BELOW THE WATERLINE
'I would too, if I had a car.' Sleeping in
some gilt-wagon, on a bed of burlap, in
this shiny swamp past Homestead Ave., where
once all the black folk lived, and a few - one
or two anyway - strange old Injuns lived in
their ramshackle running houses. Just up the
road, out towards Carteret, was Ira Rhodes'
auto-wrecker place, the grand, uncatalogued
junkyard of '56 Fords and ' Chevies. The old
man in the barn-red house, he used to come out
in the early morning light, every day nearly, and
walk the perimeter of some piece of property he
claimed was his - just to check. Kids would drive
there at night, to park, and neck, and the rest. And
some mornings there'd be things left around. He'd find.
He said. Girl's purses or a shoe or some piece of dainty
clothing, or an unfinished pack of cigarettes, or even
sometimes money on the ground, where'd they leave a
sheet or a stained blanket behind. He never minded; thought
it was fun. 'Back in my day, if I had the chance, hell I'd
have gone ballin' too. Ain't nothing wrong with that, and
I don't begrudge. Just hope sometimes they leave me
something behind.' And the rest he'd just laugh off
in a trail of no words....
In this town I live now, it's funny. It's basically still pretty
piss-poor; nobody's really got anything, and if they did they'd
not still be here - dumb kids and loud cars and motorcycles;
some still running rear-wheel drive things, with loud pipes.
in the morning outside the bar called Margee's, sometimes
there's tire tracks and skid marks - where kids spun their
cars or raced off, like it was 1964 and nobody learned ever
a lick of brains since then. When the highlight of the place is
a biker-bash at the nearby American Legion, you gotta' know
something's off. Karaoke nights. Rib contests. All you can
eat spaghetti memorials. The girls all squander their
wonderful sensations on absolutely nothing at all.
A couple of my friends, back in the 60's again, out there they
learned to drive : their father would bring 'em down in that
Dodge or Chevy, and they'd take the wheel and drive through
the woods and lots - some were open, some had little roads
to run through. And in all it was a great place to learn those
needed fundamentals of basic driving. The older guys would
scream their hot rods - some serious, out-loud business -
to Blair Road and back, screeching a turn and spinning
a corner. Up to speed in no time flat.
Quieter times, yeah, but now it's more a mess. People are
pawns, and even more than they used to be - they walk these
backed-up streets wearing clothes from I know not where -
nor what they're even thinking - and jamble on their phones
about some high-hat deadly something. No one talks a simple
line - there's no brains here or connection; just a fiery time.
Pizza, sandwiches, a junk-shop of consignment nightmares,
and way too many side-board buildings where the 'volunteers'
come and go: red-pitch firetruck wagons, and box-car EMT's.
Everything, somehow in one place, but nothing much to show.