Monday, February 08, 2010

Living in New York City--Unable to Avoid Politics

This has been reedited--now's it's a pretty good little taleFoto by tgw, "7th Century, Imitation Byzantine Gold Solidus of Heraclius, From Northeastern Afghanistan."

President Obama Now Has the Right to Assassinate US Citizens Should He Think They Are Terrorists

I just finished reading the Franny story from Salinger's Franny and Zooey and I'm sitting here stunned. What a great story. And I knew the story first hand and hadn't remembered it--how Salinger delivered that story--and what a brilliant way of delivering it--and that's hit me, that was what I liked about Salinger. The way he wrote--the way he delivered a story. The way he joined his words together into such a spin of engaging clues, back and forth personalities, use of sweet harmonics that then turn sour, turn dissonant.

Franny. After rereading Franny I now remember it and I remember it because now I remember I knew it first hand when I first read it and remembering it later vis-a-vis my own first-hand experience.

My Franny was named Jannice (pronounced "Jan-eece"--accent on the "eece"). And my Franny came to my college graduation--and we were such a noticeable couple--and everyone would say, "Oh, aren't Wolfie and that Jannice made for each other!"

And then one fall I went off to the US Army.

After my six weeks of basic training was up at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, I was ordered over to Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, only a couple a'hundred miles north of my hometown. At Fort Sill, I went through an artillery course, many long hours out at Cache, Oklahoma, on the gun range, the big guns, the howitzers--sitting around waiting for orders to fire. Boring. I'd read till I fell asleep--awakened suddenly by a whistle in my ear. "Up and at 'em, Gunner, we're firing in 15. Get your men in position." I got so good at artillery school I got an opportunity to volunteer for Officer Candidate School, which was at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I hated the army, but my best friend in my barracks talked me into this trial adventure of at least getting in at the bottom of the top of the military chain of command and seeing intellectually what it was like. "Hey," my buddy said, "when we come back, Wolfie, we'll be junior jumpshooters, man. They'll have to salute us...Walter, Red, those dudes, they'll have to salute us, Wolfie, think about it. Plus we can hit Goldberg and those 90-day wonders and they'll have to salute us, too. Think of that, Wolfie." "But what about the shit we're gonna have to go through down at Sam Houston?" "We can take it, Wolfie. It'll be just like getting your ass beat by your principal in school--you grit your teeth and take the humiliation and it'll be over before you know it."

I had stayed at Leonard Wood during the Christmas holidays so soon after artillery school, before my orders came to go to OCS, I got a week's furlough. It was right at the beginning of March. That March Saturday after inspection, I got my pass and then bummed a ride with a Spec 4 I got along with who was from just south of my hometown.

Two and a half hours later, I was so jittery with anxiety to see Miss Jannice, who I hadn't seen in nearly 6 months, that I had hardly set my bag down before I was on the phone calling her.

The last time I'd seen her was the night I before I left my hometown with a couple of my join-up buddies for Dallas to meet the rest of the recruits going with me to Leonard Wood for basic training. I knew that right after I'd left she had started her freshman year at Texas Tech in Lubbock. She sent me several letters that fall. I was expecting gushy love letters but instead I read them as kind of dull letters--not much interest in me shown in them at all--just college girl-type letters--"I'm taking Psychology 101. I like the teacher but I don't know. Betsy sends a hi. She and I are in the same dorm along with a girl from Dallas who is a direct descendant of Mark Twain, though her name is Clemens." I read no "I miss you, Wolfie," or "Under a full moon tonight...and I was swooning with missing your hot arms around me...." She didn't even show any disappointment when I wrote her that I couldn't get home for Christmas holidays as I was still confined to base and was even probably going to be out on a bivouac in the Ozark Mountain woods during that time, which it turned out I was.

In January I got a letter from her saying she had dropped out of Texas Tech after one semester and instead of going back to college she was going to stay home and work at our hometown newspaper as an intern. She sounded excited about being a reporter even though she was so far, she said, just running copy back and forth from the copy room to the printers--or maybe they'd hand her some yellow sheets and ask her to proofread them. But it was a chance to get into journalism and she took it, blah, blah, blah. Nothing about "I was so looking forward to perhaps seeing you Christmas." Not even a "hope to see you soon." Or "Miss you." Or "Love you." In fact, no "Love yous" at all at the end of her letters. Maybe little x's before she signed her name--"xxx, 'Neece." I figured those were perfunctory marks she put on all her letters. [Only years later while I was living in Mexico City did my wife find Jannice's letters to me among some of our books. She handed them to me with a sarcastic comment; she knew all about my involvement with Jannice; she hated Jannice as a result. There were 11 letters altogether. All of them handwritten and of about 5 stationery pages long. I started reading them and...well, I couldn't believe what I was reading. They didn't read anything like they had read when I'd gotten them at mail call at Leonard Wood. Now, it had been 6 years, they totally read totally different. Remember I had been looking for love in them but couldn't find it? NOW, there was love all through them. It was between the lines but it was there, so evidently there...and I had totally totally missed it.]

I dialed Jannice's parents's house. Her sister answered the phone and flippantly said she was the only one there. Her parents were in Acapulco. And, oh, yeah, Jannice, the reason she knew I was calling, was at her Grandpa and Nana Madison's, "I forgot." "Why's Jannice staying over there and not with you?" I asked, concerned about her. I had tried to call her from Fort Sill when I knew I was coming and no one answered the phone. I never thought of her being at her grandparents. "Ask her yourself," was the reply I got; then the sister hung up on me.

I called the grandparents's house and sure enough Jannice was there. And right off I was disappointed. I told her how desperate I was to see her but her reaction was, I thought, nonchalant. As if she didn't care if she saw me or not.

I made a date to take her to see "Bell, Book, and Candle." It was being performed at my hometown community theater run by a friend of my brother's. That fact and my buying two tickets got me an invitation to the big cast party after the performance--all the cultural bigwigs of my hometown would be there.

I picked Jannice up at her grandparents. She looked freshly beautiful to me, especially in her face--though I noticed in the light her arms and her shoulders looked paler--her color was only in her face. And she was a perfectly pretty girl; that's how I used to describe her to people. I also noticed something else about her, but I kept that to myself since it was the kind of thing you just didn't come straight out and ask a girl about.

We went to the play. She allowed me to put my arm around her and she put her head on my shoulder during the whole play. That got me excited and I started pouring love out to her--pheromones, too. At the end of the play I started talking enthusiastically about the cast party and how much fun we were going to have but she pulled me aside and said, "Do you mind if we don't go to the party? I'm not feeling so well." "What's wrong, babe? I thought you looked a little pale...." There were what I thought were tears in her eyes. Her face was crumpling up as though she were fixing to really start bawling. She excused herself and went off toward the Ladies Room. I waited out in the foyer.

She was taking a long time. I was beginning to shuffle about--an itchy sort of shuffling--you know, worrying about her but at the same time pissed off at her for acting so strange and taking so long in the Ladies Room. I mean I'd looked forward to the cast party. I knew it would be the best of food. Probably catered by the Petroleum Club; and they ate high on the hog at that rich boys's club. Now she'd thrown a monkey wrench into the works. So, as long as she didn't want to go to the party, at least maybe she'd go with me out to a back road where we could park and talk and hopefully start making love. It had been almost 6 months since we last made love--a fiery lovemaking, by then we had learned passion, at her parents, on the rug in front of the fireplace. I had been barbarically horny that night. We kissed so hard our lips bled as we came.

Finally she came back from the Ladies Room. Damn, she was paler than ever. Now even her face was pale. Her eyes were watery and her nose was red. "What's wrong, Neese? You OK?" "Let's go. You've got to take me back to Grandpa and Nana's."

In the car driving back to her grandparents's she sat silent. I drove attentive but confused. What the hell was wrong with her? At a red light, I tried to kiss her. She pushed me away and turned her face toward the window. As the light changed and we started off again I finally got up the nerve to say it--that question I had dared not ask earlier. I had been holding it in all night. I sensed it, too, while sitting watching the play when I had my arm around her and her head was on my shoulder.

"Are you gaining weight, Neese? You look like you've gained a lot of weight." There I asked it. I said it. She looked over at me. I glanced over at her while trying to keep my eye on the street.

She looked frightened. She started crying. Really crying. Big tears. I had never seen her cry like this--I had never even seen her cry. I pulled the car over. "Keep going," she said. "I want to be back at Grandpa and Nana's, please...." "Jannice! What the hell is going on? Why the fuck are you acting this way? Cold-shouldering me, like you're disgusted with me. God-dammit, I haven't seen you in nearly six months...I mean, I've been off in the god-damn Army, baby, thinking of you night and anxious to see you again. Now here I am and I get this shit. What the hell's going on?"

She looked at me hang dog. Her eyes were shining dark brown back through glistening tears, as she drilled them into me sorrowfully. "Wolfie. Wolfie. I'm so sorry. Wolfie, I'm so sorry. I did love you, Wolfie. I did. But...." "BUT WHAT, JANNICE? WHAT? What the hell has happened?...I mean...come on, Neecy, sweetheart...." "Please, Wolfie, don't touch me...Wolfie, I'm so sorry. Don't touch me." "What the fuck, Jannice, god-dammit, what the fuck are you doing to me?" "Wolfie, I'm pregnant."

"There," she continued, "I didn't want to hurt you, Wolfie, but I'm pregnant." "Why didn't you say something, sweetheart? How long have you known? Why didn't you write me? I mean, isn't that something I should know about? And surely we damn sure have to talk about this...come on, Neece...surely." "NO, WOLFIE. NO. Don't even look at me, Wolfie. I'm so sorry." "What are you trying to say, Jannice? What the fuck are you trying not to tell me? What the fuck, Jannice?" "The baby, Wolfie. The baby. It's not yours, Wolfie." And with that she rolled up into the corner of the seat and just started outright sobbing, long gulping sobs, wringing sobs, flooding my nice leather seatcovers with tears.

I took her over to her grandparents. We didn't say another word on the way there. She jumped out of the car and made a mad beeline for the house the minute I pulled into the driveway and stopped.

Driving home was horrible. I was so fucking naive. I had no experience in dealing with such a dilemma. I cursed myself for being so fucking stupid. Yeah, so fucking stupid for believing Jannice was signed, sealed, and delivered MINE. I mean, we'd been going together 4 years. We saw each other every weekend I was home from college--and in the summer we went out every weekend. Everyone knew we were a couple.

I sat in the car for an hour before I finally went in the house. How was I going to explain this. My parents loved Jannice. They had gone to high school with her parents; they knew her grandparents; her Uncle was my brother's wife's baby doctor.

In the house, in my bed, I lay there thinking things like "When the shit had she fucked this other guy? Who the hell was this other guy?" I knew she had a boyfriend when I first met her but I knew he'd moved to Florida and she told me she hadn't even heard from him since they broke up. I knew there was a guy who went to high school with her who asked her out all the time, sent her flowers and shit, but he wasn't her type. It couldn't be him. I decided it must be some dude she met at Texas Tech. Maybe she fucked him one weekend after a wild party or something. I could forgive her that discrepancy. But then I thought of the kid. Holy shit, what the hell did I want with a kid who wasn't mine? Bitch! BITCH! I started screaming into my pillow. BITCH! And next thing I know I was crying like a fucking baby. Big tears. Tears of hurt. Tears mixed with shouts of "BITCH!" into my now wet pillow.

I didn't sleep that night. All night long I cussed Jannice's ass out. How dare her. Who the fuck had she fucked? Who the hell had knocked my girl up? I thought about driving over to her grandparents and demanding to know who the hell this fucking dude was. She must have been fucking him the whole time she was seeing me...but that was impossible. We had been dating steadily for almost 4 years. Though we weren't engaged, we always talked as if it was natural we would one day get hitched. She was MY girl, dammit. Yet, if she was just now only showing being a little fatter...Jesus, that means she found out she was pregnant just recently.
My story gets more involved than Franny's. My story turns into a sort of Flaubertish-Henry Millerish drama--of my wanting revenge, of barbarically getting it by flaunting an affair with her best friend in her face--and finally, my ultimate revenge: of commiting adultery with her!

And that's what I like about Salinger's writing. He's not my generation--he's the generation before me, my brother's generation--but he got the dilemmas of my generation down pretty pat. Franny states she has decided to fuck conformity in the tale. And my tale turned me even deeper into my nonconformity. Turning me against the proper--like marriage! Fuck marriage. Like having kids. Fuck kids. This made me swear in my own blood that I would never get married and if I did I would never have kids. Fuck marriage. Fuck God and country. Fuck the law. Fuck having to work my ass off for a living, too.

I made it through Officer Candidate School--2 weeks of total mean harassment, belittling, cursing me down into a sniveling fool, then whipping me up into an erect-standing soldier monkey in my soldier monkey suit--I was drilled into an erect monkey perfection: as a 2nd Lieutenant in This Man's Army--qualified NOW to lead my men (my platoon) and myself into certain death in VietNam. Hot damn. VietNam. "Give me an 'F'--Give me a 'U'--give me a 'C'--give me a 'K'!"

Give me an "F!  ..."F"! give me a "U"! ..."U"!
Give me a "C"! ..."C" Give me a "K"! ..."K"!

Well come on all of you big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again,
he got himself in a terrible jam, way down yonder in Vietnam,
put down your books and pick up a gun, we're gunna have a whole lotta fun.

and its 1,2,3 what are we fightin for?
don't ask me i don't give a dam, the next stop is Vietnam,
and its 5,6,7 open up the pearly gates. Well there aint no time to wonder why...WHOPEE we're all gunna die.

now come on wall street don't be slow, why man this's war a-go-go,
there's plenty good money to be made, supplyin' the army with the tools of the trade,
just hope and pray that when they drop the bomb, they drop it on the Vietcong.


now come on generals lets move fast, your big chance is here at last.
nite you go out and get those reds cuz the only good commie is one thats dead,
you know that peace can only be won, when you blow em all to kingdom come.

(spoken)- listen people i dont know you expect to ever stop the war if you cant sing any better than that... theres about 300,000 of you fuc|ers out there.. i want you to start singing..


now come on mothers throughout the land, pack your boys off to vietnam,
come on fathers don't hesitate, send your sons off before its too late,
be the first one on your block, to have your boy come home in a box

And not a word about politics...or are you sure this post isn't pregnant with politics?

At the end of that last chorus of Country Joe's Vietnam song, after "...send your sons off before it's too late, be the first one on your block, to have your boy come home in a box" there should be a wildly flung "Yipppeee!" Where the Yippies came from. "Don't eat the brown acid. Warning, don't eat the brown acid."

for The Daily Growler

1 comment:

Language said...

Damn, that's a well-told story.