Monday, December 28, 2015

7636. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 116)

(pt. 116)
There were plenty of bright moments. I guess.
I had this really cool neighbor guy  -  I've already
mentioned Ralph Miranda, the Brooklyn and Schaefer
Beer Brewery guy ('Schaefer, is the, one beer to have,
when you're having more than one!'  -  that was their
crazy-assed 1950's and early 60's jingle. Catchy tune.
Also, I suppose, by today's standards, an ad for being
a beer-drunk alcoholic). Next to him, one house
further on, was the Wynne family, where my friend
Barry lived  -  the UFO story guy, and the 're-design of
the American flag' guy, all in earlier chapters here  -
and cool old Mr.Wynne. Name was Bill, as I recall.
Their mother was a nurse of some sort, a great, warm
and tall lady from Wisconsin. My recall again. She had
two Dachsunds who were always running around inside.
I don't remember them as outside dogs at all. Mr. Wynne
was  just a big, nice, sunny guy  -  disabled in some form
I can't recall, maybe a back brace or something, maybe a
war injury. I don't know, and here it doesn't matter. They
built, onto the front of their house, a cinder-block sort of
open-porch thing, with an awning, some chairs, etc. It was
a really cool place to just sit  -  which is what Mr. Wynne
often did. You could just sit out there, like half protected
from, say, light rain and sunlight too, and just watch what
went by or went on. We kids would often be out on the
street, in 10 or 12 number, playing some sort of scratch
football  -  telephone pole to telephone pole  -  on the
hard street surface with the occasional maulings,
road-rashes and outright flashes of violence too  -  again,
past chapters, reference the Squillace brothers. He'd watch,
with occasional referee-type interdiction or commenting.
Just nice, warm street-stuff; the kind of operational comity
no longer much seen anymore, with today's kids buried
in their hand-held screens, games, messages, and all that
stupid shit that passes for physical activity today. Oh, did
I forget sex? Sorry. In time, the whole scene changed some
so that I became somehow friendlier and friendlier with
him, and the family too. There was one Summer, I
remember well, that I'd go there on those listless Summer
mornings and end up just sitting there with Mr. Wynne.
He always, or often anyway, had a radio on, tuned to some
Chicago-based live broadcast of something called 'Don 
McNeill's Breakfast Club.' It was a very folksy, homey, 
live show  -  in a way a very-early version of, say, that 
Lake Woebegone guy, Garrison Keillor. The problem 
with Garrison Keillor, as a reflection of the modern day, 
is all that wise-ass pomposity and knowing irony. The 
sort of Jewish, dreary, drag on things with that 'oh we're 
so wise and knowing' attitude about the supposedly inferior 
or more primitive stuff they highlight. Programmers do it. It's
like folksy-porno, but for real creeps. This Don McNeill thing
was completely naive and thereby whimsical. Like an Arthur
Godfrey show or something. He'd have arrayed around him a
(perhaps not even real) group of people at a breakfast social,
(one that last 5 hours, however), and they'd talk about things,
have song breaks, tell stories, reminisce. All that sort of thing.
It's a lot more common now then it was then  - women jabbering
all the time in their stupid-ass Oprah or Martha Stewart manner,
or all those gay chefs preparing foods and stuff while just
rambling on about their inconsequential tastes and partialities.
Any real manhood died long ago  -  all we get now are fluffy
reality-show types, gay too as filberts, storming into houses,
tearing down walls and redecorating as they rebuild, with a
garden. Like fair maidens on a manor in Wales or somewhere.
We'd sit on that porch, while Don McNeill was running on  -
I didn't often always know what he was talking about or
who the people were, but it was background hiss anyway. Mr.
Wynne seemed always to like it. If you remember Jean Shepherd,
of local NYC radio fame, he tried the same thing, about the
same time period too, but he had at his disposal a pure, knowing,
in-your-face sarcasm that sort of smothered anything else. Even
HIS irony. That one year, I can't remember the year, the LA Watts
riots were raging, Newark was burning, Leroy Jones and all those
guys were perpetrating their guerrilla warfare against the old-line
and disgusted Italian cops and Hugh Addonizio mayoral types,
Plainfield was afire, enraged Negroes were, it seemed, everywhere
taking to the streets as a reactionary firestorm towards what the
evil white man had done to them. Muhammed Speaks, and all
those Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammed tracts and papers were
being handed out (I'd go to Broad Street Newark, or the corner
of 42nd and 8th, in NYC, and there'd always be these bizarre,
well-dressed, seething blacks selectively handing out their Black
Muslim newspapers to the world, for money. They all seemed to
aspire, by dress, to being businessmen who were successful and
could dress well. That always perplexed me. I wanted flak-jackets
and hand-grenades  -  at least for credibility). Mr. Wynne and I,
we'd be leisurely sitting on that little porch, just listening to news
reports and chatting  -  his family members, in turn, occasionally
sitting in, or coming and going. Two of the boys were of driving
age, and they'd sometime leave, or come back. Their daughter,
Mackie or Maxine, I can't recall doing stuff  -  not that it matters
or not that we ever crossed paths anyway, though I can remember
her otherwise, around. Local friend stuff, friends of my own sister,
etc. She had a budding artistic sense that I liked. And they had 
a younger son too, Brian, with whom I shared a birth-date (and
still do!). Mr. Wynne and I (more on the rest of the people in
a bit) we'd be sitting there. He had a twinkly sort of cool humor
about things, and I fed off that pretty well. We'd start talking about
'waiting' for those blacks to come mobbing down from Plainfield,
right down the Colonia Inman Avenue, which connected to
Plainfield, and right over, past Route One, onto our own Inman
Avenue, which sort of all connected anyway. We'd wonder about
what formation their swarm would take, what they'd be carrying,
clubs, bats, etc., if they'd have guns and what the police would do.
It was fun  -  nothing of the sort ever happened, of course, but
it became our daily fodder after the news reports and during Don
McNeil's blabbering. Mr. Wynne had a neat 1955, I think it was
blue, Chevrolet station wagon  -  he had it for the longest time.
It seemed to run well, he'd be seen driving it occasionally. His
wife, Gladys, who was the nurse, was known to everyone as just
'Mrs. Wynne.' She'd graciously do things for people  -  I remember
one time I had four or five stitches in my scalp from one wound
or the other  - this was much later on, I was in my early 20's, and
I just never went back to have them removed. She heard about
this, and took over  -  I'd waited too long; any longer, she said,
and the skin would continue to grow over them and need to be
peeled back  - all that stuff. She sat me down, scissors and
tweezers and a blade, and just went to work. Fifteen minutes
later or so, with a little wincing, they were out. Other times, I
can recall her talking to my mother, also in my presence, about
hygiene and fingernails and stuff. It was pretty precise, and
interesting  -  about how you don't want them too long, because
they're then in the way and more apt to get ripped, but you can't
have them too short either, because they protect the cuticle, or
something, and are guards for the tender, pink skin behind them.
Ingrown, neglected, toes and fingers, same thing. It was an entire
spiel on nail care -   but not for beauty's sake, more about the
actual health processes that went with and for the idea of
'fingernails'. It gave another entire sense of rational body-design
thought to the issue. You wanted to say, like, 'Really, a Creator
to figure all this stuff out and design the forms for it? Amazing.'
So, that's what it was like  -  riots a'distant, Summer mornings,
the porch, the radio, Don NcMeill, and me with the Wynnes. Very
cool. The oldest boy, Billy, he upped and left for Louisiana State
University, and never returned. The next son, my friend there,
Barry, he then did the very same thing. Went down for a visit,
post high-school. Came back, but just to leave forever too. We
were driving around one day  -  he had a friend in Hopelawn,
over by the bowling alley, we'd go see. Barry told me, in an
almost endless monologue for those fifteen minutes of the drive,
how it was all so different there, and what it meant, already,
to him  -  the pace of life, the slowness and deliberateness;
all things which drew him there, and to which he'd be going
and not coming back. Then we got to his friend's house, and 
he pretty much repeated the entire story to him. It was like 
a farewell tour. And then, on the way out, being very near
to a local, big-discount, all-purpose store named 'Two Guys
From Harrison' (the original store had been in Harrison, up
by Newark, just across the Passaic River) we stopped in and
Barry went to the Automotive Department and bought new
floor-mat covers for his car; protectors or replacements. I was
intrigued and had never seen anything like that before  -  just 
an easy, gliding, replacement purchase. Whole other world.
Everything in my life had, up to that point, been mostly 
anguish  -  probably some grumbling argument over floor 
mats, and replacement, and cost, and why, would have 
ensued. Barry, on the other hand, just smooth as silk,
knew what he wished, strolled right in, made the purchase,
and replaced those dang mats and that was that. So, the 
three boys  -  Brian too, a few years later  -  they all just
up'd and left to Louisiana, for keeps. Maxine, after local NJ
college stuff, went to Texas  -  and they all still remain. Not
much else to report, right now, on that count, but it's always
a really nice Avenel memory for me; it sort of embodied some
talented little hamlet off in the woods somewhere  -  like an
Appalachian retreat with just me and them. The world, of 
course, was a different platter, and it all around us 
encroached, but this was nice.
Mr Wynne, and then, right there too, Mr. Miranda, they both
ended up representing, for me, a placidity and a sense of
 'centered  rightness' about things. From what I saw, I mean. 
Sometimes all  that 'appearances' stuff is misleading and people, 
behind the scenes, were miserable or always taunted. I
don't think that to be the case here  -  it was just different
life-quality stuff. I was attracted to the calm-spot that I
intuited. There was an openness and an ease of talking about 
things; nothing deep or dark or philosophical, nothing about
the bad side of the world or any of that stuff. Just nice,
general conversation backed with a fine grounding in the 
things and the information of the world around us. The sort
of persons who don't get sucked up by some shysters smoked-up
stories and false promises. Mr. Wynne was solid, like a rock, about 
that stuff. I've seen people of that caliber since, but not too many.
It's a fine line to be drawn between just opinionating and getting
into someone's face over or with an attitude, versus finely walking
a line inhabiting both a sense of awareness and a sense of knowledge
as well, about things. Solidly too. You have to remember, as well, that
I was a kid of whatever age it was  -  15, 16, I can't rightly remember,
but I never felt condescended to, scoffed at, or even passed over. 
He was just a genuine guy, I'm guessing, back then, maybe 
just 40, 45 tops  -  that's a guess, don't quote me.
Mr. Miranda, he too kept a sparkle and a liveliness about
him, even with that horrid daily grind of traveling to and
from Brooklyn each day  -  as a line-beer-chemist or whatever
it was, at the Schaefer Brewery. We saw him on TV once. He'd
come home one day and announced that Channel 9 or Channel 11,
one of those NY stations, had been at his plant that day, doing a
bit about the industry, and that particular brewery. It was, perhaps, 
a mini-documentary or something. Substantial, but not much; maybe
15 or 20 minutes. Anyway, he told us when it would be airing and all
that. Sure enough, there was Mr. Miranda, in a white smock, and
even holding one or two test tubes and racks and things as the 
voiceover ran along  -  something about the careful testing for clarity 
and purity and all that, of the hops and water content, and the rest. 
It was pretty cool to see  -  this was when getting on TV was a really
big thing. Fame and the rest. Maybe it was 1958 or '59, no later
than that anyway. His wife, Diane Miranda, I well remember, had  
some sort of connection to someone (in Brooklyn) who was a 
Postmaster or something. I seem to think it was her father, but I'm
not sure. So, because of that, somehow, she kept a houseful of postage 
stamps at the ready. My mother would often send me next door, 
with five dollars or whatever, to 'go buy some stamps from Diane.' 
It was always the same; I'd go over there, they had a big, nice 
German Shepard dog named 'Joker', I believe it was, in the 
fence  or in the house. I was like 11 or 12, and all this made
huge impressions on me. The house was quiet, half-dark. I'd 
wait by the back-door at the kitchen, but inside the house, and
while she was off into another room getting the stuff, I'd just take in
the moment  -  usually quiet, no hub-bub, nothing crazy going on.
It was almost church-like in quality of feel and light; especially
the light. Much like the Fehring house, when I'd go there for an
evening's encyclopedia (early chapter, again), all was still and pleasent.
It's quality of moment that I now often enough by myself do get to
duplicate, through light and silence, yes, but more than that too
it just represented something other : Quality, or Peace.
Did you not ever wonder how much of Life is just an
interpreted fantasy anyway? That entire hamlet and 
hideaway thing is mine  -  and it's completely a crock, yet if
I made up my life around it, and wove and threaded all the
interceding fantasies around and through it, I could make it work.
There's enough essential raw material there to fool someone into
a complacent reality, a cocoon of their own. Sometimes that's how
people live their whole lives. Like those Baldwin sisters on that
old Waltons weekly show. It was horrendous, yes, but time after
time  -  it's my belief  -  those episodes had embedded, encoded, 
and cryptic messages, right into peoples' heads, that such 'life by
fantasy' could be enacted, and actually existed. It was to be
one of those (now we call then 'viral') moments that could be
spread and enlarged by people everywhere, and they wouldn't
even know it. They'd be taken up in the great wash of unreal
meaning and possibility, and the 'Authorities' or whoever it 
was in position of Power, could just prod these people along, 
like cattle, to their selected positions  -  and they wouldn't even 
know it. They still be out there parading and waving flags, and 
hugging  their copies of that dead, old Constitution, while 
pledging their allegiance once more to whichever old 'Casey At 
the Bat' piece of fake American nostalgia was being thrown at 
them, like a fastball from Hell's own mound. Me and Mr. Wynne, 
we were always watching out for that shit.
Anyway, here's the deal : compared to the pace at my house, both 
the Wynne family and Mr. Wynne, AND the Miranda's next door, 
as well, were like easements where the roadway was suddenly 
peaceful and clear. As you can recall (earlier chapter once again) my 
friend Alex had said that my house, to him, always had appeared as 
a crazy hive of energy and activity, but with nothing ever getting 
done. Interesting comment. Negative versus positive energies, I guess. 
Also interesting that my father and him had almost come to blows over 
something. I was not present, but my sisters tell me that 'Dad went 
after Alex, I swear he was going to kill him.' I don't know what that 
was about. Just negative energy, I'm positive.

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