The Museum of Sudden Disappearances

MUSEUM available as an ebook at Amazon Or, for temporal travelers, PAST IS PRESENT at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Earth Prime vs. Earth Two

 Spot Quiz

Here’s a brain-bouncer as we slide into the spring of 2022. Who are the two most famous 44-year-old men on Earth-Prime? Here's a hint. They're not soul mates.

Tick...tick...tick. Time’s up.

1) Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, age 44 (born: 1/25/78), embattled, sleepless president of Ukraine with a jumbo heart.

most inspirational president and comedian
of Cenozoic era
(bar none)

2) Donald John Trump Jr., age 44 (born: 12/31/77), American political activist, businessman, author, and former...uh...television presenter.

The brain-bouncer? Here goes.

Imagine a parallel world (Earth Two) where Donnie Junior is the heroic president of Ukraine, decked out daily in an olive-green tee and galvanizing the battered masses, leading the underdogs as they fight for freedom – the ultimate global showdown. Democracy vs. Autocracy.

Imagine...President Donnie Junior...igniting the masses?

Crikey! These two dudes graduated from high school in 1996. Twenty-six years later...presto...here they are on the world stage. A president and a president's son sharing the same indecipherable universe.

Ever hear of a Maalox martini? It's a cocktail made with gin, vermouth and antacid. It's garnished with an olive tee-shirt or, if you prefer it bitter, an ironic twist of lemon.

Serve with ice because, hey, face it, our universe is clearly "on the rocks."


Friday, December 20, 2019

two knights on the night shift

Two Factory Fugitives Disappear

the legendary Dodge Main Dodgers...still on the run?


- or- 

Tales from THE TIME MACHINE, the sequel

Eloi vs. Morlocks


Years ago, my #1 paisano and I were voted #1 Factory Fugitives in the Western Hemisphere. The vote took place inside a voting/photo booth far from home, and we won by a landslide. I asked Tony, "Yo, you sure we're #1?" 

Tony pointed to Heaven.

Ha ha Chrysler Corporation...try and nab us...ha ha!

Picture two dudes from Detroit. Botch Cassidy & the Sundunce Kid. We were wandering out West, holed up at a drugstore or a variety store or maybe a middle-of-the-night bus depot, squeezed inside a photo booth. This is what passes for entertainment when you have all the time in the world, no place to crash, and zero cash (we had declared bankruptcy somewhere in Kansas). Life on the lam ain't easy. 


We were two escapees from a truly infamous auto assembly line. We had busted out without notification. We never officially quit; we just forgot to return. We, ya know, disappeared. 

That summer we were sharing a low-budget penthouse in downtown Detroit. Ground floor, rear of building, facing alley (savvy readers nod, perhaps laugh). Our apartment epitomized the real estate maxim, location, location, location. The only thing missing was a giant, glow-in-the-dark target encircling our windows, visible from the alley. So we nailed horizontal boards across the lower windows to discourage burglars.

our two windows: right side, bottom
(hahaha...try & break in...hahaha)

Unless the burglar was ten-feet tall, he couldn't access the top half of the window. Unless he'd been in training. Unless he'd competed in...

The Burglar Olympics

Meanwhile, Chrysler Corporation would repeatedly hammer us with calls. "Is Anthony Crudo or Thomas Davidson available?" 

When either of us would answer the phone, we'd say, "Jeepers, they're not here right now. Can I take a message?" Like our inspirational hero, the sensational Harry Houdini, we were escape artists.

Houdini, auto worker, escapes from Dodge Main, 1920.

This continued like a daily crank call. Sooner or later, Chrysler would hire a hit man to punch us out. Why? If we were left unpunished, it'd send the wrong message. All the other peeps on the line would wonder, "Well, fuckin' A, maybe I should forget to show up too?" This could spark a massive walkout, and put a new spin on the labor union, UAW, United Auto Workers. Chrysler would scream about the United Amnesiac Workers. All because of two goof-offs.

How would we get snuffed? Picture an assassin hunched behind the wheel of a Dodge or a Plymouth, waiting for us to exit our apartment building, and then run over us. Consider the irony of being crushed by a car that you helped assemble. Imagine putting a tire on a car and, days later, as the tire rolls over your forehead, your last words are, "We meet again."

We needed to slip out of town. 

One Saturday night, we pounded beers at the dive down the street on Prentis and Second Avenue, the legendary... 

Forget New York, this is the Bronx.

[Gloria, the plump, gray-haired Bronx waitress, somewhere in her 70s and impervious to drunks with pool sticks, would shuffle from table to table, take orders for "pounders" (cheap beer in 16-ounce mugs), turn to the bar, and screech, "One up!" Long after midnight, she'd board the city bus, alone, fearless, heading home through a frisky part of Detroit.]

...and decided to go on the run. On Sunday morning, we packed chic summer duds and stale bagels and vanished. Between us, we had minimum resource expenditure opportunities. Our combined cash flow totaled $50. M-a-y-b-e. We thumbed south to the belly-button of Ohio, banged a right, and headed west. Surely the Chrysler assassin was in our rear-view mirror.

Whew.

Picture two scruffy factory rats hitchhiking far from home, sightseeing (stranded) in Colorado or Arizona or New Mexico or does-it-really-matter, and camping off the highway (Roads Scholars). 

We were broke, each with a cheap canvas bag strapped over our shoulder, crammed with a rolled-up sleeping bag, extra t-shirts, tank tops, faded jeans, cigarettes, stale socks, and lofty dreams. We were goofing off. We always goofed off. We still goof off.

Shangri-La...a/k/a/ Chrysler's Dodge Main 

Tony, disgruntled employee, remorseless goof-off
(Dodge Main mugshot)

Me, co-perpetrator, unrepentant goof-off 
(factory rat ID card)

When it comes to goofing off, we’re #1. However, we believe anyone who smiles and laughs nonstop, 24/7, is light years from gritty reality. Life is funny, but...Jesus Christ. On the other hand, anyone who never laughs is far creepier, an incendiary sociopath. In a saner world, flashing a fake smile would be an automatic Class 2 felony. Not quite mass murder (Class 1 felony), but right up there with serial arson, inciting riots, or being caught on camera while urinating in public alongside Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. People with sub-zero smiles inflict frostbite on anyone within eyeshot. Imagine, say, Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Putin at a comedy club. As they fake a laugh, frosty breaths plume out of their mouths.

Humorless lizards excrete through their ears (origin of the expression: shit-for-brains), and have telltale, multi-directional hairstyles. Their combed hair resembles an interchange, pointing in different directions. Their highway hairstyle distracts you from what's spewing between their clenched teeth.

Imagine exiting the barber shop with this?

Only Godzilla in a blue Brioni suit would tell a barber, "Gimme the Interstate 90. Comb it straight down in back, so it drops south. Comb it forward on top, so it hangs over my forehead like an overpass bridge. As for the sides, comb it over my ears so it hangs there like an exit ramp. But the hair above the exit ramps should point to the back of my head, like a two-lane county road, which connects to the hair on top, which is the overpass."

Barber: "Yes, sir."

Ultimate makeover: "Gimme the I-90 haircut"

Godzilla: "But be careful, 'cause I don't want my hair and your scissors to have a head-on collision with the sculpted trestles at my temples. When you're done, reattach my custom earrings, the two miniature speed limit signs which dangle from my earlobes. Cool, huh?"

Barber: "Yes, sir."

Godzilla: "When I meet the ladies, I say, 'Hey, ladies, here I come! I'm gonna break the speed limit and run you over with my irresistible, 14.8-liter inline six-cylinder diesel engine charm.' Instead of a hat, I wear a little toy pickup truck strapped on my head. When I meet super models, I doff my toy truck and say, 'That's a pickup. Wanna truck?' Get it?"

Barber: "Yes, sir."

Godzilla: "Or sometimes I feel frisky and ask 'em, 'Ever experience a fender bender?'"

Barber: "That reminds me of a joke. Wanna hear it?"

Godzilla: "What's a joke?"

Earrings for icy despots with expressway haircuts.

hat for humorless human tumors
#
de rigueur for pickup artists

Tony and I never wore speed limit signs, pickup trucks, or had expressway haircuts. Because we were goof-offs. Authentic goof-offs appreciate the middle ground, but understand it’s not in the middle. Goof-offs laugh at w-a-y over 51% of life, because most of our daily concerns really don’t matter a damn in the long run. 

Well, back to the photo booth, a wonderful relic from the 20th century. Four pictures for 25 cents. That day, we voted ourselves #1 on Chrysler's Most Wanted List because we were quitters who never quit. Here's how it began. 

First, Tony sort of stopped one day. We drove to the plant where he succumbed to common sense. He declared, "Thefuhguh carguhfuh nuhsuh nuhfuhway duh!"

I countered, "Whuhthuhfuhbruh? Nuhsuh! Huh?" 

He dropped me off. Entranced by the siren call of the assembly line, I reported for work. Think H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. The employees were the Eloi. Chrysler management? The Morlocks (rhymes with warlocks).

Dodge Main - afternoon shift begins at sundown
#
"Get your asses in here!"

Toward the end of the shift on that warm, June night, a sweaty Eloi toiling near me appeared antsy. To be fair, many Eloi at Dodge Main arrived at this existential crossroad, wondering, "Is today the day my brain implodes from skull-grinding drudgery?"

Inevitably, the follow-up, two-part question arose. "Shall I create Chrysler cars today? Or create Chrysler chaos for stress-reduction purposes?"

My Eloi colleague espied a wood pallet on the floor, reconfigured it at high-velocity against a cinder block wall, and turned it into kindling wood. Using one of the loose boards as a baseball bat, Babe Ruth began smashing out the windows while speaking in tongues. These were ancient stained-glass windows, reminiscent of the Notre Dame Cathedral, t
attooed with a Halloween hue of orange-and-black grime. Here, every day was Halloween.

No, wait. Here, every night was Devil's Night.


STOP

SPOT QUIZStained glass windows. Below are two pictures. One is the beloved Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The other is Saint Chrysler Cathedral in Detroit, where you genuflect from sheer exhaustion. The workers, trapped inside on a Saturday night, can relate to lovelorn Quasimodo (as the world outside parties its ass off). 

Another shitty Saturday night!

Imagine Quasimodo kneeling by the stained glass windows on the eighth floor, gazing down at the nocturnal city, and crying, "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!"

Anyway, you have 30 minutes to decide which window is which. Go!

Hmm...an auto plant?

Notre-Dame de Paris?

Tick...tick...tick...time's up.

PROCEED


Broken glass flew like shrapnel as the Eloi punched out the windows (affordable air conditioning for the proles) one by one (see above picture). Twenty windows later, the Morlock foreman appeared and admonished, "Tut-tut." Soon I exited the building. My ride awaited on the street by the gate.

Tony, lying on the hood of his parked car, his back against the front windshield, drinking a Stroh's (rhymes with blows) beer under a streetlamp, asked, "How's yer day, Eloi?"

Tony (Eloi escapee) ensconced in his time machine. 

For the record, I lasted one day longer than Tony. We drove away and never returned. Still, our phone kept jingling for a while.

In today’s world, it's not about what you achieve, but how you achieve it. The key is to earn your way to the top by cutting corners, by spraying mace and swinging a medieval spiked club. Or, in our case, by thumbing on the interstate instead of showing up at work. Thus becoming...

Chrysler's Most Wanted

Ever see this cheesy quote? “To reach the top you don't have to climb up to the top. Don't let the summits determine your altitude; let the height you like be your summit!”

Translation: stoop to the lowest common denominator, the low-hanging fruit. Ideally, grab the rotten apples on the ground.

Or simply go to a photo booth and bubble up to the top.

Here's a brief rundown of three of four photos. Eloi x 3. If we were in a drugstore that day, we were drugstore desperados. Or bus depot desperados. Or simply...duh duh duh desperados.

mugshots

Picture #1: I asked Tony, “Yo, goomba, ya think Chrysler's gonna catch us?”

Picture #2: Tony, moist-eyed, communicated in sign language. The chance of our getting caught? He indicated one percent.

Picture #3: Overwhelmed with relief, I smooched the camera’s lens.

Picture #4: The bottom photo is a bit grainy. But as you can see, it’s…

Jeepers! Wait! The surprise visitor will not be revealed…yet. Let’s roll back. 

* * *

Filth, Madness, Mayhem, Murder
and a 
Literary Critic 
on the Assembly Line

Dodge Main
(rhymes with pain, slain, dog chain, choke chain, brain drain, bloodstain)

Once upon a time, I toiled on the afternoon shift at Chrysler’s infamous Dodge Main. Happy hours spanned 5:30 pm to 3:00 am, the knight shift, at The Dodge Den of Horrors, a massive dungeon on Detroit’s east side. The auto assembly plant was the size of the Roman Colosseum, albeit slightly older and more decrepit. Both buildings shared an element of danger. Dodge Main had the combined vibe of a crime scene, hospital ER and a funeral home. The plant reportedly began as a bicycle factory in the 1890s, then expanded, brick by grungy brick, into one of the largest car factories in the world.

Employees of Dodge Main (Dodge Mainiacs), blue-collar gladiators with a sack lunch, made a death march into the building each workday. For the next nine numbing hours, day or night shift, we were armed with, say, a monkey wrench or sandpaper, and compelled to fight to the death against an unending stream of auto bodies on the assembly line. Sand the car, paint the car, upholster the car, club the car, beat the car, strangle the car.

Chrysler is pronounced cry + slur. Homonym?

Dodge Main is pronounced as it looks. Two ho-hum words. But the key is context. Note how the name is used in this cryptic sentence. "Today I watched my final sunset from the edge of the rooftop of Dodge Main." Each time you read that sentence, its mystery deepens. It's as if...well...oh, never mind.


True story. Back in the day, a local TV station reported that the plant had the highest homicide rate of any factory in the state of Michigan (and possibly in the U.S.). In a sense, Dodge Main crushed the competition. Here’s an excerpt from a PhD dissertation I found online. The author wrote a book called, Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Violence at Work in the North American Auto Industry.

* * *

“If You Want Blood”:
Violence at Work in the North American Auto Industry, 1960-1980
by Jeremy Milloy

In July 1970, Newsweek published an article titled “Violence in the Factories,” featuring a report from Chrysler’s Dodge Main plant in Detroit:

“…a grimy, 59-year-old pile of red brick and concrete harboring 9,000 of the most frightened, angry workers in America. The work force is a volatile mixture of Poles, blacks, and southern whites and, to hear some of them tell it, the man who doesn’t pack a gun, a knife, or a length of pipe with his lunch break sandwich is either a fool or suicidal.”

The article went on to quote a lurid tale from a United Automobile Workers (UAW) official about a “racial throat-cutting” in the plant’s parking lot, before discussing violence in other factories around America, including household names like Westinghouse, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed. One security chief at a Midwest plant warned: “Let’s face it. We have armed conflict – guerilla warfare in this country. I think that armed invasion of the plants is entirely possible.” This time, Newsweek identified racial conflict, in-plant radicalism and inter-union fights, drugs, street crime, and working conditions, the “car-a-minute monotony of the assembly line or the hellish heat of tending a blast furnace,” as the culprits. Clearly, workplace violence was around long before the early 1990s.

In the early 1970s, Newsweek was not the only national news source reporting on violence in Detroit’s Chrysler factories. That same July, while the Newsweek warning of America’s violent factories was still on newsstands, James Johnson, a black autoworker at a Detroit Chrysler plant, shot and killed two supervisors and a coworker after being suspended from his job. The shootings and subsequent trial made national headlines. The racism, violence, and unsafe conditions that Johnson’s lawyers argued precipitated his massacre were described in Time under the headline: “Hell in the Factory.”

* * *

Whew.

Every Thursday, payday, according to the TV newscast, one of three employees snuck a handgun into work. The guards at the gate never checked any of us for hidden weapons as we entered the plant. But they’d occasionally check random lunch buckets at shift’s end, in case, ya know, we were borrowing car parts.

Picture it.

Guard: “Hey yooze! Wuzzat in yer lunch bucket? Zatta thermos…or an earth-shaking 425-horsepower 426 HEMI® engine, you squirrelly-ass muthafucka?”

8-cylinder bologna sandwich? 
Maybe.
Ham on rye with a side order of radiator?
Maybe.

Employee: “Holy smokes! How’d that 400-pound engine end up in my lunch pail next to my half-eaten bologna sandwich, three hits of speed and a pint of Crown Royal?”

Guard: “This here is called 'management displeasure.' We’re gonna write you up.”

Employee: “Guy in the lunch area, name's Frankie—everyone calls the dude 'Frankiestein'—squats at my picnic table and says, ‘Wanna carburetor?’ And I’m like, ‘Fer sure.’ So he hands it to me. How’s I t'know it was stuck to a big-block glory?”

Imagine a V-8 engine falling out of your paper lunch bag?

Spider-Man - 51% chance of reaching retirement alive?

The retirement plan was called 30 and Out. Work 30 years. Flee with glee. Do the math. If you managed to survive 7800+ workdays, and retired in one piece and not in a body cast or a body bag, it meant you were Spider-Man. Because you clearly spent the last three decades swinging through the plant while dodging death threats, projectiles from broken skids (this plant wasn’t called ‘Dodge’ for nothing), and just sheer unabated boredom. Your shitty work gloves surely had built-in web shooters, allowing you to fire and swing from sticky webs. Or chains or rubber hoses. You’d shoot some web and climb the grimy walls and other grease & dirt-encrusted surfaces. You’d hang from the ceiling, upside down, and hassle the foreman, “Fuh kew, I’m on break! Go 'head...write me up, muhfuh!”

Carbon emissions? Climate change? No way!

I first met Anthony Fortunato Crudo at the Main. Mr. Crudo noticed a misfit across the grimy floor doing the most perverted thing imaginable—reading a paperback amid all the crunching noise, hellish heat, polluted air, and empty car bodies crawling along the assembly line at the rate of 45 per hour. Here, you repeated the same task every 80 seconds or less, for nine hours, until your brains oozed through your ears. Unless a strike was imminent. Presto! Then the line magically sped up to 60 per hour, so Chrysler could stockpile cars to ride out the strike.

So Tony waltzed up, (a fellow pervert holding a book), and ventured, “What’cha readin'?”

Like, what? I'm gonna let myself get sucker-punched by that inquiry? Be. Serious.

When meeting someone for the first time, socialites suggest that one be blunt, slightly controversial, and completely honest. I'm all in on those triple tips.

I replied, “I’m perusing one of the towering giants of 20th century literature. What else would I be reading inside this shit-hole?"

Tony stepped back in awe. “You mean, ‘Autoeroticism’ by Dr. Henry Ford? His pioneering work on Mustang’s Super Commando Libido 440 V-8, a hairy-looking beast that sported 22 carburetors smothering the block, and 440 cubic inches of otherworldly libidinal drive?”

"Yep."

A friendship was sparked. We discovered that we shared something in common, literary escape from brain-busting boredom. Also, we sensed self-preservation through teamwork, particularly in the dark parking lot at 3:00 a.m. on payday.

Dante's 10th Circle of Hello

[Sidebar: The Dodge Main parking lot was nicknamed, "Dante's 10th Circle of Hello" (sic). Why? It was a hellhole where, sooner or later, you'd hear a chilly voice behind your neck, whispering, "Hello."]

Dodge Main's parking lot attendants

I still recall the book I was reading that night. An informally dressed Eloi colleague sat down on the bench beside us. Like many of my Eloi compatriots, he was a fellow from the Middle East, Yemen, working at Dodge Main for several years or so, saving money before he’d return home. My paperback was Herman Hesse’s novel, Steppenwolf. The illustration on the cover featured a woman wearing a backless dress. My colleague turned to me, and said something like, “I know that’s…about what...it's about.”

Wait. No joke. This was the paperback's front cover.

hubba hubba?

“Yeah?” I waited. I knew this was gonna be good. My discerning colleague didn’t disappoint.

He shifted into sign language with both hands, his eyes agleam. He extended his left index finger, inserted it into his clenched right hand, and moved it like a piston. In, out, in, out, in, out. I sensed an automotive metaphor in sync with our surrounds. A carnal CliffsNotes. Without having read the book, he reviewed the book. A literary intuitionist. His grin was infectious. It'd take a heart of stone not to respond in kind. 

Hands down, the most memorable book review I’ve ever read, heard or witnessed. In a single, deft gesture, he transformed Herman Hesse, Nobel Laureate, into Hugh Hefner, a porn peddler. Any critic can scribble a book review. New York Times Book Review? Yawn, ho hum. But to perform a book review at midnight amid, say, spot welders and seat installers on the assembly line?

Literati, take note.

“I’m speechless,” I told my Yemeni colleague. I turned to Tony. “It's like we time-traveled to Paris in the 1920s. We're part of the Lost Generation, surrounded by glamorous critics, socialites and car painters.”

"This is Dodge Main," Tony clarified. "We're the Exhaust Generation."

(Thus far, this blog entry has mentioned three people who 
seem to share something in common. Harry Houdini, Herman Hesse, Hugh Hefner. Yet I can't pinpoint what it is.)

The next day I arrived at work with the expurgated edition. My apologies to Mr. Hesse. 

pretentious porn?

And speaking of seat installers, here's one for the ages. What do time bombs and lunchtime have in common? At Dodge Main, a shitload.

The assembly line's format is simple. It begins with an empty shell of a car. The steel body is pulled along the line, across the floor and, through a large rectangular opening, down to the next floor. Along the way, parts are added, installed, checked, tightened. Seats, for instance. The back seat is inserted into the car and bolted down. Or glued, Scotch taped, stapled, or held together with clothespins and prayers.

Occasionally, a frisky employee would put, say, his egg salad sandwich or sloppy joe or meatball sub or fish sticks into the car, then install the back seat over it. About a week later, a salesman at a car dealership in Abilene, Kansas would smell something fishy inside the new car in the showroom, and know that a smart-ass, at a plant somewhere in the U.S., was laughing. Solution? Yank out the back seat and destroy the car? Or hang a little tree air freshener from the rearview mirror over the dash, knock 10% off the sticker price, and sell that goddamn buggy a.s.a.p.

Imagine sitting on this during a two-week car trip.

Question: What do you call six meatball submarine sandwiches smothered with sauce and cheese under a car seat? 

Answer: The Perfect Crime. 

Because you never get caught.

Remember this fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, about a young woman whose royal identity is established by a test of her sensitivity?

The Princess & the Pea

Dodge Main's contribution to world-class children's literature? This.

The Princess & the Lobster

In this version, the Princess sits on the backseat, while traveling 1,000 miles to visit her royal brother who's doing time in Kansas at the El Dorado Correctional Facility for shoplifting, littering, and third degree assault. Each time the brand new Dodge Charger hits a pothole, she exclaims, "Methinks I'm perched on a claw?" 

"Nah," the chauffeur says, "ya probably got hemorrhoids."

The princess declares, "Driver. Beneath me, I sense a large, greasy pepperoni pizza served on a heated hubcap, ten squished hot dogs smothered in blue cheese, eight smashed pork tacos, godawful corn dogs, beef jerky for Christ's sake, a busted carton of curdled buttermilk, and a bag of bologna-flavored potato chips." She gasps. "In addition, something is moving inside the seat!"

The lobster, still alive, emerges between the cushions of the back seat, a meatball clenched in each claw.

* * *

a Brief History of
AutoEroticism 


Disgruntled, cruciform, half-nude Eloi (Tony) on the run in Kansas.

"Chrysler! Come an' get me...hahahahaha!"

Me, I don't recall my first assignment at Dodge Main, thank God, although the word "lobotomy" (rhymes with "auto body") comes to mind.

Tony's first job at Dodge Main? QA. Quality Assurance. He lovingly recalls:

"I'd look for dents and dings in the raw steel shell of the car." [As he continues his description, note the lush, Nabokovian tone.] "I'd use a soft glove to feel the body, circle dents and X dings with a large pen [yoo-hoo, paging Dr. Freud]. The station before mine was a body-work crew who'd attempt to fix dents and dings before my inspection. Needless to say, they couldn't keep up. I would tally every mark I made."

What Tony didn't understand? His job was not to do his job because he could lose his job.

Tony: "So one day this foreman walks up, carrying a colorful bong, and asked if I wanted a hit. I was cool, you know, but I wasn't prepared for that. Silly me, with works on the floor everywhere, and junkies trucking cars on dollies to different lines."

Jeepers, someone dropped a weird little squirt gun.

[TIP: If you're gonna shoot up at Dodge Main, hit the men's room. What better setting to hit up and nod off than a toilet stall with a lopsided door that almost closes and ensures semi-privacy. In the meantime, out on the floor, a relief man will take your place on the line, until you shake it off and stagger out of the can.]

Tony: "I declined the bong. A good effort on the foreman's part to make things cool with his crew. In any case, a while later (not sure if it was the same day or another day) a couple of the body crew guys came up to me. They were wearing their colors."

automotive colleague,
8-cylinder soulmate

[SIDEBAR: At Dodge Main, costumes were de rigeuer. You could arrive dressed as a black-hooded executioner. As previously noted, every day was Halloween.]

Me: The bikers working nearby belonged to a gang called "The Flying Diamonds." One might reasonably ask: What's 'flying' and 'diamond' gotta do with a brain blasting, grease-pit hellhole? For that answer, go see the dude passed out in the men's room with the squirt gun.

Tony: "While I can't quote what they said verbatim, it came down to: 'Listen mothafucka. If you don't go easy on the tally, we're gonna fuck you up in the parkin' lot after work.'"

Me: Tony had a choice. Defer to the Diamonds or watch his luxurious industrial lifestyle go south. Here's my goomba, in his own words.  

Tony: "While I would like to tell the story that I wasn't gonna be threatened, I was in fact terrified. My knees began shaking and I didn't want them to see that, so I started pacing around. The calculus I did was this: if I do what they want, I’ll be their bitch who’ll never live it down and probably never be left alone...for entertainment, if nothing else. So what can I do? Well...CRAZY, nobody wants to fuck with crazy. So I went crazy.

"Gotta piece motherfuckers an' I will shoot any motherfucker who comes near me."

Me: Where is the Labor Relations Board when you need them most?

Me: Also, once you announce that you have ballistic enhancements access, you are claiming membership to the one-out-of-three elite at Dodge Main, which is not, you know, a s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Numerically speaking.

Dodge Main Fraternity ID Card

Back to Tony: "I picked up something, I don't recall what, and slammed the fender of the car passing by, then the hood, then the door."

Me, interrupting: Note how Tony has now done damage to the very car he was hired to inspect for damages. Ironic, no? Did Tony reach for his pen and circle the ding he just inflicted on the car? Perhaps not.

Back to Tony: "I jumped onto the hood and said if you wanna get me, do it now, or something to that effect. I was hauled into a foreman's office. And there was my foreman, my general foreman, the production foreman, and someone from upper management. I was interrogated, sure I was going to be fired and not really unhappy at the prospect. But no, they asked me if I wanted to be a foreman. Long pause. 'I'm not crazy,' I said. They sent me back to my station."

Deranged biker? Heck no.
Quality Assurance nitpicker
(skull mask optional)

Going forward, the Flying Diamonds flew out of Tony's life. And soon the autoeroticist crossed paths with the Herman Hesse porn addict. Ah, kismet. Krysler kismet krossroads: bikers, Nobel Laureate, death threats, Siddartha, muscle cars, Buddhist enlightenment, etc. 

Kismet, indeed. Tony and I soon became co-workers in the paint booth. Incentive? We earned (yearned for) an extra 50 cents per hour. Why the stratospheric hike in the hourly wage? Because we had to cling-wrap ourselves in sweaty nylon jumpsuits, tourniquet our heads with rags, apply goggles or maybe a snorkel mask, and breathe toxic paint spray. A night in the booth meant we each shaved off two weeks from our life expectancy. Yo...so...whuh? Man up, you chickenshits. Lose two weeks, but earn $4.50 per a measly 3600 seconds of your life x 9 each day. With the extra big bucks, we could better invest in our retirement fund. Get our mind off the fact that...well, you get the pic. And so what if each morning we woke with glued eyelids, which we peeled open with our fingertips. And when we blew our nose, the facial tissue blackened. Hey, don't mean a thang. Focus on the extra coin. Almost an additional penny per minute. Next stop: The Prole Promised Land. 

Dr. Lincoln, pulmonologist, on the dark Kleenex hoax:
"No need to worry."

* * *

Sidebar: Following respiratory complaints from paint-booth tunnel rats, a disinformation campaign emerged, allegedly from the Chrysler deep-state, claiming the booth had been awarded a 5-star rating from The Sierra Club. Message: Black snot is a total hoax. According to whispers, this covert Chrysler cabal was nicknamed The Ku Klux Kleenex Krew. 

* * *

The paint booth resembled a car wash tunnel trapped inside an angry-ass black hole in outer space. At Dodge Main, a black hole is the region of the assembly line exhibiting gravitational acceleration so strong that nothing -- no cars, no trucks, no tanks, no jumbo jets, no ocean liners, no screaming employees -- can escape from its suction. The paint booth will suck your hopes and dreams. Vacuum your future. Chew your belief in a supreme being supervising the universe. The booth could eat the entire city of Detroit, belch, and then gulp all of North America. The entire Western Hemisphere could vanish into the Dodge Main paint booth. Such was the power of the booth.

The booth had two functions. The steel husk of a car, pulled along the line, entered the booth. Painters stood on each side of the line. A handwritten paper sign inside the car had a color code. If you saw, say, O1, you grabbed the hose marked O1, and sprayed your side of the car with orange paint the color of teeth untouched by a toothbrush in a decade. Or S1, the silvery color of a gelatinous blobfish. The car continued into the bake booth, a hellhole where the paint was baked on. And so on. Car after unending car.


auto alimentary canal
(paint booth)

While Tony and I, artistes extraordinaire, showered cars inside the paint booth with our coded hoses, we were joined by Crazy Horse (derivation of nickname unknown), a fellow artiste with a frisky bladder, who performed (or perfumed) with an unconventional hose.

True story? Alas, yes. But let's pause.


* * *

A Brief, Raggedy-Ass History of

Men as Gargoyles

First, this.

In a sense, this blog is sexist. It absolutely champions sexism characterized by or showing prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, totally against men, on the basis of boorishness and dumbassery. Why? 

Start here: According to Google University, in the United States in 2015, women made up 10.4% of the incarcerated population in adult prisons and jails.

Duh? Do the math. Hmm...89.6% of inmates are...hmm...lemme see...hmm?

Let's proceed.

* * *

After all these years, I still vividly recall Crazy Horse. He was unforgettable...for all the wrong reasons. Why?

First: Crazy Horse at Chrysler had zero to do with the Lakota war leader of the Oglala band in the 19th century. Chrysler's Crazy Horse was, well, crazy. His signature move was to publicly urinate, daily, just before 5:30 p.m., on the fourth-floor elevator doors by the paint booth. Why? Don't know. But here's a clue. That's when the employees, three floors below, would be entering the freight elevator on the ground floor before the afternoon shift (5:30 - 3:00 a.m.). 


Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Urine + gravity. Target? Motive? You figure it out. Here's a hint: his nickname wasn't Saint Francis of Assisi or the 15th Dalai Lama.


Each afternoon, Tony and I would suit up in our head-to-toe garb and watch Mr. Horse piss on the elevator doors. Day after day. Tony and I would face each other and shrug. Day after brain-grinding day.

Step #1: open umbrella. Step #2: enter elevator.

I mention this because, in the end, an employee can, and often will, adapt to occupational circumstances due to economic necessity. We humans are very adaptable. We expand our paradigms of the normal. All the time. Which is how Tony and I ended up in the paint booth, wrapped in protective clothing, looking like this:

"Yo, Tony...shit man...we be the two luckiest freakin' dudes!"

Then the weird-o-meter dialed up.

Crazy Horse was the Jackson Pollock of Dodge Main. He was renown for his technique of splashing liquid onto a moving, vertical surface, enabling him to view and paint his steel canvases from multiple angles. He called it “motion painting,” because the metal canvas was never static.

No shit. He'd stand inside the paint booth, occasionally unzip his pants, and squirt the side of a freshly painted car. The car would roll inside the bake booth, baking the wet paint and piss. The car would emerge on the other end, the Chrysler birth canal, making its artistic debut, its door and quarter panel tattooed with an abstract expressionistic masterpiece. 

"Plymouth Fury door"
by Crazy Horse
(automotive neo-urinary expressionism)

A flurry of furious colors, no? His technique? Grab 3 or 4 paint hoses and let loose, while pissing. Presto: a mobile masterpiece in 60 seconds. Priceless art. Destined to cause sticker shock next week at the car dealership.

Sadly, the foreman overlooked the creativity, rerouting every masterpiece by pulling the steel shell off the line. Yet Crazy Horse was never caught or confronted, and would continue to wag the weasel every now and then.

* * *

At any rate, this world of freight elevators, umbrellas and Jackson Pollock knock-offs was grinding us down. To be honest, co-workers dressed like a nun became tedious. At first it was vaguely amusing. Later we discovered that every nun was hiding stolen auto parts inside their baggy habit. Whenever Tony and I passed a nun inside the lunch area, we'd say in unison, "Grand Theft Auto Parts." If your bewhiskered colleague introduced himself as, say, Sister Marie Bonaventure, assume the worst. Assume this was Sister Marie Radiator. 

auto parts entrepreneur

Imagine walking around with this hidden in your underpants.

Move over Viagra.
Put 8-cylinders in your shorts.


As previously noted, one summer day Tony quit. On the following day I quit. These two pictures best illustrate our transition from Factory Rats to Factory Fugitives:

from this:


to this:


two road dogs on the run

While hightailing it through Kansas with some fellow nomads, this picture was taken. As you can see, the scenery was so breathtaking that we had to slam on the brakes and savor God's creation. The sky resembled cigar smoke, and the dirt was the color of cow dung spread from here to eternity. Note the careful composition of the photo, a Venn diagram of nature, humanity, and vehicles that would never be targeted for auto theft. 

2 interstate fugitives spotted in Kansas

Although the above looks like Shangri-La, lean forward, look closely. Ignore the unidentified, freelance irrigation specialist on far left, and focus on the shadow at center/bottom. That's not a tree stump or a fire hydrant. Brace yourself. That's...

...the shadowy dude in bottom photo.

Much later, we realized that the Chrysler hitman had tracked us into Kansas, and later watched us inside the photo booth in Colorado. Closing in, he was waiting to strike. But that's getting ahead of things.

After we arrived in Colorado, we drifted over to Colorado Springs. Strapped for cash, we became curbside florists and mastered the art of high-speed marketing. Customers would slam on their brakes and purchase roses through the driver's window.

from factory rat to fugitive florist

Tony, manning the office phone,
kept our supply chain moving.

This money-magnet enterprise was destined for The Fortune 500. We were "The Fleurgitives." Until Tony, impervious to U.S. Highway System protocols, got popped for Christonlyknowswhat. See entry for violation.

CRIME: Pedestrian disregarded traffic control device

This brazen act of criminal negligence led to the Colorado State Patrol forcing us (at gunpoint) to reprioritize our resource expenditures amassed from our flower sales commissions and...

...buy bus tickets, blow town, and exit Colorado.

Next stop: Arizona.

We soon hit the Grand Canyon (deeper than the Parisian sewers in Les Miserables) and spent the night in our sleeping bags on the ground under the stars, the only tentless campers at a campground. 

[That night, Tony woke with the munchies and stole someone's food in an aluminum cooler. Soon a park ranger, Inspector Javert, chased Tony down to the bottom of the Canyon. The two slogged along the muddy Colorado River. Javert kept yelling, "Stop thief, stop!"]

Next day, we hitched a ride on the back of a flatbed truck that had dumped off a load of watermelons. We landed in Phoenix a few hours later under a blistering sun, reportedly during the region's worst drought in 114 years. Each day bounced between 112 and 118 degrees. Fortunately, we met two young women at a hippie cowboy bar (red beer? tomato juice & beer?) shortly after we arrived, and they invited us to "camp on their apartment's living room floor."

We did.

Looking back, I think they sensed we were harmless goof-offs, two dudes from Detroit, and so we hung out. While they reported to their jobs during the day, Tony and I would explore Phoenix, which did not resemble Detroit. The difference? Well, think Waylon Jennings vs. Stevie Wonder. Red beer vs. Stroh's Beer. Better yet, red beer vs. a Sneaky Pete (beer & cheap wine sloshed together and consumed while sitting on a stoop and watching the world go by). No, wait. Red beer vs. a Schlitz "Tall Boy," which can only be consumed while dancing solo down the sidewalk and waving at the neighbors.

Slap on your dancing shoes.
Pop the tab.
You are now "Tall Boy" singing a sidewalk serenade. 

Phoenix showed no sign of Tall Boy choreography. Me & Tony scoured the simmering streets. The city was a T-Boy free zone. Nor did we spot any Jackson Pollocks painted on cars. That's when we knew we were light years from home. 

After a week or so, we thanked our hosts and decamped from their living room floor (a/k/a the Sheraton Shag Rug or Daze Inn or maybe Motel 5.9). If not for their generosity, we'd have crashed at Gravelodge, the biggest, free hotel chain in the world, with millions of roadside locations. And so we headed back to Detroit. 

But not before we experienced the most hallucinatory ride of the trip. We were somewhere on the edge of Phoenix, early afternoon, thumbing on the side of the highway, when this buggy appeared in the desert and pulled over.

a red Cadillac convertible

We couldn't believe our good luck. It was like a desert mirage where you think you see water. Except we saw a swimming pool with wheels where we could stand on top of the front windshield, a virtual diving board, and dive into the deep end of the back seat. Instead of seatbelts there'd be life jackets. And the sunglassed driver would be the lifeguard. And...

Wait, who was the driver?

This...this is a mirage.
This shit never happens in real life.

Let's return to reality. Uh...the frat boy on the right? That was our driver. Add a few pounds, a few years. And add a cold cooler of beer in the front seat plus a few pharmaceutical snacks.

"Ahoy! I'm Captain Blue Shorts.
Ya ready to party hardy?"

LEGENDARY TIDBIT: "The Flying Dutchman." (1) a legendary Dutch mariner condemned to sail the seas until Judgment Day. (2) a spectral ship that according to legend haunts the seas.

Ready?

Arizona's "Flying Red Dutchman." (1) a legendary sand sailor condemned to cruise the desert until he matures. (2) a spectral red Cadillac convertible that according to legend haunts the sands.

TRAVEL TIP: When Captain Blue Shorts appears in the desert while wearing a yacht cap, ensconced at the helm of the Flying Red Dutchman that's freighted with beer and drugs, do not rule out an imminent cosmic transfer to Parts Unknown. 

The first tip-off was the cooler of suds in the front seat. Really? We were getting a ride in a Caddy 'vert, a freakin' keg party on wheels? And when Captain Blue Shorts (the Yachtsman) popped open the glove box, stuffed with bags of "oregano" and "Flintstones Chewable Multivitamins," and said, "Help yourself!" It was like...Really? Free Flintstones vitamins? REALLY? Soon we were sucking down beers and watching the saguaro cacti go by.

desert telephone poles

Somewhere along the highway we left Earth-Prime and crossed into Earth-2. The Yachtsman spotted a roadside thumber and pulled over. The desert hermit, "Charlie," climbed into the back seat of the Flying Red Dutchman and settled in. He appeared...RELAXED. He spoke Earth-2 English whose alphabet, figuratively speaking, prioritized three letters. Guess which three? Hint: see Charlie's hat. Curiously, Earth-2 English sounds like Esperanto if spoken by a kangaroo.

alias "Charlie"

And thus we were a family of four, touring the U.S.A. from the F.R.D. (Flying Red Dutchman). 
 
Spot quiz. Pattern recognition buffs. Do you detect a cosmic pattern?

U.S.A.
F.R.D.
L.S.D.
(WTF?)

What's it mean? This:

S.O.S.

I, sitting aside "Charlie" in the back, sent out a telepathic S.O.S. The backseat was now Earth-3. Tony, red-eyed and riding shotgun in Earth-2, turned to me while holding up a bag of primo oregano. His telepathic response: Can-you-buh-leeve-this-shit? The highway, at the moment, had no sign of police from Earth-1. This leg of the trip had become...

An intergalactic, interdimensional traffic jam on Arizona's Interstate 17

Odd, no? Tony and I went from The Time Machine (Dodge Main) to The War of the Worlds (Arizona). Anyone who has ever spent time hitchhiking, however, understands that each ride is a surprise package, starting when you open the car door. You may get Winnie the Pooh behind the wheel. You may get Dracula. In our case, H.G. Wells had been our tour guide for a year.



(12/29/20 - This sordid peek into the virtual underpants of Chrysler Corporation's Dodge Main has me so shaken I am teetering toward my 17th century fainting couch which is 3 stumble-steps removed from my desk. I shall return to this hideous tell-all soon. After I take my medication, and collapse screaming until I pass out.