[Lonely People – America]
A cantankerous old sot was he, unwavering and obstinate, scabrous and cynical but beneath his hard-living armor Dooley possesses still a delicate heart — pronounced more evident this morning. He pulled up with a small crew he assembled at the Daily Labor Outpost — a couple of burly swaggers, helmeted in coon cap and Montero-– prepared all, for a complete refurbishment of our encampment.
“Rejoice tempered souls, the Salvation Army Thrift Store had a closeout,” Dooley exclaimed, as he unlatched the gate of his old pickup truck. He, out of character, started whistling, then broke into a brogue of Irish sentiment, espousing his contentment at such a wonderful haul.
“Lads, pull out that mattress,” he ordered his compatriots. I, still a bit in a wayfarer’s state of fascination, asked if I could help and Dooley, not one to fiddle with the unnecessary small talk, waved me off. “I’m paying these lads, go get us some quaff instead. Here are a couple of sawbucks.” I entered the shanty to reconfigure my outward appearance–the scarf, the waffle stompers and my new trench coat.
Mammie, awakened by the disruption, rose slowly, almost painfully from what might have been a shattered dream. “What’s all the noise?”
“Dooley’s here with a bunch of stuff for us… all kinds of furnishings, and for you, finally — a nice mattress– a king-size I think.” Since taking up in this shed ten days ago, a shelter against the wind, we’ve had to make do with the barest of necessities, and although I could subsist and survive further into the latter stages of winter, not once did I believe it fair for the rest, especially Mammie– her life, it seems, was dealt a different hand. As was Cousin Jed’s.
Cousin Jed, still smarting from a bitter divorce, a caseload of woes and a bankrupted outlook on life, almost did himself in, not once but a few times– his scarred wrists and persistent limp sure reminders to what might have been an early mass before the sepulcher.
Thankfully, the one night he laid upon the track, the good Mayor happened by, and with immediate response, pulled Cousin Jed to life, not more than twenty seconds before the C&NW roared through, its haul of 50 cars prepared to consume anything in its path.
Out of this closeness to death the damage done was Cousin Jed’s fractured fibula– the result of his leg getting caught between slats of trestle. Since Cousin Jed never got the proper treatment, his broken leg never healed quite right.
Before he came into our camp he went by name of Gimpy and I thought it rather incondite of his true character, so with his blessings we bargained a new moniker. Cousin Jed would befit his clandestine love for both the Beverly Hillbillies and The Addams Family quite well, his favorite characters of course, Cousin Itt and Jed Clampett.
The Cambodian store owner, once too, down in the dungeon of dejection, pulled together a group of relatives who took a pecuniary interest in his idea of opening Sang’s Market and now he sits proudly behind the bulletproof plate glass, gesturing to his patrons a wide smile or well-intentioned nod of the head.
On occasion, with not much to do edgewise, I would shoot the shit with Sang–my attention unimpeded by his relating of the Cambodia refugee camps and his people’s will to break out alive– he being one of the successful ones to do so. He had lost both his father and an uncle to the Khmer Rouge regime.
Because of this, or in spite of another merchant’s artifice, I will do whatever shopping at Sang’s Market. Today, in honor of Dooley’s generosity, twenty-five dollars in Sang’s till and a case of the Miller Draft bottle and a 2 liter of the cheap red I brought back to the shack– just rewards to the laborers and ample accouterments to another battle won. “Ad astra per aspera!”
[Neil Young - "Old Man"]
YOU WANT THE TRUTH?
“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” I am not Jack Nicholson for God’s sake but that is exactly what I told my ex-wife’s divorce attorney as I threw down upon his desk– ample proof of my ex-wife’s indiscretions and infidelities. For whatever purpose, for whatever aberrant need, my ex-wife videotaped her mid-day dalliances with every Tom, Dick and Harry in suburbia. “Which tape would you like to see first?”
“I am not interested in that? What I am interested in is your assets. And I want the truth.”
“You want the truth? I bet you’re screwing my wife too, you fricking two-bit scam artist of a human being. My wife can sue me for divorce; frankly, I don’t give a damn anymore.
You want to know what really gets me– my own business partner was screwing her too — and I am sure he’ll be suing me next. And to top it all off, the bastard who I thought I saved her from — her ex-boyfriend who used to beat the crap out of her –she’s been taking it up with him again. Right there on the fricking Jumbo-Tron, the two of them going to town.
I’m sure the ex-boyfriend will be suing me too. Listen, I worked 14-16 hours a day to give her whatever she wanted and I guess it wasn’t enough.”
About five years ago, because of all the phoniness, the chase of the status quo, the illusions, the masquerade parties, the bullshit I simply walked away and now I am liberated, free, content. Call me crazy, call me loony, call me insane, call me what you will but I have more now than I did when I, as a the bright, young businessman was hauling in three hundred thousand dollars a year.
I’ve more now than I did when I had the fancy house, the fancy car, the fancy wife. I have my pride– something no three-piece suited divorce attorney could ever take from me.
I have my integrity— something I would never allow a money-grubbing business partner try to convince me of throwing to the wayside as a means to padding the books. Look at the Enron fiasco. And the Tyco, Worldcom debacle, all caused by greed of those phonies at the top. I care about those people caught on the lower echelons — many who lost everything and forced into bankruptcy. Look around. I did. Go ahead, call me a fucking bum, go ahead, I’ve been called worse--mutatis mutandis.