I read an article this morning about the state of the nation, more or less, in which the author, a former newspaper man, mentions meeting a young girl long ago, a runaway, who responded to his cautionary words about the perils of being so young and so alone in the wide world, so at the mercy of its less than honorable denizens, with, simply, “I knowed that.”
Why are runaways so damned smart, or desperate?
A long time ago in New York City my partner Richie had an informant; a tall slim fellow, more a wolf than a fox or coyote, who had moved down from deep in the wilds of Harlem to the newly target rich environment of the East Village. It was the “Summer of Love” and a great migration of runaway fools, in spirit and intelligence more resembling sheep, or better yet, Al Capp’s “Shmoos”, than human beings, had come down from Westchester, Greenwich and other rich enclaves in and about “Near Connecticut”. They were the acolytes and devotees of Timothy Leary; tuning in, turning on and dropping out in slums and hovels and , well, “shit holes”; once occupied by their European immigrant grandparents, and now probably owned by a few of their enterprising uncles and cousins or their business partners.
I suspect many of them never made it back home, dying in one way or another in what was then a wasteland and is now, in all probability, just a more expensive and “trendy” wasteland, with better drugs, and better dressed wolves.
The Shmoos who survived are today’s mayors, congressmen, film producers, authors, entertainers, TV hosts and editors; the rat tailed elders of the tribe. There have been several generations of Shmoos since, many of them available for viewing nightly; running around lighting fires and throwing things when not screaming obscenities and demanding absurdities.
We moved among them, my partner Richie and me, in part something like Game Wardens, something like herd dogs, and, in the end totally ineffectual. It is hard to keep the flock safe when it insists on bending it’s neck to the wolf.
Anyway, back to the Wolf from the ‘Hood. I cannot remember his name, but Sylvester keeps presenting itself. So, I will call him Sylvester. He is more than likely dead. Wolves have short lives.
Sylvester became Richie’s informant because, well, wolves are clever animals, and becoming an informant is, really, only a part time occupation. Most of the rest of the time, one is free to be a wolf and do what a wolf does; look for sheep to eat. We know that. The wolves know it, too. They know it very well. In fact, “wolves” become informants to thin the pack, and from no humanitarian motive, no feelings of charity for the sheep at all. Sheep are merely prey.
In the course of our association with Sylvester the Wolf (he would be very proud of that name) he gave us enough information about other wolves to remove some of them from circulation for upwards of five years; which made Sylvester happy and satisfied our supervisors and several prosecutors. But, there came a time when we needed to “straighten Sylvester out”. He was complicating the intricate and delicate arrangement we had with him by becoming more than a “source of information”, a term we actually used to describe cooperating wolves. He was , we learned, actually participating in “Pack” activities.
And so, we called him aside, tightening his leash so to speak, and training him to be a better wolf for us. Part of this required us telling him about the word “conspiracy” and its meaning; that one could actually gather with other members of the pack, and learn what they planned to do with the sheep nearby, and when; but one could not actually do it. To know when and how something was to happen, and who was going to do something was what we wanted. To do anything that would help it take place was to be an active member of the conspiracy, and that was something neither we nor the wolf we had wanted. After long instruction the light dawned, and Sylvester understood; as much as a wild animal was capable of understanding
“Conspiracy,” he said. “That be when you knows knowledge!” Well, yes, we told him; and then tell us. He smiled a wolfish smile. I shuddered, at the grin and what I imagined was going on in his wolfish brain.
I was not too concerned that Sylvester would be reduced to penury because he could no longer do what he “knowed” would happen with the other pack members. He had other means, which involved other forms of sheep hunting; particularly among the young ones who “knowed that”.
After a year or so we lost track of Sylvester. Maybe he was killed by another wolf. It happens.
I do not mourn him.
From time to time, though, I think of him and I wonder if he is in another place and finally “knows knowledge”. I presume the what he has learned has not been good news for him. And, you know, I sometimes wish it hadn’t turned out the way I think it has. Sylvester the Wolf had not a few redeeming features. So do we all, even Shmoos.
I will reserve my opinion on mayors, congressmen, film producers, authors, entertainers, TV hosts and editors; the rat tailed elders of the herd.
Here is a link to the article I read this morning: The Catholic Thing