Hard Boiled Dicks...when I read fiction very young, was no Red Lobster. I had no talent, grammar or spelling...and terrible left-handed penmanship. I was right handed playing left from before I could talk. It drove them bonkers, so I stuck with it. Hence the pecking. Bad writing is far worse than bad pecking to work through, I mean, who bothers? Not my first grade teacher, who steadily berated me for my slow and sloppy opposite hand work. I was screaming silently for any form of attention...or food. We were kept half starved for good looks, or just plain old poverty...pre food stamps. I’d walk miles home from a fed friends house just to have a hamburger after school.
I had five siblings to compete with for attention and sparse resources on the estuary, which was the storm battered east end called West Park, where poor people took over storm ravaged summer homes and lived in them year round at their own risk.
There could be blood, and was...boiled live lobsters too, but not often, and not for me. I was full of hamburger, and not doing homework. I was washing dishes for all eight. It took me a long time, unsupervised, but it was only one week a month. The others were clear, dry, or off. As there were four of us in the rotation. I started in at eight. This was decided by the older siblings, not the parents, who let the older kids run the operation. Marine Corps style. I had no chance, being three years smaller than my sister, who was battle ready ahead of her two older brothers; with them,her pixie and Girl Scout uniform...no one gave her a rough time. She was the dealer of pain...and the alpha to be, after all it was a matriarchy, is it not still?
Only her mother knew I had emulated or genetically received my father’s reading and dietary habits, which was not her Rhode Islandish bland cold shoulder loveless angry fare, but urban, Latin, Aisian...and detective stories. Not war stories. She was shocked to see me reading Hard Boiled Dicks, and getting fed elsewhere, just like my father, who could not stand her cooking but said nothing, ever.
Conroy was a spoiled brat, but I loved reading him anyway, Irving too, and everything else my brothers stole from the high school library. What kid would steal books? I knew two of them...the same ones that had been beating the hell into me since before I could talk.
Which is how I came to emulate my father, who suffered from PTSD and idealism, before alcoholism. He never beat me, and the older brothers never did when he was in hearing range. There was no telling him...he was like a drunken bear. It was just enough staying hidden between him and his sons, to keep the bruising down.
The Razor’s edge. Crime novels, low tide smells, survival skills...what brings a teen to Signal Corps? What makes commissary food taste good, ever? How do you weaponize a child? If you have a girl my love, you bounce her on your knee, but if the bastard should be a boy, well, you send him out to see.
License. Rank, low tide, privilege, twisted into command and control components, transistorized...deployed, scott free of oversight. Revved up like a deuce...born to run, in orbit. Beaming signals back for digestion, and some. Sick stories sell, but Howell, well, it was hard to tell...John D. gave it dimes out dimes when he got off the train there, on his way to Lakewood.
Before Ragtime, there was SOONJ, big oil. Everyone got stained, and then there was Marconi...ship to shore, and Fascism, all wrapped up in one little place. Coal House Walker, Mother’s Younger Brother...serviced as art form for more than one thin dime, but well sold...in print and on film, nonetheless.