Sunday, January 31, 2016

7756. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 149)

(pt. 149)
So, you'd never have known it in Avenel, but
a long time ago Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring'
caused a riot. 'Just a piece of music,' you'd think
to say. Yes, I guess, but it represented a new
modernity, it represented upheaval and change 
-  stuff that people weren't ready for and simply
didn't understand. So they went primal and rioted.
Now, we think, 'over a piece of music?' Well,
whatever it may have been, that was the era of
the lightbulb and the cash register. New things too.
The whole world was changing. 'Artificial light! The
'Subconscious?! Someone has just proved that
we are all monsters!' You listen to it now, and it's
really difficult to fathom the tumult it caused.
Avenel, of course, would have had none of that, and
probably wouldn't even have learned of it until some
great time later. It was like expecting someone out
front of Murray and Martha's to suddenly be sitting
there reading Charles Baudelaire or T. S. Eliot. It was
always funny to me how Americans reacted to things
and got started with them  -  this entire classical music
thing being a good instance. It took Walt Disney, of
all people, to infuse Stowkowski, classical music and
Mickey Mouse as a unit to bring people to even see
classical music; and, yes, they had to 'see' it, with
cartoon-idiot characters, before they'd accept it.
I remember going to see it in that cinema that used
to be in the shopping plaza of what's now Shop Rite.
The movie house has become some big-deal bar,
undergoing renovations now too, and an auto
parts place. Everything original is now gone. In
1969, when that movie theater first opened, or
whenever it was, we were doing the initial printing
at NJ Appellate Printing, and the movie-house
manager, some guy who'd been transplanted in
from Missouri to run the new cinema, he gave us  - 
in order to drum up business and fill the place up,  -
wads for free tickets to pass around. I handed out
bunches of them all along Inman Avenue, friends and
neighbors. As I recall, the opening feature was Dr.
Zhivago, a big hit at the time. I remember nearly
everyone going to see it, basically on my free ticket.
It was cool. My parents went with Walter and Betty
Fehring, neighbors a few houses away. They all had
a great time, and thought I was great for giving the
tickets to them. Movies back then were still just
one large movie room and screen  -  only later did
they start putting up walls and smaller screens and
making what were called 'multiplexes' of them. The
movie house lasted there a long-enough time, like
thirty years maybe; and this little, chubby guy from
Missouri eventually got moved on to someplace else.
His specific job was moving around to new theaters
and sitting in for 6 or 8 months while it opened and
got established. Walter Reade Cinemas, I think it was.
Then he would get transferred to wherever the next
newest opening was. Cool job, I guess, but it must
have been hell on a family, if he had one. 'Hi. That's
my dad, Mr. Rootless.'
The only thing I remember about that movie was a few
cool scenes with horses in the Russian snow, jumping
out of rail cars and things with soldiers on their backs.
The same scene pretty much happened twenty years later
too, in a movie called 'Reds', about the Russian Revolution
and stuff. Similar anyway, unless I'm just mixing them up.
It was always hard to figure out 'culture' in  Avenel. There
really wasn't any. I have no clue as to how many people
held season memberships or passes to the opera or the
ballet, or memberships to museums and stuff, but I'd bet,
if any, it was only a few. You need to remember, this
really was a place where you could get on a train at the
local station, and be whisked to NYC in about as much
time as it takes to sit in a diner and order and eat. There
was really no excuse, if one cared to, to partake of those
opportunities  -  but it was far enough afield, as a place,
to be, at the same time, considered distant and rural
enough so that you didn't need to be concerned with
urban stuff and all that citified culture crap. Distant.
Far-off. Maybe they tried teaching that stuff in school,
but it never took. Even the supposed best of the best,
like Mrs. Oettle (pronounced 'Ooot-Lee'), someone who
prided herself on high culture and high 'learning', she
wound up, for cultural experiences, to just take her
fool class-kids to movies in NY, like 'Morgan', and
'Georgie Girl'  -  which weren't really culture at all.
Just more mainstream class culture pop crap that
was just as soon made and seen and forgotten. No
theoretical discussion or cultural context given; just
the wildly-growing idea of hip-fun. Lightweight
silliness. I never went, nor could I have cared less
for what they were peddling. My 'culture' was
elsewhere, and I had a fine seat at the library to boot.
Made no difference to me what Valerie Andrews or
Bonnie Klein or Jeff Gutman or any of those wedgies
were up to. I was up to me.
The lines and the connections were always sort of
crooked and garbled concerning culture. It was maybe
spoken of but never acted upon. The biggest deal, as I
mentioned way earlier in chapters before this, was the
minstrel show portrayals. What was interesting about
them to me was the connection I was able to make,
actually and real, between, say, them and people like
Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain. The Civil War
and race relations. Whatever it may have meant, and
the vitality that went with it, could still be found between
the pages and the unspoken lines and words of people
I'd pass in the street. No one in Avenel ever said, as it
were, a 'real' word about anything. It was all surface
frosting and fluff; like a light, puffy bedding with which
everyone stayed comfortable. That wasn't good enough
for me, and it wasn't going to be. I sought authenticity;
I sought the branching out and the real sourcing of things
from within, and I somehow knew Avenel wasn't going to
supply that for me. The frame was OK, but the painting
it went around just wasn't up to snuff. There were a million
ways out, and I had to decide which was for me. The poles
of choice were far apart  -  I considered the suicide of
joining the Army  -  just throwing all meaning aside and
letting myself do what I was told and get shot-up dead
as if on purpose, without any care or without any meaning.
I might have done it if I didn't so detest the enforced
confinement of being with other people, constantly,
and then of following the foul, chicken-shit orders and
routines of military life. I thought of 'college' by the books,
but I had no money, nor the energy to beg and borrow so
as to just piss it all away in rooms full of lies and
deceit and assumptions. And, again, other people. I
decided to just chuck it all at the first opportunity, follow
my star, and take to the streets of NYC, without even a
real name to go by. By this time, I did have a girlfriend,
was content with all that, had sex whenever she and I
decided  -  so all that crazy tension and sexual anxiety
was gone. That was left to other people, kids going crazy
on street-corners or jerking off until near-death. I had a
clear head already, at age 17, from that internal tension
being all gone  -  you'd be surprised what that does.
Half the wars of peacetime, and half the peace of
wartime, have to do with sex.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

7755. WHICH IS IT?

The dark streets are twisted with anger and crawling
again with deceit. All those people in their night coats,
trawling around with beer and crackers, they talk like
the end of their world was nigh. I am hungry, and I
just watch others eat  -  a maddening sensation indeed.
I sit to wonder, is this want or is this real need?


I'll just come in to sit awhile, a new and fervid
hope of man. Watching window smoke dissolve
over some fruitful plain. Just like a Florida of
the mind, I will bear scented breezes blown in
from the sea. Looking forward, I will search
for you. Alas, to find, alas to find anew.

7753. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt.148)

There was an entire undercurrent of crime and corruption
once you passed the area of the junkyards. Weird stuff was
always going on. I remember once there was a place there,
on the left, headed towards Rahway, the first business under
the always-flooding underpass-bridge at the junkyards. The
place was called Marcus Transformers. I guess that's what
they made. It's empty now, just some old factory building,
now part of some larger metal recycling guy's place. It
employed some 30 or 40 people at least. The guy never
paid his payroll taxes or anything, and one day (this is
back, let me add, in the mid-60's) the Feds just closed
him up, and that was that. I was always told, after that and
in various business formats, that you can pretty much do a
lot of chicanery in a 'business' format, but you can't mess
with payroll deductions or taxes. I guess this proved it. The
place never re-opened, and all those jobs were lost. I don't
know what ever happened to 'Mr. Marcus.' Another time,
down the street and left, there was a company called Thayer
Products, or something like that. My mother worked there
for a while, in the mid-70's I guess it was. She was never quite
sure what was going on there, or what exactly they 'made', but
she just did her job. There were always, milling about outside,
mysterious types of people in bunches. They all wore mesh
hats and things  -  the sort of work garb needed inside the
place. It was funny because you could see, in these work
jacket vest things, there were no pockets, just open mesh
external pocket substitutes. No one could steal anything
because anything pocketed would be seen in the mesh by
shift-inspectors who watched people coming or going. So
my mother said. One day she went into the bathroom, the
Ladies Room area, and there was a lady dead on the toilet.
It was quite a scene, but my mother, again, was never too
sure what had happened. There were always shady deals
going down. The whole area was unknown, like a half-ground
for business ventures that weren't too sure of themselves. The
junkyards, of course, they held tough and mattered, but this
was their territory and place  -  oil, grease, metal and rubber,
contaminated ground, run-off and leaks. God forbid any
waterway here. Who then would really want, except for
dark and low-level business ventures, such a place for a
business address? Whenever we walked around that area,
or hung around there, it was always railroad or junkyard
stuff. I never saw it as a good place for regular business.
There's another place, at the end of Inman Avenue, across
from Hiram's Trailer Court, named Brandywine Truck
Salvage or something (it was actually our large 'junkyard
of choice' as kids, and easily accessed by us from a few
different locations and angles). Whatever it was they
did there, and by what means they did it, the owner was
killed there, shot or something, right on the premises;
sometime in the 1970's, I think. Crime was always
just a thin piece of paper away.
To my knowledge, back then, and to the other kids I hung
with, there was no 'drug' culture at all. We'd never even
really heard of that. Boozers and stuff, yeah. We'd see a
few of them, and we knew what was up with that. It just
would never have occurred to us to include the presence
of drugs in any part of our worldview. Twenty years later,
I guess, that was all different : Whatever that lady died
of on the toilet, and whatever those guys were milling
around with in their parking lots, by the mid-70's it could
easily have been drug business. Just never knew. There
was never anything classy or polished about any of the
businesses in that area. Rahway proper had its jewelers
and camera-shops, respectable and presentable. But nothing
like that here. It was funny, anyway, how 'society' of whatever
nature, just began deteriorating pretty quickly after the 60's;
drugs being just one example. Bad taste and bad choices just
took over. It was all downhill from there.
That all had to be reflected, of course, in the regular course
of events; and it was. As I saw it, everything else just began
to deteriorate as well. Judgmental stuff, I mean. It became OK
to forgive, or let things slide, or even to profess 'understanding'
for someone's really awful action or attitude. When all those
underpinnings begin to fade, it's really already over. No one
speaks up for anything, the leaders lose all sense, and as it
progresses, the people with any 'old-line' thinking just get
ridiculed or defamed. It's too bad, and it was too bad, as well,
to watch. Even priests started trying to become hip. All it
ever did for me was add to the confusion I was living. I knew
a guy, all he did, every day, mid-morning or whatever it was,
for the entire Summer or time he was free of work, was walk
the streets with a small transistor radio, held to his ear, on
which he'd listen to this kind of pop-psychology, radio show
 run by a Dr. Joyce Brothers. She died a few years ago, maybe
ten or so, but in her own day, through the 50's and 60's, and
beyond, she was a pretty well-renowned person for reference  -
talk-shows, pop confabs, even situation comedies and TV show
cameos and walk-ons  -  to the slick and the hip. A sort of
breaking 'pop' guru for the counter-cultural race that was then
underway. This guy would listen every day, and rave about it.
He once said to me, 'Radio is great, I love it. It would be perfect
if they'd just get rid of the time and the news announcements.'
He didn't say anything about the endless stupid commercials, so
I guess he didn't mind that. It was funny though, because I'd never
before heard anyone object to the 'time' announcements given on
the radio. ("The CBS News time now is 12:04').... 


Under the waterway, the drain that's clogged
gets backed up all the way to the curbing that
protects the lane of traffic. 'Like driving through
Lake Erie', someone says. I'm thinking, 'You from
Ohio mister? No one says that around here?


The long part of parthenogenesis is over,
the world has traveled on, Creation is done,
the light is all in place. This God, having moved
on, sends signals back, only meaning to linger
to give us glimmers of something other than 
ourselves. And oh do we try. 
Yes, and oh do we try.

Friday, January 29, 2016

7750. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 147)

(pt. 147)
Theatricality and ovation. Emotionalism and
vulnerability. Those sorts of things, and their
being opposites of a sort, always projected
themselves into my field of viewing. Sometimes
I didn't stop to explain myself. Sometimes I was
pretty madly vile. There was a guy I knew, from
working at NJ Appellate Printing, Harry Halpern.
He was one of the richest landowners in Woodbridge
and held lots of properties and holdings, collecting
rents from everyone. He looked like a bum and walked
the town as if lost in space and without a care. He had a
large, estate-type house, set back and hidden by hedges,
on upper Main Street, Woodbridge. It's been long ago
cleared and the house 'erased', just gone. Nothing left
but a big empty, gravelly lot with sometimes a few
trucks on it; right near to it there's an abortion clinic
and each day there are two or three protestors, with
placards and large photos of babies and things, with
crosses and rosaries, standing out front to challenge
or otherwise harass in their own way anyone who is
arriving or departing. The protestors are kept, in a steady
stream, supplied by the Knights of Columbus Hall just
down the street, across from St. James Church. I always
have to laugh because that's about the very spot I'd
always be seeing Harry starting or stopping one of
his jaunts, in the late1960's anyway. He was a short,
strongly-built guy, always in gray khakis, like a
workman's uniform. He never spoke much, or well.
I was always intrigued when I heard of his wealth
and riches, told to me by others, and watched carefully
to see how he acted or what his routines were. They
never appeared any different from anyone, though I
could never really figure him out. I always wanted to get
inside of his head, ask a million questions, find out what
he knew and felt about the Woodbridge he was transforming.
This was the beginning of the 'garden apartment' era, and
those hideous and dumb-looking brick outlays were cropping
up everywhere in what used to be fields and meadows. I
always wanted to know where Harry's education was from,
whether or not he had come up through the Woodbridge
system, with an engrained sense of place and feel for the
town itself, or if it was just another business opportunity
for him. Nothing important, just rather the sorts of thing
I used to think about. I myself had somehow grown an
attachment, whether emotional or intellectual, to that sort
of information. We were, after all, living 'somewhere', and
that somewhere had to have a story and a history to it.
I had another friend, in New Brunswick; she was a graphic
artist, about ten years, maybe, older than me. Her name
was Joanne Mannion and she came from old-line New
Brunswick stock, somehow, and would always tell me
stories and histories, through her family, of old 'port'
New Brunswick, when the waterfront was vivid and active,
stevedores and river pilots and boiler men stalked around,
piles of freight and cargo, boat traffic and drayage people
everywhere. She was way down on that which had befallen
New Brunswick, cursing the town and its people, and by
extension all of current 'America' and its standards and
practices. She had a heart for all that had gone away,
and she somehow sensed I did too. It was one of the
few times I felt that someone was on the track to
understanding a little bit of the way I thought about
things. The funny thing, too  -  let me go back a moment  -
was to see how this Harry Halpern guy gave no care to
being starched or stiff, like any of the rich or historic
characters a place like Woodbridge would puff itself
up about. Here was a regular kingpin of the town, an
invisible real-estate mogul, raking it in, and I could
somehow never envision him getting puffy or important
about himself  - suits and ties and all those dinners and
club-talks those sorts of town guy bigwigs were always
involved with. He really knew how to pull it off. An
interesting and funny corollary to all this, in my own life,
which pretty much exemplifies what I'm saying, was when
I was at St. George Press, just about the year 1990, and
ready to leave, just feeling cramped and constrained too
much  -  all over again  -  by the business world and all the
crap that went with it. I'd begun skimping on haircuts, getting
seedy-looking again, not much caring, and the owner, Bob
took me aside, finally, one day, and told me to straighten up,
look right, 'because the town fathers come in here often. You
know that.' (We did a lot of municipal printing and we'd get
the Mayor and Council people and big business types and
Kiwanis Club sorts, and all the rest). His point was that they
were important enough that I should appear reserved and
proper to them. Oh boy, did I have to laugh at that. (I was
gone about a month later). He actually called them 'town
fathers', like some landed colonial gentry or something. These
were guys whose idea of a grand time was a scrambled-eggs
breakfast meeting, a golf-outing, and maybe a local Colonia
Country Club soiree and dance with their wives or brooding
other. Being a 'Town Father' was the last thing on their minds
and they wouldn't really have had a clue as to what that meant
anyway. All they really cared about was making a buck, and
from what I saw all that meant to them was 'expansion'; growing
the business base of Woodbridge Township  -  more business,
roads, factories, warehouses, housing units, shopping centers
and parking lots. The complete opposite of a town 'father, for
sure. More like 'Town Despoilers.' The whole thing had
become a bad joke. Yet I had to 'look good.'
Places seem to, eventually, just become either ghosts of
themselves or parodies of themselves. Cities begin to
deteriorate and crumble, the 'right' people move out
(meaning the 'money') and the crumbs are left to the
next strand of arrivals, always lesser in standing and
money than the previous, and they let things slide a
little more, and then they leave as they grow out. That's
how suburbs begin, spread and fan themselves out. All
the big-time writers who write about the places they lived
or grew up through, and which are no more, they all write
about things like that. The dilution of place and value.
It's like an old-time American saga wherever you go.
The rise and the fall of the places that were; and it's a kind
of a gift for the writer too, because he can mine that raw
material and spin it in any manner he or she then chooses.
That's called interpretation. I don't really know that Avenel,
using my own for instance, has ever had such a treatment, but
here I am, trying at giving it one  -  it's a sort of structural
abyss around and into which I've woven the DNA strands of
the place I called 'home' in the way that I lived it, or thought
it anyhow. But it's more difficult and awkward here, because
in reality 'Avenel' had only the most rudimentary previous
history. It was really nothing ever more than an out-reach
settlement along a highway that kept expanding, and it sort
of wound up being providentially placed near to where at
least six of these big-time, commercial roadways, met and
crossed. A 'hub' as it were -  not so much for people at all,
which is where the legacy and history would have come from,
but for business and commercial interests. The complete
opposite of any sense of goodness and place; just instead the
'locus' of a rapacious, steady, and greedy growth where
'good' things were steadily eroded and taken away, and
only the most mediocre, fouled, congested and transient
things somehow always remained. 'Town fathers' indeed.


Here where the gargoyles burst their
britches, the rain pours out in buckets.
We become united kingdoms of our own
utensils  -  some shred of a shredded wheat
over  -  as they posit  -  our own Niagara Falls.
Wherever is the haunting mystery of that, I wonder.
Then again, thirty years later, I sit alone to watch a
midnight moon remove itself from sight. Some stand
awestruck by eclipses, when things disappear. I get
star-struck by appearances, and the visons of all that I see.
Whatever is the haunting mystery of that, I wonder.


Some things just make you want to say
'take this!' The staccato of the strings is
vile. I like the 'Devil's Trill Sonata' myself.
Giuseppe Tartini  -  isn't that a name
to reckon with?


More like that than anything else, a porn name
more like it. Laughingly, those melons. The
well-scooped orange walls, with some stupid
bucolic modern paintings on them.

7746. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 146)

(pt. 146)
Funny how things are : Avenel was always pretty
rigidly drawn  -  a person knew where each road
went and to what it connected. It was secure in that
factor, not much room to doubt, except for the
occasioned rough areas, not yet fully developed,
or anything on the east slope, the swamps, which
ran down to Carteret and the rest. They were always
unknown. Mysterious, haphazard. The mystery to me
was always how, in all other effects, that was all forgot.
Mysteries are always crooked and hazy to behold, but
the rest of the world seems to always want clarity.
The schools taught linear thinking. I always disliked
linear thinking; the sort of scientific thought in which
the basic sequence of things '- a - b - c -' is always thought
to bring forth 'd'. While that may well be, by their code,
it was never anything I could find belief in. My world
was different, and I knew that, most certainly, between
'c' and 'd' there were myriad other possible outcomes, and
letter factors we haven't even imagined or known about
yet. You see, in reality (what a stupid concept) that's
what Science's job is, and the goons don't even know it.
They keep 'discovering' new concepts about things, and
get flabbergasted when they stumble upon elasticities of
time and the fluidities of objects and states of being. It's
like sending a nine-year old out to do the task of a brawny
lumberjack  -  simply not up to the task. 
In Avenel, land of straight streets and straight houses, the
mystery factor was encompassed most simply by 'Cozy
Corner.'  In Science there's something called a 'Singularity',
now; a time when creativity and intelligence will burst forth
and create new things. I always misunderstood that, wrongly,
to mean something that was 'one-off', unique. It's still a
quarrel in my mind, because I can't quite understand where
they're going with that one (it seems so unscientific in
concept), but Cozy Corner, let's then just say, encompassed
something, and always did. 'Singularity' didn't exist, 
except maybe conceptually, back in the 50's, but the 
concept was there in the ethos. Cozy Corner wasn't really
a corner at all, and I could never figure it out, it seemed to
start and end by itself, turning back in on its own space.
I always figured it could be called 'Crazy Corner' and better
define itself. It was most certainly Avenel's prime anomaly.
It was a huge, slow curve  -  not really a 'corner' at all. It 
almost seemed to have its own 'time', a different element of
density or thickness of things. It was also funny, to me, in
that it seemed the 'place' for hot-rodders and all the car 
guys to live, just right. But they all seemed to live in he
Fifth Avenue area, out behind Murray and Martha's. Or
maybe the Cozy Corner crowd had heir own place, like
Charlie's Sweet Shop or Dirty John's. I never knew. Funny
too, how Dirty John's today is, instead, some cloth-napkin,
Italian Restaurant, and has been for years, thriving. Called
Dominic's. I know the owner guy, we started him out in 
business, in fact, some time like 1982  -  printing all his
needed materials and menus and changes and gift cards
and the whole shebang back at St. George Press. He says
'This restaurant has been very good to me', now, and he 
does real well. Even the square back room where John's 
had all the pool table areas is now in use as his rentable
banquet space. Funny how things turn out  -  all these
squibblers in there, chomping down their veal scallopini
and pasta dishes and chocolate desserts have no clue.
Jo-Jo De Marino, and Vince Martino -  two local political
hacks  -  they know about all of that, but not many others. 
Those two guys are in there at least once a week to 'dine'.
Can you imagine people 'dining' in Avenel, land of beer
and baloney sandwiches and pickles in wax bags? Funny.
My seminary friend David Shershen used to live right next
door, where it's all condos now, and his father  -  for years  -
had Shersen's Barber Shop. Everyone on that side of town
frequented Shersen's for their haircuts. They all moved  -
the Shersens  -  to New Hampshire long ago. But anyway.
in looking for the twists and turns of reality, Cozy Corner
always embodied a particular form of strangeness for me.
Certainly a break-out from the usual Avenel linear rigidness.
It must have had something to do with just a parcel of
excess land the developer found left over and decided to
cover with homes, or, more likely even, it had to do with 
There's an entire underground concept of water that we 
don't ever know about. The world of progress and civilization,
in fact, used to orient itself by water, nothing else  -  maybe
water and paths through the woods. Like we use highways
and interstates now to connect places and map things, the
original concourse of travel, trade and commerce, obviously
had always and at first and for the longest time, been water.
The section of Avenel that began and was tucked down under
Cozy Corner was water  -  swamp, bracken, and riverway. 
Every so often, a furious storm comes through and re-awakens 
everything  -  the watery torrent returns, and people even die
there -   like Alvin Williams and those two kids he was trying 
to rescue. (He was a Woodbridge cop, back about 1982, who,
 along with the two kids, gut sucked into the raging water 
funnel while he was trying to rescue them, and they all died. 
He's now honored here and there around town with parks 
and namesake plaques. Anyway, once men began to
understand and learn how land could be drained and water
could be led into underground sluice pipes and causeways,
all that original geography began to change and nothing was
ever the same  -  mostly thanks to Henry Ford and those
motorhead geeks who transformed the nation with cars and
roadways  -  no looking back, no regrets. (I never even 
understood who of those guys would eve understand to
invent 'rear-view mirrors'; it's a concept completely foreign
to them). It's hard for us to imagine now how things were
because so meticulously transformed everything and
gotten away from any semblance of the original concept.
Try to consider new Brunswick, if you will, as a bustling
and important inland port, with schooner ships and 
cargo-boats bustling and jostling around with trade and
commerce, an entire (now gone) waterfront of shops and
tanneries and hard-goods and cartage and wagon stops. 
The terminus of waterways and canals to places like 
Bound Brook and points west, north, and south. 
Now there' nothing like that, as any Joe can get in his
car and fart his way along Rt. 18 or Rt. 1, forget the
past, and get where he's going. Eventually. And the
only real place,  -  to prove my point  -  that shows 
any of this historic, old waterfront history is in the
vestibule of St. Peter's Church, which, with its 
ancient cemetery and markers. They have a few 
old photographs of when that was a small, mariner's
village area, right on the waterfront. It's all mostly 
inaccessible now, and the area gone  -  highways 
and condos and everything in its place. You have
to use your imagination to see. But, there really once
was another world people lived in entirely, when
rivers and waterways were the highways of the time.
Native-Americans lived right on the banks and the flats.
They moved as they had to with the seasons and the
weather. Nowadays every little doofus complains 
about high-water or flooding or surges, like little
stupid spoiled brats whose realization of things stops
at their nose's end. They built all their 'permanent'
homes in places the waters still occasionally claim.
An Indian would just, wisely and with good sense, 
at that point, pack up things and move along a little,
until the next dry spot or spell. They sure knew how 
to do things, way better than us.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


The things I used to hold are all gone now, the
place where the place-mats were kept is empty.
There's only a sluice pipe for the waterway, and
it's really just filled with grime. Down the street,
they're digging holes again  -  and I expect by
Spring the construction they've planned will 
really be working. New noise, and another
break in time. The field, once left alone
and fallow  -  ages and acres of chemical
mess, is now cut and opened again. All
the old gaping Earth see air 
and sky anew.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


These falling embers, like the falling moon
that I see outside my window, are dropping down
to a steady pace : collegial in their ways, they tumble.


The doctor says what ails? I say 'Doctor
I want a heart, and arms to hold and a place
for that to be. I want silver, and I want gold.'
He sits down to ponder. I watch the red water
in his waxy mindless desktop toy. Yes, it's
come to this. Oh boy. He looks back up and
says. 'I can do for you only what I've done
for others.' I look forward. 'And what is that?'
I ask. He scratches a small cartoon, as if it were
an itch, and says, 'Well, I can't very well transplant
just what you want, they do not make that yet. I can
instead give you good cheer. You will probably 
live another year.'

7742. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 145)

(pt. 145)
One of the hardest things to have to do is 
to find a meaning; I guess that's the most 
ordinary quest of youth. All the tales and
fables, exploits and conquests, deal with
it, each their own ways. What is civilization,
after all, but a unification of many quest-stories
into one larger, over-riding myth. Everyone, in
their own way, takes it up. My own world, in
so many ways, went no differently than anyone
else's. That was an odd thing I always felt about
myself; I don't know why, or what it meant, but
it felt as if I'd actually 'been' at every stage of
every man, of every other person along the way.
It led to a shared complicity, and was a way of
getting along with people, although none of it was
really 'me'.  If someone was a sentimental crybaby,
I felt that I could help and understand, because I had
been one of those once too. If someone was tough and
gritty, I could be that, because at core I understood
perfectly well what living with the level of Life was
like. I'd have done that. With the sickly, I could be
sickly; with the religious, religious; I'd done that.
In fact, that tired old phrase, 'been there, done that',
it seemed to fit me pretty well. It's a way of getting
along, I suppose. Been there, done that was later
supplanted somehow by 'yada yada', which was a
sort of Yiddish version of etc., etc. All so strange.
There were two guys  -  this was later, during that
high school interregnum for me,   -  two seminary
guys from like Fords and Perth Amboy, I think,
maybe Fords and South River, something like
that  -  Ed Nadolny and Ray Nalepa, as I recall.
They kept coming around, more than a few times,
sort of to check up on me, say hello, hang around 
a little. They'd always been a twosome, pals forever,
and now that the seminary was breaking apart, I guess
in their doldrums during those waning days, they 
were set loose. They seemed fascinated a little bit
by me. I was sort of just bored stiff by them. It was 
bad  -  the reason I say that is because I'd somehow
developed a haze, or a hazy screen, around myself
that wouldn't really let anyone else in. I knew those
two guys were talking to me, at me, but I really
wasn't intent on listening to what they  were saying,
and can't even tell you what it was. As I said in the
previous chapter, in that quote, I had become my own
biggest obstacle. No one could break through that 
screed around me; it was custom built just to keep 
others away. I had no idea what these two guys could
possibly want from me now, and I let them know it. I
feel pretty shitty over it now, but that's the corner-box
I was painted into  -  embroiled, raging, trapped. I was
soon to get out, but at that moment I had no place. I
had no place because nothing was real; the entire 
world presented to me was a sham and a working lie.
And it wasn't just them I did this to  -  I have another
Avenel friend, way back from kid days, Al Zinze. He 
relates to me how, in these waning high-school days,
one day how I just blew right past him and another 
friend, Robert Stewart. Didn't even acknowledge 
them, responded to nothing, went right on by their
entreaties as if they weren't even there. I've tried to
explain, and I've told Al how sorry I am for that
now  -  but I was lost, I was unresponsive. I was
living in another place  -  so far gone I couldn't
even hear the whippoorwill or the owl if they were
perched on my shoulder. I still feel so bad over this.
There's no triumph in that. I was a fool, being a fool.
Imagine what it's like, to have someone tell you, forty
years later, what you'd done  -  or not done  -  to them
that is still so grievous that it wounds yet. It's not a 
good feeling. Quests, and all those 'searches' for 
meaning, they're actually quite meaningless. 
Time was passing. I'd achieved a few minor milestones
of my own, one my own, but now was coming the
transitionary stuff that brings one over the hump, to
adulthood, or at least to growing up. To make that
passage, there are certain rudiments you need to meet,
I knew that, and I wasn't exactly ready or willing to
meet them. One of them is 'social' conditioning. That
was a problem to me. I remember, I guess it was
Christmas, 1966, my mother did a weird thing to me  -  
in her zeal to have me merge well, and in her and my
father's zeal, as well, to have me 'find' an Italian
girlfriend (I'm going to admit ahead of time this is 
a solitary and bizarre story to relate, almost as if
some form of 'arranged' marriage was being formed,
but it's true. Alas, it didn't work, much to my parents' 
chagrin. Not, however, to the girl involved -  she turned 
out quite well, married someone else and has had a
lovely, and successful, life. In addition, to avoid any
embarrassment  -  mostly my own  -  I've simply made
a name). The girl's name was Emily Bardozza, and
she had three or four sisters, and a young brother.
I'd taken her, already, to the high school senior play,
under duress, yes, and again to appease my silly
mother, who thought this to be a wonderful match 
made in Heaven. The play that year was 'Brigadoon', 
some supercilious mess of fantasy and wonderment 
about a magical place or kingdom or something (I really
paid little attention. It bored me to prickly heat.) with
all these silly, singing people. Seniors in senior plays
are gruesome  -  all that chummy happiness and singing
and jumping around. It's fey, humorous without intent,
and 'barfy' as well. The play sucked. I sat there glumly
counting my marked cards and hoping for out. I'd also
been recruited to take her to a few basketball games,
a sport I detested  -  smelly, rank, noisy and useless.
She was a popular girl, attractive as much, and every 
time she'd reciprocate a hello or a smile to someone
back, a lot of guys too, I'd think,'what's going on, she
certainly doesn't need me around here, dragging her
fine ship-of-social-state down.' It was horrible. I
mean, as well, to say, we never kissed or fondled  
or none of that. I was too stupid anyway. This was
all my silly mother's doing. And then came Christmas.
For whatever the Hell the reason was, my mother had
it so that I'd go over to their house (around the corner)
and spend Christmas morn with them. Imagine this!
Like five girls and a boy kid, and a mother (I can't
actually recall the presence of a father, but whatever).
They got their presents, there were like cupcakes and
stuff brought out, small talk, social stuff, and the rest.
Her mother was real nice and seemed to wish me well,
went along with all this, and smiled nicely. I was as
awkward as a beetle on a tentpole. The morning ended, 
and I left. The whole thing had been like a Louisa
May Alcott story or something. That was the end of 
that entire experiment, never mentioned again. I 
didn't see that girl again until years later, when we 
met in a hospital lobby as parents were ailing, and
then again a few years later at some  guy's 'friend's 
reunion party' that I got suckered into in Freehold, NJ.
So, I brought all this out to sort of see if I could
integrate the bones of this story into the more rattly 
bones of my own life. Finding meaning, socializing 
and getting along. Well, the answer, thankful to me 
to say, was and is 'NO'. A great big outstanding NO. 
Because I was me, and that was it  -  my mother and 
father would have never understood that, school certainly 
had missed that boat, peddling all their shenanigans, 
and all my Avenel days and friends no longer much 
shared in this stuff at all. A sort of mannered parking 
had taken over : you get to where you were going, 
pull over, park, and stay there. That's how very many
of these people ended up, until then, about twenty
years later or less, all those same people began 
breaking apart, getting divorces, splitting up kids,
losing a house, paying all those bills and alimony 
and tuitions and cars and vacations and all that. There
was a whole, sweeping period of that, and then they
all settled down and did the same thing all over again,
except with someone new. In therapy, that's called
'repeat behavior', and is the base result of an enforced
'patterning' that's been engraved in a young mind. Most
of these people can't escape their fantasies if they tried.
They're all stuck in their own versions of  'Brigadoon!'