Monday, January 18, 2016

7702. BELOW THE WATER LINE, (pt. 136)

(pt. 136) - section 10 (last)
'seminary days'
One time my Avenel friend, and neighbor, 
Donald  -  I guess it was senior year, high school,
we took a train to New York City. He was doing a
report or something on sitars, the Indian instrument
used for ragas and stuff (Ravi Shankar, you'll recall).
I can't recall it perfectly well, but I remember being
a bit in the role of guide and scout. We got there right
in the mid-morning of a busy workday. This was when
the garment district, in 1966 or '67, was still a really
active and functioning work district. There were
Spanish guys everywhere, pushing wheeled carts
of fashion and clothing and clothing samples and
fabrics, everywhere. Back then a lot of the operation 
involved small-scale fashion cutters and stitchers,
design houses, style protoypes and such. Pretty big
operation  -  it's all gone now and all there are left is 
an occasional small scene, but all the out-on-the-street
transport is over and the fabrics and styles in use now
are just mostly cheap knock-offs for all the discount and
to-the-trade stores there  -  all the street-vendors that you
see (the stores say 'to the trade only' or wholesale
only, or 'sold by the gross' - 144 pieces, I think). They
range now from cheap handbags to cheaper sunglasses
and trinkets. The whole city street-trade buys from here 
for the street-table sales. In a year or so after this visit
with Donald, after I'd moved into NYC, all this still
went on and a lot of the lofts in use, as they were no
longer IN use, began to be illegally occupied as artist
studios, jazz and music lofts, etc., with people actually
living in them and making homes. All against code. I'd
often find myself, at some late-night hour, entering a
17th, or a 30th street loft, for whatever. It was how people
lived, or at least the art and breakaway crowd. I loved it.
You kind of had to see it from within to understand it.
Of course, Donald and I, at that point, didn't know any 
of this and we were just more awed by the spectacle.
Dirt, dust, crowds and noise. Music shops, with all those
strange instruments in the windows. People standing
about  -  you knew everyone was involved in something,
deeply and with fervor. And also, back then, in NYC,
daylight was one thing. The night scene was totally 
different. I can't really remember much of what we 
did, he says we got to the music store we sought, and
the sitar he was going to buy, when he got to it, no longer
seemed like a good deal, so he didn't. What was cool about
it was us  -  two Avenel kids, just stalking out, bumping
around the city streets without a real clue and with nothing
to do. On the one hand, that's how kids get in trouble, but  - 
on the other  -  that's not how it was for us. We weren't
after anything, all the mad scene was still like a year or
two away, and we were content to just walk and gape.
When you read other kid's episodes now, when people 
write of their early visits to the city, or their first times or
their life IN the city, it's all different. They write with all
the street-smarts and smart-alecky wisdom they have  -  
whether it's a late-addition or real. They knew, they claim,
where the drugs were, or the babes, or the crime, or the
stolen stuff and cheapo deals. Maybe so - but we sure as
hell didn't. Weren't even aware. It was a willow-the-wisp
serendipity trip in for us. Good day; but I can't remember
much else.
A couple of things I always took with me as lessons and 
memories, whether Avenel or NYC, were deliberation,
slowness, and clear-headed devotion to the task at hand.
That always seemed the key, to me, people get all mucked
up when they rush into things, try to do five things at once,
do too much, screw it up, over-compensate, etc. Instead, I
found, you just have to be steady and wise, quiet and deep.
That was the entire key to life : coolness and aplomb (love
that word? hate that word?). City kids would jump the 
turnstiles. I never did that  -  they knew how to do it, would
take the risk. Nor for me; it was too slapdash and too sloppy.
Why get in trouble over the stupid price of a subway token?
Up on the streets, crazy-ass kids I'd see would jump onto the
backs of trucks, for that ride downtown or up or east or west,
wherever it seemed the truck was running. A quick jump at 
a light or a corner, and  -  smack in the middle back of the 
truck, just hanging on good, the driver couldn't see you. 
It was a blind spot. Like when trucks run that warning on 
their rear, about wide turns and all that  - 'if you can't see 
me in this mirror, I can't see you'  -  fair warning, and thanks
Bud, that's what we were hoping.
After the seminary, and when still in it, I was walking around
with my head ringing. There were so many lessons and things
within me, and all the stuff I'd noted and noticed, that I was a
walking, veritable, writing time bomb. I knew it all had to come
out. I was seeking happiness, basically, that was it. The happiness
of making a person  -  me. The product. As much as I wound
up distancing myself from 'organized' religion, I turned out to
be a really religious cat. Just in different ways. The only person I
ever, ever, got hung up on was William Blake. You could look
him up, London, 1757-1827. Bizarre, beautiful guy, got it all
right and correct. Reached a perfect product. Wrote all those
'prophetic' books, the poetry (not that great). Mystic visionary,
fighting against the Industrial Revolution, all that establishment
crap of his day in Lambeth and all the places he moved. Always
in trouble with Authority, fighting with cops in his yard, all that
stuff. American Revolution. French Revolution. People stealing
his work all the time, claiming it as their own. He had no clue
what to do about any of that, he was gone. Out there. Happiness.
Bible verse, Philippians 4:6, 'Be anxious about nothing'. That
means 'nothing'  - staying totally cool. There 's another verse that
goes, 'Rejoice in the Lord always.' That's pure Life bliss. All.
Of course, it was difficult imparting this to others, so pretty
much I just didn't. I bided time. There's a silly strain in American
thinking that somehow says there's a strict separation between
church and state, or secular and religious. At the risk of sounding
like a Muslim, with their Sha'ria laws, I disagree. There's no such
thing as secular at all  -  life is ALL religious, man, and you either
do it right, take it inside, and work it from there, correctly, to back 
outside, or please then don't bother. You're already a dead man and 
your life's a waste. All that prattle about individuality and pleasure-
seeking and individual rights, and all that, they pretty much are
smokescreens for bad intent, even Evil intent. Selfish, denigrating
ways. Dead Souls, as Gogol wrote (1842). Part of the real problem
today, with America AND with western civilization as a whole, is
that mix-up. Buying into shit, as it were, and loving it. Devil's
Kingdom, and all that. If you can't own up to that, you're sunk.
There was this guy, in about 1939, killed by the Germans, for
harboring or protecting Jews. Right up until that point, this fellow
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was comfortably set, lining in NYC, at
Union Theological Seminary. He chose to return to Germany, 
leaving his security, for the depravity of Nazi Germany, where
he'd soon enough be arrested for supporting the Jews. One day,
in his reading at the seminary, he came across 'He who believes
does not flee.' He really felt God was speaking to him, saying 
that if he had faith he would not worry about his life but would
return to his race and his country and his family and people,
and face whatever he must face. Sheer obedience to that voice.
He was murdered by Hitler's henchmen, himself at age 39,
two weeks before the Americans liberated Flossenburg.
That was how I felt. I no longer saw any reason for that cloistered,
hideaway holy stuff, preached under covers of darkness and
magic. Life was for the taking, for the living, outside, on the
streets, in the hearts and spirits and minds souls and beings
of every other person I'd see. I was done. He who believes
 does not flee. It was back out to the streets for me.

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