“... I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin.” A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan; 1962
Last night, Friday after July 4th, neighborhood fireworks calmed down, I walked around sidewalk, picked up spent packages of fireworks, and bagged a pile of dog shit. Using Work-Speak, it was family's notorious “Lean-Week,” my company paid bimonthly, and there was nothing to do except sit on back porch, listen to the Phillies vs. Braves game on A.M. radio. Maybe first base slugger Ryan Howard would clout a home run and fans would lay off his multimillioanaire ass for slumping at bat. Such civic attitude would be refreshing, and no doubt, would free me up to consider bigger things, for example, how to find a part-time lawn-mowing job around town – such job opportunities getting rarer & rarer in employment stressed Lackawanna County.
Sat on porch, and Ryan Howard connected with a homer. The crowd roared, the N.L. East 1st place Braves seemed less invincible. The first-floor door opened, and I saw 68-year old Lorraine exit with a plan to sit beside me, smoke a taboo-cigarette; Lorraine was recovering from cancer and a deep depression focused upon her 40-year-old son Mark's addiction problem, and present housing in a Binghamton, New York, halfway house. Lorraine cried every time she thought of Mark, saying that, “Chuck, he's not yet ready for what religion-counselors are laying on him..., maybe God will find a way though?” That's very possible, I said, and a few fireworks began to burst in breezy Taylor Borough air.
Big-brown eyes, Lorraine lived alone, and she could not cheer up that evening. Explained how I once happily smoked marijuana during bygone, pre-Department of Transportation random piss testing days. Emphasized how “weed” might help better than all her pain and anti-depression meds combined. Illegal, but it seemed the right thing to do (for me) was make a plan, acquire quality grass, take Lorraine somewhere out of sight, and teach her how to inhale steadily, hold it in, experience how it felt, maybe take another hit. Lorraine chuckled, semi-agreed to the plan, but expressed fear of possibly “liking it too much.” The Phillies jumped to a comfortable lead over Braves, a couple Roman candles launched down the block, and poor Lorraine returned to speaking about son Mark's plight in prison re-hab.
As a tenured Bible-thumper, I drank Lorraine's gift of Diet Pepsi, and began to tell her the Old Testament story of Job, the godson of Abraham, a salao Old Man & the Sea. Before things went to biblical hell, & ancient points-of-light dimmed, I told Lorraine how young Job might have been living a life similar to the Romney family. Maybe Job as a young man might have had the wherewithal to move to Mexico in order to practice polygamy in peace? Maybe Job's father could have become Governor of Michigan? Maybe if Job became Governor of liberal-Sodom, he'd sign Statewide Health Care Insurance into Law? Maybe during a Vietnam-type “police action” in the Holy Land, Job could have gone on a Mission to ally-France?
At any rate, I explained to Lorraine how (with God's consent) the Devil got his Jagger moment, and Job's financial portfolio subsequently fizzled to nothing, and his children could not access multi-million dollar trust funds and enjoy the fruits of Bain Capital (a.k.a. Vulture Capitalism) anymore. After such unorthodox sermon, Lorraine became thoughtful, and said, “Uh, Chuck, I see you're not a Republican.” No Lorraine, I kicked such bad habits back in 1972, and the Dems are tricky-dicks too – so just try and read the Book of Job when you have time. Lorraine agreed, I helped her walk back inside her apartment, and I was left alone to ponder where I could get money to help get my family through the upcoming payless “Lean Week.”
Next morning, Saturday at about 7 A.M., my son Daniel and I ate breakfast, mine a Thomas blueberry bagel and black coffee. Dan, a Keystone College Senior come fall, was quite excited about U.S. prospects for economic success, and he acquired a perfectly logical sense that I had perpetual “chips-on-my-shoulder” about money, and capitalism in particular. Dan was accurate, and while doing dishes, my very ill wife Carol asleep, I agreed to join him for a 12:30 P.M. appointment at BIOTEST, located in Dickson City's vast Viewmont Mall area. The deal at BIOTEST was that we'd both fill out typical paperwork, our names would be called, and blood-plasma would be extracted, and we'd be compensated $40 each. $80 total, for father & son's blood, only a little pin-prick-pain, post-extraction weakness? Not too shabby, I thought, but my (expletive) brain started to consider the old idealistic-days as a Teamster dockworker, ten (10) years total, and all the unpaid bi-annual donations of blood to the Red Cross. The Wise Man (crab-ass) in me reared its head, and I started to let Daniel know that I'd much prefer donating blood free of charge. Untimely and minus Book of Job-diplomacy, I pontificated to my son,
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“Ya know, Dan, what's bound to happen? Afterward they'll take our blood-plasma product, and it will undergo significant “Mark-Up” by corporations who will dispense it to people who have the best health insurance plans in the Land.” Leftward ho, I continued to opine, “and the insurance plan premiums for families like us will RISE. O yea, Daniel, that's what the Manson Family wrote in blood at the Tate/La Bianca homes, RISE, yea, all boats will rise.”
My son Daniel found me quite incorrigible, insane, he politely buttoned-up, and paid respect to a father who had garnered his “fair-market” shares of principled career & financial set-backs, survived numerous workplace-tormentors. But $80 would purchase a couple bags of needed groceries at the Taylor Price Chopper, and Daniel and I made our wary-way to the BIOTEST blood-plasma facility.
Our appointment was at 12:30 P.M. We stepped inside BIOTEST, there were neither Romney nor Obama types around, not even people wearing golf T-shirts, no Bruce Springsteen “girls-in-summer-gear” in view. Just Daniel and I, and four corpulent but nice ladies wearing short-shorts, tattoos, cell phones pressed against ears. One white-guy, who entered the facility directly after Dan and I, wore a funky-Boston Celtic cap, sported soiled designer jeans, displayed colorful underwear, he spoke with confidence on cell phone to a mate, “Hey baby-girl, the blood givin' should be done-up in an hour or so, maybe, we'll go & see WW Z at Cinemark after?”
Daniel and I took seats, I looked at life-affirming BIOTEST posters hung on walls. One depicted gorgeous smiling young man & woman declaring, “Be compensated today – donate your life-saving blood plasma!” Such language made me feel less a scoundrel, and Dan and I patiently waited our turn to submit. In 10-minutes or so, he and I were summoned to the desk. We produced driver-licenses & Social Security cards, and were given forms to fill out. A guy came from facility rear, dressed in spiffy whites, a cape, he carried a red-hose which he strapped around our arms. He tightened, monitored vein output, and searched our bodies for visible tattoos. I had none, but incidentally, while serving as “fresh-meat” at Fort Polk (Autumn, 1971) I stood in-line at a Leesviile, Louisianna, tatoo parlor, quite drunk, at last moment, I “chickened-out,”and passed on getting a “Baltimore Oriole” tatoo on my right bicep.
The man at the Biotest-counter asked us to take seats. He professionally explained, “People are ahead of you in-line, and it will take about four (4) hours before they get you in, give blood plasma, get the money.” Disappointingly, we did not have such time to give, Daniel was due to report to work at CVS, as a counter-clerk, at 4:30 P.M., and I rather impolitely asked the gentleman if WE could be brought in “next” due to my 24/7 emergency spill response obligations. His answer was a dead “NO, sir, you must wait in line, along with the others.”
Consequently, Daniel quite embarrassed, we considered our strained-time schedule versus the looming payout. To stay meant he'd never make it to work on-time at CVS, and a logical decision was made to return home. The fellow at the BIOTEST desk said, “don't fret, guys, it'll go faster next time, we have your vitals.” In retrospect, on way home to our Taylor apartment, gas tank < ¼ full, I began to reconsider what just transpired. Should I have lobbied son Daniel to “call-in sick”at CVS, and donate the (expletive) blood plasma, receive total $80? On second thought, I realized its unjust for a father to pass on bad work habits to the young. What is best? Does a 21st Century father ever know what's best? July 6, 2013 – It was a hot and sunny Scranton day, and I felt Dylan's “Hard Rain” and black branch drippin' upon untapped veins.
Sunday, 7 July 2013