Sunday, February 28, 2016

7867. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 177)

BELOW THE WATER LINE
(pt. 177)
I've had a great deal of fun reliving things,
and it seems as though the little library I
draw from keeps replenishing itself. The
world I lived in  -  back then, 1956 and
up through 1964, mainly, and then back
again, and the again, it was all a very
different world. One which, by late '67
had me somewhere else completely and,
frankly, inhabiting a different universe
entirely, one which I'll eventually get to
here. But the initial point I make, which
is most important, is that I am beholden,
for better or worse, for the formation of
my character and for the initiation of 
much of my thought, to Avenel. Flat-out, 
straight praise on that count. It was a 
devilish disguise, this place was, and I 
walked through whatever symbolic fire 
it presented. Probably, were I to win a 
lottery today in some big-time fashion, 
I'd remain right here in place. Unlike so 
many, many others, I've got no hardness 
towards Avenel. It is what it is and was,
and that's me too. I had a friend once
-  Bill Turkus  -  who rode to Alaska 
on his motorcycle. The night he left 
we'd thrown him a backyard-barbecue 
send-off party. After getting to Alaska, he 
wanted to continue, towards the Arctic Circle, 
which he did. When he got there, he came 
across a spot where many, many people have 
left mementos of their own visit there  -
streetsigns and sign-posts from the towns 
of their origin. He took a photo of a sign, 
right there, which read  -  'Avenel, NJ'. 
Go figure.
-
The world is so vastly different today that it
sometimes makes me laugh; Avenel or not. It's
almost 70 years down the line for me, and I get
around it all very well. Yesterday, I passed a
storefront in Rahway all lit with candles and
wreaths and all sorts of memorial things out
front for the guy who'd had just been killed,
the day before, in his sneaker store. Right
next to the Masonic Temple  -  the white
guy's one, not the old, now gone, the black
lodge that I wrote of earlier and which I had
gone into a few times. That was the other side
of Rahway (the Avenel side), on the riverbank.
Long, long gone, near 30 years now, as are
all those black families who lived along the
river.  When I was a kid, just the thought
of any of this, along Irving Street in Rahway,
would have never crossed my mind. A culture,
with black people, thugs and their music, 
where a black guy gets killed in his own 
store, in open view, for some insider 
infraction? Sneakers? Drugs? Clubs? 
Hip Hop alliances? There was a televised 
story, an interview, about this killing, on the 
local news. It was so bad, and weird, to see. 
All these people, friends of the dead guy, 
barely articulate, taking their stances and 
spouting their words in the usual fashion 
of the crowd they were involved with  -  
gaudy clothes, gold and silver, metallic
teeth, aggressively folded arms, and, most
tellingly, as in some stupid video of a rap
music format, guys behind guys, nodding
and assenting with their mumbled 'yeahs' 
to what the big guy (rotund) was saying 
in the foreground. It was as if all staged 
and readied. I could tell, right off, that all
these guys were doing was mimicking the
dumb-jive thug image they'd been exposed 
to. To live by. Nothing more. It was pathetic.
No way I  -  or any of my friends  -  would 
have understood long ago. And, the funniest 
thing, just today, and something which really 
made me think  -  right here in Avenel  -  
seemed to exemplify the danger we created 
when the spreading awareness of everything 
for everybody took hold of the body politic.
There used to be merit, and there used to
be 'achievement', stuff you got through
your own work, intelligence, and gumption.
Reasoned wisdom. Not the school stuff,
again, more just what comes from being
genuinely interested in the life you live
and lead. Now it's all just drivel.
-
In Avenel today, at the local 'Quick-Chek',
I was waiting. As I waited, I heard someone
from around the corner, approaching, 
speaking loudly and without thought, into 
his cell-phone, going on with someone about 
something. Black guy. These sorts of phone 
people are quite annoying to me, but this 
guy was hilarious, as I overheard him. He'd 
stopped nearby, and was still going on. 
There are, apparently, people who do not 
readily have the mental capacity to get the
idea that, with a telephone, your amplified
voice comes through quite clearly, by 
electronics and amplification, to the other 
party, whether it's down the street or 
California. They somehow think they 
must shout, or talk quite loud anyway.
He was one of those  -  the command of 
his lock and loud verbal posture was 
frightening. And then it happened! He 
actually said this! Speaking of himself, 
and his inability to do something, whatever
it was, he actually (I swear) said 'I can't 
do that, my equiliberty is still off by 50 
percent.' Equiliberty! The phrase of a genius. 
A genius I swear!
-
I always loved things like that  -  the people 
who mangle the language, get it half right, 
get their idea across but sound so bizarre 
doing it. Like 'let me be pacific, when I 
need my yard done I'll be certain to call a
landscraper.' That's another one I'd heard
long ago  -  the guy's name was Jim; no 
longer with us. He'd say 'pacific' for 'specific', 
always. And he always said 'landscraper' 
instead of 'landscaper'. But I always got 
his drift. It was like that. He'd tell me how 
many beers he had that night. He drank a 
lot, but it never showed, until the end. 
One day, home alone, he just died 
in his armchair. The whole thing was, 
at that point, as sad as it was funny. He 
used to have a guy, John, a kid actually, 
maybe 25 tops, who would stop over, most 
early evenings, just to use his toilet. He
claimed he didn't like to poop at home, 
his mother was always bothering him 
about something. Jim would let him in, have 
a go, while he stayed on the porch having 
his beer. Summertime stuff, I'm meaning. 
Then John would come out and have a 
beer with him too. That was a real Avenel
camaraderie thing, I always thought. Where 
else does that kind of thing happen? 
I never heard.
-
There used to be a travel agency on St. George
Avenue. Right there, in a house next to where
Frystock Jeep was for years. It's gone now, all
of it. Walgreen's. Condos, a bunch of junk, was 
long ago put into its place. Ghostly idea now.
This travel agency was in an old white house,
and it the windows and display areas, at street
level, it always had travel posters, and photos 
of faraway places. It was pretty exotic to think
about. I think that side of the street was actually
'Colonia', but that hardly mattered. The beaches
of Rio, and the old cathedrals of London and Paris
and Rome were always startling for me to see
in the windows of a small-house travel agency,
right there for Avenel, NJ. Amazing stuff. And
across the street was a bar  - the Blue Bird; just
more very mysterious intent. Topping it all off,
from California no less, in 1978, right next to it,
they built a 'Denny's'. That was really amazing to
me and it felt as if the world was enclosing in on
Avenel. All the proverbial 'doors and windows'
were opening up. I had been in California in 1976,
and we utilized Denny's for lunches and coffee's.
I had thought then it was pure California  -  light,
meaningless, quick, cosmopolitan in flavor, and
very west-coast. And then, there it was, in Avenel.
It was amazing. I know it threw my equiliberty off.

2 comments:

Martin Kloess said...

Well done thank you for sharing

gary j. introne said...

Thank you, martin.