Smog

Seems as if every woman with whom I have ever been remotely involved in a kind of intimate connection had a problem father. Could be these women were drawn to me on a superficial level as a sort of nice-guy, possibly unlike their father, but deep down they know I am a real trouble.  We riversidesmogall suffer the compulsion to repeat and have a deep nose for the connections that allow us to do so.

BJ, the woman who delivered me of my virginity, had a problem father, I am pretty sure.  She also had a brother, but she hardly ever talked about him.  I got the feeling he had done something terrible like be “gay.”  BJ’s father was some sort of salesman who traveled a great deal and was really successful.  But BJ indicated that he was on-the-road an awful lot and she was sure I do believe that he had been untrue to her mother repeatedly.

So one day, we borrow a car—because my car wouldn’t have made it—and we drive clear out to Palm Springs to meet her parents.  Well, it was sort of confusing really.  Maybe I was supposed to meet the parents or maybe she wanted to talk with her mother because that was how it mostly turned out. As I step out of the car once we get there my old jeans just rip from the crotch right up the back so that my butt is sticking right out, at a time that I am not wearing underwear.

Her parents are staying in a house right next to the golf course.  So no sooner do I walk in, all skinny with a beard to my Adam’s apple and my red hair sticking out, all curly, like an afro, than I have to say I need a pair of pants.  I do not make an initial good impression.  I borrow a pair of pants from her father, who is bigger than I am, and all he has is slacks, and I have to cinch up the belt real tight to keep them from falling off.  By the time I get the pants on BJ’s father is gone and she is in deep conversation with her mother.

So I decide to get out of there and go wondering around outside and find that the house is right next to a golf course.  That’s where the father had gone; he is playing in a tournament.  Lacking anything else to do, I walk up right to the edge of the course near one of the holes and sit down, and to my amazement people start coming through and some of them are people I have seen on TV.  Why, lo and behold, there is Bob Hope, because it turns out I am an accidental spectator at the Bob Hope Desert Classic of 1968.

I don’t know what went on back then, but there are no guards or ticket takers or whatever.  I just sit there on the edge of the course with red hair sticking out all over, wearing pants than don’t fit and looking sort of like a derelict and nobody bothers me or says a word. 

Around Whittier, like driving back, you can see the smog coming down like a giant curtain in front of the LA area.  We don’t talk much and I guess I am a bit confused having stepped a bit into her life with a powerful and wealthy father who plays golf with Bob Hope and a betrayed mother and I feel like I have smog in my head.

The Blob

When it came to phonal usage, I didn’t have any good role models either, except the old lady, and be damned if she was going to be my role model for anything.  While there was nothing to sit on if blobyou were on the kitchen side of the pass through or cross over, there was a chair on the so-called front room side, and the old lady would sit there gabbing for hours on end to her two or three phone friends.  I don’t know what the fuck they talked about or even who they were; I just didn’t fucking want to know.

 But yak, yak, yak.  It would go on for hours.  And these were true phone friends because she hardly ever saw these people in the flesh since, as I said, she didn’t drive.  I can’t imagine a person not learning to drive in 20th century California unless you don’t have a car—always a possibility—or you have like some severe disability that disqualifies you from being able to drive like being blind as a bat or maybe lacking arms. 

 I suppose the old man had tried to teach her to drive at one time or another back in SC.  Hell, back there you could get a drivers license at the drug store for like 5 bucks.  But maybe that was the problem.  The old man was a lousy car instructor, what with the yelling and the pounding on the dash board, and the fear of getting bonked at any second.  Hell, it was scary enough driving the car without having old exploding bowels sitting next to you at any second ready to go off.

Really I don’t know how I managed to learn to drive.  I flunked the test the first time and only passed it the second because the DMV guy lived in our neighborhood and his son was in my class, and he gave me a break.  We didn’t have driver’s ed back then like when you got to drive around and practice car driving with a teacher.  We had something they called “driver’s ed,” but that was a class where you sat and watched movies of the Indianapolis Five Hundred which I don’t think is the best way to teach kids about responsible driving, though they did throw in some films of car wrecks and mangled kids.

Every now and then, the topic would come up, like ma why don’t you learn to drive, and she would say the same thing every time.  This doctor had told her that she was like a thorough bred horse.  High strung.  No she wasn’t nuts.  She was a thorough bred horse and high strung and couldn’t do a damn thing about it because it was all genetics.  So that was that and there was no using bringing it up again because a zebra can’t change its spots and so on.

 So like she hardly ever went out of the house, except on Friday evenings to get groceries with the old man, or to church, to a never ending series of doctor appointments for this or that.  That was about it.  So she was always in that house like a giant spider and the house was like a giant spider web.  And really she didn’t have to go out of house, because we went out of the house, and since, as I said, she had no boundaries, we were sort of eyes and ears outside the house.  If you have seen that movie with Steve McQueen, called ‘The Blob,” well, it was sort of like that.

Phonal Usage

I have never gotten used to the telephone.  I hate it when the phone goes off because it means I might have to talk to somebody or there is some problem that has to be taken care of.  The phone also is fucking insistent; you could be doing anything and if you want to know what the call is about,arnold you have to pick up the phone. I do not consider the phone my friend or look upon it with any particular affection.  That’s probably because I did not get the proper phone socialization.

In SC we had a phone at least for part of the time back here.  It was hung up on the wall and it was a party line.  If you don’t know about party lines, maybe you have seen that old TV show, Green Acres, about this rich couple that decides to go live in the country.  And there was a talking pig in that show too.  Anyway they had a party line; sometimes the pig talked on the party line.  That means you could pick up the phone and there would be other people talking on the line.  I don’t know what you did if you wanted to talk; I suppose you could have asked them to get off the line while you talked to the person you wanted to talk to.  I don’t know because I never got to use that phone. Who the hell was I going to call; my swarm of little ten year old friends that lived like I did out in the middle of nowhere?  Not likely.

 So I don’t think I talked on a phone, in the sense of dialing it myself and hanging it up myself, till I was in my teens.  I suspect I talked to somebody on a phone before my teens because my parents wanted me to speak to whoever the person was on the phone. But really this is speculation.  So I don’t know for sure that I talked on a phone till was in my teens. You’d think a person might remember the first time he ever talked on a phone but I don’t.  I remember my first shower.  That was in Louisiana.  But that concrete little room with water squirting out of the wall scared me.  The phone didn’t scare me any.  I knew what it was for anyway.

 In California, we had one phone.  Right smack dab in the middle of the house.  It was located on what I believe was called a pass through or pass over (though a think a pass over is religious) that was cut in the wall between the kitchen and the so-called front room.  I suppose the phone was stuck there for the sake of convenience, but its placement also seemed part of the absolutely no privacy policy of the household.  If you had a secret, you sure couldn’t talk about it on the phone because the old lady would always, in the evening, be lying about ten feet away on the sofa reading the obituaries to see if somebody she knew had died lately and she would be listening to every damn thing you said. 

And there was no chair there either so I never did get really comfortable talking on the phone, like these kids you see on TV with their own phones lolling around on their own bedrooms talking who knows what manner of shit to each other.  The best you could do if you wanted to “talk,” in any sense other than a pure informational exchange, was to hold the receiver to your ear, and sit on the kitchen floor between the refrigerator and the dog food bowl that was next to the dog bed.  This just wasn’t a place for getting comfortable.

I know or I have heard of people who get on the phone and talk to other people in a conversational way about the events of the day and so on.  I guess you could call these people you talk to phone friends.  But I have never done that because I was not properly socialize in phone usage and am generally retarded in that area.

Smoke

I forget when it was exactly, but it was after the that’s your problem not my problem psychobabble stuff which was the precursor to boundary talk, like this person has boundary “issues” and so forth.  I didn’t know what the hell people were talking about because I had been raised by a mother who had no boundaries whatsoever. 

I watch TV or a movie and I see the inside of houses where kids little and otherwise have their own panopticondamn bedrooms with their own damn TV sets, and on the door of their own damn room there’s a sign that says, Keep Out, or Beware of Dog, or Have the Simple Decency to Knock.  I don’t know where these kids get off because if I had dared to put up a sign like that my father would have, at the instigation of the old lady, hit me over the head with it.

 Nobody kept a journal in that house, I can tell you.  And if for some ungodly reason, you got a letter you could be sure she had pre-opened it for you.  If for some reason, she got it in her head to do so she would turn all of your crap over like those FBI people do when they have a warrant for your arrest.  And she didn’t have the slightest shame about it.  Like motherhood gave her the godgiven right to look up your asshole whenever she felt like it.  I speak figuratively here.

Privacy?  Well, you were allowed some in the bathroom, though you had to be sure to time that carefully.  Because there was one bathroom for four males, and when the old man had to go he had to go, and he would let you know it.  He had these explosive bowels that left a humungous stink.  You just didn’t want to go in there till it aired out.

He would go, where is that reader’s digest, where is that fucking thing, and he would be all heated because he wanted it right then and there because he was going to the fucking shitter, and so we would all have to run around looking for the fucking reader digest before he pooped in his goddamn pants because he wasn’t going to that shitter without the reader’s digest. 

Though I don’t know what for.  As I understand it people who take reading material to the john usually do so to have something to distract themselves while they WAIT for their bowels to move.  So they sit there polite like reading while they wait for their bowels.  But no sooner did the old man hit the pot than the explosion went off; maybe he read a little afterwards like some people smoke after sex to calm himself down from the excitement.

And then he would come out, with his pants all hanging down and his gut slopping over his belt and read some goddamn joke out loud that he had read in the reader’s digest, and then he would fart.  Like when he we were little, he was all the time going, pull this finger, and when you did he would fart.  And you got sick of that joke pretty fast.  But he would still go, pull this finger, and you would say no and he would say, aw come on, give it a yank.  And he would still fart even if you didn’t pull it.

And one evening for some fun I guess he was walking around in his baggy white underwear with the bad elastic and as he walked across the living room, he paused, farted and in a continuous motion flicked on a cigarette lighter, so it looked like his fucking asshole was a flame thrower.  That’s the only time I have seen that done in real life.  I have tried to do it a couple of times myself, but never successfully although I did singe some asshole hairs.  So I got a little smoke but no fire.

Disco Days

So I get my MA with a dissertation on Henry-the fuck-James and I go to work to get out of the hole by applying to jobs at community colleges.  I get a couple of classes to cover for a professor who got cancer and I get another job at a federal program, I think it was, working with the sons and satniteeveredaughters of migrant workers.  I am acting you know optimistically like something positive is going to happen and I will get my ass out of the hole in the PU’s basement.  So I am working to get a bankroll in case I have to cover moving expenses and first and last months rent.  Because at that point about all I have to my name is a few pairs of jeans, some blue work shirts, some pretty crappy looking underwear, a typewriter, and a Volkswagen.  A pile of books and no credit.

So these are disco days and people do happy hour.  A bunch of us working at the sons and daughters of migrant workers, men and women, on Fridays would go out and get a little wasted and move on to a disco place or some bar somewhere or other where they had music and dance.  Now, I am not a natural born dancer.  Along with all the other social stuff I missed in high school I missed all the sock hops and such, and even in college I didn’t do the mixer thing.  Looking back I see I had missed the central ingredient for experiencing such social occasions and that was a good bit of alcohol.  But once I figured out the drinking part, the dancing stuff wasn’t all that hard. 

There were three or four women who worked at the sons and daughters of migrant workers thing.   And to say that I was looking, after seven years of no company but my good right hand, doesn’t quite describe my state of mind.  This was something deeper than simple horniess.  If I may recapitulate, I had a nervous breakdown and had a whole bunch of pretty odd jobs and slowly, very slowly I began to emerge from the hole.  There I was—or here I am—nearly thirty years old, with no money, living in a hole under my arents’ house, not exactly stylishly attired, and at moments looking like I had crawled out from under a rock, and the idea that a woman might even look at me with some interest was like a fucking miracle.

What do you know but I sensed just some such interest on the part of one co-worker.  Mary, she was.  Although I guess to get my attention she nearly had to hit me over the head with a rock.  I won’t say she threw herself at me, but something nearly knocked me over.  She was my age, and looked sort of like me in a general sense.  She was a woman of course, and I wasn’t but she was thin and boney, like me, and white, and had beautiful auburn hair that was prettier than mine.  And she liked to get drunk and laugh.  She had a good sense of humor and a good laugh that was sort of a burbling giggle.  Well, I liked it anyway.

So assisted by generous quantities of wine, as they say, one thing led to another, and seven years of wondering whether I would ever have sex again were over and I thought damn I am back on the road to being a normal human being.  I was wrong of course, but the delusion felt pretty good at the time.

Pre-cancerous lesions

The old man from his days as a farm kid to his days as a brick layer was out in the sun all of the time.  He wore a hat though mostly because people in the south wear hats to keep from passing out in the heat.  But he didn’t cover his arms, especially his forearms, and after a lifetime in the sun, the skin on his arms didn’t look like human skin, but more like alligator hide with some sort of alligator hide skin disease.  As a dermatologist might say, his forearms were just one big pre-cancerous lesion.  So he got to going to the dermatologist once a year and the doctor gave him some salve or maybe he spread it on right there, I don’t know, but this stuff was some sort of acid that would burn down the pre-cancerous lesions a bit.

squamousSo one day, I am looking in the mirror and I see this pimple forming on my upper lip, so I keep an eye on it, and it comes to a head, and I think it’s going to pop or disappear, and it does disappear a little, but then it comes back, and it looks like it is going to pop, but doesn’t, and when I squeeze the sucker it feels hard inside.  I am a hypochondriac, and every day I get up I think I am not going to live to the same day, next week. 

So I am totally freaked out—like the time I thought I was getting herpes on my eyeballs—but I go to the dermatologist and my worst fears are realized.  I am sitting in that little fucking patient room where they make you sit, and the doctor is talking to the nurse right next door, and I hear the word “cancer,” and they said it with a sort of hush around it. 

 So before I know it, I am across the hall in another room, flat on my back, and they numb my lip and the doc goes to work, and I have blood going up my nose and down into my mouth, and the motherfucking doctor pauses to call the nurses in, and asks them to take a look at that.  The fucker wants them to admire his handiwork.  And what the hell, but I am right there and feel like I am a bent fender or something.

So the doc leaves and I ask the nurse like what the hell is going on.  And she says the doc just removed a cancer from my lip, something called squamous, maybe, and that the doc thinks he has got it all and that he did a good job sewing up my lip, since he has done the procedure about 300 times, and that’s good because some doctors screw up and sew the lip back together crooked and you come out with a crooked or twisted looking lip.  So while I am pretty pissed off at this doctor for being an egomaniac, vain glorious motherfucker and treating me like a piece of meat, I am also happy that the vain glorious mother fucker knew what he was doing.

I have to say but on the basis of my experience with five or so dermatologists I must conclude they all have severe personality defects.  They walk in and I point to this thing on my skin and without saying a word they grab the nitrogen bottle and blast the spot.  The first time that happened the mother fucker didn’t even bother to tell me what would happen, so I was like shocked when I got home and found these huge blisters all over my face.  The only dermatologist I met that seemed sane was a real old guy who retired soon after I saw him.

He actually talked with me a bit.  I know because I asked him a question, and he said being a dermatologist these days was not being a dermatologist at all.  Like a real dermatologist was supposed to cure mysterious skin diseases and such, but today all a dermatologist does is cut cancerous shit out of people.  And that is surgery, not dermatology. We are seeing he says, cancers that we used to see only on sailors, and we cut the shit out and they go back and lie in the sun.

Crap Shoot

I always forget which one it is, but in meiosis or maybe its mitosis the sperm and the egg get together and sort of swap half of their genetic material with each other, and the genetic material insomniathat comes out of this random swapping is you, the individual.  This damn exchange is pretty much a crap shoot, but that’s where you come from.  And there’s no doubt about it but this swap pretty much determines who you are going to be, like a woman or a man, or a black person or a white person, or somebody who lives in India or in the United States.

Somebody quoted Henry James as saying we go through life wrapped in an envelope of contingency.  Bullshit.  We are the envelope.  Consciousness is just the lie we tell ourselves to convince ourselves we are in control; really consciousness is just along for the ride.

My brothers and I for example are all white men.  We all have penises that denote us as men, and we are all damn white.  One look at one of us and you say, Hey, that’s one white guy. Some people say white people are really pink people, and maybe that’s true, but those parts of me not usually exposed to the sun are pretty damn white.  

I am probably the whitest of the lot being the most fair.  I do not tan.  I burn.  I am like 80% Anglo-Saxon with some Irish thrown in there, though as far as I know they are probably related to the Anglo-Saxons too.   I might be more Saxon than Anglo because—though this is pretty speculative—some people in Denmark have names that sound a lot like Tingle.

 My brothers are Anglo-Saxon too of course and as I said pretty white.  If the four of us were in the same room, though, I am not sure if people who didn’t know us would know we were related or not.  I look in the face like the old-lady; and my youngest brother, brother #3, looks like me, so he looks like my mother too.  Brothers #1 and #2 look a bit more like the old man.  They both have dark hair; while I and Brother #3 have lighter hair.  Mine was red, though I like to say auburn, and his had a lot of red in it and was sandy. 

 I can’t quite tell where we got our bodies from.  My body is a dead ringer for the old man’s.  I have chicken or tooth pick like legs; my upper body sits on those and is more slight in the bone structure than not.  The old man got a gut after 50 or so and so have we all.  If I gain weight it goes straight to the gut; the same for brothers #1 and 3.  Brother # 2’s weight spreads out a bit more and doesn’t stick out like he had swallowed a cannon ball like mine does.  We all stand within an inch or so of six feet either way.  So we might be called big guys, though I have never thought of myself as a big guy.

As I said, the genetics thing is a crap shoot.  But people who look at us a while all say we look alike “through the eyes.”

Mother’s Love

I wish I could remember my 2nd grade teacher’s name.  But I can’t.  My first grade teacher was Ms. hangingoutMartin.  My second grade teacher wasn’t mean like Ms. Martin who was all the time whacking kids with a yardstick.  Ms. Martin was short, dark haired, and boney.  My second grade teacher was short, grey haired, frumpy and sort of rounded.  But I don’t remember having learned any academics in her class unlike Ms. Martin who more or less tattooed your Dick and Jane to your ass.

Every day in second grade we started off with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a group recitation of the Lords Prayer, and then some reading from the Bible.  This was followed by what you’d have to call a little sermon on the material read for that day.  Ms. X, I will call her, was strong on the New Testament and read to us about Jesus, which is where I really got the idea that he loved Me, because of the stories about him and children, especially the one about bring the children unto me and lest ye be like one of them you won’t get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Maybe this was Ms. X’s way of building up our self-esteem.

But she was also pretty strong on the more Old Testament stuff, especially honor thy father and thy mother.  That was a big one because she would go on about how our fathers and especially mothers loved us and thus we should honor them as the Commandment says.  I can remember vividly the day she told us about the power of a mother’s love.  I can still see the room; she was wearing a frumpy dress with a blue pattern, and she told us this story she must have gotten from Reader’s Digest.

It seems there was this loving mother whose little boy got a powerful stomach ache and fearing that it might be the appendix, the loving mother got her boy in the car and when her little boy bellowed out in pain, she lost track of the road for a moment and went too fast around a curve, and the car rolled over and over and came to rest smack dab in the middle of the railroad tracks.  Now she had been thrown free but the little boy was stuck, and no sooner did she stand up and get the cobwebs out of her head than she sees his train heading right for the car with her boy still trapped in it.  So this loving mother goes over and with the power of her love, LIFTS THAT CAR RIGHT UP so her little boy can crawl out, and just in the nick of time too, since no sooner had they gotten away than the train hit the car and smacked it to smithereens.  And she had done all this on a broken leg though she hadn’t known it because of her powerful love, and so she carried the boy the rest of the way to the doctor—on one leg, mind you—and saved his life because it was the appendix.  And this all goes to show there is no force more powerful than a mother’s love.

I found this story of the power of a mother’s love horrifying.  I got enough guilt tripping at home without the public school system getting into it too.

Jesus H. Tingle

Sometimes I wish my brothers and me had been born in the old west and had been like the Younger brothers riding around on horses, scaring the piss out of folks, and killing somebody now redeemerand again if we felt like it.  I can see us now all scarred up, bearded and gnarly looking spitting this way and that,  all liquored up and scaring old ladies in the street just for the pure nastiness of it. Folks would say, them boys is riding them horses straight to hell.  Those Tingle brothers.

Tingle brothers, though just doesn’t sound right.  Who the hell ever heard of a crew with a name like “Tingle.”  To have been proper outlaws we would have had to change our name.  But there was those 6 Tingle brothers who went off to fight for the confederacy in the Florida Campaign. That’s enough for a whole platoon, isn’t it.  I can imagine those six boney guys sitting around their campfire, beating off mosquitoes spitting this way and that and generally being as surly and uncooperative as possible.

I just hate to think they would have been all gung-ho, with yes sir this and yes sergeant that and yes, I am ready to change into the face of cannon cause God’s at my side and I have seen the glory on my lips.  But come to think of it, that’s pretty twisted too.  A bunch of drooling glassy eyed fanatics going off to meet their maker.

The old man in his last years talked about going to meet his maker.  I am going to meet my maker, he would say.  I thought about that a bit.  It was like he was going to meet his long lost father and his father would recognize and welcome him and take him in his arms and if the old man found the idea comforting, well, OK.  But he didn’t always seem comforted.  Once he started reciting the 23rd Psalm which he had down by heart:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

But when he got to the part about the Lord guiding him down the path of righteous, he changed the words and said but Lord, you are walking too fast.  I can’t keep up.  I can’t keep up. 

I kept thinking what the hell sin did he think he had committed to warrant being left behind like that by his maker.  I don’t think he had been unfaithful to the old lady.  But maybe he felt guilty about those  salacious magazines he kept hidden around the house with names like “Titties” or “Big Ones.”  I got to say those magazines were something, not like the slick jobs they have out now with all those airbrushed young things looking all perky and healthy.  He must have found some backwoods, red-neck outlet cause the women feature in his magazines tended somewhat more towards the humanly grotesque than towards the impossibly perfect. 

I sure hope that’s not why he thought he was going to hell.  But you never know.

 

 

A Philosophy Major

Brother # 2 was graduated from the same college as I with a BA in philosophy.  If anything he had elected a career path even more useless than mine, and while we have not discussed it, since we Platodon’t discuss anything, I surmise that like myself as an English major he had small grasp of what being a philosophy major was about.  In any case, he was accepted in graduate school, but dropped out in his first year, in part because of the draft, and in part because he started to learn what academic philosophy is about.

But for him as it would have been for me, the philosophy taught in graduate school was not the real thing.  It was analytic philosophy, which as far as I am concerned is the death of philosophy, major league knit-pickers, knit-picking to death philosophers whose thoughts they could not match if their lives depended on it, and making up elaborate intellectual puzzles, that they try to dignify with the term “thought-experiments,” which can be used to justify or knock down any argument known to humanity.

I do not speak for him of course since I have no idea what’s on his mind, but I expect that he believed that, if one went to graduate school in philosophy, one became a philosopher, that is, a person with a philosophy by and according to the values and knowledge claims of which one lived, or tried to live, since no real philosophy has ever been a piece of cake, and suffering is to be expected along the path.  His naiveté, as well as profound ignorance of what becoming a “professional” anything means for the middle class person, is here demonstrated.  To believe that one would become a philosopher by attending graduate school—why that’s a fool’s errand.  We were rubes in the ivory tower.

That he was inclined to view philosophy in this way seems also indicated by his having on occasion thought about becoming a reverend or minister.  He did not want simply to have a set up beliefs by which to justify and rationalize his actions, he wanted to live the beliefs and thereby to test them and himself, as the believer.  The problem here, I think, was that he did not believe in God, or let’s say the God he believed in would not be recognized as a God by anybody else. 

 He also expressed a desire to join the Marine Academy and become a sailor.  He loved as I recollect the Captain Hornblower novels. This was a path within his grasp upon being graduated from high school but he did not take it.  I think he would have made an excellent “salt.”

But of course we all could have made an excellent something else if we had bothered to go in that direction.  Instead we took the educational means of moving up.  With his philosophy degree in hand, pursued by the draft, married soon, and then with a child on the way, he applied for a job in the post office, got it, and stayed in their employ for near on twenty years by my calculations.

For a working class person, a job in the post office is not to be scoffed at.  It’s civil service, the work is steady, and the pay reasonable.  And one gets to wear a uniform.