Thursday, December 31, 2015

7646. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 119)

(pt. 119)
One thing that's disappeared over time, and it relates
back to the 'visually expository' nature of Mr. Roloff,
is window-painting. There was a time when it was a
great favorite of local merchants, and of celebratory
school windows : Santas, reindeer, mangers, angels,
wise men, baby Jesus stuff, the 'Holy' Family  -  all
those matters that are now strictly forbidden by the
secularized, more vulgar takeover of everyday life. It's
OK to portray bikini-clad beach bunnies with breasts the
size of Nevada wearing Christmas hats while carrying
beer trays, as a for-instance, but God forbid any of
the other stuff -  the town council would have you
hanging by your own Yule balls off the nearest tree.
Back in the days I'm speaking of, a lot of the Main
Street stores of the small towns and cities would have
those sorts of business fronts that were all glass display
windows, with some even having depth that you
walked through to get to the actual front door entry
of the store. In those windows they'd display their
merchandise, whether it was clothing, cameras, bicycles,
or furniture. It would be upon these display windows
that the local high schools and other schools would have
kid-painting festivals -  all that tempera paint. It was
bold in color, came off thickly, and was 'temporary',
which I don't think had anything to do with the word
'tempera' but maybe it did. Those painted windows
would be all over towns  -  sloppy, sometimes ugly,
striking, those big Stars of Bethlehem always spiked
and shining on high. There'd always be a 'best-window'
contest or somesuch, run by the arts-council or the school
art departments, or whatever. The mayors and the fair
ladies of the town would come out for the big bash. I can
even remember, quite well, all through the 70's and 80's,
the town of Metuchen having a Miss Merry Christmas
contest  -  signed ballots at the local banks and merchants
to vote for your favorite of the six high school girls who'd
been selected for the contest  -  photos, smiles, head shots,
on each. Obviously based on looks; sexist, if nothing else, by
today's standards, and probably leering and lewd to in the
eyes of teen boys and gentlemen. Nobody cared. It was
Christmas. The winner and runner-up got to ride in the
Christmas Parade, on the town float. That stuff is all over
now  -  Metuchen 'balled-out' a long time ago and now
labels their parade as a Winter Fest or some name, as if
they lived in Finland or Norway for God's sake. Curlicue
chicken-ass bunch. But no different than anywhere else.
So be it. Mr. Roloff would have his window paintings  -
each of the portables too, I think. He'd select his art-kids
from whomever he thought was best or good, or favorite,
and they'd have a go at all the windows. Usually, by
January 10 or so, it was all taken down, washed away,
windows cleaned and back to clarity.
It was always a good indication, to me, of the situation
we were living : the 1950's had all sorts of cross-currents
going on, societally. A lot of it we were unaware of, but
people like Mr. Roloff brought some of it to us. There was
the entire 'beatnik' thing  -  if you recall my story-line
earlier about Alex and myself being given free rein to write
our own Christmas play  -  our 'Beatnik' rendering of the
kidnapping of Santa. That was Mr. Ziccardi's choice and
doing (selecting us)  -  and no one ever really mentioned 
anything to us about our play afterwards  -  we didn't get 
any real congratulations or kudos from it, but the true
zaniness and pure zest inherent in what we wanted to do
was allowed free-enough rein. I mean, we weren't including
profanities or rap lyrics or suggestive remnants of anything.
We weren't about that  -  it was 1960 for crap's sake. Alex
and I were probably the only two kids around anyway who
had a leg up on breaking cultural matters  -  irony, absurdity,
meaninglessness. We didn't exactly make mention of it, but
we knew what was up, and we sensed what we were doing.
And we were both hell-bent on breaking out, forging a
vanguard, even then. All was cool, and we were all.
The whole context of the window painting and the usual 
frolics that go with (what's now called) 'Holiday' crap, 
was basically within the context of a church-referential
mode, but it was quickly going out of style. Little did we 
know, Jack Kennedy was bonking Marilyn Monroe, Judith 
Exner, Mimi Alford, Priscilla Wear, Jill Cowen and others,
in the White House itself, and elsewhere, and while married. 
The entire thing was a cultural sham, with the Catholic hierarchy
involved as well. After all, he 'represented' them, he was held up 
as a regular, secular saint  -  proving the rightness of the Church 
and the wisdom and good sense which could come from it. It
was, as I said, all a sham  -  he was just as much a weasel as any
of the rest of the Senate, House, Courts, Congress or lawmakers.
Greed, corruption, power, lies, and all the rest. Later it was Bill 
Clinton too; yeah, but he wasn't the same sort of secular saint
because WE weren't the same sort of naive or duped people. 
Kennedy's father had been a criminal in a suit, a bootlegger, 
a racketeer, and one who'd risen to the top as head of the SEC 
(Securities and Exchange Commission), which only gave him a 
further means for the advancing of his doctrinaire capitalism 
through insider trading, deals, payoffs and commissions. The 
Kennedy family money was legendarily dirty, as was their son, if 
not the one, then the entire three who remained. We, as a Nation, 
however were expected to worship at this altar of lust and 
the misbegotten ventures it put forth. 
That was all part of  the essential fraudulence of the time.
In some ways, we no longer have that, in other ways it's worse.
Today's situation, the 1990's version of it anyway, was 'President' 
Cliinton (if you can believe that) telling Time magazine of his
late teens and early twenties in Arkansas, how he had the rear
pick-up area of his Ford Ranchero done up and covered in a
version of 'Astro-Turf' so he could better have sex with girls. Well,
at least it was girls, I suppose, as a positive. Big ha-ha that was.
'Oh that crafty devil!', they said. Hillbilly style, hi-fashion. A few 
years later he's sticking cigars in some intern Jewess' holes, in 
the Oval Office no less  -  oval orifice in the oval office? The nation 
laughs and applauds, and the only people who really get stuck are 
the people like Ken Starr, and others, whose Government-job it 
WAS to prosecute this stuff. The laugh tracks groaned on. For
THIS, I ask you, for this we were sentenced to 12 years of an
infernal be-jeezused schooling given to us by morons? It's
all worse today, for sure, but that's not excusing anything. We 
were, in the meantimes, supposed to have developed respect and
proper attitudes and the high-American reverence that goes for
bloviating on Decoration Day, Memorial Day and July Fourth 
for all the schmucks who've died for this crap. We've not come to 
that, yet. (Did I say yet?). Oh really!!...But, anyway, back then
we knew very little (because the lie that we lived as a nation 
couldn't yet let it out), except that there was an undercurrent of
some weird malaise taking hold  -  the idea of television, for
one, had already well-swept through Avenel. Our references 
were to all of that already. There was everything from Sky
King to Gunsmoke, Paladin, Maverick and Have Gun Will
Travel. Twilight Zone. Mouseketeers. Howdy Doody. The
list went on, and we began eating it all up. Kix and Fruit Loops
and Cheerios and the rest. Kids don't know it, but we had to
live without Life and Cap'n Crunch and all that crud until it
came to market a few years later. Karo Syrup was on 
everything. My mother used to put it into the baby-bottle 
water which she fed to my infant sisters. It was some hideously
sweet corn syrup or something. That was the world we lived in.
Turkish Taffy was a big deal. Bit O' Honey. This 6th grade
world was twirling its baloney into steak, and we were being
fed the sham-steak result. All of this, for all you can believe, 
before fast food -  no McDonald's and Burger Kings, let 
alone the rest. That whole California car-culture overlay was
just beginning. The idea of living like that, outside of the 
covers, so to speak, had never occurred to anyone here. 
There was a store along Route One, across from where 
the Howard Johnson's used to be  -  called 'American
Shops' or something, and it was perhaps the only thing that
ever came close. It had that ersatz, weird, warm-weather 
tropical feel. An entryway you had to walk along with palm
trees, a parrot or two, statues of guys with burros, sleepy
Mexicans with serapes and straw hats. All that, for selling
clothes. I think they gave out something for free too  -  
soda or popcorn, I forget. But for Avenel that was the 
only and nearest thing to outdoor culture that there was. 
Like the roofless Menlo Mall, it was something starting 
and  something new. By ten years later, the world 
was on fire, we'd touched on the moon, and 
all the kids were crazy.

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