Archive for November 23rd, 2017

Blind And Dirty

And as we went up into the mountains we met a blind man.
Where are you going, my friends? he asked.
Into the regions of the mysteries, I answered.

—Kennneth Patchen, Sleepers Awake

One Thanksgiving I spent in the jail. I was then in the pharmaceutical trade. There were apparently laws governing this trade. And I had transgressed them.

Who knew?

In the jail I learned to eat everything on my plate. My parents had tried everything up to and including holding me down and forcibly shoving pudding past my lips, to get me to eat everything on my plate. Always I had resisted. But by day three in the jail, I was avidly eating whatever they gave me.

It’s not like I was underfed in there. It was more that I had no control over what or when or how I was fed. It just came to me, the food. On a plate. When the people with the keys decided to feed me. If they decided not to feed me, I would not eat. Because I was in a cage. I could not get out. I was wholly dependent. On the people with the keys. Who brought the daily bread.

Food had never been, and never has been since, quite like that. I can, to this day, thirty-some years on, picture every meal, slid to me through the bars, in that jail. Hard-boiled eggs! Formerly I had run from these like Richard Pryor with his body on fire. But in the jail, I ate them. And they were good! Especially the white parts. The yellow parts, they were kind of creepy, like they were trying to be a baby. But hey: you eat what they give you. When you’re at the mercy of the people with the keys. Who slid the food in to me. When they did so decree.

And on Thanksgiving, they tried to do their best. But they could not. There came turkey and mashed potatoes and yams and rolls and cranberry sauce. I had never before eaten a yam. I had always believed yams were creatures not actually of this earth, and had resolved not to eat extraterrestrial foodstuffs. Yams, eggplant, cauliflower; alien creatures of that sort. But, in the jail, I ate the yam. I ate everything. Whatever was on the plate, I ate it. Maybe if there had been something wholly beyond the pale—something, say, like mayonnaise—I might have eschewed. But I never eschewed. I chewed. They tried to give us Thanksgiving. The keepers of the keys. They were not bad sorts—so long as you are the sort who earns your crust in the business of keeping human beings in cages. But you just can’t have Thanksgiving. Or any other thanks, or giving, or even dirt-dull normal day, so long as you’re in a cage.

The basis of a jail is that you have no control. You are in a cage. And you stay there. People with keys decide if and when you can come out. Mostly you can’t come out unless someone out in what you soon, there in the cage, begin to think of as “the world,” comes up with what is basically a bribe to the court that is called “bail.” If outside people can’t come up with this bribe, you stay in the cage. If you stay in the cage, the key-people then decide when you eat, and what you eat. And then you eat it.



Mongo Proclaims Make America Great Again Thanksgiving

When I Worked

November 2017
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