Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

EUGENE ON THE GREYHOUND

February 11, 2013

Hacienda

Excerpt, COMMON LIVES, an unpublished novel.

There was a clean Latino man in the seat beside Eugene on the Greyhound bus, who alternately dozed, or read from Antoine Saint Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars.  His clothes were clean: dark new Levis and a good blue cotton denim shirt.  He also had a clean white straw cowboy hat with a sedate blue and white band.  Tucked under his elbow, between his body and the window wall of the bus was a new black leather jacket – not the kind bikers wore, but a skirted coat a gentleman might wear to take a lady out.  He also had a small brown paper bag with food for the trip – sausage and cheese, baguette of French bread, small condiments, crackers, fruits and vegetables in sealed plastic sacks.

Eugene met him when their bus driver narrowly avoided collision with a highballing semi-trailer headed north in a hurry.  Eugene banged into his seatmate as the bus made a wild swing onto and off the shoulder of the road.

“Sorry!” Eugene yelped, more frightened than he wanted to be.

“No problem!” the man said, clinging to the seat in front of them with one strong brown hand.  Saint-Exupéry was clutched securely in the other.

“Some drivers,” Eugene said as their driver regained control.

“Guess he has to make some time.”

“Eugene Formsby,” Eugene introduced himself on impulse, holding out his hand.

“Armand Garcia,” Armand said, shaking Eugene’s hand.

“Headed for Portland?” Eugene asked.  Armand’s hand was hard as horn.

“Wilsonville,” Armand replied.  “I follow the crops.”

“You’re a migrant worker?” Eugene asked in disbelief.  Armand fit none of the stereotypes.  He was clean and neat.  He wasn’t traveling in a caravan of scruffy dirty brown men.  He wasn’t drunk.

“Somebody’s gotta do it,” Armand said reasonably.  He smiled.  He had even white teeth, obviously well-cared-for beneficiaries of good professional dental attention.  “It’s a good livin’, if you don’t blow it all on booze and women.  A lotta the guys do that: make a little money and piss it all away.  They’re stupid.  Sure, it’s a little bit of money here, but it’s a lot where I come from.  I send my money home.  I got a wife and kids in Mexico.”

“Did I see you reading Saint Exupéry?” Eugene asked, fascinated.  He was meeting an industrious Mexican migrant farm worker – a clean one with a sense of responsibility.  The world was truly a marvelous place.

“Yes,” Armand said promptly.  “Would you like to hear a passage?”

“Well…?”

And suddenly,” Armand read, “I had a vision of the face of destiny.  Old bureaucrat, my comrade, it is not you who are to blame.  No one ever helped you to escape.  You, like a termite, built your peace by locking up with cement every chink and cranny through which light might pierce.  You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conversations of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars.  You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as a man.  You are not the dweller upon an errant planet, and do not ask yourself questions to which there are no answers.  You are a petty bourgeois to Toulouse.  Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time.  Now the clay from which you were shaped has hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.’

“Good stuff, ain’t it?” Armand asked, smiling.

“It’s uncanny,” Eugene replied, nonplused.  Did someone send you here to read that to me?  He wondered, imagining all sorts of divine interventions and messages from Beyond.

“I’m tryin’ to improve my mind,” Armand said amiably.  “I don’t always wanna be pickin’ crops.  That’s stupid.  Gonna kill my back one day and then I won’t be able to do it anymore.  I’m thinkin’ of studyin’ book-keepin’.  What do you think?”

“Well, book-keeping is a reliable occupation,” Eugene said seriously, dismayed that the reader of Saint Exupéry was going to intentionally crash land in the desert.

“I was thinkin’ more along the line of tax preparation, ya’ know?”

“Uh-ha,” Eugene replied, nodding. 

“You’ve got a family?” Armand asked politely.

“No.”

“You should have a wife and children,” Armand said reasonably.  “They make your life mean something.  A lot of those guys I work with, they don’t know that.  They don’t work for the family.  They come up here and get drunk and wild and land in jail, or get run outta the country by the INS.  Stupid sonsabitches.”

“INS,” Eugene said, “that’s Immigration Naturalization Service?”

“That’s them.  They’re not too bad if you don’t get stupid.”

“You get hassled?”

“Sometimes, but I travel by bus and keep pretty much to myself.  Some of those other guys all chip in, ya’ know?  Buy an old junker car.  They get a little drunked up and ride along about a hundred miles an hour and get busted by a local cop.  Man, that’s stupid!  Local cops can be real mean.”

“I didn’t know migrant workers came all the way up to Oregon.”

“Sure, all the time.  We follow the crop right up into Canada.  We’re chasing the harvests, don’t ya’ know?”

“Well, yeah, sure, I know that.  That’s what migrants do.”  Eugene felt stupid.

Sometime around noon, the bus broke down.

“I always bite off a hard chunk,” Armand said as they stood by the side of the road.  The bus was disabled, its rear hatch open, smoky steam clouding up into the cool Oregon air in thin wet tendrils.  Passengers stood straggled along the roadway, or seated on their luggage, which had been removed in preparation for a relief bus, which was expected “momentarily” for the past two hours and twenty-three minutes.  Passing motorists speeding by on their way north glanced curiously at the stranded bus riders.  No highway patrolman appeared.  The driver smoked cigarettes, paced and scowled, stopping periodically to deal with impatient frustrated passengers.

“A hard chunk?” Eugene asked disinterestedly, holding Armand’s dog-eared Saint-Exupéry, which he’d asked to see.  He longed for the relief bus.  He leaned into its vision, hoping that it would soon put an end to his seemingly endless return to Portland.  Perhaps the fates were trying to tell him something – like, maybe, you’re a loser, go no farther.

“If it’s hard to chew,” Armand continued, “I try to spit it out.  If it don’t spit out, I have to tough my way through.  Life is like that; you don’t get to spit the damn thing out, until you croak.”

Reassuring, Eugene thought.

“I been thinkin’ lately on how man is an animal,” Armand said seriously.  “Unlike the other animals, he’s the only one who gets to remember much of anythin’ – includin’ hates and discontents – and the only one who knows he’s gonna die.  Pretty depressin’.  It’s also the human condition which everybody reads about – which some people think died out with those Frenchmen, sittin’ in Paris cafes, stickin’ knives in their hands to make a point durin’ the Nazi occupation; or walkin’ the beaches in self-exile in plague-ridden Morocco.  Camus had it bad.  Malraux and Sartre, all those thoughtful Frenchmen.  All life’s absurd.  It’s the human condition.  Man’s fate.  It all comes home.”

Eugene stared at Armand.

“Hey, who are those guys?” Armand asked with sudden concern.

Eugene looked around.  There were about a dozen, furtive men trying to slip into the small crowd of stranded bus riders.  The men fit Eugene’s stereotype: dirty, rough-looking Latino laborers, wearing faded jeans, straw hats, black mustaches, flannel shirts and heavy, thick-soled shoes.

“Shit,” Armand said furiously.  “Fuckin’ wetbacks ruin it for everybody!  Stupid motherfuckers!”

“What are they doing here?” Eugene asked nervously.

“I don’t know,” Armand replied angrily.  “Catchin’ the bus, I guess!  The stupid mother fuckers are gettin’ tickets from the mother fuckin’ driver!”

Sure enough, Eugene saw the newcomers line up, clutching their money in grimed hands, pressing it on the surly Greyhound bus representative in his surly-gray bus driver’s suit.  As he watched, a trio of official white sedans pulled off onto the shoulder of the road behind the bus.  A second trio of sedans and a large white van pulled up in front.

The next few moments were bedlam.

The laborers began running in all directions.  To Eugene’s horror, Armand went with them.  Men in dark blue bulletproof vests and matching ball caps ran past Eugene in hot pursuit.  The pursuers wore badges and the large letters INS were stenciled across their backs.  They were armed with batons and carried side arms at their belts.  Within minutes, the laborers returned, singly and in pairs, their hands handcuffed behind them, escorted by officers into the back of the white van.  Eugene saw Armand among the last herded up to captivity.  Armand did not see him.  The van was sealed, the officers returned to their vehicles, got in and drove away, leaving a gaping busload of passengers still stranded at the side of the road.

The surly Greyhound bus driver looked furtively at all the ticket money he’d just collected and pocketed it.  He glanced nervously at the passengers and smiled at a nearby older woman, who looked at him disapprovingly, thinking his unctuous smile the most terrible anomaly thus far in a terrible trip.

My God! Eugene thought. Armand is a wetback!  A goddamned literate wetback! How do I meet these guys?  Why do I meet these guys? What the hell?

The relief bus arrived almost immediately thereafter and Eugene climbed aboard gratefully, still carrying Armand’s copy of Saint-Exupéry.  He sat down with the book in his lap.  Armand would stay on his mind for a long time, maybe for life; he had only touched the surface.   He wished him well, commending him to his Catholic or Indian gods, or Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps.  Impossibly, he hoped he would meet him again.  He looked down at Saint-Exupéry and opened it to the part Armand had marked.  He read:

“No one ever helped you to escape.  You, like a termite, built your peace by locking up with cement every chink and cranny through which light might pierce.  You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conversations of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars.  You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as a man.” 

Eugene turned to the first page and began to read.

UNITED FARM WORKERS :

To provide farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society’s bounty

http://www.ufw.org/

Friend of the Poor

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SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

August 9, 2012
Ant Farm

EXCERPT from Common Lives, a novel

This piece won 98th place in the 80th Writer’s Digest Annual Awards literature and mainstream fiction category – in competition with 11,800 others. 98th! I’m 98th! LOL.

“In the Beginning”

Lost in the formless void of space, an electron came spinning out of nowhere to collide foolishly, randomly and willy-nilly with some microscopic other thing and a large explosion resulted. When the debris settled and the dust cleared, when the incredible multitude of subsequently tossed, collided and bumped other things slowed their rate of reaction, space became again a relatively calm place – although, it was now decidedly more cluttered, larger things having been mashed together from the smaller ones. As one can well imagine, that lone electron must have been in an incredible hurry, and the resulting accident at Lexington and Forty-First was a big one, with traffic backed up in all directions, clear to the edges of the city. It was later inferred by a philosopher-scientist in an ermine robe while speculating before his medieval books of alchemy that the electron may have been drinking.

For Eugene R. Formsby, the amazing thing about the Universe was its consistency; it had a beginning, middle and an end. Some scientist in Cleveland, staring through a telescope in order to bring the macroscopic down to earthly size, suggested that the whole thing was a sort of gigantic bubble of slowly expanding gas, which would eventually collapse, as bubbles always do. Eugene had once seen a bubble-blowing magician on television impregnate a soap shell with cigarette smoke. Eugene thought the end of the Universe would be as fleetingly unspectacular as watching the magician pierce the soap shell to allow the cigarette smoke to escape in a dirty, gray-white rush, to dissipate in the broader air. The soap shell itself collapsed with a wet spurt; all very satisfying as a television show, but lame as a proper end to the Universe.

Eugene felt a little disappointed with the magician. There were just so many things one could do with soap shells: spin them, encase one inside of another – rings of air, worlds of air, nested like wooden, brightly-painted Russian dolls – tie them together like balloon puppets, or whatever, the bubbles always vanished with the same, wet spurt.

Which made Eugene think about beginnings. He, Eugene, was the product of a minute, wet spurt, which – reacting, colliding – forced masses of other inert (or nearly so) materials to react and collide with…an endless series of seemingly chaotic, entirely trivial and absolutely fascinating mini-events, resulting in one Eugene R. (for “Robert”) Formsby. Life, Eugene decided, was funny that way: there was no accounting for it. Multiplied by all of the other minute, wet spurts, amid the howling, moaning, grunting and groaning cacophony of all the copulating creatures since the dawn of auditory, vocalizing creaturedom, Eugene felt quite insignificant and more than occasionally like a supernumerary.

Still, Eugene tried to please everybody, tried to appear like a superstar (which he was not), cleaned his supper plate assiduously – hearing the voice of his long-dead Mother chanting, “Starving children and half-mad dogs. The world’s a savage place, Eugene. Watch your step and don’t lose your way. Be careful crossing streets, Eugene, and always eat your peas.”  Eugene always ate his peas. He ate them first, to get that little chore out of the way.

“Eugene,” his mother would say. “Eu-gene,” she would whine. Eugene was a name made for being whined; a name one could get one’s nose tightly involved with. It was possible to draw the “Ewe” up and the “geene” out, so that the name was at one and the same time, an attention-grabber and an accusation, laden with extreme, resigned disappointment. The way his mother often said it sounded like, “You jean” – as if a jean was a poor thing to be, fit only for covering up assholes and crotches when skinning down trees and mud banks, and ending up dirty (which Eugene often was, being a relatively normal child.

Non-human creation fascinated Eugene early on, being less harmful and generally more peaceful than the World of Men. He identified with Kipling’s hero Mowgli in the Jungle Book, delighted in the savage tales of Tarzan, who defeated evil by breaking its back, or by stabbing it in the chest with his “mighty tooth” – which was really a knife, only being raised by apes, Tarzan didn’t know any better. Years later, Eugene equated the knife with something Sigmund Freud speculated about – but, as a boy, Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Conqueror (“eventually over-muscled by Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he said), and Tarzan of the Apes (“bloatedly defiled by a decaying Johnny Weismuller,” he lamented, “and prematurely denatured by Bo Derek and her cynical, self-styled Svengali of a husband”) stood for all that was wholesome, romantic and achievable. The orphan of the apes grew up to move freely, though begrudgingly, in society’s upper circles; Conan became King of Aquilonia; and Johnny Weismuller apologized for the racial stereotypes populating his naive, little films.

From such stuff, and its subsequent manipulation against real life, Eugene gradually formed the notion that under every rock, there was apt to be a disgustingly formed grub.

Nonetheless, Eugene loved nature and spent hours happily hiking woods, warmed by nature shows aired by public television, or sitting on a rock observing ants busily dismembering butterfly carcasses. He found fascination in small things, from which he extrapolated theories about the governance and overall uniformity of large things. Things became ever more complex as their size increased. Just as corporate machinery had to expand the secretary-typist’s pool to encompass and accommodate modern computerized word processing, so too, extra parts were required to adapt the feeding apparatus of an amoeba into the mouth of a moose. Yet, regardless of scale, the end purpose remained the same: one to reproduce words in frozen lines of print; the other, to feed the living organism, so that it might go on to multiply and/or divide, before ultimately subtracting itself altogether from the Universe as this specific amoeba, or that unique moose.

Uniqueness was a particularly troubling theme to Eugene, for he felt that each entity was unique, never-before-assembled, yet so integrally related to the Whole that, it was difficult to tell where something ceased to be a part of something else, and where it became, separately, all there was to one sort of thing alone. Within his own body, he knew that there were entire colonies of contributing members, which scurried about tending and maintaining him, so that he, the amalgamated Eugene, could continue to function and so maintain them – a fact which made Eugene sometimes wonder if he was really self-motivating when left to his own devices, or simply the end product of a committee decision, which predicated that Entity Twenty-one-billion-and-eight should be entitled Eugene R. Formsby, Consolidated Research Unit, Model X-4-D, and should now, by unanimous consent of the governing board members, sit down and eat.

“What do you think about life so far?” Father Randolph “Teeth and Tongue” Nornocker once asked Eugene as the two sat in the pastor’s study. Eugene was at that time a somewhat precocious eleven and expected by his elders to be able to philosophize to a limited extent. Father Nornocker was, appropriately enough, a big, knock-kneed man with a virtual awning of overbite, a high starched collar and dirty fingernails. Even as a child, Nornocker’s nails gave Eugene pause. As far as Eugene knew, Nornocker did no real work – a gardener tended the parish grounds; a handyman did the repairs; a housekeeper cleaned and cooked – but the pastor consistently had dirty nails. Eugene attributed it to lint in the padre’s pockets.

“About life?” Eugene asked blankly.

“Yes,” Nornocker said, nodding, threatening to bite himself in the neck to Eugene’s fascinated gaze. “Life,” said Nornocker, “the Universe, God.”

“I like God,” Eugene said innocently.

“Very good.” Nornocker smiled, audience ended.

Eugene’s conversations (if they could be called that) with Nornocker always ended anti-climactically. Nornocker gave no direct advice for daily living, except from the pulpit (“Repent or you are damned!”), or in formal counseling sessions held particularly for about-to-be-marrieds (“Are you on birth control, dear? Ah, yes, I see. You do know that’s a mortal sin?  See me for confession, dear.  We can handle it.  Don’t worry.  God is understanding. Do you, Jim, know the real meaning of the words, ‘husband’ and ‘father?’  Ah, good. Rehearsal’s at eight – sharp.  I don’t like latecomers, so don’t be tardy, we lock the doors!“). Eugene thought being locked out of one’s own wedding might possibly be a blessing in disguise.

Marriage appeared to him to be a particularly militant institution, populated by unwilling combatants who had taken an oath of service while under emotional duress – amounting to temporary insanity as fired by engorged genitalia. While Eugene’s own parents rarely fought, rarely spoke, rarely looked at one another, they were nonetheless at war. During momentary fits of lust, however, they apparently copulated – well after dark, when the children were sleeping, the doors were all locked, and neither partner had to directly see the other’s naked, flaccid body. Eugene had a rather bizarre childhood view of sex as a result, believing that the female navel somehow accepted the male organ; hence, he believed, his mother’s dismay over baby sister’s extruded umbilical orifice, referred to as an “outy,” and known to be cause for a tragic lifetime with no release from one-piece bathing suits. Boys might have an outy without undue comment, since no one was ever going to stick anything into it – unless, of course, they were trapped in, or naturally inclined toward the restrooms in Greyhound bus stations.

This set of views, as well as others, gradually led Eugene to believe that certain kinds of information were “wrong,” “prejudiced,” or “totally unreliable.” Unfortunately, he couldn’t easily tell which was which, and so left the whole affair to chance, operating on the best of what was currently available, while guarding his rear against yapping dogs and angry, leathershod feet.

Eugene was again the small boy who stood on the steps of the great cathedral, awed by its spires and turrets, its filigrees and gargoyles, its stained glass windows and golden crosses. Inside was the dark perfumed lair of the Lord God, with its high altar overhung by the bloody plaster body of Jesus Christ, His only begotten son. The outer aisles containing the sea of pews were marked by the boxed dioramas of the Stations of the Cross, which led to the place where the Son died. Old ladies in pillbox hats with veils sat on age-oiled mahogany seats beside straight old men with stiff collars and rose-oiled hair. The air was rich with incense, cologne and perfume. Altar boys ringing bells and flame-tipped candles filled the imagination with flickering images of high holiness, augmented by the mysterious repeated chanting, the rigorous standing, kneeling and sitting – all of which confused his small, earthbound brain and threatened rather than uplifted him. He knew nothing of the acts being performed, wished fervently to leave that enchanted, terrifying palace of extraterrestrial power for some richly-grassed sunlit park, where birds sang sweetly and he could hear the speakers from the ball grounds, buy a hot-dog and a cold drink, watch a butterfly investigate the flowers and close his eyes and dream with the sun’s warmth full on his face.

Eugene often dreamed. In dreaming there was escape and in escape there was peace. For a time, he did not have to do what all of those others wanted – the “big people” who ordered him this way and that, preparing him for “responsibility” and “correctness” and a “grand sense of the indomitable self” unsupported by the frailness of his small body or the muddle of his pliable mind. The world was so confusing, so mixed up with “thisses” and “thats,” propounded by robed men, collared men, high-hatted women, women in scarves, ermines, overalls and nothing at all. There had been a time when nylons had confused him and girls’ underpants had almost consumed him. He could not possibly enter a church when the solitude of confession alone nearly reduced him to paralytic fear and terrible, self-accusatory embarrassment.

But the small boy’s mother stretched out her hand and drew the child up the steps of the cathedral, toward the towering open doors and through the yawning mouth of the massive portal, into the secret, dark sanctuary of the blooded God within.

The Beatniks were fading out, bearing Kerouac’s limp body with them, and the Hippies were coming in, bearing narcotics and flowers, when he first attained political consciousness. One group was too old for him to be a peer; the other was too young to see him as anything except suspicious. He was fascinated and excited by both, but became a member of neither, remaining that impossibility: a non-conforming non-conformist. Left to his own devices, he became one of the first generation of television addicts. He grew up living the lip service on so many lips. As a goal, as a model, the myth reeked of individual power, but the first Superman he ever knew, George Reeves, blew his brains out. How could Superman put a bullet in his head? He wondered. Wouldn’t it just bounce off? The myth, in practiced fact, was a conditioner: a view of the world in carefully molded packaging. Careful, my son, don’t remove the plastic wrap if you don’t want the contents to lose value. Use caution, my son, when stealing peeks into Pandora’s box.

Later, he read the Book of Daniel and the Unquiet Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, refreshed himself on the case of Saco and Vanzetti, the lunacies of Attorney General Palmer’s Great Red Scare, Joe McCarthy’s witch hunts, and narrowed the glass to Ronald Reagan, the CIA, both Bushes, an Ashcroft, a Gonzales, and the “Moral” Majority. Rambo bulged out of the silver screen in living blood and the whole, mad, delirious killing frenzy danced on, with kids carrying submachine squirt guns and rubber knives the size of Route 66. The myth versus the reality: it echoed. Properly connected, with the correct measure of rising and falling sounds, clicks and “syllabalings,” words conjured up any sort of world. Once believed, the words structured reality and even reinforced the impulse to self-destruction.

Sadness to relate, Lamentation Number 4-billion-and-something: the scientific humanists have turned us into mechanical appliances. The corporate boardroom bastards have turned us into assembly line spare parts. And, the religionists have turned us into dependent, frightened moral bankrupts.

Why did I have to awaken? He wondered. Why couldn’t I have remained as mindlessly narcotized as my peers, skipping to the top, mesmerized by depilated crotch in designer bathing suits. The clever little ripper on his way to a semi-lifetime in the pen, darts in and out of the Square John crowd, putting time and distance between himself and the scene of his most recent petty crime. Xerox sells obsolete product two weeks before new product release, saying nothing to the client. The fossil-fuel barons, the Koch brothers, are poisoning the planet and opposed to all life-affirming change. Are they all the Devil’s helpers?

Q: What’s the fastest animal in the world?

A: A chicken crossing Darfur.

NEW BOOK: 

The COPPER-HANDLES AFFAIR: The Great San Francisco Earthquake, Fire and Bank Heist by John Patrick Legry (Oct 20, 2010)

NEW NOVEL at Amazon.com, etc.

THE COPPER-HANDLES AFFAIR: The Great San Francisco Earthquake, Fire and Bank Heist, begins with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and a simple opportunistic bank robbery, plunging John Law Copper, accidental thief, and Frederick W. Handles, the pursuing policeman, into the greater game of big money power politics and civic corruption on the Ragtime U. S. Pacific Coast. The chase takes them through the vanished garden world of northern California to the dangerous shanghai town of Portland, Oregon. 50 b&w line drawings and two maps.

From reviews:

“FARGO meets LES MISERABLES meets LONESOME DOVE”

“John Legry’s novel “The Copper-Handles Affair” will especially delight lovers of history as well as those who enjoy a good cops-and-robbers story. Set at the time of the San Francisco earthquake, the reader follows two men: a thief, John Law Copper who stumbles across $400,000 in bank money during the aftermath of the quake; and Frederick W. Handles, a detective bent upon bringing Copper to justice.
The chase between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon exposes both characters to a variety of angels and villains and so the story’s pace never slackens. One twist follows another until the conclusion which surprises with a laugh.
The settings are authentic, the characters believeable and the writer’s drawings are beautiful renderings of the period. I can think of no more pleasant way to experience a bit of history while having a good read.”

“A great fast paced read. …hard to put down.  …characters are fully developed and believable. …the literary style of switching back and forth from Copper’s escape to Handles pursuit kept the adventure moving… Many of the “switches” ended in a cliffhanger that compelled the reader…on. Besides being a good read, this book takes you on a geographical and historical tour of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.”

Click on images below to sample the flavor of the story:

Thugs in the Parlor
Quarantine

The COPPER-HANDLES AFFAIR: The Great San Francisco Earthquake, Fire and Bank Heist by John Patrick Legry

EVOLUTION SIGNS; YES, WAY

March 30, 2012
[DON’T FORGET TO CLICK PIX FOR MORE ]
OH, SPONGEBOB!

Jellyfish are eating all [sic] the other marine life, destroying human fishing resources, and creating dead spots around the world, which are growing in alarming number and speed. Irish experience doesn’t bode well for American Pacific Coast salmon. As this author says, Damn.
OH, SPONGEBOB!

DE-VOLUTION:

Some examples of why the human race has probably evolved as far as possible.  These are actual instruction labels on consumer goods:

On Sears hairdryer:  Do not use while sleeping.

On a bag of Fritos:  You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.

On a bar of Dial soap:  Directions: Use like regular soap.

On some Swanson frozen dinners:  Serving suggestion: Defrost.

On a hotel provided shower cap in a box:  Fits one head.

On Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom of the box):  Do not turn upside down.

On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding:  Product will be hot after heating.

On packaging for a Rowenta iron:  Do not iron clothes on body.

On Boot’s Children’s cough medicine:  Do not drive car or operate machinery.  (We could reduce construction accidents if we kept 5 year olds off fork lifts.)

On Nytol sleep aid:  Warning: May cause drowsiness.

On a Korean kitchen knife:  Warning: Keep out of children.

On a string of Chinese-made Christmas lights:  For indoor or outdoor use only.

On a Japanese food processor:  Not to be used for the other use.

On Sainsbury’s peanuts:  Warning: Contains nuts.

On an American Airlines packet of nuts:  Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts.

On a Swedish chainsaw:  Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.

On a child’s Superman costume:  Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.

STRAINED EVOLUTION:

Some questions I should have asked about King Kong.

1.      Why did the natives build a door so big that Kong could walk right through it?

2.      Why did the natives bother with the wall at all since Kong lived high on a cliff in a cave, and spent his last few moments scaling the Empire State Building?  He could hop that wall in a beat.

3.      Fay Ray was obviously not the first maiden tied to the posts.  The post assembly was a regular fixture – little stone step-up, solid uprights (didn’t tip over when Kong pulled her off the ropes; didn’t pull her arms out of the sockets, either; how did that go down?) – and the natives were goofing up one of their own maidens before they spotted Fay.  Ergo, what did Kong do with all the previous sacrifices?  This was a Giant Gorilla Feeding Station from Eddie Bauer? Did he eat them and not eat Fay because she was a  blonde?  Pheromones?  Not fun.

4.      That wall wouldn’t keep pterodactyls out either.  Those dudes would swoop down and snatch a native snack every so often, don’t you think?

5.     What the heck happened to all of the other giant gorillas? Where did they go? Where were Kong’s mom and dad? In Son of Kong, we of course discover that Kong had a son, but we never see Mrs. Kong. Mrs. Kong is never even mentioned. The gang goes, “Hey, there’s a baby Kong!” And they are off like the Scooby Gang, chasing Mr. Jensen the asocial gardener from the old condemned Henshaw Mansion.

6.      At the end, Robert Armstrong stares at Kong’s gigantic corpse and says, “’Twas Beauty killed the beast.”  Why didn’t someone point out that he was the s.o.b. who captured Kong and brought him back to ravage New York City?  Oh sure, in the sequel, Armstrong got sued for all the damages and cleanup, but he never did any jail time for bringing to town a huge rampaging ape that killed a lot of people .  Go figure.  He must have been working for Goldman Sachs.

7.    Why did they remake it with JACK BLACK? Why?

So, that’s what I should have asked about King Kong.

Eve of Extinction

EVER SINCE TIME BEGAN:

Whenever your kids are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God‘s omnipotence did not extend to God’s kids. After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve.

And the first thing he said was: “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” Adam replied.

“Don’t eat the forbidden fruit,” God said.

“Forbidden fruit? We got forbidden fruit? Hey, Eve…we got forbidden fruit!”

“No way!”

“Yes way!”

“Don’t eat that fruit!” said God.

“Why?”

“Because I am your Father and I said so!” said God (wondering why he hadn’t stopped after making the elephants).  A few minutes later God saw his kids having an apple break and was angry.

“Didn’t I tell you not to eat that fruit?” God asked.

“Uh huh,” Adam and Eve replied.

“Then why did you do it?”

“I dunno” Eve answered.

“She started it!” Adam said.

“Did not!”

“Did too!”

“DID NOT!”

Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own.  Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed.  If God had trouble handling children, what makes you think it would be a piece of cake for you?

Advice for the day:

If you have a lot of tension and you get a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle: Take two and keep away from children.

INDIVIDUAL SELF-ESTEEM:

“If I knock him out, his’ory wi’ be made!” — Evander Holyfield, boxer, television interview.

“I’m a people person.  I love people!” — Ibid, same interview, one minute later.

FOUR HORSEMEN and ME

January 31, 2012

Puzzle Pieces.

Excerpt: COMMON LIVES, novel in progress. ©John Legry

WALDO’S  REVELATION:

 “I cannot say for certain what began my transformation,” Waldo wrote to his best old friend Monroe.  “I only know that it occurred sometime in mid-June, probably on a Wednesday, or possibly, a Tuesday, but it was June.  In the process, I suddenly saw everything in a new perspective, just as if awakening from a very deep sleep.  I saw reality with fresh eyes.  Rip Van Winkle is real, you see?  And, what did I discover? Just this:

“I was born in America, in the City of San Francisco just before mid-century.  In that storied city, I was imbued with both the Spirit of Liberty and the Phoenix – that magic bird which resurrects itself again and again from the ashes of its own destruction.  I grew up believing in Superman, Manifest Destiny, Truth, Justice and the American Way.  I was the refugee child of refugee parents, themselves the children of refugees.  We looked for a better way on alien shores as aliens among aliens.  We took our place in the legion of strangers pushing and jostling for the top – hoping to look back on poverty and want, and to feel smugly removed from the incessant rhythmic fear, which had started all that long march. (more…)

A TERRIFIC RIDE!

January 28, 2012

5 OUT OF 5 STARS: A Terrific Ride! By Bruce Haines, January 27, 2012


Ruined City Hall

This review is from: The COPPER-HANDLES AFFAIR: The Great San Francisco Earthquake, Fire and Bank Heist by John Patrick Legry (Paperback) Amazon.com.

John Legry starts his book with nothing less than the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and uses it as a springboard for a robbery and chase that leads us North through California, into Oregon, Washington, and beyond. Along the way the thief, John Law Copper, is followed by the clever and resourceful Frederick Handles, Policeman, who tears himself away from his home and city in crisis and a loving wife, to travel through the wilds of the West Coast, in pursuit of a considerable amount of cash taken from a bank partially destroyed and laid open by the earthquake and then coincidentally found by the wily Mr. Copper.

Beyond the chase and Mr. Copper’s narrow escapes, we are treated to an astonishingly well-researched description of real West Coast towns found along the route as Mr. Copper flees his pursuer through places we know from the dust of memory and old photographs. The writer puts us in these myriad locales, vivid and detailed in the reader’s eye to the degree we feel we’re not only being treated to a first-rate bank robbery/chase story, we are also privy to a sociological and anthropological narrative that brings the early part of the century stunningly to life. (more…)

SNEAKY PEOPLE

May 11, 2011
The Poet Dines Alone
The Poet Dines Alone

Excerpt: SNEAKY PEOPLE, unpublished novella.

Okay, this is a story about me.  It’s my diary, so I can write about anything I want – even things I wouldn’t tell other people (especially other men).  I’m a sneaky person.  I come from a long line of sneaky people – really sneaky people.  We’re part of the anonymous swarm that comes out like rats – day or night – picking off top or bottom of the midden heap (depending upon status in the pack) – seeking sustenance while awaiting the ever-approaching End of the World.

Which is pretty much occurring every day.  The End of the World is both cumulative and individual specific.  On the upper end of the End of the World Scale is Climate Change, which promises wholesale extinction (and, some bitch winters and summers between now and then); and, on the other is the latest starving Somali, homeless person, or helpless geriatric.  Somebody’s pretty much meeting the End of the World every single second.

I was born in San Francisco a bit before the mid-point of the Twentieth Century.  My parents were apprehensive about the spreading World War of that time and, I believe, my arrival was an oasis of joy for them – odd as that seems to me now.  My birth was an opportunity for them to hold the rest of the insane world temporarily at bay, basking in the momentary glow of life’s continuity.  Like all young people, they huddled secretly under the covers with their arms around each other, whispering about futures and possibilities – hopes.

My presence – miniscule and infantile – was accepted as God’s reassurance that all of us – each one: Dad, Mom, and Jr. – would come out all right.  In the end, the enemy would be defeated and the world brought majestically into the bright, painless peace of Forever After and the New Deal (which sounds like a rock group and if someone cops the name, I’ll sue).

However, my parents honestly felt that they were finishing the “undone business of World War I” – there were still German vermin to exterminate and, unexpectedly, the sudden need to fumigate Italy and delouse Japan.

Shortly after I was born, father was sent to the war by our beleaguered government and mother moved in with his mother – grandma – and three maiden aunts who were all destined to have affairs with transient servicemen who “might be killed in a matter of weeks,” and were.  None of my aunts’ fellahs made it back.  One aunt went bonkers, one married a dull-witted postman, and the third wed a fat automobile dealer and got a divorce from the rest of us.

Anyway, we waited at grandma’s for dad to come home.

He arrived late at night three years later.  He was flown into San Francisco International and taxied seventeen miles to his mother’s Oceanside home – to his wife and growing son.  I looked up at him as he stood over my bed.

“Did you fly home?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said with a pleased laugh.  “Do you remember me?”

“I have your picture,” I replied, pointing to his image on my dresser.

He looked at himself in the photograph for a long time, silent and withdrawn.  The day the photo had been taken, he had been a young soldier, vibrant, self-assured, and alive.  His face now was subtly different from the one in the photograph mounted between fifty-caliber machinegun rounds.  In the picture he was young and proud with new sergeant’s stripes on his Eighth Army Air Force uniform.  Standing there looking at himself, he was weary and grim.  A trace of the young man remained – a hint of optimism, which fired his eyes.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said at last, hardly believing that this would and could be so, that the bombs were left far behind, and gratefully forgetful that half the world’s population was still awakening in a world of ruins – picking hungrily through the rubble, hunting rats for nourishment.

I learned that he’d been in photo reconnaissance.  I liked the sound.  The French word “reconnaissance” had a lean mean underground battlefield resonance.  I was a romantic kid.  (That drove Dad nuts – among other things).  I learned, too, one evening when he was drinking, something he did more and more, that he had helped empty a rocket-hit orphanage one night in downtown London, carrying out its dead and dying children and their bloody parts.

He saw and lived with death as a routine for three years.  His photograph war souvenir album had pictures of massive bombers dumping lethal rain on Dresden, Berlin, German gun emplacements in Normandy, French coastal towns, war ships and hospitals, trains, cars, horses, wagons, canals and villages.  Now, home, he attacked normal civilian life as if it was the new enemy.  He had lost time to make up, things to do, family to feed and a top to possibly find.

In his free time, he watched boxing on the new-fangled television, tense with pleasure waiting for the knockouts, heavy K. O. punches, and T. K. O. s swimming in blood.  He watched the gymnastic exhibitions of professional wrestling until he realized that the mayhem wasn’t real.  He watched John Wayne repeatedly and successfully storm Iwo Jima.  He saw Errol Flynn shoot his way single-handedly through the entire Japanese Army in Burma.  He observed as Jeff Chandler really died of pleurisy while filming a mediocre account of Merrill’s Marauders on location in Imperial Indochina.  Pa’s latent violence had to translate into real life.

He punched Ma.  He punched me.  He drank himself finally and completely to death.  In his scarred wake, he left two sons, one daughter, and his frightened, yet indefatigable wife.  He also left behind the lingering echoes of Henry David Thoreau, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Father was a desperate man.

I’ve thought since that he was born in belief, raised in faith, condemned to hell, pardoned to purgatory, and eventually dispatched to…wherever he went.

Mother always said, “The War changed him.”  This is certainly so – I’ve seen other young men come back from Korea and Viet Nam.  They all have Dad’s eyes.  The men who fought at Salamis probably looked that way too.  Bloody fields and death process slowly.

Because of all this, justifications of violence appall me.  Its price is too high.  Brought home in the eyes of our young men, violence compounds as it seeks its vent.  Within the peacetime marketplace it ripples out on a high, spreading across the schoolyards, streaming into ghetto back alleys, finding its way into the boardroom.  Man against man, clan against clan.  So it goes, as Vonnegut says, and I?  I go on, watching to left and right, mindful of the dangers on the street, wary in my sleep – as restless as I was at the mouth of my cave one million years ago.

The history of mankind is a dry narration of famous battles, famous generals and famous kings, interspersed with profiles of failed political, social, economic and religious systems, which all rose and fell on the profit line.  The chronicle of anything else is incidental, a coffee table book.  Art, music, literature, dance, theater, magic are a sideshow to the main show.  Those things are the province of dreamers, romantics and fools.  For, if anyone is able to live a placid life, outside the maniacal slashing and hacking of whole peoples intent on the obliteration of other whole peoples, then one is, indeed, fortunate.

Life is a series of accidents.  Chance, not choice, governs (although, why we are in one spot at a particular time and not in another may be divinely inspired).  However, I doubt there is a Master Plan.  Master plans and master crimes require cumbersome plotting.  One can, or should be able to see their patterns, but impulse fires most of us.  We deal with consequences afterward, which is when they should properly be dealt with, I guess.

I’d like to do something to help my fellow human beings, but I don’t know what.  Everybody’s fighting and clawing, biting and scratching.  I’m hiding.  Scared to death.  Who wants to attract attention?  The threat to life may be worldwide conflagration, or in the mouth of some filthy city alley, with a knife wielding, coked-up assailant standing over one’s punctured corpse.  “Neither a peacekeeper, nor a lender be.” It’s too painful, too expensive, and too dangerous.  Experience is a great teacher; if we survive the lesson, but we’re still not gonna get out of this alive.

I wish I could stop the clock.  Turn back time until I’m just short of the primordial ooze – watch by degrees the slow progression of life.  See just how long it takes to make a human being out of all that gloop.  Think about just how quickly that complex organism can cancel itself out with a single bullet.

The universe is infinite.  I don’t really understand what that means, and it’s expanding, but into what?  It’s cosmic and vast and when you think about it, without the artificial augmentation of religious zealotry, perhaps meaningless.  Even so, this ship was pilotless before we knew that it had no pilot and continues so and nothing changes that.  Either way, I don’t expect the Creator to wash my dirty laundry or lift my heavy load.  It’s clear I gotta hoe my own corn.

I am alive, well, and living past the immoral end of the Twentieth Century and on the ignorant cusp of the early Twenty-first – unhappily still under threat of the nuclear-bomb, dismayed by Russians and Chinese, the System and the decay of the World, as ever.  “Is it just for the moment we live?”  You betcha.  What’s it all about, Alfie?  The End of the World is only a heartbeat away.  Whether one is one of a half million blown away at Hiroshima, drowning alone in the pool of a cliffside villa in Monterey, or choking in the arms of a lover on a sunny Egyptian Sunday.

Well, Diary, that’s my Summer Vacation.  I’m going home now.  Wonder what I’ll find?  It’s still the End of the World and Sissy Wagner doesn’t love me anymore.  Who’s going to do my laundry?

— JL:PDX, 8-09

Little Brown Bat with White-nose disease.

IMPORTANT LINK: Bats are present throughout most of the world and perform vital ecological roles such as pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds.

Bats are on a clear trajectory toward oblivion.  The Center for Biological Diversity has warned that the bat crisis is dire while calling for more funding to try to determine what, exactly, is killing America’s bats — and how the disease can be stopped.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/bat_crisis_the_white-nose_syndrome/index.html

Little Brown Bat with White-nose disease.