Tuesday, August 30, 2016


When I got to Columbia
Crossroads, a few years
later, it was like a big
cleansing, a wash-out,
a cleaning of my soul.
By design. I realized it
all had become intolerable
and that the New York City
noose was beginning to leave
marks on my neck : there
were two dead hippie
bodies with which I wanted
nothing more to do. My
draft-resistor lounge-
underground railway
stop for those on the
way to Canada had
been raided. Everything
and everybody had been
carted away. The place, as 
I returned to it, was police 
taped. I had nothing.
509 east 11th Street,
by necessity, had to
become dead to me, as
did all the people, on the
on the above floors and
below. Anti-Vietnam rage
and fury, fires and flames,
were everywhere. Bomb
factories, guns and
hideouts. The Studio
School was it  - all I had
and all I wanted, but even
then I knew it was too
close. I somehow knew,
or my inside voice told
me, that to become what
I wanted, I had to flee.
I needed, once again, to
almost fictionalize my life
and come back with a
different character to
represent me. Short of
being one of those old
noir-movie guys who get
their fingerprints burned
off and some facial
reconstruction done, so
as to become new and
'invisible'. Once again, I
needed to rebuild. I wanted
to stay within myself, yes,
and remain authentic, but
some new and finer tuning
was due. I bought a map
and found an area in
northeastern Pennsylvania
that seemed sparse, lots of
white space between town
names on the map, and called
the phone company and they
sent me (pretty cool) phone
books for the three places
I mentioned. (Bentley Creek,
PA., Elmira NY, and Canton/Troy
PA, which ran down as far as
Williamsport). Everything was
pretty perfectly a nice enough
250 miles away. One of them,
Elmira, NY, just over the border,
had three big print shops listed.
I casually and innocently wrote
to them about employment, one
of them answered, gave me an
appointment for an interview,
and  -  blindly proceeding  - I
went there and was hired for
a sometime 'future' date, as
quickly as I could be ready.
(Odd, lucky, liberal break,
yes. This guy was actually
going to 'hold open' a job
for me, until I could get
there to rightly catch up to
it!). The guy, Floyd White,
who 'hired' me said he did
so because he himself had
'done pretty much the same
thing 25 years or so previous
in leaving Plainfield, NJ
and setting out blindly for
places unknown,' in his
case Elmira, then a
more-thriving little city,
where he'd successfully
started a business, Whitehall
Printing and Mailing, (his
wife's name was Marge Hall,
thus 'Whitehall' Printing, the
combined name). What kind
of gift was all this? Of course,
he only got the most skimpy
version of my own story. Then
a real search began for a place
to live. I wanted deep country,
I wanted isolation, and I got it.
I've told this story before  -
in one of these books I've
written here  -  about the old
walnut grove, the tombstone
etcher guy's place, the Parmenter
farm, etc. (More info can be
forthcoming, I guess. If you care,
ask, or I'll get to it all sometime).
It has to pop up again of its
own accord, as all this boils.
I don't much write by design,
in fact I'm probably crazy
enough to just go with whatever
flows here, as things arise
and come through; if
redundant and over again,
I just tweak a bit and add or
remove factors from the
tale. It's all quite lovely. I've
got a God in the sky, and it's
a Word-God who really works
with me.
Soon enough, anyway, I got
a house, 12 acres, a big
gigantic barn, outbuildings,
etc., a monstrous, crazy place.
I had just enough money for
a small down payment and
a mortgage, from when I
was creamed by the train
on Rahway Avenue in 1958
-  from which I was never
supposed to recover, but
la-de-dah!, here still I was,
and back again, and still
'spinning records.' Moved in,
got started at this Whitehall'
place, and it all settled in
eventually : quiet,
unassuming, I looked
totally different, shorn
and clean, even got
muscular and chubby
a bit. The weird thing
was, really, now, my head
was in a far different
place, still. I was at
heart a writer and artist,
that was never going to
change. It was the way
I saw things, simply  -
and with no alteration.
And I couldn't change that
anyway. These people had
completely no understanding
or awareness of any of that,
about me or about those
concepts in general. Art
to them was a velvet clown
face or a stylized horse, a
bunch a balloons in a vase.
That was fine, because from
their side they had it all over
me in the other directions:
beautiful, clean, white
spaces, wonderful rooms,
the stillness of country
living, placid days and
nights of an ordered and
lemonade-scented, existence.
Compared to any of that,
I was a twisted mumble.
No matter how hard anyone 
ever tries to escape themselves,
it's fairly impossible. We are
what we were meant or put here
to be, and there's no altering 
those fingerprints or noses.
The more I tried to get away, the
more the authentic me would come
back from the core, to the outer shell.
A strange, but good, feeling.
The hard days and the 
calm nights were just 
beginning. This real 
country-living was 
such an eye-opener. 
It startled. I lived next 
to a cornfield, something 
I'd never seen before. 
By mid-June that first 
year, the corn was already 
head-high and beginning 
to 'tassel out'. I loved that
phrase  -  farmers taught it 
to me, when the corn plants 
get that little hairy growth 
that flows out and later 
surrounds the actual corn 
cob. It's a weird, long, 
hairy-wet bunch of strands.
Really cool. The rows of 
cornplants make noise in 
the wind, the tassels blow 
and make a whisper, the
plants sway and blend, and 
their certain 'stiffness' makes 
a tweak and a rigid noise 
all their own, sometimes
almost metallic-sounding.
Animals run between the 
long rows, things try and 
grow, cornplants take 
different heights, the
dryer areas remaining low, 
the stalks in the better 
moisture really thriving. 
Ears of corn everywhere.
That's cattle-corn, not people 
corn, and there's a real 
difference. You don't 
want to eat cattle corn.
Those fields and the 
acreage around me, even 
the unplanted and the 
wooded, and the  ponds 
and the meadow, it all 
went together to bring 
to me a new somewhere, 
totally. My body was 
sound, but my heart 
was in pieces and my 
mind was all over. I so 
wanted all this, and 
kind of knew I could 
manage it, but still, yes, 
there was a void of sorts. 
I guess just the 'city' void 
for what I'd gotten used to, 
the things I used to see and 
do. All gone, right off the 
map. This was aprons, cows, 
and daisies and doilies, 
compared to all that.

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