I think it would be good for all young men somewhere in their early years to have to work for Manpower. It might give them more appreciation of what they have. It also might teach them something useful. I remember my various Manpower stints with some pleasure. I worked hard at a variety of jobs, learned a number of things I might not have, and felt like I earned my money. That’s not all bad.
I agree entirely, Bill, though your "with pleasure" I would qualify. It is not pleasant to be bossed around by inferior specimens of humanity, but that can and does happen when you are at the bottom of the labor pool. But working Manpower grunt jobs was well worth it, if not for the money, then for the experiences and the characters I met.
One cat, Larry Setnosky, was a failed academic, known in the seedy bars we'd hit after work as 'The Professor.' A doctoral student in history, he never finished his Ph. D. Lived in Venice, California, with a couple other marginal characters, rode a motorcycle, wore a vest with no shirt underneath. He'd write articles and then file them away. He was just too wild and crazy to submit to the academic discipline necessary to crank out a thesis and get the degree. Booze and dope didn't help either. I still recall his "Nary a stem nor a seed, Acapulco Gold is bad ass weed!"
Ernie Fletcher was one of Setnosky's housemates. A law school dropout, he was convinced that the system was a "rigged wheel." When I met him he was in his mid-thirties, an ex-boozer, and warmly in praise of sobriety. He had sworn off what he called 'tune-ups" but was not averse to watching me "dissipate" as he told me once, not that I did much dissipating. In point of dissipation I was closer to the Buddha than to the Bukowski end of the spectrum.
Fletcher was from the Pacific Northwest and had worked as a logger there. Observing me during Manpower gigs he thought I was a good worker and not "lame" or "light in the ass" as he put it. So he suggested we head up to Washington State and get logging jobs. And so we drove 1200 miles up the beautiful Pacific Coast along Highway 1 from Los Angeles to Forks, Washington in my 1963 Karmann Ghia convertible. Amazing as it is to my present cautious self, we took off the very next day after Ernie suggested the trip to me. We probably had little more than a hundred bucks between us, but gas in those days was 25 cents a gallon. On the way we stopped to see Kerouac's friend John Montgomery, who was also a friend of Ernie. John Montgomery was the Henry Morley of The Dharma Bums and the Alex Fairbrother of Desolation Angels. (For more on Montgomery see here.) Unfortunately, when we located Montgomery's house, he wasn't at home. I've regretted that non-meeting ever since. Now I hand off to my Journal, volume 5, p. 32:
Saturday Midday 10 February 1973
Last Monday left L. A. about 12:00 PM. Saw [brother] Philip in Santa Barbara, made Santa Cruz that night, stayed in motel after checking out [folk/rock venue] "The Catalyst" and local flophouse. While passing Saratoga, CA decided to look up John Montgomery, friend of Ernie's who knew Kerouac and the Beats. We couldn't get in touch with him. So on to Frisco, entered the city, became involved in intricate traffic tangles, visited [Lawrence Ferlinghetti's] City Lights Bookstore and Caffe Trieste where I had a cup of espresso. By the way, in Big Sur visited Ernie's friend Gary Koeppel. [He was bemused to hear from Ernie that I was a Kerouac aficionado. In those days, Kerouac was pretty much in eclipse. The first of the Kerouac biographies, Ann Charters' was not yet out and Kerouac's 'rehabilitation' was still in the future.]
Spent Tuesday night in Dave Burn's trailer in Arcata, CA. [Dave was the drummer of a couple of bands I was in back in L. A. 1968-1971] Gave him the two tabs of acid I had in my attache case. Wednesday morning fixed the headlight (highbeam) which was malfunctioning and for which I received a citation the night before. Then went to the nearest CHP office and had the citation cleared. Breakfast at Ramada Inn and then on to Eugene, Oregon. Dug Taylor's, The New World Coffee House,and Ernie and Larry's old haunt, Maxie's. Arrived at Ernie's brother-in-law's house at 11:30 PM. Thursday spent in Eugene. I bought Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and Habermas' Knowledge and Human Interests. Friday morning left early for Forks, Washington, arriving around 6:00 PM. Presently lodged in Woodland Hotel. Drinks last night with Ernie and legendary logger, Jim Huntsman. Arranged to start working Monday morning. So far, so good.