Sunday, January 29, 2017


313. STRIKE!
A long time ago 
you could drive 
through the
back fields of 
New Jersey and
still see lots of 
junk. It's no 
longer like that, 
inasmuch as 
mostly has been 
cleaned up. The 
old, leaning and 
rickety sheds are 
gone, the forgotten 
that were 
remnants of farms, 
all cleaned up, 
plowed over, 
built upon, paved 
or just redone. 
The jangled heaps 
of twenty-five 
year old cars 
are mostly gone, 
as are the piles 
of lumber, steel, 
tires and the rest 
that were usually 
left around. 
Dog houses too. 
Doghouses are 
pretty much a 
thing of the past. 
I don't know 
anyone who keeps 
a dog outside now, 
but there was a 
time when they 
all had their little 
doghouse and a 
fifteen-foot length 
of rope or chain 
or whatever by 
which the dogs 
were kept in 
their circumference. 
That's the dreamy 
part of old New 
Jersey that people 
like to still throw 
up on calendars 
and such  -  to 
fool the mind 
into thinking 
something other 
than what is. 
Like 'Oak Acres', 
where there's 
nary an oak 
within two miles, 
but plenty of 
grandiose new 
homes. Or 
'Spreading Maple 
Estates'  -  same 
thing. Developers 
are swine. That's 
how things are 
different now, 
how things are 
so changed. There
was the time when
all of that really 
nasty real estate 
stuff was within
the purview of 
men. They were 
the ones who 
did all this damage, 
ruining the earth 
and despoiling
things. And 'selling' 
the real estate. Now,
there are women 
doing this at every 
turn, and they're 
equally bad or 
worse. All frilly 
and made up 
big time, like they 
were selling 
themselves and 
not the properties. 
Driving their 
Lexus cars with 
dumb-ass clients 
in them, open house
this and that, 
showing the listings. 
No soul, no spirit. 
They're not even 
women anymore, 
at that point. Just 
the same dumb-ass 
vultures as the men. 
There's your equality 
for you. I've seen 
plenty of it, and 
gotten in the 
middle of it too. 
There's really little 
worse than the 
enforced babble 
of conversation 
which those sorts 
of people have to 
put forward : real 
garbage talk, just 
to be breaking the 
ice and propping 
up these false, 
social moments. 
It all sounds as 
stupid as they look.
No one goes out on
strike anymore. A
peculiar kind of 
comity has taken 
over all the labor 
fronts. There was 
a time that about 
ended in, say, 
1975 or so, when 
there really were 
some ruthless 
bastards who'd 
run society right 
to the brink. 
Labor negotiations, 
always down to 
the wire, with 
extensions. Government
intervention, Taft-Hartley 
Act stuff; sabotaged talks, 
and, of course, the famous
'midnight' walk-out. It 
was all tactic and 
strategy, and sometimes 
it did really hurt. 
Public-service contracts 
be damned; municipal 
workers, transit guys, 
garbage men, I can 
remember it all, 
and New York City 
was always quite 
vulnerable to that 
sort of thing. I 
can remember 
any number of 
serious NYCity 
strikes  -  garbage, 
newspapers, and 
transit, maybe 
even police, though 
I forget. Garbage 
strikes in NYCity 
are killer  -  within 
five days there are 
huge mountains 
of trash everywhere, 
plastic sacks piled 
up, squished and 
leaking, smelling, 
running off into 
gutters. The 
back-log quickly 
becomes enormous, 
and it's just never 
any good. These 
sorts of 'services' 
are taken for 
granted, until 
they're not around. 
The newspaper strikes, 
I can recall them 
too  -  two or three 
times. People 
manage, but 
they hate it. This 
is before today's 
and all those
phones and laptops 
and total availability 
of things. But there 
was a time, until 
about twenty years 
ago maybe, when 
and retrieval really 
was dependent 
on paper and 
newsprint. Everyone
 survived, and even 
some alternative 
papers cropped 
up, but a news 
strike was a big 
deal. One year 
I can well remember 
a crazy Irish guy, 
Micheal J. Quill  -  
hot tempered, in 
your face, thuggish 
Irish labor leader. 
I guess it was 
New Year's Eve 
for 1966, with 
John Lindsay as 
Mayor. Quill was 
tough; he'd rip 
your head off. 
(There are some 
great videos of 
him available to 
see)  -  great Irish 
brogue, he consciously 
Lindsay's name 
(as a tactic)...
'If Mr, Linsley....', 
all the time. At 
the stroke of midnight 
that year, after 
weeks of threat 
and blustery 
negotiation, he 
walked out with 
his men  -  New 
York instantly 
became a nightmare. 
For something like 
two weeks (memory)  
-  no trains, no buses, 
a total mess. Taking 
mass transit away 
from NYCity is like 
taking the oxygen 
away from a guy 
in an oxygen tent, 
just pulling the 
tube  -  he's already 
gagging to death 
and then that! 
Quill didn't care. 
It just went on; he 
was intense, everyday, 
more insults and 
more threats. He 
was already an ill 
man (at age 61, I 
think it was), but 
they hauled him and 
some others off to 
jail. He fell ill, was
 taken to the 
hospital, and 
by the end of 
that month  -  
yes, after the 
strike was over 
and things were 
beginning to 
normalize, as 
I recall, he was 
dead. But what a 
story that was. 
In any case, the 
world has now 
somehow become 
(supposedly) a 
'gentler' place  - 
though sometimes 
I doubt that. I 
can remember 
walking gritty 
streets afraid of 
slander and vile 
sarcasm at every 
turn. A real 
authentic capacity 
of crowd-control
by fear; like a punch 
in the face. Now, 
it's all engrained 
and worked into 
people's heads 
to be safe and 
nice. I kind of 
miss the old. 
All that labor 
stuff was always 
such drama. You 
could watch these 
guys in action 
and sense the 
great motives. 
I never knew, 
actually, whose 
side I was on, 
I liked them both. 
The public good, 
the ease of running 
things, services, 
management and 
all. I favored that  
-  and then on 
another day I'd 
suddenly see 
the point of all 
those dumb-ass
union guys, and 
think with them. 
It always went back 
and forth (like any 
good 'drama' should, 
I suppose). Yet, at 
the same time, 
there's only so 
much you can 
get or do  -  you 
can't have a twelve 
dollar subway ride 
just because your 
guys want to 
extort higher 
wages, better 
pensions (already 
heady) and extra 
days and time 
off. Pat a certain 
point, it's extortion.
My father was never 
union guy, at least 
while I was young. He'd 
come home, I can 
still remember, on 
Fridays, with his 
little tan-colored, 
cash, pay envelope.  
He never knew too 
much, just went 
about his work, 
always wholeheartedly. 
A real slaver, he was.
Sometimes Saturdays, 
full 40 hour weeks, 
plus overtime 
whenever. 'Busy 
season,' he'd call it. 
$125 bucks a week; 
I guess that works 
out to maybe $4 
an hour; not sure. 
I do know that, 
(I checked) on 
March 21 of 1956, 
the minimum wage 
went up from .75 
cents to a dollar 
an hour. For 
reference. It always 
sufficed for us  - 
leastways we always 
had what we needed, 
groceries and 
whatever else. 
I don't know 
past that. I 
always remember 
hearing talk, 
too, of a 'kitty' 
they kept  -  like 
spare money, 
in a cash box, 
for extra needs 
or wants or 
Always 'going 
to the kitty' for 
this or that. I've 
never heard that 
since; maybe 
it was current 
then, maybe 
not. Remember, 
all this is before 
credit cards, 
and credit, and 
all that stuff we 
take for granted 
now. Mostly, 
people just now 
get whatever they 
want, and worry 
about it all later.
Every time I look at, 
and used to look 
at too, one of those 
old Currier and Ives 
calendar prints, I
 always chuckle. 
For all that we 
had and all that's 
been lost. But 
I only remember
the good stuff, 
selectively. My 
grandma used 
to remind me 
always how 
crummy it really 
was. All that stuff 
is so long gone 
now, so far off 
and forgotten. 
Even Michael J. 
Quill would have 
lost his bluster 
now. Sure can't 
ever picture him 
with a snow-blower 
and a laptop, worrying 
about his diet and 
health either. Mr. 
Linsley; well,that's 
another story.

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