Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Haven't been back on PHS property in many years. 2003, I think, and that was only for a moment. I'm going to have a hard time making this visit interesting for the majority of humanity. I went to school here 1985-1989. Ok, even I'm bored now. I'd be wrong to say these were my glory years. No, it was just an inevitable period of time that now sticks out as a few gray memories, highlights that are slightly dim except for peaks of elation and valleys of despair.

Speaking of memories, this plaque is at the start of the PHS 1/4 mile track.
I don't know if Mr. Grogan is dead or if they dedicated the track to him en vita. Does anyone know? The research I did indicates he is retired but alive. He also taught a class called "New England Folklore" I missed that one.It says that for over 35 years he made athletes believe anything is possible ("Nothing was impossible" is how the plaque words it) if they were willing to work for it. That sounds about right. He, along with another dude named Mr. Nelson were my gym teachers. There was a female teacher. Anyone remember her name? I can't. Mr. Grogan was the weight training coach for the many times I thought I'd lift enough weights to get bulging biceps. Ha! That's one thing I'm not destined to have without serious human growth hormones.
Mr. Grogan coached football, I believe, and that's where he made his mark because football players are unruly and you need to have military leadership skills to win a football game. I think Mr. Grogan had that. I didn't play football but I watched him coach.
This was the first time I walked on Mr. Grogan's track. I went there to watch a baseball game. The PHS varsity team hasn't lost in two seasons and they are 2-0 this season. I'm proud that during my talk with the Ports. Herald reporter I kept it strictly business, mainly talking about the career of young Mike Montville who has power, speed and a presence you don't see very often. He did hit a towering home run to left center, scored twice and played flawless first base in the 6-1 win. I'm considering having a talk with the boy to see where his head is. He plays basketball and is a wide receiver so that's three letters. This is his last season and a buddy says he's going to get drafted which would be a first for a small division school.
There's a story there, I'm sure.

Fiction and Reality

I want to start a series of pictures demonstrating the difference between fiction and reality. Here's the first swing. Dinner time at Oggy's house usually involves Grateful Dead music and some leftover chicken salad and crackers eaten off of a used paper plate or napkin, often a guitar is involved. This tasty baked chicken dinner from Marie Callanders was on the menu tonight. It looks so good on the box. Homemade by grandma and kid. $2.50. Set oven to 350. Remove plastic wrap from chicken. Mmmmmm. Sounds good and it isn't fried so it won't clog my arteries and leave me on a basketball court struggling to breathe as people stand around and say,
"He was fine one minute and then just dropped like a sack of cement. Smack!"
"Do you know who he is?"
"Naw, he lives in that van over there."
"Oh, well no wonder he's sick."
"Said he was saving money to go to Labrador."
"What does he do?"
"Said he juggles on the street for spare change."
"Oh, I've seen him downtown. He's a bum. He was babbling about killing wolves or something."
"Why else would he be playing tennis every day? What a loser."
"Is he trying to say something? Wait. Listen..."

I don't want that so I'm eating baked chicken from now on. I even passed up two slices of pizza today. You heard that right. I didn't eat two slices of pizza today. I'm getting off track. The point here is that the fiction of the homemade frozen dinner doesn't match the reality. It's way off.

Here's the fiction. Potatoes as white as the Norwegian families these models came from. Milk. Butter. The soft lighting is actually my mistake in the picture process. The aprons are repulsive. This is bullshit.

Here's the reality...attic apartment, living like a freak on applesauce and raisins. No job. No money. Borrowed life and borrowed time. Not even a nasty brownie desert in the single serve dinner. Just bones and dried out broccoli and an empty bed. You see an apron? I don't.

I think I could get a more grotesque picture, but this one will have to do for now. It's the reality, folks. There ain't nothing picturesque about a baked chicken dinner.

Northern Mariana Islands

I ended up with one of these quarters in my pocket. I thought it was counterfit. Or worth only 20 cents like the Canadian quarter. But no. It's real!
The islands are somewhere near the Phillipines. Between Hawaii. They are politically allied with the fundamentalist U.S. corporatist regime. (I'm reading Shock Doctrine so expect a lot of rhetoric for the next month)
Saipan is included. Guam.
I may have to take a trip there to find out the state of affairs.

Some info:

The Northern Mariana Islands quarter reverse design represents the wealth of the islands in its natural resources of land, air and sea. Near the shore stands a large limestone latte, the supporting column of ancient indigenous Chamorro structures. A canoe of the indigenous Carolinians represents the people’s seafaring skills across vast distances. Two white fairy tern birds fly in characteristic synchrony overhead. A Carolinian mwar (head lei) composed of plumeria, langilang (Ylang Ylang), angagha (peacock flower) and teibwo (Pacific Basil) borders the bottom of the design near the inscription, NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS. The mwar is symbolic of the virtues of honor and respect.
Honor and Respect I think are metaphoric since the Enola Gay flew out of Guam to drop radioactive gifts on Hiroshima.

Once upon a time...

Maybe I never noticed the sly manipulations of temp agencies before. More likely, it was in Los Angeles where everyone is a professional actor, that I was first introduced to them, so the almost stunning women who followed their dream from Iowa to Santa Monica and were deciding my daily fate actually didn't care if they manipulated me or not. They were temporary themselves so it made no difference if they led me on to think I was either important or else munificently unimportant...and should beg for their good favors. I genuinely liked some of the dispatchers, locked in a climate controlled lobby for five days a week, sending people like me to exotic places in the Valley or Orange County. We were all chasing a dream that was just on the other side of a traffic light, if only...oops, the light turned red. Maybe we'll catch it one day. So I grew up with these folks and we almost became human beings to one another. I gave one of them a plant for Christmas. Not because I wanted more work (that's insane) but because it was Christmas in a city without a soul and I thought...well, who knows what I thought. It was silly.

That was Los Angeles, where everyone is hedging their bets that they'll be touched by the gold finger and their lives would change. The lies ran deep. Here in New Hampshire I finally met the professional ball buster, the hired hatcheman, the trained filter for the corporations. I was confused that the good humor I remembered from California was absent in my conversations. Did they actually take their jobs seriously? Impossible. But could they take the jobs they were offering me seriously? Aluminum fin assembler. Cable trimmer. Auto Detailer. Light bulb changer. They dangled these jobs in front of me like a tempting fisherman and I kept thinking, "You forgot to put the worm on the hook."
The tone of their voices is so grave, like demanding my birth certificate without even explaining if there is a job opportunity available is a reasonable request. You want a reference to make sure I can operate a spray bottle? Their tone, the same in every agency, is too similar, like a trainer has been doing his job too well. Let me guess what a few of the chapters in orientation are:
1: Keep the client guessing.
2: Sound superior.
3: Never volunteer any information.

I always liked the way the dispatchers would ask me to go somewhere and then pause when I asked how much I was going to get paid.
"Let me check."
"Take your time."
"It changes every time."
"Give me a ballpark figure."

Two recent experiences have left me cold. The attitude I got over at Seacoast associates was like I was the scum of the earth who was wasting their time. Save your breath if you want to tell me to swallow my pride. There comes a point where a company policy of breaking your spirit (so you will be deemed worthy of their corporations) is sadistic. Not because of a single loose nut asking the questions, but sadistic because you must pass the tests you'll later face when you work in an aluminum mill. I see the point. If you can't take the attitude from the temp agency then you won't get far in the workplace. That might've been the problem up in Laconia. The temp agency treated me casually. I felt welcome, like I had an opinion that mattered. I see this was misleading because the workplace was the exact opposite. I was dirt, an expense, that either justified itself or was dismissed. The Portsmouth area has truly embraced temp agency work models. There are about 8 local agencies and several more that operate from Mass. Temp agencies are the number one employer in America and always growing. It's allowed companies to close human resources and accounting departments. They outsource these tasks to the Leddy Group, Manpower, Apple One, Wilson, Labor Ready, John Galt Group, Seacoast Associates and others.
I remember working for a temp agency in the early '90s and it was a friend of mine doing the dispatching. She was friendly, asked the minimal number of questions, tried to match certain skills with certain jobs. That was where I got a job alphebetizing videos for a new store. They were mostly VHS tapes to give you an idea of when that was. The corporate paradigm took almost 20 years to develop the teeth I'm seeing now. They're tired of slackers coming and going and since half the state is on welfare they figure they are in charge. They not only can pick and choose who they assign work, they can treat you like dirt from the moment you are on the phone. I can tell by the tone of their voice that they have been trained to talk that way. They are the gatekeepers and now the gatekeepers have a training manual. The screening process doesn't start at the interview, it starts when they answer the phone like you've just interrupted them during a shower.

No moral to this story. I just wanted to send out a heads up to any temp agencies that I'm the guy your trainer warned you about. I've got a manual too. Yes, I'll call you and yes, I'll come to your interviews, but I know your game and it's not going to work. In fact, you know that frustrated, bitter, sick feeling you have after meeting me? It's no accident.
When I'm in Labrador this is something I won't be missing.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.