November 27, 2014 | Posted in:Uncategorized
“It’s got the zhuzzhh!” says Amanda, about the web work. Man, has Jimbo got some yarns. Out the door from Amber’s little apartment in the big house overlooking the Hudson, a less sunny and even chillier day pends.
The train ride to Manhattan has become nearly a routine, though the $19.50 round trip tariff would never become old hat, so to say. The different personalities of the various North Metro Rail personnel—one very tubby White guy with glasses, a smile, and the psyche of a hopeful elf grown overweight; one focused Black woman of medium build, probably a graduate student; one less intense White woman of similar frame who seemed lost inside herself, and, three times, the same stout, fit thirty-something White fellow who seemed to be carrying on a longstanding inner dialog about issues of great moment to him, but which he wanted to dismiss as trivial at the same time—might merit a study were New York a fated venue for our couple.
Thanks heavens that such is not the case. Hence, quite plausibly the last arrival that Jimbo will ever make into Grand Central unfolded with the same bemusement by many who saw him, with his own orientation that of someone who now knows his way and, once exited, can therefore look up at the skyscrapers and notice the monumental architecture: the Public Library’s stolid square block embodiment of human brainpower and story; Grand Central’s imperial perkiness, like a massive ballerina who can still perform a pirouette flawlessly despite her gigantic footprint, as it were; building after building that could provide a chapter in a modern design dissertation; and the storefronts at street level, somehow making ends meet in New York, mostly of recent vintage but occasionally—like Ben’s Cafeteria, which posits, “Our corn-beef is home-cured; our chicken soup cures everything else”—of more or less venerable lineage.
En route to his appointed nexus, Jimbo examines it all with astonishment, even as his heart feels like a leaden weight in his chest. He’d as soon skip the whole affair, but he’ll show up nevertheless.
As our fellow passes the 42nd Street library entrance, out of nowhere emerges a diminutive golden gnome, an ageless monk who bows and presents him with a little card that guarantees ‘peace and light’ or something similar. Helplessly, Jimbo smiles at the gilded wrappings that flow round this figure who smoothly places a prayer bracelet on our heavy-hearted trade unionist’s right wrist.
The prelate’s English is weak, or he has taken a vow of silence perhaps. In any case, as Jimbo bows and prepares to continue on his way a little lighter in his center, the spry Buddhist holds up an admonishing finger, with which he then points into a tiny booklet filled with indicia of ‘donations’ for the card and the beads.
Happily, Jimbo digs into his pocket to find one of his remaining thirteen dollars. Unfortunately, though, this draws forth a dour grunt, almost dire in its implication. “Mmmmmmm,” with a falling intonation and a breath of warning at the end. He opens the book again and identifies the amounts that those who’ve benefited from this wanderer’s largesse have seen fit to chip in: $20; $10; $10; $50; $30; the book snaps shut.
Jimbo laughs. “It’s not a problem;” he removes the elastic string and hands back the golden, red, and silver benediction.
The monk then smiles too, for the first time. Shaking his head and wagging his finger, something like speech emerges. “No, no, for you,” though this may have been body language and breathy music rather than words.
Then a definite statement: “Five dollar.”
Jimbo’s repeated pantomime of removal and return precedes his honest statement. “I’m a poor man, like you. You can get full value from someone….”
“No, no, no. For you!” As he prepares to put up his book, however, the astute golden robed shaman inquires, “Two dollars?”
And with a grin and a chuckle, Jimbo forks over a second dollar bill, thinking to himself that eleven dollars remaining is arguably luckier than a dozen. And onward to the West Side and further interactions he goes.
He’s early enough to claim his seat from the day before. Not so a pair of his comrades: “Well I’m here now,” states a nasal-voiced Chapter Chair from South of us.
“Yes, but I was here yesterday, and I’m sitting here again today.” This came from an imposing and tough-minded Chapter Chair from the Midwest.
“Who says we have to sit in the same place?”
“Nobody said any such thing; but I’m sitting in the same spot that I sat in yesterday.”
Easy access to juice for a power supply is one issue. A place for the horse’s ass who dissed Jimbo yesterday is the other side of things.
Somehow, this minor scuffle lightens Jimbo’s burden further still. He has his computer today and will churn out some Day-in-History material and log-in to the web with his UAW-Guest pass. His e-book reader already has Upton Sinclair’s voice queued up for the time, which will come at some point, for Jimbo to make his final stand about everything.
The day is full of interaction and ideas worth noting. Resolutions in support of freedom of speech for incarcerated people—stemming from Mumia Al Jabal’s experience in Pennsylvania—and in solidarity with injured General Motors employees in Colombia are on tap. A report on the new website hardens Jimbo’s resolve even more.
It is a tame presentation; the At-Large URL is already doing much of what this new iteration hopes to achieve, and for tons less cash outlay too. Jimbo wants to ask a simple question, about the FaceBook tie and give some kudos, but the presenter, an all-too-typical ‘diversity-girl’ on parade, valley accent and “like, you know?” eye-rolls in tandem, literally calls on half a dozen other people three or four times, and several others twice, while skipping over our jolly roger.
In the end, he merely leaves his hand raised, so that people start to stare and shift uncomfortably at this display. Finally, with an eye-roll as prelude, she asks, “Yes?”
Then, Jimbo inquires about the FB feed and, when she dismisses him before he can finish, interrupts to make an additional point about engagement and virtuality and more, ideas that he had not intended to share but decided to in the context of her obvious, and mean-spirited, treatment.
The union’s NGO makes a pitch. Other odds and ends move from agenda to discussion. Before the penultimate spree—resolutions and such—the assembled group takes another look at the organizing process.
Several responses, combining snark and general critique, to Jimbo’s late night e-mail about Edward’s points rolled in prior to this direct exchange of views. He in turn replied equably, if sternly, to all and sundry.
To wit, to a Grievance & Contract Division Chair: “Thank you Barbara. However, those are your words–“DECIDE anything for the union.”
On the other hand, my point is undeniable. The committee did make the determination that I stated, for itself.
And to her apology for making ‘inferences:’ “Hey there!
No harm done. Apologies accepted.
The Organizing Committee might change its conclusions or decision. But we cannot do that at this meeting, except inasmuch as the Organizing Committee accedes to that change.
And to our treasurer: “Thank you Mitzi!
I am well aware of the organizational and legal responsibilities of the Chapter Chairs in relation to the NWU bylaws. I am also aware of the organizational and legal responsibilities of the NWU in relation to the United Auto Workers Constitution.
Thus, I repeat. In the At-Large Chapter, our articulation of the NWU by-laws will be more open and inviting than what appears on National literature and so forth. Such a choice matches perfectly the rights and responsibilities of sub-units according to the UAW Constitution.
The conversation about these points, almost miraculously, turns humorous, despite attempts to patronize and condescend to our fellow. He pokes fun at himself and others with the same pitchfork. The overall point is pretty simple: he understands that the reality of whom the union accepts contravenes the tone of the outreach language—which relentlessly calls for professional writers who have made a mark so to speak, but facts, not feelings, prove that this approach puts people off. “If that’s what y’all want, that’s y’all’s business; but the At-Large will approach things differently, thanks all the same.”
And then the focus switches to strategic conceptions as such. Kim wants, and assumes an acceptance of, a focus on social justice issues. Several people disagree, saying that we risk offending the apolitical and the Grand Old Party writers who, by some bizarre concatenation of miracle and interest, might join the union.
The UAW rep’s rejoinder to this is magnificent. “We caught flack for bailing MLK out of jail; but I defy anyone now to say that this was the wrong action then. We sat in solidarity with ANC actions in South Africa for years, and once more we got plenty of negative feedback; but I defy anyone now to say that this was the wrong action then. We’ve always been a social justice union. It’s how we’ve kept members and gotten new members.”
Jimbo had already chipped in about best practices and the way that, pretensions aside, little or no empirical basis exists for avoiding social outreach. Unions, scholars, and grassroots activists have uniformly affirmed this perspective’s validity.
The final sequence comes around again to Jimbo. He once more induces laughter. “I have never been a particularly social, or sociable, person.” And then he’s clear. “But I’ve also never much appreciated bullshit. Y’all know, like Harry Frankfort, political philosopher from Princeton says: ‘The most salient feature of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. We all contribute our share and we all feel rather confident of our ability to avoid its snares.’
Instead of living in a land where bullshit reigns supreme, I call for us to honor reason and fact. And that requires conversation. Personally, as a writer, what I want is to write, to be heard.”
A universal nod of agreement did accompany this statement. Jimbo nodded too and continued. “And that’s what all writers, without exception, want first and foremost. And the system that we have now is not delivering. This is our big opportunity, because we could grow the union in a way that would deliver the goods—a place to speak, a forum for hearing, and so on.
And that’s not all. Corporate media, again without any contravening cases, are corrupt and fraudulent. My perspective on this flows from rational interpretation of data, and plenty of others have reached similar conclusions. Upton Sinclair was one. His harsh critique of American journalism, The Brass Check, is little-read now; we should all read it, however, and we can listen now to a brief excerpt.
“I believed, and still believe, that (the Associated Press) was a perfect case of news suppression(especially in relation to the Ludlow massacre and Rockefeller). Here was the closest approach yet to the social revolution in America; here was the class war, naked and undisguised—on the one side the lives of thirty or forty thousand wage slaves, on the other side a hundred million dollars of invested capital, controlling the government of an entire state, and using this control to suppress every legal and constitutional right of American citizens, and to drive them into armed revolt. To this conspiracy the Associated Press had lent itself; it was being used, precisely as the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, precisely as the puppets of State government. The directors and managers of the Associated Press were as directly responsible for the subsequent starvation of these thousands of Colorado mine slaves as if they had taken them and strangled them with their naked fingers. If it had been such individual crimes of strangling, all society would have agreed on the need for publicity. I have made it my task in life to force the same kind of publicity for the economic crimes of predatory social classes.”
Soon after this, Jimbo was ready to exit. He assigned his proxy vote in favor of both resolutions to Larry, el Presidente. In the midst of the break that Jimbo used as a cover for his parting, Larry thrust a sandwich upon him and gave him an unexpected bear hug. Certainly, the whole process contained many interesting moments.
The return to Nyack was like returning to an earlier time. Salaam to Amber, shoes again on our feet—the Muslim custom of removing them had characterized the stay here—we left with smiles and hugs and promises of continued contact.
The Blue Man again offered guidance. Zooming around the New York metro interstates, who knows whether we dotted all our ‘i’s’ or crossed all our ‘t’s’ correctly? We were racing South to Winchester and waiting for Jersey’s and Pennsylvania’s cheap gas to fill Tina Toyota’s tank again.
When we stopped, in the bitter chill a few miles from the Keystone State line on I-78, we encountered the amazing benefit of having a designated gas-pumper, which both helped the local economy and guaranteed that no ‘topping-off-the-tank’ would increase the level of atmospheric carbon. Our attendant was a little fellow with a certain lilt to his accent.
After Alicia departed for her omnipresent ‘business’ needs, Jimbo inquired, “So where are you from originally?”
The dapper man paused in his routine, arching his eyebrows. “China” was his deadpan response.
“Yeah, sure, what’s wrong with dat?”
“Hey man; nothing wrong, it’s just that you sound, I don’t know, like maybe you were from Romania or Hungary or something like that.”
He didn’t blink as he stared at Jimbo, almost a glower. Then he shrugged; almost sotto voce, he said. “I’m Ukrainian.”
Even as the reason for his reticence became absolutely clear, Jimbo was ebullient. “Ukraine? Really?”
“Yeah. So what?”
“I’ve written articles about Ukraine.”
“You don’t say.”
“Yeah, sure; two in the past month.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“So what’d you write about?”
“I talked about all the stuff that the bullshit on the media doesn’t mention. You’ve heard of Nikita Khrushchev, right?”
A nod ensues.
“He was from Donbas.”
“He was. And Leonid Brezhnev was from Sevastopol I think. And you know who Leon Trotsky was, don’t you?”
“Yeah, sure, Trotsky, big revolutionary.”
“Right, well his was seventh generation Cossack family from North of Kiev.”
“You don’t say.”
“I’ll be damned.”
And Jimbo gives him a card, amazed to find out that he’s over fifty and that his two daughters still live there, near Lvov, hard up by the Polish border.
Through nearly frozen rain, mixed with sleet, Alicia and her mensch traverse Pennsylvania, bypassing TMI yet again, and well past dark cross the abbreviated neck of Maryland and the tiny stretch of West Virginia that lead them to Winchester. There, dear Monica and Kurt have arranged a Hampton Inn.
Checked in, showered, and set up for Internet radio, Jimbo manages a half hour’s nap, while Alicia does crunches and treadmills and free weight repetitions in the gym on the first floor. Their radio is disjointed but transpires without a hitch.
They disport like wanton teens in their big bed, firm and inviting, before they drift into dreamland without even the need for an alarm. Dreams of roadways and paths to perdition and heaven at once usher in their dreams.