Monday, November 30, 2015


(a writer's lament about where his work goes)
The things on trees are leaves. Without a name, 
I do suppose, they'd still be leaves? How I make 
this business grow escapes me. Just by showing 
up each day, it seems. They've somehow 
gerrymandered my time into their own. It's 
easier like that, I figure. Why fight the oven 
and the blaze when the flames are already soaring?
That man over there  -  see him?  -  he's entering his
big, blue car. In his hands is a pizza box. Probably hot,
it's hard for him to maneuver, and get the keys and
open the door. Lots of magical things together : his
solution, as I watch? He puts the pizza box on the
blue car's roof. Should he then forget about it and
drive off, that would be funny  -  like one of those
cheap sketches on old and barren TV shows.
High above me, as well, is a jet, trailing by  -  headed
out over the ocean. I'd bet, probably, taking people to
London or Paris. That's Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle,
I think, or maybe Orley. I don't know, and I'll probably 
never. That kind of information is like a pizza box I
probably left on the top of some plane somewhere,
and then promptly forgot about as I rode off.
(I hope, wherever it lands, they're hungry).


The Cyclops in the anteroom is waiting for
his dinner : he tries playing cards and checkers
for to pass the time, but knows he cannot see.
Depth perception is lacking, I think the problem
was. And how do you do that anyway, one big eye?
Does it still use a comb in the tumbling mornings?
I remain aloof from such nascent physical problems  -
if I have a dead arm, or an organ going bad, or something
growing where it shouldn't, I'd rather, please, I didn't
know. My distractions aren't earthbound so much as
flying high. Walking the path-field of ancient stars.
Finding the symbols of rectitude and right on the
field-strewn rubbles of enmity and battle.
There are those  - and, yes, I have seen them  -  who'd
not approach a burning altar where people are dying
just because is was the 'place of' some God. A useful
key, one selection among a hundred, but you need
first know the lock. Yes, you need first know the lock.


Yes then, why so cool? What have you got that
you bring to this party? The dipping stone you
are carrying is covered in heiroglyphs, or
haven't you ever noticed? We are lost in a
maze of past messages. The stellae of the
passing moment bear the crown of the 
beating heart. Look how people line up
for what is but a meltable passion.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

7522. BELOW THE WATER LINE, (pt. 88)

(pt. 88)
I'd reckon it right to say I had enough friends
for one lifetime  -  back when I was young; and
mothers, and fathers too. It seemed like everyone
was on the lookout for everyone else  - mothers
watching other kids visiting, feeding them, making
sure they were Ok and got off to home on time.
Fathers would come home and see others; kids visiting
or staying over. Say hi, mingle, fool around some.
There were a couple of signals and whistles in
town, noises that ran over and sort of acted like the
old tolling bell in a town square  - of course these
bells and whistles were all different and all-factory.
Lunchtimes and breaks and shift changes for workers.
It was always pretty weird  -  the big 3pm steam pop
at Philadelphia Quartz, that was always a grand noise.
It was just some great outrush of superheated air that
hit the afternoon with a great sizzling, rushing sound
and left a ballooning white cloud. Always very
impressive. If it wasn't exactly three o'clock, it was
maybe 3:10. I forget. My history and homeroom
teacher later on at the end of Woodbridge High
School, Emery Konick, his father worked in there
for his entire working life. Emery Konick was a local
sportswriter. He wrote a column called 'Konick's
Korner' in a couple of state newspapers. Covered the
local sporting scenes  -  football and baseball mostly.
Nothing real special, just a bunch of local booster stuff
about teams and guys you'd maybe run across on their
way up to 'the Bigs' or something - that's what they called
the major leagues, back in those days when it still meant
something  -  before all the drugs and sex and booze messed
it all up. Most all of it was still white too, need I say. A
disguised racism that ran pretty late into even the 60's,
until at least everyone as one started getting blown to
smithereens in Vietnam  -  didn't matter there what color
you were  -  all the blood there, I'm told, ran red.
In high school, homeroom and all, I hated Emery Konick,
and he hated me. Well maybe just 'detested' is the better word.
He was a gung-ho, super-straight military type, and I was
an addled annoyance of long hair, sandals, old, dirty clothes
and in general the kind of youthful attitude that most of the
rest of the world hadn't yet caught up to, my friends included.
Oh, sure enough, they all would, but by then I was long gone.
I got to be known, in some circles, as the original Avenel freak,
the first hippie, and all that, but it wasn't really true. I still
get it from people, at gatherings and reunions and such. I just
was where my 'was' took me. I didn't much go thinking about
labels and names and adjectives. Because of that, funny thing
too, everyone I ever meet immediately assumes I am and was
a compendium of every catalogue drug and trip that there ever
was. But that's not true at all. I steered way clear, sure to want
to keep my head above me, not so much up my ass, which is
where  -  it seemed to me  -  all the drug people I ever saw
(and I lived with bunches of them) ended up having it. It's
funny  -  sometimes I just deny. Other times I just go along.
I can out-story any real drug-addict bean-pole anytime.
Anyway, it's all dirty business; always was. I hate drugs, and
I hate smoking weed too; 'ceptin as now it's just about the
most free and easy thing you can do now. I still have never 
done it. Too much baggage with that crap. You can probably
even find a cop or a councilman to smoke it with you. Things
everywhere sure have changed. This country sure has gone to
Hell, and it's funny how people now are just so proud of that.
When I was 8 years old, hearing those bells and whistles (there
was a great 7pm war hoop of a town whistle that went off each
evening from the firehouse. That whistle mostly ended and 
set-down our days for us), none of them made much sense.
I couldn't get the significance of the importance of the time
they signified. 7pm? So what, why do they tell you? It's always
7pm when that thing blows off. Why do you need it then to blow
off to know it's 7pm. It was an odd, kid's, circular reasoning, and
it, no matter, made more sense to me than the damned whistle
ever did  -  all these crazy adults, always having to be told things.
Emery Konick's father, I later figured, must have that stupid 3pm
steam whistle every day for 50 years. Like he worked at the
River Rouge Ford plant or something, in Michigan. Thousands 
of soggy workers, limping off to the time-clock. Tough burden.
Emery Konick used to throw me out of school nearly at least
once a week  -  to go get a haircut, go get proper shoes, better
clothing. I even got sent home a few times for 'too much clothing.'
How they knew that was beyond me. I pioneered the layered-look,
way before it was hip  -  mainly because January and February are
damned cold months and walking three miles or so each way to
school meant wearing some serious clothing. (Those pussy-jacked
teachers couldn't take it. One year they walked out on a 72-day
teacher's strike that got them right through the coldest commute
days). I'd have liked to have seen them walking their jerk asses to
school. Years later, when I was at St. George Press and Emery
Konick was a big-wig in the NJ Sportswriters' Association, he
and I would work closely on all the event booklets and awards
and installation programs they ran. We'd kissed and made up by
then, never much talked about which one of us was a bigger
asshole back then. Times, and things, change, I guess. Just a
truce though  -  neither one of us ever really surrendered. As
Bob Dylan later put it (on one of his luckier days) - 'I'm right
from my side, and you're right from yours.'
I never much cared -  one time he called me out in front of 
everyone, pointing at me and saying, using me as an example,
that 'long hair is, basically, for girls.' I felt like standing up and 
saying back to him a few choice accolades too, but my pose that
year was 'passive resistance,' following Martin Luther King and
Ghandi too. (I was a rude, nasty 'sum'bitch' when I chose to be
to be, or could be anyway). War was often run by words. That's 
how infernal high-school wars were run, back in '66. Who needed
Vietnam, for God'sake. Or God and Country's sake, or whatever
they were peddling back then. Country Joe and the Fish, it was,
'Country Joe MacDonald' puttin' it : 'One Two Three, what are
fighting for? Don't ask me I don't give a damn; next stop is
Vietnam. So it's five, six, seven, open up them pearly gates...
be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in 
a box.' Rough times everywhere, let alone the halls of some
seedy high school where no one wanted to be anyway, 
speaking of bells and whistles.
I guess what I was sensing, or saying, was that it was
all over, it was coming to a swift and decisive end. All
my youthful days were a'gettin' done, and done quickly.
The Science-Fiction writer, if you have to call it that, Arthur
C. Clarke, he wrote a book called 'Childhood's End.' It
came out in 1953, before my reading time, for sure. But when
I caught up to it, by Jesus, I caught up to it. I believe in all sorts 
mysteries -  the mysteries of place and being, echo and presence,
intention and desire. I know we're not alone. I know I hold my
God in the palm of my hand each time I reach for my heart, and not
my mind. I believe in lots of things. I believe I'm in every other
person's One Spirit just as much as I believe they're in mine.
And I believe in nothing much at all. And that book, let alone 
the geeks and fakers of a society  back then represented to
me by Emery Konick, was the start of my new time on Earth.
So you might say, I guess, high school was good for 
something after all.


The dregs of this one-day old wine
in the bottom the glass just seemed
to turn into booze. Well, nothing I'd
want to drink. Smells like rotgut to me.
The names of those perished are written
on the side : dead soldiers, coming back
for more grappa. Their blood drips just
like any old Merlot; why do they brag 
so then? Every cause, it seems, wants
always to have its very own vintage.


This gate is past the point of entry 
and I know you shall probably not 
let me in. Shibboleth, unknown; 
I know I can stand  rejection. 
The tables are turning slowly, here 
on Fulton Street. The light of day 
will bring us to ice  -  sooner or later. 
You are standing by the window
making coffee -  all just as you said.
You should know ( I forget to mention),
that there's a certain sort of daytime light
that filters right through the cloth you're 
wearing. Shibboleth, unknown again.

7518. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 87)

(pt. 87)
The old heave-ho of metaphor can always
be brought back from the dead, speaking of
which, Avenel has no cemetery? In and of
itself, that has to tell you a lot about the sort
of place it is, and always has been. This is
the kind of opposite of exclusivity  -  you can
for sure get in here, easily, and, when you're
done, in fact, you can't stay. There are
plentitudes of cemeteries around and nearby;
but when you begin to hear of that little,
secluded, designation of 'place' and quality
by which people say - 'Avenel' was always
wonderful to me, like a small town of old.'
Just stand up and say back : 'Shut up, you
fool. You've got it all wrong.' A good portion
of Inman Avenue is, in fact, buried cheek by
jowl in St. Gertrude's in Colonia. Neighbors
in life are, there, also neighbors in death.
Right near to where my parents are buried
I can do a very small, sideways shuffle-walk
and run into five or six immediate neighbors
who are also buried there. But that's not Avenel.
Remember that. The identity of 'Avenel' stops
with your very last breath. So, breath deep.
In fact, in Avenel, as a dead car you've got an
excellent chance of remaining in town.
Certainly more than as a dead person.
Good joke there, somewhere.
Father Genecki used to tell me his line  -  he'd
go on about how his 'early morning walks' along
Avenel Street made him feel an essential part of a
small, almost New England like, village. I knew
even then it was a crock  - but I never said anything
back. I did look long and hard for, oh, say, a central
town square, a bandstand, a magistrate's office  -
anything. There wasn't. Time was when there wasn't
even a bank. You couldn't send a telegram. Well,
maybe. What I'm saying is how all the usual overblown
rhetoric that gets fed into our heads, we accept it all
when it's made up of things we simply can't prove or
disprove -  like a religion or an ideology, or something.
But as soon as it comes down to a tangible form, like
all the rest of that gibberish, we can disprove it readily,
just by looking around. So, that makes it pretty tough
for lies. I also remember, about 1964 or 64, banners
across Avenel Street, two or three anyway, proclaiming
(Woodbridge had been awarded the designation that year)
'Woodbridge, NJ - All American City.' They flew those
banners with pride, though I never knew why. It was
all part of some hocus-pocus from Lady Bird Johnson,
the President's wife, about 'beautification', as she labelled
it. No highway billboards, no unsightly slag heaps (or
junkyards) along the highway. Probably no trailer
parks and hot-sheet motels either. Oops, forget those
last two.  How in the world Woodbridge, NJ, and then
by extension and by banners, Avenel, NJ, became holders
of an 'All American City' title is beyond me. More rubbish.
There was, first off, nothing 'city' about any of it. To the
opposite : you could never NOT find a parking place here.
There were never hordes and lines of people anywhere.
So, anyway, I never knew what was up, except that all
these people were bunko artists and flim-flam men. The
reason people came here, in fact, was their 'fleeing' the
cities of old and staring here a'fresh. If anyone really had
possessed any good sense, it could have been played up
in an opposite fashion  -  forget that belabored 'city' stuff,
just present it instead as the archetypal American story
line of someone 'breaking' away, going somewhere new,
to start all over, and succeed, or not, on their own merits.
Another interesting thing  -  you couldn't ever find a parking
meter in Avenel. There never was one. Until McDonald's,
and all the rest of that crud, began clogging up St. George
Avenue, you couldn't really get any declared 'fast food'.
When Dunkin' Donuts, in fact, re-seeded itself in the old
Ira Rhodes gas station on the corner of Avenel Street and
Rahway Avenue, I was pretty dumbfounded. The empire of
mass-marketed foodstuffs and the national advertising 
identity that goes with it all, how about that, had landed
in Avenel. Now we've got representatives of every chain-saw,
I mean, chain-store, eatery there is. The two main boulevards
of this grand Parisian endeavor, Rt. One and St, George Ave 
(Rt. 35) are so splendiforously arrayed with all that grand 
City of Light stuff, damn! And not to mention the peculiar 
gastronomic beauties of Avenel Street would be sinful!
After all, I ask you, what man can live in a desert? Who is 
there among us who does not need the prod and push of 
fellow humanity surging past him? Man is not made to 
life in soulless wastelands, after all. Yes. Give me the 
town square always,
When a grand man takes on grand proportions, it's OK.
Everything seems fitting. But when a small person begins
wearing 'grand' proportions, it never works, it goes wrong,
isn't done right, never fits. It's like a bum drinking Grand
Marnier instead of Night Train Express. Calling Avenel  
a small town with traditional mores and observances, 
that's like calling the Avenel Park gazebo a fitting place 
for a Michelangelo sculpture, for an outdoor display
of the Pieta. Go on, give me a break. Call things what 
they are, and just learn, instead, to be comfortable in your
own skin. Humility. Pleasure. Acceptance of the real.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Up in these hills we've only got the sweet things :
mandolins and dulcimers and nothing else uptempo.
We sing of farm fields and hay and silage, and all
that Americana stuff. The guy with the guitar is the
outsider - if he makes a mistake, we'll string him up.
Those hills in the background  -  yeah, those are
where we live. This place is just our meeting hall.


Here I am, basking in Ruminary Square, 
a pat of muffin and a coffee in hand. 
Sitting squarely in the path of nuisance, 
I'm watching that girl come towards me. 
And, My God, don't I wish, who am I
kidding. What use is an old newspaper 
in today's digital world? 
Maybe I'll just sit back instead, think about
butterflies on a warm Autumn day. Where 
have they all gone, and how do they do it?
There's nothing really left here - if you look
for signs of life. I mean, trees are bare, the
leaves blown around, the bushes are empty,
and straddle the ground. Squirrels, flush
to bursting, are collecting their nuts. 
Another Winter's upcoming filch.
The sense of these benches is a sense of
foreboding  -  a dark-colored waiting, some
bad expectation. I should sit here for the
twelve inches of snow to visit? I should 
wait for cold rain and the freeze? Since
I've nowhere to go, it's really now, really,
all disbelief. The suspension of habit,
a presence of grief.


I'm about to put you both in this 
locked cage. Fight it out, in 
whatever manner you choose,
until one of you is dead. How's 
that? What do we call this? Why 
Capitalism, son, and this 
here's our Black Friday.

Friday, November 27, 2015


(pt. 86)
I was always afraid to sit down IN Mike's and
eat there  -  he had a few tables, and people 
stayed about. It was too scary for me  -  these
were insiders, so to speak, regular people who
meant their Mike's business to be 'business.' 
Not for me. I always skedaddled, got that
stuff to go. It's still like that for me anyway.
When I go into any of those Avenel 
establishments  -  pizza, sandwich, coffee, 
candy  -  not that there's that much  -  I get
to urge to not be there. Don't know to say why,
just a feeling. People look at me, yeah, but that's
OK. I realize I don't exactly look normal anymore,
but there's something more than that too. It's like they
know I know them from the inside out. And that's not
always fun, or good. Self-consciousness rears up.
It's hard to explain my position  -  as a writer-always-
outside, as some effete artistic bullshit soul that no one
really understands about  -  I always KNOW I'm not
at full-present, and it seems people can read that.
Sometimes it's like a great satisfaction passes between
us, but it can't go past that. I'm their 'moment', and that's
all. It's the same feeling from 40 years ago at Mike's,
but now there's an adult satisfaction that comes from
sharing an essence with people, even in passing, 
even in an instant. It keeps me calm, satisifed too,
but nervoous as all get-out just the same.
If that don't sound like some windbag sack of fly-shit, 
I don't know what does; but it's meant to be true. And 
rugged too. It's not easy stuff. The easy stuff is 
preaching on Sunday, preaching at weddings and 
funerals, going to special events and saying what 
people expect you to say. That's just riding  the wave, 
that's all. That's the storybook school-teacher or
the old town parson. That's the big, fat, happy, 
cigar-chomping Mayor Old Boy routine. That's easy. 
This is, by contrast, a 'Stranger In a Strange Land' thing, 
that sort of Robert Heinlein routine. I don't know who 
here may ever have read that book, but it's worth a look-see. 
So, go ahead. You can even come back later if you'd
like. Do something first for yourself. Start the process.
I go far back into my memory, and I know a few things: the 
Avenel Post Office is one. I know, historically, before the 
underpass was dug out and all that, the postal office for the
small town was at the quaintly handsome home that tripled
as the train station, the lending library, and the postal office.
Somewhere right where Abbe Lumber is today. Then when
the underpass was dug, all that was lost. The underpass
essentially killed and cut off that entire other side of business-
fronts which once had been along the old straight line of
Avenel Street, where now there's only that really lame, cold
and dank (used to be) all pissed-up underground stairway passage
beneath the tracks. All those stores are dead for a reason. The
town killed itself, killed them, when they by-passed the street
and dug the re-directed underpass. My 1954 memory says that
whenI first arrived here, the postal office was in the location
where, later, Gallo's Barber Shop was. Then it moved into that
building that later, again, became Mike's Sub Shop. Then, into
a new and larger brick quarters  -  actually quite nice, and I
remember it well from about age 14, which would be 1964, 
when my mother took me there to get started with a Social
Security card and the beginning of working papers' processes.
just down the street and next to Metro's  -  the whole mess of
which is, today, some wild form of infant and child day-care,
as is the old Stanziola Coat Factory, next to Mike's, which also,
through the 1980's was Sanford Werfel Studios, an artist, called
Sandy, who was a really nice Jewish guy with an old and long
life history of biblical art on the lower east Side, NYC, and his
wife. This guy knew some arcane shit. We became friends.
Anyway, then it was, by 1968, that the present Post Office,
that usual government-looking structure, was built and still is
in place, funtioning. So that's five post office's for Avenel, by
my reckoning. In one lifetime, that's a lot. Even if it's really 
like a lifetime and a half; you get the picture. 
So, you see here, the gist is that this place has gone through 
some changing, and I was afraid to sit in Mike's. Those are 
the two most relevant points. The other is that, if Avenel had
a river running through it, even in place of the train tracks,
it would have really been cool. The train tracks did the 
same purpose, but they weren't half as interesting as if it
were, or had been, a river. Tracks are all about efficiency.
You can't drift or amble, they have to run on clock-time.
Rivers can be a sleepy and lazy as a turtle on the dirt, if they
want to be, or they can rear up and become a rip-roaring
final terror. There's a real game for you. Anybody can run
a railroad. Hell, the rails do most of the work for you. After
that, it's all tickets and gravy. Rivers take time and bluster, 
and they challenge and twist. A river will rip an oar, for 
instance,  right out of your hands, and break your wrist while 
it's at it. It'll change its course, on a wet whim, where and 
whenever  -  and never take into consideration your clock
or your schedule or your boudaries or wishes either. Ain't
none of that in River-World. Ownership's for railroads.
Later on in  life, after I left Avenel, and after some years,
when I ended up in Elmira, New York, the house I wound up
buying there was from a lady named Jeannie Bollen. She 
was about 40, I'm guessing. Interior decorator, nice little 
business. She'd just re-hab'd the old house, made it up all 
nice and spiffy and design-oriented. Nothing we'd ever 
consider to do, but here it was, already all-done up for us. 
It had all been meant for her, but she was forced into selling, 
and we grabbed it. Really fancy stuff, for us. She'd been 
forced to sell  -  and here's where  this all ties in  -  because 
of the Chemung River. That's the river  that cuts Elmira in 
two, literally. You have the North Side, where real stuff 
happens, and the South Side, which carried a far-lesser
clientele, seedier businesses, crummier houses and poorer 
people. Not that it all mattered much in a place like that  -  
the better class would buy Three Musketeers and Hostess 
Cakes. The other class would get Snickers and Ho-Ho's 
by comparison. Not even Ring-Dings. As it went, she had 
two, pretty wild sons  -  one about 17, and one about 14. The
17 year-old one and his friend had gotton very drunk one day,
rowed out into the Chemung, to one of the little islands out
in the middle of it, and continued drinking. The friend passed 
out, stone-cold drunk. Jeannie's 17-year old son panicked.
Thinking him dead, he walked over to the little shelter they
kept on the island, for themselves, just like some wooden 
lean-to, a boy's thing  -  got the shovel, and went back and,
in that panic, buried his passed-out friend. Alive. And left;
got back in the boat, rowed back to shore, and went home.
When it all came to light, later  -  the friend was dead, the
kid admitted what had gone on, and was in jail, on trial for
manslaughter, involuntary or whatever. She needed all sorts
of money for bail and lawyers and fees and things  -  the 
house was being sold (her pride) to begin the process of
re-paying some of the money she'd arranged for in her
troubles. Just goes to show what a river can do to little
people, and big people too, I guess. If Avenel had had
a river-spine of that nature, it would have been  -  truly,
truly, Paradise for boys, and maybe girls too.


Oh. Because I didn't want. To be me. Anymore.
I changed my self to somone else. I'd better fit
my skin. A stride towards Happiness, some kin
to satisfaction. I want to be. Another. Me.
To better fit just what I. See.


The moon is at my window again, calling 
out about something or other. The part of 
me that wants to listen is not here.
I turn away, only pretending at surprise. Books
are my astronomy now. The stars are in my
hands. A waxing and waning of something.
There's a fenceline to this corner, when it turns and
bends. I do not really know to where it leads.
Perhaps I will someday again.


Intending to find everything in order, I entered this
last room with a thought  -  what if I suddenly
could find nothing at all? The ceiling had leaked
some, since last I was here, a yellowed thin pattern, 
a flow down a flaw. Did not make me happy to see,
that. The reinforced window glass  -  it was that kind
with the wire-mesh embedded  -  resembled nothing
so much as an opaquing and fading of a prison window,
or at least some awful factory scene. The clank and
jumble of the one person elevator faded. The gates 
were shut. I was alone enough to be really alone, and
figured  -  if I smoked  -  this would be the time and
the place for that. Over in the desk-copy area, the place
was dead : no one had lifted a cup or a page in ten years.
I vaguely remembered, about that long ago, Mr Cadkins
always sitting there with his fat cigar. He counted things.
He was always writing in ledgers. Now, he's gone  -  heart
attack two years ago at 71. Too bad. I only heard of it by
asking how he was. Bill Barelly simply made mention.


All the things I do not believe, 
they're in the wagon over there, 
getting harder and harder to pull. 
If there's a glaring omission, I'll 
add it now. I don't believe in you.

7509. HOW'D I GET BY

I hold the reins of some bullshit
stirrup, my hands where my feet
should be : well, that's for sure 
been the story of this life. Where
I wasn't was always where I should 
be. How'd I get by? How'd I survive?
Don't press for an answer 
where no answer be.


Like holding up the stage at Jenkins' Crossing, 
it was that easy to enter the fray :  the guy jumped
down to resist. Nefarious Ned took him out. The
two ladies inside began screaming, Nefarious Ned
slammed them quiet. That was much better. There
was also some preacher fellow and a kid, and a 
young guy, who said he wanted to come with us
instead. He's here now. We ain't named him yet.
We made off with the two boxes  - bank money,
some receipts, and other things  -  all on the way
to Crawford. Got three rifles too, and all the small
arms on the people. Another case held a bunch of
papers, tied with string, - some long, hand-written
stuff. We'll keep it; signed some name Twain.
If you get this letter by Tuesday, try to be to
Kasson Falls by month's end. We'll split our takes 
and make new plans. It looks here to be about 
thirty-eight hundred apiece, if there's five of us 
all together. Not counting that new guy  - don't
know nothing about him yet; but if he's still
alive by then, he'll be with us too.  
Signed. 'Kid

Thursday, November 26, 2015

7507. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 85)

(pt. 85)
One time a plane crashed over Brooklyn, or rather
two planes collided over Brooklyn, and debris, and
bodies I guess, fell down into the city neighborhoods
below. That was about 1960. January 10, 1961, actually.
And some of the bodies (138 people) and debris fell
into Park Slope, Brooklyn, and the rest (other plane)
fell over and into Staten island. Anyway, the time that
happened my father and I were in Mayfair Pizza on
Rahway Avenue, waiting for a pizza to be made. We
were to take it home. The television in the pizza place,
a small TV screen, perched up high over the doorway
and waiting area, had all the reports, and the reporters
and people screaming and hollering about what they
saw  -  the live shots, and all that. It was pretty scary,
and I only grasped a little of it really  -  my mind had
somehow overlooked all the tragedy stuff and had
gotten transfixed, instead, (I remember it well) on
the physics and physical characteristics of the crash
itself : two planes in motion, opposite directions to
each other, meaning of course one was coming in 
and the other was climbing out  -  two different speeds,
one accelerating and the other back-pressuring to slow
the air speed and approach a descend-for-landing speed.
They collided, each with its own forward momentum  -
some things and people landing in Staten Island, and
the others in Brooklyn  -  a few miles apart, maybe
ten, maybe twelve miles, I'd think, at the most. (I 
know, I know, 'where'd they bury the survivors'  -  
that was an old, schoolboy joke, always making the 
rounds). But the aspects of that collision that captivated
my mind surprised me, inasmuch as they were almost
'technical' matters, precise and perhaps even with a
mathematical-force component. I found myself
surprising myself with that one. Everyone else in the
place was oohing and aahing over the dead, the wrecks,
the tragedy, the unknown, talking about their Uncle
Louey or Aunt Theresa in Brooklyn, or whatever  -  all
the human and emotional component. I'd glided myself
right past that, and found myself as a technocrat, computing
arcs and angles, wondering why nothing fell in the water
between the two places  -  all that stuff. It was a momentary
weird thing that stopped me, as myself, short. I found 
myself scolding that other 'me'. I was thinking like rich people
think : facts, cause and effect, cold logic. This was not
that sort of place -  it was old work-class Woodbridge and
Avenel, where people emoted, screamed and wailed. That
was a major class difference I saw. Why was I crossing it?
My friend Denny Montecalvo's family owned that pizza
place  -  formally called 'Montecalvo's Mayfair Pizza. If
memory is intact, it also had a little swim-club thing out 
back, where you could join and use the nice, olympic-type
built-in swimming pool. Very clever, captive pizza 
audience and all that. Inside, everything was weirdly 1950's.
Faux-leather, bright green seats, with rivets and designs
throughout, booths with matching backs, two or three rows
of seating, a bar area, and the pizza-serving area and ovens.
It was quite an operation, and it's still around there  -  without
the pool and the rest. Inside, I don't know. Haven't ever gone
in. Entire name-change and stuff, long time ago. Down the
road, towards Rahway there used to be another pizza place,
by the Maple Tree Tavern, called 'Snooky's' I think. That's 
long gone now too. It's as if a once-wagon-trail has, over time.
been changed over to an efficient and steady highway, with
any and all the weirdnesses just wiped away. I think when 
people worked in places, all around there, they got their 
lunches and stuff and frequented such places. Now -   years
later  -  there's no manufacturing to be found, no lunch crowds,
'no nothing', as they say, except truckers and 
stuff just passing along.
Speaking of which, there really was a time when Avenel had a
thrumming 'town-center' - a place of vibrancy, traffic, and
activity. At shift-change, twice a day, there'd be a cop posted
to direct traffic. The whole street would get clogged up; truck
deliveries, the Rahway Avenue entrance for the really large
ones, and the Avenel Street gatehouse for the smaller. There
was a large parking lot, filled with the swoop and swirl of 1950's
and 1960's cars. High School kids with little prospect of college,
or no interest, or better things on their minds, would take jobs 
there. The greasers and the hoods loved working there. It was
their Harvard! This was General Dynamics, previously named
Security Steel. It's all gone now  -  not so long ago obliterated
for some more of the usual yo-yo magnet condos and apartments
and assisted-rent housing which balances all the other high-end
stuff. They expect outsiders to run to it because it sits athwart
the train station. Great opportunity. For someone. It's all gone
now and just a large, leveled field right now with preparations 
starting for footings and curbs and pipes and plumbing. Only 
the lingering ghosts of what I remember still keeps it in place 
for me. It'll never die. It afforded this rat's ass of a place a 
reason for being. It actually added something to the general 
ambiance of where we lived. No one even ever really 'knew' 
what they made.  No one cared either. They made paychecks. 
Paychecks with free parking to boot. If General Dynamics 
didn't take you in, the Avenel kids always had the GM Plant 
out on Rt. One, just a few miles up, in Linden. Thousands 
worked there, and happily too. Just before them, the chemical 
plant at Merck. There were plenty of jobs  -  and bars and 
sandwich places too. Right outside General Dynamics, right 
across from the main entry gate almost  -  perfect for  the 
lunchtimes and the breaks of the workers, was Mike's Subs.
General Dynamics made electronic tracking systems, or 
something, for submarines  -  but 'Mike's' made the subs.
Sandwiches, that is. He'd have a constant stream a line, in
fact  -  a moving, slow squib of people, moving along to 
get their 'No. 1', or 'No 2' or whatever, He never caught up 
to that stupid modern gimmick of 'naming' sandwiches  -  
the 'Avenel', the 'Hiram' or anything stupid like that. It was
just by number. People ate these things voraciously. I think
this Mike guy was just a Woodbridge High visionary who
saw no future anywhere for himself but in slinging salami
and finding the perfect location. He'd gotten it. He must have
made plenty of money when it was all rolling in. Mike was no 
dummy either. He knew how to draw a crowd. He'd hire a lot
 of the nicest looking local high school girls you could find, or
girls who had just recently graduated or were in some local 
college-type schooling. Anything to get the factory workers 
piled up. Pleasant atmosphere and all that.  Besides the
people always in line, he'd get the smokers and coffee guys on
factory break or lunch, out front, eating, smoking, talking. There
was a bar next door  -  the Roxbury, I think it was then  -  and in
there was the more hardened crowd. The after-work boozers.
Different crowd, more sinewy and weathered, maybe battered
and mean and morose too. Shot and a beer punchdrunks. But I
bet they ate Mike's sandwiches too. General Dynamics afforded
Avenel a vibrant center, of whichever nature it may have been. 
Factory towns -  the large ones, like Lowell, Mass, or Paterson, 
NJ, or even Binghamton, NY, when they lose their industrial
base, things go sour. Look at Detroit for the real extreme. 
Disaster looms. Avenel, while it had General Dynamics, was
able to hold onto some quaint mysteriousness of it own lease
on some errant but tangible reality  -  people coming together,
to labor and to make something together -  and get paid for it,
pleasantly, without all that grief and turmoil and labor-strife.
It lasted a good while, and while it lasted it was good.
Soon to be  -  another collision, this one of cultures, 
and that would begin changing everything.