Foto by tgw, "Penn Terminal Building," New York City, March 2011
A Beer Guzzler Gets Me to Realizing
Early in the dawning of the day, I commented on a commenter's comment on Chris Hedges's Monday column on Truthdig.com that was encouraging those of us with a revolting spirit in our bones to truck down to Union Square here in New York City on the 15th of April (tax day) to protest in front of the Bank of America down there. That's funny in itself that the Bank of America, a California bank originally, has a bank on Union Square. Ironically, that's also where the Union bank, the Amalgamated Bank, is located. Union Square, with its statue of Abe Lincoln in its belly--Abe Lincoln a Republican.
The commenter was criticizing Hedges for, I think, writing down his nose to who he refers to as progressives by saying "We" have no chance against outfits like the Bank of America by going through our state and Federal representatives because they are totally in the hip pocket of these banks--who did steal trillions of dollars from us--oh, they didn't steal it, We the People gave it to them. The commenter, who ID'd himself with Homer Simpson chugging down a can of Duff beer, resented writers like Chris Hedges telling him what he has to do. His comment got me to thinking. OH NO...not thinking, for God's sake. Thinking only leads you to conclusions. OH NO...not conclusions for Zeus's sake. But, yes, I got to thinking and by thinking realizing, "Hey, folks, We the People are bringing this bullshit down on ourselves."
Think about this: the people of Wisconsin voted in these rightwing fools who are now disrupting our current form of democracy, at least the social aspects of it, those that effect the bottom half of us--the poor Whites, whatever Middle Class Whites are left in this country--maybe petty millionaires are now our Middle Class--all Blacks, no matter their affluence, certainly all Latinos, legals and illegals, and most certainly all unions and union members, in particular government worker unions.
In Ohio, it was the people of Ohio who elected this absolutely dumbass rightwinger governor who is now going to penalize all union workers--I mean, come on, corporations hate unions and these new Teabagger assholes are Capitalist asslickers, most of them millionaires already, like the Paul boys, the Koch(sucking) Brothers, Eric Prince's father (in Michigan)--on and on the list goes--this governor in Ohio who is also destroying government workers collective bargaining rights--and who has figured out a new way to impose a Poll Tax on his citizens (remember Poll Taxes? I do; the first time I voted in Texas, I had to pay a Poll Tax) by requiring people coming to vote to produce three or four photo IDs, like a passport, or a driver's license, or whatever or else you can't vote. The idea here is to keep Blacks, Latinos, senior citizens (all mostly Democrats) from being able to vote. Again, I say, the people of Ohio evidently wanted this; they elected this asshole as their governor.
In Michigan, again, it was the people of Michigan who voted in their now totally repressive Teabagger regime--the one that just passed a bill that gives the state the power to go to a failing city, take it over, fire all the elected officials, and bring in private city-management companies--Detroit is a failing city--and so is Flint--Detroit lost 25% of its population over the past 10 years. That's OK with these dudes. Remember, they are racists and Detroit was Motown--mostly Black at one time--with Detroit Whites moving out to the suburbs to get away from Detroit's Blacks.
I reiterate, all of these kooks were elected to office by the people of these states--and yes the majority of voters in these states are White!
I keep telling people, this Teabagger bullshit movement is simply the White Man taking back control of this country that is turning Brown right before his tired old Bible-thumping eyes--and these states are in the Bible Belt--the Bible Belt--where the Silent Majority came from--where the dumbest Americans live.
I had to agree with beer-guzzling Homer that demonstrating in the street doesn't work. Like Chris Hedges's demonstrating in front of the Bank of America won't rectify anything, won't bring regulations and oversight committees--hell no, these people totally ignore demonstrations--or if the demonstrations start working, they'll bring in their security goons and of course the local police will back up the bank's security goons--I mean, come on, what beer-guzzling Homer was saying was that these demonstrations simply leave the demonstrators vulnerable to being filmed and photographed by the hundreds of security cameras surrounding a place like New York City's Union Square--also the home of the old Tammany Hall building, now a film school--plus it was once home to the US Communist Party under Gus Hall; plus it was home to Paul Sweezy's Monthly Review (Paul was a Marxist economist--he once had a famous debate with pro-Capitalist Joseph Schumpeter). But, I'll tell you what, folks, I'm going to be down on Union Square come the 15th, though even if a million people show up for it, it will never make the local news and certainly not the national news.
Of course, people could take their money out of the Bank of America--it used to be banks depended on depositors for their capital--of course, there's no need for depositors anymore after Brother Big Dog Clinton, under the advice of nutjob economist-failure Larry Summers took all the regulations and restrictions off the banks. Remember, it was Larry Summers whose solution to the nuclear waste problem was to dump it all in African countries--and they did dump it off the Somalia coast and ruined the Somalian fishing industry and turned those out-of-a-job fishermen into pirates.
Today is a helluva beautiful day here in New York City, though mine is disturbed by hammering--they are putting a new roof on the oldest section of my apartment building, the landmark building--the oldest building on Broadway. For some ungodly reason they after tearing up the old roof have taken big sheets of plywood (oh the wood we waste in this country) and are now hammering them down--with nails, yes--over the old beams. I am watching them wondering why wood? Why would you use wood as the subflooring on a roof on an ancient wood structure anyway? Maybe my landlord hopes the damn building will catch fire and burn to the ground thus freeing him from having to maintain it as a landmark building.
To an old-time New Yorker like myself, fire, not an al-Queda attack, is my biggest fear. Several years ago now, my building had a fire on the 4th floor. The smell of burning wood woke me up in the middle of the night. I went to one of my windows and leaned out to see where the wood-burning smell was coming from and immediately the flames from the fire licked my face and I'm on the eleventh floor so those flames were shooting up 7 floors above the 4th floor where the fire was. The hippy tenant living there had put a lit candle in his window to ward off evil spirits and the candle set his drapes on fire.
For a brief moment I stood motionless trying to figure out what the hell to do--I mean my apartment is full of keyboards, guitars, recording equipment, and collectibles worth thousands of dollars. Finally, I realized I had to bust a move, so I donned my jeans and a wool shirt and a jacket--it was winter--and dashed into my hallway--fuck my possessions.
The hallway was packed with smoke. I ran up the stairway right outside my door to try to get on the roof and the door was blocked. Breathing in fire smoke isn't healthy at all--and I got a lung full of the damn stuff that almost knocked me out--I mean it was burning my lungs--but I managed to get back down those steps and back down to the hallway that led over to the other end of the building and the other door to the roof. The smoke was so bad, I had to get down on the floor and like a snake wiggle my way the 60 feet over to the other to-the-roof stairwell. As I crawled by another apartment a woman started screaming--she was holding a baby--instinctually I took the baby and made a wild dash for the stairwell to the roof with the mother screaming along behind me holding onto my jacket tail for dear life. We made it up to the roof at the front of the building and out of danger of the fire, which was on the back of the building.
Turns out if I'd a stayed in my apartment I'd a been OK. When the firemen came up and told us the fire was out and we could return to our apartments, I rushed back down to mine. Just as I got in sight of my door, there was a fireman raising an axe to it. "You got here just in time," he said, "I was fixing to chop your door down--I have to check your rooms...."
All of this happened in a swiftly confused matter of minutes.
I still remember the feeling when I realized the building was possibly on fire and the horror of having to decide to bust a move immediately--fuck your possessions; it's your life that really matters in one of these instances.
My family history is full of fires. My parents first apartment, they were just married, burned to the ground. Then the first house they bought, I wasn't born yet but my brother was there, burned to the ground. Later in Dallas just after I had moved out of my brother's first house there, I got word that it had burned to the ground--a Christmas tree fire--and that my sister-in-law had suffered bad burns when she had rushed back into the fire and rescued one of my nephews.
Fires and car wrecks in my family history. I've wrecked two cars totally in my life. This same sister-in-law who jumped back into the house fire to save her son later while driving down a Dallas freeway in her 300SL Mercedes ran into the back of another car and almost killed herself--and ironically, the son she had rescued from the fire--who went through the windshield head first.
Then later, during the July 4th weekend of 1964, my parents along with my mother's sister, came down to New Orleans to visit with me and my new wife. My parents had never been to Florida. My wife and I at the time kept a room in the San Carlos Hotel in Pensacola, Florida, so we decided to take my folks to Florida. I drove my parents brand new Mercury from New Orleans across Mississippi and Alabama into Florida. Outside of Mobile, Alabama, while cruising along at a merry clip, I somehow got distracted from watching where I was going when my aunt screamed from the backseat and I looked up and we were hurling toward a car that was creeping up onto the highway from a side road. I hit the brakes and since it was a brand new car, those brakes grabbed, squealed, laid down smoking rubber, but stopped us just before we would have plowed right into the side of that car. My mother hollered, "What are you trying to do, kill us!"
We made it back to New Orleans safely after what turned out to be a splendid 2 days on the then beautiful white sand beaches of that Florida West Coast.
It was a Monday morning after that July 4th weekend when out in front of our New Orleans apartment on Dumaine my wife and I told my parents goodbye. We took some pictures and off my parents and my aunt drove heading back home to Texas, first to Beaumont to drop my aunt off, then on back to West Texas.
Late Monday afternoon, I had just come in from drinking Dixie beers and eating raw oysters at my favorite Vieux Carre restaurant, Ruggerios, when my wife said my brother had called. I should call him back immediately. She looked awful. She had been crying. "What the hell did he say to you?" I asked, thinking maybe my brother had insulted her. "No, dumbass, he called to tell you your parents were killed...." I called my brother. Yes, he said gravely, "Mother and Dad were killed just outside of Rusk (in East Texas near where my mother was born). An 18-wheel asphalt hauler hit them broadside...the truck was doing 80 mph...."
My reaction was a macho one. I made out like I wasn't bothered by losing my parents. "It was dad I'm sure who was to blame...." I was such an asshole about it. My wife and I immediately went back to Ruggerios and got plastered, plus we ate a big platter of king crab legs and linguine with green sauce all cooked and served up by Mama Ruggerio. There was nothing sad about that feast except what was going on deep inside me. This was the kind of death that I didn't know how to handle.
My parents's funeral was quite a show. The two coffins were set up at the funeral home and during the funeral women kept coming up and throwing themselves on my dad's coffin. I sat amazed. I was wearing sunglasses and I was pompous and wanting to get the hell out of there.
My brother had seen my parents mangled bodies down in Rusk at the city morgue down there and he told me they were practically unrecognizable. My mom was thrown 20 feet up in the air witnesses said to plop down just off the edge of the highway, her clothes blown completely off of her as she landed with a bang.
My dad's body was blown out the right side door of the car by the action of the truck hitting the driver's side door. My dad's body sailed out sideways to land 30 feet down the highway, his clothes blown off him, too, including his shoes and sox.
My brother came to me during the funeral and said the people at the funeral had requested an open-casket viewing. I cursed out loud...I mean, I hollered at those fools, "Fuck you, people. Why would you want to see my parents in the condition they're in?...hell no you won't open those caskets, not while I'm here."
I left that funeral that day and I swore before my wife and a rack of gods I'd never again attend another funeral in my life.
That was 1964 and since then I have attended only two funerals--in 1969 I attended Coleman Hawkins's funeral that was held here in New York City at St. Peter's Church, the Jazz Church. And then in 2008, I attended the funeral of my soul brother Robert Francis Guida. However, those are the only two funerals I've gone to since my parents died. In the meantime I've missed the funerals of my very best friend ever in life, my best friend ever here in New York City, my two nephews's funerals out in California, my brother's funeral out on the far western plains of Texas, and my ex-wife's funeral out in New Mexico.
The next funeral I am planning to surely attend will be my own.
for The Daily Growler