Sunday, March 13, 2016

7913. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 190)

(pt. 190)
It took me many years to realize,
but part of my personality held the
idea of writing and art and creativity
very dear to itself. I did not at first
realize that. The introspective spirit
that grows within is sometimes
reluctant to show itself to the person
in whom it resides. How's that for a
type of combative-secrecy. It dawned
on me that so many of the things of the
'world' interfered with, or annoyed or
alienated me, that removing myself
from them was the absolute best
place for me to dwell. Writing was
for me a perfect world - an envelope
of concentrated silence, a sealed-off
container of secrecy where any thing 
that was 'placed' had been placed there 
by me. It's a psychological minefield, 
the idea of total control and command, 
but that's what the 'craft' affords you  -  
as writer, artist, creator, whatever, as 
long as you lived within the parameters 
of a constant and educated awareness 
of all which has gone before you  -  a 
knowledge of your 'business', let it be 
said  -  then you have validity. Where 
any 'artist' person goes wrong is in that 
self-defined, 'pick-up-and-do-it' vernacular 
that allows any creep to feel that as long 
as he or she is doing it, it's so real and so 
true. Yeah then, good luck. The world is 
full of that crap; all those many happy 
'open-mic-night' shooters, the civic-art-club 
painters, the wunderkinds who live yet 
in their big, bath towels, swaddled 
and proud. Take it from me, Art is not
like that; it takes work and some struggle.
Now, there wasn't anyone in Avenel who
would have known what I was talking about.
In 1966, surprising as it was, the only two
real high-school 'arty' people I knew of
were two gay guys  -  it wasn't like it is
today, when there's happy gay guys on
every stoop and corner. Back then all that
really was secreted and kept quiet. (The
joke there is that I'm  meaning 'secreted'
to mean 'kept secret', and not body
secretions and all that; even though
secretions isn't the right word anyway. I
just like bad and funny-enough references).
The one guy, who was maybe two years
older than me, lived behind Cameo's
somewhere and was a top-dog cash-register
guy at the local Shop-Rite. Bobby Brenner, I
believe, was the name  -  the funny thing
was, in 1966, you could be all that, and be
a local big-deal fashion-leader too. He'd wear
the latest in white chinos (big deal at the time).
Penny loafers too. Those were all tell-tale
markers, sort of, for the invisible message
of 'what' you were. It all had to be 'signaled',
not said. Not spoken. The idea of the cultural
change and the fashion press at that time, was,
of course  -  as it is now too, only fifteen times
worse  -  to push it all out front, get it all out 
there, make the consciousness of it (fashion, 
soft-core, fabrics, color, attitude, flamboyance, 
swish) very prevalent. It was a fight, but they 
did win out eventually. Just look at today's 
world. If you're not a guy sticking it up some 
other guy now, YOU'RE the one with the 
problem. Same goes for girls. Take about 
quiet spaces, and secret hideaways.
Bobby Brenner went, eventually, to Pratt, or 
School of Visual Arts, or  -  for all I know  
-  Fashion Institute of Design. Lots of them 
there  -  to this day it's the craziest place just 
even to walk by. All sorts of magisterial 
Goth-type flamers and FITs (that's how they
refer to themselves), done up in threads and
stances and street-strut, and (lest we forget, 
now) tattoos. He was perfect for any of that 
school-art stuff, and it worked. What was so 
funny, in Avenel, was to see the in-errant 
infiltration of an entire other cultural line of 
personal being begin to creep in, even get 
accepted. The same older ladies who'd swoon
over the new, young priests or ministers in 
town, as they came or went through, they'd 
be all over, just as well, this flaming King 
of Shop-Rite; without knowing in any way 
what they were reacting to or what sensitivities 
were being put forth. It was totally funny; like 
having Rock Hudson man the cash register 
and be on a first-name I-love-you-lady basis 
with each woman. But I don't know, would 
you still call that 'manning' the cash register?
Eventually, Bobby Brenner (great name) just
disappeared. I don't know anything more about
him, nor where he's ended up, nor even the exact
house he lived in. Just the memory, the memories,
of him ruling that little section of Avenel street,
in his tight, white pants and colored shirts. It's 
like a dreamtime, and I still visit it now and 
then  -  there's an imaginary mailbox on a 
pole at that Murray and Martha corner, 
and it's a busy thoroughfare and a bus-stop 
and a donut shop, with lots of people passing,
including young Bobby Brenner. It's  a very 
bizarre, busy-town (and recurring) dream, 
but set in a small, desolate, nowhere 
place indeed.
On the other end of this, there was another 
guy, this one younger than me by one or two 
years. Nothing to do with Shop-Rite, or even 
Avenel. He was also a very early-on gay guy; 
conscious of it, and proud and aware, in that 
'I don't care' manner that always turned out to 
be so important. Bruce van Marsan, I'm 
thinking the name was. I know the house  -  
in Woodbridge, by the street with the high 
hill school road. Totally perfect, great, old,
Melvillian sort of house. A treasure. He came 
out of there, was friends with others who 
were friends with me, like that  -  one of those 
overlap deals. I never really knew him, except 
for one or two occasions. He was a real arty 
guy, cold, austere, aloof, and he had a really
presence. The complete opposite, in that 
manner, from the cheeriness and fluff-ness
of Bobby Marsan. The thing with Van Marsan's,
crowd,which of course made it different, and 
two or three years down the line too, was 
that they most all had already gotten involved 
with smoking pot. That too was a quantum 
leap back then  - another step right off the 
plank into the newer and forming consciousness. 
It was, after all, a consciousness that had not
ever existed before  -  certainly never passed
through or lingered within Avenel. This is 
all really so  -  it's quite difficult for me,
in the light of today's world, to get across
how tightly structured and rigidified 
everything was, pretty much right through 
the 1960's. You really had to be there, 
trust me. Avenel was like a spider web, 
a badly-woven one, with lots of gaps and 
holes. It didn't catch everything, no, but 
it caught enough. The only reason I bring 
Van Marsan up (I also have no idea of his 
whereabouts or how he ended up) was 
because in the 1967 Literary Yearbook 
of Woodbridge High School, the one 
with my purloined by Mrs. Oettle long, 
stupid poem in it (entitled 'Friends 
of the World') this Van Marsan guy was
selected to illustrate my poem. That 
was okay, as it went; I really didn't 
care. It was all just play-act. But the 
coolest thing, and what enamored him 
to me, was that he also designed the 
cover art  -  psychedelic, swirling design 
stuff, wouldn't you know, and in a bad 
shade of blue and some really twisted
forms and figures. BUT in the design, 
cleverly woven in the swirls and swooshes  
-  and pretty much only visible if pointed 
out to you or if you were in the know, 
he'd disguised and hid messages, things 
like 'Fuck the Teachers', and 'Teachers
are Assholes.' Yes, really, true. It was 
stark and it was amazing. And I think 
they really did deserve all they got.

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