Lubricants

/ pk Stories / By Age / Teens / (and other age categories)

In high school I worked at the supermarket: Associated, Oceanside Road in Rockville Centre, or was it Long Beach Road? It was just north of where those two NS roads merged, just north of Sunrise Highway. I stocked shelves, organized the basement, helped shoppers carry their bagged groceries to their car. Long Island was full of cars in 1954, 55, 56 … Rockville Centre was especially full of cars. Associated’s customers were forever driving their Caddy into the store through the back doors, or would have had the store not guarded itself with concrete pilings. But: we were also a neighborhood store. Lots of women, lots of women’s servants, shopped on foot. Lots of women came to the store with their own shopping cart, one of those two-wheeled fold-ups.

And I’d hear them coming: screech, screech. As bad as chalk screeching on a blackboard: sound goes right through your nerves. I learned young: women know nothing of lubrication: and care less. It itsn’t that these women were built like Arnold Swarzenneger. they were so strong they didn’t need to oil their bicycle, or their car, or their shopping cart. It isn’t that they didn’t care about friction; they didn’t know about friction!

I once joke to a group of fellow high school girls: if I ever become a teacher (God forbid!) (I meant public school teacher; I hadn’t yet planned to get a PhD and teach college, I hadn’t yet attended college.), I was going to tell the boys to wait in the hall for a few minutes, I was going to seat the girls all close up front, and I was going to tell the girls … (Here I scanned my audience, anxious to see them bracing against obscenity, against something dirty, something bilologically candid, but found only bewilderment, or was it boredom?)

.. about oil! about grease! about lubricants!

I got no reaction. They didn’t get it. They would have had to recognize that they knew nothing about lubrication to get it.

In the mid 1970s I spent the night with my girl friend, Martha.

Martha R.

As usual, we got up, had breakfast. As usual, she drove her daughter to school. For a change, I did the dishes while she was gone: dried them, put them away. The big aluminum drawer in which she kept rolling pins, spatulas, candy thermometers … hammers, railroad spikes … the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopedia … was stuck like a son-of-a-gun. I wiped the bacon pan with a paper towel — I do silver and glasses first, dishes second, pots and pans, last: with fresh detergent — and lubed the sides of her drawer.

Upstairs, bathing and dressing, I heard, as usual, her husband come in, yell, “Hi, Paul,” change his shirt, and leave: Ted was shacking up with a sixteen year old down in the Village and was delighted that I was keeping Martha busy. He didn’t seem to give a shit about his daughter either. Anyway, I heard Ted leave. The house was quiet, way back in the woods, on a rocky promontory in Mt. Vernon, looked like a damn castle. Actually, the big castle was next door; Martha was in the little castle, the gatekeeper’s cottage: very nice and solid stone. But then I heard a rumble, scream … crash, bang, rattle.

I rushed down the stairs. Martha stood bewildered in the kitchen, the empty aluminum drawer dangling from her hand. Rolling pins, hammers, were scattered everywhere.

“Oh,” I explained. “I greased it for you.”

She said, incredulous, humiliated: “You mean … that was fixable?!”

Martha was about to move out of this fairy land, and into a high rise on York Avenue, where we’d breakfast in the penthouse garden. I think she was far more pissed that she’d endured the drawer for years than she was glad I’d solved her problem. People really hate to see that their problems are solvable: that’s why Jesus was crucified: why all radical helpers get sabotaged: always have, always will: until humans are no longer human (and gods no longer quite so dumb).

A friction I had with my beloved Jan yesterday triggered my recalling the above.

Jan in 1953

I’ll finish the series of stories when I can. Meantime, where do I link from, what menu, what subPage of what Page? As a pk story it belongs in more than one age period. But you know, it’s really about gender-specific knowledge, some of which is genetic (and can be edited only by evolution), while much is cultural, and changes from year to decade to generation, to century …
(If a story of mine is merely personal it should come last. The ones that fertilize a dozen truths are the living ones.)

2013 09 19 To relaunch the censored K. I threw up a bunch of stories: now I’m trying to be systematic, but up the rest: and I notice, Whoops! I told this one twice. I read the other version in here, will streamline, edit, dedup later:

2004 02 24
Lubricants: Separating the Boys from the Girls

I want to tell a story from my days as PK Fine Arts, Ltd. but I think of related incidents to nest it against.

First I was a paper boy, then a soda jerk, then again a soda jerk … before I settled in to my “permanent” high school job: doing a little of everything at Rockville Center’s Associated Food Market. I clerked the soda aisle, I organized the storage basement, starting with the return-bottles note, did carry-outs, relieved the checkers for lunch and for breaks (getting almost as fast as Susan, the champ), made the potato salad, the egg salad for the Appetizing department … Dr. Knatz I was called (because of my fib to the school advisors that I’d become a psychiatrist. I think I was still in high school when I announced to those ‘pressed into listening that if I ever became a teacher, I’d send all the boys from the room, close the door, and, in a whisper to the girls only … tell them about … 3-in-1 oil!

I don’t remember what kind of a laugh I got. But I clearly remember how the shoppers at Associated drove me crazy with their unlubricated shopping carts. They lubed their cars: why wouldn’t they lube their carts? Those women who walked to the store had to wrestle with screeching carts every inch of the way. With a little oil, they could have pushed their groceries home with a finger. Men want their work to be easy: why should the “weaker sex” put up with so much unnecessary struggling?

My insult really did generally apply, at least in Nassau County, Long Island, in 1954, 1955, 1956 …

In 1973, thoroughly beaten in my attempt to offer an internet to the general public as a free-market alternative to the school system (and to government), I took a job as assistant director of an art gallery that didn’t go at all well. A different job went worse, and I took a shit job in an art gallery that published and sold reproduced illustrations as multiple original art. A month later they made me director of their operation on Madison Avenue. A year later I formed PK Fine Arts, Ltd: in a sort of competition against my immediately former employer. I’d assist in the publication of editions by some of my new artist friends and wholesale the stuff. Learning from my employer, I made no attempt to sell “good” art. If it was “good” anyway, so much the better. Principally only two points applied: Did I have access to it? & Did I think I could sell it? No gas in the car, no food in the belly, if I couldn’t convert the art into cash. Quick trips to Chicago and to Boston started me off: then I took six months to introduce myself across the country and to California. Gas sometimes got low, but I managed to squeeze more into the tank, and kept going.

It was exciting for me, but one of the hardest parts of it was turning my back on the woman I’d really fallen for. She eased the pain by meeting me in Los Angeles for Christmas and travelling to San Franciso with me just after New Years. Back in New York, things were never again quite the same. I still saw her for a couple more years, but she seemed to actually be working at stifling her ardor for me: not bad advice actually, for any woman: not if they like to eat roast beef, have money for clothes …

Martha pic

I suspect that she’s flirted with me in the fist place principally to piss her husband off. He didn’t seem to notice, occupied as he was with the sixteen-year old he’d moved out to move in with. So my gal I suspect decided to aim her flirtations at lawyers and stockbrokers; not at a deschooler who read and talked far more than he sold.

Martha’s husband had stuck her and their daughter with a goddam castle on a rocky prominence in Westchester. They still had to pay for the wrecked Jag too. Guy across Grammaton Avenue had a tennis court he let neighbors use. Very nice.

Anyway, one morning Martha has made breakfast, then run off to drive the daughter to school. I have another cup of coffee and decide to do the dishes. What the hell, I’ll put them away too. The drawer that held the heavy utensils — rolling pins, spatulas… — stuck awfully badly. I emptied it, took the paper towel she’d drained the bacon on, and wiped the sides of the metal drawer with the grease. Greased the tracks it ran on too. Beautiful. It then slid straight in and out with just a touch.

Pleased with myself, I go upstairs to shower. I’m dressing and I hear a crash and a scream simultaneously. I rush downstairs. Martha is standing in the kitchen, looking unharmed but shocked. She has the empty metal drawer dangling from her right hand. Knives, BBQ forks, rolling pins … are scattered all over the kitchen floor.

What happened? “I came home, went to yank this drawer open, and …”
“I fixed it for you,” I said.
“You mean to tell me that that damn thing was fixable?!?!”


I guess her husband should have been held in class with the girls of 1956 as well. Neither understood a thing about the physical universe. But God, could they both spend — and make — money.

Come to think of it, he was somewhat a pure WASP version of Carlos! I doubt that he could tell the difference between the Mona Lisa and a cheap poster of it: and was confident that his customers couldn’t either! I bet he could have made money more easily if he hadn’t gotten the FBI tracking him all over.

Notes

Soda Aisle, Bottles …:

I just had the privilege of again viewing the Clint Eastwood production of Straight, No Chaser, the documentary on bop inimitable Thelonius Monk. A lot of the footage was from Monk in Europe, especially Monk in Germany: also Monk in England, Monk in Japan … Touring the world, Thelonius and Nellie Monk go through a lot of Customs. The officials go through the Monk luggage. They find suitcases full of Coke empties. “Why are you carrying all those bottles around?”

“We have to return them,” Nellie explains.

Clint’s doc had the good grace to point out that Monk was the “first” black (that we noticed, pk adds) to do his own thing in his own way, not going one micron out of his way to please the white audience. I want to add further that Nellie was some hero too. Who knows what shit she had to put up with from her troubled genius. His living with Baroness Nica may have been the least of it.


And Baroness Nica! Piloted airplanes against the Nazis?!?! she’s a hero just from how many NY grand hotels she got thrown out of!

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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