/ Stories / By Age / Draft Limbo /
The army drafted me through Whitehall Street Recruiting Station, way downtown, south of Wall Street, by the Staten Island Ferry. The army had no barracks for such personnel, neither did they provide a mess hall. So they paid not what it cost, Provide receipts, please, but what the bureaucracy idly dreamed it should cost: no accountability to reality. Maybe a private could rent a room in Graywolf Texas for $50/mo; but not in Manhattan. Few militaries have ever lived in the real world: ditto any kleptocratic bureaucracy. Further, the army paid $70 a month for food. Dream on. Soldiers in Fort Dix were clothed, fed, billeted: and were paid $90/mo for personal expenses: beer, etc. Movies were subsidized. In Manhattan a movie cost $5. Fort Dix might show a movie for 25¢, then you could buy a beer for the same price. But not if you were assigned to Whitehall Street, where the beer was a buck.
But the army was foxy. They’d learned from experience that all their Whitehall Street clerks went AWOL. The jail when they were caught would feed them, house them; duty in the Apple wold kill them today, not imprison them tomorrow. So the army finnessed the situation by drafting college-graduated English majors, Ivy League preferred, from the area: if their parent could send these spoiled bastards to Cornel, then they could foot the bill to keep them from going AWOL too! Whitehall personnel went whining to daddy, not to the sergeant.
I commuted by subway from my girl friend’s apartment, where she, nineteen or so lived with her sixteen year old sister (Mom with her new husband, up the block). Other nights I commuted from my mother’s house on Long Island. Or I slept at an army buddy’s who really was renting a hotel room: extras subsidized by the same source, his parents.
It isn’t just privates who get screwed by the military: GB Shaw had General Burgoyne joke about how much cash his commission had cost him: his salary was a pittance in comparison). Ah, but the generals get to loot; American privates don’t: Whitehall Street clerks never loot, or rape, burn, pillage. It’s not fair, and was never intended to be.
Anyway, this story was from around that period: it could have been from the next period: my graduate school years. I’ll recall the story as from uniform.
I get on the subway. I change trains at Times Square. There’s a vendor in one of the tunnels, he’s got a big display of cut flowers. Looked nice, $1.
I don’t buy flowers no matter the price. But I noticed them.
Uptown, home, Hilary’s house, Riverside Drive and 116th Street, in I walk. “Hi, ‘Pot” (my familiar abbreviation of Honey Pot, No, it was not a dope joke). “They had the nicest bouquets of white flowers on the subway. I almost got you a bunch.”
And Hilary goes, “Oh, gee, thank you, how thoughtful …” Until she realizes, as she always eventually did, that I hadn’t gotten her any damn flowers: just told her I’d thought of it.”
Well, isn’t it the thought that counts? It is in my life. Always has been. Thought is all there is.
Hilary chuckled for miles on that one. I was close to broke when she met me. Broker in the army, no body knew better why, and how. Then I was broker still in grad school, living near the bone as a teacher, then living on nothing at all (except what she earned) as the deschooler revolutionary.
Her friends saw Hilary as a sap, Paul always on the take, Paul, gaunt as a ghost from giving everything he has (and everything Hilary has) (or can get) to his fellow man. Yes, those guys, the one’s who murdered God: yes, the same ones who flayed Hypatia.
Hilary saw that as typical, I thought of getting you a bunch of flowers: with no flowers, just words. So do I.
But it ain’t just me: if it isn’t everybody at least it’s certainly wide-spread. We give credit for thoughts long before they become deeds. How many presidential candidates get beaucoup points from promises? How many politicians got credit, still get credit for freeing the slaves? How many slaves actually got freed?
Jefferson planned to free some of his slaves, someday. At least he planed eventually to free his girl friend.
How much credit did Nixon grab for getting troops out of Vietnam? More bombs in, more planes in, more death, much more; but never forget: fewer troops! fewer US troops!
How much harm did I do not spending $1 I couldn’t afford?
How many bouquets would I have bought Hilary had I been normally employed?
I’m sorry, that’s not a fair question: I can’t imagine ever having been normally employed. I can’t imagine ever having been normally anything.
Tolstoy got a lot of Christian saint credit for hating slavery, but he took credit for good behavior for a long time before actions started catching up.
The US takes a lot of credit for bestowing freedom, Justice, all sorts of goodies: so how come we’re still compelled to go to school? to pay taxes? to put up with gross misrepresentation by the media?
My giving everything away didn’t do any good. So I should have pretended to be normal, earned the $1, bought the flowers, given them to my girl … And never ever ever been drafted.
But hell, I’d been in school until then, then spent another decade in school, all to no good that I can see.
I do have to concede though: school was better the real world, far better: 99% lies thought it may have been.
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