Saturday, December 26, 2015

7629. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 114)

(pt. 114)
Do you know how, sometimes in this life, you're
staring right down the maw of failure or defeat,
and there's somebody around  -  father, uncle,
friend, whatever  -  breathing in your face just
to tell you to think of it as a 'good thing', that
negatives always come out to be positives in
the end. How things always happen for a reason,
and all that sort of stuff. I know I've had it  -  not
that any things in my life have ever been real
'tragedies'. I've been pretty fortunate that way;
being able to think of ten times at least when I
most probably should have been dead. But, even
if they say that stuff to you a hundred times
straight on, like some stupid talking bird or
something, inside yourself you know it's all
crap. About thirty years or so, or more,
people everywhere just started picking up the
phrase 'shit happens'  -  it was, all of a sudden,
on tee shirts, etc. You'd see it used as an excuse,
I mean an excuse for lots of things: plane
crashes, dead race-car drivers, failed or just
foiled experiments. In the same way, people
would say 'when your number's up, it's up.'
All that sort of thing. That 'shit happens' phrase
was especially annoying when it began showing
up on shirts and things  -  you'd see senior citizens
(what the world began calling old people about 1965,
when LBJ started all those old-people con programs)
shuffling off little buses, walking into 'senior citizens'
centers'  -  which towns started thinking was, evidently,
another fine way to waste taxpayer money  -  pathetic
holding pens for white-haired old ladies in cat sweaters,
and delirious old men, leering into bingo cards and
out of dirty windows. Beats me. Anyway, the 'sweat-suit'
crowd for sure. They picked up on all this stuff quickly.
In Avenel, back in the years I'm talking about anyway,
none of this had really gotten started yet. It was a sadder
world. Old people just aged, slowed down, began hobbling
out with their garbage cans and stuff, usually one or the
other alone  -  wife dead, or husband passed on. Nobody
said 'dead' anymore either. Everybody 'passed'  -  as if life
was a Parkway toll lane or something. Or grade school.
You earn enough Green Stamps, and you're allowed to
'pass'  -  I guess onto something better, or different anyway.
The old people, you'd see them. They'd sort of slowly and
listlessly just stare  -   maybe a wave if it was a neighbor
or someone you knew. But there was a feeling of, always,
resignation or even helplessness about things. 'Old' was
another country  - and everybody had to go to it eventually.
Not to visit, but to stay. Like that old guy, in the early chapter
here, with his open-leaf-burning potato roast, everyone still
kept a foot in their other world  -  you remembered your
place and your lineage, whether it was WWI, which people
were still around in 1960, or something else. That TV twit
news guy, Tom Brokaw, he got everyone started, in the '90's,
with all that Greatest Generation crap, a twisted way of 
honoring WWII vets  -  who, I read a few times  -  were 
dying off, by the year 2005 or so, at a rate of like 600 
per day. That was fairly substantial, and stunning  -  by
selling books for private gain. I never got the connection,
but wealthy old Tom Brokaw did, I'm sure. All the way to
his bank. Before stuff like that began  -  all the public-acclaim
of militarism  -  the world was just quiet. Old military 
guys, they just latched on to the VFW or something, and  -
if they had to  -  sat around quietly and brooded. That was
it. Avenel had a bunch of those old guys, and you knew it,
but they weren't in your face. I always felt comfortable with
that -   there wasn't any peripatetic nervousness as there is 
today, about that stuff. I think I made mention of my Uncle
Ray, over in Colonia, who had a roomful of purloined Jap
stuff plastered all over his walls in this large Rec Room
thing he'd built : rifles, pistols, daggers, swords, ammo
belts, lockets, medals, bayonets, and more. Even a hand-
grenade as I recall. It was an entire ton of war memorabilia 
on display. I never could quite figure it out, how he'd 
gotten it home, or from where exactly, or when  -  I just 
never asked and no one ever talked. They had cool colors
on them though  -  little Japanese logos and medallions of 
stuff, I guess to identify the source of  armament. Even
an occasional 'Rising Sun' thing, which I think was a
Japanese Army military logo, from their flag. Anyway,
my uncle had been able, quite silently I guess, to 
internalize all this stuff and just go on. He wasn't
fixated or demanding glory, like it all goes down now.
It seems to me, in either case, it's the idea of being
self-absorbed, but in the older cases, the old guys of
another era, all that crap wasn't worn on the shoulder.
The USA had a thread of solid peacefulness still about,
and so did Avenel. It's not like that anymore. Sometimes
as I walk through Avenel, or pass by things driving, it's
curiously like some armed encampment in which 'we've'
somehow taken over some difficult and maybe only
temporary terrain. It's ridiculous shit. Five, six homes
in a row, all flying the same stupid flag, like an 
encampment. Are people really that insecure about
having possession of their land and space? Is not the
freaking Government entwined enough already in
every nook and cranny of life that flags have to be
flown to show a common allegiance? At every Saturday
red light just about, there are beggars walking with their
money baskets  -  firemen in their boots and uniforms,
school clubs, Little Leagues, PBA's all that dumb-baggage 
stuff  -  seeking money, and everything has an American 
flag plastered on it  -  whether it's for retarded kids, broken
families, or some third-tier medical syndrome group. Even
the cars. Are you lost, perhaps? Doesn't a flag at least give
you a clue about where you are? Get real. The Government
takes surplus military-warfare trucks and mobile battering
rams and everything else for high combat now and sells 
them off to tax-funded municipal departments  -  fire, police,
and the rest (all festooned with flags, let's not forget)
Someone better tell me something. Back in the time I'm
talking of, an elderly guy was strong about himself
from within  -  he maybe had his nightmares and bad
memories, and his wife shared his pain when she had to,
but that was it  -  living was about living, not all this death
crap. You give a bunch of dopes the equipment and the power
to do things, and they're gonn'a do it. Like calling 40 people
gathered together over an issue or a cause a riot, and just start
running them down. Under the guise of that flag again. It's 
pretty dangerous, as I see it. Nothing 'proud' about it.
We're not supposed to be a militaristic society, or at least we
weren't back in Civics class, except for maybe being coerced
into saying we weren't a militaristic society? It was all a con then?
I guess what I'm trying to say in my own weak-knee'd
way here, is that there was always a paradoxical basis about 
living in Avenel. Refuge and fireball, oasis and Hell, all the same.
There was peace and quiet in the new refuge of woods and stream.
I was able to walk around, see and learn things, meet others
unconnected by the fetters of today's fear-mongering and twisted
lies of separation and greed. But at the same time  -  running right
through its center like some artery in a pulsing heart of peacefulness  - 
was Route One, whereon traveled who knew what. Kidnappers,
criminals, murderers, adulterers, fathers on the run, spies, or any
of the rest of the downside of society. Pick any criminal name
you may want to, and then think of that person tooling along
the Avenel highway, right past Hiram's Trailer Park or, in the other
direction, right through the light at Avenel Street. It was a crossroads
of the world. Highway crime  -  later displaced by the Parkway and the
Turnpike, yes  -  rolled right on through. Life was a certain form
of anarchy  -  self-contained, and allowed. Route One was its river,
where 'shit happened'; where good came from bad, or bad came from 
good also; where everything happened for a purpose. Yet, people
knew how to take care of and control themselves -  and that was what
gave Avenel its confidence and unbridled atmosphere. You could
walk down to Dirty John's if need be, and add your young-adult
swagger to the fray. You could hang out at any one of those
roadside motels along the highway and watch what went on  -  those
cars hiding behind the concealing walls while the owner was inside
for twenty minutes with his girlfriend, or neighbor. The car concealed.
You knew what it was all about  -  it was plain stuff  -  not always
good, but plain nonetheless. Not the innuendos, drugs, half-terrors,
and disgusting pranks of today, where even the cops own motels and
snicker and leer, allowing to go on those things they'd normally
have to arrest for. I'm thinkng, in some ways, it would have been
cool to re-name Avenel to 'Paradox', NJ. The roadside signs could
say: 'You are entering Paradox, NJ. Disobey all posted limitations.'
It would last just for those three and a half minutes it took you to 
drive through it all. Oddly close to 'Paradise', but not.
'Paradox', indeed.

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