Yesterday, I hopped the Long Island Railroad out to Port Washington to install some ceiling fans for my buddy, Rick. He’s beginning the process of “nicening” he and his wife’s, Nancy’s, place to sell. Phase One included taking down the bulky, brass, 1970’s style fans and replacing them with white, antiseptic fans that would factor little in generating any possibility of negativity toward the condo, deep in the lizard part of a potential buyer’s brain. After we put one of the fans up, the subterfuge appeared to be in effect, the fan blended into the white ceiling paint. One would know the fan was there, but it wouldn’t make a buyer reminisce about their shag carpet and wood panneled childhood, which could possibly turn the apartment hunter away, maybe even cry over their parent’s divorce, those creepy hooded figures of the Iranian hostage crisis Walter Cronkite showed to them on TV, or remind them of that final, towering episode of M-A-S-H. M-A-S-H ended in the early eighties, so they may have been too old to cry over that, but it could get in the way of pen-to-dotted line. Blanco keeps the mine blank, and the wallet willing.
Rick and I grew up together, in a little tiny town way down in South Texas called Orange Grove, Pop. 1,212. Both of us knew the other 1,210 people, too. We pretty much had the same friends, for Rick is a year older than me. We played on the same football, basketball, baseball teams, ran track together. Everybody did everything together in Orange Grove, because the only other option was to go it alone, at which point the domestic disturbances, layoffs, DWIs of the Grown Up Class surround you, and a general isolation from the rest of the universe sets in. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change my childhood for the world. I know Rick wouldn’t either. How many of you ever tied a boogie board to the back of a pickup and skied the ditches? Yeah, that’s what I thought. You probably didn’t have your calf hacked open by a broken beer bottle in that ditch-that you probably threw there after drinking it’s contents the night before. And so on…
Rick is very smart. After graduation, he was awarded an appointment to West Point. From there he became an engineer, then moved into psycology, then into law. Now, he’s a lawyer running for an assemblyman position in the New York State Legislature. Rick’s a Republican, and not ashamed to be so. I’m a Spiritual Anarchist, which I’m not ashamed to be, yet don’t ask me to describe it for you, I’ll get lost in doing so. Rick is a social liberal, equal rights for all. He believes gay marriage is a civil right, he supports relaxing the noose around undocumtented workers….and a whole lot of other things I believe in too, like questioning the darkly curious edge of military ops, such as the drone program . And, of course, there are things we don’t agree on, but one thing’s for certain, we’re friends. And that usually trumps disagreements, if the two parties let it.
Rick and I let it, so after the first ceiling fan was installed, and we realized that it was too nice a fall day to really work, we ordered pizza and clams and watched a football game as the golden autumn sunlight bounced off the TV. Yesterday seemed a million miles from Orange Grove, Pop. 1,212, but it also seemed right next door.
Back in The Grove, teachers and parents told us we could go to college, and can be whatever we wanted to be because it is America, home of the free. However, child’s eyesight is stronger than its hearing, and most of the kids I know carried on like those before them. The boys end up doing something close to what their fathers did, the girls go to college until they get married. Rick’s father wasn’t a lawyer, however, and he was able to listen over what he saw, and he holds onto ideals he was raised on while also shaping those ideals to fit in what he’s come to know as he’s forged on in his own personal frontier of Life, he’s changed while staying the same. That’s a tricky thing to do, like practicing spiritual anarchy and wearing cowboy boots.
Maybe I listened over what I saw too. My dad wasn’t a writer, he was a railroad man, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. But just maybe I listened to him when-in his dirty work clothes after a long day- he’d tell me to go out there do what you want in life because workin’ for The Man will never get you ahead. I’ve traveled some miles since then, and just maybe did I break out of my social class. Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones. However, Rick did ask me over to help him install ceiling fans. He didn’t ask me to write a novel.