Thursday, September 24, 2015

7202. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 19

(pt. 19)
You know how one day you just wake up and 
find yourself somewhere  -  there you are  -  all
conditions in place and ready for acceptance. Well,
 that's the way it was for me, just rolling off age 4, 
and finding myself on this place called 'Inman Avenue.'
It was much different from Bayonne  -  where as a tyke
I lived on the water, right on the waterfront of a very
busy, and always so, 'Kill Van Kull'. Sounds ominous,
but it's an old Dutch seafaring/maritime word ('kill'),
meaning a flow or body of water that eventually, and by tides,
(estuary) flows to, and back from, the ocean  -  in this case
with the intermediate step of New York Harbor. Crazy ship
traffic  -  tugs, cargo, barge, tankers, freighters, everything.
There were, across the water, on the State Island side tug-boat
repair yards, tugboat junk yards, and a tug boat graveyard too.
Rattling, noisy hulks, the slaps of water-on-hulls sounding, all
hours, the horns and toots and bells and claxons of river traffic, 
river traffic here with an oil-sheen topper. Rainbow-like,
sometimes wondrous, glinting off sunlight. Who knew. 
(There's a lot more of this info in 'Leaving It All Again',
my book posted here, to accompany, somewhere).
When I got to Inman Avenue, just about ready to be age 5, I 
knew immediately I'd done a Columbus  -  discovered a whole 
new world, wild and entire, and different; and if - like Columbus  
- the whole  discovery of it was by a mistake, it little mattered. 
I was ready, without much reflection, to give it all a go. I'd never
seen a possum before, let alone families of them, hanging upside
down from huge oak-tree limbs. That's the way it was now -  Inman
Avenue housing ended at John and Joanne Wolchansky's house and
after that (where now, long since, they've built houses anyway  -  Mark
Place and Doreen Drive) it was woods  -  right out to Route One and 
trailer court in that direction, and the junkyards and a truck yard and
railroad tracks in another. 'Para-fucking-dise', let's say. There were
rivulets, shallow streams, a pond, fallen huge trees affording shelter
and cover, paths and all the rest of the things which go with wildness.
even a junk-heap of the usual shit people throw out. The local dumping
grounds : tires, rims, bicycles, car parts, toasters, I even found a watch 
once; it worked until it stopped working, about a year later. Before
our house was completed, during its construction, I remember my
parents and my sister and myself, in Dad's '47 Plymouth, driving 
down from Bayonne, on a weekend day, to check on progress, see
how things looked, how it was all going. We'd get off Rt. One
here, at what turned out to be the ass-end of my street, and I see
all this as we drove  -  the thin sliver of rutted roadway through
the woods, past the trailers, etc., until we came down to the end of 
our block. Gravelly road, yet still an entry and exit for those who's
short-cut through the woods to get to Rt. One, north or south.
Great stuff. I never knew, yet, what it fully involved, but in its
raw and wild state, I already sensed it's unique greatness  -  and a
very different greatness too, from the Bayonne - Kill waterfront,
which I never really wanted to give up, but did. Once the house
was completed  -  the structure, not the yards or the roadways
or anything else  -  we moved in. Everywhere around us (me) was
still rubble and uprooted dirt and trees and the general disarray
of a monumental construction job. I guess  -  though I do not
really remember  -  it all got cleaned up and cleared over time.
One day, I just walked around, looking to see if and who else had
by then moved in. I crossed the street, one house over, knocked
on the front door, and just plainly said, 'Hi I'm Gary, I live across
the street.' As it turned out, the mother there was quite helpful and
wonderful  -  she had 2 boys, Richard and Donald Florio. Donald, 
being my age, and Richard, maybe three years older. Fast friends,
 right off, mostly with Donald, that was my first acquaintance 
with anyone on the street. Everyone is different, we're all 
the same  -  the variations, never really lethal, 
mark who we are. So be it.
There will be a lot more of this. But for now, the purpose of this 
little chapter is to relate the story of three people I met, and who  -
growing up together  -  I became friends with. Curious little tales.
The first was Jim Yacullo. I've already mentioned him. He was a
tough, broad-beamed, powerful kid. Not the sports or baseball type
as were some of the others, but with a different concentration. Hard
to say. Anyway, his trait  -  astounding to me  -  was his habit (and I
have no idea where this came came, how or why). Whenever Jim said
something  -  any sentence, most any statement  -  you could see, after
it, his lips moving silently. (Eventually we talked about this, as I'd just
asked, 'what are you doing?'). Whatever he'd just uttered, say, 'this cake
is good', he would repeat again silently, mouthed, to himself, back, as
a replay  -  as he put it, 'just to be sure it was said right.' Totally weird
to me  -  it was like rehearsing the play, but AFTER the final 
performance! I couldn't figure out why  -  if he had to do that  -  he
just wouldn't do it first, in the reverse sequence. It seemed more
sensible. Another friend, Kenny Kaisen, previously mentioned, would
smell everything. No matter what he touched, or passed, or what it was
that caught his attention, it was first brought up to his nose and sniffed.
Just like I said  -  no further explication needed. He just smelled 
everything, from the TV Guide to a candy wrapper to a knick-knack.
That one, I never asked about or commented on. And, lastly, another
friend, a bit older, but a friend and neighbor no matter, named Barry
Wynne, later on, when I was like 15 or so and doing art and painting 
stuff out on the front steps area of my house, he'd come over, always,
and ask to use colors or crayons or whatever, and he'd spend time there
with me always, as he did, always, trying to re-design the American
flag. True stuff, and I have one of his attempts here, somewhere. 
Hoping I can find it, I'll eventually add it to this post. His only goal,
 ever, artistically, was in attempting a satisfying version, for himself, 
of a re-designed flag. He'd play around with stripes, stars, triangles 
and alternating formats, but he never got there, and he never 
stopped. It was very cool  -  Barry is the one who introduced me, 
by records, to the Lovin' Spoonful, the Beach Boys, and others; he'd 
bring a record or two over to listen to, each time, as we doodled. 
(Never called it that, no, it was 'serious' artwork we were doing, to us). 
So, such are memories.

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