The Pacific Northwest has been having some exceptionally awful weather for the past week. Northwestern Oregon has had record and near-record highs, and smoke is drifting in from every which way. We’ve dealt ourselves some of that which we’ve smelt, but another portion of it is coming from British Columbia, so I’d be derelict not to immediately blame it on Jamie Davis. His neighbors, too; fuckin’ eh, friends. You’re all too busy smoking that damn rock like country slumdog Rob Ford to keep the whole fucking forest from going up in a big wall of fire.
Let’s rundel in the jungle; well, that ‘s all right by, by God, that is not in the least bit all right at all, but as the traditional fishing ditty holds, take Tommy Thompson, take Scott Walker or David Clarke and some water or either Ron Johnson; take extra rations and take Sam Dotson, but plea ea ea ease, don’t forget the pole. You may have found that, dare I say, shockingly tasteless, but page view stats tell me that most of you are still here for even worse, and besides, if you’ve been paying attention, you know by now to expect nothing less of Gerry and the Heartstoppers.
Lord have Mersey upon us all. That was a mess. So is the air we literally breathe. There’s no need to bring Jian Ghomeshi down here to make us choke. In a rather expensive and cruel prank at our expense, whoever we specifically are as Americans, OPB sent reporters to Bingen and the Horse Heaven Hills to deliver soundbyte reports about how there wasn’t much to see and we might not want to breathe. Something’s already gone wrong, Kroeger. An additional something’s gotta go wrong ’cause they’ll be pestering us for money to fund that shit before long and threatening to withhold further programming, on the assumption that that would be unfortunate. Maybe if we ignore them (ooh, I’m getting a kloo, too!) they’ll eventually realize that they’re just a couple of impotent losers grandiosely addressing a rally of exclusively imaginary friends. Nah, probably not. That’s way too much humility and introspection to expect of anyone who tries to sweeten extortion threats with offers of Downton Abbey box sets.
Our federal tax dollars remain hard at work at these fine enterprises. I really should fill out and turn in the EITC paperwork that the IRS mailed me; there’s no way I’ll steward that five hundred and whatever so embarrassingly.
What this pulverized MRE pea soup has meant for the fruitboys and girls has been shorter workdays. We’ve been sent home (what is “home”?) at 11:30 every day since Tuesday. Daughter-in-Law initially told us to take Thursday off to rehydrate and “plan something fun,” but then, at Mother-in-Law’s whispering insistence (she actually whispered in front of us), she made it an optional workday. Lol they’re all optional, but sure. Oregon statute or no statute against first-degree involuntary servitude, nobody’s about to get dragged into any Kunta Kinte in chains shit around here. The second-degree involuntary servitude statute doesn’t quite get to the roots of America’s original sin, but even if MiL thinks light violations are a good idea (I have no doubt that Joe Dirtbag does), all that any tirades in furtherance of labor under duress will accomplish is less labor of any sort at a farm that is already losing good employees to KFC, Les Schwab, probably video games, whatever useless shit I keep doing in the Adirondacks, and, from what I can piece together, the Navy.
If I really needed the money and the benefits, I, too, might think it a good idea to enlist in the Navy (in the Navy!). I don’t, so here I am. KFC sounds pretty dreadful, too, although less compulsorily so. I actually think about applying to Les Schwab from time to time, since it’s reputable as fuck (I’m still getting free rotations on tires that I preemptively told the technician I didn’t believe had been bought or mounted by Les) and the store floor plans are open enough to tell that nothing obviously abusive is going on in the back of the house, but I’ll definitely be waiting until after the eclipse, which even my dad said, in so many words, will be a clusterfuck.
In the meantime, I’m getting shit done. We all have to eat, and I pick food. I actually pick more fruit than I’m supposed to pick because I sneak around to the good thick stuff when our bosses aren’t nearby to bother us about the barely marketable weak-ass shit they also want us to pick clean. It’s an ongoing learning process to grasp just how little Americans believe in the labor theory of value. For all the talk about the value of hard work, it’s curious how little some of us, nay, many of us, get paid for actually showing up and doing it. This, again, is the job where I got the 25-cent tip, the presentation of dem shine George coin. It seems that most people who are bleeding-heart or generous or whatever enough to contribute to panhandlers at rest areas cough up a paper George or three. There is, of course, a corresponding loss of dignity in sitting on ass by the shitters with a short story and equally tall tale scribbled onto a piece of cardboard.
Usually. This week, with its complete lack of MiL lectures and berry tastings and limited managerial annoyances for not picking the shitty fruit, has been usual enough, and I really don’t feel like getting into the weeds with any of the owners about how we’d all do better if we did some basic triage, got the good fruit first, and went back for the marginal leftovers if we had extra time. Not my circus, not my monkeys. I really appreciate working at a place where I can show up after I’m fully awake and leave early if I get really bushed. Sure, they had better be that flexible at the piece rates that they offer, but the alternatives in the industry include some real moral dregs, which these people definitively are not.
Yesterday was the first day I left seriously early. Sometimes I stay late, because once I’m on site and making progress I usually get really motivated, but yesterday the smoke and the water vapor from recent irrigation gave the fields that old El Centro climate, and I was struggling. I couldn’t put a finger on what was so awful about it, except that the winds were mostly calm, but MiL told me as I was leaving that DiLH had told her that the fields were really humid on account of the irrigation. Again, even though there are better ways to irrigate than their system, I’m not here to judge, because everything to do with irrigation is a gigantic pain in the ass. The game sucks, so it’s hard to blame the players. The weird thing about MiL’s comment was that the ground in the block where I’d been working had been fairly dry (I’ve gotten my socks soaked in other recently irrigated blocks), but I’d been sweating profusely. I should have recognized that it was super humid. I did recognize that it felt like a Pennsylvania summer, but I don’t think I got my brain fully turned on until after I left for the day.
My output was pretty good for only three hours’ work, but that was because I’d left some crappy fruit unpicked and gone poaching farther up the row. Far be it from me to hate myself as a player, either. You gotta do what you gotta do in this business. Statistically, what you gotta do is quit and go see what’s for sale at GameStop.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so harsh on the interior BC crackheads above. They’d be all right for this line of work. The big midcentury fruit growers around McMinnville, muh fuckin Mack, used to send buses down Burnside Avenue in the middle of the night to pick up vagrant drunks and take them out into the ranches by daybreak, in time for a full day’s harvest. Love too employ severely hungover and fatigued individuals with behavioral and substance abuse problems in jobs requiring the maneuvering and climbing of ladders.
Crack is an upper, a drug of gittin’ er done, a drug, possibly, even of optimism. I take coffee breaks in the field; it might be no less judicious for a rock friend to take a crack break. Toking lightly on the rock might be the equivalent of my taking a few sips at a time these days instead of drinking the whole damn grande in half an hour, like I did back when I was an idiot about that shit.
I’m not trying to abet crack use. I do not reify an interior BC culture of buying home baking supplies from the Boston Irish mob and/or the RCMP and baking a buddy some crack. This culture is already in place. What I’m saying is that we might as well put those who are already a part of it to good use as fruitfolk if they don’t look like they’ll inevitably destroy the plants they’ve been assigned to strip. We wouldn’t want to hire Psychotarp or Mixups in my Mind to pick fruit while high on crack. We wouldn’t want to hire them to do anything at all while sober. Psychotarp once dug a new hole for the outhouse without botching the job. I think Joe Dirtbag gave him permission to dig the new hole just to stop the requests for permission to dig a shitter pit. There were hygienic considerations in favor of a new hole, and in favor of not having everyone shit into the same hole in the ground, but JD obviously didn’t have any of these in mind.
For those whose problem is narrowly limited to doing better on crack than not on crack, to the exclusion of over-the-top, out-of-control psychosis, and certainly for those whose problem is limited to enjoying some crack, we really shouldn’t be so concerned about sniffing out those whom the rock is cooking. The workforce won’t magically become functional and healthy on account of their absence from it; we’re trying that already. The Mack Attack Squad didn’t need drugs to be a nightmare for its colleagues.
Crack, intersectional with a desire to make enough money to buy some more crack, might be what it takes to motivate some crackers (heh) to come out and do the jobs that the Mexicans don’t want. I’m pretty sure that what we’ve been asked to do gleaning crap fruit without no bonus and no minimum wage is something the Mexicans don’t want. If there’s a labor shortage that the sober won’t fill (video games) or can’t fill (area lodging prices relative to cash on hand), skid row might have some surplus labor available that either has a drinking schedule consistent with day-shift labor or cherishes its uppers. These marginally attached are already in the labor market; it’s just that they’re on System D. They’re already gutting rental properties for slumlords for pennies on the dollar. Bringing them onto the payrolls somehow would be worthwhile, but our policymakers aren’t thinking that coherently. These fuckers are already chargeable, so we might as well get some recharge from them when we can, even if they’d rather be paid in kind–or in da kine, da kine being, if you can believe it, crack.
No, I don’t want anyone dying from overdoses in the fields. I also don’t want some hungover dipshit falling off a ladder.
Being all about that base works, too. Sarah Palin has what it takes to take a powdered pick-me-up and pick some damn fruit. Anthony Scaramucci may. Donald Trump is too lazy and hey wanna ride bikes to do the job. So was the ADHD spazz kid from two years ago. That’s what we get for hiring a sober Christian workforce.
But don’t go around thinking that any powder will do. Powdermilk Biscuits never got anyone’s ass out of bed.