BELOW THE WATER LINE
I never knew how or by what means my parents
had scouted out the area of Inman Avenue or Avenel
before that bought the house that was being built. Nor
do I knew what, if anything, they knew of the area if
they had scouted it out. I can remember my father driving
me to a few other locations, and saying 'this' or 'that'
place was another spot where they almost bought a
house, moved to. So I guess they did some checking
out of places. One spot was in Hopelawn, right behind
the bowling alley there, off Rt. 9. I think 'Majestic'
Lanes maybe. The turn off for it is still there, and the
spot was also 'Two Guys' for years, and now houses
a very active Walmart - all just across from where
these houses are. So, whatever distinctions there
were must have stood out to them in some way;
perhaps it was just scheduling, or even price. I'd
guess maybe eight hundreds dollars or so either way
would have been some real difference. It's all pretty
odd, in that it actually could have been 'anywhere'
that I ended up. Not that it was about me, but let's
pretend it was, since this is my point. So many
variables could have made a great difference to me,
for how I lived and who I became. Just think: the
woods, the prison, the prison farm, the tracks, the
trailer courts, the walks in either direction to Rahway
or Woodbridge. And most importantly, the access to
junkyards and open-access wrecks. Just think about
that cool phrase : 'open access wrecks.' Massively
satisfying, and it sums up perfectly the why and how
of this being, for me and my mind, the absolute
perfect place to have developed. Any other place,
any of the other locations, to be sure, would have
failed that checklist miserably. Lines of houses
hugging a highway and backed with a bowling
alley and a Turnpike access? Um, nope. I had
visual to the city, atop trees. I had the noises and
sounds of rail, planes, and tractors. It was lethal and
it was beautiful; as much as I could say just as easily
that I wished they'd never left the city, I knew too that
being here was for me. Aggressive enticement; it all
forced me out and into other shapes.
Anyone who wants to, I guess, can deny any influence
of their upbringing on what they became. I don't. I twist
it around, in fact, and claim that the influence was exactly
what I used to make me aware of what I wanted and
did not want to become. It lets me be sassy and frank
and direct and pointed. I'll tell you what I really feel
about things, yeah - and you know why? Because I
was the one who did those things - some I won't even
tell you - under the influence of Avenel; in place. My
Avenel - which probably is like nowhere else and does
not have the same description of anyone else's 'Avenel.'
My claim being that it was all an imaginary push. A few
items I'd like to tell - ooh yeah - but I won't because
people are still around. I don't name names. Too much.
One time, on a bicycle, I was barreling up the underpass,
headed to the Rahway Avenue side, coming up the rise
just as it levels out at Mike's Subs and what is now
Margee's. I was on that side of the street, and the road
right there gets odd because it opens up a sort of other
lane for the people not using the underpass, those going
to the left. Which is what this guy in a car was doing,
of course, and he crashed right into me, sending me
flying and twisting up my bike. My leg was hurting, a
little blood, and swelling up quickly, but this guy was
already beside himself, all fearful of having like
killed me, maimed me, and the rest. He was in
worse shape than me - I wasn't actually bad at all.
We got the crunched bike in his trunk, and he drove
me home, faced my parents, tried explaining what
had happened, and all that, he was maybe 25 years old.
A real nervous kind. Anyway, I stayed in bed for
maybe three days or so, and this kid, and once his
father too, came to visit me each evening, for at least
a week, to make sure I was OK. Even the first three days
too, when I was still bruised and hurt. It was pretty nice.
Maybe he was afraid of getting sued or something, as I
think of it now, but back then I didn't think of that stuff.
I don't know what went on with my parents and him either.
I guess they talked, and agreed on stuff, and his father too.
Nothing ever came of any of it, and I was OK soon enough.
But it was a cool experience because, you know, how
you can tell things about people and how they own up
and react to their adversities. This guy was a warbler, but a
really good guy too - the kind of sad person I'd trust with
a million dollars, to walk around the world with and just
know he'd bring it all back. Honorable, or stupid? I don't
know, but it left an imprint. By the same token now, he
was NOT an Avenel guy - he lived, as I recall, a few towns
away. An Avenel guy, in retrospect, might have just put it
in reverse and run me over a second time, just to be sure,
before he left. You see, that's an essential difference.
An essential difference now anyway. Back then nothing
much mattered. I was still breathing and I was still
squirming. The First Aid Squad building was like a
thousand feet away - if that happened nowadays,
I'd have been covered in safety foam in about two
minutes, gotten a citation for probably no helmet
and riding, maybe, the wrong way in traffic. The
driver would have been arrested, and cuffed and
beaten maybe if he moved wrong, the Fire Department
would have been there to clean the spill, the HazMat
geeks too, scrubbing the roadway and towing his
fuel-filled hazardous vehicle away, cops with fourteen
tons of paperwork and diagrams, drunks would have
poured out of Margee's, each giving some ass-backwards
account of what they didn't see, and I'd have been the
hot-wire tip of the local Internet Avenel site, local
Woodbridge Patch news bullshit and anything else
where everyone could opine either about the serious
dangers of the underpass, the way people drive way too
fast, the danger of a bar being near where kids ride their
bikes, the lackadaisical manner of the First Aid response,
how absolutely wonderful the Police and the Mayoral
response was overall, and the absolute necessity for
another supermarket in town because of the same sort
of traffic danger in the present Shop-Rite's anarchic
parking lot....So. Do you see what I mean? that's
Avenel too; present-day whiner capital of the state.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I'd probably have become in
about three years a millionaire after some Heeb
lawyer would have jumped on the case, ridden it
for all it was worth, kept me in a neck brace for
three years, and proved that I could no longer
think or pee. That's the world we live in.
Now, I know you're not supposed to go talking
like that, but who says? It sure was fun. Any sort
of malingering in my approach to things come from
Avenel. Little cheap fights on the street-corner. Lifting
things, a nickel and a dime at a time, from local stores.
messing around, just a tad, with some of the growing
local girls. Taking off, with a few other kids, to some
Saturday-afternoon place you know you weren't
supposed to be or even know about. I do have to
say though, none of us wore our pants halfway down
our ass. We had belts, and pocket-knives hanging
on them. We never beat anybody senseless for their
sneakers or ring or radio. If we went somewhere, yeah,
we just left our bicycles around, and they were there when
we came back - never even had heard of locks. What
I'm saying, I guess, is that 'destination is fate'. Maybe.
I know it was for me. Direct, overnight express delivery,
from Bayonne to this place called 'Avenel'. Went to sleep
one day there, the next day here. It was all good. All good.