Monday, February 22, 2016

7838. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 171)

(pt. 171)
Words have always fascinated me. In my
own house, as a kid, there were a few things
I always noticed : how my mother and father,
each, would say 'aksed', for 'asked'. Just a
weird, quirky thing. The use of  a'scared for
when you mean to say you are scared. That
was mostly a kid's thing. And a few times I'd
heard one adult or another, I don't remember
who, say really funny things, of their own
initiation, I'd guess. They were like mis-applied
word endings or something  - you'd get the idea
but notice the mis-use. One example is 'realistical'.
That one comes to mind, like say 'Oh, yeah, he
did it, but he didn't do it in a very realistical way.'
You get the idea  -  a combination of word-ending,
adverb vs. adjective, whatever, just being mixed up
through carelessness or maybe simple ignorance too.
I don't know, but they were very Avenel things. I
always managed to catch such things - and it was
always funny to me when TV reporters and such,
at the scene of some tragedy or car-crash or
something, would stick a microphone in a local
person's face, for a reaction to whatever had
occurred, and you'd hear all these very strange
localisms come spewing out of the person's
mouth. That was always like Avenel too.
Dese, and dem, and dose - that's three ordinary
examples. They would, I always thought, have
been way more self-conscious about their tongue
and voice, about how they came across, if they
had an education. We never had much to go by,
in my house anyway. My mother, I guess, had
made it through high school, and my father always
bragged about how he quit school at 16 to lie his
way into the Navy. Wartime never made much of
an issue out of underage stuff. They'd seemingly
take anybody  -  which always struck me a really
dishonest on their part, but to my father it was
always a point of pride. All I knew, really, was
that after the war he eventually ended up in a
trade school of some sort for learning upholstery,
after stints at Bayonne Barrel Company, and
American Can Company and Ryerson Steel Mill,
all on the fringes of Bayonne. He and a friend,
at some point too, pooled some money and got
themselves a Cities Service Gas Station, and a
mechanic-garage with it. They were making a
go of sorts of that but the New Jersey Turnpike
Authority, he said, took it away from them when
they had to make the right-of-way for Exit 14 in
Bayonne, or 14A, or whatever it is at the end of
that ramp on like 54th Street. I guess they all
talked funny there too, and it moved
with them to Avenel.
I guess when you're poor and basic, you really
don't need much in the way of words to carry on
with your life. That idea became one of my own
obstacles. I never felt I wished to 'overstep' or
begin being what I was not, but in reality how
does one advance past a station in life when
your own basic' human impulse starts just
bringing you to someplace else? I was always
swimming in words; sometimes I'd be lying
in bed, I can recall, and in that half-sleep thing
before you really nod off, that period of time
when things begin fading away and some sort
review of the day or something instead begins to
take precedence. I can remember being pummeled
awake, over and over, by these images of huge
'words' bundling up and rolling at me. Yeah, it
was very weird, but so what  -  other people get
themselves to sleep with images of cars or
donkeys or something. I had somehow settled
on words. And sometimes it was funny too  -
I'd always wanted to be a comic, a really
funny character, and that's what words were
too. Comedy was really just words. Words
wrapped around a situation. I'd awake some 
days the next morning with a joke or two 
in my head  - from out of nowhere, real 
quirky humor that had to do with words 
and had somehow gotten set up in my head 
while I slept. It was all very odd. I had no 
word input from the outside world  :  for sure.
Howdy Doody, Broken Arrow, Wagon Train,
Paladin, any and all of that TV crud, it offered
nothing like that. Nor did school. It all comes
from reading, and I'd read anything. By age
seven I'd read the entire Kama Sutra backwards
and forwards. No, not really. That was a joke.
A really 'contorted' joke. Ha.
That's what's cool about writing too  - see how I
just did that 'Ha' thing, to reiterate the jokiness of
the words before it? That really breaks all writing
conventions, but it's a means of getting to the
needed end-point of the idea just presented. To
me, that was what words were about. Even 
Avenel words, the shaming ones, like 'asshole', 
and the uplifting ones, like 'nice going, asshole.' 
I'd always  -  later on  -  say that no one had 
ever really achieved the equivalent of art's
Abstract-Expressionist painting with words. 
But this was a way to do it  - and actually, they 
had, others had. That was the whole point of 
Poetry, as I saw it  -  not all that genteel
and emotional stuff, sadness, a glut of broken
hearts, longing and absence. No, that was all
the easy stuff, and it had all been done to death.
It was, rather the cooler guys, Ashbery, Lowell,
maybe even Eliot and Pound, who'd at least 
pulled the hair on the dead head of that old 
corpse and lifted it up to some semblance of 
coming back to life. Just like the New York
painters at the Cedar Bar, or up and down 10th 
Street. You just rip and tear, get your markers 
in line, and have a go. Forget the niceties and 
the other stuff. Hell, it was like an old Avenel
football game  -  shins all rubbed up, blood flying
everywhere, people furious and cursing. But
some shithead always scores. Art never had to
answer to anyone. that's what I liked about it; and
neither did writing. I made it that way for myself.
All those teachers and crud-memo people taking
umbrage at this or at that, I always figured they
could squat right where they wanted and take their
own shit wherever they chose. I'd never bother them,
and they had no reason to bother me. I was aloft. I
was ten stories above Avenel, floating like a word
balloon. For every brittle Mrs. Kuzmiak or anyone
else, I hoped there was a justice custom-made for
them. But it would never be mine.  That's what it
all was for me.
As kids, we'd rip-tear up anything we chose. This 
was all long before other things began : the idea 
of music, let's say. We'd never heard of things, at 
age 10, like garage-bands or jazz hipsters or any 
of that, guys living a life on the edge with their 
be-bop music and their illicit drugs and speeds and 
cocaine and all that. And thank God for that too  -  
none of that had ever infiltrated Avenel. Not that 
we'd have known, but someone would have.
There would have been evidences. I get the biggest
kick in the world now, in Avenel, when all these
municipal type geeks start their spouting about the
new construction, an 'Arts Village' by the train
station, inviting all these edgy, artistic New York
types to come in and live and create here, and 
make a scene. Worst idea in the world  - these
local geek-muni types have no clue what dangers
they're courting. Do they actually think these 
newcomers are going to sit around in the evenings, 
have a cocktail and watch TV? Not bloody likely,
to use an advanced British-ism. Creative people are
killers; brash, unsightly levelers of every pre-existing
concept around. It'll be Avenel's first sorry day in 
Hell when they get 50 acres of newcomers huddled 
around the idea of free-reign Art. The permissiveness
of the open prairie. If you don't believe me, Avenel
folks, go read up on the history of Westbeth, or the
Chelsea Hotel or the Marlton, to name three places
I'm familiar with. 
In Avenel, I always found, it just was really possible 
to walk around dumb, dumb as a kite, and no one 
would ever probably find out 'lest you told them. Those 
years of the late 1950's were when everything 'normal' was 
beginning to wind down, a slow sort of 'dis-assembly' was
beginning. It wouldn't be long before all those other
places would start to be lost as well  -  the little industrial
cities all around us, beaten down, abandoned, and left
to newcomers. In 1958, say, if your were really dumb
in Perth Amboy, walking around dumb, people would
notice. They still wore ties and tophats, for pity's sake,
and business and all the rest still had protocol. We kids,
in Avenel, we just were what we were, frolicsome, 
happy pests at home in our own little insularity. But 
Perth Amboy, and the other places like that, for them it 
was a long, disastrous fall, one that resulted in streets 
being abandoned, the small-business people leaving  - and 
with them the jobs of any worth  and merit, and the relapse 
was taken up by newcomers from other lands, here mostly 
Hispanics of whatever stripe. All called Puerto Ricans no 
matter. They took over the city in its ruination, and drove it 
down, one notch after another, until  - yes - it lost all its 
American vitality, fell and crumbled, and was theirs. The 
void filled by another void. Even lower. That was all the 
unseen world around us, back then, all lining up and
getting ready to fall. We really knew, at that point,
nothing about it at all, nor about what was about to
befall us, our futures, and out little town.
But neither were we a'feared of anything.

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