the
homo bastards coming
in looking to be exempted,
talked one or two idiots
down, went in the back
and jerked off, and
came home.' How nice.
I had no intentions of any
of this getting any better, or
at least by my own making
it 'better'  -  which would
have been the Orwellian
double-speak in use if I'd
agreed to just go ahead and
become their Vietnam
shit-meat cannon-fodder.
Wasn't gonna' happen.
First off, every fiber of
my being knew it to be an
immoral quest. Godless
bastards do stuff like that,
not me  - I had no quarrel
with any Vietnamese and,
besides, probably knew
more about the origins of
that war than did any of
those cracker barrel
cum-suckers in the green
offices. 1954, French
imperialism, Ho Chi Minh
Dienbienphu, Diem, the
Kennedys, John Foster
Dulles, any of those killer
guys sitting in their big
chairs making mental
mincemeat out of a
peaceful war. Officer
Joe Bolton and the rest of
those societal dervishes
could go fuck themselves'
I wasn't their smiley
property anyway and
kid-days were way over.
I walked past all the small
storefronts and businesses
along the way as I walked,
just wondering about what
I saw : the little plumber
shops and one-off sole
proprietor places : shoe-stores
and gloves  and briefcase
sellers, second and third
floor manufacturing lofts
with small sales offices and
stuff attached. Nothing I
knew much about  -  carpentry
and wood-finishers and 
cabinet-makers. Daytime guys
hauling boxes or pushing
crates, big trucks rolling
backwards into loading docks.
Back in Avenel even we'd had
some of that  - down the end of
my block. Monarch Cabinets,
and the other woodworking place
and the nuts and bolts guy. I
wondered if maybe once they'd
begun in places just like these,
grew a little, and then moved
out. The reverse of me, for
sure. I was pretty rattled.
All this stuff was piling up
on me, one thing on top of
the next. I didn't want to die,
I was just getting started. I had
no freaking 'ideals' to uphold
either. I couldn't have cared less
about any of the gung-ho
America crap, let alone go
off to fight for it while my
friends and others were
dying around me. No way.
Now the lobster-clawed
bastards, however, had
finally gotten their claws
around me. It was going to
be a struggle to get free.
I stopped into a corner store
to buy  pack of Gauloise. At
that moment, it seemed the
only right thing to do  -
smoking those thick French
existentialist cigarettes in my
moments of anxiety. They
were grand old things, those
Gauloise; unfiltered, thick, with
with a nice blue softpack. It all
just felt right  -  I made a left,
went down to the piers and docks
along the westside, and just sat,
staring out, for all the hour it
took to get my head straight.
And a million things went
through my head. Get a gun.
Shoot myself, or shoot others.
Get a girl. Wear a beret. Get
angry, find some sloe-eyed,
dark beauty to walk through
all this with. Smoke and drink
together, and go out, somehow,
in some mad, crazy blaze of
infamous fury. Yes, yes, but
not yet, maybe, not, now, no.
I could kill somebody, and
disappear. Except, weirdly
enough, only unless I was in
the fucking Army, it wouldn't
be right.
Well, I made it back, did go
through all those cigarettes but
never really got hooked. Too
much of that gaseous stuff just
running into my lungs; made
little sense to me. That weird
taste and sensation, I can still
recall it to this day. A week
or two went by, and as the day
approached for my return visit,
I tried to think of a few things.
Go crazy, act totally gay (It
was still an Army induction
no-no, even if now they call
you in, gay or not), but I
couldn't even pull that off.
So, I just decided to go, play
it all by ear, and see what
happened. No new clothes,
no nothing, just me. I took
my bicycle down there this
time. It was the day when you
could still just leave a bicycle
out, without really locking or
chaining it. Just nobody wanted
bicycles  - they weren't any
sort of adult sport or interest
yet then, and certainly no one
thought of them, for whatever
reason, as urban transport. Plus,
you probably really needed a
gas mask to really ride in traffic.
Actually weird, the bike just
stayed there, propped against
the side of the building, at like
a little walk-in area. [Sidebar
here: this was at 39 Whitehall
Street, when it was still the
functioning Selective Service
ass-beast headquarters. In 1969,
the place was blown up. I claim
no knowledge. You can look
it up yourself if you want. War
times were tough in those
Vietnam days.]  -  so, I entered
and went to my designated spot.
I figured they'd be waiting for
me  -  arrest, evidence, bookings,
handcuffs, the whole bit. Not a
thing. Like they had just crawled
out of a rock, every landlubber
in the place was groggy, dazed,
stupid or sleepy. Even the creeps
in uniforms. I saluted no one, and
I simply stated 'Hello, I'm here to
register for murder and death.'
The lady looked at me like she'd
just gotten her period in one big
load. A fierce hostility ensued,
and I was told to sit. Some guy
came out soon enough, and
walked me into an office. Then
the usual questions and profile
stuff : a big long back and forth
with him and another guy. I
figured they were trying to
feel me out, or waiting for me
to say something incriminating.
I also thought they must already
know everything about me, the
germane stuff anyway, so why
should I tell them more. I was
very coy, threw my little attitude
around, and generally, I thought,
acted like I was NOT, most
certainly, anyone possessed of
any qualities they'd want. The
guy stares me back, and simply
says, 'Look, Gary, we know
what you're doing. The point
of the Army, you ought to
understand, isn't to just take
people in who fit. Believe me,
son, once you're in, we'll make
you fit.' Silence. Then, 'However,
we see by your paperwork, you're
really not even our property. Son,
everything here says clearly, 'New
Jersey', so we're sending you to
Newark.' End of conversation.
That sucked, I thought. Last thing
I wanted was to be thrown back to
any lame-ass'd New Jersey operation
with all those small-town, suburban
geeks I'd just gotten away from some
time ago. At least, even it this was
trouble, it was my own, big-time,
big-city trouble, like a 'Man' has.
Thy put me in a car and drove me
to Broad Street, Newark. Like I was,
almost, some famous, important cat.
More like apprehended draft dodger,
maybe. I'm not going to belabor all
this, and go over it again : suffice it
to say, it was as drab, and as stupid
as Whitehall had been. Worse. It
seemed like half of Puerto Rico,
Watts too, attended military class
here. They filed me, scap'd me up,
and put me in some line, a
pre-induction physical line, to
be exact. We were instructed to
disrobe, told where to put our
clothing and how, and then
incongruously instructed on
how to continue holding onto
our paperwork, while otherwise
naked, for the doctors. Great
stuff. No wonder everyone
wanted to be gay. I slipped
sideways, to a desk, and asked
to see a psychiatrist. Speaking
of balls in a row, it took some
to do that. Bold move on my
part. I was still dressed  -  none
of that naked shit for me  -  and
ready to bolt, if need be. They
acted like I'd simply asked what
time it was. 'Third floor, Room
312' or whatever it was. I got
there, 3 head-docs met me, and
sat me down. I'm telescoping this
here, so you don't get bored. Asked
what I would do in the Army, and
why I objected so, I  -  acting my
best, deranged, intense, crazy person
routine, inching towards the row
of windows as I spoke, said 'If I
am taught how to use a rifle, I will
turn it, first on the person who
taught me, and then on anyone
else around me. I will take everyone
down. Madman stuff. (In fact, by
the end of the war that was called
'fragging', and in the pot-fueled
fields of Vietnam, by that time,
frustrated and maddened enlisted
men were shooting their superiors
and officers, in confusing
circumstances, by the dozens.
And by that time, everyone was
a madman, not just me). Anyway,
these gentlemen took me
downstairs, classified me as 4-F,
'unfit for military service' and -
incredibly - asked me if 'd be
able to get myself home OK
and without assistance. Saying
yes, I accepted the bus pass
they gave me. I went back to
NYC my own way, and never
used their bus pass.
.....tomorrow, the follow-up.

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