Thursday, December 3, 2015

7541. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 92)

(pt. 92)
One thing I guess I missed, and I would have
like to see it, was the first group of roof
replacements on these houses. What do they
normally give, 20-year shingles? Or 25? Anyway,
I was gone, but I wonder what it must have been
like, those two years or so as each of the houses
began, all at the same time, entering their
need-a-new-roof stage. Did they all start going
at once about 1980? I wonder. I do remember
that there was a period of time when a number
of the houses, all of a sudden, were getting those
front-lawn sewage-pipe cuts to replace the old
red-clay pipes that were initially installed. My
parents' house got a replacement, and lost a tree
at the curb over it too. It was a nice sycamore tree
that we'd planted years earlier, but as it turned
out, as big as it was and all. it was right on top of
and in the way of, the  line of pipe they were
digging to the street. My father never liked it
anyway; he'd say it was a 'dirty' tree  -  he called
any tree that which 'dropped' things  -  not leaves
but seed pods, clumps of seed-berries, fruit, needles,
cones, whatever. To him the world was divided into
either 'clean' trees  -  which he liked, or 'dirty' trees,
which he did not like. I heard that one a lot. That
never bothered me, what a tree did. I guess what
drove me nuts the most was having to rake and
clean all the falling leaves -  which I liked and
would much rather have had just stay on the
ground until the next season took care of them.
A 'natural' forestation, as it were. But, the idea
always struck as specifically indicative of a
mindset that I couldn't share. Nature was not 'put'
here to be neat for us. The entire idea was beyond
discussion and comprehension. It led me, further,
to the belief that if you went through life completely
misunderstanding it, there could not be a value in it.
When I was in second grade I was in School #5  - a
one-level schoolhouse, only one floor. The windows in
my Second Grade classroom, Miss Schur, as I recall,
faced Avenel Street. It was the second schoolroom in
one that side. It afforded a perfect view out to Avenel
Street and the string of stores next to Murray's Candy
Store - everything on the other side of Fifth Avenue.
Those stores were often enough changing businesses -
the original meat-market/grocery, which later became
Shop-Rite, in the new building, at one end, and Mrs.
Kuzmiak's Dry Goods Store, or notions and sundries,
whatever it was. In the center store of that little grouping,
that year, was a place called 'Cascade  Cleaners'. Their
logo was a light blue illustration of like a stream running
over a small waterfall with water 'cascading' from it,
signifying washing, cleanliness of clothes, and freshness,
I suppose. I don't know how this began or what made it
come to the fore for me, (1956-57, I guess), but I'd sit
there, much to the detriment of my schoolwork, just
gazing out, and think over and over to myself how it
was that right then, all over the world, there was no
war going on. A bizarre thought, a safe thought too,
I guess, for a seven year old. I don't know. However
wrong I may have been, I'm sure now there were
constantly skirmishes and wars of liberation and
revolts and riots, of course, everywhere  -  and I know
that now  -  but at that time I drew a wonderful
sense of grace and peace and satisfaction from the
idea that all things were safe and at peace. That there
were no threats to my well-being, etc. I cannot fathom
what I was thinking, what brought this on, nor how
I could dismiss, in second grade, which is where it
happened for me  -  those hideous air-raid drills when
we'd have to drop beneath our desks, scrunched to a
ball, to save us, we were told, from the catastrophic effects
of flying glass and blown apart buildings. Talking of bizarre.
This was 'nuclear' war we were talking here  -  things being
vaporized and transformed, distorted and ghosted by unseen
atomic forces, and here we were crouching under a cheap,
wooden desk to protect ourselves from 'debris.'  So, why it
was that I took comfort in the idea that there was no war
going on anywhere is beyond me still  -  perhaps it was a
comfort-reaction on my part to counter this terror-stuff
that was being punched into my head. I don't know. That's
just how it was in second grade. But whenever I see any
logo or truck or anything with the illustrated Cascade
scene or anything like it, going by, I think of this. That
store, in other years (nothing ever lasted there) became
a baked-goods/donut shop (no bakery ovens there, just
fresh-baked goods trucked in early each morning), from
which we kids bought plenty of donuts, a shoe-repair shop,
and later a florist shop (I bought Valentine Flowers there
one February).
A few times we tried sleeping outdoors; pitching a small tent,
and staying in the back yard  -  warm weather, of course. My
friend of those days, Larry Walker, he had the nice tent. We'd
pitch it, in his tree'd and dark backyard, mostly, or once or
twice in mine, and just sleep outdoors in out sleeping bags.
It was pretty nice  -  later, as a Boy Scout, when I began going,
I think it was two years on, to Camp Cowaw for a week or two
at a time, we'd all sleep four to a lean-to (open on one side) in
two-by-two stacked bunks which were built into the side walls
of the lean-to. So the idea of sleeping outdoors wasn't totally
new to me when we got there. It was, the camp, up above the
Delaware River, just a bit to the right of the Water Gap, a
few miles. It was really nice there, highlands and rocks.
Deeply wooded; a small and changing community of scouts
and scoutmasters sleeping, eating, hiking, singing, all together.
There was a 'buddy' system, by which you'd pick, or someone
was assigned to you, as a 'buddy' so that no one ever did
anything alone  -  in case of an accident or a fall or anything.
There was always a partner. I loved it there, at Camp Cowaw.
I loved sleeping outdoors in the high, crisp land, air invigorating
every-night breath air, dark skies and starlight. We'd hike, cut 
wood, all that stuff. The Appalachian Trail ran right there, so 
there were nice hiking places, vistas, etc. A circular area of 
maybe twelve lean-to's provided the campground center, then
to the slight rear there was a building, for cooking and meals,
all eaten communally, some outhouse and bathroom things, 
and outside of them a grouping of shower-heads, for outdoor 
showers. Mostly we'd just hike down to the Delaware and
swim there. It was called 'Old Mine Road' which just meant
long ago there had been some mine there  -  lots of stone
ruins and foundations were still around, but no one ever told
us anything about it. Kind of too bad that all that history was
ignored. Going back there now, it's all gone. The underbrush
and forest has grown back over everything and I have real
difficulty envisioning, let alone seeing, any signs of the old
place, layout, trails, old pipes for plumbing, whatever. It's just
all disappeared away. It's all still a nice hike and all, with 
memories. My favorite thing was the Merit Badge I earned for
Running, or Track, I guess it was. There was a one-mile (half 
mile each way, and then you turn and run back) along the not-
so-often used paved road there  - a nice straightaway at the
base of the hillside. The track guy with set us going, time us, 
etc. I forget what it all was, but you were supposed to like run

this informal one-mile course five days in a row, or maybe 
twice a day, I forget, in some respectable, not sluggardly, 

time. Maybe 6 or 8 minutes, something like that. You couldn't
do fifteen minutes or anything, because it wouldn't be accepted.
Anyway, I got my Running merit badge (a little figure of a guy
on a patch, with legs in movement). Then after that I also got 
one for archery. That was sort of easy too. And then, easiest of
all, for swimming  - because that's what we were doing anyway,
so any exposure time in the water was easy, and I already knew
how to swim. No problem with that. Three badges in one stretch,
that was pretty good. The next year, I guess I was older and jaded,
all I got was one for hiking  -  since mainly all I did was amble
along anyway. I remember that year I had my father's old bellows 
camera with me, a Kodak, and spent a large amount of time
hiking around taking cool photos of the views and stuff. Nothing
arty or anything, just tourist kind of stuff. It was fun. The other
thing I remember was how enticing the two girls were who ran
the snack bar down at the bottom of the camp hill, by the turn in 
after the drive up. They sold candy and caps and soda and stuff
like that (caps for cap guns). Ice cream was the big draw that year.
Everybody was always eating 'Nutty Buddies'. They were like
twelve cents each, and were a vanilla ice cream with almonds,
and a dribbling crust of chocolate spread out over all that, and
I think, in a sugar-cone. Once they melted a little they were really
good  -  but the best thing was the way any one of those girls 
would hand it off to you and take your money. No self-serve. I
wondered often enough about the camp counselor guys and even 
the scoutmasters and such up there for a week at a time away from
home.  What those girls were up to, I never knew  -  but everyone 
around there was always curiously happy, like there was just 
something in the air, something a'foot, down by that store. I
don't know where those girls stayed at night. Nor do I know
what merit badges were being earned. The other thing I really 
liked was  -  on Sundays  -  they had this interdenominational
religious ceremony thing, mid-morning, outdoors. It was set up
on cut logs, in a cleared semi--circle, like an arena, real small,
and all eyes were front and center to where this preacher guy
was. I forget the services or what was s aid, but what was striking
about it all was just the fact of being out there, in the open,
morning light, trees, birds, sky and all that, and getting a religious
service thrown at you  -  it really meant something. You just
couldn't help for the uplift and the joyousness to take you away.
It was like a pure natural Nature worship. The greatest ever.

No comments: