Posts Tagged ‘work’

The Lady is at Work

June 4, 2016

LadyWork

She heard America singing;

through two centuries’ labors they came a-ringing–

the song and the opus of bringing

a newborn project in a newfound world

‘neath a loud stripey flag ‘t’was unfurled.

From ship to wagon to cart to railroads,

sending out them precious mother-lode payloads

over seas and lands and bridges and field rows–

he hauled ’em in, she bailed ’em out

through highways and byways they sent forth the shout.

Up with the work! and down with the grit

she dug and he hammered; she welded; he shipped it.

Turn up the earth, mine and weld and wield it ’til it fit–

a new land, a new time, new way of doin’

rolling on wheels where used to be horsehoin’.

They rolled up on the far edge of our vast continent,

on the heels of a gold rush at the shore of containment.

Along came the Okies, then Hollywood raiment–

not bein’ done yet, we slid into Silicon valley,

so much bigger and brighter than the old yankee alley.

Now what’s up with that and where do we go from here–

let bruthas and sistahs step to the music we hear

enduring the pain, dodging the rain, overcoming the fear,

we gotta discover what to do to pick up the slack

so we do not regress, do not turn back.

Maybe we will and maybe we will not–

forge a way past our lethargy, this entitlement and rot

what it is we got to do I know not what,

might have to grab that destiny from some ogre or grinch.

Let’s get this ship turnin’–hand me that wrench!

Glass half-Full

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Tale of Two Bridges

April 27, 2016

BridgSCar

That new bridge in the East is sleek and lowly-slung;

she shimmers ghostly against blue sky,

while Ole West, high-tense, from rock to rock is hung;

they had to sling them cables high.

Out where flat marshes meet Atlantic’s swellin’ swale

they’ve stretched a spindly span, ascending high with whitish wispy grace.

But over on California crags where Pacific currents hail

they had strung an iron span of steel-tensed strength in perilous golden space.

Here’s one bridge, laid-back and sleek, steeped in simple Southern style;

t’was formed up in 21st-century streamlined gray concrete;

the other was stretched in cabled steel–in blood-red iron by bloodied rank and file,

strung out in 1930’s grit as some gargantuan steel-nerv’d feat.

GoldGate

When America swoons in futures past and some souls live to tell the tale,

we’ll speak stories of bridges, of metallic spans that tested men’s mortal fate.

Perhaps they’ll mention Charleston’s pride–that span in whitish shade of pale,

but the king of steel-strung cabled bridgedom is that big red one at Golden Gate.

Glass half-Full

Doing the Limbo at 64

January 9, 2016

I remember back in the 1950s when I was growing up and attending Catholic school. They taught us that there’s a place called Limbo, where you go after death if you had never received baptism while living in the world. Although I am a mere Christian now, having been baptized in 1978 by own choice choice at the age of 27, it has been revealed to this protestant that there is indeed a place called Limbo.

But it is not actually a place; rather, it is a time, a time of life.

How do I know this?

I am in Limbo now.  I am learning that it is a stage of life through which you pass, before–not after– death, a kind of a nether time through which the maturing American sojourns, somewhere between ages 64 and 66.

When you turn 64, there are multiple signs that indicate you have arrived in Limbo. The first is, of course, remembering back to 1968 when the Beatles raised the profound question “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x158z5_beatles-when-i-m-sixty-four_music

On one level, the song is profound for the aging adult, insofar as it raises the question of one’s life-status or love-condition in relation to one’s spouse, or, as they say nowadays, one’s “significant other” or lack thereof.

On another level, the question itself–about being needed and fed–is critical for the aging adult, insofar as it raises the question of one’s life-status in relation to “the System.”

You know the System I’m talking about, the one that–as we thought back in the day–would relegate us all to little ticky-tacky houses where we’d all look just the same.

And once you start seeing the signs that you are approaching–or perhaps have already arrived in– Limbo, suddenly the omens are all over the place, and very plain to see.

For example, as I happened to tune in, a couple of days ago, to Diane Rehm’s show, in which the Grand mistress of inside-the-beltway grapevine NPR confab discussed the big “R” word with Teresa Ghilarducci,

http://thedianerehmshow.org/audio/#/shows/2016-01-07/teresa-ghilarducci-how-to-retire-with-enough-money/111702/@00:00

I learned that the assets so far accumulated by myself and my wife (six years younger than me) are, of course, not nearly enough to “make it through” the Retirement years, which is a special golden or rose-colored-glasses period  sometimes called the “rest of our life.”

Theoretically, our assets are not enough, especially with, you know, zero interest rates etcetera etcetera.

On the other hand, who the hell knows how much is enough?

Furthermore, this unstable scenario has been further destabilized by myself, yours truly, who recently, and oh-so-irresponsibly, decided to quit my job seven months before reaching the big SIX-FIVE road marker, because it was–as my body was daily communicating to me–wearing me out, after the past 45 years of uninterrupted work, the lion’s share of which was spent in construction and maintenance jobs.

There’s a reason (as I am discovering) that 65 is the big mile marker, the fork in the road where two paths diverge, as Robert Frost might have called it many and many a year ago.

In my case, I just didn’t quite make it that far, stopped short of the finish line with only seven months to go.

In one moment of time I morphed from one Bureau of Labor Statistical category to another. Whereas, I formerly was perhaps categorized as  employed but underemployed (being a college grad in a maintenance job), this statistical territory I now inhabit is a never-neverland somewhere between “unemployed” and “dropped-out of the labor force altogether–having given up on looking for another job!

Limbo!

The real hell of it is I’m still looking for a job, still striving to redeem myself from the stigma of being a labor-force dropout, still busting gut to add another few thousand bucks into that magic pot of IRA and/or 401K gold at the end of the Social Security rainbow.

Did I mention “gold”? Don’t even think about it, except all the online doomsayers are saying I need to buy it. But I wouldn’t know where to start. I mean, I’ve lived in the System all my life.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, where I’m filling blanks and checking boxes in online applications, the question becomes: who is going to hire a 64-year-old who just may be one of those  off-the-chart non-entitities who has “given up” on gainful employment, when there are multitudes of unemployed or underemployed 22-year-olds out there pounding the keyboard and the pavement looking for work?

Who? I ask you who?

Don’t think too hard. That’s been my problem all my life–thinking too much, and maybe writing too much too. (And if you believe that, I’ve got three novels, poised in cyberspace on the website linked below; they’re hanging there, suspended in electrons waiting to enhance your historical reading experience.)

So here I leave you with a closing anecdote. It is a dilemma wrapped in an enigma.

6:30 this morning, still dark. I just delivered my wife to her nursing job. I’m at the gas pump of a convenience store. I’m thinking. . .maybe I should go in there and ask for a job. Then I’m looking blankly at the gas pump as the digitals flash, and my eye wanders up to a sign on the gas pump. It says:

“Polar pop any size 69 cents”

And above that message is another little sign, with pictures of “Crown” cigarette packs, and an offer that smokers cannot refuse:

“$3.18 if you buy two.”

Do I really want to spend the last six months of my working life. . .

Fuhgedaboudit.

Smoke

Incentives for Development instead of Dependency

December 13, 2015

I’ve been working for the last six years as a maintenance man in an apartment complex that houses 92 households.

You know as well as I do that it is not easy to get up and go to a job five days out of every week that goes by, and to do this week after week, month after month, year after year.

Now for an old guy like me, age 64, while approaching that precipice called “retirement” and considering how/when such an arrangement may take shape, it has been difficult lately.

I’ve been struggling with a few issues, both public and private, pertaining to this job that has occupied 40 hours of my time every week for the last six years.

The apartment complex in which I maintain all this stuff–toilets, faucets, sinks, drains, light fixtures, electrical outlets, water heaters, doors, windows, cabinets, floors, stairways, interiors, exteriors, dumpsters, trash, smoke-filled rooms. . .this apartment community is a public housing arrangement in which rents are subsidized, according to need and income, through funds that have been provided through taxpayer money.

I confess that one problem I have had lately comes from wondering why I have to do all this work, when many tenants don’t seem to have much to occupy their time. I mean, everybody has a TV and that’s okay.

I don’t really want to elude my responsibilities as an employed person. But I do believe that if there is, among the hundred+ residents here, a good person who is willing to take on some responsibility to do some necessary work. . .that person should be allowed to contribute some of their time and effort toward making the community facilities cleaner and more operative.

But I cannot expect this type of help from tenants.

I am, you know, the employee, while they are the tenants. I am the worker; they are the recipients of my services.

And I have, during previous periods of my life, benefited from some college-level training in education. Accordingly, I would like to take opportunities now and then to teach others, especially children, to do for themselves instead of me the Maintenance guy doing all of it.

A year or two ago, a good thing happened in this complex where I work. A helpful tenant who lives here took it upon himself to help me in cleaning one of our two laundry rooms. I was pleased to have his participation, especially since I have a steady stream of vacancies to deal with–vacancies that require painting, cleaning and repairs. There should be more people in the world who are like this good citizen who has volunteered to help make the community in which he lives, in which I work, a better place.

Nevertheless, I was informed that it was not his place to do so. Because he is, after all, the tenant, while I am the employee.

In other instances during my six years, tenants have been compelled to uproot plants–decorative and vegetable– that they had planted in the mulched sterile areas around the buildings. Because it was against the rules. Management is supposed to do all that, and make those decisions, etc. And this place is subsidized by the USDA. The A stands for Agriculture. Fed-approved agriculture of course, not tenant-planted agriculture.

I told a friend of mine recently that if I had a million bucks I’d buy the whole dam place and then let the tenants have their own community garden instead of these useless ornamental shrubs and mulch, and I’d turn my maintenance job over to a tenant committee where they could divvy out the work as it arises, and be compensated accordingly with rent credit or benefits or cash.

Well, my struggle with these issues was punctuated this Sunday morning with some other inputs about this type of situation.

I was listening in on Listening In, which is an online audio program that is provided weekly by World Magazine, of which I am a subscriber.

  http://www.worldmag.com/player.php?podcast/7467

In this recorded discussion, I heard host Warren Smith interviewing guest Jennifer Marshall, who represents the Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity of the Heritage Foundation. They were conducting a fresh discussion about a tired old topic, welfare reform.

Jennifer was explaining the outcome of a recent forum at Heritage, the purpose of which was to help people escape poverty.

She mentioned that the major welfare reform of 1996 had been successful in reducing welfare loads and reducing child poverty. But only one program was dealt with. She further stated what needs to happen is reform of–not just cash welfare program– but food stamps, public housing and other programs. And then she made this statement:

“The incentives right now are structured toward dependence; let’s get them structured toward moving people back to independence, back to flourishing in their communities.”

And I thought, she may have a good point there. But I don’t know what I could do about it.

Life goes on.

In other news, its a beautiful, sunny day here in the Blue Ridge.

Have a nice day, and a satisfyingly productive week.

Glass half-Full

Them Immigrants

November 22, 2014

She said  Send me 

your huddled masses yearning to be free.

He said Lend me 

your immigrant asses yearning to work for me.

She calls out for all mankind

have a little compassion willya cuz they need some time

to get their act together, find some opportunity–

to make it on their own, juz like you and me.

 

He insists they play by the rules

cuz  our ancestors were no fools–

they broke the ground,  forged their own tools!

She said yeah but that was then and this is now

they just got off the boat–they don’t know how– 

not yet.

Just get

me some productivity he said,

while masses toiled and earnings fed.

 

But then the Great Recession changed all that;

by n bye entitlements got fat;

while jobs went stale, wages flat.

All that pie in the sky we be been dreaming of

went splat in the face when push came to shove.

So now them huddled masses yearning to be free

dun scooped them jobs from you an me,

or so they say.

 

But hey,

it’s all good in the ‘burbs, it’s hunky-dory in the ‘hood,

them doin’ what them could, we doin’ what we should,

raisin’ upward mobilitators, squeezin’ out them couch potatoes,

’til black swans fly o’er white doves’ gains,

and burnin’ wood doth move against more-of-the-same.

 

Smoke

The Work

April 5, 2014

I have worked all my adult life, beginning with that first job, at a Burger Chef, while I was in high school. After flippin’ the burgers for awhile, I did the bag boy thing at an A&P, where I moved into the big time of running a cash register.

One high school summer I did an  internship in an office at the Louisiana State Capitol.

Then moving on to LSU, I did part-time gigs: selling ladies shoes, dippin’ ice cream at a little off-campus storefront from which I got fired for leaving the doors open one night; also, servicing vending machines at the Student Union building in between classes and chairing a committee of the student Union.

As chairman of the student National Speakers committee (a freebie job, but great experience), I introduced Dr. Benjamin Spock and comedian-activist Dick Gregory to our assembled student/faculty audiences. After that, the Young Republicans complained about the lefty speakers with no conservative balance. They wanted somebody to represent their side. I told them that was understandable, but we had, alas, blown the budget on Spock and Gregory. I told them we could go halfsies on paying William Buckley, if they could get him for us, which they did. I always thought that was mighty civil of them; maybe that’s why I’m a Republican today.

I have fond memories of that time, which include hearing Dr. Spock talking about two Maoist girls who heckled him on some other campus somewhere, and Dick Gregory requesting a bowl of fruit be delivered to his hotel room and then making people laugh at his speech later but then impressing upon them the urgency of our racial problems. Then there was meeting Bill Buckley at the airport, escorting him to his hotel room and watching him tie his skinny tie as he smiled and talked to me like I was one of his New Yawk buddies. Bill had a very winning smile.

After a couple years of English and Political Science and intermittent cannabis distractions, I managed somehow to graduate, in December ’73, I hit the trail with my “General Studies” sheepskin from LSU University College. Now this southern boy gravitated over to the epitome of southern exotica, a place called “Florida,” where I sold  debit life insurance for awhile in a black neighborhood, then moved on over to selling classified advertising for Mr Poynter at the St. Pete Times. But then I lost my license on points, but continued to drive and got nabbed by a highway patrolmen. When I went to court on  the infraction, a judge named Rasmussen  told me that if people disregarded the law in the way I had done, there would “anarchy in this country, so therefore I sentence you to five days in the county detention center.”

“Detention center? What’s that?” I asked the judge.

“That’s the jail son,” he replied.

“When does it start?” I queried.

“Right now,” he said.

When I got to the jail, it was an alien environment for this university boy with wing tips, and so I decided to take control of my situation by getting involved in a poker game with these hardened criminals, but then I made the mistake of winning. I say “mistake,” because my little stack of quarters or whatnot motivated one of the incarcerated fellows to ask me a for a dollar to get in the game, but I told him No.

So later that night, since he was in the same bunk with me, he punched me out.

I did, however, survive it.

Four days later, I’m out of the Pasco County jail, and I didn’t get run over by a train or get drunk or nothin excitin’ but I did happen to go to a movie filmed in the Blue Ridge Mountains; it was Where the Lilies Bloom.

The setting in that movie seemed so absolutely beautiful to me that I thought I’d like to just get the hell out of Florida and go to that place depicted in the movie, and so I did, and I’ve been liven’ in these mountains ever since. That was about forty year ago.

After settling in Asheville, a place far more mountainous and wintry than this Louisiana boy had ever known, I got a job selling printing for a printshop. That turned into about five years of good work, but it came in two stints that were punctuated by a detour to Waco Texas in 1978. ‘T’was there I got saved.

After meeting Jesus I returned to North Carolina and the print shop for awhile.

Then I drifted into the building trade and spent the lion’s share of my working life as a carpenter building houses and a few other structures, including a bridge at Grandfather Mountain that completed the missing link of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which them WPA boys had left hangin’ back in the ’30s, either cuz they ran out of money, or the War came on, or the jagged mountain was just too craggy for a man to build a bridge on it at that time.

I married Pat; we had three young’uns, now grown. Which brings me now to the main point of this here blog: work. When a man gets a family, he manages somehow to motivated to go out in the wide jungle world and make a livin’, by hook or by crook. And this is, I think, a very important part of what makes work for folks and what makes the world go ’round: Family. A greater motivator than ideology or guv’mint.

Last weekend, this mountain boy and my wife, Pat, were in San Francisco, at the upper end of Silicon valley where our son works amongst the high-flyin’ v.c.-fueled startups of our day. I spent a lot of time walking through that amazing city, and on the last morning there I found this interesting sight in the Mission district where our son resides.

So I snapped it for you:

MissionHeroes1

I found this really interesting. It’s a great work of art, painted lovingly and precisely on the face of a small business, which appears to be a hairstylist’s shop, probably a family business, but not run by Papa because it’s more likely run by Mama, with Papa working over on Mission Street with his grocery or some such enterprise.

You will notice, on the painting, some great people–true heroes of working people. The heavy hitters among them include: Gandhi, Dr. King, Cesar Chavez. Also identifiable are a few whose legacy and life’s work was questionable, tainted with revolutionary violence: Che, Sandino. Sitting Bull is in the very middle. I wrote this song, Sitting Bull’s Eyes, about him a long time ago.

The other persons in this mural are worthy of historical consideration. I checked out all those names, which are written beside each face. I cannot remember them all, but perhaps you will visit the Mission in San Francisco someday and see this great work of art for yourself. Or you may recognize them from the photo.

Worth noting in the artwork is an omission: amongst this collection of lefty heavyweights, the two theoreticians Marx and Lenin are not included; nor are the bloody tyrants, Mao and Stalin.

Some of those leaders pictured are not totally honorable in my Christian world-view, but they are obviously heroic in the eyes of the artist, and that says something significant about the perpetual struggle between, in this world, them that have, and them that have not. As for me, I respect them that are willing to work hard for what they do get, such as I, by God’s grace, have done.

Smoke

An American poem

August 3, 2013

Punchbowl herds on de game Preserve

sippin up liquidity from de FedReserve,

dey spec and dey sling

dem dummy dollars, an’ sing:

Oh give me a home where the FedFunds do roam

and de sheep and de bulls graze on Loan,

where seldom is heard a deflative word

and Govment reports steer de herd.

 

Now down in de City

workfolk stay gritty:

burgerflippers on strike

suburbers take hike

while Fed pumps liquidity

jackin up mediocrity

de system reward passivity

instead of generatin’ activity.

 

While corpos say downsize

lefties get organize

obsesies say supersize

an’ children go unsupervise;

Den Anonymous  grab de tail

of dat lowlivin’ beasty grail,

scarin’ up rabble hell

against highrollin’ game Preserve shell.

 

Somewhere out here in mudville today

de prophets dey cry while de profits may play;

but dere’s no more renewal to tout,

cuz mighty America has struck out.

On de udder hand maybe not:

Have I understated our potential a lot?

 

O give me a land where innovators roam,

and de Feds on de Preserve get sent home,

where thee brave make a move and thee bold take a chance

at renewing our anthem, and reviving our dance.

 

Glass half-Full

From Golden Gate to Golden Door

May 5, 2013

In 1903, we Americans erected the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. The great bronze sculpture had been presented to us as a gift by France. On the inside of Lady Liberty’s pedestal, these words, composed by Emma Lazarus in 1883, are engraved:

 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

These words still ring true to the American spirit. I am greatly inspired by the poem, which Emma had named The Great Colossus.  But times have changed in the 133 years that passed since she was inspired to write it; and our nation has changed greatly since  the sonnet became an anthem that came to express so profoundly  our exceptional American optimism and generosity.

With tender admiration for Emma Lazarus, and for the her verse, and with great respect  for all that Lady Liberty represents to so many Americans, especially the millions who first glimpsed her freedom torch as new immigrants, I submit an update. I hope it may appropriately express a challenge that yet  looms on our bright horizons.

 

It’s not like a political hack with vengeful fights,

and regulative burdens to constrict our plans.

No. Here within our yawning, paved-o’er shores still stands

a beneficent nation with bright hope , whose lights

form the grid and net of a people free, and this our name:

America.      From our electrified sands

glows bold goodwill; our vibrant enterprise, our busy hands

will in time restore  this great worn infrastructure’s frame.

“Lose, o ye couch-potato louts, our cultivated TV sloth!” we must say.

“Stand aside, but hey!” Give us, instead, your energetic poor,

your troubled masses yearning to work their poverty away,

along the rusted refuse of our landfill’d shore.

Send these working folks, recession-toss’d, our way,

We’ll renew it all, from Golden Gate to Golden Door!

 

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

O ye Chicken Inspector

March 5, 2013

O ye O ye

chicken inspector!

Ye better do ye job

cuz we be

dependin on u

to catch the contagion

to snatch the salmonella

before it do it bad thing.

Now be de time to

do ye job,

reverse dat ol strike mentality

dat ol labor union barricade whoopfiz biz

wi cryinz in d’street

an all dat anarchy bee-ez.

Jez do ye job

cuz we need u stay on task

no matte what sequesta cracka say.

Knock down dem salmonellas

today

and giardias and germs

ev’ day

das what we say!

Hey! Keep it clean.

We be a clean machine. Les keep it

dat way. Do ye job no matta

what dey say no matta

what FDA say

no matta what OMB or Security or DemRepub say

Do yo job today

cuz we need u yeah!

TSA U 2!

even if dem frequent flyas glare at you.

 

O ye O ye

air traffic controller!

Ye better do ye job

cuz we be

dependin on u

to unsnarl dem can o worms

in our skies

so we don’ dies

trying to fly ’round

get from town to town

get up get down

Don’ pay no ‘tension to dat background noise,

dem consumer device toys,

jez keep ye eye on d’blip

not on d’slipping dip

cuz we be depend on u.

Keep yo eye on de donut

not on de hole.

Dat sacred duty–it be soul,

of our nation, an

das what I’m talkin about:

Don’t pout.

Times is hard y’all!

Heed the call.

Now all ye workin folk out dere

Now be d’time for all mens

an womens too

to come to d’aid of our country today

cuz we be

depend on u.

I aint shittn you.

Les keep dis ting goin

don let it fall

don let it stall.

It don depend on dat Wash’n beltway be-ez biz,

cuz is what it is and dat all dat it is.

It depend on me and you.

Dis be true: on me and you, an don stop prayn.

Das all I sayn.

 

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Advice for thieves

January 27, 2013

About 1900 years ago, a teacher named Paul of Tarsus sent this advice to the Christians who were in Ephesus, Turkey:

“He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.”

To this  I would add my two cents:

Don’t wait for the labor to come to you; go out and find it. Find some work that needs to be done in your community or city, then go out and do it. Don’t wait for some gov.agency to bail you out of your downhill slide. Rather, find some folks nearby that you can work with, hook up with them, and then go out and do what needs to be done to make your community or city, your/our world a better place.

Your effort will ultimately improve you as much as it benefits them.

Times are hard, but that’s no excuse.  Get busy before this thing goes down, and you with it. Your personal responsibility is  the fertile raw material where  “individuality” so disdained by liberals intersects effectively with “collectivism” that is dissed by the conservatives.

Try to be the middle ground where everybody else is missing it. Somebody needs to. Be the missing link.

Listen: Underground Railroad Rides Again