So what with the death thing and the “serious” novels I was starting to read around that time, I began to think I was profound or deep maybe or something like that, and other people of course were not. So while they all went off to the prom, or got drunk and drove around in their cars doing whatever, I was at home in my room alone and thinking deep thoughts, while they were off doing the trivial things high school kids did back in 1962. That was a pretty good rationalization of my social ineptness—that word isn’t strong enough—though not good enough to keep me from feeling pretty damn out of it on occasion.
Not out of exactly, just lost. I didn’t know enough about what I was missing in the form of a “normal” high school social life to feel out of it. So I just trucked on with the death thing like a monkey on my back. Sometimes, I figured, though this was later on, that I was born in the wrong century. Maybe I should have been born back in the 19th century when half of all kids didn’t make it past ten years old. Or maybe even earlier than that, back during the Middle Ages, during the plague when people were dying all over the place. Hell, I could have become a priest and fit right in. I could have gone around giving sermons on the ever present presence of death and how this life was a veil of tears and soul making and so forth, and really gotten my heart and soul into it.
But in California in 1966, it didn’t look like anybody was dying. I had at that time only met one dead person and that was my poor cousin that I didn’t like very much. And since nobody was doing it, nobody was talking about it. I don’t remember the topic popping up in any sort of casual conversation, as in, oh by the way, but isn’t death sort of terrible. I couldn’t find a way to introduce my obsession into conversations about cars, sports, girls, and getting drunk. There just wasn’t a niche anywhere in the social ecological system of high school for a kid who went around thinking about death all the time. And since nobody was doing it—dying I mean—my bringing up the subject was likely to be taken as a conversational downer.
This is all mixed up with any manner of chicken and egg problems. Did the death thing—since it really did exist, and I wasn’t faking it—keep me from fitting in? Or was the death thing a kind of rationalization of my lack of fit. Or maybe I really just didn’t fit in because I thought too much and was the only kid at my high school to have read Crime and Punishment and the death thing was a way of feeling there was something special or different in me that could justify my persistent sense of isolation.
That’s a picture of non-dead young people back in 1962 hanging out at the burger joint and looking as if they are auditioning for American Graffiti.
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 them 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.
So Roland’s dad was some sort of genius like I said. Roland—my junior high locker mate–said his father was trying to make–and this was 1962–a watch with no moving parts. I was consternated. I thought the guy must be nuts. But now everybody has watches with no moving parts. So maybe the guy was unto something of an electronic or digital nature.
He also wanted to invent other things. Following Buckminster Fuller he had built a hyperbolic dome right there on there lot. They had made it out of WOOD, mind you, and had been hell to build since wood does not bend all that easily. It was set on a concrete foundation, and rather than buy gravel to pour the concrete the old man had the kids (eventually, as I said, there were ten of them) go out and pick up rocks and pebbles from the dirt on the surrounding hillsides. The house itself was ramshackle, sprawling and in need of paint. They made no pretense whatsoever to landscaping.
Roland and three of his brothers lived in this small room with bunk beds on both sides. The only other stuff in there was a radio on the window sill, a stack of muscle magazines and bar bells. I would set on the floor or on the edge of a bunk if it was vacant, and we would talk and occasionally one of them would get up and go grab a barbell and huff and puff for a while lifting it and then sit back down. I didn’t participate in the barbell stuff and they never asked me to.
The barbell stuff didn’t seem to be macho compettive stuff, though they did have any manner of masturbating contests, involving who could do it fastest, or who could do it most repeatedly, and who could not do it for the longest time. They were also into experimental masturbation what with fruit and such. Like making a hole in a water melon and fucking that. Or putting tuna oil on their cocks and getting a cat to lick it. Stuff like that. They were way beyond me masturbation wise. I did tell them about a book I read that talked about some Russian that fucked trees. They thought about it for a while and agreed that, while it might be somewhat painful, depending on the bark, a tree could be fucked.
One day we are talking and I ask Roland where he had been born. I knew they had lived back East and wondered what state, but he mistook my question and said he had been born in the house. House? Yes, he said. After the first three his father had decided to screw the hospital bills and so he had delivered all the other kids himself. This disturbed me a little bit but then I remembered that people used to do that all the time. Though usually there had been a nurse of some sort present. And I wondered did they have birth certificates, and Roland said he didn’t know but would ask some time because we agreed it was important to be fully documented.
Then Roland said all of the babies had not lived or maybe had been born dead; he didn’t know. How did they know this? He laughed and said, well, his mother would get pregnant which was highly visible and then about nine months later there would be all this screaming and yelling when she delivered and then that would stop, and if the baby was dead, his father would come out with it wrapped up in something and then burn it in the incinerator out back.
I could see that incinerator from the window. It was made out of concrete block about waist high with a little metal door in the front and a metal chimney coming out the back that was painted red for some reason. I found this all a little strange as if I had strayed off into the forest and gotten a bit lost. I asked Roland did he think that was legal. Who knows? He said.
Traditionally, when a guy gets a letter for a varsity sport, he puts it on something. A jacket, usually known as a letterman’s jacket. So I got my letter for a varsity sport, basketball, in the spring of my junior year, and along with the letter they give me a little pamphlet with a form to order a letterman’s jacket or sweater. I guess I must have showed this to my mother, but anyhow, I remember her indicating that she thought the letterman’s jacket was awful expensive though maybe they could afford a letterman’s sweater.
I didn’t want any damn sweater. That’s what guys who lettered on the JV (junior varsity) team got if they were stupid enough to wear their JV letter on anything. And fuck the jacket was like 25 dollars, a good bit of money back in 1963. I knew that much, so later when the old lady asked me if I really, really wanted a letterman’s jacket, I said no because no was the answer she wanted and if I said yes there would be no end of shit about the jacket. Just getting her to sew the letter on the jacket would be a fucking agony.
And maybe in some way I was relieved because I had this feeling that, if I did get a letterman’s jacket, I wasn’t sure I would wear it anyway. Maybe I didn’t want to stand out or something or maybe I didn’t want to be identified with the jocks. Hell, I didn’t know a single guy on the football team. Or maybe people would think I thought I was special if I wore a letterman’s jacket and get the idea that I thought they were all a pack of shit eating idiots.
So I didn’t get a letterman’s jacket and fuck me, if I cared. But years later, I got to thinking that things might have been different. What if I had a father (or even a mother) who said something like: “Damn, you got a varsity letter! Now isn’t that great. Where do we get the jacket? Oh, you have a form here. You’re right….that is a bit of money. But what the hell? We can scrape it together. What do you mean you aren’t sure you will wear it? Sure you will wear it. OK! OK! I see the problem. But it’s a warm jacket right. You can wear it in cold weather. That’s a good reason. Right. When people get cold they wear a jacket. This one will just happen to have a fucking varsity letter on it. Your letter!”
So what, things could have always been different. They could always have been better or even worse for that matter. Maybe I didn’t want a letterman’s jacket. Maybe I wanted a different father. Hell, he simply couldn’t talk like that to me, since he hated me and wanted to kill me, I guess. Who’s going to spend 25 bucks on a letterman’s jacket for a kid you would just as soon kill.
Anyway, by now—if I had got the jacket—it would be long gone, in tatters, I guess, with moths flying out of it or whatever. Just another piece of crap—in what does Yeats call it—the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. I wonder what’s worse. A nearly empty rag and bone shop? Or a nearly full one? Goddamn, with that echo in here I can’t hear myself think.
In three on three pick up games, I was a gunner. If I got the ball in my hands, there was about a 75% chance I would shot it. That’s because when I shot I made a lot. Remember, I am talking 3 on 3 pickup games here; not the real varsity games where I tensed up. And anyway my job on the varsity team was to garner rebounds, as best I could at my skinny six feet, cover my area on the press, and make outlet passes to our guards.
The varsity game was made around the game of our two guards. One of these was regularly all league and the other was 2nd team all league, and they could run the hell out of the court with our fast break. I’d grab the rebond and fling the ball down court towards one of our guards who would cherry-pick at the drop of a hat. Once the coach came in at halftime and said Tingle had got 13 rebounds. That’s quite a few rebounds for a 16 minute high school half. I had no idea that I had got 13 rebounds and knowing me I probably didn’t get a single one in the second half.
I got a rather comical picture of myself getting a rebound in the Daily Nixon, as I continue to call the rag that passes for a newspaper in San Diego:
That’s me getting a rebound by sticking my leg up in the air. Sometimes, I don’t know why, getting a rebound one of my legs would go up a lot higher than the other. And kicking out like that was a pretty effective way of keeping people at a distance. For some reason, as you will note, while the other team, Helix High, had cool uniforms that look like uniforms, our coach for some reason ordered uniforms with short sleeves. I don’t know what the fuck he was thinking about.
Maybe somebody at the Daily Nixon had it in for me because they put another picture of me in the paper doing something comical again:
This time I am apparently attempting to take the rebound away from my own center, though honestly, I think he is the one acting stupidly by jumping on my back like that.
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 you 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 they talked about or even who they were; I just didn’t 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.
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 insistent; you could be doing anything and if you want to know what the call is about, 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.
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.
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 damn 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.
Let’s see. About 45 years ago I was in 9th grade. We were bussed to a school called Mount Miguel, named after a nearby mountain called Mount Miguel because the high school I later went to had not been built yet. I have no idea who Miguel was or why they named a mountain after him. Coming from the south, we didn’t know anything about California’s Spanish heritage. For a long time we pronounced El Cajon like L Ca-John and La Jolla like La Jolly.
About that time I became upset by the death penalty maybe because of my own murderous inclinations towards my PU’s (or parental units, as my brothers and I call our mother and father). Also in the news then was this guy Ceryl Chessman; I must have read an article or something about him and how he had “reformed” in prison and written books and things like that. Of course, I didn’t know if he had reformed or not; he was probably still the creep he had always been.
But that didn’t make any difference. If the government was supposed to represent the people, then when the government executed somebody it was doing so as my representative, although I couldn’t vote, of course. And it just didn’t seem right to me that, if the government was my representative, that I should be implicated in the killing of somebody I didn’t know or really didn’t give a shit about. I mean not only was the government doing something I didn’t want it to do in my name, it was doing so in a very impersonal way.
I felt that if you were going to go about murdering somebody in that way that they should be allowed the dignity of it being personal. I figured the governor should come in and shoot the guy. How could a guy sit at his desk and know that somebody else was killing a guy that he could have saved? Or maybe they should hold a lottery and some average Joe could be picked to shoot the guy in the head. Or maybe one of the family members of one of the victims could do the job and afterwards they could jump up and down with joy, or whatever.
I think I started thinking about the impersonal stuff when I saw an episode of “The Defenders.” This had E.G. Marshall in it, who is now dead; and the guy who went on to be the father in the Brady Bunch—though I never watched that and may be wrong—who I think is also now dead. They did an episode on capital punishment and they showed you the whole business right down to the final moment. I mean the guy being executed did not have a chance at all. He couldn’t run; he couldn’t fight back; there was not a fucking thing he could do, but sit there while they strapped him down and maybe pee on himself out of fear. This was a human being and he was as helpless as a fucking dog.
So I got pretty scared because my PU’s really didn’t have positive expectations for me and my brothers. It seemed to me that mostly they were worried that we would end up in prison or as sexual perverts. So I guess I was thinking there but for the grace….
Hard to remember even that for a few years there in the 60’s capital punishment was illegal.