Monday, November 23, 2015

7489. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 82)

(pt. 82)
I never tried being a brat or anything like that, but
I do know I hurt my parents a lot. Just by standing
out, essentially embarrassing them. I admit now to
being something of a real jerk  -  but I too excuse it
only as something a real fool kid does when he knows
something's got control of him but cannot grasp what
it is. I was a real pain to people. I stalked around, in
painter clothes, hiding in the basement, doing art and 
canvases at will. I cared for nothing. One time, in really
grubby clothes, all marked up with oil paints, I just left
the house and began walking off -  all the way down 
Inman, to nearing Abbe Lumber, when my father 
caught up to me in the car. I was probably 17 maybe.
He got me into the car, I entered anyway, and just
decided he'd drive to wherever it was I was headed. He
just didn't need the humiliation of having me walking all
over town like that, representing, as it were, them. It was
almost understandable, and I was of mixed and flooded
emotions : sorry, confused, awkward, and wishing I wasn't
there. My mother, I knew, had never lived down that
Mrs. Kuzmiak goading her, at a church thing once, with
'Mary, what's happened to Gary?' Dumb woman. She had
no business asking that  -  and if she had any idea of the
social situation all this was part of she would have just gone
off. My mother didn't know what to do  -  she should have
said, half facetiously 'well, we're not rightly sure but the 
Martians did dip down one night, we're sure of that, and they
took him up with them and only brought him back a few days
later -  we were never sure what happened. Oh, did I say
Martinis, or Martians? I do always get them so mixed up
dear Mrs. Kuzmiak, haberdashery-widow-lady selling socks 
and underwear to the under-served. Under-served? Or do I
mean undeserved. Oh dear me, I'm just not sure. I'm so sorry.'
But, my mother would have never thought like that. You see, 
it's all a play, every bit and inch of this is a put-on. I think
God's a huge comedian  -  even the big-deal Catholic one, 
and the even bigger-deal and older Jewish one. I think this
made-up goon of a God is just up there laughing uproariously
at what he's concocted, and just watching it all go haywire.
William Blake, he called that God 'Nobodaddy'. Good name.
He's even got a line in one of those prophetic books that reads,
'Nobodaddy farted.' Yeah, there you go, yeah.
We were growing up apace. Some of us were wiser than 
others. Some of us had sisters, others not. I guess there's a 
difference there, but I don't know  -  not having to live in a 
house with a sibling of the opposite sex, you miss a lot of 
things. You miss seeing the differences anyway. I know we had
a few times, a couple of us, when kids got their sisters to take
their clothes off for us, parade around. What the hell is an eight
or nine year old going to do about any of that anyway. The
whole subject is tendentious and fraught, over nothing. The 
world isn't made if that stuff for years yet  -  just being young 
is enough. It's like rabble-rousers out in the street, goading
people on : 'I am your sex, I am, and I'm going to get you
someday, sooner or later day, any day  -  you'd better be
watching and ready!' Get on my bike, and ride. Hell with that.
When I was young, there was nothing really more boring than
those Sundays, or whatever, when relatives would come to visit.
Too talkative an aunt, or too mouthy an uncle. The fathers
comparing notes on home improvements and ideas. The mothers
talking about cousins growing, and all that. Food, eating, an
occasional debate or some stammering dispute about some
dumb-assed thing we never knew. The 'kids' table' separate 
and lower, where 'we' had to eat. The extra care and trouble 
of the food, as if we'd pretend for the day to eat like this every
other day. The strangeness of a cousin or someone you had to
walk around with for the day  -  and always some neighborhood
kid taking a fancy to her, your female cousin, who they'd probably
never see again. Just too much out-of-the-way explaining to do
in the allotted five or six hours. It was boring and it just never
worked. I know I always hated it. One of my first memories ever,
it had to be Thanksgiving, 1955, only maybe 1956, at the most, 
was the first time my proud parents had a 'holiday' feast for their
brothers and sisters in this new house. Aunts and uncles 
everywhere. Not so many kids at all, maybe one or two, since
I was near the oldest anyway and the others weren't much around
yet. One older cousin, and my sister, a year younger. My father,
due to lack of space, had utilized the otherwise pretty unused and
utilitarian basement  -  saw horses and two big pieces of plywood
comprised the big table, a bunch of chairs enough, from somewhere.
And they'd even had installed an auxiliary, smaller stove and 
refrigerator down there too  -  coming in handy. All the chatter 
and talk, the big turkey, the stuffing and all those vegetables 
and things. Everybody yammering away  -  upstairs for some
things, brought down, and other things, cooked downstairs and 
never leaving. My father, I can still see, carved that turkey up like
he was some ruling potentate in the house of his kingdom and
power. It was pretty great  -  poor and slobby as all get-out, but
pretty great no matter. This really worked : having your crazy
own home and a backyard and woods and stuff around. Room 
for other people, food, talk, card games. Laughter. The other
really cool, and unique thing I remember, and it was from the night
before too I think, my father had two big flat trays, like 60 I bet,
of chestnuts. We slit them so they could expand. And they went
into the oven downstairs and roasted, or whatever chestnuts do,
gaining that neat bronzy-brown color. And the slits we'd made 
had curled a little and puffed up, from the heat  -  all that odd
chestnut pulp stuff expanding out. The smell was massive, and
 so memorable. The house got filled with it. And they tasted good
too. Just that one, grand time I remember them. Any other time
it was in New York City, when there used to be chestnut-cart
vendors everywhere; my father would always get a bag or two at
least. They were good too. That's all gone now. The carts instead 
sell tangy-coated nuts and pretzels and stuff, but no one has those
open-charcoal fire chestnut carts anywhere. Just a memory.
And then, as much as you hated it all, there was a real sadness
when everyone left again  -  all back to their other places. Lyndhurst,
Bayonne, Rutherford, Union City  -  all different, to be sure. Each 
of  those places, as I learned them, had their own and differently 
unique flavors. It wasn't that they didn't match Avenel's flavor, or
perhaps even better it for those involved there. It was just that  -  to
me  -  they were never 'home' in the way that Avenel was. Poor. 
Soggy, Just coming around. Tardy, Slow. Avenel. For one thing,
I figured if a town didn't have a real railroad running through it,
a real, honest-to-goodness, take-you-places, people rail line,
then it couldn't hardly be  worth much. No outreach. No place
to go. That steam kettle, as it were, had no relief valve.

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