Monday, November 2, 2015

7385. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 62)

(pt. 62)
It always seemed to me that there was a mystery behind 
everything, something about it all that no one ever told 
you. As a kid, you just feel these things. Or I did. I knew
the world was trying to pull a quick one, right past me.
So, I never said anything, I just watched.  Every so 
often my father would take me to work with him on 
Saturdays, whenever he had to work. Maybe 10 times 
in all, and I can't remember the age or the duration.
He used to, then, work on one of those side streets 
right off of McCarter Highway in Newark. I used
to always love that area  -  it's all gone now, and
they've stupidly replaced all those beautiful dark red
brick industrial buildings with the usual Government-
assisted negro slum housings  -  stuff that was supposed
to uplift the creeps they'd move into it, but who just
end up wrecking it all the same, just like the dumps 
they just were moved out of. The people who do this
all use big words and sound all forthright and sincere
about wanting to help the poor and all that rot, but 
even at ten I knew it was all crap. The 'secret' of this 
one is, as usual, money. Insider graft, corruption, job
padding with school unions and construction unions 
and all that dirty money stuff. Whoever they think 
they're kidding  - I've got to tell them  -  know all 
about it. Pipsqueak local politicians can never fool 
anyone. Their cheap suits always give them away.
My father's workplace was a furniture re-upholstery 
shop named 'Co-Op', as in Co-operative venture. Again
with the bullshit  -  whoever they thought they were 
fooling knew all about it. In this case, my father. There
was nothing 'cooperative' about it. He'd work all day on
two or three chairs. Piecework. Period. He'd get about
12 bucks a chair. It was, otherwise, like he didn't exist.
The two fat Jewish guys behind the big desks, they had 
all this figured out, with their cigars and ledgers and stuff.
The idea was, they did all the selling and settling, so people
like my father  -  basically the for-hire slave-staff  -  wound
up doing all the work, getting credited only for that which
they produced. If these two heaps of gold sold a living-room
set refinishing for say 700 bucks, they'd throw my father two
chairs, maybe a sofa instead, and credit him only for the 
slave-time he put in. All around him, and having nothing to
do with him, they'd buy the material, the fabric and supplies,
and take the mark-up themselves  -  which was built all into 
the 700 bucks quoted. Extra tufting, pillows, everything, 
they charged for. My (as it turned out) very 'cooperative' 
father got his twelve bucks. Period. And then they probably 
charged for bringing a kid too. I would just hang around 
for 8 or 10 hours  -  bouncing a ball endlessly off the large
wall-side of the building outside  -  I chalked a strike zone,
so I could play-pitch too. It passed time. I'd walk around,
looking at all that red-brick factory stuff  -  totally taken with
it. Square, red-brick chimneys, loading docks, rounded bays,
rows of skylights, cobbled streets, a few horses and stuff still
in use, water and baskets, everything. Plus, just above our 
heads, the railroad ran. I felt like I was in faraway land, all
dark and red brick and smokey. My 'London period' I later
called it. I still love it there, NJ Railroad Avenue, as it's
called  -  just off of downtown Newark  - but there's so 
little of anything left now I just want to cry. There's this 
one large, red-brick building now that they've just left to
turn into a real shit-hole, all graffiti'd up by the pigs who
live there. Each time I went home after one of those days,
I'd look at Avenel and just want to scamper away. Quickly.
The guys my father worked with there weren't too much
like him. They were calmer and more distant, seemingly
tired, resigned, or maybe just scared. Old guys, like war
veterans who still wore hats and formal shoes. A few 
Panchitos were there too  -  Spanish guys, or Puerto Rican, 
whatever. They too were all over Newark back then. They 
were wise-ass, with always something to say. I never knew 
how to take them. But I knew I didn't really like them. One
time I opened a drawer in one of the work-station areas 
where all the chairs and cushions and things were, and I saw
it was filled to the brim with magazines  -  Spanish naked
lady magazines. The Panchito guy who saw me just leered, 
and made one of those gross laugh-noises I hated. And then
he put his finger to his mouth  -  I guess meaning to not tell
anyone what I'd just seen. Yeah, right. All I wanted to do was
go blab about his fat, dark, hairy naked lady magazines.
One time my father got into a huge fight during work time, 
with one of the creepy white guys. The guy soon enough
came after my father with scissors, 'shears' as they were 
called. Bad move. My ex-sparring partner muscle dad
beat the guy to a pulp. There were like teeth embedded
in the ceiling, and some teeth probably went home with
the furniture too. Cops came, all that. Everything was cool,
just a workplace argument, nobody dead. The next day the
guy's wife calls up at my house and starts railing at my mother
how they were going to sue us for everything we had, that my
father was a raving, criminal lunatic, that they'd have him
put away  -  all that stuff. My mother broke down. She was
shattered  -  didn't know where to turn nor what was to 
happen. They argued a long time, whatever. Nothing ever 
did happen, I guess, unless my father buried the creep in
the Meadowlands or something. That was the end of his
time at 'Co-op.' After that he got a job as the 'Manager' of
the Frame Department at Simmons Furniture, in Union;
Stuyvesant Ave., somewhere. That was pretty funny, my
father as a 'Manager'. The place was big. I'd go there too,
but I never liked it  -  a huge warehouse factory. Stacks of
lumber piled along the walls  - cutters making frames and
bases for chairs and stuff, beds, frames. People driving
around on carts. And my father  -  trying to walk around
with a freaking clipboard and act official. Bad fit. I hated
the place, mostly too because of its bathroom. It was just
a big room with a large communal trough in the center, with
the drain in the floor and some piped water trickling down
from plumbing above. It was gross. Everyone just stood 
around peeing. Like onto the floor, except it wasn't. 
Whoever dreamed that up must have thought the workers 
were cows. I never figured if there were actual 'toilet rooms'
around, though I figured there were  -  mainly because of the
way these guys ate huge lunches. Somebody would have to
go soon enough. I never stayed around to find out. And
the other thing was, that I always hated, once again my 
father was always introducing me to all these guys  -  what
was I to do? It was awkward  -  'yeah, nice to meet you, I'm
the little kid who probably anyway shouldn't even be here,
but hello  -  and anyway, how do you guys stand all that 
pissing together stuff into a drain on the floor?
When my father got that manager job, my Uncle Joe  -  who
worked Wall Street printing businesses and had a more formal
appreciation of business ways and such, brought my father a
book (no pictures either), entitled (very dryly), 'Human 
Relations In Supervision.' It was all intellectual, about how
to best manage others, listen to their gripes, work around them,
make it 'appear' as if steps were being taken, all that crud. He
expected, I guess, my father  -  his little brohter  -  to actually
read this book. My father quite nearly threw it at him. That 
book stayed around a real long time, and I remember it well, 
even the very look of it. I was probably ever the only one 
who opened it, even if only for five minutes now and then.

No comments: