Thursday, December 31, 2015


Here's a guy taking five-year old medicine,
just as he found it, out-of-date or not. There's
no magic in the elixir of the cure. We sit back,
drinking Boone's Farm once more. Talk about
sons-a-bitches, this one's come in from the cold.
Drowning his sorrow in us. Like in days of old.

7646. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 119)

(pt. 119)
One thing that's disappeared over time, and it relates
back to the 'visually expository' nature of Mr. Roloff,
is window-painting. There was a time when it was a
great favorite of local merchants, and of celebratory
school windows : Santas, reindeer, mangers, angels,
wise men, baby Jesus stuff, the 'Holy' Family  -  all
those matters that are now strictly forbidden by the
secularized, more vulgar takeover of everyday life. It's
OK to portray bikini-clad beach bunnies with breasts the
size of Nevada wearing Christmas hats while carrying
beer trays, as a for-instance, but God forbid any of
the other stuff -  the town council would have you
hanging by your own Yule balls off the nearest tree.
Back in the days I'm speaking of, a lot of the Main
Street stores of the small towns and cities would have
those sorts of business fronts that were all glass display
windows, with some even having depth that you
walked through to get to the actual front door entry
of the store. In those windows they'd display their
merchandise, whether it was clothing, cameras, bicycles,
or furniture. It would be upon these display windows
that the local high schools and other schools would have
kid-painting festivals -  all that tempera paint. It was
bold in color, came off thickly, and was 'temporary',
which I don't think had anything to do with the word
'tempera' but maybe it did. Those painted windows
would be all over towns  -  sloppy, sometimes ugly,
striking, those big Stars of Bethlehem always spiked
and shining on high. There'd always be a 'best-window'
contest or somesuch, run by the arts-council or the school
art departments, or whatever. The mayors and the fair
ladies of the town would come out for the big bash. I can
even remember, quite well, all through the 70's and 80's,
the town of Metuchen having a Miss Merry Christmas
contest  -  signed ballots at the local banks and merchants
to vote for your favorite of the six high school girls who'd
been selected for the contest  -  photos, smiles, head shots,
on each. Obviously based on looks; sexist, if nothing else, by
today's standards, and probably leering and lewd to in the
eyes of teen boys and gentlemen. Nobody cared. It was
Christmas. The winner and runner-up got to ride in the
Christmas Parade, on the town float. That stuff is all over
now  -  Metuchen 'balled-out' a long time ago and now
labels their parade as a Winter Fest or some name, as if
they lived in Finland or Norway for God's sake. Curlicue
chicken-ass bunch. But no different than anywhere else.
So be it. Mr. Roloff would have his window paintings  -
each of the portables too, I think. He'd select his art-kids
from whomever he thought was best or good, or favorite,
and they'd have a go at all the windows. Usually, by
January 10 or so, it was all taken down, washed away,
windows cleaned and back to clarity.
It was always a good indication, to me, of the situation
we were living : the 1950's had all sorts of cross-currents
going on, societally. A lot of it we were unaware of, but
people like Mr. Roloff brought some of it to us. There was
the entire 'beatnik' thing  -  if you recall my story-line
earlier about Alex and myself being given free rein to write
our own Christmas play  -  our 'Beatnik' rendering of the
kidnapping of Santa. That was Mr. Ziccardi's choice and
doing (selecting us)  -  and no one ever really mentioned 
anything to us about our play afterwards  -  we didn't get 
any real congratulations or kudos from it, but the true
zaniness and pure zest inherent in what we wanted to do
was allowed free-enough rein. I mean, we weren't including
profanities or rap lyrics or suggestive remnants of anything.
We weren't about that  -  it was 1960 for crap's sake. Alex
and I were probably the only two kids around anyway who
had a leg up on breaking cultural matters  -  irony, absurdity,
meaninglessness. We didn't exactly make mention of it, but
we knew what was up, and we sensed what we were doing.
And we were both hell-bent on breaking out, forging a
vanguard, even then. All was cool, and we were all.
The whole context of the window painting and the usual 
frolics that go with (what's now called) 'Holiday' crap, 
was basically within the context of a church-referential
mode, but it was quickly going out of style. Little did we 
know, Jack Kennedy was bonking Marilyn Monroe, Judith 
Exner, Mimi Alford, Priscilla Wear, Jill Cowen and others,
in the White House itself, and elsewhere, and while married. 
The entire thing was a cultural sham, with the Catholic hierarchy
involved as well. After all, he 'represented' them, he was held up 
as a regular, secular saint  -  proving the rightness of the Church 
and the wisdom and good sense which could come from it. It
was, as I said, all a sham  -  he was just as much a weasel as any
of the rest of the Senate, House, Courts, Congress or lawmakers.
Greed, corruption, power, lies, and all the rest. Later it was Bill 
Clinton too; yeah, but he wasn't the same sort of secular saint
because WE weren't the same sort of naive or duped people. 
Kennedy's father had been a criminal in a suit, a bootlegger, 
a racketeer, and one who'd risen to the top as head of the SEC 
(Securities and Exchange Commission), which only gave him a 
further means for the advancing of his doctrinaire capitalism 
through insider trading, deals, payoffs and commissions. The 
Kennedy family money was legendarily dirty, as was their son, if 
not the one, then the entire three who remained. We, as a Nation, 
however were expected to worship at this altar of lust and 
the misbegotten ventures it put forth. 
That was all part of  the essential fraudulence of the time.
In some ways, we no longer have that, in other ways it's worse.
Today's situation, the 1990's version of it anyway, was 'President' 
Cliinton (if you can believe that) telling Time magazine of his
late teens and early twenties in Arkansas, how he had the rear
pick-up area of his Ford Ranchero done up and covered in a
version of 'Astro-Turf' so he could better have sex with girls. Well,
at least it was girls, I suppose, as a positive. Big ha-ha that was.
'Oh that crafty devil!', they said. Hillbilly style, hi-fashion. A few 
years later he's sticking cigars in some intern Jewess' holes, in 
the Oval Office no less  -  oval orifice in the oval office? The nation 
laughs and applauds, and the only people who really get stuck are 
the people like Ken Starr, and others, whose Government-job it 
WAS to prosecute this stuff. The laugh tracks groaned on. For
THIS, I ask you, for this we were sentenced to 12 years of an
infernal be-jeezused schooling given to us by morons? It's
all worse today, for sure, but that's not excusing anything. We 
were, in the meantimes, supposed to have developed respect and
proper attitudes and the high-American reverence that goes for
bloviating on Decoration Day, Memorial Day and July Fourth 
for all the schmucks who've died for this crap. We've not come to 
that, yet. (Did I say yet?). Oh really!!...But, anyway, back then
we knew very little (because the lie that we lived as a nation 
couldn't yet let it out), except that there was an undercurrent of
some weird malaise taking hold  -  the idea of television, for
one, had already well-swept through Avenel. Our references 
were to all of that already. There was everything from Sky
King to Gunsmoke, Paladin, Maverick and Have Gun Will
Travel. Twilight Zone. Mouseketeers. Howdy Doody. The
list went on, and we began eating it all up. Kix and Fruit Loops
and Cheerios and the rest. Kids don't know it, but we had to
live without Life and Cap'n Crunch and all that crud until it
came to market a few years later. Karo Syrup was on 
everything. My mother used to put it into the baby-bottle 
water which she fed to my infant sisters. It was some hideously
sweet corn syrup or something. That was the world we lived in.
Turkish Taffy was a big deal. Bit O' Honey. This 6th grade
world was twirling its baloney into steak, and we were being
fed the sham-steak result. All of this, for all you can believe, 
before fast food -  no McDonald's and Burger Kings, let 
alone the rest. That whole California car-culture overlay was
just beginning. The idea of living like that, outside of the 
covers, so to speak, had never occurred to anyone here. 
There was a store along Route One, across from where 
the Howard Johnson's used to be  -  called 'American
Shops' or something, and it was perhaps the only thing that
ever came close. It had that ersatz, weird, warm-weather 
tropical feel. An entryway you had to walk along with palm
trees, a parrot or two, statues of guys with burros, sleepy
Mexicans with serapes and straw hats. All that, for selling
clothes. I think they gave out something for free too  -  
soda or popcorn, I forget. But for Avenel that was the 
only and nearest thing to outdoor culture that there was. 
Like the roofless Menlo Mall, it was something starting 
and  something new. By ten years later, the world 
was on fire, we'd touched on the moon, and 
all the kids were crazy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


What comes to mind is your heartful hand :
and how weary I am. The shades of blue that
cover me, like the dominoes on a playground
table, are flipped and flopped to random
combinations; numbers without sense,
and reasons without rhyme.


That's me you see going over the 
edge. Smashed wings, broken-fingered, 
all without hope. Not even a bucketful 
of sugar could sweeten this mess. I am
outside the point of standing, past where
I should be, along a fitful back alley 
of something else, leaning on a 
railing, gazing out to sea : 
the broken albatross,
that's me.

7643. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 121)

(pt. 121) (part A)
I never, at first, as a kid, knew anyone who
died or was dying one of those long, slow,
painful deaths. I don't know how it was back
then, but, all be told, I don't remember anyone
having cancer or dementia or any of that  -
walking around in outer space like a lot of
old people do now and having endless industries
made up just to take care of all those addled, old
people still hanging on. Wagon-loads of service
people, home-care professionals, all that silly
commercial stuff going on. Medicine was what
it existed when you needed just something more
than an aspirin. Penicillin was the big deal. The
doctor would come, give you a shot, give a
prescription. The pharmacy kid would deliver
at the front door two hours later, lap up his
twenty-five cent tip and be done. Now they have
entire operations who'll hire themselves out to
you, as long as your money lasts anyway, and
set up your house like a hospital for someone to
die in. Die at home. Yeah, talk about sacred space.
More like 'scared space' sometimes. I know; I've
been through it. Parents dying off, etc. It's always
a tough, hard world. We maybe move things around
thinking we can find some better conveyance, but
it's all the same in the end. When you're a kid, none
of that matters  -  you're gonna' live forever, and
Summer lasts forever to.
One funny thing about Avenel was the way that people
seemed to lean, one way one way or the other  -  in the
days before shopping centers and malls and all  -  to
either Perth Amboy or Rahway, for their essential needs.
I don't know how it went, what the predilection was for
the one way or the other. It just seemed to happen.
Those were both other, larger, places, almost cities,
with full downtowns and parking areas and eateries
and movie houses and all. They'd get all done over
for the holidays, they'd have sidewalk carolers, contests
and banners and lights. Rahway was closer  -  in fact,
right where I'd gotten that dog, Super Bill, that kennels
may have been the dividing line  -  at the tracks  -  of
Rahway and Avenel and Colonia. It was a weird spot,
kind of scrunched and angled. I remember when it all
was taken down  -  out of the blue, to me. One day they
just had bulldozers and everything there, for acres and
acres.  -  the empty kennels came down, the woods,
the grasslands and swamp, and they put up a Bradlee's
and a Buxton's. One was an early version of WalMart,
sort of, and the other (Buxton's) was akin to a
coffee shop/pancake house combo trying to be a
Howard Johnson's but without any hotel/motel stuff
attached. Pretty impossible to make it go. My own
family always went to Perth Amboy  -  probably, I
always figured, because that's where all the constant
medical and hospital stuff my family was always dealing
with all was. Dr. Sobodien. Dr. Fine. Dr. Nemtsov. Blah,
blah. Ten hundred names if there was ten. Plus the hospital
itself  -  where I'd spent a ton of time all balled up. It came
down to, for a while, every Friday night  -  some little
dinner joint with a 2 bucks kid special fish thing, and then
groceries there somewhere, I forget, and then just walking
around, I won't say endlessly, or aimlessly  -  looking at
things. Maybe my mother got this or that. I never much
really looked, because I knew whatever I'd want I couldn't
have anyway  -  budget stuff, money being the problem.
So I caught on, and would just move along taking in all
the things I saw  -  the parking meters, their sounds and
clang, the passing people, the storefronts and offices,
eyeglass medical offices, garages and appliance places.
There was some cool tavern, it's still there but the name
escapes me (taverns, by the way, like that  -  the little,
workingmen's, corner bars, are all in an eclipse now,
disappearing fast. They used to be everywhere, for the
workmen, when people made stuff), where I'd watch
the people in and out  -  the way they held themselves,
staggered and lingered. Everyone smoked, most
everywhere. You could walk the aisles of J. C. Penny's
for pity's sake back then, fingering all the shoes and
dresses and fabrics, with ten feet of ash hanging off the
end of your indoor cigarette. No one cared or ever said
a word. Blue-gray smoke was everywhere  -  like some
Civil War color-recollection memorial air. Funny. Even
in the doctor's offices, people smoked. Even the doctors!
They be telling you you were going to die from some
problem or the other, and they'd be sucking on cigarettes
while breaking the news. Bunches of poor wheezers sitting
around at curbside all up and down Fayette and State Streets,
chaining down on their cigarettes. It was a great world, all
there for the taking. I remember one fairly chilly evening,
after we'd eaten and walked some, etc.,  -  I was about 7 or
8 - I got ill; my father walked me by the arm, out to the curb,
and  -  just like that  -  I puked into the gutter while he held
onto me. As simple as all that. No one looked up, nor even
seemed to care. Now, by contrast, you have to curb your
dog, pick up its dogshit, and, for crying out loud, spray
air-freshener around when it farts. I guess all the smokers
are dead, and the kids who puke into the gutter get arrested.
Perth Amboy, I also remember, used to have this really great
outdoor vegetable market  -  under wooden awnings and stalls.
Now, it's long gone and is two senior-living towers, with a lobby
and a walkway and an atrium and all that junk at the front. There
were bare light bulbs, strung on wires everywhere  - bushels and
sacks of things  -  bananas, potatoes and the rest. Just piles of
food as at a huge outdoor market. We'd walk around there for
what seemed forever  -  cold, warm, raining or not. It always
smelled great, and all different aromas mixed, straw and ice and
hay and whatever else. Trucks with the truck-backs opened, they
backed right up to act as display and sales areas. Loud, uncouth
people, throwing things, catching slabs of food, baker-guys with
all the great smelling bread. I'm sure Perth Amboy wasn't alone
in this, probably every good town had something just like it, on
different scales. But this was the one I grew to know, week after
week. When it came down, sometime around 1961 or so, I was
sad. Man oh man, so much is lost. The people there now are all
mostly just immigrant-zombies: little, short, fat and stumpy
people, Hondurans, Mexicans, Dominicans, and the place has
a totally different feel : slummy, run-down, cheap, beat, raucous
and ugly. Like the people there, sad to say. Never yet has Perth
Amboy been caught in a renaissance of any sort. I always
wanted an artist-loft there, figuring it would be cheap and catch
the crest of the gentrification to come. No way, Jose. And I
don't even speak Spanish much well.
Anyway, that was probably good for half of Avenel, while the
other half frequented Rahway for all their stuff. We never did,
at all. Maybe my father, once or twice, went to Rahway Lumber,
or the junkyards  -  which were technically borderline Avenel
and Rahway places anyway  -  who knew where you were
except some silly political person. I remember, at the church,
this Father Genecki guy, the only thing he'd ever do, ever, was
get in his car and go to Rahway to mail a letter. At the Rahway
Post Office boxes. He'd never use Avenel  -  he swore things
took an extra week from Avenel or Woodbridge, and that
Rahway was a direct mail-link to efficient delivery, connected
daily to everywhere. had it all figured out, and only used the
Rahway Post Offfice. Right by the post office, as well, was
a place called The Fulton, a restaurant  -  sort of fancy, with
cloth napkins and all (that's mostly what I go by). That's where
all the Avenel St. Andrew's church folk dined. At least once a
week, Father Egan would have his big Saturday dinner there,
my friend's parents often acting as his transportation. I guess
he didn't drive. I don't know what he did much of anyway.
All I knew was that everyone liked his Masses because he'd
zing though the liturgy, rattling everything off at top
hyper-speed, just a quick blaze of words, and get the
hour Mass done in about 25 minutes. That quick. Real blase,
just streaming through those words like...'Our Holy redeem
emmemrhthhtyuut kokokthty, yeah, yeah. Amen.' Boom .
Over. (Or, actually, it was 'Introibe ad altare Dei', which
meant, in Latin, 'I will go up to the altar of God...' That
was the opening line of words to the old Latinate mass).
It was funny. He was probably so sick and bored of
doing that Mass thing, over 50 years probably like ten
billion times, that it had lost all meaning and just needed
getting down and done quick. Nobody ever complained.
The only thing I remember, towards the end, when he
couldn't see very well, and it would get to the time for
the pulpit readings and all that  -  was how he'd pull out
a magnifying glass to read through, and that would be
a real dead spot and slow everything up. I was often
one of his 'altar boys', to assist, and I can remember how
his one eye, behind the magnifying glass, would itself
get magnified and he'd look like some crazy Cyclops
from where I was sitting alongside him.
Soome to be gone was the Polish and Hungarian nature
of old Perth Amboy  -  slowly of course changed over to
the influx of Hispanics of all sorts, with Coutros Brothers
Tropical Fruits soon becoming probably the major employer
(banana importing, green-banana ripening , distribution, etc) -
it all was changing, spinning crazily, with its blacks and 
Puerto Ricans too. There were pockets of old-line resistance 
everywhere, Steve Mizerak's Raritan Rec  - one of the
grandest, old-line pool halls, was in Perth Amboy, for the
longest time, right across from the famed law offices
of Wilentz, Goldman and Spitzer, an active NJ law firm
founded by Warren Wilentz, of the Lindbergh Trial. Those
two places hung on seemingly forever (both gone now), as, 
across the street from then, the movie palace as turned into
am Assembly Hall for some shrieking God group, two
cigar-rolling shops opened up  -  Panamas and Hondurans,
and Cubans too, hand rolled. Fishkin's closed up  -  an old,
Jewish, camera, toy and hobby shop of wonderful proportions.
There wasn't much to be done about any of that  -  there were
lots of immigration and cultural changes underway larger than
everything else. The beautiful, old Civil War relic of a City
Hall and Assembly Chambers fell into disrepair, sadly. All
the trees were cut, the waterfront went the way of all
waterfronts  -  parking, fences and tar. Certain things
maintained themselves over the years  -  the yacht club,
and a few other things, but not much. The whole place was 
lost to its babble of ethnicity. Now it's a jumble of Mexicans
to Dominicans to Hondurans, as I noted, the library and
the post offices are pigsties, business are vacant unless 
they're crappy dollar-stores and bargain-holes, and no one 
cares. Overweight, corn-fed, starched-out low-levels walk
everywhere. Even the Salvation Army Bucket person
gets mugged, in Spanish no less. 
Rahway had a different feel, always. Indolent, industrial, dark,
mysterious, slow, mystified even by itself. Black people owned
it, pretty much, just by possession. The civic running of it and
all may have still been white, but the core of the town had
turned over to the contingents of black people. Mindlessly, I'm
not saying there was a problem. It just was like that. There were
brick factory buildings, slowly dying. The train station was 
elevated, above the town sort of  -  lots of ramps and stairways.
It stayed busy. I never knew who lived there, or what they did,
but people came and went, there was still some cool things
around, and it was generally quiet and old-line. The downtown
strip had plenty of stores  -  dying off, yes, but still there in
1965. Schatzman's, a great toy store, at one end, and the usual
array of clothing stores, dress shops, accessories, and the rest.
A sort of leftover 1940's feel, and then, as it came that no one
wanted any of that stuff anymore, it fell apart and disappeared
as disarray and neglect set in. Old people. The perplexed. The
old coat factory downtown held on for a long time, then it was
transformed. Unlike Perth Amboy, this place had just the touch
of renaissance about it  -  one or two NY chefs came by and
opened nouvelle cuisine restaurants  -  nothing much lasted, 
though there's still one around. The biggest thing in the town,
for activity, was the Station Bar and The Waiting Room. Each 
of those were slobbering-nut bars and taverns where a specific
sort of young person went to get drunk enough to sit and watch
the old people still left around them die. With nose, and a jukebox,
and drunken, loose girls. What kept them in business was the
train station, not that there were great crowds, but that's where 
the people were as the rest of town crumbled. The center of town. 
The old Chevy dealership finally closed up (I knew an old-timer,
in fact, who while he was alive always called it  -  instead of
'Rahway Chevrolet'  -  'Railway Chevrolet'. That kind of tells you
all you need to know about the center of town. That Chevy 
dealership, later in the 19990's, became a still thriving 
Harley-Davidson motorcycle franchise, started up be a friend
of mine who came up from Millville, NJ to do it. That old guy, 
by the way, he often got things wrong but right : calling
landscapers 'landscrapers', meaning the say 'specific' but
saying 'pacific', things like that, little quirky twists of words;
so 'Railway' Chevrolet was perfect, it being right there.


(pt. 120)
I have always tried to live in a purely deliberate
fashion; I thought, anyway. In this life you have
haphazard, and you have deliberate. Haphazard
people it seems are always the ones having
accidents, in blue cars, driving too fast, ignoring
the double yellow, all that stuff. Just jamming
along, turning where they choose, no matter the
sign. The fat, stupid ones, seen later on TV, after
running down a pedestrian and a baby carriage
or something, trying to blame another, or some
other cause, or a reason elsewhere for what
they themselves have done. Really sickening
stuff. It's fairly characteristic in all they do, the
way they live. They never 'deserve' punishment,
it all always someone else's fault or issue. Kind
of just makes you sick. Deliberate people are
different. They're 'posh' by comparison. Things
happen more slowly, as they accumulate and
develop   -  they need all the right reasons first.
It's like the difference between a cigarette
smoker and a pipe smoker. The cigarette people,
they just light and burn  -  sucking away on a
mouthful of gray smoke, without a concern.
Reaching the point of a butt, all three minutes
later, they just throw it down, often not even
stomping it out; but just move on, oblivious
until the next three-minute bout of 'need' hits
them. A pipe smoker  -  if you've even seen or
done or known one  -  they take forever. Loading
and packing, getting the tobacco from a pouch,
loading it in just right, the right amount, the
proper tamping-pressure for good lighting, the
lighting, the slow and careful puffing, cradling the
pipe, the physical object of the pipe, tending the
burn now and then, and  -  finally  -  twenty minutes
or more later, carefully undoing all of that after
their little flame has subsided, cleaning and
draining the pipe, storing it, etc. It's as slow and
deliberate a process as any deep thinking can be.
The polar opposite of the cigarette person. Two
varied extremes. I often came across as a haphazard
nut case, but in reality I was always quite deliberate.
Most of Avenel was, and still is, about as haphazard
as one can get. So many recollections abound, things
that still would startle  -  for a town of real homes and
orderly suburban living, it would still often present
the damnedest sights. I remember one house, over by
Metro's, every year. November or December, or
whenever deer hunting season is, they'd have at least
one or two deer carcasses strung up on the side of
their house, over the side porch (all still there), while
they eventually got around to fully gutting and butchering
or rendering the meat, or whatever you do with dead
hunting kill. Like it was nothing, or like it was some
mountain hollow out in West Virginia. Tongues askew,
eyes popped, neck slightly twisted from the hang; it
was really pretty gross, and I always felt for the poor
dead sons'a bitch deers  -  who'd never shoot back,
couldn't fight back, and had to end their ignominious
existence hanging over the side-porch of some Avenel
idiot's house, waiting for the carver. Maybe that's a
deliberate thing too? Can't be too haphazard, I guess.
Or the same with cars  -  there were always a certain
few who had two or more vehicles  -  pretty much just
like the deer I just mentioned   -  strewn about, hood
open, just hanging around missing parts, flat on their
wheels, undergoing long-term repair or demolition, and
sometimes even causing little oil flows and rainbow
puddles. No one cared. Both these traits, once I lived
out in Pennsylvania, were fairly common things. There
were always hunting kills around, and there were
generations of dead cars and broken down machineries
strewing up most every yard : right up there with the
refrigerator on the porch and the armchair out on the
lawn, or what there was of a lawn. Things just accumulated,
and stayed, but out there you could accept it, and expect it
too. Everything was isolated, on twisty dirt roads, no
one else was nosing in your business. I don't even know
if deliberate versus haphazard worked out there. They had
their own categories  -  like when your sister is also your
aunt and her kid is from Uncle Freddie but everyone calls
him Buck. Know what I mean? Definitions stretch, genetics
twist. Nothing is what is what meant to be. But, this was
Avenel  -  there had to be at least a few categories and
protocols that went with them. I used deliberate versus
haphazard a lot  -  it always worked for me.
I used to go down to the Kindness Kennels a lot. When I was
maybe 12. It was down in a muck-hole in the ground, a wet
spot over by the brook and the railroad. There's a Wendy's
and a Home Depot there now. I remember the kennels there
real well  -  for a few reasons. First  was, I always liked
the girls that worked there. They were like 18 years old or
so, loose-limbed, sloppy types, hippies before there were
hippies, kind of. No one really in  the magazine-beauty
category of attractive or pretty, but they had something
about them that was always better than that. They were
always happy, and dedicated to all these crazy dogs and
puppies and cats and kittens. Pigeons. Rabbits. Most
everything went through there. They were always
cuddling something, filing out forms. There were maybe
40 cages  -  you could walk along, inside or out, since they
opened both ways, and the captive dogs within came and
went to the people passing by. Yapping. Barking. Making
you real sad you couldn't just take them all. It was quite a
place. I knew things also died there, got put to sleep, and all
that, but I always overlooked that. Had to, or I'd be crying
myself all the time, and nothing would ever be right. All
I did ever want was to have a dog from there. I finally
got one, in 1971, January. The last thing I did before I left
town that day was buy a dog I named Billy (later always
called 'Super Bill') from them (this was years later). That
little puppy drove with me, inside my jacket in the unheated
January-cold car, the 260 miles it took to get back up to
Columbia Crossroads, PA. Just stayed in one little curl,
like a comma. I delivered that dog to its new home, and
it loved everything -  danged stupid-ass fool dog. It got the
name Super Bill because, out in the wilds, once settled in,
it would challenge, at a fast trot, every car and vehicle that
came within a mile of our place. Wasn't afraid of anything
at all. I should have always kept her tied up, I guess, but
how could you  -  tie up a 12-acre dog whose land was
its Paradise, who free-rein being demanded space and
glory and happiness? Dang fool one day did get itself all
busted up under a fast-passing car. Just left for dead at
the side of a road.  I can still cry over that, if I choose to.
Please don't get me started.
So, I guess Super Bill was one haphazard dude of a dog.
Never seemed anything deliberate about him. Some are
just that way. It's too hard to judge everything.
The backwoods of Avenel, as you fanned out in the late 1950's,
got haphazard real quick  -  all those Blair Road people in
their 75-year old homes, living out there with their own small
kingdoms of trees and cars and dogs. Junkyards, a bit different
than the ones by us  - the Blair Road junkyards had like trees
growing out of old cars, they were spread out, ran through
bush and grasses, had waterways through them. These guys,
Dafchik and Rhodes, they had small work sheds about, with
lifts and hoist, and they had sheds of fenders and then sheds
of hoods, and then sheds of seats, all that differentiated stuff
in case someone asked. Tractors and crawlers. They just lived
amidst their work, with little care for all else, or so it seemed.
There's a poet, still alive, I think, maybe not, named Gary Snyder,
an old-line 1950's kind of writer, Beat generation at first and
the moved along. He's got a line somewhere that says : 'Nature
isn't a place we visit; it's where we live.' I always liked that
line, and it fits pretty well into what I'm talking about here
- even though, the flip side of all this was that these people,
'we, these people', as it were, were intent not so much on 
living in that Nature as mucking it up  -  ruining it, getting
rid of it; but that'll have to be another matter and another
time. My point here now is that along the fringes, where
they still existed, were yet people to be found who were
living one or two steps off the ground and that was it. I use
Blair Road only as my example : they still had garbage-barrel 
fires; they burned leaves and trash' they buried their dead 
animals in their own private spots, they had, yes, those
'sacred spaces' I talked of. I got a phone call, in fact, just the
other day from a good friend, childhood chum, play-writing
buddy from the old Maynard the Beatnik Reindeer days, in
fact, and he began telling me these wonderful little tales of
his own sacred spaces when he was young  - disgruntled or
unsettled, these were the spots he ran to : he called them
'Big Rock', and 'Little Falls'. And another friend who lived
right near them as well, he's mentioned them to me. They
were just off Avenel Park, when the real world around it was
still wild enough to get lost in - woods and paths and shortcuts.
Now it's all those cookie-cutter apartments I'm always
wailing about  -  all those first-stop in America types 
mugging around. All those apartments and condos, they
buried everything we used to know about the Nature we
lived, not visited. Now people instead hop on a plane or
something and go pick their asses in Yosemite or the Grand
Canyon and get back on a plane to return home like they're
John Muir or someone  -  one of those great 19th century
big-time naturalists  -   'cause they've got a postcard photo or
two of something 'real'. Real like the plague is real actually.