Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx, which has baffled many diviners: “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?” To this Oedipus replies, “Man”
Victor and Rosemary
The three Presco males are on a freight elevator. Vic pushes a big button with a four on it. I notice there is dust on the floor denoting it had not been used for a while. Suddenly, there is a loud bang, a tremendous jolt, and we have risen five feet before we fall three, then – are caught up once again. Mark and I look up at Captain Vic for assurance we are going to get through our latest adventure, alive, and he is there, on the prow of his merchant ship keeping a close watch out for Japanese submarines as the ships prow rises and falls in a large swell off the Aleutians.
We have arrived on the top floor of an old warehouse built at the turn of the century. We are in the Produce Market in Jack London Square. Vic grabs a brass handle and throws open wide the cage to our Summer Cell. It is here we will be spending our summer vacation while our peers learn to water ski in Lake Tahoe. Some of our schoolmate’s parents have a bar in their home.
I could tell Mark shared my thought as we took in the vast space with a bank of square window panes at the far end. There were old machines covered in cobwebs and dust. One could feel their presence, the workman of yesterday, who gave it their best, then kicked the bucket. Perhaps their ghosts took mercy on, these mere boys forced to do hard labor in spite of the old Union Guys, those alien like Socialists who descended on the Bay Area like locusts in the thirties? We used to have more rights. I heard a whimper.
“Nobody will know we are here. He could kill us, then go home and have Rosemary cook him up that big bloody steak he got wholesale from the butcher next door.”
“Grab that dolly, and follow me!” Captain Vic growls, and steps onto the deck as Wolf Larsen, he basking in the bitter and lethal gaze of his crew who want to stick a knife in his gut when his back is turned. As we hear his heavy gate on the old dusty floor echo deep down into the core of our young souls, my brother and I struggle to tip back the dolly loaded down with four bags of potatoes. That’s four hundred pounds! If we tip it back too far, then we will be knocked to the deck – and crushed!
Vic did not look back to see if we were struggling lest we look up to him for help. He knew we were in trouble. This is what he wanted. He wanted to see us figure it out for ourselves, the hidden riddle, as to what drove this, man, this psycho, to edge of extreme cruelty.
We came to a large wooden table that Vic had wiped the dust from the day before, after he paid the rent.
“Toss on of those bags on the table!” Our captain ordered.
My brother and I realized we would have to work together in our first encounter with a raspy sack with a name stenciled on it in red. We had met our – foe! We came at it with our small hands. Mark had it by the pig ears leaving me the butt end with nothing to hold onto. We let out a collective grunt as we tugged on it. Then, the mizzen sail snapped with a thud in the steady sea breeze..
“There she blows!”
Vic whipped out his pocket knife, and his sons took an instinctive step back. When he cut the string, out poured the guts of our work, like the blubber of a whale, these dull brown spuds, rolled onto the operating table.
Our father then threw the paper bag he was carrying on the table and pulled out six rolls of tin foil. I wondered why I was transfixed on the logo stamped on the bag. It was an old wise man in a crescent moon. I am brought out of my trance. He is glaring at me, his good for nothing, his moronic Head Whipper who will be eight years of age in three months.
“I’m going to show you how to make Bakers. I will only show you once. Grab a roll and tear out squares, like this.”
I watch the sweating box of dynamite rip off a piece of tin foil, and lay it down. My brother and I follow suit. I look at Mark’s sheet, and then at mine, and to my horror I see my square is different. It is not………square. Suddenly he is behind me. It grabs the foil from my hand.
“Is that square?” I do my best to not hear the terrible name he assigns me.
“No!” I answer, and am alarmed there is a tinge of whining in my voice, as if I wanted to cry. That’s when I took a Child’s Oath to never let your abuser see tears in your eyes. I looked over at Mark, and noticed a tiny smirk at the corner of his mouth that would become more severe by summer’s end.
“Now, lay the spud on one corner, then fold the corner over the top. Now roll the spud across the foil, to the end of the square! Now, take the two ends of the foil, and fold them over. This is how you make a Baker. This is my invention. We will sell them to restaurants so when the chef sees his customer wants a baked potato, he grabs a pre-wrapped one, and throws it in the oven.”
Mark and shoot each other a quick glance, then waited for him to leave. We figured he was off to that restaurant where we had breakfast. There was a dark bar adjoining it, wherein shabby men with gristly beards had their course hands wrapped around a cold beer, or, were getting ready to throw back a shot of whisky. These were the last of Wobblies, and the Hobos who still rode the rails. It is 6:30 A.M. in the morning and they have made their way along the tracks past the old ice plant.
“Mark……I think our father has re-invented the potato and thinks he’s struck it rich!”
“Shut up! Don’t say anything. You want to get us killed!”
* * *
The readers of my blog have heard me declare at least a dozen times I solved the riddle of what Jesus wrote in the dust. I have revealed my astute deduction to dozens of people, and not one of them gave a response. Was it because I declared myself a prophet? What should I have declared myself……..’The Spud King’?
The two Trustees of the monies I received from my uncle, Vincent Rice, have declared I’m “insane” and refused to serve as my Trustee. Two attorney have suggested a lawsuit. These traitors enjoy calling me an angry “deluded man” who will never finish any book I have started.
It is time to reveal the secret of Christine Rosamond Benton’s success. One of Christine’s biographers says Rosemary only wanted me to be a world-famous artist, and thus my dead sister was forced to crawl in a closet when she was four to render marvelous works of art. This is a lie inspired by the movie ‘Mommy Dearest’. So, here we go.
“Your father gave you the football, and Mark the paint! He couldn’t ever get that right!” And Rosemary let out one of her mocking chuckles that always put her in the limelight, because it was so – deadly!
What Rosemary is referring to is the Jensen Brothers who my father’s mother, raised, after something terrible happened to their parents. I was never told the whole story. There was possibly a commitment to a mental illness, even extreme violence. But, when Jackie and Bobby Jensen came to live with Melba, they were around fifteen and sixteen. She raised them like her own sons. For awhile Victor had siblings. Bobby ended up teaching art at MacChenzie Junior High, and Jackie ended up playing baseball for the New York Yankees. He was Cal’s ‘Golden Boy’.
Because I was bigger than my brother, there was hope that I would take up the football and be another Golden Boy. Mark would be a mere artist, stuck in my shadow. As fate would have it, Mark would play football for Oakland High School, and win the State championship. When I was sixteen, my watercolor I did of the Produce Market, toured the world. Bobby Jensen was famous for his watercolors of fishing boats in Jack London Square. That this real history did not get into the two terrible biographies Executor Sydney Morris, blessed, is a REAL CRIME against history. Everyone responsible, is – fucking insane!
My father was a Jack London Freak! Victor William Presco used several characters in London’s novels as models on how to raise his two sons. Those parents who showed their children how to return a serve on a tennis court in Piedmont, employed Doctor Spock’s infamous book. How many famous artists came from their brood? Victor employed………’The Sea Wolf’.
Are you reading the beginning of a Great American Novel, or, has Jack’s ghost come back to his old haunts? No! A famous artist and writer – in one family! Get out of here! Here’s………….Jackie!
Jack Eugene Jensen (March 9, 1927 – July 14, 1982) was an American right fielder in Major League Baseball who played for three American League teams from 1950 to 1961, most notably the Boston Red Sox. He was named the AL’s Most Valuable Player in 1958 after hitting 35 home runs and leading the league with 122 runs batted in; he also led the league in RBIs two other years, and in triples and stolen bases once each. Respected for his throwing arm, he won a Gold Glove Award and led the AL in assists and double plays twice each. He retired in his early thirties as major-league baseball expanded westward, due to an intense fear of flying. After being a two-sport star in college, Jensen was the first man to play in the Rose Bowl, the World Series, and the baseball All-Star Game.
Jensen was born in San Francisco, California. His parents divorced when he was five, and he was raised by his mother, who frequently moved the family. After serving in the Navy toward the end of World War II, he became an All-American in two sports at the University of California. As a baseball pitcher and outfielder, he helped California to win the inaugural College World Series in 1947. He pitched Cal to victory in the regional final by outdueling Bobby Layne of Texas, and in the championship Cal defeated a Yale team featuring future President George Bush. As a football halfback, Jensen was a consensus All-American as a junior in 1948, becoming the first Cal player to rush for 1,000 yards. In the season-ending 7–6 victory over Stanford he ran for 170 yards, kicked a punt for 67 yards, and had a 32-yard run late in the game in a 4th-and-31 situation. Cal ended the regular season at 10–0 under coach Pappy Waldorf, winning a share of its first Pacific Coast Conference title in ten years, and Jensen placed fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, with Doak Walker taking the award. In the 1949 Rose Bowl, Jensen scored a touchdown in the first quarter to tie the game 7–7, but 4th-ranked Cal was upset 20–14 by 7th-ranked Northwestern.
In 1949 Jensen, who batted and threw right-handed, left college after his junior year and signed with the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League. His contract – along with Billy Martin‘s – was sold to the New York Yankees in 1950 with the intention of him being a backup for Joe DiMaggio. But he played in only 108 games for the Yankees over three years, primarily in left field. He appeared as a pinch runner for Bobby Brown in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the 1950 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, but was in the game only briefly before Johnny Mize popped up to end the inning. Jensen did not stay in the game defensively, and the Yankees completed a sweep of the Phillies in Game 4; he did not appear in the 1951 Series against the New York Giants.
Following the arrival of Mickey Mantle with the Yankees, in May 1952 Jensen was sent to the Washington Senators in a six-player deal, and he made his first All-Star team. He finished the season with a .286 batting average and 80 RBIs, leading the league with 17 assists and placing third in the AL with 18 steals, a total he duplicated in 1953. He was traded to the Red Sox in December 1953, and led the AL with 22 steals in 1954, also finishing third in RBIs (117) and fourth in home runs (25). But despite his speed he also set a major league record by grounding into double plays 32 times, breaking Bobby Doerr‘s 1949 total of 31; the record would stand until Jim Rice grounded into 36 double plays in 1984. No longer facing the pressure of becoming his team’s principal star, Jensen again made the All-Star team in 1955, leading the league with 116 RBIs and finishing tenth in the MVP vote. In 1956 he batted a career-high .315 and led the AL with 11 triples, and in 1957 he had 103 RBIs and led the league in both assists (16) and double plays (4).
Jensen made his last All-Star team in 1958 when he batted .286 with a league-leading 122 RBIs, also placing second in the AL with 99 walks and fifth in HRs (35), doubles (31), total bases (293) and on-base percentage (.396). In June of that same year, he set a Red Sox club record for most home runs in a single month (since tied by David Ortiz) with 14. He won MVP honors, beating out Bob Turley, Rocky Colavito and Bob Cerv for the award. In 1959 he again led the league in RBIs (112) and won his only Gold Glove after leading the AL in double plays (4) for the second time; he also scored a career-best 101 runs and stole 20 bases, and came in tenth in the MVP balloting.