You never did ; the Kenosha Kid


 I was just talking with one of my neighbors, a tall, blond, early twenties, nordic-looking fellow with a very short crew cut. We've said hello to each other often, but never really talked before. He and his wife, Heidi, moved to Albany two years ago from Luddington, MI. They hate it here. He said they've hated it since they got here, and they can't wait to leave. 

We began by talking about our similar Midwestern origins. 
I asked him what it was that he hated.
The east coast?
Albany proper? 
He said all of it. 
What in particular? 
The people, the landscape, the city and everything connected with it. 
He said that they couldn't wait to get back to the land of grain elevators and straight roads. He's right. The midwest is defined by right angles, flat horizons, vast stretches of open landscape with single trees or buildings sprouting up here and there along the highway.

 First off, I was struck by how similar my neighbor and his wife look. More like brother and sister, than husband and wife. Same round face, same blond hair, same blond eyebrows and eyelashes, same close cropped crew cut; and, it seems, same mindset. 

I just invited Jeremy to join us later tonight, up the hill at the Empire State Plaza. Today is International Food Day, with 200 vendors selling native cuisine from all over the world. I plan to take the Robert Sietsema approach. Look for the stall representing the most exotic country I can find, and ask for the weirdest thing on their menu. 

Later tonight, Buster Poindexter and his band will be providing the entertainment. I know he sounds familiar, but I can't place exactly who, or what, he is. 

Jermemy, Heidi and I hail from the same part of the country, but our attitudes about here and there, are diametrically opposed. I couldn't wait to get out of the midwest; though it took me a few years to realize that the east coast is where I needed to come. I couldn't wait to get out of the house and on my own, as well as get out of my hometown, Kenosha, WI. I went first to Chicago, then to Milwaukee and finally to Madison before moving here, to Albany, in 1976, America's Bicentennial year. 

During the years I lived in Madison, I made many friends in NYC and Boston and so I took numerous 18-hour headlong drives from Madison to the eastcoast. I was never able to reach the level of hard-nosed travel that my friend, Fred Escher was expert at it. Fred would strap himself into the driver's seat of his Ford van, get on the turnpike, head south from Janesville, then east from Chicago, and never stop once; except to pick up toll tickets and give the toll-takers their money at the state-border lines. Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Fred never even got out of the truck to go to pee. I used to think that he must have carried a bottle or a plastic bag with him; but now I know that he just had incredible control. Actually, Fred has incredible control over most of his functions.

 The defining aspect of those trips was the landscape. Flat and straight. In the midwest, I hated the fact that you could see where you were headed and where you were coming from for hours on end. No surprises; at least not until you reached the eastern edge of Pennsylvania. That's when you first encounter some variety in the landscape. That's where the mountains begin. Finally, some drift and curve to the highway. 

What's around the next bend? 
Who knows?
We'll find out when we get there. 
Where'd we come from?
Can't tell, the trees are blocking my view. 

Fred moved east before me. He and I made a number of trips between Wisconsin and New York together, before he moved, and I made a few, coming out to visit him, before finally moving east myself. What I remember is that I couldn't wait to get to Pennsylvania. I always got most excited crossing the Pennsylvania line and moving into the landscape of variety. Two things are apparent when standing in the midwestern landscape. You can see the horizon in all directions. You can be aware of all things in your surroundings (a kind of omnipotent view); but you are also always exposed to those around you. There are no secrets in the midwest, except those which you keep close to your chest, or the ones just under your nose. 

I like the sense of mystery that the mountains and valleys provide; I love the never ending variety of roads that curve, dip and switch back on themselves as you drive through the mountains. Jeremy hates the mountains. He says he finds the landscape oppressive and confining.

 Jeremy also claims no interest in Buster Poindexter, who turns out to be David Johannsen of 1980's rock and roll fame; as I just found out from another passerby here on Grand Street. Buster Poindexter is Johannsen's stage alter-ego for the lounge act which he is presenting tonight at the close of the International FoodFest. Four man horn section (the Uptown Brass), exuberant drummer, electric and standup bass, lead guitar, piano, accordion, chantuse, and of course, front and center stage...Buster Poindexter.

 Buster begins each song, stops in mid-song, and ends each song, with doggerel and a kind of minstrel-show-strip-tease-club patter, all with an authentic Catskills nightclub gravel-voiced accent. 

For instance, he tells a long story about playing the Bottom Line in NYC with his band, doing the lounge act we are watching at the moment. At the end of the first set, a society matron comes to him to say she wants to hire him to play a private party next week. She soft-soaps him, butters him up, she asks, how much will he charge? 
$5000, he says. 
She leaves. 
He goes out to perform the second act. It gets late, the show is over, the band has drinks, goes out for more drinks, has breakfast, and Buster gets home and into bed at 7:30am. At 9:00am he is blasted from sleep by the phone. When he can no longer ignore the ringing, he answers.
It's the society matron; she wants to confirm their arrangement. 
Oh yeah, he says, I just love getting up 12 hours before I have to go out and play in the club, gives me plenty of time to have coffee, read the paper, blah, blah, blah. 
Look, she says, are you interested in this party date, or not? 
Well, he says, do I have to mix with the guests before and after I play? 
No, she says. 
In that case, it'll be $2000.

 Sheila has come with Lydia and I to the FoodFest. Monserrate too. Shelia's running Camp Sheila, in Fuerra Bush for the fifth summer in a row, at the Dryden's farm; and Lydia is spending her days there with Sheila again. 

Sheila tells a story about a friend in California who was simultaneously juggling six men in her life. One of the men installed her answering machine for her, and the answering machine was the major device she used to keep her relationships sorted out. It turned out that the guy who did the installation also wrote down the remote-access code of her machine. When she was out, he'd dial into her phone, hit the code, and play back all of her messages. Consequently, he knew as much about her as she did. One night, she heard the phone ring, and as usual, decided to screen the call. Instead of a message, she heard the machine rewind and play back all of that day's messages. Recovering from her shock, she waited until the intruder hung up, and hit 69 on her phone to re-dial the last caller. The culprit answered on the second ring. She hung up and then went out to buy a new answering machine. 

Monserrate has a telephone story as well. Today, at the Laboratory, she received a call and when she picked up the phone, the caller began to telling her that all of her things were stolen from her apartment. She assumed it was a friend playing a joke on her. The caller went on to tell her about other bad things that had happened to her house, and she finally realized that it was her uncle, calling from Barcelona. He admitted the ruse and said he was calling to warn her that her aunt and cousin were planning a surprise visit to her, here in Albany. In fact, he said, he was planning to come too. He then asked her if she would be willing to psychologically prepare a beautiful woman, preferably with large lips, to spend the night with him? He begged her not to tell her auntie about the plan. Monseratte is now unable to tell which parts of his story were fiction and which part might be true. As she said, only time will tell.

 I told Montseratte about an encounter I had with Jerome R., the poet (friend of Pierre), and the years he and I were in Milwaukee. Jerome ran through the list of common friends, old street names, and memorable events we had shared. I mentioned to him that I was raised in Kenosha, and he asked if I knew Karl Y. I said that I had attended junior and senior high school with Karl, but had lost track of him, having not seen him since I was 17. I did say that last month when I was working on the World Wide Web, developing a list of contacts I could send information to, about the fax-machine sculpture I was constructing with Robert Durlak as a part of the exhibit: Hidden Histories; I had come across Karl's name on a list of subscribers to an art-literature discussion group on the Web. 

I actually made this discovery just before Lydia and I left for our trip to Madison and Kenosha. I had intended to call Karl, while I was in Kenosha. The extreme heat of those days in the midwest, during the Killer-Heat-Wave of 95, took its toll on my memory and I did not think to contact Karl until I had already returned to Albany. 

The fax machine-sculpture was a success, receiving over 500 faxes from all over the world during the course of its installation. Unfortunately, none of them were from Karl. I did get a great series, probably the best of the lot, from J.C. Garrett, in Oakland, CA. His faxes showed photographs, clipped from the back pages of pornography magazines, where ordinary folks send in pictures of themselves in various poses and disguises. He had put yellow sticky-notes on each photo and captioned the pictures: 

my father was a bigamist; 
my mother has a common law marriage; 
a private investigator is looking for me; 
I've been a little depressed lately; 
my first wife was a prostitute; 
but I'm still the same old me.

Each of these statements are true as I learned from J.C. during his visit with us this past June. He and Madelyn were in town primarily for him to meet the sister he never knew he had. It seems his father had three wives, at the same time, and had children by each of them. One of the sisters, discovered the extra lives of her father and hired a private investigator to find the other children. J.C. was one. 

He told us many stories about his childhood in Lansingberg; and we watched the story of his family unfold each day when they would return to Grand Street from that day's adventure.

 Nicole P. also faxed a great series of hand-written pages, the text for which she was copying from some french novels and the dictionary. Her story made for a very interesting mystery, on the installment plan.

 Today is my high-school student, Mark's, last day working with us at the laboratory. Mark has been with us for the past eight weeks. He started, the day before I left for the Madison trip. As a part of his assignment for the summer, the school requires him to write a daily diary of his experiences, working with us doing computer graphics for biomedical science. Here are some excerpts:

Journal: 7-12
Because of Jan going on vacation, I spent time working with Bob (the bookie). He showed me where the mailroom is located. During the day we went there three times. After that he showed me the location of the xerox room and we went there two times on various jobs for Jan. After lunch, I had a cheese pan pizza from Pizza Hut, I returned and played with the computers until someone else arrived. With only about two hours left Bob and I got one of the two jobs for the xerox room. We had to make copies on special paper and the copier kept jamming. Finally, we finished and with only about fifteen minutes left in my work day I once again sat down and played with the computer.

 Journal: 7-24
Once again when I came in I went to the mailroom. At least I don't get lost anymore! I ended up going there one other time for Bob. I then worked on a few things. I had to make one picture look better by stippling the picture. After I finished that I watched the Kodak printer as it printed out seven copies of a scientific thing that is too hard to explain. When it finished doing that I put the prints into plastic holders. Two prints fit in each one. After that Jan and I had to send files from one computer to another. While this was happening Jan took lunch to his daughter and I went to lunch and had a turkey sandwich...

 Journal: 7-26
This morning I worked on the items I didn't finish on Monday. All in all I finished the project and got it sent to the person who wanted it done...I brought lunch but as I was almost done eating it (outside) it started to rain...but that's alright because we need it. I finished the other project and now I have nothing to do. I guess I'll wait for Jan to come back...That rain ended up being a downpour that actually lasted. Now, thanks to it I get to go around and take video of the damage. I took pictures of a flood in the cafeteria and one room on the 5th floor.

 Journal: 8-9
Today I printed out five files, made several photocopies and tried to take things to a doctor on the E level several times UNSUCCESSFULLY. When I came back from lunch the guy I printed out five prints for had two others waiting so I printed those and delivered them to him. After that I played some solitaire until Jan showed up.

 Journal: 8-14
Today I scanned in thirty-four images and then after lunch I adjusted their levels and cropped them down to a manageable size.

 Journal: 8-21
...I scanned an image of a dog for my friend and transferred it over to the 486 to put it on disk. Then I went to lunch. Jan said that most of the projects for this week are already done. That means its going to be a slow final week. That's right, FINAL WEEK, this is all I need to finish my 108 hours. I still want to do more though. Hopefully she can find me something in animation. I also started to work on a picture that I won't be able to finish.

 Journal 8-23
Today I started out by working on the photo I didn't finish Monday. Then I went to lunch. Today was International Day. I had fried dough for a snack. After that I ran an errand for Jan that required me to carry six-hundred index cards to a printshop fifteen blocks away. When I came back I had a Strawberry-Banana shake... Jan showed me how to use Netscape to search the WWW for information about animation that I could use. That wasn't very successful though. Now I'm just hanging around.

Last change: Jan 8, 1997

Copyright 1995,1997 Jan Galligan
All Rights Reserved

See also: Theme Song for Four Famous Fellows from Kenosha