BELOW THE WATER LINE
I mostly had an easy time of things, growing up.
I mean I had my problems, but I was usually aloof
enough so that the kinds of things that twisted the
others all up never really bothered me. I always felt
as if I was writing a play or something, and I'd think
to myself, about others, or about a newcomer, 'Hey,
did I make this guy up? Is he one of my creations,
or does he now come with the territory?' Yeah, makes
a difference; you see, I had to live with these people,
even more than they had to live with me. So, eventually
I just disappeared; which I'll get to. The body-mind is
always at work trying to get things to work for the
harmony of the Spirit-mind, which is always present
and far better and stronger than the crud of everyday
existence - if you're strong enough to catch the
difference between the two. That's when things
really get rolling. Just think about how many old
people you see who've just been that way forever.
They've given it all up, just to stay pleasant and happy.
Not me; I figured I'd eventually go down spitting,
choking if I had to, on my own spittle. Like a horse
untamed, one which can't quite be broken -
'Careful, that horse is a real spitter.'
It's funny how the mind remembers things. I can
almost pinpoint the when and how of the things we
did - kids, together, without much pre-planning, just
letting things fall into place, the outcomes to be what
they may. Like wrecking those houses as they were
being built; smashing the snake-heads on solid rock.
Never much thought, just plowing onward. Out to the
end of Leesville, there was a huge, grand Masonic Temple,
just a big, crazy old house, probably some founding
Rahway mansion or something once owned by a local
wealthy industrialist - Rahway had tons of that stuff,
with all its factories and storehouses and mills. That
house had long ago ceased its functioning as a residence
and had been turned into the grand meeting-place, lounge,
and headquarters for most of the black people down there
at the river's bend. The one's I've made mention of on fishing
days - poor, happy, southern, with broken down cars on the
front 'lawns', with cans and tires and swings and barrels all
around. Fire pits. Tables. These were Summertime people;
they lived outside. I don't know what they did all Winter,
'cept maybe go into the Mason House and just sit around.
It was great in there, other-worldly, and we, as kids,
weren't even black (aren't now either, but you know what
I mean). These cool people took us in, me and Jim Yacullo,
who I can remember most, we'd walk out that way and
eventually be noticed, looking thirsty or tired or something,
and they'd ask us in. Just friendly like - this was long before
any of the trenchant militarism and Black Power stuff that,
mixed with white hatred, made 1964's race-relationships
afterwards so harsh and tedious. No one here cared; we
were just kids, might as well have been neighbors. (I want
to write 'Neighbro's', which is a coinage I always wish I'd
made up back then, took a million bucks from, and sold the
rights of to some Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton type geek).
Inside, there was always something cooking, enormous (and
soiled) plush armchairs, cans and bottles, rags and towels.
Wizened old men sat around, just staring, or trying to smile.
You knew they were thinking of some other age, and some
other place, in a version of 'where they'd been before this'.
It was stupefying, and they mostly seemed like a million
years old. It was always like, 'I like this. Wish I lived here
instead.' The ladies were fat and loud too, swoony - like
one of those maids or something in 'Gone With the Wind'
or any of those old movies with swooning black mama's
in them. Amos n' Andy, Big Bertha, Aunt Jemima,
pickaninnies (which we always laughed about on the walks
home - 'which one would you want, Jimmy, the left one
or the right?'). Then later in life, when I found out there was
a Picatinny Arsenel, in New Jersey, it got even funnier.
Out back of this mansion there was a large picnic grounds,
but the only picnics and outings ever held there were for
like a hundred black people. We were never let in; in fact
it was exact to the white man's version of the same thing, all
those outings and large-grove picnics held at the Maple Tree,
by the First Aid Squad and the Firemen's groups. It never
mattered. They sure knew how to have their fun amongst
themselves. And living on the river, like that, as they did,
right astride it - they were naturals. Overhung with dense
trees, shady outcrops, places to sit and wile away the time.
All that's gone now as, over fifty years the engineers and
the governments have come through and concrete-channeled
everything for flood prevention and roadways and such.
All their 'hugging the water' houses are gone too. Seems like
everything colorful - even the people - have been
spread away, broken and dispersed. Great Society, War
on Poverty, all that. The only 'War' they ever made on
poverty was 'against' the happiness that it sometimes could
actually bring. Now they depend on everyone being as
miserable as possible so as to push along their dependency
and rigorous attention to detail so as to pigeonhole and
harass people everywhere, and call it happiness. Go figure.
You're not supposed to even get in your car nowadays
without first strapping everything up, kids, horses, dogs,
grandma's, everything, so they don't go flying around and
get hurt - but what they don't tell you is that what'll really
hurt you, if you're not strapped back solid, is the really
nasty punch in the face of their stupid-ass airbag thrust at
you, which will break noses and teeth like a hammer. Go
figure that one, while you're at it. The safety measure
implemented wind up being the things you have to be
You know, a kid just wants to sometimes say,
'what the fuck?', but can't. It gets tough.