Thursday, July 16, 2015
No Bifurcated Tongue
Dave Olson and I were pretty good friends for a long while during our youthful teenage years; we both lived in the same neighborhood, me on Cayuga Street, him a few blocks away by Buffalo and Acker, but he never hung around with the Donkeyland gang, to the contrary, he avoided them, and then one day, out of the blue, his parents, perhaps his parents—who else—feeling I was a ruffian, and I was I suppose, or linked to them, that being the second year of High School at Washington High, he seated himself down on one of his concrete steps in front of his house, alongside me, and said in the best way he could, or knew how, and completely, that it was impossible for him to hang out with me anymore, his parents were against it to my understanding, they were afraid I believe, his earnestness would fade, I was a bad influence on him—it was a forecast I believe, a seer’s prediction—or something on that order, although I don’t remember trying to tug him along and have him initiated into the gang’s ideology. I understood the full meaning of his note, quite laconic, and thereafter, I gave him a smile for safekeeping and for me the issue was resolved, a pansy for a friend was not really my cup of tea, or effeminate men or boys, not saying he was gay or homosexual, we didn’t even consider that back then, or think in such terms, but rather a pussy, an offensive slang for weak minded, or with effeminate expressions; had he joined the gang he simply would have been laughed out of it, but I liked him, but evidently he had become more on that side of the fence than on the side I presupposed he was, had he never joined the gang all the better, but this hurt, and this was pansy, and I must be forward on this, no lies, no forked-tongue here, just straight facts, thinking, how it was, right or wrong, that’s how it was.
At school he would lose sight of me, walking with his friends in the hallways, as if losing opportunity of some kind that might not be afforded him should he stop and talk about old times; that prestige he was so excessively anxious to possess, might get tarnished. I don’t mean to be negative, down casting my old friend, I liked him, still like the guy, but he had turned into a different person, a copycat, a pretense, almost a mole? I asked myself, ‘was this the real him?’ Perhaps his family felt I was an unscrupulous thing, I didn’t think I was, a bad boy? No worse than the lot of our times, and in many ways, perhaps less smug; I was who I was, no more no less, I was the same guy he liked one day, and evidently not the next. I actually looked with an air in which curiosity mingled inside my head. Well, be that as it may, you cannot deprive the humblest peasant of his opinion, and my opinion being then and now remain the same that he did right, although on the other hand, the wisdom contained in the life I’ve led, is a worthy treasure to keep to its fullest extent—he had taught me an early on lesson, we are not always like we pretend to be, and the best of friends one day can be the next day on the tail end of that phrase—; in that I’ve lived a full life, I hope he has, and hope this has not offended him, and hope he has not lost other friends because of that way of thinking! The Dhammapada, would say: “Unawareness is the path of death” and Confucius once wrote, in his Analects “The flowery branch of the wild cherry, how swiftly it flies back!” I think Confucius is trying to say, or at least be saying to me: with whom one cannot collaborate, don’t waste your time. My goal then was, and my goal still is the same as my goal has always been: to try and to attain some kind of goodness, not because goodness is far away, but most men do not care for it sufficiently, I feel I do, and I’m not trying to portray someone I am not, I like me, as Elvis would say. Another Confucius idiom in a paraphrase: When one pulls to pluck the blossom, the image is torn apart.
At ten years old I was selling St. Paul Pioneer Press newspapers downtown, St. Paul, to get money for whatever. At twelve I was in bars shoe shinning, at fourteen I was at the World Theater, as an usher, and candy man, at sixteen I was working on construction inside houses, painting and plastering the summers away. In-between I was snow shoveling people’s garage ways to make a buck in Highland Park, and cutting grass for neighbors to earn money wherever possible. So my youth wasn’t spent entirely in the empty lot getting drunk on my ass. My mother told me and my brother— “You want a buck, go work for it, we don’t have any trees here growing them.” I kind of got the feeling David had a father who owned a dollar three in his backyard, I never knew him to do a day’s work back then. Sid, another good old friend, who was killed by a car accident at the age of nineteen or twenty, respectfully, was of the same status too, I suppose as David felt he was, in that Sid’s father gave him everything, car, money, whatever he needed, but he never surrendered his self-respect, or integrity. Sid’s father worked for Univac, an up and coming new enterprise, and was a big shot there, and he never liked me because of my opposing lifestyle, but he never demanded, or could he because Sid would not tolerate it, to be frocked as a walnut to appease his parents.
I have really given this too much time and thought. For Mr. Olson, has seldom come to mind to be honest, except during this review of my past, and putting together the book: ‘Donkeyland, Neighborhood Escapades,’ and David and I have no escapades to put together, worth putting together except this somewhat interlude amongst this episodic novel of sorts; other than that his appearance in the book has little value if any, except for forbearance, plus it was part of the circle of life, my life, and the neighborhood’s saga, even if the Donkeyland Gang, didn’t even know of his existence, which was his family’s ulterior motive I presuppose. Should he read this, take no offence, old chap, I would never refuse you as a guest in my home, I would be delighted. But readily I must as a poet, and author, speak without a split-tongue! Or not at all!
July 3, 2015/No: 1092