Friday, November 13, 2015

7440. BELOW THE WATER LINE, (pt. 71)

I'll admit to here  -  this chapter  -  probably
being a little something different. I like to mix up
my thoughts, and my presentations, every so often.
That's what helps a good teacher be a good teacher;
the craft of change. Not to be afraid of another setting
out. Just realize, too, that you're getting all this from
a little, snot-assed, Avenel kid with very little to show
for having lived an entire freaking life thinking about
things. You'd think I might have gone to Oxford, the
way I come across sometimes. 
First thing I ever saw was that there was something 
going on. Just everywhere, and there always was. One
time, I can remember, some sort of trip somewhere to a
circus. I think it was the meadowlands or someplace out
by there, when they used to have all those pig-farms and
slaughterhouses. Really sad place. My father used to drive
me out there on the way to places like Rutherford and
Lyndhurst, where some of my aunts and uncles lived. It 
always  smelled, and all I could ever imagine were all those
happy animals bleating and yelling for their lives. Leave 
it to stupid Man to screw everything up. Screwed up the
naturalness of the land thereabouts by deciding that the
natural fens and marshes and land drainage wasn't needed
and that money could be made there in other fashions, and
then screwed up the lives and beings of countless animals by
deciding that he could fucking eat them. Anyway, this one
time my mother gave me five bucks and a ticket for some 
bus trip that came with entry to a circus. Three-ring jobber.
During the course of the circus, I paid a buck or something to
greet and have a moment with 'the tallest man in the world,'
or the 'biggest' or something. Maybe it was just 'a giant'.  I
forget. He was big, yeah, we shook hands, yeah  -  big, 
powerful hands, and he gave me a ring, way too big for me,
probably just some cheap metal washer-ring or something,
and a signed picture of himself. Whatever, and big deal. I
got home, told the tale, and - wham! - when they read the
guy's name, they started getting all excited or something.
It was some actor or someone they knew, named Jack 
Palance. What did I knew? This guy, I guess, (he must 
have been young too, because he only like recently died a
few or five years or so back. A famous actor), like I said,
'had something going on.' Like everyone else, he was 
working double at doing something, anything, to make 
a mark. Actor. Giant. Everybody's got a gimmick, and
they're mostly always at it. I remember, much later in
his life, this Jack Palance guy was on some awards 
show and the MC was this little whiny Jewish guy - 
Billy Crystal, or some schmuck fake name, and when 
he had to award something to Jack Palance they 
faked a squabble, as entertainment, and Jack Palance 
looked  down at this little Jew guy and said, on live 
TV, in a form of mock disgust  -  'oh, god, I shit 
bigger than you.' That's my giant.
My neighborhoods friends and me, we were always 
about. We sort of kept to our own time-line, as much 
as we could. It's simple when you're a kid-boy, or it 
was. Most things revolved around a good, sturdy 
bicycle, and a baseball mitt too  - seemed like once 
was always hanging on my handlebars. If I was at
their house, whoever, or if they, whoever, was at my
house, it was always, 'can Gary eat over?', or 'Can
Billy eat over?'. A few minutes later, you're washing
up hands for  a different kind of supper. It was like
'friend for a day' stuff  -  each day, maybe, someone
different would get the day  -  there'd be other kids, 
but sometimes someone got the day  -  this is six and
seven years old, mind you  - the world is big and 
awesome and liquid and always changing.
So, all that time and change that has happened, and 
all those outside people always up to their somethings,
yes, it went all around me, on and forever  -  gimmicks,
stories, mis-representations. Some get lucky, willing to
make the sacrifice of selling themselves down the river.
What always really bugged me were the sneaky rats who
changed their names. All these Hollywood people and
the TV rats, it always turned out they never were who they
said they were. Their names were fake, their life-stories
were mostly made-up crap from, what it turned out to be,
a huge Jewish actually, lie-factory in the sky that everyone
got this fake cloud in to eat their fluff from. Totally accepted, 
rococo nonsense. I found it always pretty disgusting. To
this day. The prime attribute of a good person is in being
true to yourself. Being what you were born to be. Believe
me, everyone would have been better off if Marion Morrison
and Norma Jean Mortenson had just stayed who they were.
And besides, face it, it's a bad lesson for a kid to know that
  -  along in life  -  he or she could fake it in that manner.
It's taken me many years, dog years, in fact, to validate
myself, to make Life out of my fairly otherwise miserable 
life. It was always a struggle, and a few times I almost just 
died, by whatever means. I had a hundred opportunites of
intent, but I was always just too chicken. To shoot, to jump,
to OD, to drink that stuff or stand (again) in front of that train.
So, here I am, bleeding a satisfaction; well, of some sort.
I have realized that I've never been more alive, that my
stupid, frumkin, Avenel existence did drive something into
to me to remember. Even though I've always followed the 
dictate of Marcus Aurelius who said 'Live life as if you 
were already dead.' Or I thought. Maybe it was from the 
'Memoirs of Hadrian', I don't remember. Maybe 'The 
Consolations of Philosophy', by Boethius. Now when I 
look for it all I see is it cited as an ancient 'Samurai' 
saying. Perhaps I got it from Yukio Mishima back in 
1967  -  all that library scribbling. I don't know, but 
however wrongly attributed it's been bringing me magic 
of late. I look at people and I can actually see their 
self-excitement. It's very difficult for me to proclaim, 
but when I see someone I can sense their humanity, 
their satisfaction at being alive  -  even if, in the midst 
of all their other problems, it seeps woefully, to them. 
I can sense that girl's happiness and self-satisfaction 
with her nails, and her shoes, that day  -  her finesse 
about her toilette, her happiness at possessing grace 
and beauty. Or that man, with his stance and bearing, 
the shine of his well-done hair, his perfect business 
mien. Acumen. A Strength. None of those mean 
anything to me, but from each of those I feel it 
surging. It possesses a certain 'quiet', internal. It's 
Dignity, for sure  -  the same sort of holy dignity 
with which a dog licks its paws or cleans itself with 
its own tongue; or a cat does its own solid hygiene. 
Self-possessed, solid, sound. A complete Human 
possession of all matters. Last night's sex, this 
morning's shower, the application of eye makeup, 
 the selection of coat and hat, the wearing of that 
pencil and that lapel pocket. In point of fact, it's 
pretty much the only thing that allows me to forgive 
them for their stupid lives. I think, through all the 
ages, that's what people have meant by Grace and 
by Goodness; perhaps even by their quaint term 
'God.' It's simply the knowledge of that self-possession. 
And I realize now that I have no place else to go. It's 
a possession of Self by being 'outside of self'.

And, yet, knowing that, it's all been pissed away today. 
People live as if there was no living at all  -  minute by 
minute interactions with nothing, nothing higher 
than the dirt they walk on  -  endless blabber, the 
scoff and babble of stupid conversation, the twaddle 
of an ass. I know I openly cringe when I get near it  -  
I can hardly go anywhere at all. People make me puke; 
a curious subterfuge of convincing themselves of their 
own rightness and then reinforcing it by thinking 
everyone else wants to hear about it. Have you ridden 
a train lately?  Every poor-man's stop, every Elizabeth 
to New Brunswick to Newark, brings a new load of 
sick wanderers onto the train. Just when you think 
you're settled in for a decent ride, quiet car or  not, 
some fat-assed, lard-mouthed blubberface comes 
bumping and grinding in with his or her malfeasant 
telephone and begins the shit all over again. I want 
to grab a pair of pliers and go squeeze their tit or 
dick until they at least agree to shut the fuck up and 
text, if they have to do anything at all. I know I don't 
want to hear their lame-ass, underprivileged, 
new-fucking-sneakers voice. Sure, I'm a bigot, go 
ahead call me that. see if I care. I'm stating my 
position and my personal rights at an intellectual 
level far different from anyone who objects, that's all. 
Go learn some social manners and then come back 
and bother me. So  -  I wonder  -  is that what 'Avenel' 
made me? Sure as hell not; Avenel instead made them. 
Today's sorry-assed no-goods, whom I'm supposed 
to support. Yeah, right.

It was never my intention to go scooting away, 
running or leaving things. It just came to be that, 
as I seemed to 'grow', Avenel seemed to diminish. 
Everything became a lie; there was no foundation 
there, no clutch, no grab. Walking through town at 
some evening hour, watching the closing of the 
sunlight breaking down the light, tingeing the 
windows and glassways with its own diminished 
light, the entire scene seemed tired and sad and 
small. I realized that it was only other places, the 
large, the dynamic, the strength-of-cities with all 
their heritages and pasts, that made the definitions 
and the shape-forms of the lives we lived. Avenel 
was manipulated  -  it was periphery. It was not to 
be for me. Weirdly enough, now, it's somewhat turned 
about  -  subdivisions and new, large homes are 
bringing people, once again, out to these places and 
draining still again the 'cities' nearby of their better 
inhabitants, as it's put, and leaving repeatedly behind 
the big churn and turmoil that's left in cities, 
Manhattan to be sure, but others too  -  either the 
well-to-do or old-monied, the very top strivers, or 
the reckless low-level dwellers, those who just skirt 
by or are stuck there (Manhattan). Avenel itself has 
started becoming a catch-basin for the people who 
want something; something small, maybe a little yard,
 close to transportation  -  highways, parkways, 
turnpikes, shopping, and the rest. A 'small' 
investment (by contrasts), in a small life. Avenel has 
sort of flat-lined at some 'lower-middle-class' monetary 
stage that's become perfectly acceptable. Manhattan, 
and other places, by contrast, have become keen and 
cutting  -  it's very difficult to find the middle; and it's 
too bad. My own life was always distorted by the 
infraction of the lens which twisted the light  -  
to put it oddly  -  into a fashion of rainbow hues, 
none of which had any way for me to cling to or 
grab at, for they were just that  -  hues, chimeras, 
illusions. Some things were just always outlandish 
to me. I remember reading, when young, about 
the medievalists, or people in the medieval era 
anyway, who in their piety would make it a point 
to follow around a king or a royal or whatever 
nature, the higher the better, whenever one was 
within or passing by their area, their village or 
locale. The idea present then, and pushed as 
religious dictum, was to not miss the opportunity 
of praying in the presence of that Royal, wherever 
it was this person stopped to pray  -  a wayside 
church or cathedral, then for sure, enter in the 
throng with him  -  for any prayers sent to Heaven 
then were for more sure to be answered. The 
feeble thought behind this, of course, was that
God hears better the prayers and supplications 
of Royal stock, whatever it may be. Entire structures 
of religiosity were built around this. It flabbergasted 
me. Just to have to realize the dumb subservience of 
the poor and the meek in these situations  -  fawning 
and following the hem and stride of a Royal just so 
as to be able to pray with them, in their presence, 
even if unknown or unseen, because God better 
hears their prayers. What kind of thinking was this? 
How could people live like this? And then, as I looked 
around myself and saw the local activities, family, 
friends, neighbors, etc., I did realize and have to 
admit that here, in this new situation, it just wasn't 
that far afield from what I just described. The poor 
had transformed themselves, somehow, into this 
newer, envy, class of freshly-arrived people moving 
into Avenel - to their little homes and streets  -  and 
nearby, never far  -  was the church. In my case St. 
Andrew's  -  old building or new. Mothers fawned over 
the local priests, the old ones and the new, young ones. 
Kids flocked, entire families trudged off to Sunday 
Mass. Some sort of automatic accolade of prayer 
and supplication, en masse, and closer to God only
by being closer to his minions  -  in this case the 
priests and ministers who did this stuff (and in  their
'Royal' vestments too). Without fail and without 
question, money was given weekly, approval sought, 
public display played up  -  all so as to be seen being
'closer' to the Lord by being among the minions 
who prayed with His representatives. I guess all 
of this is still going on. Now I see families of Filipinos 
and Hispanics of all stripes dutifully doing their 
Sunday walks to church  -  parking cars, walking 
haphazardly in clothing fit for but a street fair; 
and white families too, all doing the same. The 
French used to say the more things change the 
more they stay the same. I guess that still stands. 
It's nothing ever that I can figure out; the logic of 
any of this escapes me. I don't understand what 
these people seek  -  what ostensible fulfillment 
to them could come from church-going and 
attendance. One can balance rationality against 
faith and find them both sadly blemished; but 
these people don't even take it that far. It's just, 
rather, for them, another version of blind servitude, 
never knowing what they're really doing, but just 
doing it anon.
Anyway, what was destiny and who had it? The 
little old Bond Bread man, with his silly Divco 
truck, trudging from house to house and talking 
up all those mothers and kids. Never seeing dads 
at all  -  what did he know, really, of the places he 
serviced? It was a fantastical life, a visitation, and 
his always having to be on, talking and more, was 
probably enough to drive him, or anyone, crazy  -  
 yet, a lot in life is a lot in life; you are where you 
are and you are what you've made. Here all the 
streets were new, and wide and mostly straight. 
There were no dangerous twists or alleys and 
churns where danger or thugs lurked. Everything 
was above-board and there really were no old 
stories. They were custom made, these streets, for 
the straight-line logic which would drive a bread 
delivery man to become a local confessor, one to 
confide in. He probably knew more about the 
happinesses and unhappinesses of all those 
families he served than anyone else around. 
People become what they are, without title. They 
did then anyway. Mike Cohen, this crazy-serious, 
Jewish, dark-suited guy who would walk around 
the blocks with his thick, black, breviary-like payment 
book, filled with little tear-off payment stubs for each 
of the subscribing families  -  he'd walk the local 
streets monthly, quarterly, whatever it was, to pick-up 
the life-insurance policy payments due. To my mother, 
he was sacrosanct, and for whatever reason the need 
to continue paying him was sacrosanct. His actual 
name was 'I. Mike Cohen', a mysterious name, always, 
to me, which turned to be Irving, hidden instead 
by the simple initial. Much like the bread-man  -  
though the complete flip-side, personality-wise  -  
he'd achieved a particular status all of his own 
making  -  no deeds, no documents needed. All
 these people were knee-deep in a weird sort of 
secular parochialism. A religion all its own.
Somewhere a long time ago I ran into a quote 
by the poet Frank O'Hara which always stayed  
with me. I took a comfort in it as I hated my pale 
and suburban life. I sought the attraction, verve 
and vibrancy  -  nay, the intellectual and philosophical 
firecrackers  -  that it portrayed and I took it as my 
own. I wanted to flee, just be gone. The quote went :
 "I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know 
there's a subway handy, or a record store or some 
other sign that people do not totally regret life." 
I loved that quote. As I probably noted previously, 
I'd often walk out to the highway at the end of the 
street  -  Route One  -  and just watch the cars and 
the traffic go by: all those headlights heading north, 
straight into the maw of the Holland Tunnel, 17 miles 
off, give or take. I'd see the cars in the other direction, 
whizzing south. In both cases I'd wonder and watch  -  
who were they, where were they off to, where had they 
 been, what were their lives about, what was going on? 
My questions seemed to all come from my own fact of 
being stalled, in-place, stuck, in servitude to a ratty, f
oul 'tradition', growing stir-crazy and mad-wild about 
release. It was always there, and always unsaid. This 
was pretty much at the same spot where my father 
and I had walked  -  me as a young boy  -  trudging 
through new footsteps through the fierce snowstorm's 
aftermath as he and I too looked out at the highway, 
white and slick and bare of traffic at that moment. 
I knew what Frank O'Hara was getting, for sure, 
even in 1960. Funny thing too  -  because the distance 
down that highway wasn't really any 'visible' distance; 
you couldn't 'see' anything special, just a mile or two 
of roadway and cars patterning by, and the rest was 
imagines. Much like Life itself, I always figured : you 
peer down something, look into somewhere, get your 
ideas and assumptions lined up, masked or unmasked, 
and pretty much all the rest is imagined or surmised, 
based upon the assumptions you make. Had I ever 
assumed that the roadway ahead of me ran, instead, 
directly to Vermont or wherever, then THAT would 
have been the paramount issue, the fruition of my 
desire. As it was, my endings were all endings of 
smoke : a place, a weird masterland of goofballs, 
beatnikism, crazed performers and artists, singers 
and shiners, all doing their things. It was the precise 
 opposite of this 'I. Mike Cohen' thing, which was, 
by comparison, a miserable straitjacket into which 
parents and elders had allowed themselves gleeful 
entwinings. They simply didn't know any better.
The way it comes down is that none of it has to 
matter  -  I cannot be the one to get stuck; it's 
against all my preachment. I've always thought 
anyway that I've achieved my own sort of 'State', 
my perfection, in my way. It hasn't been money 
 and fame, starlight and glitz, but even dearer to 
me has it become a way of life itself with some weird 
form of acclamation through others. It all amounts 
to some sort of other kingdom for sure. Not of this 
earth anyway. You can't take it with you, especially 
if you've never had it and it's never been in this 
place with you. That's OK. I review, I review, 
and I think, I draw conclusions and from those 
conclusions build a continuance of all that which 
I want. Not of this world  -  or have I said that already?
There's more to come on all this, but that's next chapter).

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