Originally posted in October 2016, this is the first Bill Wynn outtake.
Bill was on probation. He got three weeks in the workhouse and a two hundred-fifty dollar fine. He actually spent seventeen days in jail and they waived the fine, but he came away from it all pretty broken and with a police record to boot. The police record meant he couldn’t get a job so he had no money, no prospective income, nowhere to turn for help except his probation officer.
Those days, the probation officer determined how often you had to report. Bill reported the week after he was released from the workhouse since that was required. Bailey, his PO, made the next face-to-face for four weeks away and decided regular visits were to be monthly. Bill wasn’t exactly a flight risk or a danger. He was busted at an anti-war protest and still insisted he hadn’t done what they said he did. It reminded him of a character in a story who said they had the papers on him so he guessed he did what they said he did. Then he said he didn’t really remember and it didn’t matter anyway.
That first monthly visit changed Bill’s life. He just didn’t know it at the time. That’s when he met Robert, the guy in workhouse blues who looked like he was going to cry. Bill offered him a cigarette, but he said he didn’t smoke. Bill told him he didn’t have any money otherwise he would have given it to him for his commissary. Robert asked him how he knew about the commissary. Bill told him he just got out a month ago.
Bailey was sympathetic to Bill’s plight. Bill wanted Bailey to help him get a job. Any kind of job, Bill told him. “I don’t care what the hell it is,” he said. “I can’t pay my rent.” Bailey said he’d do what he could.
Bill didn’t have much hope. He didn’t have much hope about getting a job or about Bailey helping him. He lay in bed at night remembering. The judge banged down the gavel and then he was clad in shackles on the bus to the workhouse. He had that sick feeling deep in the pit of his stomach. That feeling would never leave him again, never, although sometimes it would go on hiatus for different periods of time, some of them even longer periods.
“Policemen don’t lie,” the judge said. The judge’s name was Shul. They called him “hang ’em high Shul,” because he was the toughest, most conservative judge they had there in Columbus. The town itself was quite conservative once you were away from the university area. Bill had been walking downtown and a cop singled him out from about fifteen people who were crossing in the middle of the block and not in the crosswalk.
“Giving you a jaywalking ticket,” he said.
“What about all the others who were with me?”
“Shut up you goddamn hippie.”
Bill started to say something but the cop cut him off. “Say another word and I’ll run you in,” he said.
Bill didn’t go back downtown again until he was visiting his PO. By then, after the workhouse, you’d never have known he was a hippie.
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The shooting yesterday was tragic. Make no mistake about it. But it is a true metaphor for where we have come to in our society. It should be a wake-up call, but as our past performance indicates, more than likely it won’t be.
As it is wont to do, the media has already run with the event. The blame game started almost immediately and the media quickly assumed its current role of aiding and abetting their political favorites in assuaging their consciences and casting aspersions on their opponents. Isn’t that what got us here, to this shooting, in the first place?
Meanwhile, as Steve Scalise fights for his life, our illustrious leaders do what they always do which is talk BS. They speak in platitudes and make symbolic statements and gestures. They play, not a baseball game, but the jockey-for-position game. They fight, not to serve the American people but to be first to appear as if they really care about the American people and the country. Their past performances, pick a side, right or left, show that to them appearance is everything and they are engaged in not working for the American people but in putting forward the appearance that they are.
Some reality exists behind the façade. First, their reality is not our reality. Not too long ago in the scope of history the United States was formed as a government for the people and by the people. Intrinsically, that meant the people were supposed to run the government for the benefit of the people. With the advent of career politicians, those whose lifelong job is being politicians, the government of the United States shifted. Our leaders forgot about serving the people and began the quest to stay employed. Or, like the paramount premise of evolution, they took on the notion that staying employed was their first priority and a matter of survival of the fittest. It’s called Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is the greatest corrupter of our institutions, our governments throughout the world, and yes, of humankind, for man is by nature selfish and greedy.
Another reality behind the façade our leaders are putting on for us at this moment is that they have never before been so far apart in their fight for control that they were willing to usurp the power of very government they are supposed to serve. Never before has one party colluded with the media to destroy a duly-elected president. History, if not overcome by revisionist history, will write this chapter. It is one thing to not support a president’s policies, or his party’s policies. But it is quite another thing to assume that your own party has moral superiority and the will of the people when the will of the people, like it or not, elected a different candidate. Or, obstructionism is one thing. Attempting to bring down a duly-elected administration is quite another. Factually, impeachment of the new President was being talked about prior to his inauguration.
Symbolically, our leaders talk about the importance of unity, the importance of coming together now and playing this baseball game tonight to show the American people how strong we (they) are and how much they care about our government and its moving forward together. Behind the scenes, our politburo leaders are discussing the same old same old which is how to keep themselves safe and keep themselves in office. It’s shameful and it makes one as queasy as Comey.
This shooting is tragic. All our hearts and best wishes for a full and swift recovery go out to Steve Scalise and the others injured. Nothing more important can be said than that. But make no mistake about it. The shooting event itself is metaphoric for where we have come to in our society and the response to it is metaphoric for the true nature of our leaders and their lack of real concern for the best government, society and country in the world.
When he was first captured, my father was sent to an Italian prison camp. My father, as I’ve said before, never really talked about being a POW and he didn’t tell stories except for two. The first was about after the Italians fled and he was recaptured by the Germans. When he was received in the camp, Stalag 3B Furstenberg, the two people in front of him lied about being Jewish. My father, because he’d already been in an Italian prison camp, told the truth because, as he told us, by this time he didn’t care if he lived or died anymore. The following morning the two men who had been in front of him were shot.
The other story was about Aunt Matilda.
As I think back upon my family, particularly the Aunts and Uncles on my father’s side, they were a pretty serious bunch. Aunt Minnie and Aunt Bella, at least as I remember them, were almost always serious. They laughed and joked around, I think, when they were amongst themselves or when at a gathering and the kids were all gone outside to play ball. But I don’t remember them being really silly or fooling around with me or my brother. I remember my father-in-law once putting his tongue through a paper napkin at the Christmas dinner table and then making faces and noises. That was silly. I don’t remember my aunts on my father’s side ever being silly.
Aunt Matilda and Uncle Martin were the funny ones. Uncle Martin always told the truth as he saw it and very often his total candor led to awkward moments where we laughed because we felt he couldn’t possibly be serious about how critical he was being. Aunt Matilda would say he was joking, but I gather very often he was serious. Whether witty sarcasm or unbridled criticism, who knew?
So being-funny Aunt Matilda wrote her baby brother, my father, a letter that was received by the Italians in the prison camp he was he in. Of course the Italians (and the Germans too) censored all mail, so they received it instead of him. He was called into the commandant where they proceeded to read him the letter.
As my father told the story, the letter started off “Congratulations, you are now in the hands of the spaghetti-eaters,” and it went on and on about the Italians. The more they read, my father told us, the more he laughed, and the more he laughed, the madder they got, and the madder they got, the longer they left him in solitary confinement.
Aunt Matilda was a pip. As another story about her has it, she was once being blocked by a tractor-trailer truck whose driver was apparently having a hard time moving the truck out of the way. My aunt, after honking and waiting, got fed up enough to go give the driver a piece of her mind, telling him that if he couldn’t move it, she would do it for him. The driver made the mistake of accepting it as a dare. Aunt Matilda moved the truck for him. She was very proud of that.