RUDIMENTS, pt. 18
When I was 8, I was in the hospital for a
long time. I guess when you're 8 anything
is a 'long' time, but I was all trussed up,
my jaw was wired shut, and it was, on the
whole pretty miserable, and just add pain
with every attempt at movement. Like being
tied up for months, in a really bad kids' game.
I remember little of the physical infirmities. I
just remember a squirming boredness. A few
things, to this day, come back to me with the
memories other wise, I guess hidden : orange
juice, through a straw. Oh man! What a bad
memory that brings - the juice cart, daily, in
the evenings. That feel of the juice in a straw,
the idle sound of the cart and those perpendicular,
cloying people dispensing all that - in a hospital
environment there's always background noise.
Nothing is ever heard in isolation. So I hate
noise too. I dislike hearing things late into
the night, when it's just supposed to be quiet.
In a hospital there's always activity going on,
with echoey noises, all through the night.
How in the world I was expected to consider
any of this normal and acceptable is beyond
me now, but back that no one really mentioned
any of it. It had just tuned 1958, and I was
outside of pretty much everything. Having
been hit by a train, most everything on the
right side of my body was in some sorry
state of mess. Healing was slow, but I don't
recall even the simplest of things, like the
bedpan and all that. I guess, unless there was
some automatic way of me emptying myself,
I used one. My mouth was wired shut for
months, after I awoke (I was out for a long
time, not one of those super death-defying
comas, but a coma nonetheless, and what's
then the difference. I remember, back in the
70's that long, drawn out court and media
case over someone, a girl named Karen Ann
Quinlan, who was comatose for years, and
was down to 65 pounds (she was an adult-sized
girl, not a kid), and all that hoo-hah about taking
her off life-support and all that. As I recall
she died pretty quickly, once they did so,
but I forget the rest. My point is, as I followed
that little story as it unfolded, I never really
thought of myself as having been in that same
position. I was supposed to have died anyway;
no one ever figured I'd pull through or get
back to life.I guess the difference was that I was
essentially still alive, on my own, and not
hooked up to pumps and monitors for breathing.
So, by various degrees, I was in a different state.
'Not quite so vegetative,' let's say. (That sure
The thing abut the hospital was, and still is,
I guess, how that environment, with all the best
intentions, is the most insipid and depressing
advocate for just dying, and getting it over with.
Doctors often say that there's like a 30 percent
factor of their patients who represent 80 percent
of repeat visits. Which means that there's a
certain sub-class of people who are inclined, no
matter what, to use their own psychological
weaknesses as cover for seeing endless doctors
and visits. A hypochondriac nation - people
who can't get enough of the attention and
special compensatory feeling they get from
meeting with the 'doctor.' Old Mrs. Jones,
needing that push again, every three weeks.
Psychological dependency is a rampant,
insidious disease - little diagnosed. And
the reason it's little diagnosed is because
our society has been made to run on it.
Advertising. Entertainment. All those
self-help books and social-conditioning
units, yoga and prayer groups, exercise
foundations, and all the rest. That's just
another means into the inside of your head.
Those are the 'Summer' people I mentioned
yesterday - the outgoers, the mixers. Man,
I disliked that, and I made sure I wasn't going
to have any part of that stuff. My entire
small coterie of people in NYC, I made sure,
were Winter people - dark, distant, and serious.
It was, in fact, when I began seeing (beginning
with that Andy Bonamo guy), Summer people
bounding one after the other into my 509
e11th street place, I knew it was time to get.
Those were the same people who make mistakes:
in this case, rolling over for their military time
and then suddenly realizing it was no good for
them - so we'd get them, as AWOL runaways,
on the run to Canada or to invisibility. And
people who make mistakes just continue to
make them. I didn't want to be among them,
or counted. They'll always drag you down with
them, through some stupid best-of-intentions on
your own part, into the same sea of despond
they bring themselves to; one way or the other.
That was my own personal power-and-innocence
dichotomy. I stayed way clear.
Except that at first I didn't. We were essentially
wholesaling kids for Canada. It's a little bit fuzzy
now, but a lot of them came up from DC, sometimes
even in a gov. issue car (well, five or six times anyway).
These were white gov't Valiants, with small US Military
lettering on the side. I never got the whole story, but
they'd drive there, to where we had like a Canada-bound
underground railway safe-house thing going, where
they'd sit the one or two days it took for the next van
to take them away. In the meantime in my own dumb
little apartment, and with Andy as drug-infested
ringleader and dispenser, there's be 8 or 9 people,
males and female, stretched out on my floor; using
it all as a crash-pad from which to eat and sleep,
and make out too. (Lot's of that going on. Even
AWOLs get lusty). (That's military talk for 'absent
without official leave'). There was a sleaze-ball
body shop across the street (not there any more,
for a while in the 90's it tried as a futzy,
pretentious bar, but that too failed).These Puerto
Rican guys would sand down the cars, remove
the 'numbers', or whatever that sequence was,
and quickly repaint and move the cars along.
We'd get a hundred and a half, or so, for each
car. Dollars, if lucky. You have to imagine the
scene - this is what the stupid intensity of an
enforced-hand military government does -
opposition turns to destruction and we all made
ourselves, very quickly, very vulnerable. Culpable,
which is pretty distant from capable, even though
it looks about the same. Which means a lot of
anything can go wrong. Stuff I never thought
about then - like, firearms. Who had them,
were there any? Was anybody in this mess also
armed? Parents. What about them? Each of
these kids must have had some worried mother
or father wondering about them. How'd that
get handled, and by who? Pregnancy. Sure saw
lots enough of the old two-backed beast, but
did nay of these girls ever get pregnant?
Paperwork on the cars? Titles? Etc. For God's
sake now that seems like the most vulnerable
link in the chain. Stealing govt'-issue vehicles?
People left toms of crap behind. I got shirts and
jackets galore, and at least four pairs of good-enough
shoes. These people were nuts.
So you can see my position and my realization -
what in the world had I gotten involved with? This
was even power and innocence; more like foolishness
and stupidity. That's how people get screwed up, or
caught, or dead. Mistakes multiply, a small error
turns into a nightmare. As soon as I could, I abandoned
that little endeavor while I still was able.