Oct. 1, 2009

the way it works

by Charles Bukowski

she came out at 9:30 a.m. in the morning
and knocked at the manager's door:
"my husband is dead!"
they went to the back of the building together
and the process began:
first the fire dept. sent two men
in dark shirts and pants
in vehicle #27
and the manager and the lady and the
two men went inside as she

he had knifed her last April and
had done 6 months for that.

the two men in dark shirts came out
got in their vehicle
and drove away.

then two policemen came.
then a doctor (he probably was there to
sign the death certificate).

I became tired of looking out the
window and began to
read the latest issue of
The New Yorker.

when I looked again there was a nice
sensitive-looking gray-haired gentleman
walking slowly up and down the
sidewalk in a dark suit.
then he waved in a black
hearse which
drove right up on the lawn and stopped
next to my porch.

two men got out of the hearse
opened up the back
and pulled out a gurney with 4
wheels. they rolled it to the back of the
building. when they came out again he was in a
black zipper bag and she was in
obvious distress.
they put him in the
hearse and then walked back to
her apartment and went inside

I had to take out my laundry and
run some other errands.
Linda was coming to visit and
I was worried about her seeing that
hearse parked next to my porch.
so I left a note pinned to my door
that said: Linda, don't worry.
I'm ok
. and
then I took my dirty laundry to my car and
drove away.

when I got back the hearse was gone and
Linda hadn't arrived yet.
I took the note from the door and
went inside.

well, I thought, that old guy in back
he was about my age and
we saw each other every day but
we never spoke to one another.

now we wouldn't have to.

"the way it works" by Charles Bukowski, from What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire. © Black Sparrow Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter,(books by this author) born in Plains, Georgia (1924). He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

He said, "A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It is a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity."

It's the birthday of Tim O'Brien, (books by this author) born in Austin, Minnesota (1946). His book The Things They Carried (1990) is a series of linked short stories about a group of soldiers in Vietnam, including a soldier named Tim O'Brien. The title story is one of the most anthologized short stories in contemporary American literature. It begins: "First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack. In the late afternoon, after a day's march, he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending."

On this day 45 years ago the Free Speech Movement was launched on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.

The day before, on September 30th, 1964, UC Berkeley students associated with the civil rights groups SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) had set up tables on the Berkeley campus to fundraise. The university had a policy that prohibited off-campus political action, so the students had been denied permits and were tabling in brazen violation of university regulations. Campus officials approached five people sitting at the fundraising table, jotted down their names, and told them to appear at a disciplinary hearing before the dean at 3:00 that afternoon.

SNCC member Mario Savio spent the rest of the afternoon standing up on a balcony of Sproul Hall, the UC Berkeley administration building, beckoning passersby below to come join in protesting disciplinary action for the five accused students. He asked them to sit down right there in the plaza to demonstrate their solidarity.

Hordes of people stayed in Sproul Plaza throughout the evening and into the middle of the night. At 2:40 a.m. on October 1st, demonstrators took a vote to leave the plaza then, but to return the next day at noon for a "Free Speech Rally." The "Free Speech Movement" — a name chosen during that long night — had been launched.

At 10 a.m. on this day, they set up tables on the steps of Sproul Plaza. Fifteen minutes before noon, police went up to a guy manning one of the CORE tables. A former math grad student, he refused to identify himself or leave, and so the police arrested him trespassing. He went limp. They brought in a police car to remove him (Jack Weinberg), but by now there was a huge crowd, which had gathered for the publicized noon rally. Nearly 200 students surrounded the car that the police had stuck Weinberg into, and they chanted, "Release him! Release him!" Dozens lay down in front of the squadron car and dozens more sat behind the car so that it could not move. For 32 hours, Jack Weinberg stayed inside that police car, surrounded by demonstrators. People fed him sandwiches and handed him milk through a rolled-down window of the police car.

That night, Free Speech demonstrators argued with anti-demonstration demonstrators, and the rivals seemed on the verge of riot. That morning, the university's president, chancellor, and other campus officials met to develop a plan to bring law and order back to the campus of UC Berkeley. By 5:00 p.m., 500 police officers had arrived on campus — including 100 officers on motorcycles — prepared to deal with the protestors and bystanders, which by now numbered about 7000.

Then, student protest leaders asked to meet with university officials. Officials promised that the police would not take any action until after the meeting was over. At 7:30, Mario climbed on top of the police car — the roof of which was now flattened — and read the agreement, which began: "1. The student demonstrators shall desist from all forms of their illegal protest against University regulations." It included plans for the formation of a committee, which included students, to discuss political action on campus and to make recommendations.

Mario Savio spoke for 10 minutes, and then he said: "Let us agree by acclamation to accept this document. I ask you to rise quietly and with dignity, and go home."

Note: Much of the research in this entry, including all of the quotes, comes from the Free Speech Movement Digital Archives, a project of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library. More information can be found here:

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