BELOW THE WATER LINE
The thing about Camp Cowaw was distance.
By the way, it's supposed ('Cowaw') to mean.
in the Leni Lenape tongue: 'Little Pine'. First
we kill them all, then we name a camp for
Boy Scouts with one of their words. Go
figure. Another interesting thing on that
subject, 'Leni Lenape' itself - which is
what the New Jersey area's natives called
themselves, just means 'Local People' or
'Neighbors'. So, obviously, it was only made
up by them or for them when 'others' started
showing up to muscle in on their property.
A bit like if each of the houses on Inman
Avenue had started having squatters in their
basement. Don't think that would have gone
over too well. Not in my house anyway, at 116.
My father would have beat their ass with a shovel.
Mr friend at the time, Bobby Hill, had his father,
I think as Scoutmaster or, at least, as our camp-mentor
or something - it was always very neat. He was a
really nice guy, and I was pretty good friends for a
while with Bobby. I remember one year, Mr. Hill
drove a few of us up there for our camping time and
when we got there there was a dead bird on the grill of
his car, some big Ford Country Squire station wagon.
Apparently we had clonked the bird with the car,
somewhere along the way, and the momentum of
driving just kept it mashed onto the grill of the car.
I'd never seen anything like that before, and it made
an impression on me - not as much of am impression,
of course, as it had made on the poor bird. But, we
got there. Another year, I guess, my father had the
chore of that drive. There were, again, a few of us
in the car. He got there in about 20 minutes less time.
My aunt always said he drove 'like a cowboy.' But,
whereas Mr. Hill stayed and camped the week with
us, my father just turned around and returned home
after we were dropped off. I guess if I had to say, the
best part of the stuff for me was - as mentioned - that
running we did. There had never been anything so
liberating or exhilarating to me before than running
that daily mile on that long stretch of seldom used
roadway, back and forth. The particulars of it seemed
all to come together perfectly. Like Rabbit Angstrom in
John Updike's Rabbit books, my feeling was the same -
matching in all the aspects I'd later see any of the moments
that playing endless scratch basketball did for him. Except
that my life wasn't fiction, or at least it wasn't for me. It
was free stuff, on a free roadway. Crummy thing about all
that land now - the State of New Jersey just came in and
took a lot of it. They were going to flood the entire place,
back in the 1960's, but a huge and successful public outcry
stopped it. The Tocks Island Damn, or Reservoir, or something
it was going to be called, and it would have just flooded the
entire basin. They also had plans of the same sort for an
airport in the Great Swamp, in another part of the state -
and that was stopped too. But it was all too late - the lands
had been taken, the farms and the families removed. When
you go there now and you ride those roads all you see are
any number of the abandoned farmhouses, now derelict
or used by the State, and bunches of stupid 'Park Rangers'
who now have the audacity to 'allow' you camping, or
boating, fishing or swimming privileges if you've paid the
right money and gotten the right permits. Otherwise, it's a
pretty 'wasteland'. I have no idea what these people were
thinking - nor how they go about their dumb-ass and
backwards projects, but it's not that different from what
was done to the Leni-Lenapes way back when.
So, that's it. End of my camping lessons.
Oh, there is one other thing - pretty indicative of NJ culture,
and having nothing to do with Avenel except that me, and
Bobby Hill, and his father, were from there. This one year,
I guess it was 1961 or 1962, while we were camping, the
newspapers were filled with a big crime story, from jersey
City. It went on, and it was the big 'talk' of the campsite,
most anyways for the adults. We were removed from it,
but it sounded so cool. This crime guy, Joseph Vincent
Moriarity, he went by the name 'Newsboy Moriarity', had
been arrested for running big-time numbers rackets in Hudson
County (Jersey City area). While he was in prison, two workmen
came across his car, a '47 Plymouth, while they were working
on a garage at 47 Oxford Avenue. In the trunk was found 2.5
million bucks, cash, and $13,000 in stocks and bonds. that's
at least ten times the value, each today. The crime was tabloid
fodder - massive headlines and all that. It was all we heard
about for the entire week almost. It was funny because, there
up in the highlands and mountains of the top of NJ and the
Appalachian Trail and the Delaware River and all that, in the
supposedly isolated and removed confines of a distant forest,
all it took was this one bizarre story to have everyone spaced
out and babbling about it, as if they were there and this guy
was their best friend and neighbor. It sort of showed me how
easily affected people can be by things when they act in those
mass and lethal fashions. To me, it was more like 'who
cares about that?' It's funny the way newspapers are - a little
story like that, and everyone goes into depth on it. You see
stories of the scene, descriptive stories of the garage, what the
guys were doing there as workmen, the type of car, the
neighborhood, the reactions of local people. All that supposed
in-depth crap about, really, nothing at all that affected anyone.
It's like Thoreau, in Walden, or A Year In the Woods, or
whatever that was, going on about how he didn't miss
contact with the world and with newspapers and townsfolk,
because once you hear one story about a train wreck or a crime,
after that all the other stories are essentially telling the same
thing. And that's true - it's all manufactured, sideshow stuff.
The Newspaper business is a business. Their product is selling
papers - so they have to draw all those losers in. I mean readers.
Had they expended the same effort to impart some real and daily
educational content to people, maybe they'd be on to something.
Newspapers and TV always were just junk. I believe it's all part
of the scheme to keep people distracted, busy, occupied and all that
so others can have their go at things, unfettered. Don't let people
kid you - they ALL still believe in Santa Claus. We were
supposed to be up in the middle of nowhere, working on things,
and this intrusive, crap story just took over everything.