Mannered

We were not allowed to put our elbows on the table or burp or fart while at the table. Although the tablemannersold man could fart anywhere he wanted it being his god given right to do so.  We were not either to sing, at table, or hum.  One brother, when early still in years, took to humming uncontrollably.  He did not hum a tune exactly but made a sound like the hum perhaps of an electric generator.  This sound didn’t require that he move his lips.  It just came out of his head sort of and sometimes when he was ordered to stop it, he said that he didn’t know he was doing it.  I believed him since I felt then as now that all us boys were a bit autistic due to sensory deprivation.

We also had to sit erect at a proper distance from the table with no slouching allowed.  We were not to reach either for anything but if something was out of our reach we were to say, Please (the name of whoever was nearest the wanted item) pass X.  When X had been passed you were to say Thank You, and the person who passed it was to say You Are Welcome.  Sometimes this was about all the conversation we had at the table.

Of course, we were to keep our mouths closed while chewing and we were not to speak or hum or sing when our mouths were full. Also we were to chew our food before swallowing.  For a brief period we were required to count our chews, ten being the minimum number necessary before swallowing since the old lady had been influenced at one time by the Great Masticator.  But this command was too difficult to police and was given up as impractical.

Why I was assigned the chore, I don’t know, but there being no girls in the family, I had to set the table.  This was an exacting task.  The knife had to be to the right of the plate, which was to be centered on its place mat, along with the spoon to the outside of the knife, and on the left side was the fork with a paper napkin folded neatly and placed under it.  This made no sense to me since we were all right handed, and placing the utensil we mostly used—i.e. the fork—on the left required making, as far as I was concerned, an unnecessary transfer of the fork from left to right.

Meanwhile the knife, once employed, was placed cattycorner on the edge of the plate with the handle end always to the right.  Moreover, if you had a piece of meat such as a pork chop, you were not to cut the meat all up at once into bite sized bits so as to facilitate the meat’s consumption.  No, you were only to cut off bits of bite sized meat as needed.

Nor were you to make noises with your food, such as gargling noises with your ice tea.

When consuming soup one was not to pick up the bowl and apply it directly to the lips, nor was one to make slurping noises from the spoon.  Further when one neared the end of the soup one was not to tilt the bowl towards one to gather the last remaining fluid.  No, one was to tilt the bowl—contrary to all common sense—away from one.  Additionally, one was not to draw the spoon tableservantsdirectly up and to one’s mouth, but away and then up to one’s mouth.

If one ate in this fashion, one would be recognized as having good manners—the purpose of which as far as I was concerned was to make eating as difficult as possible and to increase the possibility of one being yelled at for screwing up one of the rules.  If one was lucky enough to make it through a meal without screwing up, one stood, pushed one’s chair under the table and asked if one might be excused. 

What I was being excused for or from I have no idea.  But I was happy to be excused nonetheless.

Friday Night Out

I read this article where a working class academic took umbrage with his middle class academic colleagues when they described those who supported gun control as rednecks whose idea of a big pacificoceanFriday night out was going to Wal-Mart.  How could such people who would never think to stereotype a woman or a minority person or a gay person stereotype so completely members of the working class?

Hell, I say if the shoe fits wear it.  My idea of big outing, in light of my working class background, is going to Costco.  My idea of a really big outing is taking a truck load of crap to the dump.  The dump is usually pretty exciting and you get to throw all that shit out on the ground, and the whole place has a powerful odor and lots of birds, plus big tractors and shit like that.  I always found trips to the dump fulfilling.  What the hell is wrong with going to Wal-Mart or Costco or the dump?  If I really felt middle class people had better things to do on Friday nights I might be envious.

My parents never went on outings.  I have absolutely no recollection of their ever having gone out for example to a movie.  They had two big outings:  Church on Sunday, and Friday evening a trip to the grocery store.  Because they went out to get groceries on Friday evening, the old man frequently bought a roasted chicken at the local market, so there wouldn’t be much to clean up after before they headed out to the grocery store, and when they got back we had to run out to the car immediately and bring the shit in because be damned if the old man was going to carry one of those bags in not when he had us slaves to do it for him.

We did have the obligatory family outing every summer when I was in elementary and maybe junior high to the beach.  Since we were an hour or so drive to the Pacific Ocean I guess we had to take advantage of its presence.  These were dreadful affairs rife with potentials for disaster.  First, since these trips involved roasting weenies, we had to find the ice chest, the charcoal, the charcoal lighter fluid, and the hibachi like thing the old man used to roast the weenies.  By the time we had rounded up the shit necessary to make the trip, I was usually a nervous wreck.

That was followed by the drive.  Before they put in the freeway, there were actually stop lights, and it seemed every time we made the fucking beach trip half the city had also decided to go there.  This made for much swearing and cursing and pleading on the part of the old lady for the old man to drive more carefully.  Then the ultimate horror was locating a parking place near where my mother liked to go on the beach, a place without much sand but with tide pools for educational purposes.  The looking for a parking place could go on for some time attended throughout by cursing and whimpering.  Then there was lighting the fucking coal in the fucking hibachi…

So we usually ended up drinking some lukewarm soft drink and eating weenies in buns with sand in them.  Fuck but I would much rather have gone to Wal-Mart.

To Meet the Faces

During the time I was living in the hole,  brother number 3 broke his arm falling out of a tree up at the elementary school.  I guess he fell out sort of sideways and to protect his head stuck out his arm as people do and broke his forearm.  Those are pretty big bones and to think of breaking brokenarmone—well, one has to hit the ground pretty hard.  I have never broken a bone, though, playing basketball once, an idiot tripped me and I fell and hyperextended my arm so that it swelled up, at the elbow, to the size of watermelon and I lost all strength in my fingers and the x-ray showed I had fractured the bone a bit right at the joint.

But my brother had a real broken arm that you could see with the naked eye.  Clearly something was not right with that arm; the forearm is supposed to be straight, but this one took a good 60% turn at one point and was clearly headed in the wrong direction.  The bone was not poking through the skin with blood coming out, but it was poking enough to show through the skin that the bone was not in the right place.  Also my brother had gone pale and he was groaning in pain also indicative of a broken bone.

Maybe it was a Saturday or a Sunday; had it not been one of those days I would have put my brother in the car and taken him straight away to the emergency room at the hospital.  But because my parents were there, they were going to take him to the hospital.  I stood by the car waiting to see them off, but when they didn’t come out right away I became alarmed and went to see if something was wrong.  I heard my parents in their room and went to the door to peer in; it was not a room I liked to enter.

My brother was lying on one of their beds—by this time they had separate beds—moaning, and to my consternation, my parents, rather than taking my brother to the hospital, had apparently decided to prepare themselves to go to the hospital.  My father was changing his clothes.  He was putting on his church pants and my mother was telling him what shirt to put on and she was in her little half bath changing into a dress.  Meanwhile my brother was lying their groaning; whereupon I suggested that I would be happy to drive him to the hospital where they could catch up later.  Perhaps detecting a note of judgment in my voice, I was told, in so many words, to fuck off.

I left the room and to this day I don’t understand their behavior.  One of their children was lying there in pain with a broken arm and they decided to take 20 minutes to prepare themselves to go to the hospital.  The old lady even applied make-up.  One would think they were going to see the Pope or something.  I don’t wish to stereotype poor people, but I have wondered if perhaps their dressing up had something to do with having been very poor and feeling that because they were they would be ignored by people like doctors and lawyers and nurses unless they appeared in appropriate attire.

Whatever the underlying cause, I find in the occasion yet another instance of my parents living out their pathetic psychodrama in which my brothers and I were but bit players or even perhaps pieces of furniture. I suspect we are all just bits of each others imaginations but humanity lies in trying to see beyond that.

Cursing

I didn’t always curse up a storm.  As I reported, when I first told my parents to “got to hell,” I got my mouth soaped up.  That’s a pretty literalistic way of telling a kid not to develop a dirty mouth, but it worked for me for a good while.  Except “fool,” one day I called somebody a “fool” and the BIBLEold lady snapped at me and said I shouldn’t call anybody a fool because it says in the Bible if you call one of your brethren a “fool” you will go to hell.  I hadn’t heard that one so I said where was it in the Bible which was a mistake since she accused me of talking back, being insolent and so forth.  So I went to look it up myself, but with no luck since as you may have noted many Bibles don’t have an index.

But it’s there all right:

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

That’s from Matthew and I have no idea what that “Raca” is.

For a long time, I didn’t curse and was pretty proud of myself too.  But one day maybe I was in the fifth or sixth grade, I remember the occasion pretty clearly, I was up at the elementary school sitting in the cool of the shade and watching other little boys my age playing a game of touch football and cursing up a storm.  It was goddamn this and goddamn that!  And fuck you!  And up yours!  Asshole!  And go fuck yourself!

And I remember thinking I wasn’t like those bad little boys since I didn’t use dirty words but, cursed as I am with introspection, I really didn’t like the idea that I was so prim and proper and a regular goody two-shoes.  And I went on like that inside for a while between being a good little boy and being a regular goody two shoes, and after going on at this inward struggle for a bit, I just said fuck it.  I guess you could say I just gave into peer pressure, but if I did, I did it thoughtfully and not without agnoizing over it.

Not that I went on some sort of cursing rampage.  No, what I had decided was that cursing didn’t make a person bad.  But after a while I accustomed myself to fuck this and fuck that, and my father, when it came to cursing, was a pretty good role model since he cursed all the fucking time, most especially, he liked to say goddamnmotherfuckingsonofabitch.  He also liked to say, well kiss my rusty red bunny.  Which was his socially acceptable way of saying kiss my ass, though what that has to do with a bunny, and a rusty red one at that, I don’t know.  He also liked to go bleed his whistle which meant take a leak or piss.

So I had a pretty good source of off color pungency right in the house and I didn’t have to go far in my neighorhood to meet kids who used fuck like a punctuation mark, as in, “Fuck me, but I am so fucking tired I fucked up and didn’t fucking bring that fucking essay.  But who the fuck cares.  I certainly fucking don’t.”

And of course the biggest fucking foul mouth of all was this guy on the basketball team whose father was a minister.

Order of the Freaking Arrow

One day I got this notice that I was eligible to become a member of this secret organization in the Boy Scouts.  At least I had never heard of it.  I don’t know how they got my name or what made boyscoutthem think I was qualified for such an honor.  I was not an Eagle Scout though being a Life Scout, the one right under Eagle, put me pretty high up in the organization, I guess.

I had to go to some sort of class, it seemed, to get into this secret organization and it started at the fucking crack of dawn.  At least it was dark when I reported to the pick up point and then a group of us was driven up into the woods somewhere.  Well, sort of woods.  There were lots of trees hither and thither and open ground and brush and such indicating woods of the kind that grow in Southern California.

There was maybe about 12 or so of us boys, and more adults than usual proporational wise.  We were lined up and addressed being told that starting at 8 in the morning we would take a vow of silence and we would not speak or eat again until 8 that evening.  We weren’t given any options, like four hours of silence and a little eating.  That was it, and while I don’t remember what I thought of all this I was pretty much stuck since I was out in the middle of nowhere without my own mode of transportation, and there was no way I could lead a revolt since I didn’t know any of the boys there since we had been gathered from all over the county for this special occasion.

There was some little talk about Indians and shit, and then we hit the road by which I mean we spent the entire fucking day marching from one patch of trees to another because it was hot.  So we would march and then rest awhile under a bunch of trees and then we would march some more.  Oh, and we could drink water so we would not pass out from the heat.  And we would sit there under the tree and we couldn’t even talk to each other, and if you saw I cowpie and wanted to warn somebody about it, you couldn’t do that.

Mostly it was awful boring though I did get to feeling pretty hungry and somewhat light headed as the day went on.  And then just as it was starting to get really dark, they did this strange thing and put us in a line and took a rope and wrapped it around the wrist of every boy in that line and then we were supposed to walk following each other in the dark like the blind leading the blind.  I say this because it was a dark night with no moon and you couldn’t see shit.

I was somewhere in the middle of the line and I got to say that after a little bit that rope wrapped around the wrist began to chafe a good little bit because it was your rough and prickly rope and not your smooth rope.  And then all of a sudden, I stepped directly into a ditch and fell to my knees and that rope just cut into my wrist and I cried out, like, Oh!, and I figured I had flunked out of the whole thing by breaking the vow of silence after wasting a whole goddamn day at it.  And felt pretty ashamed of myself for falling down in the dark and yelling out Oh!

And a while later I got a card saying I was an official member of the “Order of the Arrow,” which was the name of the secret organization.  So I guess I didn’t flunk out though I never heard from them again.

Apollo

Thoreau says a person should never read the newspapers because really there’s never anything new in them.  Pretty much the same old shit,  different bucket.  He’s right, of course. But it’s really moonfoothard not to hear about current events these days what with television, radio, the newspaper and weekly magazines.  They have TV’s on the machines I “work out” on.  I never have mine on; I mean the one on my individual machine.  But the one next to me was on and I saw out of the corner of my eye that some guy is trying to put a luxury hotel, spa, and casino up in outer space.

So in this era of the free market and free enterprise, some entreprenuer is going to commercialize outer space.  So much for the final, fucking frontier; instead a bunch of the mega-rich will be up in outer space partying down.  Of course, there will be a reality TV show about the mega-rich and what they do up in Outer Space.  And the outer space hotel, spa, and casino will generate a stream of outer space pornography over webcams.

These porns will feature outer space zero gravity fucking.  I think it will prove pretty difficult to fuck in zero gravity, but I am sure they will figure out a way to do it with harnesses perhaps and a lot of velcro.  I wonder if there has already been some secret outer space fucking on the space shuttle, you know for scientific purposes.  I bet some mice have fucked up there.

The next time the WTO and the other members of the fucking global elite want to meet they can meet in the fucking outer space hotel, spa, and casino far away from any possible public disturbances.

So this is what we have come to.  I watched the original moon landing.  I don’t know where I was exactly.  But I remember I was depressed, per usual, and the TV was black and white.  The whole thing involved a lot of waiting and was sort of boring except for those critical moments when there was a possibility the astronauts might kill themselves, like when the rocket took off or they actually landed on the moon.  Officially, at that time, I was against the whole moon thing as a complete waste of money.  Fucking juvenile, given all that needed to be done right here on mother earth.

The arrogance of youth, I guess.  Now I, given the way things have gone, I am not so sure.  When you get right down to it, the moon program was the last great public works program—like the TVA or the building of the interstate highway system after WWII—we have had in this USA.  NASA employed a lot of people, some knowledge was generated, and the whole thing had a purpose, a public purpose.  The whole thing was kind of heroic in a square-jawed, thick headed way.  When Armstrong put his foot in that dust, he made a point of speaking, admittedly in a sexist way, for everybody.

Now we are going to get an outer space hotel, spa, and casino for that the elite of the mega-rich that rules the world.  And also a whole new kind of porn.