Friday, February 26, 2016

7856. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt.175)

(pt. 175)
Once I came to consciousness, sort of, in
Avenel, I had to begin sorting out the things
that were 'mine' and peculiar to me, and the
other things which we all shared. Out by
Premier Die Casting, an odd nowhere
building on Rahway Avenue, next to The
Maple Tree. There was a small bridge and
a pond. It used to be much larger, and a lot
of it was just drained and put underground
when the Die Casting building was erected.
I think the locals called it Sunfish Pond, or
something  - there were fish in it, and you
could fish from the banks, or the little wooden
arch bridge that was there. It was scenic and
seemed far off and away when there. I used
to like just sitting around watching the sky
and things around there. We'd get there
through the back way, over the tracks and
through the prison farm-field - always a nice
walk leading to some fair and unknown type
of Avenel adventure. These were always
sincere things to  me  - they didn't take any
explanations, they were open to everyone, and
bore no more responsibilities than the one of
finding and enjoying a life-to-be-lived. For boys,
it was great stuff. What's to be said about any of
that? How could it have been anything but good?
The Maple Tree itself was just another enigma to
us  -  it seemed a few old guys just entering or
leaving  -  absolutely nothing colorful at all.
Shades of gray, dour and dark, guys in their suds.
There was also another place, up the road just a
little, and across the street. Snuffy's, or Snooky's
or something. Bar, beer, and this one had a pizza
business too, back when pizza itself was pretty
much unheard, not yet a big thing. These were
both workmen's bars, the after-work crowd from
down in the swamps there. I remember, 35 years
later, about 1994 or so, when Woodbridge Mayor
Jim McGreevey said, in his usual goofy way, 'No
one ever goes to the Maple Tree except prison
guards and escaped prisoners.' It was meant as
a joke, by him, but it failed miserably and the
lady who then ran The Maple Tree didn't think
it was so funny. That's what time does to things,
I guess; wears the armor right off the knight. I
sort of asked myself, right then, was he being
sincere about saying that, or just trying to make
a genial, political crack? Turned out, with him,
it didn't really matter.
There have always been a few giveaways, to me,
of insincerity. I judge insincerity to be someone
who talks on without knowing what they're talking
about, or using the sorts of bland, vapid generalities
which amount to no more than party-line filler.
Two specific examples are: A. the sort of people
who like to go on about the 'arts community',
support of the arts, etc. Such crap. What exactly
are these 'arts'. After some investigation it usually
(always) amounts to the usual balderdash of
community-sponsored, tax-based group art, put
to use for the showing of horrible stuff by either
high-school art student types, or retirees
splendiferously learning scrap-booking, watercolor
painting, or 'open-mic' poetry readings. Ghastly
stuff, always. 'Communities' are good for this
crud. Problem is, Art has no community; it's
a fairly solitary endeavor  -  and, B. The sort
of people who use 'out there' as a working phrase
for their own cause or sequence. As in, say,
bicyclists who say, 'there are a lot of bicyclists
out there. Watch out for them.' Or, even a
weatherperson who says, 'it's quite cold, and
there's a big storm brewing out there.' Ummm,
please explain, where exactly is this 'out there'?
People take up ways of communicating  -  mostly by
saying things which communicate very little. It's a
sort of news-talk vapidity. I guess a lot of times
people just shy away from being direct, and end up
using shield-words instead. I had a Rahway Inn pal
for ten years or so who was the complete opposite
of what I'm saying. This guy was direct, full-frontal
in your face, verbally. No mincing words in any
way. If you wanted to know where you yourself
stood on something, or how your yourself came
across to others, all you had to do was go over to
him and present yourself. He'd tell you directly,
just as he saw it, and you'd not even have to ask.
By the time he was done with you, you'd either have
withered under the assault, or become stronger for it.
He was only part-time Avenel, but he represented
for all. Bob (his real name, but that's all I'm giving),
used to bury money in his yard - real wads of cash,
in cigar boxes and other forms of containers. When
he wanted some, he dug some up. It was usually damp
and clammy, and it was always funny. One time I
remember he bought a motorcycle, cash, from B&D,
and paid for it all at the counter with damp, clammy
cash. They took his money, yes, of course, but the
place went nuts and it became instant legend, that
Another odd thing that used to scare me of as a kid,
about the real world anyway  -  places like Premier Die
Casting, Emerson Quiet-Kool, and General Dynamics,
thy used to have, into the 1970's anyway, signboards
out front listing job opportunities, the help-wanted,
'Positions Available', as they put it. I'd see those and
start thinking what a dreary world awaited me. That
was another Avenel thing  -  it just was not really
engrained in me that all the workaday dreariness
could probably be avoided by deepening an education,
through college, and even beyond. Turned out, there
were people, entering their thirties, who'd successfully
found ways, through academics and endless studies for
doctorates and the rest, who could still be 'in school',
to avoid that work-world drudgery. Academically
programmed living, of course, was just as dreary and
mundane, but at least, I guess in the Avenel sense, it
didn't involve heavy lifting or grease. I'm not sure if
I'm clear on this, if it's getting across to you. My own
way out of that dreariness dilemma, having seen it
early and reacted to it early, was to beat a path to the
doorway, period. I knew I wanted none of that,
although after time even I fell back onto it. Money
and family, you know. But, it was clear to me too.
There was never any talk in my household, at home,
of getting ahead through education; no one ever
spoke of college or any of that. It just had to
happen by itself, in its own, overdue ways, to
me  -  I found my own means of, in the meantime,
learning, and they were far better than any of the
college-crap others were going though. That I
saw; and I wasn't much interested anyway in
the sort of 'clean' work that would bring.
I never delineated my own days by titles
or attainments. Couldn't anyway.
Avenel, I'd have to say, never really prepared
me for anything. It churned me out, like so
many others, with an inkling of this or that,
an idea about things. But that was all. The
past was another land, and the way it was given
to us was by allegory or story  -  never really making
any real sense. Lenni Lenape, and Raritan Indians,
living on the banks of our nearby rivers, The Rahway
River, the Raritan and its branches, little clumps of
natives here, in the swampy lowlands. We had to
imagine, in our ways, what we could, and to do so we
became our own Indians, our own little tribes. That
was half the fun, and the reality too. How to figure what
any of it was; beyond me. But it was real, and it was
sincere as all get out too.

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