Dad’s Brown Vinyl Lunch Bag

I remember the brown vinyl lunch bag that Dad would take to work.  It had such a strange smell of oil and musk

and dust and grim that when you would open the closet door where it was kept, the entire closet had the oder of the lunch bag.
The closet was off the kitchen, by the automatic washing machine that Mom finally got to replace the old Maytag wringer machine that had manual rollers to squeeze most of the water out from the clothes.  In the closet was a Kirby Deluxe Vacuum Cleaner complete with every possible nozzle and attachment that any housewife could possibly want.   There were racks of bottles of soda from Cliqueco Club and several cases of Narragansett Beer.  Later Dad changed to much cheaper beers when money was tougher to get his hands on.
The brown Vinyl bag held a few utensils that he must have washed at the mill, because they were always there at the bottom of the bag..  And there was a thermos that Mom would fill with coffee before he left for his 12 hour evening shift at the Bonin Textile Mill.  He would be at work for six in the evening and return when his twelve hour shift ended at six a.m. in the morning.  From time to time Dad would buy me a sky-bar and keep it in his bag for me to find as a surprise.
I think it was at least the third textile mill that Dad worked for.  He was a Union man — well most of the time, but there were a few times when he was taken on as over-seer that meant he was with management not labor.  He never did like those jobs because being boss in those mills put you in direct conflict with most of the workers.  And although his pay still came home with him in a small yellow envelope with folded bills and a hand full of change, it was not really enough to make a big difference.  The envelopes, and the change stayed in the second draw of the wardrobe.
There were no more labor strikes that I can remember.  I think that Dad would have come home with those stories had there been anything to tell.  The bigger strikes against bosses happened in 1934 when Dad was still only 14 years old.  At that time he was still working as a pin boy in a duck pin bowling alley in downtown Woonsocket in Rhode Island.  I must have been at most all of ten when Dad took me to the bowling alley and showed me where the pin-boys uses to sit and re set the pins, taking out the dead-wook as the knocked-down pins were called.  He also bowled at the Carbarn, also in Woonsocket, but he never worked at that alley, so it did not mean the same to me.
I remember that when I first saw the bowling alley, filled with smoke and people hollering and even cussin’ out loud, I was both distressed and intrigued.  I was a bit scared, in part because i did not go places alone with my father all that much, and I was not sure how to talk to him.  But most of all I remember my sense of awe that he could actually do that…sit at the end of the alley while these hard wooden balls came rolling at you and when the pins were struck it made a woop-ping kind of noise and the pins flew about and I wondered if he could have gotten hit by them.
I thought I could not do this, but remembered that I should not tell this to him.  He walked around and talked to people occasionally pulling me in closer saying, “yup, this is ma boy.”  I was proud to be his boy and so out of my element.  The noise of the place and the unfamiliar that it appeared to be, along with the unfamiliar that I felt with Dad all converged and I felt kind of frozen terror.
That memory is probably close to sixty years old but the vision, snap-shot in my mind of that moment is vivid and alive.  The smoke was nearly blue and thick.  There were soda bottles everywhere.  Dad was proud that this was his first job and I can think now that he must have remembered it fondly himself.  By the time that I was ten he was thirty-five and must have been sick of the smell of the textile mills that both provided a living for our family and ate him up completely at the same time.  He must have looked longingly at those pins and his thoughts must have had a kind of depth to them like my young thoughts had to me.
Several years later when i was getting around by myself and with friends, I brought Bobby Palazini and Johnny Wyatt to the bowling alley and
proudly replayed the scene that I had witnessed some years earlier.  They were not impressed, by then the big ten pin alley’s were automated
and places to bring a date. No one was impressed by duck-pins anymore.
But I was telling you about the mill.  Back in the 1950’s the French Mills were quite the place for skilled textile workers.  Dad was proud of the Alsace.  He loved his job there.  I still have a picture of him receiving a Christmas present from the women who worked for him at the Alsace.  He is holding up a burgundy red lamp with victorian figures on the front and painted in gold were the designs that framed the picture on the front of the lamp.  It sat in the front window of the house that Dad finally was able to buy in 1950.  The lamp was perched on a lamp table and the center of the room contained a chrome and grey kitchen table covered in formica.  Dad use to crouch beneath the table and polish the chrome legs of the table with some kind of paste wax that came in a yellow and black can.  It too was stored in the closet off the kitchen and come to think of it may well have been the source of the weird smell that emitted from that closet.
Dad respected his bosses.  there was something about authority and how the French-Canadians treated them that made for a perfect fit.  The old Belgian families that brought the financing for the mills to Woonsocket were industrialist who had a kind of Catholic class to them.  The Lafayette, the French Worsted, & The Alsace were part of a huge red brick district that made up a section of Woonsocket.  Before the mills began to migrate south where the labor was cheaper, you could hear the loud and strange noise that these mills made.  When inside you could tell what one spinning frame was doing and what it sounded like, but from outside it was like a huge hive of industrial noise.  Buy the time I turned old enough to work in one of these industrial hives, I had had it with the idea of spending a life time in one of these oil covered mills.  I hated the sight and the smell of them.  But Dad was still working in them.  Doyle Carpet was the last mill that he worked for.  The old man who owned that place was a nasty cuss of a guy.  Old Man Doyle was skinny and was constantly moving.  Mom worked there for a while as well.  She was righteously incensed by by the old man and when he told her to keep her can of soda in the toilet tank to keep it cold–it must have been more than she could bare.
One by one they began to burn down.  These hive of spinning frames dripping with oil that lubricated every mechanical and moving part of these giant woolen mills began to catch fire, The Dunn, The Guerin, The Jenckes, The Falls Yarn, and the giant mills along Clinton and Social Streets, one at a time they would burn.  They were such large raging five alarm fires that for miles away you could see the sky ablaze in red and orange glow.  Listening to the radio, blow by blow you heard the walls comes crashing down and the suspicion each time that some millionaire was going to collect some huge insurance bonus.
Today, as I sit and contemplate my retirement and as I remember back to my Dad’s retirement I think back to the Mills of Woonsocket and how on the backs of so many immigrants these industrial giants ate up humanity and spit out remnants of textile fiber that must have covered the globe.  There was such a thing back then as mill-life.  There was a camaraderie.  One would talk about the advantage of one mill over another.  At the Bonin there was even a free week with pay around the 4th of July.  By the time I was old enough to know where Dad and that brown Vinyl bag was going each day, I became clearer and clearer that I had no interest in contributing my life to this industry.
But for dad, certainly when he was a young man, he had the personality and the perseverance to climb out of bed each day and to climb down three flights of stairs to his 1940 Cadillac and with pride make his way to the mill.  The end of the Alsace ended that for Dad.  Every other mill job was just another day of drudge.  He grew to dislike the old clanging mills as much as I grew to dislike them.
The closet door, next to the washing machine, near the kitchen, that held the Kirby Deluxe Vacuum and the bottles of soda and beer and his brown lunch bag and the can of paste wax are still there in my mind.  Mom is at the stove. Dad has a newspaper.  The plaques on the wall now hang in my sister’s house.  The memories are like still-life’s of a era come and gone.  No one is moving in these memories we are all stiff and
silent, as if a Brownie Kodak had snapped the photo.  The Gladiolas that Mom loved, the tomatoes that were only beat in size by Uncle Leo’s, the cabin that was called the Night Owl…they are memories that barely keep alive a period fading out of existence, being kept alive by nothing more
than a passing thought of a worn out, brown vinyl, lunch bag.

A Delicious Breeze: On Writing

It is Friday, the 25th of March and the year is 2011.  It is late morning and Maddie and I have returned from a walk, she to her bowl of drinking water and me to a shower followed by wrapping a towel around myself and going to sit in the sun to dry, much like a cormorant might sitting up on the rock off the rocky coast of Maine.

I, however, am not off the coast of Maine, I am on the Treasure Coast of Florida in a small rental unit just minutes across from the sea enjoying the most wonderful easterly sea breeze that has our lace curtains fluttering in the wind.  In the far corner of the room is a small gadget that recycles water and makes a dripping sound.  The motor is nearly silent and it moves the water up the back of the gadget and it comes out dripping off of a finger pressing against a thumb on a hand that is plastered to the the gadget.

There is a green very old and worn chair in the same corner and the curtains flutter over the chair as I enjoy the breeze more completely than I have in a very long while.  The last breeze that felt this good about was the Trade Winds off the coast of Belize in Central America.  I had a small condo there that was owned by the Ku Klux Klan…but that story is for another time. For now I only want you to know that the breeze is more wonderfully wonderful than most breezes; and I crave in the worst way to own this breeze so that I would never, ever have to leave it.  A brief note here, up until this very minute I thought it was called the “Klue” Klux Klan, but my spell check set me straight.

I only add this note because it holds one of the biggest reasons why I have never let myself write.  I never learned how to spell and my embarrassment for that fact is nearly as awful as my getting drunk in front of people who I was wanting to impress.  Oh, Well, I have had worst moments in my life so I ought just go on from here and stop interrupting myself each time I want a diversion.

I am writing this blog from a place where my psyche feels very, very satisfied. I have a difficult time getting to this place from time to time, so while I am here I thought that I would remind myself, and some of you more faithful readers, just how important it is to be able to deliberately return yourself from a low, dark and repressed place (like the cellar) and be able to find your way back to some room with a view and perhaps even, with some luck, a delicious breeze.  The process of excavating, whether you are trained as an anthropologist, a psychoanalyst or a surveyor render the same results…if you dig carefully and you unearth something, you have to be careful to not break it while you are digging. The surveyor wants to avoid the gas line and the anthropologist want to not damage the artifacts and the psychoanalysts does not want to bruise the ego and thereby cause an explosion of defenses.

Finally, I want to tell you that I am reading a book published by Stephen King.  It is a semi-autobiographical book that is called, On Writing and was published around the year 2000, some eleven years ago.  The reason that I am telling you this is that I came across a passage in his book that King must have stolen from my psyche.  It is a thought that I have had for many years and I am certain that he found some way to steal it from me and make use of it before I did.  Besides, I was not the first author to have that thought, Walt Whitman before me did a fine job of exposing it in his famous, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.

FLOOD-TIDE below me! I watch you face to face;

Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you are to me!

On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose;

And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

You see what Whitman, King and I love about writing is the telepathy that it produces.  When I describe the breeze to you, you see a breeze like the breeze that I see and together we see a green chair in the corner, or a gadget that drips water in a fung shui kind of way.  And the masses of people that cross on Brooklyn’s Ferry, still cross on Brooklyn Ferry today and we are them and they are us and writing creates a type of human oneness that allows us to see and feel some of the same experiences although we are some hundreds of years apart or miles from each other in time and space.

I like that.  I like the continuation of a thought that was started in 1900 and passed through the year 2000 and now is emanating from March 25, 2011.  The oneness and the closeness that the written word can provide has always been special to me.  In some instances I enjoyed hand writing cards and letters to my kids, int some cases much more than they enjoyed receiving them–but again that would be another story.   And in other cases I have enjoyed the technical advances that allows me to send an e mail with a thought, and then when you have a chance you can read it and return the message with your thought.  I like that, also.

I have written journals to myself that contained such personal information that when I found them some years later, I immediately burned them after re-reading them.  Phew, that was close, I thought.  But the essence of this blog entry is very simple.  For me writing is sacred and highly evolved in its manner of communicating.  I prefer it at times to telephone conversations, or even at times, to face-to-face communications because I can linger over the words at my pace.  I can take in something that you say to me and I can savor it and recall it and respond to it once I have had the opportunity to digest it.

There are some words and pictures that I could eat right off the page……Like the breeze that is so delicious this morning.

Manifestations as Creativity

The idea that we have what we want and what we need is a factor of being able to imagine that what we want is real and can be made manifest by our consistent concentration on the kind of life that we want.  Most of us get wrapped up in missing and not having rather than in the clear vision that what we want is indeed good for us, not harmful to others, and can be made manifest by keeping out thought energy on the prize.
What we want changes, and as we change the desires grow and change with us.  It is o.k. to want something new if your old vision no longer matches what feels good inside of you…Remembering that what feels good inside of you is the most important knowledge that we have and it is entirely unique to us and only know by us….Only I can make myself happy in the way that I need to be happy.
That is accomplished by not betraying our deep innermost feelings and sensations.  These deep and inner most instincts have to be
illuminated for us to see them.  That illumination of our most sacred self has to be deliberate.  It does not need any other criteria other that it is what I want and it will not be harmful to myself or others……
Manifestations or creating in such a way that what you imagine, you will into existence is not magic or even new-age.  The human mind through its primary drive scans the world and either takes it as it is or it uses creative powers to synthesize a new “something”.  Even colors as they exist in the world can be blended to form a new color as anyone with a knowledge to the color wheel knows.  Manifestations are nothing more that the human creative process applied to everyday life.
Have at it!  Let your mind wander you into a new dimension that feels great from the inside out.