ssǝɹddns ɹou ɹɐǝɟ ɹǝɥʇıǝu plnoʍ ʎʇǝıɔos ǝǝɹɟ ʎlnɹʇ ɐ ʇɐɥʇ ƃuıʇnɔolɯnɔɹıɔ suıɐʇuoɔ ǝʇıs sıɥʇ



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Water in a can

I know that the Great Flood of '72 destroyed lives, uprooted entire families and actually took a few lives. But for me, as a 13-year-old scratching out a meager existence on public assistance, it was a godsend of sorts.

Now, this is not whining on my part, so spare me the accusatory emails.

Before the normally sedate Susquehanna River rose up and changed the face of this valley forever, I was dirt poor. That's the best way to avoid excess verbiage. I was freaking poor. And that was back in the days when being on public assistance meant you got by on hoddogs, Kool-Aid and oatmeal, not by way of an unholy and confiscatory and restrictive addiction to Rent-A-Center.

But after the Susquehanna River laid waste to all that was deemed to be important, I was hired at two and a half times the minimum wage to remove what she had left in her devastating wake. And within two weeks minus the waiting week, monetarily speaking, my famine went feast in a fortnight. If there was a happier 13-year-old during the Summer of '72, I would love to meet that person out of sheer disbelief.

I'm absolutely certain that I could easily type 20,000, perhaps even 40,000 words about that surrealistic summer, that coming of age amongst the muck, the rubble and the, for far too many, the abject despair. I could wax not-so-poetically about that surrealistic gone sublime experience until y'all got fed up, drove down here and pounded a stake through one of my four eyes. And so as to protect all of my four eyes, I will spare you the circumlocutory exercise. You lucked out.

But I will share what, strangely enough, is one of my most enduring memories of working in what was left of downtown Wilkes-Barre immediately after the flood waters had receded.

Working in that mix was hot, smelly and at times, almost insufferable. And taking a break or a lunch meant getting outside and sitting at the edge of the curb not still piled with refuse that had yet to be trucked of to the local landfill. Remember those? Local landfills?

Anyway, years pass as if they were nanoseconds and memories get fogged over to some extent, but I can't remember going outside, plopping down on the curb and not being visited by one of those Red Cross or Salvation Army step-vans brimming with all sorts of foodstuffs. Packaged sandwiches, fresh fruit, and most importantly...canned water. Nope, that was not a typo...canned water.

But wait, there's more.

These cans of water were donated by the good people at the Budweiser brewing outfit. So, I was 13-years-old and near as any onlooker could tell, I was enjoying myself a frosty 16-ounce Budweiser. If you put your well-worn immaturity cap on for even a fleeting instant, you'll surely understand why a 13-year-old boy thought this was the coolest thing since the advent of perfection personified...Marcia Brady.

Putting my sophomoric tendencies and my fast-fading memories aside, think about what I am alluding to in a not so concise manner.

Back in the black-and-white day, back when things went horribly, horribly wrong for us, we were totally dependent on the philanthropic types and the tireless do-gooders for safe drinking water.

Looking backwards, 'water in a can' now amounts to little more than a surrealistic, but fond memory of mine. Looking forward, water in a can is, for me, as completely unacceptable as it is remotely possible.

Oddly enough, I recently found myself taking issue with one of the tye-died folks (I'm kidding!)who happened to survive Woodstock. Or he took issue with me...screw that! It doesn't matter.

The thing is, while I steadfastly detest Woodstock and all that it was supposed to stand for, there was this one haunting song that I could never, ever get out of my head.

It went as follows, or somewhere thereabouts...

Gimme an F!
Gimme a R!
Gimme an A!
Gimme a C!
Gimme a K!

What’s that spell?
What’s that spell?
What’s that spell?
What’s that spell?
What’s that spell?

Yeah, c’mon on all you big strong sheep
Ed Rendell needs your help again
He’s got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in RedInk-stan
So put upon your mouse and Google radon
We’re gonna have a whole lot of fun

And it’s 1, 2, 3, what’re we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn
Next stop is water in a can
And it’s 5, 6, 7, bring on the water buffalo
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! We’re all gonna cry

Well c’mon CEOs, let’s move fast
Your big chance has come at last
Gotta go out and bribe those Feds
The only good Tree Hugger is one who’s dead
And you know that profits can only be won
When we’ve blown the aquifers all to kingdom come

And it’s 1, 2, 3, what’re we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn.
Next stop is water in a can
And it’s 5, 6, 7, bring on the water buffalo
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! We’re all gonna cry

Well c’mon on Wall Street
Don’t be slow
Why this is war a-go-go
There’s plenty good money to be made
By buying the drillers the legislation they crave
Just hope and pray when we drop the Benzene bomb
They drop it on-the Enviro-cong

Well c’mon mothers throughout this land
Pack your kids some of that water in a can
C’mon pops, don’t hesitate
Send ‘em to the doc before it’s too late
Be the first one on your block
To have your H2O delivered in a box

And it’s 1, 2, 3, what’re we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn.
Next stop is water in a can
And it’s 5, 6, 7, bring on the water buffalo
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! We’re all gonna cry

Maybe.

As it went back in the much more heady days of peace, love and beads, "I'd love to change the world. But I don't know what to do."

Now you know.

Bye

2 comments:

Don Williams said...

Mark: I spent that summer shoveling muck as well. I remember the sandwiches and canned water. Weren't they in big white cans w/no label, etc.?

KD

Mark said...

Initially, they shipped in straight-up Bud-labeled cans. But it didn't take very long for the white cans to arrive.

I remember people picking through the spoiled food products that were being piled at the curb in front of Percy Brown's supermarket.

That stuff was covered in sludge, tainted by gas, oil and sewage. I saw two kids snag a flattened case or two of thawed freeze pops. All that came out of my mouth was, "I wouldn't."

But they just smiled and made off with their spoils.