Sunday, June 12, 2016


I used to think that was
impossible, just as I used to
detest that my parents had
removed themselves from
any urban environment to a
way-out dump like Avenel :
a dead spot, a compound on
the outside line to faraway.
I didn't rightly know, as I
approached age 17, how and
even whether I'd be able to
survive there, and I finally
then decided I could not.
The one for-sure spike that
ran through my mind at all
times  -  two spikes, actually
-  were, in my backyard, the
the railroad line which, daily,
fifteen or more times at least,
went rolling on by to its
destination of New York
City; and, just down, or up,
the block, whatever, the
constancy of Route One,
headed north, to NYC again,
20-some miles at most : with
its unending stream of cars
and heads, trucks and streamers.
Everyone just heading north to
the bridges and tunnels. I was
already east, to the waters, so
there wasn't much more to be
done on that count. Even at 11
years old  -  forget 17  -  I knew
my steps, in that direction. In
those days too, you'd still see
people out hitchhiking; that
little road-weary cliché of people,
with their thumbs out, while
walking backwards. It wasn't
so much like today, where  - 
face it  -  life itself is suspect
and everyone's afraid of every
thing, and every one, else. It's
funny, how Reality has won
out over everything else, yet
people still live in their own
fantasy worlds  -  the fantasy
worlds of fact, proof, constancy.
Even the fantasy of the weather  
-  endlessly wrongly forecast,
played for advertising and
fashion purposes only,
keeping people hopefully
glued to their return-visit TV
seats, yet never correct. Just
blather. Hitchhikers always got
me thinking of running away,
doing the same as they were
doing: riding that stream.
At least they were 'living'
something with a flow, a
meaning, a traverse. From
one thing to another; like life
itself, or what it's supposed to
be anyway  -  movement,
progress, passage, learning,
growth. A form of mental
expansion instead of some
foul chromium dream people
throw away on their endless
quests for order and power
and speed  -  the rather banal
order of straight and square
lines, a life like a well-edged
yard. If everything's a symbol,
nothing is. But everything is.
If you're supposed to be
'worshiping' a God - why
that is, and what that word
even means, 'worship', in
place of just 'living', is
beyond me. 'God' demands
this? Anyway, if you must,
why would it be as if to a
'retired' God who no longer
moves the waters? And
don't try to tell me 'He still
does.' He does not. The
concept must be active,
forceful and vital; not old,
staid, and mute. Active
God is within.
So, I saw these trains and
highways, and they did finally
get me there. Churning with a
zeal both forceful and wild.
It used to be, from a bus window,
say, or a car or any other sort of
Turnpike exiting traffic at the
areas of the Lincoln Tunnel
exchanges onto Route 3, or
whatever all that is, that, in
traffic, stuck anyway, you'd
look out and see fields of
black-eyed Susans, the flower,
not girls. They'd be growing
in big clumps of themselves
along the edges of the fields,
in the little medians that
divided all the mixing-up
lanes of traffic, the cracks
and sidings. Sometimes
nearly a foot high: they were
very sweet to see, a pleasant
and inviolate flower that
made all the difference
in the environment right
there, made it somehow
tolerable. It put over, onto
everything, a novelistic,
somehow Russian feel,
to me  -  took me from,
anyway, the harsh,
everyday utilitarian
concept of the place
and time I was in. And,
sometimes maybe that's
all you need : the God-Mind
does the rest for you.
I don't know if anyone
here reading knows who
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is/was.
(He's about 95-plus (1919),
and will probably keel
over any day now, dead,
since I've made mention),
but I used to read his book,
'A Coney Island of the Mind',
endlessly, and even had
portions of it committed to
memory. The piece in there
entitled 'I Am Waiting', 
memorized and always at 
the ready, was engrained 
in my soul. There was a time,
about 1966, I'd just sit at the
dumb, little Avenel train
station (northbound side,
never the lame southbound
side) reading and reciting
it aloud. It became my own
gold-key urban book, my
entry tome into the very
idea of escape and detail,
the very idea of grasp and
observation, to New York
City itself, the one growing,
inside me. It all just 'spoke'.
Man, I so bad wanted o-u-t.
It's like that with Life, and
the mind  -  and that's the
powerful glory of living.
We 'enable' ourselves to
pick up on things and carry
them with us as symbols
of the world and the life
we live. We don't even
need to know the language
of what we're doing, it just
somehow attaches itself to
us, sometimes stupidly,
even romantically: that
Tiffany jewel, the necklace,
grandpa's old watch or pipe,
that piece of fabric on a girl's
blouse-front, the pearl buttons,
that cut of cloth or leather, the
ticking of that clock on the
mantle. It's all of great import,
and of great potential too,
and different for each of us.
Our own, private language
each. Art, it is, that pulls it
out for others to see or share
or read about, and only Art
and Creativity  -  not God or
Landscape or blind, stupid
Suburbia, can do it for us.
To attest to this mysterious
thing, we have museums.
All they ever do is prop up 
the dead and all the concepts
that go with the dead. I found 
that most of what ends up in
a museum, years later (when it
has a dollar value) during the
life of the artist, mostly, was
considered about as sacred as
cow-shit. People dislike artists.
Never know what to make 
of them, and make up stories
about them  -  remnants of the
quirks and foibles that make 
them so strange when alive.
Then, all of a sudden, when 
they're dead, and all their
leftover remnants start gaining
great value, everyone loves them
and recalls everything about them, 
lovingly. Oh man, it's all such
Besides Ferlinghetti, there was 
the artist Albert Pinkham Ryder, 
and even Charles Bukowski, whom 
I never really liked anyway, nor 
his work. He mostly lived in
Philadelphia, and during that time,
boozer and raconteur, crazy man
and gruff picker-upper of any babe
within sight, he'd hold court in a
bar (the building's barely still there,
but the bar's long gone. I go there 
just to piss on the wall. OK,
kidding), on Brown Street, where,
in order to pay for, and get money 
for, drinks, he'd volunteer to
go out back (little back-courtyard),
for money, and get the shit beat out
of him. He couldn't fight worth a
darn, but he could take a good 
pummeling, and it would pay for 
his night. 'Bukowski's Poundings,'
as it was later billed. Albert
Pinkham Ryder, in his day, in NY,
was known as a creep and a
night-crawler, who would haunt
the city by nights, endlessly 
walking, and get back for daylight 
to paint these dark, weird, morose 
and symbolic scenes of.....well,
of something. Worth twenty
bucks then, untouchable 
and few now. Oh Albert,
death becomes you.

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