Sunday, November 1, 2015

7378. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 60

(pt. 60)
One year I can remember, I guess it was perhaps
1959, a Christmas Eve spent, for whatever reason,
going back and forth, up and down the block, my
sister and myself, to the Kaisen household, about
10 or 15 houses up the street, or down, whatever  -
to the direction of Abbe Lumber's end. The idea
was somehow that  -  the bring the real joy of
Yuletime forth, we'd dress as Christmas things
and go spend the evening showing them our
costume changes. Don't ask me, as I really have
no idea of what was going on, nor where either
Kenny or Christine were and why they too weren't
doing this stupid trick with us. Whichever year it
was, I recall it being quite balmy out, as we simply
walked back and forth, a few times anyway as the
long night entered towards its midnight stage.
Another year, by contrast, when I was perhaps
9, I can remember (again, totally bizarre and out of
character for me) coming home  -  it was early dark
and quite cold, probably about the 12th or so of
December, and seeing that my mother had the
inside of the house newly completed with all the
usual Christmas decorations  -  little creche, the
lights, the angels and candles and wreaths and the
tree, as well  -  and I remember commenting to the
effect of 'Wow, how nice. Now all we need is the
Christmas music.' Which crack, of course, brought
on the Christmas music  -  in this case, to my memory,
a constant replaying, perhaps 10,000 times of the
'Little Drummer Boy' 45 my mother had, on the
record player. I guess it had a 'replay' or something,
because that it sure did. Superseding my usual
Officer Joe Bolton and his 'Three Stooges' nightly
presentations and dumb commentary. Officer Joe
Bolton was like some fake NYC policeman, in a
uniform, real or not, and standing in place, twirling
a nightstick, he'd expound about the episode about to
be played, or talk about the episode just shown. Little
insider notes about why Shemp, and not Curly  -  two
replaceable characters on the Stooges. Moe and Larry
always remained the same, but for whatever reason there
was a bit of drama with the Curly character  -  a guy named
Shemp, and another guy named Joe Besser, stepping in,
in varying episodes, as the 'new' Curly. Though Curly was
the best and  -  to my mind  -  irreplaceable, and possessing
the certain quality the Three Stooges needed to actually
be the Three Stooges. See the crap a kid learns.
Summer was one thing, but it always passed  -  Winter's were
internalized. We all still did things; we had our Winter ways
and cold-weather places, but it was different, yes, for sure.
A lot more solitary stuff went on. I can remember any number
of us, in that woods where they later built Doreen Drive and
stuff, being back there for endless after-school hours in the
woods at the little ice-crusted pond which was in the center
of the place -   ice skating little circles around for hours. We'd
arranged good-sized logs in some form of semi-circle or close,
around the water edge, and if not skating we'd all just be sitting
around there as whoever else was skating went about their skating.
I guess it got dark around 6pm, and we dispersed for supper and
all, because I can't recall any fires or sources of warmth or light.
But I remember it was close  -  we just all felt close, everything
was closed in around us. That was the thing about our little
group and those woods  -  there were trails, little paths that
went off, depending on the direction of home, people went
their varied ways out. Also, it was always, in there, just as
we'd left it  -  I guess there were no other people coming
around making changes or even visits. It was our place  -
the trees and the shade in the cold of Winter was just as
pleasant to us as were the possums and happiness glades of
Summer. Even now, I still get that 'long-lost' feeling inside
me just writing about it. A lot of our stuff was bicycle based,
but this woods never was  -  no entry for bicycles, no place
for them, and it just never happened. Up on the top end,
towards Route One, there was a small row of some trees
that used to drop these rippled green balls, about the size of
softballs. We later found they were called Ugli fruit  -  a real
odd name, in that they were ugly, but were named Ugli. I
never got to the bottom of that but it always puzzled me why
(here I go again with the God and Nature stuff) these things,
whatever they were, fruit, nut, vegetable, were so useless. I
couldn't understand why a proficient God would make,
 occasionally, such useless things  -  for instance, if these
were edible, and had some value, we'd have been rich! We
could be eating off the fat of the land. That puzzled me; were
we fated to have things not be usable by us; like, even, grass.
If we could have eaten grass, or gotten food out of acorns or
leaves, or anything like that, the whole world would have been
different. Much less need to work. Food everywhere. You'd just
pick what you want and eat. No fighting over ownership or the
possession of, for it was everywhere! That could be Paradise
for sure. What was it that made a jealous God deny all that
from us? Was the 'The Fall' that the Catholic Church lesson
twerps were always blatting about? That's why we were all
so miserable, killing and fighting over borders and food and
stuff? So then, this God made a perfect world and then lost
control of it? What kind of God was that? It's not free-will,
couldn't be because it's all pre-ordained now, and the fault only
happened once and not to us, each, individually. That's free-will,
a one-to-one thing. The other was mob rule. Paying for this
bullshit Adam guy for ever and ever? I never got it, that story,
like sooo many others, made no sense. It was all commercial
poppycock to keep people under control, and paying up, always.
In those woods, at that ice pond, hell, the world was free and easy.
It made sense, and it was right. Who were these people, always
trying to muck it up for us  -  against all evidence, really, and then
demanding that only they had the way out and the right answers.
Having the right answers is easy of you made up the story.
And then anyway, one day it was just all gone.
The local newspaper, at the time called The Perth Amboy 
Evening News  -  later just The Evening News, and then later 
again The News Tribune, then the Home News Tribune, and 
later just The Home News. Some junk-bond conglomerate 
kept buying bits and pieces of NJ newspapers until eventually 
they had fairly killed the whole mess. Those papers now are
nothing but pages of junk. When I was in the printing industry, 
years later, one of my accounts and friends was John Burk, 
whose Burk family owned the News Tribune. He wasn't much 
of anything except a low-grade businessman looking to turn the
usual profit  -  not a journalist or newsman in any way. He'd sell
or include anything in that paper if it would get eyes to it, people
to see the ads, so that he could sell more by having big counts
of readership and exposure and thus charge more for big companies
advertising. For a while they had this stupid little 'character'  -  like
a small icon chubby guy holding a newspaper. They called that
character 'Newsie'. And they ran a stupid contest : each day, 
somewhere in the paper, buried in the words and articles and stuff,
would be 'Newsie'. Small. Readers who spied it were supposed to 
call in, give the location, and they'd win something and then be 
entered to win something else. It was a pretty cheesy, almost
shameful, gimmick, I thought. My mother always played it.
There'd be some horrid headline about 41 people slaughtered
in a fiery earthquake somewhere in Africa and eaten by
marauding elephants and then slaughtered by hungry pygmies
with a bus that rolled off the cliff  -  horrible stuff  -  and in the
middle of the continuation page paragraph, there'd be 'Newsie', 
smiling back at you. Jeez, huh.
One time, in the printing days, the guy I worked for, Bob Wiegers,
he had us represented at a luncheon thing the News Tribune threw
to show off some new, big million dollar equipment they'd gotten.
There were long-winded explanations about this and that, how it
worked, how fast it produced, all that  -  plus the industrial expert
know-it-all-manufacturer's rep stuff. After about an hour of this,
in the question period, Bob raises his hand and  -  in a businessman's
way but also in a way that came out sounding almost sarcastic, in
reference to making money and getting return on investment and 
all, he says  -  referring to news delivery boys  -  'So you've got 
all this new millions of dollars equipment, and you're telling me 
you're still putting all the responsibility for the success of this in the
hands of 12 -year old delivery paper-route kids on bikes, to make it
work or not?' After a few titters, that went over like a lead balloon.
The News Tribune used to run  - exciting for me  -  this 'countdown'
panel each day on the bottom of the front page. It began about mid-
November each year. It wasn't much, but it was always exciting for 
me to see and watch the countdown, with some oddball form
of expectation. There'd be a little Christmas drawing, something
different each day, or the same maybe, I forget, and it would say
'25 shopping days 'til Christmas'...then 24 the next day, then 23 the
 next, and so on. I always thought it would be cool, since all
they cared about was money and sales anyway, if they used, instead
of 'til', meaning 'until', the word 'till' meaning cash-register drawer.

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