Saturday, October 10, 2015

7276. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 39

(pt. 39)
You might say, looking at it all now, in retrospect,
that I may have always been perhaps a tad too
sensitive for the life I led. I always shied from
conflict, tried to be exquisite and diplomatic
instead, formulating some middle way to get
out from the battering of heads. But not always.
I had a friend, Alex, who  -  during our late youth  -
at school bus stops and such, was always getting
himself punched around, by the usual muscle-bound
weenies who'd saunter around and do such stuff, for
things he'd be heard saying or for some of his 
preposterous statements or insistent stances and
poses. Inevitably, I'd get stuck in the middle, trying
to bail him out and stop the pounding, and get mixed 
in with it myself. One time, in fact, by appointment,
in lieu of Alex getting bashed around, I stood in for 
him at the appointed hour to go fisticuffs with some
creep named Clifford Gary  - a regular bully, a tyrant,
and a mean son of a bitch. Always in my thinking was
that, by just showing up and going at least 'good' at it
for a few minutes, which I did, there'd be someone
around, in authority (schoolgrounds, churchgrounds),
who'd step in, stop the muddle and, thusly, bail me 
out while letting me, at the same time, stand my 
ground and look noble, or good, or strong  -  none 
of which I was. I'd learned long before that it was
all claptrap, a clown show, and there were always
ways around the ending. Yes, just like life.
One time, at a Catechism or Confirmation class or
something, with Sister Josephus ( what a repressed
asshole she was), we were kept pretty late, well, until 
after 5:30pm anyway  -  and, in a racket at the back
of the church we all suddenly heard this loud, 
booming voice yelling out : 'What the Hell are you
people still doing here; get my kids home now, 
you've no right to keep them here after suppertime. 
When I come home, I want to see my kids there, 
and sit down and eat  -  none of this church stuff!' He
was incensed, loud and...drunk. It was Clifford Gary's, 
and his sister's, father. He and Sister Josephus, who began
babbling back at him as if he were just another stupid
12-year old under her tutelage began and argued and
were yelling  -  but the kids were let go, we had to
hear some resultant half-lecture crap from her, as if
we'd done something wrong by having him breach
God's Inner Sanctum. She was an idiot, and nothing
anyway made any sense. This lady somehow led a
stupid life that equated discipline and rigor with 
Religion. She could have it for all I cared.
On my street, at something like #135, lived the Napoli
family. Nice people. I enjoyed my time as friend to
Ron, who was my age. Ron had a garage, which had 
installed upon its face, attached, a nice basketball
hoop and backboard. Perfectly aligned, right 
dimensions and all that. For one or two Falls and 
Winters, it was a regular after-school stop for some
6 or so of us boys  -  we'd have sides, 3x3, and play
good hoops for an hour or so. Ron had an older
brother, Richard, and an older sister, Linda. They 
were each about 8 years older, I guess, roundabout,
than us. Both right then were intense Rutgers people,
college students. Richard, in fact, embodied for me
the perfect image of Joe College back then. He had
all the right earmarks of the usual gung-ho college
guy  -  while Linda, a student there also, a year or
two behind him, was, by comparison, shy and
quite reticent.  One day, to my chagrin, I came
across Linda and Richard, sitting on the porch-
steps out front as I arrived for basketball. Linda
was crying her eyes out, and Richard was berating
her. I was embarrassed for the scene, and from what
I heard of it she'd evidently asked a question about
not being able to get a boyfriend or a date or something
of that nature at Rutgers -   her brother was ripping
into her : 'Why should you? Look at you! Who'd want
to go out with you! You're fat, sloppy, look at the 
way you dress! What's the matter with you...' It
went on. He had such a superior and haughty air
over her, and she was crying so, just sitting there,
taking it, that my own heart went out to her but I
knew there was nothing I could do, and I probably
wished, as well, that I'd never heard or stumbled 
upon, this scene. It just seemed unfair, and wrong.
If that was 'college-air' I'd want none of it. Linda
was no beauty, no, but who is, and then who'd want
to be anyway? What's it matter, and how stupid can
one get? Or have to get, for that matter?
Another interesting Inman Avenue thing I began 
noticing  -  just from being around and familiar with
everything  -  was how each household held certain
themes or traits in common. To myself, I began
referring to it as a 'Mother-house', or a 'Father-house'.
And it was interesting : each house, the family, the
way they went about things, the kids, the whole thing,
was either, let me say, 'Mother' or 'Father' oriented.
You could tell, by the way things were done, the rules
and manners they lived by, There were different
dominances  -  some of the houses, in fact, I very
seldom even saw the father. Others, the mothers
were always on the run. Maybe it was all in my head, 
but I swore I could tell, because of that, how and why
the kids were as they were. My house was, most-definitely,
a 'Father-house', and it always stayed so.
The last thing I want to mention here is another reference
to the 'toys' that were around then, only two or three I've
mentioned  -  actually there were plenty. Another one was
something called (it came out pretty late in the game),
'Etch-A-Sketch.' They were pretty interesting  -  not for
what they were - a rectangle of plastic. I remember red
plastic, and a screen, with two knobs at the bottom, 
each end, with which you manipulated the path of 
a line of lead or some drawing apparatus thing either
'up' or 'down', to draw fairly primitive pictures  -  which
were erasable to by just shaking and turning over the
whole unit. Usually, something like this I would have
laughed off and heaved away  -  but this was different
to me, in that I suddenly found it representing a far
deeper aspect of 'something' personal. I don't know
how I got to that point, and it's difficult here to try 
and explain  - but I'll just run right through it and 
leave: this toy, like Life itself, presented the idea of
things being straight. Lines that went up, or lines
that went down. Right angles (just like all those
horrid metal right angles of the Erector Set metal).
You were 'presumed' then top be on a mission of
making something by the use of those lines. A 
difficult task at best  -  very rigid idea, very tight
thinking. I found, and was captivated by, the idea
that, with Etch-A-Sketch and with Life too, there
was a precise and fine and achievable point whereat,
using those knobs, skillfully, albeit with great care,
the rigid up and/or over straightness of that 'line'
could actually be utilized to make a curve. You 
could not just make the square and angular lines 
of that house, but if you really knew what you
were setting out to do, and did it sternly and
conscientiously, those knobs, somehow in
conjunction with each other, could actually
get you a curve, maintain an arc. That
HOUSE actually could have a dome!

No comments: