Sunday, September 18, 2016


Rutgers, back then, had an
adjunct campus (still does,
much larger now) of its own
in Newark  -  Rutgers Law
School. I used to do some of
their printing at NJ Appellate,
and oftentimes had to run
it up to Raymond Boulevard,
as a delivery. That was when
I'd run into all the sorts of
second-tier crazy characters
who haunted Newark's streets,
mostly around Broad and
Market, and Raymond
Boulevard, which is
where my deliveries
were. I say 'second-tier',
because any real,
committed crazies
were New York City
based. This here was
a farm-team only. There
were Black Muslims,
serious drunks, space-cadets
on some drug-enforced
mission to Mars, and
even Rosicrucians and
stuff like that : the religiously
chosen, the crazies, the
addicted. And it was always 
men. I never saw any crazed 
Newark ladies. Some of these 
guys wanted money, while others,
it seemed, wanted your life; or 
could take it. I got approached
for things often, but just
fended everyone off. The
coolest, actually, and
most stupid time (fool
I was; I could'a made a
dirty mint) was one day
when I was delivering a
car-load of maybe five
boxes of really important
law-school exams for the
upcoming end of term, and
some answer sheets, I guess
for the faculty guides or
whatever. I got to the rear
entry spot for this particular
Raymond Boulevard location
and in a nearby room there
were like 30 or 40 dweeby
law school types who noticed
me loading up the hand cart
and heading in  -  in a minute
there were offers  -  ten, twenty
bucks each, for copies and/or
answer sheets. I couldn't do
anything, it was already all
counted and subscribed for,
but none of these criminal
minded law-school types
cared. It was just very weird,
like a dirty cop wanting
one of the keys to a pimp's
whores' rooms or something.
I guess the 'family' urge to
become a lawyer runs really
deep in some blood.
Getting back to the
Rosicrucians, sometime
around this era there was a
Leonard Cohen song called
'Dress Rehearsal Rag.' It was
a great song, and in it mention
is made of the 'Rosicrucians'.
Because of my Newark days'
street experience, I was all ready
for that one ('Why don't you try
the Rosicrucians, they will give
you back your hope, you can
write down your lists of sorrows
on the back of a plain, brown
envelope...' Something like that.
It's about a miserable guy, down,
almost suicidal, shaving in front
of a bathroom mirror. As he puts
on the shaving cream he realizes
he looks like Santa Claus with a
big white beard. Then he decides,
with the razor in hand, he could
add some Christmas red to it by
simply slitting his neck right
then. Real drama to this song,
in a crescendo-type tune that
kept running on. The whole
thing, which he does NOT
undertake, becomes a 'dress
rehearsal' for suicide. Thus
the title. It was brutal. I swore
I'd never shave again. I knew
too exactly what this cat
was talking about. Had it
not been for the streets
of Newark, I'd have been
in the dreary dark. Some
15th century Germanic
knight named Christian
Rosenkreuz is said to have
launched the movement,
which took off about 1614,
as a secret 'society' dedicated
to a form of brand-spiritualism
that mixed alchemy, metaphysics,
mystical and secret wisdoms.
I don't know if he ever visited
Newark  -  this German guy  -
though, as I said, there were a
lots of Germans, and a lot of
breweries. I at first just always
thought it meant something like
the 'Red Cross', which it tuned
out, after I studied it, that it
both did and didn't. Strange
There was this oddball guy
in Newark, on a back street,
behind Broad Street, over
by the big, main, flagship
store called 'Bamberger's',
before they became absorbed
into Macy's and all, about
1985. Bamberger's used to
be Newark's claim to retail
merchandising fame; fine
goods, interesting garments.
Small, crinkly and curly
Jewish guy, quite religious,
 prayer shawls and all, 'tallis'
or whatever that is. He had
a small but crowded fabric
and cloth-cutting store. He
never seemed to have much
business, or customers, but 
he was always there. I guess
he made out OK. I'd stop in
there sometimes, just to say
hi. I can't remember how we 
first met  -  I think it was over
some parking issue, as I'd
gone in to ask if I could leave
my car (delivery) for fifteen
minutes or so and if he didn't 
mind to just keep an eye out.
I'd been broken into once 
before and lost a bunch of 
stuff printed for Air France, 
in NYC. He was OK with 
it, as I recall, (I remember
the bobbing yarmulke too),
and that's how this nodding 
acquaintance began.
He never got really
animated about anything.
There was a book that 
came out about that time,
by Saul Bellow, titled 'Mr.
Sammler's Planet'. It was
about an old-line white 
guy, something like this, 
who gets accosted and 
robbed by some angry 
black dude in a hallway or
on a street or something, 
and to really tick this guy 
off, or something, the robber 
whips his 'member' out and 
shows it to this robbery victim, 
Mr. Sammler, which sets him 
off, of course, on a racial
tirade that never ends,
about cultural change, trash 
thinking, societal breakdown, 
and the blatant nerve and 
effrontery of this black guy
whipping out his gigantic 
schlong as if it were a 
hex to curse the white 
race. Well, not much
nice to say there, but 
that's the great divide 
this guy always represented 
to me in Newark  -  which 
had  rapidly lost its old 
ways, and was so quickly 
descending into ghetto
violence and negativity.
Also, there was an earlier
movie of this nature as well,
also very good and quite 
apropos for this same scene : 
'The Pawnbroker', staring
Rid Steiger, maybe 1965, 
or '66, guessing.
The first time I ever walked 
into a bar or a tavern, whichever
they're called, was on Broad
Street, Newark too. My NJ
Appellate car had broken down
on McCarter highway, I had
call roadside assistance and all
that, and report in to the work
office too. I had slowly gotten
the crippled car off McCarter,
so as to get out of traffic there, 
and stopped at the first corner 
on Broad, which happened to
be a bar. I used the phone. I
was scared shitless, having
never experienced anything
of NJ working class bars or 
drinking or taverns. It went
OK, I was directed to a phone,
etc., and then I lingered,
just waiting for the repair guy
to arrive. I didn't drink or
anything, but they didn't
care, and they just let me
hang around watching 
out the door and window
for the truck to come. It 
was pretty cool. The place 
was half-dark, like with a 
dark, deep-blue lighting, 
all men, seemingly lanky, 
tired working guys from 
the mills and factories 
near there  -  Frelinghuysen
Avenue, and such streets 
nearby. I don't know what I
really expected  -  certainly
no deep New York type 
studious conversation, but
it went easy. These guys
just seemed tired and cranky,
immersed in their own stuff
and not too much of a care, 
certainly no care at all, for
any 'intellectual' or arty stuff.
I kind of immediately sensed
the ground rules, and just kept
to myself. All was good.
There was always a real 
difference, and probably 
always will be, between these 
two places  -  NY and Newark. When 
I rode the meadows, and even now, 
on the trains to and from, I'd look 
out over the landscape and realize 
the factors of geography, water, and 
meadows that separate the two. Yet 
there are times that I figure they 
should have long ago been combined, 
like a Paris or maybe Venice 
or Budapest type place, one that 
uses its waterways as part of the 
charm, instead of  - as was
done here, abusing and
ignoring them. The situation 
of the two cities  -  near but 
so distant  -  is reflected in the 
totally different qualitative 
distances between them.
Like grade school versus 
grad school. Or was once. I think, 
in many ways, that's soon enough 
all to be shrinking up  -  as Newark 
begins 'gentrfying' and thus opens 
up new opportunities and spaces,
and New York City continues to
slide to a sort of free-for-all, 
anything-goes people dump. 
The really rich holding down 
one end, while the poor and 
indigent, and therefore angry, 
folk all continue falling off the 
other end. Kind of like the 
convergence' between Russia 
and the USA, wherein both 
systems just kind of petered 
out, evened out, met each 
other's match, and pretty 
much became the same.

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