Saturday, September 19, 2015


(pt. 10)
I never knew much. It was 1954, for whatever
matter that took in, it was fairly meaningless to 
me, except that I was in a strange place. Not near
as much a 'place' as my previous apartment-dwelling
along the Kill Van Kull, where the harbor-traffic and
tugs and freighters were a constant beneath the bridge.*
This was different  -  this was a new, quiet country where
newly decimated woods and fields had nothing more to
say  -  no 'backtalk', as it were. They simply were gone,
disappeared into the profit and loss columns of some
builder's conglomerate  -  hoisting wood and nails and
lumber and windows and doors. My mother used to talk
to me about all the wonderful new homes and the things
these men were doing. All I saw was ruination and the
wreckage of the things that once had been - the presence
of nature, the quiet, the solitude. I turned to her and said,
'But why do they call it 'construction?'
It was 1954 and, yes, a goodly number of these men, it
seemed, were still fighting a war 8 or 10 years back. The
experience had stripped them, to be sure, of innocence and
naivete; they'd married, had a kid or two, and were now finding 
their feet enough to buy a 'starter' home, a first, basic, economy
model tract home in which to get a start, raise those kids, work 
from within and from without. Their daily work, their jobs, and 
all the rest, and here they were. These were still young men, 
probably an average age of 29, I'd bet, maybe just 30. Their
wives, our mothers, all us wild kids from nowhere, were
probably still yet a bit under that age  -  there was sex, sure, 
and plenty of it. People were dropping new babies like flies, 
and by two or three years later, amidst all my friends' families
and such, there were two new babies each, an easy bet. All those
younger kids, the baby brothers and baby sisters, I'd never really
get to know or meet, just rather hear of and maybe see, as my
own younger brothers and sisters, in the same way, came up.
These guys maybe had nightmares still; I don't know. There
were a few, like Mr. Palumbo, with wounds  -  he had shrapnel 
wounds and little scars and pinpricks all up the sides and backs 
of his legs and back. If you got him on the right evening (sitting
out front, with his two sons Arthur and Freddie), he'd maybe
pull up a shirt or a pants leg and show us. His little, tiny wife,
Jane, was the receptionist and helper at Dr. Chrobat's dental
office down at the end of Inman, across Avenel Street. She was
a chatterbox, brash, loud-mouthed and really into it all. She had
a beautiful, striking, pink, new 1959 Ford Galaxie 500, the first
one I ever saw. There are two funny stories to go with this tale,
maybe three, in fact. First was, the older brother, Arthur, who 
later on got a low-level Wall Street job as a ticker-tape runner or
something  -  he would come home all the time with stock tips.
He'd excitedly be telling his father things, stuff I never knew
about. I never know if they bought stocks from these tips, but
it was fun to listen  -  and this was a million years ago, when
the stock market was a privileged niche, for monied people.
Not like today when every Tom, Dick, and Mortimer can
trade on-line and overnight for seven bucks a trade. Cool
thing was, in Freddie's and Arthur's house, when you 
went upstairs to where the boys' bedrooms were, Arthur
had a hook-up (simple now, but baffling to me then) whereby
when you turned on the wall-light switch it was connected to
the radio, which would then come on, loud, automatically. So,
shockingly, there'd all of a sudden always be Buddy Holly or
Elvis or any of those whatevers that were played back then,
blasting  -  like live club music, in 1958!
Freddie, on the other hand, was my age, maybe a year or two
older, but we got on. Freddie's outlook, by contrast, was dark
and vicious and almost mean. None of that sunlight-outlook of
his older brother. He would position a record player (home alone
most of the Summer days), in the open front doorway of the house
and blast records and music at top volume to the outside, all day.
He didn't care. Noisy house. By age ten, or eleven, interestingly
enough, Freddie had already instructed neighborhood kids in his
fine art of 'masturbation', and  -  furthermore  -  he explained sex
to us, pretty forthrightly, in his weird way. 'You know those nights
when your mother and father get a baby sitter for you and go out 
together? Well here's what they do : your father kisses the nipples
on your mother's breasts, that opens her hole, and he sticks his
prick inside. That's why they come home so late.' Yeah, well, I
guess. As automatic as it all can be. Should'a known.
Lastly, on these guys -   they had a built-in swimming pool
installed, AND a car-port (like an open garage, just a roof and 
some columns, under which you parked the car). The parents
eventually divorced, I guess it got ugly, little Jane moved out,
and she left the dentist office job too. The father, in anger, had
the pool closed down and, in some weird, raging fit, took all the
household items of Jane, big stuff, like the washer and dryer, the
TV, tables, all sorts of junk and had it all put into the empty pool,
which was then covered over with fill dirt and just all turned back 
into a regular backyard again. So that's what Mom and Dad really
did together. That was that, and I never saw or heard from any of
them ever again  -  no idea where they all ended up. Five years later
the house was owned by Robert Braun, 'education' writer for the
Newark Star Ledger, and then, after him, curiously enough, the 
house was bought by an airline pilot, out of Newark Airport, who
somehow used it as a way-station layover crash pad for the flight
personnel, stewards, stewardesses, pilots and the rest on their
multi-day layovers. I don't know if they ever knew about 
the backyard.

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