Wednesday, December 23, 2015

7621. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 111)

(pt. 111)
Just about the first thing we did once we'd moved to
Inman Avenue, into the new house  -  and I don't
rightly know how or why (I mean, it must have 
cost a good sum), was take a little family vacation
up the the Adirondacks/St. Lawrence Seaway, 
somewhere up there, to a place called 'Thousand
Islands Dude Ranch'. Nothing to do with the dressing,
by the way, of the same name. My father somehow
drove  -  '47 Plymouth it was, first car we had in 
Avenel, brought down from the Bayonne move. I
guess it was good enough for such a trip, though 
I'm amazed by all the stamina  -  car and people.
The Dude Ranch  -  it was actually called that  -  
what little I remember of it, though there are
photographs, was fairly authentic. Lots of wood,
rope, tents, forestry buildings and all. They had a
staff of these folksy, Will Rogers types (not that 
I knew that then), twirling ropes, whittling wood,
playing harmonicas, all that. Shy, kind of goofy,
guys  -  all affectation, I guess. They made 
campfires, took the young kids like me, around 
on horses, did cowboy stuff. We had these little
clutches  -  archery, roping, horse-tending, stories,
etc. They also had 5 or 6 purported authentic 'Indians'. 
In leather, costumes or suede, real authentic costume.
In my mother's little photo collection, after she'd died,
we found some photos of that vacation  - the actual
first time I recall seeing them. I was maybe 5 or just
maybe about to be. Usual stuff, smiles, laughs. On
the back of them she'd written penciled-in legends. 
Odd stuff, in only her sort of nomenclature : like in
one photo, I was taking archery lessons from two
cowboys and an Indian, and her legend reads : 'Gary
playing archery.' A little odd. In another me and a
few other boys are standing around a campfire with 
two really grubby-looking cowboy guys, just grinning.
You'd think she'd write 'Gary playing camping' or 
something. No, she just has 'Gary with cowboys.'
I can barely remember some canoe trips along shallow 
waters, with river rocks scraping and all that, but I
can't remember any adults, or even my own family,
in any of the memories. I guess the adults did their
own stuff, and the girls were separate too? Just
don't know, but I remember nothing. Also, no 
memorabilia or decals or trinkets, or anything. Just 
a void. No one ever talked about it again  -  must have
been a nice car trip, but I can't remember anything there
either, no scenery, no rest-stops or motels. A memory-
void, a blockage of psychological origins? Who knows.
Later in life, my father-in-law, after I'd gotten to know
him and his ways, he always spoke of things as 'I 
remember when I was five.' It became our joke-line...
'I know, when you were five...' His entire life operated
out of his five-year old memory bank  -  house, cars,
open fields, school, father, all the stuff now long gone.
I, on the other hand, can really source little on that level.
My memories are different and seem to come from 
somewhere else, not real inclusive of early age, except 
for Bayonne and all that dark street and after-wartime stuff.
Much different, almost existential. My concepts are more
cerebral that tactile. I figure it's all from getting blasted to 
bits by that train and re-awakening into maybe another 
entire, complete life. Their seven years old was my one 
year old, but in Life number two. Go figure; I can't figure 
out Life, why should I have the answer for Death.
So Inman Avenue became the key for me -   it certainly
wasn't any dude ranch. We'd buy caps for our cap guns at
Murray and Martha's  -  a little box of maybe a hundred 
perforated red-roll caps that fit right into your pistol that
shot caps. How it began, I don't know. Jim Yacullo, and
anybody I guess, though I can't remember anyone else
actually doing it. The holster and pistol-grips were mostly
plastic  -  made to imitate leather, and the gun grip was
a nice, yellowy plastic. It all must have started with Roy
Rogers, or Howdy Doody, or something. I can't say if
shooting and killing in such a manner is endemic to boys 
or not. How all that gun stuff got started, I don't know. We
certainly never played dolls or EZ Bake ovens. We'd pretend
murder, or robbery, the usual cowboys killing Indians stuff
of legend. I don't know, is that how we learned History? We'd
practice fast-draw, assuming we never got hit and always won.
Never did have to worry about picking up the other, dead guy,
or going through his pockets to steal, or calling the undertaker
or Sheriff. None of that. What we were doing, I'll never know.
It never harmed us, I don't think  -  leastways I never knew any
boys who became killers from it, or from anything actually.
When I got involved with the motorcycle gang stuff, I knew
a few killers, and their signifying tattoos  -  which were special
and secret, but obvious, and attested to their status as having
killed. Now ain't that weird as all hell? Did they start out in the
same way? Later on, as it all became way too slow and boring,
and we grew impatient, we'd just buy the boxes of caps, at like
a nickel a pop, and smash them with rocks and other pressure 
things, taking great pleasure in the incendiary noise and power
of the entire box setting off as one. From pyrotechnics to 
Vietnam in one fell swoop? Was that the idea?
Nothing ever really happened in Avenel  -  no one famous 
came by, or I didn't know it. I was surprised, even recently, 
to see on some historic marker that Don Drysdale had lived 
in Woodbridge. News to me. He was a pitcher for the Dodgers,
peaking about 1962, like with 25 wins. Seems it would have 
been a big deal around town  -  having him to school  and all.
But I never heard of it. He died in 1993, at age 57, in some
Montreal hotel room, broadcasting a Dodger game. Anything 
that ever happened here, we had to make up  -  like with my 
friend Barry and that whole UFO thing, in the early chapters.
That was excitement. Well, that and burning down the portables, 
which was never successful. If any of that happened now, 
there'd be armed guards to your house, dragging you out 
kicking and screaming, by your hair. We are always under 
suspicion of something, but nothing ever got proved. Now, 
just being under suspicion is enough to catch you up big-time.
The only real distinguishing characteristic of Avenel, for 
me, and that was different for everyone depending on where 
one lived : those on the other side of Route One essentially 
had entirely different 'characteristica'l viewpoints of their town;
in that area there were evidences of much older days, along 
Remsen and Demarest and such there were little corner stores
internal to neighborhoods, kind of like Metro's by us, that sold
sundries and needed supplies, cold cuts, toilet papers, things
like that. All we had was the fairly faceless grouping of stores
across from the mob-scene-school, and they sort of fed off that,
the billion kids always buying candy, the meat guy Al who
switched himself big-time into Shop-Rite, on the other corner,
and whatever rotating business came in and out of practice in
the intervening stores. Mrs. Kuzmiak, previously mentioned, 
was a widow lady of some other ethnicity, who sold, as I've
gone over, all these adorable little cloth things  -  socks, gloves,
napkins, underwear, mittens, aprons, and such, from 
marvelous glass cases. It was a one-to-one  purchase, hand-to
hand; a very concentrated sales force of one. Her. All was
accompanied by the smells and aromas of her constant cooking.
Kettle-soups and sauces, I guess, because that what it always
smelled like. Never knew  who she was cooking for, unless
there was a constant army at her back door. I'm not sure
she even had one  -  it was a very oddly situated place she lived 
in, snug up and attached longways, brick, to her building-end
which was her store and shared entryways. Not being sexist here,
 it was  a 1950's woman's store for sure. There was absolutely
no reason for a man to enter  -  unless maybe buying 'bloomers
as a present for mama', in some Ma and Pa Kettle sense, works.
Ma and Pa kettle would have been a good idea for that Dude 
Ranch too. It would have fit right in and brought some relative
idea of civilization to visitors from places like Avenel. When
we got there, I realized it was all so different and far-off from
the way we'd begun living in our new Avenel home that all I got 
was confused. First I was awake in some dark, mysterious 
waterfront shtetl like Bayonne  - awake at night to the braying 
of tugboats and steamer-ships, with myriads of weird people 
slowly walking the sidewalks up and down that crazed-out adult 
playland  that Uncle Milty's Amusement Park' was supposed to be.
A sort of Kingdom of Ice Cream and Lust. Then we got to Avenel, 
which was the negation, essentially, of all that  - everything cleared
and cut, new, sun-lit acres of sameness, everyone out in the open,
trying to be bland, loving their washers and dryers. And then  -  no
sooner than settled in to that alternate version of reality  -  I get
dragged way up to some Natty Bumpo Leatherstocking Tales
Deerslayer Last of the Mohicans outpost from History on the
way to its own oblivion. Whew! Three distinct and totally
different versions of Reality. Had my mother taken a photo
of the inside of my head at that time, she'd might have
inscribed the back : 'Gary, playing at the Real.'
('oh Mamma, clearly I was lost in these darkening woods').

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