Friday, November 6, 2015

7411. BELOW THE WATER LINE, pt. 66

(pt. 66)
I did make mention before of some of my mother's
chronic medical conditions  -  rheumatic fever when 
young causing all sorts of other things later on : bad
heart valves, open-heart surgery, numerous ails and
hindrances.  I can't talk about it; medical stuff is not
my forte, and anyway, right now I'm too sad.  Because
of all that, nonetheless, in my household the prevalence 
of doctors, pills, medicines and hospitals was always
pretty strong. I grew up inured to all that, and now 
go out of my way to avoid and ignore it. Until I die 
anyway. I don't know how many other kids had parents 
under doctors' care - numerous doctors - and no one ever
 talked about it. Everyone else seemed pretty healthy, that 
young in life anyway. I grant you, as many of these parents 
aged, I did witness lots of them in wheezing, bent-over 
stupors of old age and sickness. Even for myself  -  a few 
years after that train accident it was Doctor This and Doctor 
That, and it seemed everyone wanting a piece of me, or 
at least a billable look-see. I walked away from all that as 
soon as the last one got done with me. Amidst all my friends 
and play-times, no one knew a thing  - I could have been the 
healthiest boy at any party. Before the doctors would be done 
with me, I had a battery of tests they demanded. Another 
problem, I never figured this one out, but they fixed it, was, 
they said, 'spinal fluid' leaking out my ear. Never bothered me 
any, but my ears can bend around corners. Maybe? They 
did something about it and that was that. I also, for three or 
four years  -  and this was weird  -  would get vicious, 
debilitating late afternoon migraines. On schedule, about 
the same time each time as they occurred. I would blank out, 
in a hideous forehead/temple pain. My mother kept a 
mask-thing in the freezer. It was some sort of blue liquid in 
a heavy, clear plastic, and I'd wear it, like a diving mask or
 something like Zorro. It was really cold, would somehow 
alleviate the migraine, until I'd sleep it off by a zonked-out 
nap for about two hours. Then, one day, they just stopped 
happening.  Another thing I remember, a combination 
of Catholic meatless Fridays and post-hospital stuff, was
a total, sickening aversion to egg salad sandwiches  -  which 
my mother had always tried to stuff down my mouth. That 
one took years and years to go away. I'm OK now, and egg 
salad's not a problem. Yet, I think back to my friends, and 
I wonder how it must have been for them :  'yeah, see that 
guy on third  base, he's the guy with spinal fluid leaking 
out his ear; be careful.'
At first, when we moved to Avenel, it was just 'Perth Amboy 
General Hospital', maybe 10 miles away, and nothing else 
within the area  -  that's where all the doctors were based, 
their offices were (lots of office visits, as well as the house 
calls, which were a soon to disappear, a quaint vestige 
again of an older Americana'). Over the river (the Raritan) 
and thus south of Perth Amboy (called 'South Amboy'), 
there was a small satellite hospital, a vestige of the one 
in Perth Amboy, and where it started actually. It went 
like this: in the clay-pits/meadow area of swampy South 
Amboy, about the time of 1950, there was a munitions 
factory and  -  much like the Jersey City one in WWI,
 'Black Tom'  -  previously mentioned way back  -  it too 
blew up; [I mentioned Black Tom previously] about in 
May, 1950. The 'emergency' factor of that explosion 
required the commandeering of one or two large 
homes for the emergency medical treatment stations  
-  from this commandeering came the genesis of an 
actual 'South Amboy' hospital and some of the buildings 
there were later absorbed into hospital use; at first it 
 was all rather quaint, looking something like a military 
encampment medical center, with house and sheds 
pressed into use. Eventually it lost all that look as new 
buildings and modern facilities were built, the hospital's 
footprint vastly enlarged, and only one of the original 
buildings now still stands  -  what once must have been 
a not so shabby, tall, three-story mansion sort of home. 
It can yet be seen from Route 9, in use, at the rear of 
all the rest of the facilities. Perth Amboy General served 
the entire area, right up until the 1960's, when the 
hugely burgeoning population and development of 
the area necessitated a new, larger, and more modern 
facility  -  it was built and named (of course, for the 
times) 'John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital'  -  referred 
to ever after as JFK. There was a great deal of duplicity 
and criminality involved in all this  -  I only found out 
much later and, of course, no one ever followed up on
anything  -  but JFK became a huge profit-making 
facility, far surpassing Perth Amboy. In time, by the 
late 1980's, JFK Medical Center' as it was then 
re-named, had absorbed all these other facilities 
and it was all re-named again as Raritan Bay Medical 
Center. Now a huge, multi-faceted, sprawling group 
of emergency medical, medical care, 'wellness' facilities, 
operating almost as for-profit granny-care. Plying on 
pathos, billboards and such dot the area. The funniest 
part of it all now, as well, is how so many personal-injury 
and 'Team-Law' establishments (ambulance chasers?) 
and their office buildings, have sprouted up in close 
proximity to each of these sites, with the ubiquitous, 
facetiously earnest and unsightly as well, Rite Aids, 
Walgreens, CVS and the others  -  which facilities 
have appeared, literally littering streetcorners all 
about. Pill-pushers, false injury lawyers and treatment
 centers  - a veritable industry of scorn and abuse, of 
everything. In line with this, abutting the border of 
Edison and Woodbridge, (less than 2 miles, heading 
North on Rt. 27 (the old Lincoln Highway)), right at 
MetroPark, called so now, I once knew a family there, 
the Coopers, of Coopers Farm/Dairy. Long ago 
obliterated, long ago gone; but in the 1960's, mid, 
you could still go there and see the cows and the 
rolling acres of working farmfields under cultivation 
and as pasture and meadow. Theirs was the last 
remnant of what once was a thriving agricultural 
area. The Coopers, before there was a MetroPark, 
had all of their land ending at the old, small, Iselin 
train station. When they got out of their farms, I 
guess age or retirement or whatever, a lot of these 
folk (the Coopers and others) had ceded the lands 
to Woodbridge, in perpetuity, as 'Woodbridge School 
Lands'  -  meaning they were to be (only) dedicated 
to the use of schools and educational, not profit-making,
uses by the town. Not a school was built, nary a one  -  
in fact, through the manipulations of real-estate names
like the Alfieri, Berg, Yelensics and others  -  names that 
were once powerful forces locally, as Yelensics and 
others also were for the hospital area, vast fortunes 
were made in turning over this land, into what is now 
acres and acres of corporate headquarters, plazas, 
tenanted buildings, parking garages and  -  valuable 
because of all the commuter proximity, the MetroPark
train complex. All of this is a huge undertaking, dirty 
and political, and it represents many hands feeding at 
a crooked trough.


I'm not carrying this to the mat, and I really just want 
to show how vastly Avenel and the area around it has 
grown. It's a completely different place; let me emphasis 
that. Let me just say, also  :  this was all the land and 
place I was given, the location of my thought and 
mind. This was only one little place, and the endemic 
nature of this all far surpasses the tiny nature of 
what I've related -  it's gone on everywhere, always.
The first Avenel, or at least the one I passed through,
in all frank honesty, no longer exists. It's been rolled
over. Everything is based upon lies, corruption, deceit 
for money, misrepresentation, stealing and corrupt 
 politics. It's a cohort's game, deal and deed  -  one 
after the other  -  played and messaged by dirty, foul 
people. Politics is an insider's club. You get into it all 
so that you can feed from this trough just described. 
You spend a million or five million, or more, to 
campaign for a job paying one thirtieth of that 
amount back  -  all so that you can get set up  -  
double-dealing, being cut-in on contracts, zoning 
variances, re-evaluations, land distributions, 
corporate boards and connections, speech-making 
tours, influence-peddling schemes, sweetheart 
deals and the rest. It starts out small, and goes 
crazy from there. All the while, what little is 
needed from you is that you stay on the 'right' 
 side of things, talk change and sympathy while 
in reality changing nothing and in truth sympathizing 
with nothing except your own interests and concerns. 
The United States, despite all the platitudes and 
religious crap and crowd-pleasing speeches and 
malarkey, is and has always been nothing but a 
den of bullshit. All those people involved  -  let me 
say  -  can take all their platitudinizing and 
political/corporate bullshit, roll it up, shove it 
up their asses, shit it out, and then shove it back up, 
for all I care. (That's Avenel talk). They would deserve 
it. And they would deserve bathing in their own shit
too. Why should I mince words?  -  after what I've here 
described, I'm disgusted all over again. Before I leave 
this subject, however, and to reiterate once more how 
I said 'Government'  takes over the places of real import 
and covers over what must be concealed, look at 
free encyclopedia  and see, for a start, another local 
disaster that turned into a suspicious goldmine for 
names like 'Levine' and the others. Read about it   - 
the location 'Nixon', now subsumed nicely into 
Edison, still exists, and all of the referentials in the 
small article still are current. The government has 
done a nice job of covering everything over, building 

commercially all over it   -  known as 'Raritan Center'  -  
and making millions for hundreds. I detest America, 
and I detest every bit of the factional and coarse 
co-option and lies and falsifications that go on. 
I detest America, not for what it was, not for how it 
began, but for what it has become  -  a tyrannical 
autocracy of shysters, liars and deceivers willing to 
fleece and abscond with whatever they can from 
the public-be-damned-public, as long as they can 
get theirs. We have been taken over by an occupation 
army called Government. It operates without 
compunction, while just pretending  -  going through 
the means and the maneuvers needed to keep the 
wool pulled over the eyes of a dim-witted and bloated, 
mindless public. Had I my power, I'd take the 
sword to it, right now. Unfortunately for the rest 
of this world, I was placed here, in some fetid swamp 
of a place to be called Avenel, just to see it being taken 
from me. I was supposed to applaud this. I guess I  forgot.
All my little places are but memories now, and a lot of 
those kids from the 50's are gone. Thomas Wolfe said 
you can't go home again. Most people don't want to, 
but he was wrong too  -  you really can, and it's stronger
and richer and even more vivid when you again finally do.
I guess, too, I can remember being untroubled, but it 
must have been a long time ago. There was a time when
I'd look at my grandmother's eyes, the only grandparent 
I ever had face to face; she'd come and stay with us, 
from Bayonne, every so often  -  and try to ascertain 
what a life must have been like to been lived so long 
ago, to have witnessed so much change and turmoil. 
Of course, now I see differently. I'd think to myself that
she was a girl, from 1900, without cars and electricity 
and plumbing and all of that, then I'd realize, well, 
maybe, maybe not. Then I'd understand that she had 
readily accepted all that no matter. It seemed to make 
no difference to her. She would arrive to see us on a 
bus and a train ride, two train rides actually (it was a 
difficult switch from Bayonne by rail after taking the 
bus to the Jersey City train station, then to Newark to s
switch for Rahway, then at Rahway to switch for the 
Avenel stop, and then the walk to the house), then get 
right to work cooking  -  some usual preparations for a 
Sunday meal, cooked or prepared anyway on Saturday 
night while sitting us kids and having some TV stuff 
going  -  Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan, any of those dumb 
variety shows; I don't know. That was what it all meant 
being in the 20th century? Born in 1900, to see that, 
to witness that? If given a choice, I might have said : 
shoot me. What is it all when we have the nothing at all? 
When we play-act through life, having families and 
roles and livelihoods and practices of Self, but all 
without any feasible sense or  direction of within, 
of creating, of nurturing something greater than life? 
It's said Mothers attain bliss by having children; that's
their moment. Sounds wrong to me. Same with fathers; 
broken on the shield of labor or expectation, compounded 
by fatherhood. Does still sound wrong to me. Like 
all the know-it-alls who've not done any of it and 
say I'm wrong. Or right. These aren't categories, 
they're opinions. It's something like words and images, 
haunting things  -  the distance between present and 
past. That gap can never be closed. I'm not lost in it, 
believe me, but the essential core of my being  -  the
 'what' of what I am today, is somewhere within it; 
dressed in thought, decorated with colors. As such, 
I address it. As an artist and a writer (believe me, I am 
both) those are the raw materials I work from  -  not 
to scoff at pining for things gone, just using it as clay. 
Not James Joyce's 'Dubliners' clay ('Clay'), just rather, 
the malleable, the moist. In Freud's words, it is 
melancholy, or unresolved mourning, that unsettles 
us. I don't know about that, but I'll accept it.
"The yearning for the past that poets and painters 
often evince is also latent in the longings of scholars 
who have devoted their intellectual lives to history 
 writing, to invoking that which came before but is 
no longer. The poignancy is especially acute for 
historians of art. In the sight of old objects that 
 continue to exist materially in the present, but whose 
noisy and busy existence has long since been silenced, 
there is something profoundly melancholic. Such a 
 state of mind is easier to feel than to define. Many 
psychoanalysts (from Freud to Melanie Klein, and 
the object-relations theorists who've taken her up), 
have explored this quiet, brooding aspect of the 
psychic life. Some have even linked it to the uncanny 
phenomenological experience of being enveloped by 
a work of art, what has been called, by Christopher 
Bollas, falling under 'the shadow of the object...the 
sense of being reminded of something never cognitively 
apprehended but existentially known.'"

Of course, I am far from the first to emphasize what 
has been regarded by many as our quintessential 
postmodernist predicament. The 'rhetoric of mourning'
 that has engendered so many late twentieth-century and
now twenty-first century studies in the humanities is 
one devoted to the incomplete and the missing: 
fragments, allegories, ruins, retreats from definitive 
meanings. Those are pretty much the exact things I 
here have been chasing for all these chapters. I have 
to find the means or reaching my own terminology over 
what I've been relating, or trying to. How can I do that?
How can I tell the story of crawling through the sewer-pipes
sluices under the Costa Ice Cream factory and coming out
to tell the story. What possible language can I use? What
shortcuts can bring this HOME AGAIN for me and for a 
reader? Yes, how then do I lie to tell about it?  I'm trying 
to put a portrait to a dip-shit place like 'Avenel' by,
finally, painting it my way, and that way only. Not a piece 
of it is true by today's world and standards. 

Yet the practice of art provides an oxymoronic twist 
to this by-now-common characterization. The very 
materiality of objects with which I try to get this across
shows a time lost and found, past and present.  Some
archaeological, crap-eyes version of 'Avenel' Again.
My heart breaks. As Martin Heidegger once put it,
'World-withdrawal and world-decay can never be
undone. The works are no longer the same as they 
once were.  It is they themselves, to be sure, that we 
 encounter there, but they themselves are gone by.'...
The quest for lost origins, for example, has lain at the 
heart of the history of art ever since the discipline 
itself originated. On this ground alone, the typical art  
historical enterprise seems predestined to be a melancholic 
one.  It is not just a matter of trying to retrieve forgotten 
historical meanings or neglected artists.  Seeking to 
situate provenance, identify individual intentions, relocate 
physical settings, decipher underdrawings and situate works 
of art back into their cultural and ideological contexts are
all commonplace indications of a compulsion  to recover 
a certain something long since forgotten or abandoned. 
 The concept of 'melancholy writing' is especially  apposite 
for reflecting on this  underside of the art historical 
enterprise....' (taken from The Melancholy Art: (Essays 
in the Arts) by Michael Ann Holly (Feb 24, 2013) : 
'Mourning and Method'). And anyway, when you look at 
it, what is it I am here doing but 'questing' for origins 
myself, or some sort of melancholy art about going back 
to a source, something I feel real. Realer than this world 
 anyway. This world sucks. I've had it up to here with 
blowhards and hardheads. I'm not in any good shape, 
I conclude. I'm in Avenel shape.

So, anyway, I've spent a lot of time reclaiming things. I've 
enjoyed each minute of doing so, and remain proud of 
it all, like a sad firestorm, out of Avenel, and place 
that never really did exist. And I am not done. If anyone, 
therefore, says that Time is not a flexible membrane, 
they are wrong. Things are underway all of the time 
with alteration, change, and - yes - transfiguration. 
I have lived amidst at least three or four versions of 
Time, and the local realities it produces. At least three 
or four, and that does not include the stranger 
liquefaction of reality and all its proofs that took 
place for me in the hospital, undergoing coma, 
and reawakening to this field of Life and Time.

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