Brother Dave sent an email saying a guy we knew from back in High School had died. He was just 56. He was one of three brothers, and two of them have already died. Dave also knew the brothers in another family; there were three or four of them, and I think three of the four have already died. One of them had a parachute fail. A couple of years back I got a call from one of the Wasko’s as we called them—the rest of their name being Polish, quite long and unspellable. There were three Wasko brothers and he was, he said, the last one. He called to report that the Wasko I knew best had been found dead in his house surrounded by automobile parts.
That’s a lot of dead brothers. I didn’t think of us as having come from a particularly rough neighborhood. But then I remembered a time way back when I worked for an organization called CAMP (college assistance migrant program). Mostly these were Latino/a people from out in the rural stretches of the Central Valley. I was talking to this one guy and he said about half of the guys in his graduating class were dead from drugs or having crashed their cars into aqueducts.
Compared to these guys, we—Dave, Steve, Dan and I—didn’t come from a rough neighborhood. Still that’s quite a few dead brothers from where we did come from, East County San Diego, which was pretty much the equivalent back then of the wrong side of the tracks. Of course, that was a suburban wrong side of the tracks and not an urban wrong side of the tracks. The people there might have been mostly working class but they owned their own homes (or were trying to) and we didn’t have gangs, as I recollect, though we did have plenty of drugs.
We did have this one guy who would put a thumb over one nostril and blow the most amazing amount of snot out of the other, right there on the road. He was from Oklahoma. What was that guy’s name?
But I guess I am thinking about some article I recently read that offers numbers pretty much showing that lifespan is correlated to income level. Poorer people don’t die necessarily violently of course, but more piece by piece from bad nutrition, no exercise, lack of education, and not enough medical attention. Good food costs more than bad food. In some areas of LA you simply can’t find a “super-market.” Instead you have rip-off mom and pop operations with high prices and yellow lettuce.
So I guess we are lucky—Dave, Steve, Dan, and I—to still be alive and kicking. Sometimes when I am talking with my shrink about where I grew up and what I went through, she says, “Neek, you are lucky to be alive.” (or not in jail or in an insane asylum). She even seems to think I should feel proud about what I have “accomplished.” Funny, but I don’t feel a damn thing. I am glad she feels that of course; but for me it’s water off the duck’s back.
What does she know anyway? She’s a loonie French woman. Her family for a while at least owned an actual castle on the coast of Brittany (that’s a place in France). A damn castle. How did I end up seeing a shrink whose family owned a castle? People from the wrong side of the tracks don’t own castles.
She said the damn thing was really hard to heat. The castle, I mean.