BELOW THE WATER LINE
Oh this life was a changing suitcase for
me as I grew. There were things back then
that loomed so important and now are truly
laughable jokes. The great divides were always
present : kids familiarities with each other
would break up as different schools were
attended. St. Mary's in South Amboy was a
big one - once that choice was made, mostly
a kid was never heard from again, socially
anyway. Another one, somewhere, was
Sacred Heart, I think in Perth Amboy. My
once-friend Billy Zellner went there - it
was as if he just got deported or something.
I don't think I ever saw him again, until years
alter at a funeral for Kenny Kaisen's father.
Parents who would send their kids off to a
catholic school - even the lower grades, like
St. James in Woodbridge, they always bugged
me. It was as if they were stupidly infracting the
welfare of their own kids, but doing it, in their
own eyes, as a positive effort to better them.
Who in the world would be bettered by going to
a school, during their most formative years, that
would put them under the proto-Nazi religious
thumb of perverts and crazies? Of blissed out
women having a mental-sex with Jesus and calling
it life? That's the trash you want controlling your
children? Call me stupid but. The entire scheme of
church stuff was just so stupid - marriage to Holy
Mother the Church, and all that crap - they thought
they were kidding? No, they were freaking serious.
The import was follow. Follow. Especially by 1967,
it meant blind allegiance to the dictates of the front
line. Boys, we need more bodies to riddle with holes.
Holes for Jesus, from where the sacred blood will flow.
Question not, just do your duty for God and country.
Yes. Absolutely, blind-licking crazy. There's no
atheists in a fox-hole, it was said in WWI, as a
way of bolstering the conventional faith of the
usual faint-of-heart who just weren't quite yet ready
to die for Business Interests un-named, let alone the
confabulated Rothschild and Bilderberg conspiracies.
None of my friends would ever have known what
to do - and I don't know who did what anyway. I was
long gone by then - I guess some served, stayed late
at the fire, some maybe even got scorched by the
embers or, as is said, 'hoist by their own petard.'
One time I remember, these people came by, going
door to door. They had this little work-van filled with
stencils and spray paint and paint cans. It was a pretty
preposterous endeavor to me, but a lot of the people on
those four new blocks fell for it. I don't know what it
cost, but they'd go door-to-door and sell their product.
If you bought it, they'd go right out front and do it ; I
bet for sure you're wondering now. Their gimmick was
(see I told you last chapter, everyone was always working
on something, a scheme to deliver) to go out front of
your house, center at the curb, and with stencils and black
paint they'd spray your house number in a black reverse
onto your curb. Get that - onto your curb. Now, each
house had house numbers on it. Installed. It was only
common courtesy, I'd think, for the builder of some
two hundred look-alike houses to at least put house
numbers on the front of each. Now these fools, for
their ten bucks or whatever it must have cost, would
paint those same numbers on the front of your curb.
Let me put it nicely - for 'whom?' The ankle-high
rodents who roamed - of which there was none, DDT
having long before destroyed any vestige of natural
ground animal. Caterpillars and squirrels? None of them
either. In fact, I always wondered : where the hell were
all the squirrels. You'd find more in a concrete park than
you'd ever see around my house. I suppose, being newly
uprooted and without any tree-homes and such, they'd all
moved on. So, anyone who was unsure, all they had to do
when walking home or parking their car perhaps, was look
down, down, by their ankles, and they'd see their house
number : that prevented a lot of the fathers from walking
into the wrong house and taking a few moments for the
brief, well-needed fling with the lady neighbor, by mistake
maybe, but thank God for those new stenciled numbers.
A lot of people bought this product. It never, never seemed
to last though, Within, I'd bet, two years, every one of them
was gone. Washed away? Worn out? I never knew.
Back to piety. It was my feeling that every religion was a
sect religion - blind allegiance to some small and localized
tribal type thing which has its beginnings in the early years
of Mankind's roamings. When all you have, behind every
huge tree and every boulder, is uncertainty and panic, your
structural constructions about the world around you are of
course going to represent that. Fire and fury, crazed anger
and the violence of old. That of course, once present, is
balanced by the human mind by conceptual factors
of better things - bliss, Heaven, Paradise, cheerfulness,
kindness and grace. That's where these people were
stuck - ancient and old world stuff of their own legends.
'lords' and Masters and rulers, chimeras in the sky, edicts
and all of the issues of miracles. Sending your kid off
to parochial school? And then on Saturdays returning him
or the front of a television for Buffalo Bob or Howdy
Doody? Superman and Rin Tin Tin? Are you crazy yet.
Face it, the church has always been fabricated to ally
itself with the secular powers that sustain it. It's a hoax,
and all the crud they do is a hoax too. There were one or
two families on my block - numerous kids - who sent
all of their children to catholic schools - never seen in
the usual hubbub of idiot kids clamoring - school bus,
schoolyard, classroom. Their 'betterment' meant nothing,
it simply had them, instead, maladjusted amidst another
had a different bunch of yammering idiots. So, then,
what did it matter?
Religion constrains. And usually it constrains to the
least common denominator, not the highest. In Avenel
I know for sure it did. The local churchyard was nothing
at all - nothing legendary, nothing old, nothing like a
graveyard or a memorial yard filled with trees and twisted
lanes and markers. It was all just Avenel Street junk and then,
incredibly, they twisted the new church sideways, completely
altering the feng-shui the other had possessed - which
one was correct? - and faced it in another direction on
'Madison' Avenue - the most morbidly boring street of all
those we lived on - a mere straight line of maybe 12 houses,
probably built as a lucky break by the developer whose plans,
when they were complete, allowed him one last filigree of
extra land where he could build a few more homes. When we
first moved in, each year there used to be a Springtime, or
June, carnival in the churchyard facing Avenel Street, adjacent
to the 'old' church - which was then just 'the church'. Long ago
removed, all of it. They'd bring in the usual carnival people and
set up rides and stands and stuff. A real noisy mess. Yet, since it
was a catholic church, I'm sure it wasn't the regular type of
itinerant carnival people - all boozed and sexed out - who
ran these good-weather things from town to town, up from
Alabama and other southerly points. Moving caravans of rides
and equipment, always on the move again every ten days after
set-up and break-down were completed. This was a 'Catholic'
carnival, and probably was contracted with the church
bureaucracy in Trenton - clean, happy fun, carnival barkers
who'd gone to the 'right' schools and learned the 'right' trade.
No camp-followers. No booze. No outside sex. The freak show,
as it were, would be only saints, not sinners. It's all pathetic
and to this day other nearby churches (St. John Vianney in
Colonia) date their fund-raising year by their carnival, even
moreso than their steady drumbeat of Sunday collections.
St. Andrew's in Avenel had, at that time, some really creepy,
young and just out of seminary school, new priest. A slick
Italian kid named Armando Pedata. Father Pedata - young,
considered good-looking by the all local ladies, the usual
comportment of 'what a waste, he's so handsome, why's he
a priest.' All that stuff - probably a goon-show of lady
orgasm in many secret homes thereabouts. He played golf
often with the local fathers. He doted on kids. But he was
creepy too. I had a neighbor named Linda Lordi, probably
one year younger than me. All he ever did whenever he saw
her, was start singing some song from the 1950's about 'I
dream about Linda.' Creepy, Infatuation. Scary priest-lust.
'When I go to sleep, I never count sheep, I count all my
dreams about Linda...' It's a real song, you can look it up.
He'd go around singing it. Really. There was one night, a
carnival night, when I was present, some parents were
present, and Linda was too - sitting around in lawn-chairs
while this cheeseball carnival went on, and he's endlessly
singing this song to Linda. Right there. No one said a
freaking word to him : all these idiot, infatuated
parents just letting it slide.