Letter to the Vulture Club
(aka Patty and Mother)
from Miguel Cabron, ever patient unemployed Oakland teacher
written the Day After Christmas
Let us begin by reviewing for the uninitiated exactly how it came about that I was disinvited to the 1986 family holiday celebration, shall we?
About October Margaret told me to hurry up and get phone reservations for a round trip to Massachusetts during the holiday. She assured me that although she hadn’t yet got confirmation my parents would pay, and the speed was necessary because all the seats would be taken unless I got a reservation right away.
I delayed until the second week of November, by which time not only Margaret but also your longtime boyfriend whom you allege to be my father (and I circumlocute this way to remind you that I speak as Monsieur Cabron, who Doesn’t Take His Mother’s Word For It, and since Good Government Requires Taking Your Mother’s Word For It, any cabron is under sentence of death in any well-run anti-ThoughtCrime totalitarian state) both assured me that my Family would pay for the ticket, and I reserved a seat on my VISA credit card, the one which shortly thereafter was stolen from my rented room.
Not very long after that the very same longtime boyfriend told me on the telephone that reservations had also been made for me to accompany the two aged Marblehead Meos on a flight to Annapolis and back, to celebrate the Holy Day at the house of my oldest sister, who graduated let us recall summa cum laude from Radcliffe, but only because she did a senior thesis on a topic of which your longtime boyfriend had special knowledge, a circumstance very similar to all these California Chicanos we have around here who claim to be college graduates because they trade upon their bilingualism to major in Spanish studies at one of our numerous state colleges: in other words not a distinction she had earned but one she finagled. In any case, I was then expecting to fly to Marblehead for a few days, accompany the two elderly folk to Annapolis, and return by plane with the same elderly couple to Marblehead for New Year’s Day.
This situation did not last long, however. I was arrested for trespassing at Biff’s All-Night Restaurant on Broadway here in Oakland, driven by the police to the front of my building and beaten savagely. It only stopped when my neighbor Deborah Walton raised her window (at 4 a.m.) and called out, nor would the Police Emergency number (911) even listen to my calls for help; they hung up on me at least ten times that morning as I called them about the beating. Sister Margaret was as usual very candid when I telephoned her that day with an account: knowing me, she said, she sympathized with the cop. Nothing daunted, the following day early in the a.m. I went right back to Biff’s All-Night Restaurant and was arrested again, by the same officer.
This time he put me in handcuffs and brought me to an underground garage, where he beat me so savagely that a medical doctor advised my a few days later my liver function was abnormal. I am only lucky he didn’t break a rib, for it wasn’t for lack of trying: at five o’clock in the morning on the fifth of December Officer J. Lowery swung with all his might and struck me five times at the same point on my rib cage.
— Now let’s take a break from the narrative for a moment and ask ourselves, Why Did This Happen? Your explanation, dear Vulture Club, is that I brought it on myself. Just like two years in the federal penitentiary, you say, I chose that painful experience. My reply is rhetorical, my dears — Sure, I started the Vietnam War. All by myself!
Since as is well-known women are less well equipped with respect to logical facilities, and since you two in particular are nearly totally devoid of that capacity, I will lead you by the nose through the resultant apparent logical labyrinth which results. Let is be conceded on all hands that Miguel Cabron, even though his feet stink, did not cause the Vietnam War. It then logically follows that he did not, in fact, bring the choice of jail or forced enlistment upon himself. From this as the night the day it logically follows that another explanation, not giving rise to Groucho Marxist one-liners, an explanation on a deeper level — understand, please — is required. A logically deeper level.
We were discussing the cause, in an abstract sense, of the nearly-permanent beating administered to Miguel Cabron at 5 a.m. on 5 December 1986, and it has been established that He Brought It On Himself is open to fatal logical objection. For instance, how do you explain Officer Lowery’s Speech On His Love Life, delivered circa 5:30 a.m. in the parking garage of Oakland Municipal Jail, during which he stated
a) that he had sexually enjoyed the beating
b) that he had been particularly aroused by the 2nd beating
c) he invited me back for a third time so he could kill me
In order to say He Brought It On Himself you are obliged to argue that Masochistic Miguel Intentionally Brings Out the Sadist in Cops, or some such, where it is more logically economical — and if this term buffaloes you why don’t you turn to the nearest adult male and ask him to give you a concrete example of the phrase “logically simpler explanation” — to presume that Officer Lowery does not belong on the Oakland police force, that the fact that he sadistically beat Miguel was nothing personal since he beats or bullies all of his prisoners, and that Biff’s All-Night Restaurant and Officer Lowery were doing Miguel Cabron material harm not because He Brought It On Himself (o yeah — I made a sadist out of Lowery — sure!) but for a far deeper reason: they were frightened by Miguel’s obvious great strength.
There are mousy shopkeepers, there are sadistic cops; Miguel Cabron is learning to express his personality, but avoid frightening the (as it were) horses.
To resume the interrupted narrative now, a few days later I was arrested in Berkeley on equally specious charges, held over the Thanksgiving weekend in the Berkeley jail, and — it says something about the different ways of doing things in Berkeley — was released with all prosecution suspended, after which I had the “Dutch uncle” interview with Charles Aronson.
It seems your longtime boyfriend whom you allege to be my father, Mother, decided to use Charles Aronson to transmit the message that as far as you were concerned I was no longer welcome to spend the Holy Day at home. Let us review some facts about Charles Aronson, motherdear, so you’ll see why this was a particularly maladroit conduit, and later and anon we’ll review you pious embrace of family values.
Mister Aronson married a woman, got her with child, got fired, and proceeded not to work ever since. The child is 3 or 4 now, don’t ask me which, but since she just had a birthday recently I’m morally certain of the larger number, call it four years. Now for those whose understanding is challenged by long sentences I’ll repeat that: Mr. Aronson got his new wife pregnant, got fired from his job, and proceeded not to work for four years. From the b eginning of 1983 or earlier to now, the beginning more or less of 1987. I need not mention how low on the moral scale this fact places Mr. Aronson in the minds of real family men like Bob Seidel who labor daily to rear a family entitled to a decent scal of living. And this is the person who told me while protesting he was sincerely interested in my own good that
1) Vali Balint had been “embarrassed” by my conduct at her house Thanksgiving Day
2) I was disinvited to Christmas celebration at home
My immediate reaction was, clearly enough, to check on the validity of report number one. I telephoned Mrs. Balint, a remarkable woman of Hungarian origin I’ve known ever since I’ve been in Oakland, a time of almost 20 years, and asked if I had embarrassed anyone at the Thanksgiving celebration just passed.
“Embarrassed? Never, honey, you just made some people feel uncomfortable. We’d never seen you this way before.”
The answer to the question, dear charter members of the Vulture Club, was not simply no I had not embarrassed anyone but that — and this is crucial — I could never embarrass Mrs. Balint in a party held at her house. Do you feel the resonance of the implications of that pithy but weighty declaration? You — the impersonal you, others might write ‘one’ but I write ‘you’ — could denigrate my argument based on this one word by casting doubt on Mrs Balint’s choice of English words, but I say in reply that, as the one of you who tacked with her can confirm, Vali Balint is an exceedingly intelligent woman of high principle and keen moral sense who says quite eloquently what she means to say. No more, no less. The declaration that I could never embarrass her means logically that she considers me too close to her to embarrass her, that she would understand any apparent slight as unintentional because she knows and trusts me enough to believe without any explanation on my part that apparently disjointed statements honestly express my state of mind, which is almost always positive and beneficent. In other words she loves me, as me, unconditionally.
Since Vali had not said to Charles Aronson that I embarrassed her or anyone else at Thanksgiving at her house, the question remains Why Had He Said She Had. Fact number two about Charles Aronson: at the one and only meeting of the Nineteenth-Century Study Group of the Institute for Historical studies at which I succeeded in getting Charles Aronson to attend, he announced totally out of the blue the the social philosopher Fourier under discussion and the under appreciated mathematical physicist Fourier were one and the same, a baseless claim which it took the well-educated ladies of the Institute less than two minutes to disprove by the simple fact that the tow men had different first names. On that occasion, I don’t mind admitting, I was embarrassed. This man who is careless of family responsibility is given to making outrageously false claims purely for the attention value. In a word you can’t trust him.
To resume once more the narrative I drop like a hot potato every chance I get. I was very careful about what I did next. Since I could expect Charles Aronson to have told your longtime boyfriend, Mother, that Mrs. Balint had been embarrassed at Thanksgiving I had to arrange for you to hear from her that I had not. The first date I arranged for her to speak to you I was not able to attend because I was in Highland Hospital, sent for psychiatric observation by yet another policeman frightened by how much smarter than he I am, but on the second appointment everything went fine.
At the end of 20 minutes’ conversation, and at Mrs. Balint’s request having promised not to smoke marijuana in Maryland, I left the Balint household that night with the following two assurances:
1) I was welcome to attend Christmas with you in Maryland
2) You would call me ‘as soon as I got home’ to arrange details
which second point I tried to put into operation by calling you, collect, as soon as I got home, at 7:30 p.m., with the result that your longtime boyfriend answered the operator that no, there was no Mrs. Mayo there and then said yes, there was a Mary Meo there but she could not come to the phone. It was 10:30 p.m. your time.
The following morning at 5:30 a.m. I received a telephone call from you in which no details were arranged. Nor could I even get a word in edgewise. Monopolizing all time, you accomplished two things:
1) you verbally abused me for having gone ‘outside the family’ to get invited back home for Christmas
2) you at the top of your lungs ‘absolutely’ forbade me to come home for Christmas
Let us interrupt the narrative yet one more time to look at these two statements. Each half is illogical enough, but together they make up a beautiful oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.
To examine them closely is quite simply to go insane, just as to believe War Is Peace or Truth Is Falsehood will make you crazy, although fortunately enough for the latter tow of a type of craziness which allows you to read the daily paper without the pain of cognitive dissonance. There I go again using jargon words, o dear. What I am saying is that you, motherdear, say crazy things. Daily. It’s okay for you to use Charles Aronson, a man of significant moral failings who owes me money he chooses not to repay, to convey the message that I am no longer welcome home for Christmas, but it’s some sort of treason for me to ask a highly honorable survivor of the Budapest Ghetto to speak to you about it. And in that conversation you may lie and lie directly to this nonFamily member as well as myself since you are not required to observe the most elementary rules of personal integrity, but I must take your latest emotional outburst as the Nottobequestioned Dogma guiding my life. The context of your actions, where 10:30 pm is so late as to be rude to telephone you but 5:30 am is just fine for you to telephone me, emphasizes the implicit message that I am irremediably inferior to you in dignity and worth: I am to be discarded at any time without a second thought or — heaven forbid — discussion of why.
But I submit in reply, Vulture Club, that I am in fact an adult male human being. Adult males do not need Mommy’s permission to come home for the holiday, they just do it, and as the venerable American saying has it, home is where when you show up they got to take you in.
Let me not neglect you, Patty, dear Patty, in this discussion of lack of reciprocity, for you by your behavior towards me recently have proved yourself a true charter member of the VC in good standing. Just tow weeks ago you dropped by Oakland with the longtime boyfriend you claim to be the father of your children and, after a cordial meal in Jack London Square when we three stepped across the street to look at the ships in the Oakland Estuary, I raised my voice from 50 feet away to describe a beautiful 42-foot coastwise sloop to you you said once “Michael, be quiet” and upon my inquiry why I must not speak loudly when I’m 50 feet from you you turned on your heel and left the city, left the state, went back to Maryland without any further discussion! That showed more eloquently than any words your true attitude towards the lowly scumbag Miguel Cabron who believed himself to be your brother; in stark contrast to Vali Balint you can be easily embarrassed at the drop of a hat by Miguel Cabron because you have zero tolerance for anyone’s — in particular not your brother’s — idiosyncrasies.
Either your interlocutor behaves the way you tell him to behave or he is no longer your interlocutor. Period.
Having come this far, the rest of the multiply-interrupted narrative is easily told. Having turned in at the direction of your longtime boyfriend, Mother, the ticket Margaret told me to purchase and having been penalized $170 which may or may not ever appear as a credit on my now defunct VISA bill, on my MasterCard I borrowed enough to fly to Baltimore’s so-called Friendship Airport on Christmas Day and telephoned dear elder sister Patricia, where your longtime boyfriend answered the phone in a friendly manner but when Patty came on I was advised that I was not welcome in her home on Christmas Day because I smoke marijuana. Notice that a promise not to smoke marijuana while in Maryland would cut no ice in this situation: smoking in California and flying to Maryland had already, in Patty’s scale of conditional love, already disqualified my for entry to her home.
Narrative completed. Commentary follows.
You know, Mother, back in late adolescence my brother Dominic spoke for me when he accused this family of giving its offspring only conditional love: only when the children do what you want will they be shown love. The experience, Motherdear, that really opened my eyes was spending one Christmas holiday a couple of days in the home of the Saviano side of the family and being told perhaps a thousand times how deeply they felt that you, Mother, thought yourself superior to them. All the adults I met and spoke with repeatedly stated this strong perception; they all had different experiences to relate which gave them this perception. Naturally I made no effort to contradict their obviously sincere and deeply-held conviction; by my actions I had already shown that I certainly di not consider myself superior to anyone in the house, and their perception may well have been 100 per cent correct.
Your protestations, in other words, of deep family loyalty are just so much verbal camouflage — you charter members of the Vulture Club don’t give a rat’s ass about family values: Patty turned me away from her door on Christmas Day with the priceless words just before she hung up in my face, “You know you’re hurting a lot of people.”
Indeed! You Vulture Club members think that only you can be hurt, and your whole life is geared to manipulating others to minimize Your Hurts. I “hurt” you Vulture club members by actually asking to be admitted to the Family Circle on Christmas Day, when a pious declaration that you were turning me away for my own good sounded very hollow, that’s how I hurt you. I took away your pious defenses and forced you to show what you actually care about me — you don’t.
Okay, that’s it. You are no longer members of my family: I now stop forgiving you for your inhumane senseless monomaniacal egocentrism. Since you could care less about me, Patty, citing Calvinism where you’ve never read a word of Jean Calvin, please give me back the ten thousand dollars I gave the person I though was my sister some years ago.