The other day I noticed a woman on my route stacking things on a table in the garage.
I have been carrying this route for two and a half years and this was only the second time I had seen her.
I asked if she was having a sale. She said yes. I asked if she was selling any CDs, as I am always on the lookout for new music for my commute.
She went into the house and came back with a plastic bin full of various discs.
“It is a big mess, a little bit of everything, even some of what I did when I was making music. You can have whatever you want.”
I asked her about what kind of music she did, and she said that she played guitar, wrote songs, and sang in a hardcore rock band, a long time ago.
I thanked her, and when I got home I rummaged through the discs, probably a couple of hundred or so, few in cases. They were mostly unlabeled, but there was metal, rap, pop, oldies, and a little country. I only found a few things I liked – Cream, Doors, Beach Boys- and left the rest.
When I returned them the next day she was outside and I thanked her. I said that I had not found anything by her band, and she said she did not even know which discs that music was on.
She began talking, and had quite a tale to tell.
She is beautiful, in a worn 40ish sort of way. Life, you can tell, has been hard, but she is tough. Her eyes are bright green, and they were alive with anger and determination.
In the 90s she was something of a pioneer, a member of an all girl “hard hard hard” (as she put it) rock band.
Her husband had been arrested for dealing cocaine. The cops, instead of apprehending him peacefully on the street and then searching the house, had instead beaten down the door in the middle of the night. They had dogs and guns and her children, the youngest of whom was four, were terrified.
Afterwards, she filed for divorce.
Then she caught a break.
The Coors Beer corporation offered her $60,000 a year, $60,000 for equipment, and $30,000 for child care to appear around the country in some sort of promotional tour. While hardly the salary of a stadium rock big hair band, that would have been quite a boon to a suddenly divorced mom. She already had expanded her band’s appearances to as far away as Chicago and Pittsburgh. With this extra boost she had a very real chance at stardom.
But it was not to be. There was some sort of custody hearing – maybe she was accused of complicity in her husband’s crime, I don’t know – but the judge said that playing rock music in bars was not a respectable way to raise children and that if she took the gig she lost her kids.
She chose her children. She got a low wage job in a factory and lived the hard life of an Ohio working class mom. She has a house full of teenagers coming and going. The police are called to her home from time to time and I once witnessed a street fight involving maybe ten people in front of her house. A few years ago an auto accident left her arm injured and she can no longer play guitar.
She is having a garage sale because her modest home has been foreclosed. As she told me her story her green eyes flashed with indignation.
That wicked judge had denied a woman a chance at life, sentenced her to a life of struggle, for the stupid “reason” that a mom playing music in a bar violated some idiotic cultural construct of what a wholesome livelihood is.
The irony is that the judge so concerned about the tender souls of the children works for the same county that broke down the door of a house full of kids in the middle of the night and then proceeded to terrorize them with guns and dogs.
I don’t want to go all Old Testament and anthropomorphic. I know that the universe is breathed into existence and sustained by a mysterious Being who is described by his sweetest friends as “Love”.
But I am glad that there is also justice, that the mighty will be cast down from their thrones, that all will be made well in the end. The whole socio-economic system, as Francis says, is unjust, stacked against the poor and workers. The Injustice System is a particularly evil tool of oppression, with its soft touch for the rich and harshness to the poor, with its uniform fines and fees that are nothing to the rich but crushing to the poor, with the difference an expensive lawyer can make.
In this heartless world the lives of the poor and of workers are in the hands of unjust judges and brutish cops and heartless corporations. The State, which exists to nurture the common good and protect the vulnerable from the predator, is instead infected with insane millionaires.
Wooster is still a small town. It is public knowledge that around the same time the Judge, Robert J Brown, was assuring, in the name of bourgeois respectability, that the woman and her children would not rise out of the wreckage that remains of the working class he left his own wife and children for a younger woman.