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Werke von Gregory Jaynes






Gregory Jaynes is a journalist who, in the midst of a bought of mid-life crisis, living in fear that " will one morning soon realize that it is not the stair doing the creaking" decided that an around-the-world cruise on a freighter, would be just the thing (Come Hell on High Water: A Really Sullen Memoir) He so informed his wife and children, who must have been either extraordinarily forbearing or couldn' wait for him to get out of there. Unfortunately, the ship he chose — because of its relative inexpensiveness — turned out to be a converted Russian icebreaker. It had been purchased and refitted for hauling copra and other goodies around the South Pacific — certainly an irony if there ever was one. He packed War and Peace, one of those books that everyone intends to read, but mostly only get through the illustrated comic. " Carter once told me he read War and Peace when he was twelve. I felt like saying that if I had been stuck in a one-holer like Plains, Georgia when I was twelve, I would have read it, too." The book is a stitch. The voyage, which he cuts short in Singapore, is populated with interesting, i.e. weird people. The twelve passengers are hovered over by three Russian steward persons " combined weight I would estimate at forty-two pounds less than the Chrysler building." When the three moved to starboard, Jaynes figured the huge ship listed four-and-a-half feet in that direction. He knew a lot of people and his reminiscences are humorously described. " [Foreman] and I are close in age. One time in Humble, Texas, when George was idle, he told me, ' licks hurt.' I asked him to describe to me what it felt like to be hit by, say, Mohammed Ali. George bent way back around himself and then delivered a haymaker, with a fist about the size of a soccer ball, that stopped just at the tip of my nose. Nothing fell out, but my sphincter shot open all the same." And once in Saudi Arabia " was in a left-turning lane of a busy thoroughfare in Dhahran in February 1991.1 had been in and out of that part of the world since Iraq invaded Kuwait the preceding August 2. I was driving a rented Toyota Land Cruiser a big black one. The sun was fierce, it was four o'clock in the afternoon of another difficult day, and I couldn't find enough space in the oncoming traffic to make my turn. For all that, a Saudi in a white Chevrolet Caprice behind me was honking impatiently And suddenly I felt a bump and realized be had hit me with his car. I looked in the wing mirror and saw him shaking a fist at me. Then he bumped me again, I started to get out, but then the thought occurred to me that I was considerably bigger than he was. I shifted into reverse, and began backing my four-wheel-drive vehicle, slowly. Never, not even in the movies, have I seen such terror as entered the face in my rear view mirror. He could not reverse, for the line of cars behind him was flush against his rear. I did not stop until I came up over his hood. Then I went forward, and in the doing pulled off some of his grill work. Then I got out and made for him, with the intention of ripping his damn silly dress off and throwing him in the Persian Gulf, which was on my side of the highway and would not require a left turn. But a cop was Johnny-on-the-spot and had seen the highway and He let me go without a fine (Americans were in high, fickle demand in that neighborhood in those days), but he said, "I think you have been too long in my country."… (mehr)
ecw0647 | 2 weitere Rezensionen | Sep 30, 2013 |
I purchased COME HELL ON HIGH WATER shortly after reading Greg Jaynes's first book, SKETCHES FROM A DIRT ROAD, which I enjoyed immensely. The second book sat on my shelf for several months before I got to it. I'm glad I did, because there's a lot of hard-won wisdom to be found in its pages. Jaynes might argue with me on that, because he seemed to be groping for something himself throughout this journal, trying to make sense of the round-the-world cruise on a British-owned, Russian-built and -crewed freighter, a former ice-breaker now plying the southern route.

The journal begins in September of 1995, but the journey doesn't actually begin until December, in Liverpool, and ends in Singapore nearly four months later. Along the way he gets to know his fellow passengers on the freighter - ten of them, most a generation or more older than Jaynes, who was 47 when he wrote CHoHW. They are a 'motley crew' (I just had to use the term) indeed, including a few elderly English travelers, the most colorful being a bitter, alcoholic woman, ragingly unresigned to her aging infirm body who Jaynes calls 'Toxic June.' He forms an alliance with this woman for a while, until even he can no longer tolerate her rancor and acid wit, which alienates nearly everyone on the ship, passengers, officers and crew. There are also several other Americans aboard, from Tennesse, Wyoming and upstate New York. Jaynes maintains friendly relations with the Captain and other officers, but is perhaps most friendly with an older Brit, 'Leicester of Devon,' a widower who is perhaps the most decent and sympathetic of all the ship's 'characters.'

Jaynes took along Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE, determined to finally read what had heretofore been an 'unreadable' classic for him. It is one of the things he actually manages to accomplish on this odd 'ship of fools' voyage, complaining through much of the hundreds of pages about the difficulty of keeping all the characters with their various Russian names straight, a difficulty I shared years ago when I tried to read DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. I never did get far in the book, but enjoyed the film - thank goodness for movies, huh? One of Jaynes's early comments on reading the book: "I don't think War and Peace would be so thick if it weren't so full of people talking twaddle." I would like to say, 'Indeed' here, but alas, I've never even attempted to read WaP. ("You're a better man than I am, Gun-, er, Gregory Jaynes.") The sheer weight and bulk of the book has always frightened me away.

I was not sure I liked the Greg Jaynes of CHoHW as much as I had the one in his earlier book, all about reclaiming a rural southern farm and raising his small children there. Because he confessed here that he divorced his first wife about the time that first book was published, more than thirty years ago. And he also let it be known that although he was married again, he was tired of being married. The truth is though, his utter honesty about these and other things appealed to me, kept me reading. I wonder how many men go through this kind of doubt, a period of wondering what they might be missing 'somewhere out there' after several years or more of marriage and working - doing what's 'expected.' Greg Jaynes left his wife and jumped on a freighter at 47 to try to figure out these things. She had given a kind of approval, telling him to 'go if he must.'

I went through a similar life crisis at 32, leaving my wife and two small boys behind to reenlist in the army. Like Madeline Greenleaf Jaynes, my own wife went along with the craziness, and supported me, later following with the kids to California and Germany. We're still together, 35 years after that precipitous change in our lives, retired and doing that 'living happily ever after' thing.

Jaynes's behavior during his various ports of call were not always admirable, as they included a couple assignations with prostitutes. But in the end he apparently came clean about all this to his wife upon his return.

"When it came time to account, I told her what I had done. She said, 'Nothing lasting?' I said, 'I never knew their names.'"

He also confessed that his "interest in marriage has not come back. But I'm not going anywhere." His wife replied, "Then neither am I."

As an invested and interested reader, I can only hope things got better than that for them from then on.

Here's a minor point I can't resist inserting here. During a port call in Suva, Fiji Islands, Jaynes notes passing by a Methodist church hearing the people singing "The Old Rugged Cross." I live in Reed City, Michigan, the last residence of George Bennard, the composer of that venerable hymn. There is an Old Rugged Cross Museum here in town and its docents are currently gearing up to mark the 100th anniversary of the hymn, which has made its way many times around the world - a small world, after all.

There is much humor here, as in Jaynes's other book. I know I haven't done justice to that aspect of the book. I hope someone else will. I said there was wisdom here. Here's a sample: at the time of the birth of his first grandson, when Jaynes was literally on the other side of the world, he made this list/comment: "love, liberty, security - you're done for without all three." A bit later he remembered when his daughter won a beauty contest, in which she was asked "what she considered the most important element in any relationship." Her answer? "Trust." Jaynes added it to his list - advice to Andy, his first grandchild (who would be 15 this year).

My God, look at all I've written here! Probably I should have organized my thoughts a little better and condensed this, but what the hell. I liked this book. It made me think, and not just about Jaynes's life, but about my own. Life is peculiar, ain't it? Greg Jaynes is a few years younger than I, but we'd probably have some things to talk about over coffee. I hope he's found some measure of happiness, that he is enjoying his grandchildren. And I hope there will be another book.
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TimBazzett | 2 weitere Rezensionen | Mar 7, 2011 |
Greg Jaynes is a very funny guy. He is also a good writer. So how come I'd never heard of him? I found his book, Sketches from a Dirt Road, at a garage sale a couple weeks ago. I was slightly put off by the slight mildew stains along the edges of the cover, so I stood there and read a few pages. The first chapter, called simply "Past" told about various jobs he'd had in his youth. He cut brush along the Mississippi (remember how you learned to spell that in grade school, in that sing-song rhythm? "Em-Eye-ess-ess-Eye-ess-ess-Eye-pee-pee-eye") for a riverboat line one summer, which was a sweaty crappy job but he got to sleep on board and even had his own bunk on deck -

"In the night the water and the sky were black as used motor oil. A hundred watt bulb in the ceiling above the bunk shed light on Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, The Old Man and the Sea, Profiles in Courage, Moby Dick, The Naked and the Dead, and Candy. I particularly liked Candy."

After reading that passage, I was hooked. 'Cause hey, I read all those books too. And what teenage boy doesn't remember first discovering the forbidden delights of that porn classic, Candy.
And if that wasn't enough to hook me, on the very next page he tells of heading off to NYC to seek his fortune -

"I had a two-tone blue (and rust) 1950 Plymouth and I had forty-five dollars. I shared a garret with an unsuccessful actor and I slept on a lawn chair I bought at a five-and-dime. In the days I worked in the mailroom at Decca Records. In the nights I went to dirty movies."

And probably thought about Candy. And while working at Decca he actually met Ricky Nelson. Hey, man, if that had happened to me when I was 18, I probably never would have left Decca.

So I bought the mildewy old book. I think it mighta cost me fifty cents. But that night I was already chuckling and snorting over yet more witticisms, voiced in such a dry, perfect delivery that I literally scarfed this book up at a breakneck pace. The book is actually about a later time in Jaynes' life, when he moved his family from Atlanta to a rural Georgia farm, where he worked as a freelance writer and cultivated his natural aversion to jobs and work. And this guy knew virtually nothing about farming or rural stuff of any kind for that matter. He didn't even seem to know much about dogs, fer cripesakes, as evidenced in an hilarious anecdote about his chicken-chasing, chicken-killing dog, whom he tried to cure of these habits by tying a dead chicken around the dog's neck (a neighbor's suggested rustic rememdy).

"The dog grew dotty after a few days. He would come around the house and one or the other of us would say, 'Phew! Get that dog away from here!'"

Then the dog started chasing cars, until he caught one. "I took him in and spread him before the hearth and removed the smelly chicken. In two days the dog was up and about with a slight limp. Now he chases neither chickens nor cars. However, he is pregnant."

Funny? Hell, yes! And it just keeps getting better, with more stories, most only 3-5 pages long, about deer hunting, firewood, bike trips, Thanksgiving, buying a pony for his son, enjoying "quality time" with his wife (until she takes a job in town), and making a vacation trip back home to Memphis - a particularly hilarious segment in which Jaynes attends a kind of convention for old B-western buffs, where he meets Lash LaRue and Sunset Carson, and also tells of the ratty theater where he went to see all those old movies as a kid, until adolescence. "Then we learned there was a drive-in across the Mississippi River that was showing nudie movies. And we abandoned the Bristol Theater and its Westerns in favor of t*ts. And we never turned back."

It's not all funny stuff though. There are a few surprisingly sensitive stories, like on tender little tale about an aging farm couple called "Story, Made Up."

But why go on? Here's a book that's been out of print for over thirty years, so who's gonna seek it out and read it? Which I find kinda sad. But I'll say it again anyway. This guy is Funny. And as my old army sergeant might have said, "He writes real good." I'll probably tell people about this book, and how much I enjoyed it. And they'll probably say, "From 1977?!" Yeah, old stuff, I know. But still ...
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TimBazzett | Jul 21, 2010 |
This book is testament to the fact that wherever you go, you take yourself right along with you. There's no such thing as running away from home.
yargles | 2 weitere Rezensionen | Feb 11, 2010 |



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