BELOW THE WATERLINE
I had a Star Ledger paper route some time about
1960; I forget exactly but I recall precisely : the few
families on that route that lived way down in the swamps,
out beyond Omar and out past whatever - right until where
it all broke to dirt roads. Now it's warehouses and trucks
barns and everything else, but then it wasn't. I had to go
way out there, a far-fetched addendum to a measly route
which was more centered around Avenel Street, the churches
and schools, and points down, lots of those college and tree
streets. I called these families way out there the 'Way Outs.'
As in, 'My route's all done, now I gotta' do the Way Outs.'
Those few customers were never worth much, I never really
saw them (one family really was Injuns), and they only
sporadically paid. So, after a time, I just did quit on them -
I simply stopped going down there daily. It was just too much.
No one ever griped, and even my Star-Ledger collection guy
understood what was going on. He said, 'Yeah, probably ain't
worth the air in your tires.' I thought then, and still do now,
that that was his way of saying, like, 'they're not worth the gas
it costs to drive down there.' I guess. Maybe they just put those
'Way Outs' on someone else's route. I never found out.
But I can say, and will say here, that much like the way the heart
of Avenel got ripped out when the underpass was dug, so too -
when I gave up on the Way Outs, my entire view of Avenel was
affected. I'd lost, in my mind, the most sterling and the finest
part of the landscape - the wilds, those untamed and still
febrile places : no streets in a line on paved hardtop roads with
houses alike and all in a row. No. This was the frontier, the
blooming wild horse country backside of some otherwise
incredibly dull and stupid place called 'Avenel', named for
some circus-performer's daughter with a blueblood name who
lived at the road-end by Hiram's Trailer Park when it first got
started there : itinerant vagrants, runabouts and hideouts on
wheels for troubled folk from New York City. A way, way
long time ago this girl 'Avenel' had took up with one of the
local contractor guys who was building some houses out along
what became Demorest and Minna, and streets like that. He
was crazy in love, and registered these plots in her name of
'Avenel' - so called and by such place name the nascent town
board took it up and so it stands today: 'Avenel; Woodbridge,
NJ'. No one knows anything about that either, and no one cares.
Just easier to say it was some rich-guy's daughter.
I threw that away then, all of it - and back then the crazy and
wooded wilds of those rutted roads down there was sure something
to see. Everywhere, yeah, there was woods, streams, big oak and
willow trees, and water too. If you walked it all right, you could
stay wooded and hidden clear back up to Hiram's too - little paths
and roads - before they overbuilt and maxed everything out.
The railroad laid through there like a steel highway all its own,
but was just as useful too as a place guide for the walk. The dome
and the wings of that outrageous prison and all its farm lands,
they were the most welcoming part of the jaunt. The Way Outs,
if I cut it right, was a straight-line bicycle quick-trip for me right
through those hard fields and across Rahway Ave. right down
to where I needed being. I missed it. I threw all that away.