Roy Eldridge’s 77th Birthday

Saturday, January 30, 1988

Something heavy had gone down on Route 82 between its intersection with Route 30 and that intersection with the globe of the Earth on a pedestal, which reminded me of the cat at the last poetry reading who had a deflated beach ball and he kept puffing into it. It looked like a deflated Earth globe and he said he was trying to blow up the world.

The cops were waving me onto Route 30 as if I knew where the Hell I was supposed to go from there. I got off on the next exit and pissed around awhile until I found the main drag in Coatesville. Relying on my mostly-accurate sense of direction, I turned right and, after a brief stop to verify my whereabouts with a dignified old black cat I found myself back at the above mentioned Earth globe, where I turned left and wound up heading for Hershey’s Market, where I got as lost as a crab on a bat’s ass. Pissing around some more, I finally found 896 South. It took me home—the long way.

I was going to stop and call Deb and friends and tell them how hip it was to find my ignition key in the clear moonlight back at their place, but I managed to get so hopelessly lost that idea went out the Goddamn tailpipe.

And the Old Ford was sluggish-as-Hell going up hills so I decided to do what i’ve been threatening to do for the last two winters. I stopped the car, set fire under it, and walked away. No, I wish, though. One of my whims-of-a-lifetime. The other whim was to drive through the electronic doors of that Goddamn Hilton, put the nose of the Old Ford into their fucked-up piano, put the piano into the wall and turn it into a high class accordion. That one was tough to resist.

I stopped the car. I opened the hood. The air cleaner had a nozzle on it where it takes in air for the carburetor. It has a little door on it that is held shut by a spring. I had the exact same car before this one: 1970 Ford Galaxie 500 351 c.i.d. Windosr Block V-8. It didn’t have a door on the air cleaner. I ran it up to 185,000 miles, and never had sluggishness. I took the spring off that Goddamn little door on this car and left that door open so the engine could breathe. It ran great after that.

That’s one of my basic tactics. If something doesn’t work right, remove anything that would fall under the heading of “extraneous bullshit.” Pitch it to the four winds. Nine times out of ten, it fixes the problem. Manufacturers put all this crappola on stuff, presumably to make it work better. They take a perfectly-functioning device and, by loading it down with doodads from left field somewhere, fuck it fifteen ways to Sunday.

I have a quartz heater here in my apartment kept shutting itself off. Would stay on for three seconds then go the Hell back off again. There was a little thermostat in the unit making it do that. I cut the little bastard out, pitched it over my shoulder, and the heater’s worked fine ever since. Christ. Just twist the wires together, slap the lid back on and roll on, baby!

Extraneous garbage. My brother gave me his kerosene heater. my brother’s hip. The heater is, too, except for a little stupid-assed-as-Hell thing. There’s a little electric coil and a button you push to light it. It’s powered by two batteries stuck in the back of the heater. Whom, may I ask, would be stupid enough to buy batteries to keep lighting this heater when all it takes is a free match? I put the batteries in my flashlight.

They say that a fetus, in utero, has excellent hearing facilities via the solution it is immersed in. Women who read aloud, sing and have a happy living environment stand an increased chance of delivering a happy, loving, well-adjusted child.

Although little is remembered of the fetal development by the offspring later in life, many reflexes and responses to stimuli received  in utero form a pattern the developing child will carry for the rest of its life.

Let’s look at the flip side of this, as disinclined as we may be to do so. What about the woman living in unhappy, stormy, emotional environs? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that the fetus would hear her crying, feel the tension, sense the emotional storms? Is it all-that farfetched to assume that the child would develop, along with everything else, a protective shield around its emotions? After delivery, wouldn’t it be a distant child, hard to get close to, even hard to love? Wouldn’t it have difficulty getting close emotionally to other people, especially if the storms continue from delivery into adulthood?

My mother once told me I was a hard child to love. The above is my story, but it doesn’t end there. I won’t let it. I will always fight to love, fight to care, strive to be close. I will use every tool at my disposal—psychiatry, rough-therapy, anything I can get my hands on. Moreover, I will rejoice in the life I have been given. It has given me a sensitivity, and an awareness; a depth I would have gotten nowhere or no way else. It has proven many times over the words of the prophet Kahlil Gibran: “Sorrow carves the soul deeper so the more joy it can contain.” The joy of good friends, music, poetry, painting, creation? Yes, and more. Infinitely more.

– Walt Gebhart