Friday, November 6, 2015

7407.BELOW THE WATER LINE, (pt. 65)

(pt. 65)
If Avenel had a darkside, or a black-bottom,
or a mysterious underside, it was along Blair
Road and Homestead Avenue. There isn't too
much I can say about (oh, though I will). it
was smoke and gray ash, it was marshland
and oil dirt  -  junkyards, trucks lots, and 
mystery. There wasn't, as yet, too much 
development there. Occasional houses 
sagged and fluttered amidst trees and groves.
Dirt roads led somewhere  -  each to another
unknown end. People dumped things. They
arrived here with truckloads of wheels and
tires, car batteries, junk metal, piles of wood
and shingles. Thrown-out stuff belonging to
nothing. The few souls migrating around  - you'd
see them  -  were misfits. They lived out here 
maybe because they had to. They were reading 
a different time, the present didn't talk to them. 
They had different essentials. Eventually, by 1954 
or so, the authorities laid the NJ Turnpike through 
here, and the tank-farms of a burgeoning oil industry, 
as naturally as a bum shits in a street-corner somewhere.
The post-war boom, around these parts anyway, at
the most amounted to waterfronts being taken from
us for oil-tank farms, heating and gasoline storage
tanks, trucks roads for passage, guard houses and 
fenced lots. All of this, slowly, began picking away 
at the area known as Blair Road. It was where kids 
drove to neck, make-out, try to learn about fucking 
in a car, or in the woods.  In these early days, no one 
cared much about waterways  - it was all sluiced 
underground, made invisible, people lost touch with
their 'place' and the ecology of what they lived and
where. Basically  -  realistically too  -  no one gave a
flying-fuck-thought to the land and the geography around
them. The better it got, the more it was paved  -  to them.
The more it was paved, the better it got. Combinations
of DDT and idiocy had killed off wildlife. For forty years
there wasn't a deer or a hawk or a muskrat to be seen.
Not even a duck or a goose  -  today's pleasant pests, by
contrast. Once a people lose their waterfronts (made
off-limits by tank farms and 'security') and stop caring,
it's pretty much over   - why they're still living and 
pretending to be 'human' gets to be beyond me, or as 
the President in 2011 said, 'above my pay grade.' How
else to make dumb and degrade and control a 'people'
than to divorce them from their essential place and reality?
It's been done, and the postwar banterers who 'raised' us
did it all willingly.
Ira Rhodes, one of Avenel's earliest, had a big junkyard
down there, as did Charlie Dafchik, I think the name was.
Heaps of cars would sit amidst muck, trees, paths, gullies.
Leaking their effulgence into streams and brooks. Gagging
willows would be bent in anguish, looking for succor and a
real place to grow. There was none, then. The old cars just
kept coming in  -  the nascent scrap-metal industry was not
yet up to full-steam and running. Most of these cars, if they
went for anything, went for getting or taking parts off of for
resale  -  remember, this was an era when guys still plugged
away and worked on their cars. When you could. Kind of like
when men were men. Not today's rotating weather vanes of
intense sports solidarity and boosterism. The houses were
large and strange and old. (This was the 'way-outs', recall;
[see chapter one]). The people in them were often stooped
and eerie, dark and silent. Morose about something.  Here and
there was even a small structure, a jerry-built house, a few
Native America-Indian families of mysterious means. There
was one gypsy or Romany family. Not too many lights after
dark. There was one section, marked with railroad ties and 
a clearing and gravel. where people came to learn to drive  -  
practice their K-turns and parallel-parking. No one got in
the way. There was room for more than one. You could, 
here and there, even drive a path into a dead-ended woods,
for the real beginners needing simple, safe, straight-line
creeping-speed driving experience. The ones almost ready
could then take to the local paved roads, get some 'road-time',
falsely yes, but road-time nonetheless. Teaching someone 
to drive is always onerous; back then it was usually Dad 
or a boyfriend to whom the task feel. Boys, the nastier Avenel
kind anyway, usually did manage to pick the rudiments of
all this up on their own. Anyway, if one had to dent and
mangle for fun, there were tree stumps, bushes and logs
 you could hit. 
I can remember a few times Alex's father took Alex down 
here, In that '57 Chevy again. Alex was learning to drive, 
getting ready for the road test, etc. and (I can't recall my 
role here, nor why I was along) the tutorials were given 
in this very spot I've mentioned. Gravel and lightly paved 
road, tamped down, hard dirt. He'd go forward, turn around, 
go back  -  it all seemed to go pretty well. I don't remember 
any squabbles or tempers. Maybe he'd remember it all
differently, but I don't know. His father seemed a fairly
patient car-driving teacher to me, thought there were no 
speeds, velocity or travel involved. It was all rudimentary
material  -  and I guess included column-shifting and use
of the clutch  - though I don't remember. Anyway, that 
was always hardest part. I myself can remember being a
kid, young adult anyway, and how very strange and almost
reluctant the feeling was when I, finally, and first, got a
car with 'automatic' transmission. My first 5 or 6 heaps, at
least, were shifts. Except for the Jaguar, later on, all my 
experience had been with column shifts. Getting an 
automatic-shift car, to me, seemed like cheating. And
especially when the car smelled  -  whether just old
odor or a pine-scented aroma tree, I'd crack to my friends,
'This is a pretty aromatic automatic you're driving here.'
I don't know how many girls lost it down there. Never will 
know, but I'd figure it was a lot. The whole thing was a 
set-up, perfect. Secluded, dark, small roads and paths in 
the woods, places to park and stay dark  -  probably too
never even a Barney Fyfe sort of goofball flashlight cop
ready to leer into your window while you and her were
otherwise engaged. Sewaren, along the road above the 
waterfront, that too had its reputation as a beauteous
lover's lane  - but the cops patrolled and they were always
busting in on climax, so to speak. Why bother then, when
Blair Road beckoned?  You could learn to drive, drive, 
and drive some more!

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