Thursday, February 4, 2016

7767. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 152)

(pt. 152)
The one thing that this entire house expansion
undertaking opened up for me, as a kid  -  the ideas
around the things I noticed  -  was how, really, nothing
is fixed. I don't mean 'fixed' as in repairs, I mean
instead as static or unchanging. Things just 'are,' and
it's all for a moment. It can all be changed, and
nothing really has any meaning. One day blue, the next
day green. Enlarged. Shortened. Round. Square. That's
a lot for a young person to take in. It seems you're 
led to think that the world you learn about is what
it is, as described and just the way you learn it. But
that's not true at all. All these families and dads along
Inman Avenue, they had somehow trespassed with
their thoughts along areas where, on any sort of a
whim, those houses they'd purchased could now, 
after a few years of trusting, be changed, altered,
turned about. Simply put : they did not HAVE to be
the way they were, nor the way they'd been built. It
seemed to hit all at once, and then the hammers and
saws were suddenly everywhere. Perhaps that's the idea
behind starter homes and do-it-yourself projects. (That's
what this all used to be called, though you never hear or
see that phrase in use any more. Probably because now
everything's done by code and inspection and all that,
and it's really just the professional product-men, with 
their insider knowledges of how things work and how 
to get passed for inspection, etc., who can get it done
correctly and easily). What I saw it as was a difference
of fluidity and flux  -  things are always in transformation.
What appears solid now is just a vapor later. Even Physics
has proven me right on that count. For now. That too will
probably change soon, when someone posits that there 
really is no such thing as 'knowledge' or 'information'. I
only know that whenever I stood on that long, open floor
of what was to become our large addition of a room to the
rear of our house, I saw things differently  -  it was as if
a new horizon was stretched out from right there in that 
very spot where I'd been hammering nails. The world was
a wooden ship, floating here, through the sea of our own
backyard, there, and we were  -  day by day  - changing 
both the limits of that boat, and the sea it was upon. 
Maybe it was then I realized that I'd been introduced 
to 'My Father, the magician.' Funny stuff, thinking 
back on it all, now.
No one else ever said a word. Other men would come 
over to look at things now and then, time to time. They'd 
crack open a beer, my father and the visitor, and just stand
there looking at things, talking about the plans or whatever.
Conceptually, whatever either of them saw, I couldn't really 
see. I just didn't think that way, still don't. I wrote earlier 
about how a felicity for hammers and an ease for construction
seemed to run through my family  -  uncles and fathers and
all. It never rubbed off on me. I never shared that; I've always
been hammer-clumsy, and my end-products are usually wobbly,
 ill-fitted, or just plain done-wrong. There is a time, yes, when
you just have to recognize that and move on, get a professional.
But at other times, for the sorts of silly little projects I do, I
can fudge the deal well enough to get by with it. As my own
Michelangelo, carving a poor Pieta  -  certainly not perfect,
but you'd get the gist well enough. I always envied the skill 
and the dexterity that some people have for construction, for 
making things, for projects. They can seemingly take a hammer
to shit and bang out gold. An alchemy to be envied, for sure.
In later years, this idea even grew a bit more intense. Studying
Science, and some of the concepts of what went with it, I
realized that everything is nothing more than a long series of 
components, smaller and smaller components. The more you 
take things apart, down to the smallest and most incremental
aspect  -  the tiniest screw and nut, the smallest metal fold
tucked into another metal crevice designed just for it, the weirder
and weirder the world gets. The weirder it can be seen to be. Even
the largest items  -  a huge engine or turbine, or a building, is
nothing more than a multifarious collection and constructed
composition of smaller and smaller objects. They can be found, 
and inspected. And dismantled. I found that to be extremely 
useful as a writer -  it's a magnificent means of deconstructing
a situation, dismantling an emotion, say, and writing about it.
It's almost quaintly scientific, in the most un-scientific of
endeavors. Like finding a whole language in the dissected
throat of a mute.
I used to roam Avenel, completely at will. On foot or by
bicycle; just to see different sections, places I'd not been 
before. It was the sort of place you could do that  -  I guess 
everywhere is, really, but in many other locales you always 
know specifically where you are because there's a business 
district, parking, town structures, and all that. In Avenel,
there was none of that  -  here a grassy, weedy lot, there
a house from the old days, there a bunch of new stuff. The
few centralizing places, as mentioned, were always the
underpass, the central passage of Route One, essentially
separating the town, and the other terminus, along St.
George Avenue. Which was really Route 35, that could
take you to the beaches eventually, lame though they 
may have been. Down at the bottom of town were all those
vague and mysterious swamp areas; the fens, where the real
odd folk still lived. Route 35, like I said, was a named-by-
number highway, but in town the only reference was always
just St. George Avenue, though in Rahway and Linden,
on the street signs and maps, it suddenly changed to 'St.
Georges Avenue', with that addition of the 'S'. Not a possessive,
not a plural, but just odd. At the Railway Bridge in Rahway,
where Route 27 met it, and ended, it was always confusing.
Route 27 was famous, once, as the 'Lincoln Highway', an
early coast-to-coast highway, a project of the auto era, and a
once-proud link that united the country. Now it was nothing
much at all, and it ended at the Rahway Inn; a bar and 
drinking hole of local notoriety. Pick-ups, fights, arguments 
and brawls, and even once or twice a dead person. You could sit 
there, at that light, at the very terminus of one of the early 
twentieth-century's great endeavors, the building of this
 'highway',  and watch the wobbly people as they entered or left 
the Rahway Inn. Their own 30 seconds of fame : trying to locate 
their car, and get to it with that uncertain gait of a drunken sailor 
who knows at any moment he could quite easily be walking
off the edge of his ship. The Rahway Inn  -  one of the area's 
once-finest, corner, factory-bars. Everything like that's all 
gone now; people are even afraid to drink. Old Avenel
was a place where smoking and drinking rivaled, probably, 
sex and conquest. Those things were everywhere, and no one
cared about the niceties. You 'worked hard', and at the end of 
your day or week, you deserved it, deserved something.
It was a grand old, wild and wiry place. For me to get around
through there, and to any of the near and local places around it, 
was an eye-opening achievement,  and I loved it. There was some 
rocking, solid adventure at most every turn  -  tire-shops, 
metal-guys, mechanics and gas-stations, factories and 
warehouses. A few guild halls, and truck lots. Everything 
a'jumble, all over the place. When things got really boring,
there was always the tracks and the prison-farm yards.
You have to rue its passing, but it's all gone now.

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