Tuesday, December 1, 2015

7532. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 90)

(pt. 90)
To have me get back to this Catcher In the Rye thing
for a moment seems right to me  -  I worked at being a
'writer' for years. Even all through those dismal Avenel
days, some better than others, but all pretty dismal by
both their parochialism - which was always threatening
to engulf me as it had so many others, and its insularity,
or maybe I mean to say, its isolation from anything that
really mattered. WOR broadcast towers, in Carteret, just
across the swamp, and the occasional visits by radio
personality Jean Shepherd to the studio there, never
meant much to me. My friend Alex, another story.
He'd regale me with Shepherd tales  -  in fact he'd tell
me that the signal was so strong, it being from Carteret,
that when you picked up the telephone receiver at his
house, on Chase Avenue, you'd pick up Jean Shepherd,
or maybe it was you'd pick up WOR. It's funny because
by using the word 'pick-up' when speaking of a telephone,
I was never sure if it meant you'd called them, or you 'pick
up' the receiver (which you obviously did), or if it just meant
you get the shows in, as if the telephone was a radio.  Now
that was compelling and conflicting information all around
for me. I had a friend once, in Fords, he was a student at
the RCA Institute, David Sarnoff School, whatever it was
called, right in midtown, like 34th street or close (I'd drive
him in to school every so often), and he took a bunch of junk
telephones, in his basement, and hooked them up to his record
player, so that when you went downstairs in his house there'd
be a number of chairs lined up, like phone desks or something,
they were, and he'd play a record and you'd sit there listening
on a telephone. It was crazy shit; meaning to say it certainly
couldn't have been about sound quality. Telephone amplifier,
in ONE ear? Thank God none of the guys who ever made the
music ever found out we were listening to their stuff that
way. I guess it was just supposed to be a cool 'electronic
wizard' kind of show-off trick.  But, I digress : you see,
back to Catcher In the Rye and me. I practiced for years
to be a writer. That doesn't just happen. I filled notebooks
and reams of paper with drivel  -  little tiny text. Library
hours spent slammed up against a wall at a large writing
desk, alone, near no one, and making sure no one sat near
me. I wanted my private space to work. Reading things,
writing. One thing for sure, you can't write on an empty
head. You've got to read first, a zillion things; you've got
to fill your head and mind with every literary and historical
literary reference you can until all that comes second-nature.
All these people now, they think they can write on an empty
head. But it just comes out tinny : lost hearts, broken hearts,
lost loves, squandered emotion, all that Nature and clouds and
rainstorms stuff -  pure drivel. Nothing behind it at all. It's
like 'hey, just because you're hurting and your heart smarts,
it's not my problem and I don't want to hear about it.' You can
tell junk writers immediately  -  ten words in. Trash. Not one
bit of magic with words, or phrases, or allusions and referential
stuff. Just pure crap, in an endless array, a spewed stream. This
entire Catcher In the Rye thing, however  -  as little as it was  -
seemed to properly capture the spirit right, for me. I was, of
course, small potatoes in upbringing to this Park Avenue and
prep school expedient portrayed, but I caught it all nonetheless.
The whole thing was about 'digression'. That was a writerly 
concept, right off, that I saw and built upon. It can take you
anywhere, and you can say, through it, pretty much whatever
you want to say  -  and then return to the old gleaning field
you started out with. It's a pose. A writer needs a pose. Just as,
when one is drawing, you don't 'draw' every dot and line. Instead
you learn how to use pencil mark and thrust to just 'suggest' other
things. Letting the viewer do most of the work after you. Like in
writing : I'm never the one to start out explaining everything I
wrote and what it's supposed to mean. Sometimes I don't know
either. Beat that! The suggestion is a soulful thing, from 
body heat to body-heart, as I put it. Holden Caulfield is all
about digression. But he uses the awareness of his hating each
item being digressed about to bring you there. He hates movies, 
but he's always writing himself into imaginary movie settings
and referencing movies.  He hates the prep school stuff he lives,
but he's living it while going off about it. Same with fakery and
the inauthentic. Love and girls, and so much else. That little book
carried me up and down Avenel Street plenty of times. Maybe
each town should have its own Bible, and each person in that 
town, of course, their own Bible. A formative, little dumb-ass
starter book they can live by. I guess that would, or could, be 
mine. It was all to excess. It was Huck Finn in a hunter's cap.
It was the voice that brought me to my own voice -  just as did
Blake and Eliot and Camus and some others too. That was only
the start for me -  since then there's been hundreds.
I don't know who else in Avenel had a literary bent, a knowledge 
of any of it at all. I'm sure there was, but I never found one. Most
everyone else just lived by rote. The methodical and orthodox 
means of representing reality, and then accepting it and playing 
its roles. Being what you were. Another thing it brought me to
was the realization that there's never a 'straight' line. Everything
veers, ends up off the paper, goes somewhere else. Like today,
now, in Woodbridge. There's a little brook/park thing off Amboy 
Avenue by the Board of Ed building, an original early schoolhouse
though you've never know it now (everything paved and cut away),
and in that walkway through the park they've erected, every 50 feet
or so, these pedestal displays of a historic photo and explanation 
about stuff in town. Now, that was always there -   all that stuff  -  
and it was all built over a million bones of native Leni Lenapes 
who's gotten in the way of the disgusting waves of settlement that
hammered and broke the land. The very land they'd worked and
died upon. These markers only tell you what they want you to
know. All the years I lived and worked right around there, none 
of that was present. I mean the history was, yes, of course, but
the historical presence, the 'lie', the digression, in fact, of all the
fake truths of the matter, they were never on display. Now  -  
with the power of the state and township, and government 
monies and bogus historic commissions and all that, they come
up with the 'approved' narrative they wish you to know. Only.
That. And nothing more. What's the result? A ten-year spate of
historic markers with story-lines. Ten years from now they'll 
all be gone too -  weathered and faded away, as will the dead 
people who, alive now, weave these tales. Live is an illusion. 
Winners (killers) write history. Live it with, and shut-up.
All through my grade school I forced myself to play it right. I
never really did know what was up  - Mr. Cigatura, some midget
Italian guy janitor with a '51 Plymouth station wagon, he used to
hang around everywhere in School 4&5, cleaning and sweeping
and, in the beginning, tending to the coal furnaces. The parking 
areas, instead of being macadam-paved, back in the fifties, they
were covered with the coarse, hard ash of the coal-burnings. It
was good traction, and it all stayed in place and got scrunched
down pretty good by cars. There was an incinerator thing out 
back, a big brick box, slightly elevated, with a furnace door and
a tall smokestack. Everything just got thrown in there and 
burned. It was like a crematoria for school stuff -   all those 
tests and papers you never wanted to hear about again, that's 
where they all ended up. Burned as trash  -  most of the time 
that's where the stuff should have started out anyway. School 
was just order and crud, in that order maybe too. Nothing I 
ever really needed, I guess, once after I'd learned to write 
anyway. I often wondered how that was : how natural was it
to learn all that language and basic communication stuff, and
then learn to print, and then learn to write cursive, as a slow
progression of things. I always liked printing  - a nice, fine,
Gothic hand. When it came to cursive, to 'writing'  -  all that
Palmer method stuff, I never was a big fan. All those loops and
squiggles, too easy turning into a girl's hand  -  yeah, I know
that's no longer supposed to matter, but go tell someone else.
School never taught me that stuff either  -  all this switching
between boy and girl bullshit, and vice-versa and back and forth.
Gay people. Straight people. Halfway people. Switched people.
What the fuck? If you can't figure your own stuff out, man, please
don't go bothering me with any of it. Stuff it up whichever hole
you finally decide is yours to use. Got it? It's like back to those
cheesy start-up writers again  -  filled with nothing, emoting and
whining about their feelings. Do me a favor  -  take your feelings
go parade them around Avenel for a while. I guarantee, someone 
will straighten you out quick enough. The only queer people I ever
knew were the priests and nuns I had to deal with, and they weren't
fooling no one at all. Only later, at the end of high school, when that
stuff all started breaking out, did I begin to see some confirmed
suspicions being proved. Mostly a few 'art' guys, who went big-time
gay and disappeared. See ya.

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