Tuesday, November 8, 2016


231. NOT ME
You know, when you're little,
you have to 'learn' money? I
guess a person learns it at
their own level. For me, in
say 1959, everything was
7 cents. Playing stickball
endlessly in the schoolyard,
or some scratch-team baseball,
we'd get all heated up and 
tired, and invariably end 
up at the candy store. It
was Murray and Martha's,
M&M Confectionery, to
be formal about it, but we
never were. It was 'the 
candy store.' We'd belly-up
to the fountain stools as if
we were some big-time men
drinkers at the nearby Roxbury
Inn  -  the tavern on the other
side of the underpass. We'd
get cherry-cokes, or vanilla-
sodas, whatever, for 7 cents.
The penny candy was just that,
a penny. The Daily News was
a nickel (my friend Ray would
but it every day for his father  -
great sports coverage on the
back pages). The financial
parameters of my life, as I
said, were pretty much to
be summed up at 7 cents.
That was the world I learned.
Gasoline at the pump, when
my father would get it, was 
19.9 cents a gallon. He'd 
get a 'buck's worth, Bud,' 
every day, with which to
travel to work and back.
He'd come home with a
weekly pay envelope of 
$125, cash in the envelope.
Groceries was 20 bucks, 
maybe 25. I don't know
what beer cost, but my
father bought a lot of it, 
but the cheapest he 
could ever find. Mostly
'Two Guys' beer; they
had their own label.
So, at every level, 
things were different,
and I guess I saw a 7 
cent  world with my 
7 cent eyes for a 
very long time.
Whenever my father 
rolled into a gas station,
the attendant was always
addressed as 'Bud' or
'Chief'. No matter what
other name he had, or 
what was sewn into 
his Texaco shirt. Or
whatever brand. I 
never knew what the 
determining factor 
was between selecting
'Bud' or 'Chief,' but no 
one seemed ever to mind.
I had two friends who called
everyone 'Ace'. All through
our years. It was funny.
The one always called the 
other 'Ace,' and yeah, the 
other always called the one, 
'Ace' as well. Plus everyone 
else. It got really confusing.
It didn't really matter; the idea
of nicknames was always
silly anyway. 
I was never really connected
to anything, never even
'chummy' enough for a 
nickname. It never mattered
to be. I was mostly against
everything I saw anyway. 
Like Boy Scouts : wow, 
what a waste that was. The
stupidest thing I ever saw; 
that 'Boy Scout Manual' was
interesting enough  - with its 
instructions for knots and
tent-rigging, canoes and 
boats and all, but I always
liked it best for the quality
of the paper it was printed
on and for the nice heaviness
of the front and rear covers,
with the spine. A really
nicely done product. Almost
not even 'paper'  -  more like
some ersatz light cloth. The
rest of Boy Scouts was a joke,
and the meetings were a farce.
The only real thing I ever
learned in  Boy Scouts  -  
and this is coarse, but real  
-  was, from the meetings, 
that when a kid farted in 
the meeting, I mean loudly, 
and everyone started cracking
up because of it, he hadn't
'farted.' It had to be addressed
as 'passed wind.' Yeah, the
dumb kid passed wind  -
and when I pissed in the 
woods I hadn't pissed, OK,
I was 'watering the essentials.'
How's that for cool?' 
Merit badge, anyone?
Most people, I always 
thought, were distracted 
goofballs anyway. I always
had, and sought, a heavier 
meaning to things. That
never made anything easy
for me, mainly because 
the BS factor was everywhere 
(no, I don't mean Boy Scouts,
although that was too). I
meant the way people 
grappled with nothing  -  
they just did everything 
as if it was all necessary 
and required. Inman
Avenue people, they were
like the dullest. Questioning
nothing. Like still in the
military or somesuch  - 
Hi-Ho, Yes Sir, AOK.' 
People were the dullest 
things I ever met. At 
age 12, I already couldn't 
stand them. Boring, 
TV-claimed, nitwits, 
painting rooms and 
gutters. Hanging lights
for the freaking holidays, 
and worrying about all
sorts of really useless things 
when all they should have 
been was LIVING. I mean 
'living'  -  a real life, one 
of some personal consequence, 
something with prior meaning. 
All that stuff of the past,
dragging out all behind 
them, getting ruined and 
destroyed, and no one cared.
All they wanted ever was 
that damned leap-frogging
into their stupid, nose-ring 
future. Boy I hated that. Rules.
Regulations. Schedules.
It was Jean Paul Sartre, the
famed existentialist philosopher,
who had said, famously, 'Hell 
is other people.' I really did 
like that  -  it really meant a lot,
and, as a teen, I used to think I
knew exactly what he meant,
or was getting at. Big deal
stuff; heavy-writerly 
philosophy crap. It was 
all a joke no matter. Hell 
is everywhere, and so are
people, so it's just a draw 
to the finish. You've got 
to love people, actually,
and throw them a hand and
a heart when and as you can.
But I learned that all later on.
Even though they were, and 
are, still a pain in the ass. He
meant, however, something
entirely different, and for its
day it was pretty fresh. All 
that philosophical conundrum
stuff  -  'existence precedes
essence' or 'essence precedes
existence.' We fit grand cosmic
codes already in place, as 
Humans, or we make them 
up for ourselves as we go
long? He hated others, and 
I understood that, because
they were nothing but 
constraints. 'Man,' making 
his own decisions and
definitions and rules about
all things of his own
existence, and setting 
out to boldly 'design' his 
world simply by 'acting', 
then gets all screwed up by
the sentimental gibberish,
the purveyed 'innocence'
of others with all their 
dumb sentimentality, 
 feeling for others, and all.
I always called it power
and innocence, and, yes, it
was everywhere. One had to
be really, really careful. In
school, that's the only kind of
stuff that was actually taught,
and there was no room ever 
for the other side. But,
hell anyway, that was
for other people.
Not me.

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