Sunday, September 20, 2015

7186. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 14

(PT. 14)
I think there were guys, fathers, as I said before,
still living the war, but there wasn't much evidence of
it  -  not like today anyway  -  no bumper stickers, no
assistance programs, medical needs. Don't get me wrong,
there were veteran's hospitals and soldiers' homes, and there
were shell- shocked guys still around, either taken away or
just living their own lives, without talking and without
concerns. I know, for instance, only of my uncle, who'd
fought in the Pacific, and in his house in Colonia he had
an entire room, like a den or a big rec-room, decorated with
'Jap' memorabilia  -  stuff he said he'd taken out of the jungles
and places in the South Pacific he'd fought. Actually, how he'd
gotten it all back here is beyond me, but it made for some
decorative motif : Japanese bayonet/rifles, Japanese infantry
helmets, a few hand grenades, I guess, defused or whatever,
sabers, long knives, sheaths, bullet belts, a machine gun, a
holster, all sorts of things, buckles, gloves, and much of it
decorated too, with that Rising Sun logo or emblem or national
Japanese symbol. Whatever; this stuff was all up on the walls in
this large room. They'd been living in Bayonne still, and it was
a few years after we'd relocated to our new house in Avenel that
they too found and waited for completion of their new house, on
Starlight Drive, Colonia, off Inman, I think Number 77. No one
ever talked of their wartime stuff, not even my uncle, but he had
things everywhere. They jusy lived with their situations, and left
it unspoken, or maybe just kept it all private; I don't know. Certainly
it wasn't talk-show fodder and all that touchy-feely stuff like now.
And one other time, we were driving one of my neighborhood
friends up the Parkway with us, as a family, for some reason,
and as we passed the Oranges, I can remember my mother turning
to him as we passed the Veteran's Hospital up there somewhere,
'Michael, that's where your father is again, right?' So, I guess this
guy had intermittent treatments or maybe even internments. I don't
know, and I never found out. Adult things.  No one on my block, to
my knowledge, was ever like crazy-military blasted. World War II
was little mentioned. People seemed instead to talk only about newer
things  -  their pools, their cars, their 'memberships' at Holiday Lake, in
Edison. Once everyone began getting backyard pools  -  which about
three-quarters of the people did end up having, that was pretty much
the end for places lake Holiday Lake, which is now a huge industrial
park built by some guy named Heller, after he sold off all the land
for commercial uses instead of pleasure. Holiday Lake used to have
very nice membership decals for the rear-side windows of the
member's car  -  for parking and entry. Very 1950's looking, a
buxomy lady in a one-piece bathing suit, all curvy and
exciting-looking, arc'd on a diving board, ready for the dive.
Member number, permit #, etc. It was kind of a badge of honor
and we never had one, no, but  -  across the street  -  the Yacullos
did. They also had a constant sticker for Lavalette too  -  some
beach membership down there. Life had its certain perks, and
the kind of invisible caste-distinction that was going on, well,
it was really that invisible. It was a big deal for us to just get a
barbecue grille, let alone join a swim club or something. My
father worked, pretty slave-like, as an upholsterer, breaking his back
and fingers with lifting, fabrics, sewing, woodwork, and finishing.
He used to bring home a cash-pay envelope, I well recall, with $125
in it. That did the week, for everything, and for four people. He'd buy
a dollar-a-day worth of gasoline, which would get him back and forth
to Newark, and later Union, for his jobs. For a few years, I remember,
my father was, quite really, the toughest guy I'd ever seen;
muscle-bound and 'strong-like-ox', as the saying goes. He'd lift a
couch, if he had to, and flip it too, with not a second thought.
He'd handle a cinder-block as if it were a brick. 

No comments: