Sunday, November 29, 2015

7522. BELOW THE WATER LINE, (pt. 88)

(pt. 88)
I'd reckon it right to say I had enough friends
for one lifetime  -  back when I was young; and
mothers, and fathers too. It seemed like everyone
was on the lookout for everyone else  - mothers
watching other kids visiting, feeding them, making
sure they were Ok and got off to home on time.
Fathers would come home and see others; kids visiting
or staying over. Say hi, mingle, fool around some.
There were a couple of signals and whistles in
town, noises that ran over and sort of acted like the
old tolling bell in a town square  - of course these
bells and whistles were all different and all-factory.
Lunchtimes and breaks and shift changes for workers.
It was always pretty weird  -  the big 3pm steam pop
at Philadelphia Quartz, that was always a grand noise.
It was just some great outrush of superheated air that
hit the afternoon with a great sizzling, rushing sound
and left a ballooning white cloud. Always very
impressive. If it wasn't exactly three o'clock, it was
maybe 3:10. I forget. My history and homeroom
teacher later on at the end of Woodbridge High
School, Emery Konick, his father worked in there
for his entire working life. Emery Konick was a local
sportswriter. He wrote a column called 'Konick's
Korner' in a couple of state newspapers. Covered the
local sporting scenes  -  football and baseball mostly.
Nothing real special, just a bunch of local booster stuff
about teams and guys you'd maybe run across on their
way up to 'the Bigs' or something - that's what they called
the major leagues, back in those days when it still meant
something  -  before all the drugs and sex and booze messed
it all up. Most all of it was still white too, need I say. A
disguised racism that ran pretty late into even the 60's,
until at least everyone as one started getting blown to
smithereens in Vietnam  -  didn't matter there what color
you were  -  all the blood there, I'm told, ran red.
In high school, homeroom and all, I hated Emery Konick,
and he hated me. Well maybe just 'detested' is the better word.
He was a gung-ho, super-straight military type, and I was
an addled annoyance of long hair, sandals, old, dirty clothes
and in general the kind of youthful attitude that most of the
rest of the world hadn't yet caught up to, my friends included.
Oh, sure enough, they all would, but by then I was long gone.
I got to be known, in some circles, as the original Avenel freak,
the first hippie, and all that, but it wasn't really true. I still
get it from people, at gatherings and reunions and such. I just
was where my 'was' took me. I didn't much go thinking about
labels and names and adjectives. Because of that, funny thing
too, everyone I ever meet immediately assumes I am and was
a compendium of every catalogue drug and trip that there ever
was. But that's not true at all. I steered way clear, sure to want
to keep my head above me, not so much up my ass, which is
where  -  it seemed to me  -  all the drug people I ever saw
(and I lived with bunches of them) ended up having it. It's
funny  -  sometimes I just deny. Other times I just go along.
I can out-story any real drug-addict bean-pole anytime.
Anyway, it's all dirty business; always was. I hate drugs, and
I hate smoking weed too; 'ceptin as now it's just about the
most free and easy thing you can do now. I still have never 
done it. Too much baggage with that crap. You can probably
even find a cop or a councilman to smoke it with you. Things
everywhere sure have changed. This country sure has gone to
Hell, and it's funny how people now are just so proud of that.
When I was 8 years old, hearing those bells and whistles (there
was a great 7pm war hoop of a town whistle that went off each
evening from the firehouse. That whistle mostly ended and 
set-down our days for us), none of them made much sense.
I couldn't get the significance of the importance of the time
they signified. 7pm? So what, why do they tell you? It's always
7pm when that thing blows off. Why do you need it then to blow
off to know it's 7pm. It was an odd, kid's, circular reasoning, and
it, no matter, made more sense to me than the damned whistle
ever did  -  all these crazy adults, always having to be told things.
Emery Konick's father, I later figured, must have that stupid 3pm
steam whistle every day for 50 years. Like he worked at the
River Rouge Ford plant or something, in Michigan. Thousands 
of soggy workers, limping off to the time-clock. Tough burden.
Emery Konick used to throw me out of school nearly at least
once a week  -  to go get a haircut, go get proper shoes, better
clothing. I even got sent home a few times for 'too much clothing.'
How they knew that was beyond me. I pioneered the layered-look,
way before it was hip  -  mainly because January and February are
damned cold months and walking three miles or so each way to
school meant wearing some serious clothing. (Those pussy-jacked
teachers couldn't take it. One year they walked out on a 72-day
teacher's strike that got them right through the coldest commute
days). I'd have liked to have seen them walking their jerk asses to
school. Years later, when I was at St. George Press and Emery
Konick was a big-wig in the NJ Sportswriters' Association, he
and I would work closely on all the event booklets and awards
and installation programs they ran. We'd kissed and made up by
then, never much talked about which one of us was a bigger
asshole back then. Times, and things, change, I guess. Just a
truce though  -  neither one of us ever really surrendered. As
Bob Dylan later put it (on one of his luckier days) - 'I'm right
from my side, and you're right from yours.'
I never much cared -  one time he called me out in front of 
everyone, pointing at me and saying, using me as an example,
that 'long hair is, basically, for girls.' I felt like standing up and 
saying back to him a few choice accolades too, but my pose that
year was 'passive resistance,' following Martin Luther King and
Ghandi too. (I was a rude, nasty 'sum'bitch' when I chose to be
to be, or could be anyway). War was often run by words. That's 
how infernal high-school wars were run, back in '66. Who needed
Vietnam, for God'sake. Or God and Country's sake, or whatever
they were peddling back then. Country Joe and the Fish, it was,
'Country Joe MacDonald' puttin' it : 'One Two Three, what are
fighting for? Don't ask me I don't give a damn; next stop is
Vietnam. So it's five, six, seven, open up them pearly gates...
be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in 
a box.' Rough times everywhere, let alone the halls of some
seedy high school where no one wanted to be anyway, 
speaking of bells and whistles.
I guess what I was sensing, or saying, was that it was
all over, it was coming to a swift and decisive end. All
my youthful days were a'gettin' done, and done quickly.
The Science-Fiction writer, if you have to call it that, Arthur
C. Clarke, he wrote a book called 'Childhood's End.' It
came out in 1953, before my reading time, for sure. But when
I caught up to it, by Jesus, I caught up to it. I believe in all sorts 
mysteries -  the mysteries of place and being, echo and presence,
intention and desire. I know we're not alone. I know I hold my
God in the palm of my hand each time I reach for my heart, and not
my mind. I believe in lots of things. I believe I'm in every other
person's One Spirit just as much as I believe they're in mine.
And I believe in nothing much at all. And that book, let alone 
the geeks and fakers of a society  back then represented to
me by Emery Konick, was the start of my new time on Earth.
So you might say, I guess, high school was good for 
something after all.

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