Fry It!

So we ate pork chops fried.  We also ate fried chicken.  I always got a drumstick.  I have to say though there wasn’t much to these chickens.  They had been out running around in the yard a little before you ate them, and being all active like that they just didn’t build up much.  Like two bites and the meat would be all off, it seemed like.  So that’s when I got into the habit of also eating thechickenfriedsteak gristle part of the drumstick.  It was chewy and if I was feeling particularly famished I would break open the bone and scoop out the marrow.  Not everybody does that.

When we were done with a chicken there wasn’t anything left.  The old man gnawed through the neck and back and we ate the livers; about all we didn’t eat was the gizzard and what we called the Pope’s nose that was this flap of fat that was over the chicken’s a-hole. I didn’t know what a Pope was back then so I didn’t know I was insulting anybody when I called the a-hole flap the Pope’s nose.

In addition to fried chicken we ate fried ham.  I liked the ham part but not always what went along with it which was black eyed peas.  The old man liked those though; a huge pot of them was usually made up with the ham bone; and the old lady would make up a black eyed pea sauce to pour over the black eyed peas.  This was made of canned tomatoes with lots of salt and pepper and a whole cup of sugar poured into it and then boiled down.  I didn’t like that stuff at all.  And when the old man ran out of ham to eat the beans with, he would eat it with whatever there was and to get a little ham into the mix he would polish it off with pickled pigs’ feet.

And we also had chicken fried steak.  This wasn’t chicken and I really don’t think it was steak either.  I guess it came from a cow but calling it steak seemed a bit too fancy for what was this flat flappy piece of meat with all sorts of sinews and gristle and shit running through it.  To make it eat ready, the old lady would pound it with a hammer that was made for hammering meat.  She called this “tenderizing.”  After it had been tenderized, the big flappy piece was cut up, dipped in egg and then in flour and then fried.  The only way it was like chicken was that it was prepared like chicken and fried like chicken.

All of these fried meats came with rice.  The old lady used Minute Rice, though way back then I don’t expect it was minute rice, but more like five minute or even ten minute rice.  I don’t know but I expect it wasn’t as fast as today.  And with the rice would come gravy that was made from the grease of whatever had been fried.  So technically we had chicken grease gravy and chicken fried steak grease gravey.  And you could make a gravey out of ham too though it tended to be thin and pretty watery.

Fat or grease was not to be wasted.  Once many years later in college I fried up a pork chop for a friend who had stopped by, and I couldn’t the fuck believe it when he sat there and all dainty like cut the fat off the pork chop.  I mean, hell, doing that reduced the pork chop by a third—because he cut away the bone too and would not stoop to gnaw on it after—and besides that was the best part.  Honestly, I was a bit insulted like the guy seemed to think he was too good for a pork chop or at least parts of it.

Lima Beans

Because of my southern heritage, my idea of soul food is a pork chop.  A fried pork chop.  I can remember staring at the pork chop plate and wondering who was going to get that last pork chop.  Usually, the old man.  But you never knew since I was a runt and perhaps needed more protein.

jollygreenWe were not overflowing with food back in SC.  But I don’t remember having wandered around feeling hungry.  Once I did climb up the persimmon tree right out by the kitchen door and eat too many green persimmons and got a stomach ache.  Also it seemed like all the green stuff we had to eat came out of a can and tasted like crap—peas, green beans, and those goddamn lima beans.

Just looking at those fuckers there on my plate next to my rice was enough to destroy my pleasure in the whole meal.  They would say, like, eat your vegetables because they would see that I was putting off eating them, and they were right. If you were going to get those fucking puckered up looking little peas down it was best to eat them with the other stuff.  But with the limas I just couldn’t do it because eating them with the other stuff would just ruin any pleasure a body might take in eating the other stuff.

So I would do what I could and sort of casually bump off a few of those lima beans unto the table and some onto my lap and if I could manage it onto the floor.  I was like fucking surrounded by lima beans, but no matter what I did there would still be a pile of them on the plate.  And of course the longer I put it off the colder and uglier those beans got.  I don’t know how many times I heard about those people in China just dying to get their hands on a fucking lima bean.  If that was really the case, I figure those people in China was either crazy or goddamn raving hungry.

So the kitchen would be empty except for me and the lima beans because I had to clean my plate since money doesn’t grow on trees.  I don’t know how long I would sit there staring at those fuckers.  I just plain hated them.  It wasn’t the taste really.  Well, maybe it was, because that was pretty bad.  But it was more the texture.  It was like the lima bean had a really leathery hide and you had to bite down on it hard and when you did and broke the leathery hide out would squish this soft shit.  I couldn’t stand it.  Like every time I bit one this shit was exploding in my mouth.

So I did what I could and I would swallow the things whole like some goddamn big green pill.  Gulp, gulp, gulp—one after the other….Anything so I didn’t have to use my teeth on the goddamn things.  And they would feel like lead in my stomach and sometimes I would get a stomach ache.  One day I noticed that these fuckers came in a can with this fellow on it that was called the Jolly Green Giant.  As far as I was concerned there was nothing jolly at all about this Green fucker, and to this day I refused to buy anything with the Green fucker on the label.

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.


I didn’t see many movies back in SC.  Three maybe.  They were expensive even at the drive-in.  saharaBut I do remember the first ever movie I saw.  It was there at the Lauren’s Drive-In, right next door to the place that made hash.  It had Humphrey Bogart in it and the main character, really, was the tank, as far as I was concerned.  That’s all it was about: Bogart, the tank, and some guys from different countries (probably intended to symbolize the allied effort) in the middle of the desert trying to get back to civilization in WWII.  It was called, fittingly, Sahara, because that was where the desert was.

The movie was made in 1943, during the war, and I saw it in 1951 or so.  I guess the Lauren’s drive-in didn’t show first run movies.  But I remember it pretty well because I made an observation while viewing it.  I observed that there was not one goddamn woman in the whole fucking movie, from beginning to end, just a bunch of guys and their glorious tank out in the desert.  I remember thinking this because I remember also that I considered telling someone about what I had observed.

My father sat a little to the left of me and my mother to the right of me, as I poked my head up between them to get a look at the screen.  Had I any sort of male bonding with my father of the more archaic kind I might have leaned forward and whispered in his ear, Hey, old man.  There ain’t a goddamn woman in this whole fucking movie.  War is fucking a paradise. I mean you can drop your pants and piss where-ever the fuck you like.

 But lacking such bonding, I didn’t even think of addressing my father.  In fact, as I had the thought, I thought immediately of my mother.  I felt the urge to say to her, Hey, there aren’t any women in this movie.  Did you notice that?  I wondered if she had noticed and if she thought anything one way or other about it.  I wondered maybe if she was offended that no women had been in the move.  But I felt some sort of anger when I decided not to say anything maybe because I knew at some level she was not offended at all but was probably sitting there enjoying the idiotic spectacle that men could make of themselves.

I can’t remember the other movies, but I am sure we saw a couple more, maybe.  And of course we didn’t have a TV so I didn’t see any movies on TV when I was just a little kid.  I have met people since who seem to have spent their entire kidhood watching movies on TV.  But not me.  My favorite aunt got a TV in 1955 and the first thing I ever saw on TV was Walt Disney Presents or something like that.  Uncle Walt would talk a bit on every show and then they would show cartoons.

 Later on when I went to college my first ever college roommate had been a member of the Mickey Mouse Club by which I mean he had been on TV as a back up substitute should any of the other members of the TV show get sick or something.  He had seen Annette Funicello in the flesh.  I had really moved up by then.

Baby Box

The college I went to had a five day indoctrination before you actually started classes.  I got a list of activities and such, and also we were supposed to read a book for discussion purposes, B.F. Skinner’s Walden 2.  I couldn’t figure out the 2 part because I didn’t know about Walden 1 yet, but I read it anyway, immediately, of course in my eagerness for higher education.  I got the feeling they had assigned the book for some reason and that I was supposed to think something about it, but I wasn’t sure what.

babyboxTo me, the idea of a society constructed along rational, scientific principles didn’t sound all that bad.  I read a bit more too about the Skinner box, this plastic box, with air conditioning, and other features that made life more comfortable for an infant.  Like, in the box, you didn’t have to wear diapers because of the special absorbent pads and air condition that would dry the baby off so that you cut down on diaper rash.  And you didn’t have to worry about the infant rolling out of the box onto the floor or having something fall on it because it had a plastic lid too.

Skinner’s idea was that people are animals that adjust to their environment and that if their environment is screwed up they will accordingly become screwed up.  But if their environment is constructed according to scientific principles there was less chance of that happening.

Given what I already knew about my infancy, I figured I might have been better off raised according to scientific principles since I had been raised in a pretty fucked up environment.  I was born early—as I have already noted—with jaundice, and then my mother’s breasts caked so that it was painful for her to breast feed me, so she took to feeding me by bottle according to the clock for her own personal convenience and to spare her nipples wear and tear.  And since I still got hungry and cried a lot, she concluded I was “excessively needy.”  I think I would have done better with a Skinner’s box.

Maybe a lot better because, according to the old lady who is not to be trusted, I had shown no signs of being ready to walk and she had gone off to the kitchen or probably to the bathroom and I suddenly got up and WALKED straight out of the room, down a little corridor, and put my hands directly on one of those old fashioned wall heaters thus burning the living shit out of them.  Then, according to the old lady, she took me to a nurse who put cotton balls or strips on my hands, and taped them up, so that when all the blisters burst they had to go through and pull out strands of cotton that got stuck in the pus.

So according to my mother the first time I took that elemental assertive step known as WALKING I burnt the shit out of my hands.

Lord knows what damage this did to my primal psyche.

The T-Shirt Incident

Richie White, the kid everybody beat up on the Boy Scout camping trips, was the kid nearest to me on the hill that was my own age.  So sometimes I would go down to his house, and we would go to his garage that was filled up from one end to the other with this giant Lionel Train layout.

Actually I had never quite grasped the attraction of the Lionel train; once you set it up and run it a couple of times to see if you could get it to run it got old pretty fast.  But Richie would insist on running hi setup a couple of times; it was pretty amazing. Trains cris-crossed all over the place, and Mr. White had made little houses and stores and trees. After that we would do some Boy Scout shit together.  Richie wasn’t so bad as long as you weren’t trying to beat him up and didn’t mind the snot running out of his nose all the time.

One time we were doing some sort of Boy Scout shit that involved pocket knives because I was hacking at something, slipped, and stuck the blade right into the fatty ball of my thumb.  For a split second I can see all the layers of different types of skin and muscle all laid out in nice, neat rows, and then the thing fills up with blood and then the blood overflows into the cup of my hand.  So I walk up the stairs and kick the screen door to the kitchen a couple of times, all the time for some reason holding my hands together to cup the blood, though at about this point the blood was overflowing.  Mrs. White opens the door, grasps the situation, says not to worry about dripping blood, drags me over to the sink, turns roaring hot water into the wound, followed by something that makes me want to scream, wipes the wound and then lashes the sides of it together with a butterfly bandage.  That should do it, she says, and you won’t need stitches either.

I got to hand it to the woman, but she did a good job.  Straight forward, absolutely sure of what she was doing, and quick about it.  And she was right about not needing the stitches.  But I was maybe the only person on the whole hill who had anything good to say about her.  Her little Richie, she let everybody know, was a genius.  He had crawled early and walked early and talked early and read early and then they tested him and he came out Genius.  He was going to be a Genius scientist, so they bought him all sorts of science stuff, like chemistry sets, and microscopes, and a real nice telescope for examining the stars.  Her life’s purpose was to defend and protect her little genius.

One day she hears this screaming and yelling and knows, because she has heard it a number of times before, that somebody is beating up on little Richie.  She comes out just as Mr. Hammet, who lived in the house a little down the hill and across the street from hers, was trying to pull the boys apart.  He has little Richie by the scruff of the neck, and she, screaming don’t you dare lay a hand on my boy, leaps right onto Mr. Hemmet’s back. He jumps and she slides off but not before getting a grip on his t-shirt and, as she fell to her butt, nearly ripped it clean off of him.

Such behavior did not endear Mrs. White to her neighbors.  They all thought she was loony tunes.  And this wasn’t the only time.  Another time a father had been trying to pull his son off of Richie and she bit him in the thumb.  He said she had actually broke the skin and that he was going to sue her or something for assault with a deadly weapon.  But he never did.

lionel train

BS Oath

Being a Boy Scout required some memorization.  For example, I had to recite the following oath:

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

I don’t think I gave a second thought to what I was saying, though now I can see I was completely unqualified to be a Scout.  I did think about the Scout Law because it was difficult to keep straight.

A Boy Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

mosesI kept forgetting parts of that or the order of it anyway.  And it seemed like an awful lot of things for a person to be.  I already had to deal with the Ten Commandments.  And even back then I could see I had problems in the Obedience Department, also in the Cheerful area; being Thrifty was easy since I didn’t have any money.  And as for the Clean part I have always had problems in the personal hygiene area maybe because I spent the first ten years of my life without a bathroom.

Mostly though Boy Scouts was about going on camping trips three or four times a year, and having Monday night meetings in the cafeteria of the local elementary school.  One year I was the boy leader of the whole damn troop.  During this time I began to develop my particular leadership style.  Sometimes, I would have to get the whole damn troop stand in a line.  So I would be upfront and I would order them to stand in line and I would do it in such a way as to suggest: really I don’t give a good goddamn whether you stand in line or not but “they” have told me to do this and if you don’t do it I will get my ass in a sling, so please stand in line.

You give some people a little power and it goes straight to their head.  They think the power is their power (even thought it has been given to them) and actually get upset if somebody doesn’t respond to “their” power.  Petty bureaucrats act like that; without the power they have been given, they would be like nothing but a zero.  So in my first year in college, we could only get one piece of meat, whatever it was, for dinner, and if you went back and asked for a second piece from the server ladies they would get their panties in an uproar because you were challenging their power.

Power always comes from above and if it goes to your head it infantilizes you.

Old Man River

I got as high as Life Scout in the organization; nobody knows about that rank because it’s the one below Eagle Scout.  I couldn’t ever become Eagle Scout because you had to have a life saving swimming merit badge which meant jumping in the water and pretending to save drowning people.  eonoreeI wasn’t likely to get that because I couldn’t swim.  Actually, I shouldn’t have gotten beyond 1st class scout because I couldn’t swim.  But my parents actually paid for swimming lessons for me, and the guy giving the lessons finally had mercy on me and let me get the swimming merit badge by doing it on my back rather than on my face like I was supposed to. No way was I going to be able to save people while swimming on my back.

I really don’t know what the fucking big deal was about swimming.  Back in South Carolina nobody knew how to swim.  We were landlocked and nobody had swimming pools.  Maybe getting me to swim was a way of raising the status of the whole family or something.  I just couldn’t put my face in the water to do the crawl.  Once back in SC we had gone on a family outing.  A rare thing.  Because it was blazing hot they took us down to the Enoree River near Clinton to cool off in the water.  This was a very old river that twisted this way and that.

I took about 10 steps out into the old Enoree River and whap I fall into a hole made by its swirling currents.  I went straight down, and I felt like I do today when I fall; I just sort of relaxed and went with the flow because there wasn’t much I could do about it. I mean I didn’t know how to swim.  I sort of knew the situation was dire and then I was distracted by my life passing before my eyes just like they say it does when you are drowning.  This didn’t last long because my life was pretty short.  I was about 4 and then things went dark and before I knew it somebody had grabbed me by the hair.

A guy had been standing there with this pants rolled up to the knee, and he had looked over and seen me, and then he had looked away for a while, and then he looked back and saw I had disappeared, and then he saw what looked like movement under the water and he grabbed me by the hair and pulled me straight up.

And the way the old lady acted you would have thought she was the one who nearly drowned.  It was boo-hoo-hoo, boo-hoo-hoo, and she wouldn’t stop so once again I had fucked up.  I remember sitting in the back of that car and saying, “Mommy, Mommy, I am all right. I am all right.”  But it was still boo-hoo-hoo, boo-hoo-hoo.

I spent way too much energy over the years trying to make that woman feel better.  But she was like that hole in the Enoree River —bottomless.  You could try and try to make her feel better but it didn’t do a damn bit of good.

And that’s why years later I couldn’t put my face in the water to get that fucking merit badge.

Green Eggs

I don’t know how I got in the Boy Scouts.  I am pretty sure I was not consulted, and when the old man got involved so he could go hang out with other adult males on the camping trips, doing whatever the hell they did in their big tent, I was stuck.

tenderfootThe high light of the camping trips—aside from getting to crap in the great outdoors which brought back fond memories for me—was somebody or other beating up on Richie White.  Like the whole Troop or maybe it was Pack took turns at beating him up.  He was short and scrawny and wore glasses and had a greasy lank of black hair that flopped across his forehead that made me wonder if Hitler as a kid had looked like that. Also he was constantly snorting, with snot running from his nose, and when he talked he sprayed.

 And he was sneaky and perverse.  In Boy Scouts you get merit badges for doing things like tying knots or cooking a meal; getting those badges is how you move up in the organization.  So one time Richie’s turn to get his cooking merit badge came around, and somehow he managed to cook up green eggs.  So first, Richie denied they were green; they were maybe a little “greenish.”  So kids started like yelling look at the fucking things.  Greenish! My ass.

And then he said it wasn’t his fault something must have been wrong with the eggs.  And then people said like fuck it man you cooked the fucking eggs and they came out green.  And then he said they were good to eat even if they were green.  And people said, well, fuck it, then, you eat them.  Go ahead and eat.  So Richie stuck his fork in them but he couldn’t eat them he said with everybody looking at him.

A couple minutes later you hear this screaming and yelling out in the bushes.  Somebody is beating up Richie.  And there was one of my Patrol, I guess it was, sitting on Richie’s chest and beating him about the head and shoulders because, the guy said, Richie had said he had eaten the eggs and then the guy saw the eggs lying right there in the bushes.  So he had decided to beat on the lying mother fucker.

I was the leader of my Patrol, a smaller group within the Troop; every Patrol had its own name, like Wolfs, or Bears, or something.  I don’t remember the name of my Patrol but I was the leader of it.  So I said, we can eat cereal instead because I knew we had those little boxes of cereal and I knew we had milk.  So we sat around in the dirt and ate cereal; that calmed down things a bit.  But they decided that since Richie had eaten all the eggs himself that he wouldn’t get any cereal.  So Richie sat there and started to holding his stomach and groaning that he had a stomach ache.  I really understood why the guys wanted to beat on him.

Richie was the kind of kid you catch with his arm in the cookie jar, and he would say, you were mistaken.  His arm was not in the cookie jar, even though he was standing there plain as day with his arm in the cookie jar.  But you play that game too often and you can start believing it yourself.

Ab Ovum

We were visiting one of my wife’s old friends from back in her college days.  She was married to an FBI agent.  We went out for Chinese food and I remember it seemed like a damn long drive for Chinese food.  But this was their favorite place where the Chinese food was real Chinese food, I guess.  Anyway, on the way back, their kid, Katie, who was maybe 4, started asking questions.  She had been listening to my wife and her friend talking about the good old days back in college, and cracked eggKatie piped up, “Where was I?”

The other adults seemed a bit confused; they wanted to know what she was asking exactly.  Me, though, since I can regress at the drop of a hat am usually in tune with children and knew what she was up to.  “She wants to know where she was back when you were in college.”  “Honey, you weren’t born yet?”  But this kid had her teeth into something.  “I know but where was I?”  I tried to joke, “You were a gleam in your daddy’s eye.”  But she wouldn’t have any of that, so finally I just said, “You weren’t anywhere because you were not yet.”  “OK,” she said and seemed satisfied. Kids can be pretty logical philosophers; apparently she wasn’t freaked out by her metaphysical question.  She just wanted an answer.

What she was asking really wasn’t where she was but how the hell was it possible for anything to be going on before I got here.  Kids assume that they “create” everything; mommy and daddy didn’t really start until they get there.  Maybe we outgrow that idea at some point.  Maybe not.  I think I see lots of adults around who think the world did not exist before they got into it.  These people hate the idea of a past or if there was a past the present is a fuck lot better than back there in the past, whenever the fuck that was.

The idea of “progress” is a psychological defense mechanism against the idea that there was a past that might have been better than our present.  I once sat through a series of lectures in social psychology for undergraduates.  The professor was really pretty good, energetic at least.  She gave three lectures on the Freudian theory of aggression; and then she started lecturing on the modern sociological theory of aggression.  Before she did though, she said Freud was mostly wrong.  “Shit,” the kid said next to me, “then why did she lecture on him three times?”

Good question, Dude.  My answer would be that modern academics believe in the progress of their so-called disciplines.  If Freud was right, then somebody back there in the idiotic past might have got it more right than a bunch of sociologists in the present.  Modern and post-modern academics kill the past by pretending they have got the answer and all those dumb fucks before them were looking up their assholes.

So this pretty much reams history.  The question isn’t really whether Freud was right or wrong; but what can we learn from what he says about when he was and what can we learn about what he says about when he was that might help us to understand better where we are.