Friday, June 1, 2012

Slapstick

I was just the right age when I read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and loved it. It was of a piece with Joseph Heller's Catch-22-both written about one war by those facing the prospect of being in a different one. I was a student of Rutgers College at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and had registered for the draft (it was that long ago, the USA had compulsory service) with the Selective Service Board on Banta Place in Hackensack because they had a HUGE pool of eligible men available for conscription and if I worked it right, absolutely no need for a college-boy pussyfooter like me. Hi-Ho.

I had been in school my whole life to that point and saw no need, Vietnam War or no, for me to stop. Just to make doubly sure I wasn't rudely interrupted, I enrolled in the campus' Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Yep, I was a ROTC Nazi as we called ourselves when no one was listening. In addition to a 2-S (student) draft classification, it gave me a second draft deferment, 2-D (studies in the national defense). All I got out of two years in ROTC was college pals who hated me for being a fascist and instructors who hated me for being a college student. Guess how many of both with whom I still I exchange Christmas card. Hi-Ho.

It was in a different life that I read Vonnegut's Slapstick, actually two different lives, his and mine. A lot of people have gone out of their way since it was published to say how awful it is and I, in that same spirit, am going out of my way to not provide a single link to any of those reviews because those people are whiny crybabies and utterly wrong. Hi-Ho.

The Kurt Vonnegut of SH Five had no choice but to write "or Lonesome No More!" I had even less choice in deciding to read it. I've given you links to three superlative books of the latter part of the previous  century, a time when a great many people were working on a great number of marvelous things. I wasn't among them. Don't say you got nothing out of reading this, because now you have and be grateful there isn't a pop quiz on American Lit. Hi-Ho.

For lunch everyday I ate a sandwich with a slice of yellow American cheese between two pieces of white bread. No mustard, no mayonnaise or condiment covering of any kind. I fancied myself a thinker rather than a doer but I was little more than a skin-covered doorstop with hair and paisley shirts (even when no longer fashionable). I was afraid of living and I still am, but I have found something else to now fear as well and even more, dying. Hi-Ho.

Ideally, you would never read this. It was intended  to be a placeholder in the blogging machine in case there'd been a bump in the post-operative road. No chance. I was released from the hospital yesterday, exactly as I understood the conversation two weeks ago the doctor thought he was having with me but his words washed over me and swept me downstream beyond the coastal shoals. I came home after my release at mid-morning, slept for a few hours started to work on this and realized a hospital, any hospital, is the world's worst place to get some rest and stretched out again to sleep. I'll rejoin my life, already in progress, but tomorrow, poor player that it is, seems a damn sight easier to do it than today. Hi-Ho.

If something had gone awry, this epistle would be more than a little awkward, but only for me and certainly not for any length of time either of us could comprehend. For you, I'd be another roadside attraction (with hair) you passed everyday but who, by tomorrow, would have been the 'I wonder what happened to that somebody that I used to read?' question. (Name is after the dash.) Walked off the Earth perhaps or, fearing coercive consensus,jumped. Hi-Ho.
-bill kenny      

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