Monday, March 7, 2016

7895. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 185)

(pt. 185)
Oh, I don't know, never did know, 
I guess I was one of those kids with 
a lot of nervous energy, but I was 
never the twitchy, annoying kind. 
I don't think  -  more I was just the 
sort who jumps from project to project, 
impetuously, never really scrupulously 
finishing or dedicating myself to the 
task. I ran by intuition. Some kids
there were  -  like those previously 
mentioned sorts who did all those Revel 
model cars  -  who were detail-oriented, 
very particular, and who would stay 
with a task, overly attending to it, every 
note and finishing need. I threw instruction 
sheets out, without even looking at them.
They, by contrast, would read, study, and
memorize. Something there is about 'perfect'
kids. Everyone loves them, parents swoon,
teachers go nuts. But, in some respects too, I
think the Bowery was fairly populated with
once-perfect types. You burn out and flounder,
see; ending up at some Mission Decrepitude
for free soup and a bed. It's a power thing too;
everyone loves someone, even if it's a kid,
who doesn't push back and just continually
does what he or she is told to do. It reinforces
the power relationship  -  again the linear,
in-line stuff that rank and position are made
up of. I was never like that. I ran by the seat
of some weird set of pants, pants that didn't
even really fit, but which were somehow on
me nonetheless. It wasn't real school-stuff,
or Avenel stuff either. Certainly not Inman
Avenue stuff -   houses all alike, in a row,
each driveway with a car, a milk-box at the
side of each back steps. Rigid. All that
'new-development' format we just never
even thought about, seeing as how that's
simply 'where' we were.  It always seemed
to me that things were better, looser, more
fun anyway, in those rambling, big, old
houses we'd still see scattered around.
Except, oddly enough, they were all only
filled with lingering old people. I guess
any kids in those houses had grown and
moved on to their own situations; but I
always wondered where. And then I
began realizing, as these houses kept
disappearing, getting torn down, that
it was the kids who were making those
decisions, not those old people inside.
As they died off, the kids got the properties,
settled the estates, and  -  most probably  -
sold off for the money. That's the way of
the world. I always wondered if, right
around where we lived, there had ever
been any strange, old houses, with big
property around them, that had been sold
off and torn down to make space for our
cruddy development. I talked to a guy
recently, about a year back or so, and he
made a curious reference to the sort of
homes like ours  -  except that we all had
dormers and a second, unfinished level,
by calling then 'teepee homes'. Cool
name. He meant  - and there are plenty
of them around too  -  the homes that
were smaller than ours when new, just
roofline on a box, no dormers, no
upstairs. Teepee houses does it; refers
to the simple, box-slant shape nicely.
So, it's ever sometimes difficult for me, 
or someone like me, to even talk to others
well. I can't 'stay' with things for too long,
and a conversation involves too much 
belief and faith in things you're talking
about. Anything in my own life, the way
it's been after about 10 minutes, I see right
through it, and it's over. I can't engage,
because I don't have the bedrock system
of acceptance necessary. It's all just a
steady barrage of blah-blah yeah-yeah
after a while. The only thing that has ever
saved it for me has been emotion. I get
all emotionally involved very quickly 
with people who ring a trueness to my
soul, and it pretty much can't be helped 
that at that point I get ahead of myself 
and start screwing up. It was Martin Buber
or someone who first posited those forms
of relationships that grow between people, 
world-in-world stuff. 'I and Thou', 'I and I'.
etc. That systemic formulation always 
worked pretty well for me  -  I'd look 
them over, read him some, and then 
realize how old it all was, and get 
scared off. I'd get scared off because 
things in the old days were much 
different. People didn't 'act' so much 
on their impulses or what they'd find
coming through  -  desires, needs, and 
wants. But the present day had everyone 
jumping all over everyone else, in the 
sack, heart to heart, changing relationships, 
and all that. That stuff always freaked me 
out, and I realized, really, that my path 
only led in that direction. I'd fall in love,
and then immediately get orphaned by
some weirded-out 'image' of a relationship
I'd come up with. Perfectly ideal. Heavenly
stuff. It was painful and always left me
too sensitive. I think the Bowery must  
have been filled with people like that too.
There but for the grace of God go I.
Anyone know what I mean?
You go ahead and walk around a small
place like Avenel like that and your head
starts reeling. Every schoolgirl on the block
was no longer 8 years old; everything was
happening all at once. It's a parade, and you
either  -  it seems  -  grab an instrument or a
baton or something and run up to the front 
and start marching, if you're that type, OR 
you silently fall into place along the rear of 
the pack and just come along with the rest, 
unnoticed, OR you see that parade coming
and dart far out of the way from it, immediately.
I think that was my route. I laid low. So 
much so that, in a few years, when I got to 
New York City, I was real happy to see they 
had a grocery chain there called 'Laidlaw's'. 
Because it sounded so much, to me, like 
'Laid Lows'  -  perfect!
My outlet had always been 'creative'. That's
how I got by, and not that it's always good. I'd
be creative in devious ways too : like the Science
Fair thing I related in a very early chapter here. It
was creatively bullshit, but I bluffed it enough
to get by. 'When in doubt, mumble'. That was
always a pretty good motto too  -  I heard that,
or read that too, in some interview show about
1970 with a guy named Richard Strout, of a
magazine called The New Republic. Which 
I've been reading weekly ever since, even 
with all their stupid changes of the last few
years (it's now a monthly, and precarious). He
was a famed journalist sort, talked good, and
was interesting and informative. He had, for
many years, a column there called TRB, which 
stood for nothing really, except the BRT subway
name (Brooklyn Rapid Transit) he'd seen in
reverse somewhere on a subway car in  NYC.
So, TRB was, simply, BRT backwards. In this
interview, in a joking fashion, he answered a 
question about his contacts, and how he managed
to mingle and talk among so many different sorts
of bigwig Washington people. 'When in doubt
mumble', he said  -  meaning he was mostly
outclassed by all these nitwits with their reams
of specific information on subjects privy to
them, (the instruction-book reader types), and  
so as not to seem a dummy, he'd pretend,
he'd mumble something, and that sort of
thing would somehow lead others to thinking
he too was in the know, and  -  since it must
mean something, whatever he just said  -
they'd feel they must go along, so as to seem
in the know themselves. All a hoax. Right
down the line, all a hoax. And you wonder 
why I said I can't go along.

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