/ Stories /
both / Personal Story Themes / Work /
and / Social Order / Hierarchy vs. Conviviality Stories /
As a kid I was a member of the culture however junior. I was also in a small way a member of the economy. I seldom cut our grass but I cut the neighbors’ grass: they asked me to, I did, they paid me. Then I inherited the town biggest newspaper route from the kid across the street. I built it from like seventy subscribers to like one hundred and twenty-five subscribers. I had a drawer full of cash, spent far far less than I earned. At sixteen I became a soda jerk. Shore’s on Sunrise Highway started working me sixty-five hours a week. 50¢ an hour, maybe it was 60¢. The supermarket started me at 65¢ an hour, then made it 70¢: a lot less than they paid their union guys.
Our power, our fuel, our phone was always getting cut off. My mother threw my philandering father out: that ended his support right there. The judge said “Complain, we’ll jail him till he pays”: but my mother wasn’t up to that. My grandfather, Dad’s dad, had supported himself and his family by providing legal services. August Knatz wasn’t a lawyer, he didn’t need to be: he took care of wills, immigration papers, etc. for Germans in Brooklyn. My father went to Columbia, then Columbia Law (which didn’t work out), then NYU Law: all to make him supposedly employable. He was: self-employed: a self-employed member of the NYS Bar, launching with his father’s client base: as parties, booze, women … and soap operas dwindled that base. His second wife worked, why should he?
The same theory, that Columbia would aid his employability, raise his income, was applied to me. I would go to Columbia, I’d be a doctor or some damn thing. Mom, who’d never dipped one dime from my drawer full of cash, not one penny, to get the phone reconnected, never socked it to me for room or board, did, once I passed from junior high to high school, tell me to put my cash in the bank, open a savings account: for Columbia. She’d never spent my money for me before, now she did: and I complied.
After high school I worked for the town: parks department, then sanitation: great: hoisting garbage cans: I loved it even more than whipping the town’s weeds. My legs had always been great, I lived on the bike’s saddle, but my upper body was scrawny (and remained meagre until I took up golf at age forty-two). At Columbia I went out for the Refreshment Agency: of seventy-five of us, I was promoted to be among the ten sophomore managers, then among the five junior managers, then: senior manager, one of two: 50/50: we sold hotdogs at the football games for 25¢: I got a nickel on every one: four days, four games, and I could have paid my own tuition: my partner and I broke all school records for sales, for gross, for income.
I formed a business in 1974. By 1978 I had $4,000,000 worth of inventory. My accountant told me I was a millionaire. If I’d developed a business instead of going to Columbia, or, after going to Columbia, maybe I’d have been a millionaire by age twenty-three or so. Why not? My partner and I were offered all sorts of opportunities. (The one we actually pursued was a bummer, but that’s a separate story, actually, already told.) But that’s not the path my life took. Attending Columbia had something to do with it, but it was a compilation of things. And I wasn’t the only one changed by Columbia.
My Sunday School had obliged me to honor Christ. That’s a full time job. That’s a job that get’s you jail, tortured, executed: if you do it right. Columbia put me on a parallel track: read the great works, think about them. We did, a whole bunch of us. But: I’m very slow. Partly because I try to be thorough. But even the serious speed readers were buried under books till their mid-twenties: Off to teach some where they stay buried under books. In my case I had a third obsession: listening to music, mostly to jazz. No matter how much I read, reading never interfered with my listening time. It could last forever, we all understood that, but it was a challenge to make it last as long as possible. No matter what I’ve committed myself to, prior to committing myself to Ivan Illich (and Christ, and God) by founding the Free Learning Exchange in 1970, I made it last long enough to turn thirty and still be an odd man out.
One thing Columbia did: it didn’t do it to everybody, but it did do it to a bunch of us, and to all of us to some extent: it magnified the malcontent in us. As a kid I went to a church were we were Christians, we were the ones who got everything right, all the rewards were for us: we’d earned them. I went to a school that as putrid as it was was supposed to be one of the best school systems in the country, in the world: we were the richest town in the world … But at Columbia we took a look … for example at Columbia! Shocking. Horrifying. We learned that Columbia was a slum lord, owned race tracks in South America. At Columbia there were gangs of guys emphasizing that our country, the good old USA, wasn’t as lily white as it pretended. How can a malcontent go to work for Macy’s? race other students to get into medical school? … Ah, and when I was finally teaching, at a supposedly good college, supposedly good students … Oh, my God, the ignorance! the illiteracy! the arrogance!
This can be built, refined, but why I started to build it is to provide K. with a scrapbook to jot notes about my life as a pariah.
One I was hired by people seeking me, I didn’t have to seek them.
I was hailed as the best worker, the best of all workers.
But then I started getting fired. Then I started getting not hired.
Then I started getting beat up, arrested, jailed, censored, not even a pretense of a fair trial: or, what was fair about it was that it was lawyers pulling the dirty tricks, group authoring the lies.
It’s long been bad, at its worst here in Highlands County Florida: sabotages no one I know of but I keep any sort of record of.
Yeah, think of what fun it would be to read Pilat’s account of Jesus’ trial, and Jesus account of Jesus’ trial, if Jesus were able to write an account.
Maybe all God will have to do at Judgment is measure discrepancies between a kleptocracy’s version of events and the testimony of a victim. The kid may be a thug; but the Nazis are Nazis.