Thursday, October 15, 2015

7295. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 43

(pt. 43)
I guess to counter all the street-gang and
bad social-group stuff, and its effect on
teens, the nearby catholic church, St. Andrew's,
had what was called CYO : basically a religious
maniac's idea of countering, if any idea at all. It
was akin to, some years later, about 1968, when
society itself produced some hideous movement
called 'Up With People.' To oppose the nasty
and dirty hippie movement, there would be there
deliciously putrified groups of gingham and
clean denim kids rolling around the country  -
all parts had them, squeeky-clean, farmgirl
dresses, bright happy fellas  -  and they'd sing
for two hours or so at rented grange halls, Elks
and Moose halls, VFW's, school assemblies, you
name it. It was the equivalent of any other form
of East German or Communist, or NAZI propaganda
groups, not that different from Hitler Youth being
sent around to sing the Horst Wessel song everywhere.
The equivalent, for us, say, of having the Lawrence
Welk singers go around singing 'I Can't Get No
Satisfaction.' Completely ridiculous. Songs of uplift
and social-happy swagger have always made me
blanche at what I was hearing. Whoever dreamed
up 'Up With People' was most certainly a Great Society
nitwit. My friend, Joe, and I, in any one of his cars,
would be driving around to any of the oddball, little
crap towns around, 'looking for adventure, in whatever
comes our way' and see the signs for an upcoming 'Up
With People' appearance or songfest, advertised on a
pole or a signboard somewhere, places like Elizabeth,
Hillside, Asbury Park, or Keyport  -  any of those great
Central-Northern towns dotting the pale hide of NJ  -
and just want to go home and get a rifle. It was right about
then that I knew 'Society' was beginning to find again its
own ways of re-tying that strap which once had held
things tight. It had recently begin to fray, and they wanted
it all back place. This isn't to say Avenel was oblivious
either. I don't remember that there was ever any presence
of the 'Uppers', as we called them, but they did show up
on Woodbridge once or twice. The Woodbridge Elks was
a real schlockfest of that stuff. I forget where they were
located then  -  they built a big new Elks Hall on Rahway
Avenue about 1970 or so. But they were always running,
through the 1960's, really bad, patriotic stuff  -  essay
contests, $50 winnings, bonds, even occasional bits
of 'scholarship' things  - like they knew  -  about crap
such as 'What American Means To Me', or 'What It
Means To Be An American'  -  stuff like that, real
school-tinged malarkey. They'd advertise in the
local schools, have tryouts, the newspapers would
go along for the ride, cover it with a photo and story,
and some lucky, dweebish kid, parroting the words
needed, would be dragged up on stage to get his or
her prize and then get to actually recite that maudlin
schlock before an audience of  -  probably inebriated  -
adult nitwits, who would pound the flags and tables
to prove their case that America was right. Two years
later, the dumb asshole would be in Vietnam, recalling
all he'd said to win his 50-dollar bomb. Yeah, that was
then; this is now?
Right where that Elks Hall is now, right next to it, on
the side towards Woodbridge, about 1968 or 9, there
a little square house; small, a nothing really, just a
box-house to live in, the style called 'Cape Cod' for
whatever real-estate reasons they call such. It was for
sale, and me and my girlfriend were really interested
in buying it; we were always scouting places, were we
to remain there, after marriage, and all that. Anyway,
this was a long time ago and house prices were in no
way comparable to today's numbers. We were pretty
good at the market estimates, from having seen lots of
houses. What I'm about to retell, by the way, happened
to us twice and is indicative of the way this area of
industrial (once) central Jersey was beginning to turn
over and be influenced for the benefit of commercial
and warehouse uses : 'clean' industry, as it was called -
by any of 100 lame real estate people who had taken
over the essential interests of Woodbridge and environs
by then  -  the Walter Zirpolo, Robert Jacks, Ralph
Barone and Dick Bassarab and Ernie Dragos and
JJ Elek types, the whole bunch of rats who are still
around today under different names, doing the same
thing. This small house was worth, by market, maybe
about $14,000, tops. It was shrubbed and wooded
nicely, had a rear fenced yard, somewhat isolated
and one could be kept alone. What always happened,
of course  -  and this also happened to us along a place
near Scotch Plains called Bonnie Burn Road, a
hill-road which ran up into the Watchungs, (a chain
of local hills, a dividing geography of coastal from
inland, off the other side of Plainfield and Rt. 22), and
where  another desirable old house, for us  -  was that
we'd call or show up at the real estate office, expecting
to be able to see a 12 or 16 thousand dollar home, and
be told, instead, 'we're sorry, that area's been zoned
commercial. The listed price is $60,000.' ($60,000 was
a real ton of real-estate money back the, yes. And this is
God's-honest truth, and it continued to happen. Avenel.
Woodbridge, Colonia. Warren. Watching. Scotch Plains.
Once the evil-doers in the town-halls, of course with their
hands out for payoffs, percentages, and the rest, got what
they wanted, the zoning and variances were changed and
accepted, in the expectation of big-time payoffs. Point of
fact was, often, they were the very ones who  -  knowing
these old farmlands would be broken up, lots and acreage
subdivided, etc., - secretly in the know, they themselves
would go about buying it up cheaply, at their depressed,
fire-sale prices, and then reap the whirlwind of dough
after re-zoning came through. I ask you, why else would
any moronic workaday guy, outside of vanity and ego,
get involved in local politics? I saw this often in the
printing industry later, as I worked for the guy who
pretty much ruled some of the commanding real-estate
rackets in town, along with a local dentist doing the
same  -  in fact, one day, between them, they swapped*
and flipped some property. Both came away, literally,
believe me because I was taken to lunch that day in
the celebratory mood of these two clowns  -  they
came off with an instant, and I mean instant, by the
flip of a pen, $850, 000, plus the new commercial
values of the land in their (now switched) possession.
One became a dental clinic building, with all the other
land, to this day, rotting, vacant, and fallow and bare,
around it; and the other (the old Avenel Shop-Rite, in
fact, became the most disgusting-looking, bunker-like
'professional' building along Avenel Street, filled with
a few pathetic, third-tier business fronts. At one time
a massage place doubling as a sex-front business, and
another dealing abortion supplies called 'medical
equipment, back when. What was an Avenel boy to
think? My lessons from all this were many, and were
burned into my head. This stuff was my Harvard. And
I have plenty more to tell should I. So just keep sending
me that payoff money, boys, and I'll remain quiet.
The CYO was for geeks, let's face it. They'd have lame
dances, girl cannot touch boy, but dances nonetheless.
God forbid teen sexuality; it never entered those doors.
There be a couple of fleet-footed garage-band locals,
struggling through 'Telstar' or 'Barbara Ann' or whatever
gimmick song they could mimic. Girls would be all
screechy, and boys would try, just try, to reach that
point of 'dig me, I'm like Elvis, I'm alive' level  - (this
was all before 'pop' and the Beatles-breakout), another
to get a kiss or a feel maybe, from someone outside. Local
mothers (mine too) from 'Sodality' (another weird name and
concept) would be brought in as chaperones (Avenel had no
nuns then, of its own  -  of any, they'd import those fleabag
nun wastrals from Sister Josephus's place in St. James Church,
Woodbridge. These mother-chaperones, I'd say, fairly outdid
even the nuns in their fierce repression of boy-girl stuff.
it was inane always. It was sick, actually. Totally bizarre.
There were priests around too, but they didn't know how
to do anything about this stuff except flirt with the mothers.
Can anyone here believe living and growing up like this?
*Names left out. You want the names, send me money.

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