Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It's Who You Know

 by Daddy X

                                     



Back in the mid-late 60s, working at a steel mill in eastern Pennsylvania, I became involved with the United Steelworkers Union. Even considering my young 23 years, there were guys who wanted me to run for shop steward.

I attended a union party one evening, thrown by a guy running for president of the local hall. Leaving late that night, with nobody else on the road, I stopped at a traffic light about a half-mile away. All of a sudden WHAM! Got plowed in the rear (not that—dirty mind) by someone who didn’t even see the signal, let alone my car. I wound up halfway through the intersection, shattered glass strewn over the road.

Once out of our respective cars, lo and behold, we knew each other. As a matter of fact, it was Harry—the guy who’d thrown the party.  

“Jesus- hi Daddy (not my real name—not yet :>) ” he said. “How are you? You okay?”

“I think so. How about you?”

“Just so you’re okay.”

“Man, didn’t you see me? The red light?”

“Guess not. Lighting a cigarette.”

He had bloodied his nose and teeth where his face had connected with the steering wheel. Nobody had seat belts in those days. Except for those like me who drove a Volvo. But a seat belt doesn’t do a damn thing for whiplash.

“What the fuck we gonna do?” I asked. “I’ve been drinking as much as you.”

“Lets not wait for the cops. That wouldn’t do either of us any good. We’d both get arrested.”

I agreed.  Luckily, our cars still ran.

Harry went on to win that election.

Long story short, he fixed the car, paid for my injuries and weeks out of work. I guess if I’d been greedy I could have made real hay of the situation, but instead decided to put it in the bank. Turns out he was the best possible person to have had an accident with. This guy had real connections. He was happy to get any and all my speeding tickets fixed.

Since I’d just bought a Triumph 650 motorcycle, he sure came in handy.

One day I received a heads-up that I was being investigated by local police. For weed. I even found out the name of the detective who’d been parked on my street. Yes, connections had served me well.

Not long after that … ahem … it was to my advantage to do a quick exit from the area. A good friend had just been busted, and the bullshit was getting too close to home. So Momma and I packed up and moved to San Francisco, where several of our friends had already gone to live as hippies in the Haight-Ashbury.

That’s when I was forced to understand how out in the weeds (no pun) one can get without connections. At the time, I’d lived all my life within a five square mile area. Over the years we meet and know people by immersion. Not so, dropped in a strange place with such diversity.   

San Francisco in 1968 had been overrun by people from all over the country and beyond. Flocking in for the high times. Contrary to what’s been said about hippies not wanting to work, the realists among us didn’t have such fantasies. Law of averages produces a certain number of realists, even in that community. Jobs proved few and far between. Nobody wanted to hire hippies.

Discouraged, I wrote the general foreman at the mill back in Pennsylvania, asking for my old job. I received a one-sentence reply: “There is absolutely no possibility of your future employment with US Steel.” Okay, so I had been part of union activities that had shut down a third of the mill. They were happy to be rid of me.  

Through a relative back east, I finally nailed a job repairing appliances for a national company with a branch in downtown SF. I don’t know what Momma and I would have done without that connection.

The longer we stayed in the bay area, the more people we met and came to know. Just works that way. I had three jobs on SF’s Kearny Street and met many influential San Franciscans.  Those connections still serve me well.

And we’re glad the foreman wouldn’t take me back.

And by the by, the Triumph, of course, is long gone. But I still have the helmet. It was painted by a late friend who also did the above portrait of me back in the 60s. Some connections manage to stick with us, no matter how far we roam.


                                  

12 comments:

  1. You're such a great story teller, Daddy! And this is again a new take on the topic.

    In Asia, connections are EVERYTHING. You don't determine your own luck - it is based on who you know. It's a bit unnerving, but I think we've gotten used to it. And we definitely nurture our connections.

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    1. Sweet of you to say, Lisabet. And yes, some societies are more open about connections, nepotism, etc. but I'd argue that all ways of being are dependent on who we know. As much as individualism is touted here in the US, we'd have nothing without community.

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  2. And when you think about what really happens in homelessness, the person loses all connection with society.

    I definitely think Jeff Bridges, channeling the The Dude should play the lead in the movie version of your life.

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    1. Yes, I've often thought how awful it is when someone can't even put an address or phone number on an application.

      I'll take that Bridges thing as a compliment, Spencer! I always liked that dude. He seems like someone who'd probably have things in common with my crowd.

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  3. Now we just need to figure out who could play the young Daddy X (pre-Daddy?) in the early scenes. But I have to admit that I don't pay much attention to the current crop of young actors. It would be plum role for a struggling newbie, though.

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  4. Neat story! Envious that you and Momma got to take in the Hashbury scene. I was maybe 5 years too young :(

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  5. Neat story! Envious that you and Momma got to take in the Hashbury scene. I was maybe 5 years too young :(

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  6. Yeah, I was thinking "the dude" when I saw the picture too. And that eyeball on the helmet is definitely creepy. Not something I'd want in the same room if I was doing any mind-altering substances. Talk about paranoia!

    Connections get you jobs. Unfortunately I've always been better at connecting with the "little people", which means in high schools, the students. In my sales job, it was with fellow workers or the people who worked in the retail stores that I had to visit to watch over my product lines. I've never been a very good butt-kisser, and somehow those with needy butts seem to realize this, and promote/hire somebody more suited to their needs.

    BTW, I love this site! After spending my days with teenagers and younger kids, it's a joy to chat here with people who are older than me. It helps me to regain my perspective. Thanks. And yes, jealous of the Haight Ashbury experience that I was too young for, and too chicken-shit to move across the country to check out when I got older.

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  7. Like Spencer I'm envious of your time in San Francisco - a city I've always wanted to live in, disappear in to be exact. Too late now.

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  8. The Haight was certainly something to remember. Living it could be, in one sense, like living with a bunch of Tea partiers now. We all thought the whole world thought just like we did , largely because we didn't associate with people who didn't. If we did engage with the straight world, it was to make a living, but not really *real*. How naive we were. How wonderful too to have confidence that things would certainly get better in the natural progression of common sense. If only. Sigh...

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  9. That portrait makes you look so archetypal. The Dude Abides. As Lisabet said, I'm always captivated by your stories. And as many have said, I'm jealous of you having been in SF at such a historically significant time.

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