Back Down the Coal Mines

Back Down the Coal Mines

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    In order to study the possibility of having a just worldcould everyone have the luck and luxury of a superb education and we still get the grotty jobs done – I washed windows from 1979-2000. I proved my point. (See below in fable Justice.)

    I then taught community tv to amateurs for five years. Last February I got laid off with three other folk as a fairly desperate cost-saving measure. I got all my remaining 17 teeth extracted, have dentures now, started my blog, and am pursuing getting my book published. Dentures are obscenely expensive even with the dear help of a great dentist who is a friend of a friend of mine. I’ve been spending my meager savings.

   My old window washing partner is a housemate, and recently I started walking door-to-door flyering to help him build what became his business when I went to the tv station.

   It made sense to have both of us squeegeeing in this big seasonal push til Dec 24. I put on my overalls, bought a new bucket, and a few rolls of Select-a-Size Bounty paper towels for mopping up. My first job back was construction clean-up on a mansion. Holy Moly. Construction clean-up is three times harder than window washing because all of the razor-blading and super scrubbing.

   Painters, by the way, who say through their rovianally deceitful lying teeth that the overspray they have mangially managed to get on 90% of the windows inside and out “is water-based and washes right off.” No X 1000. But of course they are gone skulking and cackling off to the next job, leaving the hapless window washers to scrape and scrape, ever unable to get all the damn specks off. There are as many micro-specks of paint on an over-sprayed window as there are visible stars on a clear night. Just it ain’t poetical.

    There was one painter “who could paint in a tuxedo” so fastidious and blessed was he. Most of the rotters don’t want to take the time to mask off the windows – time-consuming, profit-eating, it’s true. But the windows can never look really right, so it’s slimy of them. My line about painters is that they “go on the down-escalator.” (In case you don’t do cryptic jokes, as apparently many don’t, that means “go to Hell.”)

   You cannot properly wash windows with vinegar and water and crumpled newspaper. Cheez, where that old moldy chestnut got started, I don’t know. You can’t wash windows at all, truth be told. There are guild secrets, and I ain’t telling. I will tell you that you have to use the only true Ettore brass-channel squeegees. You’re on your own from there. Ha Ha. I like thinking about the mess you’ll make – especially the pompous blowhards among you. My petty revenge on the far-right Limbaugh knockoffs tinct with their nouveau grandiosities.

     Where I grew up we had the most sublime snobbisms about the nouveau riche. Boors who had in the last generation or so come into big money with no corresponding big heart or decent manners. You could always spot them by their volume, their dreadful clothes, and the way that they treated the ‘servants’ like ‘servants.’ Old money knew how short was the march to the guillotine – that they depended upon the servants, and they treated people like treasured companions, never like ‘servants.’ It was always so intensely embarrassing to see some nouveau porker ordering people around instead of asking them gratefully.

    We now have a passel of hideous nouveaus like Limbaugh and others with no graciousness nor rapier wit neither. It’s all bludgeon and holler with these people and the skin crawls. They bluster because they sense that they’re missing some secret handshake and they are. Like mosquitoes with bullhorns, they’re irritating. They never have anything compelling or memorable to say, but they sure are loud about it.

   Anyhow, this mansion was one of these great toads that squats upon the landscape without grace. (I’m not against big in dwellings, only ugly.) It’s the kind of place Arnold Schwarzenegger would live in. On steroids.

   It’s like going back down the coal mines again. It’s very hard work. I am sore in parts of my aged body which I didn’t know were there to ache or stab or creak. I’ve been so exhausted that I couldn’t even write except scurrilous stuff in my log to my fav pal who can take obsidian humor almost as good as he can give it. (He whimpers some, glassjawilly, when I strike back without pulling my punches. But give him credit, generally he can follow any thread and take any sharpened darkness.)

    I’ve been living on Stilton cheese with mango and ginger bits, — ye gods, how dee-lectable. And on milky organic <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Darjeeling tea. If you’re going to drink fifteen cups of tea a day, it needs be clean and clear. (I get so happy when I can go to an ordinary supermarket and buy Horizon organic milk. Back in the ‘50s, my dad was a pioneer in commercial-scale organic farming and gosh would he be thrilled to see it hit the Safeways. Having been raised by cows rather like Mowgli was raised by bears and tigers, I only drink whole milk. Whole milk is naturally about 3.4% butterfat. People think that they’re saving all this fat by drinking 2% milk. Ha ha. It’s good marketing, but silly. The whole milk does allow for better calcium absorption tho. Holsteins, which we used to milk, give about 3.4% butterfat milk. Holsteins are the black and white splotched ones – modern art on the hoof.)  

   My housemate's and my big push is to wash as many windows as we can between now & Dec 24 because for a month after that, it drops off to all but nada. I presume that somewhere in here I get back in squeegee shape. I’ll let you know.

   [I hope you’ll check out Justice below. If you grok it, you can help change the world.]



Note: This deceptively simple fable is what I paid my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor for. Learning the answer to the question of Whether we can have a just world – not whether we will have a just world —  is one of the big questions of history, and I answered it with my sinew and blood .. ..


Justice is a bell. Justice is a mocking bird who rehearses song at midnight in belief in dawn. Justice is heartbeat. Justice is blood. The essential real deal. Joy and purpose.

The first paper I wrote in college was “What is Justice?” I never guessed I would spend or pay my life and my very teeth to answer that question.

Somewhere in the Pleistocene of my twenties, a stone-tablets question appeared to me with an eerie and wistful persistence: Can we have a just world? Can we really ever have a just world or will the elite, mainly white, always have to have a filthy little secret, a permanently under-educated class, mainly non-white, to get the grotty jobs done?

I believed that education is the highest value and riches. Education was my mansion, my bullion. I lived a life of astonishing – thunderstruck — vividness because education opened my mind, my heart, stuck my fingers in the socket of the universe. Raw joy. Wild joy. Delicious joy.

A human right, I thought, this simple untarnishing joy. A self-evident human right. The key to this joy, the necessity to this joy, its breadth, delicacy, and leopard strength, is education.

So, I asked, could a person have the best possible liberal arts (tolerance, then appreciation for individual differences) education and do one of the non-glam jobs? Or, again, would we have to have this unspoken-of-class to wash our windows and collect our garbage?

I’d been a high school English teacher for ten years when this question appeared like Excalibur in the stone. Could there be a just world?

As the universe unscrolled for me the layers of this question, I wondered who I could ‘study’ to the True Answer? Eventually I knew it was true that I could only know the sinew and blood of the answer if I studied myself.

I could not go into the dear Peace Corps or Vista for two years and then back again after this useful dabble to the luxurious enclaves of academe or corporate, the gated worlds of group health plans and pensions.

Was education sufficient? Was it the highest value? Could I demand the inalienable right to a splendid education for every human being on Earth?

Well, twenty-one years as a self-employed window washer later, like the Ancient Mariner, I can hold you, hapless Wedding Guest, with glittering eye and say, adamantine and emerald, “Yes. Education is the Grail, does suffice, is armor, is amour, is hope, does not rust.”

Every hour of all those days was made more lively and tender and delectable because of the mirth, courage, insight, and wonder that education offers.

There is no smidgen of a question that education guarded me in dark nights and brought holy mockingbird song to my dawns.

I bought the answer to this great question, the Justice question, with the hours of my life. If I had it to do all over again, I was asked recently by a handsome rich Canadian who had drunk six martinis and was eating pistachios, would I do it over again? Lose my teeth, not go to the doctor for twenty-six years, face this pensionless old age?

I considered his question soberly. “To have earned in my flesh the burning answer to one of the great questions of our new millennium, it was worth my life. I can say ringingly to my species that every single human being’s life time is just as valuable to herself or himself as any other human being’s. That tolerance, then appreciation for individual differences is the daily lesson and the ‘point.’

Education can make the life hours even more fun and more searingly interesting. Curiosity is tasty. You don’t have to ‘follow your bliss’ for money.

Of course it’s absurd and obscene that the poor and the self-employed have no health insurance. Of course eventually we have to figure out how to share around the grotty jobs. Of course poverty utterly sucks. Of course I’d rather have a car with air conditioning.

If I hadn’t been so distilledly educated, I probably wouldn’t be besotted with the etymology of words and wouldn’t have known that ‘frolic’ means ‘swift gladness’ or that ‘rhapsody’ means ‘woven song.’

Justice is a bell. Justice is a mocking bird who rehearses song at midnight in belief in dawn. Justice is heartbeat. Justice is blood. The essential real deal. Joy and purpose.



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2 thoughts on “Back Down the Coal Mines

  1. Mr. Pogblog,
    I wonder if the Greeks had a window washing God. I could see every paint chip cemented to the glass and at the end of every day the window washing god has to strip it clean so mortals can see justice.

  2. There are window washing fiends. Nothing shows every slightest flaw like glass.
    Ye gods have been slacking off re revealing justice, sooth said. The script they write for the EarthSide Soap Opera is often demented, it seems. Perhaps they unravel the gordian mess in some denouement which would allow me to forgive them, but it doesn't seem so Right Now. I want Cheney writ out of the story, thanks. He certainly does villain too well.

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