Thursday, March 24, 2011
IT'S THURSDAY AND I AM PIECES OF FRUIT HANGING ON, HANGING ON VINES, STARING DOWN A TOO-BRIGHT SUN
…I have a new poem, "Morning Sickness" up at Prick of the Spindle, a story, "At the Molten Rock" that I wrote with Meg Tuite and two other writers up at Used Furniture, a story, "Thunder Comes Around" at Mudjob, plus an interview with Jesse Bradley from Pank. All four are also here under "Words in Print."
…beginning at age nine, I picked fruit during summers in order to have school clothes money. my family and i were the only white people in the fields. It'd be strawberries in june, raspberries in july, pie cherries in august. I was a fast picker. one day I set the record for most strawberry flats picked--21. the going rate was $1.25 per, so I was rich that day. the key to being a fast picker is to kneel. most people literally sit on their ass and slide forward. that's because the alternative--kneeling--hurts like hell, since every row is lined with rocks to keep weeds out. after the first hour your knees feel shredded. after a few more, they just kind of go numb. but you have to forgo the pain to be a great picker.
my mother was a "checker." when your lug or flat was full, you called, "Checker!" and mom came over to verify your container, then punch your card if everything looked okay. some of the migrants would often try to pull a fast one, filling the bottom of a lug with rocks and then artfully spreading fruit over the top.
this all took place in spokane, wa. the city had a skidrow at the time. a colony of bums lived along the river, near the falls. mom would drive a delapidated school bus down there at 4:30am (you had to pick early because the heat split the fruit) and she'd honk and all of these hobos would lift themselves up off the grass like stiff zombies and totter over and get on board and ride to the cherry fields and pick the red berries to get cash to buy wine or beer. I knew some of those men very well. to a person, they were all friendly and jolly.
one year when I was 14, the owner bought two new contraptions called "shakers." they were each about as long as a parade float and run by hydraulics. you'd pull up to a tree, push a lever, and a tarp would swing around the trunk, upraised, at an angle. there was a gun the size of a tank snout that you'd use to grip a branch, push a button, and it would shake like all hell and the fruit would fall into a conveyor belt that ran through the center like a tiled scar, bringing the cherries plunging into a large tank of chilled water. those two shakers cleaned all 4,000 trees in fifteen days--what it took a hundred men and one boy to pick in a month.
but I was one of those shaker drivers. I made pretty good money by my standards.
the next year the world's fair came to spokane and the bums were sent packing. I've always wondered what happened to them. sometimes I think their lives might have ended up more adventuresome than mine. at least I'd like to think so.
here are some things I like on a thursday:
-- Bono is at a U2 concert in Ireland when he asks the
audience for some quiet.
Then in the silence, he starts to slowly clap his
Holding the audience in total silence, he says into
the microphone..."Every time I clap my hands, a child
in Africa dies."
A loud voice from near the front of the audience pierces
" Well stop fookin' doing it then!!!"
"You can't gain much if your name's not in lights, but you can't lose either. Soemtimes this attitude catches up with me; I wonder if I'm trying to shield myself from the trials of competition, the heartache and paranoia that come with being in the fray."
"The face of a harsh fact is this: success is a long shot."
-"Restaurant workers are the urban equivalent of filed hands. About 40 percent are "undocumented aliens," and many of the rest are either rehab cases , runaways, or parolees."
-"I didn't know yet that what is done well is invisible."
-"After all, English is my second language. My first language is gutter."
-"If you expect gratitude around her, you're doomed."
-"Who has't encountered madness at some point in their lives, in a relative or friend?
--'You don't need perfume in a hospital,' he answers.
--'Wrong, my love. The hospital is where you need it most.'
-"The name of the game is endurance. I've seen a lot of writers drop away after a few decent stories and disappear."
"For a child, memory is a reservoir that doesn't empty." Aharon Appelfeld
"I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that spark should burn out in a brilliant
blaze than it hsould be stilled by dry rot. I would
rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in
magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper funciton of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time."
"They had entered the stage of fact races where the protests of the body overrule the willingness of the mind." Tom Jordan
"Whatever you do will be very insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Gandhi
"I've learned that you can tell a lot by a person by how (s)he handles these three things: rainy days, luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights." Maya Angelou
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." Helen Keller
"Love has a hem to her garment that reaches to the very dust, it sweeps the stairs from the streets, and because it can, it must." Mother Teresa
"Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind." Johann Wolgang van Goethe
Most of us miss out on life's big prizes. The Pulitzer. The Nobel.
Oscars. Tonys. Emmys. But we're all eligible for life's small
pleasures. A pat on the back. A kiss behind the ear. A four-pound
bass. A full moon. An empty parking space. A crackling fire. A great
meal. A glorious sunset. Hot soup. Cold beer.-- Anonymous