Monday, July 5, 2010

Cool Considerate Men

"Fuck my victims. I carried them for 20 years and now I'm doing 150." -- Bernie Madoff.

I work as a cashier in a supermarket.
Many of the cashiers are teens, saving and putting away enough money to buy that next tank of gas.
One cashier, a young woman, quite attractive and from the well bred equestrian set, was chatting with some guy who looked like any one else - that is, if anyone else was a piece of slime. He told her she should model - oh, god, not that line, really now! - He was telling her that she was just what the image consultants wanted as a representative for the local Entergy owned nuclear power plant.  (note the first syllable in 'consultant'.) All she had to do was to to speak well and present the power plant's side of things. She took his card. As she walked by me, I asked, "You know they want to use you to lie and distort truth, don't you?" "Oh, yeah." "Doesn't that bother you?" "Not as long as they pay me."

Just before July the 4th, 1975, I was living in Greenwich Village more or less around the corner from the Waverly movie theatre - it was a single screen then. A short bit further would get you to that, oh what was it's name - the Art? Cinema Village? 8th Street Playhouse? Yeah, that was it. I think. You know, the one just off the corner of 6th Avenue and 8th Street - just after the place that became a Nathan's. I walked over there one day to see a movie called "Nashville". Among all of its story lines was one with a third party candidate for president who says things like "Does Christmas smell like oranges to you?" There was this wonderful moment when a young woman got on national tv while holding a campaign sign. She smiled.  I think of the cashier. Nashville is on the one of my favorite movies of all time list. It was like a big, no, giant jigsaw puzzle, a tribute to America, a bicentennial present, a mirror, a portrait of us.

I've been remembering the 1950's and early 1960's a lot recently.

And, considering the time of year, many memories are at the beach and boardwalk in Ocean City New Jersey. Miniature golf. Big old movie theatres. Smell of cotton candy and hamburgers. The beach. The white sand. Then, like web surfing, I remember being 8 and the cub scouts long drive to a roller skating rink in Maryland where we were told we could go in as long as "that one" stayed on the bus. There was a hushed conference, then we turned around and went home. It would be some years before the kkk pamphlets and books by George Lincoln 'This Time the World" Rockwell would be pushed in my direction. But I already knew just what was going on. We were a generation preached to , and taught values by, the tv set. And it wouldn't take long before it showed us pictures that proved the lie to much of what we'd been taught.

At the end of my teens I was living in Ocean City and washing my clothes at the local laundry-mat. A heavy set woman came in, saw me, looked at my long hair, and proceeded to tell me to get out, they didn't want my kind there. (In case you are wondering, I stayed and finished my laundry, even after the three big guys were sent as intimidation. I smiled on my way out, waved, and never went in there again.

Back in New York of the 1970's, a friend got me interested in a rock and roll band headed up by a guy named Bruce Springstein. He spent a lot of time in a shore resort, too. "... and the boys from the casino danced with their shirts open like latin lovers on the shore, you can hear the oceans roar..."

On this July the 4th, I worked.
July 4th got me into quite a bit of trouble a few years back. I was managing a video store and took over the owner's work with a promise of a substantial raise. That was in January. By July, I'd was getting about 2 days off a month, and working somewhere between 10 to 14 or 15 hours a day. I hadn't gotten that raise yet. I was tired, worn out, and rather angry. The owner changed my plans for a day off during the evening of July 3rd. He made it impossible for me to do anything but work on the 4th. Next day, after getting the bank deposit squared away, I sent him an email and quit. I had to have some pride.

Pride goethed before the fall. There was no work to be had. Everyone I knew was either out of work, or not quite getting by. The tv told us things were good. I lost my apartment. I could look at myself in a mirror and sleep, but I couldn't eat without food stamps. Then the sleeping went, too. I was standing before the draft board in 1969 about to refuse induction. I remember beaches of white sand. I hear fireworks from the edge of town, I don't go, it's too crowded, too much of an effort. I've seen my share of fireworks.

My country doesn't seem to care about anything anymore. Well, anything real anyway. The schools have failed. The jobs have gone. So have many people's homes. We could still pride ourselves in our achievements in equality until New Mexico points a finger, "That one'. The boys from the casino.. We no longer offer our protection of civil rights to 'That One". but no matter, we don't get them much anymore for ourselves. We can be arrested anytime. 240 some years are slipping away. I had a few things I wanted to do this July 4th. But after getting off of work, I was too tired. And like most days after work, I fell asleep for two hours or so.I catch pieces of tv from time to time while my head nods and I wake myself with my snoring. I may not have that job much longer. I got it into my mind again that I shouldn't have to be belittled and demeaned on a daily basis just to keep a job. Besides, the stress lines I'm getting are killer.

For a moment, I feel the tide rushing over my feet, and the beaches shine again. Yeah, I remember that. There was was still hope. That's how Obama got into office - he sold hope to the middle class, or what was left of it. I heard him talk about the middle class, but never about the poor, the lower class. There is no one to speak for the poor. Due to cutbacks to social services, there aren't many left to help them either. The beaches are no longer white sand. There are people on the tv who want to report on it, tell us the truth of things. Before falling asleep the night of the 3rd, I saw this on the tv

When the movie of "1776" was first released, two numbers were cut by the request of President Nixon. One was a song sung by a young messenger who tells of watching his best friend get shot at Lexington (By the time the British got there, the men had gone on to Concord. Lexington had been left to old men and teenage boys to defend.) The song was called "Momma, look sharp". The other number cut was "Cool Considerate Men".

1 comment:

Austan said...

It's time to write the book, dear.