Fable of the Deconstruction #473: Jameson on Polish Hill
During a 1978 research trip to Pittsburgh’s Polish Hill to interview working class males between the ages of twenty and forty-five about transitioning to service sector jobs, renowned cultural theorist Fredric Jameson finds himself in no small amount of trouble. Strolling the network of sidewalks off Carnegie Avenue, their macadam splintering like ice, Jameson has gotten himself involved in a heated discussion with Bruiser Stopko.
With twenty-one years in as a catcher in the wire mill at the Edgar Thomson Works—a well paying, dangerous job performed in 130 degree heat and which, because of the sparks that light from the glowing ingots like bubbles from shaken champagne, demands a wool jump suit and padded gloves thick as law books—Bruiser has taken significant umbrage at Jameson’s suggesting that sometime over the next five to ten years he will most likely be employed at minimum wage assembling gourmet sandwiches slathered with exotic mustard or spraying lawn chemicals on emerald green acre plots in front of oversized tract homes in the burgeoning Fox Chapel suburbs.
His Midwestern features ginning themselves into an excited frown, Jameson—grievously failing to anticipate the consequences of his assertion—throws perhaps too much in Bruiser’s face his slackjaw academic’s puzzlement at the millworker’s inability to see the inevitable tumult and shift of the fast-coming future.
In the ensuing imbroglio, Bruiser—down in the shadow of the crumbling frame houses that sprout from the hillside like weeds—gets off a quick combination of jabs and uppercuts which he caps with a tremendous roundhouse right that knocks loose several of the cultural theorist’s teeth. As Bruiser puts the finishing touches on his argument, twice bouncing Jameson’s head off the roof of a nearby Buick, he finds it remarkable that the academic, for all his erudition, was unable to anticipate what he felt to be an embarrassingly well-telegraphed punch and failed to try to sidestep it or even to duck.
Moral: No matter one’s station, confronting unmanageable challenges as a matter of course in the rough and tumble present thrusts keeping a weather eye to the foul blossoming future into the stark realm of the near impossible.