Leaving the Trailer Park
When I was 15 two other high school juniors and I, baggers and stockers at the Kingman, Arizona Safeway, decided to leave home. We were at a company convention in Flagstaff, where we got some alcohol to fuel the idea into action, a fantasy, really that we’d join the merchant marines, that a guy one of us knew who was stationed at Alameda would let us sleep on his floor. We took Rick Brakey’s 57 Chevy and I fell asleep driving. Luckily a semi woke me up. I’d slowed down and the trucker was my alarm clock. When we got to San Francisco I wanted to get out into the crowd on Market Street and look around, and the other guys didn’t like the neighborhood. I had to go exploring on my own. I stole a couple of sex magazines out of an adult shop before I went back to the car.
We didn’t join the merchant marines. We went home. Rick called and was told his mom was in the hospital, to get him to come home. She wasn’t really in the hospital, but it was his car so the adventure was over. I went back to the trailer home with its expando living room, and two cubicles for children. My half sister had left early and couldn’t be dragged back. My little sister lived behind the divider, which was a plastic panel with pleats in it that moved on a ceiling track. I had a lot of 45s but just two 33 rpm albums, Hank Williams Greatest Hits and Fats Domino’s Greatest Hits. At 15 I had washed dishes in a cafe in St. George, Utah, where the guy I replaced was a beatnik, with a beatnik girlfriend and a candle in a chianti bottle covered with strings of colored wax.
I think now I didn’t know
I was already a beat,
There were some books I saw on a lot of shelves in California in the sixties, and one that was on every shelf was Man and His Symbols, with an introduction by Carl Jung. The first section was written by Joseph Henderson, who would later on be my analyst, or that’s how we framed it, he was my wise old man archetype. In a dream, he might appear as a very old man combined with a toddler. In one dream he crossed my path as I emerged from a big garage where I saw an Airstream motor home with an ad for dairy products on the side of it. This combined a phallus with mother’s milk, so it was probably a way for my unconscious to slyly call me a mother fucker. It was American West culture and art, as was the other iconic object, a vintage Chrysler with big tail fins and Montana plates. He crossed my path as I started to go around the car. In crossing my path he stopped me from getting on a bus with a group of people going to Africa to be a village. I was about to do that, with Malidoma Patrice Some and his wife. There were two other dreams warning me that I would not fit in with this group, so I stayed on my western path.
When I would go back through Kingman, or even now when I drive through, I remember that I once lived there, graduated from high school there, worked in service stations there and had a girlfriend there. And I remember that in my senior year there were guys who were planning on staying in town. Some of them were learning from older guys how to make more commission by pushing tires or wiper blades, or by tricks like spraying gasoline onto a fuel pump and show that it’s leaking, or cutting into a belt.
There was the guy whose family had a motel and he was going to take it over some day. In the meantime, it’s a job, and something’s wrong with the ice machine, and your girlfriend’s pregnant. The best jobs were at the Ford Proving grounds, or with the highway patrol or the forest service, the highway department, and building contracting crews.
Got to install microwave ovens,
custom kitchen delivery.
Got to move these refrigerators,
got to move these color t.v’s.
I’ll bet most of those guys who stayed in town are conservatives, or at least say they are to fit in, because some of them never thought too much about it until asked, and like Clever Hans, they always get the right answer.