The toy boat sails across the pond
The work now has just begun
Look what you have done.
Children have a sixth sense that warns them when an adult is mentally ill and dangerous. But, when this adult is a parent (or two) what the hell is one going to do? For sure I could not sit next to my father anymore as we drove all over the Bay Area delivering produce for Acme, the name he had painted on the side of his red Ford truck. It means, “without equal”. When it came to being a loser, I knew my father was without equal! So did my brother, Mark, who did me one big favor in life.
“I can’t sit next to him anymore. Please! Let me have the window?”
My brother looked at me with me with sympathy. He knew Vic was sucking the gentile light out of the core of my being. By the window, I could look out and let my soul sour out the window, one little dove at a time. I owe a debt of gratitude to Mark for allowing me a chance to become a poet and an artist, for this is how I made the long hours in the cabin next to a sweating box of dynamite, pass. I beheld a hundred paintings a day, in my mind, and compose kinder words to describe another form of love that was not present when I awoke in the morning to meet my fate, go to my station in life – that he had made for me!
Mark and I were Lumpers at eight and nine. You will never see this title on our resumes. Lumpers are young guys with hand carts, loading produce on to trucks. Every morning we tagged after Captain Victim as he carefully inspected boxes of fruit and vegetables, with a scowl on his face, that told the wholesalers, “I know you are going to try and cheat me. But beware of my sucker punch!”
As Victor Maximus Maximus forced young Italian sons to step aside, I noticed the looks of their fathers, they telling me;
“If your sons were not with you, I’d punch your fucking lights out!”
It was because of Vic’s sons that they hated him, these real fathers who had grown family members working for them, and not children. They knew this was Child Abuse.
In my father’s eyes, I was Artist Maximus Anonymous, his slave who is not to be seen or heard. At ten I and my brother could lift a hundred pound sack of potatoes, and load it on and off Vic’s truck. My brother and I worked as a team. We helped our brother with his load. Of course, we never did our task correctly, or fast enough. We would get the occasional curse as he showed us how it is done, while real men looked on. And I think I read their minds;
“Why don’t you come up here and lift your own shitload of spuds, you fucking lazy sin of a bitch!’
It was at Oakland’s Produce Market that Vic’s sons learned a thing or two about the birds and bees. In almost every warehouse we walked into, there were naked Pinups on the wall. Where they got these calendars, God only knows, because I can’t find but one or two on the web. Of course Marilyn Monroe’s calendar is the most famous, she offering up the two lumps on her chest for the whole world to see. There was a contest, to see who could hang the most calendars. One wholesaler had at least a hundred nudes up there. And, there my brother and I stood for as long as we could, picking out our Winner.
My choice was a rubbery looking blonde milk maid that had just got out of bed, and was cupping her two large breasts in her hands. She was wearing fluffy pinks slippers. I assume she is married, because, my mother is married, and perhaps she is offering some kind of nourishment to her husband, somethng fresh to go with his melons and bananas, she the kind of Horn of Plenty I wanted to marry one day. Not owning a stiffy at eight, was confusing, because the young men had something I did not. And as I studied their muscular hard working forms, and then looked at the soft pink rubbery girls, I sensed I was out of my league.
“Why are you two dorks standing around playing grab-ass? Get these crates of firm ripe tomatoes on the truck – pronto – before I kick your behinds”
I didn’t understand right then, that it was my duty as a writer, poet and artist, that I should love my father, for the Great Editor in the sky had provided me with a fantastic antagonist, who would be a real Horn of Plenty to my protagonists, for, a great book always contains a great villain. My late and dear friend Bill taught me this, as he assigned me the role of George Sterling to his Jack London when we were thirteen. The three Artists that God put in the world, for me, are dead.
Above is a letter from the substitute Principle of University High. He is raving about my painting I did when I was sixteen of the Oakland’s Produce Market. It went around the world in a Red Cross show, I one of a hundred students from all over America to be picked and honored. Vic’s red Ford was seen – in Paris! I honored my father – and our family business!
I’ve never been to Paris!
“Febuary 28, 1963
I want to thank you for the picture of yours we have hanging in Dr. Olsen’s office. (as you probably know, I am substituting for him)
We also have a picture of Wendy Rachel’s hanging in the office, and her’s reminds me of West Side Story. Your’s remind me of East Side Story – the east side of Los Angeles that is.
Considering that the best I have ever been able to do is draw a stick figure, I can certainly admire your ability, particularly since you have one year left in High School. How did you get so talented so fast?
This letter is liken to a Ink Blotch test. Today, trained psychologist would recongnize I was in deep doo-doo! Why am I rendering images of the east side, while every sane student is dutifully making a image of the west side? Not only is this a back-handed compliment, it is Directional Abuse, I put on the wrong side of the tracks – where I belong – for the safety of the Sane Children who did not work in the old Victorian warehouse west of the railroad tracks on fourth street; where one day an old hobo Vic knew by name came by for a chit chat, then, holding one nostril……. blew a huge wad of snot on the old wooden floor that my Father & Sons had spent the morning oiling with linseed oil.
When I became an artist at twelve years of age, Van Gough’s ‘The Patato Eaters’ was my Acme, I till this very day, grateful for the heavily textured experiences my father gave unto me! That’s me in the photo above, the Young Lumper at nine who saw real Hobos all the itme while my schoolmates were at summer camp wearing fake coon-skin caps!
As for all these rubbery nudes hanging on the wall, they were the first Rosamond Women, for Vic brought his daughters down here, down to the East Side located East of San Francisco, in the East Bay………just this side of Eden.
I wonder if my painting is hanging in Dr. Olsens’s old office?
I think the name of the old Hobo was Joe Hambone Kelly, ex-heavy weight champion of the world.