Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Homespun Boy

I'm a Brooklyn boy, city born and city breed and although I've trotted the world since my early days, I guess I will always have that racheting slippage called tenement tenacity. I landed my first job, with my first employer (office boy in a bottle cap factory), and I was a real traveller. Every day I trotted to New Yawk City with the bank statements. I rode the rails, errand after errand, like Kerouac. At night, I went to Brooklyn College. I was singing less, eating more and drifting into that no-man's-land called finding oneself. Ah, but you thought I had found myself. A Great Singer. Well, of course—but that took work and I was the laziest son-of-a-bitch to my acquaintance.Laziness is fattening and I plumped up some (more than some—a lot). I also wrote less and less, except in my mind. I did start scrawling poetry and jotted out scenarios for stories, mostly ones that exuded homespun; tales of subway cars and bowery bums and ministers coralling their urban flocks and Coney Island (loved Coney Island). There was more than a modicum of O. Henry flowing now. But it was lazy writing. And the poetry was lame. And still I ate and ate, and then quit my job. I stopped going to choir practice and when employed again (as a clerk at the company I still work for after 42 years), I was late often, dressed like a slob and called in sick a lot.

As for school—I attended, listened and dozed and munched potato chips. I took less than the required number of credits. My God, thinking back on it, this would have made a good novel, about a slovenly adolescent, who aimlessly crumbles into a life of irresponsibility and sloth. There had to be a comeuppance.It will come as no surprise that the only thing of worth that I penned during this time was a short story called Catherine. It was about an old bag lady in Sheepshead Bay, who had a wealthy son, who abandonned her. In the end, as she dies, the son comes to her tenement to be reconciled. It was the stuff of O. Henry in spades, BUT the characterization of the old woman as she dragged herself across the wharves and picked rags from the refuse was touching and well wrought. I was learning to feel in my writing. It's a shame I couldn't muster enough interest to actually finish anything else. Catherine later became a poem, and was published in an anthology. It stands as the bastion piece of my second Poetry collection Catherine and other Poems.

Well, fortunately for me, my laziness met its match. Because I hadn't taken enough credits, I lost my student deferment from the draft in 1966 (that happened in October). On November 11, 1966, my fat ass was inducted into the United States Army and I was set for the greater lessons in life. To wit . . .

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