Thursday, October 6, 2016


It's only now as I look back that
I realize how dangerous a lot of
this was  -  the fact was that I
was not really clear on what I
was doing. In Elmira, I had an
Elmira College friend named
John Berry  - somehow,
somewhere, we connected.
Wives too. He was the
absolute and complete
opposite of anything I'd
ever consider being. A
regular white wine and
cheese guy, as was his wife,
and they traveled. I mean
'travel' travel, like Turkey
and Italy, Germany and the
Rhine. Stuff like that. Then
he'd come back with a
zillion stupid photographs.
Worthless; the usual touristy
crap, yeah, but he'd go on and
on bragging about it. Not a
single original view or
imaginative set-up. I'd say,
'OK, nice, John. But all this
shows to me as the viewer
is that you've been somewhere
and I wasn't. These are mundane
and ordinary 'place' pictures.'
Turkish guys and their laundry
and pipes. Italian soccer fools
grinning. That's the kind of
stuff he only and ever showed.
We never got rancorous over it,
and I really think he 'understood'
what I was saying, but it just
never computed. We simply
 thought differently. There
was, a long time ago, a real
composer, from Elmira, his
name was Charles Tomlinson
Griffes, or something. He's
famed and you can find him.
Woodwinds, light classical.
Anyway, speaking of the Brie
crowd, John was in the local
Griffes society, for what it was  -
clarinet or oboe or one of those.
Elmira people had very little to
get puffed up over, but people
like Mark Twain, and this
Griffes guy, they got a big run
for their money out of them.
John was in that society for
keeps, I mean social and stuff.
Over at the Arnot Art Museum
they'd have recitals and cocktails.
I never went, couldn't abide it,
but he'd always wind up telling
about it. I'd say, 'See, just like
your pictures - telling me about
someplace you were and I wasn't.'
You know how some people are
just too tightly wound and you
can sense that and somehow you
realize they've probably never
taken an extra breath in their life.
Never snuck in an extra mouthful
somehow of air. He was like that.
His wife was worse. They both
liked soirees and the dress-up
too. They've moved here (he
had something to do with the
local college) from Indiana
(funny story), in a big rental
box-truck, into which they'd
driven their Mercury Capri,
up the ramp, or somehow,
and then packed boxes all
around it. When they got
to Elmira, his story went,
they unpacked, and the car
had lost paint, right down to
the bare metal, in about 15
spots where the boxes had
been touching the car. A
real mess. The car-paint,
auto-body guy said it was
called 'chafing', and that the
corrugated cardboard boxes
were as good as sandpaper
for doing that. Really abrasive
over all those miles and travel.
He told John he should have
known that, it was 'that' obvious.
The car took an entire repaint.
That sort of sums up the whole
John Berry scene.
I'm not saying John Berry
was 'dangerous'. That's not
my point at all. It's just more
that I was putting myself in
'harm's way by exposure to
such people. If I had any reason
at all to 'fall', that would have
been the easiest way to do it.
Become like John. Erudite,
learned, a couple of degrees,
properly snobbish. My entire
point had been to remain 'away'
from anyone and all of that.
Yet, here, a few years later,
this exposure was mixing me
up into an entire other class of
beings. I had a kid, about 5 years
old, which meant school, and all
that school crap (thankfully, my
wife did all that), in addition,
and foolishly, in my opinion,
she'd gotten involved locally
with one of the churches,
some handicap-assistance
group, lunch distribution,
programmed, again with
the church. It was enough to
make me scream. I wanted
nothing to do with anything,
and that sort of still stays,
even now. People are a pox,
and their organizations and
clubs are worse. It all sure
was a twisted road to walk,
for me. I'd sworn off doing
other's biddings a long time
ago, but that seemed all I was
doing. I didn't know it either,
but it was all just beginning.
I should have flipped out and
fled a long time ago. The life
I was messing with wasn't me,
and I should have flagged it
early, lit some flares, and
jumped overboard. But I
didn't. My loss. It's called
life, without the artistic
or creative part. Just the
workday load, over and
over again. Tell me again
about those pacts with
the Devil  - what were
the rewards?
It's a petty part of life to 
think that something like 
this can have been 'dangerous' 
while around me people of 
the world were starving, dying 
and being killed. Yet, think of it 
as a finished product : it was 
mine, in fact, rationally, it was 
a 'Me,' and I held every right to
finish or perfect it as I saw fit. 
I did not want back into or
even just 'into' that sort of
world at all. People there 
seemed, in Elmira I mean, 
oblivious to everything; unlike 
NYCity, there was no undercurrent,  
no groundswell of anything else 
going on. People just barely made
muster, and that satisfied
them. Even with the college
there, outside of getting the
Cuban national party-newspaper
(of which I've written in a previous
chapter somewhere) dropped there
each day, free, numerous copies,
there was no political activity;
as if the Vietnam War was still
not spitting its people out, ragged
heaps of Vietnamese clinging to
helicopters and rooftops as 'we'
Americans pulled out, leaving
our disaster behind us. Ask
John McCain about all that.
How in later years it all got 
mythologized into all that
'America's Noble Cause' and
beau geste coloration, for the
simple sake of bullshit and murder
alone. (Yes, veterans, go visit
your dead. Memorials to folly
now abound.)  -  No one at
Elmira, it seemed, college OR
place, really gave a hoot. The
Arnot Art Museum held its
soirees, and had its archaic
artworks hung  -  collections 
of old medical paintings, 
Egyptian birds and British 
Empire explorers sitting in 
portrait. It's all still there,
but that entire 'entertainment'
thing has now been taken 
over, after they ripped out the 
center of town and tried 
resuscitating it, the 'Samuel 
Clemens Performing Arts 
Center.' Another big hoo-hah 
of lameness. So now that's 
where the comeback acts and old 
music groups arts-fetish types 
have their fund-raisers.
Every  so often, we'd leave Elmira,
but wherever we went it was the 
same. The only bright and vital 
spot was Ithaca. Cornell University.
That too was 'Winter'. That's how 
I remember it; always flecked 
with snow, half white, all those 
looming towers and buildings.
At least when you got there, you
felt you were 'somewhere.' It
was cosmopolitan, as my friend
Paul always put it. Numerous
other languages  -  people from
Turkey. France, England. All
those varied tongues and foods.
There was still some turmoil 
around militants, socialists,
those who read and vocalized,
Black Power cats, crazy feminists,
when all that was just beginning.
All cool stuff. Ithaca itself is like
a two-parter, way up the hill,
overlooking everything, is this 
large, rambling, university section
filled with strange young student 
types, hippies, lifers, eccentrics.
Back then, bookstalls and cafes.
(Now again it's all changed  - the
usual corporate names and chain
eateries and crap, and nary a
bookstore to be seen; but the rest is
all the same. This was just a few
months ago. I don't know what
has happened to people's brains.
Fled, I guess. Or got all 
up instead.

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