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Some Unforgettable People

 
 
realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 09:13 pm
Damn, Edgar, I missed that story. You, at 22, remind me of Gothboy. No tatoos or piercings, of course, like my character. But what strikes me as astounding is how much writing here is probably semi-autobiographical. Thanks.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 09:18 pm
All of it is fully autobiographical, realjohnboy.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 May, 2007 07:30 pm
I arrived in Greenwich Village, and waited about two weeks before my brother came to New York to join me. It was 1968, the year I turned twenty six. Out of the Navy just over three years, I still had demons tormenting me, the same ones that had made a feast out of my childhood. I just hadn't been able to shake them off. Walking McDougal Street, wondering how people I read about found each other . Knowing I didn't fit in if I knew. My hotel was a tall one, with no elevator. It was a long trip, and I soon planned my activities to avoid going in or out unnecessarily. When my brother came to town, his first act was to go deeper into Manhattan and rent us a better home. I never saw him wrinkle his nose at a place like that, before or since.

One morning, I had gone to the Manpower center, but the man behind the desk chewed me out when I approached to ask about possible work. "All these people are in front of you. Fill out the form and take a seat out there. If we need somebody when your turn comes, I will call you."

I was miffed. As I sat on the bench, facing the rear of the room, someone leaned in front of me.

"Are you interested in a job?"

Turns out, the man was intrigued, because I was sitting in opposition to the flow of Manpower's whole operation.

He was, he told me, Vince- -his last name eludes me, after nearly four decades- -and he owned a panel truck. Advertising in the Village Voice to rent one truck and driver, for $50 hr.. He needed someone to assist with labor, in the event customers were willing to shell out an additional $4 hr. And, it happened that virtually all of them were adverse to doing their own work.

We drove the streets of Manhattan, the Bronx and perhaps Brooklyn. He kept telling me he thought I reminded him of George Gobel. "I'm not like that guy," I said. "People are always ascribing traits to me, based on what subjective fantasy they are engaging. I've been accused of being like James Mason, and before that, Frankie Avalon. Women are always telling me I am just like their boyfriends. None of it's true."

Doubtful at first, Vince became a believer, later that same day. The customer, a woman near my age, told us I was identical to her boyfriend. Every word I spoke elicited the response, "Stop, you're blowing my mind."

This job was wonderful, in the beginning. Vince; solicitous, generous. When my brother arrived, he invited us over for a steak dinner. That man fed us meat the size of a platter. We staggered off to our beds that night, with guts straining and miserable.

He was, I learned, harshly judgmental of others, and he relied on his knowledge of Astrology to form these conclusions. He smiled at the customers, asked their birth sign, then whispered in my ear the entirety of the job, "That one's no good." He filled in all their bad traits, based on the fact of their birth.

Once, he took me with him to visit with his mother, in the Bronx. On the drive over, he filled me in on his family history. "My parents are Jamaicans," he began. "Black people there are as prejudiced as white people are over here. Parents expect their children to marry light skinned people, the lighter the better. My mother is very light. She ran away to New York to marry a man with black skin."

She was really light. Her flesh had an almost alabaster hue. Compared with her, I was the dark one. Vince had a milk chocolaty color.

He told me on the drive back that he had attended an all white college, where he was popular. The white kids always complimented him and assured him he could go far. Eventually, he turned against his background, and ended owning the truck business.

Vince's closest friend was some sort of a priest. One hell of an example of a priest. Once, after a night spent partying, he recalled he had to be at a church affair. A wreck, of hangover and fatigue, he showed up, only to be told the event was cancelled. He conversed with church members a while, and came back to where Vince and I waited, in his Mercedes. "Those bastards," he said. "I thought they would never leave."

My brother's business in New York was with the art industry. He applied for jobs involving his skill, but kept getting rejected. One night we went to a performance by The Fugs. During the singing of Kill For Peace, Tuli Kupferburg held a doll with a torched face. He bayoneted the doll, and, at the end of the piece, jammed a chocolate bar in its face. Brother said Tuli seemed to be looking directly into his eyes the whole time.

Vince wanted me to see how civil rights demonstrations were conducted, and he paid my way onto a bus with Jesse Jackson, for an adventure in D. C. It is an episode I have recounted elsewhere on a2k. Whenever he would see a successful, or just semi successful, black person, he would remark, "Yes; but, what is he doing for his people?" Hearing a few of his tirades, my brother began calling him, behind his back, Daddy Warmonger.

Once, a white panhandler approached the truck and demanded money. Vince told him in no uncertain terms to beat it. The guy persisted, and began grabbing at our cargo in the back of the truck. "And you people want peace," he sneered.

Vince clipped his jaw, causing him to drop down hard on his rump. "Oh," he said, as he sank.

Discouraged, my brother returned to Kansas City. I stayed on, thinking my place with Vince was secure. Gradually, though, I began to detect little criticisms, possibly based in Astrology, or maybe he thought of me more and more as a white establishment guy. Whatever, he went back to Manpower and picked a new helper. He rented a sleazy apartment for me for one month and abandoned me there. Compared to this one, the hotel in the Village was first class. The first evening, a girl down the hall knocked at my door and solicited me. Got up in the morning and went out in time to see a man shitting on the sidewalk. Oh yeah. I went out and found a job at Schrafts and later in the week moved to a clean apartment in Brooklyn, on 31st Street.

A few weeks later, I was in formation with a group of anti war demonstrators, in the middle of the street, when, who should approach, but Vince. When he caught my eye, he began walking my way. I did a deliberate back turn on him, however, and he vanished. Never saw him again.

I flirted with the idea of becoming a member of the Peace and Freedom Party, a fledgling party that withered almost immediately after inception. Also joined the SDS, but quickly became disillusioned and gave them back my membership card.

I made friends, of a sort, with some of the people around me, but was essentially alone. I walked the streets a lot, visited the Teddy Roosevelt Museum a few times, but the mass of humanity was beginning to wear away at my equilibrium. It made me unable to hold conversations, and I developed a phobia about being in public. I tried to hide in a coat when walking on the streets.

My new friends in Brooklyn were a childish, infighting bunch. I stayed around them, until Martin Luther King was assassinated. One of the so-called friends jumped up with a grin. He kissed his hand, as if kissing the man off, then ran away to celebrate with his buddies. I began making plans to leave, and did so a week or two after Robert Kennedy was shot down.
0 Replies
 
Endymion
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 May, 2007 08:57 pm
Those last two paragraphs are especially powerful, edgar
Thanks for sharing this
I understand the thing about wanting to hide in your coat
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Endymion
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 May, 2007 05:32 pm
I read through again - because i keep getting that picture from Taxi Driver - when he's just walking down the street - in my head, thinking about it.
It's something to do with the atmosphere - makes me want to look at the times... wondered if you'd consider adding the odd picure from that era?
just a thought
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 May, 2007 06:03 pm
Please clarify. I'm a bit numb this evening.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 May, 2007 06:19 pm
Have you seen my thread, about the civil rights/ protest days? It might help you some.
http://www.able2know.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1789&highlight=
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Endymion
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 May, 2007 06:53 pm
thanks for that, edgar - nice one. I'll be reading.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 May, 2007 08:34 pm
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realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 May, 2007 09:51 pm
Nice story, Edgar, Way up near the top is this: " (I), the silent observer..."
That was cool.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 May, 2007 09:29 pm
The Tale of Baldilocks, a Love Story

Sometime in 1955, late , I suppose, my family took up residence on the property of a distant aunt of my step father. Appie was an old time Virginian, transplanted to Fresno, some twenty years before. She was a stern old woman, but kind. She took to my Mom as to a new-found daughter. Her home faced a south-side street, and there were two houses on the strip of land behind it. In between those extra buildings stood an outhouse. The larger back residence had been tucked near the fence, just yards from a vineyard. We stuffed ourselves into it, all twelve of us, and proceeded to make the best of a situation. The schools we attended were thoroughly integrated, and I appreciated the diversity. We had just a few hours, after dismissal, to be playing in the yard. For, in the evenings, we crowded into Appie's house, to watch that new-fangled thing called television.

She went along with us on viewing much of what we liked, but drew the line with Disneyland, except when it featured Davy Crockett. "I can't go no more of it," she'd say, switching channels. "No wonder they call it Dizzyland." Her truest love became Gunsmoke, when that show transferred over from radio.

It made for a satisfying evening, sitting among the adults, breathing the blue air, so turned by the cigarettes each one chain smoked. Even getting bitched out for squirming on the plastic covered sofa could not dampen the spirit.

Across the fence, on the left side, lived a Mexican family, every bit as large as our own. The bigger kids over there were all girls, and we about broke our necks, getting out to stare at them on bath day. The fat old mama washed them in a tub, behind the house, then they paraded, single file, naked and dripping, around, in through the front door. The lone exception, the oldest, was Theresa. She was my age, and it soon became obvious she liked me. A lot. When she chased other boys, to sock them, she would say to me, "I'm not going to hit you." I often found her by the fence, waiting for me, but I was not that nice to her.

She was fourteen, slender, and her skin had that fresh, translucent quality, so common with very young women. Her nose looked slightly flattened, and she was buck toothed. But, her overall appearance made her mouth not seem so bad. I did like the girl, but I also felt that we could not be close friends.

Her grandfather, the occupant in the big house out front, shaved Theresa's head to rid her of lice. I guess that's what prompted my two oldest brothers and I to begin speaking of her in derisive terms. As we joked about her bald head, I recalled a name out of a comic strip. "Baldilocks," I said. And it stuck.

She laughed at me one time, saying, "You go to the dump and bring back junk." It was true. Beyond the vineyard, a dump beckoned, with boxes and bags of family refuse. We dug through the cleaner boxes, looking for books and anything of value. She would have come, too, I'm sure, but her parents usually kept a tight rein on her.

On Halloween night, my brothers and I would be out until after nine PM. We always would fill a galvanized tub, beyond heaping, with penny candies, gum balls, popcorn balls and the like. That year, I went home early, though I can't recall why. My oldest half brother filled me in, the next day. He described a boy backing Theresa against a tree, and her laughing, "Stop that f-king me."

There were evenings she serenaded me. "Don't be cruel. Oo oo oo," she sang.

One late evening, she stood close to the fence, and my fingers began probing her clothing. "No." She backed away.

Then she beckoned me come over, and we could hide in the outhouse. I leapt the wires with the steadying help of a post. What followed was an awkward bit of groping by a boy with no knowledge of the other sex. After a few minutes of it, I knew to get home before we were seen.

As I leapt down on my property, the mother happened in the driveway. Hearing her call Theresa by name, I ran for the house.

For a period of hours, I lived in dread. By the time I got home from school the next day, it seemed I must be in the clear. As I walked near the outhouse, however, Theresa's father called at me over the fence. He leaned against the wire, with both arms thrust through, waving and reaching, as if to grab and throttle me. "Come here. Just you and no one else."

His wife called on him to get away from there. "He was f-king her," he began shouting.

"No," said the mother. "It was not that."

Mom heard the commotion and came outside.

"I'm going to call the police," he threatened.

"Why don't you," she replied. Then he quieted down and went back to the house.

It was not many months after that, we moved to Texas. I did not expect ever to see Theresa again, but, I did. In 1965, after I left military service, I stayed for a time with Appie. Appie was frail, now, and she tired easily. One day, I came out of her house, and there sat Theresa, across the fence, with her three children. She had gotten very fat, and her teeth now protruded as they had not in an earlier time. She looked my way, and turned to the kids. I heard her tell the oldest one that she had one time been in love with me.

Later that year, after I went home to Texas, Appie died. Everything moved quickly, and she was buried before I could think about going there to say a final good-bye.
0 Replies
 
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 May, 2007 03:42 am
I loved going to the dump with my Father. Pram wheels were a sought after item for Billy carts.

Mumpad tells of the time when she was very small her father found of box of knitting yarn at the rubbish tip. This was salvaged and her mother knitted her a cute but multi coloured cardigan from this wool.
She went around telling everyone "look at my cardi we got it from the dump"
much to her parents chagrin.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 May, 2007 10:07 pm
I agree. Dumps are the stuff of dreams. Or, were, in those days. The dumps, as they are in Houston, are another matter, thanks to constantly moving trucks and bulldozers.
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Endymion
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 May, 2007 08:32 am
Inspirational stuff, Edgar
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Jan, 2009 09:16 pm
@edgarblythe,
Edgar, you have an immense talent, a born writer.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Jan, 2009 09:49 pm
@dadpad,
The dump in west los angeles, up from Sepulveda, was open until when? I can't guess. Sometime in the seventies, guessing, anyway. When we delivered stuff there, mid sixties, it was into a mirage of ghost dump trucks on the moon. I even have an old photo.

Now it is a spread of luxury homes.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Jan, 2009 11:09 pm
@JLNobody,
Hi, jl. Good to hear from you. Wish I could translate that talent into somethingfor the public.
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Jan, 2009 09:56 am
@edgarblythe,
Thanks for the heads up on the "himself" comments. Read 'em. My experience with himself was very, very similar.

I lashed out at him one time...and his response made me ashamed of myself.

He was a good guy.
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Jan, 2009 09:56 am
@Frank Apisa,
Seems to me RealJohnBoy was over in Abuzz with us also.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Jun, 2009 04:10 pm
Edgar, you are such a writer, one of the few people here whose long posts I will take the time to read. It just comes so easy to you, and your very big heart provides you with so much to say.
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