BELOW THE WATER LINE
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.