Tuesday, December 15, 2015

7485. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 103)

(pt. 103) section a:
I was ready to move on. I'd begun painting in my
parent's basement, that would be Summer '66 I guess.
I was crazed and partially demented about everything.
I'd just left the seminary, nearing what seemed like an
eternity there, they'd finally gotten fed up with me and
simply asked me to go home for a while, reconsider things,
and perhaps not return. OK, fine. You were just a bet I
lost anyway. Oh dear 'Spiritual Advisor', I'll never
forget you (except that now I can't remember his
name. Father Somebody works as well as anything).
So, from all angles, no one was real happy with me.
In that basement, I'd started painting - crazy, wild-looking
canvases which I'd hang from the rafters on string in the
far corners of the basement area. It was as if I had a
suspended art gallery of my very own junk  -  color
paintings in a style I'd called 'organic'; everything had
the curved and swirly shapes and forms and dimensions
of body parts, kidneys, lungs, swirls and circles  -  like
bacteria or mold as it grows on rocks and trees. It was a
style all my own, it didn't last, and I guess it was all
tryout anyway. It was the 'style' however that I presented
to the Studio School for my entry-admissions-interviews,
and it got me in  -  six or seven of those dragged into the
conference room, with my perfunctory, off-the-spur
explanatory comments and art theory. Enough of anything
anyway to keep people jumpy, interested, and listening.
They loved me, and invited me in; my father out front in
his 1960 Chevy wagon  -  which we'd enlisted to transport
the canvases in (about 2ft X 3ft each)  -  steaming over a
 75 dollar parking ticket. I don't know if Avenel had ever
produced any artists, but that day I felt that it had. This
stuff had been accepted by these people  -  real art folk  -
as some form of a derivative outgrowth idea of NY School
Abstract-Expressionism from the 1950's for a bizarre
amalgam of 1930's through 1960's Hans Hoffman color
and form theory real, true, product. Think somehow of
an art deco mixed with a crank modernism, 1960's style.
Hip enough, like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy
Davis Junior painting with their hipness and attitude, without
regard for anything else, while smoking themselves to death.
That was it. In pop terms anyway.  I could'a made a million.
Except a few months later one of my sisters, back at home
in Avenel, throw all this shit out in a total 'Gary's gone'
clean-up, in which I lost all my art, as well as my voluminous
collection of Village Voices, from initiation  -  earliest issues  -
on. It all ended up on the bastard curb. Garbage-heaved and
forgotten. Oh well. Oh well. Oh well Avenel. I can still
close my eyes and dream about some of them.
Here's a funny note about my anger. For a long time I stayed
steamed about losing all that stuff. Earliest-year issues of the
Village Voice, the ones with Norman Mailer and all the start-up
guys from the masthead. I'd traded a bicycle and an old camera,
a Mamiya camera with a light leak, for about 50 of them. I had
treasured books, and all those paintings. It meant nothing in a
household raised on I Love Lucy, Green Acres, and Mr. Ed, I
guess (more like Twilight Zone). Looking back now, I laugh,
remembering how angry I was, but by the mid-eighties all that
anger was gone. It was just a cruel joke. The Avenel Jack-off-
in-a-box, I called it. And, amid all the Poland-labor crisis
movement stuff then, with Lech Walesa, I also called it,
laughingly with a reference to St. Andrew's, 'Soldality to
Solidarity', in one fell swoop. Or one swell foop. However
that goes.
I had to face it. No one cared, certainly not 'Avenel'. Which could
never be embodied, which was without mirth, which was a raft on
a lost, running sea. God made man, and God made fate too. I
got it from both ends. Man AND fate, screwing me both. These
people, I suddenly understood, had no pipeline into anything,
(even though they were family, and I admit the dear connection),
Avenel was just expected to pleasantly grow us up and pass us
along, like a simple lateral in football, to proceed to the next 'level'
of something, the 'same' just larger. There was a stunning lack of
content and context and clarity to be found anywhere there, from
my perspective. The 'product' produced was just supposed to creep
along to the next level of consumerism, buying up the next excess
product made  -  job, car, house, baby carriage, crib, food, and all
the rest. What I was doing, by those standards, was lethal. No
support was due, thank you. The 60's now were creeping along.
Vietnam started to stink; I could smell the smoke as it entered
the mass consciousness, I could see it wafting along, sure as hell
as anywhere else to hit Avenel. The new idea of death and carnage
was readying itself for entry -  just about the same time they took
away, by force, the prison farm  -  all those rich lands and acres
and animals torn to shreds, blasted and cut, torn apart like bad teeth.
The same way they'd rip apart the lands and rice paddies and people
of Vietnam, based on a tricked ideology of their own foul suspicions
and crap-politics. Killing boys and men. Killing my friends. Next thing
I knew, in fact, Ray Szemborski had joined the Army. Gotten married,
shipped to Germany, all in whatever order, I don't remember. Jack
Manick, Richard Florio  -  just a few names, people who went.
Richard came back one time showing 8mm film of his encampment.
We watched it on his basement wall, as he explained everything we
were seeing  -  how, here, this was one of our clotheslines, and that
lady there, hanging clothes, was  a matron or camp-help who did
those things for us. And then, a few minutes later, we're back to
viewing that same spot  -  she was gone, as were the clotheslines
and yard area  -  blown to smithereens somehow in an instant,
and her with it. Lesson One. Don't hang clothes. Jack Manick
came home a year or so later, and missed it all so much he
re-upped for another go-round; he so wanted to be back with
his friends the Montagnards, who made the little bracelets and
jewelry he so treasured, out of war wreckage.
People used to talk about how each 'generation' ended up better
and richer and happier than the generation before it, kids always
outdoing parents. As if some endless progression of 'upward' was
America's birthright. Not so fast, Sally Jane. You'll see. This
ever-ascending threshold of happiness, ever-increasing, was
paraded as the American way, the end-product of a blissful
consumerism which was supposed to only and continually carry
us along, ever upward and onward, to improve all lifestyles,
fortunes, destinies, and happinesses  -  better and bigger
weddings and cars, more blissful sex, bigger homes and gardens,
wilder pleasures, more healthy endings. It was, of course, total
bullshit, and today's world bears no relation to the world of 1967
dreamed over and again. It was sham, manufactured, fake promise
and bad advertising. A lie of utterly-deep dimensions. No one ever
barked back, few even said a word; the'Silent Generation' of the
1950's (they should see now, whimpering kids offended by words,
shaking the Gameboy in their hands), though occasionally criticized
for passivity, slowly acceded into becoming the crazed whip-masters
of the death and carnage beginning to fall. Gotta' love those beatniks,
at least, for blowing the whistle early on, or attempting too. And,
anyway, as I stated way earlier, I'd already become enamored of the
work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his ilk, who seemed to love and
write and 'execute' life exactly as I'd want it done.
Sitting at home one day, I was watching LBJ on the TV, going
on about the Gulf of Tonkin. I knew, even then, it was all lies. 
The Congress, in turn, then passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, 
which unleashed the floodwaters For Johnson and McNamara 
and McGeorge Bundy and all those guys to begin their wholesale 
destruction of American youth  -  load after load of young boys sent 
into the growing churnhole of their manufactured war. It's all, and 
I mean ALL, now been proven and shown to be false, lies, made up. 
A huge effort to  -  at one level, bolster the economy by changing its 
footing  -  just like today  - all those sick cats in the military needing 
food and clothing and everything else  -  gigantic defense contracts  
help all industry : vehicles, wheels and tires, armaments and 
ammunition (someone should tell those assholes about gun
control), food, packaging, transportation, medicine. The War 
Machine. Things get developed from the wartime pace : we get
 super glue,  we even get the Internet, and the Gross National 
Product (emphasis on Gross) continues, unabated, 
on the backs of its wartime carriers.
The enlarging of the Vietnam War was pretty much the last straw
for me, even from just a seat in Avenel. My kind of Avenel boys 
weren't made for this crap : lies, distortions, death and murder. 
For nothing. It's all the same, here it's just called 'war', 'defense', 
'patriotism', 'service'. And I knew I wouldn't stand for it. They'd 
sealed  -  at that point  -  my outlaw status for me. It was the final 
nail driven into that proverbial coffin which was 'life as it was 
supposed  to be' for me. I was d-o-n-e. From this point on, 
the handwriting on the  wall was going to be my own handwriting 
and no one else's, all my friends  be damned, if it meant that. I would 
NOT be traveling on their road. My handwritten wall was not to 
be the scarred, marred, chicken-scratch  of anyone else. Even if 
it meant inventing a new language. 1967 was going  to be my year
 zero. No more bullshit local high school drama, no more 
small minds. When the yearbook came out, I wasn't even me. 
My  photo had been switched with someone else's, someone 
had added a weird nickname to my little bio, one I'd never even 
heard, and that was that. Good riddance  to bad rubbish. Incognito 
all the way, I was dead. As dead as Mike Kantor, poor sap, my 
homeroom seatmate by  alphabet, who'd been killed in a 
surfboarding accident a few months back  -  an out of control 
surfboard clonked him on the head but good. The 'yearbook' 
had been dedicated to him. I went out as Tom Iremonger, and 
he as me. Sadly, he too (Tom) is now dead. 
You can look it all up.
I was determined to flee, to step out, to walk log-floes in raging or
patchy water, whatever it took. I'd do it, hell or high water. From
then on my path was going to be, I swore, cut from new ground,
slanted through a new forest, cut with a bold machete of steel, a
glinting metal not yet even invented or forged. Over-the-top 
allegiance to intellectual dreams, outlandish adherence to the
self-sustaining outlooks I'd make, my own beliefs, those things
alone were to be mine. It's still like that to this day. I was all done
with father-talk, school-talk, and church-talk too. Avenel was my
tattoo, but I was gone. All those gung-go, 'go-get-em' types were
beginning to make me sick. Those guys rushing off to join the Army,
get their chops in killing gooks, having to sell their hot-dick GTO's
or putting their hot-rods or motorcycles into deep storage for the
duration, 'serving' their country, they could all drop dead around
me and I'd step over their dead bodies. They'd accommodated to, 
and made, their choices. It was all theirs. I saw the mothers as they 
talked among themselves  -  about their sons and their fears, about
the military and how a nice, finished product came out of the service,
just like their fathers and their fathers before them. Men regaling
others with their tales and exploits, derring-do and grand wartime 
experiences. It was all blather. Junk with which to kill others.
Garbage to the ears. you either are a peacemaker and you make 
a decision for that alone, or you're not. I'd seen through the mirror
and realized its backing was chipped, flaking, false, and  -  in 
addition  -  no longer reflecting back anything real at all.

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