Sunday, January 17, 2016


(pt. 135)  - section 9
'seminary days'
If any of this would have gone on in Avenel, 
the place would  have been shrieking mad.
There wasn't any of that reverence for things
and silences for moments. Kids just flying
stuff through the air, big conglomerates
of nothing. Movies had a different feel.
I never cared  -  I'd take my bicycle down
to the other side of Thayer Avenue, or 
whatever it was, and come out way down 
by Blair Road, at the tanks. It was quiet and
always a little distant. For me, that was the
equivalent of a movie house : the dead, soggy
woods, with old stumps of boards and things,
piled up just where people left them. I always
got baffled by things left behind. 
Seminary stuff, the only thing I was able to 
compare it to was Avenel, because that was 
all I had. There wasn't really anything the same.
Everything was pretty sparse and ordered  -  no
yard messes or things just kicking around. I guess
we had landscape and garden people, I just can't
recall ever seeing anyway and  -  just the same  -  
nothing was ever outsourced, so the brothers 
or someone must  have done it all. Grass-cutting
and that. I used to wonder about the other kids;
it's just a sort of natural thing to do. For a few of
them, it was obvious life was gold. There were 
kids with fathers in the State Government in
Trenton  -  one kid, William Hyland, Bill, I guess,
his father was the Commissioner of Public Utilities; 
a big deal. I first thought it meant that he was like
in charge of telephone poles and fire hydrants and
restrooms in parks and stuff, but it turned out I was
way wrong. He was in charge of the rates and the
structures and licensing and all that of like the
electric and gas and water companies, in all the
state  -  when people say they'd 'pay their utility 
bills', they meant him. Probably made a million a 
year, and sends his kid off to pretend at becoming a
priest. Just for the private education and  -  probably
too  -  because he knew he'd not be able to handle 
the kid through teen years. I always said 'Poor Bill',
getting shunted around like that when his father could
probably afford the best private school there was. And
that was another thing  -  my poverty snitch again. We
were poor; this place cost, back than, about 600 bucks 
a year, tuition alone. Cool thing was, I realized, if you
could stay really cool about it, and pretend at wishing 
to be a priest, you could get in for free. The Diocese
of Trenton, for instance, in my case, they floated me 
right through. That's how desperate they were to get
kids in to the priesthood racket. They used Diocese 
funds to send seminarians to seminary school, even the
lowest, starter-version ones, like mine. We still had like
12 years ahead of us to go if were were going to really
achieve this 'Priesthood' thing, but they had a separate
fund out of which they paid. Say, 15 or 20 kids a year, 
maybe that's high, I don't know, but at 600 bucks a head 
back then, that was like 12 grand a year our of the 
collection bins. Pretty cool. The other funny thing was
that the Governor  -  Richard J, Hughes, back then, he
used to go right there, to Mother of the Savior
Seminary. I guess it was the early 50's maybe, 
for him, or even before. A neat thing though. There
were, like I said, any number of pretty reputable kids
there. You could tell. I remember this one guy, Jay
Commons  -  a really nice, kind of elite fellow, from
Spring Lake. We'd be out marching around, in the
brutal heat, saying the rosary aloud, one of the priests
in the lead (every so often we'd have to do stuff like
that, walking around, aloud, in formation, outside,
praying), and Jay, while we walked, was surreptitiously
showing everyone how to, in the brutal heat, blow on
their inside wrist, underneath the open palm, and it 
would cool you down. I never knew where he learned
that, but it did sort of work  -  except of course you couldn't
be always some candy-ass walking around blowing on
your wrists. It would be about the same as wearing on
of those beanie caps with a fan on it, to blow down on 
you. Just too weird. I just always figured it was one of 
those special insider clues rich people get about things.
I used to pity those priests in the lead, always having
to wear those black cassocks and collar, even in the 
jungle heat. I never did like, nor understand, those
things  -  and I always hated those priest movies with
like Bing Crosby or someone pretending at being some
good-guy priest and saving a failing church or a bunch 
of surly, ratty kids  -  like in 'Going My Way', I think
it was. One of those tinhorn movies we saw. Always
strutting around in his stupid black robe. Ridiculous.
There were some real oddities in this place, things they'd
tell us. For a normal human being, it was pretty outlandish
unless you were guaranteed to be in that special religious
mode where you'll pretty much believe anything. As a for
instance, they'd always start going on about our 'vocation',
how it wasn't so much that WE had selected this route, this
whole priesthood, service, and holiness gig, but that it was
GOD who had selected us for it, by giving us the 'vocation',
and then they'd go on about the 'many are called but few are
chosen' routine. By the time they were done, and this happened
often enough, you were afraid to move, figuring God, having
'selected' you once, could certainly strike you again in the other
direction for being a jerk or something. For, ah, saying, 'No!'
Pretty scary stuff  -  12 years old, in a dark catacomb, candles
blazing, some preacher up front going on about this to a bunch
of coughing, nervous kids who just wanted to go into the next 
room and eat, for pity's sake. I used to read about Jonathan 
Edwards and his ilk, all those enflamed preachers of 
righteousness and the First and then the Second Great
Awakenings, when all this stuff was raging through the 
American plains and villages. The New England Puritans
too, with their stockades and trials by ordeal and all that crap.
I'd just figure, 'what the hell?...' I couldn't really get keen on
getting into all that stuff, and it certainly never felt real. I was
living on the edge of absurdity. Sometimes I'd just think of
home, and figure maybe to just set off hitchhiking back
or walked up the turnpike for a week or two until I got there.
At least it would get me out, maybe, of this weird nest of
mental thuggery, but at home then there'd be a whole entire
other pile of crap to deal with. 
There was a certain certitude, at least, back home. Avenel 
kids, anyway, the ones I knew, if it was purple, they'd just 
call it purple. If something was not right, or fishy, you'd 
hear about it. Not too much taken on faith. 'If that's a 
match, dammit, then burn my fingers with it and show 
me.' This was all a bit different. I remember one time, 
after the supper meal, or whatever name they had for 
5 o'clock food, a group of upper classmen sitting 
around their table, vociferously debating, almost 
arguing, with their arms in the air, etc. what I considered 
the most fucked-up dumb quarrel-point I'd ever heard 
or seen. They had to be total freaking idiots to believe 
this stuff, or even care. They'd somehow come up 
with two imaginary lines, in space  -  I guess they all 
envisioned this, alike, as one  -  and were ARGUING 
over whether or not the two lines would ever intersect,
or remain, instead, parallel into infinity. Got that? Bizarre
intellectual exercise, or stupidity -  you call it. To me, it
reeked of the same  problems that ruined religion  -  
having to accept and then argue over the weird and
perverse premises presented, actually taking sides and
portraying one aspect as better than another. And these
were the same people, then, who belittle someone like a
St. Thomas (doubting Thomas) who wouldn't believe
until he saw the wounds and put his fingers into the
wound holes of the risen Christ. It's almost the same line
of thought, or way of approach, but in reverse. Inside the
head, going on about absurdities. Yeah, those lines, sure
they'll run into each other, in space, after about 10 billion, 
five hundred million three thousand and twenty-four miles.
I'm absolutely sure of it. I wanted to pipe up, in my
'modern day' voice and say  - 'Dude, space is curved, time
and speed bend things, gravity pulls at mass, nothing is
ever what it seems. Don't rely, good buddy, don't rely.'

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