By David Blake Fischer
Dear Dave, (Mike, Cyril, and Moocher)
Look, I know how you feel. I know what it’s like to lack direction, to feel unmotivated and not know what do with your life. You’ve got a father who doesn’t understand, who forgets your name and refuses to acknowledge your overseas accent. And you live in Indiana—Bloomington, a post-industrial-has-been. Trust me. I know. In Flint, Michigan we too once made things. Great things. And now what’s left? Just abandoned, vacant lots and concrete slabs—gravestones like your cliffs and cavernous holes. So, yeah, believe me, I’ve walked that trail that leads to Clear Creek, out among the hardwoods, high above Empire quarry.
“Hey, come on in, Dave.”
“Nah, I read where this Italian coach said its no good to go swimmin’ right after a race.”
“Who’s swimmin’? I’m takin’ a leak.”
We could talk about your parents, about I.U., and dick guys like Rod. We could talk about sports, Italian cycling and the Little 500. But the thing I want to mention, the thing I want to go back to, is that hole. You know, some of the world’s best stone was cut from that quarry. It built the Empire State Building, the Washington National Cathedral, the Pentagon, and 35 of 50 state capital buildings. Back then quarrying was an art form. Your father was an artist.
“I was proud of my work. And the buildings went up. When they were finished the damnedest thing happened. It was like the buildings were too good for us. Nobody told us that. It just felt uncomfortable, that’s all.”
Glass and metal were cheaper. The stone companies left and RCA moved in. It came to Bloomington for the cheap labor—for your parents, for you. Then, twenty years later, by 1962, by the time of the movie, by the time you’re nineteen, everyone’s working at RCA. They’re building the SelectaVision, a vinyl record that brings color video to your television. That carries the past to the present. And but what of the future?
“Doesn’t look that bad to me… “ [Looking at Dave’s beat up bike]
“That’s cause you don’t have to ride it!”
“Well, you know, you don’t have to ride it either, Dave. We’re not gonna beg you.”
“We may plead, but we would never beg!”
You might have fifteen years, Dave. Twenty if you’re lucky. You’ll fall asleep in your clothes one night, wake up, and be 35. But already SelectaVision will be dead because, even at its inception, superior technology was emerging—VCRs and home videotape. But the suits will turn a blind eye to it. They’ll double down on SelectaVision. RCA will lose $600 million. And Bloomington will be left with another hole.
“You know what?
“I’m leaving home, that’s what.”
“What? Where are you going?”
“About 5 blocks south.”
General Electric, Thompson Electronics—all of them will leave. You’ll stick around. And the city, the Limestone capital of the world, the color TV capital of the world, the pride of the people of Bloomington will become what?
“A cartoon of some kind. You know, like when they get hit in the head with a frying pan or something, and their head looks like the frying pan, with the handle and everything? They just go BOING! But then their head comes back to normal? Wouldn’t that be great?
Your job will move to Juarez. And RCA will give you a gift. A commemorative CED called Memories of the VideoDisc. A few years will pass. And then, one evening you’ll sit in your father’s old chair and watch it, but no one else will, because nobody bought a SelectaVision.
You’ll feel restless that evening. You’ll feel 35 and 19 and 50. You’ll leave the house and walk that path among the hardwoods, back to Empire Quarry. That time of night, no one will be out there. You’ll take off your badly worn shoes, your thin shirt, and pants. You’ll curl your toes over that limestone edge and stare down those sheer walls into the aperture. And, standing there, peering beneath those diaphanous waters, you’ll see it: the old machinery, the abandoned cars and quarry equipment, the concentric layers of rocks and rusted rail, the bending reflection of your father and his father’s face. You’ll stand there for a while, thinking of this, and other things, and nothing. And then, when you’re good and ready, you’ll jump, lurching into that hole like only the locals do—arms out, eyes open, feet first to break your fall.