by Bodwyn Wook
The following are some culls from various ongoing email threads. In the first case, a friend recently linked to me a recording of the Irish Rovers, singing “Whiskey, You’re The Devil!” I replied:
And as for all that whisky, well, that song carries me back to a lot of great good times on the old West Bank in 1969-70, with Red Nelson, Steve Bush, Dick Grinolds, Larry Glenn, Steve Egyhazi, John Smalley, Tim Mahoney, Vince Kachurik, and the bikers Chaindrive & Mongol….
It is just amazing that we lived to grow up!
One time in the Triangle Bar in Minneapolis, in September of 1969, the MPD narc Wayne Billings got shitty about my fake New Zealand Army photo-ID Larry Glenn had helped me to cook up in the Augsburg College AV & CCTV department (“I been there kid…your accent needs WORK!”) and I about shit a brick. Red and Mongol minutes before had just tossed me about three lids of dope in a bread bag and I had only just gotten it stuffed in to the small of my back under the skirts of my WW II Afrika Korps tunic, while hiding in the stall in the can. It was because Mongol had seen “the pigs” come into the bar, I was just back from a Summer on the farm by Eagle Lake and “you look so fucken straight, man, in that nice haircut!” Anyway, Wayne Billings nailed me as I came out of the john, sneered at my paperwork but just told me to get lost and not to let him see me in there again and I beat it. He had other business there that time, with one of the barmaids, Lynne Rausch. She was in my class at Roosevelt and the funny thing is that nobody ever accused her of narking anybody to the cops, she was simply in something-or-other with Billings, whereas he of course was having his midlife crisis just about in those days, what with all those hippie chicks around there. Lynne let herself get pretty jammed up by this guy, cut out for San Berdoo afterward and then, around 1980, came back to The Cities and married a Lutheran minister whose name I probably will not put in to the saga.
The last I knew of her was in 1984, when I ran into her in Cloquet. They were living in Big Fork then. Meanwhile, in early September, fifteen years before this, it was still late afternoon and all of my associates were disappeared from outside of the bar, and so I got on a number 7 bus there on Riverside Avenue and went home to my mother’s house on 40th Av S at E 50th. All that weed? All that weed! Finally, I ducked in my closet, opened the prop-panel onto the crawlspace over the downstairs study and lit up. Awkward but private…I thought. “God damn it, Emmett, you little bastard!” came our mother’s dulcet tones up through the plaster between the floor joists. “Are you smoking mary-hootchie in MY house? I will tell ‘Us Lutherans’ on you at that God-damned Augsburg College and they will cut off your scholarship!”
Somebody then replied with a hitchhiking story and, also, complained in this same round that much of the language in used by me, Bodwyn Wook, is too complicated, high-up and leaves people guessing what is metaphor, and what ain’t. Consequently, they wrote in to praise the goodness of the simple and direct “English” in the preceeding; needless to say, one simply could not sit still for that:
Sorry, man, the use of fuck, “shit a brick” and fucken means this last piece of mine is in American, and not “English”. It was Old Mencken who first noted the emergence of both spoken and written American as a language distinct from English, as early as 1919 in his first volume, on The American Language.
When I went hitchhiking down to Algona, IA, in the Summer before the Wayne Billings contretemps, I finally gave up on Algona and turned around from out by Storm Lake, and instead hitched back up to Eagle Lake…after the two guys who’d picked me up just North of Algona shot the pay phone in the gizzard, while I was in the can in the Algona filling station that they then proceeded to hold up. Afterward, they waved me into their ’62 rusty Goat with their one pistol between them, they told me to lay “fucken” down in the “fucken” back seat and keep my “fucken” mouth shut. (That was the FIRST brick, of that year anyway.) After hours running parallel to Hwy 9, they dumped me out by Storm Lake at sundown. I was pretty broke, fussed about it and they gave me twenty from the holdup loot before squealing off in a spray of gravel. I laid on a table in a roadside rest on and under some cardboard that I found in a garbage can and started out home the next day. In Winnebago, MN, I was spotted by a Faribault County deputy — the store clerk had described my Australian campaign hat with the 7th Armoured desert rat insignia — who snatched me for the sheriff to quiz about the robbery. In Blue Earth, they were pretty reasonable and could figure how a guy hitching to see a girl from the Gustavus Adolphus Luther League Leadership Conference of four years before could get his “ass in a sling” (also a phrase of our late mother’s!) “in a deal like this.” It probably all had to do with those short summertime farmer haircuts. They called my Great-Aunt Leona up in Eagle Lake. She was tearful and sent her nephew, my Uncle Emmett (he still was driving his black-and-yellow immaculate ’57 Ford Fairlane two-door with the overdrive) to get me. He laughed at me “to beat Hell” and, then, all the way back home through Mankato to Eagle Lake told me for the first time about certain boyhood and teenaged fiascos all of his own.
If my Grampa had not died the Fall before, he would just have said “damn fool” and “you en’t going to get anyvere DOT vay,” and let it go at that. His father was from Sweden and Grandfather was the first in his family to grow up speaking American, albeit with an smalandingen accent. However, in his five years in a one-room school he did learn words like tergiversate and used them all in the right place, too, although but seldom. If we had been as well raised in that respect, more of us, rather than less with every derailed and declining generation, could appreciate the beauties and lutrine joys, of a prehensile and variable, subtle and, above all, interesting rhetoric and literature.
In AA one time in ’83 or so, one of the other more-or-less recovering drunks went after my buddy Lee E and started bullying him about using “fucken big words.” Lee had his troubles in this vale of tears, but he was a great reader and had just said something way out of line, like “obfuscate.” “Alright,” said Lee with a mad twinkle (it was one of those “dry drunk” meetings where everybody of all genders is just bitchy beyond belief!), “just let me dumb this down for you! Night after night I sit here and listen to assholes mumble about their fucken ‘serenity’ which is the first new word they probably learned in maybe thirty-fucken years, and how great it is now to have more cash to piss away, not on booze now, but on their fucken restoration ’57 Nomads and bullshit like that. Well, fuck it…I can understand that, they worked like Hell to get these cars and other dumbass shit, and they’re proud of it for some fucken no-brain reason. Whatever. Well, I spent a lot of time collecting THESE tools and if I have to sit here and ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over some brain dipshit’s new God-damn pressure washer, I’d just like a little respect too!’ At that point, the moderator, who was himself kind of a bully and so whose name I probably won’t put into the saga, said Lee wasn’t being “respectful,” that he was being “out of line,” and asked him to leave the meeting…. (That was in the Fall of ’83 when I went in to the Fifth Avenue Club on my own bat after an invite by a newly-sober friend, and said at my first meeting that “the REAL reason I use all this cocaine is so I can feel Republican like everybody else…I just want to fit in!” The “fit in” part of course was pretty much of a outright lie, but…AA did save my life.)
Meanwhile, fourteen years and a couple months before this, down in Blue Earth, I didn’t mention anything about the twenty dollars I’d gotten from off of the holdup guys, Bruce Lindholm and the other one whose name I never did get, and the deputies never asked about “receiving stolen goods. In many ways, especially in this overrated generation, not having a criminal record is, like most of our so-called “situational” morality, mainly a matter of luck.
As the mouse said, on failing to make love to the elephant….
There then followed a number of inconsequentialities, in which I and my immediate respondent, wrongly, were reproved for our arty linguistic dance and excessive vocabulary; then, my immediate respondent wrote of drinking and shenanigans in boyhood, in the Upper Peninsual among the Finlanders, there; this recalled my memories of at least two Finlanders, here — or, rather, twenty-six years before, on the Indian reservation West of Cloquet, MN:
When I got adopted in a ceremony by the ‘Shinobs in Cloquet, in June 1984, after getting run off my farmhome place out of Eagle Lake, MN., by the IRS for their God-damned inheritance tax-grubbing, it was kind of a all-in deal as the ‘skins were also celebrating their mom’s sixty-fourth birthday. It was a Hell of a drunk there in the Big Lake Road. Anyway, the two Finlanders was there with their mandolin and guitar, old classmates of Delia’s, Heike and Toivo. They strummed grimly and downed a couple shots. Now they strummed with more brio, which is not a Finnish word. They tossed back some more liquor and now a distant glow began to rise in their eyes. The strumming became frenetic and Nada and Juanita, two of my new “sisters,” held the jug to the musician’ lips by turns. The music suddenly had an insane undertow. Heike and Toivo were now grinning like a pair of imps, Gark and Gookin in the fable. One of them saw my bottle of Tanqueray and tossed his head, pointing with his lips at the jug for Juanita to fetch. She had been my girlfriend in Mankato when I left for the Peace Corps, in 1978. Now she was my sister. Oh, Hell. As the gin poured over stubbly chins bristly like mowed copper wire, Heike and Toivo, who had been jigging time with their feet, suddenly leaped to their feet and, dancing away, strummed away maniacally with mad crazed facial contortions. The fires of Hell blazed from their eyes in mad grins, and several Indians, already pretty shot, were reduced to smouldering ash-piles in the yard. Heike and Toivo cackled in Finnish at Delia and she called back to them. This went for minutes and they all were wearing dirty expressions on their faces by now. “Jesus Christ, Emmett Crowbird,” said my Indian sister Bonnie, “listen to Ma talk smut with Them Ditchbanks Boys. Where in Hell do you guess she learned to talk all that Finlander? I bet it was in the back of that old one-eyed Chevrolet!”
In this infinite electronic spatter of pixels, all over the web, is recorded the banal insipidity and petty, greedy wrongdoing, of a generation, a generation “bad” not because it is positively wicked, but simply because, as Vince Kachurik used to say,”we’re just no good!”
[all rights reserved
[1 January 2011]