HISTORICALLY SPEAKING – EP. #441
Aired September 18, 2016 – 15:00 ET / Rutland Regional Community Television (RRCTV)
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] FRANK KRAKOWSKI, HOST: Listen up, folks. We’re living in a town with six hundred and fifty-eight vacant housing units on the books. A town with seventy-three drug offenses for every thousand residents. A town where a goddamn tanning salon might turn out to be a front for a prostitution ring. You think I’m joking? Happened over at Sundaze on State Street. They arrested the owner and three of the gals involved. Had a whole system worked out. Hot rock, thermal care, full bronze–all of it code for different sex acts.
Now some of you might be wondering why it is I’m telling you this. Some of you might be wondering why I ain’t just delving on into the history of the Rutland Railroad like the broadcast schedule says I’d be. Truth is, I’d be remiss in my duties as host of this here show not to address last week’s phone call. You folks know which call it is I’m referring to. I’m referring to the call I received right here on air while I was in the middle of trying to educate you folks about the flood what wreaked havoc throughout Vermont back in November of 1927.
Rivers rose up thirteen feet above their normal depth. Over twelve-hundred bridges were destroyed or damaged. The Bolton Valley Dam got washed out altogether. Homes were swept clean away. Barns, too. Livestock drowned and as for the human toll–well, it weren’t nothing to sneeze at. You folks know the statistics. You watched last week’s show. The final tally was upwards of eighty deaths with more than half along the Winooski River basin. Down here in Rutland we didn’t fare much better. Rescue workers evacuated nearly three hundred people living alongside Otter Creek. A family of four died in the process. Couple workers over at the Vermont Marble Company got swallowed up, too, along with the dang barracks. Most of the transmission lines in the area went down as well. Weren’t no communication in or outta Rutland for over a week. When the waters finally receded there was a foot of mud left in some places. Silt and gravel, too. All manner of debris really. Corpses also obviously.
Point being, the flood of ‘27 was a major catastrophe. It’s a subject worthy of a little solemnity– and yet this fella decides to call in and spout off some mumbo jumbo about his cousin what drowned after trying to flip off a trampoline into an aboveground pool. Dumb bastard split his head in two and now this fella claims this cousin of his–Kenny–came to him in a dream. Except he says it was like Kenny was actually there, opening the door to his bedroom and slowly stepping in outta the hallway like he was sorry almost for disturbing him. Says Kenny told him another flood’s coming. A flood even greater than that of 1927. “Epic,” said Kenny. “This flood’s gonna be seriously epic,” Kenny said and when this fella woke up the door was open exactly how his cousin left it in the dream and where the dumb bastard had been standing the carpet was all wet.
I suspect some bongwater or maybe Bud Light got spilled and told this fella as much. Told him this here is a show about local history. A show about facts and figures. A show about real life. I told this fella this here ain’t no show for no foolishness about the paranormal or whatnot and if he thought otherwise he could go–well, you folks know what I said. Maybe I lost my temper. Maybe I threw the old phone off camera and accidentally hit that intern in the jaw. Maybe I had to pay for the new phone you see here on the desk outta my own pocket. That don’t change the fact I’m in the right. You folks know I’m in the right. Figured the Historical Society would back me up on this, too. Ain’t they the ones been producing this here show for going on near nine years? Ain’t I served on their goddamn Board of Directors for twice that amount of time?
Truth is, the Historical Society’s been trying to oust me for years. Maybe it started when I voted against listing the Scoville House with the National Register of Historic Places. I was the lone voice of dissent on that one and I’ll tell you folks it weren’t because I couldn’t appreciate there being a house here in Rutland County modeled after the Villa Savoye in France. No, it was the fact Ray Mooney’s brother-in-law just happens to own the property on which the Scoville House sits. Ray Mooney’s the Historical Society’s treasurer and this ain’t exactly the first time the son of a bitch has had what I’ll call a vested interest in listing property with the National Register.
Maybe that ain’t it at all, though. Maybe it’s that article Carolyn Griffin wrote for the newsletter about when she was a teenager picking apples on her granddad’s orchard. Never mind I weren’t but twelve years old when I got my first job and it weren’t no cushy gig filling up bushels of Macintosh on weekends. No, I was in charge of the scalder on Uncle Jack’s hog farm. The scalder’s what softens up the hog’s skin after the slaughter so as you can remove its hair. You wanna actually dig into the history of Vermont’s primary crop? Go back to the 1600s when the first apple trees was planted alongside Lake Champlain. Do some research. Collect a little data. I said as much in the article I wrote in rebuttal to Carolyn’s. Said the newsletter weren’t no place for that kinda nostalgia-laden personal narrative. Said it being written as a memorial of sorts to her granddad didn’t excuse it none. Said if they refused to publish my article–which they did–it’d only prove my point. Said it’d been over a year by this point since the cancer had gotten her granddad so–
(PHONE BEGINS TO RING. FRANK KRAKOWSKI STARES AT IT FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD BEFORE LIFTING RECEIVER FROM BASE.)
[15:06:13] FEMALE CALLER: Am I on the air? I’m on the air. Is it supposed be all echoey? It’s pretty echoey. Anyway I just wanted to call in and say I had a dream the other night where my sister was telling me how a great deluge is coming. Jodi didn’t ever use words like that in real life. Deluge, I mean. That’s how I knew it was a dream. That and because we were underwater. “A great deluge is coming and all cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon dryland shall perish,” Jodi told me like that’s just a normal thing to say. That’s not a normal thing to say, is it?
FRANK KRAKOWSKI, HOST: My impulse here is to tell you it’s just a dream. It’s all just a bunch of horseshit, lady–except I ain’t really allowed to say what it is I think no more, am I? At least that’s the gist of the conversation I had with Jim Davidson after last week’s show. Jim Davidson’s the president of the Historical Society and what Jim told me is I gotta be more inclusive. I gotta be more accepting of other people’s points of view and apparently I got some anger issues I gotta deal with, too. Apparently, I’m only allowed back here in the studio on a sorta trial basis. That’s how Jim put it. Apparently, he needs to assess whether I’m still a good fit for this here show. Apparently, he’s got doubts as to whether I’m even actually a good fit for what he and Ray Mooney and the rest of ‘em have taken to calling the Historical Society Phase Two–
FEMALE CALLER: Did I mention Jodi drowned? Jodi drowned about twenty years back when we were in high school. She was at that quarry in Chittenden with her boyfriend and what happened is she jumped into the water and got her foot all tangled up in some industrial wire down there. Even without the wire they said Jodi might not have made it back up what with her body temperature dropping the way it did. Did you know quarries could get that cold? Even in summer quarries can get that cold because of how deep they are and that’s where we were. In the dream, I mean. Did I not say we were at the bottom of the quarry? We were at the bottom of the quarry where the water was all murky and greenish in color so I couldn’t hardly even see Jodi herself. She was just like this black flimsy thing waving around–like an old tarp maybe snagged on the end of that wire–but I knew it was her somehow even if it didn’t look like her or talk like her at all. “All of mankind shall perish, too,” she told me. “All in whose nostrils is the breath of the spirit of life shall perish in the great deluge,” she said and that’s when I woke up–
FRANK KRAKOWSKI, HOST: They wanna start doing outreach programs with local schools. They wanna do reenactments over at the Hubbardton Battlefield with actors all dressed up as minutemen and redcoats. Jim even told me they wanna start up some sorta “Haunted History Walking Tour.” My opinion is Jim Davidson don’t know what the hell it is he’s doing. I asked him what his thoughts were on comparative-historical methodology wherein you look at areas of cultural transformation like the evolution of religious institutions or the expansion of the nation-state or the effect of environmental disaster and you analyze ‘em not just as regards the past but for what it is they say about the present. Well, Jim basically stared at me like I weren’t even speaking English.
Guess that’s what happens when everyone decides to elect a guy just because he’s got a bachelor’s degree from some college in Boston. Me, I’m pretty much all self-taught. Don’t put much stock in higher education. Besides which, Jim Davidson’s degree’s in creative writing or some such thing. You believe that? A grown man with a goddamn degree in creative writing. Heard he’s been having some trouble on the home front, too, which maybe explains why he’s been particularly useless lately. Heard Sherry’s thinking of leaving him. Heard Jim might secretly be a homosexual–
FEMALE CALLER: What I was trying to say is when I woke up from that dream I was freezing. Ninety degrees outside and humid and my husband’s in bed beside me in nothing but boxer shorts–and I’m freezing my butt off like I’m still underwater. There was a sorta greenish glow to the room, too, like I really was still down at the bottom of that quarry. Ever hear of anything like that happening? Never heard of anything like that until last week’s call–
(RECEIVER IS RETURNED TO BASE WITH CONSIDERABLE FORCE BY FRANK KRAKOWSKI.)
[15:10:24] FRANK KRAKOWSKI, HOST: I said it once and I’ll say it again: This here ain’t no show for no foolishness about the paranormal. This here is a show about real life. A show about celebrating the history of the town we live in. After all, Rutland used to be one of the leading producers of marble in the world. You folks know the Vermont Marble Company actually contributed material to the Washington Monument? The goddamn Washington Monument and that ain’t all. By 1850, the Rutland Railroad was the center of the industry here in Vermont what with nearly four hundred miles of track.
But that was a long time ago, folks. A helluva long time ago. Ain’t much left here worth celebrating. We’re living in a town now with an unemployment rate of eleven-point-six. A town where one out of every fifteen of you has likely been the victim of a crime in the past twelve months. A town where you might find yourself tied up to a chair in your own home and beaten senseless with a grabber stick. You think I’m joking? Happened over on Allen Street. Retired school administrator. Seventy-six years old. The sons of bitches tied him up and cracked the poor bastard’s skull open with his own EZ Reacher–then made off with his prescription pills.
Point being, Rutland’s been on the decline since at least 1927. The Vermont Marble Company never recovered from what destruction the flood wreaked upon it and as for the Rutland Railroad–well, the entire station here in town was submerged and the D&H trestle over the falls was swept away. Come 1953, the railroad was halted by a three-week strike and in ‘61 the whole operation was shut down for good. Then you got the fire of ‘73 what took down the Berwick Hotel and most of downtown along with it. Weren’t too long after that OMYA Industries came along. Been leaking toxins into the groundwater ever since and it was ‘round about ‘92 General Electric laid off 400 workers. The heroin epidemic hit us in the early aughts and now OxyContin–well, you folks understand what I’m getting at. What I’m getting at is how in comparative-historical methodology you gotta account for certain temporal processes and path-dependent sequences and casual inference in order to draw up your hypothesis about present-day circumstances. My hypothesis? It’s pretty simple: This town of ours has turned into a shithole. My hypothesis is if another flood were to come and wash all of Rutland away I don’t believe it’d be any great loss.
You think I ain’t been having the same kinda dreams you folks out there been having? Truth is, I had one just last night about Uncle Jack. Now a couple years back we came upon Uncle Jack’s clothes all scattered in a trail of sorts–sweatpants and sweatshirt, longjohns, socks, even his goddamn loafers–leading down from his trailer through the snow to a drainage ditch alongside Cold River Road where the old man’s footprints stopped at a break in the ice. Hypothermia’s been known to do that–make your muscles contract to the point where there’s a rush of blood to your extremities so as your brain gets to thinking you’re overheating and kinda tricks you into undressing–and I’m guessing adding the old man’s dementia into the mix didn’t help none. Whatever the case, the State Police broke up the rest of the ice and skimmed the entirety of that drainage ditch–which weren’t no more than three feet at its deepest–but they couldn’t find no further sign of Uncle Jack whatsoever.
In the dream, though, he was there in that drainage ditch and I was there with him. Above us the ice was thick–not so much as a crack in its surface–so that I couldn’t figure how exactly it was we’d come to be there in the water beneath it. As for the water itself, it was damn near dark as night. Only reason I could make out Uncle Jack at all was he was naked and so pale as to be glowing almost and rippling around like there was a current maybe trying to suck him through the culvert what runs under Cold River Road. He was rippling around like he didn’t hardly have a body at all except for what fleshy white strands I could discern and yet I knew it was him somehow.
“Take my word,” Uncle Jack told me. “Give ear to my warning. A flood shall sweep over the cult-centers of the world. This is the decree of the assembly of the gods,” he said, which ain’t exactly the sorta thing you expect a former hog farmer to say. “This is the command of Anu and Enlil and Enki and Ninhursag, too. A flood shall sweep over the cult-centers of the world to destroy the seed of mankind and put an end to its rule,” Uncle Jack said before finally getting sucked back into that culvert until all I could see was the very last strand of that old man’s flesh–it was his penis I think–and then that was gone, too. That’s when I woke up with this feeling–
(PHONE BEGINS TO RING. FRANK KRAKOWSKI STARES AT IT FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD.)
[15:11:52] FRANK KRAKOWSKI, HOST: Well that’s neither here nor there, now is it? It’s just a dream and this here is a show about real life. About cause and effect. About consequences. About the inevitable and I can see here by the caller ID the inevitable is on its way–and I didn’t even get a chance yet to tell you folks about what I really wanted to tell you.
(THE RINGING CONTINUES UNTIL ABRUPTLY FRANK KRAKOWSKI TEARS THE CORD FROM THE WALL AND THROWS THE PHONE OFF CAMERA AT WHICH POINT A DISTINCT CRY OF PAIN IS HEARD.)
FRANK KRAKOWSKI, HOST: What it is I wanted to tell you folks is about the turkey raffle the Historical Society puts on for the Board of Directors and the Officers and the rest of the staff. Mike Messier–he’s on the Research Committee–he’s won it four times so far. Kelly McCullough–she keeps the website up-to-date–she’s won two years in a row. Last year, Benny walked away with a twenty-seven pound bird and he’s just the janitor. I myself been putting my name in that raffle every Thanksgiving for going on near two decades and haven’t won once. Not one goddamn time. Now how’s that possible, folks? Makes you wonder almost whether there really is something paranormal at work here. You got another explanation I’d love to hear it.