Sunday, September 27, 2015

7217. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 20

(pt. 20)
One of the best things I always kept to myself was
the feeling of first walks in the snow. Much as the
archetype of early and tribal man is the single  -  lone
and solitary  -  man setting out upon uncharted lands to
see what's there, so too I would re-enact that each Winter
snowfall. All along the to-me-then-vast prison-farm 
fields, and the railroad areas, which could be walked
singly all the way up to the Rahway train yard, 2 or 3
miles up- never a footprint in front of me, the wide,
white expanse  -  if it showed anything  -  showed
bird or pigeon feet, tracking along, or perhaps a
rabbit print, that funny drag step rabbits leave in
the snow. Not much else  -  I was always the first.
I'd leave evidence-tracks of myself everywhere, 
walking the perimeters, cutting through and over 
things, and the rest. Until  -  usually  -  I just got cold
and frost-numb enough to give it up. I found there to
be the 'white' of snow, the 'blue' of snow, and even an
'orange' of snow   -  all reflected colors from the varied
and changing aspects of the world around me  -  dusky 
or bright sunlight, the harsh, white snow-sun of the cold 
windy days. Painterly apparitions, everywhere. Shadows
that were not black : blue maybe, but not black. There
was nothing around me to compete. I do not really know
what the prison-schedule for field maintenance was for the
Winter months, but apparently it would all stop. Out in the
farther reaches of the field areas, nothing was ever disturbed, 
and I learned to be able to aptly measure the snowfall by the
level of its coverage of the corn stubble. Big storms just left
nothing to be seen, but my favorite was the 'almost or barely
covered' storms, which left wavy, ocean-like rises and swirls
on the snows just covering what was below and still reflecting
the shapes and varied heights. 
During the war years, actually only some 10 years past, 
remember, my mother, from Bayonne, was one of those 
Rosie the Riveter gals, females on the home-front working
in the factories and jobs left by the men who were away. She
just always said she 'worked in the defense plant.' I don't know
what that meant, nor did I ever find out what she 'did', in fact.
But, during her work time, by whatever means, she managed to
get her right-hand middle finger mangled and cut off. All she
had there was a short-stump remaining. Her big visual joke was
to put that stump to her nose so it would appear then that the 
finger itself was (perhaps) in her nose. A real nose-picker
joke, by Mom. 
Funnier yet, about 1958, some 12 years later again, my father  -
as I said, an upholsterer  -  was working a power band-saw one day
and, at work, simply zipped right through his thumb. Yes, his thumb,
or 90% of it anyway, was on the floor. He claimed to have not panicked,
to have simply bent down and picked it up. Others came to his aid,
and he went to the hospital. He said he'd thought to just hold it back
in place, but it was no good. So, he too had a stump, his being the
thumb. If one, in life, has to find a mate, I guess there's nothing better
than two nine-fingered people. He was bandaged up big time, on
that hand and thumb area for a while, but that's all I remember, as,
from that point, he just went on in a most normal fashion after
it all healed. 
I mentioned Dr. Homer and the sick room. On those days when we
were home from school, sick, we'd be put in the parents' bedroom. I
remember the intense boredom I faced. There was nothing there except
a radio, which just had always too many adult people just yapping on, 
singers crooning hideous songs about love or broken hearts or longing,
and not much else I could ever find. I do remember, once, the joy of
hearing 'Mack the Knife', by Bobby Darin, and enjoying that tune -  
later learning much more  -  mostly because of that  -  of Bertolt
Brecht, Kurt Weil, Lotte Lenya, the Threepenny Opera, by John
Gay, The Beggar's Opera (it's plebeian version for the masses, a
stage-play) and the films made of all this. Nice introduction. The
only other thing there was a huge, 'Family' Bible  -  the kind with
lines and blanks to keep filling in all the information as the family
grows  -  kid's names and dates, milestone occasions, as all that. This
book was huge, thick, heavily leather bound and the gold-gilt on the
pages' edges would come off on your hand. A young kid like me,
yes, associating it with the riches and wealth of all the biblical
kings and Solomon and all the rest, somehow haphazardly assumed 
this to be a real and valuable Biblical Gold, of intense worth, now
rubbing of on my own paltry hands. Some people never washed
their hand, back then after shaking Elvis', to me it was much the
same with the biblical inversion of the ages. However, as much as
I tried, the reading of the bible could not hold me. All those queasy 
lists of names and lineages and begats. That begins pretty quickly
after you get through the beginnings of the Genesis stuff, and it 
always bogged me down. My favorite was Genesis 6, where the
Bible quite blatantly talks of the 'alien' beings coming down to
Earth, finding the Earth women attractive, having intercourse with
them, founding the Earth races, and then being chastised for it,
and damned. Then they go into, a bit later, all those names and
family lines  -  I just knew they were up to something in that big
outside world : something I didn't like nor wish to partake in. 
They were trying to make these birth-line connections so the 
'reader' would then somehow be convinced (later on) that their 
guy was a valid messiah, or whatever, with all the right family 
connections, even though at the same time they  -  at the other 
end  -  downplayed all that and made sure you knew he was but 
a humble carpenter, living poorly, getting shuttled around, by 
two lowly parents, even though he actually had three parents, 
one of them being the 'other' Dad, curiously named God. Forget 
about the poor, old Joseph character, banging his wood and 
cutting his boards. I often wondered how many fingers he had,
and if God would have just re-attached his thumb for him, out 
of kindness, or at least as a favor for kin, and since he could.

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