Thursday, March 17, 2016

7932. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 195)

(pt. 195)
It's been a long slog, yes. A person can
live an entire life somewhere, and not 
ever really be sure about that place. That
goes for here too  -  it's nearly impossible
to uncover all the things that this part of
New Jersey once did, once possessed, once
was a base for. The geography has been
entirely changed. The essential ideas of
'river' and 'transport', even of 'light' and
'dark', no longer hold any relationship
to their original place-meanings. Highways
and trucks and cars and rails have torn
up the entire old geography of the state.
The rivers, once revered, were later just
used to dump in. Today you couldn't 
even think of drinking from one, let 
alone walking through it. A different 
kind of 'highway' has ringed and paved 
everything. The riversides have been 
taken from us. Any old early settler,
townsman, or Native American
wouldn't know the place.
In the same vein, about three miles 
from my house, in Metuchen, and 
now here in Avenel as well (also 
about three miles, give not take), is 
the Edison Light Tower. It marks 
the spot where the initial Thomas 
Edison Laboratory and workshops 
were located. Once a small, industrial, 
village, of an almost artisanal nature, 
with its own train station (later the 
Iselin stop, and then later again all 
turned into Metropark), this is the 
very location from which the 
'world of darkness' was turned 
into the 'world of light.' Edison 
'invented', and later perfected, 
the electric light, right here. 
Startling info. To mark the spot 
now, there's a rather hokey obelisk 
topped with a large lightbulb. 
Resembling more an alien spacecraft 
set to rocket off to the Heavens. 
Maybe that entire reference
isn't that far off : obelisks have 
always signified intense and 
distant energies, the effects of 
alien forces, secret knowledge,
connections with the stars. Who 
knows  -  and I don't pretend to  -  
what forces were pushing Edison 
along. The 'Wizard' of Menlo Park.
Indeed. There's a woods there that 
I walk often enough, the old grounds 
and property of the little work village  
-  photos about in the little museum they 
keep there. All through these woods 
once ran, as well, the tracks for Edison's 
other Menlo Park endeavor : a small- 
gauge electric railway. He had it built 
and perfected, tested and tried  -  tracks 
and engines, etc.  They've taken it all 
away, not a trace left. Oddly enough, 
and you can look all of this stuff up,
not needing me to tell you about it, it
was Henry Ford himself who came 
here and took everything away, even 
the soil, (I always get amazed when I 
read how he took the top some-amount 
inches of soil away with him) to recreate 
the 'Edison Workshop' in his Edison 
Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
After he became big and wealthy 
and famous, from his industrialized 
automotive work (the essence of which 
is the cause for all that change and 
ruination I mentioned in the opening 
here), he built a replica village of all 
these early-era workplaces  -  called 
the Dearborn Museum. We lost 
everything; everything but the old
photos and the rumored 'historic' 
activities. It's all been mythologized
and worked over, for entry fees and 
vacation visitors nationwide, as just 
another part of the overdone American
myth about itself. In all my school 
years, in all my presence in Avenel, 
none of this was ever brought up to 
me. I don't know why, who to blame, 
and the rest. Maybe no one. The 1950's 
were just that  -  round-number, and 
middle-century bland times. How anyone 
could overlook the underpinnings of 
the country, right there in a nearby 
backyard, as it were, or at least try to 
explain it, is beyond me. My parents 
weren't ever much 'book-smart', so 
maybe they just didn't really know. 
Schools? They were probably all 
tongued-tied and stupid with 
embarrassment, not knowing how 
to explain or even broach the subject 
to us kids. Why would they? We were
all just assumed to be willing to propel 
it forward, keep it going, grow and 
continue it all. Maybe the risk was like
'don't tell them about any of this. My God, 
they might oppose it, object, try to stop it.' 

That's how advanced the Boards of 
Education were (and are, don't kid 

yourself, it's even more vile and 
wide-ranging today). Thought-control, 
mind-control, and kid-control too.
It's difficult for me to look backwards 
now and tell about all the things that 
affected me, growing  up. I mean to say, 
this was a hell of a place for a kid. As I 
said before, it didn't have any sort of
Huck Finn river stuff, but the atmosphere 
was not that far off  -  we had our 
adventures, and we all had our Aunt 
Polly's and Becky Thatcher's too. 
Everybody had their own Tom Sawyer 
to deal with. Tom Sawyer was the 
biggest pain in the ass I ever ran 
across  -  there was one on every 
block. The conniver, the kid who 
went through all the procedural 
motions, just because you were 
supposed to, the one who'd never 
take the shortcut, and cut through 
the mud-bog. Always had to go 
around, walk the right lane and 
sidewalk. I read that book  -  
'Huck Finn', not Tom Sawyer, 
which book was a bunch
of crap by comparison  -  about 
10 times. I knew it nearly inside/out. 
It was great, up until about chapter 
16, when it began getting bogged 
down with that Tom Sawyer reappearance
stuff, and all the mistaken identity episode
and then Tom Sawyer himself showing
up and messing so badly with Nigger Jim's 
head. From Chapter 16 on, it's like a 
different book. And it was, I later found 
out  -  living in Elmira, right where 
Twain wrote the ending of the book 
after having had it abandoned and 
left around for some years. In Elmira 
he went back to it and wrote it up for 
an ending, but it was somehow turned, 
as well, into just a much more ordinary
boy's adventure yarn, to an annoying 
degree. Twain was in this 'famous-guy' 
condescending phase  -  telling yarns 
more, and writing for little kids more. 
it was messy. From Chapter 16 on, the
book reeks of it  -  however, before that 
it fairly well represented for me 
innocence vs. experience, and all that 
William Blake stuff, but in an American
idiom, so to speak  -  the wild-child,
unfettered river-orphan setting out, 
versus the pansy-assed Tom Sawyer 
rules and process and experience kid, 
Tom. A real key-jangler jerk. The kind 
of kid who would play up to adults when
they were around, and then, once they 
weren't, start getting all wise-ass and
smart-alecky about doing 'bad', which 
to him, of course, was all wrong. His
bad wasn't even 'bad'. It was just all
second-level sneaky. A real creep.
The entry of our world into 'LIGHT' took
place right here too. Our Mr. Edison was a 
member of a church in Metuchen, right 
there along Rt. 27, before Main Street  - 
a small, pointed old woodsy village church. 
He'd promised for the Christmas Day of 
whatever year it was, I can't remember right
now, and am not looking it up, to light up
the street and the church all around there;
the route he'd take to his worship that night.
And he did so  -  that strip of roadway,
entering Metuchen, was one of the very 
first 'illuminated' thoroughfares in the 
world, at least for a few nights. I don't
know how long he kept it up, and it was
different then because there were no lines
or power-generating stations. It all had to
be done then and there, so it couldn't have
been too long. Sure beats candles and
lanterns and torch-lights. I guess even the
most jaundiced parishioner thought that.
Little did they know the era they were
about the enter, the strange new world to
be dumped down on their heads, and that
weird little place down the road some, 
as well, good old 'off in the future' 
Avenel! (and yours truly, Huck).

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