BELOW THE WATER LINE
People who walked around in robes always
pissed me off - I mean just regular people, the
ones you'd run into when you went to their house
or something - a mother or a father, in a robe, usually
a cigarette dangling somewhere, head in a wrap, if it
was a mother. As if the whole world was waiting for
their squalid leisure time to end before it could get
started with anything. Robes really annoyed me -
pretentious, heavy fabric, putting out some 'look
what I bought' signal about disposable income
or such. That stupid tie-wrap belt thing that was
supposed to hold it shut, with the little flip-knot
that people did. Like a latter-day porno star. A
robe is a massive poser's indulgence, and to be
parading around in one - well, it really bugged
me. Let alone the priests and wizards and Grand
Marshalls, whose militant-station clothes were also
called 'robes.' My opinion? Avenel should have
passed a law outlawing robes the first day it started.
Like that hermit I wrote about at the beginning -
one set of well-served khakis and a pair of boots, that
would do it right. The world can go to Hell. 'You don't
like the way I look? Here, take this. Pow!' Andy Warhol
went to China in the 70's, I think it was, and took all these
crazy pictures of China-people, all dressed alike, everywhere,
plodding around in their little weird Chinese work-suits.
Then he put together a little book called, 'Quotations of
Andy Warhol' or somesuch, in which he writes about the
burden of clothes and clothes-changing and fashion and
styles and how he'd like it so much if there was only one
sort of clothing and everybody looked alike and wore the
same thing everyday. Kind of cool - though he never
took a stance on the 'robe' issue I was drumming up.
One of my favorite things was the metal scrap-yards at
the end of Inman Avenue, when it turns over the Leesville
or Randolph or whatever it is, before eventually turning
back again into that other Inman Avenue that runs up
through Colonia and out to Plainfield. There used to be
a little pipe shop there, the Joe Kump fellow I mentioned,
who carved briar-wood into these really nice pipes to smoke
with. No one much smokes a pipe anymore, even the posers
who want to be swank - the world generally now hates that
stuff and shuts it all down. Whatever. Next to him now (his
place is all gone) is this very cool little small-engine-repair
- shop, called A&A, I think. The guy's name is Andy, and
since he's the only one I ever see there, I don't think there's
another Andy to account for the other 'A'. But, who knows.
He's always so busy and so solitary and so fine at work, in
his open-front garage, in good weather, with all the work
and tools and taken-apart stuff out in the open while he
works. Anyway, all these guys, and the scrap-yard guys,
together, they represent a little of that feeling - dour,
work clothes, smudged and nicely-used, not caring about
anything except getting their daily work done. Kind of
how it should be. All your messy finery and nice cuts
and fancy-crap fabric, well, any Bluto who doesn't do
anything real can wear that stuff. I'm with these guys.
For boys, local urchins, wild boys, whatever, we'd haunt
these junkyard places like they were home. Everything was
simpler then - no security stuff, no cameras, not even guys
lurking around ready to bash your head for trespassing. We'd
all and always heard about the proverbial 'junkyard dogs' who
be lurking about just ready at any point to lunge and rip our
balls off if they had a chance, but we never even saw any of
them - once or twice some feeble-pet-type yap-dog on a chain
would make a nose or something. But that was totally harmless
and fun too! Who didn't like a supposed killer-dog rolling
over and asking for its belly to be rubbed? Real security.
We'd just run in through the tracks, entering around a
back or a side, who ever knew, and there'd be rows and lines
of old trucks and cars, almost as if just parked there awaiting
us. None of that 'computerized inventory' crap like they have
now at Leesville Auto Wreckers and All-American Auto
Salvage - to name just two of the nowadays names that
such businesses have turned into - these vehicles just sat.
If you wanted a carburetor, you unscrewed it, even maybe
hoping to salvage the gasket too. If you needed a generator
(no alternators yet then) you unbolted it while you checked
out everything else there around it. We used to flip up a
hood, and check things over to our heart's content. No
pressure - and I don't even know why but never any people
either. There were a few lines of tanker trucks and things,
and we'd flip up the top-hatches and climb in, down into the
chambers which used to carry the oils or fuels or whatever.
They were like submarines. Very cool. Provided the latch
didn't somehow flip back down and, perhaps, lock tightly
on us. We'd be dead in a few days inside there. We'd smoke
cigarettes (I've already mentioned all this), look at 'magazines'
(hint, hint), talk big, act cool, and just scamper around all these
beautiful hulks of things : steel, metal, glass, cars, wheels and
tires. The big mouths among us would expound on the usual
know-it-all things they claimed to know - about tires, about
cars and engines, horror-stories of junkyard disasters, about
girls or about their sisters and stuff. Crazy boy shit.
Essentially, the tracks got us anywhere - they were a straight
line vantage into or out of all sorts of otherwise restricted areas.
Along the tracks, the kinds of business that were huddled were
always dirty businesses - fuels, and oils, metal and cars, even
dirt-haulers and dump-truck stuff, small repair shops, machine
shops. There was even a blacksmith - until I forget when.
Tinsmith, black-smith, metal worker, what they called their job.
Ornamental steel, curves and swooshes. Really neat stuff.
No one disliked us for being around either - they'd wave or
nod or start small-talk with us. No one minded. Now, of course,
it's all different - as I said, guards and cameras and gates.
Either that or welfare apartments of tacky projects crumbling
down into the despair of other races and people I can never
understand. And a few car-washes now too. Car washes!
In 1959 who ever even heard of car washes? Except maybe
in California-fantasy magazines where - just like those
crazy drive-through funeral parlors - people worshiped
their stupid vehicle like it was the mobile ark of the covenant
way before Indiana Jones ever had it, and then drove by to
say goodbye to their Uncle Moby or Aunt Alice with one
last wave from their car. I never saw any 1953 Dodge getting
pushed through any silly car-wash around here - that was
pretty much the only kinds of vehicles you'd see. Stuff not
worth washing, mostly. So, that's how it went. No commerce,
no money - we did most everything for free; and with no
one stopping us or no one complaining about us either. If
someone had told me, or us, that we lived like tramps, or
white-trash, or whatever hillbilly term someone would
use back then, we'd not have understood. Yeah, I'd guess
we were poor, and probably dumb and stupid too, but I'd
have never traded my life for anyone else's I ever saw.