LITTLE FRIDGE THAT COULD
The story goes like this. My great grandmother, Dora Agnes Parrish, had hopped out of her bedroom window when she was only 13 years-old. Under the cover of night, “Nanny,” as she would become known as in her later years, ran away with her 30-something suitor, Mr. Zadok Peddeway. Eloping around the turn of the century must have had a special excitement attached to it. She bore two sons, Hugh and Louis, and then her older husband died unexpectedly. Left with her two small boys – and a sizable life insurance policy – Dora Agnes Parrish Peddeway married my great grandfather, Jesse Stancil Wright – and built the house in which I now sit typing this at nearly 5 a.m. on October 10, 2013.
One hundred and seven years ago, when there were dirt paths for horse and buggies, no street lamps, only two new homes in close proximity, Nanny and Pa built this house, which would become, and still remains, the centerpiece of this small town. The corner of 4th Street (or Highway 37, “the Nashville Highway” as we here in Adel call it) – and Gordon Avenue, today it is on the Southwest quadrant of the block and the streets are paved rather than dirt, and houses have multiplied to populate connected neighborhoods stretching in each direction – except for directly in front and across 4th Street. From the wrap-around porch lined always with a string of white wooden wicker-bottomed and -backed rocking chairs, the running joke was oft repeated, “We’ve got the quietest neighbors in town.”
Directly in front of the house is Cook County’s largest burial ground, Woodlawn Cemetery, where every person who has ever lived here was laid to rest. I can see the tall white marble obelisk headstone of Zadok, my great grandmother’s first love, pointing to the sky. I know a lot of people over there and they’ve always been quiet, that’s true. One day I’ll probably be there, too, and unless my cousin Billy doesn’t sell me this house and winds up tearing it down, someone else will be sitting where I sit now, doing what I wonder? Thinking about me, reading this?
When I moved in here, Billy told me, “Well, Rob, there’s no refrigerator,” to which I shut my eyes tight and shook my head left, right, lfet right – glossed right over it, like I cared. He said, “Awright…” He brought me a extra-special cooler (with his initials B.G. in bold black permanent marker on each quarter of the rectangular top – and one day maybe I’ll ask him whether that was meant for me, or just something he does to keep tabs on his merch when fishing, golfing, playing poker – whatever he does with this awesome rollable cooler) and left it on the back kitchen steps one morning, I think the second morning I was here. There was a bag of ice, from Buddy’s 24-hour ice plant (a block and a half West on 3rd St is the open-24-hour ice plant under which, I was recently informed by my new ace boon coon/neighbor Ennis, spouts an Artesian spring. This, we together speculated must be why he has never changed the price of the ice, always the biggest bags you can get anywhere. Either that or because he’s a county commissioner he doesn’t pay a utility/water bill and out of guilt keeps it affordable for all. (I recently saw him there with a small boy who could’ve been his son, or grandson, and was standing him up on the rim of the ice dispenser’s metal edge to guide a dollar bill into the slot, although wait a minute – I think he might’ve been showing him how to unlock the money box with his set of keys. How the hell have I spaced the particulars of this episode?
My point is, I can get ice for a buck a bag and have been filling Billy’s cooler up for weeks now.
The coolers have been great – in fact, I was aware that I had done away with the modern novelty of a refrigerator forever, like my friend Nat Stone – who, by choice, lives in an adobe dwelling in New Mexico which has no running water (he walks a “fur piece” daily or more – when gardening – to get his quota), and told me our last conversation that he had decided to sell his refrigerator four years ago.
That further sealed my deal boycotting the freon monsters, since I didn’t have air conditioning either (technically I do, but I’m not insane enough to turn it on with nearly 20′ foot ceilings). His reason was that food is the world’s leading contaminant and contributor to poor health, and nothing of any value was ever in his anyway. Plus, the “whirring” noise, he realized, had always bothered him. So, he sold it for $90 and has never regretted it.
He also built his own 17′ skull by hand that he rowed around the Southeastern U.S., suriving entirely on peanut butter and crackers. Mostly, not entirely – but I do recall that he ate more peanut butter during that trip than most eat in a couple of lifetimes.
He drives the same car he had in high school – a flat black 1986 Firebird, of all things, which is the, you’d think, total antithesis of his blue-blooded Bostonian aristocratic pedigree.
Though he wasn’t the impetus for boycotting refrigerators, when I did away with the notion of having one, I took value and joy from going daily, or every other day, to Buddy’s, sliding my dollar bills in and waiting to see whether I was going to get what I paid for, or hit the jackpot.
One night I put a dollar in, got the first, then put the second dollar, and got one, then two, then! I said a prayer, picked out a star, said my mantra and did my thing I do whenever serendipity happens. Another night, about when I’d forgotten about lottery night, I put one in got one, then another, and get this – I GOT EIGHT MORE.
It was very late, and I didn’t know what to do. Should I leave some so the next person could have some? Or take them all like Lord of the Rings’ nasty little crackhead Gollum? Precious!
I took em. Why let them all melt. Wasteful. I shapeshifted into a pack mule and hauled them from my car to the back kitchen steps, then had to hoist them and distribute it all into the coolers and around whatever oddball collection of foodstuffs and drinks I’d collected (still trying to get the right combo, haven’t mastered it yet). I ran out of room. I put a bag each in the two bathtubs I use (one for showers, the other for baths), since it was fever-pitch August dog days and sitting down in ice is actually what I call a really fucking good time when I’ve been running around here unpacking boxes and wiping dust off my big new buddy, 401 (that’s it’s name).
There were still I think 3 or 4 bags I simply had nowhere to put so I lugged them back to my car and drove the half a block to my BFF-in-absentia’s domicile to give to her tribesmen, Jeff and Misty. (I wound up going to get them over the next couple of days which worked out perfect because I was down to coinage; always balance, if you pay attention and wait and quit your bitching, balance inevitably has no other alternative but to right the scales.
My point, in a very tangent-filled round-about fashion, is to say that I began to actually notice what I’d been looking at daily every since I’d moved in. This….white….appliance….in the utility room off the back living room (area designated for organizing my father’s work archive for a UGA library repository, and my own portfolio, which has gotten out of hand). It finally came to me that it was a refrigerator – but not just any old (or new, I should say) refrigerator.
It was a bona fide, card-carrying, dyed-in-the-wool, certificable General Electric babydoll, circa probably 1954 (I’d have to check, and will; curious if I am even in the vicinity)…I thought for days about whether I should see if it was in good enough shape to try using, and I didn’t know if it worked. It’s quite small, compared to today’s behemoths.
The more I looked at it, the more enamored I became with it, realizing it was basically growing on me the way 401 had. So, yesterday – I opened it up and took a peek. Excellent condition – if not clean as a whistle, clean as wipe-it-out-with-a-few-squirts and two paper towels and pristine is shoe that fits.
Then, I plug her in.
Purrr rrr….rrr…rrrr..Puurrrrrrrrrrr….(Not whirling, as Nat complained…) Purrrrrrrrrr……Barely discernible at all. The little freezer crackled almost on cue – and it is a prized possession that doesn’t even belong to me (yet), that I might not ever be able to live without. Not because it cools and freezes my edibles for me, no. Because it is super swank, uber-chic.
Then I pondered why Billy had told me there wasn’t a fridge, I’d hear him saying it, over and over, rolling this around, pontificating and speculating and writing out hypotheses and proofs with a variety of carefully selected research partners.
I concluded that he thought since it was so old that I wouldn’t even consider using it.
Then, that thought hammered down and plausible, I realized that American programming to accommodate/facilitate our capitalist economy cheap-shotting and short-cutted the fast-times-at-wall-street-high way to making money, and more money, and more more money, ad infinitum.
We have been programmed strategically and indefatigably to upgrade, upgrade, upgrade, even though any halfwit, given the time to stew over it rationally, could concede the products were not better, only different.
When I look at my G.E. refrigerator I have new vision that I’m confident is permanent, meant for even greater vistas of intellectually/spiritually redeeming and elucidating to gaze upon with my unveiled orbs.
For now I see.
Upgrading is an illusion, meant for one thing only – profit. Not for your profit, either, unless you are a shareholder. You are the cow, they are the abbatoir. Get ready to be chopped and wrapped in white paper with your parts scribbled in butcher’s script across each, distributed to none other than your own friends, family, species.
Canibals and capitalists are in bed together since democracy got sick of the demented sex. Perversions are forever, no turning back.
But then again, I did. I am all about my G.E.
Does it count that I upgraded from a goddam cooler, though? Have I just blown my theory?
Forget that last line.
Look at how cute it is.