WORK

by Bill Blackolive


Work. Like in working class. Work is a strange thing. Indian thought white man plumb crazy. White man maybe go hunting or fishing for rest. Here and there, people have been working for a few thousand years, but adjustments are slow. In sake of motivation, men may try to get macho about it, but men of science determine women have better nervous systems for daily mundane tasks and that not requiring adrenalin. Men, they say, are built for shorter bursts. Eunuchs, they claim, generally outlive men, for a lack of testosterone. Testosterone provides power, but causes the male to respond too strongly for the same-old-shit routines of modern struggle. He will get adrenalin, whipping up toxicants he does not these days always clean up through relaxation or inspiration. Or, Jack can just become a dull boy, subject to schizophrenic rage. Some of us wilder types, like the Masai of Africa or the olden Comanche, when put into slavery, simply die. There is certain environmental make-up in those cases. Modern society discourages sensitivities of the Masai or Comanche or Hun in one's infancy.

I could not adjust. People forget how old I am, and to encourage me, my father-in-law, a retired diesel mechanic, told me that work not only builds your body, it builds your mind, that if all you do is meditate all day the mind will go stagnant., This man keeps busy, loves to putter, sits still for any time his hands twitch. Macho he is , loud voice, told my mother-in-law to take some photos of me so he could tell people I got my muscles lifting weights.

While my parents-in-law were here, we had a roomer, mechanical type long-hair chap who gets by fixing things for people, and he was here to be rewiring our old house, which he did in his time. As I do, he has back trouble, likes to lie down, spends much time in bed reading or sleeping, and maybe mess around all night. Eight o'clock my in-laws had left their Wennabago to have some coffee with me. My wife had gone to work. Our roomer was in his room. My father-in-law wondered very loudly, what's he doing in there? Oh, I dunno, I said, reading or sleeping. Four o'clock, I was having my afternoon coffee, and my in-laws had joined me again. What's he doing in there? Oh, I dunno, reading or sleeping. Hell, my old man ever catch me in bed that long he'd beat my butt! Shortly, we heard the front door, I went to see. The roomer was sneaking out on his bicycle. See you later, John, I said. Oh, I don't know about that, he said.

My first wife put up with me, off and on, for nearly a decade. She did credit me with giving her moral support when she took this grant and got her LVN. Though she would send cash to get me out of a hole, I never really enjoyed the fruits of her RN, because by then she was finding herself a philosophy professor who took her to Europe and Hawaii. Her friends used to ask her what did I do all day. She found some humor in telling them, oh, first he gets up and drinks coffee. Then he takes a shit. Then he lifts weights. Then he smokes dope and walks the dogs. Then he has breakfast. Then he puts on a pot of beans. Then he smokes more dope and takes a nap. Then he gets up and has coffee. Then his friends come over and smoke dope with him.

Is that all? her friends would exclaim. They were threatened, or lustful, I guess. Paradoxically, it seemed to go against their women's lib. They told her get rid of me.

But as one of my friends remarked: Sounds like a reasonable life to me.

I remember the Navy. I was eighteen and thought maybe I could play football or box. I was in there a month, 21 October 1958 to 24 November 1958. I have had unpleasant dreams about it, probably as recently as within the past decade. Good thing I got out fast. I was going to go AWOL, except fortunately I had asthma, was allergic to wool, so would take my wool blanket and get a few lungs full and head off to one of the disorganized sick bays. Wondering how in hell they could ever fight a war, I finally got myself established in the hospital as an asthmatic about to be discharged. After a few days of medication I was healthy enough to work. This fellow in charge gave me a long line of beds to mop under. I looked the scene over, believed I would not be able to endure. I went to the one in charge and told him I quit. He took this in surprise. You can't quit, this is the Navy! Well, I don't care, I quit. I went to my rack (bed), got in and pulled the cotton spread to my chin. First, a couple guys came sat down and asked if I had a psychological disorder. I don't know about that, I said. I just can't do all that work. Next, half a dozen guys came down the aisle of beds, led by one tough stocky sailor, and he jerked off my cover and told me to get to work. Do you think you can make me by yourself? I asked. He hesitated, and number two stepped forth: If he can't then we can! Well, I agreed. I guess all of you can. However, by then someone else had been doing my job, and I had two beds to mop under left, which in better spirits I got after. Few days later the stocky lad and I had some good talk on flying saucers and hypnotism.

My father, whom I love, and I have had bitter arguments. He grew up in the depression, sold newspapers in Houston age six, always worked. Guzzled coffee, smoked cigarettes, drank and worked. He has been a conscientious, responsible man. Retired, he has emphysema, plays solitaire in front of the television every day, gets up to peddle on his bike machine in front of the TV. Thinks the world is fast going to hell. But with me, he has tried claiming only the strong survive in this world.

Yeah. Well, get rid of law enforcement and we will see who is strong!

We need law enforcement, because of people like you!

In the early sixties I used to get up a hundred dollars, which was hard for me, and go spend time in Mexico. Fell in love with a young prostitute, went mad. Hungry enough, I would be willing to return to the U. S. and work and be practical. But, once back this side of the river, well fed, likely hanging at my parents', my mind would shift to the primitive again. To the poetic, romantic, whatever it may be called. There was some adjustment, since the Navy, I could actually do an eight hour day, two or three of them, but in my case, after maybe a week the mind malfunctions. I can try to not get fired, but I will. Time, with me, becomes very, very slow, and things will happen. I also make people nervous, my walk, movement, the look in my eye. I have learned to quell the eye over the years, but not much else. Last job I had here in wetback Austin, four dollars an hour, easy going job, I re-hurt the old back, also badly hurt a newer shoulder injury. Sometimes an old broken wrist gets difficult. I did some piano moving, now have a poor right knee, not too bad yet. There is one tool I do like, the ax, but this is the goddamned gasolene age, stinking, screaming chain saws. I once had a job as a dorm manager for what you call troubled teenagers, boys, and I handled them better than anybody, once I had demonstrated I was physically in charge, did not have to lean on them then, just tell them two or three times to do something they would do it, they liked me, but my first wife, who was a nurse at the place, eventually got me to quit before I was fired, her superiors had been bothering her about my being too easy going with the boys. It has not been my world. I have done nude modeling for art classes off and on over the years. Lately, it occurs to me to be a bouncer, but suddenly half the escort services in town got busted, and it is difficult to get a foot in door.

The sun will shine on my back door some day. Don't worry about me. Much of the world is starving. Meanwhile there be very many guys like me in this country, and some of them are not even white. The years go by, my main friends wonder how long they can carry on. They can become paranoid. After all, man is a dangerous, frustrated critter, only the past several thousand years forced to live among strangers of his kind. Most of my friends get drunk a lot. Eddie, my black compadre, says LSD is great, except it makes you not want to go to work. The women get harder to control. You want me to talk about women. They don't get so ruffled. They don't need anybody to carry the water and chop the wood around here. The law enforcement is imperfect, but the women never had it so good, in patriarchy. Five, ten years, they can just leave a guy. The world is full of horny little fuckers, subdued, falling at a woman's feet. Who cares about women's lib, said one female friend to me. We got half the money and all the pussy. In a sea of testosterone the men are whipped and the women float on by.

I say, give us matriarchy. Let the women be presidents. Let them do it all. We may as well have sex temples, let the women do stints in the holy sex temples like in ancient matriarchies, where they could just take in bedeviled males off the street.

Ah, I know, there are some obstacles for that at this point. Religion, other countries, etc. All the ancient matriarchies got overrun by barbarians after a few hundred years. I am afraid, there is no solution. The wetbacks are pouring in. They want to work.

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