I'll do the math for you. If you are fifty four years old and lived for 21 years in Pittsburgh, you can subtract from your age the first 33 years, which is the age at which Jesus Christ bought it.
Sound like a good deal? Well, you have to live in Pittsburgh till your soul freezes. Till you no longer need to make sense. When you no longer expect it from others, and let yourself babble along with the illiterate rabble. Rhyming is a symptom of the process. It's known to come about following a brain injury. Mine is a sore train wreck. But I accept this black hole like the gospel.
And I never would have seen the light and the numbers had there not been a conversation in front of my shanty. I was trying to read The New Yorker on the front porch, as the conversation illustrated why this town can't pull itself out of oblivion. Five city workers were standing at the perrimeter of a grave-size oblong hole in the street. Shovels in hand and the city works truck idling near by, the men were standing stark still, talking about the many things that make them the very soul of Pittsburgh.
"If I make the next pay grade, I'm gonna upgrade my package in Vegas." One of the men said to the group. They all acknowleged the close relationship between pay scale and package deal.
"Well, I been taking my free time at the Rivers Casino, but I'm planning to see Vegas before too much longer." responded another.
Perhaps it was the foreman who boasted that he had a time share unit in Las Vegas, leaving him no chance of having a vacation that didn't serve the need. "You know, there's a hotel in Vegas costs $25,000 a night. Michael Jackson stayed there."
"If you won the lottery, would you stay there, at $25,000 a night," one of the men asked the group. All responded in turn, orderly as nuns, "Yeah, of course I'd stay at a hotel where Michael Jackson was. If it was the same room he was in."
Agreement was expressed around the oblong hole. They would all stay at the hotel if they won the lottery. It sounded as if only a fool wouldn't. Like, "Yes, I'd buy the Hope Diamond," or, "Naturally, I'd turn my heart to philanthropy," but their vacation packages were the only things that would change if they were suddenly filthy rich.
Virtually all topics of discussion crossed the same simple criteria. Pay grade. Las Vegas. The Lottery. It sounded as if the city works had geared itself to the price of vacation packages, time share units, and smorgesboards. Food splendor was another topic discussed around the oblong hole. None of the men were skinny, and they talked with extra ardor about the food, all they could choke down, at a favorite hotel in Vegas. Drink is a curse of the working class. So's Vegas. And gluts of fattening food.
Prophecies are tendered like the coins in a slot machine. A plethora of earthly heavens are there for the taking, while you enjoy your paid time off from your job digging holes in the street. if you win the lottery, you can quit your job shoveling asphalt. The next higher pay grade places you closer to the celebrities, and surely, the lottery could put you right in the Rat Pack's lap, inspite of them all being dead. If the workers won the lottery, the Rat Pack would all come back to life. Resurection in Vegas. Dead town, Pittsburgh.