Saturday, December 31, 2016


(shopping on the reservation)
On the last night of something, 
it's another year to go while 
the dark sky darkens some 
more and the ending of light 
means something, I'm sure. 
There's a centrifuge in my
 headline raging away  -  
all those pounding certainties. 
You know what they say. 
The silly man with the 
beefcake arms tries lifting 
a car by himself, to retrieve 
a tire from underneath. It's a
 nice gig, if you can get it, 
but it grows old quick. I'm 
backing my car out of 
another jam. I take out 
someone's red-Chevy 
door, and drive off.

Friday, December 30, 2016


284. AVENEL, Pt. 6
Somewhere along the
line things began shaking.
There was a TV show  -
I must have been very
young, I mean what
sounds here as stupidly
young, but it caught
my attention. It was
called Omnibus, and
past the title I didn't
know much else about
it  -  the names and the
personalities of the
show, Alastair Cooke,
Jonathan Winters, and
fifty others, meant
little to me at that age.
I learn now, as well,
that the show is, and
was then, considered a
groundbreaker and acted
as a forerunner of what
we now have as PBS.
I can't say, and I admit
to probably really
taking in only half
of whatever these
presentations gave
to me, but this
show riveted me
and from it I
grew a full
cross-section of
most every other
level of creative
or acted and
made up persona
that I saw. There
were singers,
dancers, storytellers,
comedians, artists,
writers, actors in
roles. There were
'historic' re-enactments
and dramatized
things. All over
the map, but it
acted as an early
school for me;
forget the rest. I
took from that a
large part of the
earliest patterning
still inside me.
Personal truth talks,
and the internalized
self holds all the
cards. Later on,
in something of
the same vein, All
one has to do is
not shy or run
from it, and
instead grab it
and work with it
and learn to read
it all. That's
Natural Religion,
the real thing.
If you think it
was easy finding
a way to watch
this stuff in my
house, think again.
It was baffling,
in fact. I was way
too young, couldn't
possibly understand,
and probably
wanted to watch
cartoons instead,
right? Or at least
that's  how the
thinking went.
Later, in the same
vein, copy-cat
fashion, as TV
does, there came
Steve Allen  -
another one I
tried to watch
when I could. He
had really cool
people on and
the words always
spoke to me. I can
remember seeing
Jack Kerouac on
there, as a scardy-cat,
drunken, cut-up
guy just trying to
get through some
'broadcast' he didn't
understand. He
read a bit from
his book, but he
was frozen and
it was stilted. Steve
Allen himself,
annoyingly plinking
away while he talked,
on a piano in some
basic, note-by-note
inflected jazzy blues
riff of his own,
seemed to get
in the way, more
than anything,
and I sensed
ridicule, I sensed
a circus animal
being held up
for inspection,
Kerouac. What it
meant, I didn't
know, but it
stayed with me
forever. Later on
came other shows
-  stuff of the outside
world, other places,
where people acted,
did things, got
involved in real
 messes. Route 66.
Naked City. My
mind raced over
everything. I was
caught and I was
trapped. Nothing
normal ever seemed
to have any
abiding interest
for me.
So, as it went, 
being back, at St. 
George Press, 20 
or so years later, 
whatever it was, 
after a ton of 
adventures and 
other places and 
things I was still 
living down, I 
had to make it 
really mean 
something to 
me or all of this, 
I realized, could
just crumble and 
be a real sham and
I'd simply end up 
as a waste of time. 
I just always carried 
everything with me. 
Once I got established 
in St. George Press, 
one of my regular 
became the Barron 
Arts Center. Perfectly 
enough. This was an 
old town building, 
wonderfully stylised; 
Richardson or 
someone architectural 
and famous had built 
it for one of the early 
Woodbridge rich guys, 
as a library, his own.
It looked like a church, 
sort of. But it wasn't 
 -  rather it was just 
a really perfectly-done 
little specimen of 
'important' domestic 
architecture. The 
town had taken it 
over and, in one 
of those ubiquitous 
searches these 
local governments 
do, with tax money, 
had decided to have 
a cultural and arts 
commission and 
pump in a lot of 
money into 
refurbishing this 
place as a 
center. They hadn't 
a clue. Previous to 
this it had been 
a children's library, 
wasting away  -  
story times, 
festivals, nursery 
rhyme days, etc. 
Easter Bunny and
the rest. Good 
riddance to that. 
They closed it up 
and re-opened as 
the Barron Arts 
Center, and hired 
a few females, the 
gentle, poetry sorts, 
to come up with 
a program, 
something to 
keep this vibrant 
and flowing. I had 
already begun doing 
their early printing, 
and working with 
them  -  shows of 
artisinal ceramics 
and pottery, a show 
of Americana, one 
of stamps and 
postcards, all 
the usual stuff. A 
few local 
type local artists, 
the kind who bleed 
still-lives and floral 
arrangements and 
'landscapes' of 
Pennsylvania or 
whatever, onto 
nicely framed 
canvas. So, they 
thought of me 
as someone perhaps 
interested in helping
with this scheme. 
One day we were 
talking  -  Edie Eustace, 
Susan Crotty, and 
another girl whose 
name, right now, 
escapes me but I 
wish it didn't because 
she has one of the 
stranger roles here 
to portray. Maybe 
it'll come. We worked 
out an idea for 'Poetry' 
readings  -  open 
microphone, let anyone 
in who wished, sign 
them on a list, have 
readings, in sequence, 
no real rules except 
the usual  -  gross 
profanity (this was 
way before rap music), 
none of, or not too 
much of that 
and wide-open sex 
crap, offensive or 
bleating anguish 
stuff. We didn't 
wish to lay down 
rules or single 
people out. Junk 
is junk, and it's 
usually quite apparent 
on its own. If the 
township dudes got 
wind of something, 
and found it wrong 
or bad, it would 
probably have 
already passed our 
supposed censoring 
anyway. Once you
get mixed up with 
'civic' stuff, the 
entire equation 
gets changed. Beware.
Two complete and
different sets of 
parameters; so who 
cared. We decided
 to hold this each 
month, on the second 
Weds., 7:30, I think it 
was, and they ran to 
maybe midnight  -  
wine and crumpets, 
whatever. More on 
all this later, but first  
-  for me and my
'business 'vitality', 
it worked fine  -  
generated printing, 
billable to the town 
budget, paid usually 
on time, everybody 
happy. It's funny 
how towns work, 
with money. 
Everything had 
to get a voucher, 
be approved, plans 
examined. The 
extended budget 
was always under 
some scrutiny. 
Things had to 
pass muster and 
no one could just 
go out and purchase 
anything, on a whim  
-  the Arts Council 
people I mean. It 
took at least a 
month to get things
through. And then 
payment was slow 
as well. Whatever. 
It seemed completely 
different from the
 usual graft and 
corruption of getting 
your hand into the 
roads and sewer 
contracts and hidden 
zoning variances 
and stuff by which 
the big guys made 
their dough. I don't 
remember, this was 
maybe 1980. Got 
it rolling, and it 
really took off 
nicely. Before 
too long, I was 
over my head 
in stuff to do. This 
went on for over 
three years, getting 
stronger all the 
time. We did 
recitations, dramatc 
readings, any number 
of things, in addition 
to the poetry nights. 
Everything was still 
quite primitive then, 
no computer or 
even video hook-ups. 
so anything we did 
was done once, and 
dissolved away to 
memory. W'd get 
about 30-40 people, 
same and different, 
on a steady basis. 
Not just Woodbridge 
people  -  there were 
those wo came from 
20 miles or so for 
these things. Martta 
Rose, from West 
Orange. (I think 
she later 'became' 
a band also, fronting 
her name). Hunterdon 
County people; it 
was all over the place. 
Sometimes there 
was music involved
 as well. I did't know 
much, but thought 
fast and worked well 
on my feet and soon 
had it pretty mastered, 
handling and goading 
the crowd, introducing 
things and people, 
working all month 
on format, for that 
one night. That girl 
who name I just 
recalled (but am 
not going to use 
here, in case she's 
still around), she 
had a problem life 
going on, and she'd 
come to see me at 
St. George Press, 
in tears sometimes, 
when she needed to 
'chill' or let her 
emotions calm 
down, or just cry. 
It was a sad scene, 
and I often really 
did want to just reach
out and help her. 
But nothing, back
then, ever came forth  
-  things were different, 
no one really knew 
how to handle this 
stuff. Evidently she 
had an abusive boss, 
to her and to other 
girls in the office 
as well, and every 
time he had a go at
her she'd flee, and 
somehow end up
running to me, sitting 
 in my little office, calming 
down under the pretense 
of getting some printing.
Door open; don't get any 
ideas. In tears, usually  
-  'he grabbed me,' 
'he pulled my shirt 
up,' etc. I only got 
half the story, I'm 
sure; but I never 
called the cops or 
anything, and she 
never did either, 
nor wished to. She 
was shit-scared, 
for her job, and 
for the future 
reprecussions if
she did anything. 
So, I didn't remember 
what happened, 
but she disappeared, 
and was soon gone.
Tough scene. It's funny
too, and this is real  -
people used to ask me what
printing was about, my 
job etc., and I'd answer, 
'Oh, it's a bunch of things, 
part listening, part talking, 
part business, part social 
work. You just really
have to listen for the
things unsaid as much as 
to what's said.' They used
to think that amazing, or
say 'I've never heard it put
that way, wow.' but it 
really was true.

9032. POST

Give me six feet of that, and
you can take it home. Two men
from the roofing yard want me
to work with them. But I can't.
It's not that I'm afraid of heights;
it's the hitting the ground part
I hate the most.


I can circumnavigate the globe in
a simple fortnight of pain. Like
Magellan himself, I wear an ermine
robe. I have Neptune's sceptre to
bash on heads and a fire-pit always
burns on the floor of my cell. All
those army men, around me, they
are talking fast : fear and the old
quandary of 'live or die.' Like
firemen figuring out strategy
while before them the buildings
burn. I was born on Monticello 
Road, Timber Valley, Montana.
My mother's kin was my wetnurse
twice, and I stayed in bed until I
was twelve. Midwives, it seem, 
came and went. I once knew a
girl who wanted only that  -  to be
a working midwife in a Dutch
colony of dread. Now she's gone,
wearing tattoos and blarney stones,
and talking her meters for dinner.
My father was an axe-man for the
Lansing Lumber Yard, cutting trees
for pay and floating them down
random rivers. Some stayed in the
rivers; some ended up slivers, 
broken on the falls below.


All these diners are closing,
and these aren't scrambled eggs. 
I don't eat ham, so it wouldn't 
matter, but Miss Maybelline 
over there, if I called her over, 
wouldn't know the difference 
anyway  -  between  meatloaf 
and carbolic acid. Plus, I could 
get better sauce in an old
hardware store : nails where 
the label should be, and a
paint-cane where to spit out 
the pits. For these seats, they 
should be paying me, and for
these eats I should be eating free.


(new year's eve)
Saturday has Heaven in its sleeve:
last day of the year for nothing.
I think I'll try something new:
walking on water while standing
on my hands. Yes, yes, that oughta'
work for sure. In another month 
anyway, some Chinese dragon 
will come slinking down Pell
and Mott, intent on doing nearly
the same thing. Fireworks and
sad magic up another Asian sleeve.


283. AVENEL, Pt. 5
'nice fit'
Combinations of hundreds 
of things made this place 
what it was  -  from a
bicycle kingdom for boys
to a swaddling collection 
of religions and buildings. 
Down across Route One
was the old B'nai Israel
synagogue, and on Avenel
Street the two mainline 
churches, sort of always
vying with each other. 
Clubs and activities for 
kids, dances, competing 
Boy Scout troops and 
the rest. The Presbyterian
Boy Scout troop, they were
the real guys. Troop 42, I
think it was  -  intrepid
cold-weather campers, 
brawlers, adept fire-starters
and merit badge elite. By
contrast, the later, Catholic,
Troop 73, were a bunch of
pasty wimps, challenged
even by knot-tying. In
the Boy Scout handbook 
there were 30 different
types of knots, maritime
knots, wilderness knots,
and the rest, you were
supposed to know, and
master. I got maybe 
three of them straight, 
ever  -  and every other
one that failed I'd gleefully
call a 'slip-knot'. Successfully
done. What did I care? You
know how it's said, about 
school, 'what do I need to
know all that Math for?'
That's how I viewed knots.
No future utility except,
perhaps, for bondage, but
I had no intention of going
there. The (we) catholic 
kids were flagrant violators  
- goofing off, hanging 
about, doing little or 
nothing at all. Catholic 
kids were brought
up to worry about all 
the other stuff, the 
things that, somehow, 
Boy Scouts never taught 
or even worried about: 
Salvation, guilt, darkness, 
sin, regret. It was crazy. 
They had no business 
at all even starting
a Boy Scout troop. 
At St. George Press I 
got a good little perch 
from which to view 
the town around me. 
It was a decent job, 
with some prestige. 
I got to meet a lot of 
Woodbridge people, 
deal with some of the 
big guys, the newspapers, 
the political doers, and 
hacks. I was still nobody,
just me, working for 
wages, and trying to 
remain one step off of 
center stage  -  which
was easy. Against my 
will, I got to learn 
about business, bills,
accounts payables, 
profit margins, 
collectibles, loans
and pay-backs, the
wholesale paper-buying
of the printing-trades, 
inks and colors, grades 
of paper and printing
stocks, bindings, 
mark-ups, discounting,
shipping... It was all
crazy, There was
one time  -  I remember 
it well  -  I'd just bought
a new car, a 1985, and
the purchase price was
18,600 dollars  - a 
massive sum for me 
then, for a car anyway.
I had these 5-rooms of
losers at some office
on Mayfield Drive in
Raritan Center  -  they
churned through 
printing like water, 
sold to others as 
brokers, and were 
always nagging me 
for 'cheap, cheap, 
and cheaper'. 
That was their motto.
It was the October 
end of our fiscal 
year and I was owed 
something like $39,000 
by these Heeb jackals. 
(I hated dealing with 
this crew). They were
living way high off 
my money. We'd do 
the work, the printing,
and sell it to them for, 
say, $100, and  -  true
to form  -  by doing
absolutely nothing 
at all except some 
bullshit and phone 
calls, they'd charge 
their customer, 
in turn, say $210. 
Seriously. Rapacious 
on their their part, 
by using us as a 
bank. Never paying 
up. This one time the
strategy was for me 
to just go there, make 
a scene, rattle their 
stupid asses, and get 
some money, if not 
all (which we knew
they didn't have). They
were slowly going
insolvent. I did my
part, and this head 
honcho there  -  a big,
bloviating heap, named
Joel Greene, he finally
forked over a check for
$18,600. Exactly the 
price of the car I'd
just bought. It was
weird. I raced back 
to the office and we 
banked that money in
about five seconds.
Thank God it didn't
That was a big 
lesson  -  these jackals 
drove around in Jaguars 
and new Audis and 
things  -  fancy suits,
pinky rings, Yankee 
Stadium season box 
tickets to entertain
clients, for a couple 
of years they even 
extended out some 
Super Bowl tickets, 
New Orleans one year,
and Atlanta, I think, 
the next. Lodgings, 
dining, the whole bit, 
for a few of their 
premier accounts. 
It was all based on 
nothing but talk, 
and we knew that.
We'd all make fun 
of them behind 
their backs  -  their 
ways and means 
were so patently 
ridiculous, you 
had to. Loud, frothy
egomaniacs, these 
guys. It all worked 
out, over 8 years 
maybe, then they 
all splintered up, 
went broke, and 
made their own 
separate, smaller 
companies. A real 
racket. I handled 
so much money  
- the billings, the 
money-owed, and 
all that, through 
them, that if I 
had run with it 
I could have 
bought a small 
African country. 
Once again, I saw 
the beast of what
'Business' really is, 
from their dirty 
underside. It was 
good  -  it made 
me always glad, 
always, to be a 
faraway outsider 
to all that crud. I
realized I'd rather
dig ditches than 
have to deal with 
such slime.
From inside St. 
George Press, 
everything looked
different. I look 
out at St. George 
Avenue  -  all that 
crazy, thrumming
traffic rolling by. 
Everything from 
mail trucks to ice 
cream trucks and 
all in-between.
Eskimo pies, over 
next door, at the 
7-11. Along the
street, nearly every
day, I'd see a couple
of the same people :
a man and a woman,
always walking 
together, close and
tight, and determined.
No one ever knew 
their situation, 
whether homeless 
or indigent or 
what; but in 
every weather, 
with some bags 
and a suitcase, 
they be walking 
around, to or 
from somewhere, 
but never getting  
anywhere  -  they 
were neither 
friendly nor 
congenial, and 
just sought to 
be left alone. 
I had an old 
grade school 
chum who was 
'around the bend' 
now, as they say. 
Peter Marschak;
he'd just be, also, 
fast walking around, 
staring only straight 
ahead, eyes blazing. 
Never knew where 
he was headed 
either, but he was 
always on the 
fast-walk somewhere. 
Another grade-school 
pal, Ken Lackowitz, 
sort of crazed and 
shell-shocked out 
of Vietnam, was 
just always trouncing 
around, in his own 
little world, on a 
bicycle. Every day, 
it seemed, I always 
wished to connect, 
or re-connect, with 
these folks, see if 
I could help, whatever,
but I never did  -  
except for Ken, whom 
I did meet years later 
on the wharf in 
Perth Amboy. He 
was much improved, 
counseled and 
brought back, 
looked good, had 
a new truck, 
fishing trips, etc. 
We had a beer 
or two, and saw 
each other off.
Nice fit.

Remember those guys I
mentioned, the Raritan 
Center bunch? For a while
one of the connections I 
had, through printing with
 them, was the office of Air 
France, the carrier, in NYCity. 
It was like the French National 
Airline or somesuch. Every so
often, to 'service' the account, etc.
and because of the volume, I'd 
hop in our company car and
deliver to NYC, their offices
along the Avenue. I'd get to
meet faces that had just 
been phone voices, deliver 
the goods, and all that. They 
weren't, per se, 'my' client, but 
it made no difference to them 
and they just thought we 
were all the same bunch.
New York City deliveries were
always a logistical nightmare.
This time I parked on
the street, in the 40's, where
I'd found a decent spot, and 
planned, with a hand cart,
on making two or three trips
to the elevators, some five blocks 
away. Coming back from the
first trip, I saw envelopes and 
letterheads blowing all over the
street. Hmmm, they sure look
familiar. Oh no! They're mine.
While I was away, some peering 
eyes had seen the boxes in the 
rear, figured perhaps they were 
something valuable, popped out 
the vent window on the Oldsmobile 
wagon (it was lying on the front 
seat) and, seeing the valuelessness 
to them of mere printed paper, just 
thrown the stuff all around. What a 
mess, and a quirky problem too. 
Crafty thieves. I gathered up 
whatever I could, popped the vent 
window back into place, found a
dumpster to dump it all, drove 
out of there, called Air France later, 
saying there'd been an interruption 
and I'd be returning with the rest
in a few days. I got to the office 
later that afternoon, and real 
nonchalantly said (when asked)  that 
they'd liked everything, in fact 
liked it so much they'd re-ordered 
already! (Scam alert). I thereby did 
eventually fulfill the order, arrange
the UPS delivery (as I should 
have done before), and simply 
'buried' the new order, paperwork, 
and billling, with no one the wiser.  
Tough life, that business world  
-  one has to learn how to pivot, and 
think on one's feet.  Hey! I was 
getting to be just like them!