Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anecdote I: Dock Donkey; Nude Redhead; Shtupping Janis

I withdrew failing from UCLA in May of my sophomore year, 1962.  Reasons for the Withdraw Failing were three: I was dumped by my girlfriend for the second time; I was a stupid fraternity boy; I was conducting my first choir ever (I was social chairman of the fraternity and got the coolest Jewish sorority to join with us in Spring Sing--choir numbered 50, I conducted them: my first choir) and kept missing classes.  By the way, I qualified for UCLA's engineering school out of high school, a fact of which I am to this day very proud.  UC took only the top 5% of high school classes in those years and cost $75/semester to attend; essentially free, as California state universities were intended to be before Ronald Reagan, who hated educated people. His Party still does.

Spoiler Alert:  I got back into UCLA in 1964; I left the fraternity; we lost Spring Sing but the girls made me an Honorary Jew; I acquired my first church choir job later in 1962.


So I was out of school in the spring of 1962, but my high school friend Jan Butler was working for Republic Freight lines at a great hourly wage and suggested I apply; I had to do something besides stay at home and flog my guitar, so I did.  I applied, got the job and was forced to join the Teamsters Union and give dues with each paycheck; I didn't mind that because the job paid so well, thanks to the union.  And yeah, there were a few 'thugs.'  Hoffa was still alive, after all.  I guarantee: there are no 'thugs' any more, much as the Right Wing would love for you to believe otherwise.

The reason it paid so well is that it was damned hard donkey work.  Jan and I had to work the graveyard shift from 1100 to 700 AM.  Republic was located off of San Pedro street in downtown LA.  The task consisted of unloading freight cars outside the dock and walking the pieces on flats that we pulled up and down the dock and then dropping the freight right outside the trucks on the other side of the dock that would move the freight throughout the city (drivers loaded their own trucks at 700AM).  The flats were heavily loaded and the dock was fifty yards long.  Talk about beasts of burden . . . And when the RR car was full of appliances, we had to move each one out to its designated truck by hand if it weighed under 600 lbs.  This was done with a large hand truck that we had to 'break down' and then push along the dock.  If it weighed more than 600 lbs. we could yell for a forklift and they would take it for us.  I once had a refrigerator that weighed 597 and yelled for the forklift.  He came and asked what it weighed.  I told him.  He said, 'take it yourself.'  Forklift operator was a top level union job and the men who operated them were big wheels and knew it.

We worked in crews of four: a caller, a checker, and two donkeys.  The caller said what the item was, the checker checked it off on the bill of lading, and the donkeys (Jan and I) did the hard work.  Callers and checkers did not have to go into the rail car to 'break out' the boxes and hump the freight up and down the dock. 

Then there was a foreman and an assistant foreman.  The foreman was a really neat, honest, hardworking guy who just helped in general, at times operating a forklift.  I don't know what the assistant did, but he belonged to a nudist camp out near San Berdoo.  Jan and I were a folk duo (later a quartet) that sang gigs (always for free) and he asked us to come with him on a weekend to the camp and entertain.  So we recruited our friend Mike Seeley to borrow a string bass and play along.

Nudists put their clothes on at night and take them off in the day, the opposite of normal people.  So when we sang our gig on Saturday night (we arrived Friday afternoon), they danced to the slow tunes and listened to the fast ones.  This was after watching nude volleyball, flopping johnsons and all, during the day, as well as nude swimming of course, not to mention nude eating and other things.  I was really attracted to a really well built redhead that I saw dressed at night.  She invited us to breakfast the next morning, so we undressed and had bacon and eggs nude.  Red was sitting right across from me at the picnic table and I dropped my fork on the ground.  When I bent down to get it I was able to verify that she was indeed a true redhead.  We later dated a couple of times but couldn't seem to deepen our relationship with clothes on.  And apparently she wasn't inclined to deepen the relationship with clothes off, either, so that was that.

I made a good chunk of money that summer (thanks to the union) and managed to buy a really fine Goya guitar that I taught myself to play when off work.  That guitar cost 200 1962 dollars, which was a big deal, believe me.  But it was sweet, baby.  I later had to sell it as well as my fine Olympia typewriter because I was broke and had to buy car insurance.  Know who one of the prospective buyers was?  Country Joe McDonald, of Janis-Joplin-affair and Woodstock-Gimme-an-F(UCK) cheer.  Joe and I went to the same high school; he was a fine trombone player in the band in which I played horn, but picked up the guitar early on and that stuck, I guess you might say.  He was a year ahead of me and went on to fame, fortune, and nude album covers, whilst I, now guitarless and with no Redhead, got married, went back to school, got three degrees and made a career flogging choirs instead of guitars.

If you read the  previous two posts, you will see why I'm glad I did.  Joe is still alive and doing well, by the way, as am I.

Next: Redeemed Wide Receiver.  Watch this space.

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