Sunday, October 4, 2015

7247. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 31

(pt. 31)
Have you ever noticed how the whole world
is a lame brained property deal, people pouring
crap down your throat  -  hucksters and medicine
men hawking and shilling their junk? In the old 
days, in those mid-school texts, we'd read about 
how it was the wagon guys schlepping through
every little frontier and prairie town with their
bottles of elixirs and wonder-cures.  Getting all
those dandy and repressed farm-ladies all fevered
and a'flutter over something  -  suggestively sexual
(it didn't take much in those days, now you have to
'be' there, get right in it, to even care), Cures for
this and that, little queer illnesses with funny names,
ague, dropsy. Now it's everywhere, we actually 
invite them into our homes, and pay for the service 
no less. In Avenel, I always felt, when something
was, it was. No funny names, no nothing. You get
a package, you ripped into it and got to whatever 
was inside it  -  the rest was trash and the garbage and 
got thrown away. Now, especially with all this current 
gay influence everywhere, everybody first has to sit 
around doing their version of 'swooning' over the 
presentation, the packaging, the wrapper, the gift 
card and even the freaking ribbon. The world's pretty
much gone to shit. In Avenel, there was an elderly
lady  -  an old-timer  -  widowed and living alone in
this neat little brick apartment, ground-level place
with a store attached. Right on Avenel Street,
across from the school  -  where there's once really
been a main Street district of sorts before they all
gutted it with the railroad and the underpass.  (see
previous chapter one). She had a 'notions and dry
goods' store. You never hear of that anymore. Now
shopping at 'Gigando's' is all the norm. This was
Avenel's early-on, high-toned little business venture.
Crammed into a very small space were glass cabinets 
and display cases at waist level. You looked down into
them through glass-open tops to see the goods  - socks,
gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, aprons, dish-cloths, etc.
The most very simple concept of 'things' for sale. I guess,
if you had a 'notion' to get something, you bought it. 
That's why they called it a 'notions' and dry goods store.
It eventually disappeared; she died. But she was pretty old
by then. Funny thing, in my family, after I'd come back into
town in my newer guise, the high-school 'I hate everything'
guy, with his eyes only on Art and the sky and getting out
of town again, she caused real consternation in my family
by simply asking my mother, one day after church or 
something, 'what has happened to Gary?', meaning how
come I got so nuts, had degenerated so, had become a
character opposite all that had gone before. As I said in
previous chapters, I'd thrown it all overboard, had changed
my allegiances totally  -  was star-struck on being different,
chasing Art and Philosophy and Literary quests for which
anything else no longer meant a thing. Everything had fallen.
Remember, I'd killed my old self to be sure to move along.
Of course, these old ladies wouldn't understand, would be
aghast. But, anyway, my mother was destroyed, distraught,
that she couldn't rightly answer, that among her own group
of lady-friends and church-models, she had been unable to 
answer. They'd all lost control over me; dumbstruck they
just could gape, completely without understanding. It was
the equivalent, perhaps, of people asking Christopher
Columbus' mother 'what has happened to Christopher, oh
dear'  -  gone away, set off for his own New World.
At about age nine or ten, Jim Yacullo and I  -  Election Day
each year was a day off from school, where the voting
machines were open in the basement areas  -  would 
always stay busy. He had an uncle or something with 
connections in the Voting Commission, or the county or 
the town or something. They would finagle us, for a 
few dollars at the end of the day, to stay out front of 
the center rampway between the schools  -  where people
had to pass to get into School #4's basement to vote -
(it was still, back then, a big, revered civic-duty thing)  -
and jam political flyers into people's hands, or faces.
I never knew the politics of it all, I guess it was 
Democrats, don't know  -  there weren't any of the 
high-toned Republican types much around Avenel. 
The idea was that 'law' stated that we couldn't be
doing this sort of thing any closer, I think it was, than
a hundred feet from the 'polling entrance', whatever
that was really. We ignored that stipulation for sure, and
we'd be certain to ambush people  entering, right at the
doorway. Probably two more annoying brats couldn't have
been found. Never any trouble though  -  no one seemed 
to care. We'd do it until, a few hours later, totally bored.
Then we'd fake it until like five o'clock, cash in, and go 
home, walking down the street with our new few bucks
in hand and never thinking again about who won or who
lost. Such is the politics of moment. I remember one year
the Nixon-Kennedy election, my father's usual fury over
something  - that year he was beside himself, enraged, that
our neighbor  -  right next door  -  Ralph Miranda, who
worked in Brooklyn each day, from where they'd re-settled
to here, at the Schaefer Brewing Company  -  making beer.
Brooklyn at that time was like a brewery Heaven, with all 
sorts of breweries and jobs for people with that industry  -  
the chemist/brewer science level to bottler, labeler, packer,
driver levels. Most all gone now, long ago; though I can still
buy a nice 'Brooklyn Brewing Company' ale (an 'artisan
brewer' now) in my liquor stores here. Anyway, Ralph
put out a lawn sign that year for 'Nixon/Lodge' (Henry
Cabot Lodge was the vice-presidential running mate). My
father went nuts, seeing it as betrayal of all working-class
needs and the whole Roosevelt-basic-America ethos. It
wasn't really, and in fact the 'whole Roosevelt ethos' was
really about as authentically American as quiche, but he 
didn't go there. If I had called him a nanny-state socialist, he
would probably have killed me  -  my own father!
I always like this Ralph guy as neighbor. He seemed younger
and fresher than most other dads along the way here. Out
back, along the long slope of the rear yards, you could even
hit him with a snowball, and he'd laugh, and fire back. I can
recall a lot of good Ralph vs. us snowball shellackings in that
manner. He always drove, his entire family, even the parents
and such who'd visit from Brooklyn, they all drove, like 1955
Pontiacs  -  the big, heavy kind, with the orange Indian, 
Chief Pontiac himself  -  head on the hood ornament. And,
even cooler, the Brooklyn people would visit (this was before
the Verrazano-Narrows bridge too, remember  -  a whole
different trek)  and they'd have these really neat New York 
'Empire State' black and orange license plates! Talk about
exotic. Ralph and Diane had two daughters, younger than
me, but they were, a bit, friends with my sister. Early on, as
neighbor, Ralph had a 'finished' basement  -  it was made 
real nice, bench seats around the wall, a bar, a center area 
for sitting around. I remember one year maybe 1957, maybe 
even '56, there was a Christmas Party held down there. Being
kids, but right next door, we were allowed in, even a little
past the usual bedtime. I remember sitting around, sort of
awed, at all these weird adults and their talk and patter  - 
drinks in hand, milling about, chirping and laughing. It was
all pretty awesome and influential, seeing all that. Adults
sort of had their 'own' world, like we had the Walt Disney
Show, Jiminy Cricket, Mickey Mouse, and Tom and Jerry.
Tom and Jerry was an early TV cartoon. They were my 
favorite TV characters. There was another cartoon show I
loved too  -  as I recall it, 'Farmer Grey'  -  they were all
stick-figure characters, crazy-drawn people, and their
skinny little stick-figures would hide behind crazy little
stick trees and things. Only occasionally, while hiding, you'd
see their head or nose or eyes peer about. It was fascinating.
Neater yet, it was simple black and white, no color yet, for
years, and in between that was 'gray', as in 'Farmer Grey!'
Amazing shit, to me.
I never really knew the home life of the other kids on the 
block, the ones I played with. It seemed everyone was the 
same, but everyone was somehow different too. That sounds
dumb, and cheap, but I mean it right. Telltale signs. Like
doorbells  -  we never used it. Other houses used it all the 
time, had chimes instead of bells, and such. That was a clue
to an almost 'cultural' difference. My friends, Kenny and
Christine Kaisen, for God's sake they got the TV Guide,
delivered, no less, at their house! Their father worked in New 
York City, at a Belgian Chocolate Company (Droste 
Chocalatier). He drove a new Oldsmobile Holiday, 1956. 
Their mother worked at Bamberger's. That was freaking 
HIGH culture! More on them later, and that car.

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